SPRINGFIELD -- The number of registered beekeepers in Illinois is on the rise.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday that almost 700 beekeepers registered with the state for the first time in the past year. That brought the total number to more than 2,500 beekeepers managing more than 24,000 colonies.
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Bob Flider is director of the agriculture department. He says the increase in beekeepers comes as the number of wild honeybees has significantly decreased due to pests and diseases. Flider says honeybees pollinate about one-third of all food-producing plants, so they're critical to putting food on the table.
He says many specialty crop growers are now hiring beekeepers to pollinate their crops.
The state employs eight apiary inspectors, who periodically help beekeepers check for pests and diseases.