Honey bees dying in Ohio; beekeepers hope new legislation brings attention to industry

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CANAL WINCHESTER - Legislators in the Ohio House passed a bill last month, giving apiary owners legal immunity from claims of injury by bee sting.

Some central Ohio beekeepers say it's a preventative measure, but more importantly, it could bring awareness to the honey bee industry.

"If you realize, one-third of everything we eat is dependent upon honey bee pollination," beekeeper Barry Conrad said.

Conrad is selling 250 packaged bees to other beekeepers and new ones, hoping they'll pollinate more crops and make honey in Ohio.

"It's a 3-pound package which is 10,000 bees and a queen and that's what you need to get a colony up and running again," Conrad said.

Conrad says just last year, the state lost 60 percent of its bees.

"Bees are, along with all pollinators rather, are having a hard time surviving so it's important to keep more people keeping bees," Conrad said.

Conrad says he's trying to do his part by maintaining 75 hives across central Ohio.

He's been beekeeping for the past 35 years.

Conrad says he hopes new legislation in the state will bring attention to the industry.

"If we lose the honey bee well, we lose the best things that we eat," Conrad said.

According to State Representative Dick Stein, who sponsored the legislation, House Bill 392 shields beekeepers in the event that an individual claims injury by a specific bee from the beekeeper’s property, which can lead to thousands of dollars in legal fees to defend.

Legislators say it is nearly impossible to assign liability to these beekeepers for several reasons: Bees can forage up to two miles from their colony, each colony could have close to 60,000 bees, most bees will not attack unless provoked, and many feral bees can be in the same proximity as registered bees, making it difficult to distinguish which bee it is.

State lawmakers also say the bill works to strengthen the pollinating industry in Ohio, which adds $600 million to the farming sector every year.

On Conrad's Hive and Honey Farm, the bees are always busy at work.

So is the beekeeper, who is spreading the word to keep the bees buzzing.

House Bill 392 will now be sent to the Ohio Senate for consideration.
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