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Ag director welcomes Illinois State Beekeepers Association

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[November 16, 2013]  SPRINGFIELD Agriculture Director Bob Flider reports a 38 percent increase in the number of registered Illinois beekeepers. The sharp rise bodes well for the future of the Illinois State Beekeepers Association, which had its 122nd annual fall meeting last weekend at the Illinois Department of Agriculture headquarters in Springfield.

"Things are definitely looking up in the beekeeping community," Flider remarked in a welcome address to the group. "Almost 700 beekeepers registered with the department for the first time this past year. As a result, the number of active, registered beekeepers in the state now totals more than 2,500."

Flider affirmed his agency's commitment to help manage and protect honeybee colonies. He said that despite significant budget challenges, the department has filled a vacant position and now employs a full complement of eight apiary inspectors.

"Since joining the department, I've become aware of the importance of Illinois' apiary industry and the contributions of honeybees to our environment and economy," Flider said. "Honeybees are critical to the pollination of Illinois' nation-leading pumpkin crop, as well as many other fruits and vegetables on your table. In fact, they pollinate about a third of all food-producing plants."

Due to pests and diseases, the number of wild honeybees has significantly decreased, greatly increasing the need for domestic apiaries. Many specialty crop growers, for instance, now hire beekeepers to pollinate their crops.

"Experts have warned that the continued high annual loss of wild honeybees puts tremendous pressure on the sustainability of honeybee populations," Flider added. "The cause of these losses hasn't been determined, which is why meetings like this, where information is shared, are so critically important. I'm hopeful the dialogue will help find answers."

The state's beekeepers currently manage more than 24,000 colonies. The department's apiary inspectors assist them by periodically checking their honeybees for pests and diseases.

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Honeybee facts

  • A honeybee must visit about 2 million flowers to make a pound of honey.

  • Bees are required to make a total flight path equivalent to three orbits around the earth to make 1 pound of honey.

  • The average worker bee lives for only six weeks during the summer and makes 1/2 teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.

  • During the summer, one normal colony of bees contains one queen, 300 drones (male bees) and 50,000 workers (female bees).

  • Bees use honey for flight fuel. They obtain approximately 7 million miles per gallon of honey.

  • A bee flies at 15 mph.

  • Bees have five eyes and four wings.

  • The value of honeybee pollination to U.S. agriculture is approximately $14.6 billion.

[Text from Illinois Department of Agriculture file received from the Illinois Office of Communication and Information]

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