BERLIN CENTER, Ohio (WKBN) – Bee keepers are having a good season this year. Its good news after they suffered losses over the past few years as the honey bee population was dwindling.

Bruce Zimmer, president of the Columbiana Honey Bee Keepers Association, said the increase in honey production this year has been the topic of discussion of the groups monthly meetings. Bee keepers believe the mild winter is playing a major role in the increase in honeybee colonies.

The mild winter helped the honeybees survive the winter months and allowed the queen bee to get an early start on raising more bees, and the early blooms this year provided nectar sooner.

One of associations members, Bob the Bee Man, reported that this time last year he captured 40 swarms of bees going out to start new hives. This year, that number increased to 110.

Zimmer said the low bee population last year was impacted by the harsh winter and all the rain in June. He said bees wont fly in the rain and therefore not able to produce as much honey.

Even with the increase in the bee population this year, Zimmer still worries about their longevity. The insects are losing their habitats at alarming rates.

We are losing two million acres of habitat for honey bees and butterflies. We have pesticide use, which is causing problems for bees, Zimmer said.

The Varro mite has also been a problem for bees in recent years.

Zimmer encourages anyone who has a bee issue on their property to hold off on exterminating them. Several bee keepers will remove the bees without harming them.

Anyone interested in starting a bee hive of their own are welcome at the Columbiana County Bee Keepers monthly meetings. The next meeting is scheduled for Sunday, July 17, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., at 15090 Mock Rd, Berlin Center, Ohio.

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