Ohio beekeepers report colony losses over past year

COLUMBUS (AP) — Ohio beekeepers say they’ve lost much of their beehive colonies this past year, and that keeping their bees healthy is becoming increasingly difficult.

From April 2014 to April 2015, Ohio beekeepers reported losing nearly 50 percent of their colonies, according to a USDA-backed research effort, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

Barry Conrad, the owner of a Winchester-based hive business, said he has had to replace nearly 50 of his 75 colonies— about 2.5 million bees —for the second year in a row.

Ohio farmers rely on bees to pollinate more than 70 types of crops including apples, strawberries and pumpkins. According to the U.S Department of Agriculture, the industry relies on honeybees to pollinate $14 billion in crops every year.

Ohio Department of Agriculture officials said a big part of the problem is a loss of habitat for the bees. If the bees can’t stock up on nectar for the fall, they won’t have enough food to get them through the winter.

But some beehive owners point to certain insecticides and disease-spreading pests for the decline. Conrad said that neonicotinoids, an insecticide similar to nicotine, is partially to blame for the losses.

Barbara Bloetscher with the state agriculture department’s apiary program said introducing Russian honeybees, a species more tolerant of mites, could be a solution to the bee shortage. Another is introducing pollinator gardens.

Since 2010, the number of registered beekeepers in Ohio has increased from around 3,900 to more than 4,400. Bloetscher said the bump in beekeepers should help boost the number of bees.

Man falls into grain feed mixer, dies

MECHANICSBURG — Officials say a man died on his family farm in central Ohio when he fell into a grain feed mixer.

Madison County Sheriff Jim Sabin tells The Columbus Dispatch that 34-year-old Austin Ayars was found dead Sunday at the dairy farm near Mechanicsburg. Family members told investigators he had been feeding cattle several hours earlier.

Sabin says Ayars was adding hay to the mixer when he lost his balance and fell in. The machine is powered by a tractor and is supposed to be turned off when being fed hay or grain.

Sabin calls the accident an eye-opener for those who might become complacent when operating heavy equipment.

Ayars had recently returned to Ohio after working as a veterinarian in Arizona.

Kasich signs bill to shift 2016 presidential primary

COLUMBUS — Ohio Gov. John Kasich has signed a bill to push the swing state’s 2016 presidential primary back by one week.

The election was set for March 8, the first Tuesday after the first Monday of the month. The new law moves next year’s primary to March 15.

The Republican governor is considering a presidential run.

Republicans who control the Ohio Legislature have said the date change follows Republican National Committee rules designed to discourage states from holding primaries too early to boost their influence in the party’s nominating process.

But Democrats have said voters could be confused and potentially discouraged by the switch. Their party has argued a primary on May 3 or later would allow both parties to maximize their delegates.

AG pledges $3 million to combat college sexual assaults

COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has announced a $3 million competitive grant program to help colleges and universities improve services for campus sexual assault victims.

DeWine says he’s also providing advanced training on investigating campus sexual assaults through the state police training academy.

DeWine said Wednesday that college campuses are not a separate enclave, but are part of the state and its criminal justice system. He says it’s time to change the culture on campus and educate students about ways to prevent sexual assault.

Katie Hanna, executive director of the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, says sexual assault survivors on campus often suffer in silence and many students do not know of their legal rights.

Panel OKs bill to make e-cigarette liquid childproof

COLUMBUS — A legislative panel in Ohio has approved a bill that would require liquid nicotine used in electronic cigarettes to be sold in child-resistant packaging.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that provide users with aerosol puffs that typically contain nicotine and sometimes flavorings like fruit, mint or chocolate.

The bill’s supporters say the liquid nicotine refills can be harmful to children if ingested or absorbed through the skin.

The Senate’s Transportation, Commerce and Labor Committee passed the measure Wednesday after amending the bill to give more time to retailers.

Under the bill, the state’s health department would develop packaging standards. Containers must be significantly difficult for a child under age 5 to open. Violators could be fined up to $1,000.

State law already prohibits minors from obtaining, possessing and using the e-cigarettes.