Franklin County is leading the charge on repopulating the state's honeybees, despite a slight downturn last year.

Franklin County is leading the charge on repopulating the state's honeybees, despite a slight downturn last year.

Franklin County was No. 1 with 329 apiaries in 2014, followed by Cuyahoga County, a distant second with 234, according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

Nevertheless, the Buckeye State overwhelmingly has responded to colony collapse disorder by adding more than 60 beekeepers since 2010. The number of apiaries, or yards with beehives, has increased by 215 in that time.

Meanwhile, the number of colonies -- each beehive has one colony living in it -- climbed from 32,153 in 2010 to 39,071 in 2014. However, there was a slight decrease last year from the prior year, which had the highest number of colonies, 39,822, over the five-year period.

Brett Gates, a spokesman for the Department of Agriculture, said that decline can be attributed to cleaning up the rolls at the state level, veteran beekeepers getting out of the business and newer apiarists keeping fewer hives.

Yet, the state is predicting the number will climb back this year, said Barbara Bloetscher, a Department of Agriculture entomologist.

It is difficult to say where Ohio ranks nationally because many states don't have an accurate way of keeping track of the data, Bloetscher said. Still, Ohio is still considered a honey-production state, with 742,000 pounds produced in 2010, she said.

The increase in the number of honeybees is a cause for celebration because they are the "most important" pollinator of fruits, vegetables, and hay and seed crops, Bloetscher said.

"One out of every three bites of food you take is attributed to the work honeybees perform," she said.

"Although many other insects, birds and bats pollinate flowers, the honeybees are the most efficient because they will fly from flower to flower of the same species and cultivar continually, thus bringing pollen from one plant to the next for maximum pollination."

Theories for colony collapse disorder, which has resulted in the steady loss of bees throughout the world, are many, Bloetscher said. Increased urbanization, pests, diseases and pesticides are believed to have played a role in their decimation, she said.

Arnold Crabtree of the Central Ohio Beekeepers Association said he's cautiously optimistic about the improved honeybee environment in Ohio.

"For one thing, we're not really going to get the problem solved until people are a little wiser on how they take care of gardens and yards," said Crabtree, who lives in Lithopolis and has hives in Florida and Ohio. "The more chemicals we use, the more we're killing the bees."

Although many hives have sprung up in urban areas, residents have little cause for concern, Bloetscher said.

"Honeybees are known to be docile and are too busy working on their various tasks to bother people or pets," she said.

"They do not aggressively defend their colony unless it is being attacked. In most cases, a few bees may buzz around a person or animal without stinging while a hornet or wasp may sting with little provocation.

"Wasps, hornets and sometimes bumblebees will defend their nest with more soldiers that may sting than honeybees."