Text and Photos by Supervisor Katie Tripp, Ph.D.
In the fall of 2016, the Volusia Soil and Water Conservation District (VSWCD) sponsored two free, open to the public workshops to teach citizens about bees and backyard beekeeping. The first workshop was held at the USDA NRCS office in DeLand while the second took place at the Ormond Beach Public Library. Mr. Norm Fredricks and Mr. Tim Blodgett served as respective presenters for these events. Both are active members of the Volusia Beekeepers Club.
The workshops provided information on the ecology and life history of bees, introduced attendees to some of the basics required to keep bees, and culminated in an opportunity to taste a variety of delicious local honey including wildflower honey and black mangrove honey.
Anyone interested in keeping bees should visit Volusiabeekeepers.org and get connected with Club members. The website also contains great information including plans for building bee boxes. But don’t go it alone. Much like bees, successful bee keepers work with others in their community to share tips and resources. Bees need ideal conditions to survive and the best way to help ensure a happy hive is to work with an experienced beekeeper.
Here are some interesting facts shared at the workshops:
- Suburbia, where many of us live, is actually a great place for bees because our neighborhood yards tend to contain lots of flowering plants that bees love. An abundance of local flowers is important since bees only forage within 1/2 mile of their hive.
- Life in bee hive is very structured, with each bee having a specific role. Guard bees work to protect the queen bee and her eggs. They do this by stinging anyone or anything that comes too close to the hive. Worker bees are the largest group of bees in the hive, performing whatever duties are needed to keep the hive functioning. Any female in the hive may be chosen as queen. A queen can lay 1,500-2,000 eggs per day and in the absence of pests or disease, all of them may survive.
- Bumble bees are better pollinators than honey bees because they are messy eaters and spread around more pollen as they move from flower to flower. Bumble bee hives are underground.
- 2 million flowers must be visited to create 1 pound of honey. The color of honey is determined by the types of flowers visited by the bees. Honey derived from citrus flowers is light in color while wildflower honey is darker. Florida honey can also be made from unexpected sources including saw palmetto, gallberry, tupelo, Brazilian pepper, and mangrove.
- Honey that comes from within 25 miles of our homes is considered local honey. Wildflower honey is made all year and is the best type to use when combatting seasonal allergies.
- Florida is the Bee Capitol of the World and central Florida possesses ideal conditions for bees. European Honey Bees are the main producers of honey. While there are 250 varieties of these bees in Florida, only 2 make honey.
- Beekeepers in Florida travel the nation with their hives, helping pollinate a variety of crops. For example, a California almond tree will produce 333 more blooms for each bee introduced to aid pollination. Florida bees and their keepers provide 85% of commercial bee services in the USA.
- When most or all of a hive disappears, that is called Colony Collapse. This can be caused by parasites or acute poisoning of bees caused by pesticides. Bees become more susceptible to pests when their immune systems are weakened by pesticides. To protect our bees and our crops, we must be careful in choosing what pest controls we use in our yards. For more information on colony collapse, its causes, and what is being done, visit https://www.epa.gov/pollinator-protection/colony-collapse-disorder
- A 1/4 acre plot can support 3 bee hives. Keepers should have a minimum of 2 hives.
- In Volusia County, the best time of year to start a hive is January or February.
Educational literature and recipes were available at the beekeeping workshops.
Tim Bladgett with the Volusia Beekeepers shared his knowledge with attendees of the Ormond Beach workshop.