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Beekeeping hasn’t lost its attraction

To Bee or not to Bee

      Everyone is worried about the bees. Since colony collapse started being recognized as in issue in the 2007, the word is out that bees may be in trouble. Yet, and maybe because of, there are more beekeepers than ever.  Florida has over 4,000 colonies or hives and that has steadily increased over the last few years. 3 out of 4 of those beekeepers are considered backyard beekeepers with less than 10 colonies. The news is good but long-time beekeepers will tell you the rules have changed.  Pest like Varroa destructor, a mite that feeds on honey bees and their larvae and often weakens the whole hive, has increased the difficulty of beekeeping. Still backyard beekeeping, with the allure of harvesting golden honey, keeps the dream alive.
Close-up of a queen honey bee surrounded by worker bees on some wax comb

A Queen Bee is surrounded by her court.           Photo by David Austin

Bee Country

      Where I reside, in the Heartland of Florida, honey bees are quite abundant. The reason is we sit in the heart of citrus country. Every year, northern beekeepers bring down thousands of hives to enjoy the fruits of the honey bee’s labor. The massive nectar flow from citrus flowers bring an abundance of the premium sought after orange blossom honey. Unlike crops like almonds, which require bees for pollination, most citrus varieties are self-pollinating. The beekeepers are the ones that reap the most benefits and they are eager to get a spot near the citrus groves. Coincidentally, when the bees are here, is when the spring swarming is at full tilt. Swarming is a natural occurrence whereas the queen takes off, with many of the bees.  The bees that stay behind produce a new queen while the old queen searches for a new home. The result is plenty of feral or escaped colonies for would be beekeepers to gather and put in their own hive boxes.

Beekeeping is for the brave at heart!

A foraging honey bee checks out a pink Salvia flower

A foraging honey bee checks out a Salvia flower. Photo by David Austin

       For me it was the love of honey that drove me forward. Everyone has their motivation. One gentleman, whose wife wanted to try beekeeping, wasn’t so thrilled with the idea. It wasn’t long before he bought himself a suit and took over the endeavor.  Like everything, there is work involved. If you’re like me, when the  first crop of honey comes in, you’ll be finding yourself wanting more.   Luckily there is a local Beekeeping Association, based in Sebring, that can lend support to new beekeepers. Seasoned beekeepers and backyard beekeepers gather together on the 3rd Thursday of every month at 7 pm in the Agriculture Civic Center for the Heartland Beekeepers Association’s meetings. There, they trade stories and ideas on taking care of their honey bees.  Not everyone in the group is a beekeeper. Some come to learn and others intend on getting started but haven’t made the jump. Annually a bee course is offered by Heartland Beekeepers Association and the University of Florida’s Institute of Agricultural Science to train want-a-bee beekeepers in the finer details of the art. This year, the course is January 13th, a Saturday. For information on taking the class email me at or go to Eventbrite by clicking this link:
That’s the latest from your hometown gardener. For more of my UF/ IFAS Blogs go to–garden/

11 Comments on “Beekeeping hasn’t lost its attraction

  1. Can I buy a hive for my property locally? Or the box and stuff I will need? I will be living on my property by may or June. That is when I wish to start this.

    • Hi Lorraine, this was in the spam folder. Larry Smith can help you get bees. He may even work with you on a box. Do you plan on working the bees? You will need a suit, smoker, hive tool at a minimum to start. The September Heartland Beekeepers meeting is about “Is beekeeping for you” It is free and a precursor to a class I will be giving this fall to teach backyard beekeepers the basics and hopefully finish off with them owning a hive.

  2. will mason bees do well in Highlands county?

  3. Hello,
    My husband and I are interested in the September Heartland Beekeepers meeting will be, day, time and location. We have been here in Spring Lake, Highlands county and haven’t really seen any bees at all. A lot of fire ants and wasps but no bees.

    • Sorry I am just seeing this. Meetings are 3rd Thursday of each month. 4509 Geoprge Blvd. Sebring. Ag civic Center, back side of the building in conference room 2. Tomorrow night is a potluck for our Christmas meeting. You are welcome to come and introduce yourselves. Optional $10 white elephant. My email is The blog does not direct my messages to my email unfortunately.

  4. We have suddenly acquired a queen bee and hundreds of honey bees that we don’t want to kill but am not willing to pay $200 or more to have them removed. We are next to the wildlife preserve where they had a burn last week and the bees may have come from there. Will someone take them away or should we kill them, I really don’t want to kill them.

    • Hi Linda, I have not gotten into the habit of checking these emails. Hopefully I will do better in the future. I hope you found a home for the bees. If they are hanging in a ball (swarm),they will usually move along to their new location in a couple days without intervention. Thanks for your response. David Austin

  5. I have recently discovered 2 honey bee nests on my property. If you or someone might be interested in saving these bees you may contact me at my email address below. If no one responds I will probably be forced to exterminate them as someone might view them as a threat. That would be a small or maybe a large tragedy to me. Please contact me as soon as possible.

    • Hi Ron, Sorry I just saw this. Usually you can contact a local Beekeeper Association. Asking people on Facebook gets a lot of responses. I hope it worked out for you and the bees. David Austin