Hurricane Michael significantly impacted the beekeeping industry in the Florida Panhandle. This area is home to about 500 registered beekeepers and nearly 50,000 colonies, which amounts to more than 1.2 billion bees. These colonies are vital to Florida agriculture because the bees provide pollination services to many of the state’s crops.
Beekeepers in the Florida Panhandle are racing to save their colonies as many forage resources — blooming trees and flowers — were destroyed in the hurricane. Furthermore, many of the colonies have been destroyed, damaged or otherwise cannot be accessed due to the hurricane.
For Affected Beekeepers
The Florida State Beekeepers Association (FSBA) is organizing assistance to help beekeepers affected by Hurricane Michael. The FSBA has created a dedicated emergency hotline for beekeepers affected by the storm. The number is 985-664-9606. Jennifer Holmes, FSBA President, manages the hotline. It is vital that the FSBA know which beekeepers are affected, where the affected apiaries are, how many colonies they represent, and what resources are needed as they organize assistance. Please call the hotline to communicate this information to the FSBA.
If you are a beekeeper affected by the storm, limited beekeeping supplies will soon be available at distribution centers in the counties that are affected. The following individuals will serve as points of contact for all distributions:
- Tony Hogg [Cell: 904-545-1072] [Home: 850-997-3974]
- Elmore Herman [Cell: 850-557-3409]
Please contact Tony or Elmore with any questions related to the distribution of needed supplies.
The available supplies may include, but are not limited to:
- Sugar syrup
- Dry sugar
- Dry pollen substitutes
- Small hive beetle/Varroa treatments
- Gas cans
- Oil (for saws)
- Leather work gloves
Some beekeepers may be available to provide physical assistance for apiary management. They may also have heavy equipment and other machinery to assist in apiary cleanup efforts. Please contact the FSBA hotline (985-664-9606) to see what human resources are available.
Additional notes for beekeepers:
- The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Agricultural Environmental Services (AES) Division will be scheduling mosquito control via aerial spraying within a week. Tony Hogg will disseminate information regarding mosquito control as it becomes available.
- Early reports from the area indicate that bee colonies are robbing one another heavily due to open, destroyed or overturned hives and a general lack of forage available in the affected area because plants were damaged during the hurricane. Colonies may need to be fed directly at hives or, if affected apiaries cannot be reached, out in the open near apiaries.
- The following bee pests and diseases may be an issue and should be controlled.
- Small hive beetle populations may increase significantly given that colonies are weak or dead, leaving the hive resources available to the beetle.
- Varroa populations are naturally high this time of year, making Varroa control of immediate concern.
- Robbing bees can spread American foulbrood. Thus, antibiotic treatment is recommended.
For Those Who Want to Help
- The Florida State Beekeepers Association (FSBA) established a GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/fsba-beekeeper-hurricane-relief. All monetary donations are tax-deductible and will be used to purchase supplies needed by the affected beekeepers.
- Beekeepers may need help working their colonies once they are able to access their apiaries. Thus, beekeepers, and beekeepers only, are encouraged to contact the FSBA hotline (985-664-9606) to be added to a volunteer list. Volunteer beekeepers are encouraged to bring all relevant beekeeping equipment, such as personal protective equipment, heavy equipment and chainsaws, when or if invited to assist.
It is important to know that there is limited or no access to some areas impacted by the hurricane. Secondary and lower roads will retain debris for an extended time. Travel priority must be given to first responders, the power companies and associated emergency personnel. Furthermore, various curfews may be in place in certain areas. Thus, you should contact the FSBA hotline BEFORE making any trip to or offering any assistance in the affected area.