Bringing the bees
Mid to late February in Highlands County is the beginning of the orange blossom bloom. It’s January when beekeepers from all over Florida and many other states look for spots to leave their honey bees, as close to the orange groves as they can. Hopeful that their bees will gather coveted nectar from the blooms and produce the much sought-after orange blossom honey. Unlike the California almond crop, which depends almost exclusively on bees to pollinate their crops, citrus does not depend on insects. It is the beekeepers that reap most of the benefits, and not the citrus grove owners. Many grove owners accept honey as payment to have the bees nearby.
While the bee boxes fill up with orange blossom honey, something else happens. The bees do something that is in their nature, they swarm. Swarming is when the queen of the hive is hustled out the door and forced to leave the warmth and comfort of her home. Although she is the queen, very little of any decision-making is made by her. A large portion of the flying bees, will gather with her, often in a large ball in a tree or shrub and generally within 100 feet of the hive. During this time in the swarm. scout bees, which make up a small portion of the ball of bees, will go out searching for a new home. The swarm rarely takes more than two days to find a home and move on. During this time, they have no hive to defend and, and are not dangerous.
A queen is born
The bees left behind in the hive quickly start to make a new queen. Making a new queen is done by the remaining bees choosing young larvae and feeding them royal jelly. Special wax structures called queen cells are made so that the larger queen will have room to grow. The new queen will emerge in 16 days and will be ready to leave the hive and mate. Mating is done during a series of mating flights. When she returns from these flights, she will stay in the hive until her own time to swarm arrives.
Finding a swarm
If you find a swarm or ball of honey bees in your yard, do not fear them but give them space. This is a great time for a beekeeper to gather them in a bee box and take them home. To find a beekeeper you can call your local UF/IFAS Extension office and get some help. This also goes for when you find a bee hive on your property. In Highlands County, the Extension office number is (863) 402-6540.
Highlands County Extension offers courses in pollinator gardening and beekeeping. February 19th from 10 am until 12 pm we are offering a class on Promoting Pollintors in your yard. This class will cover planting and other features you can add to your yard to attract beneficial insects. Planting for butterflies and pollinators will have many benefits to the health of your landscaping. Click here to register for this class.
Staying in Touch
In Highlands County, our office is at 4509 W George Blvd., Sebring. The Master Gardener Help Desk is open Monday – Friday from 9 AM to 3:30 PM.
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