Beekeeping, also known as apiculture, is the practice of maintaining bee colonies to achieve desired objectives. Honeybees are the most common domesticated bee species. They are social insects that live in large colonies which include a single adult queen bee and thousands of female worker bees, whose numbers change with the seasons, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Why keep the bees? Bees play a vital role in both natural and agricultural ecosystems. Besides their valuable and healthy products, bees and other pollinators like butterflies help in pollinating approximately three-quarters of plants that produce about 90% of world food. (“What is Beekeeping”- James Bailey).
Pollination is essential for the reproduction of plants. Some plants are self-pollinated (example: cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower), others are pollinated by wind (Example: grasses), while others are pollinated by water (Example: many aquatic plants). Nevertheless, most plants are fertilized by pollen carried by pollinators. Pollinators are any animals that help to bring pollen from the male part of flowers called the stamen, to the female part of the flowers called stigma. In the world, more than 85% of all the flowering plants are fertilized by pollinators including mammals (Example: bats), birds such as hummingbirds, but primarily by insects such as bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, flies, and wasps. It is through the pollination process that we propagate vegetables, fruits, and other crops.
The Western Honeybee
Among all these pollinators, the Western Honeybee (Apis mellifera), also known as the European honeybee, is the most important in Agriculture. Although here in Florida we have more than 300 different species of bees, it is the Western Honeybee the one that pollinates approximately 85% of all crops in the state. Beekeepers in Florida play an important role providing pollination services to farmers across the state. Florida has approximately 3,000 registered beekeepers (Commercials and Hobbyists), with approximately 400,000 colonies in total, and the state produce between 10-20 million of pounds of honey every year. Florida ranks in the top 10 states of USA for honey production.
Bees are not just important for agriculture but for nature in general. As mentioned before, Florida has more than 300 native bee species that help with the ecosystem. These bees help in the pollination process of wild plants as well of landscape plants. Native bees vary widely in color, size, shape, and behavior. Some of these bees are solitary and does not create colonies like the Western Honeybee. Within these native bees we can found Sweat bees, Leafcutter bees, Mason bees, Bumble bees, Carpenter bees, Long-hornet bees, Mining bees, Plasterer bees and Cuckoo bees. If you wish to find more information about these native bees, access the following link: Bees of Florida (EDIS publication)
Plants that Attract Native Bees
Using native plants, we can attract native bees and other pollinators into our landscapes. Plants that have flower with yellow, white, and blue-purple colors, highly attract native bees. Examples of these plants are Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) which have yellow flowers, Chickasaw Plum (Prunus angustifolia) which have white flowers, and Wild Petunias (Ruellia spp.) which have blue flowers. If you want more information about how to design and manage a garden for native bees, access the following link: Attracting Native Bees to Your Florida Landscape (EDIS publication) Pollination is an essential process for agriculture and the ecosystem. Without pollinators it would be difficult to propagate plants either for fruits and vegetable production, or for ornamental plants. Protecting these pollinators is important and our responsibility if we want to have food at our homes and beautiful looking plants in our landscapes.
So, what’s all the Buzz about?
Come join us at our day camp, “Buzzing with Bees” from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on March 24th at UF/IFAS Extension Polk County- Stuart Building. It is geared towards youth ages 8-13 years but all youth between 8-18 years are welcome. Some of the topics that we will cover include Bees and their Biology, Cooking with Honey, Honey Production, DIY Bee Hotel Crafts, Honey Tasting, Careers in Beekeeping and much more. There is a $10 fee associated with the day camp and would include lunch and other camp materials. For all ACTIVE 4-H youth registration is through 4honline and for all non 4-H members register using this link : Non 4-H Member Registration
Should you have any questions regarding registration, associated fees etc. please reach out to the 4-H agent, Shree at firstname.lastname@example.org or the Small Farms Agent Luis R. Rodriguez at email@example.com or call us at 863-519-1041. This program is a UF/IFAS Extension program which is “An Equal Opportunity Institution”.
Authors: Luis R. Rodriguez | Small Farms Agent and Shreemoyee Ghosh | 4-H Agent at UF/IFAS Extension Polk County