For the Hing family of Naples, beekeeping began with Kylene Hing exploring new ways that are fun and educational experiences for her two homeschooled children, Kiana and Gabriel. Kylene found a 4-H Beekeeping and Gardening Club for the kids and after the whole family attended their first beekeeping class at the University of Florida-IFAS Extension Office, “they caught the buzz!
Starting out as a humble bee hobby, Hing Family Apiary has grown into a family run business with over 100 hives spread across various locations. The Apiary sells honey, removes and relocates beehives, and provides pollination service to food crops that honeybees need to pollinate.
The biggest challenge for them is working in the heat during the busy season and dealing with the decline of the honey bee. For a hobbyist with fewer hives, they may encounter fewer challenges.
For those interested in backyard beekeeping, Hing suggests doing a lot of research, joining local beekeeping clubs, connecting with seasoned beekeepers, and finding a mentor.
According to the University of Florida, Florida’s honey industry ranks among the top five in the country with nearly 5,000 registered beekeepers managing about 650,000 colonies producing more than 10 million pounds of honey in 2018 (USDA 2018). Nationally, honeybees contribute nearly $20 billion to the crop industry by providing pollination services across the United States.
According to researchers at the University of Florida, pollinators, mostly honeybees, are responsible for one in three bites of food we ingest, but various factors have caused honeybees in the US to decline for more than three decades, marking an alarming drop in 2006. done at the Auburn University College of Agriculture showed that beekeepers in the US lost about 45% of their colonies and if we keep losing these crucial pollinators we may lose some of our favorite foods.
How many different types of bees are there? According to the Florida Department of Agriculture, there are more than 4,000 species of bees that live in the United States, and Florida is home to more than 300 of those species that help pollinate agricultural products. And 29 species are only found here in Florida.
This article is about the honey bee (Apis mellifera), a European honey bee that was brought to the Americas by early European settlers. Honeybees contribute significantly to Florida’s food supply, such as strawberries, blueberries, watermelons, cucumbers, onions, and citrus fruits to name a few. Without them there would be little to no fruit on our table.
My backyard is a haven for honeybees and I find myself mesmerized as the bees forage from flower to flower. They love the native purple passion flowers, compete for the nectar of the puffballs and go wild for the orange jasmine blossoms. On my early morning rides I always listen to the buzz of honey bees high in the palm trees and depending on the season it could be the Saw Palmetto, Royal or Queen Palms. Honey bees are attracted to their large fragrant spines called inflorescences.
According to the University of Florida/IFAS, it takes a female bee that flies 55,000 miles and visits more than two million flowers to make just one pound of honey.
Why do bees make honey? Honey is bee food. An average hive consists of about 60,000 bees and a lot of food is needed to feed the colony. Flowers are not always available all year round, so bees will have to collect as much nectar and store enough honey to feed an entire colony.
To enjoy the fruits of the bees’ labor, I always keep jars of raw honey purchased from local farmers’ markets, as they offer varieties that are so unique to Florida. According to Kylene Hing, the seasonal flavors are determined by local nectar sources that vary from season to season.
How can you help your local bee population? Kylene Hing suggests checking out educational resources such as Florida Native Plant Society, Florida Wildflower Foundation, and University of Florida/IFAS Gardening Solutions to learn which pollinators grow best in your area. Even a potted vegetable garden planted in the fall will attract pollinators.