Sweet Honey Bees Arrive in the U.S.
Honey bees brought to the U.S. in the 1600s by European settlers soon became one of the most economically beneficial insects due to their contributions as a top tier pollinator. Their gentle nature made them easy to manage, and the sweetness they produced made them a favorite in the kitchen
Not So Sweet Honey Bees Introduced
In 1956, a researcher in Brazil imported honey bees from Africa in an attempt to create a honey bee that would be better suited to tropical conditions. The African honey bees were bred with European honey bees. Researchers expected that when mated with the gentle European honey bees, the African honey bees would lose their more defensive nature. However, that was not the case, and in 1957, 26 African queen bees escaped from a breeding program in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The hybrid Africanized honey bees (AHB) became established and expanded their range through South and Central America. The first report of Africanized honey bees in the United States was made in Hidalgo, Texas in 1990. Since then, they have been found throughout the southern U.S.
Department’s Mission is in Part to Protect the Apiary Industry
Recognizing the importance of honey bees to Florida agriculture, the Department established an apiary (honey bee) inspection program in 1923 within our Division of Plant Industry. Part of the inspection program involves maintaining 500 bait traps around the state to monitor for unwanted honey bee species.
Africanized Honey Bees Arrive in Florida
In the early 2000s, Africanized honey bees were first detected in Florida and several stinging incidences occurred. The Department continues to work with others to address increasing concerns related to the establishment of AHB, while at the same time stressing the importance and beneficial aspects of managed honey bee colonies. The message needs to be a balanced one: support the beekeeping industry because their efforts put food on our tables and plants and flowers in our landscape, but also be prepared to respond to potential stinging insects such as the Africanized honey bee.
What Does the AHB Look Like and How Do They Act?
The short answer is just like a European honey bee. Africanized honey bees are 10% smaller than EHBs, but most people won’t take the time to measure! Africanized honey bees have very different personalities. They are overly defensive and will attack more readily than that of the EHB.
How to Avoid Being Stung
The African honey bees build their colonies in many places around homes, businesses and in the wild. You may find them in your barbeque grill, an empty flower pot, an utility box, a discarded tire, up in a tree or under a building eave. They tend to react when they are disturbed by moving their nest or even by loud noises and vibrations cause by machinery such as lawnmowers or leaf blowers. When one or two AHB go out to investigate and sense danger, they use pheromones to alert others of a possible attacker. These pheromones can call thousands of AHB to attack. Things to do if you are attacked by an AHB include:
- Don’t swat them! Remember the more pheromones, the more bees, the more stings.
- If bees begin to chase you, run away in a straight line, cover your face, particularly your nose and mouth, and get inside a building or vehicle. Even if a few get in with you, it is better than remaining outside where there is a greater potential for a larger numbers of bees and stings.
- Remove the stinger by scraping it out with a fingernail or credit card; squeezing the stringer will release more venom.
- Seek medical attention if you are stung several times, or you are allergic to bee stings.
May 6, 2016
Moms make the world go round. But some moms go above and beyond to make sure their kids have a fighting chance.
For example Elasmucha dorsalis, a stink bug, is known for its superb maternal instincts. Unlike other insect moms Elasmucha dorsalis cares for her young for up to two months after hatching. She is known to lead her young to food, such as fruit or flowers, and stand guard while they eat. She also flaps her wings when threatened by predators, or if a nymph (juvenile insect) sends out alarm pheromones.
Another nurturing insect mom is the Platycotis vittata or oak treehopper, which has been known to attack approaching predators to protect her offspring. The nymphs emit a vibration notifying each other and setting off a chain reaction of vibrations. This warning alerts the mother to the presence of predators, who prey on nymphs as a food source. The mother treehopper will stand guard over the nymphs, protecting them from whatever she can. If we were giving out awards, the treehopper would most certainly deserve one.
While the Elasmucha dorsalis is not found in Florida, it is worth noting that
they are not a nuisance of any kind. However, the oak treehopper is found in Florida, but its effects are inconsequential to its oak host. However, all moms deserve recognition…even the small ones.
While the oak treehopper cares for her young for up to six weeks, and the doting Elasmucha dorsalis cares for her young for up to two months, they cannot compare to the 18+ years of attention that our human moms give us. Moms change diapers, attend parent-teacher conferences, soothe wounds, wipe tears, and are always there for their children.
No matter how big or small, a mom will always be there for her young. So this Mother’s Day, give your mom a hug, look her in the eyes and tell her how much she means to you.
Happy Mother’s Day from The Division of Plant Industry!
March 16, 2016
First, the disclaimers:
DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME or anywhere else, unless you are experienced in handling bees.
EXPECT TO BE STUNG. This demonstration should be performed only by experts.
That being said, we found the process of bee bearding to be an interesting one. We followed three members of the legendary Cutts family as they donned bee beards at the Ninth Annual University of Florida Bee College March 4-5 and our photos offer insight into a time-honored demonstration of the basic gentleness of bees, properly handled.
First, prepare the bees and check the weather
Bee handlers want only the calmest, gentlest bees on their faces. So often they will move a hive when the scouts are out gathering nectar. The bees that remain in the hive will be the gentlest.
The optimum temperature for bee beards is above 70 degrees. Colder temperatures make for grumpier bees and, potentially, more stings. The day these photos were taken was less than ideal, with temperatures in the upper 60s and a breeze.
The bees are calmed by misting them with plain water and fed with a bit of vanilla water mist prior to handling them.
Find the queen
After finding the queen, the bee bearder, having placed gauze or cotton in his ears, places her on his (or her) chin. Next, bees, which have been placed in a shallow box, are invited to join the queen.
Then, it’s time to sit quietly as bees crawl onto one’s face. An assistant may use a credit card to gently move bees away from eyes, nose and other sensitive areas of the face.
All good things must come to an end, of course. The beekeepers use a funnel and a credit card to move the bees back into their box.
As if the bee beards aren’t interesting enough by themselves, Cutts family members usually display a hand puppet and sing songs that clearly articulate the message they are attempting to convey: Bees are important to us all, and in the proper hands, can be downright friendly.
March 7, 2016
Frequently during his tenure as the chief apiary inspector for the state of Florida, Lawrence Cutts could be seen at fairs and festivals around the state, sporting bee beards while singing about bees.
This past weekend, three generations of Cuttses delighted an audience at the Ninth Annual University of Florida Bee College by making the bee beard a family affair. One-by-one, Lawrence’s son, Stephen, who is currently a FDACS-DPI apiary inspector in the Trenton office, Steven’s son, Logan and finally Lawrence donned beards, each constituted by about 100,000 bees.
Bee beard demonstrations have long been a favorite way for apiarists to reach out to rank-and-file audiences, demonstrating that properly handled, bees can be calm rather than scary.
In the interest of safety, Lawrence did make it a point to tell the audience that no one who does not want to be stung should ever attempt a bee beard.
March 1, 2016
Print out some Don’t Pack a Pest coloring books and learn while you color. Learning with Linus is a fun and informative way to teach your little ones about the importance of packing. If you’re planning on traveling this summer take some time to look at what you should not bring back from your vacation destination.
Some Plants Like it Dry
Record heat and above-normal rainfall have played havoc with fruit and vegetable farming in Florida, making tighter supplies and higher prices likely for at least the next couple of months, agriculture experts say.
South Florida was hit the worst with eight inches of rain in four days causing a decline in: cucumbers, endive, escarole, radishes, squash, grape and roma tomatoes.
“When plants get too much water, it crowds out the oxygen in the soil and the roots cannot breathe,” said Paul Orsenigo. Paul grows corn, green beans and leafy vegetables on his farm, Growers Management, in Palm Beach County.
Turning Research into Wine
Florida A&M University Center for Viticulture and Small Fruit Research has been around since 1978. They are currently working on a long-term project focused on the many variations of the muscadine grape through traditional breeding, biotechnology and in-vitro selection. The college creates jellies, jams, spreads, wine and toppings for ice cream in its quest for knowledge.
“Our research in muscadine grapes is very important because it places us at FAMU as one of the world’s leaders in developing new muscadine varieties for both eating as well as wine making. Grapes are one of the most nutritious fruits in the world, loaded with nutraceuticals and phytochemicals which can fight cancer, high blood pressure, [and] improve health of the heart,” said Robert Taylor dean of the College of Agricultural and Food Sciences.
Zarchary Huang of Michigan State University and Kim Flottum of Bee Culture Magazine along with DPI’s very own apiary department will be speaking at the Bee College, an upcoming event in St. Augustine in early March. The event is open to all enthusiasts, beekeepers, gardeners, and naturalists. If you are interested in the event please pre-register, walk-ins will incur an additional fee. To see a full list of classes and find out how to register, please visit their website.
UF’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is conducting a new summer program “to immerse student to issues and disciplines in agriculture and life sciences and how it relates to the community, Florida and globally,” said Charlotte Emerson, the director of student development and recruitment for the college.
The program will be held July 10 to July 15, it will take up to 25 students and cost $350 Florida residents will be given preference. The program will include a banquet for all students and two guest lecturers: Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, and Elaine Turner, the dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
Giant African Land Snails
A reminder for the residents of Miami-Dade and Broward counties: please be on the lookout for giant African land snails. These invasive snails, of which more than 160,000 have been collected since 2011, are known for causing massive amounts of damage to plants and buildings, as well as carrying a parasite that can infect humans and animals. Visit FreshFromFlorida.com to see images of the invasive snail, and if you think you have seen a giant African land snail call our helpline:
Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
(352) 395-4600 (Outside North America)
Or email us at: DPIHelpline@FreshFromFlorida.com
What’s in season now?
During the month of March you can buy these Fresh From Florida crops: bell pepper, broccoli, cabbage, carambola, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, grapefruit, guava, lettuce, mushroom, orange, papaya, peanut, potato, radish, snap bean, squash, strawberry, sweet corn, tangerine, and tomato.
If you’re interested in the freshest crops check out the Florida Fresh app. This new app shows you what to plant in your area and what crops are in season! Check it out now on your Android or IOS device.
February 19, 2016
Oriental Fruit Flies Are Gone
What started out as a state of emergency has now ended with the February 13th lifting of the Oriental fruit fly quarantine in the Redland area of Miami-Dade County . This dangerous pest threatened Miami-Dade’s 1.6 Billion agricultural industry.
“The entire Miami-Dade community stepped up to the plate to help eradicate this pest. Everyone affected by this threat rolled up their sleeves and pitched in to defend not only Miami-Dade County’s $1.6 billion agriculture industry, but also Florida’s more than $120 billion agriculture industry,” Adam Putnam Commissioner of Agriculture.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and the USDA will continue to monitor the 56,000 fruit-fly traps state wide to prevent future infestations.
Citrus Greening means less green for Florida
“…Florida is facing the prospect of losing its signature crop and its more than $10 billion economic impact.”said Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam. Citrus Greening is to blame.
Since citrus greening was first detected in 2005, Florida has lost $7.8 billion in revenue. With a new proposal by Commissioner Putnam, he would implement a cost sharing program with farmers. This would allow the removal or destruction of abandoned citrus groves that still harbors citrus greening. This proposal is still in the legislative process.
Miami Boat Show
There was a great turn out this past weekend at the Miami Boat Show. The Florida Department of Agriculture was there to stress the importance of Don’t Pack a Pest.
The Don’t Pack a Pest program is administered by FDACS in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The program’s goal is to make international travelers — including boaters — aware of the dangers of bringing undeclared agricultural products into the United States. Visit DontPackaPest.com for more information.
Woman of the Year
Congratulations to Lisa Hinton for being awarded the 2015 Woman of the Year in Agriculture at the Florida State Fair.
All in a hard days work
- Gary Webb, Plant Inspector, Dade City, had a busy week reaching out to the public. He participated in a Nature Coast Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area exotic plant cleanup. He assisted in pulling and treating coral ardesia and some other invasive plants in an effort to keep our state parks clean and exotic plant free. On Monday, he inspected plants at the Pasco County Fair for the Youth Plant Show and Auction. This event taught students about the importance of agricultural. Some pests were even found, and they were used as an additional learning tool for students.
- Gary Van Cleef, a Division of Plant Industry Supervisor in the apiary section, learned more than instruction and presentation techniques from a supervisor training course. He also learned how to fight a wildfire – and last week he put that knowledge to work. He was able to quickly respond to a fire he encountered on his way home from work. Way to go, Gary.
Don’t forget growers, beekeepers & stakeholders complete the FDACS Pesticide-Pollinator Awareness Survey!
February 17, 2016
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services had a strong presence at the Miami Boat Show over the President’s Day weekend, stressing the message, “Don’t Pack a Pest” and urging people to watch for and report the giant African land snail.
“We had many people visit our kiosk in the Central Courtyard to view our outreach materials and take home a message of Don’t Pack a Pest,” said Dr. Gordon Bonn, Supervisor of the Marinas and Canals program, Division of Plant Industry.
The Don’t Pack a Pest program is administered by FDACS in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The program’s goal is to make international travelers — including boaters — aware of the dangers of bringing agricultural products into the United States.
The giant African land snail has been the subject of an eradication program in South Florida that began in August 2011. The snail is known to consumer more than 250 kinds of crops, poses a danger to human and animal health and can damage structures.
As a regulatory agency of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Division of Plant Industry works to detect, intercept and control plant and honey bee pests that threaten Florida’s native and commercially grown plants and agricultural resources.