June 30, 2016
Supermarkets rarely carry more than one or two variations of honey; however, the abundance of honey variety goes virtually unknown amongst consumers.
According to the National Honey Board, “Single varietal honeys result when the honey bees gather nectar from the same type of flowers. This process is aided by beekeepers who strategically place their hives in an orchard or adjacent to a single type of flower and then carefully monitor the collection of honey.”
The more familiar of these honeys would be the clover and orange blossom variety.
Clover is a popular honey; it is considered the highest contributor to honey production across the United States. Orange blossom honey is popular in Florida, due to the abundance of orange trees and other citruses.
Other honey varieties include: alfalfa, avocado, basswood, black locust, blackberry, blueberry, Brazilian pepper, buckwheat, Chinese tallow, cotton, eucalyptus, fireweed, gallberry, goldenrod, lehua, mesquite, mint, raspberry, safflower, saw palmetto, snowberry, star thistle, sunflower, sage, sourwood, tupelo, and tulip polar.
Honey, much like wine has an aroma and tasting wheel. This wheel will help you identify notes and subtle nuances in your honey; they may also better assist you in finding varieties you may enjoy. In addition to the tasting wheel, you may also look at the color of the honey, the lighter the color the milder the taste.
So take a step outside your comfort zone. Try some fresh Florida honey, as well as a mixture from across the country. You never know, you may just fall in love with a new assortment of honey.
June 23, 2016
At the Division of Plant Industry, an important part of our mission is to protect Florida’s natural landscape. And while we recognize not all plants are nice, we can share information about those that are considered “wicked,” due sometimes to the mere fact that they stink!
For example, have you ever heard of a skunk cabbage (Synplocarpus foetidus)? It’s a cabbage that smells like the name says, like a skunk. Located in the wetland areas in eastern parts of North America, the skunk cabbage is best known as a thermogenic plant meaning it produces its own heat. This process takes place over a 12 to 14 day period where the flower is blooming and its bloom breaks down substances. During this cycle, the flower uses a combination of oxygen and starches from its root system to produce the energy required for heat.
It should be noted that this is not a plant you play with. When trampled or bruised, the plant emits a foul smell as a natural deterrent from predators. Ingesting this plant can cause, swelling, choking sensations, and a burning sensation in the mouth. Excessive consumption may result in death.
If you want to learn more about the skunk cabbage and other wicked plants, visit The Florida Museum of Natural History: Wicked Plants: The Exhibit will be on display between now and January 15, 2017. The exhibit is based off the entertaining book “Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities” by Amy Stewart.
An interactive interface is available for students of all ages to learn about dangerous plants. “The challenge for the museum is to use Wicked Plants to grab visitor’s attention, then turn it into curiosity about all plants, the toxic and the terrific,” says, Patti J. Anderson, Ph.D., chief botanist with the Division of Plant Industry.
For more information on this event and others held by the museum please visit the museum’s exhibits page.
June 16, 2016
Dads around the nation will be celebrating Father’s Day with their loved ones. They will be recognized for their nurturing abilities, and uncanny ability to protect their kids.
Much like human dads, bug dads deserve recognition too. One bug dad that rises to the top is the giant water bug (Abedus belostoma) also known as the “toe-biter.”
Much like its aquatic friend the seahorse, the giant water bug dad carries the eggs of his young for three weeks. The female lays up to 150 eggs on his back, for him to protect. Giant water bug’s spend much of their time in the water, leaving them and their young susceptible to aquatic organisms and growing mold. The father prevents this by surfacing often and cleaning the eggs.
One of the great things about carrying around his young is that he can remove them from dangerous situations easily; all he has to do is run away. But that’s not all he can do. With pinching forelegs and an impressive bite, the giant water bug can pack a punch. It typically attacks prey by injecting enzymes through a straw like appendage, liquefying the prey’s insides, and providing a feast of liquefied inners. Don’t worry, giant water bugs are not fond of humans, they prefer small fish, tadpoles, and even small birds. However, they have been given the name “toe-biters” for the bites given to feet when startled by wading humans.
This bug can be abundantly found in the Southeastern United States. So look out for this dad-of-the year the next time you’re in an aquatic area around late summer or early fall.
Give your dad a shout out below and tell us why he’s the best!
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.