March 28, 2017
Ideas of how to make pollinators feel more at home, near your home.
Cheerios may be in the spotlight now for its #BringBacktheBees program which is mailing seed packets across the nation to homeowners who are interested in preserving native pollinators. The problem is the website does not list the scientific names of the specific wildflower seeds, generalized names such a “poppy” or “wildflower” raises red flags for nature enthusiasts who are aware of the threat some species may bring.
While we can’t say for sure if these seeds are a threat to Florida, we have some alternative methods to ensuring Florida pollinators hang around.
Plant your own wildflowers
If you like the idea of having wildflowers around, try planting some Florida natives. You can find these at your local nursery or even large box stores. Nurseries are inspected annually for pests and diseases. So buying through a nursery or store is recommended. Visit the Florida Wildflower Foundation which has an index of flowers and what they attract. By planting flowers, you get a beautiful view and the pollinators get a new playground.
Create a nesting site
Not all pollinators nest in the same way. Some dig underground, some call tree stumps or unpruned shrubs home. But it’s safe to say that most pollinators like undisturbed areas. Leave a patch of land in your yard undisturbed. It will keep your yard work to a minimum and do some good for our pollinators.
Limit or avoid the use of pesticides
Pesticides might rid you of your problematic pests; however, they may also rid you of your helpful pollinators. Consider limiting your use of pesticides to a bare minimum and encouraging native natural predators.
Keep your flowers blooming
Planting native wildflowers isn’t the only thing you can do. To ensure the prosperity of your insect friends, arrange your garden so you have something in bloom year round. Pollinators need to feed year round, not just in spring.
Provide clean water
Insects need water, too. By filling a shallow dish with water and adding a few half submerged stones, you’re giving insects a landing pad to get to the water.
Build a bee condo
Some bees prefer solitude over colonies; thus, making a bee condo will attract a variety of pollinators, including the mason bees. They are solitary workers and can pollinate more effectively than honey bees. A bee condo can be made quickly and can be mounted on a post or the side of a building. Find the instructions here and make one of your own today.
Get your own bee hive
Backyard beekeeping is popular and legal in Florida. You must register your hive through the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry, Bureau of Plant and Apiary Inspection; find out more information by attending meetings here or at your local bee club.
To quote Michael Jackson, “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make the change.” Share your progress with your friends, show them the impact you’ve made and why they should take action, too. Tag us on Facebook @FDACSDPI or Twitter @FLPlantIndustry and show us what you’ve done.
Every little bit helps pollinator populations.
February 17, 2017
While thousands of people roam about the Florida State Fair in search of a new fried food or even their next favorite ride, many are learning new information about their state. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry (DPI) is center stage in the Agricultural Hall of Fame at the 2017 Florida State Fair, exhibiting an array of fascinating information. DPI has so much to share with the community, including the history of the department, the statewide inspection conducted to detect new pests and diseases, the biological methods used to protect Florida’s agriculture against invasive species, the importance of pollinators and more.
Insect Encounter and More exhibit Includes:
- The Bureau of Plant and Apiary Inspection brought with them two hives of live bees for the public to observe. Florida honey bees are an important part of the agricultural process. “Without honey bees to pollinate, approximately 1/3 of the food we eat every day would disappear.” This display will also teach you what to do when you encounter a swarm of aggressive bees and how to protect yourself. But back to the nice bees, if you would like to learn more about the beekeeping process, an apiary inspector will be on site to answer your questions.
- The Bureau of Methods Development and Biological Control brought along one of its
most requested insects, the air potato beetle (Lilioceris cheni)! The air potato beetles were introduced into Florida after their host plant, the air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera) rapidly started growing. This vine can shield sunlight from surrounding plants causing problems if left untreated. You can request air potato beetles for your area by filling out the form.Another important insect for a very different reason is the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP). This psyllid is known for carrying huanglongbing, also known as citrus greening disease. The bureau of methods is rearing a parasitic wasp Tamarixia radiata that attacks the Asian citrus psyllid. Hundreds of thousands are released in citrus producing areas of the state to help reduce the number of ACPs. The bureau also has developed traps to capture and identify the source of the problem. Learn more about the DPI’s beneficial insect programs at the fair where FDACS employees will answer your questions.
- The Bureau of Entomology, Nematology and Plant Pathology developed the Insect Encounters display. Preserved insects have been on display at the Florida State Fair since 1904, and DPI’s Insect Encounters is always a major draw. The bureau brought along an array of living insects including slender brown scorpions, bess beetles, a Mexican red knee tarantula, butterflies, and more. Trays of preserved specimens from the Florida State Collection of Arthropods Museum Gainesville are also on display. The museum hosts over 10 million specimens to assist with identification requests by the public and for scientist around the world. If you have an insect you would like to have identified, please call 1-888-397-1517 or visit FreshFromFlorida.com to learn how to prepare and submit the sample.
- Botany’s exhibit hosts an interactive display where you can flip through various noxious weeds and their biological control. Much like our entomology department, our botany team can assist the public with the identification of plants. If you would like to have a plant identified, please view the same submission videos for more information.
- Citrus Health Response Program– “The goal of the Citrus Health Response Program (CHRP) is to sustain the United States’ citrus industry, to maintain grower’s continued access to export markets, and to safeguard the other citrus growing states against a variety of citrus diseases and pests. This is a collaborative effort involving growers, federal and state regulatory personnel and researchers.” Florida’s citrus industry is a top priority! Learn about the CHRP program and the services it provides.
- Learn about the importance of declaring imported commodities and about the phytosanitary certificates needed to move plants in and out of the state at the Plant Inspection table. Without the declaration of imported goods, many invasive species can enter the state. Examples include giant African land snails, Asian citrus psyllid, and various exotic and economically significant fruit flies. These invasive pests can negatively impact Florida’s important agriculture and can cost the state millions of dollars in eradication efforts. Plant inspectors place an array of traps throughout the state for early detection of invasive pests, These traps have names including: McPhail, multi-Lure, boll weevil, purple prism, tri-color or bucket, black Lindgren funnel, orange paper delta, white plastic delta, green Lindgren funnel, and the Jackson trap. Learn what each trap is used for while they’re on display!
- The Don’t Pack a Pest campaign reminds travelers the importance of declaring agricultural items. This international campaign encourages travelers to check the online website DontPackaPest.com before they arrive at their ports of departure. Knowing if you can or can’t bring back a particular agricultural item will make the traveling experience smoother and quicker. The program is a partner with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, The United States Department of Agriculture, United States Customs and Border Protection, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Learn more at DontPackaPest.com.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry’s exhibit is just a small sample of what the Florida State Fair has to offer in terms of education. Make sure to stop by the FDACS-DPI exhibit and bring the kids! Kids can enjoy the exhibits, stickers, coloring books, temporary tattoos, as well as live insects! Enjoy the fair through February 20th!
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.
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.
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.
February 16, 2016
Gary Van Cleef 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. Van Cleef is an Agriculture and Consumer Protection Supervisor in the Apiary section of the FDACS Division of Plant Industry
Gary attended the M410 Facilitator Instructor Course at the Florida Forest Service Withlacoochee Training Center in Brooksville a few years ago to add to his skills as a supervisor in Apiary Inspection. On July 9, he suddenly found himself fighting a wildfire near his home.
It was a windy day in Alachua County – so windy that a pine tree was blown over on a power line, snapping the line and setting the tree and the surrounding forest on fire. Van Cleef, who lives about a mile northeast of the La Crosse Citrus Budwood Repository, was heading home after work.
“I rushed home, passing the La Crosse Volunteer Fire Department going the other way. The 911 dispatcher had given the wrong location to the fire department and power company, so I arrived at the scene first.”
Van Cleef, with the help of a neighbor, Bob, a retired fire fighter, had already established a firebreak when the first engine arrived.
“The woods and pasture were so dry the fire was traveling upwind at a fast pace,” Van Cleef said. “There is a mobile home about 100 feet from the origin point along the forest. Bob’s house is downwind, adjoining another pine forest full of dry fuel.”
The Alachua County brush truck arrived last and mopped up the scene. Two other fire engines were stationed on the road and they remained there to prevent the fire crossing to the other forest.
But Gary’s work was not done after the fire was put out.
“The brush and power company trucks got stuck when they were ready to leave, so I pulled them out with the old white, two-wheel-drive Dodge truck I always drive,” he said.
Van Cleef was left with one more chore: clearing the road of two trees that had blown over.
“I wish I had had a pulaski or fire rake that day,” he said. “I learned how to use them from fellow students’ presentations during the M410 course.”
(A pulaski is a specialized firefighting tool combining an axe and adze in one head. Forest firefighters use it to both dig and chop. It is named after Edward “Big Ed” Pulaski, a hero in the annals of the U.S. Forest Service who, in the early Twentieth Century introduced and improved the tool that firefighters still depend on.)
Van Cleef is undaunted by the hair-raising experience.
“Just another day in Apiary Inspection,” he said.