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Save the Pollinators

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.

  1. Plant your own wildflowers

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    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.

  2. Create a nesting sitewood-325150_640

    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.

  3. Limit or avoid the use of pesticides

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    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.

  4. Keep your flowers blooming

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    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.

  5. Provide clean waterwater-187880_640

    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.

  6. Build a bee condomason-bee-281185_640

    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.

  7. Get your own bee hivebees-1631206_640

    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.

  8. Encourage otherstree-1574165_640

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.

AHHE0002 Africanized bee

An African Bee

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

AHHE0004_regular_honey_bee_left_compared_to_Africanized_bee_right

On the left is European honey bee and the right is an African honey bee

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.

If you are concerned about a hive or swarm near you please contact a licensed pest control company for removal. For more information please visit our website at FreshFromFlorida.com

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.

FindQueen

Locating the queen is one of the first steps.

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.

PutEmOn

Logan Cutts, with queen placed on his chin, encourages the colony to join her.

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.

StandUp

Stephen Cutts, on the right, has the best beard, because he has been sitting the longest, allowing the bees to move toward his face. His son, Logan, center, is sporting a turtleneck of bees. Lawrence Cutts, left, has just placed the bees and they have not had time to move upward.

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.

CleanUp

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.

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ThreeGenerations

Three generations from a legendary Florida beekeeping family put on bee beards at the Ninth Annual University of Florida Bee College. L-R Lawrence Cutts, grandson Logan and son Stephen.

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.

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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

Firetruck

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.

brush fire terminator

Van Cleef, walking to get the old, reliable white truck to pull the brush and power company trucks out of the mud.

“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.

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DPI Diary

January 29, 2016

Plant fanciers favor “Fresh from Florida,” a festival features big bugs, Florida bees hit the road west and the Florida State Fair and Strawberry Festival open next week.

“Fresh from Florida” plants ar preferred

Consumers prefer plants with the “Fresh from Florida” label. Research by a UF-IFAS economist indicates 83 percent of respondents recalled noticing the “Fresh from Florida” logos on plants in retail garden centers. To be designated as “Fresh from Florida,” 51 percent of the product must originate in the Sunshine State, according to Florida Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services guidelines.

Big bugs nestled in the gardens

BigBeetleSaturday is a “Bug A Palooza” day at Orlando’s Leu Gardens. The gardens are currently featuring the giant sculptures of insects by David Rogers. Bug A Palooza, which runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., features hands-on activities, crafts and even an insect petting zoo.

Important survey for growers and beekeepers

Please help FDACS distribute this important pollinator–pesticide awareness survey to growers, beekeepers and other stakeholders. If you are a stakeholder, take the survey. Sharing on social media is encouraged!

Bees are on the move

HoneyBeeFlowerFlorida beekeepers are moving bees, first to California to pollinate 1.7 million acres of almonds and then to other states. National Geographic posted this great animated map to indicate the movement of hives and the crops that depend on them for pollination.  Our DPI Apiary inspectors are busy certifying truckloads of bees for the voyage.

Plan to “bee” there!

It’s the most extensive educational honey bee event in the state of Florida and it will be held Friday and Saturday, March 4-5 at the Whitney Marine Lab, 9505 Ocean Shore Boulevard, St. Augustine, FL 32080. It’s the annual Florida Bee College and beekeepers, naturalists, farmers, gardeners, county agents, and anyone interested in honey bees should plan to attend. DPI’s apiary inspectors play a major role in the college.

Don’t Pack a Pest

The folks at Forbes magazine included agricultural products on a list of “10 things to bring on every international flight (and three things not to).” We want travelers to know they can usually answer the question “Can I bring it?” by visiting www.Dontpackapest.com

Florida State Fair and Strawberry Festival open next week.

The Florida Strawberry Festival opens its gates March 3 in Plant City. Festivities include strawberries, shortcake, big name concerts, rides, games, shows, animals and exhibits, and the fun won’t stop until The Band Perry’s concert closes out the Festival on March 13.

The Florida State Fair runs February 4-15 at the state fairgrounds in Tampa. Staff members from the Division of Plant Industry will be manning Insect Encounters at the Hall of Fame Building. Remember, you can reserve tickets now for the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame Banquet and Ceremony, Feb. 9 beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Our friends at Florida Ag in the Classroom send this reminder: Registration for the 2016 National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference is open! The conference will be held June 20-24th in Litchfield Park, Arizona. Early bird registration is now through April 15th. http://naitcconference.usu.edu/index.cfm

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FDACS-facilitated field day preceded the conference

On January 5, personnel from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services facilitated a field day for apiary inspectors and professional apiculturists from around the nation, focusing on techniques for protecting honey bees from pesticide exposure and investigating bee kills.

Bee Kill Workshop Jan 2016

Gary Van Cleefe, Apiary Supervisor, leads workshop on inspecting for suspected bee kills.

The field day at St. Augustine preceded a joint meeting at Ponte Vedra of the Apiary Inspectors of America, American Beekeeping Federation (ABF) and the American Association of Professional Apiculturists (AAPA).

“The success of this field day was due largely to the high level of cooperation among the agencies involved and the expertise of the facilitators,” said David Westervelt, assistant chief of the Division of Plant Industry Apiary Inspection Section.

Hive Inspection

Hive Inspection.

Personnel from the Apiary Inspection Section of the Division of Plant Industry, the Bureau of Agricultural Environmental Laboratories and the Bureau of Inspection and Incident Response provided information and hands-on demonstrations.

The field day focused on ways agriculture and apiary inspectors can work together to address colony loss incidents. AIA President Mark Dykes of the Texas Department of Agriculture and Dale Dubberly, Bureau Chief, Bureau of Inspection and Incident response, FDACS, welcomed participants. Jeanette Klopchin, FDACS, reviewed Florida’s Managed Pollinator Protection Plans. Other speakers discussed pesticide label changes, bee statement interpretations and effects of honey bee’s exposure to pesticides.

Outside the classroom, in the hives, faculty demonstrated bee hive handling and basic inspections, basics of bee agriculture, pesticide use by beekeepers, techniques for investigating suspected bee kills and standard sampling procedures for disease and parasites.

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