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.
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.
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 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.
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.