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Life Sweet for Bee Populations in Florida

Photo: Florida's honeybee population is increasing, while bees in other parts of the country are declining. Photo credit: kakisky/morguefile.com
Photo: Florida's honeybee population is increasing, while bees in other parts of the country are declining. Photo credit: kakisky/morguefile.com
May 13, 2015

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - While the rest of the country battles declining bee populations, Florida is doing something right, according to apiary experts in the state.

Department of Agriculture officials say the number of beehives has increased from 900 to 3,600 in the past eight years. David Westervelt, apiary inspection assistant chief at the state's Bureau of Plant and Apiary Inspection, said much of Florida's success comes from having the right programs in place.

"Those educational programs are keeping beekeepers aware or in front of what's the next problems out there," he said.

While the state is doing much better than most when it comes to preserving pollinators, Westervelt said, Florida bees still are being impacted by the same problem of pesticide impact, viruses and mites.

Florida's honey industry is ranked among the top five in the nation, with an annual worth of $13 million. The state is home to three Bee Colleges and other extension programs for people to receive education on the best way to maintain and raise the insect. Westervelt said they're changing the way people think of bees.

"It's such a small, niche group that most of the other people are scared to death of stinging insects," he said, "and through education they're finding out that bees are such a fun hobby. One third of our food is directly related to bees pollinating it."

The Department of Agriculture estimates that 17 million pounds of honey are produced in Florida each year and exported around the world. The honeybee industry provides an estimated $20 million in increased production because of increased pollination.

More information is online at freshfromflorida.com.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - FL