Bee-lieve It or Not

Jacksonville’s honeybee fascination is growing 

Jacksonville Beekeepers Association beekeeping class. Photos by laird.

At 9 a.m. sharp on a bright Saturday morning in early June – unusually thick with heat and sticky with humidity, even for Jacksonville – a group of bee enthusiasts gather at the Urban Garden Apiary in Springfield.

Michael Leach, treasurer of the Jacksonville Beekeepers Association, and leader of this particular mentoring session, starts with some of his personal observations:

“There will be a strong flow of surplus honey in early June before the extreme summer heat sets in.”

“The [Chinese] tallow tree flowers in our area in June and that is the primary source of nectar during this time of year.”

“Check your bees every seven to ten days to make sure there are no issues or pests, but not too often so that you interrupt their work or stress them out.”

Beekeeper Antonio Aque.
Photo by Tiffany Manning.

Personal beekeeping has piqued many Jacksonville residents’ interest, and the Jacksonville Beekeepers Association exists to connect local bee buffs and mentor those who wish to keep bees in an urban setting and produce honey at home.

An urban beehive is an unassuming stack of boxes raised off of the ground either atop cinderblocks or a wooden bench. The bottom box is filled with frames of wax on which the bees produce their “live honey” – the honey they need to survive. Once those frames are filled, the bees move up to the next box of frames and begin producing “surplus honey,” which is the honey that can be harvested for consumption or sale.

According to Marilyn Young, president of the Jacksonville Beekeepers Association, the value of bees to agricultural production in the state of Florida alone is approximately $20 million annually. The bees pollinate some eighty or so crops; providing us with a variety of fruits, vegetables and nuts.

The Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island raises bees and produces honey for on-site purposes.

A strong beehive can produce up to seventy-five or one-hundred pounds of honey per year. Honeybees are the only bees that produce a harvestable honey, but they are becoming increasingly endangered. For this reason, and because Florida is among the top five honey-producing states in the U.S., the Florida Department of Agriculture allows beekeeping statewide, within the parameter of their rules.

Beekeeper Antonio Aque. Photo by Tiffany Manning.

As with most animals, there are many different species and subspecies of bees. Most of the bees in Jacksonville are European – more specifically, Italian; which are more tolerant of human management than the more aggressive Africanized bee.

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Written by Kate Jolley

Author: Arbus

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