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Honey bee cartoon

The Enviro-Educator: The Bees Knees

There are many different species of bees and only a small amount are honeybees.

Many people think our honeybees are endangered but none of them are on the endangered list. Unfortunately, eight species of other bees are with the most recent being the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee.

Honeybees are not indigenous to North America.

They were imported here in the 1700’s to increase crop yields by pollinating. As the forager bees pollinate from flower to flower, they bring the nectar back inside their stomach to the hive and regurgitate their stomach’s contents to the processer bee who through a very detailed procedure makes honey.   The benefits of the honey for people include, being an antioxidant, having antibacterial and antifungal properties, and soothing a sore throat. For people who suffer with environmental allergies ingesting a teaspoon of a honey, that is made locally, can significantly help. It works because the bees have pollinated many of the flowering trees, even oaks, that cause some people so much suffering. Ingesting a little bit of the same thing that hurts you to breathe in will allow your body to develop an immune system. The trick is that it does just a little at a time unlike the assault that happens to your respiratory system during certain months of the year. It can take 6 months before you see a difference, so be patient to reap the benefits of being allergy free.

Stephanie Ramthun has been in the bee business for nine years.

She laughs at herself when she thinks back at that beginning when her husband and her first bought 40 beehives. She knew so little that she had to look on the internet at pictures of bees to determine which ones were drones.

Now she has Tampa Bees a successful business with over 100 hives. Tampa Bees not only raises their bees and sells honey, but they help other people get started in the bee business. Many of their customers are bee hosts and they are looking for more. The job of the bee hosts can be as simple as allowing a beehive to be placed in their yard. Tampa Bees will tend to the hive at least twice a month to maintain the hive. Proper maintenance of the hive assures that the bees will not swarm. Tampa Bees will also remove the honey and process the honey into bottles for the host. The bees and the honey belong to the host and Tampa Bees charges for maintaining the hive and processing the honey.   Some hosts can become more hands on if they learn to maintain their own hive and process the honey.

Surprisingly, beehives in Florida do well in the sun. Bees can regulate their body temperature whereas most other insects cannot. Putting the hive in the direct sunlight will be too hot for the possible invading insects. Turns out that Florida honeybees are a bit more aggressive than northern honeybees. A couple of years back Stephanie tried to introduce some of the more peaceful northern bees like the Buckfast and Carniolan species with her predominate Italian honeybee species here in Florida.   She was hoping the mixing of the genes would produce bees that were gentler to work with. She was disappointed to discover the new honeybees could not handle the predator insects as well and that they would swarm more often.

Stephanie gets stung a little more than she might up north where they can handle their bees often with bare hands. Here she keeps herself covered and wears a pair of gloves, but she can still get a sting occasionally. The more she is stung the less it affects her physically, but she feels bad for the bee. The stinger on a bee is barbed so when they feel provoked, they sting but when they go to pull out the stinger it gets caught on the skin and it ends up peeling away the bee’s female organs. Therefore, the honeybee only stings once and then dies. It is a slow, gruesome death.

How do you know if your yard would be a good hosting site?

If you have a quiet, sunny spot in your yard, preferable no grass so therefore no mowing, you are probably a good candidate.   Stephanie explains that city yards often are better hosts then the country. The reason is that most Florida landscapes have a type of plant blooming all year. In the woods, a hive could starve during certain parts of the year if nothing was blooming. As always planting Florida native plants like bottle brush and Spanish needle that don’t need fertilizer, pesticides, or insecticides are the best bet.

Your bees will not stay in your yard they will travel to find different foods to bring back to the hive. Don’t worry about your neighbors they aren’t going to get stung and probably won’t even know you have bees unless you don’t manage the hive.

To manage a hive before they swarm means you need to be able to tell what the signs are that the hive is getting too large. A professional beekeeper will take out half of the brood with the old queen to a new location far away. The other half of the brood will stay in the old hive, and they will pick a honeybee to turn into the new queen. This is how it would happen in the wild as well. The old queen takes half of the brood and swarms to a new location. Managing the hive allows the beekeeper to keep track of the bees and prevents people, especially in very populated areas, from getting stung.

If you want more information, please contact TBBA (tampabaybeekeepers.com). This is the local beekeeper association.
Also contact Stephanie Ramthun at 813-816-1608 or go to her website Tampa Bees.

Remember, always work with nature instead of against her.

October 2021
1. Trail Gap Funding Moves Forward
2. Sept 2021 Meeting Minutes
3. The Enviro-Educator: The Bees Knees
4. What does yellow mean in Hillsborough County FL?
5. A Keystone Event: Barns & Beer