GAINESVILLE — National Honey Bee Day was August 19, and there are many ways to support the powerhouse pollinators.
“Honey bees are critically important to our food supply,” said Amy Vu, UF/IFAS Extension state specialized agent in the Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory (HBREL). The lab celebrates five years on the Gainesville campus this month.
“Here in Florida, we also host migratory hives from around the country for overwintering, when many other states no longer have flowers in bloom,” Vu said. “Florida has the second largest number of honey bee colonies in the United States. This makes bees in our state important for food grown nationwide.”
Below, Vu offers five steps anyone can take to help nearby honey bee colonies thrive.
1. Plant a pollinator garden
Floridians can choose plants that flower at different times of the year. The UF/IFAS Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program recommends having at least three plants in bloom at any given point in the year. The bees aren’t picky, either, and container gardening will do for those with limited space. Learn more about “Gardening for Bees”: go.ufl.edu/GardeningForBees.
2. Minimize the use of harsh pesticides
Only use pesticides when and where needed and follow all labeled instructions. Products that are hazardous to honey bees must state so on the label, per a UF/IFAS Extension peer-reviewed publication from Vu and other experts. Discover more information in the “Minimizing Honey Bee Exposure to Pesticides” article on Ask IFAS: edis.ifas.ufl.edu/IN1027.
3. Provide a water source
Honey bees need water, too! Think about leaving out a shallow dish where your pollinator visitors frequent. Just be sure to refresh the water source at least every five days to prevent mosquitoes from enjoying it as a breeding ground, as well.
4. Support the HBREL or join your local and state beekeepers’ association
The HBREL supports beekeepers – from the backyard colony to large commercial operations – with research and educational opportunities year-round. Sponsors can support programming and research through different donation levels to “adopt a bee,” “adopt a queen” or “adopt a hive” by visiting UFgive.to/AdoptaHive.
5. Learn how to keep bees
HBREL has all the introduction you need to get started. Listen to over a hundred episodes of “Two Bees in a Podcast,” covering topics from infectious diseases to cottage food laws for honey sales, and so much in between. The lab also offers a variety of online courses through their Master Beekeeper Program and bee-Learning short courses.
For in-person instruction, the lab hosts two hands-on Bee College multi-day events each year, one in Gainesville and a second alternates travel to the Panhandle or South Florida.