Florida Apiary Inspection Program
My name is David Westervelt and I am the Chief of the Apiary Inspection Section of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ (FDACS) Division of Plant Industries (DPI). Florida’s apiary industry is flourishing, with a rapidly growing number of “backyard” beekeepers. Many commercial beekeepers are expanding their operations to meet vital pollination services throughout the nation, particularly in states like California in February for Almonds, and then the eastern United States in late April, early May for Apples, Blueberries, Cranberries, and other row crops.
I assumed the Chief’s position in 2012 for the Florida Apiary Inspection program with just over 1600 registered beekeepers managing 340,000+ colonies of bees in the state. Now in 2015 there are closer to 3,900 registered beekeepers with approximately 460,000 colonies in the state. FDACS/Apiary Inspection is staffed with 10 full time and 3 part time inspectors, with one part time laboratory technician conducting Africanized honey bee certification using Fast African Bee Identification System (FABIS), and Universal System for Detecting Africanization through Identification (USDA-ID), 1 administrative secretary; Cathy DeWeese compiling all the data, paper work, electronic reports, phone calls, and trying to handle the staggering numbers of new registrations and inspections. Nearing 29 years of service with FDACS, Mrs. DeWeese has witnessed many changes with the Florida Apiary Inspection program from the first Varroa mite and Small Hive Beetle to the Top-bar and Flow Hives. She will be turning over the reins of this well established nationally acknowledged Apiary Inspection Program on Nov. 30, 2015 to enjoy the great Florida weather.
Getting all the new backyard beekeepers in compliance under Florida’s Honey Bee laws Chapter 586, Florida Administrative Code, requires all beekeepers be registered and inspected. If they manage bees on residential land, they must comply with Best Management Requirements for Maintaining European Honey Bee Colonies on Non-agricultural Lands (BMR). This requires the apiary inspector to do a site visit to confirm that the apiary location complies with the requirements of the BMR, and to answer any questions the new beekeepers have. The average new beekeeper’s registration – inspection requires over 4 ½ hours of the inspector’s time to complete all the required paperwork, drive time, and answer questions. Alternately, a commercial beekeeper’s inspection with a few hundred, or a couple thousand colonies might take the same amount of time. Beekeepers shipping colonies out of state must have the colonies certified, meeting the other states’ requirements before shipping. Most of Apiary’s inspection team are relatively new, having less than 10 years of service with FDACS. Donald (Freddy) Howard is the “pillar” of Florida’s Apiary Inspection nearing 30 years of service. Freddy has inspected/certified over 1 million colonies, accumulating over a million miles on a multitude of state vehicles, and with his true southern gentle nature, Freddy is able to calm most any dispute, even if it’s a backyard beekeeper disputing placement of his colony, or a beekeeper’s neighbor wanting all bees removed because everyone in their house is highly allergic to bees! Freddy is the FDACS example of excellence in Consumer Service.
Continuing Education Is Important
The combined efforts of FDACS’ Apiary Section and University of Florida-Institute of Food and Agricultural Services’(UF/IFAS) Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory and affiliated county Extension offices, combined with the quality of their bee-related education programs throughout the state, are important to the continued expansion of the beekeeping industry. Experts from the FDACS-DPI Apiary Section participate in the enormously popular University of Florida Bee College, which provides training annually for novice and experienced beekeepers alike. The college is held annually in Marineland, Florida. Go to www.UF Honeybee.com for more information.
Similarly, the UF Master Beekeeper Program, held in conjunction with the event, trains and educates beekeepers who, in turn, receive public service credits by teaching the public about the importance of honey bees and their pollination services. This year the program had its first beekeepers accomplish the task of reaching the rank of Master Craftsman, requiring more than five years of curriculum, obtaining the previous three ranks in the course, and countless performance hours of public speaking. They are Master Craftsman Robert (Rob) Horsburgh (FDACS) and Robert Lorge (Bear Creek, Wis.).
More than 300 Master Beekeeper students across the state/country have promoted this important message, reaching over four million people. The development of an informed population of beekeepers has resulted in the formation of more than 40 local organizations affiliated with the statewide Florida State Beekeepers Association (FSBA). The FSBA has historically been a strong voice for the state’s apiary industry and is a major lobbying force on its behalf, promoting legislation such as the Florida Honey Standard.
Keeping Florida Safe
Florida has also made progress against the invasive Africanized Honey Bee (AHB) through requiring queen breeders to purchases queen stock from outside the AHB area or to have the mother line certified European bees, and they should follow the Best Management Practices (BMP’s) for maintaining European honey bees (EHB), as should residential and commercial beekeepers. Florida’s AHB lab certifies samples from throughout the state/country.
What Future Do I See For the Industry?
Looking at the last 40+ years in beekeeping I would have to say the beekeeping industry has been changing since the introduction of the Tracheal and Varroa mites. Beekeepers have turned to using treatments that before would have caused shivers up the spines of every beekeeper, using insecticides in a bee hive…. now for most commercial beekeeper it’s the norm. Previously, the only thing beekeepers did was treat colonies with an antibiotic for European and American Foulbrood (EHB – AFB). The bee industry has had more new problems in the last 20 years than in all the history of commercial beekeeping—Africanized honey bees, small hive beetles, Nosema ceranae, a growing varroa mite problem and associated newly discovered viruses and pathogens. And, there are new threats on the horizon—Tropilaelaps mites, Giant Asian Hornets and large hive beetles. The industry has changed, what was a Mom and Pop operation has now become a commercial business, supporting not just one family but a full workforce. Large commercial beekeepers are being acquired by other larger agricultural businesses, combining multiple components of agriculture into one vast company or coop. Businesses are starting to create educational programs to supply the workforce in every aspect from the field labor to the technician helping to take the guess work out of beekeeping. Using modern technology helps boost production both from the beekeeper and honey bee (automated extractors, hive lifting devises, selecting for specific genes resistant to mites and test kits that allow you to analyze for pathogens in the field. Soon beekeepers will be able to walk up to a colony using an app on their smart phone to diagnose honey bee abnormalities.
Thanks for this wonderful opportunity to tell you a little bit about the Florida Apiary Inspection Service.
DAVID A WESTERVELT
Q It Is Waaaay Too Hot
We enjoy your Q&A section each month. It is the first thing my wife and I read. We are “rookies” at this new exciting hobby, backyard beekeeping and we LOVE it.
Our Question is: When we experience very hot days (today 6/27/15 was 110 degrees), one of our two hives has a huge number of bees at the entrance, as well as nearly the entire front of the hive is covered in bees late in the day. I just checked again at 10:30 p.m. and there are still a very large quantity of bees outside the hive on the bottom board entrance, as well as covering much of the front of the hive for the third day in a row. Is this unusual? Are we doing something wrong or are we missing something? Our hives are very healthy, and we supply and change water supplies twice daily which the bees really love and use. We have seven different fresh water spots for them in our back yard.
Our second hive experiences a similar activity too, but not nearly as heavily as hive number one. Our second hive did experience this scenario earlier in the year, but it is not nearly as heavy now even with the heat. Our forecast here in Boise is for temperatures in the range 101 to 110 degrees for the next seven days and hopefully this current situation isn’t a harmful situation for our bees. Can you please shed some light on this matter for us?
THANKS AGAIN, WE LOVE THE CLASSROOM!
I will take “WE LOVE THE CLASSROOM” in capital letters any time! Thank you. Here’s a Jerry analogy: You live in Boise and it is going to be 110F. Like all of us, you live in a box (house) of some kind. You as a human have an optimum temperature range. 110F outside means 110F inside if not more because of the small window area in your box, little air exchange and couches, TVs, insulation, etc. 110F is just way too hot for humans to do much. But, I assume you have air conditioning–probably set in the 70’s F range. I’ll bet your parents, when they were kids, and for sure your grandparents did not have AC in Boise or anywhere else in North America. Your grandparents probably had a porch with a swing and chairs outside where they went with family and friends to cool off in the summer. Everybody congregated outside and cooked outside on the charcoal grill and sipped cold lemonade and cut open a chilled watermelon. Even then, they like you had a cooling system based on sweat glands that kick in to secrete sweat which then evaporates to cool you down.
Your bees are in Boise, they live in a sealed box and their normal brood rearing chamber temp is about 93F. 110F is way too hot for them and can damage developing brood. So, like your ancestors they have to get outside and …