Gardening for Bees
Honey bees are amazing insects that not only produce honey, but through pollination, also help produce one-third of the food we eat.
A single bee colony can contain up to 60,000 bees, including worker bees, drones, and a queen. Each type of bee serves a specific role. The drones mate with the queen to produce new worker bees, and the worker bees perform all of the labor tasks like gathering pollen and nectar from flowers.
You can make your garden safe for honey bees by using pesticides only when needed. Don't spray when plants are flowering or in the mornings when bees are most active. Read more in "Bees and Pesticides."
A garden that attracts pollinators will include a mix of annuals, perennials, herbs, shrubs, and trees. Honey bees prefer yellow, white, blue, and purple flowers; they can’t see the color red. They like daisy-like flowers with broad petals that offer a large landing pad. Native bees, which don't produce honey but are important pollinators, prefer fruiting trees and native plants and shrubs.
Like butterflies, bees also like shallow mud puddles as their source of water and minerals.
You can even set up your own hive. The bees will help pollinate the plants in your garden, and you'll be able to harvest the delicious honey they produce.
Keeping honey bees isn't hard, but it does require some preparation and special equipment. You can usually purchase everything you need, including bees, for two to three hundred dollars. Check the phonebook or try searching online for beekeeping suppliers in your area.
New hives should be established in the spring; use the "down" days of winter to do all of your research and planning. Talk to your county Extension office, or consider enrolling in the annual bee college offered by the University of Florida.
By this time next year, you could be enjoying a well-pollinated garden, and the sweetness of local honey.
A natural sweetener made by bees, honey has been enjoyed by humans as far back as the ancient Egyptians. In Florida, we're lucky to have many kinds of honey, and there's something for every palate.
The color and flavor of honey can vary widely, depending on what flower the bees use for their nectar source. Orange blossom honey is light-colored and mild, with a fresh scent and a light citrus taste. Tupelo honey is produced only in the Florida panhandle, and is heavy and sweet. Mango honey and palmetto honey come from South Florida, as do lesser-known types like seagrape and mangrove.
- Beekeepers Association of Southwest Florida
- Florida State Beekeeping Association
- Tampa Bay Beekeepers Association