Florida is home to over 300 species of bees that assist in the pollination of agricultural commodities and support overall ecosystem health. The pollinator of main concern, and the one that best represents the issues of all pollinators in the state, is the honey bee (Apis meliffera). The European (or western) honey bee was brought to the Americas by early European settlers and has been a part of the natural environment ever since. Unlike native species, the honey bee can be managed to benefit the pollination needs of certain crops. Honey bees contribute significantly to the food supply. In Florida, commodity crops like blueberries, watermelons, cucumbers and onions would produce little to no fruit if it were not for the honey bee.
Promoting Honey Bee Health
Promoting bee health and protecting crops are both important to the success of Florida agriculture. As such, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) has identified practices that growers, beekeepers and pesticide applicators can adopt to protect both crops and honey bee colonies. Over the past decade, increasing attention has been paid to a variety of stressors that may negatively impact bees. These potential stressors include: pressure from monoculture agriculture, risk of pesticide exposure, pests and parasites, forage, nutrition (both in feed and natural availability) and management.
Information for Growers, Beekeepers and Pesticide Applicators
FDACS, the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), and representatives from a multitude of stakeholder groups have been working to assemble resources to assist all parties in promoting the importance of bees, their health and their services to the state of Florida.
FDACS initially focused on providing beekeeper-grower information solely for pesticide risk-reduction strategies. However, the state’s plan for promoting pollinators has expanded to include management practices across its diverse agricultural sectors.
With its bee protection program, FDACS hopes to:
- Foster communication and strong relationships between growers, landowners, beekeepers, pesticide users and FDACS;
- Develop management practices that benefit ecosystem health on (small) farms including pollinator forage, water quality and soil health; and
- Act as a steward for pollinator health and coordinate with appropriate entities across the state.