Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Bee Protection: Information for Beekeepers

Contact Us

Pollinator Protection Outreach:
Brandi Simmons
(352) 395-4828 (Office)
Brandi.Simmons@FreshFromFlorida.com%20

For questions about managing hives, or to report a bee incident, contact your local apiary inspector.

What Beekeepers Can Do to Protect Bees from Pesticides

Beekeepers in Florida interact with other agricultural operations in various ways. They may provide pollination services to crops, or they may enter into an agreement with a grower to produce a specialty honey crop (such as orange blossom honey).

Foraging bees can come into contact with agricultural pesticides. Here’s what beekeepers can do to help minimize their bees' risk of pesticide exposure:

Communicate with Growers and Other Beekeepers

  • Develop and maintain one-on-one communication with growers or landowners who have property that you lease, or those who rent your honey bee colonies.
  • Stay in touch with the grower; clear and regular communication is the best way to avoid problems. Know how to quickly contact one another in case of urgent issues.
  • Keep the grower informed of hive locations, status and concerns, and be willing to remove hives promptly if the need arises. Mark hives to assist growers and pesticide applicators in contacting you.
  • Advise the grower immediately if you observe bee kills or any unusual bee conditions.
  • Follow regulations to register as a beekeeper with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS).
  • Register hive locations with the FDACS Ag-Apiary online map. Ensure that the information is accurate and kept current. Also, you can use the map to locate citrus and alternative bee forage. 
  • Contact Citrus Health Management Area captains to request updates on spray schedules, and be sure to confirm application schedules with the individual grower/applicator where your bees will be working.
  • Communicate with fellow beekeepers working in your area to share information, facilitate communication with grove operators, encourage adoption of recommendations, facilitate movement of hives, and identify holding locations for temporary foraging.
  • Be a good partner with growers — be flexible and work to develop a long-standing relationship.
  • Reward growers who work with you — consider financial remuneration or in-kind rewards.

Make Agreements in Writing

When placing hives on or adjacent to agricultural operations, either for honey production or for contracted pollination services, it is highly recommended that you develop a written agreement with the grower detailing the responsibilities and liabilities of each party. The agreement should include provisions that address:

  • The best means to quickly contact one another if urgent issues arise;
  • Where hives will be placed so that they will not interfere with grove management and will be less likely to be exposed to pesticides;
  • How hives and bee yards will be marked by the beekeeper as required by law and to include any contact information requested by the grower;
  • The quantity and strength/size of hives;
  • Hive maintenance including supplemental feeding and in-hive pesticide use (for the control of honey bee pests and diseases);
  • The duration of stay for the hives (identify a window during bloom when pesticide exposure is least likely; please see Determining Percent Bloom in Florida Citrus Groves [ Adobe PDF Document 213.33 KB ] from the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS);
  • Identification of temporary holding areas, if available, where hives may be relocated during pesticide applications; and
  • Circumstances pertaining to liability of grower or beekeeper.

When granted permission to keep hives in a grove or on a property, do not “sublet” and allow other beekeepers to bring in their hives. Do not assume that because you’ve worked with a grower before you can bring your hives in again without written permission.

Take Care When Treating Hives

It is common for beekeepers to employ the use of in-hive and in-apiary pesticides for the control of pests, parasites and diseases. This includes the use of miticides for the control of the Varroa mite, permethrin ground drench to prevent small hive beetle infestation, menthol crystals to control wax moths, fumigation to sanitize used equipment, and more. It is of utmost importance that beekeepers use these products safely by following label directions. Contamination of honey as well as colony loss can result from misuse or from off-label product applications.

Below are some tips for treating hives safely:

  • Adopt Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices to control hive pests, and follow pesticide label directions for use.
  • When treating hives for pests, use only pesticide products that are labeled for that use pattern. DO NOT treat hives with pesticide products that are not approved for this use pattern.
  • When using pesticide products approved for use within beehives to control pests, obey all instructions and restrictions present on the pesticide product labels.
  • Follow management recommendations developed by FDACS and UF/IFAS.
  • Place hives no sooner than abundant early bloom and remove promptly when abundant bloom ends. It is important to avoid periods when grove pest management activities may be required.
  • Keep hives ready to relocate quickly and have a plan of how and where to move them.
  • Monitor hives frequently to ensure that bee needs are met.

How Backyard Beekeepers and Homeowners Can Protect Bees

  • Be aware of lawn and garden and household pest control company practices on your property. Ask if they are using products that are toxic to bees, and inform them you have hives.
  • Be informed about your mosquito control district. Report your hive locations and stay up to date with mosquito spray schedules.
  • Put a pollinator-friendly or no spray zone sign in your yard.
  • Follow the recommended Best Management Practices for using in-hive pesticides.
  • Register your hives’ location (address) on the Ag-Apiary mapping link.
  • Be aware of nearby agricultural operations and inform them about your hives.  
  • Make sure your bees have adequate food and water on the property.
  • Plant pollinator-friendly plants, those that produce nectar or pollen and/or are native to your region.
  • Join a local beekeeping organization, native plant society or other similar group that helps spread awareness about the importance of bees.