I only have a small suburban lot. How much room do I need to keep bees?

The Best Management Practices for home beekeeping is published by the UF/IFAS Extension in Gainesville. The Florida regulations specify the maximum allowable number of hives (colonies) on non-agricultural land. You are allowed to temporarily exceed these numbers for swarm control. Refer to the Florida regulations for specific details. Current requirements are sumarized immediately below. If you are a registered beekeeper, this applies to everywhere in the state unless you are covered by a Home Owners Association that does not allow beekeeping. All city and county beekeeping requirements are suborned by the State of Florida.

  • One quarter acre or less tract size – 3 colonies
  • More than one quarter acre, but less than one half acre tract size – 6 colonies
  • More than one-half acre, but less than one acre tract size – 10 colonies
  • One acre up to two and a half acres – 15 colonies
  • Two and a half to five acres – 25 colonies
  • Five up to 10 acres – 50 colonies

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How much does it cost to get started in beekeeping?

Like just about everything else, the answer is, “That depends.” You’ll find links to some local vendors on our Sponsors page . Here are some very rough estimates.

  • Nucleus hive of bees (a complete colony ready to be moved into the hive):     estimate $120 – $210
  • Brood box, telescoping cover, bottom board, 10 frames, 10 foundations, gloves, veil, smoker, book:     estimate $300 – $450

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How do I start beekeeping?

The best way to start learning about beekeeping is to find a local mentor. Join or attend one of our Nassau County Beekeepers Association meetings to find a mentor in your area. Our meetings are held on the 4rd Monday of every month, at the Nassau County Extension Center at the Fair Grounds in Challahn, Florida at 7:00 PM. We usually meet in the multi-use room. Use the enterance adjacent to the Extension Office main door.

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Where can I buy equipment?

You can buy equipment from several online supplers and severeal of our local sponsors. You can pickup a current cataloge for several online suppliers at our monthly meetings, or you can look suppliers up online. Please check our local sponsors under the "Resource" banner section of this web site. A few suggested suppliers are as follows"

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Where can I get my honeybees?

Getting your first bees can be a daunting undertaking. You will need to get your honeybees from a repeatable supplier. Your best option is to obtain a nucleus colony (Nucs) from one of our club members. An cheaper alternative is to purchase a package of bees with a queen. Packages are much more difficult to get established than nucs. Several of our members raise nucs for sale in the spring of the year. There is often a waiting list so you should contact a supplier in late December to arrange for your bees. Please counsider those on our Sponsors page as preferred suppliers.

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What is the state of honeybees in Florida?

In general, honeybees are on the decline. Troubling numbers come out every year that suggest dangerous trends for honeybees. However, in Florida, honeybees are doing well in comparison to the population at large. Florida is one of the top 6 states for honeybee populations with more than 4,000 registered beekeepers, and even a state agency that has the authority to inspect hives. Unfortunately, honeybees face many challenges from beetles to pesticides, so it is important to continue this growth and educate the public on just how important honeybees are.


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What factors contribute to the decline of honeybees?

Though many factors have contributed to the decline of the bee population, from harsh winters causing increased rates of die-off to the destruction of natural habitats. Above all else, it is human factors that contribute to the decline of honeybee populations. Dangerous pesticides that are popular in commercial growing, lawn care, and gardening are decimating the honeybee populations.


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What does local beekeeping do for the honeybee population?

Local beekeeping is essential for improving and growing the honeybee population. Quite simply, as people have become busier and less engaged with the outdoors, interest in beekeeping has declined right along with it. By supporting local beekeepers, you are helping to ensure that these essential pollinators come back from this decline stronger than ever.


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Is beekeeping safe for children and pets?

As with any activity, beekeeping is perfectly safe as long as you have the right gear. Make sure you and your child have the proper veil and gloves on when handling the hive. In fact, it will be incredibly beneficial to your child to show them that bees are good for the world and not dangerous. Make sure to get your child tested for a bee sting allergy, just in case, so you have the proper equipment on hand. As for pets, dogs and cats get along perfectly well with bees. Again, it is dangerous if your animal has a bee sting allergy. The only other exception is if your animal has an outdoor kennel. If the beehive is dramatically disturbed or knocked over, the bees will swarm and sting the nearest person or thing. This is not too bad if you can run away, but spells danger for an animal trapped in a kennel.


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How can I make my yard honeybee-friendly?

First and foremost, stop using products that are not safe for bees. A simple internet search will turn up plenty of options. Instead, use organic products and natural solutions such compost to aid soil health and control weeds, without killing the bees. In order to make your yard honey bee-friendly, you can also plant things for them to pollinate. Sunflowers, purple coneflowers, and honeysuckle are just a few of the honeybee’s favorite flowers. Not only will bees be happily buzzing in your yard, but these pollinating flowers will also attract butterflies and create a beautiful and colorful garden. An ecellent place for planting suggestions specific to Florida is the Florida Native Plant Society>


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Am I required to register my bees in the State of Florda?

Yes you are required to register your honeybee colonies with the State of Florida. The annual registration fees are as little and $10.00 to register up to five colonies of bees. All fees go to support a very excellent inspection program than is managed and staffed by highly experience beekeepers and it is a very simple process. Many beginners often find it is the best one-on-one ten dollar education available during their hive inspections. You can start your registration and contact the apiary inspector for your county by clicking on the following Florida Department of Agriculture link. Honeybee Registration.

The state bee inspector for northeast Florida and Nassau County is Rob Horsburgh and he can be reached by phone at 352-258-1579 or by email at Robert Horsburgh@FreshFromFlorida.com. Rob is a long time beekeeper with a wealth of knowledge he is willing to share. He can help you through the entire registration and inspection process with a single phone call.

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Where can I learn more about beekeeping?

If you’re in Nassau County, we hold monthly meetings (details here) where you can learn about a wide variety of beekeeping topics. Even better though, you can meet beekeepers in your neighborhood who can help you get started, and ask a Master Beekeeper specific questions about your situation.

Visiting our Library resource section of this website is another good place to start learning about honeybees for both the beginner and more experienced beekeepers.

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What beekeeping books to you recommend reading?

Since beekeeping practices vary by region and climate, it is very important to listen to the advice of experienced beekeepers in your area rather than merely looking up information on the Internet or reading books. If you wish to supplement what you learn at meetings and workshops, here are some reading suggestions:

    1. Beekeeping for Dummies – by Howland Blackiston
    2. First Lessons in Beekeeping – by Keith Delaplane
    3. The Beekeeper’s Bible: Bees – Honey, Recipes & Other Home Uses, by Richard Jones

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Where can I buy local honey? Do you sell honey?

If you don’t know your beekeeper, then you don’t know your honey. Farmer’s markets are usually a good place to find local honey, but be careful that you’re not just buying honey that someone has bought from a wholesaler and is just repackaging it. Ask exactly where the hives are located.

Florida has a Cottage Food law that allows the sale of honey that meet certain criteria, and honey sold this way is probably the best way to assure that you are truly getting local honey. Cottage Food honey may only be sold face-to-face by the person who produces it. If you can order it on-line or buy it through a retail outlet or anywhere other than directly from the beekeeper, then it is not Cottage Food honey. For more information, take a look at the summary of the rules . (To answer the second part of the question: No, we do not sell honey. We can help you find someone who sells honey under the Cottage Food law, but the Beekeepers of Nassau County can sell honey.)

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An organization I belong to would like to have a speaker at one of our meetings come and tell us about bees. Can you help with that?

Although we don’t have a formal speaker program, we can often provide a speaker to give a presentation to your group.

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I have a “swarm” of bees at my house. How can I get rid of them without killing them?

For a good overview of bee removal, read the University of Florida recommendations on that.

First, let’s see if it is a “swarm” or an established colony. A swarm is a clump of bees that has left a hive and is looking for a new home. Approximately half of the hive remains and half leaves – that’s how they reproduce. A swarm will only stay in place for a day or two at most before they leave to the new home that the scout bees have found. A swarm is very passive since they have no home to defend. Just leave them alone and the swarm will be gone in a day or two, and they won’t bother anyone in the mean time.

If the bees have been there for at least several days, then chances are that they have decided that this is their new home. Unless they are bothering you or there is some other reason that they need to be removed (such as someone with a severe bee sting allergy), then just leave them alone and enjoy the increased garden produce and abundance of flowers that bee pollination gives.

If they really need to be relocated, some beekeepers will be willing to remove the bees for you. Florida law allows registered beekeepers to remove bees without a pest control license under certain conditions. The first place to check would be the Bee Removal under "Resouces: banner headline section of this web site.

There are commercial bee removal services for those cases where it is impractical for a hobby beekeeper to do the job.

If you need to have bees removed, here is the information that you’ll need to provide in order to determine how the job is done:

  1. Location – The address where the bees are located.
  2. Situation – Are they in a tree, in a shed or other building, in a hole (such as a water valve box), inside or outside, how high up in the air, and any other information tot determine what equipment will be needed.
  3. Time – How long have they been there (a couple days, months, don’t know)?
  4. Surrounding area – Are there people or animals that could be at risk if the bees become agitated and aggressive?

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Can I use honey to treat allergies? If so how?

Yes, but the application is limited to plant allergies specific to the area near you. There are 2 ways currently that allergies are medically detected. Most recently is a blood test. The other involves placing minute amounts of various substances under your skin by needle to measure your sensitivity to exposures. The most common allergy triggers include: dust, pet dander, trees, grasses, weeds, and molds relative to where you live.

Traditional allergy testing consists of providing exposure to offensive substances in very small amounts to determine if your body will respond to a given substance. In other words, a series of shots at the doctor’s office under the skin to see if it swells. If you react you’ll receive that substance as shots in low amounts to boost your tolerance. Bee Honey by its nature does the same thing. Bees collect small amounts of the local flora and return them to the hive to make honey. You ingest minute amounts of these substances below your allergy tolerance which builds your tolerance over time. Just like the treatment shots do.

Ideally, if the honey is collected within 15-25 miles of where you live raw local honey should alleviate your symptoms over time with continual use. How much? A tea spoon in your cereal or tea should be enough and remember, less is better. Children under 2 years of age should not ingest raw honey, their immune systems are too young to test this much variety of substances on.. Also remember, honey will have no effect on animal dander, seafood or drug allergies. It only helps alleviate symptoms caused by plant life from your living area. And as with any new food, stop use if symptoms of allergies develop.

Last, honey is produced during floral blooms. Some in Spring, Summer or Fall. Allergic benefits are derived from specific blooms. Therefore, specific flavors such as orange blossom do nothing for rag weed. There are a number of ways to deal with this. First, purchase “wildflower honey”. This is usually a mixture of locations near & far with the widest variety of floral sources. Try to speak with the beekeeper to see how it was collected. Tell them you are using it for allergies & they are usually very happy to help. The more it was mixed with other seasons the better.

The new allergy lab tests are expensive and you may need them . I provide the following as reference material for those allergy sufferers who may need them. Allergy blood tests may be referred to as immunoassay tests and include:

  • Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA, or EIA)
  • Radioallergosorbent test (RAST)

The ELISA test measures the amount of allergen-specific antibodies in your blood.

The RAST test also looks for specific allergen-related antibodies in order to identify your allergy triggers. Since the introduction of the ELISA test, RAST testing has not typically been used.

Other blood tests may be ordered that measure the release of chemicals responsible for allergic reactions.

These tests are expensive I recommend you check with your insurance company to determine your costs before submitting to these procedures. Last, all technology is time sensitive and my references may be out dated in a year. Always double check.
(April 2016) – Tim Blodgett, RN

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Can I use honey to treat wounds? If so how does it work & how do I do it?

A. Yes, but in limited applications. Here’s the basics: To heal, a wound needs one or more of the following: drainage, knitting, scabbing, debris removal, aeration, granulation, disinfection or protection from infection. Before any of this can be effective, a wound need adequate circulation of oxygen rich blood flow and/or reduction of swelling in addition to optimal hydration & nutrition. Of all these factors, honey can provide disinfection & protection from infection. Honey has anti-oxidants in it but its effects on healing are negligible unless the basics are addressed first.

Honey has an antibiotic effect. Antibiotics work in 1 of 3 ways: they compete for a micro-organism’s food source; alter the organism’s cell wall; or impede the infection’s reproductive process. Honey affects the cell wall by creating a hyper-osmotic living environment that pulls the fluids out of the micro-organisms and disinfects the wound. It also creates a barrier to new infection allowing the wound to heal.

Opinion: Honey should only be used on cleaned superficial wounds, preferably under a gauze dressing changed daily. Also, you must bear in mind that as fluids enter the wound, honey will become saturated, diminishing its ability to kill micro-organisms. As a former University Hospital wound care specialist, I would prefer using generic triple antibiotic from your local grocery store. It’s time tested, economical, and from the lab results I saw for years, it’s the best/strongest treatment for the widest variety of circumstances. As always, bear in mind technology is time sensitive & everything I write here may be out of date next month.
(May 2016) –Tim Blodgett RN

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Q. Can I use beeswax to make candles?

A. Yes, Due to cost concerns it is rarely done when paraffin(wax from petroleum) is readily available.

Q. Is there a difference?

A. Yes. Bees wax smells nicer in most opinions, bees wax does not smoke. That’s why most people who burn candles in their bathroom have black streaks up their walls & why many places of worship have soot problems on their ceilings. Some religions will only burn bees wax candles because of biblical references to it.

Q. What else can bees wax do?

A. A lot. It can be used for sealing wax, zipper lube, water proofing, lip balm, medicated creams, soaps & shampoo, skin moisturizers & protection. It is also preferred as a sealant for grafting plants and wounds in tree bark.

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Q. Can I use Bee stings to treat inflammatory disease?

A. Yes, it is called “Apitherapy” from the word Apiary which means, “Bee Yard”. It is not an approved therapy in the USA. Regardless of approval it is widely used. Let me clarify terms. Apitherapy includes any treatment with bee products. Other than wax, pollen, royal jelly & propolis products, some of these therapies include:

  • Bee venom; from live bee stings or venom harvested for injection for the treatment of inflammatory disease such as Lupus, MS, arthritis, tendonitis, etc. and…
  • Bee venom oil; for many topical treatments including migraines, sinus problems, psoriasis, exema, aches, pains, arthritis, tendonitis, menstrual cramps, scar reduction, & spider veins.

This discussion will be limited to Bee Venom therapy for the treatment of inflammatory diseases.

Apitherapy requires Bee Venom be injected by live bees or with an insulin syringe in the fat space under the skin called the subcutaneous space. Instructions for this procedure can be found online & is not recommended for anyone with a history of Bee Sting Allergies.

If you use bees you can buy them online from Ferris Apiaries, http://ferrisapiaries.com , they have links to more information & referring to www.apitherapy.org is strongly advised before beginning any apitherapy treatment plan. Ferris also provides bee habitats, handling equipment and supplies needed to maintain your bees while waiting for use.

Ferris also provides bee venom for injection.

How well does it work? Currently a great many people use bee venom injections to treat Lyme Disease and in Bee culture it is well known that you will never find an old Beekeeper with arthritis. This speaks for itself.

It is believed that the bee venom occupies the inflammatory receptor sites within an individual thus reducing your inflammatory response to existing disease processes. To begin a treatment plan it is highly recommended you research the resources available at www.apitherapy.org . Also, the American Apitherapy Society (AAS) has a Network of people ready to give information and assistance. This information is available to society members only.

We cannot make a recommendation other than to point you in the direction of your interest.

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Is there a better time to start a backyard bee hive?

The availablity of a nectar source (honey flow) is the key. Traditionally spring provides the most nectar food sources and is the best time to start. Unfortunately, hobbyist beekeepers are last in line to get Queens & Nucs so they tend to get a late start. But if you start in the fall, you will get a jump start for the spring and be more likely to harvest your first honey come May/June. But plan on feeding them from November until Spring. Feeding is crucial. Many problems for new-bees can be averted simply by having a strong hive. This means giving them every advantage they can get by anticipating their needs.

Some points to consider to add to success: A screened bottom board can reduce varroa mite counts, hive beetles and wax moths, a good dirty water source like a bird bath or pond provides most trace elements bees need and they prefer it. July& August have less nectar sources than Spring or Fall. November/December have almost no nectar sources. Regardless, if you don’t live near a good variety of nectar sources you will be less successful. Thus, evaluating feeding needs for the first year or so will give you a good idea of the floral diversity in your area.

Don’t forget to check pollen storage, bees do not live by sugar water alone. If they can’t make bee bread they won’t last for long. And look into supplements. Those with lemon grass oil have numerous benefits or check YouTube to see what you might want to try for yourself. Try “The Fat Bee Man” he does a lot with organic treatments. And last, don’t over do it. Too big a patty of honey bee health is like ringing the dinner bell for hive beetles. In this case less is better. Good luck.

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