Flowers, fruit trees, tomatoes, cashews, and cotton all have one thing in common – they rely on a very important insect to reproduce and yield fruit... the famous honeybee! As European species continue to become more threatened, concern as to what is causing such a tragic decline is finally becoming a topic of global attention.
Farmers, gardeners, eco-activist and everyday residents are making great efforts to save the honeybee from becoming extinct. The survival of the bees ensures that vegetables and fruits that require pollination and that humans so heavily rely on will thrive as well.
Spreading awareness regarding natural alternatives for pest control is more important than ever. Actions as simple as pulling weeds instead of spraying them; or better yet, letting 'weeds' grow can make an incredible difference! Especially 'weeds' like dandelion that provide such an important nectar source for our bees. This is a perfect example of how we can all pitch in to help slow down the rapid loss of our precious honeybees! Another popular way to contribute is by joining the rise of bee keeping that is sweeping the Nation.
Here in Florida there is no shortage of bee farmers and Citrus County has become a mecca for apiaries – this a fancy term for a bee yard! In 2017, close to 4,500 bee keepers registered with the Florida Department of Agriculture. Three quarter of these are back yard enthusiasts and only one quarter are commercial farmers. This is five times more than decades prior to 2010, putting Florida front and center on the honey – hub map!
Florida's long hot summers and mild winters allow the honeybees to fly and the queens can lay eggs almost any time of the year. Our subtropical climate also provides a wide range of flowering fruit and vegetation that in turn make for some interesting flavors of honey! This often depends on the region and the time of year that the honey is collected.
Orange blossom, tupelo, and classic saw palmetto (most likely the oldest variety in Florida, developed by Native Americans) are all popular varieties made in this area. Flavor profiles vary, as does sugar content. Many farmers are now producing more unique varieties such as blackberry, Brazilian red pepper, even avocado honey. No matter what your taste buds desire, Citrus County Florida will have a honey for you!
Aside from the precious nectar we love so much, many honey farms also offer beeswax products such as lotions, lip balm, and candles to name a few. Some farms offer bee keeping supplies and information for those interested in participating in this rewarding trend. The best honey for your coins will be local raw honey. Usually sold at farmers market, small markets, or off the road fruit stands that are scattered throughout the towns of Florida. You will be supporting your local farmer and getting honey packaged fresh from the hive that contain bee pollen, rich antioxidants, amino acids, and digestive enzymes. Processed commercial honey most likely has cooked off all of those beneficial goodies. Whether you are a Florida native living in a small town like myself or a travelling tourist, with a little research of your area you will most likely find more than one honey farmer near. Providing fresh raw honey, and most importantly providing pollination within 3 to 5 miles from the hive for gardens, farms, and wild vegetation. May we recommend checking out Ferris Groves or Bee Sweet Apiaries in Floral City or Bush Boys Beehives and Raw Honey in Crystal River. These local superstars will satisfy your sweet tooth and desire to support small local businesses. Happy honey hunting and let us know where you find your favorite flavor.