Hurricane Michael could sour Florida’s tupelo honey harvest

MIAMI (AP) — Hurricane Michael toppled beehives and stripped flowering plants across Florida’s Panhandle, threatening tupelo honey production in a tiny community that is the primary source of the sweet delicacy.

Tanker trucks of corn syrup and tens of thousands of pounds of synthetic pollen are being rushed to beekeepers from the Gulf of Mexico to the Georgia state line to feed surviving bee colonies that also pollinate crops such as watermelons, cantaloupes and blueberries.

“Just feeding my bees is the biggest concern,” said Gary Adkison, a Wewahitchka beekeeper. “There’s no nectar.”

Adkison, who named his Blue-Eyed Girl Honey for his granddaughter, lost about 50 of his 150 hives to the storm, each containing 30,000 to 40,000 bees. Unlike other beekeepers who move their colonies to pollinate crops as far away as California, Adkison keeps his hives local year-round.

“To be honest, I didn’t expect this much damage,” he said.

About 500 beekeepers are registered in Florida’s Panhandle, with more than 1.2 billion bees in their colonies, according to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. They range from hobbyists to mom-and-pop businesses to large commercial operations.

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