We get a lot of questions from bee lovers asking where the bees are on the farm. And, from the fearful or allergic crowd, we get a lot of questions about safety, so we want to try to answer some of those questions here. We’ll give a summary of what our bee operation looks like and of our future goals.
Our bee operation is commercial in scale, though on the small side, and has three focuses: pollination services, honey production, and bee sales. We average 400-700 hives, depending on time of year, and most years the majority of them move from the Gainesville area where they overwinter, to California for almond pollination, to South Florida for orange blossom honey production, back to Gainesville for gallberry honey production, then they go north to escape the blistering heat (aren’t you jealous?!) where they produce clover and basswood honey, then back home to Gainesville for the winter. In the midst of all that, we are also making splits (splitting strong hives into two hives) to prevent swarming and increase our number of hives. Packages (literally a package of bees) and “nucs” (a miniature starter hive called a nucleus) are sold commercially. It’s a multifaceted, interesting project! And a lot of work!
So, where are the bees? By the time we purchased the farm in the fall, the bees were already home in Gainesville and settled into their various locations for the winter, so there are currently no bees at the farm. Because there are so many hives, they cannot be set in one location without overwhelming their food sources, so they must be spread out. We have a network of wonderful people locally who allow us to set up bee yards on their land and we are so thankful for them. Our farm is slowly being converted to the hub of the operation to service each of these individual bee yards.
Will you get stung if you come to the farm? Due to the above mentioned factors, we will never have massive numbers of bees at the farm and we will specifically arrange for extra safety when large numbers of people are expected. However, it is the great outdoors and we need our pollinators, which fly great distances, so there is always a risk. You will see the occasional bee on our strawberry plants and other flowers. After all, that is how we get the strawberries out of the flower! To give some perspective, we have had a bee yard at our home, a much smaller property than the farm, almost continuously for 15 years and have never been stung by one while outside enjoying gardening, play, and other routine activities in our yard. We can’t say the same for the assertive wasps and yellow jackets! As far as we are aware, our neighbors have had no issue either. Additionally, you may have been exposed to a bee yard any time you’ve been out and about in the country as many beekeepers have them dispersed throughout any given area. Bees really are quite docile!
How will we incorporate bees into the farm in the future? We have lots of ideas and would love to hear yours as well. We will continue our beekeeping activities as before, but as we grow we will also be considering educational opportunities and potentially bee sales to individuals. It will take time to build the farm into what we hope it will become. It has already been quite the whirlwind with preparing for the Fall Festival and prepping for strawberry season, but things are coming along and we hope you will join us!