Bulletin No. 5 New Series October, 1928
.1. .1. W IID)ER
State of Florida
Department of Agriculture
NATHAN MAYO, Commissioner,
*. a. AP*EVA*D. *k.. t, takk~ea. Ft O4... <
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Nathan Mayo. Commissioner of Agriculture Tallahassee
T. J. Brooks, Director, Bureau of Immigration .....Tallahassee
Phil. S. Taylor. Advertising Editor Tallahassee
John M. Scott. Agricultural Editor Gainesville
~ ~1. :'
Siow\vi r Part of L :ri; A;),iry Nr', Taimlp, Florida.
Z HE many requests for information received by the State
Department of Agriculture have shown that a large num-
ber of people are interested in the possibilities of bee-
keeping in Florida. Requests have been received not only from
people residing in Florida, but also from people living in many
other states. A number of the people are interested in bee-
keeping in Florida merely as a pastime-an activity at which
they can enjoy their spare moments. Others, however, are
interested in beekeeping because of financial returns, either
as a sideline or on a large commercial scale.
It is for such beginners in beekeeping that this bulletin is
written. The author, Mr. Wilder, has had many years' ex-
perience with bees in practically all sections of Florida, and
at the present time he owns about 10,000 colonies of bees. He
is, therefore, unusually well qualified to inform the prospective
beekeeper in Florida as to the best procedure in beginning
JOHN M. SCOTT.
'Beekeeping In Florida
O NE of the first apiaries of any consequence in the State
was established on the Florida East ('oast oni the west
side of the Halifax river, where the city of Daytona now
stands. This apiary was established in 1872 by a New York
company which was in that section producing lemons and
oranges. The prodlnction of lemons, oranges. and honey made
a very good combination. The company would come south-
ward during early fall in time to gather their fruit and honey.
After spending a few months in Florida. they would sail back
to New York City in tie spring with a cargo of Florida fruit
and honey. This pracitiee excited conesiderable attention
around New York as well as in certain Florida towns.
Probably the next apiary of any importance was started near
the city of Wewahitchka in Gulf county by Mr. S. S. Alderman.
who also grew oranges along with the production of honey.
Just a little later Mr. W. S. Hart. located at Iawks Park in
Volusia county. began producing honey and fruit in like
This early development of beekeeping in Florida took place
between 1872 and 1888. There was not much to Florida at
that time. The pioneer beekeepers had a hard time of it. They
obtained their bees from the forest, lived in remote sections
of the country which could be reached only by small vessels,
and were seldom visited by those from other parts of the
The success of S. S. Alderman and W. S. Hart soon caused
reports to be widely circulated that an average of one barrel.
or four hundred pounds, of honey per colony was being secured
in Florida. This report meant much to Florida beekeeping,
for almost at once people began to establish apiarries all over
the State and to put in modern equipment. Progress has con-
tinued down to the present time.
It is generally known among the beekeepers ini the southeast
that Florida has a black bee which has thrived in the forests
of the State for many years. These bees still exist in the State
and can be found in the large cypress timber of the Everglades,
6 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
the Okeefenokee swamp, and the heavy timbered sections in
the western part of the State. Just when or who brought the
first bees to Florida is not known. On this subject, Mr. Jas. I.
IIambleton, apiculturist of the United States Department of
Agriculture, writes: "The most authentic record states that the
black or German bees were introduced into West Florida not
later than 1763. In all probability the honey bee occurred in
East Florida before that, as black bees were introduced into
New England as early as 1638. William Bartram, describing
a journey taken in 1773, says that honey bees were numerous
all along the Eastern Continent from Nova Scotia to East
Florida. He further states that honey bees were common
enough in forests so as to be thought by the inhabitants to be
natives of this continent."
A Well Arranged Apiary.
The movements of this wild bee in Florida are quiet, and
no bee is as busy on flowers as it is. The activity of these bees
is far beyond the common bees, and they are very cross and
quick as lightning to sting. When a tree containing these bees
is cut, they act about like hornets disturbed from their nest.
They produce a large amount of honey per colony, yet they do
BEEKEEPING IN FLORIDA 7
not seem to adhere at all to the idea of being domesticated.
They are not contented to live in hives and will desert them
time and time again for the forest. Only in a small measure do
they adhere to our modern methods of handling bees. The bees
are also so furious that they are not desirable to have around a
farm. The very presence of a human being seems to complete-
ly demoralize them. In many cases the comb they build has
irregular cells, yet they cap their honey beautifully white, and
it is of good flavor like that produced by other bees.
The Italian and Caucasian are the more domesticated bees,
and these two races predominate in the commercial apiaries
of Florida. The Italian is particularly desirable for the pro-
A Cheaply Constructed Honey House, that will give good Service. It
has a Screen Door and Three Screen Windows with Wooden Shutters.
duction of extracted honey, while the Caucasian excels in the
production of comb in shallow frames or sections. Many small
beekeepers in the State still keep the black or German bee,
but the two races just mentioned are much more prolific and
desirable for the many different honey flows.
' u o
Saw Palmdeto, Good Bee Pasthre when in Bloom,
BEEKEEPING IN FLORIDA 9
WHERE TO KEEP BEES?
This question can readily be answered. "Bees may be kept
in Florida anywhere you live, or are moving to." There are
no barren spots in Florida so far as beekeeping and honey pro-
duction are concerned. This does not mean that all sections
of Florida afford good bee pasture at all seasons of the year.
It does mean that there is no large area in the State but what
at some time during the year will furnish bee pasture.
One must be careful, though, to see that the hives are placed
in some thinly shaded place where they can be properly
watched and taken care of. Should one be going into bee-
keeping on a commercial scale, it is necessary. of course, to
consider transportation, the kinds of honey plants that are
BEGINNING THE APIARY
The right start in beekeeping means much toward success.
At the very beginning the apiary site should be selected, and
this done with great care and consideration.
Bees should never be kept near stock where there would be
danger of horses, cattle. hogs. etc.. being stung by them. As
a rule, all animals understand to stay away from bees, and
they will usually do this if they have their freedom. The
apiary should be far enough away so that there will be no
danger of either man or animals being stung, yet it should be
near enough to the house so that it can be closely watched. It is
advisable for someone to visit the bees rather often, for bees
will soon become familiar with people who pass by. After the
bees become familiar with people, there is no danger of a volun-
teer attack of the bees or any stings from just passing among
The location should be thinly shaded. but never should there
be a dense shade overhead. A dense shade will cause the hives
to be more or less damp. especially during rainy weather, and
this is detrimental to the bees. The dampness also causes the
hives to deeay more rapidly. No shade at all would be prefer-
able to a dense one.
The first colony of bees should be placed in the site selected.
As fast as an increase is made. the hives should be lined up
about four feet apart so as to give sufficient room to work
around each. The rows of hives should be at least ten feet
apart so that if necessary a truck may pass between each
row. It is best to let the hives face southward, although
southwest or southeast will do. It is necessary to place the
hives on stands some twelve or eighteen inches high so that the
ground about them can be kept free of litter and vegetation.
The Black Mangrove which Grows along Salt Water.
BEEKEEPING IN FLORIDA 11
As soon as there are a few hives in the apiary, a suitable
neat, small honey house or room should be erected close by the
side of the apiary. It is preferable to locate the honey house
on the side of the apiary nearest the residence so that it may
be visited without passing among the bees. The honey house
may serve as a work shop as well as a packing and extracting
room when the honey crop is ready. Honey is to be kept in this
room and only enough carried to the residence for a meal or so
at a time. Honey tends to toll in bees and other insects and
often makes a rather messy job to keep clean. The honey house
is the place for it and it can be readily removed when needed
for the market or table. An extractor, uncapping tank, storing
tank. and a large work table on which to pack the honey are
needed in the honey house.
There are bees in every nook and corner of Florida, and one
should have no trouble in obtaining a start almost at his very
door. It is not necessary to send north or west forr bees, as
they can be obtained in Florida. Bees in Florida are inspected
as to disease by authorized State inspectors, and they will see
to it that the bees are free from disease. When bees are secured
from outside the State, it is impossible to know just what one
is obtaining, and it may later be discovered that the bees are
As already stated, it is advisable to obtain pure Italian or
Caucasian stock, and possibly better than either is the Cau-
casian-Italian stock crossed. The bees purchased should be in
either eight- or ten-frame modern standard size hives. If one
expects to produce extracted honey, the ten-frame hives and
pure Italian bees are recommended. If one expects to produce
chunk honey or comb honey in one-pound sections, bees in
eight-frame hives should be secured. It is preferable to get
either Caucasian-Italian or Caucasian stock for producing
chunk or comb honey, as these two varieties are about the best
comb builders and they cap their honey beautifully white.
For each hive, three regular shallow extracting supers should
be purchased if one is going to produce either extracted or
chunk honey. If comb honey in sections is to be produced, then
two supers are all that one needs. The best equipment obtain-
able with full sheets of foundation in all frames and sections
should be used by all means. One must see that all hives and
hive parts are properly set up according to instructions given
in the bee supply catalog. If this is not done, it will be found
out later, much to one's sorrow.
12 1)EIPANTI'EI'NTl OF WR;IC1,111TRE
The White Tupelo Gum of West Florida.
BEEKEEPING IN FLORIDA 13
The yield of honey per colony will vary for different sec-
tions of the State. The variations will depend almost entirely
upon the supply of honey plants in each section. The State
as a whole will probably average from 50 to 70 pounds of
extracted honey, although there are a number of localities that
will average up to 100 pounds of extracted honey per colony.
A few exceptional areas may be found where the average is as
high as 200 pounds of extracted honey per colony.
To express it in another way, it may be said that in the
Tupelo Gum region of West Florida the average per colony is
about 100 pounds of extracted honey; in the partridge pea
region, about 60 pounds per colony; and in the saw palmetto
region, about 50 pounds per colony. The sunflower region as
a rule gives the best yields, sometimes averaging as much as
200 pounds of extracted honey per colony. Then in the Black
Mangrove region the average is often around 150 pounds per
colony, while in the gallberry region the average may be as
low as 40 pounds of extracted honey per colony.
GRADING AND PACKING HONEY
Whether an apiary has one colony or fifty colonies, the bee.
keeper should know how to properly grade and pack honey
even for his own table, and especially all he expects to put on
the market. The surplus honey should never be put up in just
any kind of container, but it must be correctly put up in good
Honey produced in Florida, as a rule. has a good flavor and
good color. Sometimes, however, it is a little thin in body even
after it has been left in the care of the bees until it is well
capped over. The bees cap the honey when it is finished, but
as a rule they do not do this until they have given it the body
they intend it to have. One should remember that honey,
when first gathered, is nothing but sweet sap of the honey
plants, thin, void of flavor, and quick to ferment until well
At the present time the demand is greatest for honey put up
in retail containers. The one-pound square jars have been
found most suitable for the best grades of both chunk and
extracted honey. The two and one-half-pound cans are best
for grades just a little off in color. The next size is the regular
five-pound honey pail. Syrup pails will not do as they are too
thin and frail, and the friction top does not drive in sufficiently
tight to remain and not leak. The off-grade extracted or comb
14 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
honey can be put up in regular honey pails or in two and one-
half-pound glass jars.
Extracted honey should be well strained before it goes into
the storage tank. It should be allowed to remain there for
several days so that gravitation will clear all matter from the
honey, then it can be drawn off into the containers and sealed
up at once. All packages can then be neatly labeled under
your own signature, together with the guarantee and net
It is generally advisable to put up some of the honey with
comb and some without comb. One can often sell ten times
as much packed, comb and extracted honey together as straight
extracted honey alone. Many people want comb in their honey
in spite of whatever they may think best. In packing comb cut
from the regular shallow frames along with extracted honey,
one must be careful to put in as large pieces as possible and
never chip up or put up little trimmings. It is desirable to let
the honey appear in as large pieces as possible. These pieces
should be suspended so that they will stand up; they should
not be put in flat, for honey naturally looks better from an
end view than from a side view. One must remember to cut
out only tender young white comb and to place the fancy crop
in glass containers.
.. _\ UTi t..'. :. : "...P-a
The Partridge Pea.
The Partridge Pea.
BEEKEEPING IN FLORIDA 15
It is a well known fact that practically all the extracted
honey on the market is blended (not compounded) from sev-
eral sources. Blending is done for several reasons. First, it
makes a better table article because the flavor of blended honey
is a combination of the flavors of several different kinds of
honey. As most people are aware, the flavor of honey is gov-
erned by the plant from which it is made, so that blended honey
combines the different flavors. All real honey lovers will agree
on this point. The honey may be blended just as it comes from
the extractor, or on the table when cutting the comb.
Blending honey has reference only to the very best honey
and not to any of inferior quality. A poor grade should never
be in a blend, or it will ruin all. It is better to put the cheap
honey up separately and sell as such. This applies to both the
color and flavor of honey. Some poor honey has a fine color,
and some very fine honey has poor color. It is seldom if ever
advisable to blend dark honey with light, or honey of poor
flavor with that of good flavor, but a blend should always be
with honey of similar color and quality of flavor.
The blending of honey is particularly important in Florida
because there are a great many kinds of honey coming along
during the season. Often one honey flow comes in very close
behind another flow, and this happens so frequently that there
is very little honey produced in Florida which is pure as to
source. It is all blended more or less by the bees themselves,
for sometimes a single comb will contain three or four different
kinds of honey.
Blending honey not only makes it a better table article, but
the greatest advantage is that it stays granulation. Much of
the Florida honey, especially that produced in the southern
part of the State, will granulate. The honey in the western
part of the State, particularly in the great White Tupelo Gum
region, does not granulate easily. If a large percent of non-
granulating honey is blended with the honey that granulates,
then granulation is stayed, often indefinitely even on the north-
ern markets. There is enough non-granulating honey produced
in Florida, if properly blended with the granulating honey,
to keep all in a liquid condition.
Florida therefore has the opportunity the put up honey in
its natural state that will keep without granulating, which
eliminates the necessity of heating the honey to make it keep.
Honey that is sold with the guarantee that it will not granulate
is more in demand, for no honey buyer outside of a bottler
wants table honey to turn to sugar or candy.
16 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
To those less informed, the winter care of bees in an almost
tropical country like Florida seems of little importance, and
perhaps is far less important than in other parts of the country.
Some special care, however, is needed by bees during winter
months even in Florida.
During the first part of the winter, the bees should be looked
over carefully and even the queens and their work of egg-
laying noted. Some honey is generally coming in at this time,
as the weather is usually still warm enough to allow the bees
to work. The first part of December is the most opportune
time to make the examination because old and failing queens
may be easily detected at such time by the strength of the
colonies and size of the
brood nest. A good queen at
the beginning of the winter
season should be laying well
with plenty of young bees in
the colony; if this is not the
ease, then the bees should be
While the cover is off and
the queen's progress being
noted, it is advisable to see
about the stores in the super
just above the brood nest.
This super should be full or
nearly so of sealed stores.
The bees may not draw very
heavily on the honey the
first part of the winter, but
the latter part they will be-
cause they are rearing so
many young. The cover to
the hive should be a good
one that does not leak, and
the bottom board must be
sound. It is also important The Gallberry. a small Sprangled Top
to see that the hive is on a avergeen Bush of the latwoode.
The colony with a good queen and plenty of stores is ready
for the winter and will need no further care or attention until
spring. Plenty of stores above a good queen is highly impor-
tant; otherwise, losses from starvation are almost certain, or
She colony will be too weakened from lack of honey to keep up
the raising of young bees. One must not forget that bees will
BEEKEEPING IN FLORIDA 17
perish during cold weather even in Florida where winters are
short and generally mild, unless they are given sufficient care.
PERPETUAL HONEY FLOWS
The question is often asked, "Can I keep bees in Florida and
have a honey flow the year round" The idea is to have a
honey flow twelve months in the year, taking honey off, pack-
ing, raising bees and queens, etc, the year round. As a general
rule, however, nowhere in Florida can one depend upon such a
condition year after year. All of Florida is subject to cold
snaps, light frost, and once in a while freezes, which to a large
extent play havoc with vegetation. This would mean disap-
pointment to the beekeeper who is expecting to run his honey
extractor or pack honey every month in the year. Some years
this can be done, but years when light frost and freezes come
around this cannot be done.
Cabbage Palmetto, Commonly Called the Tre Palmetto.
1, Saw Palmetto
, Black Mangrove
3, White Tuelop Gum
. Partridge Pea
I, Wild Sun lower
, The Summer Fair Well
8, The Wonder Honey Plant
, Blac Tupelo Gum
10, Spring TiTi
Sereuua oerralta (licbu
biceii ultida, Jacs ,
NPyaa qadatief L
lieu gabgr (U) A,
Petutemuu Peutslmau (U)
tNyaua bflara \talt,
Pycuathymus rigidus (ilart,)
lonth ot year in bloom Localle where toud,
) May ad June Practlly all over the State,
e ad July Aroun ocean's edge rom New Smyrn to
Amril ad May Along rivers ad overlo w lad in wester
prt ot State,
June, July, August ani Se
temner Throighout sand ridge section,
April and May Througout atods action,
November ad eember Souther iart o State, principally around
Lae ke Oeecoe
Septem r and Oetour On liht, ndy, well drained soil through.
out the State,
April, May, JuIe and July Along the coast around Apalailcola Bay,
March and April Along streams in the western part of t
February and Mrch In western part of State along small stream
i ad bay eads,
DOember, Januay and Feb4
ruary South part of the State,
108E HONEY Pull1~ OF FLORIMI
11, Cabbage Palmetto
0I, The popper Bush
t Ml eolrn Clover
tK, The Snoo Vine
I 'i. Gopler Apprle
SaMal Palmello (ffalt,) R,.
(leIbra alloilolia I,
Rllkhrll sao'abra SR lii,
July Along the coast, through the hammocks, and
along the lakes,
July and Algust Tliroughout lltwoods section,
July, Auguust aid Septeoliber I many culllvated fields throughout the
Otclir andl N.~viilier Thlrougholl hie State,
Jily easternn piart of the Slate,
aiy Tirouaghoull sailu ridge secloll,
April and qay All over the State,
April and May North and West Florlda,
March a1l April Througliont Central and South Floria, with
Salsoias In Norlh and West Florlda,
20 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
From coast to coast across the peninsular for about one hun-
dred miles, taking in the section where Lake Okeechobee lies.
there are large areas of pennyroyal, a winter blooming honey
plant that gives a good and reliable flow of nectar from the time
the goldenrod ceases to bloom on through the winter months
until citrus begins to bloom. This is ideal for honey produc-
tion, bee and queen raising, but even here this is interfered
with by sharp cold snaps.
Through the section just mentioned, the average per colony
is far greater than elsewhere in the State. This is simply be-
cause there are more honey plants and a nearer perpetual
honey flow with only a few days intermission from one to an-
other. This section embraces, of course, a large area in the
extreme southern part of the State. Honey extractors can be
seen running in various places through this section during
November, December, January and Felruary. Often the num-
ber of bees will increase during these months, and queen bees
reared and mated.
This is perhaps the most favored area in Florida for bee-
keeping, in all of its branches. Pennyroyal is the greatest
yielder during these months, yet there are other honey plants
that come along and bloom during the same period which add
greatly to the flow of honey and abundance of pollen.
REMOVING THE HONEY
The surplus honey of any colony can be removed at any time,
but beyond this no honey should be taken. Because one sees
blooming flowers almost twelve months in the year around over
Florida is no reason why they are real honey plants and the
bees can gather honey from them. Therefore, sufficient honey
should always be left for the bees to live on.
It is important to keep a close watch on the bees so that they
will not have any more storing room than needed. The bee
moth will actually eat up the comb in a normal colony of bees
if there is so much storing room that the bees cannot properly
care for the hive by crawling over it and removing the eggs or
tiny larva of the miller that lays the eggs. It is a common
sight, and not a good one, to see a hive of bees with the combs
all destroyed in the top by the moth. Bees should have only the
proper amount of room at all times, but most particularly at
times when there is no honey flow and breeding may be at a
low ebb. A close watch must be kept on the bee moth or it is
apt to cause great loss of comb.
When a honey flow starts, it is necessary to look out for
super room and keep just enough storing room ahead of the
EEKEEPING IN FLORIDA 21
bees so they vain fill ail all supers by the end of the honey
flow. Too 11iuch would be detrimenItal and not enough would
Ihe a loss. To this lend every colony should he watched closely
and visited every week to see that all are kept supplied with
storing room. When the honey flow goes off, then all the sur-
pllus holey caln lte removed, packed, and placed on tlhe market.
O()e super, however. imust be left full o( nearly 'full of stores
for t lie lse of the bees.
All modern hives have loose hanging frames in which the
bees build the comllb, live and 1renar their young. Every colony
should be examined carefully every week. or at least every
few weeks. Each comb in ite bottom story of a hive should be
examined to see whether there are enough brood eggs of the
ii:eell allnd a sufficient aniotillit of holley.
If there is no honey in the super, it is necessary to supply a
fratlme of honey from some heavy hIive. If there are not as
imanyl bees in some colonies as in others, one miay take a frame
of capped brood from one of the strongest and best colonies
and place it in the weaker colony. In this way the weaker
22 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
colonies can be built up. If no brood is seen or the colony is
growing very weak, the hive may have a poor queen or none
at all. Such colonies should occasionally be given a frame of
brood in all stages of development, which will enable them to
grow stronger and raise a queen from the brood given them.
Or, in the meantime, one may order a queen and introduce her
into the colony, which may often save a colony from a down-
ward drift or perhaps a total loss.
Frame manipulation is of the greatest importance in bee-
keeping, for right here the wheel of fortune in beekeeping may
turn. This is particularly outstanding in changing combs as
just mentioned above.
It is not customary even among beginners and small bee-
keepers to allow the bees to swarm naturally, as much better
results are obtained when swarming is controlled by the bee-
keeper. The operations of increasing colonies and controlling
swarming are both done with one stroke. When a very strong.
heavy populated colony of bees is properly swarmed once
each season, that colony and the one made from it are both
cured of the swarming fever for the year.
The strongest colonies should be divided up into equal parts,
in the early part of the year, some three or four weeks before
natural swarming time. This means taking from the old hive
one half the bees, one half the brood, one half the comb, and
one half the honey. As the hive is being divided, one should
look for the queen. The frame of comb on which the queen is
found should be put with the half that is to make the new
hive. The bees in the old hive can raise themselves a new
queen, although it is often preferable to buy a queen for the
The operation is not a success unless the queen is put with
the new stand, because if the bees that are carried away to a
new stand find themselves queenless, they will boil out of the
hive. pry about looking for the queen, and invariably go back
to the old stand in an effort to find their mother. This de-
populates the newly made hive, but if the queen is there the
bees will not leave her. The old half of the hive will have no
idea where their mother has departed to and will at once set
out to raise another, or will readily accept a new queen if one
This is simple and easy when everything is in readiness, and
it can best be done late in the afternoon by those inexperienced
BEEEEEEPING IN FLORIDA 23
in the operation. The bees will thus be given over night to
satisfy and content themselves, while if done in early morning
there will be a turmoil all day among the two divisions, the
bees on the old stand looking for their mother and the bees on
the new stand making their new home. Before this is done,
a new empty hive for each colony must be properly prepared.
and the frames should contain full sheets of foundation or
ready built comb.
When the division is made, there should be four or five
frames in each hive of ready built comb containing brood and
honey. This is supplied when the division is made, but a space
should be left without any comb on one side of each of the
hives. The frames containing full sheets of foundation from
the newly prepared hive should be inserted in these spaces.
One frame containing foundation can be placed right in the
middle of the ready built combs in each of the divisions. This
will give the bees some comb to build and they will start at
once to draw out the foundation. As fast as they draw it out.
the queen will fill it with brood and one will soon have solid
slabs of brood.
On every visit, a frame of foundation should be inserted in
like manner until a full set of combs are drawn out, then all
one has to do is to keep the bees properly supered and two
hives rather than one will be making honey.
Increases during any time of the year can be made in like
manner, but only with strong, heavy colonies. The weak col-
onies and those of medium strength naturally have a struggle
to exist, and to divide them would mean disaster and great
To become successful in beekeeping, one must study the
nature and habits of the honey bee in order to learn the best
methods of bee culture. An effort should also be made to learn
about the plants upon which the bees feed. A number of good
books are available on bee culture, which can be obtained at
a reasonable price. There are also a few monthly publications
on bees that contain valuable information. Whenever possible,
the prospective beekeeper should visit one or more progressive
beekeepers in the locality in which he intends locating and
watch the methods of handling bees. The more information
one can secure, and the better it is applied, the greater will be
the chances for success.
24 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
A Large Well Kept Aioary in West Florida on the Banks of the