Florida native plants are steadily disappearing due to Florida development and the introduction of invasive species. Native plants are very important to honey bees. Since bees will take the shortest possible distances to forage for pollen and nectar, local plants are very necessary for their survival. Also, forage distances can dramatically change the production of a hive. (Eckert) If bees are forced to go further their production will drop as they will spend more energy flying back and forth.Speakers at the First Annual South Florida Bee Collegeshared that many commercial beekeepers move their bees to blooming crops such as blueberries and oranges, however, small-time beekeepers are not always able to move their hives. Therefore, their hives are stationary and reliant on local forage and wild plants. As a result, wildflower conservation and restoration projects have a great impact on bees, especially wild bees.
There are many organizations in my community which are dedicated to the conservation and restoration of wildflowers. These organizations fund and carry out projects such as planting on roadsides and nurseries, and education to backyard gardeners.
The three major roads in Hernando County, SR 50, I-75 and US 41, are always buzzing with traffic and honey bees. FDOT (Florida Department of Transportation) allows wildflowers to grow on these roads and over 186,000 roadside acres. In addition to helping pollinators and aesthetically covering roadsides, the flowers also take up space which would be otherwise occupied by invasive species. According to the Florida Wildflower Foundation the FDOT project is economically valued at a half-billion dollars including the impact on bees. FDOT is currently conducting a study on the effect of mowing practices on bee forage, however the study is not finished yet.
FDOT isn’t the only active planter. Nurseries under Florida Association of Native Nurseries (FANN) are encouraged to plant and distribute native species. Their business members include growers, retailers, environmental consultants and landscape professionals. (www. floridanativenurseries.org) By reaching to and providing growing information for these companies, FANN not only encourages the commercial production of native plants, but also allows them to be placed in anyone’s backyard. FANN also offers CEU (continuing education unit) courses on native plants in each of Florida’s respective USDA assigned planting zone. FANN is also the host of the Annual Native Plant show which gathers members, experts and gardeners together to discuss the importance of native plants and their use in landscaping.
Another planter is the Florida Wildflower Co-operative. This organization encourages wildflower planting through the selling and buying of seed for native species. Its goal is to increase “the supply of native Florida seed available for beautification, native habitat restoration projects, and consumer use.” They also provide specialty seed mixes for bees and pollinators. The co-op requires that growers grow at least one acre and harvest at least 25 lbs of seeds. This assures there is a minimum amount of seed produced.
As a hobbyist beekeeper, during the warm summer months I often find my bees flying towards the state park where wildflowers are plentiful. Wildlife preserves often harbor wildflowers allowing beekeepers near conservation lands and wild bees to take advantage of abundant nectar flows. Conservation areas like Withlacoochee State Forest help bees by managing invasive species and preventing development. Native trees and shrubs such as black mangrove (Avicennia germinans (L.) L.) and saw palmetto (Serenoa repens. (Bartr.) Small) which provide good honey flows. (Sanford)
Major activism organizations such as the Florida Wildflower Foundation (FWF) and the Florida Native Plants Society (FNPS) support land management as well. They educate the public on the importance of wildflowers to the ecosystem. FWF provides funding for planting projects and research on wildflowers. FNPS supports public policies that protect endangered native flora. They also provide resources for planting and pollinators
In my community I have found many projects for the conservation of wildflowers or education of the public about them. In particular, I found some of these projects innovative and resourceful. They used land for multiple purposes including the conservation of wildflowers. While these projects are beneficial I feel that more action must be taken to encourage native planting of bee friendly plants. Hopefully, these programs will expand and help bees regain access to native plant species.
"About Us." Florida Association of Native Nurseries. Florida Association of Native Nurseries, 1 Jan. 2011. Web. 17 Feb. 2015.
Daniels, Jaret. "EVALUATING THE IMPORTANCE OF ROADSIDE HABITAT FOR NATIVE INSECT POLLINATORS. " EVALUATING THE IMPORTANCE OF ROADSIDE HABITAT FOR NATIVE INSECT POLLINATORS. FDOT, 1 Jan. 2012. Web. 13 Feb. 2015.
Eckert, JE, The flight range of the honeybee, J. of Agricultural Research, v. 47, no. 8, p 257-285 (1933)
Top Five" Plants for Honeybees (accessed Feb. 2015)
"Florida Wildflowers." Welcome to the Growers Cooperative. Florida Wildflowers Growers Cooperative, 1 Jan. 2015. Web. 17 Feb. 2015.
"Mission." Florida Native Plant Society. Florida Native Plant Society, 1 Jan. 2013. Web. 17 Feb. 2015.
Pellett, Frank C. American Honey Plants, Together with Those Which Are of Special Value to the Beekeeper as Sources of Pollen. 5th ed. Hamilton, Ill.: Dadant, 1976. Print.
Sanford, Malcolm. "Beekeeping: Florida Bee Botany." Beekeeping: Florida Bee Botany. UF IFAS Extension. Web. 17 Feb. 2015.