As a backyard beekeeper, Tom Troiani of Lutz can offer his 6-year-old granddaughter what he calls “bubble gum honey.”
Troiani, who is leading an upcoming 2013 Honey Bee Seminar hosted by the Tampa Bay Beekeepers Association, said his granddaughter, Madison, isn’t afraid of bees. However, she is afraid of bees disappearing.
“She respects the bees,” Troiani said. “She’s got her own bee suit. She likes the honey. She eats pieces of honey right off the comb out of the hive. It’s chewable and sweet.”
Troiani said a lot of beekeepers are worried about the vanishing bee population caused by chronic collapse disorder, or CCD. He said many beekeepers believe CCD is the result of the pesticides used when growing genetically modified corn, although it hasn’t been proven.
“There is still a problem,” said Troiani, who has been a beekeeper for five years. “It’s ongoing. No one has gotten to the bottom of it. The bees get disoriented and never make it home. I lost three hives this year out of 10. They just leave and don’t come home.”
Troiani said everyone can help make a difference by planting bee gardens or becoming beekeepers. He said the purpose of the seminar is to bring new beekeepers into the community or “hive,” as well as to inform gardeners. The seminar will take place from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. May 18 at Upper Tampa Bay Park, 8001 Double Branch Road, Tampa.
Some of the topics that will be covered include hive construction, starting a hive, honey extraction, bee transport, queen bees, nectar sources, wax rendering and looking inside the hive.
“We will teach people on pest control so they won’t do the wrong thing and also teach beginners how to acquire hives and how to duplicate them,” he said. “You can take one colony and, over a summer, possibly make three colonies. It takes the person who has never had a beehive and, by the end of the seminar, they are close enough to get their own. It’s that informative.”
Although Troiani has 1¼ acres, he said anyone can raise a hive on a standard Florida lot without problems.
“Honeybees are not defensive unless you intrude on their hive. If you shake up the entrance, they will be disturbed or provoked,” he said.
Troiani said the more people who become beekeepers, the more likely honeybees will continue to pollinate everything from okra and kiwi fruit to lemons, strawberries and almonds.
“I’m not trying to save the world,” he said. “I’m doing my little part to help the bees.”
Anne Pidgeon, the owner of Colorfield Farms in Wimauma, recommends planting citrus trees as well as flowering plants that bloom throughout the year to help the bee population.
“Citrus trees draw the bees, but they bloom for such a short time,” she said. “Bees need plants that will feed them throughout the year. Citrus is only blooming for a month or two.”
Pidgeon recommends planting native salvia plants that will reseed, as well as sweet almond bush.
She warns against planting dwarf or hybrid flowers that have been bred for appearance but have no nectar for bees or butterflies. When planting pentas, she said to select the tall, old-fashioned Ruby red pentas.
To register for the bee seminar, call (727) 249-3621 or (727) 688-9069 or visit www.tampabaybeekeepers.com. The cost of the seminar, which includes lunch, is $15 per person if postmarked before May 10 and $20 per person on the day of seminar. There’s a $2 park entry fee per vehicle.