Florida Bee Inspection in the New Millennium”
Bee Culture (April 2004), Vol. 132 (4): 19-21




Malcolm T. Sanford



Mr. Laurence Cutts has written an extensive history of Florida beekeeping, published on the Florida State Beekeepers World Wide Web site.1  The Florida State Beekeepers Association was organized at Gainesville on October 6, 1920.  It was anticipated that it would make for rapid improvement in the beekeeping industry of Florida.  A report of the organizational meeting states that a group of 100 enthusiastic beekeepers from all over the state were in attendance.  The first officers were: J. W. Barney of Bradenton, President; F. K. Isbell of Wewahitchka, Vice President; K. E. Bragdon of Cocoa, Secretary; and J. R. Hunter of Wewahitchka, Treasurer.  It is also stated that the establishment of the state association followed the organization of several strong local associations.  On the same page is a classified ad for 2- or 3- frame nuclei from the Sarasota Bee Company, the beginning of a segment of the beekeeping industry that became a major part of the industry here in later years.” 


With reference to bee inspection, he says: “Apiary Inspection was created by Legislative Act on June 9, 1919.  The Plant Commissioner in 1919, Dr. Wilmon Newell, was experienced in bee diseases, having been in charge of the Texas program for five years.  He appointed Mr. C. E. Bartholomew as the first State Inspector and assisted him with inspections the first year.  Initial inspections were in the Apalachicola river region, which was reported to have more bees than any other area of the state.  The tupelo honey produced in this region was valued at this time as a good honey to blend with other varieties of honey to retard granulation.  Beekeeping in this area was also enhanced by steamboat transportation and bees were routinely moved into Alabama and Georgia for the summer and back into Florida for the spring.  The number of colonies in the area coupled with the migratory nature of beekeeping there made the spread of disease a major concern.  The finding of disease in one large apiary in 1918 caused beekeepers there to petition the legislature for an apiary inspection program with laws that would help prevent the movement of diseased colonies into Florida.”


Since then, bee inspection in Florida has been known as one of the best-run and most-supported beekeeping services in the U.S.  There have been relatively few chief inspectors over the years contributing to its stability.  Several have had long tenures, including Mr. Cutts himself, who recently retired after a decade and a half of service.  Dr. Roger Morse, well known for his writings in Bee Culture, was Florida’s chief apiarist for a period and authored a document on Florida beekeeping.  Innovations in bee inspection have been the watchword in Florida over the decades. 


According to Mr. Cutts, “On July 1, 1957, an Act of the Florida State Legislature became effective which provided to beekeepers compensation for bees and equipment destroyed by the state because of American foulbrood.  Florida was the first state to implement such a program. The compensation program increased cooperation between the Department of Agriculture and the beekeeping industry and contributed to a steady decline in the incidence of American foulbrood in the state.”  This program remains in place and has helped beekeepers weather the recent storm of antibiotic-resistant foulbrood.


Florida bee inspection has also been a leader in establishing consistent pollination services through what is called the Eastern States Agreement.  This promoted orderly movement of bees on the eastern seaboard for vital pollination services in the face of chaos caused by exotic pest finds (tracheal and Varroa mites).  Florida was one of the first states to declare itself infested with tracheal mites, and then Varroa, and go about the business of getting chemicals registered for treatment.  It continues to lead in this field.  Florida bee inspection is also in the forefront in monitoring possible spread of Africanized honey bees eastward.  Finally, the program is known for actively consulting its constituency through both the Honey Bee Technical Council and the Africanized Honey Bee Task Force. 


Florida bee inspection has been threatened over the years by proposals to reduce or eliminate its funding, but has continued to survive due to support of the beekeepers it serves through efforts of the Florida State Beekeepers Association.  The situation becomes more acute when there is a turnover in the chief apiarist, the person administrating the program.  It weathered the storm again with appointment of Gerald W. (Jerry) Hayes, who assumed the post early this year.


Mr. Hayes comes to Florida from Dadant and Sons, Inc., where he was new product manager and wrote (and will continue to write) the column known as “The Classroom” in American Bee Journal.  Although born in New York, Mr. Hayes family moved to Ft. Lauderdale in the 1950s.  Thus, he has a good many relatives scattered around the state.  Jerry majored in athletic administration and coaching at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, MS and coached track and football at various schools.  He taught other subjects as well such as driver education.  While working in the electronics and plastics industry, he credits a beekeeper of Slovakian descent, Tom Biernasz, for introducing him to beekeeping.  Quickly, his initial bout of “bee fever” got out of control.  Thus, in 1980 he found himself in the one place in the U.S. that had a beekeeping curriculum, The Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster, OH.  He graduated under the tutelage of Bee Culture’s most prolific contributor in recent years, Dr. Jim Tew.


After graduation, Jerry did a stint at the Baton Rouge Bee laboratory, working with Drs. Allen Sylvester and John Harbo, before moving on to work at Dadant and Sons, Inc. in Hamilton, Illinois.  His interest and experience in new materials (plastics) made him a natural contributor to the company in various ways, especially in developing catalogs for subsidiaries, such as American Bee Supply in Lebanon, Tennessee.  He has, thus, been involved in everything from plastic hive parts to registering beekeeping treatments, as well as his educational column that answers questions mailed in by readers.  These activities and his administrative experience will be invaluable to beekeepers in Florida. 


I recently sat down with Jerry at his office in Gainesville, Florida and we chatted about the kinds of challenges that he will face.  First and foremost will be developing a distinctive personal relationship along with a brand-new administrative style for both beekeepers and employees.  The latter include dedicated administrative folks in the office led by the able Ms. Cathy DeWeese and some 14 beekeeper-inspectors in the field.  Coming up this spring will be an increase in fees for registered beekeepers.  All colonies in Florida must be registered with the Division of Plant Industry.  The fees collected are only about $40,000.  When compared to the full apiary inspection budget of $375,000, there is little question that beekeepers are getting their money’s worth.  But as the challenges to effective beekeeping mount, it is increasingly more difficult for even the best-managed outfits to survive.  Every beekeeper forced out of business becomes one less voice in support of bee inspection.


Jerry inherits several situations that are sure to try his communication and administrative skills in the near future as revealed in a recent meeting of the Honey Bee Technical Council, a body set up by Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner to advise him about beekeeping issues.  At the top of everyone’s list is the increasing resistance to pesticides by Varroa mites.  In many areas, neither labeled chemical, fluvalinate (Apistan®) or coumaphos (CheckMite+®), is effective.  Thus, the Division of Plant Industry has received a section 18 emergency-use label for ApiLife Var®, an essential oil product.  However, use of the latter product is much more labor intensive and less effective generally than the others.  In addition, it is not a good strategy to have emergency use labels for two products at the same time.  EPA frowns on this; there is a danger that it will demand that only one material can be so labeled at any time.  There was discussion about the use of formic acid.  This, however, is an enigma both from an effectiveness in subtropical Florida and its legality.  I wrote about the current formic acid situation in an earlier edition of Bee Culture (June 2003). 


Another worrisome situation is that American foulbrood resistant to Terramycin® (oxytetracycline) appears to be on the rise in Florida.  Thus, there is a hue and cry to speed up registration of an alternative material like tylosin lactate.  Should this happen, inspectors and educators (extension workers) everywhere in the country will have their work cut out for them.  They must change the collective beekeeper mind set from using antibiotics for prevention (prophylactically) to only employing them when symptoms are seen.  It is possible the material may be issued only on a prescription basis.  In Florida, this will be especially problematic.  It may require a change in the law, since colonies with symptoms are required to be burned by inspectors.


Finally, there is the issue of Africanized honey bees.  The Florida climate is recognized by most authorities as almost perfect for this tropically-adapted honey bee.  Fortunately, the insect has not migrated eastward from Texas, and so this insect is not established in the state.  Nevertheless, there continue to be introductions via ships; Florida bee inspection maintains a series of trap hives around ports, especially Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville to catch stray swarms.  This situation is complex because exact identification of these bees is problematic and continues to become more convoluted as time goes on.  A revised protocol on this trapping program was mandated at the Technical Council meeting.  Naturally, that job falls to the new chief inspector, Jerry Hayes.


Given this background, the following major goals have been established by Jerry and his supervisors: 


1.  Rewrite the field procedures manual.  This will be a major undertaking as the document has not been updated for several years.  There have been many changes in beekeeping management, which must be reflected in such a document.  These include conditions related elsewhere in this article and recent introduction of the small hive beetle (Aethina tumida). 


2.  Produce an administrative procedures manual.  This will entail some extensive examination of how bee inspection currently works in the state.  It will be studied from a flow chart perspective.  One goal is to carry out more and more of these procedures on computers so that efficiency can be maximized.  This will entail bringing bee inspectors into the digital age.  The use of portable digital assistants (PDAs) and computers will be emphasized.  There could be some huge benefits to beekeepers from this initative.  Bee inspectors are known to be credible in beekeeping circles.  Their use of digital devices cannot but help in the dissemination of this technology to beekeepers.


As part of this effort the Division of Plant Industry will emphasize more development of its already extensive World Wide Web site.2  Right now it consists of the basics of the program, which includes a map of the 12 inspection regions in Florida, who is responsible for each and a list of registered beekeepers.  Various links to educational resources and entities such as the Florida State Beekeepers Association are also integrated into the site.


3.  Work with industry, government and academia to provide sustainable, safe controls for the many organisms that now affect honey bees.  Mites are on top of the list, but bacterial diseases and other insects (wax moth, small hive beetle) also must be taken into consideration.  The ever-important labeling of materials for pest control continues to take on a more regional emphasis.  Thus, the Division of Plant Industry will become more involved in research emphasizing Florida conditions.  This has already been accomplished to some degree in small hive beetle research, where the Division and the local branch of the USDA, Center for Medical and Veterinary Entomology on the University of Florida campus, have collaborated on small hive beetle trapping research.


4.  Educate the public on the importance of honey bees, beekeeping and bee inspection.  The activities planned in this arena range from a static display to a video presentation.  These include publishing information to hand out and demonstrations at fairs.  A major educational effort supported by the Division of Plant Industry is collaboration with Florida Ag in the Classroom, a school-based educational program.3


5.  Provide exemplary consumer service for both beekeeping constituents and the general public.  For bee inspection, this is critical.  Much of this is already in place for beekeepers.  They receive a packet of information as part of their yearly registration.  At this writing it includes pamphlets on the Africanized honey bee and other topics, a summary of the apiary law and an apiary inspection evaluation.  In the final analysis this is “where the rubber meets the road” in bee inspection.  For without the consent and cooperation of those being regulated, no program can be considered successful.  How Jerry Hayes handles these challenges will be the subject of other articles and the measure of his success as head administrator of one of beekeeping’s showcase regulatory programs.




1.  http://floridabeekeepers.org

2.  http://www.doacs.state.fl.us/pi/plantinsp/bees.html

3.  http://www.fl-ag.com/faitc/aboutus.htm