“Florida Bee Inspection
in the New Millennium”
Bee Culture (April 2004), Vol. 132
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
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
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
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
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.