Viva Florida 500 GreaterJax™ is a series of occasional pieces about Florida history and this year’s celebrations of 500 years of same in and around northeast Florida.
Exploring the contributions of the Spanish explorers to the Florida’s agriculture reveals some interesting Florida firsts.
Like, for instance, that the Spanish brought the first colonies of European honey bees to Florida.
Welcome to National Honey Month in Florida.
Read the accompanying list to learn more about the health benefits of honey.
Honey bees made citrus possible
When the first Spaniards arrived in Central America in the 16th century, they found that the native peoples were already keeping non-stinging varieties of bees.
The native bees, however, were not robust enough to pollinate the citrus trees the Spanish brought with them.
Enter apis mellifera, the European or Western honey bee, the same species of bee that Europeans still use to pollinate citrus and other crops.
But even before Ponce de León sailed up to Florida with his orange seeds and bees, Christopher Columbus in 1493 had assured the Spanish governors and explorers that Florida and the New World were a perfect climate to grow their citrus trade.
Citrus and honey have been vital parts of Florida’s economy ever since.
Honey & honey-bee bar trivia
The “white man’s flies,” as American Indians called the new bees, chapped them just a little.
The Spanish had already learned how to use honey for all kinds of things – food and beverages (of course) to harden cement, to preserve fruit, for medicinal purposes, and to make beewax furnish to polish and varnish to seal wooden furniture.
Apis mellifera is a tough customer
Honey bees are amazing.
When you learn more about them, you realize why honey is so good for you.
First, honey bees have been making honey 10-20 million years.
Here’s what it takes to make one pound of honey:
- Honey bees collect pollen from about two million flowers per pound of honey.
- There are about 60,000 bees in a honey colony.
- A hive’s worker bees fly more than 55,000 miles.
- The average worker bee produces about 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.
- A worker bee visits 50-100 flowers during each trip.
- The average honey bee can fly about 15 miles per hour.
Proof positive that honey is one of nature’s perfect food – one ounce is enough fuel for one bee to fly all the way around the world.
Florida helps put the ‘H’ in US H-O-N-E-Y
Florida is the fourth highest honey-producing state in the Union.
According to US Dept. of Agriculture statistics reported in March 2013, last year Florida bees produced 12,736,000 pounds of honey worth an estimated $23,052,000.
We owe Florida’s citrus supremacy to the honey bee and pollination.
We would not rule the US citrus market without them.
Give it up for Florida honey
This National Honey Month is the perfect time to buy some Florida honey.
Here’s a list of honey producers in the Greater Jacksonville area:
- Karma Acres Farm, Callahan, Fla.
- Cross Creek Honey Company, Interlachen, Fla., west of Palatka
- Thomas Honey, Lake City, Fla.
- Aquilla’s Gold, Crawfordville, Fla.
- Tupelo Honey3, Crawfordville, Fla.
- T’s Honey LLC, Tallahassee, Fla.
- Smiley Apiaries, “The Flavor of Florida’s Forgotten Coast”, Wewahitchka, Fla.
About The National Honey Board
Established in 1987 by honey producers and other industry professionals, the National Honey Board promotes the health benefits of honey and best practices in beekeeping, provides a clearinghouse for honey and beekeeping stories in the media, and offers honey merchandising materials to the honey industry.
- Contact: Jessica Schindler, Media Inquiries & Press Information
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OFFICIAL BIO: K Truitt is a second-generation, native Floridian born in Jacksonville. Truitt worked in public higher education for 25 years and knows newspaper publishing, printing and graphic design. Contact: email@example.com