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Protecting Honey Bees in Citrus Groves

Dan Citrus, Pollinators, Research

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When people think of Florida, the first thing that comes to mind is Fresh From Florida oranges. Florida accounts for 44 percent of total U.S. citrus production.

Citrus, like many other fruits, vegetables, and specialty crops, require certain inputs to grow and produce fruit. But how are pollinators and the production of citrus related? Many citrus varieties grown in Florida are self-pollinating hybrids and do not require assistance from pollinators, such as honey bees. However, groves provide the necessary resources for honey bee survival and beekeeper success. 

Historically, there has been a working relationship between citrus growers and commercial beekeepers, where hives are placed in groves during bloom for honey bees to collect resources. Orange blossoms have an abundance of nectar that provides necessary carbohydrates that bees use for energy to conduct daily activities and to convert to “orange blossom” or “citrus” honey. Without sources of carbohydrates, bees will starve and die.

Groves can be important locations during the winter months for beekeepers to produce new bee colonies and/or rejuvenate pre-existing colonies from Florida and across the United States. Because of the Florida climate, beekeepers move hundreds of thousands of honey bee colonies to/from Florida during their travels across the country.

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Beekeepers routinely place hives in citrus groves for honey bees to collect resources.
UF Honey Bee Research Lab

CITRUS CHALLENGES
Over the past decade, the Florida citrus industry has changed drastically in response to the challenges associated with huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening. This disease is spread by the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) and negatively affects citrus tree health.

Research has shown that the management of HLB requires changes to production practices. One effective method available to control the ACP, thus slowing the spread of HLB, is pesticide application. In addition, growers are utilizing techniques to manage HLB properly to prevent pests. These techniques include scouting, monitoring, and planting only certified disease-free nursery trees.

Though citrus growers do not directly manage honey bee hives, they are …..

Learn more about Protecting Honey Bees in Citrus Groves on the Citrus Industry website.