Florida beekeepers struggling after Hurricane Ian decimates at least 100,000 hives
TAMPA, Fla. - Florida's beekeepers are still feeling the impacts of Hurricane Ian now more than two months later. According to Greater Good Charities, the storm decimated at least 100,000 hives, and beekeepers said hives are continuing to dwindle because queen bees rattled by the storm aren't laying as many eggs as usual.
"It's been pretty desperate because more hives are still dying out," Joe Studier with Studier Apiaries said. "The bees didn't really know how to react. They were like the people. It was just devastating to them."
Photos show bee boxes submerged in floodwaters and ripped apart by strong winds.
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Studier has been beekeeping for more than 50 years. Usually, he has about 6,000 hives around this time but said after the storm he was left with around 2,000. Now, he's down to about 1,200 hives. Studier said the storm rattled the queen bees so much that they stopped laying as many eggs.
"It takes three weeks for those eggs to hatch into another bee and so for the period of time where those queens didn't lay, you lost all the bee production, so the hives keep dwindling down," Studier said.
Also, part of the problem is that much of the vegetation bees feed off of was destroyed in the storm leaving many starving. It's why organizations like Greater Good Charities stepped in to help.
So far, they've sent more than 500,000 pounds of syrup and more than 100,000 pounds of pollen substitute to bee farmers in Arcadia, Winter Haven, and Fort Myers.
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"All of them were just so grateful because nothing has ever been done to this level before to assist," said Brooke Nowak, the Greater Good Charities vice president of people and planet programs.
Despite the assistance, Studier said the hives are not as strong as they should be. As part of his business, he ships up to $100,000 worth of bees at a time several times a year to California to pollinate crops like watermelon and cucumber. He estimates he's already lost out on at least one $100,000 load and maybe more.
"Young beekeepers and new beekeepers probably may not make it," Studier said. "I've been in it long enough where I'll probably survive. I just hope it gets better pretty quick."
Nowak said Greater Good Charities will continue providing assistance as it's needed. Studier doesn't expect to see any improvements until February or March of next year.