California Farmers Look to Florida Beekeepers for Help

By: Morgan Kyrklund Email
By: Morgan Kyrklund Email

Honeybees are responsible for 1/3 of all the foods we eat.

The crops they pollinate would not survive without the help and food prices would soar.

The demand for the buzzing insects is growing so fast that farmers in California are turning to beekeepers in Florida.

Bill and Ron Merritt are commercial beekeepers in Sopchoppy.

They are getting ready to move their bees to California.

"They [California farmers] only have about half of what they need so they have to import the rest of the beehives from beekeepers around the United States," Merritt said.

Now Beekeepers in Florida are growing to be in high demand.

Merritt and his team have been sending their bees nearly 3,000 miles away for the last 4 years now.

They say farmers on the west coast just don't have enough bees to pollinate the crops.

Merritt said, "They are bringing in more and more almond trees on line that require pollination. They just need more beehives period."

The process behind moving the bees is...sticky.

"It's a very involved process. They have to be a certain strength and we grade them. We bring all the pallets in and pressure wash them. Then we transfer more bees," he said.

Every year they add more trucks to send their bees to the golden state.

The Merritt team says they haven't failed yet.

Bill Merritt is the closest commercial beekeeper in our area that does it.

Industry leaders are surprised more of them aren't more involved in this blooming business.

"Most of the fellas over there are small beekeepers. They don't have enough bees or they don't have the bees on pallet in order to load a truck," he said.

Beekeeper Barbra Mumpower agrees.

"Here in Panama City or Panama City Beach there's not any large acreage forage for the bee. so you have a lot of people who are hobby beekeepers," Mumpower said.

Ccommercial beekeepers charge California farmers about a $175 to rent a hive for a month.

"If it wasn't profitable they would not do it," she said.

The bees do more than pollinate crops.

They help keep food prices stable by helping the farmers grow more food.


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