Mikhail Kruglyakov of Parkland has more than a few fruit trees in his backyard but hasn’t seen too many fruits this year.
He knows why.
“It is the bees,” he said. “I always get more fruits when I have bees around. This year, I didn’t have any.”
Kruglyakov is a master beekeeper and has been a beekeeper for six years. “My friend offered to take me to a workshop. I went with him and liked what I saw. I bought a beehive. I now have about 30 hives, most of them on my friend’s property.”
There weren’t many like him when he started out, but Kruglyakov has seen an increase in the number of beekeepers in Broward of late. “There is plenty of interest now. Three or four years ago, it was just a few of us. It is good to see people taking [up] beekeeping as a hobby.”
Leo and Marie Gosser, also of Parkland, started even earlier than Kruglyakov. The founder of the Broward Beekeepers Association remembers looking on as a child as his father took care of bees. “That was in Ohio. I had hives when I was in Pennsylvania and we have had them ever since we moved here 15 years ago.”
The environment wouldn’t be what it is now without the bees, Gosser said. “They are the most beneficial insect known to man. They are the most important of pollinators. Agriculture production in the country wouldn’t be what it is without bees.”
According to United States Department of Agriculture statistics, bee pollination is responsible for $15 billion in added crop value, particularly for crops such as almonds and other nuts, berries, fruits and vegetables. About one in three mouthfuls in a diet either directly or indirectly benefits from honey bee pollination. In California, the almond crop alone uses 1.3 million colonies of bees, approximately one half of all honey bees in the United States.
“Commercial beekeepers in Florida who do pollination services ship hives to California and other states,” Gosser said. “They are shipped all over the country – to Iowa for the potatoes, to Washington State for apples and to California for almonds, grapes and other vegetables. Our association has a member who ships hives to north Florida for the citrus.”
The increase in the number of people taking up beekeeping as a hobby is in stark contrast to the decrease in the number of commercial beekeepers, Gosser said. “There is a lot of stress on bees when they are moved from state to state. The use of pesticides also puts a stress on them. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), which was first seen in 2006, has badly hit Florida. We lose one third of the hives to CCD every year.”
The Broward Beekeepers Association, formed in 2006, has 50 active members, Gosser said. “We have members from all over the county. Our main objective is to educate the public about bees and beekeeping. People need to know that they need to call a beekeeper, and not an exterminator, when they have a bee problem.”
Gosser is excited by a new legislation – the Beekeepers Protection Act – that was passed recently.
“Some cities, Margate for instance, have banned beekeeping,” the Parkland resident said. “The state law supersedes local laws and takes the issue out of the hands of local municipalities. Every beekeeper is registered with the state [and] the hives are inspected once a year. Under the new law, it is the state that will determine if there is any problem with the location of the hive.”
Beekeeping in South Florida is a lot of work, Kruglyakov, who is the only Welsh Honey judge in the county, said. “We mostly have European and Russian bees and they love cold weather. Cold weather also controls parasites that live in hives. The good thing about Florida is that something or the other is flowering all around the year. There is always nectar for the bees.”
Craig Van Der Heiden of Margate, who is an association member, has four hives, all of them at the Parkway United Methodist Church in Pompano Beach.
“Beekeeping is an art,” Heiden said. “I check on my hives every couple of weeks. Bees need a lot of care, especially in the dry season. You need to feed them sugar water. It is a great hobby, one that I enjoy. I get about 30 to 40 pounds of honey every year as well. I keep some and donate the rest to the church.”
The term “queen bee” is a bit of a misnomer, Gosser, who is on the Farm Bureau Aviary subcommittee, said. “She does not run the hive. She is the mother of all the bees in the hive. If a hive gets too crowded, the bees make a new queen and half the bees go with the new queen. The term killer bee is also a misnomer. It is not just Africanized bees; all bees can attack, but they don’t if treated with respect.”
“I get hundreds of pounds of honey every year,” Gosser said. “I have about 25 hives. With the increase in interest among people, we are now looking at having community aviaries so that people living in apartments can also be beekeepers. It would cost about $250 to set up a hive and get everything you need to be a beekeeper.”
“We think we make bees work for us, but they are actually working for themselves,” Kruglyakov said. “We understand very little about what bees do and how they do it. Their level of organization and communication is very different from us humans.”
The Broward Beekeepers Association meets at 4 p.m. on the second Sunday of the month at the Sawgrass Nature Center, 3000 Sportsplex Drive in Coral Springs. Call 954-344-1493 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit browardbees.org.