UF Honeybee Research Lab responds to Hurricane Idalia’s effects

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A bee leaves it’s colony that was constructed to study parasites. (Jake Lynch/WUFT)

The buzzing of bees is a pleasing sound to research technician Devan Rawn. He has been with the University of Florida Honeybee Research Lab since November.

In that time, he has seen two hurricanes threaten the insects’ sweet melodies. While things are calm now, the researchers are no strangers to taking extra precautions before large storms, and this was the case with Hurricane Idalia.

“Anytime a storm is coming, we have to leave our bees outside. There’s really no way to bring them inside,” Rawn said. “So what we do is we push colonies together, and we strap around the colonies so that the wind has a more difficult time blowing things over. Ultimately, when strong winds and strong hurricanes come through, there is essentially nothing that you can do.”

Hurricane Idalia missed Gainesville, but in hurricanes past the storms have been known to kill millions of bees. Hurricanes not only damage the hives but the bees can also be left without resources for months after the storm.

Smoke is seen emanating from the chamber of a smoker. These contraptions are used to calm the bees for harvesting. (Jake Lynch/WUFT)

“A week after Hurricane Idalia, the weather is back to sunny, hot days, meaning most trained beekeepers ditch the suit I am wearing now,” Rawn said. “But as we learned today, the weather can be the least of the beekeepers’ worries.”

A lot of the research done at the Research Lab is about what bees face on a daily basis.

“I am working on some colonies for a research project that we have going on. Specifically, we manage mites in some unique ways. Varroa mites are the No. 1 parasite that our honeybees deal with.”

In addition to hurricanes and varroa mites, bees face other challenges including different viruses, fungal diseases, agricultural pesticides and a lack of forage.

Despite dangers big and small, these bees keep doing what they do best — make honey.

About Charlize Ramos

Charlize is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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