Food News

Bee Killer Snuffs Thousands of Florida Hives

If it's not colony collapse disorder, it's a crazy bee killer. Hundreds of thousands of bees in Brevard County died this past September, tied to a tainted food supply that contained an insecticide used to kill roaches, ticks, and fleas, county agriculture officials determined yesterday. 

The poisoning may have affected more bees than reported in the Florida citrus belt, an area populated with beekeepers harvesting orange blossom honey.

Beekeeper David Webb says he lost $500,000 worth of bees and honey, while Charles Smith of Smith Family Honey Company lost 400 hives and $150,000, his bees dying after sipping tainted syrup from Webb's hives. 

The insecticide was found in a container in Webb's truck. "I hate to start pointing fingers," Webb told Florida Today. "I just don't see how it would have been an accident."

Florida has been one of the country's top honey producers, trailing only California and the Dakotas. U.S. honey production has been in decline -- with 2009 the worst year on record -- as the result of colony collapse. Production slightly increased in 2010, according to the Honey Board

Clean Plate Charlie called four honey producers listed online in our area. Two confirmed they no longer harvest honey and a third said she did not know any more producers who exist in the region, anecdotal evidence of the decline of the state's hobby producers. Nationwide, hobbyists account for 40 percent of U.S. honey production, while 60 percent is harvested from commercial apiaries, largely family owned. 

The poisoning marks further failure in the struggle to protect local honey, which has been edged out by cheap imports from China that seem to be coming through India to avoid duties imposed in 2008, reports NPR today on "Funny Honey? Bringing Trust to a Sector Full of Suspicion."

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Food Critic
Contact: Melissa McCart