St. Augustine beekeeper swarms to save honeybees before hurricane

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – After two hard-hitting hurricane seasons in Northeast Florida, many people are still recovering from billions of dollars of damage- including bee keepers.

Hurricanes Matthew and Irma wiped out colonies, killing millions of bees. The recent rain, as one local beekeeper explains, already has them falling behind.

Bo Sterk is a master craftsman beekeeper in St. Johns County. The year started out great for his colonies, but business is taking a turn because of the rain over the past month.

Sterk is currently about a month out from a typical honey harvest and with the start of hurricane season; he wants to make sure the beekeeping community is ready.

The bees he currently has are about half of what he’d like to see around this time of year.

“The rain has really kind of set us back a bit. On a rain day, if it is a good rain day, they will eat about six pounds of honey in a day,” said Sterk. 

Weather is always the unknown for beekeepers across the state.

Sterk faced devastation two years ago after Hurricane Matthew destroyed 35 of his 40 honeybee colonies.

“It was the wind and the water actually both combined with Matthew. The ground got so saturated but they couldn’t hold the support of all the colonies. When they tipped over, all of the sudden you had high winds and bees on the ground and water and rain and it was just a mess,” said Sterk. 

He took a different approach last year during Hurricane Irma.

By tying down his hives and protecting them from the wind, his honeybees made it through the storm.

But that wasn’t the case for millions of others across the state.

According to Sterk, it’s critical to keep the numbers of beehives strong in Florida so they’re able to pollinate crops across the country.

He’s on a mission to educate other beekeepers in St Johns County on how to protect their colonies during this hurricane season.

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