Beekeeping, Planting For Bees, Butterflies, and Florida Native Landscaping

Amelia Island has beekeepers, including this barrier island’s top two resorts. Learn about planting for bees and butterflies and Florida-Friendly native gardening.

Volumes have been written on the topic of bee decline, saving bees and the Monarch butterfly, as well, in recent years.

Florida is an agricultural state, and beekeeping in Florida (and across the USA) is now on the rise. However, compared to historical levels, the number of “managed honey bee colonies” in America is drastically below the 6 million counted just after World War II.

Amelia Island Beekeepers

Amelia Island has citizen beekeepers as well as this barrier island’s top two resorts producing honey. The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island has a colony of around 200,000 bees (Ritz chefs use their island honey in resort fare). Ditto for Omni Amelia Island Plantation, hosting around 70,000 bees at last year’s count, also making sweet barrier island honey here at the seaside.

Bee colony collapse disorder is an issue being tackled by experts. According to the White House, “The number of managed honey bee colonies in the United States has declined steadily over the past 60 years, from 6 million colonies (beehives) in 1947 to 4 million in 1970, 3 million in 1990, and just 2.5 million today. Given the heavy dependence of certain crops on commercial pollination, reduced honey bee populations pose a real threat to domestic agriculture.” See the fact sheet published by the White House for further details, The Economic Challenge Posed by Declining Pollinator Populations.

Did you know there’s a Nassau County, Florida Beekeepers Club? See their Facebook page. There’s also a local beekeeping service. See Fernandina’s “Hive Pirate” Facebook page providing various bee services including the installation and management of bee hives.

Planting for Bees

While some don’t have the ideal property to plant a large garden (or inclination to be involved in beekeeping), many can do some small plantings for both bees and monarchs. A little here, a little there (multiplied around the island, onto the mainland around Nassau County, and across the state of Florida), can hopefully help.

Besides planting milkweed to help save the monarchs (another worthy effort, more about the butterflies), see the link further below to the University of Florida’s article about planting a “bee pasture.” Interestingly, two of UF’s suggested plantings for a “bee pasture” grow wild in spots on Amelia Island.

The photo above is the native plant Spotted Beebalm (or Horsemint), a scene captured at American Beach, not far from Florida’s tallest sand dune, “Nana.” The photo was taken last year during early August (first time noticing this lovely looking plant growing wild here on the island). According to “Florida Wildflowers” by Walter Kingsley Taylor, Spotted Beebalm habitat is “roadsides, meadows, floodplains and coastal sites” throughout most of Florida, and flowers during summer and fall.

The photo below is native Partridge Pea, a yellow flowering plant seen covering the dunes at American Beach seasonally (and elsewhere on the island). Partridge Pea seems to be much more widespread here, than the Spotted Beebalm. According to “Florida Wildflowers,” Partridge Pea habitat is “sandhills, pine flatwoods, hammocks, beach dunes, and ruderal areas” and flowers in spring and summer. (The “Florida Wildflowers” book is available on Amazon, and is a comprehensive reference, especially handy for Florida newcomers who wish to learn more about native Florida plants).

Florida Wildflowers: Partridge Pea's Yellow Flowers, Sand Dunes, Amelia Island
Florida Wildflowers: Partridge Pea’s Yellow Flowers, Sand Dunes, Amelia Island

“Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM” Legislation

Several years ago, Florida legislators passed a Statute encouraging residents to plant more “Florida-Friendly” landscapes that require less water consumption than lawn grass (apparently superseding homeowner association deed restrictions across the state). However, homeowners still need to go through approval process of their individual homeowner association review boards with new landscaping plans.

According to the University of Florida IFAS Extension, the legislation is explained as follows:

“The definition of Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM in Florida Statutes section 373.185 (adopted in 2009 in Senate Bill 2080) addresses quality landscapes that conserve water, protect the environment, are adaptable to local conditions, and are drought tolerant. The principles of such landscaping include planting the right plant in the right place, efficient watering, appropriate fertilization, mulching, attraction of wildlife, responsible management of yard pests, recycling yard waste, reduction of storm water runoff, and waterfront protection. Additional components include practices such as landscape planning and design, soil analysis, the appropriate use of solid waste compost, minimizing the use of irrigation, and proper maintenance.” Find out more on this topic at planting a Florida-Friendly landscape.

Learn More About Helping Monarchs, Planting For Bees and Beekeeping

See informative article by the University of Florida IFAS Extension about importance of bees, pollination and planting a bee pasture (published April 10, 2015).

Learn lots more about Florida bee protection and beekeeping at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Another resource for planting native is the Florida Native Plant Society website.

Want to learn more about Florida nature? Check out the Florida Master Naturalist program. The “Coastal Systems” module is great for this barrier island’s residents (especially newcomers to Florida).

By The Editor

Observations of island life, news & opinion by W.B. Lawson. Wendy has enjoyed the laid-back Amelia Island lifestyle since 1993. Her professional background began at a newspaper in NY. She then worked in PR/Investor Relations at Fortune 500 company, and later became a managing editor at an equity research publishing firm. She was Series 7 licensed while with Merrill Lynch Private Client Group.