When Hurricane Michael swept through the southeastern United States in October, it left quite the path of destruction. This Category 4 storm wreaked havoc on the Florida Panhandle, one of the richest biodiversity hotspots in North America. From the longleaf pine forests to the coastal estuaries, the Florida Panhandle is teeming with a number of terrestrial and aquatic species rivalling any other area of its size in the U.S. or Canada.
While this was not Florida’s first rodeo and many of the native wildlife species have adapted to survive and recover from these natural disasters, some took a harder hit than others.
The Florida Panhandle is home to more than 500 registered beekeepers and roughly 50,000 colonies—amounting to over 1.2 billion bees. As pollinators, these bees play an integral role in conserving the area’s biodiversity. Pollination supports the growth of numerous trees, plants, and flowers that make up a variety of habitats providing food and shelter for other wildlife. Bees, in particular, are largely responsible for supporting the complexity and health of many ecosystems.
Additionally, these bees help to maintain the livelihood of the agricultural community in Florida and surrounding states as they provide pollination services to a vast majority of crops. In fact, roughly 75% of the world’s crops depend—at least in part—on pollinators for sustained yield. Without pollination, the quantity and quality of food production would be impacted drastically.
During Hurricane Michael, top wind speeds reached over 130 miles per hour snapping thousands of trees and flattening flowering plants for hundreds of miles—habitat crucial to sustaining the Panhandle’s population of 1.2 billion bees. With these foraging resources destroyed, beekeepers found themselves in a race against time. The bees needed to be saved from starvation.
Promptly, the Florida State Beekeepers Association (FSBA) and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) partnered with GreaterGood.org and their Rescue Bank program to supply the impacted region with seven tanker trucks full of sugar syrup. Donors to the cause included the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland and the Smucker’s company. Additionally, the Florida State Beekeepers Association President organized a GoFundMe raising over $7,500 to help save the bees.
The tanker trucks filled with sugar syrup arrived in the Florida Panhandle where the syrup was then funnelled into containers on smaller trucks that were able to navigate into smaller cities and towns to supply those in need.
Without the swift action of the FSBA and FDACS combined with the gracious and considerable donations organized by GreaterGood.org, the bee population of the Florida Panhandle could have been devastated in the wake of Hurricane Michael. Not to mention, the resilient residents and beekeepers of the impacted region who, even in the midst of complete wreckage, were committed to saving this indispensable species.
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Did you know that pollinators are responsible for one in every three bites of food we eat?
What are your favourite foods that are reliant on bees or other pollinators for production?