National Honey Bee Day Festival Saturday in Cocoa with demos, lectures

Festival at University of Florida/IFAS Brevard Extension Center

By Maria Sonnenberg , For Florida Today

COCOA, Fla. - Were it not for honeybees and other pollinators, we would be dining on cardboard.

These little busybodies are critical in the pollination of fruits and veggies, not to mention flowers, to the tune of helping with $170 billion in crops worldwide.

We need bees, but the future of bees is questionable, given that colony collapse disorder has decimated the bee population as much as 90 percent in some areas, says National Geographic.

It would behoove us all to get better acquainted with how we can assist these hard-working insects. Brevard Backyard Beekeepers is offering the opportunity to do so —and have fun in the process, reports News 6 partner Florida Today.

The National Honey Bee Day Festival, which runs from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., is Saturday at the University of Florida/IFAS Brevard Extension Center, 3695 Lake Drive, Cocoa.

“It’s an awareness day when we recognize honeybees and the global importance of pollinating insects,” said Clifton Best, one of the 90 members of Brevard Backyard Beekeepers.

Best will discuss the importance of honeybees, the stresses they face and what humans can do to help during his “Bringing Back the Bees” lecture at 10:10 a.m. during the festival.

[STORY:These 9 ways to use honey may surprise you]

He will return at 1:15 p.m. for a honey extraction demonstration where the audience will receive a free sample of freshly extracted honey to take home.

Best became besotted by bees six years ago when he picked up a book on backyard homesteading.

The former construction superintendent went to “bee college” at the University of Florida and began what he thought would be a part-time job humanely relocating bees from locations where they were not wanted to his home hives.

He manages hives in seven different locations, from Merritt Island to Port St. John, and will even tackle the dreaded Africanized bees, nastily aggressive, but a honeybee nonetheless. In fact, you could say he is a bee anger management specialist.

“I will relocate the Africanized bees and give them a new, gentler European queen, and that will change the whole colony in 90 days,” he said.

Bees don’t have much time to make their mark in the world, Best added. Workers live a mere six weeks, and while the queen can make it to as old as five, she spends her life producing thousands upon thousands of eggs that will replace her short-lived line staff.

Their never-ending labor certainly deserves celebration. The local event of the national bee festival features plenty of speakers on bee-related subjects, plus food, music by Sydney Taylor and children’s activities, including a Spelling Bee for elementary and middle-school kids.

At 9:30 a.m., urban horticulture agent and Florida Today contributor Sally Scalera will outline native plants and gardening practices to support pollinators.

Additional lectures feature holistic health practitioner and nutritional consultant Anneke Balazs, aka Mrs. Mango, on the health benefits of honey; “The Fascination of Honey Bees,” by Al Moreno, past president of Orange Blossom Beekeepers’ Association; “Pollinators in Florida and Habitat Conservation and Restoration,” by Julie McClurg, founder of the Honey Bee International Wildlife and Habitat Restoration Trust, and Molly Lentini, Brevard Zoo conservation coordinator, who will present a program on the zoo’s pollinator conservation efforts and how the public can help.

Expert beekeepers will be on hand throughout the day to answer questions about bees  and beekeeping and demonstrate bees in action.

Children can meet at the Little Bee Zone canopy for honeybee games, activities, education and face painting.    

Vendors will be on hand with, of course, plenty of locally produced raw honey, plus hive products and local crafts.

And, yes, you are welcome to dress up in your bee costume to better celebrate the day.

The National Honey Bee Day Festival
When: Saturday
Time: 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.
Where: University of Florida/IFAS Brevard Extension Center, 3695 Lake Drive, Cocoa.
For more information: Call 321-633-1702 or visit facebook.com/BrevardBeekeepers.

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