COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. - You might not believe what is going on in your neighbor's backyard. More people in Southwest Florida are raising bees and we uncovered that it's now easier than ever to put bees wherever you are, regardless of what your neighbors might think.
Last summer the state legislature passed a bill giving the state the right to inspect bee hives and regulate where you can keep them. Because of that, people once prohibited from keeping bees in their residential neighborhood, can now do so, as long as they register with the state.
Tim Butler loves his bees. He's part of a growing trend of backyard beekeepers in Southwest Florida.
A few years ago when he decided to box up a swarm that found its way to his cable box for a second time, he wanted to be straightforward with his neighbors.
"I wanted my neighbors to know what I was about to do," said Butler. ".... I believe some of them were a little bit apprehensive."
But now, with his neighbors on board, Butler doesn't see any reason why anyone who's interested shouldn't keep bees in their backyard. In fact, Butler's own two-year-old granddaughter often runs around the same yard where he houses his thousands of bees.
"She has never gotten stung," he explained.
And in the three years of beekeeping, Tim says he's only been stung five times.
"It's all they know. They're doing their job and if I get stung, it's by my fault, my mistake," he said.
Thomas Regan another backyard beekeeper agrees.
"They don't have any interest in stinging you."
Relatively new to beekeeping, Regan wants everyone in his neighborhood to know this:
"I've had three beehives in my backyard for over six months, I've climbed into a tree... and I've gone to a water meter box and have taken them out of there, I've brought them home and put them in my backyard and I've never been stung," he said.
While most people we found were happy to learn that one of their neighbors were backyard beekeepers, some we talked to had questions like, "is it dangerous?"
The state of Florida and its registered beekeepers say, "no."
"They're very docile," explained Mark Dykes, a supervisor for the state's apiary inspectors. "We've breed honey bees for thousands of years, probably one of the first traits they tried to breed out of it was the high aggression factor."
Dykes says the state wants to protect our growing bee business which is part pollination and part honey.
"Honey is about two dollars a pound now, so it perpetuates itself in a money-making enterprise," he explained.
Just how big is the bee business? Florida is consistently listed as the top five producers of honey in the U.S. raking in about $13-million yearly.
In the state of Florida anyone who has bees has to register and it costs anywhere between $10 and $100, depending on how many bees you have. Once a year an inspector will drop by to make sure your hive is healthy.
"We're really the front line for new diseases, new pests, that type of thing," said Dykes.
Along with diseases that could affect other bees in the state, inspectors look to make sure African bees, also referred to by the public as "killer bees" stay away.
"It has a very aggressive nature to it so we don't want to have that in our hives," Dykes told us.
The bad news is African bees are here in Florida and are here to stay. But the good news is research is showing that managed beekeeping may be keeping the aggressive African bees at bay.
"We're finding that the more managed hives you have in an area, the less Africanized bees you have," Dykes revealed.
And that's good news to the people we found living in neighborhoods with backyard beekeepers.
To demonstrate just how popular beekeeping has become recently, we're told that the state had about 400 registered beekeepers five to seven years ago and today we have nearly 3,000.
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