Hurricane Ian damages beehives at Sanibel Honey

Published: December 2, 2022 4:26 PM EST

Honey bees not only create an agricultural product, but they also help facilitate the Florida agriculture industry, pollinating crops and bolstering food supply.

But Hurricane Ian’s path crossed over 15% of the nation’s bees.

In two years, Brad Mackenzie, the owner of Sanibel Honey, and his girlfriend Andrea grew their beekeeping hobby into a business with 50 hives.

“We have something like a couple of million bees ourselves that, in just our small operation, lost their lives,” Mackenzie said.

After Ian, only two remain.

From inside his house, Mackenzie watched the storm damage his property and his buzzing friends.

“Looking out of this window right here on the house towards my beehives. I watched as the water came up and they got submerged and floated off,” Mackenzie said. “That was a sad moment.”

Now, an empty box remains where a cluster of bees used to call home.

For those bees that did survive, the new battle is finding food to eat. They’ve usually got an enormous store of honey in their hive; if they don’t have a permanent hive in winter Mackenzie said it’s like a squirrel that hasn’t stored any nuts.

“When all of the plants have been under seawater, and all of the trees are completely denuded, we have a real problem this winter,” Mackenzie said.

With many hives lost or weakened, Amy Vu, from the University of Florida, said there may be fewer bees to fill pollination contracts, which could impact our food chain. However, she said, it’s still too early to tell how many beekeepers or colonies Ian impacted.

“We’ll rebuild,” Mackenzie said. “We’ll have beautiful new hives.”

For now, Mackenzie is just being positive and looking for signs of progress.