Heritage Bee Farm Shares the Buzz on Bees

Things To Do

Pictured: A group learns about bees at Heritage Bee Farm. Photo by Kristen Vasquez.

For many people, venturing into a commercial bee hive appears daunting, but Chris Vasquez, the owner of Heritage Bee Farm, encourages everyone to explore the world of beekeeping through their Bee Farm Experience Tours. Vasquez began beekeeping as a hobby about 17 years ago, and the farm has grown to encompass 1,500 colonies, which he is eager to show off to guests. The tours, held at the farm’s main apiary in Myakka City, last about 1.5 hours and are conducted primarily outdoors.

“At the start of the tour, we spend time familiarizing the guests with everything related to bees, including beekeeping equipment and the products produced from a bee hive,” says Vasquez. “We try to educate them and express the importance of bees locally and across the world,” he adds. Following the introductory lesson, the guests suit up in protective gear to enter the hive. Vasquez notes that his honeybees are non-aggressive and pose little threat to humans, owing to the farm’s selective breeding process.10-20 frames of bees make up one colony, and a healthy hive houses thousands of individual bees. While visiting the hives, located outside, guests meet the queen bees, female worker bees and male drones. “Some people are nervous about going into the hive, but after about five minutes the nervousness goes away, and they are more comfortable, to the point where they can be around and hold the bees without fear,” he says, adding that all hive-related activity occurs with participants wearing protective gear.

Tour guides dispense facts about these important insects throughout the experience. Guests learn that the average worker bee produces 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey during its 45-day lifespan, highlighting the need for colonies with large, strong populations. They also discover that a bee will traverse a 3-mile radius to find nectar sources, a big journey for a small creature. The honeybees at the farm, which focuses on breeding non-aggressive queen bees for distribution across the country, serve as ambassadors for their species, whose behavior depends upon an individual bee’s genetic makeup. Following the hive experience, participants will either try their hand at bottling honey or delve into learning about queen bee breeding. Each tour ends with a chance to purchase products derived from the hive, including beeswax candles, lip balms and soaps, all handmade on the farm.

Visitors interested in pursuing beekeeping as a hobby often stay in touch with Vasquez and his team, who supply them with bees to populate their colony and offer helpful guidance. The farm offers tours for schools, and this year conducted a beekeeping outreach program in the Dominican Republic. Given the loss of 30-4 percent of bee colonies in recent years, Vasquez emphasizes the importance of knowing your beekeeper. “Supporting a local beekeeper by purchasing their products helps the community and its pollinators,” he adds.

Bee Farm Experience Tours are $45 per adult and $25 per child 12 and under. Contact the farm to book a tour and get pricing information for large groups. Heritage Bee Farm, 13339 MJ Rd, Myakka City, heritagebees.com.

Pictured: A group learns about bees at Heritage Bee Farm. Photo by Kristen Vasquez.

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