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Hurricane Ian's impact on Florida bees

Tens of thousands of bee hives were destroyed by Hurricane Ian. Beekeepers are now racing the clock to help their surviving bees and raise new ones.

WINTER HAVEN, Fla — Florida beekeepers say we can expect to see honey shortages, along with other bee-related impacts, in the months ahead.

Hurricane Ian is to blame. 

An estimated 50 to 100 thousand bee hives were destroyed by the storm. Mike Saddler owns Bee Haven Honey Farm in Lakeland. His losses are the worst he's ever dealt with.

"Me personally, I probably lost 80 to 90 barrels of honey which is probably $100,000 to $105,000 lost revenue just off that crop. Also lost a couple of hundred hives of bees that just got destroyed by the wind and rain and too much water."

Sadler's hives were scattered along his land, displaced by the flooding Hurricane Ian brought. Now he and other beekeepers are up against the clock to rehab and replace their colonies. 

"We have to make the bees back this year because we need the bees to go pollinate the almonds in February so we had to do it now. We can't wait," he said.

Roughly 150 beekeepers lined up at a donation pick-up site in Winter Haven on Friday to get syrup and substitute bee pollen. The donations were provided by Greater Good Charities.

"Bees are going to be going into hibernation here soon," Brooke Nowak, a representative for Greater Good Charities said. "Without this forage and supplements from beekeepers, bees could starve."

The goal is to feed 1.6 billion bees for 30 days. The syrup feeds the bees, giving them energy. The pollen substitute provides protein and nutrients. 

These supplies are welcomed help as many beekeepers know how long the recovery will take. 

 "It's going to take 3 to 5 years for the bee-keeping business to recuperate," Eli Mendes, owner of Tropic Honey Bee Farms, said.

This was the third donation event Greater Good Charities held for Florida beekeepers. The first two were in Arcadia and Fort Myers. 

Malique Rankin is a general assignment reporter with 10 Tampa Bay. You can email her story ideas at mrankin@10tampabay.com and follow her Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.

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