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What’s All the Buzz About? City of Orlando Initiative Trains Parramore Students to Become Beekeepers

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Andrew Beard tends the hives at the UFAIS extension. Photo: Danielle Prieur

A new City of Orlando initiative will train high school students in the Parramore neighborhood to become beekeepers. 

It’s part of the Black Bee Honey program which has been teaching business skills to students for the past two years.

It’s eight o’clock in the morning and Andrew Beard is suited up in his beekeeper hat and veil.

He’s the vice president of the Orange Blossom Beekeepers Association and he’s tending the hives tucked on the eastern corner of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension in Orlando. 

Beard does this every weekday before he heads to work. But today is a little different.

“And I’ll pull this super off-that’s what the individual boxes on a hive are called. The supers. I’ll pull this super off to show you what we will be passing along to them.”

Beard packs up the bees. He’ll take them to the hive at the Water Reclamation District. Photo: Danielle Prieur

Beard removes frames full of baby bees called brood from the hive and packs them into a white box. He’s donating them to the Black Bee Honey program.

The box is taped up so that there are no easy exit points on the hour-long car ride to the City of Orlando’s Water Reclamation District. 

That’s where the District’s Environmental Specialist Daniel Friedline and Black Bee Honey students have built a hive on the roof of the Education Center. Friedline is standing in the Center’s classroom answering student questions. 

“So you’re going to wear closed toed shoes. These are meant to hook under your socks and then you put your shoes on and zip it up. Right?”

Friedline says students who complete the twelve-month program that combines observation of beekeepers with instruction and hands-on learning at the hive will become certified beekeepers. He says they’ll be able to tend hives and train other students.

“And we can create that cycle that feeds itself with young students that then are going through the program and training others.”

Two of these students will go to the University of Florida’s Bee College for additional training next summer. Black Bee Honey coordinator Alexis Hicks says the students will be chosen based on how well they do in this class.

“We’re going to take two of these youth and funnel them into the beekeeping lifestyle and fingers crossed have an appointment with the city of Orlando.”

Environmental Specialist Daniel Friedline and his Black Bee Honey students. Photo: Danielle Prieur

She says these students could get jobs tending hives that Friedline plans on building on top of the Orlando Fire Department and Parramore Farmers Market. 

This fits with the larger mission of Black Bee Honey. Since 2017 high school students in the program have learned entrepreneurial skills as they bottle and sell raw honey sourced from High Springs.

“My goal for them is to be successful adults in the working world. Knowing how to take an idea and just changing it to however they want it to sell it, market it and brand it and just go from there.”

Jones High School senior Tyresha Garrett is still deciding whether to join the beekeeping program. 

These bees will teach Parramore Kidz Zone students business skills. Photo: Danielle Prieur

“Black Bee Honey. I never thought I’d be a part of something like this and going to college. I never thought I was ready but being at Black Bee Honey I feel like I’m ready.”

When she started selling honey at the Orlando and Parramore farmers markets last spring she wanted to open her own boutique. Now she wants to become a teacher. That’s thanks to her experience working at the Black Bee honey booth.

“There were so many people in my community that I never knew. But they’re there in my community to help me to build me.”

Back in the parking lot of the University of Florida’s research center in Orlando, Andrew Beard says he knows not all the students in the program will become beekeepers. But he’ll settle with turning a few into lifelong enthusiasts.

“I would do this if it didn’t have honey, if it didn’t have wax. If there was no product. Just to keep the bees.”

If you’d like to listen to the story, please click on the clip above.

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Danielle Prieur

About Danielle Prieur

Reporter & Fill-in Host

Danielle Prieur is a general assignment reporter at WMFE. You can hear her reporting on a daily basis on the station. She also fills-in as a host during the morning and afternoon drive times. Her reporting has been featured on NPR. Danielle is originally from Rochester Hills, Michigan and is a graduate of both the ... Read Full Bio »