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May 22, 2023

Amy Vu - University of Florida Extension (S5, E49)

Amy Vu is the State Extension Entomologist for the State of Florida. She works out of the University Of Florida’s Honey Bee Research Lab, headed by Dr. Jamie Ellis. As part of the Research Lab she is involved in the many project ongoing there,...

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Amy Vu is the State Extension Entomologist for the State of Florida. She works out of the University Of Florida’s Honey Bee Research Lab, headed by Dr. Jamie Ellis. As part of the Research Lab she is involved in the many project ongoing there, including The Bee College, The Master Beekeeper programs and Bee Learning courses.

She also works closely with the migratory beekeepers who spend winters in Florida, bringing with them about a million colonies each fall. This, certainly is one of the reasons Florida is always in the top ten honey producing states in the US.

Another part of her activities is working with Dr. Ellis on the Podcast they produce, Two Bees And A Pod.

Another activity is working with the honey sources Florida provides, some of which, unfortunately, are not indigenous, but invasive. Chinese Tallow trees are a good example, and her work with this problem, develping programs that manage the problem plants while, keeping it in check so it doesn’t run amuck and still is useful to beekeepers.

We hope you enjoy the episode. Leave comments and questions in the Comments Section of the episode's website.

Links and websites mentioned in this podcast: 

Honey Bee Obscura


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S5, E49 – Amy Vu - University of Florida Extension


Welcome to Beekeeping Today Podcast from the Fargo Moorhead Red River Valley Beekeepers.


Jeff Ott:Welcome to Beekeeping Today Podcast your source for beekeeping news, information, and entertainment. I'm Jeff Ott.

Kim Flottum:I'm Kim Flottum.

Global Patties:Hey, Jeff and Kim. Today's sponsor is Global Patties. They're a family-operated business that manufactures protein supplement patties for honeybees. It's a good time to think about honeybee nutrition. Feeding your hives protein supplement patties will ensure that they produce strong and healthy colonies by increasing brood production and overall honey flow. Now is a great time to consider what type of patty is right for your area and your honeybees. Global offers a variety of standard patties as well as custom patties to meet your needs. No matter where you are Global is ready to serve you out of their manufacturing plants in Erdri, Alberta, and in Butte, Montana, or from distribution depots across the continent. Visit them today at

Jeff:Thank you, Sherry. A quick shout-out to all of our sponsors whose support allows us to bring you this podcast each week without resorting to a fee-based subscription. We don't want that, and we know you don't either. Be sure to check out all of our content on our website. There you can read up on all our guests, read our blog on the various aspects and observations about beekeeping.

Search for, download, and listen to over 200 past episodes. Read episode transcripts, leave comments and feedback on each show, and check on podcast specials from our sponsors. You can find it all at Hey, everybody, thanks again for joining. Kim will be along in just a few moments. Thank you, Fargo Moorhead Red River Beekeepers Association.

What a great-sounding group. We appreciate your opening of the show this week. If you've been listening this past month or so, you know you too can help us open the next episode of Beekeeping Today podcast by sending a greeting much like you just heard. Simply send us a recording captured on your phone, tablet, or computer's voice memo app. Welcome your listeners to the show and include who you are, how many bees you keep, and your personal greeting.

We love it, and we know our listeners love it too. In fact, we'd love to hear from our beekeeper listeners from all parts of the world. We want to hear from you. We have a great show lined up for you today when Kim and I speak with Amy Vu from the University of Florida Extension Service. She manages all their honey bee extension activities, from the Master Beekeepers Program to the Bee blog, to her podcast with Dr. Jamie Ellis, Two Bees In A Pod. Amy will be joining us shortly to talk about that and more. How are your bees coming along this spring?

It's hard to believe that Memorial Day weekend is this coming weekend. I'm looking forward to the long weekend, and based upon the forecast, I should be able to spend some time getting caught up in the bee yard. Speaking of which, I just can't keep ahead of my bees this spring. We started off cool and wet, and then overnight it seems spring arrived. We even had temperatures reach the 90s, though it has settled back down to normal.

The bees took advantage of the beautiful spring days and took off some literally. I thought I was ahead of the swarming season, but no, they have kept me moving especially my Langstroth hive. I knew this was going to be a management learning curve, but knowing one thing and experiencing one thing are often two different things. Or maybe even three or four. I'm not sure yet. I'm still adding it all up. It also seems everything is blooming earlier this year, maybe by two or three weeks, maybe two.

In an attempt to get ahead or keep up with the honey flow, I started super in my stronger colony, so they have space to expand and store nectar as it comes in. It's always something but that is the fun part of beekeeping, isn't it? It truly is an art, combining the widely variable palette of weather, floral sources, bee biology, and beekeeper management skills and don't forget that dash of luck to give us the joy we experience. One last thing a tease, if you will. Make sure you keep listening to the podcast as we have, and a major announcement to make in a couple of weeks, and that's all I can say about it right now. Let's get right to our chat with Amy but first, a quick word from our sponsors.

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Jeff:While you're at the Strong Microbial site, make sure you click on and subscribe to The Hive, their regular newsletter full of interesting beekeeping facts and product updates. Hey, everybody, welcome back to the show. Sitting across a virtual Zoom table right now is Amy Vu of the University of Florida Extension Service, and you may also know her from the podcast Two Bees In A Pod with Dr. Jamie Ellis. Amy, welcome to Beekeeping Today.

Amy Vu:Thank you so much for having me.

Jeff:It's great having you here.

Kim:It's good to meet you, Amy.

Amy:Nice to meet you virtually again.


Jeff:Kim, you were on Jamie and Amy's show.

Kim:Back a while ago. They had been going for a while, but they got me on, and it was a good time.

Jeff:Amy, thank you for joining us. You do a lot of work in Florida. Before we get into all of that, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started with bees, then we'll get into what you're doing there in Florida.

Amy:Absolutely. Thanks for having me on. It's always fun because I'm usually the host of the podcast, and to be the guest on a podcast is a totally different world for me. I'm happy to be here. Just for your audience and my history. I was born and raised in Overland Park, Kansas. I'm originally from the Midwest, and I did my undergraduate in agronomy, emphasizing in soils and environmental science, and I've always wanted to do international work. I've always been intrigued by where our food comes from.

I grew up in the city, so I actually did not have any exposure to food or our food systems at all until I went on a study-abroad trip to Ecuador. There I was exposed to farming and farmland and beekeeping, and I went to Virginia Tech for graduate school. While I was there, there were a cohort of us, and we just got together, and one day over beers, we said, "Let's start keeping bees. We think it'd be fun." We had no idea what we were doing actually. [laughs]

Jeff:It always starts with a beer. [laughs]

Amy:That's right. We decided to get a nuke, and we decided to get a package, and we worked with our local beekeepers' association. This was back in 2013, is when we had started. It's been about 10 years now, and we decided to just start with two colonies. Lo and behold, we found out later on, actually, that it was illegal to keep bees in that county at that time. Let me tell you what--

Jeff:You scoff lost.


Amy:We received a grant from the state to start beekeeping. We received this grant from the state to conduct an illegal activity in our county. It was fun to understand the rules and regulations, and we definitely made mistakes. That's where my love for beekeeping, beekeeping education came into and I started working at the University of Florida in Orlando soon after finishing grad school in Virginia, and the rest is history. I've been working with the Honeybee lab. I've worked with extension offices throughout the state, and I've just really enjoyed my career in extension Apriculture.

Kim:You certainly got off to an interesting start, keeping bees illegally. [laughs]

Amy:That's right. Now I'm sharing it with the whole world.

Kim:You're the state extension person for Florida, correct?

Amy:That's right.

Kim:At the lab there. All right. You are at the University of Florida honeybee research lab with Dr. Jamie Ellis, correct?


Jeff:Do you feel like you're being cross-examined, Amy?

Amy:Yes, I do.

Jeff:You don't need to sit up so straight now.

Kim:I wanted to get this relationship well explained because the state extension person is a little bit different than the state honeybee research person, and you guys go very different ways sometimes and exactly the same way other times and I wanted to make sure people were aware of that so that they can see why you do what you do and why the rest of the people that you're working with are doing what they're doing. It's sometimes very different, that make sense?

Amy:Makes sense. We actually have three faculty members here. Dr. Jamie Ellis, he does teaching research and extension. My position is 100% extension. We also have Dr. Cameron Jack and he has a instruction and a research appointment. We can talk a little bit about that in just a bit but there are actually three of us here with faculty positions at the Honeybee lab at the University of Florida.

Kim:Your role in the extension then at the state level is you're probably very interactive with local beekeeping associations, the state beekeeping associations, and I'm going to guess you also play some role in the migratory bee operations that come to Florida every fall. Am I close there?

Amy:Yes. That's right. We have over 5,000 registered beekeepers here in Florida. That includes the migratory beekeepers that are coming in from all over the nation. We typically have about 700,000 colonies here in Florida but when those beekeepers from around the nation come down to Florida, we're almost at a million colonies that come through Florida at any given time, which is really crazy to think about. There's a lot of colonies.

Jeff:It's a lot of trucks on the interstates.

Amy:I love finding trucks with bees on the interstate. Every time I'm driving down the interstate, if I see a semi during migratory seasons, I'll look for those honeybees. Most people don't realize when they look over, oh, there are a bunch of honeybees on that truck.

Kim:Then of course that brings me to the extension programs for the local beekeepers. I'm going to set aside the commercial guys that are migratory for the moment but you've got a lot of state associations that you work with and a lot of Florida beekeepers and looking at your webpage, you have an incredible number of programs available that these people can take advantage of to become better beekeepers or different kinds of beekeepers. You want to go over that? I know you don't have to live in Florida to take advantage of some of these programs.

Amy:Absolutely. We are mostly known right now I think for our podcast for the Two Bees in a Podcast. That is a resource you have been on to be a speaker with us but not many people realize that we've got a ton of other online content and pre-recorded modules and resources available for anyone around the world. We actually have people from Egypt and from Japan. A lot of people in the Caribbean and many European beekeepers as well can take our programs and our largest one is the master beekeeper program.

We have four levels to our master beekeeper program where beekeepers can basically just learn about beekeeping and the different-- just how to get started in bees. We kind of nerd out. As every level gets a little bit heavier, we get deeper and deeper into honey bee biology. We've got four levels for that. You can take it all around the world and normally beekeepers will pay a fee. It's about $250 per level. Now, not everybody wants to pay a fee or they don't want to pay that much for a beekeeping class. What we've done is we've repackaged some of those to where we can take pre-recorded lessons and pre-recorded modules and we have, and we call them bee learning short courses. It's a take on e-learning but we basically have that so that people don't have to commit to the entire master beekeeper program and can still find materials that they may want just a little glimpse into. Those are just a couple of examples of the online content and resources that we have out there for beekeepers.

Kim:It sounds like there's a lot, as you just said, that I could take advantage of and I don't have to live in Florida and even take a step further, I wouldn't have to pay for it. That's a generous offer you're making to beekeepers everywhere I think.

Jeff:The master's beekeeper program, that's relatively new, right?

Amy:We've had a master beekeeper program for quite a while. We just transitioned it to be completely online.

Jeff:Maybe that's what I'm thinking of.

Amy:That's what's happened just in the past couple of years is that it's transitioned 100% to being online. Where in years past, people would have to come to the University of Florida to Gainesville so that they could show us that they knew how to use a colony, that they knew how to use a hive tool, that they knew how to be able to identify different resources in their colony. Now we've made it, with technology and just being in a digital era, we've made it so that beekeepers can just record themselves working a colony, pointing to those resources and we're able to still grade them from our offices here without actually having to see them doing this in person.

Jeff:That's really innovative. I've not heard of any other master's courses using that approach. Not that I know of all of them but that's really good.

Kim:One of the things I wondered about, Amy, is that you're sitting down in Florida and I'm up here in Ohio and what you do with bees and when you do it during the season is going to be significantly different than what I'm doing here in Ohio. It was down to 38 degrees here last night. I'm guessing that you never ever see 38 degrees. How do you compensate for that when you're trying to-- as a student, I'm trying to adapt what I do to the environmental conditions that you have done there. Does that make sense?

Amy:That makes total sense. We try our best to make it so that it is not Florida-specific. The beauty about our programs is that anyone can start it and finish it at any time. We understand that people have full-time jobs, they may be working and may not have time to commit, but when it is that time to commit, maybe that's during the wintertime, they can go through and do the classroom version and then when it's not 38 degrees outside, when it's actually time to go out and work bees again, they can work bees whenever they want and submit their videos whenever they want. Our programs cater to all different types of climate and believe it or not, we do get into the 30s sometimes here in Gainesville. I completely understand the cold weather that you're talking about.

Kim:From an Ohio perspective, that's good to know because I want to be able to capture all that you do without having to miss some of the stuff that I'm going to have to do up here. That takes me to the next step is one of the things you must be teaching about and informing people about are pest predators and diseases. I know that the pressure from some of these in Florida is going to be different than we have here in Ohio or out in Washington where Jeff is. What are your big problems down there as a beekeeper that you have to be really aware of?

Amy:That's a great question. I know that everyone from around the world is focusing on Varroa and Varroa is a problem, right? Here in Florida Varroa, I want to say it's just scaled up to even larger than you could even imagine. We don't really have that brood break similar to lots of colder climates have. We deal with Varroa year-round. The other thing is that we've got floral resources mostly throughout the year but we don't have a really heavy nectar flow similar to maybe northern states do.

In the north, you have this large nectar flow coming in, everything blooms at the same time and then you start getting into fall, and in the winter and hopefully your bees have enough stored at that point. In Florida, we've got just a little bit blooming a lot of the time but it's not like we have a huge nectar flow that comes through, but Varroa here, we have beekeepers from Canada that come down here pretty often and work with us and they just cannot believe how fast Varroa just explodes in many of our colonies. Right now, we're at the end of April and Varroa it's been horrible this year.

Kim:Well, it's got to be tough controlling Varroa and with a constant honey flow I would think. I don't have that problem here. I've got a lot of time where there's no honey flow at all. That makes my treatment schedule a lot more manageable for people who don't have a lot of time. How do you manage that there? How do you take care of Varroa while your bees are making honey?

Kim:We have to be very careful with that. The other thing too is with Varroa treatments, a lot of the treatments that we have can't be placed with a temperature at a maximum. Of course, it gets pretty hot here as well. We have to take that into consideration and so we really push for all of our beekeepers to monitor constantly. You can never monitor enough to know exactly what you've got but yes, we do have to be very careful about when we can apply whether we're harvesting honey and also the temperature during those times of years.

Kim:I'm glad I don't have all of those issues having to deal with Varroa up here in Ohio.

Amy:Fun to be a beekeeper in Florida.

Jeff:Let's take a quick break here and we'll be right back.

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Jeff:Amy, that leads us right to what is the recommended practice if there's no real natural brood break for a seasonal brood break, what are you recommending to beekeepers there in Florida?

Amy:That's a great question. It really depends on the beekeeper. I know that's our go-to. It depends. It depends. It depends. Depends on the time of year. It depends on what treatment you want to use. It depends on if you're a backyard or a commercial beekeeper. Of course, we always recommend that threshold of treating when we are at three mites per 100 bees. A lot of commercial beekeepers don't like to see their mite loads that high and many of them will treat if they see one mite per 100 bees and so it is difficult to say that there's just one recommendation for beekeepers because it depends on what they're trying to do. I will say that a lot of our queen breeders, they do have that brood break and so they don't have to treat as often as maybe your typical backyard hobbyist who may not have that brood break.

Jeff:The key there is monitor and keep on top of it.


Jeff:Once you get behind the ball, it's hard to get ahead of it.


Kim:Amy, it's interesting what you were just saying on our other podcast, Honey Bee Obscura, that I do with Dr. Jim too. We just did a session on what's the most common question and answer in the beginning bee course and the most common answer is always, it depends. We're real familiar with that. I think anybody that's ever taught a class says, "Well, it depends. Is it cold? Is it warm?" Well, it's nice to see that it works in Florida too.

One of the things that we've explored here on this podcast in talking with other beekeepers in your part of the world is the Chinese tallow tree. There are some people who don't like it and there's a lot of people who do and there's some banging of heads going on about whether you should or shouldn't get rid of it. Where do you stand from an extension perspective and maybe where do you stand from a beekeeper's perspective in looking at this issue? I'm going to make it hard for you here.

Amy:Thanks. That's a very easy question. I'm here to save the world, so here we go. [laughter] As an extension specialist, I really have to stick with the science. I've got to stick with data-driven information. We do know that Chinese Tallow is invasive. That is fact one. The other fact is that the Chinese tallow is also very useful to beekeepers and so from an economic standpoint, beekeepers,' honeybees, they love tallow. There's really that fine line in between whether we need to get rid of it or whether we don't.

I think from my perspective as being both a beekeeper and an extension specialist, I think that there are ways that we could definitely work together to not completely eliminate Chinese tallow because I don't think that that's ever going to happen. I think that's also another fact, is that we're not going to eradicate Chinese tallow, but I do think that there are efforts that are being made to minimize the amount and minimize the amount of tallow that we can get rid of.

There is talk about how the USDA is coming out with different insects to minimize. They use the word eradication because it's eradication program, but when you look at the history of eradication programs with invasive species, there's never been a single eradication program that has been 100% effective on completely getting rid of the tallow. The reason why these insects are being released is to cut down on the amount of new growth that's out there. If tallow is already established, the insect, whatever it is that is being released, they'll release that just to minimize the amount of new growth that's happening. I'm a full believer in that the eradication is not 100% so I don't think that beekeepers should worry too much about having zero tallow for their bees to be able to forge nectar on.

Jeff:We'll never get to that point of zero tallow.


Jeff:It's like getting to zero Varroa.

Kim:From a beekeeper's perspective, that's kind of having it both ways. That's good. You've reduced the problem but you haven't eliminated it and you're able to some degree, satisfy the people who depend on tallow for a honey crop during the year. I think it was last fall, you guys had some pretty extreme weather with a lot of beekeepers going to Florida over winter. As I understand that there were a lot of them already there when you had cyclones and storms and all sorts of things going on. How did that work and what was the end result with that? The next question following that is have beekeepers taken a step back and said maybe Florida isn't the best place to be for a while?

Amy:We do have a lot of commercial beekeepers over winter here, especially, in September or October, and they're here for another invasive species and that's the Brazilian pepper tree. The Brazilian pepper tree brings a lot of nectar for those beekeepers in the fall where there are not many other plants that are growing out for the beekeepers around the nation. You're right, Kim. Last September we had a really bad hurricane and that was Hurricane Ian. We had probably about 400,000 colonies that were in that path of the hurricane. Of course, commercial beekeepers were down here for the pepper tree flow.

The hurricane hit where we were not expecting it to hit and so there was nothing, I don't think, anyone could have done to prep for this hurricane that came through. There was just so much water, so much rain coming through, the wind had blown lids off. Those were two biggest factors. Then, of course, because of the rain and because of the wind, it blew all of that Brazilian pepper tree forage off and so it affected the entire bloom that beekeepers were coming down here to begin with. It's April. We're still not 100% sure if those beekeepers have recovered those colonies and we're still working on hurricane and COVID relief programs for commercial beekeepers right now.

Kim:That sounds like a full-time job, without a doubt.

Jeff:Is there an estimate on the number of colonies lost?

Amy:We don't know about the exact number of colonies lost. I think the beauty, and this is not to say anything about the beekeeping industry, but the beauty is that we can take one colony and split them into two. That doesn't make the losses less devastating, but the great thing about bees is that they are resilient. The beekeepers are even more resilient. It gives me goosebumps actually to think about that time during the hurricane because I saw beekeepers who had not spoken in years come together to work together for a common cause to help their fellow commercial beekeepers, and it was really heartwarming to see. As much as a hurricane was extremely devastating to the industry, it was really nice to see the industry come together to work to help support one another.

Jeff:Since we're on the subject of weather, this spring has been enormously wet and Florida as well, has that further impacted the bee production in Florida in this spring?

Amy:Another crop that beekeepers go to for nectar is citrus, and the citrus down here has not been doing too well. They've been dealing with different pests and diseases of their own in that industry. The citrus blooms were not that great in 2023 as well and so it's going to be really interesting to see what happens to the commercial beekeeping industry as weather changes, as climate changes, as these crops are also suffering from different pests and diseases. Something is going to have to change and I'm not quite sure what that is yet.

Jeff:It's been a rough season. Definitely.

Kim:Suddenly Ohio doesn't look so bad, all things considered. [laughs] It's good to see that the industry is working together to overcome or at least try to overcome some of these issues. What else is going on in Florida that's not bad or not hard on beekeepers that you would like to talk about? I'm sure there are several programs or things going on that would be attractive.

Amy:Yes. Absolutely. Again, that weather thing, as much as we hate hurricanes, we get really used to it in Florida and the wintertime is really great place for beekeepers to overwinter their colonies. We don't have to deal with those freezing temperatures. We don't have to deal with snow on the ground. The beauty of being in Florida is that we really are a great place to, over winter, have bees. We have lots of agricultural commodities here in the state as well. We grow blueberries here. Blueberries are a big commodity that we work with. I think just overall the weather makes it extremely nice despite having hurricane season. We do have great weather here for bees.

Kim:How does that work for inspection? If I'm a commercial beekeeper and I've not gone to Florida before and now you've just talked me into it because of all of the good things that are happening in spite of the other, and I wanted to bring a truckload or two of bees, what's the inspection issues programs that you guys have in place that I need to be aware of?

Amy:We have a great inspection program here through the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and we've got one assistant bureau chief here in Gainesville, Florida, and he's got two supervisors that work under him. I think under that they've got about eight inspectors and so we do have apiary inspectors on the ground. Anyone that's coming into the state and even the beekeepers within the state do have to be registered with the state of Florida. If you're wanting to become a beekeeper and you're wanting to migrate down to Florida, you just have to go to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website and all of the registration information is on their page.

Kim:Do I need to do that before I put my bees on the truck and head south?

Amy:You should probably do that before you head this way. Yes. [laughs]

Kim:Okay. Well, that's good to know because if there are people looking at and of course there are going to be no more hurricanes or typhoons or whatever this year, as opposed to last year knocking on wood, you probably will attract even more people because winter and dry, north and west of you is becoming more and more of an issue for where beekeepers are going to spend their time.

Amy:Absolutely. I will say one more thing about-- I don't want to focus too much on the challenges because I do think that beekeepers are very resilient. With Florida and people moving to Florida, we're losing a lot of land. A lot of the infrastructure is being built and we're losing a lot of land that beekeepers are normally having their colonies on over winter. That's becoming a larger and larger challenge for our industry is not having those holding yards or the property to be able to have bees on because there is a lot of development happening in our state as well.

Kim:I'll just say this to be careful, I hear there's some land opening up at Disney World that perhaps they can take care of [laughs]

Amy:They've got bees there too. Swarms [chuckles] Maybe we could sort that too

Kim:You don't need to record that Jeff [laughs]

Jeff:Disney World does keep bees, is that what you said?

Amy:The theme parks, they have swarm traps throughout the theme parks and what they'll do is they'll capture swarms so that swarms don't land in their park. I've actually gone to-- I won't name the theme park, but I've been to a couple of theme parks because they've had an issue with swarming. That's always fun to see how their techs will work with swarms that they find on the property.

Jeff:There's something about Goofy, wearing a bee veil capturing a swarm that tickles my fancy.

Amy:I know we should do a bee beard on Goofy or something.

Jeff:[chuckles] That's right [laughter] You mentioned a couple big challenges to the industry and for side liners and commercial beekeepers, problems become more exponential, obviously. You've mentioned the weather's been a challenge this last year and if one subscribes to climate change and I think we all should, these extreme weather events are going to continue happening, so that's going to be a challenge for Florida beekeepers. Varroa continue to be and the loss of habitat is another big challenge. What about future possible challenges? The AAA laps is something that comes up often when people talk about the threats on the horizon. Have you put any thought to that problem?

Amy:The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, they are the ones that are really at the forefront of making sure invasive species don't come in. I don't know if I mentioned this earlier, but we were rated here at the University of Florida, the number one Entomology and Nematology Department in the world. I jokingly like to say that it's because we have so many pests and diseases here because we have the perfect climate, which obviously, we have a lot of faculty members and researchers that can focus on these insects.

While I would never want AAA locks to come this way and be here in Florida, I almost feel like we should be ready for it, if it does come in, so what do we do? We would have to work together as an industry. I know the Apiary Inspectors of America, they're also working to make sure that everyone nationwide is looking for AAA Laps and making sure that if we do find it, that we communicate with one another. It doesn't spread further than once it breaches port somewhere.

Jeff:Hopefully not. We're talking about challenges and invasive species. Years ago there was the threat of the Africanized honeybee in Florida. Did that ever materialize as a big issue or was that planted and surpassed by the Varroa might?

Amy:Yes, so we have African derived honeybees. We do have them a lot more in South Florida than we do in North Florida, that's not just in Florida, that's also in Texas and Arizona, New Mexico, probably southern California, I'm not sure. We-- legally here, when a beekeeper catches a swarm, they are obligated to requeen their colony because of the unknown genetics that we have here. Again, the Florida Department of Agriculture and the Apiarian inspectors that we have on the ground, they're really the ones out there working with beekeepers hands-on letting them know that that is a rule that we have here in the state.

Jeff:There's a lot of challenges there in Florida.

Amy:We have lots of challenges, but we love Florida, we can't knock on Florida. The Florida beekeepers are great, our weather's great, we've got plenty of great weather to keep our bees going and we've got forage for them to be able to forage for that nectar flow.

Kim:You're also one of the top 10 honey producing states in the US year after year after year. For all of the reasons that you've brought up, you're doing something right down there, making it work [chuckles]

Amy:I sure hope so.

Jeff:My mind keeps wandering and I'm thinking about invasive species now and now I think about all the Pythons that are lurking in the weeds. We haven't lost any beekeepers to pythons.

Amy:I don't think so. I've never actually seen a Python and I've been in Florida for about eight years now [chuckles]

Jeff:Let us know when you do. We've talked about your background and the extension service that you provide and beekeeping in general in Florida. Can you tell us a little bit about the podcast that you produce?

Amy:Jamie Ellis and I, we started a podcast, so I started working at the Honeybee Lab in 2019, so this is pre- COVID. When I first started the position, Jamie had mentioned that he wanted to get started in a podcast. He wanted to do a podcast. He didn't know what he wanted it to be, but he wanted to call it Two Bees in a pod [laughs] I said, "Okay." We actually were fortunate enough to have some undergraduate student workers who were also interested in this project.

We had a graduate student who was an audio engineer. Between all of us we're like, "Let's do this, let's make this happen." We started and we used to record in person together in a room and we would invite people to be on the podcast and we sat around and would talk and ask questions and do what we do on podcasts and then COVID hit. When COVID happened, we were at home and we decided, "Let's just continue the podcast."

Actually this is a really cool opportunity to bring people from outside of Florida and outside of the United States to also take part in the podcast. As soon as , COVID hit, we were sitting in our respective closets and [chuckles] just talking to each other, making sure our dogs weren't barking and the kids weren't being too loud and then we kept going and it just took off from there. I think people were beekeeping more at the time, they were going outside a lot more and looking for stuff to do. By chance we had put out the podcast in January of 2020, COVID hit in March and the rest is history.

Jeff:You guys do a great job. I was always envious that you had a team of audio engineers and students working for you to produce the show. That's a luxury. That's nice. I hope you appreciate it.

Amy:I appreciate it so much. I know how much work it takes, so I appreciate you guys too.

Kim:Jeff, if you're wondering, I was invited to chat with them early on. If you go to their web-page, I'm on Number 46 podcast. You can listen to it all you want. It's really pretty good. Amy, during that podcast, I don't know if you've gone back to listen to it, but they were asking me about what I was doing at Bee Culture Magazine at the time and I described my position and in the background Amy went, "I want his job." [laughter] It was nice to see because somebody who gets to do what you do was looking at somewhere else. It was interesting to hear, but it was fun to do. Being a guest is way different than being on this side of the mic on one of these and it was fun to do. They did a good job.

Jeff:Amy, is there anything that we haven't covered that you would like to mention? Make sure that our listeners get to know?

Amy:We talked a little bit about extension and just communicating science. I think there's a lot more apiculture educators that are out there, not just here in Florida, but around the nation and around the world. There are many grants where we're all really working together to identify needs of beekeepers around the nation and around the world and we're working to write grants. One example, I'm working with Dr. Megan Mibrath, Anna Heck, Dr. Juliana Rangel and Katie Lee, we're working on training for veterinarians who are interested in bees.

They just want to know more about honeybees. There are lots of collaborative efforts going on behind the scenes that I think many beekeepers may not see or know about, but we primarily work on a needs basis. When we see that the industry is in need of something, that's more traction for us to be able to work together. We've been talking about invasive species and some of the challenges that we have and that's exactly what Extension is meant to do, is identifying those needs and helping the beekeepers in any way that we can to try to acknowledge those and to minimize any stressors as much as possible.

Jeff:Amy, it's been a truly our pleasure to having you here on Beekeeping Today Podcast. Look forward to having you back and look forward to listening to your next podcast.

Amy:Can't wait. Thank you so much for having me.

Jeff:You bet. Thank you. That was an enjoyable talk with Amy. What she and Jamie are doing at the University of Florida is really, really meaningful work. I like it.

Kim:I've got a particular fondness for the role of extension people in government. Having been one and having worked with several over the years, I really appreciate the value. I also appreciate the amount of work that goes into doing that job well and she appears to be doing very well at what they're accomplishing in Florida. Give these guys a pat on the back the next time you see them.

Jeff:Yes, absolutely. I encourage our listeners, if you're looking for a second or third podcast on beekeeping that you want to listen to, make sure you go out and listen to Two Bees in a Pod, but don't get hooked on it. Always come back to Beekeeping Today Podcast [laughter] We love having you here.

Kim:Yes, we want to see you here. Just a quick word, Jeff, on climate change and bees and beekeeping, we moved that again, making it harder for people to find, but it's now moved back to the Beekeeping Today Podcast webpage, correct?

Jeff:That's correct. It'll be on our blog page.

Kim:Okay. It's a collection of information that I've gathered here, there, and everywhere about what climate change is doing to the environment and thus to bees and what is happening to bees and what that's going to do to us because of it. It's been fun to do. It's a lot of information to wallow through, but I think you'll enjoy it.

Jeff:It's a very good series of work and I encourage our listeners to go out to our blog page at and read Kim's work and research she's doing on the climate change issue. It's really valuable and you'll get a lot from it. That about wraps it up for this episode. Before we go, I want to encourage our listeners to rate us five stars on Apple's podcast wherever you download and stream the show. Even better, write a review, and let other beekeepers looking for a new podcast know what you'd like. You can get there directly from our website by clicking on the reviews along the top of any webpage.

We want to thank our regular episode sponsors Global Patties, Strong Microbials, and Better Bee for their longtime support of this podcast. Thanks to Blue Sky Bee Supply and Northern Bee Books for their generous support. Finally, and most importantly, we want to thank you the Beekeeping Today Podcast listener for joining us on this show. Feel free to leave us questions and comments at leave a comment section under each episode on the website. We'd love to hear from you. Thanks a lot, everybody.


[00:42:07] [END OF AUDIO]


Amy VuProfile Photo

Amy Vu

State Specialized Program Extension Agent, Apiculture

Amy Vu is the UF/IFAS State Specialized Program Extension Agent for the Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab, where she oversees the lab’s Extension activities. She runs the University of Florida Master Beekeeper Program, the University of Florida Bee Colleges, UF/IFAS Honey Bee Blog, speaker requests, media inquiries, the lab's social media pages, and is the co-host of the lab’s podcast “Two Bees in a Podcast”.

Vu's Extension's programming involve 1) honey bee health, 2) training apiculture trainers, and 3) beekeeping entrepreneurship. Amy has an undergraduate degree in Agronomy with an emphasis on Soils and Environmental Science from Kansas State University and a Master's degree in Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education from Virginia Tech.