Hillsborough County is offering bee hive sponsorship.

One out of every three bites of food Americans eat is either directly or indirectly derived from honeybee pollination. This is just one of the reasons the Hillsborough Soil and Water Conservation District started the ‘Bee a Honey, Buy a Hive’ project.

The project was first launched in April 2017 as part of the Hillsborough 100 Conservation Challenge. Its goals are to increase the local bee population, and to help with the pollination of crops such as apples, blueberries and strawberries, all of which would be either nonexistent or greatly diminished without bees.

Although over 2,000 species of bees exist, only seven of them actually produce honey. Around 48,000 miles of flying is necessary for bees to create just one pound of honey. In the past decade, bees have been suffering from a phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD. This occurs when the majority of worker bees in a hive die, leaving the queen, a few nurse bees, and the immature bees behind. Without worker bees to keep the hive running, it collapses.

Bees also struggle with winter weather and abnormal weather patterns. Sometimes 20% of hives in any given year are lost due to winter. Bees are additionally vulnerable to pathogens, pests such as mites, nutritional struggles, and pesticides.

Individuals, groups, or businesses can sponsor hives for $200. The price includes the construction and placement of the hive on the sponsor’s property or in a community area, and a membership to the Tampa Bay Beekeepers Association. Sponsors receive honey from their hives, and will be helping the environment along the way.

Many public hives can be found in community gardens, and perhaps soon public parks. Sponsored hives contain Italian bees, which swarm and sting less, and produce more honey, making them ideal for the project.

Hives make the perfect Father’s Day or birthday gift, and can be sponsored by calling the Hillsborough Soil and Water Conservation District at 752-1474, ext. 3, or by visiting http://hillssoilandwater.org.

More information about melittology (the study of bees) can be found through the Tampa bay Beekeepers Association at http://tampabaybeekeepers.com/ or the Florida State Beekeepers Association at www.floridabeekeepers.org/.