PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — There are more than 300 native species of bees in South Florida and 20,0000 species worldwide. They pollinate about a third of the food we eat.
Sierra Malnove and Al Salopek have taken their passion for bees and made it their business, and their mission.
In recent years, bee populations have declined significantly. As populations of people have grown, trees and plants have been cut back and neighborhoods have sprawled into natural areas.
“The bees need something really heavily in bloom in order to make a surplus honey crop,” Malnove said.
Pesticides have also become a threat, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission said there are “robber flies,” which mimic bees while they eat them.
To help bee populations, Malnove and Salopek pack up millions of bees to travel to California to help pollinate where 80% of the world’s almonds are grown.
“Bees are extremely important, we wouldn’t have nuts, berries, seeds,” Malnove said.
Malnove also tends to bees on 28 different area golf courses in South Florida. She brings the honey back to her honey house where it is creamed and then delivered back to each location. Each hive has its own microclimate, with different plants to forage, so the honey on each course tastes unique.
“Oh my gosh, so different, even two miles apart. So, I have some clubs going down A1A in Jupiter, two miles down the road, everybody’s honey is totally different, it’s so much fun," said Malnove. "And sometimes they’ll ask me how do we know we’re getting our own honey back, and I say well taste the honey next door it’s totally different."
The process allows the golf courses to support the health of the species, while embracing the local foliage.
Most recently, Salopek, who is known as “Al the Bee Guy,” has created a new product called Bee10Coffee. It is beaten coffee mixed with raw, unprocessed honey, to smooth out the bitterness. A scoop mixed with hot water turns into a variety of different coffee drinks.
“Altogether, it’s Bee10Coffee— beaten coffee,” Salopek explained. “The bee is for honey, instead of sugar, the ten is for ten percent goes to save the honeybees, and the coffee is to enjoy.”
Ten percent of the product goes to saving honeybees and honeybee education.
The product has already caught the eye of coffee lovers. Salopek has been asked to present at the New York Coffee Festival in October.
Salopek is also one of the bee removal specialists in South Florida who are called upon to relocate bees.
Brendhan Horne is another beekeeper with the same goal. He runs Bee Barf Apiaries.
Horne has saved millions of bees from his calls, inside rooftops, walls, water meters and barbecues. Some of the hives have weighed hundreds of pounds. Horne said he has received more calls as urban development has pushed into natural areas. He relocates the bees to safe open space, where they can continue to thrive.
“I don’t run a lot of pollination contracts, but I build my hives up and then sell them to other beekeepers who do that," Horne said. "Then they move their hives out to the farms to produce the watermelon, the strawberries, the apples, that we all tend to enjoy, they also work some of the cotton fields that help make the clothes we wear.”
For those who respect and love the bees, every effort is valued.
“I love bees, right, I have a love affair with bees, I have fallen in love with bees," Malnove said. "There’s something that comes over me when I work the bees, but I’ve also become more aware of my surroundings.”