Florida’s winters are relatively mild and it’s hard to tell what season we’re in at times. The orange blossom is a clear sign the spring is beginning here in the Sunshine State. Along with being the State Flower of Florida, the orange blossom has helped produce a coveted honey crop for over 50 years. The fragrant blooms are irresistible for honey bees and other pollinators in the central and southern parts of the state’s peninsula. The orange blossom often begins blooming as early as the middle of January with the main nectar flow starting in the middle of February and running through the month of March.
Florida’s citrus industry has been hit hard in the last 30 years. Many factors have decimated the number of citrus groves throughout the state. A series of freezes in the 1980’s wiped out thousands of acres of citrus in northern and central parts of the peninsula. The 1990’s continued to challenge the citrus industry with citrus canker forcing growers to burn affected trees and quarantining trees in close proximity to affected trees. Citrus canker was eradicated in hopes of a bright future for the industry. In 2005, citrus greening became the new enemy of Florida citrus. Citrus greening is a fatal bacterial disease that has been found in groves throughout the peninsula. The photo below shows how decades of obstacles has taken a toll on grove owners. Many of the deceased orange groves are never replanted and replaced by homes.
As researchers and scientists search for a cure for citrus greening, many grove owners are replanting young trees in hopes for a cure in the near future. Florida now has a little over half a million acres of citrus groves remaining in the state. There are several commercial bee keepers that still move their bees into orange groves in hopes of making a decent orange blossom honey crop but with almond pollination in California happening at the same time, many of Florida’s migratory bee keepers move their bees west for a guaranteed source of productivity.