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Beekeepers work hard for the honey, despite changing tupelo forest

Although tupelo trees can be found elsewhere, the white tupelo from which the honey featured in the 1997 movie "Ulee's Gold" is derived is found in abundance only along the Apalachicola.

"It's the preferred tree for making tupelo honey," Stallins said, explaining that this type of honey does not granulate like many honeys. "The tupelo honey derived from forests with a greater concentration of white tupelo is more likely to have the complex floral flavor when compared to other tupelo honeys."

It takes a colony of 60,000 bees about 2 million nectar-gathering visits to the tupelo blossoms each spring to make a pound of honey. That task is even tougher than it sounds because some beekeepers say it is increasingly difficult to find places to put their hives.

One reason is because the forest has taken a beating from more than 45 years of dredging of the Apalachicola for a river navigation project. The dumping of the dredged material has cut off many tupelo trees from their source of fresh water. Upstream water diversion also has lessened the flooding needed for a healthy tupelo forest.

Exotic pests are taking their toll, and beekeepers throughout Florida are losing between 30 percent and 50 percent of their bee colonies to mite and beetle infestations.

But the challenges facing beekeepers in Wewahitchka are as much political and economic as they are ecological, and it's the inclusion of those factors - zoning regulations, land development, higher property taxes and increased cost of living - that makes this study significant, Stallins said.

Watson, who abandoned her dissertation on fair-trade labeling of coffee in Mexico in order to focus on what she believes is an urgent need closer to home, said her interest in the issues surrounding honey production began after one Wewahitchka beekeeper told her, "Before long tupelo honey may be a thing of the past."

Indeed, many beekeeper hobbyists have abandoned the pasti
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Source:Florida State University


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