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Busy as a bee: Making honey is sweet work

February 13, 2013
By MEL TOADVINE ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Robert Rodgers, a bee keeper, who lives in Lehigh Acres, but with an Alva address, has a dream and with his enthusiasm, there is no doubt that his plans for the future will come to be.

And honeybees play a major part in that dream.

In addition to supplying several hundred bee hives to area farmers for spreading pollen and the collection of honey from his hives, Rodgers wants to open his property up for educational purposes.

Article Photos

Beekeeper Robert Rodgers holds a honey comb.

"People are usually amazed with the action of bees. They seem to be of interest to everyone. I plan to take this property that I bought not long ago and turn it into a place where school classes and people in the area who want to see a beekeeping operation, can come here.

"I'll have paths, exhibits and they will be able to see the bees in action and how important they are to our food supply production," Rodgers said.

He has already spent months of clearing out wooded or what he calls jungle area on his property where walkways and paths can be constructed.

Like most bee keepers, Rodgers has a passion for his work. His background is in the business field and when he and his wife, Terri, came to visit her relatives in Naples, Rodgers was sold on the weather. They lived in the northern Michigan where temperatures plunge to below zero in the winter months.

They came and purchased land at the edge of Lehigh and he began studying all he could about beekeeping and the more he learned the more amazed he became.

He possesses several hundred bee hives and they are placed in several farms in Southwest Florida, many, maybe most, are at the present time, in Alva in Collier County.

"It's soon to be watermelon season, and I have taken several hives to farmers growing watermelons. My bees will pollinate the watermelons to help produce a good crop. Farmers pay a fee for each hive.

But without the hives of bees and the fact that honey bees are becoming more scarce, there would not be very many melons to take to market by the farmers without the bees.

Colonies of bees are used to pollinate every type of food and without them, much less food would be provided to area markets.

He calls his business "Sweet Madeline's Apiary" and his startup began in January when crops are being planted in Southwest Florida, an ideal part of the state to grow fresh produce because of its subtropical climate and the fact that in this area, produce growers have two seasons for growth and harvest. Up north, farmers only have one season to grow and harvest their food. They have to wait until after a cold winter and began plowing and planting in early spring.

When Rodgers moved here seven years ago, he got a business management degree at Hodges University and spent considerable time asking himself what could he do to make a living.

And becoming a bee keeper became an interest and the rest is history.

Today, his sweet honey, bees wax and other items are being sold in retail stores in the Lehigh and county area. And as his business grows, he plans to put them in small country stores in the area.

And now Rodgers also plans to set up an Internet website to offer products from bee keeping to the public. In addition to honey, bee's wax can be used for many things, including candles. They produce no black smoke like other candles do.

As a bee keeper, Rodgers also is in the business of removing bees from people's homes where the honey can attract rodents and cause structural damage.

He wears all the traditional clothing to keep from being stung, but laughed and said that today he is rarely stung and has grown a tolerance against it.

He removes the honey from the combs in machinery in a building where he does most of his work.

Of course, he said regular honey bees are not aggressive and if you don't swat or run from them, they usually will not bother you, not unless you are trying to rob their honey. But Rodgers know how to do that without making the bees unhappy.

Fees begin in the $125 range to extract bees from your property. The price can go up if the problem is more serious. Usually every spring there are many homeowners who need someone to removed bees from their homes. They can make colonies inside the walls and under the house if not on the ground and in the most interesting places.

Rodgers noted the shortage of honey bees in the country and said they should never be killed unless the colony has a serious disease and he said never to pour gasoline on bees and try to burn them, nor should you try to poison them.

What he will do is show up, make an inspection as to where the bees are, and try to assemble all of them, including the queen bee, to hives that he brings with him.

"You have to have the queen bee and usually the other bees will follow her to the hive. I use smoke to keep them from becoming agitated. They can become agitated with the invasion of the African bee which is invading many hives in the U.S.

"If that is the case, he usually attempts to get the queen bee from the more agitated African bees and even breed her with the common honey bees to produce a quieter and easier to handle group of bees.

His advice for others is to not mess around with the more aggressive African bee. And he says you will know them when you see them.

When he finds disease in a colony of honey bees or in his own hives or at a collection and removal point, he tries to save the ones by segregating them on his large piece of property and feeding them nutrients. Feeding his bees important foods during the winter is important, too, Rodgers said. It makes for stronger and healthier bees when they go to work.

What's in the future on his portion of woods that he intends to look like a park for visitors is the planting of Macedonian trees and in a couple of years, he will be ready to harvest the nuts for a wide use of them, more than just the consumption of what is considered to be good for your health. The oils are used for all type of things such as cooking and personal things like hair 'detanglers,' use in soap materials and of course, almond mixed with the honey.

Also in his 10-year plan he intends to provide hives for the almond groves in California.

One of the people who sells his honey is Janet Cancel who has become fascinated with the bee keeping business. Although she is not a paid employee, she spends a lot of time learning how Rodgers conducts and handles the bee business. She is friendly with Rodgers and his wife, Terri. She sells the honey at the flea market in downtown Lehigh at her shop, Sweet Madeline's Apiaries.

"What's funny though is that my wife, Terri, doesn't like honey," Rodgers laughed. She works in a hope hospice and has a real care for helping people," Rodgers said.

Working as a bee keeper doesn't slow Rodgers down. He loves the outdoors and he spends 24/7 many times working with extracting honey and repairing old hives and preparing new hives for new bee colonies and delivering them to farmers to use to pollinize their crops.

"It's all a fun job to me. I really enjoy this kind of work and I want to share it with others and that is why I hope to have the 'park' ready for visitors to see how it all is done maybe within a year," he said.

"Just remember," he continues. "If a homeowner has a bee problem, please don't kill them or call a pest control company. I'm a bee keeper and I know the ways of removing bees to keep them alive and to do less damage to the area where they are taken. Bees are an important way of life and without them, we would not have the availability of foods that we have."

You can contact Rodgers at 239-898-7661 or email him at: He is located at 3030 Packinghouse Rd., Alva.



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