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It's All About the Bees

Retired USF Anthropology Professor and certified Florida Master Bee Keeper Brent Weisman to demonstrate beekeeping at botanical gardens Taste of Honey event.


TAMPA, Fla. (Sept. 18, 2015) – When people think of honey, they may imagine the sweet flavor it adds to their favorite cereal, or its golden glow in the right light. However, when Dr. Brent Wiseman thinks about honey, it’s all about the bees.

A certified Florida Master Beekeeper and retired USF anthropology professor, Weisman tends to all 15 of the USF Botanical Gardens beehives, which contain an estimated total of 300,000 bees. An average beekeeping day for him consists of opening the hives, checking the condition of the queen and making sure there is enough pollen to sustain the bees and their honey, a routine he has been refining for 40 years.

“Where ever I lived I was known as the local bee guy,” he said.

Growing up on a farm in Maryland, Weisman built his first beehive with his friends in 1975 out of practical curiosity. They were interested in the colony dynamics of the bees and what the beekeeping process looked like, so they built the hives from lumber and ordered the bees in the mail. Having had ant farms and praying mantises in the past, Weisman was used to insects, but bees still require a lot of attention to detail.

“There wasn’t as much information around in the ‘70s as there is today,” he said. “I was mostly self-taught. It was a lot of trial and error.”

Even today, it’s difficult keeping bees safe. When it rains too much, the pollen is too saturated for the bees to collect, and Weisman will have to feed them sugar water. More invasive strains of diseases and pests threaten the colonies, and even the best beekeepers will lose their hives. For this reason, Weisman would not be interested in being a commercial beekeeper, but enjoys his hobby and the monthly beekeeping class he leads at the USF Botanical Gardens.

“You think you know it until you teach it,” Weisman said, referring to the enrichment his position at the Botanical Gardens has brought to his lifelong passion. “Then you have to organize your skills and ramp it up.”

Weisman will be at the Taste of Honey fundraiser this Saturday, Sept. 19, to answer all questions bee-related. He will be set up with an information booth and his beekeeping suit on display. Potential bee enthusiasts can ask Weisman about his yearlong beekeeping course, and workshops will also be held centering on the topics of colony collapse and beekeeping basics.

Festivalgoers will have the chance to sample more than 100 different types of honey from around the world, including honey made right at the Botanical Gardens. Attendants can also vote on their favorite honey while enjoying live music, have the chance to win door prizes and even see the inside of a hive via a glass observation hive display.

“You can watch the bees work, or the Queen will lay eggs,” said Weisman about the observation hive. “Sometimes the kids will want to sit for hours looking at the bees and see what they do.”

Almost 200 people have attended the past Taste of Honey fundraisers, making it the Botanical Gardens’s number one revenue source for the year, Weisman said. These funds help to keep garden operations going so that the trees, flowers herbs and honey can remain healthy and vivacious for the Tampa Bay community to enjoy. Tickets for Taste of Honey cost 20 dollars if purchased in advance, and 25 dollars at the door. For more information on the USF Botanical Gardens and its 16 acres of gardens and greenbelt, visit their website.

When he’s not sharing his knowledge and skills at the Botanical Gardens, Weiseman’s retirement schedule is anything but sitting in front of the T.V (in fact, he doesn’t own one.) He is also a certified Florida Master Naturalist, which means he can lead people on as an interpretive guide through wilderness areas and ecosystems, which he does while staying primarily in Hillsborough county. Starting in 2016, he’ll be an onsite docent battlefield ambassador for a few weeks of the year in Maryland, based in a specific battlefield location from the Civil War. Of course, Weisman owns nine beehives of his own, and tends to them and his garden when he isn’t reading or writing academic papers. Even with his busy schedule, though, his focus is clear.

“I’m determined to be a lifelong beekeeper,” he said, admitting that archaeology and anthropology will always be his first passion, especially after his 20-year career in the field. Now, though, he’s glad he has more time to concentrate on his favorite hobby. “I won’t give up.”

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