Early on a Saturday morning, three couples come to a small office in St. Nicholas in Jacksonville to learn about raising honeybees. One couple just bought 50 acres and they are looking to improve the pollenization of the plants on their future farm. One couple has dreams of owning some land in the not too distant future, and the husband is a self-proclaimed honey addict. The third couple is interested in a healthier lifestyle, and they think raising bees might fit in with that goal.

They’ve come to Lark Bee Company to learn more about bees and how to set up their own hives. Marilyn Young started the company in late 2014 and began teaching classes for beginning beekeepers in April.

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A full-time attorney, Young became interested in raising bees about five years ago as a hobby. “I was trying to garden more, trying to grow my own food, and I was having trouble doing that,” she says. When she talked to a friend about her poor vegetable production, they suggested she needed more bees. “Aren’t there just bees in the environment?” she asked. What she found was that there is a shortage of honeybees, and the population has been on a steady decline due to various diseases and urbanization.

Bees do much more than producing honey for tea and biscuits. They play a key role in plant pollenization for more than 80 crops grown in the state of Florida.

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“Somebody needs to be doing something. That’s how we get our food.” Young remembers thinking to herself. “They’re responsible for about a third of our food supply. For me, a big light bulb went off,” she says. So, she introduced bees and flowers to her backyard. She thought more people would like to do the same. So, she started teaching others.

To her surprise, everyone has been very supportive, from the bank to other beekeepers to the gardening community.  They recognize the benefits of bees for the environment.

To coincide with the life cycle of the bees, classes are held in the spring and will begin again in the fall after a break in July and August.

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The class isn’t geared to commercial operators because that gets into a different ball game. “We’ve had about twenty students come through so far,” Young says.” Some are curious, but some are actively involved in putting bees in their backyards, most with one or two hives.” It costs about $500 to get started with two hives and $350 for just one.

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In the class, students learn about honeybee biology, their behaviors, their needs, the different varieties, their care and the necessary equipment for successful beekeeping. After spending about three hours in the classroom, where they’re given printed materials and watch different presentations about raising bees, the students go out back to see the hives. Donning protective equipment, they get up close and personal with the bees to observe what they learned in class. Getting close also gives them a better understanding of whether or not beekeeping is for them.

The Lark Bee Company is located at 1638 Camden Avenue in Jacksonville.