After many months of being away from friends with a common interest in bees, the Heartland Beekeepers Association held their first post-COVID-19 meeting at the Sebring Agri-Center on the evening of June 18.

Their regular meetings are held on the third Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. in classroom 2, which is in the back of the center. The meetings have been suspended since February when COVID-19 came on the scene and turned everyone’s world upside down.

This group is trying to carefully return to meetings by using a lot of safeguards. About 20 people attended this month’s meeting with nearly everyone wearing a mask upon entry to the classroom. For those that did not bring a mask, it was strong suggested they use one of the masks made available.

Disposable masks and plenty of hand sanitizer were on hand for those needing extra protection. Couples were asked to sit next to each other so there would be at least six feet of social distancing space open between other attendees.

“We’re really happy to be here,” said Candy McHenry who attended with her husband Chuck. “We’re new at this and are cautiously working on becoming beekeepers.”

“We have the hives, but the virus came and halted our process of getting started,” said Chuck. “We were going to get some swarmers but now we’ll probably not be able to move forward until next year.”

Friends Joyce Rowe and Arlene Fabiano were first-timers looking to learn about bees and butterfly flowers as well as to get some information.

“This is our first meeting,” said Rowe. “We’re both happy to be able to get out of the house after being sequestered for so long. This is very interesting.”

Amanda Johnson, VP of the Heartland Beekeepers Association, brought her friend Heather Marie. “We didn’t know how many people to expect tonight. Some of our members are in the high-risk group. It’s really nice to be back and I’m thrilled to see everyone again. We help and support each other by sharing information.”

Joseph and Ann Brown attended. “He’s the beekeeper,” Ann said pointing to Joseph. “I haven’t been out in over three months. I’m still concerned about the virus and am taking baby steps in moving forward.”

“I’ve been outside a lot as I do lawn work,” said Joseph. “It’s really great to be here meeting again and seeing our friends.”

After everyone was finished catching up with their friends, the program focused on integrated pest management and a discussion on structuring a mentorship program.

According to their website, “our goals are to serve as a resource for local beekeepers and to educate the public about the importance of supporting bees”.

Some interesting facts: 10.7 million pounds of honey are produced in Florida annually with the total production being valued at $26.2 million. Each honey bee colony makes 50 pounds of honey every year.

It was encouraging to see a group of responsible adults in compliance with masks, sanitizing and appropriate social distancing. This is a positive sign that we are inching toward some sense of normalcy in our new “normal.”

For more information, please visit their website at www.heartlandbeekeepers.com.