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From The Sarasota Observer

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I’ve never really felt one way or the other about bees.

Like most people, when one flies near, I run away in fear of getting stung and often look like a fool. I also know, though, that they are incredibly important to our environment.

So, when the opportunity arose to don a bee suit and work on a hive, I did what any respectable journalist would do. I did it.

On Feb. 21, another reporter and I knocked on local beekeeper Tom Mawn’s front door. He gave us white bee suits, and we headed to one of the six local host-a-hive apiaries he manages.

In 1999, Mawn moved into his Lido Shores home and almost immediately began gardening. After a few years, the garden wasn’t producing as he liked, so he thought bees would help increase the output.

He talked to those involved with the local beekeeping association and shadowed a local beekeeper. As his garden has improved over the past five years, he has become completely fascinated with bees, he said.

Mawn, 63, is now a Florida-state certified beekeeper. He also participated in the master beekeeping program through the University of Florida.

“I wish people understood how critically important bees are to us surviving on the planet the way we like to,” he said. “The bees pollinate approximately one-third of the crops that we eat, and a lot of the fruit you enjoy, a lot of the vegetables that you enjoy, really rely on honey bees to pollinate them, and without them it would be really difficult.”