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Heritage Bee Farm in Myakka City keeps buzzing along

Joshua Vasquez, the youngest of the Vasquez family at 13 years old, has been around bees his whole life.
Joshua Vasquez, the youngest of the Vasquez family at 13 years old, has been around bees his whole life.
Photo by Liz Ramos
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In 2007, Myakka City’s Chris Vasquez received two beehives from a friend that were placed on the ground in his backyard. 

With it being rainy season, Vasquez said he wanted to move the hives off the ground, but he didn’t have a bee suit. 

So Vasquez made his own bee suit. He put on the thickest jacket he had and gloves, but he wasn’t sure what he would use to cover his face. 

That’s when Vasquez decided to put a plastic grocery bag over his head and poke holes in it for his eyes. 

Vasquez was ready to face the bees for the first time. 

But as he was moving the hives, he didn’t realize they came in multiple pieces. The hives fell apart, and he was swarmed. 

Chris Vasquez and his family own Heritage Bee Farm, which has 2,000 colonies spread across Manatee, Sarasota and DeSoto counties.
Photo by Liz Ramos

He said his family laughed as they watched him run around the backyard trying to get away from the bees. 

Needless to say, his bee suit didn’t protect him.

Vasquez said he never imagined that 17 years later, his family would own Heritage Bee Farm, which includes 2,000 colonies spread throughout Manatee, Sarasota and DeSoto counties, and they’re looking to expand in the coming years. 

Heritage Bee Farm has between 300 and 400 colonies on the 30-acre farm in Myakka City. 

Vasquez always had an interest in bees. He found it intriguing how bees are one of the only insects that produce a food product. 

He said he could sit watching a beehive for hours, watching them fly in and out. 

“I don’t get to do that much anymore,” Vasquez said with a laugh. 

Before getting into the bee business, Vasquez was an operations manager in the corporate world, working for companies including Pacific Power and Light, Office Depot and Time Customer Service. 

The two colonies were just the beginning. The family kept adding more colonies, and Vasquez realized the bees were becoming more than a hobby. An idea sparked. 

Maybe the bees could become a family business. 

Every bee only lives between 30 and 45 days. Each bee produces about 1/12 teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.
Photo by Liz Ramos

Vasquez and his wife, Melissa, have nine children and five grandchildren. All but one child lives in Florida and helps with Heritage Bee Farm. 

In 2012, the Vasquez family had 10 hives and decided to go commercial, adding more than 50 colonies. 

Vasquez recalled taking the family 15-passenger van to Georgia to retrieve their new colonies. They loaded them up in the van and were on their way back to Florida. The temporary boxes containing the bees weren’t sealed well. As they drove, bees started to escape the boxes and fly around the van. 

Vasquez wasn’t concerned. He had become used to the bees. 

But when they stopped for gas and opened the doors to get out, bees flew out of the van. 

Vasquez said he was worried it would cause panic as many people might be concerned to see thousands of bees flying out of a van. They moved as fast as they could to leave the gas station. 

They returned safely to Florida and began their commercial production. 

Chis Vasquez is able to push into the honeycomb the bees create to take out raw honey. "It doesn't get any sweeter than this," he says.
Photo by Liz Ramos

Transitioning from the corporate world to working with his family in the bee business had its challenges. Vasquez said he enjoyed creating his own schedule but his family's sole income was dependent upon the bees. 

No matter the weather, the Vasquez family had to be outside caring for the bees.

The biggest challenge came when Hurricane Ian hit in September 2022. The hurricane took out a third of Heritage Bee Farm’s colonies. 

“It was a big hit to us,” Vasquez said. “We were questioning if we all needed to go out and get other work because it was a huge hit financially. But we pulled together and worked really hard to rebuild.”

Besides beekeeping and producing and selling raw honey, handmade soap, infused candles and other products, Vasquez said Heritage Bee Farm specializes in queen breeding. 

His oldest son, Christian Vasquez, worked at Miksa Honey Farm in Groveland, Florida, to learn more about queen breeding. 

They spend hours every Monday and Friday going through the grafting process necessary to breed more queens. The Penn State Extension explains that "grafting is the action of transferring a larva from a brood cell into a manufactured cell cup. This technique allows beekeepers to create any number of queen cells that are easy to handle and transport."

Now Heritage Bee Farm sends queen bees around the country for other beekeepers. 

Chris Vasquez, owner of Heritage Bee Farm, says the bees on the farm allow the family to create and sell their own products including handmade soap and raw honey.
Photo by Liz Ramos

Christian Vasquez said his love for bees only has grown over the years. He remembered going from learning about bees in nature videos to handling the bees himself.

“I was able to put on my bee suit, my gloves, start the smoker and get into the hive, which was super exciting,” he said. 

Both Chris Vasquez and Christian Vasquez said learning about bees is ongoing. They’re constantly learning new ways to care for the bees, to help them adjust to environmental changes, and more. 

Chris Vasquez said he and his wife travel the world teaching people about beekeeping and how to produce multiple colonies. They traveled to the Dominican Republic last year, and on June 22, Chris and Melissa Vasquez will be on their way to Guinea, Africa to teach local beekeepers about colony multiplication. 

Heritage Bee Farm also hosts bee experiences where people can come to the farm to learn about bees and get a peak into the life of a beekeeper. 

Chris Vasquez said the next step for Heritage Bee Farm is learning about artificially inseminating queen bees for specific genetics. 



Liz Ramos

Liz Ramos covers education and community for East County. Before moving to Florida, Liz was an education reporter for the Lynchburg News & Advance in Virginia for two years after graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism.

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