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Honey causes buzz in Florida Senate

Florida has a wide variety of state symbols. Orange juice is the official beverage. Key lime is the official pie. The gopher tortoise is the official tortoise. 

What it does not have is an official state honey, but that may change as tupelo honey is causing a buzz in the Florida Senate. 

According to Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame beekeeper, Laurence Cutts, tupelo honey is the sweetest honey and does not spoil or
crystalize. 

“Tupelo honey has the highest level of fructose sugar of any honey,” Cutts said. “Fructose is the sweetest of all sugars.”

Cutts said fructose sugar does not crystalize into grains, so tupelo honey never gets old — it’s more like wine when aging.

The push to make tupelo honey Florida’s official state honey came with Senator Bill Montford’s bill, SB 556. The bill is now in Commerce and Tourism after getting a favorable five yeas and zero nays by the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability.

USF music major Tyler Cutts said he knows a lot about this honey and is very passionate about seeing SB 556 get passed. 

Cutts has a long family history of beekeeping with his grandfather, Laurence Cutts, and father, Stephen Cutts, who still work in the agricultural business.

“Florida would be the first state in America to have an official honey,” Tyler said.

Last year Gov. Rick Scott vetoed this same bill for unknown reasons. The bill is back again with Senate Montford’s efforts and this time it has the support of the Florida State Beekeepers Association, according to President Tom Nolan. 

“It honors all the hard work of Tupelo producers in the state, it is almost like showing Florida is special in the honey industry,” Tyler said.

Commercially, tupelo honey is only produced in Florida. It is best grown in the Panhandle region, along the banks of the Apalachicola, the Choctawhatchee and the Ochlockonee rivers and their tributaries. 

This honey resembles the orange blossom honey, which is produced in larger quantities in Florida and also made in Arizona, California and Texas and overseas in Brazil, Italy and Spain. 

“Orange blossom is made all over the world,” Tyler said. “Tupelo honey is the only honey made just exclusively in Florida.”

Tupelo has a short blossoming season, but since it never goes bad, that makes it sweeter and in higher demand in Florida.

“I think the real purpose of the bill is to draw attention to the industry,” Tyler said. “It’s growing, but slowly.”

Today there are only about 100 producers of tupelo honey in Florida.

“The bill would promote Tupelo honey as a premium honey,” Tyler said. “It is a premium honey.”