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  (Miami, Florida)
A Honey of a Blog
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The State of Affairs

We're poised for battle here! Two weeks ago Miami-Dade county knocked on my door with a warning that told us we had a five hive maximum for our zoning and needed to get rid of the balance of our bees. I was stunned! We're state registered beekeepers, and I knew that we were in compliance with the legal regulations. 

So here's the deal: State law supercedes county law. State law asserts that we can absolutely keep all of our bees. But the county doesn't seem to notice! (Or care!) And so, the past few days have been spent bouncing back and forth with the bureaucracy.

I've done my homework!! David Westervelt, Chief Apiary Inspector from the Florida Dept. of Agriculture, stepped up to the plate to inform the county and their attorneys that the county had no jurisdiction over this matter since the law was changed in 2012. But the county disagrees.

I've got the appropriate Florida Statutes nailed to my front door, awaiting the next knock.... I've emailed and called whoever I can. And now.....we wait......  

Our modest little apiary sits serenely in the farthest reaches of our acre, happily making honey for the masses....unaware of the bureaucratic threat to it's survival...

Keep your fingers crossed! 

 
 

Hitting the Bottle!

It's that time again! Steve came back from the Florida Keys with my favorite honey of the year. We call it "Butterbee Pancake Honey" because it flows so easily. I think many honeys are too thick for pancakes, but this one really is perfect.

I don't know what makes it taste so unique. It's primary floral sources are Dogwood and Black Mangrove. But there are so many other yummy tropical flowers in the Keys it's hard to know for sure who all of the players are that contribute their essence to this combo.

It was a rainy Spring, which helps make the honey more liquid. As a matter of fact, I'm going to keep it in the house, in air conditioning, to thicken it up a bit to prevent fermentation.....something "wet" honeys can do more quickly than thicker ones like Orange Blossom.

As for me? I'm hitting the bottle again! It's only 10 AM and I sit cheerily by my computer, honey jar by my side. I've probably drunk 5 oz. of it already. Goes down so smooth. I may sprout wings by the end of the day!

 

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Key Lime, It's Sublime!

As I sit here at the computer, just outside my window is a hungry blue jay, wondering why my bird feeder is empty and soggy. We just finished a record breaking five days of rain, which rarely happens in our locale except maybe in August as a tropical storm. Spring is usually dry as a bone, and we had actually been suffering a bit of a draught.

The honeybees get very unhappy when it rains! They can't fly, so they all sit crowded in the hive and buzz. Feed the babies. Fan their wings at the nectar. Even when there is a small break in the rain, the showers have washed the nectar out of the flowers so they get cranky.

I had a small container of honey mixed with honeycomb. Cappings from my last day of extracting. I took it out to the bees for them to recycle. I'm sure that cheered them up.

Meanwhile, I am pretty cheered up. Not only did it stop raining, but we have a nice spring harvest of Orange Blossom honey. It's so sweet and thick. Nice and smooth. And a very good base for having some fun.

My fiancé is a chef, so he has access to ingredients that we mere mortals never see. He had an awesome, all natural Key Lime flavoring that I think was originally developed to flavor gelato. Anyway, I had been waiting anxiously for months because last year, Rolf took a little of this Key Lime deliciousness and mixed a small amount with some Orange Blossom honey. A marriage made in heaven, that's all I can say!!!

Philosophically, I don't like to do anything to honey. We never heat it, never filter it, never add anything to it.....it's nakedly pure and unprocessed. I do make an exception, however, to allow for an all natural bit of collaboration between the sweet sisters and ourselves, every so often. Like now.

We are the happy lovers of a bucket of Key Lime Sublime. And...we're willing to share. Want a taste? Let me know. You can come visit the bees while you're at it. Or just come say hi at the Coconut Grove Market on Saturdays. We'll give you a spoonful!

 
 

Rain, Rain Go Away!

What's going on around here? Usually October signals the end of our rainy season, with a happy conclusion to Hurricane Season at the end of November. But the last couple of weeks have been marked by unseasonable rains.

Here's why we care: When it rains, it washes the nectar and pollen out of the flowers. Bees don't fly when it's raining, so they're all cooped up and cranky in the hive. When it finally stops, out they go, zooming towards the nearest blossoms. Only thing is....there's no nectar left, nor pollen.

And the timing was right at the height of a major honey flow. Devastating! My beekeeping partner, Steve, was expecting to harvest 100 drums of honey in a couple of weeks, but now is lucky if he gets 30. That's a big difference, at $1000 a drum!!!!!

We have far fewer bees--just thirteen hives, but it impacts us as well!. We DO have honey in stock, no worries, but it would be more bountiful with better weather. So keep your fingers crossed that the rain goes away and sunny days and warm nights resume. We want the honey, honey!!! 

 
 

Piranhas with Wings

We had quite an adventure here the other day. We were busily getting ready for a television crew to arrive....They wanted to do an interview and shoot some footage of the bees in action. So of course, I wanted everything to be perfect.

Because we often have afternoon rains here in summer, I decided to suit up and go into the bees early in the day to take out several frames of honeycomb that we could later extract honey from while the cameras were rolling. I noticed right away that the bees were not their usual gentle, happy selves. First, I was stung twice, right through my bee suit. There was no honey in the top super in any of the hives, so I had to go down to the next level, where I found three big fat juicy honeycombs just perfect and ready to go. I took them off and got out of there, wondering why my gentle girls were so grumpy.....It was a nice sunny day, which usually puts them in a good mood.

When I remove frames of honeycomb and shake the bees back into the hive, not all of the bees come off. There's usually a little cluster of busy workers who don't notice me at all and keep right on working.

So what I do is put them in an empty super (wooden box), and wheel them via hand truck through the yard. I stop just a few feet short of my back porch door, put a little branch with leaves on it in the box, and then go do something else for a half hour or so. 

Typically, when I return, the bees have mostly gone home, and those who remain are happily perched on the branch. I remove the branch and shake it, and off they fly.

Typically.  This day, however, was anything but typical! While I was eating lunch, biding my time before removing the branch, I looked outside and it looked like maybe it was snowing (in Miami in July). There was so much movement in the air. What the....?????? No, wait, it was just a ton of bees. I went to the back door to peek, and there were hundreds, if not thousands, of bees darting in and out of the super by the back door. They were not out for a joy ride, either. They had purpose, and they were pissed.

I called my buddy Steve to share. He said that the heavy rains of the night before had washed all of the nectar and pollen out of the flowers and that the bees had no sources of either and would be very cranky until the next day. No kidding!

Just my luck! 45 minutes before a tv crew full of uninitiated strangers shows up, I've got a sky full of bitchy bees zooming around. Never happened in my life! Timing is everything! I did suit up again and rescue one of the honeycombs. The other two I left behind. It wasn't worth the risk.

Lucky for me it started raining as soon as the crew arrived. They did their interview, we demonstrated a number of processes, and by the time the monsoons stopped, the bees had gone home.

I did, however, walk over to my nice honey filled honeycombs and..... they were empty! The bees had torn off the wax cappings that protect the honey for storage. They had sucked out every last drop of honey on those combs. It looked like hundreds of airborne piranhas had stopped by for lunch. It was amazing.

And it reminded me, that for all my love and affection, the bees have a definite sense of purpose regardless of my plans.....

Point well taken, girls....I'll watch the weather carefully and not venture in the day after it rains, ever again... I promise!

 

 
 

Life's Work

Did you know that in her entire lifetime, working day and night and never sleeping, an individual honeybee makes about 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey?
 
 

Buckle Your Seatbelt

It takes 55,000 miles of flying to produce ONE POUND of honey! Wish I could cash in on those frequent flyer miles!!
 
 

Another Component of Colony Collapse Disorder.....Toxic Honeycombs

There are many theories circulating regarding Colony Collapse Disorder. When Steve and I were talking the other day, the subject came up again. WHY are millions of bees missing in action? 

Pesticide use is often cited as a primary cause. Bees are notoriously sensitive to pesticides. Some speculate that a chemical component is messing with the bees internal GPS and they are not being able to find their way home.

Some blame cell phones.

And here's another, rather sensible, theory. After continued exposure to pollutants and chemicals in the environment, the residues build up over time in the honeycombs themselves....the very structure where babies, nectar and pollen are stored become unfit to live in.

At a certain point of honeycomb toxicity, the bees decide, en masse, to evacuate and try their luck in another location. In places like Florida, where I live, this is not a bad move....there is almost always a tree, garbage can, or home where they can set up housekeeping and start again. In northern climes they fare not so well.....they'll abandon their hive and look for a new place to call home, but if the season is wrong, or local nectar is not available at that time, they will quickly perish.

Might it be prudent to change out the honeycombs more often and give the bees fresh new foundation to extrude new combs? Only time will tell... 

 
 

The First Honeyflow of the Year! Tropical Wildflower

We just harvested our first honeyflow for 2011. And a Happy New Year it is....60 lbs. of TROPICAL WILDFLOWER honey. It's delicious! All of our honey is RAW....comes out of the hive and into the honey jar....the only "processing" is to strain out the bees who insist on drowning themselves in sweet joy as we harvest the honey.

TROPICAL WILDFLOWER is what I always recommend to customers who suffer from seasonal allergies. Since it contains microscopic bits of pollen from the widest variety of sources it provides the most benefit.

I love it because it's so dynamic....it's flavor, color and viscosity changes throughout the year based on what's in bloom.

Our harvest was a bit smaller than expected, due to cold dry weather. Thankfully we just had a couple of days of rain and so the flowers should be nice and juicy with nectar.

Our bees love that! 

 
 

Honey and Allergies! Nothing to Sneeze At!

Is it TRUE? Does honey really alleviate annoying allergy symptoms? Or is it an old wives tale?

There are so many "superfood" health claims out there, that I take most of them with a grain of salt. (Oh no, wait....forget the salt, remember the blood pressure!)

And that's what I mean! We tend to look at food as a collection of chemical properties, either for or against us. It really takes the joy out of dining! Typically I try to avoid this medicinal approach to food..... 

Which is why I initially hesitated to make the link between honey and allergies! But after many of my customers came back and reported huge improvement in their allergy symptoms when adding honey to their daily diet, I decided to give the thing a second look and see what's what.

Does it work? And if so....HOW? 

This is what I found:

Typical allergy symptoms....runny nose, drippy eyes.....result from an overexposure to a particular allergen. Often, regular allergy shots are the course of action used to minimize this.

If the allergen is pollen based, then hope in honey is well-founded. The bees collect both pollen and nectar, and tiny grains of pollen are present in your honey. Regular honey consumption acts as an immune booster and minimizes the reaction to the pollen. It works just like the allergy shots, but much cheaper and tastier!!

Here's the thing. In order to work, you need honey that contains the pollen that's getting to you. So the honey needs to be produced as close as possible to where you live. This ensures that the pollen from your neighborhood plants will be in your honey.

AND....the honey MUST BE RAW! Once heated, these benefits disappear.

So, got allergies? Raw local honey is your best bet.

HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH? With honey....there's never too much!

HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH? A teaspoon or a couple of teaspoons a day will do it.

The best strategy is to have local honey for several weeks before the start of the allergy season. However, so many suffering customers came and got our honey as a last ditch effort in the middle of an onslaught of pollen-based misery....and they reported excellent results when they began this daily honey regimen.

Here in Miami I recommend the Tropical Wildflower honey for this because it contains the widest range of local pollens within itself. So find a local beekeeper, get yourself some raw honey, and put away your Kleenex.  Honey for allergies is nothing to sneeze at! 


 
 

We're At FIU Farmer's Market

FIU is hosting a Farmer's Market on Wednesday afternoons! Last week I was out of town, and so my reluctant FIU student/daughter was commanded to participate in the first market of the season. Well, after a bit of grumbling on her part, she went, honey in hand, ready to see what it was all about.

Not long after, a jubilant student called excitedly, "Mom, I made $50 in an hour and a half!" Boy, was she ever happy! And now....she's telling me...."we need a sign, time to bottle it up, have we got labels?" Nothing like a little success as a motivator.

Anyway, today I popped in for a couple of hours and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I wholeheartedly believe in and support the slow food movement, and being around all of these students, with their organic veggies, and vegan muffins, yummy smoothies, and incredible tofu with a peanut sauce, well, it was a lovely day.

Not only that, but the wonderful vendor beside us, who makes soap, had the yummiest White Chocolate body cream. It was all I could do to not nibble on my arms once I sampled it....And at the end of the day I traded him a pound of Tropical Wildflower honey in exchange for some... washberries.

These are a naturally occurring surfactant that you can use instead of laundry detergent. They're little brown things that you break in half and place in a small cotton drawstring bag (which came with the berries). You toss it in the laundry and there you go! Each set of berries is good for 4-5 loads.

Anyway, he was a fascinating young man who's wife just gave birth to their first baby. I urge you to check out his site at www.earthistry.com to learn more about these berries and his soaps.

I'll let you know how my laundry goes....

Meanwhile, I've got to get more honey jars in preparation for next week's market....we're about sold out.... 

Hope to see you there! 

 
 
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