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  (Miami, Florida)
A Honey of a Blog
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It's All in The Blossoms! Orange Blossom, That Is...

Spring has Sprung! And the Oranges have blossomed!!! We wait all year for this! The first of the orange blossom honey is IN and today I am spending the day bottling it up. Orange blossom is a premiere honey, and there are many who prefer it to all others. That zippy citrus mellowed by the smooth sweetness makes it a favorite.

We don't have orange groves here in Miami, but Steve keeps several hundred hives in various groves upstate. On Monday morning he got up at 4:00 AM (not at all unusual for him), got in his truck and drove a couple of hours north to harvest the beginning of this year's crop.

I met him at the "honey house" at about 6:00 PM. Weary and exhilarated, he tipped the drum of fresh honey into as many buckets as my little red Jeep would hold.

His truck was still full of supers filled with honey, and the air was thick with buzzing bees. It might have been terrifying to some, but the drone of the bees as they flew swiftly by was rather comforting. A celebration, really, that Spring has come at last, and there is nectar and honey for all! 

 
 

Zombie Bees/ Parasitic Fly Linked to Colony Collapse Disorder

Zombie Bees? Sounds like an idea for next year's Halloween costume! So now, in addition to worrying about toxic flowers and pollen caused by systemic pesticides, we have another culprit to add to the mix.

Apparently, there is a parasitic fly, known as the phorid fly, or apocephalus borealis, which lays its eggs in the bees abdomen, causing the bees to exhibit "zombie like" beehavior, and destroys their sense of direction. It also causes deformed wings, another symptom of Colony Collapse Disorder.

Not to be gloom-and-doom oriented, truly I am an optimist by nature. However, all of this information helps to give us an understanding of the widespread group of challenges experienced by today's honeybee.

To see the whole article, go to: http://www.capitalpress.com/content/AP-colony-collapse-010412 

 
 

Honeybee Problem Nearing Critical Mass

 As we all know, our honeybees are having a terrible time, and while there are many factors to consider, the one that is most critical is the use of systemic pesticides. Systemic basically means that the active insect killing agent is within the plant itself. Therefore the flowers and the pollen are toxic to the bees. 

Here's an excerpt of a great article that you should totally check out:

Of particular concern is a group of pesticides, chemically similar to nicotine, called neonicotinoids (neonics for short), and one in particular called clothianidin. Instead of being sprayed, neonics are used to treat seeds, so that they’re absorbed by the plant’s vascular system, and then end up attacking the central nervous systems of bees that come to collect pollen. Virtually all of today’s genetically engineered Bt corn is treated with neonics. The chemical industry alleges that bees don’t like to collect corn pollen, but new research shows that not only do bees indeed forage in corn, but they also have multiple other routes of exposure to neonics.

Here's the link to the rest of the article:

 http://grist.org/food/2012-01-13-honey-bees-problem-nearing-a-critical-point/

Let me know what you think! 

 
 

Bees in the Jam Garden

A local reporter came out here on Monday to learn about bees and honey. She's a freelance food writer for the New TImes, and also hosts her own blog, called the Jam Garden. She did a great job, and posted some video and great audio as well. And so, to find out more than you ever knew you didn't know about bees, check it out:

http://thejamgarden.squarespace.com/food/2012/1/12/in-depth-article-the-buzz-on-honey-bees.html 

 
 

Lifehacker Covers Local Honey and Why You Should Buy It!

 This just in from my alert son-in-law, who is about to become the father of twins. It's a reprint from "Lifehacker" about why local honey is important. I couldn't have said it better myself!!

You'll see that they mention Local Harvest at the bottom of the article. Yay!

Buy Local Honey to Make Sure You’re Really Getting Honey, and Support Local Beekeepers

A report by Food Safety News earlier this week claims that the majority of the honey available in most grocery and department stores in the United States doesn't legally meet the definition of "honey." It's been "ultra-filtered," in order to produce a super-clear product that won't crystallize. In the process, the honey loses any and all pollen, which is required to trace the honey to its origins in case of contamination and may have health benefits. Here's how to find the good stuff.

This week's report by Food Safety News sampled honey at grocery stores around the country, and found most of it has been filtered to the point where it has no pollen at all. The World Health Organization (WHO), the European Commission, and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) all state that in order for a product to be called honey, there has to be some pollen content. The industry group that represents honey manufacturers and importers, the National Honey Board, says this is misleading, and says they're just doing what their customers want. Food Safety Watch disagrees, and says removing all of the pollen from honey removes any way to test for its geographic origins, doesn't improve shelf-life, negates the possible health benefits of pollen, and is actually being used to cover up the import ofunregulated and often contaminated honey from China through another country like India and finally into the US. In fact, in the EU, pollen must be listed as an ingredient on bottles of honey so consumers know what they're getting. The FDA, on the other hand, hasn't responded to the allegations, and doesn't currently inspect honey for pollen content.

The best way to deal with the controversy is to avoid it altogether. Real honey, sometimes marketed as "raw honey," is closer than you think. Natural food stores and farmers markets are far more likely to stock honey where the pollen has not been filtered out. They also tend to carry local honey, harvested by apiaries in your community that could use the support. Local Harvest, who we've mentioned can help you find a CSA, also can help you find an apiary or beekeeper in your area that sells their own honey. The closer to home you buy your honey, the better off you'll be until the honey-laundering matter is settled.

 
 

Boiling Bees

Checked the bees....took the covers off all thirteen hives simultaneously. Not just a basic look/see, but a major breaking down and removing supers of honey, then removing the queen excluders and going right down into the bottom deep supers and looking at the community in action. Always an amazing experience!

Even after smoking them thoroughly, the bees were a big agitated. Several got caught in the folds of my bee suit, panicked, and stung me right through the fabric. My arm looks like I have bodybuilder biceps.....I don't usually swell up like that....oh well...bee venom is good for me!

It was such a surreal sight to see bees by the thousands, boiling over the tops of their hives, all of them at the same time. They were pouring out so quickly they really looked like liquid flowing. Smooth and overflowing. It was gorgeous, in a science fiction sort of way.  

 

 
 

Sigh of Relief

Well, we're breathing a sigh of relief here in Florida, as Irene pushes farther out to sea. There's not much you can do with your beehives when a storm threatens. I've got 13 hives out in the backyard, and my beekeeping partner-in-crime, Steve, has 700 throughout the state. Think about trying to tie those down!!!! When the hives are full of honey, they're nice and heavy and will mostly stay put....although a few will topple over, but they won't blow away.

However, we just harvested, and our hives are as light as could be. Glad they'll be out of harms way......

 
 

Honey Laundering? Keep It Clean and BUY LOCAL!!!!!!

This just in from China.......Laundered honey, tainted and passing through India on its way to the US, is becoming a big problem, and one the FDA seems unable to adequately handle. 

Here's the link to a very informative article on the issue:

http://www.grist.org/food-safety/2011-08-18-honey-laundering-tainted-counterfeit-from-china-in-US?ref=se

Check it out!!! I for one am stunned by these facts, and increasingly grateful for my hardworking girls out in the backyard.

So let the buyer bee-ware.....and buy from a trusted local beekeeper!

 
 

It's As Clear as the Nose on Your Face

About a month ago a lovely older gentlemen showed up at my front door to purchase some honey. It was for his son, who was unfortunately suffering a debilitating skin disorder located on his face. 

He called up again this week. They were almost out of honey and needed a little more. When he arrived he told me that his son had just been to the dermatologist. Apparently, she couldn't believe the improvement! She said that she had planned on prescribing a special cream, but now saw no need to, and that they should just keep on doing whatever they were doing.

So, two pounds of honey later, he was on his way. The dermatologist is on vacation for the next couple of weeks, but I can't wait to talk to her when she returns.  I know honey is great for the skin, but want to learn more about it's effect on whatever his particular disorder is.

Seems like the number of ailments that are happily treated with honey continues to grow, day by day...

 
 

Booked! Thanks AT&T

In the midst of thousands of unhappy bees swirling around my head the other day, my daughter called out, "Mom, the guy from AT&T is here. He wants to go out back and check our telephone pole." "Now's not a good time!" I replied. The idea of a stranger-sans-beesuit in our yard at that moment was not a good one.

But the next thing I know, there's a man standing there, watching me. "My Grandpa used to keep bees," he stated matter-of-factly. (Seems like everybody's grandfather kept bees....) "And I used to have a couple of hives myself."

As he watched me continue to try to work the bees in their current cranky condition, "I wouldn't mess with them today if I were you" he advised.

Thanks for that! It wasn't my choice, you know......I had a tv crew coming out to see me extract honey, and so, honey, I'd better provide.  He wanted to know what kind of equipment I had, and what about books.

Ah yes, books. There were several on my wish list, including "The Hive and the Honey Bee", sort of the beekeeping bible and a bit pricey as well. I told him I really didn't have any books to speak of. "Well, I've got a bunch that I'd like to get rid of. They're not being used..." "You looking to sell them?" I asked. "No, I wanted to give them away. They're not doing me any good. Somebody should enjoy them."

We decided that he might be better off checking somebody else's telephone pole in the neighborhood, and off he went.

Next day, the doorbell rang. There he was, bearing ten books, including "The Hive and the Honey Bee". Not only that, but his wife used to work for the county extension, and there were all kinds of handouts about what sort of plants to grow in our area to attract bees, and a host of other useful information. 

And so, Joe, wherever you are, keeping phone lines safe for democracy, I'd like to thank you from the bottom of my beehive. You're Awesome! 

 

 
 

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!

 

 
 

And That's Not All...

While trying to decide how to store this amazing yet fragile honeycomb, I had it hanging from the roll bar bar of my Jeep on a bungee cord. I kind of liked it there, so I wasn't in a big hurry to move it. Made me a little nervous the way that it would sway while turning corners, and of course, bees liked it....other than that it wasn't too inconvenient.

I was driving in Pinecrest the other day (where life itself is a violation...) and one of Pinecrest's finest pulled me over. (Damn!)

"Do you know how fast you were going?" 

"No...."  (my speedometer sort of died about two years ago....I judge my speed by the rpm's and what gear I'm in. Its fairly accurate.)

"I clocked you going 42 in a 35 mile an hour zone." Merciful heavens... Well, of course I had my license and insurance card right there, but for the life of me I couldn't find my registration. I figured I was in trouble.

Then the officer glanced up from his pad and got a glimpse of the honeycomb. He didn't know what to make of it.

"Do you collect bees?" he asked incredulously.

"I do!" I replied. "I have 13 hives at my house." Then I handed him my card and started motor-mouthing to him about Colony Collapse Disorder and saving the bees.

His demeanor seemed to change, and I got off with only a warning and a $10 citation for not having my registration.

He smiled as he drove away. I stayed in third gear after that..... 

 

 
 

Busy Bees

The girls are settling in nicely! I love sitting and drinking my tea, looking at the far reaches of the backyard, filled with towering colonies of bees. The four hives that were already here are full... I need to schedule a day to go into those hives and harvest some honey!


 
 

Nine New Beehives!

Early this morning I heard the familiar rumble of Steve's truck as it idled outside of my bedroom window while he unlocked the gate, getting ready for some bee-time.

I scrambled into my clothes and hightailed it into the yard, sandals still unbuckled. I didn't want to miss anything!

I knew we were going to get some new hives this week, and today was the day. Yay! We've got nine new beehives, plus the four established colonies that have been working steadily all spring. Thirteen! Sounds lucky to me!  

 
 

Lychee/Longan Honey is Ready!

It's TIME!!!!!!!

The new crop of Lychee/Longan honey is ready. I'm about to harvest it today, and I can't wait to taste it! We wait all year for this!

Will keep you posted, but get ready! It goes fast..... 

 
 
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