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October Newsletter: The bees after the storm, Our Summer Break, Dark Chocolate Honey Patties!

Hello everyone! We know it’s been a while since our last newsletter, so there is much to get caught up on. The questions on everyone’s mind are probably…

How are our bees? How did you do with the storm? Here is the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to the bees and the storm.

The Good: The bees that made through the storm are doing great! Things happen for a reason. Alma was sick, the week of the storm and a few weeks prior and after. She is ok now. The hives were very well propolized (sealed well together with “bee glue”) this means the hives themselves were solid and the lids and stacked boxes with live bees in them were very secure. Many beekeepers lost their hives because lids blew off or their boxes separated because the bees did not have enough time to properly glue everything back together from the time of the storm and their last inspection with the Beekeeper. This image is of propolis (bee glue) on a beehive box.

During the summer months we let the grass, weeds around the beehives grow big and tall. We find that this keeps the bees cooler in the summer, pest levels are low and if there is a storm the tall grass help break the wind at the bee's front entrance. Many lost bees because of the tremendous wind being blown into the hives; killing all the young and decimating the interior of the hive and bees within. Another thing that worked in our favor is that Sarasota Honey Company is different in that we don’t harvest or honey until we’re about to enter a new honey flow. Honey flow is a term used by beekeepers indicating that one or more major nectar sources are in bloom and the weather is favorable for bees to fly and collect the nectar in abundance. We harvest the honey from the bee boxes, just time for them to fill the boxes again. In other words, we take the bees leftovers from the last honey flow. Our largest honey flow was supposed to happen the week of the storm. Alma was sick and the harvest to empty the boxes did not happen as scheduled. This was a bonus because this meant that are hives where extra heavy averaging about 200 pounds to 300 pounds per hive! The total weight of one bee station was over 1,000 pound which was a good thing for the storm. Moreover, our bees had plenty of food to make it through the storm and the weeks after.

The Bad: In trying to save a portion the bees that make our honey they were moved in land. The thinking was, "Spread them out, so if one area gets hit hard then at least we will have enough hives to rebuild." Although the bees made it through the storm they did not make it through the flood. These hives were completely swept away. The peace of mind that we have is that we drill holes in the top box, therefore if water rushed into the main entrance the bees had a way to escape. This trick is something that we learned from the floods of Harvey. A third of the hives that are responsible for the honey we offer are gone. Although this truth stings, we know that we are still very blessed. At least we have what we need to regrow and rebuild our apiaries. We pray and are believing for abundance in the 2023 season for everyone in agriculture. 2022 was very tough season for farmers, ranchers, and beekeepers.

The Ugly: Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte County Honeybees are starving! Local and now Homeless honeybees are starving to death. This is due to fallen trees, hives that were destroyed, and trees that were just about to bloom creating NO nectar after becoming shocked from the storm. The bees took as much honey as they could from their destroyed homes and now have run out and going hungry. They need feed to create a new home and to feed themselves until spring. In the 15 years we have been keeping bees we have never seen such desperate behavior from local honeybees. Alma panicked after she saw the honeybee behavior just around her house and our trucks which have the scent of honey and bee pheromones on them. She thought, “Oh my gosh, my bees ran out of honey!” Thank goodness our girls (bees) were still very well stocked with honey” The bees she saw were victims of the storm. To a beekeeper, it’s like looking at puppies that are now skin and bones desperate for food. All day long they were at our windows and trucks begging. It not something that could not be ignored and totally heartbreaking 💔

Please help by setting up feed stations or dropping off regular white sugar at any of our farmers market booths or store. We will set up feed stations and give the sugar to local beekeepers that were severely affected by the storm that are also in desperate need of feed. Below is a basic honeybee feed recipe: Add 1 pound of white sugar to 1 quart of hot water. Not boiling water just hot enough to dissolve the sugar. One wedge of lemon juice roughly about 1/2 tablespoon and a quarter cup of raw honey if possible. Place the feed into a container but make sure that there is marbles or rocks in it so that the bees don’t drown. Please Do NOT use raw sugar as their bodies cannot process the molasses. Please share this info with your friends.

So why the summer newsletter and tour break?

In short, it was a hot summer. We usually do tours during the summer months, but we were noticing a lot of our guests were getting sick to their stomach’s and not doing well with the heat. We canceled our tours for the summer after we had three consecutive tours were someone was not feeling good because of the heat. During the summer months Alma had to deal with some health issues…she is fine now. Although she wasn’t feeling well, she kept at a solid 90% pace at work. Those that know her, know she gives 150% and a 70–80-hour work week is her average. As she says, “Mother Nature is a hard boss that doesn’t care if you're sick, tired, or limited on time” Between not feel well, pushing herself, and the summer heat she experienced burn out for the first time. Just as the universe would have it, she was offered a great deal on a mountain cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains. It was just her and Buzz on mountain hikes, farm to table meals, and making new friends of all abilities, in agriculture, crafts and art.

A new farmer friend was suggested to her that she pick up a hobby that had nothing to do with bees or any of the products we offer. When your “job” is a lifestyle in agriculture it is very easy to lose track of the hours…there is always something to do. You are never "caught up" Alma took to art, after befriending a mix media artist. She became inspired by one of her favorite illustrators, Eric Carle an American author, designer and illustrator of children's books.

She goes wild painting on tissue paper, cutting, and tearing it to make her artwork. She also invites kids and people with special needs to go crazy on the tissue paper she uses. “I love it, gives me a challenge cuz i’m restricted to colors and textures of paper I have… every piece is one of a kind” Alma will be offering prints and one of kind pieces to the public at our store. 25% will be going to help the bees recover from the storm. Which ones do you like? This way we know which prints to have made! Below are some examples of her work. The pictures don't do them justice, the background is metallic mother of pearl on wood.

New Product!! Dark Chocolate Orange Patties and Dark Chocolate Coffee Patties

With the cooler weather we are debuting our Dark chocolate ORANGE honey patties and dark chocolate COFFEE patties!

Just 3 Ingredients: Honey, Dark chocolate, and coffee and Honey, Dark chocolate, and orange extract. Available at our honey store, Sarasota Downtown Farmers Market Saturdays 7-1pm, Lakewood Ranch Farmers market Sundays from 10 to 2 PM, and Anna Maria Farmers Market 8:30-2pm Tuesdays. So far the customers are buzzing that it gonna bee a hit!!


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