Fall Honey Flow: Brazilian Pepper

Here in South Florida the bees get a nice treat during late September through early November, a large fall honey flow from the Brazilian pepper trees.  This honey has a nice golden color and the flavor is mild with a slight “kick” to it, however it is not spicy as some may think because of the name.  I actually prefer it over orange blossom honey.

It is such a large honey flow that the bees will swarm if you don’t split them ahead of time.  So we use the long Labor Day weekend to make our splits and prevent swarming.

Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius), also called Florida Holly, is an invasive species originating from South America. It is actually illegal to cultivate, sell or transport the seeds and plant.  It is a very fast growing tree that spreads quickly and overtakes other native vegetation.  It is very hard to eradicate because of how easy it proliferates.

Despite the negative perception many people have about the trees, we like them because our bees love them.  We fully understand the environmental impacts is has had on native plants, but at the same time with honey bees on the decline, they need food sources too. This tree provides a great amount of honey for them to store and survive on during winter when not many other flowers are blooming.

Brazilian pepper flowers

Brazilian pepper flowers

Close up of flowers, they are very tiny.

Close up of Brazilian pepper flowers, they are very tiny.

Do you think this is a bee? Well, you're wrong! It is a Drone Fly. They mimic the look of a bee to prevent predators from eating them.

Do you think this is a bee? Well, you’re wrong! It is a Drone Fly. They mimic the look of a bee to prevent predators from eating them.

Brazilian pepper seeds. This is how it got the nickname Florida Holly.

Brazilian pepper seeds. This is how it got the nickname Florida Holly.

Lots of brood still being produced in fall.

Lots of brood still being produced in fall.

Even drones being produced too!

Even drones being produced too!

Capped Brazilian pepper honey.

Capped Brazilian pepper honey waiting to be extracted.

Look at that beautiful golden honey - liquid gold.

Look at that beautiful golden honey – liquid gold.

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Comb Honey by Mistake

Yum! Fresh comb honey.  We were blessed with all this great comb, but it wasn’t something we  had planned.

Here is what happened:

When we caught our fall swarm we needed to give them a few frames with food and brood.  So we took 2 frames from an existing hive, but didn’t have any empty frames on hand at the moment. We actually had an order with new frames on the way.  So we left 2 frame slots empty and said we would add in 2 frames when they arrived. Fast forward a week and we totally forgot about the empty slots.  We went to open the hive and could not get the cover off, it was stuck.  Once we finally pried it open we realized what had happened.

The bees had filled up the empty space with new comb that was full of honey!  Our first thought was what a big mess, but we decided to take advantage of the situation and carefully gather the comb.

So we turned a sticky mess into a sweet deal.

Fall honey harvest

After we had our turkey dinner we got right down to jarring our honey.  Maybe this will become a new Thanksgiving tradition.  We were so excited to see how much we got this harvest.  All this wonderful honey came from 2 hives during the Brazilian Pepper honey flow.

Yanni with all our honey

All of our hives are doing great.  All three have queens and look to be in good shape for the winter.  We couldn’t be more thankful for our bees.

Harvesting our honey

This is the part of beekeeping that everyone ooh’s and ahh’s about – honey.  It’s the fruit of your labor.  So what goes into extracting all that honey?  Well I’m going to show you…and yes, it is a sticky mess.

Step 1: Gather your extracting equipment.  The basic items you will need is an uncapping bin, an extractor, a bucket, filters/strainers and an uncapping knife.  Make sure everything has be thoroughly washed and is clean.

Gather your equipment

Step 2: Gather your frames full of honey.  Don’t worry, we still left some for the bees in their hives.

Gather your frames

Step 3: Begin uncapping your frames.  When honey is ready in the honeycomb the bees will cap it (cover it) with wax.  This seals in and protects the finished product while it is still in the hive.

Uncapping

Step 4: Place your frames in the extractor to collect your honey.  There are many types and sizes of extractors you can get, based on your needs and budget.

Extracting

Step 5: Filter, filter, filter.  We run our honey through 3 filters.  A coarse one that gathers the larger pieces of wax in the honey, a medium filter that catches anything the first one missed, and a very fine filter that will catch any remaining small particles of wax.

Filtering

Step 6: Wait.  This is the hardest part! We let the honey sit for about 15 days.  This gives the honey time to settle.  All the air bubbles and any impurities will separate and allow you to skim it off.

Step 7: After you have waited you can go ahead and jar your honey.  I’ll post some pictures of that once we get to it.