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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Apiary Industry in Florida

Heartland Magazine covers agricultural news, events and people in the South Central Florida region. Their October issue focused on the beekeeping industry in Florida and included several informative articles.

I was lucky enough to be interviewed for one article and to have a few of my photos featured, including the cover! I invite you to browse through the magazine and check out the articles from fellow beekeepers.

Heartland Cover

TS Article

Link: http://issuu.com/heartlandmagazine/docs/oct13

Wasp Versus Bees

Bees protect their hive, just like humans protect their home. Upon opening one of our hives for inspection, a wasp flew into the hive. The pictures tell the story, the wasp did not stand a chance.

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Wasp_2

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Supersedure Cells

Supersedure is the natural way of re-queening.  The bees replace an existing queen with a new queen in the same hive.  There are many reasons that this can happen, some of the most common reasons are:

  • the queen is old
  • the queen is not laying eggs properly
  • the queen may be sick
  • the queen is physically damaged
  • the queen is not producing enough pheromones anymore

Supersedure cells will often be in the middle of a frame, not at the bottom of a frame like you would see with swarming.

In our case we believe the bees sensed the queen was getting old (she is over a year old now) and decided they needed to replace her with a younger queen.

It was truly a sad sight to see our good old queen right next to the cells of the queens that would eventually take her place.

You can see 2 large queen cells on the left half of this picture and our old queen with a yellow dot towards the middle on the right side.

You can see 2 large queen cells on the left and our old queen with a yellow dot towards the middle on the right side.

Allowing the bees to produce their own queen is usually not successful in our experience. This is due to the fact that we don’t have enough hives to produce a really good drone pool and the chances of the queen mating with an Africanized drone are possible too.  So this hive will either be re-queened with a hygienic queen that we will buy from a local supplier or we will combine it with another hive.

Friends of the Hive – Part 2

A few months ago I wrote a post about some critters that like to hide in or around our beehives.  Well here are a few more to add to the list.

Southern Black Racer

Southern Black Racer

The Southern Black Racer is a common snake here in the Southeast.  Adult racers are usually 24–55 inches (0.6 – 1.4 m) long.  They are active during the day when it is warm and will eat lizards, frogs, insects and rodents. They are not venomous, but they can bite if they are cornered or feel threatened.

This one was relaxing on top of an empty pallet next to a few of our hives.

Eastern Lubber Grasshopper

Adult – Eastern Lubber Grasshopper

Nymphs - Eastern Lubber Grasshopper

Nymphs – Eastern Lubber Grasshopper

The Eastern Lubber Grasshopper is a very colorful and large grasshopper, reaching almost 3 inches (8 cm) in size.  It is native to the southeastern and south central US.  The young nymphs are black with bright yellow or orange stripes and as they grow they change color. They feed mainly on shrubs and grasses.

You can see how large the adult is compared to a few bees in the background. It does not bother the bees at all, it was just hanging out in the sun.

Pink-striped Oakworm Caterpillar

Pink-striped Oakworm Caterpillar

We keep some of our beehives under the shade of a few oak trees.  I noticed what looked like caterpillar droppings on top of our hives and shortly after this caterpillar dropped down from the tree.  The Pink-striped Oakworm caterpillar turns into a colorful pink/orange moth.  And guess what they eat?  Yes, you got it – oak tree leaves.

How to Identify Elements on a Bee Frame

I thought it would be helpful for some of the beginners out there to see a frame with some important elements pointed out. I’m also providing a link to the full resolution versions so that you can zoom in.

Frame_small

Frame with important elements marked.

Click here for full resolution file of marked up frame.

Unmarked frame for comparison.

Unmarked frame for comparison.

Click here for full resolution file of unmarked frame.

Invading Africanized Swarm

A small swarm of Africanized bees tried to enter and invade one of our European honey bee hives.  This is the second time we have been able to witness this interesting and natural phenomenon. The first time we witnessed a swarm trying to enter a hive was a year ago.

When we arrived at our bee yard and got out of our truck, we were met by a few aggressive bees.  We thought this seemed odd since our gentle honey bees usually don’t chase us unless something is wrong, so we continued as usual to inspect our hives.

We opened up the first 2 hives and everything looked normal – the bees were calm and we saw eggs, a sign that the hives had a queen.  We closed up the hives and moved along to our next set of hives about 25 feet away from the first set.  Within about 10 mins I saw bees swarming – a cloud of bees flying around.

We rushed back over to see what was going on, and found that one hive was being attacked. There was a gathering of bees on the back of the hive and bees in the front of the hive were fighting.

Swarm on back of hive

Swarm gathered on back of the hive.

Bees fighting

Bees fighting

Bees fighting

Bees fighting

Bees fighting

Bees fighting

As my husband took a closer look at the bees gathered on the back of the hive, he saw a queen!  This was the queen from the small swarm.  What are the chances we would see that!

I caught the queen to make sure she would not enter our hive and try to kill our good queen.  In the meantime, the worker bees continued to fight.  I put the queen to the side and after about 15 minutes the swarm gathered around the trapped queen and things started to calm down at our hive.

Africanized queen

Queen from the swarm caught!

Swarm around queen

I put the queen aside and the swarm gathered around her.

As I walked around I found where the swarm originated from in a small tree close to our hives. Africanized bees usually have small swarm clusters that are capable of invading established hives and taking over.  This is part of their natural behavior.

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Tree where the small swarm was hanging out.

Since the swarm was close by they probably smelled our hives when we opened them up for inspection and were attracted to them.  Before we left, we had to take care of the swarm queen. In order to make sure she would not invade our hive we had to kill her.  Sad, but necessary to protect our hive.