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.

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 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.

Well fed bees

Two weeks ago we added a second floor to our strong hives and they are doing very well. Here is a frame we pulled from the top chamber.  You can tell right away that these are well fed bees.  The brood (baby bees) are clustered together and capped in the center. Very nice laying pattern, meaning the queen is good.  Lots of capped and uncapped honey surrounding the brood, meaning they have plenty of food for the adults and to feed the larvae.


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.

Preparing for winter

Not much new and exciting to report this week, but we are getting ready for winter.  Our “bad behavior” hive was still queenless and after harvesting honey we decided to combine them with one of the smaller swarm hives in order to help them overwinter.  We are going to check how the combination went later this week.  We are really hoping the “bad behavior” girls do not kill the queen from the hive we combined them with.

Besides that we have removed all supers (those are the top hive boxes where the bees put their honey) and have each hive down to one deep body.  We got a tip from my brother-in-law in Greece (who is also a beekeeper) on how to store the empty built frames.  After the bees have cleaned off all the leftover honey, you should place them in the freezer for a day to kill off any wax moth eggs.  After that you can put them in an empty hive box and close them up or put them in a sealed plastic bag.  My concern here is ants and roaches that may come after the wax and any leftover residue.

If any other beekeepers would like to share how you store your empty built frames to keep them safe from pests, I’d love to hear from you.