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Fall Honey is Here!!!

After a brutal year for our bees between the Spring drought and Hurricane Irma, we are finally pulling honey off our colonies. The fall honey is our favorite of the year! We aren’t going to get as much as we hoped for but we are thankful for what we do get. We are working hard to pull the honey and then get our bees ready for winter and hope for better things next year.

Upcoming Markets: 

Nov. 18-19 – ET CULTURA FESTIVAL MAKERS VILLAGE.  On Balm Ave, between 11th Street and 10th Street, St. Pete. https://etcultura.com/

Dec. 2 – St. Pete Indie Market. On Balm Ave, in front of Green Bench Brewing Co.

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Honey at Last!

We have St. Pete local raw honey! After a terrible drought this Spring the Summer rains have come and our bees are finally making honey. We harvested the first of the ripened honey and there is much more to come! Call us if you want to get some of these first fruits of the 2017 season. We just have 1 and 2 lb. jars available as we are still waiting on the comb honey to be ripened and capped. We also have a very limited amount of the Florida Tupelo honey still available. 727-698-1130

Tupelo Honey – A Very Rare Treat!

IMG_4615.jpgsquareWe have a rare treat! Tupelo honey made on the Choctawhatchee River in North Florida. Tupelo honey is prized around the world as arguably the finest honey there is. It is made from the nectar of the white tupelo gum tree that is found in densities high enough to produce a crop of honey in only one region of swamps and river basins of North Florida and South Georgia. The fragile blooms last only 3 weeks on a good year and less on bad years. The last two years the tupelo bloom has been very poor and this year wasn’t too great either. Real Tupelo honey is hard to come by so when our friend and fellow beekeeper brought his bees up and produced a small batch of Tupelo honey we jumped at a chance to buy a bucket of this liquid gold from him. We have a very limited supply of 8 oz. and 1 lb. classic muth jars with cork tops and sealed with beeswax. A beautiful container to hold a very beautiful honey. Call us if you want to get one before they are gone! 727-698-1130
 
8 oz. $12
 
1 lb. $24
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Preparing for Pepper Flow

What a busy year this has been for us and our bees. Our business has been growing as well as our family. We have our 6th child due in December and are beginning to build an addition on our home. The extra money from our honey sales are going to good use between medical costs for the baby and house addition. With Hurricane Hermine bearing down on us I’m forced to take a break from working and update our blog. We have been selling a lot of honey and with the St. Pete Indie market this week we will nearly be sold out of our stock. But that’s ok. It’s the 1st day of September and Brazilian Pepper is getting ready to bloom. I think beekeepers are the only people in Florida who get excited about seeing Brazilian Pepper trees lining railroad tracks and alleyways. Taking over abandoned lots and smothering out every other shrub. They are a nasty invasive plant species but bees love them and every Fall they bring in the best nectar flow of the year for our bees. As soon as I see bright yellow wax being drawn out in our colonies I know it’s on! Time to start stacking honey supers on the colonies.

The Brazilian Pepper bloom goes from September through October here and seems to be bee5the nectar flow we can always count on. By late October the nectar has ripened into honey and is ready for harvest. Brazilian pepper honey reminds me of Fall (my favorite time of year). It is light with a yellow tint and taste sweet with a complex flavor of spices on the aftertaste. Here in St. Pete there are also a lot of other nectar sources blooming the same time as pepper so we get a really good mix which dilutes the spiciness of straight Brazilian Pepper honey and in my opinion makes the most perfect honey. I absolutely love our Fall honey! I had some today from last Fall and it got me really excited. I can close my eyes and experience the smells and tastes of harvesting pepper honey late into the cool Fall nights. It’s coming!

Every honey super (box that holds honey combs) that we own is on our colonies in anticipation of the nectar flow and more have been ordered and will be delivered this weekend. It has been a good year for Harris Honey. We had such a great Fall harvest last year along with a decent Spring harvest that we have had honey all year so far. We have had great opportunities open for us to share our honey and beekeeping knowledge with our community that we love. Thank you all for your support and we look forward to continue providing the best local raw honey in St. Pete.

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Spring Buildup

Here at Harris Honey we are very excited about the coming of Spring! With the warmer weather we had last week I was able to inspect all of our hives and was encouraged to see that the queens have already begun picking up their laying of eggs and once again there are drone cells which means winter is coming to an end for the bees. It also means that soon there will be a sudden increase in bee population in our hives. We will need lots and lots of healthy bees to bring in enough nectar to produce a surplus of honey that we can harvest.

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The bees have already attached cutout comb to frame

While we did lose about 8 colonies over the winter, it looks like we have enough healthy colonies to make some splits over the next couple of weeks to make up what was lost. We also rescued two colonies of feral bees last week which will help us as well. One was a pretty large colony of very gentle bees that had built an exposed hive under the awning of a house. I was able to catch and cage the queen and put her in a box. After I got the queen, I cut off each comb, brushed the bees into the box with the queen, and then attached the combs with rubber bands into wooden frames that go into the bee box. I brought the colony back to our yard and two days later noticed the bees dragging the rubber bands out of the hive entrance. When I looked inside I was encouraged to see that the bees had repaired any damages to the comb and had connected it to the frames. They were also beginning to fill in the voids. I think we are going to get a really productive colony of bees from that bee rescue.

The other one was a much smaller colony that had taken up residence in an owl box. The transfer into a 5 frame nuc box didn’t go as smoothly as the first bee rescue. The queen flew off before I could cage her, leading a swarm of worker bees with her. It took a while to get them back from 20′ up in a tree. But luckily I was able to find the queen, cage her, and put her in the nuc box with the comb and brood. I attached the nuc box in the tree where the owl box was and when I left the confused bees were going to it because of the caged queen inside. When the weather warms next week I will get it and bring it to a bee yard and hopefully they will have established themselves in their new box. If so that will be 2 out of 8 colonies of bees gained back from winter losses. We would like to have a total 40 strong colonies by April to bring in the Spring nectar flow.

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2 lb jar of chunk honey

Besides chasing bees we have been busy selling honey from our Fall harvest (It looks like we may have just enough in stock to get us through till May). We have been selling a lot of our chunk honey at the market. Chunk honey is a jar of liquid honey with chunks of honey comb inside. The honey comb seems to really stop people as they walk by our stand because it is not often people see honey in its natural state. There is no greater honey eating experience than biting into a piece of sweet gooey honey comb with all the little bits of pollen and propolis that give it such an amazing taste and aroma. It’s the closest experience you can get to opening the lid on a colony of bees without the risk of getting stung. This year we are going to try to produce more comb honey for market. Today I just got done ordering ultra thin wax foundation and putting together four new honey boxes that will be designated for making comb honey. Producing comb honey is much more work for the bees and the beekeeper than extracted liquid honey. Good comb honey can only be made with the strongest bee colonies during a really good nectar flow. They have to have enough nectar to draw out, fill and ripen a lot of honeycomb in a short amount of time so that the comb is soft and chewy. Over time the comb gets tough and travel stained which is fine for extracting honey out of but not for making good comb honey.

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Ellie feeling brave with a resting worker bee.

We have high hopes for this year and are very encouraged by all of the rainfall we have had so far. Last Spring was very dry and there was no nectar flow. We are thankful for all the rain and excited to see all the flowers that are blooming already. The wild plum tree in front of my parents’ house is blooming and buzzing with our bees, as well as the Spanish needle and wild mustard along Joe’s Creek. The bees use this first flow of nectar and pollen to build up their colony. When we see the purple Jacaranda trees in our neighborhood blooming in April we know that the real nectar flow is about to come in. That is when we begin stacking on honey boxes as fast as the bees can fill them up. By May the bees have ripened most of the nectar into honey and that is when we can begin harvesting our first honey of the year.

Until then we are enjoying eating our delicious Fall honey. We are very thankful we had such a great Fall harvest and are hopeful for a good Spring harvest as well.

 

 

 

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Honey at Last

Pulling frames of fresh capped honey from a few of our bee colonies yesterday never felt more rewarding. This year has been a challenge cappedfor our bees and our honey operation. The nectar flow never happened here this Spring. We lost colonies of bees and the ones that remained were in decline.

Usually Spring is a time of year when the bees are building up their stores of pollen and nectar; in response the queens pick up their laying of eggs and the colonies explode with young worker bees that are eager to bring in the Spring nectar. This year got off to a very bad start. Instead of harvesting honey we were having to supply feed and pollen patties to our bees to allow them to build back up after their decline. Instead of selling honey we invested thousands of dollars in purchasing 20 new colonies to get our colony numbers back up. These new colonies came in small 5 frame boxes (called nucleus colonies) that needed to be fed and built up until they could be transferred into full size 10 frame boxes. We kept most of these an hour away at our expansion beeyard in north Hernando County. All this to say, we put a lot of time and resources into our bees this year! Now that our colonies are finally building up and producing honey, it never tasted so sweet!

We have had a late Summer nectar flow kick in that has been a welcome surprise. I’ve been having a tough time keeping up with some of our strongest colonies, as it seems they are bringing in nectar as fast as I can stack honey supers on top of them! Some of those 5 frame nucleus colonies we bought back in May are now 4 boxes high, that’s 40 frames of bees and honey!

We recently went through our colonies and pulled 5 boxes of the first honey to be ripened to share with our customers who have waited so hivespatiently. For now we have 1 and 2 lb. jars available. If all goes well we will have gallons available after the Fall honey comes in which is usually late Oct. One of our strongest colonies is also working on drawing out and filling a box of comb honey for those who enjoy biting into fresh honey comb in our jars of chunk honey. Things are finally looking up this season for Harris Honey and we invite you to celebrate our harvest with some fresh, local raw honey drizzled over a hot biscuit with butter.

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Thoughts About Flow Hive

A new technology in beekeeping has hit the internet and is causing a lot of buzz, mostly among non-beekeepers. It is called Flow Hive. It is basically a frame with plastic cells that separate, allowing honey to drain to the bottom and then out of the hive through tubes. They call it “honey on tap”. A father and son out of Australia developed it and they have launched an internet campaign to help fund manufacturing, this campaign has surprisingly raised over 2 million dollars to date. Many of my friends on social media have been sharing posts about it with me and asking questions. Here’s my thoughts: I think Flow Hive is a novel idea. Honey on tap, that’s just neat. Props to this father and son team for brainstorming and working on this idea until it became a reality. That’s where my admiration ends. It’s a great novelty.

I do have a few concerns related to it though. My greatest concern is in the way it is being promoted. “Honey on tap”. They are leading people to believe that you can purchase this magic box and it will become a honey producing machine at the turn of a nozzle. That is simply ridiculous, and frankly insulting to the ancient craft of beekeeping. Again and again they communicate this idea of harvesting honey without disturbing the bees. Sounds like a great idea but it is not really a relative issue in the reality of beekeeping.

Beekeeping is not easy. keeping bees healthy, even alive, has become a difficult task requiring much knowledge, continuous learning and skill. There are so many pests and pesticides that are absolutely wrecking honeybee colonies these days. Maintaining healthy honeybees is the number one challenge of every beekeeper. If you start beekeeping, you are going to encounter problems: queen problems, swarming problems, laying worker problems, varroa mite problems, small hive beetle problems, wax moth problems, nosema problems, foulbrood problems, robbing problems, ant problems, pesticide problems, and  just when you think you have seen it all, you will encounter a new problem related to the health of your honeybees.

My point in all this is to say that harvesting honey is the least of my problems as a beekeeper. In fact it is the second most fun and rewarding part of beekeeping, the first being the simple joy of opening a bee box that is overflowing with happy, healthy bees. The honey harvest is a ceremony that celebrates the great accomplishment of being a good enough beekeeper to allow your bees to not only survive, but also produce a surplus harvest of honey.

What is more, harvesting honey can be done with very little disturbance to the bees. Larger operations use fume boards with bee escapes that empty the honey supers of most of the bees before they remove them for harvest. I simply shake each frame of honey and then brush any remaining bees off with a gentle bee brush. They return to the hive entrance no worse for wear. The frames are then brought to the uncapping tank. Here the beautiful wax capping are removed with a hot knife and left to drain of honey. These wax cappings are the finest quality of wax in the hive. We use this wax to make candles, lip balms, soaps, lotions, and also sell it in molded bars. Flow Hive completely neglects this beautiful and valuable product of the bees. After the wax cappings are removed, the frames are placed in the honey extractor. Honey extractors work great! They operate with such a simple concept, using centrifugal force to fling the honey out of the cells and then into the bottom of the tank. The honey in the frames is completely removed in a matter of minutes and the frames are ready to be stored or placed back in the hive to be refilled. Harvesting honey this way is a great experience that I look forward to each season!

Here’s my final thought on the subject of Flow Hive. Don’t start beekeeping because this new product makes it look as easy as turning a knob on a spigot. You will spend a bunch of money and then after your first season you will have an empty box with a spigot on it. You will wonder what happened to your bees because you didn’t understand the challenges of beekeeping, or perhaps didn’t even look inside the hive to see what was going on. If you want easy honey, go to the grocery store, or even better, your local beekeeper, and buy some. The real reward of beekeeping is in the work, not in honey coming out of a tap. The joy is in the knowledge and experience you will gain as you encounter problems and work through them. As you encounter defeat and even death, and then rise to start over and be a better beekeeper. Only after you have failed and even lost colonies will you begin to appreciate the value and beauty of a healthy colony of bees. Once you begin to experience the real challenges of being a beekeeper, a new gadget that automatically drains honey out of a hive may seem like a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist.

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Harris Honey at Fall Arts and Crafts Festival

We just pulled the last of the Fall honey off our bee colonies and it feels great to have it all spun out and packaged! Now all that is left for the Winter is to keep our bees healthy and sell all of that yummy honey. Harris Honey will be featuring all of our products (including our newest two: Honeymint Lip Balm, and 1 oz. bars of Beeswax) at the 1st Annual Fall Arts and Crafts Festival. This event will feature about 50 vendors offering handmade arts and crafts, as well as baked goods, and honey of course.

The Festival will take place Nov. 22 from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. in the Parking lot of Calvary Chapel St. Petersburg. 8900 U.S. HWY 19 N, Pinellas Park, Fl, 33782

Come on out and support your local artists and craftsmen and get some Christmas shopping done while your at it; and make sure you visit our table!

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Honeymint Lip Balm

We are exited to offer a new addition to our products: ‘Honeymint’ lip balm, made from our own beeswax and honey. All natural ingredients include: coconut oil, beeswax, peppermint essential oil, and honey. This product is the perfect natural option to protect your lips for the colder dryer weather that is coming. Plus it tastes delicious on your lips!

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Harvesting Our First Honey of 2014

After a long wait we have finally harvested our first honey of the year! While we usually wait to harvest all of the honey in the spinnerhives at once, this time we went through our hives and pulled out just the first fruits of ripened honey. With just about 150 lbs. of honey harvested we are currently offering only 2 lb. jars for sale from this first harvest.

There are still a couple hundred pounds of honey on the hives which we are planning on harvesting next week. With the next harvest we will be offering 2 l.b. jars of chunk honey (chunks of honeycomb in a jar of liquid honey) for $15 ea, and a limited amount of gallon jugs (12 lbs.) of raw honey for $45 ea.

All of this honey is raw and local to St. Petersburg, Fl. It is from the Spring nectar flow which contains the greatest variety of pollen and nectar which makes it the best honey of the year for combating allergies. If interested, please see our products page for ordering instructions.