Barrier Island Beekeeping at Florida-Georgia Border
A Southern Sweet Treat — Local Island Honey
Amelia Island, FL and neighboring Cumberland Island, GA have busy bees and keepers crafting honey here at the seashore. This includes Amelia Island’s largest resorts — the Ritz-Carlton and Omni Amelia Island Plantation. Neighboring Cumberland has beekeepers at the lovely Greyfield Inn.
Local honey is utilized in culinary dishes as well as beverages such as honey-infused cocktails. Apart from food and drink, honey is also implemented locally into pampering spa treatments here near the Florida-Georgia border. The “Honey Butter Wrap,” a premium treatment offered by Amelia’s Ritz, includes a honey sea salt scrub, a warm, hydrating honey mask, a hair and scalp conditioning treatment with scalp massage, paraffin for both hands and feet, plus a full body massage.
Barrier Island Beekeepers, Local Apiaries
Another local proprietor/beekeeper is Fernandina’s “Hive Pirate.” Hive Pirate Productions LLC produces honey and also provides various bee services, including hive management for private citizens, the resorts noted above, and other businesses. The “Hive Pirate” expects their fall Amelia Island honey (“raw, unfiltered and never heated”), to be ready in October. Honey will be available for purchase, see their Facebook page below with featured photo.
Amelia Island Honey (Left) Vs. Cumberland Island (Right)
See the notable honey color variations, even though these islands are in very close proximity. Colors of honey can range from “water white” to “dark amber,” according to the USDA color designation. Simply put, honey is quite vairable due to the floral source.
The honey on the left is from Amelia and measures 17% on the brix, the honey on the right is from Cumberland and…
Get a glimpse of the beekeeping operation at Omni Amelia Island Plantation, an interesting video worth a look. Their bee colonies are said to produce in excess of 1,000 pounds of organic honey annually at Omni Amelia Island Plantation.
Honey Lasts Forever!
Many would agree that one of the most fascinating things about honey is its shelf life — it lasts forever! Pots of honey have be found, unspoiled, in Egyptian tombs.
Help The Bees, Plant Pollinators
Beekeeping is now on the rise, including citizen beekeepers. However, compared to historical levels, the number of “managed honey bee colonies” in America is drastically below the 6 million counted just after World War II, according to reports. According to the U.S. Pollinator Health Task Force report “National Strategy To Promote The Health Of Honey Bees And Other Pollinators” published May 19, 2015, “colonies used in honey production have declined to approximately 2.74 million colonies.”
Interested In A New Hobby?
Want to go to “Bee College” in Florida? It’s a 2-day program offered annually by state experts at the University of Florida. The next session of “Bee College” is to be held in St. Augustine, FL on March 10-11, 2017. Florida Bee College can be attended by the novice, a program of lectures and workshops for anyone interested in honey bees (there’s option to attend just one day and pick sessions). For those interested in beekeeping here in northeast Florida, also check out the Nassau County, Florida Beekeepers Club, see their Facebook page..
Top Nectar Source For Bees in Florida
Native cabbage palms (Sabal palmetto, the state tree of Florida), are a top source of nectar for barrier island bees around this region at the Florida-Georgia border. Property owners are cautioned about over-trimming palms (allow growth of the white flowers to feed the bees). “Bees usually produce nectar from cabbage palm in June and July, if summer rains do not interfere,” according to the University of Florida Extension, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Another top nectar source for southeast barrier island bees is the saw palmetto (Serenoa repens). Below is a mass of palm flowers photographed on Amelia Island in July 2016. The flowers were full of bees feasting — the collective sound of buzzing could be plainly heard as one approached.
90% of Florida’s Honey From Less Than 10 Species
In Florida “less than ten species account of over ninety percent of the state’s honey crop, and only one, citrus, is cultivated” — an interesting fact from “Beekeeping: Florida Bee Botany.”
In the Sunshine State, “the most reliable nectar producers are: gallberry, citrus, tupelo, saw palmetto, melaleuca, Brazilian pepper and cabbage palm.” Find out lots more about important plants and trees for Florida bees in this University of Florida Extension, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences publication on Beekeeping.
Spraying To Contain Zika Threatens Bees
With Zika in the news and an objective to contain the virus in the U.S. by increased aerial spraying of pesticides to kill Zika-carrying mosquitoes, a new threat for bees has emerged. It’s especially concerning in Florida with the most Zika cases in the states currently (43 cases in South Florida as of September 14, 2016, says the CDC), and considering Florida is the “third-largest beekeeping state in the nation,” according to UF. Unfortunately, spraying in South Carolina killed millions of bees recently, (see related UF/IFAS article published in September 2016, for more information).