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Posts Tagged ‘bees’

Summer has just begun and it’s already a scorcher! We’ve had above normal temperatures since April 26, according to the National Weather Service. Highs have been 90 degrees or above since May 30 (except for a slight dip to 88 on June 1). The heat index has been 100+ degrees most days. Last June was even hotter. Record temperatures were set on June 22, 2009 in Miami with a high of 98. Fort Lauderdale had a high of 100, tying an all time record. This summer feels hotter because temps have consistently been at 90 or above for 59 days and counting, while last summer temps were mostly in the high 80s with a few spikes in the 90s.

The last picture I took before getting chased off by a hot and cranky bee.

This crazy heat has an effect on livestock at Bee Heaven Farm. Chickens stand with their beaks open, panting, and hold their wings out a bit to their sides to try to cool off. Bees don’t like heat and get cranky. I passed by the hives when beekeeeper Miguel Bode was working with them a few weekends ago. One bee took offense to where I was standing, buzzed around my head, and chased me for a good distance. Lucky for me, I didn’t get stung but it felt close! Even the worms in the vermiculture bin have been suffering mightily. Instinctively they’ve dived down to the bottom of the bin, seeking cooler soil, but hit bottom instead. The Worm Guy (that’s what Margie calls him) advised chilling them down with frozen water bottles buried in the bin. Wigglers on the rocks, anyone?

I asked Farmer Margie what grows well in this kind of heat. “Weeds!” she exclaimed. Those weeds completely took over vegetable beds after Gleaning Day. Margie mowed them down, and now that she’s had two days without rain, she’s out on her tractor tilling the soil, preparing to plant cover crops.

Some summer fruit is finally starting to get ready, but running a little behind schedule because of the freeze this winter. The extended period of super cold weather caused plants to go dormant for weeks. Lychees (Mauritus variety) are bearing late this year. Margie pointed out that last year, a bumper crop of lychees were harvested in late May. This year the harvest began in mid-June, and the quantity isn’t quite as much.

Mauritus lychees from last summer.

Another casualty of the cold are mango trees which were in bloom in January when the freeze hit. The long stretch of freezing temperatures damaged blossoms. Some fruit set and grew, but then aborted and fell off. I’ve seen trees that don’t have as much fruit, and if they do, they’re not as plentiful and not as big or developed.

Half-grown Donnie avocado.

Avocado trees seemed to escape significant damage from the freeze in January. Branches are loaded with fruit several inches long, about the size of Haas avocados in the groceries. If you’re not familiar with Florida avocados, and you have a tree in your yard, don’t get confused and pick early! The varieties that grow here, especially the Donnies that Margie raises, get much much, much bigger than the Haas variety from California or Mexico. Last summer many Donnie avocados weighed in at 3 pounds apiece, and one giant weighed 4 pounds. Avocado picking will start in mid-July, also several weeks later than last summer.

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Bee Yard wanted

Beekeeper Miguel Bode

You might have seen beekeeper Miguel Bode selling honey and beeswax candles at fairs and festivals and markets all around town. If you bought wildflower, avocado or lychee/longan honey from him (or Farmer Margie), those are the products of his bees kept at Bee Heaven Farm, among other farm locations. I caught up with him at Ramble, and noticed he had a sign saying he was looking for a bee yard in suburban Miami. Your reward? All the honey you can eat — and an opportunity to do something to help honey bees survive.

“A bee yard is a place where bees can be put and survive,” Miguel explained. The ideal location is secluded or isolated, in an area where people will not go often. It would be a place where the bees won’t be disturbed or disturb anyone else, and preferably close to a fence. When choosing a spot, consider the other side of the fence, so that bees coming and going from their hives don’t disturb the neighbor having a barbecue, for example.

A row of bee hives at Bee Heaven Farm

Specifically, Miguel is looking for a space big enough for multiple hives, at least 15-20 at the most. The hives are boxes stacked in a row 2 feet wide by 12 feet long. He would like to set up 3 rows, with an 8 foot buffer in between. That translates to a patch of yard that would be 12 feet by 22 feet in size, not including any space immediately around the hives.

Currently Miguel is keeping most of his bees in agricultural areas. He explained that bees produce less in Redland that in the suburbs. In spring when avocado, lychee and longans bloom there’s plenty of food for the bees, but during the rest of the year there’s not as much variety. Miguel would like to move his bees to the Pinecrest or Old Cutler Road areas where the yards are large and there’s plenty of different things blooming year round. The typical yards in the city are too small for so many hives, though. Special landscaping is not that important. Bees will fly to wherever they find flowers. They usually range about one mile, and will go as far as three miles.

Bee yard wanted, sweet reward!

Pets and kids are usually not a problem, and will quickly learn not to bother. Generally, honey bees are not aggressive and will not willfully attack you. Just don’t go up to the hive and start hitting it, then they will get upset! Bees only sting as a last resort. Open pools (not screened in) are a red flag because bees are attracted to water to drink, and might frighten or sting people in or around the pool. Yes, bees drink water (I have seen a bee sipping water from a puddle), and during the dry months of March, April and May they need lots of water.

If you like bees and honey and think your back yard is the perfect spot, contact Miguel Bode at beemyhoneymiami(at)yahoo.com .

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