A colony of “beach bees” brings new vitality to the hives of a Northwest Florida Tupelo honey producer.
By Tom Flanigan
Dressed in full beekeeper regalia, the Rish family removed and relocated both the massive honeycomb from beneath the beach house deck, as well as the bee colony that produced it.
The discovery of a large bee colony under the deck of a Northwest Florida beach house is helping strengthen the hives of a regional Tupelo honey producer.
Matt Elliott is the CEO of Cape and Coast Premier Properties, which is connected with Apalachicola-based White Sands Hospitality. That’s the firm that owns the Gibson Inn, the Owl Cafe and about 200 other properties in the area. Elliott says a few weeks back, the company was working on some vacant beachfront properties.
“Our maintenance guys were working on a property here on Cape San Blas. Cape San Blas is a very treasured natural area and we try to keep it that way. Our guys were working and noticed a lot of bees.”
And Elliott said it wasn’t only the bees that looked out of the ordinary. There was something off about the beach house deck as well.
“Some of the plywood soffit was bending down and you could see there was significant weight in there, so we suspected there was a hive in there. That’s when we called the Rish family to come in and take over.”
Nathan Rish and his dad James are the corporate execs of Rish’s Tupelo Honey, headquartered in Wewahitchka. In fact, they’re pretty much the whole staff of Rish’s Tupelo Honey. Nathan said the size of the honey deposit beneath the deck was pretty intimidating.
“There was a whole lot of (honey)comb. It wasn’t just the first swarm; you could tell it wasn’t just a year or two minimum. There had been several swarms that come and go and that’s kind of how they do it.”
But given the length of time the bees had been depositing all that honey, Nathan Rish said they had determine how much was there and was it unspoiled and edible?
“About 180 pounds of excess honey and comb. We tested it onsite to make sure it was good and it was good.”
So the Rishes carefully removed the honey, as well as the bees that produced it, to their complex of some 150 hives. Nathan said the new arrivals, which were also found to be free of mites and diseases, settled right in.
“The swarm is really happy. They’re in the backyard and have eaten almost a gallon of sugar water so far, so they wanted that really bad.”
And Rish said his resident bees were happy to have an abundant new food source of their own.
“Our bees here had fun cleaning that honey up. They made a nice meal of it.”
That’s good news for the Rish operation. All commercial honey producers have been challenged in recent years as parasites, viruses and pesticides have devastated their bee populations. But the fresh infusion of nutrition and genetics should help the Rish’s hives be more productive and resilient. And property guy, Matt Elliott, is happy with the way everything turned out, too.
“We feel really strongly about being good neighbors and being good to our environment. Without the environment we have here, this area wouldn’t be as special as it is, so it’s really important to preserve that. I can tell you the Rish family actually gave me some of that Tupelo honey off the back of their truck. I’ve never had a better honey, so I encourage people to buy their honey from them. It’s top notch!”
As well as now being part of a unique connection between the beach and the beehive.
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