In the summer, we humans may be less-active gardeners, especially during the hotter months of July and August. It’s then we particularly appreciate our flowering shady trees—royal poincianas, for example, ebony and golden shower trees—for refuge from the sun. The honeybees on the other hand are busier than ever. They, too, make for the trees but also to flowering plants and shrubs because of their constant search for nectar and pollen. Unlike us, they love two invasives: the fiddlewood and the Mexican or Brazilian pepper. Some beekeepers harvest during both honey flows in Bermuda. Others harvest only at Christmas. The smaller one happens June–July when fiddlewood blooms, and the major one in September through November when the Brazilian pepper blooms.
Did you know?
- To make one spoonful of honey, bees have to visit four thousand flowers.
- A third of Bermuda’s honey comes from Brazilian pepper.
- Bees have different eyesight from that of humans. They see black instead of red. Their colour range includes yellow, blue-green, blue, violet, and ultraviolet. They can also see a mixture of yellow and ultraviolet, known as “bees purple.”
- Young worker bees, after each developing a special wax gland, spend their first 12–20 days engorging honey to make the substance, which they discharge through slits in their underbellies. They must consume between six and eight pounds of honey to secrete one pound of beeswax.
- Bees in an average-sized colony can bring in one hundred pounds of pollen in a season.
- Bee swarms in Bermuda tend to happen in May.
Beeswax Heals a Turtle
In 2020, a wounded turtle with two gaping gashes to its shell was brought to BAMZ. Enter Spencer Field, owner of Passion Fields Maintenance and Beekeeping Ltd., who donated raw combs of honey to treat the turtle’s injuries. The honey’s natural bacterial properties helped to heal its wounds and in August 2020, the recovered turtle was released off Clearwater beach.
“…bees are the batteries of orchards, gardens, guard them.” Virgil’s Bees by Carol Ann Duffy
Bees, of course, are essential to our environment and agriculture. They not only provide us with honey and beeswax but also are crucial pollinators. It’s important to encourage and protect them as much as possible, as Morgan Freeman well knows. He has converted his 124-acre Mississippi ranch into a bee sanctuary.
- Grow plants with flowers bees like. See list below and asterisked plants in planting guides. Particular summer favourites in Bermuda include portulaca, milkweed, bottle brush and ice plant.
- Bees need water in the summer months. Make sure there is some available.
- Avoid using pesticides—they can kill bees.
- Keep a portion of your lawn uncut. Bees love many weeds, including plantain.
- Never kill a swarm—phone a beekeeper to remove it for you.
Bermuda Flowers Honeybees Like and Help to Pollinate
Brazilian or Mexican pepper
|Milkweed (also food for monarch butterflies)
Pride of India
Did you know?
- Bees tend not to like double flowers, such as double marigolds and many roses. The petals are too tightly wrapped to allow bees to access the nectar.
Vegetable Planting Guide
Cucumber*, squash*, sweet potatoes
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale*, leeks, mustard greens, pepper, radish*, rutabaga.
Cauliflower*, celery, chard, cucumber, eggplant*, parsley*, pepper, potatoes, turnip
Flower Planting Guide
Celosia, cosmos*, gazania, globe amaranth, marigold, vinca and zinnia
Amaranthus, balsam, calendula, coreopsis, gaillardia, hollyhock, portulaca*, rudbeckia,
Impatiens, marigold, salvia, snow-on-the-mountain
*Flowers Bees Like
Reducing our use of plastic is crucial to our planet’s health. But how do we do it, especially in the kitchen where for decades we have used plastic containers with lids and plastic wrap for food storage? Once again, we can look to the bees for help. Bee wrap coverings offer an excellent, environmentally friendly alternative for storing nuts, whole fruits and vegetables, as well as sandwiches. You can use any old cotton cloth you may have on hand—old tea towels for example, or cotton clothes—or you can buy new. Stiffened with wax, the cotton becomes unbreathable, thus ideal for keeping food fresh. You can mould the wrap over the top of a bowl, pinching it over the rim. Or you can fold the wrap around a food item, following its shape.
You will need:
Pure cotton cloth (the thinner the better)
Block of beeswax or beeswax pellets, if available. (Buy from a local beekeeper if possible.)
- A 12-inch square cloth is good for covering a bowl, an 8-inch square for storing individual vegetables, fruits, and sandwiches.
- One square yard of fabric makes three large wraps.
- Scant 5 tsps grated beeswax are enough for larger wraps, scant 3 tsps wax for smaller ones.
- Keep a baking tray especially for making bee wraps.
- Using pinking shears helps prevent fraying edges.
- Wash and dry fabric if new.
- Preheat oven to 185 ºF.
- Using ruler and tailor’s chalk, measure the fabric to the sized squares you want.
- Cut out the squares.
- Grate beeswax.
- Line a shallow baking tin with parchment paper and place square or squares on to it. (Note: Do not use wax paper.)
- Sprinkle grated beeswax evenly over the fabric.
- Place in the oven for up to five minutes. (Look through oven glass door to check wax has melted. The fabric should look wet.)
- Use a new paintbrush to spread the wax evenly over all the fabric. (If the wax hardens before you have finished painting, simply put baking sheet back in the oven for one or two minutes.)
- 10. Hang wraps out to dry and harden on a clothesline. Should take up to 15 minutes.
- Clean by sponging or washing with cold water.
- Bee wraps last for about a year. You can renew them by adding beeswax to them and re-heating them.
- Do not use for storing raw meat.
A Light Summer Recipe for Hot Sunny Days
Shrimp or Chicken a la Creole (Serves 6–8)
2 cups chopped Bermuda onion
1 large sweet green pepper or 2 small ones chopped
2 red bell peppers or 4 oz pimentos
2 large cloves of garlic chopped
7 sticks of celery sliced
2 tbsps canola oil
3 pounds medium fresh tomatoes chopped or 2 tins (fresh tomatoes skinned or tinned*)
6 tbsps tomato paste
Dash of cayenne or Red Devil sauce
2 tsps paprika
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
2 pounds frozen shrimp or cooked chopped chicken**
*Fresh tomatoes taste better but tinned add brighter colour. A mix works.
**Optional. Omit for vegetarians
- Heat oil in a large pan or flameproof casserole dish.
- Sauté onion, green pepper and red bell pepper, if used, until lightly coloured.
- Add garlic and sauté for a few seconds.
- Add tomatoes, their liquid if tinned, and all other ingredients except pimentos, shrimp or chicken.
- Cover and simmer for 25–30 minutes until vegetables are tender.
- Add shrimp or chicken and pimentos and cook for 5–7 minutes.
Serve with boiled white rice and a green salad.