How I Got Started

I started Butterfly gardening many years ago. My yard has been a progression over the years, and has made many transformations. Twenty years ago I experienced Hurricane Andrew. My yard and house were destroyed. We decided not to replace the pool screening and open up the backyard and put in some landscaping. That was the official beginning of my love for gardening in South Florida. I added a beautiful water garden years ago, and have been adding host and larvae plants for pollinators, mostly for the butterfly, for as many years as I can remember. I had my yard certified as a Natural Habitat, through the National Wildlife Foundation. To have a natural habitat you need to provide and meet certain requirements: 1. Provide a food source, 2. Provide a water source, 3. Cover, 4. A place to raise young. I try not to use any pesticides in my yard. I vermicompost and recycle as many of my food scraps as possible. If I had more land I would have a huge compost bin to recycle all my yard cuttings. Basically, I try to lessen my carbon footprint on this earth. In my own little world or backyard I try to provide an ecosystem in my water garden, provide birdbaths, birdfeeders, hummingbird nectar sources, feeders, puddling areas, host plants and nectar plants for butterflies and other pollinators. I am hoping to raise everyone’s awareness of the importance of saving our Butterflies, Blooms & Bees. Without them our world and food source will be in trouble. I hope you all enjoy my journey. I am not a Master Gardener, or Master Beekeeper, an Entomologist, or Journalists. I am simply a Backyard Gardener who is trying to lessen her Carbon Footprint of this Earth.

I hope you enjoy my blogs.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Honey Flow is on in Florida!

It is time for the Brazilian Pepper to start blooming in South Florida. This means a good honey flow for my bees. The Brazilian Pepper provides bees and pollinators a good nectar and pollen source. The Brazilian Pepper is a highly invasive plant that originated from Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil. The Brazilian pepper tree was brought into Florida in the mid-1800s for use as an ornamental plant. Its bright red berries and brilliant green foliage are used frequently as Christmas decorations. Here is a little information about the Brazilian pepper tree, from the internet.

Distribution of Brazilian pepper tree throughout Florida is widespread, although limited to the warmer areas due to sensitivity to cold temperatures. Brazilian pepper can be found as far north as Levy and St. Johns Counties, and as far west as Santa Rosa County. It is an aggressive invader of disturbed habitats; this characteristic has led to its placement on the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council’s list of invasive species. Many plant communities such as hammocks, pinelands and mangrove forests are often invaded and dominated by Brazilian pepper trees. The family Anacardiaceae contains poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, and Schinus terebinthifolius, or Brazilian pepper-tree. People sensitive to poison ivy, oak or sumac may also be allergic to the Brazilian pepper tree because it also has the potential to cause dermatitis to those with sensitive skin. Some people have also expressed respiratory problems associated with the bloom period of pepper tree. Brazilian pepper-tree is a shrub or small tree that reaches over 30 feet in height, typically with a short trunk hidden in a thicket of branches. Some trees can live over 30 years. The leaves are alternately arranged with 1-2 inch long, elliptic, and finely toothed leaflets. The leaves are also reddish, often possessing a reddish mid-rib. The flower clusters are white and 2-3 inches long with male and female flowers that look very similar. The glossy fruits are borne in clusters that are initially green, becoming bright red when ripe. Seeds are dark brown and 0.3 mm in diameter. Flowering occurs from September through November and fruits are usually mature by December. This shrub/tree is one of the most aggressive and wide-spread of the invasive non-indigenous exotic pest plants in the State of Florida. There are over 700,000 acres in Florida infested with Brazilian pepper tree. Brazilian pepper tree produces a dense canopy that shades out all other plants and provides a very poor habitat for native species. This species invades aquatic as well as terrestrial habitats, greatly reducing the quality of native biotic communities in the state. Birds and mammals are the primary mechanisms for dispersal, although seeds may be transported via flowing water. Seeds are viable for up to 2 months, losing viability as time progresses. Germination is improved by scarification. Typically, acids in an animal’s digestive tract provide adequate scarification required for germination. The invasiveness of Brazilian pepper tree in Florida can be attributed to its high germination rates and dispersal agents.

I had no idea the Brazilian pepper tree was related to the poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac. When I was young girl I was highly allergic to all poisons. I talked about all my fond memories as a child playing in the fields and climbing vines in the mountains. It got to the point that if the wind blew I got poison oak, ivy or sumac. I am not sure that this was a fond memory but I do remember being one big pustule. My parents considered getting me desensitized but were advised against it. I must have outgrown this allergy. I should be careful now that I know that the Brazilian pepper is related to the poison ivy, oak and sumac, although I don’t have any desire to go rub up against it. I have enough difficulty being allergic to my bees.

Before I started bee keeping I had no idea what a Brazilian pepper tree was. Now I actually look forward to its blooms and invasiveness. It is almost a year since I started beekeeping. I got my hives October 21, last year. That is when I first learned of the Brazilian pepper tree and how important it is as a nectar source for our bees. I quickly investigated what this tree was all about and discovered that it is really not a tree you want in your yard because of its invasiveness, but if you are a beekeeper you sure are glad if you have any within the bees foraging radius. I actually went in search of this tree. I discovered that my neighborhood is completely covered with this tree around the perimeter. I am really glad that my bees get to enjoy the pollen and nectar provided by this tree. Right now I can see the little white buds of the flower cluster starting to open.

I went into the hive the other day and discovered a large amount of pollen and nectar in the cells. All the hives had a very distinctive color about them, almost golden. My mentor Inese told me that this is the color of the nectar and pollen from the Brazilian pepper. The nectar that is in the cells has an almost iridescent color to it. I remember last year at Christmas when I harvested my first honey it was from the Brazilian pepper tree, it was very dark and delicious tasting. I look forward to harvesting this honey again this year. I took a picture of the honeycomb so that you could see the color; inside the hive box the wood also had this distinct color. The bees are busy capping some very nice honey; I look forward to harvesting this honey in the months ahead.

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