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East County Wednesday, Jul. 25, 2018 2 years ago

Dive into hives in Manatee County

Myakka's Gold Apiary produces a buzz.
by: Amelia Hanks Community Reporter

In 2008, Myakka City's James Cutway was having a few drinks with his buddy, Greg Bogart, when they started talking about mead.

Mead is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented honey and water and Bogart was saying how fun it would be to produce their own. However, Bogart needed someone to harvest the honey. Cutway volunteered.

Ten years later, Cutway is producing lots of honey as owner of Myakka's Gold Apiary, which he started in 2008. But the mead?

“I have a honey business, but I never did make that mead,” Cutway said.

What Cutway does produce is lots of honey, 6,000 to 9,000 pounds per year. The amount varies with the success of his 150 colonies that reside at various locations in Sarasota and Manatee counties. 

On July 17, and with wildflowers in bloom, Cutway pulled up to a farm where he keeps a beehive off Upper Manatee River Road. Each area produces a slightly different taste because of its environment.

After pulling up to this particular spot, Cutway began to take stock of everything he needs to wear in his profession of beekeeper — the specialized suit, gloves and hat — because he was going to be dealing with, after all, bees.

By the time he was decked out, he looked like a Ghostbuster getting ready to do battle with the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. But these were the tools of his trade.

Cutway went to the dozen hives on the farm and used a smoker to put the bees in sort of a trance. The smoke makes the bees lethargic and allows Cutway to go about his business. The smoke masks the pheromones the bees produce to communicate. When bees feel they are under attack, they release an alarm pheromone, which causes all the bees to be agitated.

Smoke also causes bees to consume honey, because they feel they might have to move to another place to live, and they become lethargic after gorging themselves.

The smoke must not have worked so well in the first hive he disrupted because the bees were obviously agitated and began to cluster. Cutway said it was normal bee behavior when the weather is warm and humid, added to the fact their home was perceived to be under attack.

Wearing his protective gear, Cutway still had the opportunity to look at the honey. It wasn't ready for harvest.

“It can take a couple of months for the honey to be ready,” Cutway said. “The honeycomb has to be all the way capped, so that almost every cell is full of honey, then the bees close off the cell.”

Besides checking on progress, Cutway's job is to ensure mites and beetles don’t invade the hives and that the queen doesn’t take over every comb by laying brood, or larvae, where there should be honey. On this day, everything was going well.

Cutway said while everything in his colonies happens naturally, he doesn’t use the term organic.

“We say that we sell raw, unfiltered honey,” Cutway said.

It's because he can’t guarantee that if a bee flies 5 kilometers to collect pollen from a plant, that plant hasn't been sprayed with Miracle-Gro or a weed control product.

The bees probably didn't need to go far from this particular spot as wildflowers were in abundance.

“The wildflower honey is the one that when people taste, they say, ‘Oh my god, that is sweet,’” said Cutway. “However, our best selling honey is the Brazilian pepper honey. It’s not that it’s spicy or anything like that, it’s just a very unique taste.”

Cutway, who also performs "bee relocation" for those who need it, said he produces four varieties of honey — wildflower, orange blossom, Brazilian pepper and palmetto. He sells the honey at local farmers' markets and at a few other locations in East County.

He noted he will set up a stand July 28 at JDub's Brewing Co., 1215 Mango Ave, Sarasota.

Perhaps somebody will need honey for mead.





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