There are few things more inspiring and life-affirming than seeing someone work deliberately and passionately both for their betterment and for the benefit of the community as a whole. That is what bees do, daily. That is what Chef John Sexton of Turnberry Isle Miami in Aventura does.
Chef John is allergic to bees. He spent years working up the courage to start his apiary until a member of the Turnberry Golf Club gave him The Beekeeper’s Bible. “The heck with it,” he thought, “I’ll just pack an epi-pen.”
My encounter with Chef John
Once I arrive at the hives, Chef John gives me gloves, a suit and-and head-gear. “Suit-up,” he says, “or you’re gonna freak out.” There’s elastic at the bottom of each leg. Gloves go under the elastic-banded sleeve. I don a helmet of sorts, with a veil that goes under the suit at the shoulders and closes with velcro and a zipper. It’s sweltering. “Are you allergic?” he asks. I realize I have no idea. It somehow feels safe with Chef John and with my Michelin Man costume. I’m not scared and am soothed into taking my time with the buzzing of busy bees. If nothing I know that Chef John knows how to deal with allergy as he is allergic to bees as well.
“I come out [to see the bees every day or every other day. I light a cigar, stand back and check on them…I like the stewardship,” Chef John says. Bees “beard,” or cluster/hang outside of hives due to heat caused by overpopulation, or, boiling temperatures. When that happens, it might be time to expand their colony, introducing open space for them, so they don’t over-populate and storm off. Two of Chef John’s hives collapsed in the past, three weeks apart. Though there are clues, no one knows why the hives collapsed. The same issue can be seen all over the world, and Chef John is doing everything he can to prevent the death of his hives.
What I learned from this encounter
The golden/orange color you see in the hive is honey which will be harvested within the week. Colonies produce at different rates. Last year, Turnberry Isle collected ninety pounds of honey for use in the resort’s baking and pastry kitchens, savory kitchens, and bars. Bees have natural GPS. Bees venture out only to find pollen (up to four and a half miles). Once home, they dance a jig, giving direction to other bees who will go out and forage. The little-winged insects observe the law of least resistance and live by the law of conservation of energy.
They will never travel farther than necessary to make honey– only as far as they need to survive while contributing to the greater good of the planet by pollinating. Making sure that bees have enough food to survive and to create enough honey for the owner is the responsibility of the beekeeper. This same rule applies to the source of fresh water as well. The beekeeper has to care for their bees and provide them with everything they need and also to make sure that they aren’t disturbing bees too often.