Honey is used in a number of the resort’s restaurant dishes as well as for various spa treatments.
In a grassy field surrounded by woods at the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., stand three beehives where thousands of bees are hard at work making honey.
After traveling around gathering nectar from an assortment of flowering plants, they fly back to the hives that Mark Butcher, Sawgrass’ Food and Beverage Director, and Executive Chef David Scalise, who presented on local sourcing and sustainability at Club & Resort Business’ 2011 Chef to Chef Conference, established in April to harvest honey, honeycomb and beeswax to use at the resort.
The bees are producing enough honey to use in bread in some of the restaurants and in some beauty products at the spa.
Butcher told the Florida Times-Union that he and Scalise decided to become beekeepers after meeting small farmers from Northeast Florida at the Neptune Beach farmers market held every Saturday in Jarboe Park. After increasing the resort’s use of local food by buying it from small local farmers, they also began planting their own herbs and datil peppers in flower beds throughout the property. Beekeeping was a natural offshoot of that.
The Marriott uses unaggressive three-banded Italian honeybees that multiply quickly. Each hive has a queen, and the bees are doing so well that they recently started a new hive, or colony. Each colony can have up to 50,000 bees.
The hives are in a large chained-off field across a lake from some guest villas. Well hidden from view and protected by a warning sign, there is plenty of room for more, too.
The resort has plenty of uses for bee products. Honey and honeycomb can be used in a variety of dishes in the restaurant kitchens and it can be used as an ingredient in ale sold at the bars. Jars of honey are also for sale in the resort’s gift shops, too.
In order to prepare for the bees, Butcher and Scalise attended the University of Florida Bee College, a three-day training session at Marineland, to learn responsible beekeeping practices.
As managers of the hives, “we need to be responsible,” Butcher said. The bees are docile, and they only sting in self-defense. Still, Butcher is certified to use a bee sting antidote for people who are allergic.
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