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Business Spotlight: Karattopp Bees

 Chris Jones: Greene Publishing, Inc.

Greene Publishing, Inc. Photo by Chris Jones, August 29, 2017 Connie Woodward owns Karattopp Bees, a bee farm that produces local honey. She recently checked on one of her bees' hives to monitor the progress of a honeycomb.

Something exciting is buzzing in Lee. Business partners Connie Woodward and Randy Whittaker are operating a 'sweet' cottage-based industry: Karattopp Bees. The pair have nearly two million bees spread across four apiaries, or bee-yards, working hard day in and day out, turning nectar from local plants into sweet, sticky honey. Woodward is originally from southeast Texas, and Whittaker is from Pensacola, Fl. They are nearing the transition from hobby to commercial business, and are currently selling their honey under the protective umbrella of Florida cottage industry laws, which exempt them from restrictive policies and industrial-level inspections.

Karattopp sells different types of honey, depending on the time of year and from what species of plants the bees are getting their nectar. Popular regional honey types include gallberry honey and saw palmetto honey. Karattopp's honey is essentially unrefined, keeping the essence of the product intact. Larger industrial honey producers pasteurize and filter their honey, removing many particles that artisan honey producers desire to keep in their honey.

Greene Publishing, Inc. Photo by Chris Jones, August 29, 2017
Randy Whittaker and Connie Woodward operate Karattopp Bees and sell the resulting honey.

In the spring and early summer, the many hives that Woodward and Whittaker oversee require weekly inspections. During this time of year, the bees are working overtime. If the hives fill with wax and honey too soon, the bees will swarm as they attempt to expand their operation and look for more real estate. In the slower months, the hives are only inspected every few weeks. Some of the honeycomb frames start with a plastic template which the bees use to build their honeycomb cells. Others are left blank and the bees build the cells from scratch.

Once a particular honeycomb frame is filled with honey it is placed in a honey extruder, which spins the frame and literally slings the honey out of their tiny wax holding cells. The honey then drips down the interior walls of the extruder and flows into a container at the bottom. The honey is then lightly strained through a mesh sieve before being packaged and labeled.

Under the Florida cottage industry laws, products produced and sold through this classification must be done so with hand to hand transactions with the owner.

If you are interested in purchasing honey from Karattopp Bees, contact them by phone at (850) 290-3116 or by email at bees@karattopp.com.

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