The founder of Miele del Doge honey
Mara La Rosa was born and raised in Venice. From a young age she helped her mum and dad take care of their small vegetable garden on their house. She remembers watering tomatoes, beans, carrots, courgettes, green beans, figs, pears, apples, potatoes and onions. They produced their own marmalade, tomato sauce and even their own wine. Mara has always been proud of her Venetian upbringing, her roots and traditions. She started working in Venice when she was 17 years old, but it wasn’t until she turned 50 that she moved to Sant’erasmo and started a new adventure, beekeeping. And that is how Miele del Doge was born.
The pristine biodiversity of Sant’Erasmo
Sant’erasmo is an island in the Venetian lagoon northeast of Venice. It has been for many years Venice’s own garden, and is famous for producing wine and honey. It is a unique territory for many reasons:
- The combination of sweet and salty waters
- A variety of numerous private gardens
- A lack of industries and only a few vehicles, therefore less pollution
This all leads to better quality produce and a happy biodiversity. Indeed, every spring and summer you can experience a burst of colours, scents and flavours from the primary produce.
Back in the 15th century, the Duke Tommaso Mocenigo supplied his banquets with fruits, vegetables, honey and wine exclusively from Sant’erasmo. It was a privilege only nobility could afford.
As the years passed by, Venice became every year a bigger tourist destination. The business opportunities grew, and younger generations left the fields and the island to pursue other interests.
The story of Miele del Doge and their incredible honey
Miele del Doge’s main aim is to rescue Venetian traditions and to promote a healthier way of life for next generations, just like the one Mara experienced while growing up.
What started as an interest became a passion for her and her son, and now they run a family business.
Mara knew nothing about bees in those early days. She knew that they were wonderful beings, hard working, and disciplined. Then she began to learn more. For example, they protect and defend each other with their life. They evolve for the well-being of the colony, and can adapt to weather climate and other changes in circumstances. Mara and her family were adamant that these incredible creatures deserve respect and help for what they do for nature, not to be exploited. For the La Rosas, it is a privilege to work in nature and continue to learn along with the bees. They believe that together, they are a team.
In the sobering words of Albert Einstein, “If bees disappeared off the face of earth, man would only have four years left to live”.
Sant’erasmo flora – an abundance of food for busy Miele del Doge bees!
The rich variety of flowers on Sant’erasmo deliver a veritable smorgasbord for the Miele del Doge’s hard-working bees. Spring honey is influenced by the following flowers:
- Dandelion – the most important of all the blooms for these bees, this is the first nectar they extract and as a result, it remains their primary source of food inside the hive
- Acacia – an intoxicating scent for the bees, they absolutely go crazy for this flower! Its abundance gives them a good reserve of food in the hive for those periods when cold weather inhibits their ability to forage. It helps give the honey a sublime hint of vanilla
- Jasmine, Virgult and Bitosforo – a beautiful spring wildflower trio. These white, sweet and delicate blooms send the bees into overdrive
- Linden – with its sweet, minty scent and flavour, it’s reminiscent of mountain herbs
Summer honey is derived mostly from blackberries and artichokes, which sees the produce move away from that classic sweetness and instead begin to exhibit sophisticated, bitter overtones. A particularly unique source of food at this time of year is limonium volgare, or sea lavender. Indigenous to the area, it grow in sand marshes along the lagoon and, due to the tidal sea, will spend half its life underwater. This gives the honey traces of salt and minerals, and makes it a truly special blend.
As the weather begins to cool, bees will forage for barena, glasswort, sea aster, ivy and jerusalem artichokes. This autumnal wildflower combination results in a strongly flavoured honey, with less bitterness and saltiness of its summer sister.
The life cycle and working output of a bee
Bees live up to 40 days in summer, and six months during winter. The very first job a bee must undertake is to clean the hive. If it is not done to the Queen’s satisfaction, it will be ordered to start again. By day three until day ten the bee is responsible for feeding jelly to larvae. Around day eight to 16 they are responsible for collecting pollen. After this their duties expand to producing wax to build honeycomb, becoming entrance guards, collecting water and creating propolis. Death is the only thing that will stop a bee from working.
Per flight, a single bee transports 0.04 grams of nectar, which equates to .02 grams of honey. A 500 gram jar of honey requires the work of approximately 23,000 bees. Just imagine the level of work that has gone into what you spread on your toast!
You can find precious, nutritious, delicious Miele del Doge honey here at Kylestone Nurseries. Visit us or order online.