WESLEY CHAPEL — Monica Obando is an apitherapist and a beekeeper. So she respects what other people fear: bees.
She and her husband, Juan Obando; her sister, Jenny Castro, and her mother, Maria Leguizamon own enough bees to have started a business: Santa Monica Florida, which harvests and sells raw honey.
The venture began in 2011, when Monica Obando, 42, suffered from arthritis. Her husband had heard about apitherapy, the use of what bees produce, such as venom, to help alleviate pain caused by various illnesses. So they took a class in it.
During the course, she got stung by a bee, on purpose. The instructor had an EpiPen, in case students' allergies to bee stings turned out to be severe. Obando's wasn't.
So she bought bees, and her husband stung her with them on a consistent basis so they could release their venom.
"The first two weeks are the worst," she said. "You get a fever, a rash, chills."
If you can get through that, she said, you can get to the benefits of the bee venom. After seven months of use, Obando's pain was gone. But she still had bees in hives on her 3-acre farm, which produced a lot of honey.
What could she do with it? Start a business, they decided.
They harvest the honey and pack it in decorative glass bottles. It comes in several varieties, depending from which plant the bees gathered pollen and nectar: wildflower, saw palmetto, galberry tree or orange blossom.
After the bees gather the pollen and nectar, they return to the hive, where they regurgitate. What they regurgitate is honey. The flower it comes from determines its color, texture and flavor.
Obando's business, Santa Monica Florida, neither heats nor filters the honey. She and her family sell it online and at fresh markets, where one of their goals is to educate passers-by.
"So many people don't know where honey comes from," Obando said. "They don't know that the bees pollinate the plants that produce the fruit that we eat."
They may not know, she added, that honey can soothe sore throats or assist with digestion, or that the bees that create it are smart.
"People are afraid. (But) once you educate them, they find value in the honey," Obando said. "And they find value in the bee."
For information about Santa Monica Florida honey, call (813) 699-0606, send email to email@example.com or visit santamonicafl.com.