Honeybees themselves are essentially the same worldwide, but the honey they produce tastes different due to their various nectar sources. Tupelo honey, for example, is made from the nectar of those rare flowering trees found in the slow-moving black water rivers. Sourwood honey comes from the north Georgia mountains. “Those two honeys are arguably the best in the world,” Dennard notes.
Honeycombs are made up of hexagonal beeswax cells that serve as storage units for honey.
How does that nectar turn into honey? Let’s just say bees get their reputation as “workers” honestly. Dennard explains that collectively bees have to visit 2,000,000 flowers to make one pound of honey, and every colony will visit over 500,000,000 flowers each year. Of course, it all centers around the queen who gives her hive purpose. She can live 40 times longer than an average worker bee.
Should you envision yourself as a beekeeper, you’re in luck. “It is easy to begin and is a lifetime of learning from there,” Dennard comments. He recommends joining a local beekeeping club, doing ample research and asking as many questions as you can.
Beyond supporting thousands of beekeepers daily, Savannah Bee Co. is doing its part in inspiring the next generation of beekeepers, too. The Bee Cause Project, a nonprofit co-founded by Dennard, teaches school-aged children everything there is to know about bees and honey production. Through the organization, nearly 1,000 hives are now at schools across the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean.
Even large corporations are enhancing the bee population. For example, the Intercontinental Exchange in Sandy Springs, Georgia, just outside of Atlanta, hosts three honeybee hives on the campus in partnership with Bee Downtown, which places and monitors honeybee hives in major metropolitan areas, and Sterling Culinary Management, which provides culinary management services. The honey produced from the hives at the Intercontinental Exchange is ultimately used for various menu items at Sterling Spoon, the campus café run by Sterling Culinary Management.
“When a corporation installs hives on its campus, it impacts three miles in every direction, which is the distance a honeybee will fly in search of food,” explains John Metz of Sterling Culinary Management. By adding hives in urban areas, urban plants and vegetables flourish, and the greater community is positively impacted as well.
Bee Downtown’s corporate hives are found on campuses in cities such as Atlanta, Charlotte, D.C., Orlando, Raleigh/Durham and Richmond. Companies such as Chick-fil-A, Delta, Pinewood Studios, Georgia Power and AT&T all have Bee Downtown hives. In addition to these grassroots efforts, large commercial beekeepers also play a pivotal role in apiary growth and protection. According to the USDA, commercial beekeepers are responsible for providing the majority of pollination services to growers, making their jobs some of the most important in the agriculture industry and beyond.
“A commercial beekeeper has at least 1,000 hives. Here in Homerville in Clinch County, Georgia, we are responsible for 2,400 hives,” says honeybee farmer Ben Bruce. Thanks to what we know about bees, the agricultural impact from Bruce’s hives stretches well beyond his farms.
Whether watching bees enjoy a bright flower or tasting your favorite honey, take a moment to reflect on the amazing bee. Without these pollinators, our world would look and taste remarkably different.