Next time you consider swatting that bothersome bee, Bobby Colson advises you to reconsider. It may be most appropriate to thank the bees! Without these tiny workers, summer pies would go without juicy berries and salads without crisp vegetables.
Bees are a gardener’s best friend, and no one knows this better than Colson, a second-generation Georgia bee-keeper. “BJ,” as his wife calls him, is the owner of B&G Honey Farm, located 40 miles west of Savannah. Colson and family spend their days keeping over 100 hives, the farmer’s idea of “retirement.” In years past, B&G Honey has monitored up to 450 hives.
“Working with bees is like any other job, it’s a lot of hard work and it’s hot work,” Colson said. “You’re going to be stung fairly often. But the draw is the enjoyment of taking a hive of bees and seeing them grow—not only bees, but the honey as well.”
If you want to know why your vegetables are dying, Colson has the answer. “If you see your food growing deformed, most often it’s a lack of pollination. Bees just make the world of difference.” Beekeeping and organic gardening go hand in hand.
Colson’s father raised bees, but at that time the accepted practice was to use various chemicals for their care. The up-and-coming generation of bee-keepers have moved away from these chemicals and back to organics.
Colson’s simple trick to keeping the bees healthy? Powdered sugar. “We have not used any chemicals in the last six years. If the bees have have caught something and aren’t producing, you sprinkle powdered sugar on them. They don’t like the sugar and so they work extra hard to clean themselves, in the process, cleaning off what’s making them sick.”
Renewed interest in beekeeping has opened up a whole new branch of the bee business for Colson. B&G Honey Farm sells bee-keeping starter kits, bees included, and he lauds the recent interest in bee-keeping and works rigorously to encourage this rediscovered passion. “So many people want hives for the well-being of their gardens. All you need is one or two and it makes the world of difference in the production of your garden. Plus, you get honey.”
According to Colson, honey’s flavor depends upon its flower source. B&G carries all sorts of local varieties like Tupelo and Orange Blossom. The hottest seller is always good ole‘ Georgia Wildflower Honey. According to Colson, it tastes great on anything: from biscuits to carrots, chicken to sweet potatoes. Not only is it delicious, it also helps ward off allergies and soothe sore throats.
For Bobby, the best part of being a beekeeper is the relationship he builds with his customers. “We love the markets because we meet new people every time. We meet people and after we see them a few times, we begin to call them by their first name. Eventually, we know their favorite honey.”
Catch B&G Honey at the Forsyth Farmers Market on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. or at the Statesboro Market from 9 a.m.. to 1:30 p.m.
For more information, or if you are interested in becoming a novice beekeeper, check out their website.