South Carolina Honey

Honeybee Pollinating Clover
Clover is native to South Carolina and very popular amongst pollinators in this state

South Carolina honey farms produce a variety of different kinds of honey. Some of the most popular types include orange blossom and tupelo honey. Between 2018 and 2020 honey production in the state has gone down slightly, however, the value of honey production has gone up by 1.5% due to the rise in honey price.

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    When Did South Carolina’s Honey Production Begin?

    Honey bees were likely first brought to South Carolina in the late 1630s by European colonial settlers. Commercial beekeeping and honey production really started taking off, however, a few hundred years later in the mid-to-late 19th century.

    This was when a large number of new beekeeping-related inventions became available on the market, which greatly increased honey production. In 1859, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia’s combined honey production totalled 3,535,961 pounds of honey. Families and other smaller commercial enterprises even continued to keep bees throughout the Civil War.

    How Much Honey Does South Carolina Produce?

    According to a recent 2020 USDA report, honey production is up 2 percent from 2018 across the entire United States. In South Carolina, however, honey production has gone down slightly. In 2019 752,000 pounds of honey were produced compared to 768,000 pounds of honey produced in 2018, but that isn’t necessarily bad news.

    South Carolina beekeepers have been able to compensate by successfully raising the price of honey over the past year: in 2018 the average price of honey per pound was $3.17, but it’s now $5.01. Concurrently, the value of honey production is now about 1.5% larger than it was in 2018.

    What Are the Main Types of Honey South Carolina Produces?

    The most popular types of honey sourced from and sold in the state of South Carolina are wildflower honey, orange blossom honey, and tupelo honey. Wildflower honey and other types of poly- or multi-floral honey varieties are cheaper because they’re easier to produce—this is the kind of honey produced when bees are simply allowed to look for food among whatever plants happen to be in bloom in the local area.

    Honey that comes from a single flower (uni- or mono-floral, or varietal honey) is going to be more expensive because beekeepers must make sure their honey bees are in the exact location where a specific species of plant can be found, and the movement of the bees must align perfectly with this plant’s growing season as well.

    Tupelo honey is unique to the South and highly sought-after. It has light amber colouring (sometimes with slightly green undertones) and tastes buttery and sweet. The trees that bees visit to create tupelo honey are located in swampy areas mostly in Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas.

    It’s one of the most expensive varieties of honey in the world because of its very short harvest season (only two to three weeks) and because of how much equipment and labour it takes to create it.

    Honey Pacifica - Orange Blossom Honey
    Orange blossom honey is a popular type of honey in South Carolina - Credit: Honey Pacifica
    Wildflower Honey
    Wildflower honey is also sold by most South Carolina honey farms - Credit: The Travelling Bee Co.

    Is South Carolina Honey Produced Year-Round or Seasonally?

    Both beekeepers and bees do some amount of work during every month of the year because the mild winters allow bees to remain active when they wouldn’t be able to in colder areas. However, there’s still the least work to be done in the winter and the most work to be done in the summer, which is when most of the honey is harvested. Tupelo honey is usually harvested in late spring.

    Which Types of Honey Bees Produce South Carolina Honey?

    There are seven different species of honey bee, but only one species is found in the United States. The Western honey bee, or Apis mellifera, originates from Europe and now has been brought to every one of the 50 states.

    There are dozens of subspecies of Apis mellifera, but it’s not common that you’d find an entirely purebred honey bee, and there aren’t any subspecies/races of honey bee more commonly used in South Carolina than any other state. The most popular race of Western honey bee by far is the Italian honey bee, or Apis mellifera ligustica.

    There are other somewhat popular types of honey bees (including Caucasian and Carniolan honey bees), but they’re normally preferred in states where intensely cold winters are an issue. As long as certain precautions are taken to keep them cool enough, bees don’t mind South Carolina’s hot and prolonged summers.

    Which Honey Bees and Nectar-Producing Plants Are Native to South Carolina?

    Even though honey bees are comfortable in all kinds of North American climates, there are no honey bees native to the continent. Bees native to South Carolina include Miner Bees, Yellow-Faced Bees, Sweat Bees, and Leaf-Cutter Bees, and plenty of other types of insects help to pollinate South Carolina’s plants.

    Pollinator-friendly native plants include:

    Hawthorne Huckleberry
    Blackberry Tulip poplar
    Sourwood Persimmon
    Clover Black gum tupelo
    Holly Alder
    Vetch Privet

    Are There Any Major Honey Farms or Apiaries in South Carolina?

    There are six honey farms in South Carolina registered with the National Honey Board. Located in Northwestern South Carolina are Bee Well Honey & Bee Supply in Pickens, Billy’s Goat Hill Farm in Westminster, Carolina Golden Honey in Moore, and Golden Delight Honey, LLC in Lancaster (close to the North Carolina border). In Bowman (in between Charleston and Columbia), there’s also Horsecreek Apiaries and Honey Farms, LLC.

    Other popular honey farms and apiaries in South Carolina include:

    • Flowertown Bee Farm and Supplies in Summerville
    • Greenville Honey Company in Greenville
    • The Carolina Honey Bee Company in Travelers Rest
    • Honey’s Honey, LLC in Fort Mill
    • Buzzed Bee Company, LLC in Lexington

     

    The most popular apiary in South Carolina, though, is a place called Bee City in Cottageville, which is close to Charleston. It was founded in 1989 when husband and wife Archie and Diane Biering started an apiary of just five hives, but Bee City has now grown into a local tourist destination with both an apiary of 130 hives and a large petting zoo. Bee City is modelled to feel like an actual “city for bees,” fit with signs, streets, and even a bee church.

    Carniolan Bee Collecting Nectar
    Carniolan honey bee collecting nectar in order to make South Carolina honey

    What Environment Is Needed to Produce South Carolina Honey?

    South Carolina, alongside other states in the Southeast, is a popular place for beekeeping. Although on average the Southeast produces about the same amount of honey as the Northeast, there are many honey bee colonies located in this region, especially in the winter when some beekeepers from the North truck their hives further southward to escape the cold.

    As long as apiaries are located in shady enough areas, honey bees don’t have any problems making it through the hot summers. Another benefit of beekeeping in South Carolina is that the winters are mild enough that bees are able to take refreshing flights from the hive, which keeps them calm and happy.

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