• Laurel Contributor

Sentinel Species

by Ashley Stewart

When you hear the term “livestock,’’ the last thing you would think of is honey bees, but according to the USDA bees are considered managed livestock.

Which makes sense, if you think about it. Beekeeping is a trade with a long, rich history, especially in Appalachia.

Honey bees were introduced in America probably around the 1600’s. Scots and Irish settlers came to the Southern Appalachian region, bringing their German bees with them. For pioneers and subsistence farmers, honey was more than just a sweetener. It was, and still is, used as an effective cough remedy and burn salve. Beeswax was also used to make candles and balms.

Bees play an enormous role in the vitality of the environment. They are considered a “sentinel species,” which means that the health of the environment is tied directly to the health of the bees. They are responsible for pollinating more than 50 percent of our food sources. And it’s not just fruits and vegetables. The meat and dairy industries depend on the bees to pollinate the alfalfa and soybeans used to feed cattle, pigs and chickens. If the bees start dying, so does everything else.

Here on The Plateau, beekeeper Sean Collinsworth at Killer Bees Honey Apiary is working hard to help turn that tide. With the help of his wife, Denise Altay, Sean manages three apiaries in our area – on the edge of Panthertown, at Skyterra Health and Wellness Club, and at their home in Lake Toxaway.

“For us, it’s not about the honey,” Sean says, “We actively participate in maintaining the health of the environment.”

You can do your part to support the local bee populations by planting native flowering plants. Bees gravitate to plants that they recognize. You can also add a bee fountain to your garden, to provide them with the water they need.

With their focus primarily on the health of the bees, the honey harvest at Killer Bees is limited, but it is organic and 100 percent pesticide-free. It is available for purchase on their website, at Cashiers Farmer’s Market and Cashiers Kitchen Co.

Tours of Killer Bees Honey Apiary are available Friday and Saturday, May through September. If you’d like to schedule a tour and learn more about these fascinating creatures, visit www.killerbeeshoney.com.

The Laurel Magazine

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