In the Spring of 2019, we partnered with local bee company, Elysium Honey to help us establish 5 honeybee bee colonies and a bear proof enclosure. Each hive has approximately 50,000 honeybees and 1 queen bee. The bee population has been declining in recent years and Elysium seeks to help save the bee population by offering land stewardship services where they advise you on how to properly convert your land to a healthy pollinator habitat in addition to creating their own local honey products.
Having bees here at Pippin Hill not only helps to rebuild the honeybee population, but they also pollinate our vegetable and cut flower gardens – we have even experienced larger yields in the vegetable garden as well as larger flowers! Our first honey harvest was in July of this year and approximately 80 pounds was extracted from honey filled frames. We consider the honey as a nice by-product of beekeeping, a little reward for being good stewards of the land.
Elysium Honey continues to assist Diane and Celina and play a pivotal role in our first honey harvest. We sat down with the experts themselves, Carrie, Brooke and Diego from Elysium, to discuss the beekeeping process and the pivotal role that bees play in our everyday habitat.
Q&A with Carrie, Brooke and Diego from Elysium Honey Company
Share a little background and the what/why behind Elysium?
Elysium was founded to address the plight of the pollinator. Beginning with 12 acres of land along the Mechums River in Batesville, and based on the research of a group of UVA students at the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, we set out to raise awareness of habitat loss, hive health and produce honey made with the highest standards. We partner with like-minded beekeepers around the globe to bring exceptional honeys to market.
Elysium’s team is made up of; Lyons Brown – owner and founder, Carrie Meslar – Managing Director, Diego DeCorte – Head Beekeeper, Brian Morse – Habitat Director , Brooke Savage – beekeeper to the Pippin Hill hives.
Why is saving the bee population so important?
Bees are sensors, they thrive if the environment is healthy. Three major problems that are overwhelming the bee population include: the overuse of chemicals in the environment, the scarcity of forage and the presence of parasites. When bees thrive, the other pollinators plus insects and birds also thrive.
What’s something people can do at home/everyday to help save the bee population?
It can be as simple as planting flowers in small containers and mowing the lawn once a month. This allows clover, chicory, and dandelion to bloom in season. Allow flowering weeds to grow, like soligado, chicory and clover because these are the real local plants. Avoid the practice of monoculture – growing only a single crop, plant or flower in the same space. Nature thrives through diversity – the more diversity, the better for the environment. Plant Virginia Natives is a great resource for local species that are intended to thrive in our ecosystem, support our local food web, add beauty, and contribute to the health of our local environment – without the need for chemical or intensive maintenance.
What makes Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards unique/attractive for honey bees?
Diane and Celina have planted a great variety of honey bee favorites and are always keeping an eye out for which plants the bees are working on seasonally and propagate those species. The bees at Pippin Hill are incredibly lucky to have a horticultural staff committed to providing quality resources, from African blue basil to lavender, to chicory in the fields. The landscape is constantly evolving to support the bees thanks to their talents.
How does the apiary tie into the vineyard at Pippin Hill – any pollination?
When the vines are in bloom, the bees love to visit the flowers. The presence of bees invites the vineyard managers to use herbicides, pesticides and other chemicals with more accuracy, or use other methods to tackle problems with the vines, like the use of specific pheromones against parasites, avoiding insecticides. Respecting and working with nature is a pathway to a better environment and a more sustainable agriculture.
At Pippin Hill, We proactively embrace and follow environmentally sound and supportive viticulture practices, minimizing chemical repellents and optimizing natural sprays to keep our vines productive and our land healthy.
What Pippin Hill wines pair best with honey?
Different kinds of honey pair well with different types of wine. Because Chef Ian’s cuisine/menu is so colorful and full of flavors, honey becomes a natural ingredient to incorporate in the recipes and within the pairing of wines. The pairing depends in part with the aging process of the wine, the use of wood, and the body of the wine. As a general rule of thumb, pair more intense honey with more intense wine.
The more floral and fruity, delicate honeys – Citrus, Sourwood and Sulla – are best paired with whites wines. Try with Pippin Hill’s Viognier or Zero White.
Our Acacia honey pairs well with dessert wines or with wines that have some residual sugar. Acacia is acidic, floral, long lasting and has some of the characteristics that are typical of a light dessert wine.
Sparkling wines, such as Pippin Hill’s Sparkling Rosé or Sparkling Blanc de Blanc, pair well with our wildflower honey. The acidity and more intense flavor of the wine pairs with the light yeast, bread-crumb taste of the honey.
Reds pair well with the more intense honeys – Sourwood, Tulip Poplar and Castiglio. Try with our Easton Blue or Cannon Red!
Carrie is enthusiastic about a recent summer pairing, “On a recent visit to Pippin I had the peach and shishito peppers with honey and goat cheese, with a glass of the Petit Manseng and it was one of the culinary highlights of my summer.”
#1 tip for someone interested in starting their own bee colony at home?
Have a mentor – there are too many challenges and variabilities in beekeeping! Enroll in your local beekeeping club, register for classes and sign up with an experienced mentor. Bees require three years of guided assistance to keep them alive, so be prepared for a lot of reading. Beekeeping is very much a community activity – all our bees are in this together so the beekeepers are too – be prepared to be involved.
How is nectar transformed into honey?
The nectar is sourced directly from the flowers and transported back to the hives and deposited in the honeycomb. Nectar has a high water content, so the bees go to work evaporating the extra water with a combination of stomach enzymes and fanning over it with their wings. Once the nectar has less than 18% water content, it is capped over and can be stored almost indefinitely without fermenting or spoiling.
Favorite Elysium Honey?
We have 8 honeys in our selection, and these are our babies. They are excellent and each are different and unique. Our most popular is our local Piedmont wildflower honey, but Castiglio, Citrus, Sourwood and Lavender are also very successful.
Favorite part of the bee-keeping/honey making process?
Watching a flowering tree/shrub or plant that is covered in honey bees and other native pollinators. It is rewarding to see them busily foraging on flowers and collecting pollen on their hind leg baskets in bright colors. The Spring season is also a very exciting time for beekeeping. The colonies develop and grow at exponential rates while they draw new comb and collect pollen and nectar.
Where can people buy Elysium honey? Online? Farmer’s Markets?
Our entire range is available on Elysiumhoney.com, with some expressions being available when possible. We also have a variety of expressions for purchase through various partners. We participate in the Local Food Hub Wednesday Drive-Thru Farmers Market and the Saturday Market at IX.
Local retail partners carry a variety of expressions: Feast, Market St Wine, Be Just, JM Stock, Olivia, The Elderberry, Union Market Richmond, The Batesville Market, Polyface Farm, Barboursville Vineyard, Gabriele Rausse Vineyard, Beer Run, and the list is growing!
Anything else you’d like to share?
We have seen the Charlottesville community really embrace Elysium during the pandemic, and are so grateful for the support. Buying local is more important now than ever.
Interested in learning more? Check out Elysium Honey Company’s website, where you can also purchase their locally made honey!