A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

Painted Fields - Belews Creek Chris Crump spent 24 years planting wildflowers across five North Carolina counties as part of the NC Department of Transportation’s Wildflower Program. Now, he and

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Painted Fields - Belews Creek Chris Crump spent 24 years planting wildflowers across five North Carolina counties as part of the NC Department of Transportation’s Wildflower Program. Now, he and

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Painted Fields - Belews Creek Chris Crump spent 24 years planting wildflowers across five North Carolina counties as part of the NC Department of Transportation’s Wildflower Program. Now, he and

Features/

Hive to Honey: A Photo Essay

Painted Fields – Belews Creek

Chris Crump spent 24 years planting wildflowers across five North Carolina counties as part of the NC Department of Transportation’s Wildflower Program. Now, he and his 8-year-old son, Colt, plant their own at Dogwood Farms. Chris and Colt sow 14 acres of flowers to match the seasons: “I plant yellows and reds and oranges for the fall and lighter colors for the summertime,” Chris says. Beginning in late July, visitors are welcomed by thousands of friendly floral faces. They can pick armfuls of sunflowers, cosmos, or zinnias and wander through Chris and Colt’s sea of petals.

 

Chris Crump says that his farm’s zinnias attract more pollinators — from bees to butterflies — than any other flower he grows. photograph by Stacey Van Berkel


Bottled Sunshine – Belews Creek

When Chris and Colt Crump’s pumpkin-planting project produced blooms but no pumpkins, the father and son tried to find out why. “A guy told me, ‘You don’t have enough visitors,’” Chris says. He meant that the Crumps didn’t have bees to pollinate their pumpkin flowers. “I rented two hives, and within days, we had pumpkins coming everywhere on the vines.” Colt has hives of his own now, and his bees mingle with butterflies and native bees on fluffy zinnia heads and broad sunflower faces, along with native plants. The Crumps’ first honey harvest last year yielded seven gallons of golden sweetness to dip, pour, drip, and sop.

 

8096 Belews Creek Road
Belews Creek, NC 27009
dogwoodfarmsbelewscreek.com

 

Colt is involved in every step of the honey business, from planting the nectar-giving flowers to harvesting the honey and selling jars of it emblazoned with his photo to sweet-toothed visitors. photograph by Stacey Van Berkel


Modern Keepers – Raleigh

Today, nearly three-quarters of North Carolinians live in urban areas, but our drive to cultivate persists. Many beekeepers, like Raleigh’s Alice Hinman, tend their bee-filled boxes in backyards and on rooftops in cities across the state. Hinman’s bees gather nectar from window boxes packed with bee balm and traffic-median dandelions, and they’ve been known to have a drink from glasses at open-air restaurants. “I used to say that in my dream life I would be a farmer,” Hinman says. “But really, I liked honey and was buying it in bulk at the farmers market.”

 

Hinman tends more than 50 hives on Raleigh rooftops, in urban backyards, and even tucked into treetops. photograph by Lissa Gotwals


Penthouse Sweet – Asheville

The Renaissance Hotel saves its best views for honeybees. As the country’s first Bee City, USA, Asheville builds abundant pollinator habitats to encourage our natural helpers to flourish. The Renaissance, with the help of Asheville’s Center for Honeybee Research, keeps two hives, each brimming with thousands of buzzing bees, on its lower roof. Passersby can glimpse the south-facing hives from the street, and guests at the hotel can peer down on them from their rooms. And on June 11, hundreds of keepers from around the world will bring their honey to the hotel for the Center’s annual honey contest. The entries are kept in black jars, so all that’s judged are the honeys’ distinctive flavors.

 

31 Woodfin Street
Asheville, NC 28801
(828) 252-8211
marriott.com

 

While Asheville was the first “Bee City, USA,” there are 18 other Bee Cities — and nine Bee Campuses — across North Carolina. Is your community or school a part of the program? Find out at beecityusa.org. photograph by Tim Robison


Drinking the Field – Durham

“When you drink mead, you are drinking the field,” says Diane Currier, owner of Honeygirl Meadery. “You are drinking a moment in time.” A honey harvest captures that moment like an edible photograph, and Currier turns that photograph into mead, or honey wine. At Honeygirl, you can sample handmade, small-batch meads like lavender, orange blossom, and wildflower meadow — many of them made from local North Carolina honey — or you can take a tasting trip that transports you through the flavors of other far-off meadows.

 

105 Hood Street, Suite 6
Durham, NC 27701
(919) 399-3056
honeygirlmeadery.com

Currier blends North Carolina herbs and fruits with her honey wine to make seasonal meads, capturing “a moment on a farm.” photograph by Charles Harris


Icing on the Cake – Winston-Salem

Brittany McGee knows that there’s more to honey than soaking it up by the biscuitful. The Humble Bee Shoppe’s owner and executive chef wrapped this custom honey spice cake in a heavenly cloud of honey and vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream, complete with a honey and white chocolate ganache drip. The icing “is a beautiful, luscious vehicle to deliver a really impactful honey flavor to the cake,” she says. Other custom confections from this bee-loving baker include a rainbow’s worth of macarons and treats like oatmeal raisin cookies made only from plants. Honeybees — the original vegans — would approve.

 

1003 Brookstown Avenue
Winston-Salem, NC 27101
(336) 293-7457

thehumblebeeshoppe.co

 

True to her name, Brittany “Bee” McGee has always loved bees and celebrates them in her confections. Find her recipe for this cake at ourstate.com/honeycake. photograph by Stacey Van Berkel


Biscuits & Honey – Asheville, Charlotte, & Raleigh

At Tupelo Honey, the sweet stuff glazes pork, dusts fried chicken (yes, really!), and sweetens margaritas. But nothing beats the Southern classic: a warm, flaky buttermilk biscuit drizzled with ribbons of honey that pool on your plate — a sweet puddle waiting for the perfect last bite.

 

tupelohoneycafe.com

 

Born in downtown Asheville more than 15 years ago, Tupelo Honey has spread its love for biscuits and honey to more than a dozen locations across the country. photograph by Tim Robison


The Good of the Hive

In 2008, a lost honeybee found Matthew Willey in his New York City studio and changed the course of the artist’s life. “I looked at this creature that looked more like a puppy than an insect,” he says, “and I wanted to know more.” As Willey learned about honeybees, their habits, and their personalities, he untangled threads connecting the insects to humans. “The more I learned about bees, the more I realized how much we have in common.” Now, he strives to keep bees safe for future generations by painting larger-than-life nectar gatherers on walls across North Carolina and the United States. His hope is that people see the beauty of the hive — and how much we have to learn from a soft-spoken, gentle bee.

 

thegoodofthehive.com

 

With each mural painted, like the ones on Hive Design in Gastonia and the Carrboro Fire Department, Willey is a few bees closer to his goal of hand-painting 50,000 honeybees around the world.


Checking in to the Bee Hotel – Raleigh

“When people talk about pollinators, they talk about honeybees or butterflies, but the bulk of plants are pollinated by solitary bees, wasps, and other insects,” says Mark Weathington, director of JC Raulston Arboretum. These insects are all VIP guests at the arboretum’s Air Bee & Bee. Here, hundreds of luxury suites attract members of the more than 500 native North Carolina bee and wasp species that spend their days exploring the arboretum’s 6,600 plant species.

 

4415 Beryl Road
Raleigh, NC 27606

(919) 515-3132 
ncsu.edu/jcraulstonarboretum

 

Weathington says that, regardless of the season, the best bee sightings are on a warm day. photograph by Charles Harris


Pollinator Paradise – Pittsboro

On average, every third bite we eat comes courtesy of the work of pollinators. Those honeybees and native bees, wasps, butterflies and flower flies, and even hummingbirds pollinate an astonishing number of flowers. Squash bees peek out of their underground tunnels, ready to visit zucchini and pumpkin blossoms, the shape of the fuzz on their bellies a perfect match for the shape of their favorite flowers. Fig wasps pollinate and die inside figs; without them, fig trees would cease to be. Now, we know how strong the bonds between us and these tiny creatures are. To help them flourish in Pittsboro, Agricultural Extension Agent Debbie Roos created a Pollinator Paradise at Chatham Mills. “I love pointing out my favorite native plants in bloom, including shrubs like buttonbush, which blooms for four months,” Roos says. “Everyone can make a difference with their gardening efforts.” By choosing to plant bee-friendly blooms, we can all keep bees, to thank them for keeping us.

 

480 Hillsboro Street
Pittsboro, NC 27312
carolinapollinatorgarden.org

 

Asters have an open-petal policy for welcoming pollinators. Their cheery faces offer nectar and pollen to butterflies, flies, moths, beetles, and even this big, hungry carpenter bee. photograph by Charles Harris

This story was published on Apr 01, 2020

Eleanor Spicer Rice

Eleanor Spicer Rice

Eleanor Spicer Rice earned her Ph.D. in entomology at North Carolina State University. She is the author of Dr. Eleanor’s Book of Common Ants of New York City.