“The bee is more honored than other animals, not because she labors, but because she labors for others.”
Some people spend their entire lives searching for passion and purpose but Ted Dennard was only twelve years old when he found his. An old neighbour by the name of Roy Hightower, an eccentric curmudgeon, was a neighbouring bee keeper who took Ted under his wing in order to teach him the way of the hive. Ted began by selling small jars of honey on his home of St Simon’s Island and continued to do so throughout college. Despite his life long friendship with bees, Ted never planned into go into the business of selling honey because the idea of profiting from his passion seemed alien to him.
Luckily for us, in 2002 Savannah Bee Company was founded. Since then, the company has expanded to three storefronts – on Broughton St. and River St. in Savannah, and one in Charleston – and as of the summer of 2015, they distribute their products to 1800 different stores, 3000 whole sellers and five different counties.
This is a miraculous growth for such a niche company and yet, it is immediately evident open meeting the staff at the Savannah Bee Company that their close knit ranks work in a natural, thriving tandem much like the bees they tend to. Ted remains involved in nearly every aspect of the company including marketing, design, product develop and bee education, and he somehow managed to keep his down to earth love of honey and spread that warmth throughout his employees and costumers. The best example of his ethos is the company logo itself, which was made to mimic the structure of a peace symbol.
The main hive of the company is at the River St. location where they have an entire room of people who cut honeycomb and package it all day, marketing, packaging/shipping, and beauty production departments, and maybe most importantly, company hives where employees learn the intricacies of beekeeping. However cliche it may be, when we entered the Savannah Bee Company hub, it felt very much like a hive, resplendent with its very own, charming and laid-back male version of a Queen Bee (Ted Dennard) and dozens of people who were happily committed to his vision and their work at the company.
Honey, much like wine, is a time capsule; a snapshot of the season, weather, and environment from which it was produced and harvested. This terroir lends each type of honey – tupelo, wild flower, acacia etc. – a distinctly unique note. This is why Charleston honey differs from the Savannah sourced honey, because despite their relative proximity, the bees are exposed to different environs and therefore produce a myriad of dissimilar and distinctive flavours. Savannah Bee Company preserves the integrity of the honey by processing it as little as possible, only going as far as to filter through the massive vats of honey they receive from local beekeepers to rid it of possible debris and dead bees.
With such distinct flavours, it is no wonder that each have a loyal following. For most (including Ted Dennard), it is Tupelo Honey, which, ironically is the most difficult to harvest. The flowers only bloom for two to three weeks each year and require dry, hot weather to attract the bees. The year of 2015 was the worst year in living memory for harvest due to rain; beekeepers had to send the bees on rafts into the middle of swamps just to get them to the blooms. Savannah Bee Company sources all their honey locally except for the acacia honey, which they source from Italy. To make matters simpler for honey-lovers and amateurs alike, the company has suggested pairings on the labels and displays the honeys by sugar type. We recommend the Winter White Honey, a creamed honey that is perfect to spread on rye toast on cold winter days, and the Acacia Honey, which is delicate and beautifully floral.
In addition to their honeys, Savannah Bee Company also makes honey based beauty products and sources and sells mead (you can have a mead tasting at their Broughton St. location, which we highly recommend). Their honeycomb, which they cut by hand on their River st. location, can be used to treat blemishes, while their Royal Jelly Body Butter, which is named for the silky substance used to feed the Queen Bee, makes for incredibly smooth skin. Next on the list for Savannah Bee’s production schedule is their own house-made mead, which we are eagerly awaiting.
As if Savannah Bee Company wasn’t alluring enough with its passionate employees and sweet products, they also founded a very important awareness program – The Bee Cause. Every sale of their Bee Cause Honey brand goes towards the project, which is geared towards educating children about the vital role bees play in our ecosystem. Though the cause was only recently established in 2013, as of 2015 it has installed educational hives in 55 schools, with over 700 more applicants from across the globe (USA, Bali, Australia etc.) on the waiting list to receive one.
The idea is that a school receives a free hive and then to pay it forward, they raise the funds for another school to obtain one. Each institution is given a local bee keeper to teach the children about the hive, tend to it once every ten days and clean it three times each year. The project costs approximately $2000 per school and The Bee Cause pays to replace the hive if the bees die or it is damaged.
Bee’s don’t like it when it’s about to rain, they will also ‘run into you’ to see if you are a threat (Tip: don’t swat at them).
Bees can withstand 117 degrees, hornet can only do 116. Bees will jump an intruding hornet and bring their body temp up to that and burn it alive.
Creamed honies are the hardiest to produce as they require ‘seed honey’ to growth within the raw honey base for seven days before they are able to shelve it.
Male ‘Drone’ bees exist only to mate with the Queen Bee. If there is a shortage of honey, they are the first to be voted off the hive.
Bees are incredibly smart. Not only can they differentiate human faces but Los Alamos scientists have also trained them to detect bombs!
Honey has no expiration date.