Atlanta Urban beekeeping on the rise

If it seems that the buzz around bees has picked up volume, that’s because it has. According to the USDA, bees help pollinate one-third of all our food, but recently, a mysterious and destructive honeybee disease called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has been wiping out record numbers of hives across the U.S. Although CCD is a common phenomonom, scientists can’t explain why it’s increasing at such a devastating rate.

Coincidentally, headlines about the crisis combined with a dining culture fixed on a farm-to-table philosophy have pushed urban beekeeping into the spotlight. Once a thing of rural countryside farms, bees are now moving to the city in droves.

Cindy Hodges, an urban beekeeper and president of the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association, says she’s witnessed the skyrocketing interest in all things bees. “When I joined the association [in 2006] we had 40 members. We now have more than 200,” Hodges says. “Urban beekeeping is growing.” According to the Georgia Department of Agriculture, the vast majority of honey now actually comes from small-scale beekeepers with only a few hives worth of bees.

Atlantans, along with the rest of the country, are installing hives on high-rise rooftop gardens and in their own backyards. Hotels like the Four Seasons Atlanta and the Hyatt Regency’s Polaris keep their own bees and use the honey in their restaurants. Hodges helms the rooftop garden beehives for the Polaris alongside executive chef Martin Pfefferkorn, who calls the bees “his girls.” Pfefferkorn relies on the bees for their honey and for pollinating his herb garden.

Bees at Polaris

Ordinances governing urban beekeeping vary from state to state, but if you want to keep bees here in Atlanta, there’s little standing in your way. “There are no rules restricting it in the metro Atlanta area currently,” says Hodges. While there are no official guidelines governing city bees, the association urges beekeepers to use good practices, such as providing bees with a nearby water supply and setting them as far away from your neighbor’s door as possible.

For first-timers looking to get their start, the director of the University of Georgia’s Honey Bee Program, Keith Delaplane, has penned the hobby beekeeper’s bible, First Lessons in Beekeeping. A popular blog by an Atlanta beekeeper, Linda’s Bees, has additional starter info, and the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association holds educational meetings at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

And if you’re thinking bees might still be better suited to the country life, research actually shows the opposite. Master beekeeper Noah Wilson Rich discussed at a recent Ted Talk that the lack of suburban pesticides in cities makes urban bees heartier and more productive than their rural counterparts.

So really, there’s been no better time to start your own hives. Honey and beekeeping helmets are officially hip. As Hodges point out, “it’s not your grandmother’s beekeeping anymore.”

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A New Look For Spring

BH on the hive

Beekeeping in Napa

The below article originally appeared on Remodelista:

Beyond the pool, nestled in the woods by the greenhouse, is where the bees live at Calistoga Ranch.

About a year ago, the first honeybees arrived at the rustic Napa Valley resort. The original two colonies—including bees that are indigenous to Northern California and Italian bees—have since expanded to four. They make honey and beeswax, and have inspired such spa treatments as a lavender honey milk bath and a honey foot treatment. “I believe it’s the backyard beekeepers who will help the honeybees survive,” saysRob Keller of Napa Valley Bee Company, whose apiaries provided the bees that populate the Calistoga Ranch hives.

Photography by Mimi Giboin, except where noted.

Above: One of the four beehives at the ranch. Each hive accommodates up to 50,000 bees: drones (males), worker bees (females) and one queen.


Above: The ranch’s landscape manager Steve Ferrini visits the bees every day to make sure they are happy and thriving. “You have to approach beekeeping with no fear,” he says. “They don’t sting unless provoked.”



Above: Ferrini filled a livestock trough with water and floats corks on the surface, “for the bees to land on, so they don’t have to travel far for water,” he says.


Above: “The payoff is worth it, when you taste your little friends’ bounty,” Ferrini says. Image via Napa Valley Bee Company.


Above: To amateurs considering backyard beekeeping, Ferrini says, “It’s an easy and low-cost way to help the bees and our food supply. Every year, the honeybee population dwindles. But bees don’t just make honey; they play an incredibly important role in the pollination of our fruits and vegetables.” About a third of our diet comes from insect-pollinated plants; honeybees are responsible for more than 80 percent of the pollination.

The Right Tools

To do the job right, you need the right tools.  Da Vinci did not paint the Mona Lisa with a toothbrush.  Hoover Dam was not built with legos.  Buckhead Honey requires the best tools to make the best honey.   We tricked out these tools with vintage leather from salvaged tennis racquets to create the right hive tool.  The overall improvement is massive. As Oscar Wilde said, “In matters of great importance, style, not substance, is the vital thing.”

If you would like to enquire about ordering a custom hive tool, please leave a comment below.




Bee Hive Tool in Hand

Honey straight from the hives


We’re not going to win any accolades from the traditional beekeepers with this one.  Growing up, my mother would prepare a meal for the family.  The smells and spices would fill the air and tempt one to steal just a taste of what was coming.  Well, some things don’t change and the other day we took a spoon to taste some of the Buckhead Honey warm from hive.  Not recommended but still delicious.


Buckhead Honey from the Hive

HiHat Honey


We were pleasantly surprised the other week to receive a nice note from our friend MM at HiHat Honey.  MM is a multi-generational beekeeper, a writer, and an absurdly talented dancer.  She grew up in the South but found herself in Brooklyn after university and kept her family’s passion for apiculture alive by starting a few hives in the city.  After a few years of urban beekeeping, she was able to find her way back home through a Masters program in Oxford, MS.  It was good timing to  leave the city too.  With reports like this in the Gothamist of 15,000 bees scaring tourists and the most crowded swarm season the city has every known, HiHat did well to hightail out of New York and return to the South.


Just this past week, we were excited to see HiHat Honey featured in the New York Times.  The paper published a photo series on beekeepers in the city featuring MM’s photo and description.  “At the end of a hot summer day, my bees like to ‘beard’ on the  face of the hive to cool off, just like me on my front stoop”, MM said.  Here in Hotlanta we know heat and have had to seek council from HiHat on numerous occasions to see if our beards were too big.  In fact, whenever anything looks wrong a picture message is immediately dispatched to HiHat.


HiHat Honey writes to Buckhead Honey

A letter from HiHat



HiHat Honey

HiHat Honey

The Sting

 A rare photograph of a honeybee stinging a man, with its abdominal tissue trailing behind won the first-place gold feature photo award in an Association for Communication Excellence competition.  The international organization includes communicators, educators and information technologists.

UC Davis communications specialist Kathy Keatley Garvey in the Department of Entomology said she has taken at least 1 million photos of honeybees in her lifetime.

Garvey recognized an opportune time to capture this photo when she was walking with a friend. A bee came close to him and started buzzing at a high pitch. She said that’s normally a telltale sign that a bee is about to sting, so she readied her camera and snapped four photos.

The images shows the progression of the sting, but the most interesting part is that the bee’s abdominal tissue is shown lingering behind.

Note: This story originally appeared in the Sacramento Bee


Breakfast at the Buckhead Honey Headquarters…


BumbleBuck enjoys some toast and honey

A Visitor

Board Member AB arrived in Atlanta this past weekend to visit the hives.

AB inspects the hives

Cumberland Island Honey

Last weekend Buckhead Honey made an expedition to Cumberland Island to hunt for some honey.  Cumberland Island is a national park, larger than the size of Manhattan, off the coast of Georgia.  It was cut off from the mainland before the ice age and has become the largest continuously exposed island in America.  It is a wild place where spanish moss drapes from the canopy and wild horses roam the dunes.

We arrived on Cumberland in the dead of night and were welcomed with music, friends, and backgammon.  It was a fortuitous start to our journey.  The next day, on our way to the hives,  we stopped by the boneyard and made necklaces to ward off any bad spirits. We lunched outside a small church where JFK JR. was married and then headed on to the hives.  We found them in a field where old slave quarters stood in the days of Nathaniel Green. All that remains now are the chimneys.

The honey was dark and thick and had all the rich sweet tastes of the forest.  It danced on your tongue before slipping down your throat. Tasting it we understood why we had made this journey.  It was delicious.

You can order Cumberland Island Honey here.

Honey Chimneys Buckhead honey Atlanta



Hives Bees Cumberland Atlanta Honey

Cumberland Island honey