Ready to step into a big bee suit and discover what all the buzz is about at Killer Bees Honeybee Farm?
The farm’s Bee Tour & Honey Culinary Experience has been honored with Tripadvisor’s 2020 Travelers’ Choice award, marking this remote apiary farm in Lake Toxaway a true destination.
“Get lost in the world of the honeybee for four hours,” said Sean Collinsworth, beekeeper and KBH co-owner. “A lot of people don’t realize the social structure and the complexity of the hive…The cliché ‘busy as a bee’ is actually quite precise.”
Starting May 7, Killer Bees Honeybee Farm’s seasonal tours will resume, with a chance to witness – depending on what the bees are up to that day – a waggle dance or a round dance, or even the queen bee piping to her daughters in the hive.
“It’s fun when we do our tour because there’s always something going on in the bee yard,” says Denise Altay, who is Collinsworth’s wife and KBH co-owner.
Tours incorporate an array of aspects related to beekeeping, from donning a bee suit and having a “meet and greet” with the bees to tasting and bottling the honey that’s produced onsite.
Altay leads the tour’s “culinary experience” that follows the presentation and hands-on part of the immersive tour led by her husband.
“It’s an incredible passion,” Altay says. “The bees themselves, they become a passion.”
This is the farm’s fourth year of giving the tour, which is featured in author Lynette Porter’s book “Places to Bee — A Guide to Apitourism.”
Surrounded on all sides by thousands of acres of national forest, Killer Bees Honeybee Farm (no actual killer bees here) boasts producing honey that is totally pure and is always free of the additives that are found in most conventional honey bought in stores.
“We are actually the only American beekeeper that has their honey tested for all sorts of toxins, herbicides, pesticides, fungicides…and then publishes those results on their website,” Altay says.
Additionally, the farm never buys honey from other beekeepers, and their honey is never blended, infused or flavored.
“We figure the bees are bringing back the perfect product, so why would we do that?” says Altay.
Collinsworth, who began his journey as a beekeeper at 12 years old, felt the call of the bees while working professionally in various cities nationwide. Once the couple downsized by moving to Western North Carolina, he started with installing 10 hives on their property.
Currently there are a hundred, with hives in two separate areas on the land, which has been terraced for the apiaries.
When Altay and Collinsworth bought the farm property, located on a high ridge between Panthertown Valley and Gorges State Park, they didn’t yet know that the surrounding forest was rich with sourwood trees; sourwood blooms are prized among beekeepers for the quality of the honey produced from the pollen.
Killer Bees Honeybee Farm’s 75 acres is now officially a Wildlife Refuge, designated through the N.C. Wildlife Conservation Lands Program; 60 acres are under a conservation easement.
The couple make sustainability a key part of their mission, and that’s no surprise, when the subtle flavors of their honey depend on it.
“People are tasting the floral sources of the forest, and they’re blown away by it,” says Collinsworth, who likens himself to a kind of “honey sommelier.”
Not only is Collinsworth a certified N.C. beekeeper, he is also certified in the Italian Register of Experts in the Sensory Analysis of Honey, by the CNR Research Center in Bologna, Italy.
Killer Bees Honeybee Farm now sells its honey internationally, he says, through their website. “We say, if you can’t buy our honey, buy local,” Collinsworth adds.
For the culinary part of the tour, small groups get to taste a variety of honeys paired with cheese, meats, fruit, crackers and champagne.
Jason Tardo, head chef at Half Mile Farm (the sister property of the Old Edwards Inn in Highlands), uses Killer Bees Honey in the dishes he creates.
“I have never tasted honey with such an initial floral burst and so obviously pure,” Tardo says. “As a chef, I find it refreshing to know the beekeeper, Sean, is incredibly knowledgeable about his bees. It’s a lifelong passion of his, and it shows.”
After the tasting part of the tour, guests get to pour their own four-ounce bottle of Killer Bees Honey at the farm’s Honey House.
“Everything happens here on the property,” Altay says of the unique tour adventure.
Tours at Killer Bees Honeybee Farm are offered on Fridays and Saturdays from May through August. Private tours of six people and over are available.
Tours are open to children 12 and older, and follow COVID-19 safety protocols.
To learn more or to book a tour, visit killerbeeshoney.com/pages/honey-tours-and-tastings.