“If you’re growing lavender, you should have bees, too.” As word spread that we were planting lavender on Ashford Hill, this comment became a steady refrain. It made sense. We had what the bees needed: a peaceful, healthy environment with good foraging and a source of clean water. For their part, the bees had something we needed: the ability to pollinate our lavender and, of course, the means of producing honey.
Within a year, we had acquired bees and boxes to start our apiary. Knowing that bees favored English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), we chose a spot near our Munstead field. We installed an electric fence to protect the hives from the bears who live in our neighborhood (they don’t normally venture close to our fields, but we figured with the honey, all bets were off).
Now, in addition to lavender to plant and care for, we had tiny livestock depending on us. It was a crash course in honeybee husbandry. Luckily, we had workers willing to learn to work with bees, along with access to online educational resources and to expert beekeepers in the community. Things went well and we pulled our first honey in the summer of 2020. We labeled it according to whether the bees had been foraging in our lavender fields, or among the wildflowers and goldenrod nearby.
In 2021, we acquired the bees and equipment from a local man who had kept bees for decades. It felt good to help carry on what he had started so many years earlier. We introduced a plain variety of honey. “Plain” doesn’t do it justice, by the way.
By early 2022, we suffered a serious setback: the majority of our bees died—and we don’t know what caused it. Other beekeepers in the region had the same experience and, like us, were unable to determine what had happened. Like our fellow beekeepers, we’re committed to rebuilding.
MEET THE AUTHOR / JOCELYN SHEPPARD Jocelyn Sheppard is the Founder and President of Appalachian Botanical Co. Before she started ABCo, Jocelyn was a consultant with high-tech startups and nonprofits. She enjoys reading, cooking, jigsaw puzzles, and travel, especially in France where the food, wine and lavender are amazing. Her favorite product: Organic Lavender Body Cream