The Bee Whisperer: Carolina Honeybees Farm

Charlotte Anderson did not come from a long line of beekeepers. Her curiosity about bees was piqued when she was a child, but it wasn’t until years later, when she observed her father-in-law tending his small beekeeping hive, that she began to revisit the idea of having her own hives. Anderson was fascinated by the process of procuring honey and loved eating fresh, bite-sized nuggets of honeycomb.

At the time, Anderson, who earned a B.A. in Education from Clemson University, had a full plate between teaching, gardening, and raising award-winning chickens and horses. But she couldn’t shake her desire to have her own honeybee hives.

In her late forties, Anderson’s passion to work with bees could no longer be ignored. “I was gonna have to have some bee hives. My life was not going to be complete if I did not get to try it,” she said. But it was a long journey from fledgling beekeeper to 2012’s South Carolina Beekeeper of the year—an accomplishment not common for women.

Establishing her farm, Carolina Honeybees, with only two hives, she continued studying and connecting with fellow beekeepers around the country. Upon reaching a 25-hive farm, Anderson soon realized she wasn’t able to give all her attention to so many hives. She decided that if she focused her attention on fewer hives, she may be able to improve her output with fewer hives. “I decided I was going to cut my hive numbers back to maybe 12. I thought I could be a better bee keeper with 10 or 12. Then my bees wouldn’t suffer and I’d probably get about as much honey as I would with the 25.”

Anderson genuinely loves her bees. “I would like to have a day no bees would die. I know that can’t happen but it would be good to have a day no bee would die.”

Anderson entered the beekeeping world at a time when things were changing for the honeybee industry. A honeybee parasite, identified as “varroa,” began destroying colonies all over the country, including Anderson’s. Similar to a flea, they suck blood from the bees, weakening and shortening the bee’s life span and even causing developmental issues.

Anderson began researching chemical-free methods to keep her hives safe, not wanting to hurt her bees with damaging pesticides. This search for knowledge led Anderson to the next phase of her beekeeping journey.

She applied to the South Carolina Beekeepers program, a challenging series of training and tests for certification. Each certification level of the program takes at least two years to complete. Anderson was not deterred by the challenge—in fact, she was propelled by the idea that she could achieve a status that few women have: Master Beekeeper. 

In 2012 she was awarded that prestigious honor, and she was also honored as Beekeeper of the Year.

Anderson currently spends her time lecturing, volunteering at Hagood Mill, and selling her products at festivals and local farmer’s markets, with the help of her father. Her products include 100% pure honey, lip balms, beeswax soaps made with fresh local goat’s milk, and 100% beeswax candles.

Anderson’s success isn’t confined to South Carolina. A customer was so enthralled by Anderson’s beeswax soaps that she exclusively furnishes her Tuscan villa with them. Anderson smiles proudly, “I was very honored for that. I will never make it to Italy, but my soap will.”

Be sure to visit Charlotte Anderson’s blog and online shop.

Photos and article by Deb Peluso.