This past Friday I joined the Blacksburg Newcomer’s Club Gadabouts for a tour of the Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary. The farm is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that promotes and teaches beekeeping and all that goes along with safeguarding the survival of honey bees. I left The Oaks about 10:15 to meet the Gadabouts at 11. The sanctuary is in Floyd County, about 10 miles by car, northeast of downtown Floyd. I got there a little early and signed in at the visitor’s center that’s housed in a yurt that doubles as a shop where you can buy cool bee stuff. WOW! What an incredible place, a hidden gem. The sanctuary is open to the public only on Fridays so it’s a good idea to call ahead to let them know you’d like a tour.
The Gadabout ladies arrived and Gunther Hauk, the Executive Director & Founder of Spikenard, met us at the yurt to begin our tour. Bee friendly flowers are EVERYWHERE creating blankets of color with their petals. The grass is left long to grow patches of clover. Gunther is very passionate about his bees and Spikenard where plants, animals and human beings exist in harmony. We learned that there are over 4000 bee species native to the US but the bees are in trouble and we will be too if we don’t do something to help them survive. No bees, no pollination, no food.
There are currently about 20 active hives. The main apiary, orchard, and vegetable garden are located on 6 acres and there are 7 acres of fields of flowers. There is also 13 acres of undeveloped land overlooking the mountains that is breathtaking. The poppies were just about done blooming leaving those beautiful round pods you often see in dried flower arrangements. Lots of different perennials and herbs pop up throughout the gardens and sunflowers, my favorite flower, appear here and there when you least expect them.
We saw several styles of hives. Some were tall and vertical, some long and horizontal, some round sort of like an oil drum and one called a sun hive suspended from the roof of its own little gazebo. Bees were buzzing all around flying in and out of the hives. Gunther saw two bees wrestling and gentle broke up the tussle. They just flew away, I assume to gather pollen. There is a beautiful new building where you can attend a variety of beekeeping classes. We sat in the classroom and learned of how the sanctuary came to be and what it hopes to become. Like all good tours it ended at the gift shop (the yurt) where you can buy honey, t-shirts, plant seeds, bee tea, greeting cards of beautifully photographed bees on flowers and a book about saving the honeybee. I just finished reading chapter 3.