In Pickaway County, there are a variety of local honey makers that you can purchase all sorts of products from, anything from soaps, candles, and of course, honey. The Scioto Valley Beekeepers Association offers assistance to both current and new beekeepers, connecting those within the community with other beekeepers out there.
One of those beekeepers happens to be Thomas Zawyer, who is the president of the Scioto Valley Beekeepers Association and one of the owners of a local brand of honey known as Colonial Hive and Honey.
Located in Ashville, Ohio – Colonial Hive and Honey specialize in handcrafted honey and products made with unfiltered, unheated honey.
Thomas and his wife, Sherry, were introduced to beekeeping when a retiring coworker of Sherry’s expressed interest in beekeeping.
“I actually bought my wife a hive, and some equipment for Christmas that year and hid it in the garage or in the shed until Christmas, and following that then we took the beekeeping classes,” Thomas revealed.
Colonial and Hive started out with one hive and over the years they’ve built their business and expanded what they have to offer. They now run about 35 hives, with hives in the village of Ashville, Walnut Township, Scioto Township, and Harrison Township.
With the season coming to an end, the focus on their hives is a bit different than what you would imagine it being. There’s a process that takes place to get hives ready for the upcoming winter, and most are closing their hives and getting everything prepared.
“Most people right now are just closing up the hives for the winter right now, putting on winter feed, you know, things like that. It’s just winterizing the hives right now,” Thomas explained.
The means of getting the hives prepared for the winter varies for every beekeeper, with Thomas being different than most. During nicer days in the winter, typically between the upper twenties and mid-thirties, Thomas and his wife will run checks on the hives to make sure that things are running smoothly.
“There’s not a lot going on, you know, for beekeepers in the winter other than prepping equipment for the spring and getting equipment that needs some maintenance,” Thomas shared, adding: “If you have a facility where you can work inside a garage or something, you can work inside to build additional equipment, and just [start] planning for the future.”
One of the big things is that the Queen starts winding down for the winter, the egg-laying process taking a break for a period of time.
“The Queen’s do take a break and they shut down from laying right now to, you know, next two or three weeks that their queens will stop laying eggs there. She will stop laying until about the first of February. She shuts down for about 60, to 70 days, and then she’ll start again,” Thomas said. “Once the Queen starts laying heavily by April, you know, she’s laying pretty much full power. She’ll lay about an egg a minute, you know, something like that.”
Between 2019 and 2020, Colonial Hive and Honey were able to harvest pounds over 1,000 pounds of honey. With their honey, they offer a range of products that can be bought locally.
“We sell seasonal honey. We do, spring, summer, and fall honey – which can vary in color. This year the summer and the fall honey are exactly the same color, but they all vary in flavor. You know, regardless of the color, the flavor is very distinct between the seasons because of what the bees are feeding off of,” Thomas shared in regards to their honey.
Aside from traditional honey, they also offer a cream honey product that is a delicious, sought after item of theirs. Thomas explained that it is a micro granulated, spreadable honey spread available in several flavors.
When asked where people could purchase some of their products, Thomas admitted that there are a few places that their honey products are available at.
“We have sold out the front door some,” Thomas said. “But since COVID we’ve hardly sold anything out the front door. We’ve partnered [for] over a year now with local businesses. So, the Circleville and Ashville Apothecaries carry all of our products. The Ashville IGA carries a full line of our products. Ashville Ace Hardware and the Cherry Street Diner.”
A huge reason behind the decision to offer their products in various businesses was the fact that their business had grown, and the demand to keep up with was difficult to meet while only providing their products out the front door.
Along with their seasonal kinds of honey and their cream honey, they offer gift sets during the holidays and a smaller line of special infused honey’s – with flavors ranging from lavender-infused honey to vanilla-infused honey and they top it all off with a unique hot pepper-infused honey.
“They’re popular, it’s just kind of one of the things either like them or you don’t. A lot of times getting somebody to try the hot pepper honey… Once they try it, they’re hooked you know they put, you know, they put that [stuff] on everything right – you know, if they like Frank’s Red Hot,” Thomas said with a laugh.
Once things return more normal, Thomas is looking forward to offering more in-person events – with the intention of introducing more people to their products and allowing for tastings. He admits that this year has been difficult with the current situation, both in regards to in-person events for Colonial Hive and Honey and in regards to being the president of the Scioto Valley Beekeepers Association.
“It’s been a little challenging with COVID-19 this year. I was elected president in December of 2019, to begin in 2020, and had a lot of great plans for speaker lined up for the whole year and activities and, you know, we’ve only met in person a few times since March and we’ve had about a third of the membership meeting that we would normally have,” Thomas stated.
At the moment the Scioto Valley Beekeepers Association plan is to start back up again in February with digital or online meetings, and more information about their association can be found on their website SciotoValleyBeekeepers.com.
To keep up-to-date with Colonial Hive and Honey, you can follow them on their Facebook page here.
Photos courtesy of Colonial Hive and Honey.
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