Beekeeping stems from my interest in nature and a need for pollinators. Family tradition plays a role, too. My grandfather kept about 20 gums next to his house, which was built before 1905, when my greatgrandfather Sam bought the farm. Sometimes when I work with my bees, I am drawn into thoughts of my young mother and her siblings whiling hours away on the front porch and squeezing honey by hand from combs my grandfather had cut from the gums. . . . golden memories of a simpler time, when one wanted and had more friends and family than money.

Low-impact sustainable food production is an imperative. I do not use chemicals/antibiotics, but requeen annually with resistant queens, maintain strong hives (generally by not harvesting in fall and by equalizing brood), use screened bottom boards and ground cover, maintain hives in full sun throughout the day, and use hive stands that isolate hives from the ground.

My home site is located ~ 2000 feet south of the Native American village Hiamonee (historical), which places it between Lake Iamonia (an aging lake that is Leon County's largest) and the Ochlocknee River; I am sometimes reminded that I am not the first here, and I won't be the last. My bees forage on maple beginning mid-to-late January and then stay busy on blackberry, tupelo, black gum, persimmon and various minor plants. In a wet year, aphids on oaks are sufficient to provide a honey-dew crop from mid May to mid June. Less frequently and in a dry year, the lake bed is covered with Bidens and I harvest a small crop of it and scattered goldenrod in October. Sometimes I move hives to my farm in Berrien County, GA, and catch the low-bush gallberry flow in May.

My hive products are candles, cut-comb honey, chunk honey, and liquid honey. The honey is neither heated nor filtered and the candles are made from untreated wax derived from cappings. The population of gentle drones from managed hives is another product of beekeeping.


After Buttley (in foreground) mentioned that I was about to step back onto a cottonmouth one day, I placed my hives on plastic (a recycled swimming-pool liner). The plastic is also part of my non-chemical strategy against small hive beetle (North Leon County, Florida; photograph by Nedra Outlaw).

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