HiHat Honey has found the most hospitable and nurturing new home at the Chadwick’s farm in Oxford, Mississippi. Here, the bees’ radius covers cotton fields, clover, and the pine forests south of Holly Springs National Forest. For leisure they can get cool in the spring-fed lake, ride a string of faithful horses, listen to Bonnie Rideout’s latest fiddle pibrochs live, and help Julie pollinate her garden. Beekeeping in the country is a different business altogether, but all my favorite parts of the adventure are the same — interacting with the natural world, learning from quirky beekeepers, and sharing with friends how wondrous the hive is.
I was lucky to find a local, small-scale beekeeper who had several hives that were strong enough to split into two. I visited his apiary twice, learning about his bees and inspecting the splits he was raising at Yoknapatapha Bottoms Farm before I bought them. He made sure that each “nuc,” five frames with bees and a queen, was healthy and that the queens had gone on their maiden flights and were thus laying eggs. I bought two hives’ worth of bees, which were taped up in the middle of the night while the bees were sleeping, along with six more for my mom and aunt in Memphis. Bill and I then distributed the tens of thousands of bees. It was a rowdy road trip.
This May the bees gathered nectar and pollen while the queens laid eggs, growing the hives’ populations to have as many worker bees as possible foraging in the summer months.
We had a very early spring bloom here — as my friend Madge says, she’s never seen all the dogwoods bloom and finish before Easter. This unbalanced, early nectar flow has created a challenge for the bees, who are now, in the end of May, experiencing an unseasonal dirth of nectar. We are feeding our weaker hives because they have already eaten all the nectar they gathered this spring.
Meanwhile I finished my first semester of graduate school and am now enjoying a real summer vacation. More technical details to follow on the trials and joys of Mississippi beekeeping.