Birney Imes: Bees and coffee

April 16, 2011 10:52:00 PM

Birney Imes - [email protected]


A few weeks back during a two-person staff meeting that included a trip to Kudoz, a local coffee house, I found an answer to the foremost of my beekeeping woes. 


Readers frequently call The Dispatch with their honeybee problems. Those problems are usually one of two things: a hive of bees has swarmed and a cluster of bees is attached to a tree, bush or piece of furniture in their yard or someone has a colony of bees living in the walls or attic of their house. 


With all the publicity about the decline of honeybees, nobody wants to kill them -- something that is not easy or inexpensive to do, anyway. 


This might be a good place to plug "Queen of the Sun," a film about the role bees play in our food chain. I''ve not seen it, but the trailer is breathtaking. Google will find it for you. 


The first situation outlined above is relatively easy to resolve. A beekeeper goes out with a hive or simply a cardboard box and a roll of duct tape. He shakes the branch, the bees fall into the box and he takes them and puts them in a hive. Beekeepers looking to expand their empire love swarms for they are, in essence, free bees. Literally, they are low-hanging fruit. Needless to say, the homeowner is equally happy. Otherwise, that colony might colonize his attic or bathroom wall. 


Removing bees from a house usually involves tearing out walls, confronting the unhappy residents you find behind them and scraping out beeswax dripping with honey. When it''s over -- assuming you make it that far -- you have to put the place back together. When someone calls with that problem there''s really nowhere I know to send them. Until I saw the sign taped to the coffee shop door that morning: 


"If you live in Mississippi and see a swarm of bees in need of a home, or have bees you''d like removed from an old shed, barn, or other unlikely place, call Mark at 662.418.4422." 


Mark is Mark Lewis who, with his wife Keri, is starting an apiary in Mayhew they call Prairie Blossom Bee Farm. (Which is fitting as years ago the Stover family shipped queen bees from Mayhew to beekeepers throughout the Western Hemisphere.) Mark is a land manager and Keri an agriculture writer at Mississippi State. The two of them jumped into beekeeping last year. 


Mark says he hopes to build up to 25 hives and capturing swarms and unwanted bees is how he intends to do it. Keri is recording the process on their blog at 


A week or so after seeing their sign, I came in from work late on a Friday to be told I had a message from Jeff Caldwell about bees. Jeff had just driven by Kudoz, of all places, and seen on one of their small signs near Fifth Street, a cluster of bees. I thanked Jeff and called Mark. 


By now it was almost dark, but Mark and Keri gamely set out from Mayhew, a quiet evening at home exchanged for a different sort of night on the town. After some searching, they located the bees. Keri has the blow-by-blow in words and pictures on her blog. 


As for bees and coffee, there''s no nicer way to begin the day than with a cup in the backyard watching a hive come to life. As the morning sun hits the hive, the first foragers emerge and take off. The day warms, the dew evaporates and the pace quickens. Before long the departures and arrivals are too frequent to count. Their industry is a reminder and an example. I finish my coffee and go back inside to ready for work.

Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.