This time one year ago Thien and I were moving our second round of bees purchased from J.N. Russell in Bolton, Mississippi. Some of the commercial beekeepers we’ve met are too busy to teach, or tell stories. Mr. Russell, who started keeping bees at 13, did plenty of both, and even provided us iced tea and pecan pie after our long trip. He taught us his method for controlling mites and hive beetles, gave us a tour of his breeder queen yard, and sold us some very special bees. Those bees helped me get back on my feet after my losses the year before, and this summer they produced an average of 100 pounds of honey per hive. His queens were so prolific that I was able to divide the hives twice since the honey flow and almost triple the number of hives under my care.
We stayed in touch with Mr. Russell, buying more of his queens and sending him updates on his Mississippi hives that had “gone to Texas.” No conversation was complete until he had asked about Thien, not casually, but like he really meant it. Apparently they bonded on the second trip when, out of my earshot, she thanked him for helping me so much with his bees.
I had a call yesterday from a mutual friend who let me know that Mr. Russell had passed. During our visit a year ago he was recovering from a bout of pneumonia, but I could tell that he knew his time was near. But the sadness in his eyes dissipated whenever the conversation turned to bees. I will be remembering Mr. Russell today by installing some Russell Apiary queens that his son sent me a few days ago. It’s good to know that his work can live on in hives all over the world, including here in Seguin, Texas. So, until we meet again Mr. Russell,thank you for your help with the bees, but most especially for your sweet tea and pecan pie.