Ever since I read an article about them in a local magazine seven years ago, I’ve been buying local raw honey from JM and Frieda Sikes. Not only is their honey delicious but they are Richmond Hill originals, making their living here through the years by shrimping, crabbing, fishing, and of course keeping bees. One would be wise to take some time to get to know the Sikes. They are full of knowledge and are just good people, the source of a lot of soul in Richmond Hill and Bryan County. So of course I said yes last month when they asked if they could move four (out of their 500 plus) hives out to our farm to give their bees a shot at whatever nectar is available in the area. A few days later in the early morning light, JM and Frieda rolled in with their bees. They wasted no time in putting up a platform on which the hives would sit. 10 minutes later all four hive bodies were in place and JM lifted the first hive off its base which allowed the bees to fly out and go to work.
After the first hive was in place the air became flooded with angry bees who were not at all happy about being driven around in the back of a truck. Unlike most beekeepers the Sikes wear only a head/face veil for sting protection…no body suit, no gloves. Stings were clearly being handed out with no end in sight so the Sikes made their way to the wood-line to fill their smoker with dried leaves and pine straw.
The smoke makes the bees re-focus their attention to the colony and it seemed to work pretty well. A short time later everything was in place and all the bees were heading out to explore their new area in search of food. The whole morning was a blast, watching these local legends do their work.
The next portion of their visit is what made my day and are, in my opinion, the makings for a rich life. Instead of sitting on the tailgate of his truck to take a break, JM sat on the platform between his hives (thousands of bees blasting all around him and a collective buzzing so loud it competed with our conversation) and told me how he got started in bee keeping…how his father and his grandfather kept bees, adventurous stories of shrimping and crabbing and all the “old-timey” ways of doing those things. I would have taken a picture of him sitting amongst the hives but sometimes you need to just put away the camera, sit back, and enjoy the moment.