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The viewfinder: Local couple discovers, enjoys beekeeping in backyard

 

NATCHEZ — For Griff Toney the best part of beekeeping is simply the work itself and learning more about it.

“To go in the boxes and go down to where the queen is laying, you can see everything,” Toney said. “The eggs, larva, you can see the bees coming out and that’s interesting to me.”

Toney said the eggs are about the size of small grains of rice.

About 25 years ago Toney’s neighbor, Rufas Artman, died leaving his bees behind but not before started Toney’s interest. His wife, Phyllis Toney, said he reads about bees all the time.

“And I’m the gofer,” Phyllis said, with a laugh. “I also take all the stings. ”

After Griff retired the two began beekeeping at their house off the Natchez Trace. Phyllis said they don’t waste anything, and that Griff even makes his own boxes for the beehives.

Together they use the honey to make a variety of products, including lip balm, tea candles, honey straws and blocks of wax to sell and, of course, jars of honey, most of which are sold at the Natchez Farmers Market or to local businesses in town under the name “Ole Trace Honey.”

“Another reason I wanted to get into it at that time four or five years ago there was a huge decline of bees, they were dying,” Griff said. “It isn’t as bad right now. More people have been getting into beekeeping since then.”

While the couple said they enjoy beekeeping together, people don’t realize how much work goes into it. They have 19 hives to tend to and said it takes them about three or four hours to go through all of them, and that’s not including the time to process everything.

It takes about a week to process the honey, strain the honey and put it in jars and label everything, Toney said.

The two also have a room that they renovated in their barn dedicated to extracting the honey and storage of their boxes.

“Everything he makes goes right back into the bees,” Phyllis Toney said.

Along with reading about bees the two joined local clubs.

“You pick up different things from different clubs, but the best thing to do is buy some books,” Toney said. Toney’s recommended “Bee Keepers for Dummies” for those starting out.

The two said they would be joining the new Natchez Bee Keeper’s Club that will start 10 a.m. Saturday at the Mississippi Extension Office, 75 Carthage Point Road. For more details call 601-807-7798.

“We’re still learning all the time,” Griff Toney said. “We will never know everything about them.”

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