Bees booming in Marion County agriculture business

MARION COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - DL Wesley of Foxworth has been raising bees since the '60s and it has been a labor of love ever since.

Wesley says he, "Learned you just can't have one hive of bees. It's addictive."

Over the decades, he has held many positions within local and regional beekeeping societies and has developed quite the admiration for the little guys. He says, "Bee's are social insects. They live together, work together, they build things, they raise family."

'Bee-sides' honey, bees are a major component in our agriculture industry. Wesley says the sale of honey, bees wax, beekeeping equipment, and other related products bring in over $100,000,000 a year in Mississippi alone, but these goods aren't the major application of the insects. "Every third bite of food you eat was pollinated by the bees. It wasn't until we started raising thousands of acres of cotton, soybean, watermelon and peanuts that it became important to have them for pollination. Migratory beekeeping has become a very big industry," Wesley says.

It takes a healthy hive of 60,000 to 80,000 bees just to pollinate 2 or 3 acres of crops. So, commercial farmers in the Midwest and California employ hundreds of thousands of bee colonies to pollinate their crops.

However, over recent years bees have suffered from a phenomenon known as "Colony Collapse" which is causing many hives to die off. Wesley says, "They're not sure what is causing this. They think it may be stress on the bees, plus the varroa and tracheal mites have become immune to the treatment we've been using for years."

So there has been a fear that with a shortage of bees and crops not being properly pollinated it will begin to affect everyone's pocketbook at the grocery store. Wesley says he's lost ten colonies this year, but will continue with his passion for bees at Wesley's Hobby Honey. "It's the greatest thing I've ever done getting involved with bees. You have to learn to be an entomologist, a biologist, a sociologist, and several other-ologists, haha."

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