Beekeepers across the Mid-South moved their bee hives an inch this week in the Old English custom of notifying the bees of a death in the family. The Memphis Area Beekeepers Association lost a dear friend, Paul Mallory, a beekeeper for 68 years. Almost every Short Course in Beekeeping held annually by the MABA began with Paul’s tale of following a young beekeeper driving a pickup truck overloaded with bee hives. Paul related that every few minutes, the truck pulled to the side of the road; the driver got out, beat the hives with a stick, and then continued driving. When the truck reached its destination, Paul asked the young man why he was banging on the hives. The explanation was simple: he had a ton of bees to carry in a half-ton pickup truck, so it was necessary to keep half of the bees flying. Paul introduced new beekeepers at the local association’s annual Short Course in Beekeeping with the most understandable explanation of why a person would want to become a beekeeper. After his brief presentation, a few attendees were relieved to understand that handling stinging insects was not for them; others knew exactly why they wanted to learn the art and science of beekeeping.
Once, a swarm of honey bees moved into the MABA’s storage shed and built a huge nest behind a stack of hive equipment. I assisted a group of association members to expose the feral nest, cut out the combs, and band them into two deep hive bodies. However, we could not find the queen. At the end of the lengthy operation, Paul, sitting quietly, suggested that we look into the opposite corner of the room where a number of bees were posed with tails high and wings fanning. There, we found the queen. Paul’s picture and other stories of his significant beekeeping career can be seen at http://peacebeefarm.blogspot.com/2010/02/beekeeping-short-course.html. Flowers celebrating Paul’s life, like today’s groundsel, are seeded on roadsides across the Mid-South.