LOCAL FOLKS:He hopes one day to turn a few hives into hundreds

BY M. SCOTT MORRIS
Daily Journal

ITAWAMBA COUNTY – John Ainsworth doesn't claim to know how bees think, but he knows how they act.

“That's my thing, sitting there and watching them,” the 25-year-old beekeeper said.

About 10 years ago, a swarm of bees invaded the Ainsworth home in Harrisonburg, La.

“They were in the wall of our house,” he said. “I didn't know nothing about bees, didn't even know beekeeping was called beekeeping.”

The bees left the house and swarmed around a tree limb. He got a box and stood below the bees, as his dad threw a rope over the limb. The result was Ainsworth men, 1, and bees, 0.

“Bees were flying all around me, and they weren't hurting me. It was amazing,” he said. “It gave me an awesome feeling. I was a man in nature, a part of it.

“The bees stayed overnight,” he continued, “and left the next day.”

A potential problem became his pastime.

“I'm what they call a hobbyist right now. I've got a few hives,” said Ainsworth, who lives on the Itawamba side of the Lee-Itawamba county line. “My dream is to have 200 to 300 hives. It's an unpredictable business. I'm not going to say it would be full time, but I definitely want it to become a sideline job for me.”

Moving north

In high school, Ainsworth rewarded his fellow Future Farmers of America members with honey for their help in building bee boxes.

“In Louisiana, I had about a dozen hives,” he said. “I got rid of them before I went to college.”

He has a sister who lives in Pontotoc County, and he went to her church's youth service during one visit. That's when he met Wendy.

“We tried a long-distance thing for a while,” he said. “I was young, so I moved up here. We dated for about a year, and decided we wanted to get married.”

He brought his beekeeping equipment with him, and put his EMT-Basic training to work with North Mississippi Medical Center Ambulance Services. Before long, word got out that Ainsworth had a way with bees.

“All 911 calls for Lee County dealing with bees come to me,” he said. “They call 911, 911 calls me. When I get off work, I go see what I can do. I try to charge a fee, just because of gas prices.”

Ainsworth said he understands that some people have a natural dislike for bees.

“Don't go out there and kill them. If you mess it up and make the bees upset, they can hurt you, especially if you're allergic,” he said, “but if you leave them alone, they'll leave you alone.”

If you have a bee problem, call Ainsworth or another beekeeper who can help.

“This is what somebody else told me about beekeepers. He said, Beekeepers are pretty much all good people,'” Ainsworth said.

Family affair

They also have access to the best honey, though the season's over until next spring. Ainsworth sold his honey as quickly as he could “rob” his bees, but he kept some back for personal use. Then his brother-in-law came to visit.

“My daughter came in and said, Daddy, make me a honey sandwich,'” Ainsworth said.

“He said, What's that?'

“It's honey and bread.'

“I fixed him one. I got up the next morning, and he'd gotten into the honey the night before. He wiped me out.”

The honey season resumes in April, and continues in May and June, when the bees are busiest. Now, they're shutting down for the winter, and Ainsworth won't bother them much until the end of February.

“I may feed them some sugar water to help them through the winter,” he said.

Someday, he hopes Abbi Grace, who's now 3, will take an active part in collecting the honey for her sandwiches.

“She says she wants to keep bees one day,” Ainsworth said. “I don't want to get her too close because she's still young. I don't want her to be pressed.

“I want her to want to do it,” he continued. “If she wants to do it, then one day she will definitely have the opportunity.”

Contact M. Scott Morris at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@djournal.com.