Customers make a beeline to Miss. family's honey

By LaReeca Rucker/The Clarion-Ledger

JACKSON – As a 16-year-old Boy Scout in the Mississippi Delta, Frank Garletts earned a merit badge in beekeeping and kept the hobby until college.

He picked it up again three years ago and created a sideline business with 60 hives.

The buzz is that his Mississippi Bees honey can be found in some of the area’s top restaurants, including The Parker House, Walker’s Drive-In and Local 463.

Craig Noone, chef and owner of Parlor Market, said the restaurant wanted to serve locally produced honey.

“We use the regular honey in some vinaigrettes, and in some of our sauces and glazes for meat,” he said.

The jalapeno honey has been a hit.

“It’s so popular, people ask us to bottle it up and sell it to them,” he said. “It has a little bit of heat in it, and it’s awesome. It goes on our cheese plate.”

In addition to online, Mississippi Bees honey products can also be found at the Mississippi Farmers Market in Jackson, Mississippi Craft Center, the Natural Science Museum and the Mississippi Agriculture & Forestry Museum, Garletts said.

The company has added more food, bath and baby products. They include:

— Creamed honey in jalapeno, pecan, cinnamon and orange flavors.

— Ginger-, raspberry- and lemon-flavored honey for teas.

— All-natural soaps that contain honey.

— Beeswax, lip balms, lotion bars and other all-natural skincare products.

And he’s created a baby product line named after his granddaughter, Addie. It includes Addie ointment, powder and oil.

“We are always trying to come up with new ideas,” Garletts said. “You kind of get bit by the bug, I guess. Or bit by the bee.”

Garletts said Mississippi typically produces more than 100 pounds of honey per hive.

“In Mississippi, we call most of it ‘wildflower honey’ because there’s a little of everything in there,” he said. “The bees are gathering the nectar from all over.”

Garletts likes to watch them socially interact.

“They can fly off up to five miles away and come all the way back home to the same little box. The honey comes out of the honeycomb, and then we basically just put it in jars and bottle it.”

Garletts said there’s a key to not getting stung.

“The longer you work with your bees and the more gentle you are, they are not going to sting you,” he said.

He said he leaves them alone on cool and rainy days.

Garletts said honey is one of the few foods that won’t spoil.

“They have found it in Egyptian tombs, and it was still edible,” he said. “It can be used for antibiotics, and even diabetics can use it as a sugar. It’s amazing.”

Pearl resident Johnny Pennington serves as Garletts’ bee adviser.

Pennington bought his first hive from a Sears & Roebuck catalog in 1965 because he was told eating honey with pollen could help build up resistance to it.

Today, Pennington has 400 hives.

His advice to future beekeepers: “Just get one or two hives and learn how to take care of them.”

Garletts also helps promote beekeeping through beekeepers groups.

He said bees are about to begin work as the spring approaches.

“There is probably a little bit of nectar out there now, and they will start gathering it and turning it into honey,” he said.

Harvesting will probably begin in June.