Brothers keep bees in the family

James and Adams have turned their father’s passion for bee keeping into a family business.

“It’s in our family’s DNA from our father to our grand papa,” said Johnny Ray. “What started as a family hobby has turned into a full-fledge business for us. James and I are proud to work together and carry on the family tradition.”

Johnny Ray caught his first bee when he was 3-years-old with his father Johnny M. Adams. While he and James sold honey on the side of the road as children. They’re 4th generation bee keepers and Johnny has two daughters, a son, and a daughter-in-law that make up the 5th generation.

“As far as bee keeping goes, that’s the way it should be,” said James. The brothers are even in the process of merging their separate businesses into a single family adventure: Honey River Farms.

They’ve travelled the world and continue to work other jobs, but they’ll never give up their bees. “It’s always something we’ve done through the years,” said James. “It’s not just a job, it’s a passion.”

Removing a hive of bees from buildings, trees and other precarious places means the brothers have to be more than just bee keepers. They fill the role of carpenter, electrician, fabricator and more as each removal calls for a different set of skills.

They have to reach the hive first, which could mean a good bit of demolition if the hive is located inside a wall or other hard to reach space. Once they can remove the comb, they take the “brood,” which is the heart of the hive. They place it in a “brood frame,” which is put into a hive box. A “queen cage” is used to capture the queen bee.

Once the queen cage is placed inside the hive box, bees from the original hive start to migrate to the box. There’s also always bees that station themselves at the hive’s entrance to signal to the others where “home” is. By filling the air and the space around the original hive with smoke, James and Johnny coax the bees to gather in the new hive box.

And what about protective suits? Johnny Ray says some people like wearing suits and some don’t. His father and grand papa never wore any. Getting stung is just part of the job. “We’ve been stung from the tops of our heads to the tips of our toes, and everywhere in between,” he said with a laugh.

The brothers have a couple hundred hives between them. All the honey is harvested and sold locally. They’re also available to do educational lectures/visits. For more information call 318-332-1125 or 318-332-5372.

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