10 Country: The Queen Bee - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

10 Country: The Queen Bee

 March 6, 2007

Turner Co. -- The official start of spring happens in three weeks, on March 20th when many people start their yearly ritual of spring housecleaning. But one lady in 10 Country starts long before her friends start.

The rhythmical sound of a paint scraper at work against a slender piece of wood or plastic is unmistakable.  

 "It's called spring housecleaning," says Maryjacque Odom.

And she has lots of cleaning to do.  "Six hundred to 800 houses," says Maryjacque as she cleans special houses for her honey bees that have messy friends.

 Annoying insects visit and leave their waxy leftovers that she must scrape off. Old hives need cleaning and recycling, ready to hold the new honey.

 The bees rely on her to provide their every need during the winter months of December, January and February, especially food. Maryjacque provides a power drink.

 "Feed them corn syrup," says Maryjacque as she turns the valve on a big plastic tank that holds it. A quart jar catches the thick syrup, and the bees fly to it immediately.

They crave it so much they crawl down the side of the glass jar and literally swim in the syrup, eat all they want and climb out when they've had their fill.

 "Just taking care of themselves," says Maryjacque a she watches the bees gorge themselves, along with her husband, Alan.

Soon, the bees will take care of fruit and vegetable farmers in four counties.  "Pollination means everything on this produce. Without bees and pollination none of us would have a crop," says Greg Rutland of Rutland Strawberry Farm in south Tift County.

So, Maryjacque rents her bees at $40 per hive or box. Some of the bees seem to get lost in the delicate, white blooms of the strawberry plants before they fly out.  "Six to eight weeks. We let them do what they do best-pollinate and eat nectar," says Maryjacque.

Greg sees the benefits of Maryjacque's winter conditioning program.  "You see a high population of bees and you see them in the fields all day," says Greg.

They stay close to the hive on overcast days and get irritable, and more likely to sting. Sunny days put them in a better mood, flying back and forth, as far as two miles to the hive.

 "Just like us going to the grocery store getting food," says Maryjacque.

Her bees work very hard, often 12 hours at a time; Take a break of a minute or two and fly back to work. "They literally work themselves to death," says Maryjacque.

While farmers see beautiful, healthy fruit, she sees something else.  "The harmony they have at home," says Maryjacque as she works one of the many hives near her home.

 Bees learn to keep house the first two weeks of their lives before the queen decides if they become life-long workers or housekeeping bees.

Maryjacque believes we could learn a valuable less from bees.  "If we worked as a group and dedicated as bees work, I don't think we have any problems in the world," says Maryjacque.

She may be right.

The Odom family started Odom Apiaries 13 years ago near Rebecca, in Turner County.

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