Local man perfects the art of beekeeping

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 29, 2010

Just call OJ Blount the beekeeper, or at least that’s what he’s been for the past 50 years.

Blount, a World War II and Korean veteran who lives just across the Escambia County line, said he took up beekeeping when bees took over a box he had.

For the last 40 years, he’s been working to perfect his method of beekeeping, which includes modifying the boxes the beehives are in. He calls his rendition of the box the queen’s castle.

He now has about 60 beehives and said that since he perfected his method, he doesn’t lose any bees.

That doesn’t mean his bees never die, it just means he makes enough to replace the ones who die.

“I modify the bottom section, which is normally a wire mesh and I change it to a 22 gauge metal with five-thirty-secondth holes in it,” he said. “This allows only a small amount of air to come in and bugs can’t get it. This makes it where I don’t have to use any chemicals.”

Blount now sells these modified boxes to amateur beekeepers.

“I sell them for $125 each,” he said. “I enjoy what I do, and I love to help hobby beekeepers get started.

“I tell (the amateur beekeepers) the best time for them to begin is in the fall right before the first frost comes about and plant white Dutch clover and the next thing I recommend is Vitex,” he said. “Most beekeepers don’t plant plants for all year long.”

In doing that, Blount has begun a once-a-month beekeeping workshop on the last Saturday of each month, and today is the May workshop.

“We will have a bee supplier here (today),” he said. “We will be extracting some honey and will have a cookout.”

Blount said he will bring in a few hives and full combs at today’s workshop.

“I can do 10 combs by myself and that yields 10 cases of quart jars of honey,” he said. “In a year, I probably do 40 to 50 cases of those quarts.”

The free session will last from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today.

“I like to have them on Saturdays and in the morning so the folks who come can get home at a decent hour,” he said. “I go to a lot of beekeeping meetings and most of the meetings begin at 6 and it’s midnight before I get home.”

Blount said the word of his workshops is just getting out, but he’s getting more and more calls about it.

“There were about 30 people at last month’s workshop,” he said.

Blount said one of his favorite parts about being a beekeeper is the fact that a queen and her colony are similar to a mayor and the city.

Blount said his daughter, who lives in Knoxville, Tenn., takes the wax he has left over and creates whatnots.

Blount’s beehives are located on Hwy. 29 south, halfway between Brewton and Andalusia near mile marker 23.

For more information, call 222-0751.

O.J. Blount is shown with “The Queen’s Castle,” his modified beehive box. The 84-year-old has perfected his own means of beekeeping. | Kendra Bolling/Star-News