J.N. Russell (known by most as simply "Russell" or "Beeman" spent his entire life developing the awesome genetic stock of his signature line the SunKist. As a young boy he was the nations leader in 4H for entomology.. He founded the state fair honey exhibit as well as the observation hive exhibit at the Museum of Nature Science. His breeding studies have led to the worlds heaviest laying queens (producing an average of 100k-120k bees per hive), as well as one of the worlds longest living queens named Elizabeth that lived to be 9 years old and was still producing in the spring of her 9th year.
Beginning with four hives that he purchased from his father for the sum of twelve dollars in 1943, he had expanded his operation to well over 2,000 hives by 1992 and sold honey (as a secondary product) to the Nabisco and Kelloggs companies by the semi truck load several times each year. His main products were Queens and Packaged Bees... Providing most of the nations resale companies with the packages and queens that they sold to rest of the nation.
He has supplied bees to everyone from the local hobbiest, to the Smithsonian Institute, to the King of Jordan for revitalising their entire nations genetics. He has gathered queens from all over the world and studied each species by maintaining their purity as well as developing hybrids to study the effects of each cross.
He had maintained a stock of feral colonies that he captured back in the late 50s. This stock has never been treated for any type of disease or pest and is still thriving today. In 1996, when Varroa Distructor was introduced to North America, he dedicated hives to several research groups in hopes of developing a quick and effective means of stopping the threat. It was then that he began his developement of resistant stock from all breeds that were managed in his apiaries.
He housed many scientists from Russia and the Ukraine which worked diligently with Russell Apiaries staff to further this developement. The Consortium of International Developement had been sending these scientists to Russell Apiaries to study our production and genetic selection programs in order to repeat these programs in their home countries to better their agricultural industries... The Varroa Distructor had been present in those regions for well over 100 years already, so their knowledge of the pests was very useful in Russell's studies.
As he grew older and began to find himself limited in his physical abilities, he passed his apiaries on to his youngest son Robert Russell, who was also a well known entomologist, commercial bee keeper, and founder of the Russell Research Foundation coordinating a brilliant online network of entomologists and bee keepers from around the globe that continuosly study social activities of colonies, DNA genome of each species, evolutionary progressions, methods of pest and disease control, and hybrid crosses. With the combined resources of Robert's apiaries and what little stock remained of his father's, Robert Russell Apiaries grew to suit a changing and much more diverse global market. Offering queens from all breeds that have been specially bred to possess resistance against pests and disease, gentleness, early build-up, winter hardiness, lasting longevity, and the heavy laying abilities that are so important to todays commercial markets. On December 8th, 2010 Julius Neal Russell went home to be with the lord. In his honor Robert is working to develop a college scholarship program for young men and women that are as in love with entomology as his father was. Although Russell Apiaries no longer operates with in Mississippi, we still love the state almost as much as the bees do! The lush plant life and abundance of winter and early spring rains make Mississippi an ideal location for raising bees.