THE BEE KEEPERS OF HAWAII
Honey Is The Nectar Of The Gods And Men1
Food of the gods, celestial nectar, liquid gold. Shrouded in sacral legend,
honey’s amber-hued sweetness has been worshipped since its frst
discovery by man around ten thousand years ago, likely in the depths of a
wild beehive. In its distinct intensity, unlike anything tasted before, it isn’t
surprising that the fascinating substance was seen as a gift from above in
almost every culture.
In India, it was considered dew fallen from the heavens; Egyptians
(thought to be the frst to cultivate honey using logs to mimic hives),
buried honey-flled clay vessels in tombs — traces of it, still edible, have
been unearthed dating over 5,000 years back; and the Greeks spoke of
ambrosia, a drink of honey and milk enjoyed by the deities.
Mythology aside, ancient Greece was also among the frst to tap into
honey’s powerful medicinal potential. While home cooks concocted
newfound delicacies with the frst-ever sweetener, others explored its
many therapeutic properties. Homer and Aristotle wrote extensively on its
virtues, and Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, proclaimed the
bees’ precious product as one of nature’s most potent healing agents,
using it to treat a variety of ailments and dress wounds and burns.
In the physician’s footsteps, modern fndings confrm that the delicious
condiment boasts a plethora of disease-fghting compounds, even aiding in
cancer prevention. Perhaps we no longer attribute its powers to the
divine, yet honey is still something of a miracle — the product of a team
of petite workers, it’s a testament to nature’s perfect design and the
wonder of its complex workings.
THE VALUE OF HAWAII’S HONEY BEES2
It is estimated that 1 in 3 bites of food relies on honey bee pollination.
Having healthy honey bees in Hawaii has great value at home and impacts
agriculture worldwide. In addition to the variety of special products
Hawaii’s honey bees produce including honey, wax, and pollen, the state
is a key provider of queen bees to the mainland US and Canada. Hawaii’s
year round queen rearing capacity is a critical resource to North American
agriculture which relies heavily on honey bee pollination.
Honey Production in Hawaii: $3.1 million/year
• Hawaii ranks 2nd in the US for pounds of honey per hive at 93lbs.
• Abundant diverse plants and year-round forage conditions make this a
great place to produce honey.
• Honey from Hawaii is prized on the market, with special favors and
textures, some sell for $40/lb.
Queen Bee Production in Hawaii: $10 million/year
• Hawaii is home to the largest queen bee producers in the world,
providing 25% of queen bees shipped to the mainland US and 75% of the
queens shipped to Canada.
• Demand exceeds supply, beekeepers and growers depend on Hawaii’s
exported queens. This is a growth industry with very high potential.
• Bio security is key to keeping export markets strong.
Agriculture Pollination value in Hawaii: $212 million/year
• Hawaii agriculture relies heavily on honey bees for pollination. Many
crops would not have pollinators without honeybees.
• With the arrival of Varroa on Oahu and Big Island, the feral bees have
been largely lost. Managed pollinators play an important role to provide
adequate pollination for farmers.
• Mac nuts, avocado, cofee, citrus, and lychee are just a few of the crops
that require honeybee pollination for fruit yield.
REGISTERED BEEKEEPERS IN THE STATE OF HAWAII
1. Big Island: 109
2. Maui: 45
3. Kauai: 35
4. Oahu: 35
5. Molokai: 4
6. Lanai: 1
BEEKEEPERS OF HAWAII
Hawaii Beekeepers Association http://www.hawaiibeekeepers.org/
Big Island Beekeepers Association http://www.bigislandbeekeepers.com/
Kauai Beekeepers Association https://www.kauaibeekeepersassociation.com/
Maui Beekeepers Association http://hdoa.hawaii.gov/pi/program-info/
UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII AT MANOA
COLLEGE OF TROPICAL AGRICULTURE AND HUMAN RESOURCES (CTAHR)
The relationship between humans and honeybees is ancient. Cave
paintings in Spain, South Africa, and Nepal, show "honey hunters"
collecting honey from wild hives. Over time, man became a
beekeeper rather than a bee raider, and apiculture began. Methods
for keeping bees in hives were developed and improved, and
beekeeping spread around the world.
Honeybees were introduced to Hawaii in the 1850's and a thriving
beekeeping industry developed. Bees, however, produce more than
just honey for us. Honeybees pollinate many of the tropical crops
we produce in Hawaii and consequently they are integral
component in the food production web in the islands.3
Hawaii’s honey market is skyrocketing. The state’s bee farms have
the highest honey yield in the nation, generating more than 100
pounds per colony per year, according to the U.S. Department of
Agriculture. Thousands of Hawaii-grown queen bees are also
exported every week.4
Beyond the liquid gold, bees and other pollinators are critical to the
health of our food supply and ecosystem. The University of Hawaii
plays an important role in supporting the state’s honeybees and
other pollinators. The Honeybee Project at Mānoa’s College of
Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources does research on
honeybee health, pest-management strategies and the development
of “pollinator-friendly” farms.
“We really heavily rely upon the honeybee to provide pollination of
diferent crops such as your lychee, your longan, to your pumpkins
and squashes that you see on the farms and you see in the
markets,” notes Scott Nikaido, a research technician with the
UH Honeybee Project members have trained a group of volunteers
known as the Bee Hui to help to spread the word through
community outreach and education.
“Everyone can have an impact in their daily lives about helping
pollinators or supporting our environment—their choice of pesticide,
for example, and the fowers that they plant,” says Bee Hui
volunteer Pamela Hinsdale.
Mānoa graduate student Jackie Smith volunteers with the Bee Hui
because she says public education key.
“We need food and just the overall health of the ecosystem,” says
Smith. “So those are two big things as to why pollinators are
important and the public should care.”
There’s a lot the public can do to help to protect our bees, other
pollinators and our food supply.
Nikaido, from the Honeybee Project, advises, “Just try to plant more
crops in your backyard. Be more pesticide free if you can. And buy
local honey. That’s one of the biggest things you can do to support
your honeybees, is buy local honey from your local beekeepers.”
Image by Dan Davila
Red Ohia Flower and Honeybee – Hawaii
1. Kate Missini. Honey Is The Nectar Of The Gods And Men Taste Of Life. March 26,
2016, accessed October 13, 2017 http://www.tasteofifemag.com/articles/nectar-of-the-gods-and-men
2. Hawaii Apiary Program. Hawaii Department of Agriculture, Plant Industry Division.
Accessed October 13, 2017 http://hdoa.hawaii.gov/pi/program-info/
3. The UH Honeybee Project. http://www.uhbeeproject.com/photos.htm#pics_here
Accessed October 13, 2017
4. Dr. Amber Strong Makaiau, UH Honeybee Project keeps Hawaii beekeeping buzzing
June 6, 2017, accessed October 13, 2017https://manoa.hawaii.edu/kaunana/uh-honeybee-project-
Image Courtesy Maui Bee Conference