Bees on the Big Island

Big Island Bees
Photo credit: hawaiimagazine.com

Bees are big business on the Big Island. It’s where 90% of all hives in the Hawaiian Islands are located. Beekeeping happens year round. Between November and January there is a reduction in the available nectar but soon after January the Macadamia nut trees flower, the nectar is plentiful again, and the bee populations increase!

Kona Queen Hawaii Photo by Ronit Fahl
Kelly O’Day, Kona Queen Hawaii. Photo credit: Ronit Fahl

Did you know

European bees were introduced to the islands in the late 1800s. 80% of food production on the Big Island requires bee pollination. Producers of coffee and macadamia nuts need the help of honey bees. Those who supply avocados, lilikoi and other crops to farmers markets are also reliant on bees for helping propagation.

  • Sales from bee-pollinated crops in Hawaii are more than $200 million.
  • There are approximately 15,000 hives in Hawaii.
  • Hawaii’s honey production was $3.2 million in 2018.
  • Hawaii supplies 25% of the queen bees on the Mainland and 75% of those in Canada.
bees3 Big Island Hawaii Horizon Guest House
Photo credit: HomesteadinHawaii.com

Queen bees are exported from Hawaii to the rest of the world. Hawaii exports more than $10 million a year in queen bees. Because of the climate Hawaii is able to supply queen bees all year round. 

Queen bee shipping cage. Photo credit: Ronit Fahl

The majority of the queen bee producers are here on the Big Island. These include Kona Queen Hawaii. While Kona itself provides the perfect weather for cultivating queen bees – warm weather, not much rain – Hilo, with its high annual rainfall is less ideal. However, this environment still produces some unique nectar flows.

Photo credit: Big Island Beekeepers Association

Plants that help the bees

The Big Island’s many climatic zones create numerous areas for beekeeping to take place.The amazing variety of flowers means there are a large number of specific nectar flows, resulting in some amazing honey varieties. There are a number of artisan honey producers that supply these type of niche flavors, including those produced from the Ohia Lehua and Christmas Berry trees.

Varroa Mites

In the 2000s varroa mites almost completely destroyed the beekeeping industry on the Big Island and Oahu. As a result, importing bees into Hawaii is now illegal.

Bee Culture Big Island Hawaii
Photo credit: beeculture.com

What do bees need in the tropics?

Bees need the morning sun and then later in the day they need some shade. If bees are grown at slightly higher altitudes, then full sun may be suitable since the overall temperature may be cooler. Bees also need easy access to water. This might be as simple as a bird bath or a shallow dish of water. Shelter from the wind is also needed, since wind can cause rain to be driven into the hives, disrupting the temperature of the hive. Bees also like their privacy, and flourish when kept away from heavy foot traffic or other human activity.

Big Island Bees Hawaii Horizon Guest House
Photo credit: manoahoney.com

Types of honey

Pure Honey: This means it’s 100% honey, no other ingredients (such as corn syrup).

Raw honey: Is pure honey that has not been heated to the point of pasteurization – retaining all the extra goodness of honey, such as the natural enzymes and vitamins.

Organic honey: Organic honey is produced using pollen from only organically grown plants (no pesticides).

Unfiltered honey: Is honey that has not been filtered – the process by which very small particles are removed. This makes the honey close to the honey that is removed directly from the hive.

Where to get it!

Big Island Bees
Photo credit: Jeffsetter.com

The Big Island Bees honey farm is only a short drive from Horizon Guest House. Visit the farm and experience a beekeeping tour, visit the museum and enjoy a free honey tasting! 

The Big Island is the home of Hawaiian honey, so make sure you try some of Hawaii’s best kept secret!

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