Beekeeping for fun and sustainability in Hawaii Nei 

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Beekeeping in Hawaii dates to 1857, when the first hives were introduced from California. One hundred sixty five years later beekeeping has become ‘cool’.

Q: If I’m interested in keeping bees, where can I take classes locally?

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A:  Check with the University of Hawaii Honey Bee Project which historically has offered classes through their Outreach College. 

Plant Quarantine Kona Supervisor Clare Okumoto (L) surveys Kona hives with the assistance of a Kona Beekeeper (R) (Courtesy State of Hawaii Plant Industry Division)

Q: How much work per week is involved if I want to keep bees?

A: Figure on budgeting at least 2-4 hours a week—or more to maintain your hives.

Q: What kind of investment in equipment will it take to get started?

A: It depends on the size of the apiary. For most new beekeepers, an investment of at least 2 colonies is required. This includes boxes, tools, and protective clothing.  This can cost between $500-1000. This does not include the bees which can cost an additional $250-500.

Q: Where do I get equipment?

Locally, you can go online to see what’s on Craigslist. If you can’t acquire gear locally, there’s Amazon and any number of mainland vendors. Minnesota-based Mann Lake, has excellent quality products and will provide free shipping for purchases over $100 in Continental US. 

Q:  How do I obtain bees?

A:  Currently, the only way to obtain bees is to either catch a swarm of bees or purchase a hive from a beekeeper. I would recommend new beekeepers to purchase a beehive. (Note that it’s illegal to buy and ship bees into the state as well as ship between islands).

Q: How much honey does the average hive produce?

A:  Currently a healthy hive should produce on average around 100lbs of honey each year. However, this will vary by location.

Q: I do not want more than one colony of bees, is that ok?

A:  Normally we suggest having at least two colonies. It’s good to have a backup colony.

HDOA Entomologists Mach Fukada (L) and Mohsen Ramadan (R) survey hives on Molokai (Courtesy State of Hawaii Plant Industry Division)

Q: Can I keep bees in a residential neighborhood such as Kaimuki?

A:  Yes. The C&C ordinance allows up to eight beehives in residential areas. However, there are some restrictions such as keeping hives properly shaded from adjacent night lighting on adjoining properties, keeping the hives behind a solid fence or hedge at least six feet in height and other guidelines that you’ll need to be aware of.

Getting Help for Beginners

Every beginner is going to need a mentor.

Newbies needing advice should contact the University of Hawaii Bee Project at 808-956-2445/uhbeeproject@gmail.com. He also suggests joining a beekeeping organization such as Hawaiian Honeybee Coop, Hawaii Beekeepers Association or Bee Collective where they can get help and advice from more experienced beekeepers.

Another great organization that is supporting beekeeping on Oahu is the Urban Garden Center, part of the University of Hawai’i Cooperative Extension. The program provides innovative and diverse horticultural information and workshops to the gardening public and Hawaii’s youth.

A section of the UGC is cordoned off for an apiary. The apiary is staffed by a handful hard working volunteers who meet several times a month early on Saturday mornings. They deserve recognition for not only keeping healthy hives but passing on their knowledge about the importance of pollinators to future beekeepers, and the public.

I have nothing but admiration for them.

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