December 8, 2015

Who’s the Queen Bee?

Photo of woman dressed in beekeeping outfit holding container of bees.

Coordinating the maintenance of cars, trucks, buses, tub grinders and loaders are daily occurrences at the fleet yard, where Levina Inaba can be found immersed in any of these and other tasks with Fleet Management. Perhaps more surprising are the days when Inaba gets called by the Maui Police Department or from someone at Central to move a wild bee hive. Inaba is affectionately known as the Bee Lady. “They are fascinating little creatures,” she said. “They are clean, organized, committed, and very fragile,” she continued. Inaba spends more than 20 hours per week of volunteer time tending three to five beehives in the Palawai Basin.

Inaba’s journey with bees began with a one-hour seminar over her lunch hour at the Central conference room when Debbie Chang, a professional beekeeper, gave a presentation about the carpenter bee, otherwise known as the bumble bee. Since that presentation one year ago, Inaba has developed into the primary caretaker and resource for beekeeping on the island. “What most people do not know,” she said, “is that these creatures are critical to our health. They pollinate food plants. They pollinate our flowers — both important parts of our environment and health.”

When asked what she would like people to know about bees she said, “People are afraid of bees. So they spray them or kill them, but really they are like us. They only get aggressive when they are defending their homes.” Inaba is doing her part in defending our home, Lanai, by ensuring our island has the healthy bees necessary to keep us healthy and sustain our landscapes.

Golden Harvest

On Nov. 6, Lanai’s beekeeping team extracted several gallons of golden goodness from frames of honeycomb, which the Mac Nut Apiary produced over the past several months. Presently the apiary has four separate hives, which are continuously working on growing more bees as well as producing honey to feed the brood. The honey bees forage for nectar on macadamia nut flowers when in bloom, as well as other flowering trees and plants within a few miles of their hives.

Nectar is converted to honey through a process of regurgitation and evaporation, which is stored by the bees as a food source in honeycombs contained in the hive. The honeycombs are then available to remove from the hives on thin wooden frames. Debbie Chang, Lanai’s beekeeping consultant, taught the team how to ready the frame for the spinning extractor. She also demonstrated how to use the extractor, strain the honey and bottle it.

As Lanai’s beekeeping program grows we expect honey production will increase as well. Sometime in the future be on the lookout for Lanai grown honey in your local food market.

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