Aloha, and Happy Earth Day everyone! I recently interviewed Katie from Hānai Hives, (Hanai is Hawaiian for ‘adopt’), which is a premier Hawai’i based apiary and home to O’ahu’s first ‘host a hive’ program. They are located just down the street from our headquarters! Here you’ll get to take a deeper look at what they do, and learn how you can better help care for Mother Earth on this special day.
Tiffany: "What inspired you to start Hanai Hives?"
Katie: "The short answer is, love. I’m inspired to share my love of honey bees and empower others to get to know and love them too.
As much as I do this for the love, I’m also compelled to make a positive difference in my community and the local ecosystem I live in. Making a conscious effort to eat local is critical for our local food system here on the island. We import 80% of our food! It doesn’t have to be like this. If we’re going to make any substantial change and lessen our dependence on imports, we need to grow more of our own food and protect and care for our pollinators, especially honey bees. Bees are responsible for 1/3 of the food we eat through the pollination they provide. Basically, we can’t eat local food if we don’t have a healthy thriving population of pollinators.
Katie with her colorful hives!
Not only does buying local food cut out the enormous carbon footprint it takes to get that orange from Florida to your fruit bowl, it also helps to keep out invasive species. Hawaii is the invasive species capital of the world! If we cut down on the importation of food, we cut down on invasive species too. Invasive species damage our local flora and fauna and put our sensitive ecosystem at risk.
The long answer is, I feel it’s my kuleana, my calling, to raise healthy bees and grow mindful beepers.
That calling came from deep within, and it came from others too- from friends, neighbors and strangers of all ages and backgrounds. I can’t tell you how many times someone would find out I’m a beekeeper and say “that’s so cool, I’ve always wanted to get into beekeeping.” I want to say “you can!” But the reality is, it’s just not that simple. There can be some serious obstacles including location, time, money and most importantly - good mentorship opportunities to learn the art and science of beekeeping. Hānai Hives was designed to help overcome those obstacles so people can raise healthy honey bees in a way that fits their lifestyles.
(More on that…)
For one, many people rent and their landlords may not allow a beehive on the property. Others own, but are uncomfortable or concerned about having a beehive on their property. Sometimes it has nothing to do with location, it’s more about time; perhaps they travel frequently and aren’t available to care for the hive on an ongoing basis. For others it’s none of this, they’re simply overwhelmed at all the equipment and supplies needed— not to mention - “where do you get the bees?!!”
Even if someone gets through all that, the most important part of course is beekeeping! How the heck do you start? YouTube videos are great, but watching a video of 50k bees versus having your hands in a beehive with 50k bees is about as opposite as you can get.
Knowing how to care for honey bees, helping them thrive and grow is a science and an art that takes time and experience. And the reality is, you don’t know what you don’t know! I say, give it a year, inevitably you’ll discover there’s so much to learn, you’ll never get bored because there’s always more to explore in the world of beekeeping.
Most of us who’ve been beekeeping for a number of years are happy to mentor others, but the reality is, time is a limited commodity, and making a commitment to a new beekeeper and being there through the challenges that one will inevitably face in that first year of beekeeping is not just important. It can make it or break it, for the bees and the beekeepers. 80% of beekeepers lose their hive the first year and give up. That’s just sad. Hānai Hives has your back, so the end of your first year is actually just the beginning of many productive and happy years of beekeeping."
Tiffany: "What is your relationship with Honey Girl Organics?"
Katie: "From 2014-2016 I worked at Honey Girl Organics as the lead beekeeper under the direction of owner and beekeeper Anthony Maxfield. I appreciate Honey Girl’s commitment to use organic honey, beeswax and propolis in their products. It's not only good for honey bees, it’s good for people and our planet too."
Tiffany: "How has Hanai Hives helped people on Oahu?"
Katie: "Hānai Hives is essentially small- scale apiculture in a collaborative model. It’s about including community members, inviting them to “bee part of the solution.” When you hānai-a-hive, not only do you discover the fascinating world of honey bees, you support our local food and ecosystem, it’s exciting and empowering!"
Tiffany: "What can people do to help the bees?"
Katie: "You can take simple steps like -
- Buy local food. Shop the farmers market. When you do this you support your local farmers and their ability to build a vibrant food system for people and bees!
- Support your local beekeeper and buy local honey.
- Grow your own food. Even if it’s just one plant or tree, it will make a difference!
- Share your excess fruit/veggies/herbs with friends and neighbors (so they don’t have to buy an avocado from halfway around the world! Ugh!)
- Plant flowers - for the love of our Āina (land), choose local varieties first.
- Refrain from using pesticides and herbicides. They kill bees and pollute our soil and waterways. There are lots of natural pest control methods!
- Educate yourself about honey bees. We protect what we love, and beelieve me, to know honey bees is to love them! 😉 Join us for a Bee Farm Tour and see for yourself.
- Consider beekeeping! Find a local mentor, join a bee club or if on Oahu, ‘hānai-a-hive’ with us!
- If you find a swarm of honey bees in your tree or yard this spring, call a local beekeeper to safely remove/relocate it.
- Inspire and support the curiosity of our children to protect and care for honey bees and all pollinators by getting outside with them. Go on a nature walk and ask them to look for pollinators— it’s so fun!"
Tiffany: "What is your favorite part of beekeeping?"
Katie: "It sounds feely-touchy but it's love. I love honey bees. The more I share that love, the stronger it grows, not just within me but within the people I meet who in big and small ways take steps to care for these important pollinators. I think that’s pretty cool."
Tiffany: "What is one thing you've learned through creating Hanai Hives?"
Katie: "One thing that comes to mind is, in such a divisive world, it’s so refreshing to work with people from all political/social/religious backgrounds and not just tolerate spending time together- but actually bliss out together- it’s possible!! Honey bees are pretty magical that way. Through caring for honey bees together, I get to see the good in people, and that feeds the goodness in me."