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A Honey of a Project

By Office of Communication Services    Published on 04/14/2016 More stories >>

in their bee suits, volunteers collect data for the University’s honeybee

Safe in their bee suits, volunteers collect data for the University’s honeybee research.

Maui’s lacking something the other islands have—and that’s a good thing. The destructive honeybee pest the varroa mite has not infested the bees there, creating important opportunities for research and outreach. One such is the Maui Master Gardener Honey Project, started by the UH Manoa Honeybee Project in 2014 to educate Maui Master Gardeners on beekeeping and honeybee issues so they could maintain the hives, collect data for research purposes, and raise bee knowledge and awareness in the community.

The UH Honeybee Project supplied initial materials and continues to visit the hives one or two times a year. Maui Master Gardener volunteers maintain four hives with twice monthly hive inspections, recording the strength and behavior of the hive, space and resources needed, and management actions. They also note the presence and approximate number of small hive beetles, another pest that can cause severe damage to the hive that is found on Maui.

Maui Master Gardeners scrape wax from the combs to
harvest honey.

Maui Master Gardeners scrape wax from the combs to harvest honey.

The Maui Master Gardener Honey Project also partners with SLIM (Sustainable Living Institute of Maui at University of Hawai‘i Maui College and HDOA to provide classes on beekeeping at the college. Maui Master Gardeners assist in the classes and provide access to hives for experiential learning.

The hives are growing; the beekeepers recently had to split a hive because it was so full. The project is hoping to recruit more volunteers to join the seven now involved: Flora Wong, Eric DeMaria, Mary Matsukawa, Charlotte Kennedy, Linda Martin, Jeff Kekauoha-Schultz, and Maria Corrales-Askov. Maui Master Gardener Coordinator Cynthia Nazario-Leary praises the level of dedication and care of the volunteers, doing important work while enduring beestings and hot bee suits.

Honey is harvested every 2–3 months. It takes four volunteers four to five hours to remove honey frames from hives, clean them, spin the honey in the extractor, then filter and bottle it. The honey is sold at outreach events to raise money for the MG program. In 2015, Maui Master Gardeners harvested over 100 lbs. of honey and raised over $1000, allowing the project to be self-sustaining. A Bee Garden, maintained by a separate group of Master Gardener volunteers, provides a diversity of flowering plants for bees and other pollinators.

Maui Master Gardeners volunteering in the project come from all different backgrounds, but all share an interest in bees, and everyone loves the sweet outcome! Master Gardener Flora Wong says, “Seeing nature at work is fascinating, and the honeybees’ rewards are amazing: pollination and honey!”