After visiting the cocoa farm and coffee plantation, we made our way to Big Island Bees, an apiary in Kona. It was very different from the first two visits because this time the product was being harvested from living animals, the bees. We were warmly welcomed into the museum and tasting room, which contained beautiful artwork, lots of honey, and plenty of information about the bees- including a live beehive! Displayed were sculptures that were made out of old beehives and beeswax, creating some very unique, intricate designs. We were shown around while being handed sample after sample of honey sticks. The honey was delicious, and from flowers native to Hawaii alone, such as the ‘Ohi’a Lehua blossom, making it even more special.
An interesting aspect of the Big Island Bees visit was learning about how bees produce honey and the hierarchy in beehives. Our guide explained that the Queen bee lived for up to five years, laying thousands of new eggs every day. Once a queen slowed down or died, half the colony would migrate, start a new beehive and choose one egg to become the next queen bee. Queen bees are very different to worker bees in terms of physical attributes and function. The beehive in the tasting room had one queen, marked with a red spot on her back.
The apiary made several types of organic honey. All the honey they produced was manually bottled, sealed and labelled, one of things that made their honey extremely special. It captures the Hawaiians ties to the land and what it produces, and they have a close interaction with all the food they produce and consume. This was evident in all the farmers markets we visited too. Most food sold was planted, nurtured and harvested by the same people who package and sell it. If this is encouraged and more self-sustainable local businesses are encouraged, it would help to make Hawaii a more sustainable state. Aloha grown, not flown!