HONEY MONEY: JUST BEE
Birthed from the sticky larvae secretions of worker bees, a queen emerges from white goo, battling the honeycomb womb’s fight to death, killing rival queens, and securing her seat among the hive. Rising through the sky, the magnificent, virgin queen honeybee sets off on her singular mating voyage. The original naturalist in all her glory, assuming her reigning journey among future kingdom, emitting a trail for her suitors, taking not one, but 7-15 drones . . . midair . . . He inserts his endophallus in her . . . he finishes and it explodes off, and the drone falls away, meeting his inevitable sacrificial doomed fate. With 2000 eggs herself, she will create a strong population for the survival of her colony, keeping 5 million sperms in her sperm bag—OK, don’t ask me how they got a sperm count on a bee . . . yet apparently they did! But, what I do know, is that this bee stuff is unbelievably sweet shiz! Bee pollination is responsible for more than $15 billion in increased crop value each year. Bees have survived 40 million years of global changes but the recent collapses, due to man’s intervention with the agricultural industry, threaten their future existence, proving a greater menace than any ice age. Oh, and let’s not forget - the threat on our future food supply!
Trinidad native and Lucian resident for 10 years, Paul Sheppard, is a passionate beekeeper, teacher and consultant with 30 years of experience who believes that the Caribbean holds the perfect paradise for a profitable, sustainable bee industry. He has just returned from St. Croix’s “Healthy Bees in Caribbean” Beekeeping College and Congress where representatives came together to talk about the condition of bees in the Caribbean. The question at hand was: Why are our bees doing so well here, unlike collapses in other parts of the world? He explains that because the islands are not fully monocropped like industries in the US, China, and parts of Europe are, the exposure to chemical fertilizers and insecticides is not as big a threat to the bees’ health. Island beekeepers generally don’t have extra money to spend on pesticides so the bees are living naturally and thriving. He continues that the environment of the Caribbean, with its diversity and unique tropical variety of flowers, coconut trees, and vegetation, creates an advantageous playing field for the bee industry to flourish.
In support of his efforts, Sheppard is doing research and studies here, comparing the health and productivity of natural hives and commercial hives. By this experiment he has discovered that less intervention is needed to maintain healthier bee colonies and that natural raising is more cost effective. In the artificial hives the bees prove more susceptible to disease, and in the long run, the productive yield will not be sustainable. The experiments going on at his farm are proving that the health of the bees is dependent upon their own methods of survival versus man interfering with God’s perfect system.
Creating a bee industry on the island means jobs for people. A $17 million earning potential is estimated for the Caribbean; so how do we utilize it? The value of products from bees is beyond fruitful, ranging from wax, honey, propolis, bee pollen, royal jelly and mead (an alcoholic champagne-like beverage). Aside from the amount of wax product that can be sold for a multi-million dollar cosmetic industry, wax is also useful for surgery, where application to cut or damaged bone controls bleeding pores and channels. Wax also makes a variety of natural soaps, as well as candles, all of which can be manufactured locally. Ever been blown away at inflated honey prices on the island? $50 for a rum bottle? With a better balance of supply and demand, the price for honey sold locally would reduce dramatically. The bees’ gifts to mankind don’t stop there. When consumed, propolis, the resinous mixtures used to seal holes in the hive, can be a natural alternative to antibiotics! Royal jelly and superfood bee pollen, one of nature’s most complete foods, are healthy supplements, boasting complex B vitamins and a broad amino acid spectrum. Pooh Bear was on to something . . .
Sheppard calculates that for the average Saint Lucian, the potential earnings from having a few bee hive stationed in your back yard are $500$750 per hive, and that one can easily manage up to 30 at once. Maintaining 25 hives means $12,500-18,750 a year in honey yield alone! We haven’t even factored in the other products. With one trip to the hive every other week, maintenance work totals to 26 for an entire year, plus a harvesting day’s work for extracting and bottling the honey. With 30% going towards supplies, the return is still high.
So the next time you bite into a fruit, vegetable, or nut, think about our benefactor the honeybee. Without its crucial visit, that food would cease to exist and cease to nourish your system. Utilizing the bee industry and boosting economic productivity is one step in the longevity of our food supply. Maintaining a GMO-free agricultural society on this tropically diverse island, and imparting natural beehive practices are key steps in securing the health of the bees and of harnessing this industry’s golden productivity. Perhaps we all should channel our inner Pooh Bear and set up a hive on our land . . . rock back and forth with our cherished honey pot, and allow the coins and bills to overflow.
Can we be saved by the