HONEY MONEY: JUST BEE

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Christin Neisler

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

bees?

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