Where in the World?

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If you were packing for a trip to Mexico, you probably wouldn't bring a parka.

My point being: different areas of the globe have very different climates. Hot and dry, wet and mild, long days or short days, even perfect all year round like Hawaii. Everywhere is different and these differences can affect keeping our honey bees happy and healthy. 

When I first started researching, geographical differences hadn't even crossed my mind.

It wasn't until I got in contact with our local beekeeper, Mark, that I came to realize how important it can be. We live in a very wet climate, which raises concerns about ventilation. Without being properly ventilated, many problems could arise in a hive when the rain comes. Opposed to the traditional flat roof outer cover, Mark builds hives for Vancouver Island with a sloped roof to allow the rain to shed off. He also creates upper ventilation so the condensation doesn't settle, getting the bees wet inside the hive.

Interestingly, because it is wet here on the island, hydration is less of an issue.

I hadn't come across this one in my research until later but bees get thirsty! Though we have a small water source very close, there are many lakes, ponds, creeks and rivers nearby so our bees can stay hydrated. Some hotter, dryer places might find that this is an issue for them and it becomes something to keep conscious of.

Another one to keep in mind is temperature. Cold temperatures will account for a different look into preparing your hive versus somewhere hot. Accommodating for different temperature regions ahead of time would be another factor in helping your success as a beginner.

A geographical difference that also should be taken into account is predators.

Living in western Canada, and in a rural area, bears are a common predator to our hives. Knowing this, we are looking into a possible electric fence to help keep guys like Pooh Bear outta our honey. Being prepared for such predators in your area could save time, money and resources in the long run. 

Different issues like these should be huge factors in your beekeeping research.

My best advice is to contact a local beekeeper. They are experienced and will know better than anyone how your own climate affects your honey bees, not to mention their invaluable hands-on advice. So far, anyone I have met in the bee community has been so open and excited to help us and give their thoughts.

We are still learning so much and are always in contact with beekeepers to get advice or shed light on issues we may come across. We are still very much in the research stage and are learning new things daily about the amazing symbiotic relationship between our little honeybees and our planet.

Beekeeping in Cuba

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This week, we are on a family vacation to Cuba!

Puzzled about what to blog about this week, I started looking into beekeeping in Cuba and found some pretty interesting things!

What better time to share this honey-rich history than while I am laying on their very beaches!

When you think of Cuba, the first things you think of are rum and cigars.

Beekeeping hadn't even crossed my mind as an industry that is flourishing in Cuba until I started to do some digging.

Beekeeping was introduced to Cuba by America in the early 1900's. The American's came to build and own honey farms, which they ran from home in the US. Since then, the industry grew and at one point was one of the big money makers that the island contributed to the American economy.

What is very interesting is what happened after the United States severed ties with Cuba during the Cold War in 1961. Their most important foreign trade parter became the Soviet Union and later, after it's collapse in 1991, Cuba had a very difficult time purchasing pesticides.

This forced the country to start practicing organic agriculture. 

There are chances that local pesticides may have been created and used, but for the most part the widespread use of pesticides is non existent. The policies put in place, that are still enforced today, made way for a pesticide-free way of farming. This created better, safer and healthier crops for the honey bees to use at their will.

What at first seemed like a burden, contributed to organic honey becoming Cuba's fourth most valuable export!

Another bonus from being isolated in the trade market is less chance of passing along international parasites to the bees, such as varroa mites. The seperation from these parasites has made the honey bee population flourish.

As we know, two of the biggest threats to honey bees is pesticides and parasites. This island has been doing a good job of steering away from both of these factors. Is Cuba the ultimate honey bee paradise?

From where I am sitting in the sand, they definitely have the paradise part down.

I have added some links below if you would like to learn more about Cuba's history and their organic honey!

Bad Beekeeping Blog - "Cuba's Organic Honey"

The Guardian - "Organic honey is a sweet success for Cuba as other bee populations suffer"

More Trees Less Assholes - "Why is Cuba having the healthiest bees?"

Bees on Vacation

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On our vacation to the Big Island of Hawaii, we couldn't help ourselves but check out some local bees. 

We searched around and found Big Island Bees, who are not only the largest honey producer on the island and family run but also offer tours and honey tasting! Say no more! 

Their website is beautiful and makes it very easy to read up on them as well as book a tour.

We quickly reserved a tour for our second full day on the island and were all very excited! 

The drive to Big Island Bees was gorgeous. Hidden away in an amazingly lush area of the Big Island, breaking away from the thick lava fields. We cruised up and down windy roads until we reached the Captain Cook area.

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We saw the gate for Big Island Bees but, being early, we continued on to Kealakekua Bay, where Captain Cook first set foot on the island of Hawaii! A very cool spot to check out. 

After we checked out the historical site, we headed back up to Big Island Bees! 

The view from their museum/tasting Room is amazing. Our iPhones couldn't do it justice but the picnic tables overlooking the view were a perfect place to sit and relax before our scheduled tour and see all the beautiful flowers. 

We checked in at the desk and we were quickly whisked away by Joe for our tour. We sat in a breezy room and were offered some delicious treats as we watched a 10-minute movie about the Big Island Bees company.

The video showed a bit of history about the company, and showed how they move their hives a few times a year to hit certain nectar flows from different plants in bloom.

We then headed out to the yard, tea sweetened with honey in hand.

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Here they have constructed a one of a kind viewing area so we could get right up close and personal with the bees while still feeling safe from stings. Though we are about to venture into the world of bees ourselves, for now, they still make me a bit nervous.

My nerves, however, slowly subsided as Joe talked about his bees.

He was very knowledgeable and passionate about everything beekeeping and made for a very detailed tour guide. We got to see him handle the bees first hand and give us an amazing visual for each frame he pulled from the hive. He answered all the questions we, and another group could think of. We all left knowing something about bees that we hadn't before. 

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After the tour, we were brought inside to do some tasting! There were 4 types of honey to taste and each was uniquely different from the next. We learned how they move their bees three times a year to get the bloom of three distinct flowers, creating different varietals.

 

My personal favourite was the white organic Leuha honey infused with cinnamon, but all of us left the table with our eyes for the combo pack featuring three of the flavours. 

After the tasting, we walked around the shop/museum and checked out all there is to see. And there were lots! There were tons of interesting books and pictures and even old artifacts.

 All our questions were sufficiently answered by our tour guide, Joe, and we ventured off to check out all the snippets of information throughout the museum. There was also a "Bee Photo Booth" which we could spend so much time having fun taking pictures.

A good hour is needed to check out all there is to see inside the shop. Including the honey!

Lots of honey was for sale in all different sizes. There were treats made with honey, soaps and candles and even t-shirts. 

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As our visit came to an end we thanked Joe, took a picture of him and his honey, and said our goodbyes.

We learned so much during our visit to Big Island Bees and many things we will remember as we venture into the bee world ourselves.

We would love to say Mahalo to Big Island Bees for our fabulous visit and tour.

The next time we are on the Big Island we will be sure to come back. Until then we will definitely keep in touch with them and share our story as we get our two new hives this spring!