The Department of Agriculture offered a beekeeping workshop in Abaco on March 20. Together with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the Department of Cooperatives, the Starlight Foundation and Gold Stream Ltd, the workshop was held on two separate days.
March 20 was for theory and other beekeeping industry-related presentations and March 22 dealt with field activities such as extracting bee swarms and evaluating the potential venue (in this case: Abaco Neem Farm) for a commercial beekeeping operation.
The workshop was facilitated by Dom Lam, President of the Michigan Beekeeping Association and Dr. Solomon Ward, a Biologist.
Shacara Lightbourne, a Technical Specialist with IICA, welcomed the assembly and explained the role of IICA in agricultural ventures. Kimball Stubbs and Eric Gittens, representatives of the Caribbean Cooperative Management Training Program, offered a detailed presentation on the advantages of forming a co-op. By the end of the seminar, many among those who attended had decided to join.
They outlined the monetary advantages of going into honey production, basing their information on the success of the Jamaican beekeeping industry.
Another attendant, Charles Sawyer, was a representative of Gold Stream Ltd, a company from Nassau which was instrumental in starting the series of beekeeping workshops on several islands of The Bahamas. The seminar on Abaco was the sixth of such workshops. It will be most likely followed by another workshop for beginners and one on extracting and preparing the nectar for commercial purposes.
Dr. Ward, native of Cat Island, with a Master in Biology, who now resides in Michigan introduced Don Lam – a friend of his. Mr. Lam (who owns between 150-200 hives) went into an extended presentation on the various aspects of beekeeping.
“I am to assume everyone is a beginner,” said the presenter, “so I am starting with the basics.” he announced at the beginning of his presentation.
The basics, ranged from a brief history of honey (such as jars of honey being found in the tombs of Pharaohs) to explaining the roles of bees in agriculture, pollination, itemizing the components of a hive, and talking about the various types of hives and the various species of bees.
The most common type of honey bee on Abaco is the Italian Bee, a gentle bee easy to manage.
He explained the structure of a hive, from the guard bees to the workers, the house bees, honey-makers and morticians, all the way to the Queen. It is interesting to notice that the queen is not born as such. It is chosen by the bees of the hive at the larva stage. After choosing which one would make the best queen, the bees then put it in a special cell and feed it Royal Jelly which will help to give her the needed characteristics to be a queen.
Although bees survive in the wild without human interference, bees in a hive could get sick or the honey combs contaminated by intruders such as mites, ants or small beetles. Mr. Lam advised to check hives on a regular basis in order to keep it healthy.
There is a good supply of local bees for people interested in starting a colony on Abaco. Bees swarm when the hive is too populated; some swarms can be extracted as was demonstrated the following day under the strict supervision of Bahamian Bee Master, Ruben Rahming. When extracting a wild swarm, caution has to be taken that the bees are not African Bees.
There is a ban on importing bees from the main land United States; the only provenance authorized for importation to The Bahamas is Hawaii.
When getting a hive it is important to place it in the right location. There should be an abundance of flowers and water available. Bees orient themselves with a kind of natural GPS system, so it good not to displace them or their source of pollen and water.
Mr. Rahming joined the gathering at the end of the presentation. He had with him a swarm contained in a Styrofoam cooler that he had just extracted. He gave instructions to meet the following morning at the BAIC Park for a demonstration on extracting a hive that was located under a trailer and reconstructing it.
All the previous day’s participants showed up before 9am on Monday morning. Suits were provided to some people as the instructor wanted as many people participating in the hand-on experience as possible. People who wanted to keep the hives (it turned out that several hives were under the container) were encouraged to slide under the space and help remove the combs after explanations by Mr. Rahming had been shared.
The instructor had first sprayed baygon around the hive, an act he explained he was performing only because there were so many people around.
After he had examined the hive and decided on the best way to remove it, several people took turns cutting comb pieces that were then immediately installed in frames and placed into the ‘super’ (the container used to hold eight or ten frames against which the bees build wax to make combs that will hold the honey). As the super filled up, pieces of comb dripping with honey were passed around for people to sample.
Finally the queen was located. The hive was complete.
The same operation was performed for the second hive which was said Mr. Rahming much bigger than the first one. The queen was not immediately located. A beekeeper returned after dark to find her.
After lunch, the party proceeded to the Abaco Neem Farm where Nick Miaoulis and his wife have a couple of hives. They wanted confirmation that they were properly taking care of the hives. Mr. Rahming was impressed with the Neem operation and advised the owners to build up their operation to up to two dozen hives. Spreads of Shepherd Needles, which is a favourite of bees, and many fruit trees besides the Neem Trees are the perfect set-up for a beekeeping business. He said that he will come back in a few months to check up on their progress.
The last stop before the visitors had to return to Nassau was at Glen and Tracy Kelly’s at Schooner Bay. Bees had set up a hive in a large wooden container that held garbage bins. The weather had changed, it was threatening to rain, a factor that supposedly make the bees more nervous; they were swarming around people. It was difficult for Mr. Rahming and his helpers to reach the bees on the deep container, so they build up some shelves that would supposedly help remove the bees at a later time.
Certificates of participation were handed out; photographs taken and people dispersed for the day, not without many of them promising to install hives at their nearest convenience. Belonging to the co-op will supposedly enable people to bring in material duty-free.