Beekeeping for Fun and Sustainability in Hawaii Nei

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Beekeeping in Hawaii dates back to 1857, when the first hives were introduced from California. One hundred and sixty-five years later, beekeeping has become “cool”.

Q: If I am interested in beekeeping, where can I take courses locally?

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A: Check with the Honey Bee Project at the University of Hawaii, which historically offered courses through its Outreach College.

Kona Plant Quarantine Supervisor Clare Okumoto (L) inspects Kona hives with the help of a Kona beekeeper (R) (Courtesy of the State of Hawaii Division of Plant Industry)

Q: How much work per week is involved if I want to keep bees?

A: Budget at least 2-4 hours per week, if not more, to maintain your hives.

Q: What kind of equipment investment will it take to get started?

A: It depends on the size of the apiary. For most beginner beekeepers, an investment of at least 2 colonies is required. This includes boxes, tools and protective clothing. It can cost between $500 and $1000. This does not include bees which can cost an additional $250-500.

Q: Where can I get materials?

Locally, you can go online to see what’s on Craigslist. If you can’t acquire gear locally, there’s Amazon and a number of mainland sellers. Mann Lake, based in Minnesota, offers excellent quality products and will offer free shipping on purchases over $100 in the continental United States.

Q: How do I get bees?

A: Currently, the only way to get bees is to catch a swarm of bees or buy a hive from a beekeeper. I would recommend new beekeepers to purchase a hive. (Note that it is illegal to buy and ship bees within the state as well as to ship between islands).

Q: How much honey does an average hive produce?

A: Currently, a healthy hive should produce an average of about 100 pounds of honey each year. However, this will vary by location.

Q: I don’t want more than one bee colony, do I?

A: Normally we suggest having at least two colonies. It’s good to have a backup colony.

HDOA entomologists Mach Fukada (L) and Mohsen Ramadan (R) study Molokai hives (Courtesy of the State of Hawaii Division of Plant Industry)

Q: Can I raise bees in a residential area such as Kaimuki?

A: Yes. The C&C ordinance allows up to eight hives in residential areas. However, there are certain restrictions such as keeping hives properly shaded from adjacent nighttime lighting on adjacent properties, keeping hives behind a sturdy fence or hedge at least six feet tall and other guidelines which you should be aware of.

Get help for beginners

Every beginner is going to need a mentor.

Beginners needing guidance should contact the University of Hawaii Bee Project at 808-956-2445/ He also suggests joining a beekeeping organization such as Hawaiian Honeybee Coop, Hawaii Beekeepers Association or Bee Collective where they can get help and advice from more experienced beekeepers.

Another great organization that supports beekeeping on Oahu is the Urban Garden Center, part of the University of Hawaii’s Cooperative Extension. The program provides innovative and diverse horticultural information and workshops to the gardening public and young people in Hawaii.

A section of the UGC is cordoned off for an apiary. The apiary is staffed by a handful of hardworking volunteers who meet several times a month early on Saturday mornings. They deserve recognition not only for keeping hives healthy, but also for passing on their knowledge of the importance of pollinators to future beekeepers and the public.

I have nothing but admiration for them.