Bees. It’s on my mind as we head to the Ho’ōla Honey farm one morning in early July. It’s been years since I’ve seen true beekeeping in action so I am pretty excited to see what makes Ho’ōla special. Ho’ōla Honey is where Honua has been sourcing the honey for both of our masks – Moana and ‘Āina – since we launched the masks in 2018. Ho’ōla means “healing” in Hawaiian and after discovering them, we knew this was the right place to find our honey.
The farm is located outside of Hāwī, which is close to the northernmost tip on the island of Hawai’i. From the southwestern side of the island where I am, the landscape changes drastically from miles of harsh, stunning volcanic rock to greens and floral scenes.
With me are my daughter (7 year old Camden) and my dad (Roy), who actually has a bee allergy but really wanted to check out the farm and learn more about bees and our ecosystem. As we pull into the farm, we are greeted by Lukana, who is 3 ½ and has located a few drone bees for us to “play with” and he starts right in on the their role in the colony (male/drone bees do not sting and their only role is to mate with the queen - quite the life)! Along with Lukana, Kai and Kailin are the beekeepers here at Ho’ōla Honey.
While bees are a critical aspect of our ecosystem, it is not always convenient to have them around in homes and offices. I like honey, probably more than just about ANYONE, but even I can't handle bees buzzing around me and making hives in my house. Kai and Kailin realized this and started working to relocate local colonies to safe havens where they could thrive. Enter the creation of Ho’ōla Honey, which is more than a farm but a bee relocation project that works with local residents and businesses to relocate unwanted bee colonies. Thanks to community support (through the North Kohala Community Resource Center), Ho’ōla is able to relocate hives for very little cost to other locations in Kohala that they oversee and inspect regularly.
Upon finding bees, the first action for many home and business owners is to spray or poison them to get them to leave or die. Unfortunately, this can have a domino effect of poisoning many other colonies and areas as bees ingest the poison and fly to other flowers and plants, spreading it as they pollinate flowers as far as 5 miles away. As a result, bee populations worldwide (and in Hawai’i) face exposure to toxic pesticides. Additionally, queen bees are often exported to other states and countries to populate colonies there so protecting bee colonies becomes far more than a local issue.
Kailin spends a significant amount of time educating the community about bees and the danger that pesticides present to our ecosystem. For example, 1 in every 3 bites of food we eat relies on pollination from bees. As we lose bee colonies to disease, viruses or pesticides, our food sources are jeopardized.
In addition to relocation and education….Ho’ōla Honey has another really important job: harvesting. Which works out great for me – as a honey lover – and Honua, as a rampant honey user! Harvesting is not just for our needs, however, and is critical to the survival of the hive. Hives that go unharvested fill up, causing the bees to relocate and create new hives and places to nest (often in nearby homes or other buildings). It is critical to harvest regularly so bees have a place to continue to live and work, or they will find elsewhere, whether they are wanted or not. Responsible beekeeping is an important aspect of keeping bee colonies healthy.
Honua is unbelievably fortunate to have partners like Ho’ōla that believe and support our mission of improving our earth (Honua) for future generations.
You can find Ho’ōla Honey (and the Honua masks) at the Waimea Farmers Market on Wednesdays and if you are lucky, you’ll get to meet Kai, Kailin and Lukana.
For more information on Ho’ōla Honey and how you can support them, please visit their website!
Talk Story and Photos by Nicole Lampsa