What is happening to honeybees?
That is the question facing our island, our state, and a significant portion of our planet, as bee colonies worldwide are weakening and dwindling.
To shed some light on the plight of honeybees and what can be done to help, Hawaii Preparatory Academy — in partnership with Bee Love Apiaries, The Kohala Center, Kohala Mountain Farm and Slow Food Hawaii — will host Bee the Change from 6 to 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 25, at the school’s Gates Performing Arts Center.
The event, which is free and open to the public, will feature tastings of locally farmed honey, a screening of the critically acclaimed movie “Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us?” and a panel discussion featuring several Hawaii Island beekeepers, an entomologist from the University of Hawaii and bee educators.
Honeybees in Hawaii have long been the subject of controversy. While not a native species, they have been in the islands for centuries, and farmers depend on them to pollinate many of their crops. Bees have been essential agents in the local movement toward greater food self-reliance and abundance.
But today, bee colonies here and worldwide are facing a variety of threats, which are weakening them and causing their numbers to drop, in turn impacting our food supplies.
“Bees are the primary pollinators of many of the fruits and vegetables grown here in Hawaii,” said Nancy Redfeather, project director for The Kohala Center’s Hawaii Island School Garden Network. “Our local food supply depends on them.”
There are many factors thought to be contributing to the declining health of the planet’s bee colonies. Replacing honeybees’ natural food sources with sugar water or high-fructose corn syrup is a common practice among nonorganic honey producers that might be having an impact.
Pollination of genetically modified (GM) crops might be another.
In Hawaii, the introduction of two parasites also is posing a significant threat: The varroa mite, a tiny parasite that feeds on the blood of weaker bees, and the hive beetle, which eats bee eggs, larvae, honey, wax, pollen and other hive materials. Colonies are growing smaller or, in some cases, retreating to the forests to build new hives, and thus not pollinating agricultural lands.
“We have to help make our bees and colonies stronger through better stewardship,” said Redfeather. “Our ‘Bee the Change’ program will be a fascinating and informative evening that will educate the public, and help them understand how they can be part of the solution.”