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  • Tales From the Hives - Article


Tales From the Hives

Walking Amongst the Mac Nut Trees on the Big Island

Sometimes we forget how great our work can be. As the holiday passed, and as we prepped for the unknown of the year to come, we were able to take a quick trip to The Big Island of Hawai'i. This is where our friends who make Big Island Bees buzz, Garnett, the beekeeper, and Whendi, the artist who fills the jars with island wonder, reside.

With typical Island graciousness, they took a day out of their busy lives to take us out to the hives, where the bees are currently pollinating the great Macadamia Orchardsfor the big nut farms of Hawai'i. It was wonderful! To see the trees and to see the hives was very special.

The Day Begins - Heading for the Mac Nut Trees of Hawai'i

We met Garnett and Whendi early one morning at their warehouse in the Capitan Cook area just south of Kona. We loaded up in two vehicles, children and all, and headed north towards Volcano National Park. Although we were headed for the Mac Nut trees, on the way, Whendi and I spotted Garnett and Eliza coming back towards us with lights flashing. A quick text back and forth and we learn that Garnett has spotted early blooming Le'hua blossoms along the side of the road. We quickly turned around and caught up with them - pulled over to the side of the road. Though Garnett's bees won't see the Le'hua trees for another few months, we got to see the Le'hua in their early stage of bloom.

I have never seen anything like it before. Garnett pulled a flower off a O'hia tree and shook it vigorously. The stamens fell on to his hand - along with a rain of nectar. These drops are the same sweet nectar that the bees will soon turn into honey. A few minutes later, when Eliza put her hand out to catch a few drops, she ended up with a handful!! And then licked it all up - so good!

Photos from the orchards. Big pics, slower loading.
Smaller pics, faster loading.

The Legend of Le'Hua

Legend says that Pele turned the warrior, O'hia, into a tree when he refused to marry her because he was in love with Le'hua. Le'hua was so sad at the loss of her lover, that the gods turned her into the blossom of the O'hia tree so that O'hia and Le'hua would be together forever. The legend states that if you pick a flower from the O'hia tree, it will rain - the tears of the lovers. Most interpret the legend to mean that rain will fall from the sky. But, the amount of nectar that fell from that blossom that day, I wonder if the legend really is referring to the copious nectar falling from the blossom - like sweet tears. Soon after we picked that blossom, it started to rain….

After this quick stop and a few pictures, we continued on to our destination - a town that was originally a "sugar cane town." As we approached, the weather turned from bright and sunny to cloudy and rainy. It was like we drove through a portal into another world - as a rain cloud enveloped us and the visibility dropped to a couple hundred feet, Whendi casually mentioned that this must be VOG - volcanic fog from the local volcano, created when sulfur dioxide reacts with oxygen, sunlight, dust particles, etc. - a highly toxic mix .... VOG.

Moments later, we turned into the town and parked our van outside the post office. We then all piled into Garnett's truck and headed for the mac groves. Off the road we went - bumping and rocking, down dirt trails, over edges where no road would go. The kids thought it was great! Garnett somehow knew where he was at all times and where all his hives where placed. He showed us different hive locations - scattered out amongst the vast reaches of the mac "forests." The whole time, Garnett would feed us interesting facts about the bees and the cycles of the plants they feed off of. It was very interesting!

In the process of cruising around, we also drove through a grove of Eucalyptus trees. Garnett explained that the Eucalyptus forest was a "man made" forest. Alexander, our then 6 year old son, was listening intently and when he heard that - he asked the obvious, "So, all those trees are made out of plastic?" Garnett, without missing a beat, explained that "man-made" meant that the trees were planted by man. In this case, the trees are planted in straight rows for easy harvesting. (They were grown to create OSB for the island, which currently brings in all of its wood from the mainland.)

Talking to the Bees - Or Not...

We continued looking for the picture-perfect hive picture . Our intent was to see the "bees in action." When we left Kona, the weather was sunny with a few clouds. As we arrived at the orchards, the sky disappeared into a cloud bank and a light rain began to fall. Although overcast skies are good for electronic pictures, it is not so good for the seeing bees. When it rains, bees head indoors and don't take well to visitors. They can get pretty ornery, so we had to keep our distance and didn't get to look inside a hives.

But, we did get to see the hives from a distance - and the orchards. It was really wonderful - and much better than the usual island "site seeing"! And we learned so much about bees and trees, plants, and the politics of being a beekeeper these days. Spending time with Whendi and Garnett is always so calming and pleasant - and truly open. It is hard to explain, but Whendi and Garnett are one with the bees and the island, and the bees are one with them. Although not everyone gets to take a quick trip to Hawai'i and rub elbows with Garnett and Whendi, you can meet them any time through their wonderful honey.

Photos from the orchards. Big pics, slower loading. Smaller pics, faster loading.

Click here to see photos from the apiaries of Big Island Bees. 2007 at work.

(c), 2010
Keywords: Honey, Big Island Bees, Hawaii, Lehua, Le'hua, Raw, Wilelaiki