Beekeeper creates a buzz
For Eric Young, helping the bees is all he wants to do. The veteran beekeeper, with 30 years’ experience as a teacher and ten years as a beekeeper says as a good beekeeper you must know the bee, listen to the bee and watch the bee.
“Follow the bee; understand the bee. I only want to help the bees, produce more bees, help them survive and help anyone who wants to get into beekeeping.”
Organic beekeeping is somewhat of a new phenomenon in Barbados and bees are important to society as two thirds of our food depends on the honey bee. Cucurbits (cucumbers, pumpkin, and squash) and citrus trees would not produce crops without the pollination of bees.
The insect helps any plant that uses the pollination process to reproduce. In fact, bees are so useful that the honey which they provide is the only food known to man that will not spoil. Known as the only food that will sustain life, you can eat only honey and live – in dire cases of emergency.
Young, in collaboration with the Caribbean Permaculture Research Institute (CPRI), started a series of beekeeping courses at the Ministry of Agriculture in Graeme Hall, Christ Church. The workshop, which was held last month, was such a success that there was another scheduled for yesterday.
“CPRI is doing a tremendous job in permaculture and highlighting beekeeping on the island. We have set up workshops to educate people on organic beekeeping as the best way forward. The reality is Barbados needs more beekeepers. You can never have enough beekeepers,” he said.
No treatment or chemicals are involved in organic beekeeping. Bees are fed only honey and pollen, so what you get is a clean, chemical-free honey along with healthy bees in balance with nature.
Besides honey found in the hive, there are other elements that can be used. Propolis, the “glue” that bees make to hold everything together in the hive, is believed by some experts to be a cure for cancer. In ancient times honey was used to heal abscesses and wounds and as a remedy for sickness. Similarly, beeswax is used to make cosmetics, for batik making and in the waterproofing of shoes.
The North American bee does not operate like the Caribbean bee. “It was somewhat of a battle getting the bees to stay initially in the apiary,” Young said.
“This bee does not have to worry about over wintering. It does not have to stay in one place and they tend to abscond or move out. It wasn’t until I put all the pieces together in St John that they stopped absconding. All a bee needs is to be left alone, with forage and a clean water source.”
Young, who has an apiary or bee yard in St John, says he puts out boxes and allows the bees to swarm or create new colonies as they see fit. An apiary holds as many boxes as the land allows and is created to have a look that is similar to an apartment complex.
With the recent drought, the bees have stopped swarming as frequently as before. “The drought has affected the bees and they have not been swarming as much because they know if they do, they will not have the resources to survive,” Young explained.
He believes the average Barbadian is scared of bees and more inclined to get rid of hives spotted close to their homes. However, if bees were considered livestock and not pests, there would be a better appreciation of them, he said. Like other animals and humans, bees get defensive when threatened. Honey bees are not aggressive unless they feel there is a threat to the colony.
Young, who on average removes one hive each month, was in the process of removing a colony in Horse Hill, St Joseph, when the EASY magazine team met up with him. He was very careful and precise in his method, detailing each step as he went along.
“Beekeeping is not seen as a serious business here, but with the ongoing workshops, I hope that we can expand the beekeeping community and by extension educate the public on the importance of the honey bee,” he concluded.