BEEKEEPING IN HAWAII
THE GENETIC STRENGTH OF OUR TROPICALLY BRED BEES
Since the mid-19th century, beekeeping and other bee-related activities in Hawaii have waxed and waned as beekeepers have had to adjust to the invasion of deadly hive diseases and pests. To prevent the infiltration of introduced pest species and the devastation of Hawaii's bee population, Hawaii’s borders have been closed to bee imports since 1908. As such, beekeepers in Hawaii acquire locally-reared queens as a necessity not only to protect Hawaii's bee population but also to maintain the delicate balance of Hawaii's ecology. Despite the control measures put in place at the beginning of the 20th century, varroa mites and small hive beetles nevertheless found their way to some of the Hawaiian Islands, wiping out the majority of native and feral bee populations.
Today, queen bees bred in Hawaii are known for their genetic adaptation to the unique climatic, geographic, and ecology of the islands which allows Hawaii's bee colonies to produce large amounts of high-quality raw honey throughout the year. Breeders in Hawaii select queen stock for traits of hygienic behavior that contributes to the development of varroa resistant bees, These locally-reared queens help beekeepers in Hawaii and elsewhere to sustain strong and healthy colonies. Moreover, with the ideal weather conditions on Hawaii's Big Island, queen bee breeders can rear, sell, and export mated queens on a year-round basis.
In addition, the lack of the more aggressive Africanized honeybees on the Hawaiian islands ensures that the lineages of bees derived from locally-reared queens have a gentle demeanor. Consequently, Hawaii's breeders also export their queen stock, supplying about 25% of queen bees to the US mainland and about 75% to Canada. This burgeoning export of queen bees from the islands to North America helps maintain the docile genetic behavior of European bees while also diluting the undesirable aggressive behavior of Africanized bees.
With the local availability of diverse sub-species of the Western Honeybee, each with different genetically determined foraging and floral preferences, Hawaii's beekeepers can simultaneously offer mono-floral and multi-floral honey varietals throughout different times of the year.