The honeybee is biodiversity in itself and must be preserved at all cost.
Leicester Dean, a beekeeper from Saleimoa, knows this.
Mr. Dean, together with a few other beekeepers in Samoa, collaborated in 1996 to revive the beekeeping industry after the collapse of Samoa Bee & Honey Co. Ltd (S.A.B.H.O.) in 1989. They formed the Beekeepers’ Association of Samoa Incorporated in 1997.
From only 21 bee hives when he first started, Mr. Dean increased his number of hives to 160 on his five-acre farm.
However, according to him, because of flash flooding and bad weather, the number of hives on his farm decreased. He now has about 80 hives.
He said harvesting of honey varies depending on the weather.
“When there’s good weather, we would get honey from 80 to 100 frames but when the weather’s not that good; we would be only looking at 20 frames,” Mr. Dean said.
According to him, he sells hives to locals who request for them at $400 tala for a double bee hive.
“The materials needed to construct the bee hives are usually imported from New Zealand and they’re quite expensive, but compared to Australia, New Zealand is much more affordable."
Mr. Dean said to import materials for 20 hives would cost about $18,000 tala.
“However, beekeeping earns you good money. I haven’t been harvesting for some time now because of the weather, but when I do harvest, I usually sell honey in 500 millilitre bottles for $11 tala wholesale rate. Retail price could be $13 tala,” Mr. Dean said.
He said beekeeping has helped him a lot in the past 20 years that even he never loaned any money from the bank, but according to him, one would need about 100 hives to make good money.
Mr. Dean works on his beehives with his youngest son and his brother in law, painting the boxes and ensuring the bees are kept in a good condition.
The 79-year-old of German, English and Samoan ancestry was born in Samoa and like any proud Samoan; he wishes to see the beekeeping industry thrive again to benefit local Samoans.
“The Samoa American Bee Co. Ltd, that later went into a joint venture with S.A.B.H.O. in 1985, exported three 5 tons shipments of honey, dark amber honey during 1981, 1982 and 1983, totaling around 15 tonsto Rotterdam, Holland. They were sold at US$1,500 (T$3,843) per tonne and retailed 500 jars of bottled honey locally.
"S.A.B.H.O. also exported more than 40 tonnes of honey to Germany and retailed 500grams jars of bottled honey locally, including Honey Liquor.
“They did pretty well at the time before they collapsed. They were exporting a lot as well, which was good for the local economy,” Mr. Dean said.
However, bad weather and diseases are two major challenges that usually affect the bee colonies, which Mr. Dean says can either leave the bees to die because there is no nectar or make them search for food elsewhere.
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