Local honey harvesters join global bee plea

This week, communities across the globe celebrated World Bee Day with Samoa joining in the festivities within a growing movement to protect the insects which play a vital role in our ecosystem.

The owner of Aopo Organics, a leading commercial honey harvester, Lusia Sefo Leau spoke to the Samoa Observer and said she had developed bee-keeping experience over the last four years.

The producers of the Aopo Forest Honey, Lusia and Mailata Iosia Leau, began their journey as both a hobby and for health reasons.

“My small family’s journey into beekeeping has been and continues to be an exciting and amazing journey of joy and wondrous admiration and awe of the work and nature of the honey bee,” said Lusia.  

“They are small, hard-working animals [and] insects and their whole system of existence is fascinating.

“Inspect the engineering design of a hive – the exact hexagonal shape of each cell which makes for the most efficient storage of honey; the sealing of cells with wax so there is no contamination of the stored honey; the use of resin collected from plants that is used as propolis to completely seal around the hive – which products, wax and propolis - we also collect along with the honey.

“Observe the 'bee dance' of the scouting worker bees that tell the others of where the nectar is and how to get back home… and the hum of the beehive if you listen closely because of the rapid flapping of wings to fan the bees and to reduce the content of water from the nectar.”

Leau described their journey of discovery, learning about the needs of the crucial source of pollination. 

“My fascination has led us on a joyful study and a love of bees and a storage of little facts about what plants they feed on for pollen – we have stopped mowing the 'vaofefe Samoa' (flower) for example because bees love those purple flowers – it is their source of pollen.

“Or the 'weeds' with little yellow flowers that have expanded in some of the areas around the hives because they love them; we know when they are agitated; we know we have to provide them with water during the extra dry season and food during the long wet season because they can’t come out to forage for protein and nectar.”

What began as a hobby eventually developed into a business, Lusia said, as their passion for the world of bees continued to grow. 

“It was an operation that met well with our values for healthy, earth friendly and sustainable use of the organic lands and forests of our village, that can also help supplement income for our village community,” she said.

“Bees are excellent pollinators for our food crops, especially fruit, vegetables and most tree crops. It is believed that 75 per cent of global food crop types rely on pollinators like bees. That means without bees, we will either have to rely on hand pollination - very difficult and expensive, or simply those food crops will simply start to disappear.

“Bees need food too – they collect protein from pollen, and carbohydrates from nectar of flowers (honey bees store nectar and make this into the honey that we eat). In the process of feeding itself and moving from flower to flower it “accidentally” or naturally pollinates plants and trees. Essentially bees play an essential role in keeping us and the planet fed, and healthy.”

Unfortunately, over the years, the numbers of bees have reduced and this coincides with the growth of intensive agriculture, monoculture, use of pesticides and climate change, said Lusia.

"Bees are under threat… my plea is to teach your children, our future generations, about bees, their importance as pollinators and food providers and their essential role in keeping us and the planet healthy.”

The beekeeper is calling for the community to refrain from using pesticides, and suggests that beehives are not placed near land or farms that use pesticides. She also recommends a diversity of drops as bees love different plants.  

“We love pretty flowers and keeping our surroundings pretty, find out more about the plants and flowers bees love in Samoa and grow more!” said Lusia.  

“Such tiny animals with so much value…we take them for granted but be aware and build awareness of their importance.”

The disappearance of honey-producing bees on a global scale has become a major concern for international environmentalists. Last year 40 per cent of honeybee colonies died in the United States, continuing an alarming trend of bee de-population.

Closer to home, Radio New Zealand reported that bee colonies in the country have declined in numbers for the sixth year in a row with nearly 100,000 colonies estimated to be lost. 

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