The start of summer is an exciting time for bees. During this time, hives with surplus populations begin swarming. This is when large groups of bees leave their home hive with a queen to establish a new colony. If you’re a bee, early summer is a period of expansion. Just in time for this, five members of our research and innovation team started their summer by expanding their beekeeping skills!

The Bahamas Bee College, organized by Island Food-ology, was a 3-day beekeeping workshop that occurred on the Islands of Abaco, New Providence and Eleuthera. Our team attended the session on Eleuthera and learned directly from 3 master beekeepers from Bees Beyond Borders, who collectively hold about 90 years of beekeeping knowledge and experience.

DAY 1: Introduction to Beekeeping

On the first day of the workshop, our team dove into the biology of bees. As highly social insects, there is much complexity in their behavior that must be understood in order to successfully maintain a hive. 

During the biology lecture, we were lucky to have a swarming colony of bees pass right by our building. Our instructors understood this was an incredible learning opportunity and took us outside to experience the swarm. We learned that there is a misconception that bees are aggressive. The truth is that they are defensive, and only attack when they feel that their food, home, or babies are under threat. As a result, swarming bees that are looking for a new home are completely docile and able to be handled without fear of being stung. Our members witnessed this first hand and each got the chance to hold a swarm of bees!

CEI Research Technician, Zoe Brown, holding a swarm of bees.

We ended the day with hands-on experience hive-building, which required team-work and a bit of manual labor. By the end of the day we had successfully constructed two hive boxes of differing sizes and were looking forward to learning more about the workings of hives the next day. 

CEI Research Assistants Ariel Verbrugge and Sammy Dill constructing a hive box.

DAY 2: Maintaining your Hive

On day two of the workshop, one of our master keepers, Bo “Uncle Bo” Sterk, presented on good beekeeping practices which were backed by scientific findings. We were introduced to research results which revealed the best methods for hive inspections, manipulating hive growth, the effects of weather on beekeeping, and proper pest control management. 

One notable research finding involved varroa mites, which are arguably the worst of all pests faced in the beekeeping trade. We were taught an effective method of removing varroa mites from hives using powdered sugar, which makes it easier for the bees to detach themselves from these parasites. After separation, it’s easier to kill the mites as they fall off. 

We ended the day learning about how to maintain healthy hive productivity in different climatic regions. This is important to us beekeepers in The Bahamas, as standard rules of the trade developed in temperate regions might not work well for us here in the tropics. 

DAY 3: Products of the Hive 

On the final day of the workshop, we learned how to reap the benefits of bee-keeping. From creating edible products like honey, honeycomb, mead, and medicinal propolis, to beeswax candles, balms, soaps, and wraps, the products that can be made from the hive are endless!

Not only did we learn the theoretical practices and recipes for obtaining and creating these products, but we also got hands-on experience in creating our own products to take home. Each member of our team left with candles, lip balms, wraps, soaps and luminaires that they had made themselves that very day.

Products made by members of our team.

On The Island School campus, our apiary currently consists of two bee hives. The knowledge gained from this workshop will be used to keep our apiary healthy and thriving and work towards improving our local food security with hive-derived products!

Written by Zoe Brown and Ruben Gomez.