Learn what all the buzz is about at Big Island Bees. Started by Garnett and Whendi Puett in 2004 after Garnett’s stepfather initially brought the family bee business to Hawai‘i in approximately 1971, the couple has continued the family tradition as fourth generation beekeepers.
Did you know that true honey is good for your health? “Certain honeys contain more antibiotic properties than others,” says Whendi, “but most important is that the honey be unheated and unfiltered and (remains) a true honey so that it retains all the enzymes, pollens and propolis, which are very healthy.”
Whendi also explains that their bees are nowhere near pesticide-treated plants. “Our bees are in remote areas far from any industrial agriculture,” she says. Bees only fly very long distances if there isn’t ample nectar in the vicinity, so we move our bees seasonally to ensure they always have nectar nearby.”
The only exception are bees in the macadamia orchards, so the honey from the orchards isn’t certified organic. However, Whendi says that “The nut growers are very aware of the bees and wait until we move the bees out of the orchards if they plan on spraying.” In fact, the bees have actually increased the macadamia yield by 30% through pollination.
Big Island Bees products are available onsite and online and include an array of delicious honeys. “We sell varietals of pure honey from single blossoms—Organic Ohia Lehua Blossom, Organic Wilelaiki Blossom and Macadamia Blossom honeys. We also sell some honey that we blend with spices such as Organic Cinnamon and Lehua, Chili Pepper honey and Lehua with Vanilla Bean,” says Whendi.
What’s her personal favorite? “I like all the honeys and use them depending on what I’m preparing,” she shares. “I like the Macadamia Blossom honey drizzled on my fruit and yogurt in the morning. I love the Lehua honey spread on a piece of toast or a biscuit. I use the Wilelaiki to make salad dressing and marinades. I guess I find myself using the Wilelaiki honey the most as it is so versatile; it works very well in both sweet and savory dishes.”
A beekeeper always has to be on his/her toes. “The biggest concern is the health of the bees,” says Whendi. “With the weather changes, we’ve had to alter our schedule and check the bees more frequently, which requires much more labor. Also, beekeeping as we know it changed a lot when the Varroa mite came to this island. It had already spread to most places in the world, but took a quarter of a century for it to reach Hawai‘i. The mite spreads diseases, so the bees must be vigilantly monitored. It now takes twice as many people to take care of even less hives than we had before the mite arrived.”
Big Island Bees is open Monday through Saturday where you can stop by and experience the honey farm on a basic tour, visit the museum and enjoy free honey tasting. Beehive tours are at 10 a.m., noon, and 2 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m. and noon Saturdays.
Better yet, make advance reservations for their Beekeeping Tour and visit actual hives with an experienced beekeeper, who shares facts about the fascinating lives of bees.