Hawaii consistently turns out high quantities of honey per hive, and in 2018, it produced 103 pounds per colony – the highest in the nation. In 2019, the yield has dropped a bit, but it still ranks as one of the most efficient honey-producing states.
When Did Hawaii Begin Producing Honey?
The first Apis mellifera honey bee hives arrived in Honolulu in October 1857, after being shipped from San Jose, California. It took eighteen days for the bees to travel to Hawaii, but they were all in good condition when they arrived. The Royal Hawaiian Agricultural Society paid $100 for each of the three hives.
Although the three hives increased to nine by the next year, during the next few decades only hobbyists were interested in keeping hives.
Commercial honey production didn’t get started in the state until the 1890s, when the Sandwich Island Honey Company exported honey to the mainland. By the time the turn of the century approached, Hawaii had shipped out close to 110,000 pounds, most of it overseas.
The average annual value of honey shipments between 1900 and 1916 was $40,000 but increased dramatically to over $350,000 in 1918. That year, 2.4 million pounds of honey was shipped.
Demand due to World War I kept the price of honey high. It wasn’t until the period from 1920-1930 that production dipped, due primarily to a rise in American Foulbrood disease and the advent of the Great Depression.
Currently, Hawaii is home to many honey companies, some small, family-run ones and larger firms that have hives in several locations. Hawaii consistently turns out high quantities of honey per hive, and in 2018, it produced 103 pounds per colony – the highest in the nation. In 2019, the yield has dropped a bit, but it still ranks as one of the most efficient honey-producing states.
Currently, Hawaii is home to many honey companies, some small, family-run ones and larger firms that have hives in several locations.
What are the Main Types of Honey Produced in Hawaii?
Hawaii is known for producing one of the world’s rarest honeys – Kiawe. The bees that make this honey forage almost exclusively on the Kiawe tree, grown in a 1,000-acre forest on the Big Island. Kiawe honey is favoured for its delicate flavour and silky crystallisation. The colour is very light – almost white.
Other popular honey varieties include Lehua honey, Wililaiki honey (also known as Hawaiian Christmas Berry), and Macadamia Nut Blossom honey.
How Much Honey Does Hawaii Produce?
It is estimated that Hawaii contributes $212 million per year in pollination services. But Hawaii is also a large honey producer, and in 2018, it ranked first in the country for the quantity of honey it produces per hive. In 2019, The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that Hawaii produced 1,280,000 pounds of honey, sourced from 16,000 hives.
But apart from pollination and honey production, Hawaii is also one of the largest queen producers in the world and supplies around 25% of all the queens shipped to the Mainland United States and 75% of the queens shipped to Canada.
Hawaii’s mated queens are in high demand because the consistent weather makes them available year-round. Another reason why people want Hawaii’s queens is because the state is, so far, safe from the Africanised bees that plague many other warm-weather regions. Hawaii generally breeds two species of queens – Italian and Carniolan.
Is Hawaii Honey Produced All Year Round or Is It Seasonal?
Most of the honey farms in Hawaii has two honey harvests per year: April and November. Honey collected in April is made by the bees starting in December, and the honey harvest in November is made between May and October.
One of Hawaii’s biggest producers Maui Bees Inc. produces about 30,000 pounds of honey per year in three forms, Winter, Summer and Spring. Winter honey primarily comes from Eucalyptus and some years from Silver Oak. Wililaiki (Christmas Berry) honey is being harvested during summer months and Macadamia Nut Blossom comes in April and May.
During the remaining months, beekeepers must keep their bees healthy by checking for mites, diseases, and adequate brood production. If foraging material isn’t available, the beekeepers will need to feed a sugar solution to the bees so that they don’t starve.
The other big management task is to try to prevent swarming, which can occur when hives become too crowded, and part of the colony leaves to find another hive. Beekeepers can proactively split their hives to prevent a swarm from happening.
Are There Any Major Honey Farms or Apiaries in Hawaii?
Here are some of the larger honey sellers and apiaries located throughout Hawaii:
- Maui Bees Inc.
- Big Island Bees
- Hamakua Apiaries
- Hawaii Harvest Honey
- Manoa Honey Company
- Molokai Meli
- Rare Hawaiian Honey Company
- Raw Hawaiian Honey Company
- Kona Queen Hawaii
- Olivarez Honey Bees
Which Species of Bees Create Hawaiian Honey?
Hawaiian beekeepers use Italian bees (Apis mellifera ligustica) and Carniolan bees (Apis mellifera carnica) to create their honey. Hawaii is also one of the largest queen producers for North America, and breeds queens from those same species.
Italian bees are known to be a gentle breed, and although Carniolan bees are a little more aggressive and protective of their hives, they generally produce about 15% more honey throughout the year than do Italian bees.
The race of honey bees in Maui is a blend of primarily dark coloured European Dark Bees or traditionally called German Dark Bees (Apis mellifera mellifera) originally brought there in the late 1800s. Large amounts of Italian Bees were brought in over the years until 2010 but the dark bees’ genetics dominate.
Which Honey Bees and Plants are Native to Hawaii?
Honey bees are not native to any of the U.S. states. They arrived here when European settlers brought them in as early as the 1600s. Honey bees in Hawaii first were spotted in 1857.
Hawaii is home to many native plants, and there are a few that are traditionally used to make honey:
- Ohia Lehua tree
- Eucalyptus Tree
- Kukui Nut tree
- Noni tree
- Kiawe tree
- Grevillea Robusta tree (Silver Oak)
- Wililaiki (Christmas Berry)
- Macadamia Nut Tree
What Sort of Environment Is Needed to Produce Hawaii’s Honey?
Hawaii has many micro climates separated by only a few miles so location is very important. General state guidelines advise beekeepers to inspect their colonies every 2-3 weeks, to make note of any pests found and when treatments were applied, to keep colonies off the ground and in a sunny location, and to control any tall vegetation surrounding the hives. But more specific guidance is available by county, and the rules are rather restrictive.
|Honolulu County||Beekeeping in this county must be noncommercial and beekeepers are not allowed to have more than eight hives per lot. Additionally, the colonies must be kept in movable frames, be shade from night lighting on adjacent properties, and must be placed at least 25 feet away from any property line or public area. There are exceptions made if fences are installed at mandated height and length measurements.|
|Hawaii County||In Hawaii County, beekeeping is not allowed in residential districts. However, if your district is zoned Residential and Agricultural (RA), beekeeping is permitted. RA zoned districts can be used for livestock production, defined as “a distinct agricultural operation or establishment which keeps, feeds, or raises livestock for commercial purposes and as a principal land use.”|
|Kauai County||Beekeeping in Kauai County is zoned as Agricultural, defined as breeding, planting, nourishing, processing any animal or plant for the purpose of nourishing any other plant or animal. There are no restrictions in this county regarding the maximum number of colonies permitted, nor are there any rules about property line distance or commercial use.|
|Maui County||Since they have no Varroa mites on Maui the importation of honey bees is banned. Maui County is also zoned Agricultural. Beekeeping is not allowed in residential areas, except on properties located in the Maui Research and Technology Park District. The county will consider applications for backyard beekeeping, but it’s up to the discretion of the county board.|