Hive and Seek

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Story by Lehia Apana | Photo by Nina Kuna

Maui bee rescue

Miki‘ala Pua‘a-Freitas & Moana Wietecha

TITLE: Bee Rescuers, Hawaiian Honey Bee Rescue

TO BEE OR NOT TO BEE: When Miki‘ala and Moana wanted bees for their Waihe‘e farm, they took a DIY approach. Rather than purchase a hive, they extracted wild bees from a friend’s wall. Before long, the pair were fielding calls from panicked strangers needing unwanted hives removed.

“We had enough bees,” recalls Moana. “But people kept calling us and we didn’t want to turn them away, so we started rescuing as many hives as possible.”

“There’s a greater awareness that bee populations are dying,” says Miki‘ala. People tell her, “We have to save them instead of calling Terminex.”

HOME SWEET COMB: To remove the bees, the women must first access the hive — which often involves cutting a hole in someone’s wall or roof — then meticulously extracting the comb to find the queen bee.

“The bees will instinctually hide the queen from us to protect her,” explains Moana. “Sometimes we’ll get lucky and find a queen right away, but most times it’s a slow and precise process.”

STING OPERATION: Although they wear protective bee suits, “We go barefoot and gloveless when we can,” says Miki‘ala. “It keeps the check and balance for us, so we’re not stomping on bees or just grabbing the comb carelessly.”

Naturally, getting stung is all part of the job. “It’s not a matter of how many stings we get, but where,” says Moana. “I’ve had multiple stings on my head and face, and those are always bad. I once got a black eye from a sting.”

FIT FOR A QUEEN: “As women bee rescuers, we’re definitely a minority,” says Miki‘ala, who explains that some homeowners are surprised when the pair arrives at a job.

“It’s always important to us to not only save the bees, but also to leave a good impression about them,” she adds. “Our goal is to be bee ambassadors, and we want to let people know that you don’t need to kill them.”

Their farm has become an impromptu bee sanctuary where salvaged bees are joined with established hives. “They’ll never go homeless,” notes Miki‘ala. “We’re not about making more honey — we’re about making more bees.”

Got hives? Visit HawaiianHoneyBeeRescue.com

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