By Hank Gaskell
His hands were unlike other farmers. Not calloused, hard, cracked and stiff, but broad, flexible and quick. He seemed not to mind the thick white suit we were both wearing or the suffocating screen helmet. I felt like I was going to melt away.
The deeply forested Waiho‘i Valley on Maui has countless wild bee hives that are vital to the flowering ecosystem. Avocado, mango, guava, ohia, rainbow eucalyptus and wild ginger thrive in fertile soil that’s fragmented by dark lava veins. The Kapia stream ribbons down through it all towards the ocean. At the base of the valley, nestled in a dead mango stump, a hive plagued a local fisherman and his family.
The gnarled location of the hive forced my friend Kenny to be more attuned and work more smoothly than usual—he had been doing this for twenty years. When the bees attacked he remained calm and focused. With surgeon-like precision he worked the hive, angling the box and gently adjusting the combs to fit snugly. His movements were clever and patient yet eager. The white suit clung to my sweaty skin, making it easier for the bees to sting me, but I watched intently. I was hooked.
Above: My girlfriend Malia and I inspect a frame from one of our hives to see if it’s ready to harvest. Hana, Hawai‘i. Photo: Anna Riedel