Retiree and St. Thomas based beekeeper Mrs. Sharon Buckley Smith says the business of beekeeping requires hard work to manage her 60 colonies. She also says the venture requires considerable investment in the right equipment to ensure the pursuit is viable and profitable.
Photo: Contributed Photo

Stephen Williams is a proud father of four who was able to put his children through school by raising bees in St. Catherine.

With a spritely voice that belies his seniority, Mr. Williams is grateful for the blessing of the bees that changed his life.

“As a traffic warden who was struggling to send my children to school, the bees came in and helped me. I feel it is a blessing in my life and in my children’s life,” he says.

St. Catherine beekeeper Stephen Williams who was a traffic warden for the St. Catherine Primary School, calls beekeeping a ‘blessing’ and says the business helped improve his financial situation, assisting him with sending his children through high school.

His decision to try beekeeping helped finance and secure the future of his children. One has earned a PhD, another is a supervisor in a popular Jamaican restaurant, one is a footballer and the other is a security guard.

Mr. Williams is one of approximately 4,000 Jamaicans benefitting from apiculture otherwise known as beekeeping.

He tells JIS News that his love for bees began as a child as he repeatedly caught beehives and tried starting colonies on his own.

“I was connected to the managers of the Apiculture Unit in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. They helped me to get five boxes of bees from Food for the Poor which I added to the seven hives I caught on my own,” he says.

One of the managers to whom he was connected, Chief Plant Protection Officer at the Apiculture Unit Mr. Hugh Smith, says beekeeping has been central to transforming communities in Jamaica.

“We have seen many persons who have moved from being unable to afford a single meal to being able to support themselves and their families. Beekeeping is a game changer. Though the technology is easy to learn, you have to invest time in beekeeping,” he says.

Chief Plant Protection Officer for the Apiculture Unit in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Mr. Hugh Smith, says beekeeping has transformed the economic potential of persons living in rural communities across Jamaica.

No one knows more about the time, money and energy required to keep up with the business of the bees than Mrs. Sharon Buckley Smith, who operates her apiary out of St. Thomas.

The retiree grew up in a family of farmers, making it easy for her to pursue apiculture.

As secretary of the citizens association for a community in Portmore, St Catherine, she was asked by the National Housing Trust to come up with a community project and she proposed beekeeping.

The community did not go for it but she decided to pursue it on her own and four years and four modules of training in beekeeping at the Bodles Research Station later, Mrs. Buckley Smith now has 60 colonies after starting with two.

According to government standards, this qualifies her as a commercial producer.

“It is profitable but you have to know how to manage it so it becomes and stays profitable. Beekeeping is good exercise and hard work – but it keeps me fresh! I would encourage Jamaicans to try beekeeping. It is…expensive to tell you the truth. You must have the requisite tools to make the project viable,” she expresses.

Beekeeping has also added to the life of young Graphic Artist and Beekeeper Blaine Arscott, who has found satisfaction in pursuing both passions.

Graphic Artist and Beekeeper operating out of St. Andrew Blain Arscott, says pursuing beekeeping has provided balance between two areas of interest in his life. He currently has nine colonies.

Just over two years in production, his business EDIGE (pronounced EH-DEE-JEH) means Everyday I Give Everything.

The honey production side of EDIGE started at one colony and has since grown to nine.

“Initially, the plan was to go commercial but now it’s just to find a balance between work life and bee life. My aim is to get as efficient as possible with the resources I currently have. Outside of the pain from stings, beekeeping is quite beneficial. Everything they produce is good and can be used by humans, often providing some health benefit,” he shares.

Mr. Arscott’s interest in honeybees began with research leading him to learn some fascinating details about nature’s tiniest and mightiest pollinators.

He tells JIS News that bees can self-regulate the temperature of their hive.

“This happens from the culmination of all the bees fluttering their wings. They either do it to produce heat or to evaporate water from the honey cell to prevent it from fermenting and to seal it,” he says.

In a pandemic that has caused a major shift for persons across the globe in their approach to health, time, life and work, finding or creating opportunities that tick each box has been an everyday challenge.

Beekeeping may be a viable option for consideration for Jamaicans looking for the next venture that has a buzz and may also make life a bit sweeter.

To learn how to get started in beekeeping, give the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries a call at (876) 927-1731 or visit their website at moa.gov.jm.

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