Eleven years ago I, Jen Rasmussen, started beekeeping by reading some books and opening some un-managed hives on the land where I lived. On my first visit to the hive I opened the top cover and moved a few frames and got stung fifteen times through my bee suit. I ran full of adrenaline and when the bees were gone I realized that the pain had subsided. I then proceeded to the next hive to see what they were like. I found them to be quite agreeable and from then on I was hooked.
I started working with Langstroth hives on our land and caring for others in our community. I spent my days removing bees from neighborhood structures and harvesting honey. The bees were robust, industrious, and always full. Each hive could produce two five gallon buckets of honey every two months or less.
Soon after I became intrigued with the bees, the varroa mites and small hive beetles arrived on the Big Island. There were times of trouble for all. To escape the beetles, the bees absconded and left slimy combs behind. Rapid hive losses had beekeepers turning to strong miticides that had many adverse effects on bees. I found that these products were not for me.
I began working with top bar hives and Langstroth frames without pre-made foundation inserts. Allowing the bees to make their own comb enables them to decide the size and structure of their hive. My bees continually build smaller cells, which helps prevent varroa infestation since varroa prefers larger cells to reproduce. It took a while for the results to be apparent, but over the last seven years I have witnessed a grand recovery.
I am seeing very hygienic behavior in my bees. They are removing the diseased brood and jailing the beetles in the hive. Mite and beetle populations have taken a steady decline. My strategy has changed from battling the pests to empowering the bees. I use diatomaceaous earth in trays inside screened off drawers under our hives to catch the varroa and small hive beetles. This practice is very helpful to keep struggling bees alive, while strong hives are now coping with mites and beetles even without the screen bottom and trays. There will always be mites and beetles but as we all evolve we begin to see how to live cohesively together.
There is hope for us all!
Over the years my true passion has been teaching others how to care for bees without the use of chemicals and treatments. My courses and workshops offer education about bee biology, pests & diseases, chemicals in agriculture, permaculture farming, treatment-free hive management, apiary growth & development, making value-added products, and much more. I have offered courses through UH Hilo & CCECS, Kua O' Kala Charter School, Hawaii Acamdemy of Arts & Science, Kalani Oceanside Retreat, Hawaiian Sanctuary, as well as numerous home based and community outreach workshops since 2010.
In 2015, John Lair began apprenticing with me. Our connection and shared joy for bees, family, and farming blossomed into a beautiful partnership as parents and business owners. John created the hive building department and makes high quality, affordable top bar hives and offers workshops to teach others how to make them as well. John is also a skilled carpenter who builds furniture, homes and shelters for people, bees, cows and more.
Paradise Nectar honey bees have taught us about sustainability and living as one. Bees model a communal environment that thrives because each member does their part. We strive to uphold that same structure in our work and family dynamics. We all play an important role in what makes Paradise Nectar Apiaries so special. Paradise Nectar Apiaries is a family run business consisting of John, Jen, Alia, & Ben. We are delighted to have served Big Island all of these years and look forward to many more years of service to come.
Our New Life After Lava
A Glimpse Into the Lives of the Paradise Nectar Team
On August 3, 2018 our family moved to Wainaku, just outside of Hilo, Hawaii. For the previous eleven years, our family lived in lower Puna, on the east side of the Big Island. The recent lava flow that happened on the Big Island covered our 5.5 acres of organic macadamia nut orchard and homestead with twenty feet of lava rock. Click on the link below to view a video of our previous farm, before and after lava.
Our lives are always changing and we embrace that. We hope you enjoy this video of our journey getting back on our feet and moving forward.