Protecting local pollinators

LIHUE — The County of Kauai is moving forward with plans to allow Kauai beekeepers to have their hives tested for the presence of pesticides and other threats, including the varroa mite and small hive beetle.

“We’re still in discussion with the beekeepers’ association and the state Department of Agriculture about testing protocols and locations,” said George Costa, director of the county Office of Economic Development.

Testing, he said, is expected to begin by year’s end.

In May, former Council Chair Jay Furfaro introduced a resolution tasking OED with establishing an annual $12,000 grant so that local beekeepers could test their pollen.

The annual “Bee Pollen Testing Grant” will be given to an eligible nonprofit organization to fund up to 27 distributions — $400 each — to individual beekeepers registered with the state. The remaining $1,200 will be used to fund travel for state Department of Agriculture’s Apiary Program personnel “to make additional visits to Kauai to meet with Kauai beekeepers,” according to the resolution.

Jimmy Trujillo, president of the Kauai Beekeepers Association, said he is submitting an application so that his nonprofit can administer the testing.

“I’m on board,” he said. “I just have concerns about a one-time test.”

Initially, Trujillo said, the DOA was planning for a one-time-only test of pollen from beekeepers registered with the department, which he felt would not answer questions about whether there are changes throughout the year. A better research model would be to establish a number of apiaries in different parts of the island, some near large agricultural fields and others far away, and test them throughout the year, according to Trujillo.

“Do islandwide surveys,” he said. “Set up hives that don’t belong to anyone as part of the test.”

Trujillo expects county and DOA officials to hold a meeting in February to gauge community interest and discuss the study.


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