UH Hilo Adopt-A-Beehive program raises awareness about the importance of honey bees

The fearless women who run the UH Hilo bee program raise awareness about honey bees as vital pollinators of crops around the island and worldwide.

By Maria McCarthy, Student, Bachelor of Science in Agriculture student, with an animal science track.

Lorna Tsutsumi holds up honeycomb from hive.
Lorna Tsutsumi

Screaming, swatting and running are the common reactions that majority of people have on sighting a bee. Cheryl Yara, Alex Doi, Maria McCarthy and Vanessa Staffer of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, do the opposite. They spend their days getting as close to the honey bees (Apis mellifera) as possible.

“I enjoy giving back to the ‘āina (land) and helping save the honey bees for our future generations to benefit from a crucial insect in our ecosystem,” Yara explains.

Yara is the bee technician for the UH Hilo Adopt-A-Beehive program, founded and managed by Lorna Tsutsumi, a professor of entomology at UH Hilo.

Together, these fearless women help raise awareness on the importance of honey bees as vital pollinators of crops around the island and worldwide.


Prof. Tsutsumi teaches courses on beekeeping including how to maintain a healthy hive. Students also learn about the day-to-day maintenance of beehives, extracting honey and incorporating them into producing value-added honey-related products.

Students start with identification of the different parts of the hive and their functions. Then, students gain knowledge on the bees’ roles in the pollination of major crops. Next, students have the opportunity to distinguish a worker, drone or queen bee, and recognize the difference between eggs, larvae, and brood. Documentation and evaluation of the status of the bees and hives are done weekly.

These reports serve as updates to donors of the Adopt-A-Beehive program.

Adopt-A-Beehive with Alan Wong

Alan Wong scrapes honey off hive screen.
Chef Alan Wong (right) extracts honey with UH Hilo beekeeping student Cal Westgard. April 23, 2011.

Well-renowned Chef Alan Wong teamed up with the UH Hilo bee program in 2011 to raise awareness about the unfortunate dilemma and future of honey bees through establishing the Adopt-a-Beehive with Alan Wong program.

Worldwide agricultural industries are reliant on the pollination by bees. The Adopt-a-Beehive program is funded by donors, who adopt a beehive. Throughout the year Chef Alan Wong and the bee program organize bee-related and agricultural events for the donors and the general public. These events help people make connections from all over the United States and spread awareness about honey bees. The donors usually receive honey, bee-related products, and the satisfaction of supporting the research and development of healthy beekeeping practices in Hawai‘i.


Hawai‘i faces many more challenges to maintain beehives compared to that of the mainland. Due to the island’s ideal environment in the tropics, many pests and invasive species have infiltrated our delicate ecosystem. This has allowed pests like hive beetles (Aethina tumida), wax moth (Achroia grisella) and varroa mites (Varroa destructor) to attack honey bee local colonies.

Climate change also plays a critical role on the changes of bee behavior to become more unpredictable and has influenced the overall decline of populations. It is on this note that it is extremely important to continue research endeavors and teaching as many people as possible to support the existence of honey bees.

This article was originally published in the CAFNRM/Agriculture Club Newsletter Nov – Dec 2017 Issue 2.