Alumna Noelani Waters writes about her work at the Hawai‘i Apiary Program

University of Hawai‘i at Hilo alumna Noelani Waters is a technician at the Hawai‘i Apiary Program of the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture. She tells us about her work.

By Noelani Waters, Alumna, Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, Tropical Plant Science and Agroecology Specialty, UH Hilo.

Noelani Waters


My name is Noelani Waters and I am a College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resource Management alumna who graduated in fall 2014 with a degree in agroecology and tropical plant science with a certificate in beekeeping.

Just before graduating, in October 2014, I was hired as an apiary technician with the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture’s (HDOA) Hawai‘i Apiary Program under the direction of the state’s head apiary specialist at the time, Danielle Downey. The mission of the Hawai‘i Apiary Program is to safeguard the beekeeping industries of Hawai‘i through the application of science-based regulations, regular monitoring and prevention of invasive honey bee pests, interactive educational opportunities, and open communication with beekeepers throughout the state.

Our program was officially established in 2011 and became a permanent part of HDOA in 2014. Though honey bees are not native to Hawai‘i, they have been here for over 150
years, providing a variety of excellent honey and, most importantly, critical pollination of local agricultural goods.

Primary beekeeping industries in Hawai‘i include honey production (worth ~$3.1 million/ year in export), queen bee rearing (worth ~$10 million/year in export) and agricultural pollination services (worth ~$212 million/year in export).

Currently, I am one of two apiary specialists based in Hilo dedicated full-time to biosecurity, honey bee health, and pollinator education statewide. After the recent departure of our head apiarist, Lauren Rusert in July 2017, I have been leading the Apiary Program in our efforts across the state.

Here are a few of primary things we work on:

    • Biosecurity: We monitor over 100 swarm traps near ports of entry statewide to survey for new pest detection and invasive species. We also monitor for any suspicious or unlawful behavior. Bringing bees, queens, or contaminated used equipment into the state of Hawai‘i has been illegal since 1908.
    • Queen Certifications: We Inspect all queen breeders in Hawai‘i (12 operations on four islands) quarterly for shipment certificates to ensure disease-free export of queen bees.
    • Outreach and Education: We provide free, technical hive-side assistance with all aspects of colony health, upon request. We also teach classes for free or at low cost, covering a variety of practical beekeeping topics including: beginning beekeeping, honey bee health, swarm behavior, queen rearing, and products of the beehive. We present at fairs and classrooms to educate about pollinator importance and protection, including safe spray practices for home owners and beekeeping best management practices.
    • Hawaii Beekeeper Registry: We maintain a statewide beekeeper registry that provides participants with new pest and disease advisories, locally relevant bee information, swarm removals, our quarterly newsletters, and new product updates. There are currently close to 400 registered beekeepers statewide with nearly 20,000 colonies. We also provide referrals to beekeepers for honey bee swarms and hive relocation from Hawai‘i residents who request removals.

Needless to say, our work varies widely and keeps us extremely busy. We love the work we do and are passionate beekeepers, eager to share information about our precious pollinators.

To learn more please contact me at


This column was originally published in the Feb 2018 CAFNRM/Agriculture Club Newsletter.