For the bees – Puntacana’s unexpected practice of beekeeping

Last week, I visited Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and was delighted to discover they had a large Ecological Reserve, where they do research into ways the resort can be more environmentally friendly.

The Punta Cana Ecological Foundation has a number of unusual projects including recycling water, using worms to compost their trash and they’ve even enlisted the minds of students from Harvard to help them develop new ideas for greener properties. I toured their facility and was especially impressed (and terrified) when we arrived at the site above: the bees.

No, they didn’t just give the hives cute names; those hives house bees that were taken from the Punta Cana homes of Oscar de la Renta (I understand the bees invaded his wife’s bathroom) and Julio Iglesias (who allegedly discovered honey dripping from his ceiling). Rather than exterminate their unwanted pests, Punta Cana encourages its residents to let their hives be removed by the Ecological Foundation, who keeps them and will even gift donors with fresh honey from their very own hives.

As we wandered the area covered with plants intended just for the bees, I talked with Jake Kheel, the Environmental Director, about how the beekeeping works and why they do it. However, as I mentioned, I was terrified — so I emailed him these questions later when I got my breath back.

Gadling: So, tell us why you’ve created these homes for bees, rather than exterminating them.

%Gallery-91172%Jake Kheel: Bees are important pollinators in nature and if managed properly can be quite profitable by producing honey, pollen, royal jelly and other related products, as well as providing important pollination to local plants, vegetables, etc. We thought managing the bees to our mutual benefit made more sense than exterminating them.

G: How many do you have?

JK: We currently have 140 colonies in 5 different sites around our property. Since each colony can have around 20,000 – 40,000 worker bees alone, conservatively, we have around 2.8 million bees in our apiaries.

G: What are the colonies like? How do you keep the bees there?

JK: The bees will stay in the bee boxes as long as the queen bee is there, they can find enough food, and don’t have too many pests or predators. Our job is to make sure the bees have all their needs covered so they can do their work and produce the products we are interested in. Each colony has at least one box on the bottom level with an entrance and an exit and nine separators with wax sheets where they can make honey combs and deposit eggs and honey inside. The second and third and sometimes fourth level boxes are separated by a thin plastic sheet that the drones and queens can’t pass through. This is to make sure they don’t lay eggs in the honey we want to extract and only consume from the bottom box. We only harvest honey from the boxes that the queen and drone cannot access, to make sure they always have enough food.

G: And you sell the honey, right?

JK: We produced 370 gallons last year and sold all of it. We also have an agreement with another local producer of organic honey that supplements our production. We are currently selling the honey at the airport, at our hotels, at our shop, our Farmer’s Market on Saturdays and soon to a local tour operator.

G: Can we buy Oscar de la Renta honey?

JK: Technically, yes! We have several colonies that came from Oscar de la Renta’s and Julio Iglesias’ houses. When we extract the honey we plan to sell, all the honey is mixed together to make the process more efficient. So, technically speaking, almost all of our honey has some of Oscar’s and Julio’s honey in it!

My trip to Punta Cana was sponsored by PUNTACANA Resort & Club, but the opinions expressed in the article are 100% my own.