All About Apiculture – How this Barbadian youth turned busy backyard visitors into a sweet side hustle
In this interview we chat with Graham Belle, an avid apiculturist who tells us about this unique hobby. Graham is a photographer by profession and involved in various youth organisations in Barbados.
So Graham, for those who may be unaware, tell us a bit about what apiculture is.
Apiculture, better known as beekeeping, is the practice of maintaining colonies of bees, usually in the form of caring for bee hives in a location known as an apiary.
What got you started in apiculture?
I got started in apiculture after noticing a hive in the wall of my home. Knowing the importance of bees to the environment I decided not to destroy the hive but rather to study the behaviour of bees and ways in which they could be safely removed. I was able to do a course with the Ministry of Agriculture and to study under more experienced beekeepers on the island, through the Barbados Apiculture Association.
So you mentioned that bees are important to the environment. Could you elaborate more on this?
Bees are the #1 pollinators in the world! According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, they contribute between $US235 billion and $US577 billion to the annual global food production through pollination. They contribute to one-third of the world’s agricultural crop production and can increase crop yield by 24 per cent in small diverse farms.
They are increasingly threatened by the widespread pesticide use, mono-cropping and rising temperatures caused by climate change.
As Barbadians we can continue to educate ourselves on the significant role bees play in food production and practice safer more bee-friendly agriculture/gardening.
What’s a typical day for you like out in the field?
Beekeeping is a side hobby for me so I’m not in the apiary on a daily basis. When I visit my hives I firstly inspect the area for damage, swarms or other threats. I then suit up and inspect the inside of the hive for pests, signs or ill-health, development of the hive from my last visit and of course for honey.
So this isn’t your full time job, how do you manage work and this side hobby?
It’s a constant balancing game and honestly sometimes the bees get neglected but they are pretty resilient.
You collect and sell the honey produced by your bees. I hear natural honey is good for you and is a great alternative to sugar. What say you?
Honey is considered a superfood and has several health benefits. It’s rich in vitamins, minerals and enzymes essential for good health and is even used by persons who suffer from allergies.
Finally, I want to know, what vision do you have for food security in Barbados and the wider Caribbean in the short and long term?
In the short term I would like to see more small farmers being able to meet the demands of the local market and also local consumers buying more local produce. Long term, small farmers collaborating within their industry to produce standardised products available for export.