When Charles Burrows, 64, went on a hike one day six years ago on Long Island, he came across a large bee colony and though he was not physically harmed, he was stung by a passion for beekeeping.
The long walk has turned into a profitable business for the retiree, who said his new focus is helping The Bahamas tap into the nearly $1 billion global organic honey industry.
“It’s such a big industry. If we could recognize the importance of this industry and what this could do for The Bahamas, it can only go up,” Burrows told Guardian Business during a tour of his bee farm in Southwest New Providence.
“People are looking for the real raw honey. A lot of time what you’re getting from the states is not real, it’s processed, and even in China, they’re using all kinds of syrup and it’s not really real pure honey.”
The global honey market stood at $500 million in 2017 and is projected to reach $910 million by 2025, according to Market Watch industry research.
Burrows, who is the owner of Charlie Bee Farms, said until The Bahamas catches on to the lucrative industry, he makes the majority of his income by removing unwanted beehives.
“A lot of the income that has been helping me along was from bee extractions, moving hives from people’s homes and attics. In The Bahamas, we have a lot of bees and the good thing for us is we have a lot of islands, so if we can catch this thing on, it can be so big; it will be a great asset to The Bahamas’ economy,” he said.
Earlier this year, local beekeepers formed a co-operative called the Bahamas National Beekeepers Co-Operative, aimed at helping markets locally produce bee products.
“All the beekeepers, once we start producing, we can sell to the co-operative and everything that we need in terms of supplies we’ll get from the co-operative where we should be getting rebates on the products that are coming in. It will make it easier for everyone,” Burrows said.
According to the United Nations, bees are vital for the preservation of ecological balance and biodiversity in nature, and they provide one of the most recognizable ecosystem services in the form of pollination. A third of the world’s food production depends on pollination.
Concern is mounting in the United States after beekeepers there lost up to 40 percent of their bee colonies due to colony collapse disorder – a phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind a queen, plenty of food and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees and the queen.
“In America and Europe, they have this thing called ‘colony collapse’ where a lot of the bees are just dying, probably from pesticides. That was a serious issue in America and still is. So they’re doing a lot of programs now to bring their bee industry back and to focus on the bees so they don’t lose it,” Burrows said.
“So, if we can get this going where we are producing and marketing the real raw organic honey that would be great. Foreigners love it, when they come to The Bahamas it’s all they’re asking for. They go on my Facebook page and just order it.”