HerbWai – Making Honey from Africanized Bees in Manzanilla
I remember standing in my mother’s kitchen many years ago looking in horror at a swarm of bees land on her sapodilla tree. I had never seen bees swarm and in those days Africanized bees and their migration northwards was in all the news. I still remember the ensuing panic, locking up of dogs and closing of windows, calls to Police, Fire and finally Agriculture in Centeno. Trying to find out what to do until anticlimactically they swarmed again, never to be seen. By the way nobody knew what to do – you were on your own.
So when Paula told me she had met this guy doing honey in Manzanilla, I did have some trepidation. In fact my skin still crawls when I think of bees. I was thrilled to hear we would meet at their processing site in Belmont. We visited one morning and had a very pleasant, educational experience. Never knew there was so much to learn about honey.
Dereck and Jo Ann Herbert have only been involved in beekeeping for about two and a half years. They both completed a course in Practical Beekeeping Skills offered by Ministry of Food Production. The course is a prerequisite to the legal establishment of bee hives.
As an aside, these courses are free and offered at venues located throughout the country. It can be a bit of a challenge to locate a specific course. The following link takes you to the Ministry of Food Production Listings of Training http://www.agriculture.gov.tt/main-media/upcoming-events/training.html
They obtained their farmer’s license in January 2012 and certification of suitability of site to establish apiary #1577 with 5 colonies in October 2012.In quick succession they cleared land, built foundations for hives, bought hives and supporting materials such as bee suits and extractors.
By January 2013 they were planning for their first honey extraction. Assisted by 2 other bee keepers, the first extraction on 12th January yielded approximately 5 gallons . Image to right shows extracted honey. Dereck and Jo then had about 6 more extractions between January and August 2013.
They have built a honey / chill room at their home. It is spotlessly clean and unbelievably well organized. All gleaming stainless steel. The attention to detail and cleanliness is amazing. When we visited they were awaiting inspection by the Ministry of Food Production to become the first approved beekeeping room in Trinidad and Tobago.
Their honey is really quite remarkable. The colour varies dependant on the age of the hive ranging from almost brown to a pale yellow. It is available in strained, filtered or commercial grades. The strained honey has bits of pollen in it.
We experienced a honey tasting. It is very full bodied and round with what I describe as an “edge”. Dereck indicated that this is based on the flora in the Manzanilla area.
You know I had to ask about Africanized bees and apparently the bees in south Trinidad are Africanized. Dereck tells a story of less than cautious worker whose ladder hit a hive which resulted in the two of them pelting out of the forest in their beekeeping suits telling villagers they passed to run like hell. Their property is fenced and clearly marked with warning signs. So if you see bee keeping signs stay away!!!
They have done a lot of personal research into beekeeping and really seem to have got it together. Dereck and Jo function very well as a team and have opted to work alone. They have worked hard, improvised and learnt. The focus now is on expanding their business, improving their packaging and finding outlets to sell through.
The videos below give further insight into the workings of HerbWai. The first video shows a routine inspection of their hives with the removal of frames from a hive for transportation to the processing room. The second video is significantly longer. It takes the viewer through the process of extracting the honey.
Intercropping on the land and bartering with neighbours for crops has resulted in a branching out into chutneys and pepper sauces. They use their produce in their sauces which are all organic and nicely balanced, not too sweet.
Their products are marketed under the label HerbWai. Available in various sizes and they will do personalized orders. We were shown a particular bottle a gentleman wanted his honey in. Who knows…. The 375 ml bottle is the most popular. They also sell honey in the comb dependant on availability.
HerbWai products are currently available at Arties, Sabali’s Express, Bloom Imports and Chankas. The Hilton and Hyatt Hotels have used their honey. They can also be ordered directly.
Dereck Herbert and Jo Ann Chee Herbert
Telephone: (868) 347-5446 / (868) 223 – 5044