I have been…

very productive! I would have said busy. But I truly hate the idea of ‘busy’ as an excuse to be human, be accountable, and simply care.

View from Harford Village to the Atlantic Ocean (east)

On October 16th I’ve been on island for 6 months. Which is typically where volunteers hit their slump. Honestly this last month I truly did. Yesterday also marked the 32nd anniversary of America invading Grenada. I believe the heavy energy and ciaos leading up to this even it very much felt on the island. Its widely discussed and talked about, noted in church and discussed on tv and radio. It was not a fun time in the history of Grenada. I hope the energy lightens so I’m able to get back to more work.

And speaking of work, I feel there is so much work to do here and I’ve only really gotten feel for things. People are calling me out of the blue asking for advice, assistance or to find out more about bees. (This is always the sign new people are looking for to see if they are really ‘needed’ someplace, once the unknown people start showing up because word of mouth has spread about you) I’ve been consistent in the last month or so about the schedule of my week. Monday is administrative tasks, reading, and preparing for the rest of the week. Tuesday-Thursday is assisting beekeepers (1-2 per day) in their apiary if/when possible. Friday is in the office in Grenville where new people show up and introduce themselves along with some beekeepers I know, neighbors of the office come in and check on me and I try and make some rounds around town and say hi to the people I know. Also Friday is ‘market’ day so it’s also nice to get some groceries and say hi to the wonderful ladies in the market right next door.

Me and early morning need to make friends, but in the coolness of a rainy morning in the lowland of the country it makes getting out of bed at 4:30-5 am while it’s pouring down very hard. Now if it was hot as Senegal where by 9am it’s almost unbearable, this would be a blessing and I’d be getting up that early and happy grab a drink of cool water and get it to it before the heat rises past bearable. So instead of 5, 6:30-7 am has been more my norm. I’m work on it…

 I have made some gains with planning of an Introduction to beekeeping workshop and planning some more training for established beekeepers on the island. This should be ‘easy’ enough to facilitate. But when it takes 2 weeks for me to send a letter to the needed parties to have it printed on letter head, signed by another person and then usually hand delivered or it will be lost in the mail/system of mail. At which time an action can be taken, even though you’ve discussed it so thoroughly you would think it already all happened. Multiply that on every resource needed. Thank Senegal I am prepared to present anywhere, but having a room and projector is helpful. Done and done, with backups for both as I know most likely I will use the backups.

Flyer for the workshop

I’ve added more pictures to my facebook albums and have kept up documenting plants and nectar sources on my instagram along with just life here on the island.

Excited to have some more meetings lined up and contacts being past my way in the business/NGO realm here and will assist me in thinking about planning further out if things go well with training.

I’ll post by this weekend an update on my work as I also need to do my monthly report and looking to see what I’ve accomplished in 6 months and what is realistic in the next 6 months.

So I forget…

To write here more often, especially when I have things to write about or generally show people. I’ve been hoarding it on instagram and my facebook page. During my service in Senegal we were given a simple ‘dumb’ phone, that is instead of a ‘smart’ phone (who comes up with these ideas anyways) it was a simple nokia. Bless nokia’s heart for that phone. Something that can survive a lot. I’m not going to go into details…lets say squat toilet and leave it at that. But with iphone’s being more available now with resale of older models, they become a ‘must’ when traveling.

Due to having an iphone instead of just a camera, photos, videos, and the like simply get sent to instagram or facebook with a few clicks and addition of a caption. Instead of downloading photos to my laptop, editing, uploading to the blog or an album. Hence my blog has suffered.

I’m trying to right my wrong today but giving a better glimsp of my photo posts, my visuals captured and reasons to what I shoot.

Typically I will upload photos to my albums on facebook, simply as its relatively fast to upload,  many of my friends/people get to see them, along with I can share with a link.

I have more than a few photo albums on facebook

 So for example I have 3 albums for Grenada already. Grenada-May. Grenada-June, July, August, and Grenada-Carnival. Most of these pictures are literally taken with my iphone through out the day/week as needed. Typically no reason, sometimes to remember something, or to look something up. Mostly to capture an interesting view or thing.

I should back up a little and explain that I use Picasa to organize and edit photos. It also has an awesome ‘collage’ feature. Over all very easy to use when searching for an image as it scans (based on settings) your computer for images constantly. And drag and drop for sorting into folders. LOVE.

Screenshot of my Picasa

The other place I typically have photos is on Instagram.

Randomness of my instagram

These are much like facebook are random shots from where I’m at. I have been trying to start taking photos of themes. So far #nectarplants or #honeyplants, as of course this is part of my ongoing research here on the island but in a larger scope (see here if you missed it). But also try to find the local stories, names, and history of this wonderful place. I’ve had Grenadians abroad tell me how much they enjoy seeing my picture of the island and make them homesick.

Much of my over arching goal here on the island and the third goal of Peace Corps is: To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans. Or the way I interpret it, to help Americans get a better sense of places outside of America. Of course people reading this and seeing images I post are not only Americans, but capturing the sense of place, culture and people, giving it some context or description helps anyone better understand something.

I strive to understand the cultural context of the thing I’m taking a picture of, not just capturing it for the sake of a pretty picture. Typically I ask a few locals what the thing is, how it’s used, if it’s ‘normal’/’known’, and usually starts a larger conversation.

I have found my asking people of different ages and genders about anything will give me a much varied response. A younger generation might know the name and how it’s used. But someone older might remember using it or having it around when they are young, the object having a daily use in the household, typically more than one use and sometimes multiple names. This of course generalized and sometimes is reversed as the younger generation travels more broadly and know of more broad use or understanding of the ‘thing’ in question.

Much like ethnography, ‘the scientific description of the customs of individual peoples and cultures’ I want to better understand the ‘thing’ through the people here, rather than the ‘thing’ standing alone out of context.

Of course the ‘thing’ could be anything. From language, specifically word usage, plants, events, clothing to history. Of course some of these things can not be photographed but having the understanding helps to further understand other things. Everything is interconnected. And then try to explain my own culture, or American culture in general on top of that.  

It’s very fun capturing the nuances of a place. Lately I’ve been reminiscing of things I learned in Senegal that the locals would find ‘local knowledge’. Being a playful, teasing culture with many languages,  typically ‘outwitting’ your partner in conversation was always a goal. Having enough understanding of the culture, language and people made you a stronger player in the game.

On-Going Research: Apis mellifera nectar, pollen and propolis sources

I haven’t really written about this per se, I think some people know that I’ve been working on this since I was in Senegal (2012) and found “Plants for Arid Lands” published by International Bee Research Association on the bookshelf which had a small chapter Bees and Honey in the Exploitation of Arid Land Resources by Eva Crane. Through more and more literature review and a cross-referencing local plant databases/writings with known nectar sources I’ve gotten to have a pretty comprehensive list going.

So a little background. There are 7 species of the 200,000 bees that specifically produce honey in massive amounts. These we call honey bees or Apis mellifera. There are races of these that have been breed over time. Much like we have races of humans, we are all still people, we all come from certain places making us identify with those locations and in some cases even have specialized characteristics. Example of races in honey bees would be Italian (A. mellifera ligustica), Carniolan (A.  mellifera carnica), Caucasian/Russian (A. mellifera caucasica) and African (A. mellifera adansonii)

From Tropical and Subtropical Apiculture (1986) FAO
So of these 7 honey bees in the world, many of them are region specific. As you can see from the map bee originated in a few place and migrated into others. Typically assisted by humans, bees there were able to colonize and survive. This is due to a few factors, one being food or fodder resources, second being habitat, and third would be climate. All of these factors are interconnected.
 
Not scientific based, but an idea on differences between race characteristics
Honey bees are generalist when it comes to plants, meaning they will touch many different flowers for a multitude of reasons. Some for nectar, others for pollen, some for propalis, but few plants can provide more than one of these. The plants themselves are specialized. Also the bee will follow the bloom of one plant until it’s finished. So if a mango tree is in bloom it will continue to look for mango flowers until the bloom has ended.
Color is also a major part of how pollinators find food

Evolutionary plants have created flowers to attract pollinators to increase fertilization and thus dissemination of themselves. Nectar within the flowers assists in attracting certain pollinators, such as honey bees, to visit the flower taking pollen and transferring it to the stigma, or female part, in order to create a seed. Nectar us a sugar-rich liquid produced by glands called nectaries. Bees use nectar, mixing it with an enzyme in their ‘honey stomach’ to create honey once it’s stored in wax comb, water content is evaporated to below 18.2 percent and is capped with wax. Honey is the main food source for bees in the hive.

 Bees also use pollen, plant’s male gametes, as a food source. Pollen is the protein source
needed for rearing one worker bee from larval to adult stage requires approximately 120-145 mg of pollen. An average bee colony will collect about 20-57 kg (44-125 pounds) of pollen a year. By natural instinct, bees will collect only the best entomophily pollen grains that are higher in nutritional value.
Propolis, often referred to as bee glue, is used in the hive to seal cracks, crevices or encase carcasses that cannot be removed from the hive. Typically collected from the sap or resin of certain trees and small number of flowers. Propolis has been used medically
for its antimicrobial, immunostimulant, and antioxidant properties which vary due to location in which it is procured based on plant sources in the area.

So based on region, in any given place there are bees (everywhere except Antarctica and the South Pole) there are only 250-300 plants that bees are able to take nectar, pollen and propolis from. And given you need approximately one million blooms to produce one cup of honey, you need many many blooms of those given plants.

Looking at plant phenology (the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life) the way in which these 250-300 plants’ blooms appear is also quite amazing. Many of them do not overlap and if they do, there is one in which the bees prefer due to either quantity each bloom produces or more likely the amount of sugar in the nectar. Much like if oranges are in season you’d eat them, but if mangoes came in to season you’d prefer the mango as it’s sweeter and juicer.

Great example of nectar source calendar for Western North Carolina

 

Due to climate change and the change of priorities when it comes to research, little has continued to be documented on these ideas (nectar, pollen and propolis source plants and their phenology). Many of the cited literature I have found is from the 60’s and 70’s. Also at the local level internationally, many host-country nationals are aware of this and have a vast knowledge of these plants. The names they known them by are local names rather than the scientific, but capturing this information and further researching to find the Latin names and some times specific varieties I believe will be instrumental to maintain and increase honey bee habitat.
Example of local nectar source list per Beekeeper Richard Underhill from his trip with Winrock International to East Africa

So I have started collecting lists, as many as I can find and cross referencing them. Most are through scientific literature. Dr. Eva Crane (foremost researcher on honey bees) was no slouch, her Trust has 40,000 abstracts available to search along with her publishing 300 papers and many books over her lifetime. Others are found through beekeepers I’ve heard of or found through the wonderful place of the internet. Most beekeepers are amazing people who are willing to help out each other to further honey bees, habitat and generally overall goodness on the planet. Currently I have reviewed many many articles and journals, 22 of them have viable lists that I’m extracting, cleaning and adding to my main list. Then sorting, removing duplicates, verifying correct taxonomy (science of defining groups of biological organisms on the basis of shared characteristics and giving names to those groups as these tend to change over time especially with plants) and adding in any bloom dates, propagation information or nuance information of the plant.

After all of that, I would love to share it on a website such as Zooniverse, to further have citizen scientists help identify where the plants grow and the bloom pattern in that location, hopefully on a global scale. This information would then assist beekeepers, land owners, farmers, environmentalists, policy makers, and others to maintain and increase habitat and food sources world wide.Lack of knowledge is one thing, but in this day and age of information the world is becoming and smaller and smaller place. People want to help bees, I don’t believe we need more beekeepers, we need better beekeepers, farmers, stewards, with better information to make a better place for all of use.Currently my abstract for this project as been submitted and accepted to Apimondia (the international beekeeping conference), I am looking for support in order to attend and present my abstract in Daejeon, Korea in September. I have contacted various organizations for support as well, but is currently pending response.Please feel free to pass this along to anyone who might be interested in the information, I would love to collaborate further on it. Thank you for your time and support.

  

Grenada:Three Month Review

So now that I have a few months here under my belt I can talk about some of the work that I’ve done. The most common comment I get from people is: is that really ‘work’ you’re doing there, or just having a long vacation.

There are 12 holidays and then many ‘fete’ or party days, that are taken off of work. Leaving most weeks to be short. But I do believe that most people work hard and play hard too.

My biggest ‘win’ for being here after just 9 weeks, was hearing that a passing conversation I had with my host sister is coming to fruition. She happens to work for a large estate (300 acres) and just getting started planting out a few acres and mentioned how bees could help increase production. She mentioned this to her bosses and she mentioned that they had just hired a local beekeeper to but 20 hives out on the land. Now to see if it works.

A short list of some of my work I’ve done in the short time I’ve been here:
  • Met personally with 28 beekeepers/interested people in
    beekeeping
  • 6 of those my counterpart(s) and I visited their apiary/bee
    yard
  • 3 of the visited apiaries we worked the bees that day
  • Met 12 extension officers, ministry officials, SGU contacts,
    other individuals that work in the agriculture industry
  • Met the Association Executive Board along with the Chief Veterinarian
    Officer for the Ministry of Agriculture and the Extension Agent for Beekeeping (this last week-finally)
  • Attended the 4 day St. George’s University Bee College in
    St. George
  • Emailed Inter-American
    Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and National Vocational
    Qualifications (NVQ) or Caribbean Vocational Qualifications (CVQ) certification
    about current and past trainings held in regard to beekeeping (none as of
    lately nor in the near future)
  • Attended GAB membership meeting (14 people in attendance)
    and The Goat Dairy board meeting & On-Farm Workshop
  • Networked with many people on the island along with
    inquiring about resources on the island for beekeepers and the association
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    Discussed, researched and wrote Response Counterpart Workshop
    proposal with assistance of Mr. Gittens, fellow Response volunteers and
    27-month volunteers

  •  Met and followed up with Ms. Melissa Tyson, 4-H Extension
    for St. Andrew’s, on term-long project proposal for 12-16 year-olds on
    pollinators, habitat and importance.
  •  Partnered with Belmont Estate to create simple business and
    action plan for bees to be established on the estate, including training-of-trainer for estate to also train staff on better understanding and best
    practices
  •  Attended Saint Andrews Development Organization (SADO)
    planning meeting for Rainbow City event in Grenville happening before Carnival
    to assist beekeepers in preparing for possibly exhibiting
  •  Followed up with meeting with Dr. Louison specifically for
    filling out paperwork on Grenada clearance for honey to be accepted into the
    U.K. for beekeepers to enter London Honey Show October 29-31st 2015
  •  Created project plan for self-started projects, events, and
    notable dates, holidays, etc.
  •  Continued researching and compiling world honey, pollen, and
    propolis plant sources to create Caribbean and Grenada specific plant lists
  •  Wrote abstract and applied for Travel Award to attend
    Apimondia, an international beekeeping conference being held in Seoul, Korea
    September 15-20, 2015 (And had it ACCEPTED, now looking for funding to travel to the event)

As you can see I keep ‘busy’ doing ‘work’. Living on an island makes it easy to keep my nose to the grind stone and keep on top of things, as I do need to summit a monthly report to Peace Corps. 
Hopefully in the next month (Mid-August due to Carnival taking over now until 2nd week of August) I hope to get Introduction to Beekeeping training going twice a week, and soon after a Pollination/Pesticide course for beekeepers and farmers and hopefully Ministry officials as well. There are many more classes to write, people to get involved, and equipment and resources to procure as well as funding for some of it.  I will be visiting more beekeepers in the next weeks leading up to this as well. I believe there are close to 100 beekeepers on the island.
 
The best complement I got this week from a 27-month volunteer that he thought I was working ‘quickly’ as things take longer than normal here as change is very difficult for people in general. But learning and doing something different is a whole other beast entirely.