story / editorial
By Thomas Tomczyk
Beekeeping tradition of the Bay Islands provides a way of saving
Honduras bees from Africanization
is a family tradition on the Bay Islands. While the islands' bee population
is particularly vulnerable to weather and hurricanes, it has become
a bastion of European bees, specifically Italian bees. The archipelago
is still and amazingly unaffected by the aggressive and less productive
Roatan's honey comes from maintained hives and wild bees whose nests
are gathered by honey hunters. Several people on Roatan gather wild
honey, smoking out bees that make their nests in trees. The practice
is controversial as the bees have little chance of survival after
most of their food source is gone. "People who hunt wild honey
leave the bees stranded," says Pastor Perry Elwin, 44, who has
been a beekeeper for over 30 years.
Over the years Perry has managed to build-up his beehive community
to 13, just 100 meters from his French Harbour home. Each hive has
several hundred thousand bees. "If you maintain several hundred
thousand [bees in each hive] you're doing OK," said Perry, who
carries his fascination with beekeeping from his father-in-law Vincent
Hyde, who taught him about bees when Perry was still a boy.
Off season Elwin has to check on his bees only once a month. In season
he checks every box 2-3 times a week. But the honey production can
vary greatly year-to-year and one never knows how abundant the pollen
will be. In 2006, Perry's honey production peaked at 100 gallons,
and in 2007, it fell to 50 gallons. "There was very little pollen
this year," explains Perry who picks around 2.5 gallons of honey
from a small bee box and 5 gallons from a big box. The bee boxes where
bees make their hives are made from uncured lumber and painted white.
Frames lined with wax are slid vertically into the box and over time
accumulate as much as seven gallons of honey. The boxes are stacked
vertically on top of one other, as many as six.
In 2005, Perry gathered 75 gallons of honey of which 60 gallons he
packed and put up for sale as "Elwin's Honey" at island
stores. To produce the honey the sweet product has to be extracted,
drained into a pail, cleaned of wax and impurities, and placed in
bottles that are then labeled. The honey is sold in Eldon's, Lula's,
Woody's and Fantasy Island.
Perry says that for much of the honey sold around the island, the
base is sugar, not nectar. Many beekeepers feed their bees with sugar
and add as much as 30%-40% water before they sell it. "My honey
is pure and it doesn't crystallize," says Elwin who raises Italian
bees, the only type of domesticated bee living on Roatan. Bay Islands
were fortunate not to become overridden with Africanized bees that
have overwhelmed much of South and North America, endangering local
domesticated bee communities.
The Italian bees raised on the island can count on a few dependable
sources of pollen and flowers of cohoon palms are especially liked
by the insects. "If the bees here liked mango blossom, we [Roatan
beekeepers] would be in luck," said Elwin, who explained that
mango blossom is likely too acid for bees to use. Right now the best
place for bees is Diamond Rock and Santa Helena. That is where the
best, most varied flowers and pollen can be found. Diamond Rock also
boasts the islands biggest beekeeper community: five people keep hives
Roatan's typical bee season lasts from April to September. Once the
rain sets in, the amount of pollen the bees can find becomes small
and taking out any additional honey would threaten the bee's existence.
Honey left after the keeper 'robes' them is barely enough for their
Roatan honey consumption is greater than the honey the island produces.
The island is also a market for honey brought if from Honduras and
the US. There are several honey vendors who regularly visit the island
from the mainland. One of them is Juan Manuel Nietos who every month
makes a journey from San Lorenzo to Roatan to sell his sweet product.
In a shoulder bag he carries recycled 750ml bottles filled with golden
colored dense fluid. He walks from door to door offering a liquid
that is both sweet and healthy- honey. Nietos's family has been in
the bee keeping business for generations. The family formed a micro
company, "El Panelito," employs six people and produces
eight barrels, or 1,500 liters of honey a year. The honey is gathered
in two harvests, a big one coinciding with major flower bloom in May,
and a smaller one in October.
African bees have rendered havoc with Mainland Honduran beekeepers
that have resorted to burning forest patches to eradicate the troublesome
insect. Some of them take advantage of the Bay Islands market and
an easy 10% to 20% mark-up to sell their product which comes in three
Star" honey (Miel Estrella Blanca) he sells for Lps. 150 and
it serves as natural medicine for ailments such as gastritis. It is
made by a medium size black bee that doesn't bite. The "Castle"
honey (Miel de Castilla) sells for Lps. 100 and is great for general
consumption with waffles and bread. Only on Roatan is this "Castle"
honey produced. A yellow bee with black antennas and a ferocious bite
makes this most widely available type of honey in Honduras. The yellow
and black mainland Honduras bee that is smallest in size makes this
most valuable honey, "Jimerito" "Jimerito" and
is sold at Lps. 300. "There are not as many flowers on Roatan
as on the mainland," said Nietos. According to the honey seller
the best places for beekeeping on the island are in Punta Gorda, Diamond
Rock and Port Royal.
When in 1956 Africanized bees were accidentally introduced and released
in Brazil, it took 30 years before the Africanized bees reached Central
America and many desperate beekeepers just abandoned their hives.
It took several decades to rebuild the beekeeping industry and just
as things were looking up, in 1998 Hurricane Mitch hit. The damage
was so devastating to the Honduras beekeeping industry and being a
honey exporter, the country had to import the product.
The Bay Islands worst affected area was Guanaja, which at that point
was the most vibrant beekeeping community of the archipelago. The
island has been a Bay Islands honey producing center for decades until
Mitch. During the storm almost all of the islands trees and pollen
producing plants were destroyed or damaged and almost all delicate
Italian bee colonies were destroyed. Only a few survived and nearly
a decade later only one beekeeper, Mr. Dave, was able to restart beekeeping
and currently has three bee boxes in North-East bite. Utila, with
only 3,500 inhabitants, has no beekeepers.
Elwin says that the bees are very delicate and subject to weather
changes. "They get diseases just like humans. If they get parasites,
it's best to destroy the whole nest," says Perry whose bees suffered
a parasite infection three years ago. The parasites attack the bees
and bee larva and when one nest becomes infected, it threatens the
entire bee community living in proximity. One also has to be vigilant
of marching army ants who can destroy a bee hive overnight.
According to Perry the best time to 'rob honey' is between 9 and 11
am, when the most of the bees are out working and in the afternoon
from 3 to 4 pm. Elwin uses a smoker to control the bees while he robes
their honey. He uses fever grass pressed into an aluminum container
and, with a few pieces of pinewood, lights it. "You can't have
honey without it," Elwin says about his smoker. "The bees
would be just too uncontrollable without the smoke." The smoke
is used to calm the bees down, disorient them a bit, and pacify them.
"I've been stung so many times that I don't swell anymore,"
said Elwin looking over his fingers.
If and once one bee stings, other bees immediately smell the venom
and become more aggressive. The only way to react is to stay calm
and take out the stinger and cover with light colored clothing. The
trick is not to panic, not to run or wave your arms. All of that just
makes worker bees more aggressive and ready to sting while defending
Elwin tends to one of his 13 bee hives in French Harbour.
bees are responsible for feeding the queen, gathering nectar and for
maintaining, cleaning and protecting the nest. During the height of
the season, hardworking worker bees live only two weeks. An average
bee flies within three miles of the hive, but there are bees that
fly as far as five miles looking for flower nectar.
The non-working bees of each nest are the drones. If the population
of drones in a hive reaches one-eighth, the nest could de in trouble.
Drones don't work or sting. They just eat and burden the entire nest.
Still, drone bees are not useless. Their only, but vital role is to
ensure that once a year the Queen is impregnated. In June or July,
the queen will fly out of her nest and mate with one drone who after
impregnating her, falls dead. A queen bee lays between 1,500 and 3,000
eggs a day for entire life, sometime as many as five to eight years.
Queen bees live between five and eight years, but can at any moment
be de-crowned by a younger, stronger, more fertile queen. Occasionally
the nest is split amongst the two competing bees and workers have
to choose which queen they will serve. It is the beekeepers role to
make another box for the departing queen so the tribe doesn't need
to migrate too far.
Her abdomen is noticeably larger than that of other bees, but to facilitate
identification many beekeepers will mark her with a daub of paint.
According to Perry, raising queens can be the most lucrative as individual
insects can be sold for as much as $400-$500. This year Elwin has
a standing offer from mainland beekeepers for his Italian bee queens
of $200. "People on the mainland know that the island bees are
not Africanized and are willing to pay for them," says Elwin.
Elwin tends to one of his 13 beehives in French Harbour.
story / editorial
/ local news
______________back to top
in a Name?by Thomas Tomczyk
The unwritten Bay Islands law says that "if you can buy
it, you can name it." Since just about everything in
the Bay Islands is for sale, plenty of people take advantage
of this rule.
When Carnival Cruise Lines announced that its "experienced
marketing company" decided that Mahogany Bay is a better
name for Dixon Cove I was faced with a dilemma. I was finishing
a map of Roatan and had to decide: face the future and name
Dixon Cove- Mahogany Bay, or stay with the tradition and keep
it as it has been for at least a couple hundred years?
Dixon's Cove has already been marked as such on the 1775 map
"Ruatan Map" surveyed by Lieutenant Henry Barnsley,
the Cartographer to the King of England. While Ruatan became
Roatan, just a few cays and bight names survived the 232 years
and even Dixon Cove was in danger of losing its identity to
a Central American hardwood. Coincidences rule the world and
marketing companies love predictability. You can predict that
people will just love 'Mahogany,' but could they ever fall
in love with 'Dixon?'
The name changing phenomena isn't exclusive to XX and XXI
century. If fact, marketing has determined what Bay Islands
should call themselves for as long as people have lived here.
Different people- different names. Even the spelling Cay vs.
Kay was an issue as most of dropped C for a K as the English
left and the US stepped in. In all that change and chaos what
is perhaps most amazing is that some places manage to retain
their names through several centuries. (E.g. Anthony's Key).
For Marketing executives Arch Cay certainly doesn't sound
as attractive as Fantasy Island and they surely love you if
you make their life easier. Marketing fantasy and not arches,
bare feet and not burials, is just so much easier.
Some name changes are just bound for failure. When attempts
were made to rename Coxen Hole- Roatan City the christening
never took off. But stay tuned. Marketing 'a hole' might prove
too much for Royal Caribbean Corporation and their nearby
cruise ship terminal. Its marketing department might just
decide that in the name of getting an extra 5,000 shore excursions
a year, it would help to rename the island capital a more
And what did I do as far as Dixon Cove? I decided to keep
the community of Dixon Cove on the map and substitute the
Cove's aquatic name to Mahogany Bay, a truly Solomonian decision.
While I think that change is good, let's not forget the roots
or the context of the places we live in.
but not Forgotten Island Names
Coxen Hole - Roatan City - Calkett's Hole
Brick Bay - Brig Bay
Saint Helen - Helena Island
Mangrove Bight - Cohoun Bight
Gibson Bight - Turtling Bight
Brig Bay - English Harbour
Jonesville Harbour - Falmouth Harbour
Bodden Bight - Welshe's Lagoon
Coral Cay - Green Cay
Barefoot Cay - Burial Cay
Fantasy Island - Ezekiel Cay - Threlfall Island
Osgood Cay - Big Cay - Bennet's Island
Arch Cay - Big Cay
Stamp Cay - Poinsetts Island
Stamp Cay- Half Moon Cay
Connors Cay - Flevells Kay
Ross Cay - Little Helena
or kay - a small, low island consisting mostly of
sand, or coral
- most often a circular, or round inlet with a narrow
entrance. Colloquially, cove can describe any sheltered
Bay - An area of water bordered by land on three
Bight - A large and often only slightly receding
bay, shallower than a sound
story / editorial
/ local news
Music then Shrimp
RISF attracts the biggest music stars to ever visit
Pollitilly answered "What can be women's contribution to the
development of the island?" by saying: "Women of the island
need to focus of the culinary arts."
"This is a bit embarrassing that they can't think of anything
else," said Lidia Medina, chief of Environmental department
at the Roatan Municipal, about the spectacle. Judges faced a difficult
task of deciding from the five, but it was Miss Sandy Bay who dawned
the crown in the end. The verdict was in: food - 6, beauty contestants
- 7, Music - 10.
While the two previous Shrimp Festival events either broke even,
or lost money, the 2007 festival focused on local and internationally
recognized artists and actually made money. "The difference
was that we had a cause and it was easier to raise money,"
said Hyde. While organizers aimed at getting 3,000 visitors, it
was the sponsorships that pulled the event into the black. In the
end Little Friends raised $31,000 towards the construction of the
French Harbour Community Clinic.
Selling the tickets at $12 for children, $29 and $34 for adults,
for some people the price of entry remained the biggest obstacle.
"If I wanted to take all my children [five], I would have to
spend over a hundred dollars. Then there would be food, etc. I just
couldn't afford it," said Justus Fallenroth, dive shop owner
from West End.
Next year the festival is planned for Marbella beach at Palmetto
Point and should be back in the hands of Suyapa Edwards.
The five finalists of the beauty contest
Third Roatan International Shrimp Festival was more about music then
food. On June 16, over two thousand people cheered on as a Country
music star sang "Look what followed me home," and a 67-year-old
Calipsoan from Trinidad rediscovered Roatan's reggae roots. "I
feel like I came home," told the audience Lord Laro.
Little Friends Foundation Kandy Hyde working with Coral Cay organized
the event in six weeks flat and despite the hurry, the festival attracted
the two biggest international music stars in the island's history:
David Ball and Kenneth Lara AKA Lord Laro.
The other attraction of the festival was the beauty pageant where
island constants remained poised, trying to keep their smiles during
the two hour contest. Still, the hardest part was yet to come. While
the competitions showed plenty of confidence and beauty, they faltered
a bit in showing off their intellect. The five finalists had to answer
questions about Roatan and while all the girls knew the questions
and had two days to prepare the answers their answers were a bit surprising.
Boat Rams Another, Killing Three
Potential Negligent Homicide Escalates Tensions between Helene Island
residents and Barbaret workers
trip for 14 Saint Helena men and teenagers to hunt Barbaret Iguanas
and dive for lobster ends in tragedy. On June 20, after being chased
by Barbaret security guards away from the North Side of the island
the 14 men got in their 18' boat, circled the island to the south
where a more powerful, bigger boat 'Sea Fox' steered by Barbaret security
man Esmelin Paz rammed them.
According to Wally Bodden, Santos Guardiola Councilman from Saint
Helene and owner of the sunken boat, Esmelin Paz was waiting in ambush
for the boat filled with passengers just past the eastern tip of the
island. Paz's boat rammed into the Helene boat with such an impact
that it broke away a seven foot chunk of the boat, sunk it and flipped
the 'Sea Fox.' Helenian Karoll Bowman died on impact, Tracy Dilbert
was knocked unconscious and in the ensuing chaos, drowned.
According to Esmelin Paz, their boat was trying to stop the Helen
boat for iguana inspection and it was the Helene boat who rammed them.
DGIC has made preliminary inspection of the 'Sea Fox' and the boat
suffered damage only to its front making it unlikely to be rammed
from the side.
While the 18' boat sunk, most of the men were picked up by a small
Saint Helene fishing boat that was in the vicinity. The three, and
according to some witnesses four, Barbaret security men swam back
to Barbaret and according to witnesses fired their weapons in the
air. Esmelin Paz claims to have helped some of the Helena men out
of the water and denies firing any weapons.
Bodies of Bowman, Dilbert and three seriously wounded men were brought
in to the Alternative Missions clinic on Saint Helene around 1pm.
"There was little we could do for them," said Larry Benson,
director of the Helene Clinic. The three seriously wounded men, Luckie
McKenzie, Gary McLaughlin and Jovie Bodden, were transported via boat
and car to Woods Clinic in Coxen Hole and flown on a chartered plane
to La Ceiba's D'Antoni Hospital. Later in the day, McKenzie died.
McLaughlin remains in a coma and Jovie Bodden is at risk of losing
When the news of the attack arrived on Saint Helene, anger at the
perpetrators was ready to spill over. "If it wasn't for me the
place [Barbaret] would have been burned down and people lynched,"
said Wally Bodden.
Preventiva Police showed-up in the evening, arresting three of the
Barbaret security guards: Esmelin Paz, his brother Gleny Paz and cousin
Olman Paz. Within hours the entire staff and workers of Barberat,
60 people, were evacuated to French Harbour. Around 20 Paz family
members returned to Santa Barbara.
Esmelin Paz has a history of confrontational behavior with locals.
Adversarial relationships between Esmelin Paz and locals escalated
from time to time as some Saint Helena men came to Barbaret to hunt
iguanas and pick coconuts. In the last month alone several Helene
youths were arrested by Esmelin Paz, their arms tied and kept on the
island for over a day. "We always had had an attitude of protecting
the iguana. Once we caught five men with 29 iguanas and turned them
in to Oak Ridge police," said Esmelin Paz.
Esmelin Paz moved 12 years ago to Barbaret from Santa Barbara and
was reported by Helene community members on several occasions to the
police and his previous employer and owner of Barbaret -Peter Townsmire.
Over the last two years Esmelin Paz worked as a security guard for
Kelcy Warren, an American Billionaire who purchased majority of Barbaret
from Peter Townsmire in 2005 to build his holiday home there.
With all the Barbaret workers hailing from the ladino community on
the mainland, many Saint Helene people feel left out from the development
boom on the island. While Townsmire emploid several Saint Heleneans,
Warren has not hired a single employee from an island less than two
miles away. "Kelcy should have come and met with the people on
Saint Helene," said Wally Bodden.
"I don't accuse Kelcy, but the management of Barbaret,"
said Wally Bodden who also sees fault with BICA's iguana and green
turtle protection efforts that ignored local traditions and sensibilities.
"They just can't impose this [iguana protection] laws. This is
our culture," said Wally Bodden.
The sad thing is that the violent confrontation was predicted by several
people in the community, yet little was done to prevent it. Wally
Bodden said that he expressed his concern to Congressman Jerry Hynds
and Governor Arlie Thompson as recently as a month before the incident.
"I said 'you need to do something about this. He [Chilie] is
going to kill someone,'" said Wally Bodden. According to Governot
Thompson the responsibility of resolving this matter lay with Santos
Wally Bodden sees the three deaths as a result of neglect of the Saint
Helene community: local politicians not addressing a growing conflict,
Barbaret management's inability to engage local community and overzealous
efforts of BICA at protecting iguanas and green turtles without taking
into account the sensibilities of the local community. "We are
the dump place of the island. We are forgotten," said Wally Bodden.
Ready for Change
Board of Directors accepts a purchase bid from a US billionaire
retired part time on Barbaret
Warren, 50, has several decades experience of working in gas energy
in Texas and is a Co-Chairman of Energy Transfer Partners Company,
earning a reported $1.15 million a year. "He will infuse the
company with new equipment, offer a reduced rate for the poor and
pursue alternate power generation methods," explained Danzilo
about Warren's proposal for RECO. "It behooves everybody that
he will realize the purchase." RECO operating capital is estimated
at Lps. 10 million and Warren has the option to purchase controlling
share of RECO stock- 52%.
The deal is not yet final as RECO stockholders have 15 days to exercise
their right of first refusal. Also, a June 20 incident involving Warren's
security guards on Barbaret and death of three men from Saint Helene
has spilled over into anger at the American amongst the Roatan's ladino
The situation is complicated further by a confrontational attitude
of the patronato leadership which has paralyzed RECO in the past.
"The RECO board squandered their shares of the company and now
we the people own 60% of the company," said Pablo Nelson, president
of Roatan Independent Tour Companies. According to Nelson, at a recent
patronato meeting in Sandy Bay Rosa Hendrix, president of the Bay
Islands patronatos, discussed taking over RECO installations and bringing
in engineers and staff to run the company. "We are not giving
these shares to the 'gringo' [Warren] and we are getting ready to
take over RECO," said Nelson.e
15 years of struggle to become profitable and find good management
RECO might finally be seeing light at the end of the tunnel. On June
11, after five months of emergency management by ENEE and several
low-ball offers from the mainland power company owners, an American
billionaire building a holiday home on Barbaret won the bid for the
option to buy the controlling stake in Roatan Electric Company.
"We had three serious bids, including: one from Cayman Islands
and one from mainland Honduras," said Felipe Danzilo, RECO's
lawyer. According to Bay Islands Voice sources, some of the Honduran
offers were 'lowball' offers at a fraction of RECO's value. "[Kelcy]
Warren's offer was by far the most comprehensive," said Danzilo.
finds itself and looses a chance at playing inDivision I
stadium turned into a pandemonium. Arsenal fans banged the corrugated
roof of their stands as reserve players and police run onto the
field. While Canales refused to leave the field, arguments broke
out and Savio's bench threw accusations at the game's referee- Ricardo
Zelaya. It was 10 minutes before the game resumed.
Still, Arsenal could not play in unison and any rhythm that the
team had playing with one-man less evaporated. The French Cay team
limited itself to "center and jump" type of plays hoping
for a lucky break. That break never came and after a lucky post
saved Savio, it was only the referee's delay in blowing the final
whistle that kept Savio from picking up the trophy.
Again, like three month before, Arsenal found itself one goal from
forcing an overtime with the Santa Barbara team. Again, Arsenal
fell short. "We were a better team, but refereeing could be
done much better," said Victor Lopez, Savio's treasurer.
Savio is not a novice to division I and II. The Copan team has a
32-year history and 18 of these years it spent playing in division
II. In 2001 and 2002, Deportes Savio qualified to play in division
Savio just wanted to advance more and maybe the loss was a blessing
in disguise to the young Roatan team. They have another year to
prepare to enter into division I: to build a stadium, organize their
fan support, etc.
in front of Savio's goal.
On a hot Sunday afternoon, around 1,750 people bought Lps. 70 and
Lps. 100 tickets to stand behind a chain link fence, an arms length
away from their island football heroes. While Roatan stood on the
brink of classifying to Hondura's division I, they got plenty of drama.
After loosing 1:0 on May 27 in Santa Barbara, Arsenal found itself
at home trying to at least win with a one-goal difference.
In minute 40 Arsenal's Carlos Martinez received a red card for dangerous
play and Arsenal found itself playing 10 on 11. Things seemed like
they were getting better for Roatan when in minute 70, Savio's goalkeeper,
number 13 Elmer Canales, received a second yellow and red card for
purposeful delay of game.