West End Infestation

Kaluakoi swarming with bees.

[Appeared in the Oct. 2, 2008 issue of  The Molokai Dispatch]

By Catherine Cluett

For over a year, hum of bees on the Paniolo Hale Resort grounds has been as ubiquitous as your own heartbeat. But unlike your heartbeat, the presence of these honey bees is not a good sign, especially for resort resident manager James Murphy. “We have a bee infestation,” he says. And it’s a problem that’s beginning to cost the resort even its most loyal customers.

The bees are nesting in the walls of abandoned Kaluakoi Resort condo buildings, owned by Molokai Properties, Ltd. (MPL). The resort closed about ten years ago, says Murphy, and has since fallen into disrepair. The property is adjacent to Paniolo Hale, and bees are flying over to get water from Murphy’s lush grounds.

“Honey bees fly up to five gallons of water per day back to their hives,” he says. They use water to regulate the temperature of the hives, fanning water droplets with their wings to protect developing larvae from overheating.

Kaluokoi Golf Course, surrounding Paniolo Hale property, is also owned by MPL. The golf course was closed in April, along with Molokai Ranch. The bees, which used to get water from the irrigated course lawns, are now left with no water source. Drought conditions are also contributing to the problem, says Murphy.

He explains that deer used to use the golf course as a water source as well. Deer, desperate for moisture, are now pawing holes in the ground to reach Paniolo Hale’s water pipes, causing damage and sometimes even breaking them.

Five bee hives have been removed from Paniolo Hale grounds in the past year and a half, Murphy says. “We’re thinking green,” he explains. Instead of spraying hazardous chemicals that would kill the bees and endanger residents, Murphy calls Molokai bee-keepers Denny and Brenda Kaneshiro to remove the nests from inside building walls. They carefully remove siding, humanely capture the bees with a vacuum cleaner, and transport them back to their hives on the island’s east end. The operation costs $200 for each removal, but Murphy says it’s worth it.

“I’m taking care of my kuleana,” he says, “and the Ranch needs to take care of theirs.”

The Paniolo Hale poolside is empty, except for hundreds of bees – floating on the water’s surface, swarming at the pool’s edge, and coming and going in dizzying busyness. The pool is currently closed because Murphy has sprayed the insecticide Malathion on the pool deck in hopes of deterring the bees. It doesn’t seem to be working. “We’ve tried everything,” he said. Using the toxic insecticide was a last resort.

Despite all his efforts, the bees keep coming back. “They like water and shade,” he explains. Paniolo Hale offers both, while Kaluakoi’s barren ground has neither. As long as the Ranch’s buildings are harboring hives, the bees will continue to flock to Paniolo Hale.

“I would love to see the county use eminent domain,” says Murphy. “It’s like a ghost town over there,” he adds, looking towards the abandoned Kaluakoi resort. “It’s just a crying shame.”

In the mean time, Murphy says Paniolo Hale’s owners are suffering the effects of the Ranch’s neglect.

“I could not even spend one day, not even one hour, by the pool. The bees are just everywhere,” writes one irate customer. He has been visiting Paniolo Hale twice a year for the past 12 years, says Murphy. Now he, like other unhappy customers, says he might not return next year because of the bee infestation, Murphy explains.

Resort management has had to post signs around Paniolo Hale property warning people, especially those with bee allergies, about the high volume of bee activity.

“You should just step up to the plate and take care of your buildings,” Murphy says of the Ranch.

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About Catherine Cluett

I'm a freelance journalist, editor and photographer on the Hawaiian island of Molokai.
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