The St. Croix Agriculture grounds was a sweet spot Saturday for the Bee Buzzaar, where crowds flitted from booth to booth enjoying mango honey ice cream, goat milk honey caramels, honey infused beverages, honey mead and honey barbecue sauce.
But the reason for the event was to showcase local beekeepers, who came with their products, tools of the trade and even bees.
Stephen Charles, a full-time beekeeper since 2014, brought an extractor and a multi-drawered box to collect pollen, a frame and beeswax. He had a protective suit, gloves, a bee vacuum and other tools he uses to remove bees from unwanted areas. The vacuum is harmless to the bees, he said. Charles sells his honey under the name B Sweet at various locations around the island including the Mon Bijou Grocery and One Love gas station in Princess.
Roniel Allembert, who goes by the name “the Honeyman,” displayed and talked to people about his observation hive. He challenged children to find worker bees and drones. His hive was filled with drones, because there are no blooming flowers to collect workers.
“When there’s no flowers, they kick the man out (of the hive) cuz they don’t do any work,” he said.
Other beekeepers present were Toni Downs, Wanda Wright, Errol Chichester, Violet Drew and Trevor Warner. Most had products to sell, including honey, soap, candles, beeswax and mead wine. Downs, who helped organize the event, displayed various scents of honey soaps and honey granola bars.
The event had something for everyone – a bounce house, arts and crafts and honey-made ice cream for kids. For adults, there were free plants, samples of honey, a variety of food and lots to learn about the care and feeding of the insects.
Peter “Pita” Gonzalez had T-shirts and note cards with original artwork and bees and there was music by Gyasi Clarke.
Dianna Callwood, assistant Agriculture commissioner, said engaging with agriculture is one of the goals of the annual event, especially with children.
“We want people to get used to coming to Agriculture. Our big thing is education, especially young people. You need academics to farm,” she said.
There were Buzzaar give-aways including sugar apple and sunflower seedlings and fresh vegetables from the Agriculture Department. And the St. George Village Botanical gave away bee-friendly plants. A raffle included a piece of gold jewelry from Crucian Gold as a prize.
Several groups had coloring books and pages for children to learn more about the flying insects, such as Jen Valiulis, of the St. Croix Environmental Association who gave away cuts outs of bees and honeycombs to children and adults. Valiulis told people that even Jack Spaniards are important to the environment because they eat caterpillars.
Sue Strickland, Cindy Salomone, and Katie Jones of Fresh Start Artists led children in painting rocks and a beekeeper’s box for Downs. They also showed kids how to make honeybee floats by stringing synthetic corks and beads with wire. The floats can be used in swimming pools, a bucket of water or any other body of water.
Sponsors of the annual event were the Agriculture Department, St. Croix Environmental Association, The St. George Village Botanical Gardens, Trees for St. Croix Project and Fresh Start Helping Hands.