In honor of World Bee Day on May 20, Charleston, SC based non-profit The Bee Cause Project – in partnership with Puerto Rican non-profit organizations Para La Naturaleza and Be a Bee, and sponsor Dixie Vodka – announces a new honey bee sanctuary set to open this June in Puerto Rico, the commonwealth’s first-ever project of its kind. Conceptualized after the island’s bee population suffered devastating losses during Hurricane Maria, the sanctuary signals a new stage in the restoration of Puerto Rico’s natural habitat. To celebrate this much-needed initiative, Para La Naturaleza will host a virtual launch event via Facebook Live on Friday, May 21 at 12 p.m. EST during which viewers can tune in for a tour of the bee sanctuary and its various components, a conversation with head beekeeper of the sanctuary William Burgos to highlight his efforts to install the first beehive in the new apiary and more. Representatives from partner organizations Be a Bee and The Bee Cause Project will also join the Facebook Live stream in addition to sharing bee-inspired content throughout World Bee Day on their respective social media channels.
FROM DEVASTATION TO RESTORATION
In the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017, Puerto Rico’s honeybee population was virtually decimated with more than 80 percent of the island’s bees destroyed. In response to the natural disaster, Isabelle Ramseyer, a student at Puerto Rico’s Saint John’s School in San Juan, created a student-run initiative called Be a Bee to bring awareness to the plight of the island’s bees and educate people about the importance of bees and their role in maintaining the overall health of global agriculture and ecosystems through pollination. After Be a Bee connected with the teams at Para La Naturaleza and The Bee Cause Project, the vision to create a bee sanctuary that would restore and preserve the island’s bee population was hatched. The sanctuary is located on a 2.6K acre nature preserve in Manatí, about an hour outside of the island’s capital of San Juan, a property maintained by Para La Naturaleza.
The restoration of Puerto Rico’s bee population is especially important, notes Dr. Bert Rivera-Marchand, a tenured professor of biology at the Bayamón Campus of the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico and director of the EXITOS Project funded by the U.S. Department of Education. “Due to their genetics, behavior and natural resistance to parasites, Puerto Rico’s honey bees are unique in the world and could be a possible solution to global bee colony losses,” he says. With particular expertise on pollination ecology as well as the behavior and genetics of social insects including honeybees and ants, Rivera-Marchand will play a key role in developing the educational programming for the new sanctuary.
FOR THE LOVE OF THE BEES
As the primary sponsor for the sanctuary project, Dixie Vodka has a long history of investing in efforts to support honey bee education and protection. In 2017, Dixie Vodka created its Wildflower Honey expression, made with sustainably sourced honey from Savannah Bee Company. In the process, founder Matti Anttila learned a great deal about honey bees, their plummeting populations and the critical role they play in global agriculture. Ever since, Dixie Vodka has donated a portion of proceeds to The Bee Cause Project via its 1% for the Planet program. “We’re thrilled to help support the creation of this new bee sanctuary in Puerto Rico, which is vitally important not only to the restoration of the island’s bee population, but also in terms of the education and awareness the sanctuary will provide to visitors around the state of honey bees on a worldwide scale,” Anttila says.
MORE TO COME FROM THE HIVE
Following the grand opening in June, the bee sanctuary will be open to the public for guided and self-guided tours of the property. Para La Naturaleza, Be a Bee, Dr. Rivera-Marchand and The Bee Cause Project will work to develop educational programming and curriculum content, available in mid-August, for schools, community organizations and families to enjoy. Later in the fall, the sanctuary will host an open house event during which guests and the surrounding community will have the chance to meet representatives from the various organizations that brought the bee sanctuary to fruition and enjoy a honey harvest in celebration of the sanctuary’s first “crop” of honey.
ABOUT THE BEE CAUSE PROJECT:
The Bee Cause Project is a Charleston, SC, based non-profit organization that works to engage students of all ages with their own environments through observation-based learning. The organization’s STEAM-based curriculum, educational hives, and international network build learning opportunities in classrooms and communities, in order to inspire the next generation of environmental stewards. Ted Dennard, a lifelong beekeeper and the founder of Savannah Bee Company, and Tami Enright, a fellow beekeeper and environmental educator, had both dedicated their lives to protecting pollinators. The pair partnered to install the first observation hive at Sullivan’s Island Elementary School, and shortly after, The Bee Cause Project became a 501c3 and later secured a national partnership with the Whole Kids Foundation. Alongside the Bee Cause Project sponsors, beekeepers, educators and community members, the organization has since provided Bee Grants to more than 500 schools and organizations, impacting hundreds of children across the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico.
ABOUT PARA LA NATURALEZA:
Para la Naturaleza is a non-profit organization based in Puerto Rico that integrates society in the conservation of its natural ecosystems. Its goal is to ensure that the percentage of protected natural areas in Puerto Rico is 33 percent by the year 2033. Para la Naturaleza provides each person and community with transformative experiences that inspire and motivate concrete actions in favor of nature, such as voluntary work, the donation of funds and land, or the establishment of conservation easements. The organization leads educational offerings, events for volunteers in citizen science and management of natural areas and fundraising initiatives. Para la Naturaleza also manages visitor centers and protected natural areas throughout Puerto Rico, including Hacienda Buena Vista in Ponce, Hacienda La Esperanza in Manatí and Cabezas de San Juan in Fajardo, among others. Visit Para la Naturaleza online at https://www.paralanaturaleza.org/.
ABOUT BE A BEE:
Be a Bee is a student-run initiative started and created by Isabelle Ramseyer for Saint John’s School in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2018. The project aims to help society and agriculture by educating others around the importance of creating awareness around bees as linchpins in the future of human development and prosperity. They believe that anyone who integrates him- or herself into the world of bees will have a better understanding of the environment and how it is affected by humans. Be a Bee can be found on Facebook and Instagram.
ABOUT DIXIE VODKA:
Launched in 2014 and based in Charleston, SC, Dixie Vodka was established with the simple mission of creating an all-American premium craft vodka that represents the best of Southern flavor, craftsmanship and hospitality. With six signature flavors – including its flagship Southern Original, Black Pepper, Citrus, Mint, Peach and Wildflower Honey – Dixie Vodka partners with local farmers across the South to infuse regionally cherished ingredients into its award-winning products, each of which is six-times distilled from American corn. Dixie Vodka donates at least 1% of all profits through its 1% for the Planet program, a commitment to supporting non-profits that work to protect the future of the planet. A core brand within the Grain & Barrel Spirits portfolio – an innovation-driven beverage platform that develops and scales craft spirits brands led by founder Matti Anttila – Dixie Vodka can be found on Facebook and Instagram, and on shelves in more than 30 states.
bread & Butter
The Bee Cause Project
Para la Naturaleza