Buzz on the Roof

Every day, Grand Wailea’s Director of Landscaping Jim Heid gets “stung” at work – by busy-bee coworkers who like to swarm after him.

And, he likes to “sting” them right back.

“What sort of car does a bee drive?” they teasingly ask. “A Beemer,” he retorts. “How’s your day?” they query. “Sweet!” he replies. “What do bees do after they get married? “Go on a honeymoon, of course,” he says. Have you finished your ‘honey-do’ list yet?” “I’m working on it,” he drones on, before they wax philosophical.

The bee buzz is all about Grand Wailea’s rooftop white kiawe-blossom honey, which Heid and beekeeper Ken Darr produce in an apiary above the ballrooms.

“We’re producing three-to-five gallons of honey per month,” says Heid. “Depending on the season. It’s more prolific in the spring and the summer. Even through Maui is sub tropical, it’s seasonal.”

Previously unbeknownst to hotel guests, the apiary has been producing honey for more than three years now. Currently, there are eight or nine hives.

“It was a bee-utiful secret, until recently,” says Heid.

“It all started when Grand Wailea’s Matt Bailey, our managing director, read about an innovative rooftop apiary on his flight home from the East Coast,” he continues. “He brought the article back and told Executive Chef Eric Faivre about it.”

Faivre was born and raised in Strasbourg, France, where beekeeping and honey are just as compatible as a rural farmer and his own jug wine.

“That would be unreal!” the excited chef told Bailey, according to Heid. “Let’s set it up right away.”

So the team went ahead and brought Kula beekeeper Ken Darr, owner of Ali’i Bee Co., on board.

“Ken is someone we’ve worked with a long time. He’s who we call to relocate bees on property,” continues Heid. “I knew the rooftop honey would be right up his alley, beecause, well, he’s on the other side of the fence in his approach.

“In fact, Ken’s been stung quite a bit. The more I look at him, the more he starts to look like a bee.”

Abuzz with excitement, Heid and his bee team went about in building a colony atop Haleakala Ballroom, the most remote area of the 40-acre resort.

“We faced the colony toward Haleakala so they could get a line of sight to the kiawe trees across the highway.”

As any proper bee businessman in Hawaii knows, white kiawe-blossom honey is the most prized of all for its exceptional taste as well as creamy texture.

The kiawe blossoms are where bees make their living, so to speak, by gathering nectar and transferring pollen from one delicate flower to another.

“It’s known that bees have a line of sight to what they want and they can go three to five miles to the source,” says Heid. “The colony has literally derived its own highway to the kiawe.”

A “beeline,” if you will.

Up on Grand Wailea’s roof, it’s a stable environment, according to Heid, and bees face the mountains with a wall behind them separating them from the swimming pools and the tourist areas.

“It’s an isolated spot, yet they can come and go as they please,” says Heid. “They’re not locked up nine to five. But we’ve found that there is no endangerment to our guests, as sure enough, they’ve developed a pattern to the kiawe trees.”

“Here at the hotel, we’ve obviously been tracking bee stings from day one, when we first opened the resort,” says the longtime Grand Wailea employee. “The incidence of bee stings has not gone up at all, since we’ve implemented the program.”

With six top restaurants at the resort along with bars, lounges, and what the team calls a “constant influx of special group events and VIPS,” finding a market for the honey was a no brainer.

“The rooftop kiawe honey is incorporated into all of the restaurant menus to varying degrees,” says Chef Faivre. “From granola parfait with mango, orange, banana and rooftop honey to black-lava salted prawns with rooftop honey spaghetti squash in sake beurre rouge.”

“The honey, which has been certified by Maui’s Department of Heath and carries the ‘Made in Maui’ seal, is now available for guests to bring home and enjoy.”

In addition, the rooftop honey will be in the spotlight Monday to Saturday during the dinner hour as part of Bistro Molokini’s new Chefs’ Supper Club.

Each month, two new items are featured in a prix-fixe menu in Bistro Molokini for six days. This time around, rooftop honey will be paired with sweet potatoes and other gourmet items.

It’s a fabulous dinner, in an oceanfront setting, and each guest will receive a $25 coupon for dining at other outlets to be used in the next three months.

“Being Maui’s largest resort, the Grand Wailea prides itself on implementing innovative programs in support of the island’s remarkable and precious environment,” says Chef Faivre.

“I know all about bees diminishing in the world and that it’s reaching a crisis,” Heid adds. “As a farmer of 32 years, I know that this is the right thing to do.”