Sunday, January 14, 2001
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Posted on: Sunday, January 14, 2001

Updraft carries stream of bees to Pali Lookout

By Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

The things one can see from the Pali Lookout are fascinating: a panorama of the Windward shore, U.S. Marines doing whatever they are doing on that strange little peninsula, and, quite often, dozens and dozens of honey bee carcasses strewn over the lookout itself.

Marine activities, and for that matter the activities of civilians on the Windward side, are often unfathomable and we probably wouldn’t want to know anyway. But Dan Quinn, state parks acting administrator, said his office has a theory about the bees. "We consider them Windward bees, townbound over the Pali," Quinn said.

The bees aren’t willing commuters, he said.

That updraft of mountain breezes that occurs when the trade winds strike the Koolau — so cool, so fun to lean into while visiting the lookout — appears to be responsible for carrying the bees away from their usual pollination grounds in the woods below.

Thomas Culliney, an entomologist from the state Department of Agriculture who specializes in bees, agreed that the insects on the lookout were most likely interrupted during their worker bee duties and carried over the Pali.

He did not think they were likely to continue into Honolulu, even if they lived long enough to make the trip. The healthy, young bees will use the sun to guide them and return to the Windward colony, he said.

Culliney theorized that those carcasses strewn about the lookout, like the bee bodies seen floating in the surf off Kailua beach, are the remains of insects grown too old to continue serving the group and too tired to fly home.

"Bees literally work themselves to death," he said. Hawaii’s warm winters and long growing seasons provide them ample opportunity to do so.

Old, tired and dying bees can still sting, he warned. But they’ll only do so when they feel threatened.

A bee about to be stepped or sat on will sting. A bee blown into the face of a tourist enjoying the Pali lookout breezes most likely won’t.

"She’ll just bounce off," Culliney said.

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