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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 30, 2003

Diamond Head bees ordered to buzz off

By James Gonser
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer

After bees from abandoned hives were found during a mid-'90s cleanup, the state let a private keeper manage them. Now the state is concerned about liability.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

For half a century, bees were welcome residents of Diamond Head crater, providing a light-amber honey with a slight floral flavor from the kiawe they pollinated.

But that will end next month as the state, citing liability concerns, evicts the crater's last apiarist and the dozens of beehives he has managed since 1995.

Although no one has complained about being stung by a bee at the crater, liability has become an overriding issue for the state since a judge ruled last October that the state was negligent in protecting the public from the 1999 rockslide at Sacred Falls Park that killed eight people and injured 42 others.

In the past two dozen years, the number of visitors to Diamond Head has soared — from 40,000 in 1980 to more than 1 million in 2001. And even more are expected as a state plan to develop the monument for hiking and tourism unfolds.

Officials said the Parks Division of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources started talking about eliminating the bees about a year ago, even seeking an opinion from the state Agriculture Department on whether there would be any effect on the crater — negative or positive — if the apiary were removed.

Kenneth Taramoto, who heads the Plant and Pest Control Branch, said the apiary's bees are not needed for pollination because other bees in the area do that. He recommended that the hives be removed because of the potential liability, particularly if a tourist with an allergy to bee venom were to be stung.

Michael Kliks says that because his bees' honey is processed and sold elsewhere, there is no commercial operation within the crater.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

But even before that, officials recognized that the hives no longer fit the vision for Diamond Head, said Yara Lamadrid-Rose, park coordinator for the DLNR. Beehives are "not a compatible use in a public, urban park," Lamadrid-Rose said.

She said Michael Kliks has had an agreement to manage the bees on the state's behalf since they were found during a cleanup operation in the mid-1990s.

"As part of our verbal agreement, he maintained the site and dealt with any bee problems the park may have in the public area," Lamadrid-Rose said. In return, he owns the honey, which he sells commercially along with that from other hives that he maintains.

But, she said, "He knew eventually we would phase the bees out. That is not his recollection, but that was the agreement our resources management people had with Mr. Kliks."

Last week, state parks administrator Dan Quinn gave Kliks until June 30 to leave and remove the hives.

Beehives have been a fixture in the crater since the 1950s when Diamond Head was part of the Army's Fort Ruger base and the general in charge was a hobby apiarist, Lamadrid-Rose said. The hives were abandoned when the Army moved out, then they were forgotten for about a decade before being uncovered as workers cleared a trail.

The state says beekeeper Michael Kliks is being evicted
because of parkland concerns about liability as the visitor count at Diamond Head crater grows. But Kliks, who keeps his beehives within a fenced area, contends that his arrangement with the state has fallen into disfavor because of his feud with animal-rights groups over the proliferation of feral cats in the crater.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

The state has a plan for Diamond Head that includes a $5 million interpretive center and a system of trails through the nearly 500 acres that make up the state monument. It doesn't include beehives.

But Kliks thinks there's another reason for his eviction.

The longtime beekeeper and former president of the Hawaii Beekeepers' Association has butted heads with animal rights activists over the proliferation of feral cats in the crater and elsewhere in Honolulu. He said those activists are to blame for his eviction.

According to Kliks, the state has received calls and letters and been under pressure to evict him because of his stand on controlling feral cats rather than any real threat by the bees.

"I don't know what is driving this if not (the state) being afraid of the complaints by the animal rights people," Kliks said. "They began to complain when they found out I was managing the bees."

Lamadrid-Rose said the plan to remove the hives was discussed long before there were any complaints by people who feed feral cats. "The issues between Mr. Kliks and the cat feeders is their fight," Lamadrid-Rose said. "That has nothing to do with state parks and nothing to do with our decision."

Carroll Cox, president of the environmental watchdog group EnviroWatch Inc., said he is concerned because Kliks pays nothing to run his business on state property. Cox said vendors of T-shirts and snacks in the crater need permits and pay fees, so he thinks Kliks' free use of the property is unfair.

Kliks says he manages what had become a problem for the state and has spent thousands of dollars maintaining the site in return for the honey, which he markets under the Manoa Honey Co. label.

"We don't sell any honey there, don't do anything commercial there," Kliks said. "We have given free tours to chefs and students and do train some people about bees. The honey is taken away, and it's extracted and harvested in our licensed and approved sanitary kitchen."

Kliks said he will try to find another area with kiawe where he can place the hives.