Spurred by a report from Catherine Booker of the Exuma Foundation, Ted Dennard ventured to Great Exuma in the Bahamas in 2014 and confirmed a profound mystery: Despite the logwood, bougainvillea, and other nectar-producing plants, not a single honeybee could be found on the sixty-one-square-mile island. “Bees are so important,” says Dennard, the founder of the Savannah Bee Company, which makes and sells honey products while promoting beekeeping practices. “They help with genetic diversity. They boost production of nuts, fruits, and seeds for animals and people.” Dennard had seen their benefits firsthand—he first began keeping bees at age thirteen, when an elderly neighbor set up a hive near his family’s home on St. Simons Island, Georgia. And so he began training eager locals to tend hives, and in 2015 he and Booker secured a permit from the Bahamian government to fly twelve packages to Great Exuma in a private plane, each containing twenty thousand healthy honeybees. Once the hives were up, Dennard waited—but not for long. Within six months, the beekeepers began harvesting honey, which they could then sell. “Usually, hives produce eighty-four surplus pounds of honey—that’s honey humans can take that the bees don’t need to survive,” he says. “These bees were creating two hundred to three hundred surplus pounds.” Now rough estimates place the island’s hive count at 150. “We found one in an old termite mound, so we even have feral honeybees.” Inspired by that success, Dennard set his sights on other islands: Chub Cay has already replanted one of Great Exuma’s hives, and Dennard and Booker have held training sessions on nearby Eleuthera, Cat, and New Providence Islands. “It would be an absolute dream to repopulate the world with bees,” he says.
MEET MORE SOUTHERN HEROES