Press Release: The Bee Cause Project Gets Involved with a New Bee Sanctuary in Puerto Rico


This year in honor of World Bee Day on May 20, a bee sanctuary was announced in partnership with The Bee Cause Project.  This exciting new project is additionally supported by two Puerto Rican non-profit organizations Para La Naturaleza and Be a Bee and sponsored Charleston-based Dixie Vodka.   This bee sanctuary is 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 hosted a virtual launch event and ribbon-cutting ceremony via Facebook Live on Friday, May 21 at 12 p.m. EST during which viewers tuned in for a tour of the bee sanctuary and its various components, a conversation with the head beekeeper 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 joined the Facebook Live stream in addition to hosting bee-inspired content throughout World Bee Day on their respective social media sites.



In the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017, Puerto Rico’s honey bee 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 that is 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 expertise in pollination ecology as well as the behavior and genetics of social insects including honey bees and ants, Rivera-Marchand will play a key role in developing the educational programming for the new sanctuary.


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.


Following the grand opening in June, the bee sanctuary will be open to the public for guided and self-guided tours of the property. The University of Puerto Rico, Be a Bee, 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.