A lot of people take bees for granted. Sure there are many other pollinators out there, but bees do more than just pollinate our flowers. Bees themselves produce six products that are used around the world.
This one everybody is aware of. It has a crazy shelf-life. They've found usable honey in the pyramids! Honey is used by itself as a food, for canning and preserving (instead of regular sugar), and for health and beauty.
It is naturally antibacterial and helps to heal various wounds.
"Honey promotes healing in a variety of ways. The high sugar and low moisture levels create an osmotic effect, drawing liquid out of anything that comes into contact with it. If this is a bacterium, it is desiccated and dies. The same hygroscopic effect (ability to absorb and hold moisture) means that excess fluids are drawn from the wound site, which helps to reduce edema (build up of fluid in tissues) and inflammation. Added to this, honey is acidic, which creates an inhospitable environment for bacteria. Finally, honey is a source of hydrogen peroxide, which is a well-known antiseptic. Dilute the honey (by moisture from a wound, for instance) and the enzyme kicks in again, giving the antibacterial activity in the honey a boost. The honey carries on working efficiently, even though the hydrogen peroxide is much less concentrated than a standard 3 percent antiseptic solution. The honey is gentler and will not harm tissues." Excerpt from The Book of Honey. See the bottom for link.
Honey is also good for use as a cough suppressant, for allergies, to regulate cholesterol levels and helps fight acne when used externally.
Importance of Bees
Now for the statistics! 85% of plants exist because of bees and 100 types of crops across America rely on bees. Without bees, the grasses used to feed the cows we use for meat, dairy, and other uses would be gone and we'd lose much more than bees.
Why are bees disappearing?
Despite knowing the importance of bees, they are still disappearing at an alarming rate.
Colony Collapse disorder (which scientists are still finding a cure for)
Insecticides and pesticides (contain Neonicotinoids, which disorient the bees and cause weakened immune systems and change of their smell so they would not be permitted back into their home)
Loss of habitat (America's wildflower meadows have nearly all but disappeared)
Radiation (everyone heard the backlash of the 5G towers right? Well radiation may actually play a factor. Atmospheric electromagnetic radiation has increased with the use of cell-phones interfering with the earth's natural electromagnetic field and may indeed make it harder for bees to navigate. Further research is necessary though)
Varroa Mites (the worst parasite of the bee world. If not treated, they can destroy whole colonies rather quickly)
How can I help the bees?
I'm not saying you should start beekeeping, though it is always a good idea. There are other things everyone can do to help the bees.
Do not purchase plants that have been treated with neonicotinoids. Always read the labels and do your research on the company before purchasing. Be sure to also use pollinator friendly pest control. This can include beneficial insects as well as certain brands of insecticides.
Don't panic when you see them. you pheromones confuse them. They absolutely will not sting you unless provoked as it is a death sentence. Also don't kill them.
Buy local honey from a farmers market. This supports the beekeepers efforts in keeping the bees alive and the local honey will help reduce your seasonal allergies.
Don't clear out dead stalks and leaves from your garden. Bees and other beneficial insects hibernate in these during the winter. Leave the leaves until after the last frost.
Plant a bee friendly garden! (Keep an eye out for next weeks post for more info!)
If you see a slow moving bee on the ground, don't step on her to put her "out of her misery". She's simply sluggish because she's hungry. Mix a small amount of sugar and water in a spoon and give her a treat. She'll be up and at 'em in no time.
Give bees water. You can use a shallow dish with some rocks as landing pads. don't worry if the water looks dirty. Bees don't care.
If you do decide to become a beekeeper (which is a dream of mine) please do your research so you can best care for them.
Most importantly: Do not avoid honey and other bee byproducts in favor of "vegan" friendly options. Your vegan options like agave nectar are actually detrimental to the environment. Agave is more difficult to harvest and available in lesser quantities. Using bee byproducts is actually good for bees! Harvest of them does not harm the bees. I repeat, THE HARVEST OF BEE BYPRODUCTS DOES NOT HARM THE BEES. Beekeepers never take more honey than necessary as it would kill the bees and bankrupt them, it would be incredibly stupid to take all of it at once. Instead only the excess of each byproduct is taken to clean out the hive and allow the bees to continue having healthy airflow and more space to grow the colony. By purchasing honey and beeswax you are helping them. And saving the habitats of the agave plants in the process.
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