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Surprising Facts About Honey and the Bees it Comes From

Bees are more important than the honey they produce. Learn why and why honey is such a big deal in the first place right here!
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The nutritional value of honey grows as we learn more about it. With antioxidants that the average sweetener lacks, this golden substance is a great alternative to regular sugars. It's antibacterial properties make it surprisingly effective against cuts and topical inflammation. But more importantly, honey comes from bees and the bees are dying.

Skip To The Honey Facts

Over the last 20 years, beekeepers have seen the death of 30-90% of their hives. This is being called Colony Collapse Disorder simply because we don't know specifically what's causing it. It impacts everyone and not just because it means less honey.

The Importance of Bees

Everyone's personal relationship with bees is different. Whether you ignore them, are scared of them or have an allergy to them, we as a human race are tied to bees in more ways than we could know. Bees pollinate plants but this relationship is more than just making flowers grow. About a third of every meal we as humans eat is because of bees. We're talking apples, onions, avocados, coffee, elderberries, vanilla, grapes, tomatoes, eggplant, coconut, peppers, beans... Okay, I think you get it. If you don't, take a look.

Can you really give up your coconut oil after all the wonderful things it does? Or coffee? Suddenly this blog hits a little closer to home.

The Death of a Queen

With the number of hives going down from 5 to 2.5 million in the U.S. alone, scientists are trying to figure out why bees are dying. There will always be natural culprits like parasites that feed on bees and viruses that weaken and kill off portions of hives but the biggest theory currently is pesticide.

For years it was believed that the current use of neonicotinoids, used to keep insects from killing produce, didn't affect the honeybee. However, the EPA released a report in December 2015 that conceded that for the last two decades, bees have been poisoned by these types of insecticides. The chemicals were designed to be applied at the root of the plant to be absorbed. So when they feed, it affects the nervous system of pests. This means even in small doses bees would get confused so they couldn't find their way back to their hive leaving them to starve. If this happens to enough bees, the hive doesn't get enough help and doesn't make enough honey and everything collapses.

With this latest report, it's hopeful that the usage of these deadly insecticides will cease and we won't lose anymore bees. Whether we've solved the problem or gotten to a solution in time, we'll just have to wait and see. What we as consumers and honey-lovers can do to help is learn the facts.

Know Your Honey

Honey isn't all bees are good for but admittedly it is a great benefit. There are a lot of popular home remedies that use honey and it has a great variety of uses. Here's what you should know:

Honey doesn't mean killing bees.You'll notice that harvesting honey is not one of the suspected reason for Colony Collapse. That's because honey doesn't harm the bees. Good beekeeping practices will keep hives happy and healthy and be gentle to remove bees while extracting their combs. Killing bees doesn't make sense because then you won't have anything to make honey. It's true bees eat honey but there are substitutions some keepers use like corn syrup concoctions. Others only take the excess honey bees make and leave them with enough to survive for the winter. Starving bees make for a short-lived hive.

There are over 300 different kinds of honey. Where bees pollinate and what nectar they bring back determines the color and flavor of the honey, ranging from nearly-clear and mild to dark brown and stronger flavor. Avocado honey is dark with a rich buttery flavor and is great for sauces and dressings while clover honey is the typical honey color and flavor. Manuka is also really popular. 

Use it to treat a cut. This sounded far-fetched to me but the research adds up. Honey is full of antibiotic and antiseptic properties that can help hinder bacterial growth on cuts and burns. Studies have documented its effectiveness against cuts, burns, bed sores and even skin graft donor sites. I'd leave that last one to a professional but if you don't have anything else I suppose grabbing your honey stash wouldn't hurt. It's important to note it has to be raw honey. Most commercial stuff is heated and therefore lacking in all medicinal benefits. 

You can infuse your honey with herbs. If you have trouble taking your supplements, honey has been said to help but it's also a great way to get those extra herbs. Or just to add some extra flavor. All you need is:

  • Raw, unfiltered, unpasteurized honey - 1 cup
  • Fresh or Dried Herbs - 1/4 cup
  • A Glass Jar - 8 oz
  • Empty Tea Bags or Cheese Cloth (Optional)

    • Fill the jar a quarter way with herbs. This leaves them room to expand. Add the honey, filling the rest of the jar and screw the lid on tight. Let sit for 1-2 weeks. The longer it sits, the strong the flavor. You can either tie the herbs in the empty tea bags or cheese cloth before pouring the honey or strain them out afterwards.

      We suggest trying this with lavender, chamomile or cinnamon! These taste great in tea, sweetened in juices or lemonade and all have medicinal properties of their herbs like calming upset stomachs or making you feel better when you've got a cold. Feel free to get creative, though. Some hot pepper honey would make for a great dressing at a summer meal! Be sure to share your favorite recipe with us!

    Honey isn't vegan. (But it is vegetarian). Sorry to say but honey doesn't make the cut for the vegan lifestyle. It's seen as an animal product. While it's not made from bees (ew), it's made by bees and, depending on your reasons for being vegan, honey could be seen as animal exploitation. That's why it goes against the International Vegan Association guidance. Like all things, there are some very bad practices associated with beekeeping. There are also some very good practices too that help with the bee population (and therefore the produce production) thrive. If this concerns you, then the solution is to know where your honey comes from! We have several honey companies on our site so you have more than enough choices.

    It doesn't just come from honeybees. Well, it does in the sense that humans only collect honeybee honey. But honeybees aren't the only bees that make honey. There are thousands of species of bee and a few of them collect nectar to convert into a food source. Honeybees and all their relatives (the American, Asian and European varieties) make enough to eat through the winter. Some bees like the Bumblebee will die off during the winter instead and only make enough for the queen to live on. Harsh.

    It only counts if it's raw. No one ever really tells you this but most honey bought in the plastic bear doesn't have any nutritional value aside from added sugar. That's because it's been heated, treated and filtered to remove the pollen from the honey. Those are the best parts. The tiny pollen particles are where all the amino acids and vitamins resides but only about 20% of commercial grade honey contains them. Also, all honey loses all nutritional value once heated too much so don't fool yourself into thinking baking with it will gain you nutrient points. The good news is, though, is that unless you add the honey in when the water is still boiling, you can still enjoy it with your tea.
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    And there you have it, more than enough to pass along in the office about bees and honey. Hopefully we'll have enough time with these little creatures to learn much more about them in the future or at least to enjoy their sweet gift. If you have any interesting honey recipes or facts, leave it on our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages! Check in next week to see what new buzz I make in the next blog!

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