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Our friends, the honeybees

Bees contribute a lot to this world – ranging from their sweet honey to their help in crop growth through pollination and even in fighting allergies and HIV. We are still discovering all the wonders bees are capable of, and the emerging movement that advocates for pure, natural honey and fights colony collapse disorder will help keep bees and honey around so that we can enjoy the bountiful benefits.

But the yummy honey we buy at the store may not actually be what we think it is. The best way to determine if honey is actually honey is to test for the presence of pollen. In a 2011 study done exclusively for Food Safety News, researchers found that over seventy five percent of honey sold in US grocery stores have no traces of pollen. Some honeys found on the shelves contain pesticides and antibiotics, or are cut with sugar water or corn syrup (read the article about the study and find the list of honeys without pollen here). “Honey” sans pollen is not only unnatural; it lacks the healthiest and most beneficial elements that bees produce.

 Pollen found in natural honey contains powerful enzymes that can treat ailments and have anti-allergenic benefits. Raw honey was used in 1998 to treat a dog’s severe burns after other creams and medicines failed to help, and the dog improved within days of being treated. Medihoney – a honey-based healing aid free of pesticides and completely traceable back to its source – has been used by doctors in the US and Europe since 2007. It contains a highly antibacterial form of honey – it is produced under hygienic conditions, with the secret ingredient of pollen that comes from the Manuka tree in New Zealand (read more about Medihoney here).

It’s not just the honey either; bee venom can be extremely beneficial medicinally as well. A recent study has even shown that a toxin found in bee venom can kill HIV. Bees are also huge helpers when it comes to growing food; many of the world’s important crops rely on pollination to grow each year. The honeybee industry is worth over two hundred billion dollars worldwide. But in the past six years, colony collapse disorder has destroyed over ten million beehives. Some of the reported causes and stressors include corn syrup that is fed to bees which makes them vulnerable to pesticides, and pesticides alone have been linked to causing colony collapse disorder. This discovery just adds fuel to the ant-pesticide movement; beekeepers and other advocates for more natural food growing methods filed lawsuits against the EPA for their use of pesticides this past March.

But beekeeping as a hobby and for means of producing honey on smaller scales is growing in popularity as of recent. More and more people are coming up with ways to bee keep in urban settings, and more local, small scale beekeeping businesses are popping up with the intentions of producing more natural honey with transparent production. Andrew's Honey is based out of NYC and produces honey and other bee products - beeswax candles, propolis, and even soaps. Honeybees are much friendlier than commonly thought, and from backyards to rooftops, bees are finding homes in high-designed and super modern hives (check out Brooklyn Grange's neat urban beekeeping program here). It’s nice to know that your yummy honey is all natural, super healthy, and comes from an ethical source – and it seems that this train of thought is beginning to root and grow in many people’s minds. Bees are our friends; we look forward to kindly sharing this earth with them and enjoying the fruits of their labor. On a final note, we would like to express our admiration and gratitude for those who care for our honeybees, whether it be through fighting against and searching for ways to prevent colony collapse disorder and the use of pesticides, or producing all natural honey for their communities. 

Image from Modern Farmer

Image from Modern Farmer

Information in this post was found primarily via articles from Modern Farmer's Bee Week