On Honey

Honey. The sweet, sticky syrup-like substance produced by and for bees. There are many different types of bees; honeybees, bumblebees, stingless bees etc. They all produce honey, but the most common form of commercially available honey is from the honeybee.

Some interesting facts about honey bees:
1. Every bee in a hive has one of three jobs: worker, drone or queen.
2. All worker bees are female. All drones are male.
3. The queen bee has one job: reproduction.
4. The queen bee is the only female bee that has the ability to reproduce.
5. If the hive needs a new queen bee, they feed the new queen “Royal Jelly” to enable her to reproduce. Worker bees all have inactive ovaries, and the royal jelly activates them.

Honeybees store honey in their hive to live off all through winter, which makes them the perfect bee to farm for honey. Other bees, like the bumblebee, don’t store as much honey for winter. Mature bumblebee nests will sometimes hold less than fifty bees, while wild honeybees will have tens of thousands bees in their nests, making honey storage extremely important. Unfortunately, honeybees are now being factory farmed, similar to other animals like the cow and pig. They are taken from their natural habitat and forced into new unnatural homes and stressful situations all in the name of profit.

Swarming is a natural process that the queen bee initiates in the hive. If the hive is too crowded or another queen bee is born, the former queen bee will swarm with about half the hive, and they will find somewhere else to live. The main point is colony reproduction, and bees don’t like to be in a space that is too crowded. But beekeepers don’t want the bees to swarm, because swarming slows down their honey production. As a result, they sometimes kill the queen bee, or torture her by clipping her wings off, which prevents her from communicating with the other bees effectively.

Bees are intelligent, social beings. They communicate with each other through dancing, and work together to protect each other. Not only that, but they are necessary to human survival. They pollinate fruits, vegetables and flowers. As Albert Einstein famously says:

“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”

Maybe this is an overstatement, maybe it’s not. But it shows how important bees are to our everyday life, and their numbers are dropping radically. Colony Collapse Disorder is the name coined by the United States in 2006 when the disappearance of honeybees in North America rose dramatically. But this phenomena is seen all over the world, not just in the west. The cause of this disorder is unknown, but two likely causes are beekeeping practices like overcrowding and their use of antibiotics, and pesticide use.

If you want to help out a necessary and intelligent species, reduce or cut out your honey consumption. Instead of honey, use maple syrup, agave nectar, rice syrup, or one of the other many alternatives. Look for candles, lotions and lip balms that don’t use bees wax or other bee products. Alternatives are becoming easier and easier to find, you just have to look. For more information, Peta and National Geographic are great resources to learn about bees, bee products, and bee alternatives.

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Rich January 12, 2014, 8:41 pm

    I think Einstein was right, He may have even understated the importance of bees. Bees pollinate, so they are responsible for everything we eat. What do you think about beekeeping on an individual level, like a backyard hive?

    • nataliesmyth11@gmail.com January 18, 2014, 1:23 pm

      I think beekeeping on an individual level is fine. I wish there were more individual beekeepers instead of corporate factory farms. Individual beekeepers aren’t the ones who are torturing bees and just sucking the life out of them for profit. I think it can be done humanely, but I’d have to do more research before giving a definitive answer.

  • Piece of the Net March 12, 2014, 8:03 am

    Hi, I nominated your blog for the Leibster Award!


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