The Bee’s Knees
When we think of bees, those little black and yellow honey-making babes automatically come to mind. Despite their small stature, these buzzing insects are one of the most important creatures in our ecosystem. Not only are they better than any other stinging insect at creating formic acid, an essential acid and the basis for all plant life, but they are also some of the best pollinators. They are responsible for pollinating 40-70% of our diet including apples, peaches, strawberries, nuts, avocados, broccoli, and cucumbers. They even pollinate some medicinal plants like echinacea, angelica, rosemary, and sage. Bees are also capable of telling us when the environment is in danger—when there are problems with bees, environmental issues will soon follow.
So what exactly is honey? Some people put it in their tea, use it to make natural beauty products, or utilize its healing properties for wounds and illnesses. It is made by honey bees that collect pollen and nectar from flowers. These bees slurp up sweet nectar and keep it in a second stomach while they go around looking for more. Once they return to their hives, they regurgitate that syrup between other bees before putting it into cells for later use. The enzymes in their stomachs turn the nectar into the thick golden syrup we’re familiar with. Bees use this supply of honey for sustenance during the winter so when we consume honey we are actually eating their winter supply of food. With so many sweeteners to choose from, it’s time to ask ourselves if it’s really necessary to select the option that causes harm to both living creatures and our environment.
The honey industry isn’t as innocent as many people imagine. Every year, honey is taken from the bees and supplemented with a less nutritious sugar water, a trend we’re seeing take place throughout much of the honey industry. Even local beekeepers are taking honey from their bees to sell it to us. Many large honey farms are not making enough money from producing honey so they’re increasing their revenue through the pollination industry. The bees are taken on trucks and moved around the country to monoculture crop areas like California in order to pollinate. This results in exposure to fungicides and pesticides, the spread of diseases, and the lack of their own nutritious honey. Instead of being able to live the way nature intended, humans are taking control of the bees which is resulting in the decline of the current bee population. The bottom line is that if we don’t have bees, we will not have the foods that we love. As a society, we need to reevaluate the importance of human consumption of honey.
The good news is, there are many ways you can help save the bees, but the most impactful way would be to stop eating honey! Allowing bees to create and consume their own honey will drastically help them in the long run. We don’t need to consume honey in order to survive and on top of that, there are many other substitutes that are just as delicious. These include, but are not limited to, agave, maple syrup, stevia, coconut sugar, raw cane sugar, rice syrup, turbinado sugar, and beet sugar. If you are looking to do more than just cut out honey from your diet, there are some other ways you can help. You can support bee sanctuaries, plant flowers that are bee friendly, leave out shallow pans of water with rocks in it so that bees can safely stay hydrated, and support companies who also want to save the bees!