Bees are one of the oldest forms of animal life, preceding humans on Earth by 10 to 20 million years. Now, honeybees are dying off for a number of reasons which are classified under (CCD) Colony Collapse Disorder, including malnutrition, loss of habitat, disease, climate change, varroa mites, chemicals and pesticides.

On top of these threats, the life of a honey bee is all work and very little play. From the moment it emerges out of its hatching cell to its final flight, a honey bee is hard at work. "Bees communicate location information to their fellows with the famous waggle dance first described by Von Frisch (1974). A bee returning to its hive, if it has found flowers, makes a distinctive wiggle of the abdomen and dances up the side of the honeycomb. The bee's angle from the vertical indicates the angle of the flower away from the sun. A dance 100 degrees to the left of the 12 o'clock position indicates flowers can be found 100 degrees to the left of the sun, as seen from the hive."(1)  When they come together, bees make up one unit that pollinates thousands of acres of flowering plants, producing upwards of 100 pounds of honey per year and visits millions of blossoms in its lifetimes. Its life's work is to produce a golden nectar, of which, humans on average consume approximately 1.3 pounds per year each. 

Human use of honey is traced back 8000 years ago and the practice of beekeeping to produce honey, apiculture,  dates back to at least 700 B.C. For centuries, honey was considered sacred because of its golden hue, sweet taste and rarity to have.  It was used in religious ceremonies and to embalm the deceased. The ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, Chinese, Greeks and Romans all utilized honey for healing wounds and diseases of the gut. Honey was even used by runners in the Olympic Games in ancient Greece as an energy source.

Today, research shows that raw honey is compose of approximately 200 substances including 22 amino acids, 27 minerals and 5,000 enzymes. To top it all off, it includes precious minerals and vitamins such as iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, selenium, vitamin B6, thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and niacin. Research has only begun to unearth the reasons why this substance is so powerful and hidden with incredible medical benefits.

Honey has had a important place in traditional medicine for centuries. The secrets to its healing properties have been documented throughout history from hieroglyphic pictures, canvas paintings to medical journal entries. For centuries, raw honey has been known for its incredible nutritional value and health powers such as lessening seasonal allergies, increase energy levels, assist in sleep problems, as well as it contains antibacterial properties that can be used as a topical ointment to help heal infected wounds. 

However, it has a limited use in modern medicine due to lack of scientific support even though it has been used for centuries for healing and rejuvenation. Most of the honey sold in stores has been heated and pasteurized. This processing destroys many of the enzymes and beneficial compounds that make raw honey so nutritious. It is often heavily processed and may even have been chemically refined. Raw honey is completely left in its natural state and therefore contains pollen, enzymes, antioxidants and many other beneficial compounds that researchers are just beginning to learn about. 

Ways you can support the growth of the bee population and raw honey production:

  1. Become a beekeeper.  According to USDA reports, there are anywhere from 115,000 to 125,000 beekeepers.  
  2. Protect swarms. Swarming is a natural process when colonies of honeybees can increase their numbers. If you see a swarm contact a local beekeeper who will collect the swarm and take it away. Honeybees in a swarm are usually very gentle and present very little danger. They can be made aggressive if disturbed or sprayed with water. Just leave them alone.
  3. Plant your garden with bee friendly plants. Go for all the allium family, all the mints, all beans except French beans and flowering herbs. Bees like daisy-shaped flowers - asters and sunflowers, also tall plants like hollyhocks, larkspur and foxgloves. Bees need a lot of pollen and trees are a good source of food. Willows and lime trees are exceptionally good. 
  4. Buy local honey: Besides the medical benefits, this keeps food miles down and helps the beekeeper their beekeeping expenses. 
  5. Find space for a beehive in your garden: A beehive will make an amazing difference to your garden. Vegetables will be better, fruit will be less deformed.
  6. Remove or limit pesticides in your garden and yard. Pesticides, specifically neo-nicotinoid varieties have been one of the major culprits in Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD.
  7. Encourage local authorities to use bee friendly plants in public spaces.
  8. Learn more. See links at bottom of newsletter

When kept properly, bees are good neighbors, and only sting when provoked. If a bee hovers inquiringly in front of you when unprotected, do not flap your hands. Stay calm and move slowly away, best into the shade of shed or a tree. The bee will soon lose interest. Bees regard dark clothing as a threat.  If you were to come across any type of hive the best thing is to leave it alone. If it needs to be relocated you can contact a local bee keeper to help.

(1) The Specialized Intelligence of Bees by Dr. Dewey