Be Light and Healthy

Bee Grateful

Posted on: May 15, 2011

 “We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.”  Cynthia Ozick

It’s easy to take things that are plentiful in our lives for granted.  Living fast-paced lives in modern society has conditioned the vast majority of us to mindlessly go through our days fully expecting to have access to nature’s bounty by simply visiting a grocery store or farmer’s market.  Taking a moment to pause and consider what it takes to produce the nourishment that is readily available can fill you with gratitude. 

In conjunction with the return of the warm weather comes the return of the insects and outdoor allergies.  What do you think of when you see a bee?  A few years ago most people, including myself, would automatically recoil for fear of being stung.  Honey bees have gotten some well-deserved attention in the last couple of years; unfortunately, most of it is a result of the mysterious demise of a large percentage of their population.  The upswing of this situation is that significantly more people are aware of the contributions honey bees make to life on this planet.  Everyone knows that honey bees produce honey, but did you know that they pollinate approximately 80% of all fruit, vegetable, and seed crops in the United States?  Honey bees are the only insects that produce food that humans consume.  Colony Collapse Disorder is a phenomenon where whole colonies of bees just vanish and appears to be due to multiple factors introduced by humans.  For example, commercial bees are trucked around the country to follow the pollination cycle of crops.  Common sense tells me that this cannot possibly be good for the bees.  Man’s continuous attempts to improve upon nature’s perfection are ultimately detrimental to life on this planet.   

Years ago, my husband came home from work one day and asked me if we could keep bees.  My immediate reaction was, “Absolutely not!”  Quite frankly, I thought he had lost his mind.  The only thing I knew about bees was that they stung, and I wanted no part of them.  I had never been an outdoors person and was not fond of animals in general.  However, the timing of my husband’s request coincided with my life-changing 100 pound weight loss journey.  Part of the process of changing my life involved learning about healthy foods so I was aware of the health benefits of honey and did like the taste.  I had also started walking outside so I wasn’t as uncomfortable outdoors as I had previously been.  Fortunately, I didn’t completely dismiss the idea and began considering it.  But me, a beekeeper?  It was still quite a stretch! 

We began attending the Norfolk County Beekeepers Association meetings and signed up for “bee school.”  The beekeeping community is a wonderful group of people, and their enthusiasm was contagious.  Bee school is conducted annually beginning in January and consists of 10 two-hour classes.  The more I learned about bees, the more I marveled at them.  Did you know the average worker bee produces about 1/12th teaspoon of honey in her short six-week lifetime?  Since a pound of honey is equal to approximately 64 teaspoons, it takes 768 honey bees to produce it.  The bee hive community is comprised of mostly female worker bees, one queen, and a few hundred male drones.  The queen can live up to five years; however, the workers and drones only live six weeks with the exception of bees that overwinter.   Honey bees travel up to three miles from their hive and visit 50 to 100 flowers during each foraging trip.  During the summer, a hive’s population can swell to 40,000 to 60,000 bees.  The buzzing sounds bees make are created by the beating of their wings approximately 11,400 times per minute, and they fly at speeds up to 15 miles an hour.  They share directions to nectar sources with their hive mates by performing a Waggle dance

Honey is an amazing substance the bees produce to nourish themselves and sustain them through the winter.  Essentially, we are robbing the bees when we take their honey; consequently, many vegans do not eat it.  Honey does not spoil and has been found in the tombs of Egyptian kings.  Stone Age cave drawings depict people harvesting honey from beehives.  The ancient Greeks minted coins with bees on them, and Greek athletes consumed honey for energy during their training periods leading up to the Olympic games.  Many ancient civilizations used honey both internally and topically as a medicine.  During antiquity honey was regarded as a sacred substance.  It appears they understood and appreciated the value of this golden liquid. 

Most people are familiar with the use of honey as a sweetener or as a remedy for a sore throat.  Raw honey is full of enzymes, which aid in digestion.  Prior to antibiotics, honey was used as a topical anti-bacterial agent for cuts, scrapes, and burns.  Up until World War II, it was used to dress wounds.  With the current concerns regarding overuse of antibiotics, a resurgence of honey as a topical agent has occurred.  Because honey contains nectar and pollen from plants, consuming it enables the body to naturally build antibodies to allergens.  Ingesting a teaspoon or two of local, raw honey daily slowly builds up tolerance to allergens and decreases the associated symptoms.  To ensure the honey bees have gathered the nectar and pollen from the same plants that are causing the allergies, it is best to obtain raw honey from as close to where you live as possible (within 50 miles). 

Please note:   Children under the age of one year should not consume honey due to their undeveloped intestinal systems.  When bees collect nectar, botulism spores are also collected and get mixed into the honey. Botulism spores do not present a health risk to older children and adults because the presence of beneficial bacteria in more mature intestines prevents the spores from growing. 

When people learn that we’re beekeepers, many are quick to share their concern about the plight of the honey bees.  The number of people becoming hobbyist beekeepers has increased.  People have repeatedly told us that they no longer immediately kill a honey bee when they see one.  Honey bees die after they sting and only sting to protect themselves.  The venom from the sting of a honey bee is different from wasps and other kinds of bees and has healing properties.  Though some people are highly allergic to bee stings, many others have used bee venom therapy to obtain relief from a multitude of diseases including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and cancer.  We have successfully practiced it on my husband to alleviate arthritis symptoms.  I always honor the bee and express gratitude for the healing and sacrifice of its life after it stings.

Honey bees remind me to be grateful for so many things.  I am grateful that I changed my life.  Had I not gotten off the unhealthy path I was on, I never would have learned about healthy foods, established a connection with nature, and been receptive to keeping bees.  Learning about bees and being a beekeeper has given me an appreciation of their contributions to humanity as well as the amazing order and perfection of Mother Nature. 

I invite you to take a moment to appreciate the natural abundance that is available to us, and the contributions made by the honey bees.  Consider the life cycle of the fruits, vegetables, and seed crops that require pollination by honey bees.  In addition, remember that ancient civilizations considered honey a sacred substance and the amount of effort necessary from the bees to produce it.  If you have allergies, try raw, local honey to alleviate the symptoms.  In addition, I invite you to forward this blog to your friends and sign up for weekly e-mail updates at www.belightandhealthy.com to get informed and inspired to Be Light and Healthy.  When you sign up, you will receive an e-mail requesting you confirm your subscription.  After you confirm, you will begin receiving weekly updates.

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