So, if you read my last honey blog, you may agree that honey could be useful, in moderation as a regular part of a healthy diet, but which honey and why and how does it affect the environment?
Well, there could be many views, about the use of honey, let’s start by discussing ethical considerations. We’ll look into the environmental effects and then look at what type of honey to choose.
Some people, including Vegans will not eat honey as it is processed by insects – not plants. Those who are Vegan for ethical reasons, do so as it can be a minefield finding honey, especially in the supermarkets that is real, unadulterated honey – created by bees that haven’t been harmed, if you can take yourself away from realising that we are stealing their food stores (1, 2).
Did you realise, that much of our forest plants (those we know about as well as those still undiscovered), food delicacies and mass farmed foods that we need for survival are dependent on pollination from insects such as butterflies and bees. Literally, without them, many of our orchards and farms wouldn’t survive, and the animals that eat the insects and plants will struggle or fall also.
Pop quiz, name 5 plants that require bees to pollinate and survive?
According to HoneyLove – a Los Angeles based bee keeping group that as lobbying for Bees, a SHORT list of foods we will lose if bees disappear includes (2)
- Kiwi Fruit
- Rose Hips
- Black and Red Currants
- Prickly Pear
- Passion Fruit
- Lima Beans
- Kidney Beans
- Adzuki Beans
- Green Beans
- Orchid Plants
- Custard Apples
- Acerola cherries
- Macadamia Nuts
- Sunflower Oil
- Goa beans
- Palm Oil
- Star Apples
- Brussels Sprouts
- Bok Choy (Chinese Cabbage)
- Congo Beans
- Sword beans
- Chili peppers, red peppers, bell peppers, green peppers
- Black Eyed Peas
- Brazil Nuts
- Mustard Seed
How are we negatively affecting bees?
Well this is a big topic, so I’ll try to be complete, clear and succinct.
- Inhumane Bee Keeping Practices (3)
- They are often cramped into smaller spaces than they naturally would provide for themselves
- They are often injured (in order to make life easier for the bee keepers)
- When collecting the honey, if care isn’t taken, many bees lose their wings and or legs
- The hives and bees are set on fire
- If the company feels that it’s too costly keeping a hive through winter (when little or no honey is made – that’s when they use their honey as a food source!).
- Cut off the queen bee’s wings
- To stop her from leaving
- To stop the process of “swarming” – when a new queen bee is born in nature, the old queen bee and half the hive will leave to start a new colony (that the worker bees found).
- As this reduces honey production, the practice has been to either clip the wings of the new queen and/or kill and replace the old queen
- Negatively affect the health of bees
- If they are not killed off during the low production winter, they are often fed a sugar substitute, instead of the precious honey they made. This does not contain all the nutrients that they require to be healthy (3)
- Pesticides in the environment and sprayed on the plants they collect pollen from
- Causes Colony Collapse Disorder CCD – where the bees die from the poison – either via disorientation and inability to find way back to the hive, or via toxicity back at the hive (2)
- Ecological/ecosystem disruption (1)
- Bees (and other pollinating insects such as butterflies) are necessary to pollinate a large variety of vegetation – both of our food supply and in the wild
- Loss of these creatures mean less variety of food and less food in general
- Loss of vegetation species in forests mean
- overgrowth by less desirable plants is more likely
- extinction of many animals whom are dependent on lost varieties
- up the ecosystem, carnivores dependent on the animals made extinct will struggle or become extinct also
- a massive change to the whole ecosystem, creating changes and difficulties in many and unpredictable ways – leading at best, to changes we will struggle to deal with
A loss of bees, would obviously also mean that humans are deprived of the use of
- honey as a potentially healthful addition to our diets and a natural first aid and wound treatment option (1)
- wax – a natural and healthier alterative to toxic waxes in candles; useful in natural would healing salves and useful in making natural, non-toxic products such as crayons (1)
- even the venom, made from the stingers that are used in treatments not only for stings and allergic reactions to stings but also showing potential in pain management for conditions such as arthritis (1)
Talking to local bee keepers,
I found that they tend to be passionate about Bees and their welfare! Some even collect bees that would otherwise have been fumigated from roof cavities etc to save these important creatures, while dealing with the infestation that is affecting a local family.
Honey purity and its potential benefits has become more well-known and accepted and as such, there are more people actively looking for raw and organic honey. This improves the market, allows small apiarists to survive and sends a message to the larger honey companies that created mass production, at a cost to the bees and the integrity, purity and benefits of honey, as well as improving the life of honey-bees and supporting our ecosystem which likely, will not survive the extinction of bees.
Hopefully it would be evident then, that when purchasing honey, a conscious decision is needed. As close to natural, unheated or raw (to keep enzymes and nutrients active), organic (if that is possible) to minimise pesticides that are potentially dangerous to humans and bees and comes from a place that treats the bees and hives ethically, naturally and with care. Local is even better – first, because it will likely be supporting passionate and caring small business bee keepers. Second, because if it is local, there is a smaller ecological footprint with regard to travel. Third because it means you get fresher, and in my opinion tastier and healthier honey, that may also benefit your immune system (especially pollen-based allergy issues) due to the honey being produced from plants native to your area (and part of the pollen that you breath in) as well as honey’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant rich benefits. And best of all, it supports bees and a delicate and important ecosystem that we are dependent on and a part of!
For more info in Australia, particularly Sydney see
For where to buy local honey in Australia see
1 – https://www.copenhagencvb.com/copenhagen/why-bees-and-bees-pollination-are-important-ecosystem-and-humans
2 – https://honeylove.org/list-of-food/
3 – https://www.petakids.com/food/honey/
If you’d like to learn more about the healthful benefits of Honey, read this blog: Honey, a Treat or a Treatment
To take a closer look inside a local Apiary vist: Snives Hives