Honey, Superfood, Endangered?

 Every morning I have tea with honey. I have used this sweetener, over sugar. It can help with sore throats. I use lemon tea, and honey is one of my favorite foods and cooking additives. Honey can have unique flavors dependent on the nectar sources bees gather from. It can be used to produce mead, a fermented drink that is well liked.

Depending on the recipe, the flavors can add an exotic taste to breads, cakes, and mains. Honey has been gathered by humans since neolithic times, according to rock art. The use of honey and warnings of the toxic versions are in many ancient texts and religious writings all over the world. Even the beeswax, where the honey is stored by bees, has been used by use for writing, war, medicinal treatments, music, and art for over 2000 years. That little jar in my pantry and the humble bee has a long and vibrant history behind it.

My history with honey

My history with honey started with tea and breakfast. To this day various smells can trigger the emotions I felt growing up. The aroma of baked bread, tea and hot cereal on wintery days is always a fond memory. Honey cornbread and honey-basted hams for dinner led to the other meal recipes. To this day however, breakfast is still my favorite meal of the day. It was the first meals I learned to cook growing up. I even developed a recipe from blueberries and honey boiled down into a syrup. Thus, my interest with honey and bees is purely selfish.

Besides cooking, I learned honey and beeswax had many uses while investigating the basics of natural medicine. Honey, for example, is a natural antibiotic salve, a tincture to hold bandages on the wound, help seal it against bacteria, and can speed the recovery of small cuts and light burns. The beeswax never goes bad and can be used as a sealant for clothing, waterproofing bandages, food wrap for cheese and containers, is edible (as in wax candies), wood or shoe polish, protects leather products, and makes candles or glue. It is still used in these products today.

I want to emphasis I am not advocating honey as a replacement for medical assistance, doctors, or medication. Just that if you do not have first aid kit available, it can be used in an emergency with the right training. I have only had to use this knowledge once when my friends and I were a day-camping/fishing, and my friend caught the fishhook in his hand. We did not pack a first aid kit. A mistake I have never made since. We adapted what we had to make a kit with what we had available. We started back towards civilization and immediately took my friend to the emergency clinic for medical treatment. This still took a day to get back, so the honey did the job of sealing the wound and keeping further infection at bay until we arrived at the emergency clinic.

Toxic forms and other adverse effects

In my studies, I found that there are toxic forms of honey. I do not advise gathering honey from wild sources unless you know what you are doing and know the surrounding area. History shows how dangerous it can be as it has been used in warfare to incapacitate enemy soldiers or poison food. In the first century, the Roman troops were poisoned with toxic honey, while they were attacking in Turkey. Ingesting this honey causes delirium and nausea incapacitating the soldiers and they were defeated shortly afterwards.

Honey containing morphine was reported where bees are pollinating opium/poppy flowers. Even too much (good) honey can have adverse reactions with some medications or medical conditions. Honey can interact with allergies, diabetes, and anticoagulants. Individuals who are immune compromised can have a risk of bacterial or fungal infections. It is always best to check with your doctor if you have such medical concerns.

Bees, the makers

My interest in honey and beeswax did make me investigate bees themselves. Bees are amazing creatures that live in a wide range of environments. Briefly, there are three types of bees: 1 queen, some seasonal drones (males), and the workers (all non-breeding females). Hives are made from beeswax for storage of food – honey, and for larva – for more bees. Bees use honey as food during lean periods such as winter. It is a high-density food source built for high energy bees. Bees need the energy for flight and keeping warm when temperatures drop. In return, bees pollinated our crops and plants producing fruits and vegetables for food. Without bees, we would have famine and the foods we have no-longer exist. Without a doubt, our lives do depend on their survival.

Bees, depending on their locations and adaptations, operate in a narrow window of temperature. For example: the North American honeybee, can survive in temperatures ranging from around 30 Fahrenheit ( -2 Celsius) to 110 Fahrenheit (45 Celsius). This varies by species as artic bees can survive colder and tropical bees survive hotter temperature ranges. They build structured settlements, navigate by the sun, communicate food sources, use air conditioning to maintain hive temperatures (around 95 Fahrenheit or 35 Celsius), and defend the hive selflessly. They are great workers, engineers, and act selflessly.

Climate change effects on the Bee

Bees have some requirements for survival. While there are people questioning climate change or deriding it as alarmist, it is real enough to have major effects on the humble bee. In North America, “tornado alley”, has shifted with the majority of meteorologist agreeing climate change as a major factor. This shifting can damage hives or destroy bee populations in an area.

There is evidence showing extremes in hot and cold weather extremes are now regular enough. These extreme temperatures and weather, have an affect on the plants and animals - our bees too. As the temperatures shift, invasive species are moving into areas where they are better adapted. This change in ecosystems can alter the bee populations. Wide and indiscriminate use of pesticides have a drastic effect on insects we do need as well as the ones we do not. Two subspecies on the 2022 endangered list are the Bumble Bee and the Hawaii Yellow. It is proposed the reasons above may be the causes.

While there is no evidence that bees are endangered as a species, the fact there are some on the endangered list is cause for concern. We need them for honey, fruits, and vegetables. We have, over the centuries, semi-domesticated them. It is in our interests to prevent loss of insects that benefit us.

There is no doubt that bees are those creatures worth protecting. This is a benefit-out-weighing the cost issue for us and there is a closing window of opportunity. While we cannot change the situations they are in, we can assist them by providing them with the food they need to survive. For me, the issue is purely selfish as I want to keep a favorite food on my pantry shelf.

To do that, I plant flowers I know are beneficial to bees and rather than destroying nests, I call for a person to remove them safely for relocation. It is a small thing to do for a boon for the local farmers.

~ Raymond S Gulyas

For some research, I have gone through:

Brightly Eco

Fauna Facts

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