Create a buzz.
Sip life’s sweet moments.
Mind your own beeswax.
Always find your way home.
Stick close to your honey.
~ Ilan Shamir
September marks National Honey Month, and while this is a wonderful occasion to remember how sweet and delicious honey is, it’s also an important time to show our gratitude for that small, but mighty yellow and black Apis mellifera – the humble honey bee.
According to the USDA, Georgia had 119,609 documented honey bee colonies in 2017. The number of honeybee colonies nationally is down 12% from its record high numbers in 2006. The winter of 2019 saw a 40% decline in the honey bee population nationwide. With that, honey production has been on a serious decline.
Experts with the Honey Bee Health Coalition warn that honey bees are essential for the pollination of flowers, fruits and vegetables – supporting about $20 billion worth of crop production in the U.S. each year. And that’s just in the U.S. In turn, this major decline in population and honey bee health has put agriculture, healthy lifestyles, and worldwide food security at risk.
Why Should the Honey Bee be Important to Me?
- Approximately 1 in 3 bites of the food we eat every day relies on honey bee pollination services to some degree.
- Many of the nutritious fruits and vegetables we enjoy require honey bee pollination.
- Economic impacts for beekeepers, growers, and producers whose income is linked to the health of honey bees can be far-reaching.
- Global food supply is impacted due to the extensive role that honey bees play in North American agriculture, one of the largest food exporting regions of the world.
Biggest Threats to the Honeybee
- Pests and Disease – Research indicate that varroa mites, nosema, and viruses are killing honey bee colonies.
- Declining Wild Spaces – As humans claim more and more wild spaces for our own growth, this has caused a lack of foraging options which has led to malnutrition of the honey bee.
- Pesticide Exposure – Sadly, the same pesticides and protection products farmers add to their crops are incidentally exposing honey bees. If this exposure doesn’t kill the honey bee outright – although it often does – it can kill their larvae back at the hive or traces of the pesticides can be found in the honey they produce.
Health Benefits of Honey
- Depending on the plants and flowers from which the bees foraged, honey can be packed with bioactive plant compounds and antioxidants. Antioxidants have been linked to reduced risk of heart attacks, strokes, and some types of cancer, as well as the promotion of eye health.
- Honey helps reduce cholesterol – lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol while significantly raising “good” HDL cholesterol
- Honey can lower triglycerides – which is a risk factor for heart disease and type 2 diabetes, especially when used as a natural substitute for sugar
- Honey promotes burn and wound healing – a practice that dates back to ancient Egypt. It can also help with psoriasis and herpes lesions when applied directly to the skin
- Honey can help suppress coughs – especially in small children. Although, it should never be given to children under one year of age due to the risk for botulism
Convinced that you need to have more honey in your life? Here are a few links to great honey recipes to try:
What You Can Do to Help the Honey Bee and Other Pollinators
Honey bees aren’t the only pollinators that are critical to our ecosystem. Other pollinators include butterflies, moths, wasps, flies, beetles and lacewings. Not limited to insects alone, bats and hummingbirds are also important pollinating animals. To help protect honey bees and other pollinators, be aware of the pesticides you use on your lawn, tree and shrubs. PerfectBee.com recommends the following pesticides – but only if sprayed early in the morning or after dusk when bees have returned to the hive: Spinosad, Pyrethrum, Neem Oil, Boric Acid, Ryania, Adjuvants, Horticulture Vinegar, Copper and Lime Sulfur. By spraying when honey bees are typically in the hive, it will give the chemicals time to dissolve. Of course, one of the most important things you can do is to plant shrubs that attract foraging pollinators. A few good choices are butterfly bushes, sedum, borage and tulip poplar tree. Last but not least, you can buy honey to support your local bee keepers and hard-working honey bees.