Updated: Apr 26, 2020
This is a story about bees.
There are about 20 000 species of bees in the world, only 7 of which produce honey. All, have now been officially added to the list of endangered species with the threat of extinction looming.
Bees are found on all continents of the world except Antarctica but the world is changing. Never before have we faced such unprecedented changes in extreme weather patterns due to global warming, the extinction and desecration of species due to poaching and unsustainable farming, pollution, a population explosion and destructive human behaviour. Never before do we have the awareness and power to change this.
Humans have, for hundreds of thousands of years ruled dominion over the world, its' animals, the ocean, plants and creatures and even at times each other. We are failing. We cannot perpetuate selfish, insular and inconsiderate behaviour, any more. We are slowly destroying the only home we have, and we all face an uncertain future. This means making marked changes to the way we live, consume and particularly the way we source and produce our food.
According to "True Activist", the loss of bees on this earth will be a disaster for mankind because they are irreplaceable insects. The relation that bees have to all flowering plants is the most interdependent, cooperative, harmonious and important things on the planet.
Sadly, over the past 20 or so years colonies of honey bees have been disappearing. This is referred to as "colony collapse disorder" and billions of bees all over the world are abandoning their hives, never to return. The exact cause has not been identified but there is no doubt that commercial agriculture (monoculture), global warming, parasites and pathogens have caused the loss of biodiversity and destruction of natural habitats causing bee colonies to die. Bee-killing pesticides and herbicides are also particular threats for honey bees and other wild pollinators.
15 quick facts about bees. Did you know?
1. Honey bees are fab flyers. They fly at about 25km per hour and beat their wings at 200 times per second.
2. Each bee has around 170 odorant receptors meaning they have a super sense of smell. They use this to communicate within the hive and to recognise different type of flowers when they are buzzing about looking for food.
3. Depending on what flowers and nectar that bees feed on, honey will look, taste and appear different. For example if bees are feeding exclusively on macadamia flowers, honey will be deep, golden amber in colour and have a distinctive macadamia flavour. Litchi blossom honey is light, fragrant and floral compared to say...sugarcane or pine honey which is dark, rich and treacly.
4. The average worker bee lives for just 5-6 weeks. During this time, she will produce just a mere 12th of a teaspoon of honey!
5. The queen can live up to 5 years. She is the busiest in the summer months, when she can lay up to 2500 eggs a day.
6. Honey bees must gather nectar from over 2 million flowers to make approximately 500g of honey.
7. 1 worker bee will visits 50-100 flowers during a collection trip.
8. Bees communicate with each other by dancing.
9. A colony contains between 20 000 - 60 000 honey bees and 1 queen. Worker bees are all female.
10. Bees produce these products within their hives, all used by humans for anything from food - supplements - candles: Honey, Propolis, Royal Jelly and Wax.
11. The honey bee is the only insect that produces a food eaten by man.
12. Bees have been producing honey in the same way for over 150 million years.
13. Honey is incredibly healthy and includes enzymes, vitamins, minerals and is the only food that contains "Pinocembrin" an antioxidant associated with improved bran functioning.
14. A bee's wings buzz at 11 400 times a minute.
15. The natural sugars - fructose and glucose, are quickly digested in the body. This is why sports people and athletes use honey for a quick energy boost.
If all of the world's bees died off there would be a devastating ripple affect throughout ecosystems. Bees account for 90% of the pollination of most crops, especially our commercial farming. A number of plants, such as some orchids are exclusively pollinated by a specific species of bee (The Orchid Bee). Interestingly, crops like cucumbers and tomatoes that are grown in Glass greenhouses or plastic tunnels need to be pollinated by hand (bees cannot be used in greenhouses due to the distorting and warping effect of glass on UV rays, which bees rely on, for navigation) have up to a 35% reduction in yield compared to if bees had to do the pollinating.
So what can we each do to make a difference and be the change we wish to see?
Encourage and teach your children, community and friends of the facts and good things bees and other insects do. If we live in harmony with our environment we can each build proactive and sustainable habitats to help to reverse destructive human behaviour.
1. Plant lavender, herbs and lots of indigenous flowers in your garden to encourage bees and other pollinators and biodiversity.
2. Please don't use chemical pesticides or herbicides - these kill everything, leach into the ground and kill the insects that eat the insects we don't want.
3. Support your local markets. Buy and support your smaller local bee keepers and honey suppliers. Honey takes a long time to make and thousands of collective hours by tens of thousands of little bees.
4. Don't buy imported honey and always know its origin. While there are a lot of ethical farmers supplying their honey to international markets there are too many who don't! (Let's not even discuss China and its terrible reputation for their mistreatment, cruelty and disrespect for animals). As honey is a natural product which can contain bacteria and pathogens if sourced from dodgy sources, importing countries insist that honey is irradiated. Radiation kills everything including the good natural enzymes and bacteria that make honey such a powerful healing elixir.
5. Cheap "honey". Read product labels and hold retailers accountable if what you have bought is not honey - some honey isn't actual honey. If it tastes like syrup and looks like syrup, it's most likely just syrup (adulterated, sugar infused fake syrup that is sold as honey). Sadly a lot of people have forgotten what real honey tastes like because of this illegal unethical practice but they are swayed by a jar that's at an unbelievable price. Don't support this! It's not supposed to be cheap. Look for ethically produced honey from local farmers, say thank you and pay them for it's worth.
6. Help bees stay hydrated by placing clean uncontaminated water somewhere outside. Insects need and drink water too.
7. Brave enough to get your own hive? A lot of eco-warriors are becoming beekeepers (Apiculture) and it is becoming easier to source all the things you need to start your own hive.
This was a short story about bees, but it's a story about everything. Humans are discovering that unless we see ourselves as part of the world and as part of an ecosystem where we must learn to use what we need, give more than we take and live in harmony, respect and grace with the world, we will not survive much longer. Our current fight with the Coronavirus, is a giant wake up call to people everywhere.
Let's change our "bee-haviour".
Magna Mater just nudged us big time and we need to be reminded that we need her, She, does not need us!
Niicefoods is a local South African company that supplies Macadamia nuts and macadamia products including honey to small retailers and the public. Our honey is sourced from a small local farmer who services our macadamia orchards with his special little buzzers.
It is 100% natural, non heated, non irradiated and is supplied in small batches.
written by Taryn Muller