Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Think of Honey as Nature's Medicine Chest

You typically hear of honey being used for eating and for cooking. Have you ever thought about using honey for medicinal purposes? For more than 2,000 years, honey has been used medicinally. Aristotle even said honey was good as a salve for sore eyes and wounds! Honey can be used in multiple ways to improve your health on a daily basis. Here’s a few ways honey can help your health!
Enhances the Immune System
Honey stimulates our bodies to produce B-lymphocytes and T-lymphocytes. These lymphocytes seek out and destroy antigens, so they are very are important in immune system health. Eating 1-2 tablespoons of honey a day can help to boost your immune system!
Reduces Inflammation
Other than honey’s properties to combat bacterial infection, honey also has anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation has been reduced by honey when there were no infections involved.
Stimulates Cell Growth
Wounds sometimes can show no signs of healing after long periods of time. It has been found that when wounds like this are treated with honey, the healing process, and cell regeneration, begins. Honey does this by promoting the formation of granulation tissue and by stimulating the growth of epithelium over wounds. These two necessary tissues basically form the new skin of the wound when it begins to heal or is healed.
Antioxidant Activity
Antioxidants are vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that may protect your cells from the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are molecules produced when your body breaks down food for energy, or by environmental toxins like cigarette smoke and radiation. Free radicals can damage cells, weaken the immune system and may play a role in heart disease, arthritis, cancer and other diseases. Multiple honeys, when tested, have shown varying degrees of antioxidant activity. The three honeys with the highest antioxidant content –Illinois buckwheat, California sunflower, and Hawaii Christmas berry- are dark colored honeys. Don’t count light honeys out though! They contain antioxidant activity as well just in lower amounts.  Manuka honey from New Zealand has also been shown to have very high antioxidant activity. 
Honey for Wounds
Due to little or no tearing of newly grown tissue when dressings are changed, wounds dressed with honey heal faster than with dry dressings. Moist environments are conducive to bacterial growth, yet most wounds heal best in a moist environment. The antibacterial properties found in honey solve this dilemma, making honey superior to other dressings. It's been said honey is great for small cuts and burns thanks to its amazing properties!

Honey in general is very healthy! The next time you head to your local farmers market or buy honey from a local beekeeper, remember honey is not just for eating! It has a multitude of other uses. Think of honey as nature’s medicine chest! For more information on honey as nature’s medicine and to see where some of my information came from, check out the book Honey: The Gourmet Medicine by Joe Traynor.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Bees on the Move

All over the world, beekeepers keep honeybees in hives so that they can harvest delicious honey and have their gardens and crops pollinated by this industrious insect.

Beehives on a roof
There are approximately 200,000 beekeepers in the United States who keep from one to thousands of bee hives. Most of these beekeepers are small-scale, meaning they only keep a few hives of honeybees for themselves. Often, these beehives are kept in a backyard, on a porch, or even on a rooftop! A few beehives is enough for these beekeepers to pollinate their own land and produce honey for their family.

Commercial beekeepers keep hundreds or even thousands of honeybee hives for commercial use. Keeping this many honeybees is a full-time job, and commercial beekeepers depend on their honeybees for all of their income. Commercial beekeepers will produce large amounts of honey to bottle and sell, rent their hives to growers for pollination, raise honeybee hives to sell to new beekeepers, or sell other products produced by the honeybees.

Migratory beekeeping is a special type of commercial beekeeping. Beekeepers who “migrate” move their honeybee hives all across the country so that the honeybees can pollinate crops. Pollination is the fertilization of plants necessary to produce nuts, fruits, and even seeds. For a plant to be pollinated, the pollen grains need to be moved from the stamen (the male part of the flower) to the pistil (female part of the flower) so that fertilization can occur. There are many different animals and insects that pollinate plants. Bats, wasps, butterflies, and of course honeybees are all important pollinators. Honeybees are especially good pollinators because pollen is their primary source of protein. As they travel from flower to flower collecting pollen to eat, they pollinate our crops.

A full truck of beehives
Pollination is the single most important service that honeybees provide for us, and migratory beekeepers are responsible for large portion of that! Moving hundreds of beehives across the nation isn’t easy, so migratory beekeepers have to plan and prepare plenty of time in advance. The honeybees are moved at night after the foragers have returned to their hive so that honeybees will not be left behind. To ship the honeybees, the beekeepers load the hives onto large flatbed trucks (450 hives per truck!), and the bees are then driven to crops which need to be pollinated.

Hives in the California almond groves
A migratory beekeeper may bring their hives to pollinate the almond groves in California, the blueberries in Maine, the Cranberries in Wisconsin, and many other crops throughout the country! Because of their role in pollination, honeybees create every third bite of food we eat-- even if the food doesn’t have any honey in it. So the next time you eat a handful of almonds or bite into a juicy apple, remember to thank the honeybees who pollinated it for you

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The World of Beekeeping

Beekeeping is gaining popularity everywhere. There are around 212,000 beekeepers in the United States and many more throughout the world. Each place in the world, including the United States, has its own ways of beekeeping. Let’s explore two of these amazing and unique ways of beekeeping!

A beekeeper in Nepal collects honey.
One interesting way of beekeeping is in the high Himalayan foothills of central Nepal where teams of men come to harvest honey twice a year. Before harvesting honey from the honeybees, the community holds a harvest ritual where they gather together to pray and sacrifice flowers, fruits, and rice. Then, a fire is lit at the base of the cliff to smoke the honeybees from their honeycombs, allowing the men to gather the honey. From above the beehives, a “honey hunter,” or beekeeper, travels down the cliff using ropes attached to a ladder. The beekeeper then cuts out chunks of honey from the honeycomb while the honeybees are flying around (the smoke makes them leave their hive). For hundreds of years, the skills to perform this fascinating task have been passed down through generations in Nepal. 
The inside of a honeybee hive in Uganda.
Another place with a fascinating way of beekeeping is Uganda. Beehives in Uganda are traditionally constructed from timber or woven from bamboo plants. Honey in this area is normally harvested twice a year between March-June and August-October. Beekeepers in Uganda commonly use grass torches and fire at night to smoke the honeybees out of the hive to harvest honey. A few of the honeys they produce are Savannah bush honey and golden blossom honey. In Uganda, honey is most often eaten directly from the comb instead of in liquid form. 

There are many different areas in the world that keep honeybees. Looking at these examples from Nepal and Uganda, you can see that there’s a variety of places and ways you can manage honeybees. Remember, anyone can be a beekeeper! If you're interested in learning more about becoming a beekeeper, click here.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

2014 Representatives Crowned in Baton Rouge

The new American Honey Queen and Princess were selected at the 2014 North American Beekeeping Conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  

2014 American Honey Queen
Susannah Austin from Florida

2014 American Honey Princess
Elena Hoffman from Pennsylvania

They will be posting about their travels on behalf of the beekeeping industry. Keep an eye out for new facts, beekeeping topics and videos throughout the year.

2014 American Honey Queen Susannah Austin &
2014 American Honey Princess Elena Hoffman

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Keep on Buzzing

Across the United States, honey bees play a very important role in our lives through pollination. Beekeepers who care for these hives are also important, since they ensure that the hives will be strong and healthy and the bees can keep doing their jobs. However, honey bees and beekeepers are facing some problems right now. Because honey bees are so important to us, we must do everything we can to help. What are some ways you can help honey bees?

Honey bees gather food from flowers
A great way to help honey bees is to plant flowers. Honey bees gather food from flowers, so we want to make sure they have a good food supply. Bees like plants such as fruit trees, vegetable plants, herbs, clover, coneflower, black-eyed susans, and sunflowers. Bees only visit one kind of flower per trip, so it is helpful to plant many of the same flowers in one area, instead of only one or two.

Honey can be many
different colors!
Another way to help is to support local beekeepers. Beekeepers work hard to make sure that their honey bees are strong and healthy. An easy way to support beekeepers is to buy honey. With 300 different honeys in the US and 3,000 in the world, there is a flavor for every preference! To find a beekeeper near you, visit honeylocator.com.

Teaching preschoolers about bees
It is important for people to understand the benefit of honey bees. A wonderful way to supportbees and beekeepers is to help raise awareness about honey bees in your community. Telling other people about honey bees and encouraging other to do their part to help the bees can make a big impact!

Finally, consider being a beekeeper yourself! There are between 115,000 – 125,000 beekeepers in the United States. It doesn’t matter whether you are a boy or a girl, child or adult, or live in the country or the city – ANYONE can be a beekeeper! Beekeeping is a wonderful hobby or business and it is a fantastic way to help the honey bees. How will you help?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Beauty and the Bees

Honey is great for making skin soft!
Honey is truly one of Mother Nature’s “super foods.” Although honey is mostly commonly thought of as a sweetener for food, there are many uses for honey outside of the kitchen! Honey is gaining popularity in the beauty industry in bubble baths, facial masks, moisturizers and cosmetics. Honey is all-natural, wholesome and has a long history of enhancing beauty--starting as early as Cleopatra. Today, one very popular moisturizing facial mask is made out of honey, coconut oil and aloe! Honey is a humectant, which means that it attracts moisture. It works like lotion and keeps skin soft. Honey is also great for treating acne. That’s because honey is antibacterial which means that no bacteria or germs can grow in it. Honey is
There are over 300 varieties of
honey produced in the United states,
and 3,000 across the world!

also becoming popular in removing hair as well. It’s called sugaring. They take honey and mix it with lemon juice and sugar to make a sticky paste. Then, beauticians stick it to the skin, pull it off quickly and the hair comes right off! It is almost painless as well! Even outside of the beauty salon, honey is a great product to use on skin. Mixing honey and milk together can be a great remedy for a sunburn! Honey can even be used to make your hair shiny! Mixing honey and apple juice together and combing that solution through your hair before a shower will give your hair extra shine without looking greasy.

Did you know it takes 8 pounds of honey
to produce 1 pound of wax? That's a lot of work!
Honey isn’t the only product bees make that people use in the beauty industry. Beeswax is also a very common product. Many types of chapstick and hand lotions are made from beeswax because it helps hold in moisture. Beeswax is produced when a worker bee gorges herself with honey and then tiny cells of wax come out of four pairs of wax glands on the bee’s abdomen. Did you know that it takes about 400,000 wax cells to make one pound of wax? That is a lot of time and honey! Check out http://www.honey.com/images/uploads/general/beautyofhoney.pdf and mix up your very own homemade beauty recipes using honey and other hive products.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Bee Thankful

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, there are many things to be thankful for, including honeybees! Honeybees play a very large role in our daily lives.

Historical beekeeping
In the 1600’s, Pilgrims and Indians celebrated the first Thanksgiving. Did you know that honey bees were originally brought to the United States by Pilgrims? Records indicate the first hive of bees was shipped from England and arrived in Virginia in 1622. These bees would have been very helpful to early settlers because of their pollination services. When bees pollinate, they fertilize plants. These fertilized plants will then produce fruits and vegetables. These foods would have been very important to the Pilgrims. Also, the bees would have produced a wonderful natural sweetener!
Honey bees pollinate much of our food supply
Honey bees are still beneficial to our food supply today. Across the United States, honey bees pollinate over 90 different food crops and about 1/3 of our food – that’s like every third bite! Without bees, many of our favorite Thanksgiving dinner foods would be gone. Do you like cranberry sauce, beans, squash, sweet potatoes, or pumpkin pie? Without bees, we would have hardly any of these foods. Even the butter for your rolls and whipped cream for your pie would be scarce. Thanksgiving dinner would be pretty boring without honey bees!
Planting bee-friendly flowers provide bees with a food source
Because bees are so important, we must do what we can to help them. Planting bee-friendly flowers, buying honey from beekeepers, and telling about the importance of honey bees are great ways to help! This Thanksgiving, let’s be sure to be thankful for the wonderful gift of bees!