Honey is a deliciously sweet substance made by the honeybee. These bees make this honey for their own consumption. However, because a thriving colony can make more honey than they need for themselves, it is often harvested by beekeepers for their own consumption or to sell locally.
Locally produced honey is different from the mass-produced versions found in grocery stores. It is unprocessed and full of nutrition. And it tastes much better too. There are those, such as vegans, who would never even contemplate eating local honey or any other honey because they refuse to eat or use any product that comes from animals. Then there are others that believe that eating honey is bad for bees. But is it?
Should We Take Honey for Our Own Consumption?
Responsible beekeepers will always make sure that there is enough honey left in a hive to feed the entire colony throughout the winter period when the bees are unable to forage for nectar to make any more. But this is not always the case.
There are some who are so concerned with making money from their honey production that they will replace the honey with a solution known as sugar water. The practice of supplementing honey with sugar water is generally acceptable when trying to get a colony off to a good start and when the colony has not had enough time to make sufficient stores of honey to see it through the winter. Nevertheless, when it is given to the bees as replacement for honey that is being taken to sell, it is frowned upon.
Bees need the nutrients found in honey for health protection and these nutrients are missing from sugar water. If bees are not eating honey over the winter, they will become more susceptible to disease, which could lead to the collapse of the entire colony.
Only Over-Harvesting is Bad for Bees
Bees have a natural hoarding instinct, which means they tend to make far more honey than they need. This means that, provided their welfare is observed when honey is harvested, doing so is not bad.
As mentioned already, responsible beekeepers will only take excess honey. They will want to make sure that the colony survives the winter so will never take honey if it means that there will not be enough left to provide for all the bees and their young, particularly over the winter months when bees do not leave the hive.
How You can Protect the Bees and Still Enjoy Honey
If you are partial to some locally produced honey, you can still enjoy it as long as you take steps to ensure that the bees are being protected. You should only buy your honey from local suppliers who practice sustainability. Avoid grocery store honey that is massed produced as it will usually only contain a small amount of actual honey. Instead, it is mixed with syrups and sugar, which makes it taste different and does not have the nutritional benefits. You should enjoy local honey in moderation as the less we eat, the better it is for the bees.
There are other ways to protect bees, such as creating bee friendly gardens and donating to charities that are working to ensure their survival. Planting flowers that bees love in your garden will ensure they have a place to forage. Make sure to also provide a water source because they can get tired and thirsty.
A novel way to help protect bees is by buying some bee jewelry from a company like Project Honey Bees. Proceeds from every sale go to helping with bee conservation.