Mo’ Honey, Mo’ Money: the industrialization of nature’s elixir and why we need to stay local.
Do you know your honey?
We all love honey.
Honey consumption has grown steadily over the past ten years, with China being the biggest producer and exporter across the globe – they produced and exported $246,550,000 worth of honey in 2014. The biggest importers are Germany, the US and UK – buying tonnes from Argentina, Vietnam and a variety of other honey producers.
Why are the bee’s dying?
Patrick, a bee keeping expert from France explains.
“Firstly the insecticides we use on many other crops are poisoning the bees. But that’s not the main reason. You have to understand the entire picture before blaming it all on just chemicals. The industrialization of honey has brought about changes in the ways bees are being kept and how honey is being made.
Did you know that in one bee’s lifetime, it will only ever produce 1 teaspoon of honey? Bees are also seasonal creatures – they don’t come out during winter, so real honey is not readily available all year round.
The Industrialization of Honey
In my personal view, this affects the overall health of the bees – imagine all the new generations of bees completely reliant on sugar water to feed their queen. The industrialization of honey is changing even the ways bees consume: it is unhealthy and unnatural. Although scientists are still investigating and confirming the main cause of bees are dying, I strongly believe that this is one of the reasons. We can’t mess around with nature and expect no consequences – it’s something we as humans so often do. We need to be smarter and more considerate producers and consumers.
To Become Better Consumers
- Varroa Mites (known affectionately as the Varroa Destructor mite) are a huge problem – often causing hives to collapse due to the diseases they carry. These diseases deform the bees and weaken their immune system, wreaking havoc on entire colonies. Bee keepers have been having a hard time getting rid of these pests as the use of chemical pesticides will also harm the bees if deployed and may affect the produced honey. The bees themselves cannot identify mites, allowing them to breed and eventually destroy the hive. Only one species of bees are known to have some natural instinct against these mites – unlike their European counterparts who are completely defenceless, Russian honeybees seem to be able to identify, attack and remove the mites. Scientists have begun breeding programs to better strengthen commercial honeybee stock.
- Malnutrition – Entire colonies have been lost due to malnutrition. Many researchers believe this is caused by feeding the bees high fructose corn syrup in factories to boost volume and cut costs. Bees that are fed by a diverse range of flowers and plants have a stronger immunity; those fed only sugar and other cheap supplements are much weaker and more susceptible to viruses and disease.
- Pesticides, Miticides and Fungicides – Chemicals used to combat pests, mites and dangerous fungi have been found in dead hives, causing many to believe that the collateral damage in current chemical deployments are too high. People are still searching for less harmful alternatives to synthetic chemicals used to treat hives infected with the above but it is a delicate process.
- Natural viruses and disasters – Bees are natural prey for predators such as Asian Giant Hornets or the Parasitic Phorid Flies. While there is no evidence of massive destruction caused by Phorid Flies which also help keep fire ant populations down, the Asian Giant Hornets are another matter. (See page….) Climate change, natural disasters such as drought or heavy rains also affect wild bee populations.
So what can We do to Help? Support Local.
We Support Australian Beekeepers
At Snow Fox, we support our local Australian beekeepers by sourcing organic beeswax to use in our new hand cream formulas. For those who have allergies to beeswax or prefer purely vegan products, we will clearly label any items that have beeswax in its formula, underneath our ingredients list. Beeswax has natural anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and help seal moisture in skin without clogging pores, which is highly beneficial in skincare. Local Australian bee keepers help educate the public about the importance of local bee populations and their role in eco system. A drought and wildfire-prone land, Australian agriculture and wildlife needs all the pollination help it can get – and bees are nature’s best pollinators!
Giant Invasion: Hornets VS Bees
It is estimated that one Giant Hornet can kill forty little honeybees, in one minute. A swarm of 30 hornets can completely disintegrate a hive in as little as three hours. It’s a massacre of epic proportions.
The only species of honeybee that has any defence against these Giant Hornets are Japanese honeybees – who, after generations of dealing with nearly getting obliterated, have figured out a highly intelligent defence mechanism.
Honeybee/Human VS Hornets Battle
When a scout hornet approaches their hive to mark with pheromones, the honeybee workers will retreat back into the hive – allowing the scout to enter without resistance. However, once inside, they surprise attack the scout with a cloud formation of approximately 500 individuals, forming a little heat ball as they vibrate their wings together. This causes the centre of the ball to rise to 47 degrees Celsius. While this alone isn’t hot enough to kill the hornet, the honeybee ball also increases the carbon dioxide concentration within; forcing the Hornet’s ability to withstand heat to drop as the CO2 levels rise. The honeybees themselves can only withstand a mere 48-50 degrees C under the same condition, so the hornet will die while they survive. By killing the Scout Hornet, they avoid the future swarm.
Unfortunately, other species of honeybee are completely defenceless against Giant Hornets.
Thanks to warmer climates, they have now flown their way into different parts of the world.