On social media recently my local vegetable box company proudly announced the introduction of organic honey.
Now as a bee keeper I was instantly interested to know, firstly, how they can guarantee organic status in an insect that flies at will and secondly, how much they sell it for!
If I’m honest I can’t remember the first answer and they didn’t tell the second ( it probably makes Manukau honey look cheap). So I had a quick look in the comments to see if anyone else had asked the question for me.
I was amazed by the strong feelings honey invokes in some people. It’s tantamount to cruelty and slavery to entrap bees in hives apparently and more than that it’s a sin punishable by keeping beekeepers in wooden boxes themselves.
The most popular comment with likes running into three figures was from the woman who has brought three bee hives, put them at the bottom of her garden and is leaving them to live a free and natural life without any input from mankind ( or woman kind in her case!) She is proud that they swarm regularly, ‘wander off and then come back and re-nest’ ( her words) in the spring.
It got me thinking…
Honey bees are a man made insect bred from strains from all around Europe and even the world for their ability to make honey, resist disease and any number of other traits. The ability to live alone in the wild probably never even considered.
Honey bees do naturally swarm, but to leave them to it is often allowing them to die a slow death, as these ones found in the frost last winter.
We do take their honey but a good keeper doesn’t then leave them to starve. We feed alternatives or better still, only take the excess.
Bees get diseases. Sometimes you have to treat with something if you want them to survive, just as you would your pets or children.
Bees are livestock. They need the intervention of humans. They could probably survive but would they thrive without us. In fact in this modern world of neatness and order would they even survive. Let’s face it we aren’t doing such a good job of protecting the rest of the environment or wildlife.
If the most popular poster had written that she went out and rescued a litter of kittens which she then put in a rat infested barn ( all cats eat rats after all) and hadn’t looked at since, would she be so popular. I think not.
Bee keeping may not suit all but like everything, if you are going to do it, do it properly. Be informed, ask questions, take advice and listen to it.
If you genuinely think keeping bees is a crime then don’t buy any and become a criminal. Look for other ways to help the species.
Plant more forage, put in a natural pond, allow your garden to run slightly wild, ( Slightly. I’m not advocating abandoning your plants either.)
Buy local honey. Support local bee keepers. Work with your surroundings and that will support the bees. Then we’ll all be the winner!