This post is more of me raising a question, because I honestly don't really know the answer.
What is your opinion on honey?
To get to my point, follow me on this little sidetrack/backstory.
I just finished reading the book "The Year Of Living Biblically" by A.J. Jacobs. This isn't a book to tear down the bible, and it isn't one that preaches that Christianity is the only way to live. Instead, the author simply goes through trying to follow as many of the bibles rules and regulations as possible. He lives a whole year (including growing a beard the entire time, as the bible declares you shouldn't trim that sucker up. The guys poor wife...). It was an enjoyable read, and one that I would recommend. He also has a book out called "Drop Dead Healthy" about how he spends two years trying to be as healthy as possible... sounds interesting doesn't it?
Anyway, back to my point about honey. Jacobs was starting to include honey in all his meals as the bible has several verses about the benefits of eating honey. However, at one point his slightly wild/hippie aunt admonishes him for this because of how honey is a bad choice.
My eyes narrowed.... What? Honey is bad? Since when?
I couldn't really understand it, as I had always been of the belief that as far as honey is concerned, it isn't bad for you. In fact, I had believed that honey was actually a healthy option, especially when you replace sugar with it. But the aunt wasn't concerned about honey being bad, it was more about how bees were treated.
I will admit, I know absolutely nothing about treating bees. I thought it was a fairly simple process...
However, it appears that beekeeping has turned into more of a beefarming or beefactoring. Major bee corporations have been accused of the following
- All honey is removed from the hive before winter, leaving the bees with nothing to sustain them
- Some farmers will replace taken honey with high-fructose corn syrup (sugar water) which doesn't sustain the bees
- Exposure to pesticides
- Some Bee Hives are simply destroyed in the winter and started again the next year. All bees are exterminated.
- The Queen bee is expendable. If a hive is aggressive, the queen is killed in that the next queen won't get the hive all riled up
- Some Queen's are also artificially inseminated
- Genetic weakening of bees as they are forced to construct larger hives, exposing them to mites and diseases which are not as common in the wild.
Interesting stuff isn't it? And I had no idea. Although I suppose if we invent unhealthy light-less chicken coups and massive beef herds, doing the same to bees shouldn't be a surprise.
It seems to me that taking care of bees in a responsible manner should be fairly easy. Don't take all the honey, leave some for bees to survive. Don't kill them off every summer either... It just seems to be common sense, but sometimes the world doesn't really work that way.
In terms of treatment of the Queen, I really have no knowledge on the subject. I know that the Mayans had actually bred a stingless bee, which would be argued against now as damaging nature. Perhaps the culling is actually a must needed practice for beefarmers, I really can't be one to judge on that.
So what does a guy do? For me, it's about finding locally owned or sold honey, or at least determining how the honey I use is produced and sold, at least if I wanted to be responsible about it.
Did you know this about beekeeping? Will it affect what sort of honey you purchase?