Happy Bee Day to you, Happy Bee Day to you, Happy Bee Day dear reader, Happy Bee Day to you! World Bee Day on May 20th reminds us of the importance and contribution of pollinators such as bees. Let’s spend a minute to think about how much better our lives are, and our selection of food and medicine is, because of bees! Read on to learn facts about bees and honey and what we can do to protect bees from the threats they face.
Cool facts about bees that might amaze you:
- Bees are social creatures. Honeybees communicate, cooperate, dance, and even dream!
- Bumblebees find flowers quickly thanks to the fastest colour vision of any animal.
- Bees are also guided by smell and by vibration-sensing organs in their legs.
- Bees have numeric ability. They conceptualize zero and estimate small quantities!
Bees are fascinating and helpful creatures. Smart mating strategies and exceedingly complex colonies gave many types of bees the flexibility to survive for millions of years. Now sadly, they are endangered worldwide due to habitat loss, human land use and agricultural practices. Since 2006, they have also been dying due to colony collapse disorder. Human conservation of and sustainable use of pollinators such as bees is a top priority for biodiversity.
Bee a contributor
Want to ‘bee’ helpful? Consider these actions to support pollinators:
Bee kind. Sustain ecosystems and wild bees with land stewardship. Unlike honeybees, who have secure hives and beekeeper support, wild stingless bees are at great risk of habitat loss. These bees do not receive help from buying local honey, but from supporting city greenbelts, building nesting boxes, or sowing wildflowers, lavender, thyme, and mint. Did you know purple is a bee’s favourite colour? (Mine too). This is one of the reasons you might see lavender covered in happy bees!
Bee welcoming. Let bushes grow out and clear brush late in the season to support singular bees, which live in burrows or nests. If you see dandelions, leave them undisturbed if possible. Bees get their pollen and nectar from dandelions until other flowers become available. Create friendly nesting habitat by planting a diversity of native herbs and wildflowers for forage through the year.
Bee careful. To help indigenous bees survive, defer grass mowing to later in the season. Again, dandelions are one of the first flowers that bees pollinate when the rest of the flowers haven’t really bloomed yet. Some areas have implemented “No Mow May” for this reason. Also mow later in the day to give pollinators some time to visit and vacate your yard. Avoid toxic pesticides, fungicides and herbicides in the yard and garden for the sake of bees, your family, and pets!
Bee hospitable. Sponsor a hive, hang a bee feeder, or supply a water station or water fountain. The best water sources for bees are unfiltered and swampy or even chlorinated so they can find them by smell. Ensure water bowls or ponds won’t go dry, won’t drown the bees, and aren’t shared with other animals. When it’s hot out, leave out water for the bees.
Bee mindful. Support ethical businesses at home and abroad. Food products from sustainable or regenerative forms of agriculture benefit bees. Organic or spray-free practices are good, and Indigenous-run farms or those that favour a diversity of small crops (instead of monocrops which don’t require pollination) are even better!
Ways we benefit from bees’ bounty:
- Humans are completely reliant on pollinators for sustaining 90% of the planet’s flowering plants
- A fully pollinated flower produces better looking, more nutritious and tastier fruit
- Honeybees alone pollinate 80% of all flowering plants including many fruits and vegetables
- 80% of humans rely on plant-derived compounds for medicine
- Bees pollinate 75% of our crops, including all the most nutritious food plants, nuts and seeds
- About 2 billion small holder farmers rely on bees, who can double the yield of crops like coffee
“Bee”n a long time
Honey is a wondrous high-value food made by bees from the nectar of the flowers they pollinate. Cave art shows humans have been honey harvesting for at least 8,000 years. Honey was gathered by ancient Egyptians, Mayans, and Greeks and in Mesolithic China. It has been used historically as a first aid dressing for burns and wounds and is used in Ayurvedic and TCM systems of healing. Mānuka Honey is a special variety traditional to the Indigenous Māori people of New Zealand.
Bee sweetly comforted
Honey is the “bees’ knees” because it has prebiotics, vitamins and minerals, and a rare antioxidant. All honey has hydrogen peroxide and when unpasteurized, will have enzymes that can soften skin. Bees need fuel for their efforts of building and filling honeycombs and depend on nutritious pollen as a protein source. Some working honeybees, like the ones who make Flora’s Mānuka Honey, will have their diet supplemented with special pollen patties fed to them by attentive beekeepers.
The queen bee
Mānuka Honey is the rarest and most highly valued item produced by a pollinator. It is intrinsically rare because it is made from nectar harvested from mānuka shrubs, which bloom for less than 20 days per year. Bees collect a distinctive compound, DHA, from these wildflowers and take up to 30,000 flights to make a tablespoon of mānuka honey. DHA turns into methylglyoxal, or MGO, giving mānuka honey extra-special properties from these unique compounds. The value and strength of select batches of mānuka honey can also increase with skillful aging (like Champagne or Gruyere).
Beekeepers in Business
Flora Mānuka Honey is sourced through a partnership with a sustainable, 100% Māori-owned beekeeping operation (winner of several prestigious farming and eco-friendly awards). The Māori are the indigenous people of New Zealand, and the beekeepers live off the Māori Lands Trust land in remote northern New Zealand. This region is the origin of the strongest mānuka honey found in the world and one of the few not suffering from colony collapse disorder. Because Flora sources their honey from this Māori tribal cooperative, the happy bees that produce Flora Mānuka Honey never visit plants sprayed with glyphosate or have their wings clipped.
For people seeking the properties of authentic Mānuka Honey, it is essential that it is real, powerful, and skillfully made. But, because it is rare and valued, mānuka honey fakery is a big issue. In fact, ¾ of all sales worldwide are adulterated or fake. It wouldn’t “bee” responsible to treat this fraud lightly! For these reasons Flora honey is made by the world’s leading mānuka experts. Real mānuka honey should be traceable to its source, tested for potency using the MGO scale and certified for authenticity by the Unique Mānuka Factor Honey Association (UMFHA) and Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI), a governmental organization.
With all the lovely natural properties in mānuka honey, it makes sense that it would be a stellar ingredient for soothing and moisturizing face masks and other beauty treatments. Flora has a list of fabulous edible and wearable recipes. In honour of the bees’ favourite colour on their Bee Day, here is a splendid recipe for mānuka honey lavender lemonade. Cheers to the bees!