Are you considering beekeeping? There are so many benefits of honey bees that it’s hard to not consider having them around!
Read more to learn why you should be raising bees and reaping the benefits of honey bees!
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Benefits of Honey Bees
There are so many benefits of honey bees!
Some of the benefits of honey bees will probably surprise you.
Benefits of Honey Bees: Plant Pollination
Let’s talk about how the bees make honey.
Bees travel from flower to flower in search of pollen. When they reach a flower they like, they collect pollen grains in little hairs on their legs. These stiff hairs act like baskets to carry the pollen.
When they move from flower to flower, some of the pollen grains come off and are transferred onto the flower. The pollen is moved from the male parts of the flower to the female parts of the flower. This fertilizes the plant so that it can create seeds.
This process is called pollination. Many plants rely on honey bees and other pollinating insects to fertilize their flowers. Flowers produce nectar as an incentive to reward the bees.
Nectar is a mixture of sugars and water that the bees drink. They can use nectar as a source of energy while they are out collecting pollen.
Nectar that is not used for food is stored in a special honey stomach. Unused nectar can be used to make honey.
When the baskets on the bee’s legs are full of pollen, they return to the hive to drop off the collected pollen and any collected nectar.
Benefits of Honey Bees: Crop Pollination
It’s no secret that people need honey bees to survive.
One of the biggest benefits honey bees have is the ability to pollinate crops.
It’s estimated that bees pollinate as much as 85-90% of all food crops for people. They also pollinate the crops that are grown as feed for livestock.
Honey bees contribute nearly $20 billion annually to the value of crops in the United States alone! They do this by increasing crop yields and creating superior crops.
Many crops are pollinated by honey bees. Nuts, herbs, spices, oil seed crops, fruits, vegetables, forages, medicinal plants and ornamental plants are all pollinated by honey bees.
Some crops are almost entirely dependent on honey bees to pollinate them.
Cherries and blueberries are almost completely pollinated by honey bees. As much as 90% of the pollination for them is done by honey bees.
Almonds are completely and 100% dependent on honey bees to pollinate their flowers.
Plants cannot move so they are dependent on pollinators to fertilize them. Pollination is also required by plants that produce seeds.
For more information about specific crops and benefits of honey bee pollination, visit this article from the New Agriculturist.
You can also check out this article from One Green Planet about the benefits of bees.
Honey bees, the environment and wild bees
Bees, just like people, develop tastes for certain flowers. They will often visit the same type of flower each time. This is good for the plant because it increases the chance that pollination will occur.
Honey bees are crucial to the environment as much of the plant life relies on bees to help them reproduce. Some plants can use the wind to pollinate but if the plant has flowers, it depends mostly on pollinating insects.
Honey bees (Apis mellifera) were introduced to the United States in the 1600s. These European bees would compete with native bee populations in the United States. In the 1800s, bees were farmed and the honey was used as a substitute for cane sugar.
Native bee populations decline due to disease, extreme weather, competition with invasive species, habitat loss and climate change. Many native bee populations today have been wiped out. That’s why it’s so important that there are beekeepers!
Without bees, pollination would not occur and much of the environment and our food sources would vanish.
Of course, one of the most well known benefits honey bees have is the ability to produce honey. But how is honey made?
Bees use pollen collected from plants as a source of vitamins and protein to feed their offspring. They also need nectar as a source of energy.
While bees are collecting pollen, they ingest nectar. Nectar is stored in the honey stomach.
Pollen and unused nectar are brought back to the hive. The bees brush the pollen off of their legs. They will then transfer the nectar from mouth to mouth.
Worker bees in the hive transfer the honey over and over again between each other. This reduces the amount of moisture in the nectar and creates honey.
Honey is placed in the comb cells and capped with wax to store it.
Bees can also combine the pollen and nectar together to make what is called bee bread. Bee bread is used to feed the growing larvae.
Benefits of Honey By-Products
Bees don’t just make honey. They make other products that are extremely useful and beneficial for us. The benefit of honey bees is more than just honey!
It’s estimated that for every 60 pounds of honey produced, one pound of beeswax is made.
Beeswax is made by young bees that are about 2-3 weeks old. These bees haven’t left the hive yet to forage.
Beeswax is used to make the comb that stores honey and houses baby bees. The wax is also used to seal any cracks in the hive.
Wax is used for many things today. It can be used to make high quality candles. Beeswax is also found in many cosmetics.
Many polishes use beeswax to create a shiny finish. It’s a common ingredient in many furniture and wood polishes.
Cheese that is waxed is often covered in beeswax. Many other food applications use beeswax.
Pharmaceutical companies use beeswax for many different products.
This honey by-product is made from the resin of flowers and trees. Propolis dries and hardens. It is used by the bees to seal off the hive to protect the brood from weather changes.
Propolis has also been used to seal off intruding pests that have made it into the hive. It has even been seen to seal off large predators like rats that make their way into the hive.
The bees kill the intruder and then seal it off to prevent the decomposing animal from harming the hive or introducing disease.
Propolis has often been referred to as “Russian penicillin”. It is a strong antiseptic, antimicrobial and detoxifying product.
Another benefit of honey bees is the production of royal jelly.
Worker bees make royal jelly. It is fed to larvae and the queen. Once the queen starts to grow, she will only eat royal jelly the rest of her life.
This royal jelly is composed largely of water, 12-13% protein, sugars, fatty acids, vitamin C, enzymes and minerals.
Royal jelly has been proven to stimulate neurological cell growth and could possibly be a treatment for diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
It has also been shown to heal wounds, lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation and reduce the vascularization of tumors.
Health Benefits of Consuming Raw Honey
Ancient civilizations used honey to treat many ailments.
It’s also used frequently in old wives tales to cure illnesses. Recent research has shown that there may be some truth to honey being a medicinal product.
Studies have shown that honey can be just as effective for treating coughs as over the counter cough syrup. Honey acts as a cough suppressant and works as well as dextromethorphan.
Bee pollen is useful in treating allergies due to pollen sensitivity, high fevers and prostate problems. It has anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce swelling of the prostate. It is being researched as a possible treatment for prostate cancer.
Honey is a healthier alternative for table sugar.
Although honey is rich in sugar and high in calories, it doesn’t provide empty calories the same way that table sugar does.
Honey includes trace amounts of some vitamins and minerals but not enough to reach your daily recommended value. Honey does have large amounts of bioactive plant compounds and antioxidants that are good for you.
The nourishing properties of honey make it a powerful prebiotic. It can feed the food bacteria in your digestive system that are necessary for proper digestion.
Benefits of Honey: Antioxidants
The benefits of honey bees can be seen simply in the amount of antioxidants found in their honey. Honey contains powerful antioxidants that have been shown to:
- reduce the risk of heart attack and heart disease
- lowers the risk of stroke
- reduce cancer risk
- lower blood pressure
- decrease the amount of triglycerides in your body
- lower bad “LDL” cholesterol
- raise good “HDL” cholesterol
- prevent blood clot formation
- protect the heart from oxidative stress
Benefits of Honey: Wound care
Honey has been used as a wound treatment for thousands of years.
Raw honey is naturally antibacterial and antifungal. It naturally contains hydrogen peroxide, an antiseptic used to clean wounds.
The antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory properties of honey help prevent infection from occurring. The honey also nourishes the tissue around the wound and promotes faster healing.
In fact, some hospitals use Manuka honey to treat wounds and burns. Manuka honey can decrease healing time and reduce infection.
Honey can also be used to treat diabetic ulcers. Some studies show a healing rate as high as 97% when using honey to treat the ulcers.
Stomach ulcers are commonly caused by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori. Honey is an effective treatment for eliminating the bacteria and healing stomach ulcers.
Final Thoughts About the Benefits of Honey Bees
There are so many reasons that you should be keeping bees. Many of the health benefits that I mentioned don’t exist in store-bought honey.
Store bought honey is pasteurized.
The honey is heated to a high temperature quickly and then cooled rapidly. The high temperatures often destroy the antioxidants, antibacterial and antifungal properties of the honey.
Honey bought in the store may also contain added sugar. Raw honey collected at home has all of the antioxidants and good stuff still in it.
There is a risk to honey (other than getting the occasional sting!). Honey can carry the bacteria Clostridium botulinum.
This bacteria can cause botulism and is dangerous for babies. Don’t feed honey to babies less than one year to prevent them from coming into contact with the bacteria.
Are you raising honey bees? What are some of the benefits of honey bees that I missed? Let me know below!
You might also be interested in:
- Benefits of Native Plants
- Benefits of Native Grasses
- What Are Heritage Livestock?
- Honey Bee Supplies You’ll Need
- Starting a New Honey Bee Hive
- Beehive Inspections