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Bees and Honey

With the summer coming up, we are going to see them more. Flying, buzzing creatures that produce a substance called honey. They are bees of course.

For ages these pollinators have had a crucial role for the ecosystem, the environment and our food. We often think supporting the honey industry is a must do to help keep the bee population alive. But beekeeping on an industrial level threatens other bee varieties.

In the Netherlands we have 359 different varieties of bees. With 55% of these threatened with extinction. (Wilde bijen bedreigd, 2018)

Bee covered in pollen

The importance of bees

Bees play a vital role in our ecosystem. Bees are the world's most important pollinators for food crops. It is estimated that about one-third of the food the world's population eats relies on pollination. This is done mainly by bees.

Pollination helps plants to remain healthy and productive. In doing this, bees aid plants in producing food and cover for wildlife, keeping waterways healthy and preventing erosion.

Why taking the honey is bad

Beekeepers aim to harvest the maximum amount of honey, beekeepers remove the honey from the hive and replace it with sugar substitutes. Usually it is just sugar water. Sugar water lacks essential micro-nutrients the honey contains that the bees need to be healthy. This makes the bees weaker and less able to survive a winter.

Another big issue is that beekeepers breed honey bees to increase their productivity. The same with dogs, selective breeding narrows the gene pool and increases diseases. These diseases spread to other wild varieties of bee species, many bee species are threatened because of these diseases.

To make sure the bees stay in the hive the farmers build, they clip the wings of the queen.

Queen bee marked and winges clipped. Source: Serbian Animals Voice

Environmental effects

Same with most things we have too many, mass breeding one type of honeybee affects the populations of other competing nectar eating insects, including wild bees. In many places other insects don’t have the chance to harvest any nectar for themselves. The number of bumble bees has declined by 80% over the past 80 years. (Decline and conservation of bumble bees, researchgate)

Vegan alternatives

If you feel like you have some sugar cravings after all this, luckily there are many vegan alternatives for the sweet tooth. My favourites are maple syrup and agave nectar.

But also Date syrup, molasses, rice syrup and barley syrup work very well to replace your honey.

If you like to help the bees, don’t buy beeswax or honey. But donate it to a save the bee organization instead!


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