(HOST) As summer comes to a close, Ron Krupp has been thinking about
some of the most dedicated workers in the agricultural community.
What would our world be without the honey bee? If they ceased to exist,
one third of all foods we eat would disappear. I got to thinking about
this recently when I attended a talk on The Marvels of Honey Bees at the
UVM Horticulture Farm.
Most flowers produce nectar to attract
insects, primarily honeybees, so that pollination can take place.
Honeybees make honey from the nectar and in so doing pollinate the
plants. The worker bees transfer the nectar into a beeswax comb made of
six sided cells. Some worker bees also carry pollen. In terms of
economic value the workers that collect the pollen are most important to
you and me. As she travels from flower to flower the bee brushes off
some of the pollen onto a special pollen-receiving structure called the
stigma in the center of the flower. This process of pollination allows
all flowering crops to reproduce. The value of pollination is 100 times
greater than the value of honey.
We’ve been losing honeybees in
record numbers since 2006 due to Colony Collapse Disorder in which the
worker bees suddenly disappear. Losses in 2010 averaged about 34
percent. One of the main culprits is the varroa mite. Others believe the
loss is due in part to a new class of pesticides called Nicotinoids –
produced by Monsanto and banned in Europe. Other environmental
pollutants and viruses weaken the immune systems of honey bees and
contribute to Colony Collapse Disorder.
The healing properties
of honey have been known worldwide for millennia. Researchers in the
Netherlands have found that a molecule called defencin-1m, a protein
involved in the bee immune system, is the principal antibacterial
component in honey. And when it comes to inflammatory diseases, bee
stings can be effective. I used to get stung by bees for arthritis in my
back. I would take a glass jar into Bill Warnock’s backyard and collect
about six bees from the hive and then Bill would place the bees on my
low back. They would sting and within minutes the pain from both the
bees and my arthritis would be gone.
The Vermont Honey Promotion
Board represents more than 1000 beekeepers who raise bees mostly for
love and honey. They produce about 500,000 pounds of honey annually.
Most of it comes from clover, basswood, goldenrod, apple, blackberry,
raspberry, sumac, vetch and aster. Because of this variety, no two
honeys have the same flavor. While lighter-colored honey is milder in
flavor, dark-colored honey is not only stronger in taste but has a
higher mineral content and more antioxidents. My favorite honey comes
from buckwheat. It’s a dark, strong honey with a nut-like flavor that’s
hard to find these days. To stand in a field of buckwheat with thousands
of honey bees humming is like nothing else you’ll ever experience. I
call it, Serenity Now.
The website for the Vermont Beekeepers Association is
www.vtbeekeepers.org If you want to learn more, check out these three
films: The Vanishing Bees, Queen of the Sun and Nicotene Bees.