Today was my first class of Bee Keeping School! It is a 5-class course through the Rhode Island Bee Keepers Association. Today we learned about the different types of honey bees (workers, drones and queens), basic hive set-up and equipment, and lots of great information about local and non-local resources for beekeepers.
I am interested in keeping bees for a number of different reasons. Firstly, the honey bee population has been steadily decreasing for some time now. Often bees simply disappear from hives-an incidence referred to as “colony collapse disorder”. There is no known cause of colony collapse disorder; but certain instances have been contributed to diseases, pesticides, mites, and climate change. Overall, it is a mysterious phenomenon that is quite frustrating for beekeepers, but also poses great risks for plants that require pollination to reproduce and bear fruit. Without the bees, we have no food! Thus, I am interested in counteracting this devastating phenomenon by doing my part in propagating the honey bee pollination.
Secondly- for the honey! Honey is an amazing natural sweetener that is loaded with minerals, healing enzymes, and antioxidants. Refined sugar is devoid of such nutrients and, when ingested, draws upon nutrients in the body so that it can be digested. Because honey already contains these nutrients, it is far less tolling on the body and, unlike refined sugar, it is actually beneficial for the immune system! When compared with refined and processed sweeteners, honey is also lower on the glycemic index. This means that it is broken down more slowly in the body and is less likely to cause a spike in one’s blood sugar.
Thirdly- bee’s produce a variety of materials useful for topical applications, medicinal purposes, and non-edible creations. Besides honey, bee keepers are also able to harvest beeswax, propolis, and royal jelly. Beeswax has a wide range of uses; it is a common ingredient in lip balms and salves and also used for making candles and sculptures. Propolis is a sticky resin that bees collect from the sap of trees. Mixed with enzymes and minerals, it is used to hold together the parts of their hive, but is also used by humans as a nutritional supplement. Royal Jelly is the substance that is fed to the queen bee throughout her lifetime and is also marketed as a nutritional supplement. Besides being a sweet treat, honey is also extremely beneficial topically. It is antibacterial and antiseptic and can be added to salves and creams to heal cuts and abrasions, or even applied independently.