For the past few years, the media has been buzzing about bees. Reduction in colonies and erratic behavior has been a worldwide concern. CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) has been keeping scientists busy trying to investigate the why's of the sudden disappearance of worker bees in the Western honey bee colony. By 2007, a group of commercial beekeepers in the U.S. reported bee colony losses between 30-90%.
What would life look life without bees? The British Beekeepers Association indicates that one third of our food is pollinated by bees. Bees effect a significant amount of the global food industry - two hundred and fifteen billion dollars worth.
Mark Brubaker, from Gardeners, PA, delivers raw honey to The Healthy Grocer. A family owned business, started by his father, approximately ten workers (all family) can be seen working with the 25,000 bee colonies on his property. "We work to keep the bees alive and pollinating," says Brubaker.
Brubaker also works with other beekeepers in Washington state, Michigan and Florida to source other honey options including buckwheat honey, orange blossom honey and bee pollen.
"Bee pollen consists of bee saliva and enzymes, mixed with pollen that the bees have brought back to the hive on their bodies. The bees pack the pollen into granules; honey and nectar are sometimes added to the granules. Bee pollen contains small amounts of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Bee pollen will vary from batch to batch and by location, because the pollen component will be unique to the plants the bees have visited. If pollen is collected from residential or farming areas where pesticides and other chemicals are used, these will remain in the final product," according to Aisle 7.
Brubaker indicates that while his family does not source bee pollen, he is happy to work with a Michigan beekeeper for it. "It's a lot of work."
A special pollen trap is used at the entrance of bee hives. The responsible beekeeper has to check the trap daily as the contents are wet and can quickly grow mold. "It's a perishable crop," says Brubaker.
Bee pollen can then be dehydrated upon collection to eliminate moisture or can be immediately frozen for future use.
While "Modern clinical evidence of the medicinal properties of bee pollen is lacking," Livestrong.org indicates "People use it to improve athletic performance and memory, prevent hay fever and treat respiratory infections, endocrine problems and colitis." However, use with caution. Strong allergic reactions have been found to occur.
Raw honey, however, contains carbohydrates to help stamina and locally sourced honey is often used to support seasonal respiratory support. Since ancient times, honey has been used for it antibacterial properties in supporting the healing of wounds. In Ayurveda (the world's oldest healing system), honey is a key ingredient in jump starting the digestive tract first thing in the morning. Boiled water is cooled to a tolerable temperature in a cup, lemon juice is added and a tablespoon of raw honey follows. Drink before consuming any other liquid or food.
Supporting local beekeeper, Brubaker, may just help the bees and our health.