As winter turns to spring and flowers burst into bloom, a familiar sound returns to the hillsides. The comforting hum of bees busy at work reminds us that we have much to be grateful for from these amazing insects. Honey bees are a vital part of our ecosystem, with both wild and agricultural plants depending on them, as they are responsible for 80% of all insect pollination.
"If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live?"
~ Albert Einstein
Bees live as a highly organized society, with various bees having very specific roles during their lifetime: e.g. nurses, grocers, housekeepers, construction workers, guards, royal attendants, undertakers, foragers, etc. The worker bees are all female and can sting while the larger drones are male and have no stinging power. The queen bee lives for several years, while workers live for 6 weeks during the busy summer, and for 4-9 months during the winter months. A colony consists of 20,000 to 60,000 honey bees and one queen.
Throughout the summer the female worker bees literally work them selves to death in their efforts to support the colony. This is not surprising to hear when you discover that one hive is able to collect about 33kilos of pollen per year. On a typical trip out a single bee may visit 50 to 100 flowers, flying for up to six miles and as fast as 15 miles per hour. Her wings stroke at an incredible 200 beats per second, thus creating their famous and distinctive buzz. In spite of all this work, the average worker bee only makes one twelfth (1/12th) of a tea spoon in her lifetime. So let’s appreciate every mouthful!
"Unique among all God's creatures, only the honeybee improves the environment and preys not on any other species."
~ Royden Brown
The practice of honey collection and beekeeping dates back to stone-age times, with depictions of this shown in cave paintings. It’s the only product produced by insects that is eaten by man and is a ‘super food’. This means it is especially nutritious and in the case of honey it is a complete food, containing all the substances necessary to sustain life – enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and water.
Honey also tastes great, and adds natural sweetness and flavour. East Algarvian honey is a wonderful thing with many varieties incuding, rosemary, orange blossom, lavender and Alfaroba (carob) to name but a few.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
• Buy a jar or two of honey from the market. Local is best and supporting small producers is good for the local economy and the environment.
• Honey bees are thriving in this area but in many other places number are in dangerously low. If you have a garden you can help them by growing flowers and not using pesticides.
• Eat honey and bee healthier.
Honey is an amazing healer too with a wide range of uses:
FOR SORE THROATS:
It can be useful to sooth a sore throat or cough when sucked directly from the spoon. This is because honey has anti-microbial properties it can kill certain bacteria responsible for the infection. When making warm honey drinks, use water that is cooler than boiling to preserve the full honey benefits.
After drinking too much alcohol, combat the effects by following this recipe: 15ml of liquid honey with 80ml of orange juice and 70ml of natural yogurt. Blend them together until smooth and drink. Honey is gentle on the stomach and contains a mix of natural sugars such fructose which is known to speed up the oxidation of alcohol by the liver, acting as a 'sobering' agent.
FOR CUTS & BURNS:
Honey has great antiseptic properties which inhibit the growth of certain bacteria and help keep external wounds clean and free from infection. Honey has long been used as a natural cure for wounds, small burns and cuts as it is able to absorb moisture form the air and thus promotes healing. Its antibacterial nature also prevents infection and functions as an anti-inflammatory agent that can reduce swelling, pain, and even scarring.
If you have trouble sleeping, then why not try the Milk and Honey remedy: Take a glass of hot milk with a teaspoon of honey to calm the soul and induce sleep. Or, add 1 - 2 teaspoons of honey to a cup of chamomile tea and sip it.
Hay fever is caused by an allergic reaction to the proteins in air borne pollen grains that come into contact with the eyes and the sensitive lining of the nose. Eating local honey (preferably ‘in comb’) may help with the symptoms of hay fever because it is produced from the same plants that cause your allergy. Local honey contains minute quantities of this pollen, so eating the honey little and often may help to desensitise the body.