Have you sat in a field wrought with clovers lately? If you stare long enough, it will undoubtedly come alive with the many rapid movements of tiny winged creatures. If you are lucky, the hum of beating wings will resonate in your ears, the unmistakable sound of our very important friends, the bees.
There are many different species of bees in the world, broken down into different families that span the globe. They make a great Halloween costume, they are beautiful to photograph, but most importantly, they are integral to the pollination needed for so much of our food production and plant reproduction.
Pollination is essentially the spreading of pollen from one part of the plant, the male anther, to the female part, the stigma. Much as an egg needs fertilization in mammals, plants need to pass pollen to stimulate growth of nuts, seeds, and fruits. Some plants can achieve this process on their own, or with the help of the wind, but a large percentage of species reply on animals, like bees, to assist with this process.
Many of our favourite foods would not produce without the help of bees. Apples, tomatoes, avocados, strawberries, nectarines, cherries, coffee, cucumber, and carrots only scratch the surface (For a more extensive list, visit here).
Of course, honey, that sweet, golden liquid that drips from the combs of a hive, would not be possible without our precious honey bees. Commercial honey has traditionally been pasteurized robbing it of it's aroma and destroying some of it's flavour and nutrition. Fortunately, there are smaller honey farms that do not pasturize their products, leaving the nutrition and aroma intact.
Aside from being delicious, it is linked to many health benefits. It is said to be a natural anti-inflammatory, helping with things like allergies and sore throats; the natural sugar gives you energy; it helps soothe irritated skin and is apparently loaded with antioxidants that help with brain health.
The other beautifully fragrant product bees produce is wax. Bees produce wax from honey. Specially assigned worker bees ingest honey and hang for many hours to metabolize the wax and secret it out of glands in their abdomens. Beekeepers cut the wax on the top of the honeycomb to extract the honey, then they collect the wax to sell for candles and many other beeswax products, such as for polishes and cosmetics.
Beeswax is a much more sustainable option when compared to paraffin wax, a common candle making option that comes from fossil fuels. Paraffin is a petroleum byproduct that is left over from refining gasoline and when burned, releases toxic by-products into the air. Beeswax is a renewable resource, as it is a naturally occurring substance and does not cause air pollution. Beeswax burns more cleanly and burns completely leaving no residue. Beeswax candles are thought to have a cleansing effect in the air by producing negative ions that attract and capture dust, bacteria, and other toxins and neutralize them.
The sad truth is that our bee population is getting hit hard. They are dying in unprecedented numbers due to causes that are not fully understood. Entire colonies have been disappearing in a strange phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder. Beekeepers have reported entire hives being abandoned by all of the adult bees, leaving the queen and immature bees behind. Thousands of bees are disappearing without an explanation. The cause is not yet conclusively determined, but the most likely culprit is pesticides, especially those that are not properly regulated and studied. CCD is not the only threat to bees. Changing climate, new parasites and diseases, and nutrition problems from lack of pollen diversity are a few examples of hazards plaguing our fragile bees. Scientists and beekeepers are hoping to bring more attention to this issue and garner support for more heavily tested and regulated pesticides, so hopefully we can save our bee population worldwide. And we better pay attention. It is estimated that if honey bees perished we would suffer a world wide famine.
Bees are a fascinating and intelligent species. We hope that more education around the threats to our bee population will inspire more people to become interested in protecting them and maybe even learn to keep a sustainably managed hive or two themselves. We counseled an expert (a.k.a. one of our Dads) who has worked with bees extensively in the past. Below are a few of his thoughts on spending time with bees.
“As a part-time beekeeper for about ten years, I have an unadulterated adoration and respect for honey bees. Working with them gave me many many hours of pleasure and harmony. One of my joys was sitting beside a hive on a warm sunny day watching the "busy" bees come and go from the hive entrance in a steady stream. They make an intriguing and graceful pattern. They are not so graceful at landing as they plop down unceremoniously often bouncing. The aroma beside a hive is intoxicatingly sweet and fragrant with the scent of flora nectar.” -Charles Myers
Thrive's value of eco-friendly extends into all of our housewares. We carry beeswax candles that smell great and cleanse your home. We have other sustainable home décor options online and in store. Visit any time and we would be happy to discuss their properties and ingredients.