Honey Doesn’t Hurt: The Chronology

Consider the bee, a friend of small proportions.

In the hive, the worker bee starts working from the day it hatches from its larval stage, and works to convert pollen to honey, for the rest of its natural life. So when beekeepers take honey from the hive, most people cry afoul, that taking honey from the hive is morally wrong, and as a whole, hurts the environment. I’m here to list out the step-by-step process on how bees can make too much honey, and that beekeeping in particular, is beneficial for everybody involved, including the environment!

To narrate the reasons why, we must begin at the source- where else would bees keep their honey? A hive produces a copious amount of honey. A bee’s diet consists of nectar and pollen, and for the whole of her life and with her efforts, she may only produce 1/12th of a teaspoon. However, bees do not work alone, given that there are about 40,000 bees on average that will only keep multiplying, you’ll need a few more teaspoons (I did the math, that’s 3,333.33 teaspoons, about 15 liters per bee generation)!

The black-and-yellow workers feed the newly-hatched larvae honey to help them grow, but there is still a lot of honey leftover. This does not seem to pose a problem at first until you realize bees are terrible at inventory management and refuse to throw any honey away. If there is too much honey taking up space in the honeycomb, there isn’t enough space to store the larvae for the new generation.

Once bees reach this point of no space left, they begin to swarm. Swarming is a  phenomena where honey bees enter a stasis and cling to the outside of the hive, with the worker bees patrolling around to find a new area to establish a colony. This spells trouble because if the worker bees do not find a new colony in two days, they end up starving to death, with a full hive of honey that will end up unused, left to be consumed by ants or other would-be honey capers, that are only too pleased to find a treasure chest with no guards.

To prevent this phenomena and the chance of dying bees, a beekeeper steps in. A beekeeper knows how to strike the perfect balance; to take enough honey that a beehive doesn’t begin to swarm, and to leave enough so that they don’t starve the new generation of bees to come. And on the occasion they are ready to begin a new colony of bees, they have an empty honeycomb ready, so that the worker bees will not have to travel far to find a new home.

Upon reading this, you may now see that beekeeping is especially useful to the honey bees, who are most likely grateful for the intervention. In fact, the benefits do not stop there! The next reason why beekeeping is important to sustainability is their aid in pollination.  Pollination occurs when two plant gametes meet, and allows the plant to produce seeds. While birds and butterflies are also helpful pollinators, bees retain the dominant role of pollinators in ecological systems, with honey bees pollinating up to 80% of commercially cultivated crops. Among these crops are vegetables, flowers, and fruits that we regularly consume. A wild bee colony may be several kilometers from these crops, or will fly far to collect nectar with few results, but a beekeeper usually situates their bees near an amalgam of crops, ensuring that their bees will not have to fly too far, and will always have a ready source of plants to pollinate. Bees have a vastly beneficial effect on agriculture, the most sustainable form of nourishment, and beekeeping only helps to promote that effect!

As a disclaimer- wild bees are vastly different than their slightly domesticated honey bee counterparts, and beekeeping unfortunately, only directly protects honey bees. There is an amalgam of scientific progress that goes behind keeping other bee species safe, but let this article only serve this current purpose; to assuage readers of their fears that buying honey in shops is not inherently destructive to honey bees, and in fact, should be encouraged to buy one more jar!

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