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Health Benefits of Honey
Bees are one of the most important and beneficial insects in nature. When it comes to honeybees, they help pollinate many of the plants that are important sources of food for people in the U.S. and around the world. In addition, they also produce honey. Sticky, golden honey is a sweet and edible substance that is added to food, enjoyed on its own, and used in a variety of other ways. Humankind has used honey in one form or another since ancient times. The best way to fully appreciate and enjoy honey is to better understand it and where it comes from.
Bees and Honey
A honeybee’s journey toward the production of honey starts with flowers such as clovers, orange blossoms, or dandelions. The bee flies from flower to flower collecting sweet nectar for food. The nectar that it collects and stores in its belly has carbohydrates that provide the bee with energy. In varying degrees, nectar also contains magnesium, calcium, and other minerals. When the bee is full of nectar, it returns to the hive to offload it and reduce the amount of moisture that it contains.
To make honey, the nectar’s moisture content must be reduced to roughly 17 percent and enzymes from the bees must be introduced. This process begins when the foraging bee passes drops of nectar from its belly into the mouths of bees within the hive. These bees accept the drops and work in the necessary enzyme. While this reduces the moisture to some degree, more of it must be removed to make honey. To accomplish this, the nectar and enzyme mixture is regurgitated into unfilled cells of the honeycomb. Other bees then fan the cells rapidly with their wings to reduce the remaining moisture to the desired amount, leaving honey behind. The honey is then sealed within the honeycomb cell with wax to prevent moisture gain and for storage until it is ready for use.
While some may consider beekeeping to be a way to make money, others view it as a hobby that allows them to study bees while also benefiting from the honey that they produce. Both the professional beekeeper and the hobbyist must understand what it takes to successfully maintain a colony of honeybees. This includes being educated about bee science and botany. It also includes having the right equipment and establishing the colony in the right location. The ideal location will have a nearby water source and protection from cold winds. For equipment, beekeepers must have a hive, which includes a hive stand, bottom board, hive bodies that contain frames, a queen excluder, supers, and covers. The hive is where the bees will live, and its size depends on the number of colonies. Bees may be purchased in packages from bee producers or from local beekeepers who will install the bees into the equipment. A bee smoker, frame lifter, and protective equipment such as gloves, a bee veil, and coveralls to protect the body are also some of the basics needed for beekeeping.
Before one begins, it is also important to understand any laws that pertain to beekeeping in the area where they live. This prevents any costly surprises and will make them aware of rules that must be followed. It will also provide information on potential inspections and let them know what permits or licenses they will need. Ideally, one should start small when starting beekeeping for the first time and consider working with an established beekeeper first to gain more experience.
Honey and Health
Honey is generally considered safe to eat and offers many health benefits. Historically, it has been used for medicinal purposes and is thought to have antibacterial properties that may help prevent infections. Honey may be used for the treatment of certain sores, ulcers, and other wounds and can help soothe minor burns. For small cuts and abrasions, applying honey beneath bandages can potentially aid the healing process. Honey is also commonly used to suppress coughing, and according to studies, it is equal to or better than some cough syrups. Additionally, it may help soothe the sore, inflamed throats of people suffering from colds. Honey also has some antiviral benefits, which may boost one’s immunity and prevent them from getting sick.
One notable exception, however, is the threat that it presents to children who are under the age of 1 year old. Feeding an infant honey exposes them to Clostridium botulinum spores. While these bacterial spores are typically not a problem for adults, even pregnant women, the immune system of an infant who is younger than 1 cannot defend itself adequately against them. As a result, feeding an infant honey is not recommended by health officials, as it may give them botulism.
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