How Important Are Bees?

Klaus Ferlow, HMH, HA—05/2015
Bees are cross-pollinate 30% of the world's crops and 90% of our wild plants. Without them, many plants would die off. The honey that bees make has many remarkable health and nutritional qualities. In addition to honey, a hive also produces propolis, pollen and royal jelly.

WE ARE ALL FAMILIAR with honey bees but do we really know how important they are for sustaining human life?

Honey bees are one of the most important domesticated animals in the world. Billions of dollars of fruits and vegetables depend on pollination. Most beekeepers move their beehives around so the bees can gather the nector of a variety of flowers around mountains and here in the Lower Mainland in British Columbia, Canada bees are pollonating blueberries, raspberries and from natural wildflowers, fruit trees, vegetables ec. All these different flowers produce honey with unique flavors. Bees make propolis, pollen and royal jelly.

Honey Facts

It takes the nector from 1 million flowers to make 500 grams of honey and the bees travel 45.000 km to harvest it. The average bee worker produces ¼ of a teaspoon of honey during her lifetime.

Sweet Inside and Out

Honey has been a medicine since ancient times. Sumerian clay tablets and Egyptian papyri indicate honey was used in most treatments and was especially effective for dressing wounds and sores. Those prehistoric physicians knew what they were doing. Modern research verifies honey's healing benefits.

Honey has three important wound healing capabilities.

  1. Antimicrobial activity sterilizes the wound, and prevent wound contamination.
  2. Anti-inflammatory activity reduces swelling, pain, and scarring potential.
  3. Decreased phagocytosis and cell proliferation which leads to rapid healing.

The physical and chemical characteristics of honey contribute to is antimicrobials activity. The low water content in combination with the high osmolarity has the effect of limiting the growth of bacteria, while the natural acidity helps to prevent bacterial growth. Bees use enzymes to convert nectar into honey. The resulting compounds preserve and sterilize the honey.

There are a number of other compounds present which also contribute to antibacterial activity. Several researchers have shown that honey helps heal burns, wounds and sore throats. In addition honey has found to help digestion. What would be a good herbal tea without quality honey?

Honey is soft on skin

Honey has been used as a beauty product since the days of Cleopatra and it continues to be used today in products for skin and hair care. Honey acts as a natural humecant, which means it has the ability to attract and retain moisture. The skin's ability to stay moist (or hydrated) is an important factor in its ability to maintain softness, suppleness and elasticity.

As skin ages, or as it is exposed to environmental stresses and chemical agents, it loses its ability to retain water; it becomes dry and appears wrinkled. Honey's natural hydrating poperties make it ideal for use in moisturizing products. Because it is all natural and does not irritate the skin, honey is also suitable for sensitive skin products.

Nectar of the Gods

Honey differs in color and flavor depending on which blossoms the honey bees visit in search of nectar. Honey color ranges from almost colorless to dark amber brown and its flavor varies from delectablymild to richly bold. As a general rule, light-colored honey is milder in taste and dark-colored honey is stronger. A good beekeeper and honey producer takes great care in ensuring that the honey is as close to the comb as possible. Great care is also taken not to heat the honey more than necessary as honey easily burns altering the flavor and color as well as damaging the natural enzymes and micronutrients.

Honey comes in a variety of forms including liquid, creamed, comb, and chunk. Liquid honey honey is extracted from the honeycomb by centrifugal force. Creamed honey is finely crystallizes so that it remains creamy and spreadable. Comb honey is honey that comes as it is found in the hive, right in the beeswax honeycomb.

Storing and handling honey

Honey naturally crystallizes over time becoming hard. The speed of transformation depends on the flower blossom. Crystallization doesn't change the characteristics of honey except for the degree of solidity. The taste and health benefits are the same. To slow down crystallization, keep honey at room temperature or freeze what is not in use.

The best way to re-liquify honey is to gently heat it in a double boiler. Be careful not to heat it more than 40 degrees C. The honey degrades, the taste is altered and the antimicrobial properties and health benefits are reduced. Avoid heating up the honey in a microwave since it can easy burn the honey and alter the enzymes in it. As you heat the honey, stirring speeds up the process and reduces the chance of burning.

Can humans survive without bees?

There are many scientific studies are done to determine who kills bees, butterflies, birds and this subject is highlighted by many articles in magazines and on the internet. published an article March 2008 and August 2011 with the title “Death of Bees” with this comment:

“The Einvironmental impact of sacrity and increased rampant disease is not fully understood and if so, is kept silent by these conglomerates. The economic impact of the bee colony collapse would mean inflation, scarity of agricultural commodities, and ultimate the collapse of the North American agricultural commodities and ultimate the collapse of the North American agriculture. The economic impact that the scarity of bees will potential have on us as a whole is very worrisome. In the end, only our children will fully realize that it was our greed that destroyed this beautiful blue planet!

The Organic Consumers Assoiation published February 14, 2014 an article “GMO's are killing the bees, butterflies, birds and…?” Please read the full text at There is also an informative article in The New Your Times which is also worth reading:




Hubell Sue, 1998, A Book About Bees: and how to keep them, Mariner Books

Mattingly Rosanna L, 2012, Honey Maker: how the honey bee worker does what she does, Beargrass Press

D'Malley Michael, 2010, The Wisdom of Bees: what the hive can teach busisness about leadership,effeciency, and growth, Portfolio Hardcover

Packer Laurance, 2011, Keeping the bees: why all bees are at risk and what we can do to save them, Harper Collins Publishers

Kidd Sue Monk, 2003, The Secret Life of Bees, Penguin Books

Sammataro Dianna, Avitabile Alphonse, 2011, The Beekeepers Hand book, Comstock Publishers Assn.