In the beekeeping world it is common to harvest the honey in the fall. In natural beekeeping, we try to leave enough honey to sustain the bees to last until spring. However many beekeepers feed sugar or high fructose corn syrup to bees.
The main reason beekeepers do this supplemental feeding is a matter of simple economics. The commercial beekeepers have a business to run, and when they do the math, it simply does not work from a financial stand point to let the bees eat honey. They can make more money selling the honey and buying an artificial substitute. For a more in-depth view on this see my blog. This post will focus on why we need to let the bees eat their own honey.
For eons of time the honey bees have been gathering nectar, mixing it with their own special enzymes, and placing it in the wax cells. The bees create a draft through the hive by flapping their wings in unison to evaporate the moisture from the nectar until it thickens to aproxamitly 18% moisture. During this process the enzymes continue to work and when the bees decide the honey is ripe, they cap it. Capping is simply when the bees cover the cell with wax to seal off their special winter food. The honey is an amazing food that will last indefinitely.
There is another process taking place in the bee hive that few people know about. When the bees bring in pollen they also add enzymes that pickle or ferment the pollen. This pickled pollen is called “bee bread” This bee bread is even more nutritious for the bees because they can assimilate it better. There have been over 8,000 different micro organisms recorded living in the bee bread. It is a fine tuned and balanced world of little bugs that I liken to the microorganisms and flora living in our intestines. We simply could not live without them, and neither can the bees.
People will argue that sugar is sugar and that it is the same thing to the bees as honey. However refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) are not honey. They have a different PH and they lack the enzymes.
When you change the PH in a bee hive, it affects the finely balanced world of the little bugs, and weakens the colony. When they track pesticides and fungicides into the hive with their little feet, the life within the bee bread is affected.
Another thing that most people don’t realize about honey is that when you feed bees HFCS they stash it in the same cells that nectar gets stored in, and in fact gets mixed up with the honey. So when you buy honey from many suppliers you are getting HFCS and a honey mixture—even if the label says “pure honey,” the odds are it isn’t.
HFCS is claimed to be toxic to honey bees. We are also learning it isn’t good for humans either.
The bottom line is that the bees will continue to be fed artificial sugars as long it makes economic sense to do so. Due to the corn lobby convincing our lawmakers to subsidize the corn crops, HFCS is cheap. Since I don’t think the government will stop the corporate welfare any time soon, we the people must bite the bullet and pay the higher price to the natural beekeepers with the natural honey. Let’s reward the beekeepers who do the right thing by buying their product, and the big players will catch on and change there ways.
Simply put, get to know your local beekeepers. Ask questions about if they feed substitutes and if they place chemicals in their hives. In doing so, you are protecting the bees, the environment, and your own personal health.