Helping Honey Bees

— Written By and last updated by

Honey bees have been managed by man for hundreds of years, and we are still learning how to care for them to benefit man. Sixty-two people showed up at the N.C. Cooperative Extension of Lenoir County office recently for the first night of Bee School. Reasons for keeping bees vary with each individual.

Honey bees are fascinating, amazing and unpredictable. We do not understand all the reasons for their behaviors. Numerous scientific studies seek answers to the many questions about their activities and behavior. One unusual method of communication unraveled by scientists is the waggle dance. When a female bee returns from foraging she uses body movements to share the location and information about the supply of the food source. Included in her dance are detailed directions including distance from the hive and specific turns, how rich the food supply, and the scent of the flowers.

Beekeepers are valuable to us. Some beekeepers move their hives around to assist in crop pollination. Pollination is necessary to provide the abundance of foods we enjoy. Every fruit and vegetable is pollinated mostly by insects but some by the wind. A research study by MIT estimated the cost of hand pollinating apple trees. It was estimated that the US has about 379,000 acres of apple orchards nationwide. The cost of hand dusting the flowers with pollen would be over $876,538,125 per year. This cost would be eliminated if bees were available. Replacing the natural services of the bees is expensive and would increase the consumer price of the fruit.

Many beekeepers raise honey bees to harvest honey. Raw honey has many benefits including immune-boosting and anticancer benefits. Honey produced by bees has antibacterial and antifungal properties. The phytonutrients in honey are responsible for its antioxidant properties, as well as its antibacterial and antifungal power. Raw honey contains an array of plant chemicals that act as antioxidants, which help to protect your body from cell damage due to free radicals. Some types of honey have as many antioxidants as fruits and vegetables. Research has shown that raw honey can kill unwanted bacteria and fungus. It naturally contains hydrogen peroxide, an antiseptic. Its effectiveness as an antibacterial or antifungal varies depending on the honey. It is a potent prebiotic that nourishes the good bacteria that live in the intestines and are crucial for digestion and overall health. It also works as a cough suppressant, and research suggests that honey is as effective as a common ingredient in over-the-counter cough medication.

Each of us can support honey bees by reporting a swarm as soon as possible. Beekeepers relocate swarms and provide them a new home. Contact your local N.C. Cooperative Extension office, local beekeeper, or leave the information on websites set up for helping save the bees. Our local group of beekeepers includes Jones and Greene counties as well as Lenoir. Contact them through the Neuse Bees website.