THE HAPPIEST HONEY
Eating local honey is touted as the best but in our modern day, does local still reign supreme? With honeybee populations in peril and every person needing to do their part to help out, you may find yourself living in one city and purchasing honey from somewhere else because of the quality, reputation of the beekeeper and your desire to avoid buying “local” honey at the farmers market that is actually from China.
This is why engaging your beekeeper matters. Whether you do it at the farmer’s market or through customer service noted on the packaging of a honey you are interested in, what you want is to ask three really important questions.
Honey Is Fast Becoming A Rare Commodity. Shop Smart.
ALWAYS ASK THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS…
- Do you under any circumstances use acids or other chemicals in the hive to kill pests?
- If the answer is yes, move on no matter how much the beekeeper wants to defend their point. Acids are never a part of a sustainable and treatment-free beekeeping practice because these beekeepers know that nature decides the outcome of the hive and in nature, it’s all about survival of the fittest so treatment-free beekeepers do not interfere and let the bees manage their challenges. If the mites kill the hive then it was a weak hive. If the hive survives, it is indeed strong and how lucky to have it! Poisons are never used.
- Do you feed your bees a diet of sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup?
- You want to support a beekeeper that only sells surplus honey left over from the bees. Many beekeepers take all of the honey to sell it and leave nothing for the bees. They “make up for it” by feeding the bees sugar and other “foods”. Every once in a blue moon (in winter when bees are not pollinating) some treatment-free beekeepers might feed their bees a little sugar if they are in dire need of food, but many will buy honey to feed them too. And this is temporary, not a daily practice. Imagine if you were on a refined sugar diet. If the bees have no honey then we shouldn’t have honey. It’s as simple as that.
- Do you support a migratory practice i.e. do you you work your bees hundreds, even thousands of miles from their natural environment to pollinate monocultures (one crop like almonds or apples for up to thousands of acres and acres)?
- Bees, just like humans, thrive in biodiverse environments so being forced into sterile environments that grow acres upon acres of one crop (monocultures) can wreak havoc on our honeybee and her immunity. Often too, a beekeeper has to mimic spring to trick their bees into leaving the hive to pollinate and so they feed the bees lots of sugar. While I understand teh desperation of a commercial beekeeper, they are often doing more harm than good and at a time when the world is facing extinction of pollinators and insects, we need to be more mindful.
When I first started hanging out with treatment-free beekeepers and being mentored by them, I sourced from Dee Lusby, an organic beekeeper. Her honey, whenever it was tested for a common 171 pesticides (yep that’s how many pesticides you can expect in your honey) there was not one. Was it local? Not to me in South Cali but it’s free from 171 pesticides and that’s a darn fair tradeoff. Now my source has her honey 3rd party NMR tested and it is free of glyphosate (RoundUp) contamination. It is raw and warmed just enough to flow, so it is the same temperature as the hive. It is screened, not filtered so all the active pollens, enzymes and healthful polyphenolic compounds are contained. This is the quality of honey you want.
And how do you know if the answers you get are truthful? Well, you don’t. Unless you have a lab at home to test your honey, all you have to go on is your instinct, so use it! Did your answers come from a passionate beekeeper who was happy to talk about his bees and his sustainable practices? Or was your conversation rushed, evasive and maybe even argumentative (urgh). Trust your gut! It is rarely ever wrong.
Some other great questions to ask that will help suss out a beekeeper’s practice are “How are your hives doing?” “How did the bees survive the winter?” “Are you losing hives?” “Can I be an intern?” That last question is a great one to ask, even if you have no intention, because no dishonest beekeeper will hire someone as thoughtful and knowledgeable as you.
THAT CUTE BEAR…
Most honey on the market is questionable and from origins unknown. It could contain lead, refined beet sugar (GMO) and yes, High Fructose Corn Syrup, caramel color and other additives. Spend more for the “raw” “organic” “wild” and “sustainable” because like all of nature’s foods, they not only taste good but they nourish the body and that is worth everything.
And Don’t Get Me Started On Honey Sticks
Talk about origins and ingredients unknown… I would love to get honey sticks banned from farmer’s markets, especially because you can only sell what you grow/harvest and no beekeeper I know sits down and fills up these tiny plastic straws with colored honey. So instead, while they are being sold, use your instincts. Just look at those bright colors. Are they FD&C carcinogenic colors or will the beekeeper tell you they are “all natural”? C’mon now! The point is you don’t know what they are and that should be reason enough to err on the side of caution and not allow your kids to eat them
MEET YOUR POLLINATORS. THEIR NAMES BEGIN WITH B:
Bees, Bats, Birds and Butterflies oh my.