From the first days of recorded history, bees have been observed, admired, studied and feared by people.
From the first days of recorded history, bees have been observed, admired, studied and feared by people. They are amazing little creatures–did you know that bees provided humans with the first sweetener (honey) and probably the first waterproofing and plastic material (beeswax)? Honey bees are hard working, peaceful insects that go about their business of producing nutritious products "fit for a queen."
Beeswax has a distinguished history. It commanded a high price as man’s first and only plastic wrap for many years. Architects used beeswax to model proposed structures, sailors used it to strengthen and waterproof sails and soldiers used it to waterproof tents and food storage containers. It has been used to make dental impressions, insulate electrical instruments, stiffen and strengthen sewing threads as well as for polishing woods and metal. Today, beeswax is used in cold creams, ointment, lotions, lipsticks, salves, crayons and chewing gum. Beeswax candles are popular as they burn with a slow, smokeless flame while emitting a pleasant odor.
Straight From the Hive
Royal jelly is one of the most nutritious foods produced by animal, plant or insect. It is the only food the queen bee is fed and it is the secret to her success. She is larger and more attractive than the other bees, weighs about 60 percent more and lives 60 times longer.
Royal jelly is a creamy, white substance that special nursing bees secrete for one purpose only–to feed their queen. It contains vitamins A, B-complex, C, D and E and is the richest single source of pantothenic acid (a B-vitamin), known especially for its stress reducing abilities. It also contains calcium, chromium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, potassium, silicon, sulfur and zinc in addition to 18 amino acids. Royal jelly is known for its ability to enhance skin texture and smoothness and for its contribution to longevity. Because royal jelly contains a gelatinous amino acid (a basic ingredient in collagen), with regular use the skin becomes soft, more lubricated and fine wrinkles disappear.
Royal jelly also contains globulinic acid, which has been shown to act as a diuretic, work like an antibiotic increasing resistance to bacteria and viruses, alleviate some symptoms of respiratory allergies and help guard against arthritis and cancer. It is the only natural dietary source of pure acetycholine, a neurotransmitter that enables the body organs, glands, and the brain to communicate. Royal jelly strengthens the immune system, increases circulation and aids in disposal of body waste. It also helps control skin irritations such as eczema and impetigo.
Bee pollen is a golden-colored dust gathered by bees from the stamens of flowers and is treasured for its many health-enhancing benefits. It works wonders in a weight control or weight stabilization regimen by correcting a possible chemical imbalance in body metabolism. Consumption of bee pollen can improve the appearance of unhealthy or aging skin. It stimulates the growth of new skin tissue and offers effective protection against dehydration.
According to one research project, many bee keepers in the Russian state of Georgia (in the Soviet Union at the time of the study) were known to live more than 100 years. The researchers concluded that the longevity of the keepers was attributable to consuming raw, unprocessed honey (rich in bee pollen) every day of their lives. Some clinical allergists have used bee pollen to relieve allergy and hay fever symptoms, but a small percentage of the population may be allergic to it. You should try only a small amount at first and monitor any reaction. It is mostly the wind borne, helter-skelter anemophile pollen that causes allergic difficulties, not the entomophile pollen that hitches a ride on the insects.
Honey and Propolis
No hive is complete without honey. Unrefined, raw honey looks cloudy due to its concentration of suspended bee pollen. Honey contains a wide range of B vitamins with darker honeys generally containing more vitamins and minerals (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, silica and sodium.) The glucose in honey can increase the absorption of calcium as well as boost the absorption of other essential minerals. Pure honey is easy for us to digest, as the bees have predigested the sugar and reduced it to fructose and dextrose (simple sugars). It is an excellent natural replacement for refined sugars. Many researchers have found that honey, topically applied, helps to heal some slow healing wounds (bacteria needs moisture to survive and honey has moisture absorbing qualities that tend to kill bacteria over time). Manuka honey is especially well known for its therapeutic effects.
Propolis, (a Greek word for "defender of the city") is a resin collected by the honey bee from selected trees and plants. The bees carry the resin to their hive where they mix and modify it, turning it into a glue-like substance. It is one of the strongest antibiotics and disinfectants known and bees use it to seal up their hive to protect against infection. A honey bee hive is recognized as one of the most sterile environments in the world. Propolis contains a complex blend of some 160 biochemical elements including essential oils, vitamins and–most importantly–bioflavonoids. The antioxidant effects of bioflavonoids help to maintain a healthy immune system.
The next time you see a fuzzy little insect flitting from flower to flower in the spring sunshine you will know that it is very busy contributing to the production of nature’s most nutritional substances.
When Bees Sting
For most individuals, a bee sting will only cause pain, redness and swelling. Some people are especially sensitive to bee stings and may develop a life-threatening allergic reaction. Prompt emergency care may save their life.
Speed matters, method doesn't. When a bee stings, it leaves its stinger with a bag of venom attached in the victim. Traditionally, the approach has been to scrape the site of the sting (versus pinching) but recent research shows that it is best to pull the stinger out as quickly as possible–before the venom can be fired off.
Wash the area with soap and water as soon as possible and then apply cold compresses for 24 hours. Emptying a capsule of vitamin E or dabbing the site with a paste made of baking soda and water may help alleviate pain and swelling. For a sting in the mouth, a gargle liquid made up of 30 milliliters of salt mixed with 90 mL of water will help eliminate discomfort. Chewing ice can help reduce swelling and constriction if stung in the neck or face.
If a victim has been stung a number of times watch for symptoms (especially in the first two hours) such as difficulty breathing, hives, headache, muscle cramps, fever or drowsiness. An increase in swelling and redness on the second day is not uncommon and may be relieved by applying warm compresses. Vitamin C taken with calcium will help to reduce the toxic effects of a bee sting and alleviate pain.
Common sense and awareness are the best alternatives to avoiding a bee sting. It is wise to wear shoes when outside and to wear gloves when gardening. Bees are particularly attracted to bright colors, flowery designs and sweet perfumes (hand lotion, hairspray or sunscreen.) Take care when cooking outdoors–bees are attracted to food odors and are especially fond of sodas and sweet drinks. Don't swat at or antagonize a bee because it will sting if provoked.