HONEY: Plan Bee
For as long as she can remember, Sprouts' former web guru Emily Allen has had a green thumb and a love for honey. She and her husband, Chris, are avid gardeners and decided to visit a local beekeeping supplier to purchase a honey hive starter kit – a shoebox-size container filled with 3-4 pounds of bees, and a queen bee in her own separate compartment. It was then that their passion for apiculture (bee-keeping) began.
"I find everything about honeybees fascinating," said Allen. "They play such an important role in the food supply, from pollination and keeping crops thriving to the honey they make."
Today, Emily and Chris have two beehives, with approximately 20,000-60,000 honeybees (depending on the time of year), capable of producing up to 180 pounds of honey a year.
Flavor of Honey
The flavor and color of honey depends on the botanical source from which it comes. For example, acacia honey is very light in color and mild in flavor, while buckwheat honey is dark with a deep malt-like flavor. Living in Seattle, Emily's honey comes from raspberries, blackberries and various grasses.
The Truth About Locally Grown
It is a popular belief that eating local honey offers health benefits to those suffering from pollen allergies. The idea is that local honey contains the pollens and allergens of a specific region and when ingested can help build an immunity to those allergens. While this theory makes sense, it has not been clinically proven.
Nevertheless, you can find various brands of local honeys at Sprouts Farmers Market, such as North Dallas Honey. Sprouts also has a selection of private label honeys and various other brands of the sweet stuff. In addition to the possible allergy-aiding effects, honey is also known to help soothe colds and sore throats and is often an ingredient in both mainstream and natural throat lozenges. It is also reputed to have beneficial effects for anti-aging and beauty.
Aside from honey, honeybees create a few other by-products in their busy lives: royal jelly and propolis. Royal jelly is a gelatinous substance fed to the queen and baby bees. It's used in the natural health community as an herbal supplement and ingredient in skin care products. Propolis is a resinous mixture used by the bees to reinforce the structural stability of the hive. It's also believed to promote heart health and strengthen the immune system. Both can be harvested without any deleterious effects to the bees or the hive. You will find both royal jelly and propolis in the Vitamin and Health and Beauty Department at Sprouts. (Use caution and consult with your doctor before using any bee or honey product if you are allergic to bees.)
Colony Collapse Disorder
As you may recall, a few years ago a frequent topic of discussion on the news was a rapid decline in honeybee populations. And while you very rarely hear about this problem anymore, it doesn't seem to have gone away. Dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder, the problem affected 35 states in the U.S., without a known cause for why this is happening. The problem likely lies in loss of habitat, pesticides, and parasites, although some have suggested cell phone signals are the culprit. But there are a few things you can do to help save the busy, beneficial honeybee, such as planting a garden, supporting local beekeepers and/or starting a honeybee hive of your own.
Despite their many contributions to human and environmental health, honeybees sometimes get a bad rap. Emily believes this is due to pesky wasps and hornets that are aggressive. "Honeybees are very gentle and won't sting unless they are trapped or threatened," she said.
In her years as an urban beekeeper, Emily has been stung only a few times. She avoids the sting by calmly approaching the hives and wearing smooth fabrics in white or light colors.
"We heard that you shouldn't wear anything brown or fuzzy while tending to bees, since they are instinctively threatened by bears," she said. "We thought it sounded silly, but actually found that advice to be true when, one day after spending time with the bees, my husband found several bees clinging to his brown, woolly socks."
If urban beekeeping interests you, there are many resources online to provide information and help you get started. Be sure you research city regulations to find out what you can and can't do in your area.from the March, 2011 edition of Fresh Off the Press