Honey bees are amazing; yes or no?
Honey is often referred to as a super food; the dedicated producers of this delectable super food are also responsible for causing the production by pollination of many plant based foods we eat and enjoy every day. The Honey Bee is that “wonder bug” responsible for this feat. I say bug because many of us view honeybees as bugs, either because they are genuinely allergic to insect stings or because they are just too afraid of the honeybee.
Many times people are stung by some type of wasp or even yellow jackets but, guess who gets the blame; of course the remarkable honeybee! “Your bee stung me is almost always the cry.” I have talked with many people who said to me, I love honey, but if I say to them would you look in my hive they quickly reply “oh no! “I can’t stand them things; I’ll get my honey in the store.” Sometimes I literally see the person or persons I am talking to about my girls shudder, or cringe if we are looking at pictures of my girls which I am always ready and happy to show off. Does this strike a chord with you?
I have come to the conclusion that we humans have a love/hate relationship with the honeybee. A lot of us love their honey, but hate them around. Fortunately there are those of us who really see the wonder and importance of our honeybees. “Liquid gold” as it is sometimes referred to, is a unique food for many reasons. Honey is literally ageless, it’s nutritious, it sweetens, and it even serves as medicine. Several attributes culminate and give honey its special properties that are not matched by any other food.
Honey is actually quite acidic with a PH between three and four; it is extremely viscous and water deficient. The normal percent of water present in honey is so low, 18% or less, that organisms find it difficult to live and or reproduce within. Honey is hygroscopic, absorbs moisture from its surrounding, therefore it will remove critical moisture from any organisms trying to inhabit it. Honey is also able to produce the slow release of hydrogen peroxide when it comes in contact with open wounds by the enzyme glucose oxidase hydrolysis of glucose causing this release. Hydrogen peroxide kills bacteria on contact, thus promoting healing.
Can you believe Archaeologists digging in the Pyramids and in Northern Israel have found honey in good edible condition after thousands of years in ancient Egyptian tombs? Some say “Yes this is true!” Imagine dipping your finger into a pot of honey thousands of years old and finding it as edible as today’s honey. Amazing! Only the skillful Honeybee can accomplish such a feat. There are other articles which say the honey found was not really tasted. But I still say Yes Honeybees are Amazing! But beware of diving into ancient honey jars; hee hee!
Did you know that the oldest honey was found in Georgia? Yes Georgia! Archaeologists have declared that the artifacts they examined contain the world’s oldest honey after they performed a thorough examination of some five-millennia-plus-old jars unearthed in Georgia. That caught my attention also, and caused me a moment of excitement too; but this in the end is not my Georgia; this one is bordered by, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Russia. Again that article carries on the story of the majesty honey encompasses. So please help us do whatever is necessary to make room for and to save our honeybees. You can begin by saving those dandelions and other bee-friendly plants because that could be your crucial part in preserving our majestic and special Honeybee.
There is a delicious honey that does not crystallize. Tupelo honey has a unique combination of Fructose to Glucose which results in a very high resistance to crystallization. The white Tupelo or sour gum tree is botanically called Nyssa ogeche. The Ogeechee Lime is one of the rarer North American Tupelos, but has the largest range; from Cape Cod to the old South, across the Southern US and then up the West coast to Washington State and Southern Canada. The Tupelo tree is a very versatile and beautiful tree; it is very adaptable although it prefers to grow near water and can often be found in swamp areas, or places where the soil is very moist.
White Tupelo grows up to fifty feet tall and can have a spread of thirty or more feet. The foliage is thick and usually creates beautiful shade during the summer heat. The oval shaped foliage is of a light green color. These unique leaves turn a bright red color during the fall. The bark is rough and often has lichen and moss growing on its rather thin trunk which sports a grey colored bark. The blooms produce some of the sweetest honey; male trees produce only male flowers which hang in clusters and are said to be more attractive to honeybees, whereas the fruiting plants carries solitary female flowers as well as flowers with both male and female organs. The female flowers becomes oblong shaped fruit which varies in color from dull yellow, olive brown, red or orange yellow, and ripens into a dark purple color. The flesh is acidic and the fruit matures during July and August and persists into November and December; Tupelo fruit are usually eaten by wildlife such as the American Robin, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Brown Thrasher, along with many other bird species, various Ducks, Raccoons, Squirrels, Opossums and Deer. In Georgia Tupelo fruit is used to prepare marmalade, preserves and a delicious relish because of its sour flavor; the fruit is so sour it has been used as a lime substitute.
The Tupelo, also known as the pepperidge tree; genus Nyssa, is a small genus of about nine to eleven species of trees with alternate, simple leaves. It is usually included in the subfamily Nyssoideae of the Dogwood family. Five of this species are native to eastern North America from the extreme South of Canada down to Eastern Mexico; and can be found growing naturally near swamps, streams, rivers, and lakes. The other six species are found in East and South Asia from China South to Malaysia and West to the Himalayas.
Tupelo wood is only valued and used extensively by artistic woodcarvers, especially for carving pieces like wildfowl and ducks. Tupelo wood can be readily pulped and is usually used for high-grade book and magazine papers. Tupelo is valued as an excellent honey producing plant by beekeepers in the Southeastern United States, particularly in the Gulf Coast region. The town of Tupelo Mississippi was named for these trees. Tupelo produces a light-amber honey with a greenish cast, and a mild floral to fruity taste. In Southern Georgia and Northwestern Florida beekeepers place their beehives along the river and swamps on platforms or floats during tupelo bloom season so as to gather certified tupelo honey, which commands a high price on the market because of its flavor.
The name tupelo is a common name used for Nyssa, of Native American origin; it came from Creek Indian words “ito” meaning tree and “opilwa” meaning swamp; the term was in use since the mid18th century. Tupelo trees are most content when standing in several feet of water. An abundance of Tupelo trees are found in the Apalachicola and Chipola river basins of the Florida Panhandle. Tupelo bloom typically occurs between March and May; male Tupelo blossoms starts out as a round bud, about the size of a small pea; it then grows into what looks like a miniature cauliflower. Finally, it explodes with dozens of little spikes; the nectar is found at the base of each spike where honeybees find their "pot of gold."
Tupelo blossoms are very fragile and unpredictable. In excellent Tupelo years, the nectar flow typically lasts for a few weeks, while in other not so prime years the fragile blooms may be ruined just a few days after opening by hard rain, heavy wind, or unseasonably cold weather. Tupelo honey is certified if it contains fifty one percent Tupelo nectar, but in many cases the purest certifiable Tupelo honey is about ninety five percent Tupelo nectar; a pollen analysis is done to ascertain purity. Certified tupelo honey is not heated, pasteurized, or filtered. Caution, honey labeled Tupelo that is crystallizing displays a good indication that it is not pure. Tupelo honey is popular in the South to the point there is a song by Van Morrison and even a movie made in its honor.
Did you know according to the USDA, USA beekeepers can only supply about forty-eight percent of all the honey consumed and needed in the USA? That’s where honey consumers become vulnerable. The lacking fifty two percent of our needed honey is imported from forty one other countries; Americans consume about 400 million pounds of honey a year, which averages to approximately 1.3 pounds per person. Sixty-five percent of all the honey is used in industry for cereals, sauces, beverages, baked goods, and other processed foods; while the rest goes to household uses.
The really unsettling part of all this information is the fact that others along with Andrew Chneider from Food Safety News reported “More than three-fourths of the honey sold in U.S. grocery stores isn’t exactly what the bees produced, according to testing done exclusively for Food Safety News.” Many trusted articles give extensive detail about how big the “fake honey” scandal is and how much it impacts American and World Beekeepers as well as all honey consumers.
So, what is the matter with Chinese Honey? It is banned from import by various European Countries, Japan, and the USA. In 2001, the Federal Trade Commission imposed an import tax to stop the Chinese from flooding the US marketplace with extremely cheap, heavily subsidized honey, which was forcing American beekeepers out of business. However, to avoid this tax Chinese honey suppliers became creative; they shipped their honey to other Asian countries like, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, and others that did not have US honey taxes levied against them. The honey was then illegally relabeled before being shipped as a product of those countries to the US for sale.
Did you know that even honey has a fingerprint too? Yes, honey’s origin can be identified by the type of pollen grains it contains, unless someone has deliberately cut off its fingers. By cutting off honey’s fingers I mean the deliberate removal of all traces of pollen from honey by the ultra filtration process which leaves the remaining liquid with no way of identifying its origin. Is the golden liquid in bottles on US grocery store shelves labeled honey from somewhere in the USA or did it leave China, take a tour to the country where it was relabeled before being ships to the USA? All Americans who shop for honey in grocery stores should think about this. Know your beekeeper so you know what is in your honey bottle!
Why is there so much dislike for Chinese honey? Similarly as with adulterated drugs coming out of China, there is evidence of honey suffering adulteration at the hands of Chinese honey producing practices. Weather it is because of the use of illegal drugs on their honeybees; Chinese Beekeepers used several Indian made animal antibiotics, including Chloramphenicol to fight “European Foul Brood” in their colonies. Chloramphenicol has caused major genetic damage in children and increases chances of Leukemia. Chinese beekeepers also store their honey in lead contaminated barrels which fouls the honey; they also add non-honey liquids like high fructose corn syrup to honey to attain more volume for sale at cheaper prices. To beat the pollen test on their ultra filtered honey, they combine some honey from the transient country to hide the fact of where their honey shipment really came from; Chinese honey has been found to contain illegal antibiotics and dangerous heavy metals, all this adds up to China’s honey having the awful reputation it carries.
So what do we the American honey consumer do? Should we even care where our honey comes from? Our collective decisions about the standard of honey we want on our tables and in our processed foods will play a role in the way our regulatory agencies like the USDA and the FDA allocate resources to enforce US laws about more stringent inspection of honey entering the American market from overseas. We American beekeepers need to spread the word, and encourage our friends and neighbors to spread the word around about what really happens to and with the honey we buy and eat from American grocery stores. Did you know any of this about your honey? Please tell a friend or neighbor about this or better yet encourage them to read this article also. Watch Hungarian beekeepers protest about Chinese honey spoiling their honey’s reputation.