Beekeeper to Vegan: Let’s Get Real

“Belief is the death of intelligence.” -Robert Anton Wilson

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Full disclosure. I’ve spent most of my life as what many would call a vegetarian.  I’m not a vegan, although many days I eat like one.  I also have days where I may eat some fish or eat some dairy, so those days I’m only partially vegetarian in the strictest sense of the word.

I wasn’t aware vegans had any opposition to beekeeping until recently. A Los Angeles based blogger reached out to me about our products, only later to decide she couldn’t write about them because they contain honey (and other bee products) and this went against her vegan ways.  So I did some research, and I learned the rationale behind these notions and consequently feel it necessary to set the record straight as I can see many vegans are misinformed.  We’ve kept bees via natural management practices for over 15 years.  So what I have to say applies to how natural beekeepers tend to their bees and the vegan point of view.

 

Belief number one: Beekeepers exploit honeybees because they are kept like livestock and they clip the queen’s wings so she can’t leave.

Fact:  We purchase bees and a queen from time to time from keepers like us and set them up in a bee pad akin to a comfy, human luxury apartment. This home must have a fresh water source nearby and must be a in a place free of the predators that like to eat bees and their honey.  It also must allow bees to come and go as they please and have plenty of diverse foraging area within four miles of the hive.  If they want to leave forever they can, but believe it or not, most don’t.  I’ve never really talked to one to see if they went to visit a distant relative for a few weeks, but my point is a beekeeper can’t truly ‘keep’ a bee.  They tend to stay with the queen.  She’s the more important piece of the pie. Where she goes they go.  If she leaves they leave. Oh, and we don’t clip anyone’s wings.  No need.  In 16 years and many, many hives, only one queen has decided she wanted to leave, so we let her. Well, we couldn’t exactly stop her. Good by queen with intact wings along with all your little bees.  Safe travels.  Nice to know you.

Belief number two:  We take their honey and other hive products, plus we feed them sugar in exchange which exploits them and makes them ill.

Fact:  Bees live in hives which they love to fill with honey.  In fact, they tend to fill them with so much honey that the hive can become honey bound which will ultimately kill the colony because there is no room for new brood AKA baby bees.  We only take the excess they produce in mid-summer, and that is placed by the bees in an extra box we gave them to fill or not to fill. It’s truly their choice.  In reality, it’s not much honey.  That’s why we have so many hive, so we won’t stress our bees or even impact their lifestyle.  Believe me when I tell you if you live in a suburb or a city you are impacting bees far more than I ever will. The same goes for the propolis and wax we use.  It’s stored in that same extra box and these are the only products we get from our bees.  Bees generally make enough food for winter.  If they don’t we sure aren’t taking any from that hive, instead we watch them and help them out. When our bees have died, it was not due to lack of food.  Now and then ecology comes into play when some springs are longer than expected and the bees run low on honey before they are able to forage.  Take note of the fact that during such springs wild bees face the same issue.  This occurrence has nothing to do with our taking honey the year before.  It’s nature.  When it does happen we give our bees our stored honey.  On occasion we’ve given them a nutrient mixture that contain sugar if we have no honey to offer.  We do this to keep them alive.  Had they been in a hollow tree in the wild during a spring like this they would not survive.  If we didn’t do this, then we would be killing our bees.

Belief number three:  We kill bees in the process of taking their honey.

Fact:  Not true.  Vegans – please watch a natural beekeeper at work.  It’s an art.  No dead bees.  Why would we kill them?  We love our bees.  I think they at least like us.  Do you realize bees know their keepers? They don’t even try to sting us. They may sting you if you get near their hive because you are an intruder.  I’ve spent many moments with a butterfly net in tow getting a single bee out of the barn and back to its hive.  No, we aren’t in the business of killing bees.  By the way a honeybee’s life expectancy varies depending on many natural factors including the stress it is under.  The average is three months. I’d like to think ours have a longer life than average but no one can ever say for sure.  I can say this, they’ve been given every chance to thrive in our bee yard.

Belief number four:  Honeybees aren’t native to the United States and therefore are threatening wild bees by competing for forage, plus they spread diseases and viruses to them.

Fact:  They have found fossilized honeybees in the United States so they were here long before we were.  It is true, European settlers brought the European Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) with them in 1622.  Honeybees live in large colonies where most native bees are solitary. There is clear evidence that native and honey bees cohabitate–the presence of one does not imply a lack of the other. Farmers who increase the diversity of foraging areas such as grasslands, wetlands, forest etc. near their farms, successfully increase both honey and native bee populations. So rather than being a detriment, the honeybees are a benefit. Why?  Honeybees prefer many flowers in ONE area. They gravitate towards plants that are loaded with flowers whereas native bees, such as bumblebees, mason bees, and carpenter bees will visit flowers just as efficiently regardless of flower density.  In the fields this equals increased pollination overall.  What’s killing all pollinators isn’t other pollinators.  It’s humans.

Can honeybees spread diseases to native bees? The simple answer is yes but the more complicated answer is that diseases and parasites are far more diverse than the thousands of bee species that exist. The bulk of the research which has been conducted has been on honeybees, not native species.  That research is severely limited.  So there is bias, which means the evidence to date simply is not there. Yet the research does show this.  Humans are killing all pollinators.

 

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More Pondering

As I said earlier by choice I’ve maintained a vegetarian diet for most of my life.  In doing so I’ve always been acutely aware that as altruistic as my choice may be, I could never accomplish my goal without the assistance of a complicated system of food cultivation and distribution.  Let’s face it I’m no native living in the bush.  I could never have gone to work outside the home and returned home to cultivate all of the foods I need to be healthy.  I freely admit I need grocery stores and the farmers who fill them up.  Beyond that even if I managed to survive without those things, most of humanity would not.  Without the systems we have in place there would be chaos and therefore I still could not hold onto my altruistic beliefs.  I may well be reduced to, God forbid eating a rabbit.

My point is, you have to be reasonable and realistic when proclaiming a belief.  It best be based on fact.  I applaud the goals of vegans within reason. I share many of the same goals. Yet the fact remains without beekeepers, most people would not have enough to eat.  Any crop with a seed needs to be pollinated and that requires a bee.  More often than not a honeybee.  If you eat any food that has a seed and you won’t eat honey, logic would follow that you shouldn’t be eating those foods because you are exploiting a pollinator.  Likewise I will go further and say if you live in a comfortable home, drive a car, shop in a grocery store, walk on a sidewalk, or otherwise live in the civilized world you have destroyed precious habitat that technically pollinators, native plants and all other native creatures relied on before you came along.  If you are eating any cultivated foods I can guarantee that some innocent critter has gotten squashed, smooshed or maimed in the process. Also as you are reaching for your sweatener of choice, the one you feel is superior to honey, I can offer a list of how non sustainable they all can be and how many creatures are impacted by the harvesting. So you see, ‘exploitation’ is a tricky word.  If you can’t disclaim all of the above activities then according to the vegan definition of animal explotation, you have ‘exploited’ some living creature, too.

As a foot note, I give full and total credit for the management, happiness and health of our apiary to our beloved beekeeper, my husband -Joel.

 

 

 

 

 

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Is Manuka Honey Really Better than Other Honey?

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The Nature of Honey

Honey is one of the most fascinating and complex substances on the planet.  But what is it, exactly? Produced by bees, honey is made from nectar -a sugary liquid- collected from flowering plants.  Bees transport it to the hive in an area of their body known as the ‘crop’. While there, the nectar mixes with enzymes that change its chemical composition and ph. Once in the hive honeybees process the nectar, adding proteins, enzymes and nutrients. They fan it with their wings to encourage evaporation and thickening reducing the water content to 17.1 percent. Sealed in the honeycomb with wax away from air and water, honey can be stored indefinitely, providing bees with a nutritionally complete food source for use during winter months.

The medicinal importance of honey has been documented in the world’s oldest medical literature, and since ancient times it has been known to possess antimicrobial properties as well as wound-healing activity. The healing property of honey can be attributed to the fact that it offers antibacterial activity, maintains a moist wound condition, and its high viscosity helps to provide a protective barrier to prevent infection. The antimicrobial activity in honey is due to the presence of enzymatically produced hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), methylglyoxal, and defensin-1 protein.  Defensin-1 protein was only recently discovered as a protein which is part of a bee’s immune system. Levels of antimicrobial activity and other nutrients will vary slightly in all honey depending on complex factors such as the bees foraging habits, availability of foraging materials, weather patterns during a given season, the time of year, and likely factors only bees understand.

What is Manuka Honey?

Manuka Honey is a type of honey that comes from Australia and New Zealand where bees forage in areas containing an abundance of Manuka trees (Leptospermum scoparium).  In the early 1980’s biochemist Dr.Peter Molan received funding from the New Zealand Honey Industry Trust to research the antibacterial properties of Manuka Honey.  To distinguish the different types of Manuka Honey based on the degree of antibacterial/antimicrobial activity they possess, Molan developed a grading system he called the UMF (Unique Manuka Factor).

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This grading system can only be used to distinguish between different types of manuka honey. It cannot be used to compare Manuka honey to other honeys.  Manuka honey remains the single most widely studied honey because of the large body of research Dr. Molan produced over his career. This coupled with a heavy marketing investment on the part of the New Zealand government for its sale as a medicinal honey has grown it into a global empire. It has been touted as the super ‘healer’ honey of all honeys. But is it?

Basic Chemical Composition of all Honey

Chemically all honey is about 82% carbohydrate, those being fructose (38.2%) and glucose (31%); sucrose, maltose, isomaltose, maltulose, turanose and kojibiose.  Additional substances it is known to contain are the enzymes invertase, amylase, glucose oxidase and catalase. It contains the acid phosphorylase plus eighteen free amino acids.   Honey contains trace amounts of the B vitamins riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, pantothenic acid and vitamin B6. It also contains ascorbic acid (vitamin C), and the minerals calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, selenium, chromium and manganese.

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The main group of antioxidants in honey are the flavonoids, of which one, pinocembrin, is unique to honey and bee propolis. Ascorbic acid, catalase and selenium are also antioxidants.  Other compounds
honey contains are organic acids such as acetic, butanoic, formic, citric, succinic, lactic, malic, pyroglutamic and gluconic acids, and a number of aromatic acids. Honey contains hydroxymethylfurfural, and prebiotics, and as mentioned above it gains its known antimicrobial properties from hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), methylglyoxal, and defensin-1 protein.

Raw vs. Commercial Honey

Regular or commercial honey is pasteurized (heated to high temperatures) and filtered to kill any natural, healthy yeast that may be present which will eventually cause fermentation.

Raw honey is honey in its most natural state, meaning it has not been strained, filtered or heated.

Any processing, including gamma irradiation will alter some of the natural properties of honey.

Is Manuka Honey Better?

Put simply, honeys other than Manuka have not been studied as extensively, if at all.  So there is limited evidence to suggest Manuka honey is  superior because there aren’t comparative studies.  Also, it is important to note that not all Manuka honeys are equal. Like all honey, composition varies slightly from hive to hive and from season to season.  In conclusion, while some Manuka honey may be slightly superior to certain other honeys, the evidence to conclusively suggest this does not exist.

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Why Petroleum Based Products Don’t Belong in Skincare

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How did petroleum products end up in skincare? Petrolatum Jelly, Mineral Oil, Liquid Paraffin, and Paraffin Oil are all byproducts of the oil refining process. As the oil industry grew they became a staple in cosmetics replacing natural plant based oils because they were cheap. They have the ability to provide a strong protective barrier to the skin and to hold in moisture and nothing more.

These properties are perhaps acceptable for products designed for short term use (i.e. hand cleaners), but long term use presents a multitude of concerns.  For starters they do not allow the skin to breath leading to blocked pores and the increase of residual bacteria.  Regular use of products containing them carries the risk of collagen breakdown and a low nutrient environment because they do not allow the skin to absorb nutrients and moisture as designed.  This in turn slows cell renewal, which will ultimately lead to dull skin, wrinkles, blemishes and environmentally susceptible skin.

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When shopping for skin care, be sure to avoid petroleum products and their derivatives in any products you are using routinely, particularly face and body care products.  Turn instead to products that contain nutrient rich, natural oils and butters so that you will enjoy a lifetime of beautiful, healthy, well supported skin.

 

Natural Restorative Facial Cream

The process of aging is insidious. Initially, I noticed a darkening around my jawline. During postpartum, this affected skin took on a leather-like, speckled appearance. Make-up made the changes more noticeable. Sun exposure worsened the dark areas and the skin tone differed greatly from my overall complexion.

I made up a solution of tinctures including ginger, red clover, red raspberry leaf and ladies’ mantle. Twice daily I swabbed my facial discolorations with this mix. After a month I noticed improved texture and fading of the dark areas. My friends and family confirmed my suspicions that my homemade remedy was effective.

Time passed. I used sunscreen and shaded my face with a hat. Regardless, age spots began to scatter over my arms, legs and neckline. Daily, I applied the tincture mix to these areas. The dark spots began to fade. I read that frankincense has skin renewing properties and formulate a honey-based facial lotion including all the ingredients. Hence, FLAWLESS, age correction facial cream was created.

I am in my sixth decade and can confidently say, I feel good about my complexion, my wrinkles are fine not deep, and my skin tone firm. The color and texture of my facial skin is consistent. How one ages is determined, to a great degree by our genes, and dependent on daily care and environmental exposures. Customer feedback regarding FLAWLESS is positive. I feel validated by customer experience as it imitates my personal observations using the cream. The collective experience isn’t extracted from a research study and yet, the effectiveness can’t be denied.  This is more than good enough for me! Give it a try, your skin will thank you.

Judy

Green Washing Natural Skin Care

    Let’s have a look at greenwashing in the world of natural cosmetics. For those of you who may be interested, we have a whole page on our website dedicated to the topic.  What is Greenwashing? By definition it is disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image.
    Today, I decided to visit the site of a well-known marketed as farm made, hand-made skin care line who at face value looks very similar to us.  On the landing page they state their products are 100% free from synthetic chemicals.  Before we go any further a synthetic chemical in its simplest form is a man-made substance that does not exist in nature. It can also be a nature identical chemical that was synthesized in a lab or a chemical that was made using some molecules from naturally derived raw materials in combination with man-made chemicals. Not all synthetics are bad…but that’s not what we are examining here.  We are simply looking at this company’s claim that their products are 100% synthetic free and instead made from 100% natural compounds and nothing more.

    I pulled up a product on the site and had a look at the ingredient list.  For starters there is a sentence that states that 100% of the total ingredients are from ‘natural origin’.  Well, in reality all chemicals are from natural origin. But, consumer perception is generally that ‘natural origin’ means plant-based, found in nature.  This manufacturer is making this particular claim to imply just that.  A look at their ingredients shows something very different. In the list were the following substances: Propanediol, Polyglyceryl-2 Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate, Cetearyl Olivate,  Stearyl Alcohol,  Benzyl Alcohol, Benzyl Benzoate. These are all synthetics. To claim anything to the contrary is misleading and false.

     For some reason, they have also cleaned up the names of the synthetics they are using. Take propanediol,  this is not the full synthetic name.  There is 1,2-Propanediol (proplyene glycol) and 1,3-Propanediol.  Both can be produced from plant sources, but 1,2-Propanediol is generally manufactured solely synthetically, meaning no plant source involved in the process.  Either way, this is a synthetic chemical.
    I also noticed the claim that the formula contains a “clinical grade” essential oil blend.  There is no such thing as a clinical grade essential oil. (see our November 2017 blog entry on this topic). This is an absolutely meaningless marketing claim.
    Greenwashing is a deceitful practice. It’s false advertising with the intent to mislead consumers and convince them that the product they are buying is something it isn’t.  In an effort to market their products, the popular manufacturer I looked at today provided us with a glaring example of green washing with the intent to make us believe they formulate with 100% natural ingredients.  Why do it?  Truly natural ingredients are extremely hard to formulate with and very expensive.  Synthetics are not.
    In contrast here is the list of ingredients from one of our products, our About Face cream: filtered water, raw honey, aloe, apricot kernel oil, borage oil, extra virgin olive oil, emulsifying wax, beeswax, mango butter, silk protein, leuconostoc/radish root ferment filtrate, vitamin E and the essential oils of grapefruit, lavender, orange and lemon.
    Learn to investigate marketing claims.  A logical place to start when looking at skin care is in a product ingredient list. You don’t have to be a chemist to spot ingredients that are synthetic. You won’t find anything that sounds synthetic in our products because there aren’t any synthetics in them.  If it sounds like a synthetic, it most likely is. If you find an example as blatant as the one I gave you today,  it’s a good reason to shop elsewhere because someone willing to lie about this is willing to lie, period.

Jewelweed, Nature’s Poison Ivy Care

What’s the big deal?

Jewelweed is an indigenous herb found in the North Eastern United States and thankfully, it is prolific in N.E. Ohio, where we live. It was the Native American Indians who shared their knowledge of the herb’s comforting dermatitis qualities, with European immigrants.  It was our great grandmother who passed this knowledge on to us.

Jewelweed neutralizes the resins of poison ivy and calms the skin inflammation which occurs after plant contact. Poison Ivy resin can contaminate wood brought in for your fireplace. Hunters can suffer from contact with the resin even in the Fall and Winter fields. For this reason I manufacture Meadowlake Farm’s Poison Ivy & Itch Relief, (aka Beepharmacy salve),  year round. Our salve is in constant demand because it works. Its comfort is close to immediate. It can be applied around the clock as needed without side effects and as often as desired.

Poultices and salves from Jewelweed are a folk remedy for bruises, burns, cuts, eczema, and insect bites. Jewelweed blooms May through October in the eastern part of North America from Southern Canada to the northern part of Florida. It is found most often in moist woods, usually near poison ivy or stinging nettle. It is commonly said that wherever you find poison ivy, you are likely to find jewelweed. In a pinch, you can apply jewelweed stem juice over skin exposed to poison ivy, oak or insect bites. However, I personally prefer our salve. Our jewelweed is tinctured and blended with raw honey and beeswax also known for their healing properties.

Give our salve a try! Have it on hand. Keep this soothing comfort an elbow’s length away, before you need it. jewelweed

 

 

 

Orange Jewelweed in blossom. Impatiens capensis

 

Honey Helps Common Ailments

Chistmas 2017

Christmas 2017

A Christmas Get-together

A Christmas get-together reminded me that historically honey is part of our families’ wellness heritage. Family history is often recorded as grandmother’s hearsay;  reminisced stories from her youth. These stories are told over holiday meals, embellished, polished, repeated until they resemble a tale that no one ever doubts however, can no longer prove. I stumbled upon a note from my father’s past. This note cemented my belief. Honey is and was a significant piece of our family heritage.

Dad was 6 years old when he entered St. Michael’s Parish School. He could not speak English and recited “The Lord’s Prayer” in German. His English speaking classmates humiliated him. Grandpa forbade German to be spoken in the household. Such a stressful situation for the young man! Dad’s forceful tears of humiliation, together with  anxiety and exposure to a classroom environment, assaulted his immune system.

Shortly thereafter, dad succumbed to diphtheria, a deadly infection. Its decline in popularity is largely attributed to the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis shot, a vaccine more commonly referred to as DTaP, which doctors recommend for all children. Although diphtheria is treatable, it is a very serious infection that can result in hospitalization and even death if proper medical care is not received. One of the first signs of a diphtheria infection is a sore throat. This infection is more serious when a child contracts it, with the mortality rate nearly double, so it is important to take any sign of a sore throat very seriously.

In 1938, this vaccine was not yet discovered. For immigrants on the west-side of Cleveland, Ohio, doctors were last resort medicine. Grandma’s skill as a nurse mid-wife failed to compliment dad’s treatment plan. What did impact his recovery, was grandma’s knowledge of folk remedy attained on the Ramstiener family farm.

Dad’s throat was swollen and breathing was painfully difficult. Grandma is reported to have made cotton swabs saturated in raw honey and vinegar solution. She swabbed his throat deeply with the solution, repeating this treatment through several days and nights. Finally, his breathing eased and his fever broke. He survived using folklore medicine! I do not recommend or support using folklore in place of medical care. My goal is to illustrate the use of honey as a safe adjunct to medical care.

So this past Christmas day, our family retold Papa’s story. My nurse, daughter-in-law was recovering from a cold.  After the story finished, she went to the kitchen’s honey pot and took a spoonful of the nectar. Witnessing her, the group ceased conversing. Startled, she noted our eyes watching her. When she returned to the group she coyly commented, “What? It can’t hurt!”

 

HAPPY & HEALTHY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!!!