Beekeepers are always fighting for our bees’ best nutrition but do beekeepers have the same mentality about their nutrition as they do about their bees’?
Many beekeepers are meticulous about the economy of the hive and monitor everything they possibly can. They feed the bees, remove drone cells, manage and monitor diseases and pests of the hive. We advocate against pesticide use and monoculture so that our bees have the right kind of food.
Most beekeepers are enthusiastic about their honey. It is often proclaimed that honey is raw, unprocessed and untouched by food processing. More common white sugar does not possess these qualities: it is heated and bleached, leeching the helpful products from the raw cane. On the other hand, raw honey only undergoes centrifuging and maybe straining, which leave the natural benefits intact. Beekeepers are also passionate about the preparation of the honey itself. While commerizalied producers often degrade the honey through ultrafiltration, removing all the helpful byproducts, local beekeepers focus on characteristics like pollen content and water percentages, which determine if we consider it a good product. However, this passion and desire for integrity in honey often does not translate to other food or products besides honey.
When we buy food, do we take into account the same standards that we maintain for honey? Do we care about how the food is produced? Do we support local farmers or wonder what types of herbicides or pesticides are used? Do we care that all of these processes strip our meals of the benefits contained in natural foods?
Keep in mind that most of the processed food we eat is maintained by monocultures, which disrupt the balance in the ecosystem. Monoculture produces food deserts, poor soil quality, and negatively affects insects, especially bees, who like a variety of nectar and pollen all year. Monoculture and mass production of food are clearly bad for bees, but they are necessary to maintain the culture of processed food.
Food processing for manufacturing can simply be thought of as altering a food, through the use of various chemicals and preservatives for mass transport and long shelf life. There are three types of food processing. Primary processing includes slaughtering meat, harvesting oats, and picking apples and produces whole foods that are safe to eat. Secondary processing is cooking, freezing, or canning. We can think of secondary processing as “simple processing”; it can be performed without access to an industrial kitchen. The third stage involves adding foreign colors, flavors, and preservatives that are not native to the natural food. The third stage produces ultra-processed food. It is pretty easy to come up with examples for each stage: a banana is a whole raw food; canned beans are a “simply processed” food; and a candy bar is an ultra-processed food.
Consuming food in each stage of processing also has a different caloric effect, or effect on energy. Let’s say for instance, you ate a raw sweet potato. You would consume 115 calories. This time you bake it, “simply processing” it and consuming 180 calories. Instead, you drive to your grocery store and pick up some frozen sweet potato fries, which are ultra-processed, and consume about 400 calories. The advent of ultra-processed foods are directly linked with higher obesity rates, as you can see from this example. If you’re eating more calories, you’re going to gain more weight.
Let’s strive to not only to be good caretakers of bees, but of ourselves. Nutrition is one of the most important parts of keeping a healthy hive. We should strive to commit to being as healthy as we want our bees to be. We can eat less ultra-processed foods, and instead try to eat raw or simply processed foods. We can support local farmers who practice ethical farming strategies, including limiting insecticides. If any industry knows the benefits of raw foods, it’s ours.
Alabama Master Beekeeper Candidate
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LAURA’S CONFECTIONS: With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about the pie you’ll be serving for dessert. I am offering the following: APPLE, PECAN, LEMON MERINGUE, AND PUMPKIN, pre-ordered and pre-paid. I believe I can manage 20 total. It will be necessary for you to identify what flavor you’d like in the “Comment” section when placing your order. I will deliver to the Market Shed (our regular Dothan pickup location) at Dothan Nursery on Wednesday, November 27th from 3:00-4:00 PM. Anyone who wishes to get theirs later is welcome to come to my home in Ozark after 5:00 P.M. the same day. Please be sure to specify that pick up location in the “Comment” section and I will give you the address. Thank you and Bon Appetit!
HORTONS FARM: FINALLY! It’s taken over a year but the work to repair our Hurricane Michael damage is underway and not a moment too soon. The emergency fencing that was put up right after the storm is no longer containing our animals and the last few weeks have yielded some interesting adventures as our horses and dogs have done some exploring. Miss Austin in particular has knocked the lid off the chicken feed and helped herself a couple of times!
Speaking of chickens, I have discovered that a dead snake seems to bother them more than a live one. I made the mistake of removing a dead one after it went limp and let’s just say that egg production was affected!
Sunset over Avalon farms, just because it’s pretty.
Sorry there’s been a dearth of veggies in the market lately. The excessive heat totally ruined our first attempts at fall/winter veggies. Thankfully the temperature has broken and fall has shown up. We’ve got stuff in the ground growing as fast as we can get it to grow. Coming soon will be turnips, carrots, four kinds of kale, those beautiful watermelon radishes (love those!), regular and daikon radishes, and winter squash (which are almost cured). We just finished planting 800 foot of spinach. God willing we’ll have plenty of spinach this winter!
In preparation for next year, we’ve covered our big new garden with a heavy planting of winter cover crop. It’s a mix of wheat, oats, rapeseed, clover, winter peas and some tillage radishes just for fun. This stuff sprouts and grows so fast you can almost hear it growing.