Honey is for Bees

 Honey Bee on Kale Flowers

There is every likelihood that the honeybees swarming in and around the Bradford Pear blossoms are ours. Our Girls.  Those industrious ladies who shack up in the hives Kel and I put together two years ago.  I can’t help but feel tugs of the maternal when I see them.  There is much activity now around the entrances to the hives, guard bees on the lookout for intruders; single-minded workers arriving with pollen-laden hind legs and new bees memorizing their home with wobbly orientation flights.

There is also every likelihood that Kel and I are the worst beekeepers on the planet.  In fact, I call what we do (or rather, don’t do), “beehosting,” rather then beekeeping.  (I wrote about it at length on Dough, Dirt & Dye.)  Those early hive “inspections” proved so traumatic for us and for the bees that we decided to take the less is more approach and allow the bees to do what they’ve done, unaided, for thousands of years.  We no longer open the hives or blast them with smoke and we’ve never once harvested honey.  We made that decision before we became vegans because it made sense to us that during the lean late winter months they should consume what they had so painstakingly created with all those air hours and probing of petals.  Providing them with a cheap substitute – sugar syrup – didn’t appeal.  And we had no stomach for pulling apart their beautiful honeycomb simply because we wanted to sweeten our tea.

ASO & Hive

For the humble shelter we provide, Our Girls perform a valuable service for which we are grateful.  They pollinate our fruit trees and tomato plants and zucchini; they sneak into the greenhouse and inspect the citrus plants and the basil.  They love basil.  And Kel and I enjoy watching them go about their business – with absolutely no interest or concern for us.  Just as it should be.

Hive Inspection

 

 

28 thoughts on “Honey is for Bees

  1. luminousvegans

    Thank you for posting this. Honey (and wool) are often overlooked and some vegans still eat honey b/c they don’t think bees are harmed for their honey. But they work hard for their honey and it’s theirs, not ours to take, as you put it so nicely in this post. Plus, who wants to eat bee vomit?

    Reply
    1. An Unrefined Vegan

      Right – it’s one of those things: you don’t eat HONEY? As if bees aren’t living creatures. Good point on wool – so easy to overlook that since sheep aren’t killed to harvest it – but imagine suddenly your winter coat is gone!

      Reply
  2. Rachel in Veganland

    What a great post! Bees are such a vital part of our eco system and many people don’ t know that there are no longer wild bees because we humans have harmed them to the point of extinction. There are so many diseases that bees can get that they are pumped full of chemicals and antibiotics so they too don’t die because of human intervention. Eating their honey isn’t safe for us humans and is also not safe for those bees!

    Reply
    1. An Unrefined Vegan

      Good points! And I’ve just been reading about the connection between cell phones/radiation and Colony Collapse Disorder. Truly frightening. It makes me feel like everything humans touch gets destroyed.

      Reply
    2. Sarah

      There are plenty of wild bees still here on Earth. What we think of as bees is just one type though. Mason Bees live totally different lives and don’t produce honey – they are also better pollinators. Most anyone can set up a home for mason bees, but if one has a rotting log or two and makes a nice brush pile in a far corner, they often set up by themselves. If one wants wild bees they MUST provide a reason to come by: water source (bee baths) and food (flowers). Take care of that and you will have many.

      Just remember though….one of the worst offenders to honey bees commercially is the almond industry.

      Reply
  3. Shira

    An incredibly important issue – our bees! This is a great little post bout one of the most important issues going on today – stay true to your maternal feelings and I applaud you for bee keeping! Wow!

    Reply
    1. An Unrefined Vegan

      Thanks! As I say, we’re pretty lame about it – but it is fun just to observe them. I’m always relieved to see activity around the hives. My brother also had a hive and his disappeared without a trace. Scary.

      Reply
  4. thisismyeverest

    This gives me an entirely new perspective. Like LuminousVegans mentioned, it is often overlooked–even I found myself eating some honey BBQ sauce a few weeks ago that had been in my fridge since my pre-vegan days, and I thought “eh, honey, what’s the big deal?” My eyes have been opened. Thank you!

    Reply
  5. Veggiewitch

    I love this post! I’ve been torn with honey, but not because I want to eat it. Instead for the healing properties. I’ve used it in the past (before embracing a kinder, vegan lifestyle) to heal burns and wounds that my children have had. It heals miraculously fast! I’m currently looking at alternative natural options as substitutes.

    Good point about wool. I literally struggle with this. For the last 5 years I’ve made an income being a Fiber Artist, and my medium of choice is wool for hand-knit items: hats and fingerless gauntlets (for adults and children); knit pants/shorts (wool is leak-proof over cloth diapers); hoodie sweaters (all sizes); baby layette items. Once again, I’m trying to find an alternative. One that is sustainable, fair-trade, obtainable and decently affordable.

    Thank you for this post, my friend!

    Reply
    1. An Unrefined Vegan

      Oh wow – I can see the problem you have! It’s sort of along the lines of: do I donate my wool sweaters and leather shoes/purses? But quite a bit heavier since it’s your livelihood. Good luck – and I’d love to read a post about the journey!

      Reply
    2. Sarah

      I work with wool as a hobby, for our nature preschool. Do I feel guilty? No. Why? I source it from small farmers who take care of their animals. The other option is to use faux-wool which is made with oil. I’d rather have children wearing the real stuff. It is safer, gentler and better for us. Knowing your source is the best option.

      I also use raw honey – but I don’t use a lot, and I source it locally from beekeepers who are very gentle. They keep their hives in the blueberry fields. Sparingly enjoyed. It isn’t cheap though. (And it shouldn’t be cheap either!)

      Reply
  6. Vegan Rabbit

    Bees are so amazing. We always see bees hanging around our orange tree. They are so smart and hard-working. I used to be afraid of bees, but after going vegan I began learning more about them and those fears dissappeared. I suppose it’s easy to be fearful of what we don’t understand — it’s a natural instinct. Now I think they’re cute and I welcome them into my backyard. And yes, honey IS for the bees! They don’t make honey for us any more than a cow makes milk for us, or a chicken lays eggs for us. Unlike us, they actually need the honey during winter. Besides, agave nectar is much tastier. 🙂

    Reply
    1. An Unrefined Vegan

      I’m glad you’ve made peace with your honeybees! The last thing they want to do is sting, though I have been gently warned a few times ;-). With so many delicious alternatives, no need to steal from the bees!

      Reply
  7. tearoomdelights

    That’s lovely. Bees are just great to watch buzzing about from flower to flower.A warm sunny day with their buzzing in the air is so wonderfullly relaxing. I hadn’t thought of honey from a vegan point of view, but I can see why you wouldn’t want to eat it. One thing that crossed my mind recently, completely unconnected to this but I hope you don’t mind me asking, is do vegans avoid wearing/using leather? I was thinking of shoes in particular, but then there are leather sofas, car seats, jackets and other things too.

    Reply
  8. estherslaff

    Again, the photography is spectacular. Do you have special respect for the bees because they are vegans?

    Reply
  9. bar

    Honey was one of the first things I was checked on when making dinner for a vegan friend, when I was still learning the ins and outs of even being a vegetarian. To be honest, I hadn’t even thought about it. I love how charmingly you explain it all here. Not made of animals, but by animals :).

    Reply
    1. An Unrefined Vegan

      Thanks! Yeah, it’s kind of a weird one, easily overlooked. I had dinner recently at a raw food place and assumed – no brainer! – everything would be okay to eat – but many of the desserts used raw honey.

      Reply
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