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Honey Bees Are Suffering and Why You Should Give a Damn

By July 21, 2015February 20th, 201912 Comments

I always thought it was extreme that vegans were against the use of honey because I honestly didn’t think making honey was cruel to bees. I would say to myself, “How do honey bees suffer? Making honey is a natural thing they do anyway. What’s cruel about that?”

After some research what I found out about honey production — and the way it’s affecting our planet — has changed the way I view buying honey forever…

Profits Over Ethics

In order for bees to survive they need a reliable, healthy food source during the winter months and the best sustenance is the very honey they work hard to produce.

At least 100 pounds or more of “capped honey,” the excess remaining after harvesting, should be left untouched for the bees to feed on until early spring.

For many beekeepers, however, leaving that much honey in a beehive after harvest time poses an economic dilemma, simply because it’s less profitable for them.

[Read: The Lies You’re Being Sold About Honey]

Many full time beekeepers find their livelihoods are at stake when honey production is low. So when things get rough, in order to save money and keep bees producing, some (rather unethical) beekeepers pump in a low-cost, unhealthy impostor – sugar water.

Diet Soda for Bees

Sugar water is either made from refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup (likely containing GMOs).

In sustainable conditions, the honey that bees produce is loaded with enzymes, minerals, vitamins, and fatty acids, which are beneficial to bees (and humans). These nutrients help to maintain the bees’ PH balance and help them fight off deadly chemicals and infections they’re exposed to while pollinating.

When bees are given artificial sweeteners that lack such nourishment, especially high fructose corn syrup, their immune systems weaken.

With weakened immune systems, bees are more likely to carry and bring in toxins (such as insect-killing pesticides) and diseases into the beehives, contaminating the healthy honey that is already stashed away in the beehive cells.

Unknowingly they’re cooking up a hazardous recipe for themselves.

Colony Collapse Disorder

Feeding sugar water to bees is one of the main culprits for the rapid decline of the bee population called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

That is to say, our bees are in danger and are dying en-mass as a result of not having the necessary nutrients that aid their body defenses against toxins that harm them.

As detrimental as this is for bees, CCD has a drastic impact on our survival, too.

Bees Pollinate 80% of the Foods We Eat

Without the help of bees pollinating food crops, the entirety of food production would suffer tremendously too.

As hard-working pollinators, bees fertilize our flowers and plants by transferring seeds and pollen which helps the plants to grow and generate food.

Some of our favorite fruits and vegetables are pollinated by bees and wouldn’t be available in grocery stores for us to enjoy and benefit from.

The Food Chain & The Chain of Events

If the bees were to disappear completely, other animals and life forms would deteriorate as well. For humankind, that means our environment and our resources would be at a disadvantage because these creatures all work together to maintain our survival.

Like a ripple effect, if bees suffer, we suffer too.

The outcome of withholding quality honey for bees to feed on may be more profitable in the end for the beekeeper, but it comes at a steep price for the bees, the planet, and the consumer.

In an important way bees take care of us, so it’s our responsibility to take care of them.

Not ready to give up honey?

Neither am I!

There are reputable companies that sell cruelty-free, organic honey. Supporting these types of beekeepers actually helps in making a positive difference, because we need healthy bees more than ever before.

Before you buy another bottle of honey find out how it was produced and in which conditions the bees lived. Essentially you’re asking questions to find out whether or not it’s been contaminated with pesticides or if the bees were fed sugar water.

This is one of my most favorite brands — it’s not cheap, but a little bit goes a long way, and to me it’s well worth it!

After all this research, I finally understood why it’s so important to understand how honey is harvested — and that caring for and protecting the bees from danger will also benefit us in the end.

Did this article give you new understanding too? Will you change your honey habits as a result? Let us know in the comments below!


Research assistant, Kelly Perez.

Kristen Arnett

Author Kristen Arnett

A makeup artist and green beauty educator helping you find the very best safe cosmetics. Teaching pro secrets for enhancing your natural beauty at every age, so you can be empowered to make healthier choices, and radiate confidence every day.

More posts by Kristen Arnett

Join the discussion 12 Comments

  • Elenour says:

    As much as this is true, it depends on how much honey is taken away. I’m part of a beekeeping family, and on the first year for every hive, we take no honey from the bees. This helps them build it up. Later on, however, they will have an excess of honey taking up space and taking away space in their hive. When this happens, I think most beekeepers agree is the right time to take honey. But, of course, not before. Only when it is, in a way, disabling them. (I’m from the US, though, so I don’t know about UK conditions. I would assume they’d be the same, as waiting the first year to extract honey is sort of a beekeeping rule of thumb, but I could be wrong. After all, I’m not yet a teenager. lol) Great article, but make sure to represent all sides and arguments. 🙂

    • Green Beauty Team says:

      Hi Elenour, thank you for taking the time to comment with more information. The U.S. production really has no standards and our “for profit at all costs” mentality in mass production is what makes this topic so urgent to shed light on. Of course there are ethical beekeepers who are doing things with respect to bees. This is what I’d love to see everyone do, but it’s definitely not the norm anymore. Sounds like you are one of the good ones. How big is your production, if I may ask?

  • Heather Mason says:

    Thank you so much for informing us of this malicious practice. From now on I will definitely research my honey before purchase. I hate seeing animals abused for profit and was unaware of this practice by mankind once again to knowingly allow the abuse of animals for the all mighty dollar.

  • Kristen – Thank you so much for raising this issue – one in three of every bite of our food is dependent on honey bees!

  • Kate says:

    Great article! 🙂

  • Kathy says:

    Thank you for this information and for your brand recommendation. I will buy Wedderspoon!

  • Laura says:

    Thank you having raised my awareness. On a related subject, have been holding vague suspicions about bee venom face creams touted to be anti-aging, specifically how said venom was extracted from the insects in the process. This article has convinced me never to go that route. There are surely other ways for humans to look great without unecessarily harming beasts and critters.

  • khandiz says:

    Great, great article Kristen! As I read it I was listening to the radio and there was a woman talking about the importance of professional bee-keepers…they are running a training program here in the UK to teach young people how to really care for bee’s and keep our food growing!!

    In your research, were you able to establish how we could best investigate the right brands of honey to purchase. Does buying certified organic honey ensure proper treatment of bee’s??

  • Hi Kristen,
    As always, I love your posts. It’s such a joy to read your well-researched and responsible articles.
    My husband and I often have conversations and have researched for years about the bee populations and, as vegans, have talks about whether we can ‘look at ourselves in the mirror at the end of the day’ if we were to consume or use honey or beeswax products.
    As you have rightly stated, it’s all to do with how the bees are treated. For years I was dogmatic and didn’t consume any honey or beeswax products, but as the years went by and I opened my eyes and mind to the incredible people out there who are not only supporting the bee population but helping to grow the number of swarms on their properties, I came across some fabulous brands, like the one you mentioned.
    If there’s anyone in the UK reading this, you might want to check out APITHERAPY. Their ethics are indeed inspiring and their products are beautiful and extremely supportive to the immune system.
    And if there’s anyone in Australia who knows of a bee keeper with raw honey who has the same standards of APITHERAPY (in terms of the royal jelly, propolis and bee pollen contained within the raw unadulterated honey) I’d love to hear about it, as I’ve been searching for a long time, and still coming up with blanks.
    Much love and thank you for your post.
    x Samantha

  • Always appreciate your straight talk and the way you tell it like it is Kristen. This amazing movie gives an even more in depth look at what and why this is happening to our bees and why it is so important to support our local farmers and beekeepers. Great topic-thanks for sharing.

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