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.