I recently returned home, having been away for a good chunk of the summer. I visited the bees and oh boy have they been busy this summer! It was time to take some honey from them – one of the balancing acts of beekeeping is taking the right amount of honey from the hives. The bees collect honey so that they have something to eat to get them through the winter months, so you need to leave a good amount so that they don’t go hungry. Of course the first priority is to leave enough for the bees, and take the excess to enjoy at home.
I recently learned that some vegans consider a beekeeper taking honey akin to stealing from the bees. For that reason some vegans are against beekeeping and refuse to eat honey, because it is basically the same as buying stereo equipment out of a van in the mall parking lot. Here are some quotes from Vegetus.com/honey :
“Beekeepers will naturally deny that they are slave owners who steal the products of the bees’ labor. They will tell you that they are working with the bees to help them reach their full potential, which just happens to be measured in honey output. (Hmm, remind anyone of recombinant bovine growth hormone?) In addition to being horribly paternalistic, the beekeeper’s perspective makes little sense. Under natural conditions, if the hive were producing a surplus, they would divide into two colonies and there would be none wasted.”
An eloquent, well thought out point, except that when a colony divides in two and swarms, the bees don’t carry half the honey with them, they can’t – they’re bees – it’s kind of hard for them to carry 30lbs of honey in a wooden box. I regret to inform the author that swarming is unlike divorce court in that regard. They are right though, I deny being a thieving slave owner.
Another gem from the same page: “Do you think no one will notice if you eat honey? I assure you, they are watching closely!”
Ah yes, the man is at it again, this time peeping in your window to see if you are eating honey.
But that’s ok, not the first time I have disagreed with veganism. My opinion is that beekeeping is an activity that benefits both the bees and the beekeeper – I tend to them, making sure they are healthy and have a good place to live with plenty of food – and they share their honey. Sometimes I get stung, sometimes a bee gets squashed – its not a perfect relationship, but for the most part it’s pretty good and I think we are both better for it.
That being said, there are people who straight up try to steal honey from beehives, but the bees usually take care of them – “Stealing honey leaves 3 hospitalized, dozens of stings”
Which is also of course different from “bee rustling” which is the theft of beekeeper’s hives by other beekeepers – this is something that has become more of a problem as bee populations suffer and hives become more valuable – ““Farm Crime: To Catch a Bee Rustler”
Honeybees aren’t any better than us and are prone to their own bouts of thievery. There is a an behaviour called “robbing” that I witnessed firsthand after harvesting some honey last week. Per Wikipedia:
“Bees from one beehive will try to rob honey from another hive. Robbing behavior is especially strong when there is little nectar in the field. Strong colonies with the largest stores are the most apt to prey upon weaker colonies. Some robbing is carried out so secretly that it escapes notice. Most of the time, when robbing is going on, one can see bees from the opposing hives fight. The fights can lead to significant losses of bees.”
In my case, I inadvertently initiated the robbing behaviour by leaving out some of the honey I had harvested. Having a box of unguarded honey out in the open, basically started the honey bee equivalent of looting in a riot. Bees were grabbing as much honey as possible and rushing back to their hive, bees from the different hives were fighting over it, and bees were flying everywhere looking for the next department store to clean out. It was mayhem.
I moved the box, got the bees out of it and covered it up. The bees could still smell the honey in the air and a whole bunch followed me into my garage. It took me a good solid day to encourage them to leave and for them to calm down. Lesson learned there.
The good news is that I was able to harvest a whole bunch of honey as the bees gathered a lot during all the sunny days we’ve had the past few months – it’s a delicious wildflower blend from over the summer, with a lot of flavour from the blackberry and clover flowers. I have bottled it in 250ml wide mouth mason jars, so that it is easy to get at and the jars can be easily reused afterwards, they are $8. If you would like some, just send me an email, or like us on Facebook and leave a comment there and we’ll make sure you get hooked up with some summer sweetness!
Hope you’ve had a wonderful, productive summer too – with minimal thievery!