To Bee or not to Be In New Jersey

Bee-apis
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Since ancient times, honey also known as the nectar of the gods, was also referenced in the Bible’s Promised Land as the land of milk & honey.

Hay fever season struck with a vengeance on the East Coast this year. Having experimented with every over-the-counter anecdote and pharmacy prescription to no avail, Ambassador Mo and I began a compelling journey for the ultimate cure/relief more in our own backyard. From other allergy sufferers we had heard that LOCAL honey was an elixir for hay fever. Since New Jersey is also known as the Garden State, we felt fortune on our side. Some local Freehold, New Jersey farmers pointed us in the direction of From the Garden, a local honey farm in Freehold, New Jersey.

Once there, we were greeted by one of the owners Patty Madzin who runs the farm along with Drew Madzin. We not only stocked up on a honey supply, we acquired more knowledge about honey, the bee population, agricultural and medicinal benefits, and the role the whole pollination cycle plays in biodiversity.

As an insulin-dependent diabetic, I personally encountered a very sweet surprise. A lover of my aunt’s baklava, initially I surmised it was mind-over-matter that her use of honey in this magnificent indulgent dessert didn’t seem to raise my blood sugar levels. However, I learned that by using all natural raw honey as a substitute to sugar, it may be enough to stimulate insulin production. Combining cinnamon and honey, you may lower cholesterol, deal with common cold, indigestion, bad breath, bladder infections, and more. So much for a “Spoon full of sugar makes the medicine to down” — I’ll splurge with a spoon full of honey each day.” For more buzz on Patty Madzin, see the article in Monmouth County Woman,A Healthy & Safe Solution for Diabetics.”

Patty has a variety of honey specialties and flavors which are derived from the flowers bees have pollinated with the sweet nectar stored in hives. Like other urban bee farmers, Patty has seen a drop in the number of bees, 40% less on her farm. Nationwide, there has been a 30% decline in the bee population, but this is also occurring in Canada and western Europe. This has major consequences and financial impact on our agricultural supply and production, higher food prices, health, and sustainability.

The A, Bee, C’s about Bees:

According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) one in three bites of food we eat has been pollinated by bees. As crop pollinators, they are key to food production. The national food supply was threatened last winter when nearly a third of commercial honeybee colonies disappeared affecting our food supply and loss of biodiversity which also impacts other plants and flowers. Vegetables and fruits that rely on pollinating insects like zucchini, apricots, nuts like almonds, spices like coriander, and edible oils like canola are at risk. 4,000 vegetables in Europe also depend on pollinators.

Bees are also instrumental in treating our health needs. Apitherapy or bee venom therapy (BVT) is a homeopathic alternative for treating the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. It employs the sting of live bees to relieve MS symptoms such as pain, coordination loss, and muscle weakness. A mixture of chemical ingredients in the venom aids the body in its natural defense to release natural healing compounds.

A Queen Bee mates only one day in her life, lending a whole new meaning to Queen for a Day. On that one day, she should receive enough sperm to last her the rest of life. In some cases, worker bees kill their own queen as part of supersedure. Normally, supersedure is part of a healthy colony life cycle and occurs when the Queen is two to three year’s old. However, at accelerated rates, supersedure is stressing hives.

Literally starving to death, colonies are affected by food shortage, bees running out of honey during winter, pesticides, fungicides, parasites, drought, fungus and virus during unusually cold/damp weather, the blood-sucking varroa mite, and unhealthy queens. Colony collapse disorder (CCD) which occurs when the worker bee disappears, is a significant factor, although since 2006 some downplay this theory and are focusing more on honeybee health. With American honeybees dying at a 30% annual rate, beekeepers are focusing on remedying ailing Queen bees and their hives. Typically, American beekeepers looked to mail-order houses in California or Florida to replenish their hives. They are now looking for a more diversified gene pool that utilizes their local bees. This buy local strategy provides bees that are better adapted to their own environments.

Are We Waging an Armageddon on Bees, & Consequently Mankind?

Re-visiting the colony collapse disorder debate which many had attributed to the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, reports are that CCD has declined since 1996. This veracity is circumspect as evidence on the ground appears otherwise. In July, 2013, 25,000 bumblebees were found dead in an Oregon parking lot located in an area where trees had been sprayed. Field crops, particularly corn, are treated with these pesticides. The method using air seeders, which spreads pesticides into the air, compounds the exposure and reach of neonicotinoids. Entomologists have also discovered fewer live sperm and that these miticides kill drone sperm.

Fall and its colors are now evident along the Jersey highways and byways. There’s also a lot less hay fever sneezing, some of which we’re attributing to our use of local honey. We’ll be making a return visit to From the Garden to replenish our supplies, buy holiday gifts, and for me to try my own holiday baking using the nectar of the gods.

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About the Author

Susan Sacirbey
Susan Sacirbey
Susan Sacirbey has worked in the travel and hospitality industry including in areas of media, promotions, and advertising. Susan is also passionate regarding her work with foundations providing medical/rehabilitation assistance to child victims of war and natural disasters, oppressed peoples, Native Americans, and humane treatment of animals. An active environmentalist, her favorite moments are visiting National Parks and doing 10 mile beach walks with her husband and spending time with her cats.
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