By Mimi Greenwood Knight
Since the “pollinator panic” first began in the early 2000s, Texas beekeepers have stepped up to do their part and help in the worldwide honeybee shortage. Longtime beekeepers took on the role of educators, getting the word out about the dramatic drop in bee populations and the importance of honey bees and other pollinators to life on this planet.
As apiaries across the globe reported losses of 30 to 70% of their bee populations, a phenomenon known as “colony collapse disorder,” many Texans who may have never considered beekeeping have set up hives in suburban backyards and on urban rooftops. Others invited local beekeepers to install hives on their rural property. Meanwhile, international scientists scrambled to diagnose the root of the problem, considering everything from pesticides to viruses, invasive mites, fungus, cell phone signals, climate change, or the perfect storm of all of these.
Honey, It Does a Body Good
In addition to the vital role bees play in pollinating the fruits and vegetables we eat, the health benefits of their honey are myriad and still being realized. Besides offering an energy boost when eaten, honey possesses antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. It’s used in many cultures to fight intestinal disorders, insomnia, hormone imbalances, and autoimmune conditions. Honey helps the body absorb calcium necessary for brain health, and many people find that consuming locally produced honey inoculates them against seasonal allergies.
According to the GreenPeace website, “Bees are responsible for pollinating $15 billion worth of U.S. crops and 200 million pounds of U.K. crops. This makes their contribution to the agricultural economy, and thus the global economy, significant. In fact, one study claims the global economic loss if bees disappeared would be $5.7 billion annually.”
Buzz Over to Your Local Beekeeper
It’s estimated there are around 1,300 beekeepers and 56 regional beekeeping clubs across the state of Texas. Bringing them all together is the Texas Beekeepers Association. Their website (TexasBeekeepers.org) poses the question, “Why support your local Texas beekeeper?”
- Support your local agricultural community.
- According to the USDA-ERS and USDA-AMS, about 70% of honey sold in the U.S. is imported.
- Be confident you are purchasing real Texas honey.
- The USDA and FDA do not define nor regulate terms to describe honey like raw, local, natural, or unfiltered.
- Real Local Raw honey contains local pollens.
- Help keep Texas honey bees alive by supporting your local beekeeper.
Don’t have a personal apiarist (beekeeper) yet? No problem. Visit your favorite farmers market and strike up a conversation with the honey seller there. Don’t be surprised if you receive an invitation to visit their apiary. Or visit the Texas Beekeepers Association website for a list of “beeks” in your area at TexasBeekeepers.org/Honey-Locator/. You’ll find 77 honey sellers in the DFW area and 67 around Houston. They can put you in touch with honey sellers right here in our state. Now you can be a part of the solution while you indulge in all that glorious liquid gold.
Here’s a quick lexicon of honey-related terms courtesy of the Texas Beekeepers Association.
Raw honey hasn’t been pasteurized or heated significantly because excessive heat can weaken or destroy natural enzymes and some of the benefits of honey.
Unfiltered honey naturally contains small particles like bits of wax while leaving most pollen grains in the liquid honey.
Pure or Natural
100% honey with no additives.
Honey produced and consumed in the same geographical area contains the same pollens as local flowers and plants.
Although real honey never spoils, most will crystallize or granulate naturally over time. Simply heat it gently in hot water (never the microwave) to restore it to its liquid state.