When buying honey you can find yourself facing an ethical dilemma. You may already know that since 2007 when we started hearing about colony collapse disorder, beekeepers have experienced an average annual hive loss rate of 30%. With combined factors like agricultural insecticides and neonicotinoids, the unsustainable practices of commercial beekeepers like using acid in the hives, feeding their bees a daily diet of sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup and taking their bees hundreds and even thousands of miles from their natural habitat to pollinate monocultures like almond, sunflower and apple orchards. Ummmm, it’s no wonder our honeybee friend’s iimmunity is compromised to the point of death. We can blame Monsanto and Big Ag too but we must also hold the desperate beekeepers responsible for also contributing to CCD.
Oy Vey can you hear me screaming?
Add to that the U.S. and it’s lack of legitimate or enforced food labeling requirements and you have food fraud running rampant. Every day people are spending top dollar on olive oil cut with canola oil and Parmesan cheese that is not authentic but the price tag sure as heck is and yes, honey cut with beet sugar, corn syrup and completely free of pollen so its country of origin is untraceable. It’s a mad, mad world…
Because of my enormous love and respect for the honeybee I needed to know more and shop with my values. I sought out a group of treatment-free beekeepers in Los Angeles to mentor me and I saw first-hand how successful a beekeeper that never uses acid in the hives, never leaves their bees without surplus honey and never transports their bees to pollinate monocultures can be. My treatment-free beekeeper friends thrived so why weren’t others? The answer became clear when I learned from my network that nature is wild and in the wild, survival of the fittest is how the game is played so it’s wrong to interfere in how species interact and important to let the mites and bees figure it out on their own.
Treatment-free beekeepers would never dream of taking all the honey from a hive to sell before ensuring that the bees are well stocked. Feeding them a diet of HFCS and sugar would never even cross their mind. Humans only get surplus honey. No compromise. Also, the only time a treatment-free beekeeper will ever feed their hive sugar (not HFCS) is in the winter when surplus may be scarce but some will even store honey to save for the bees during these tight months because for them even sugar on the rare occasion is a definite no-no.
Always ask these three questions before buying honey at the farmer’s market or when calling up a brand that you found at the grocery store to inquire about their practice.
- Do you feed your bees a diet of sugar and HFCS? The key word here is “diet” meaning all of the time. If they say yes, ask under what circumstances and if it is HFCS, under any circumstance do not support that practice.
- Do you travel hundreds or even thousands of miles with your bees so they can pollinate monocultures? If yes, move on.
- Do you use acid in the hives to control mites? If yes, run and don’t look back.
Also, seek out urban beekeepers. It is my opinion that honey coming from city bees is less exposed to agricultural pesticides and other toxic chemicals than country bees. So many cities across the country have rooftop hives and sell their honey.
Below are some more tips for finding great honey that you can trust will align with these values:
- Visit community gardens in your area and ask if anyone keeps bees and sells their honey.
- Now that you know what a treatment-free beekeeper is, ask if they have a resource for you that meets your standards.
- Visit farmer’s markets and really engage your beekeeper with these points.
- Maybe a neighbor keeps bees (so many do now) and sells their honey like my friend Isabelle.
- Google “treatment free beekeepers” in your city/state. To prove the point take a look here at what came up when I googled “treatment free beekeepers in Utah”. Pretty cool, huh!
Hey, we have options. I’m just here to share with you what they are. xo