Sunday, July 5, 2015

Beyond honey: beehive benefits

This month, we’ll focus on beehives and the natural products found within the hive. Honey bees are well known for making honey and pollinating 30 percent of the food on our tables. But did you know, bees are busy producing four other key ingredients found in a hive - beeswax, pollen, propolis and royal jelly. Let’s take a brief look at each!

Beeswax - young worker bees use their wax-secreting glands to produce beeswax, and nest-building bees use the wax to build hex-shaped cells for raising brood and storing honey, pollen and water. We use beeswax in many everyday products, from cosmetics and polishes to candles and art materials. At the Minnesota Honey Company, we offer:
  • excellent skin care products containing beeswax and made by local companies - Worker Bee, Crow’s and Welcome Harvest.
  • locally sourced, filtered beeswax in 1 oz, 1.3 oz, 1 lb and 2 lb bars so you can DIY some of your own household products. We carry beeswax candles too.
  • honeycomb. It makes a lovely addition to an appetizer tray and is a deliciously different replacement for chewing gum!

Pollen - Pollen is a bee’s sole protein source, so you’ll do bees a favor by growing a wide variety of their favorite flowers. It will give them more complete nutrition (just like us humans needing a variety of foods). Honey bees collect pollen on their fuzzy bodies and in what are called pollen baskets on their back legs. For their larvae food, they mix pollen with honey and nectar, creating bee bread, and drop it in cells before larvae is placed.

While we cannot claim specific health benefits with pollen, there is significant anecdotal evidence. Pollen can benefit certain health conditions, be used as a protein supplement and desensitize pollen allergies. We offer pollen in a couple different ways:
  • Aged (unheated, unfiltered) Meadow Wildflower Honey. This is honey straight from the hive. It has larger particles of pollen, beeswax and propolis, making it a very healthful, sweet alternative.
  • Pollen-fortified Meadow Wildflower Honey. An excellent way to take daily doses of pollen.
  • Raw bee pollen.

Propolis - Trees and plants produce propolis, a resin that protects against bacteria and disease, and honey bees collect it to coat the inside of their hive. Propolis is an antimicrobial, antibacterial substance, which can be extracted and used as a healing ingredient, both topically and internally. You’ll find the following propolis-infused, locally made products at the Minnesota Honey Company:
  • Vibupro - a cough and sore throat formula made by Wolf Honey Farm
  • Worker Bee Balm - topical sticks and bars made by Worker Bee

Royal Jelly - Royal jelly is secreted by worker bees and is only fed to royalty - the queen bee and potential future queens . Like other byproducts of the hive, royal jelly offers many topical and internal benefits for us, although health claims have not all been scientifically proven. The Minnesota Honey Company does not carry royal jelly at this time, but it is something we’ll continue to evaluate as we expand our product lines.

Honey bees are amazing little insects, and we’re lucky to have their busy little bodies working hard to help keep us fed and healthy!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A remedy for arthritis pain using raw honey

Customers periodically share their favorite recipes with us, and this one really caught our attention. This woman experienced excellent results and even found out her doctor was doing the same thing for his arthritis pain! Let us know if you try it and how it works for you.

Here’s what she said...

Mix together:
1 cup of hot tea or water
2 Tablespoons raw honey
1 teaspoon Ceylon cinnamon*

Drink it twice a day to start - a half hour before breakfast and at night before bed. Give it a little time (a week or two?). When the pain is gone, reduce the frequency to once a day, then every other day as it seems right to you. (She now does it three times a week.)

* Our customer was very specific about using raw honey and Ceylon cinnamon in particular. The cinnamon will clump, so do your best to stir it in.

Drink up, and best wishes for good health!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

THE BUZZ...what's new and what's happening...

Minnesota Honey Company is proud to partner with Sweet Science Ice Cream, a local natural food crafter, to bring you an all-honey sweetened ice cream using our own Meadow Wildflower honey.

  • 4 oz mini cups (honey vanilla & vanilla) and pints (honey vanilla) now available

Perfectly timed with ice cream, Infused Honeys are now available in nine sweet flavors. They pair well with ice cream, yogurt, coffee, tea and you name it!

  • Stop in anytime for a sample
  • Available in 3- and 9-ounce jars and 8 oz squeeze bottles.

Bee-themed vintage ceramics previously owned by an avid MN beekeeper are now on display around the store and looking for new, loving homes.

  • We owe our lives to the honey bees - they pollinate over 30% of our food.
  • Find a piece for your home or give one as a gift; each piece comes with a special tag.

Our new cold beverage case is now loaded with all kinds of great drinks - Sprecher’s Honey Sodas, Deane’s Kombucha, tea, lemonade and water. Just in time for Super Summer in the neighborhood.

SHOP & STROLL Friday, June 19 through Sunday, June 21
This twice-a-year neighborhood event offers great opportunity for stocking up at our ‘everything honey store’! Everything will be 20% off. Taste samples to be featured throughout the weekend include:

  • Friday tastings: Deane’s Kombucha - never tried Kombucha? You’re gonna love it!
  • Saturday tastings: Minnesota Honey Company Infused Honeys in nine sweet flavors
  • Sunday tastings: Sweet Science Ice Cream - HV Honey Vanilla

We're pleased to offer three summer activities in the store for children beginning in June. Local school teacher Debi Mattson will lead a different project each month. Click on the Community icon for more information and to register.

  • Friday, June 26, 10-11 AM: Frozen Honey Pops
  • Friday, July 31, 10-11 AM: Rolled Beeswax Candles
  • Friday, Aug. 14, 10-11 AM: Polymer Clay Bees

Saturday, May 2, 2015

How well did our honey bees survive this past winter?

These notes are from a presentation given by Ellen Topitzhofer, former University of Minnesota graduate, research assistant at Oregon State University, and crop analyst for the Washington/Oregon/Idaho area. She spoke at a recent fundraiser for the Woodlake Nature Center, a 150-acre preserve in Richfield, MN. (Author’s note: I made every attempt to verify my notes and apologize in advance for any misstatements or inaccuracies.)

Ellen opened her presentation with a perspective on honey bee losses over time. Looking back, declines started in the 1950s; the population in the U.S. was recorded at about 5 million colonies. Today, it’s half that number, 2.5 million. Extreme losses occurred in 2006-07, and since then, five of the last seven years have seen 30% or more loss. This past winter (2014-15), losses were in the range of 20-30%. The sustainable loss rate is 15% or less, so you can see why there is great concern!

The term Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) came about when significant colony losses were observed in the U.S. in 2006-07. There are many reported causes for CCD. Among them, malnutrition due to lack of access to diverse food sources, mono farming and habitat loss; pesticide use and the sublethal effect of multi-chemical applications; pests (i.e. varroa mites) and pathogens.

Multiple factors are likely contributing to stress, loss and overall weakening of bee and colony health. For example, the average lifespan for a queen bee is reported to be about 2 years, down from an average of 2-5 years.

For other information and potential causes, read the UMN Bee Lab newsletter, April 2015, Marla Spivak, Bee Lab Research Update. (Congratulations to Matthew Smart for successfully defending his PhD dissertation and furthering bee research / discovery.)

Honey bees perform very critical functions for us humans. First and foremost, they pollinate plants and crops in ways that we cannot. These small creatures transfer pollen from plant to plant to increase crop yields for farmers, and they pollinate about 30% of the food we put on our tables every day! I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention their delicious honey, naturally produced for us to enjoy.

Economically, bees are responsible in large part for industrial crop production, like almonds for example. California produces 80% of the world’s almond supply across 750,000 acres. Each acre requires 2-3 colonies, which calculates to about 1.5 million colonies, just for almonds alone!

While there is much to do at the agricultural level to address these issues, we can help support our local honey bees in a few simple ways. Ellen suggested creating nesting habitats, reducing pesticide use and planting bee-friendly gardens.

Post Note:  Carefully select native plants, and purchase them from trusted resources. Be sure they’re really organic. Bill HF2029 is currently being debated in the MN legislature, and the final vote could negatively impact the labeling of ‘bee-friendly’ plants. Contact your legislators ASAP and insist on full, transparent labeling.

Minnesota legislators attempt to roll back protections for bees - Pesticide Action Network North America, March 27, 2015 article.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Boy meets swarm

This fond memory came from one of our customers who grew up on a farm in northern Minnesota.

The young boy and his Dad were out in the field one fine spring day when they came upon a tree with a honeybee swarm high up on a limb. His Dad promptly went for a ladder and climbed up to saw off the branch. Watching with nervous curiosity to see what would happen next, his Dad tied a rope to the end of it, sawed it off and carefully lowered it down. Grabbing the branch, his Dad handed the end to his son and told him to take it to the bee box nearby. Scared but obedient, he took the limb and walked it to the box. His Dad then said, “Shake it gently on top of the box.” And so he did. Immediately and to his surprise, all the bees flew into the hive!

Do you know why? All of the bees in the colony followed the queen; she knew where she needed to go. The queen puts out a pheromone (chemical secretion) that communicates to the others her movements, and they loyally follow her.

Our customer learned that, if you are careful around them and do not put the bees in a defensive position, bee swarms are not to be feared. To this day, he realizes what an amazing, rare experience he shared with his Dad.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Spring allergies appearing early this year...

The early spring thaw is wreaking havoc for some allergy sufferers. Ground molds may be one source of the problem; exposed, dried plant materials and pollens may be another. While no medical claims have been made about treating plant allergies with honey, there is certainly a lot of anecdotal evidence that tells us honey helps minimize the effects. We hear it from customers on a regular basis.

The theory is - raw, local honey contains beneficial properties that contribute to improved immune functioning.

Bits of pollen found in the honey help build immunity specifically against regional native plant pollens. This explains why allergy sufferers specifically come in asking for raw local honey; they eat honey every day to address this regional ailment.

In addition to raw honey, many allergy sufferers ask for bee pollen. Bee pollen is actually harvested from the bees’ little legs as they crawl into the hive. Beekeepers have a system to collect pollen using little brushes and trays at the entrance to the hive. Allergy sufferers tell us they ingest pollen slowly into their diets - in smoothies, yogurts, cereal and the like - to increasingly build immunity. This doesn’t eliminate the allergy, but it can significantly reduce the intensity of the symptoms. As always, check with your medical provider before adding pollen to your diet. (Another side benefit of pollen - it's a good source for protein.)

If you’re looking for the benefits of both raw honey and bee pollen, check out our Pollen-Fortified Meadow Wildflower Honey. It’s a seasonal offering just in time for allergy season!