When most people think of bees, they are horrified. When they think of bee’s, they think of the stings and the noisy buzzing. They should be thinking of how 75% of all sustenance comes from bees. And almost everything a bee produces is used and consumed by humans.

Bees collect 66 lbs of pollen per year, per hive. Pollen is the male germ cells produced by all flowering plants for fertilization and plant embryo formation. The Honeybee uses pollen as a food. Pollen is one of the richest and purest natural foods, consisting of up to 35% protein, 10% sugars, carbohydrates, enzymes, minerals, and vitamins A (carotenes), B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (nicotinic acid), B5 (panothenic acid), C (ascorbic acid), H (biotin), and R (rutine).

Honey is used by the bees for food all year round. There are many types, colors and flavors of honey, depending upon its nectar source. The bees make honey from the nectar they collect from flowering trees and plants. Honey is an easily digestible, pure food. Honey is hydroscopic and has antibacterial qualities. Eating local honey can fend off allergies.

Beeswax is secreted from glands, beeswax is used by the honeybee to build honey comb. It is used by humans in drugs, cosmetics, artists’ materials, furniture polish and candles.

Propolis is collected by honeybees from trees, the sticky resin is mixed with wax to make a sticky glue. The bees use this to seal cracks and repair their hive. It is used by humans as a health aid, and as the basis for fine wood varnishes.

Royal Jelly is a powerful, milky substance that turns an ordinary bee into a Queen Bee. It is made of ingested pollen and honey or nectar mixed with a chemical secreted from a gland in a nursing bee’s head. It commands premium prices rivaling imported caviar, and is used by some as a dietary supplement and fertility stimulant. It is loaded with all of the B vitamins.

Bee Venom is probably the scariest part of the bee. Although sharp pain and some swelling and itching are natural reactions to a honeybee sting, a small percentage of individuals are highly allergic to bee venom. “Bee venom therapy” is widely practiced overseas and by some in the USA to address health problems such as arthritis, neuralgia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even MS.

The simple western honey bee comes equipped with one stinger, only to be used if in grave danger at the price of its life. Though that may be the least of their worries. There are various reasons that the decline of the bee population is increasing but here are some common factors.

The greatest threat to beekeeping are two varieties of mites (Varroa and Tracheal). And although these mites can be kept under control by a persistent beekeeper, the negative effects on the honeybee population has been devastating. The Back Yard Beekeepers Association surveyed its membership and learned that over 40% of the membership’s hives died in 1996. These mites are greatly reducing the overall honeybee population in the USA. The mites are of no concern to humans, except for the effect they can have on honey production.

Beekeepers are on the watch for various diseases unique to honeybees, and harmless to humans. “Foul Brood” and “Nosema” are two such diseases. These problems can easily be addressed by good management and proper medication.
With more and more urban development and the growth of cities, there is less and less foraging available to bees. However, areas like Fairfield County contain a rich assortment of nectar and pollen for honeybees, thanks to homeowners’ gardens and the lush, wooded countryside.

Though there is really no way for humans to physically pollinate plants like bees, there is some research being done to figure out how to interbreed the Afrcanized aggressive bees with stronger immune systems to the mellow and weaker honey bee.

All information from the Backyard Beekeepers Association.