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Mary’s Musings: Secret life of worker bees

Mary’s Musings: Secret life of worker bees

By Mary Bridges, chaplain

About 25 years ago, I worked as a receptionist at a doctor’s office. One morning, I received a frantic call from our daughter, Lisa. It seems our granddaughter, Kaci, who was about five at the time, and her friend had gotten close to a bush and were literally attacked by a large swarm of bees. The girls had too many bites to count. I suggested that they call their doctor and see what to do. Receptionists really don’t know how to treat patients, even if they are someone’s grandmother.

Last month Presbyterian Manor’s Literary Ladies read the book The Secret Life of Bees written by Sue Monk Kidd. The book tells the story of 14-year-old Lily Owens, whose mother died tragically due to a gun accident, and Rosaleen, her black servant, who had run away. They end up living with three eccentric sisters called May, June, and August who keep bees. Lily volunteers to help with beekeeping. The bees in this story symbolize hard work, renewal and healing.

The third Saturday in August is celebrated as National Honey Bee day. National Honey month is celebrated each September. Which led my mind to wonder—“what came first, the honey bee or the honeycomb?” which is usually the age-old question reserved for the chicken and the egg. Doing some research I found that, the honeycomb is the place where young bees develop and then hatch. Honey is what most bee larvae eat. Some larvae that are destined for the “throne” are fed royal jelly so they develop into a queen bee.

Bees are dependent upon the honeycomb when it comes to reproduction. Bees are dependent upon the honeycomb when it comes to their source of food. Yet, the honeycomb cannot exist without the bee constructing it from wax their specialized glands produce. Adding to the mystery, wax production is dependent upon a reliable source of stored honey. One pound of beeswax can store approximately 22 pounds of honey.

Approximately 10,000 bees visit roughly two million flowers and fly almost 50,000 miles to produce one pound of honey. It is no wonder they are called worker bees.

Did you know that almonds depend 100 percent on honeybee pollination? Apples, avocados, blueberries, cherries, cranberries and sunflowers are 90 percent dependent on honeybees, too. Honey tastes different based on the flowers. Honey from an avocado flower will taste completely different from orange blossom honey.

What makes honey so popular? Most likely, because it is easy to consume. One can eat it directly, put it on bread like a jam, mix it with juice or any drink instead of sugar, or mix it with warm water, lime juice, cinnamon and other herbs to make a medicine. Eating honey that has been gathered near where you live can help with allergies.

Health benefits include:

  • A healthy sweetener, good for weight loss.
  • It boosts energy, improves athletic performance.
  • It is rich in vitamins and minerals.
  • It has an antiseptic property and antioxidant properties.
  • It is good for skin care and speeds wound healing.

Currently Christie Hospital in Didsbury, Manchester, are planning to use it for faster recovery of cancer patients after surgery.

From The Secret Life of Bees

August is instructing Lily on how to deal with bees. “Don't be afraid, as no life-loving bee wants to sting you. Still, don't be an idiot; wear long sleeves and long pants. Don't swat. Don't even think about swatting. If you feel angry, whistle. Anger agitates, while whistling melts a bee's temper. Act like you know what you're doing, even if you don't. Above all, send the bees love. Every little thing wants to be loved.”

Good advice for everyone, don’t you think?!

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