Now that I’m Interested in Bees, “Bee Stuff” is Everywhere

by: Marlene email

Buzzy As A Bee

I’m sure it’s a scientific phenomena and has a long  Latin name but I’ve discovered that ever since I went to the formative meeting of the Eastern Shore Beekeeper’s Guild  I’m  noticing  “bee stuff” everywhere.  I’m also sure  the ” bee stuff”  was there all along — I just wasn’t paying any attention to it.  ( Incidentally, one of the great  things about living here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia  is that just about any Northampton County home  is less than an hour’s  drive  to Virginia Beach.  This happy circumstance  gives us  the incomparable lifestyle of  residing in a relaxed rural area  but with fast, easy access to metropolitan shopping, cultural and culinary amenities.)   So when we were at the Virginia Beach Barnes and Noble bookstore  last week ( B&N is my home away from home when I visit Virginia Beach for  our  ” lunch and shop”  trip  a couple times  a month,  Home Depot is my husband’s )  I noticed a display unit  featuring “Honeybee: Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper””  by Marina Marchese.  It’s  the  story of   her  career change from advertising to  beekeeping  and honey marketing —  I bought it  out of sheer curiosity  (definitely after a real estate career spanning decades,  it’s a little late for a career change, even if I wanted one ).   Browsing the Mystery section (I’m completely addicted to good mystery novels)  yielded three  novels by Laurie King,  Sherlock Holmes reprises, —  “God of the Hive” , “Language of Bees” and “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice” ,  all of  which I left on the shelf because I  prefer  my Holmes and Watson straight up from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.   More  “bee stuff”  included  a program on PBS last month about Emily Dickinson who apparently wrote nearly 50 poems  featuring bees,  including one entitled “To Make A Prairie It Takes A Clover and One Bee”,   which is surely an optimistic  concept.   That led me to search Google Scholar tool on Google  for detailed info on bee poems,  of which, as it turns out, there  are so many more than anyone (well, me)  would have ever guessed.  Whole books have been written about bee imagery in works by Sylvia Plath. 

So then I got curious about how many books on  beekeeping are listed on .  Its  advanced search  yielded  589 results including available books  about bees and beekeeping  in such far flung corners of the  earth as Russia, Ireland , Great Britain– even one about beekeeping in Cuba.  Plus a  “Beekeeping for Dummies”.   Who knew ??   From there  the obvious next step was, of course,  some research  on what bees are generally kept for in the first place– HUNY, as Pooh Bear would insist !

It's Thyme 4 HUNY

 283  results on Amazon for cooking with honey, one of the most seemingly interesting being a new book by May Berenbaum, coming out in August,  entitled  “Honey, I’m Homemade: Sweet Treats from the Beehive across the Centuries and Around the World”.  I will  definitely be buying  a copy when it comes out. 

Surprisingly,  the most interesting  things  I learned about honey I found perusing ,   a website I love and check out several times each week.  First, a vocabulary lesson —  I learned that any  honey which comes primarily from any one single plant species  ( think delicious orange blossom  or sourwood honey ) is designated as   “manuka”  honey.   But the really fascinating  articles were about new medical uses of honey.  Because so many bacteria have become  resistant to even the most powerful antibiotics,   apparently doctors are now sometimes turning to  honey as a wound dressing  because of its strong anti-bacterial properties, so strong that recent  laboratory tests showed that honey can  kill the MRSA bacteria.   (I’m impressed ! )  It seems that  in centuries past,  honey was routinely applied to wounds to prevent infection  (never knew that).  Now researchers have discovered that these ancient home remedies have a scientific basis.  The strong antibacterial properties in honey  derive from a protein,  recently  isolated and named  “defensin-1”,  which is  the active ingredient which  kills  bacteria.   It seems that bees manufacture defensin-1  as part of their immune system defense and then add it to their  honey.    Scientists now believe that the isolation of this  protein will lead to new treatments for burns and skin infections  as well as  “medical grade”  honeys.  So,  instead of putting aloe on my next little burn,  I think I’ll try some huny instead.   And to think that I’m becoming aware of a  whole  new world of bees and honey  because I decided,  strictly  on the spur of the moment,  to attend a little Beekeeper Guild meeting  in Nassawadox.   As they say,  live and learn.

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