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Beekeeping: Profiting From A Gold Mine

Written By Malik Muhammad on 25 May 2014 | 08:16

If you look at fields full of flowering crops or wild flowers in the countryside, or at garden and park flowers in the cities, you are not only looking at beauty but also at gold – thousands of tons of valuable honey. Liquid gold sitting there, all for you! If you don’t go and get it, the flowers will die at the end of the season and all those tons of honey will go to waste. All that money will simply have dried up in front of your eyes. If, on the other hand, you have bees, they will go and get it for you for free, and you can then either eat it or sell it or both.

Bees are probably the only livestock that use other people’s land without permission – and those landowners welcome them. It is a win-win situation for the bee and for everyone else. Your bees are happy carrying out their work; you can enjoy your hobby or business, and if you want to you can make a profit; the farmers get their crops pollinated and so they make a profit; the shops obtain food to sell and they make a profit; the general public have food to eat; and the government is happy that its agricultural and environmental sectors are running smoothly and that somewhere along the line they will be able to raise some tax.

Beekeeping Profiting From A Gold MineDon’t forget that governments regard the whole set-up as so important that they are willing to spend millions on ensuring that the status quo does not change and that nothing happens to harm it. Recent research in the USA has valued crops that require pollination by honey-bees at an estimated $24 billion annually, and the value of commercial bee pollination on contracts at around $10 billion annually. These are huge figures by any standard and they show that bees are big business.

Honey sale value, on the other hand, is much less, at $285 million annually in the USA. However, now that hard clinical trials are showing that certain types of honey can provide antibiotic wound treatments more effectively and with fewer side-effects than conventional treatments, this non-pollination side of beekeeping has become a rapidly growing industry. Active manuka honey has been shown to beat the MRSA super-bug with no side-effects to the patient and is used in burn dressings. Buckwheat honey has been found in clinical trials to be more effective as a cough treatment than many over-the-counter cough medicines. Honey is no longer old Gran’s remedy for colds or an ‘alternative’ therapy. It is now a mainstream medicine available on national health systems and used in hospitals in the UK, the USA and other countries.

But bees sting, don’t they? And that hurts, doesn’t it? Other than producing honey, bees are best known for their tendency to sting on sight. In fact, it is not in a bee’s interest to sting for the sake of it because they die in the process and they will avoid doing so unless in defence of their nest, which of course is why beekeepers are stung. All beekeepers will be stung during their beekeeping careers. This is a fact and it is also a fact that it is painful. But it is not very painful and the pain doesn’t last for long.

Beekeeping: Profiting From A Gold MineBee sting ‘cures’ rely on this fact. By the time you apply the patented bee-sting cure bought from the snake oil stall at the market (which, technically, can’t cure anything unless it’s an anaesthetic), the pain would be just about to disappear anyway.

Most beekeepers will tell you that bee stings are more or less of no concern to them and that, if you are well clothed and use calm bees, stings will be few and far between. For a very few, however, there is a danger. Allergy to insect venom does exist and can be fatal if the person stung goes into anaphylactic shock. This is extremely rare, however, and one statistic indicates that you are more likely to die from a horse falling on you than from a bee sting. Because there is a very remote possibility of suffering a fatal allergic reaction, many beekeepers carry with them an epi-pen injector for emergency use. This requires a prescription in most countries.

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