How Small-Scale Beekeepers Benefit Foodies And The Environment
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Honey, one of the most loved products from bees, has been recognised by medical professionals worldwide for its numerous medicinal benefits. Its exceptional antibacterial properties and high antioxidant content are particularly noteworthy. In addition to enhancing immunity and soothing sore throats, honey is also used in beauty routines such as facial and hair masks due to its anti-inflammatory properties. It is also believed to be a healthier sugar substitute.

Bees play a crucial role in the world's food production, as one-third of it depends on them. Pollination, the transfer of pollen between flowers of the same species, is essential for seed production. Bees are responsible for 75% of pollination in global food crops, ensuring the survival of various crop species. Without bees, we would likely experience food shortages.

The worldwide bee population has been experiencing a significant decline in numbers in recent decades. There are several factors contributing to this decline. Fortunately, many of these issues can be resolved with our collective efforts. There are numerous reasons why bees are currently at risk. In the past, people in villages would make room for wall hives in their houses. Bees were an integral part of their daily lives.

Nowadays, modern concrete houses lack the necessary space for wall hives. The decline in bee populations can be attributed to deforestation, climate change, and the excessive use of chemicals in agriculture. The older generation, with their deep understanding of nature, knew how to coexist harmoniously with bees. Unfortunately, their valuable knowledge is disappearing as they pass it on. The interference of mobile network towers disrupts the bees' navigation abilities, making it challenging for them to find their way back to their hives.

Why Is Honey From The Hills Better?

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Apart from considerably cleaner air, high-altitude locations are blessed with a diverse range of flora and medicinal herbs, free from pesticides, fertilisers, and chemicals. Bees pollinate these plants, resulting in multi-floral nectar that is considered more beneficial. The flavour and aroma are mild. In the past, hill inhabitants harvested honey for personal consumption only, valuing only the purest quality. Often, they sell the same honey that they consume themselves.

Villagers, especially farmers living in the hills, find beekeeping a valuable way of earning a living and supporting themselves. In India's mountains, many beekeepers have struck a harmonious balance by combining traditional beekeeping methods with modern ones that benefit the bees, the environment, and all of us.

Protecting The Bees

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In the past, beekeepers used a traditional method to extract honey. They would create smoke by burning cow dung, which would encourage the honey bees to leave their hive. This made it easier for the beekeepers to collect honey without getting stung. Unfortunately, this method resulted in the loss of around 20% of the honeybees due to the smoke. Additionally, the beekeepers would cut out the honeycomb to remove honey, causing damage to the larva, pupa, and eggs in the process. 

However, thanks to scientific advancements, these days there are smokers that produce smoke in a controlled manner. These smokers contain a burning cotton cloth, ensuring that only the necessary amount of smoke is generated in a controlled environment.

With a new technique, beekeepers can now avoid cutting out the honeycomb altogether. By utilising a frame and a small honey extractor, they can extract the honey without causing any harm to the eggs or the honeycomb. This way, the bees can continue their lives undisturbed.

If you’ve wondered what the difference is between honey from a small group of beekeepers in the hills and the honey you typically find in department stores, here's the scoop. Beekeepers who supply to mass-producing companies usually have a large-scale operation with up to 1000 bee boxes. They extract honey from the same batch at least two or three times. On the other hand, the small-scale beekeeper groups only extract honey once.

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Another interesting fact is that when the bees collect nectar in their comb, the honey is naturally cooked with wind inside the comb and then sealed. This sealed honey is considered to be the purest form of honey when it's extracted. The honey is cooked and sealed at specific times and months, and it is only extracted during those periods.

In modern large-scale beekeeping, bees are being rushed to seal the honey before it is extracted within 10–12 days, resulting in double the usual amount of honey per hive. However, the quality of this honey suffers due to its higher water content, causing rapid fermentation. To address this problem, some companies often opt to use chemicals.