Bees are our friends, Mzansi. Yes, we have all experienced the annoying buzzing of a bee who interrupted a picnic or two, forcing us to pack up and create distance over fear of being stung. A world without bees, however, would be a world without us.
Today, 20 May, marks World Bee Day – a global initiative dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of bee conservation.
Bees are the real superheroes of the ecosystem, believes co-founder of the Bee Academy in KwaZulu-Natal, Mbali Ngcobo.
“Without bees there is no human existence, literally. Most of our crops are interdependent on bees, they are fundamental in cross-pollination. They play a major role in our life cycle and within our food chain,” she says.
Not only are bees on the frontline of defending humanity in the fight for food security, they also help to eliminate hunger and play a crucial role in nurturing the environment and biodiversity. Also, they produce liquid gold in the form of honey.
Since ancient times, honey has been used as food and medicine. High in beneficial plant compounds, it offers several health benefits.
“Whenever the bees pollinate indigenous herbs or plants it is going to be able to collect the nutrients of that specific plant.
“Most of our trees and indigenous plants in South Africa carry a lot of healing components. Some of them are used for medicinal purposes, hence the indigenous honey we produce also carries a lot of those healing properties too.”
The magic lies in the honey
It is no secret that honey is good for your health and also an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties. Here are the other five beneficial uses of honey to remember on World Bee Day:
It makes a good sugar replacement: “It is another healthy way for getting rid of the extra carbohydrates and sucrose in your diet. It is also good for people who are very health-conscious,” says Ngcobo.
Plus, it can help fight colds and flu: Honey has antimicrobial properties which could allow it to fight off bacteria and viruses. Ngcobo says, “Honey is known to treat any form of illness in your chest. It becomes a home remedy and a natural form of medicine.”
Honey, you are glowing: While most people use honey for food, it also has great benefits for skin and hair. Beeswax can be used as an ointment and is often found in lip balms as well.
“The wax plays a major role in beauty products like beeswax for dreadlocks. Some facemasks have honey incorporated because of the antioxidant properties that honey has,” adds Ngcobo.
It treats burns and wounds: Honey is not the only thing produced by bees. Propolis is produced when they combine the sap with their own discharge and beeswax creating a sticky, product used as coating in their hives.
Propolis is a good antibiotic on its own. “Some people put it on wounds to speed up the healing process.”
Royal jelly: Bee venom is very good as certain studies have shown it can heal different cancers, Ngcobo says. “There is still research being done, even today, to prove that in future scientists will move on to using bee venom to cure certain cancers.”
Bee mindful, farmers
Meanwhile, Ngcobo adds that bees are pollinators and play a big role in the deciduous fruit market. This is an important reminder not just today, on World Bee Day, but for every day.
“Most farmers hire beehives to pollinate, and it helps in increasing the yield and improves yield quality. We must be mindful that nature has a role to play in agriculture.”
She cautions farmers by saying, “The bee must be considered in the manufacturing of pesticide chemicals, because we need them as much as we need to have good produce.
“Such awareness is important. Honey is also able to address the health needs for certain individuals.”
People must also stop classifying honey as a product for the elite. “Once everyone is aware of its importance, everyone will be able to keep at least a bottle in their cupboard.”