So apparently, May 20th is World Bee Day. I had literally never heard of this before until an advert came up on my Instagram mentioning it and talking about how to save the bees. Obviously this is a pretty big issue at the moment with climate change and species extinction so I’ve decided to write a post all about vegans and honey and also my thoughts on this matter! Honey is a pretty hotly debated issue in the vegan/ plant based communities, and it was one of the things I had to do the most research on when I went vegan. As a principle, vegans don’t eat honey as it is made by animals and therefore an animal by-product. However it was only when I began to research that I understood the whole debate properly which is summed up as:
- Bees travel large distances each day/season to collect pollen from plants and flowers which they then turn into honey. Each bee only makes 1/12th(!!!) of a teaspoon of honey in its whole lifetime despite flying thousands of miles to collect the nectar they need.
- Bee colonies create honey in the same way that squirrels hide nuts. It is the perfect nutritionally balanced food source to get bees through the winter when there is no nectar for them to feed on!
- A bees purpose is NOT to create honey! Bees are responsible for around 80% of plant pollination including fruits, vegetables and grains; this is equivalent to $14.6 billion of produce and labour in the USA alone! (source)
- When honey is taken to be sold commercially, often it is replaced in the hive with sugar syrup which contains none of the nutrients needed for the bees to survive. This causes them to die off and means less pollination the following seasons (therefore meaning less plants for bees to feed off and causing more bees to die off! hence the falling bee population).
As you can see, this makes honey consumption an environmental issue as well as an animal welfare one. As I am vegan, I don’t consume honey full stop, however there are many ways to consume honey ethically and support bees!
- Don’t buy mass produced honey for minimum cost in large shops and supermarkets. It is bad quality and causes so much harm to bees!
- Instead, support your local beekeepers and pay a fair price for their honey. Beekeepers actually care about their bees and do a valuable job of protecting colonies. Their honey is usually made in small batches (quality>quantity) and is ethically sourced (aka doesn’t harm the bees). You can find local beekeepers by asking around or by using social media. Otherwise check nearby farm shops for honey made in your area.
- Substitute honey for bee-friendly alternatives such as maple/ golden syrup or agave nectar.
- Plant bee friendly flowers! Ask at your local garden centre or look online for the best plants for making your garden bee friendly year round. If you are short on outdoor space, how about window planters or some small potted plants? Also use bee friendly pesticides to protect crops such as caffeine, epsom salts or planting chrysanthemums!
Hopefully this has given some insight into the vegans vs honey issue and also provided some ideas about how to consume honey more ethically whilst protecting the bees! Bees are hugely important to our environment, with some sources stating that the extinction of bees heralds the end of humanity, or at least life as we know it…
Hope you all had a wonderful world bee day!