The following post was written by Claudia Sherwood, a guest blogger, who resides in Montclair, New Jersey. Besides beekeeping, Claudia practices Reiki and essential oil therapy. We are so happy to share this information about bees and the numerous health benefits of honey with our readers. Thank you, Claudia!

My life as a mentoring beekeeper is much more in sync with nature and a healthy rhythm of life. Bees, who are mostly female, know their specific roles within the hive. They begin as eggs that were laid by the queen, and they are nurtured by the nurse bees who feed them Royal Jelly, then pollen and honey, then only honey. The first job the bee has after it emerges from the cell is to “clean its cell (or room)” as I remind my daughter. That is their first responsibility.

The female bee, after learning every job within the hive, goes on to be a forager, collecting pollen, nectar, water and plant resins from the field and bringing them back for use in the hive. Bees are social and all work together to care, protect and keep the hive and the queen safe. This is all innate. This strikes me as a metaphor for our “city of bees” in society, which sometimes seems chaotic.

I have learned much of the wonderful benefits of raw local honey, which can protect families from allergies from the flora surrounding where the bees live. Bees, in fact, travel to flowers in a five-mile radius of their hive. So the pollen contained in honey gives us immunity. The world would lose a huge percentage of crops if we were to lose our bees, who are pollinators of fruits, vegetables, and flowers.

The health benefits from bee venom are also being studied. Studies show that beekeepers are rarely with disease and have the highest life expectancy of any other occupation. Bee sting therapy, known as apitherapy, is being studied for possible slowing of symptoms of disease such as multiple sclerosis and arthritis.

The current disappearance of bees from hives throughout the world has been labeled “Collapsed Colony Disorder.” Scientists are still studying the reasons, which include pesticides, herbicides, fungal disease, bacterial disease called American Foul Brood, as well as a range of bee afflictions such as parasitic mites, which weaken their immune system and dis-orient them, so they don’t return to the hive.

For those of us compassionate to the plight of bees there are things that we can do without being a beekeeper. Community gardens and flower boxes can include bee-friendly flowers such as bee balm and foxglove, berries such as blackberries and blueberries, and herbs such as lavender, sage, rosemary and thyme.

Bees need water, and birdbaths are invaluable in Spring, Summer and Fall. By placing some smooth stones in the water the bees will feel safe enough to drink from the water and will return to the hive to tell the others of the water source. Also, educating others and communicating with farmers, gardeners and even local politicians to the downside of poorly timed applications of pest and disease control products can be helpful to the beleaguered honeybee.

One of the most important audiences for educating is our children. They should be first taught what the honeybee looks like, then to respect bees and not think of them as enemies. There are wonderful picture books for children that convey this. If hives are spotted in trees or in unusual places, a local beekeeping association should be contacted to try to collect the hive. Honeybees rarely sting unless their hive is threatened. I photograph bees and I have seen bees from a very, very close distance, and honestly they are… well, cute.

**We recommend watching, “City of Bees: A Children’s Guide to Bees.” It’s a lovely documentary that explains the world of bees, and is fun for grownups to watch, too! Check your local library. They may just have a copy.**

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