Our Natural Heroes… A Quick Insight to Bees
Vital to our ecosystem, bees are nature’s CPA (Chief Pollination Army)! Bees help our plants to grow, to breed & to produce food – by transferring pollen between flowering plants and thereby sustaining our cycle of life.
And bees produce honey which we humans (along with bears, badgers and other animals) have adored since our ancestors were still residing in caves. Honey gatherers featured on rock wall carvings, go as far back as 8000 B.C. and pottery sealed with beeswax has been found, dating back to 7000 B.C.
Honey was mankind’s principal source of food sweetener (especially in Greece and Sicily) until sugar was more extensively available in the sixteenth century. Ancient Egyptians appeased their gods with offerings of honey and along with the Romans, Greeks and Chinese, used honey as medicine – treating wounds, fevers and stomach ailments.
The high sugar content and low pH in natural honey inhibits microbial growth – making it perfect for medicinal use. However, this activity will vary depending upon the type of flower that nectar is collected from – and heating can also destroy the antimicrobial activity of many honeys.
Is there a difference between processed honey & raw honey?
Absolutely! Much of the mass-produced honey bought commercially has been pasteurized using high heat to kill yeast, improve colour and remove crystallization – thereby making it more attractive in texture, and more attractive to the eye.
However, the beneficial nutrients are sacrificed and destroyed in the pasteurization process.
Raw or cold-extracted honey
Raw or cold-extracted honey is not heated. So, the living power of nature is unspoiled for your enjoyment & your good health. Provenance is preserved.
How do Bees produce honey & why?
The short version
Bees collect pollen (their source of protein) and the sugar-rich nectar from flowers – almost as much as its own body weight – and carry it back to the beehive. Here the nectar is passed from bee to bee to be naturally broken down by digestive enzymes until the nectar converts to honey. As well as being food for the honeybee larvae, honey is also stored in the honeycomb. It remains fresh indefinitely as it is naturally sealed with beeswax and saved as the vital food source for the bees throughout winter.
Ethical beekeepers will always ensure there is enough honey for their bees as their food reserve in times when pollen and nectar are scarce or non-existent.
Where is the Queen Bee?
Can you spot Her Royal Highness in the image below?
What about the Queen Bee? Does she eat honey?
No, she doesn’t! Our reigning Queen Bee and her chosen future Queen larvae only dine on Royal Jelly, a white secretion produced by young, female worker bees. Royal jelly is the ultimate superfood packed full of all the dietary requirements, fertility stimulants and vitamins worthy of any Queen.
Are all honeys the same?
No. Just as we humans are all different, honey differs in colour, texture, taste & aroma depending upon the flower that bees visit to collect nectar & pollen. As mentioned earlier, its antimicrobial potency also depends on the type of flower from which nectar is collected.
In the Northern Rivers of NSW, we have a wealth of native Australian flora for our bees – the most powerful source of native flowers growing in abundance being the leptospermum species – manuka.
Is Manuka Honey only found in New Zealand?
No. The original home of the Leptospermum (Manuka) species is actually Australia.
While there is only one species in New Zealand, there are over 80 confirmed as native to Australia – 28 been scientifically proven “bioactive”. It is thought that New Zealand’s only species originally travelled there from southern Australia, after the separation of the ancient continent Gondwana.
The Leptospermum species has evolved over millions of years to survive the harsh Australian landscape & is extremely tolerant to drought & fire. Some of the honey from Australia’s manuka flowers have been identified as being the most potent in the world. No wonder it is a Superhero!
What makes Manuka Honey so special?
Think of manuka honey like Caviar or as Bruce Eihorn of the Sydney Morning Herald called it, the champagne of the honey kingdom.
Taste + power = Kaboom!!! Superhero properties!
Manuka Honey has a rich, delicious taste – and it is definitely no ordinary honey.
Its antibacterial properties set it apart. Additionally, manuka honey has antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. In fact, it has traditionally been used for wound healing, soothing sore throats, mouth ulcers and improving digestive issues. It is often described as “active honey”.
What does Active Honey Mean?
The word ‘active’ refers to the honey’s ability to kill or inhibit the growth of many bacteria and fungi. This ‘Activity’ or antimicrobial quality is determined by specific laboratory tests. Not all Manuka honeys are active. Choose a honey that has been independently & scientifically tested for activity.
What are the 3 measures of Activity found only in Manuka Honey?
- Leptosperin – naturally occurring chemical found only in manuka nectar (& a few very close relatives)
- DHA – Dihydroxyacetone –another naturally occurring chemical in the nectar of the manuka flower. DHA then converts to the powerhouse MGO once our busy bees turn the nectar into honey.
- MGO – methylgloxal – is nature’s agent responsible for manuka honey’s unique antibacterial properties and is the key indicator of activity strength in Manuka honey.
The higher the MGO number, the more potent the antibacterial properties & therefore the higher the activity & efficacy of the honey.
What is the difference between MGO, NPA & ULF in manuka honeys?
What makes Manuka Honey so expensive?
Even the lowest MGO rated Manuka Honey is more expensive than regular natural honey.
Firstly, of the 80 Australia leptospermum species, only 28 have been scientifically proven “bioactive”. Secondly, the flower producing nectar only blooms about 3 months of the year. Thirdly, we do not know the MGO level of the honey until it has been carefully collected, then tested in independent laboratories. Key chemicals tested are indicators of whether the activity of the honey will continue to improve and strengthen with time, or whether the activity at the time of testing is the maximum it will reach. The highest strength manuka honey of MGO1500+ is extremely rare, hence its high value as medicinal honey.
With the advent of modern antibiotics, “superbugs” have emerged – pathogens that have developed resistance to some or even all of the modern antibiotics. Manuka honey has been scientifically proven to assist in wound care:
- Stimulates wound healing
- Effective against multi drug-resistant bacteria
- Provides a moist, low-pH healing environment
- Contains proven antibacterial properties
- Lifts debris & dirt from the wound
- Reduces scab formation & scarring
- Prevents bandage from sticking
- Reduces wound irritation
In a Nutshell
Honey remains unchanged, as natural & as powerful as when our ancestors first discovered its culinary & health benefits in the Stone Age. Our bees remain instrumental in the cycle of life & we encourage you to choose carefully the honey to grace your tables, your tummies and tastebuds!
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