Ghonva Ghauri is a pre-med physiology and neurobiology major at University of Maryland. She is part of our ongoing Nosema project which is focused on the examination of individual bees for Nosema spores. Aside from microscopy, Ghonva has shown an interest in how honey bees have become a part of human cultures across the world. This is her blog…
Earlier this semester, I was explaining to a group of friends what I did at my research lab in the Department of Entomology. The moment after I mentioned the words “the importance of bees” to them, the first response I got (which I’m sure most of them were thinking) was, “Oh yeah, of course! We wouldn’t have honey without bees.” I guess that’s when it really hit me really how uninformed most of our society is about bees, which is so unfortunate! They were shocked to hear about the amount of colorful food we would lose from our plates if bees disappeared, as I quoted Dr. Dennis vanEngelsdorp from his TED Talk, and everyone was especially devastated when they heard about the large impact that would affect the widely beloved almonds. From blueberries and apples to broccoli and onions, without the pollination of bees, we would be majorly impacted from the decreased production and availability of all these goods. We don’t seem to understand how important bees are and how much these little creatures contribute to our society.
It’s amazing if you go back in history too and see the implications of bees across the world throughout different eras! In fact, the famous poet, Khalil Gibran, wrote:
Give and Take…
For to the bee a flower is a foundation of life
And to the flower a bee is a messenger of love
And to both, bee and flower,
The giving and receiving is a need and an ecstasy.
With the exception of Antarctica, bees have been found pollinating in every habitat of the world that contains insect-pollinating flower plants. Cave paintings in Spain have been found from 8000 years ago depicting scenes of individuals collecting honey. In Christian tradition, the image of the bee has been a reoccurring funerary theme to symbolize the resurrected soul. There have also been several references to bees and honey throughout the Bible as well, for instance the Promised Land is referred to as a, “land flowing with milk and honey”. Kamadeva, the Hindu God of Love, has been seen to hold a bow that has a string made of honeybees. The ancient Egyptians learned from the cooperation of beehive organization, such as the many different assignments of worker bees in the transportation of nectar and pollen, the way they guarded and protected the hive, and the way they built and cleaned their hive as well. If the ancient civilizations knew the importance of keeping bees alive and healthy, then why are so many of us forgetting this long-known fact? In Islam as well, Muslims have always held importance for the honey that bees produce; it says in a chapter that in fact is called An-Nahl, or “The Bee”, “And your Lord inspired the bee: build homes in mountains and trees, and in (the hives) they build for you. Then eat from all the fruits, following the design of your Lord, precisely. From their bellies comes a drink of different colors, wherein there is healing for the people”. Growing up in a Muslim household, I remember my mother giving me honey as a remedy for when I had a cold or indigestion. In fact, studies have shown that honey has actually proven to have many health benefits.
Raw honey has been observed to have many medical benefits due to its minerals, vitamins, enzymes, amino acids, and carbohydrates. Honey is used in remedies to cure the common cold, for nausea/vomiting, and to even clear your sinuses. The well-known Dr. Oz has even encouraged the use of honey to heal scrapes and cuts due to its antibacterial properties by simply applying a dab on your wound before you place a bandage on it. He also has promoted that honey helps to decrease allergies if you take a spoonful for two months before allergy season.
Not only do bees help keep our ecosystem together, but they benefit most of us in ways we probably didn’t even know about. So the next time you’re facing the dilemma: to bee informed or not to bee informed?—choose to bee informed!