I was on Twitter the other night, and there was a lot of talk about honey. I’m a big fan of honey, I think it cures an assortment of ills and even the old faithful honey and lemon drink when ill, or just if you are just feeling a bit wintry.
We are very lucky in that Nigel’s Dad has bees, and we never have to buy it, although the stickiness it creates around “harvesting” has to be seen to be believed.
We recently had a lady staying with us from Vermont in the U.S., she was fascinated that we had bee hives on the farm, she told us they haven’t seen bees in quite a number of summers, and this is definitely affecting their food production in their garden, I was fascinated by this and investigated further.
Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is a new ecological problem in which worker bees from a beehive abruptly disappear. While such disappearances have occurred periodically throughout history, the term colony collapse disorder was first applied to a drastic rise in the number of disappearances of Western honey bee colonies in North America from late 2006. This will become a serious issue as many food crops worldwide are pollinated by bees; and ecologically, because of the major role that bees play in the reproduction of plants in the wild.
What can we do? I’m not sure, just Bee careful I suppose…. (sorry!) And be aware (couldn’t do it a second time!)
So, the pros and cons of Honey?
Honey contains very powerful antioxidants with antiseptic and antibacterial properties. Manuka honey from New Zealand is now a common healing ointment used in horses, to combat infection and inflammation. It has been cited as helping against MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).
I believe that it is also a help in the combat of allergies, most especially locally grown honey, as the bees are collecting minute amounts, and it acts almost like a vaccine.
Infant botulism is a very rare neuro-paralytic disease that may occur in babies under one year of age. It can occur when an infant swallows spores of a particular bacterium (Clostridium botulinum) which grow and produce a neurotoxin in the infant’s intestine. This would not happen in healthy adults and older children as the natural defences which have developed in their intestines would prevent the growth of these spores. In some infants, these defences have not yet developed, and so this gives the infection a chance to get a foothold and produce the toxin.
Spores of Clostridium botulinum, which are commonly found in the environment (soil and dust) may be picked up by bees and brought to the hive, thus infecting the honey, however these spores can also be picked up from fruit. BUT between 2004 and 2009 there have been only nine reported notifications of botulism in Ireland. 
My Favourite Honey Recipe?
Honey Roasted Parsnips. Truly yummy at this time of year, we haven’t dug our own yet, as we haven’t (thankfully!) had a frost, but soon, very soon.
I parboil them when they are getting slightly older, but at the moment, they are just fine roasted for 30 mins in a hot oven in a little olive oil, then spoon some honey over them and pop them back for a further 10 minutes.
1 Altman, Nathaniel (9 March 2010), The Honey Prescription: The Amazing Power of Honey As Medicine
2. Food Safety Authority of Ireland Survey on Infant Botulism 2010.