Why vegans don't eat honey - and why we should all do our bit for the bees

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When I was a child we used to go blackberry picking on the hills next to the Leas.

At the back of our current garden we have wild blackberry bushes. At the end of the summer we picked the berries and either added them to our porridge or froze them to eat later in the year.

The flowers on the bushes attracted bees and when we sat quietly in our garden we could hear their rhythmic, soothing buzzing. It seems like a distant memory already!

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There are over 270 species of bees in the UK, the most common one we will see is the tree bumblebee, they have the ginger thorax, black abdomen and white tails we associate with bees. But there are some really unusual named bees as well as unusual looking bees, for example, have you heard of the red mason bee, or the tawny mining bee or the common carder bee?

Doing out bit for the bees.Doing out bit for the bees.
Doing out bit for the bees.

Have you ever been stung by a bee? Not all bees sting, but it really is an ouch moment when they do. I was stung once while driving and opening my car window.

A bee was on the window and became trapped and stung me when I tried to release them. Of the bees that sting, it is only the female bees that are able to do so. But bees will only sting you if they are threatened or injured. So if you leave them be (bee!) they will go on their way.

And not all bees make honey too. But why is it that vegans like myself, avoid honey?

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A honey bee will visit up to 1500 flowers to collect enough nectar to fill their first stomach. In their second stomach, enzymes break the nectar down into honey. The bees then regurgitate this and it continues to be processed by the bees in the hive and turned into the honey we recognise. A bee will make just one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in their lifetime and is fundamental to the wellbeing of their hive. During the commercial honey making process, honey is removed from the hive and replaced with sugary water which does not have the nutrients the bees need to survive and thrive. Bees are also genetically modified, specifically bred and mutilated routinely, and vast numbers of bees die in the production of honey.

There is also an environmental impact of the commercial breeding of bees. The commercial mass breeding of bees overwhelms other insects in the environment. And according to The Vegan Society 95% of honey consumed in the UK is actually imported primarily from China and Turkey – so it isn’t the healthy, environmentally friendly product we have been led to believe.

Fundamentally though, the bees produce the honey for their hives, not for humans. It isn’t ours to take or use and we don’t need it – unlike the bees who need it for their very survival. Bees are already in decline due to habitat loss, climate change and pesticides, so we shouldn’t add to the problem by taking their food source. So next time you see or hear a bee buzzing around, appreciate these amazing little creatures for the mini-miracles they are.

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