It's a warm June afternoon here in our little oasis home in the Sahara desert of Egypt, and we're heading to our hives to gather our first harvest of honey from our newly installed bees. Summer time in the Sahara is pretty hot and I'm sweating profusely in my bee suit. We harvest the honey in the early afternoon when most of the bees are foraging and away from the hive. We start to remove the frames, capped and heavy with honey, and soon enough we're in the midst of a swarm of bees - its amazing, even exhilarating. We take some honey for ourselves and leave some for the bees, pack away the frames, and head up through the farm.
Everything is slow here during the holy month of Ramadan. People sleep during the hot desert days whilst fasting, so the evenings are the only real time anything much gets done. So its not surprising that by the time we've sourced an extractor, removed the cloudy honey and are filling up our jars, its already close to 1am. I have sticky hands and honey dripping down my chin, its late and I'm tired, but the moment feels so precious.
I can see how bee keepers could be some of the longest living people in the world. I'm gleefully gorging spoonfuls of royal jelly mixed with one of the worlds most complete proteins - bee pollen - containing literally hundreds of nutritional compounds, most unknown by modern science. This powerful, highly complex concentrated nutrition, is responsible for the anti-aging properties that make the queen bee live more than 30 times longer than other bees in the hive. Potent nutrition indeed!
Now, its a curious fact that although chemists have found out the exact composition of honey, they can't make artificial honey in the laboratory, it just doesn't work. There are some unknown substances – no one really knows what – that only bees can put into honey. Perhaps that's why this incredible product of nature can retain its full aroma and be good to eat some 3,300 years after being found in Egyptian tombs. Yes, honey magically keeps forever and we just don't know why. Another testament to the amazing natural world we live in.
It seems that a human corpse, buried whilst steeped in honey, can easily remain intact for hundreds of years. There are even documented cases in China and Egypt of honey being used for embalming the dead and later removed and used in confectionery. A case of ignorance is bliss. The Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, Assyrians, Spartans, Byzantines and Arabs all made use of honey as a substance for embalming the dead. It's also for this reason that honey has been used since antiquity as a topical antibacterial ointment, and a rather excellent one at that.
Bees really are mystical creatures, and its not surprising with a strong female at the center of the social enterprise. The amount of work they do to produce honey is just mind blowing. On each trip back to her hive, a tiny little female honey bee carries half her weight in nectar. Collectively they can travel as much as 50,000 miles to fill a pound jar of honey. The bees make wax for their comb in perfectly formed cells, consisting of six sides so mathematically perfect that human recreations, a fraction of a cm out, will cause honey bees to reject the hive. Its no wonder bees have been revered in ancient cultures as spiritual and shamanic totems.
Its easy to see how the Divine manifests in all of creation when we look into, and are present, with nature. So much unhappiness and confusion comes from us seeing ourselves and our environment as separate entities. Bees help us recognize the sacred interconnectedness of all life on earth, and the broader message of treading lightly on the planet and with as much love as possible.
I'm appreciating the bee keepers here in our oasis - even though they have kept bees for many years, they still claim to learn something new everyday. I love their enthusiasm teaching and helping me with the craft of beekeeping, like this knowledge is somehow a gift with an obligation to share. The subject of money and payment for their time is never even considered and if brought up, is met with irritation and annoyance. Giving with an open heart and with no expectation of financial reward, is a very normal part of life here in this tribal community.
So lets celebrate bees around the world and do what we can to help them, because without bees there is no more pollination, hence no more plants, no more animals and no more man.
1. Support local bee keepers by buying their honey.
2. Pesticides are bad for humans but they're worse for bees. Investigate organic and natural means of pest control in your garden.
3. Support the use of inexpensive 'bee blocks' and 'bee bricks' in buildings and gardens for solitary wild bees. They're non aggressive and no problem if you have kids or pets around.
4. Grow bee friendly plants in your garden which supply a good amount of pollen for bees in the warmer months.
5. Let some of your green veggies 'bolt' or 'go to seed', allowing bees to stock up on food before the winter months.
Vanilla Royal Jelly Smoothie
(Our favorite bee drink of the moment)
* 2 cups fresh raw goats milk or activated (soaked) almond milk
* 2 Tbs of raw honey
* ½ tsp of royal jelly
* handful of organic dates
* Couple of frozen bananas
* 2 Tbs tahini
* ½ teaspoon of vanilla
Blend ~ Enjoy ~ Appreciate