Most beekeepers begin to manage honey bees for honey. Honey is not “vegan” for the simple reason that some consider keeping bees as “exploiting” the insects for their hard-won gain. Few beekeepers agree with this interpretation for a variety of reasons, and even some hard line vegans will consume honey, but like most of agriculture, there is a grain of truth to this allegation in some cases. Beyond a food, honey has some unique characteristics that are important in human health, especially when it comes to treating burns and wounds. Honey used in this manner should be minimally processed; not unfiltered and not heated. Certain honeys are sold specifically as human remedies due to their special plant source and/or subsequent properties.
Honey quality is all the rage in Europe, not so much in the United States, but beginning to catch on. In addition, there’s more and more attention being paid to tropical honey on the world market. An historical situation has to do with adulterated honey, which was rift in the 1980s and continues to be an issue today. Finally, the topic of organic honey is coming up more frequently. Leading the charge is Brazil for a variety of reasons.
There are quite a few honey-bee-collected products that humans can take advantage of as well as honey. Pollen is gathered by bees to make into a fermented paste called “bee bread.” However, it can be trapped (scraped) off the honey bee body before it reaches the hive and processed for either honey bee or human food.
Like pollen, propolis is gathered by the bees in field. It is used primarily as a sort of glue to plug openings and in rare cases, completely encase objectionable materials in the hive the insects cannot remove themselves. It has antibiotic properties and can be made into various tinctures/remedies important to humans.
In contrast to the materials above that are gathered by honey bees in the field, three are manufactured by the insects themselves. These are beeswax, venom and brood food (jelly). Beeswax is secreted by honey bees into flakes, which are then used to construct the honey bee’s nest, its comb. It has a number of uses important to humans, including liturgical candles, and perhaps one the the world’s first crafts, the lost wax process. Finally, it is both a foundation for the honey bee nest and recyclable product, which can be used again and again by beekeepers to help honey bees save energy in their comb-building process. Unfortunately, beeswax is under assault mostly from the world’s beekeepers, who insist on treating their colonies with various chemicals for a variety of conditions.
Honey bee venom can be collected and used by humans for several reasons. Honey bee venom therapy is one of several kinds of “apitherapy,” in humans, which is celebrated and studied by American Apitherapy Society.
Finally, honey bee workers produce a rich larval or brood food, sometimes called “worker jelly,” It is the same material fed to queens during their development, often called “royal jelly.” Queens get much more of this jelly during their development. Although consumed by humans in some cultures, there is little evidence that honey-bee-produced jelly contributes materially to human health.