On my route to college I pass this honey shop; La Maison du Miel. What a gorgeous little haven it is! I popped in recently as I had run out of raw honey. The man who works in the honey shop, naturally, is an expert on honey. I asked which honeys were raw and he talked me through all of the raw honeys he had. There were French honeys and Belgian honeys, summer honeys and spring honeys, flower honeys and forest honeys, strong dark honeys and clear mild honeys. I was spoiled for choice! I went for a medium honey that had started to crystalise. It tastes absolutely incredible!
There are all sorts of honey-related products in the shop; soaps, beers, liquors, sweets, biscuits, bee pollen etc. It’s so gorgeous! As someone who consumes a predominantly plant-based diet, honey is a food I decided to continue eating with hesitation and consideration.
I have friends who are beekeepers in France and until I moved to Brussels, most of the honey I was consuming was made by my friends. I’ve been lucky enough to visit their hives on a couple of occasions. Once whenI visited the hives in a small village in the French Pyrenees, I was shocked and dismayed with what we found. The hive was being attacked by enormous Asian hornets. I knew that this was a problem in this region, I’d been told about it, but seeing it with my own eyes changed it. I actually saw hornets hovering outside the hive, waiting for worker bees to come out. They would then intercept the bee in flight and decapitate it. It was gruesome to watch. We were dressed in white beekeeper’s suits so we were protected and our friend (the beekeeper) had taken rackets with him so that we could defend the hives from the hornets. He had also taken some traps in which he put a cocktail of cheap alcohol to attract the hornets. It was an interesting afternoon. I had expected to visit the hives, help move them around and check on the bees, I really hadn’t anticipated the carnage we were confronted with. In a way it’s good that I saw first hand what kind of problems European bees are facing. The problem with the hornets is that they aren’t native to Europe. We have our own native European hornet species, which don’t pose as much of a threat to the bees because they are smaller than the non-native Asian hornets. The problem of bee populations being under attack is that they pollinate every third bite of food we eat. We rely heavily on these pollinators. At the same time, we have governments approving pesticides that are harmful to bees. We’re essentially biting the hand that feeds us when we do that. Pardon the pun.
I watched an incredible documentary on bees called More Than Honey and I would recommend it to anyone who wishes to better understand bees and the issues they face.
Finally, perhaps you’re a compassionate caring person who wishes to know how you might be able to help, see here for a Guardian article on the very subject!