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Does harvesting honey hurt bees?

The problem of the loss of the honeybee in commercial and residential settings has become one of the most important environmental problems the human race faces. Over the course of the last decade, Greenpeace has reported the situation regarding the decline of bees has reached problematic levels with around 40 percent of the population of bees lost from commercial use in the U.S. The question then comes to many of us regarding the safety of eating honey and using beeswax products when the bee population is in such dire straits.

One of the reasons many people believe in eating honey is that it is often seen as a byproduct by the majority of beekeepers who spend their time allowing their colonies to harvest crops. Like the majority of food produced in the 21st-century, the majority of honey's we see on the shelves of grocery stores are produced in difficult conditions for the bee population. In large production facilities, the problem of mistreatment and the overcollection of the nectar regurgitated by a bee can cause stress for the bee and the individual colony.

However, sourcing locally produced products made from the byproducts of the bee can be a completely different experience. Responsible beekeepers spend their time ensuring their colony is protected before collecting any products which could be sold in the future. Collections should only be done when the hive is overproducing and preparing for the difficult winter months. In most cases, a beekeeper will only harvest enough to allow the colony to retain at least 60 percent of that which has been produced. Overproduction is a common issue for most beekeepers who spend their time ensuring the harvest does not cause long-term damage to the hive or its occupants.

The environmental impact of eating honey should always be considered when making the decision about which products to buy which have been created from the byproducts of a bee colony. The first thing to remember is the bee population is shrinking despite it being responsible for the pollination of around 30 percent of the world's food. Pesticides and the changing climate are combining to shrink the population in Europe and North America. Sourcing locally produced products are the best way of limiting any environmental impact as the lack of processing of this raw product to reduce the carbon impact on the environment. Collecting excess from their bee colony is the way most local beekeepers operate making this a product one can feel comfortable eating for its limited impact on bees and the environment.