Why not mass produced (supermarket) honey?
What would happen if bees went extinct? It’s commonly thought that this would just lead to a few less flowers, and less spreads available to put on your toast in the morning. This isn’t strictly true, though. If we didn’t have bees, our ecosystem (and in turn, our society) would feel the effects harshly and dramatically.
So, what is it that’s worrying for the state of bees in our modern society? This may come as a surprise to some, but the honey industry is actually causing a lot of damage to both bees and the environment itself. Many people like to believe that the honey industry isn’t necessarily bad, as it doesn’t ‘kill the bees’- but it’s causing a world of negative effects that you need to be aware of.
In this blog, we’ll be taking a look at the damaging effects of the honey industry on bees and on the natural world.
Where does honey come from in the modern world?
To start off with, it’s worth considering that there are both commercial sources of honey and local sources of honey. Each style of farm or industrial environment will have their own negative effects, depending on the scale and practices.
Local farms may consist of only a few hives, and won’t have as much of an impact on the entire ecosystem as an industrial farm would, simply due to scale. They can still have a horrible effect on the health of the bees and the local wildlife, though. For example, the ever-growing population of farmed bees is actually eating into the population of other insects in the world. Native bumblebees have been dropping off of the face of the earth, due to the fact they are driven primarily by habitat loss and declines in floral abundance and diversity resulting from agricultural intensification.
Industrial farms have a much more negative effect on the global ecosystem. One of the main reasons here is the carbon footprint that is left behind. Did you know that roughly 95% of the honey consumed in the UK is imported from Turkey and China, for example? This is a hugely disruptive industry, and not in a good way.
The damage that the honey industry can do to bees
We’ve mentioned it briefly already, but the honey industry is causing a lot of harm to our beloved bees. One of the main causes of this is the act of removing honey from a hive. As with all animal based commercial industries, the quantity of a product comes first and the welfare of the animals (or in this case, insects) comes second. Farmers will replace honey with a cheap sugar substitute, which is very unhealthy for the bees.
Additionally, the selective breeding that occurs is very unhealthy. They’re already believed to be close to endangerment, so limiting their breeding is not a good move. It also increases the risk of diseases, or even entire hives dying off.
The importation of bees is also very dangerous. As it says in this Natural Beekeeping Trust article, modern beekeeping simply isn’t sustainable. Thus, people import bees from all over the globe- but this can lead to negative effects on local ecosystems and on the bees themselves, due to diseases.
Queen bees can also face wing clipping practices from farmers. It’s simply cruel and unfair, and is done to prevent them leaving the colony. Farmers have also been known to cull entire hives to save a few pennies, too.
How the honey industry is damaging the environment?
As we mentioned above, it’s not just the bees that are being damaged by the honey farming industry. Our natural world is being damaged quite severely. One of the main reasons as we saw earlier is the importation elements. This applies to both importing honey and importing bees- it’s incredibly harmful to the environment.
Additionally, the rising population of farmed bees is chipping away at other insect populations. If the honey industry doesn’t slow down (and sadly, it’s not slowing down quick enough) then there will be serious ramifications in terms of extinctions and endangerment.