Beekeeping is increasingly more frequently being taken up as an amateur hobby. This can be attributed to many factors, ranging from increased awareness of the importance of bees within the ecosystem to the ready availability of the bees and beginner equipment accessible for purchase. Some may catch a local swarm, some may purchase a number of bees and work to socialize them into a colony – the point is that many people do it, and not least because of certain health benefits.
That’s right, beekeeping can be incredibly beneficial to your general health. Beekeeping is both the work you put in and the harvest you reap (obviously primarily honey, but other substances too). Both have health benefits, the former therapeutic, the latter nutritional. It certainly casts bees as one of the more benign creatures on our planet that both the care of them and their produce hold potential health benefits for humans.
Before getting into my list of the 8 specific benefits though, it might be worth spilling some words on the benefits of simply having a hobby. Beekeeping can be a very serious endeavor involving much hard work (as well as attendant satisfaction), but more and more people engage with it as a hobby instead. A hobby offers an outlet for stress (and encourages so-called “eustress”, or positive stress), gives you a sense of both the challenge and the satisfaction, and is even linked to health benefits as disparate as lower blood pressure and weight loss.
Opting to make your hobby beekeeping, however, offers many healthy benefits besides. Read on in wonder as I list ten of the ways that beekeeping can make you a healthier, happier person. And starting with the obvious…
Specifically, your own. Perhaps the most famous health benefits that come along with beekeeping are those that come from the honey itself, a beekeeper’s primary product. Honey has great nutritional value, being rich in nutrients such as niacin, riboflavin, iron, and manganese. And because it is also deliciously sweet, many honey enthusiasts consider it a fine alternative to refined sugar. Honey is frequently added to beverages to help with sore throats and has also been shown to have antibacterial properties. A special mention is also due to the intense sense of satisfaction you will derive from harvesting and consuming your own honey. Honey is one of the nutritional benefits of beekeeping that dovetails with the psychological benefits, as being present at every stage of its development makes the end result profoundly satisfying.
2. Royal Jelly
Royal jelly is a substance produced by honeybees that is used to feed larvae and queen bees all through their respective lives. Indeed, feeding a larva a lot of royal jelly is how a queen is produced; this particular diet triggering the morphology of the queen bee. Unsurprisingly then, it is a pretty special substance, and few were surprised when it was found to be of massive nutritional value, with a list of components and attendant health benefits as long as your arm. It can be bought as a dietary supplement and it has been claimed to be effective as an antioxidant and a potential anti-inflammatory.
Propolis is another little-known bee-product that is nevertheless acknowledged as something of a superfood. Propolis is made from tree sap, which bees collect and mix with other substances to create a thick substance which is used to coat their hives. Although not a food for bees, it is another substance sold as a health food and dietary supplement. Being derived from sap, the precise content of propolis will be heavily influenced by the trees from which the bees have collected it. Nevertheless, the over 300 substances typically found within a sample of propolis are primarily polyphenols, which can bolster disease prevention and immuno-defense in humans.
4. Bee Pollen
Bee pollen is an interesting substance. It is the result of the pollen that bees collect and the other substances that are added to it before being stored in the hive. As pollen itself can vary in composition from flower to flower, and because bees will add further substances such as nectar, enzymes, honey, and wax, bee pollen can have an extremely variable composition. Containing over 250 active ingredients, bee pollen is a true super food and is frequently sold as a dietary supplement. Containing several substances with anti-inflammatory properties and being rich in antioxidants, it is one of the most widely sought-after bee products. The Federal Ministry of Health in Germany has even recognized bee pollen as a medicine.
From honey and royal jelly to propolis and pollen, the super healthy bee products that you can harvest from your hives do not stop there. Known for its practical application in the creation of candles and other products, beeswax has a serious reputation as a skincare product as well. After all the nutritional value of the other substances you can get from your hive, beeswax offers some cosmetic potential. Beeswax also has anti-inflammatory properties and can be used for a range of skin irritations.
6. Gratifying, Rewarding Work
Beekeeping at the amateur level is pretty relaxing. Bees can be left alone for extended periods, hives can be set up in any number of convenient locations, and limiting things to a few hives keeps the hard work at bay. That said, even at this level, beekeeping can be an enormously rewarding and gratifying pastime, with a host of psychological benefits associated with that. For one thing, the beekeeper becomes intimately connected with an ancient natural process from start to finish. If a hive grows, there is a similar sense of development and the harvest of honey has a real feeling of achievement to it (see below). Beekeepers are more connected to nature, and you can even taste the effect of the local flora in the honey that is ultimately produced. Being placed in such a position of care for both a community of creatures and the immediate natural environment upon which they depend can be an exceptionally rewarding experience.
7. The Satisfaction of Achievement
The last entry concerned the tendency of beekeeping to foster a sense of connectedness with, and care of, the natural world. However, beekeeping is also a past time where ambition is rewarded with the potential for success. If a sense of rolling achievement is important for your mental wellbeing, you could scarcely do better than beekeeping. An amateur beekeeper can expect some honey after a couple of years but, if you are in the business of expansion, the sky’s the limit as you create new hives, trap new swarms, and generally try to increase production of honey and the other substances mentioned above. It is very possible to set targets in beekeeping – year on year – and to experience the deep sense of satisfaction in achieving them.
8. Bee Sting Immunity
This entry represents a remarkable phenomenon, and one that could certainly be counted as a health benefit – but it comes with a huge disclaimer. If you are allergic to bee stings, extreme caution is obviously due around bees. Bees are not aggressive but having an allergy, naturally enough, means a whole new set of rules. That said, for those beekeepers who have been stung a few times (perhaps the smoker wasn’t as enthusiastically applied as would have been ideal, or maybe the beekeeper was a bit rough when handling the hive) it has been widely reported that an immunity to the sting develops. For many long-term beekeepers, this turns out to be one very useful health benefit indeed.