The western honey bee, or european honey bee (Apis Mellifera) is just one species of bees. The genus "apis" is Latin for bee, and "mellifera" comes from latin "melli" for honey, and ferre "to bear"— hence the name means "honey-bearing bee". The name was coined in 1758 by Carolus Linnaeus who, upon realizing the bees do not bear honey, but nectar, tried later to correct it to Apis Mellifica "honey-making bee" in a subsequent publication. However, according to the rules of synonymy in zoological nomenclature, the former name takes precedence.
According to all the usual criteria, individual bees are insects. However, consider these following points. In the late 19th century bees were granted the "status" of vertebrates, and colonies of them were viewed as the equivalent of a "being". The worker bees represent the bodily organs necessary for maintenance and digestion, while the queen and drones represent the female and male reproductive genitals. This new concept resulted in the term "bien", implying the "organic interpretation of an individual". Around this same time, the term "super organism" was coined for honey bees and ants. The origins are Latin's "super; above and Greek's organon; tool."
The definition of super-organism is, "A self organizing and complex adaptive system based on a network of communication; a mammal in several bodies".
In the groundbreaking book The Buzz About Bees: Biology Of A Super Organism it states that a colony of bees can be classified as a mammal. Using a distinct set of criteria and novel features, mammals can be separated from other vertebrates and directly compared with honey bees.
Mammals have a low rate of reproduction, as do honey bees
Female mammals produce nourishment (milk) for their offspring in special glands. honey bees do the same (royal jelly).
The uterus of mammals offers their developing offspring a precisely controlled and protective environment, independent of the control variables of the external world. Honey bees provide the juvenile forms the exact same protection in the social uterus of the brood comb.
Mammals normally maintain body temperatures of 36C. Honey bees keep the internal temperature of the brood combs containing the pupae at 35C.
Mammals with their large brains, possess the highest learning and cognitive abilities of all vertebrates. Honey bees possess a highly developed capacity for learning and a cognitive ability that eclipses some other vertebrates.
The notion that honeybee colonies have developed the same novel strategies for thriving adaptability as mammals suggests there is more to this than a mere superficial similarity. As though all this weren't enough, this super organism has found a way to continually alter its genetic equipment, rendering it potentially immortal.
The recent suffering of the bee population which began in 2006, and is called colony collapse disorder (CCD), could be viewed as a reflection of the collective suffering that the modern domesticated humans have inflicted to ourselves, and in turn the whole of the life community. I believe if we as a species heal ourselves and begin to rebuild paradise from the inside out, those actions will reflect with amazing grace on the outside.
Bees are electro-magnetic beings like all living organisms and have tiny metallic filaments in their heads which allow them to expertly navigate during flight. This ability to fly great distances and find their way back to their hive is disrupted by the electro-smog generated by cell phone towers, satellites and other industrial technologies that emit high powered radio frequencies.
There's the multitudes of synthetic chemicals created for the military industry during the 40's that have been sprayed on the juggernaut of agricultural mono-crops. This conventional produce which was designed for feeding the massive population of humans is the same unsavory stuff that the bees forage for nectar. Civilization wouldn't be possible without bees to pollinate the flowers. The vast fields are laced with poisonous pollen and this is transported back to the sensitive confines of the hives.
Because bees cycle through generations rapidly (female workers living approximately three to six weeks), the bio-accumulation of toxic compounds outpaces their ability to adapt to a changing environment.
How long will it take for the build up of this toxic load to reach a saturation point in the DNA of humans who ingest these substances? A look around at the physical and mental degeneration of many people in our society indicates that negative effects are already appearing. So we see that what we do to others, we also do to ourselves.
Food was generally pure up until the second world war in the 40's. In 1939, Lord Northbourne coined the term "organic farming" in his book "Look To The Land" out of his conception of "the farm as organism", to describe a holistic, ecologically-balanced approach to farming, in contrast to what he called "chemical farming", which relied on "imported fertility" and "cannot be self-sufficient nor an organic whole".
Ethically farmed bees, under organic standards, don't suffer the same fate as factory farmed bees. If the bees are respected, treated fairly, and the food they forage aren't franken-flowers, then it's safe to say that the honey, pollen, propolis and royal jelly which they produce are super foods par excellence. Apis Mellifera is the prime pollinator of the worlds major crops of fruits, vegetables and nuts. Albert Einstein said "If the bees go, the majority of domesticated humans would follow within three years."
Out of all the ways in which we benefit from consuming the mellifluous fruits of their intensive labor, two methods frequently elude most people in the mainstream public and even the majority of apiarists.
During the summer of 2012, I paid my first visit to an apiary. I needed honey for mead I was going to brew. As the apiarist was guiding me on the tour of his land, we came to an area where some hives had been harvested for honeycomb and frames were sitting, waiting to be cleaned before the next round. There remained on the stacks, bits of comb and bodies of bees. They die of both natural causes and because of how the how the honey is harvested.
I asked the man if I could scrape the remains, and despite his bewilderment, allowed me to have at it. Before heading home to process this new medicine I stopped to sit close by the active hives and give thanks.
I then began to investigate any historical use of bee bodies for nutrition or medicine. The subsequent research indicated that indeed there is some literature on the subject, and I've come to the conclusion that clearly there needs to be more studies and experiments done in this field. Nevertheless, according to what our ancestors knew, what science is finding, what my intuition tells me and what experience has proven, this is an exciting area of exploration with far reaching implications where our health is concerned.
Using the bee bodies (Podmores) in such a manner is fairly sustainable, whereas normally they're discarded as a byproduct of the industry. The most outstanding aspect of podmore consumption is the chitinous covering which is contained in the exoskeleton of bees, ants, and other insects in the hymenoptera family. This also applies to the medicinal tree mushrooms, such as chaga and reishi.
Chitin is a tough, semi-transparent substance that is the main component of the exoskeletons of arthropods, shells of crustaceans, the outer coverings of insects, and is also found in the cell walls of certain fungi and algae. It's a nitrogenous polysaccharide (complex carbohydrate or long chain sugar). Comparatively, glucose, fructose and others are short chain sugars (monosaccharides) that taste sweet and basically burn up quickly in our bodies. Long chain sugars on the other hand, taste more bitter but beneficially feed our immune systems.
In order to actually break open the cell walls of chitin and extract the beta glucans so it becomes bioavailable to us, there are two methods; aqueous or ethanol (hot water decoction and/or alcohol solution). This is how our ancestors achieved potent preparations of plant and animal medicines (apparently with podmore's too).
Bee venom, like certain extracts of chitin, is used for decreasing inflammation and relieving arthritis as well as associated pains in the muscles and joints. One way to obtain the venom is to use the whole podmore as outlined above. the other way is to get directly stung by a bee, the contents of the venom sac thereby entering the bloodstream through injection. This is commonly referred to as apitherapy, or bee venom therapy (BVT), and predates popular chinese acupuncture. What one basically does is to take a bee in pinchers, place it at the site of the pain, or along any of the bodies meridian points, and press it close enough to provoke the stinging action.
Bee venom (Apitoxin) is a complex set of enzymes, amino acids, proteins and contains at least 18 active substances. Bee venom is very different from the venom of snakes; while snake venom is coagulant, bee venom is only hemorrhagic. There are several chemicals in bee venom that help our bodies therapeutically, chemicals like apamine, hyaluronidase, melittin, and phospholipase. These chemicals help stimulate the adrenal glands as well as the cardiovascular system.
There are mineral substances in bee venom that are therapeutic to the body and it also contains volatile organic acids, hydrochloric acid, formic acid and ortho phosphoric acid. There are several powerful antibiotics contained in the bee venom, as well as the enzyme phospholipase, which plays an important role the human body. Bee venom triggers the production of cortisol in the body which is vital to improving immunity. Plus, there are measurable amounts of the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.
When I was at the apiary, I also picked some stinging nettle leaves from the land that grew right next to the hives. Nettles contain a histamine, but this histamine does not cause us to have allergy symptoms. Nettle's histamine bonds to the histamine receptors in the body's cells, preventing our own histamines from attaching to the same cells during an allergic reaction. For relief from allergies, research and experience show that nettles and bee products are two of our greatest allies, especially if they're locally sourced wherever we live.
Like the hypnotic droning sound of the bees, this album has a similarly hypnotic charm.
If we wish for a cleaner, more harmonious world, we should start with healing ourselves. We've inherited an increasingly toxic world from our parents, grandparents and great grandparents, and if we don't take responsibility to turn the situation around then we'll be leaving a neglected legacy for our future generations to deal with.
A logical direction towards a way of life that's beneficial for the whole life community is a radical shift to wild food foraging, or at least a small scale organically based food production.
We can learn a lot from observing bees with compassionate perception, and if we apply those lessons, it will go a long way toward recreating paradise on earth through a mutually beneficial relationship. These things and more are poetically emphasized in the wonderful book, The Shamanic Way Of The Bee.
We tend to protect what we know and love, so I encourage you to cultivate a sound relationship with bees. they offer us a brilliant example of what it's like to be a healthy community.