Bees and Your Food
One in every three bites of food we eat is the direct result of honeybee pollination, and the added value honeybees bring to the U.S. agricultural economy is $15 billion annually.
Local crops that are almost entirely reliant on bees for pollination include apples, asparagus, blueberries, broccoli, celery, onions and more. Bees also increase the productivity of fields of animal feed, such as alfalfa and clover, so that even food products like milk and beef are more abundant because of honeybees.
Bees face many threats. The global phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has killed off a third of the honeybees in numerous countries since 2006. The culprit has yet to be identified, but it's likely that several factors are combining into a perfect lethal storm.
A new class of pesticides may be part of the problem. Systemic pesticides are applied to seeds (rather than sprayed on mature plants) and, as a result, the pesticide is present in all parts of the plant for the plant's entire lifetime. That creates more opportunities for the pesticides to kill harmless "non-target" insects like bees.
Other possible contributors to CCD are: Overuse of chemicals by some beekeepers to kill the mites and fungi that plague beehives; the stress to bees of pollinating monoculture fields (like humans, bees need a diversified diet to stay healthy); and the influx of invasive viruses and pests made possible by global trade.
Slow Food Boone, High Country will host a screening of "Vanishing of the Bees" at the
Watauga County Public Library on Thursday, March 17, at 6:30 p.m. The film gives an overview of honeybees and investigates the environmental, economic and political implications of colony collapse. It focuses on two commercial beekeepers, David Hackenberg and Dave Mendes, in their attempt to keep their bees healthy and safe, make lawmakers and the public aware of the phenomenon, and travel abroad for information and awareness.
Attending the screening is a great way to learn about what you can do to help this serious situation. Individuals who plant bee-friendly habitats with flowering plants that produce high quality pollen and nectar around their homes and use pesticides as little as possible will help the bee population increase.
Here is a honey inclusive cookie recipe, which contains no hydrogenated oil, preservatives or high-fructose corn syrup. Friend and organizer of the "Vanishing of the Bees" screening Marg McKinney shared, "My mother's best friend was Greek, and this is one of the Christmas cookies she made and shared her family recipe with us. I've been part of making this cookie for the past 58 years. The instant Cream of Wheat may sound odd, but Pearl could never find a source of the meal that was used in Greece to make the cookies. After several years of trying to getting something similar, instant Cream of Wheat was the closest."
Melemakaroma (Greek honey cookies)
9-10 cups white, all-purpose flour
2 cups mild flavored olive oil
1/2 cup instant Cream of Wheat
2/3 cup white sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
2 Tbsp. honey
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 oz. whiskey (4 Tbsp.)
1 cup orange juice
Grated peel of 1 1/2 orange
Almonds or pecans, chopped
Mix olive oil, cream of wheat, sugar, 2 Tbsp. honey, cinnamon, and orange peel. Mix orange juice and baking powder; mix whiskey and cinnamon. Add both to oil mixture. Stir thoroughly and add enough flour to be able to handle the dough and form it into balls the size of a whole pecan. Shape cookies into rounds or elongate ovals. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. While the cookies are hot, roll them in warm honey in a shallow pan. Place on waxed paper and top with ground nuts. Store in an air-tight container for two weeks before eating. They can be stored for several months.
Margie Mansure, M.S., R.D. is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and extension agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension. She offers personalized classes to improve the health of citizens in Watauga County through worksites, schools and community groups and is the local food coordinator for Watauga County. To contact Margie, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call, (828) 264-3061.