Love of honey is deeply-rooted in us humans. Between 8,000 to 10,000 years ago, humans began to collect and consume honey products. By 2444 B.C.E., cultures like the Ancient Egyptians began to perfect the art of beekeeping. Honey is a commodity that has become something of a necessity, and its history may surprise you.
What may also surprise you is that honey bees are not native to the Western Hemisphere. In fact, the first honey bees were imported into the Colonies circa 1622. From its importation through the early 1800’s, beekeeping seems to have largely been a local trade. Prior to the invention of hives with movable frames, beekeeping was a rather destructive process. Bees were often captured in the spring and killed in the fall so that beeswax and honey could be harvested. By the late 1800’s, though, combs of honey could be removed without harming the bees, and commercial beekeeping became a financial possibility for hobbyists and local tradesmen.
One local beekeeping hobbyist was a man by the name of Amos Ives Root. A.I. Root seemed to be fascinated by a number of different fields, and he made an effort to acquaint himself with knowledgeable individuals in those areas. Thus is how Root became the first man to publish an account of the Wright Brothers’ flight, and also how he would come to strike up an acquaintance with Rev. Lorenzo Langstroth, the inventor of the modern beehive that keepers still use today.
By 1869, Root was making candles out of beeswax, and thanks to his innovation and influence, bees became a beloved symbol in Medina.
“Beekeeping is absolutely a field to be proud of on Ohio,” say Michele Colopy, Program Director of Pollinator Strewardship Council.
Colopy goes on to explain the value of beekeeping in the state. Here, honey production is a $4.5 million industry. Our state is home to 10,000 registered beekeepers, and 191 of them call Medina County home. In the state, 15,000 honey producing colonies flourish, producing 79 lbs of honey each.
Like many locals, Colopy has a deeply rooted passion for beekeeping. “I helped my father harvest honey growing up. We didn’t have motor oriented extractors, and I had the right hand techniques. So, yes, I have a passion for the field, but it also provides tremendous value to the community.
“Bees improve quality of life. Plants, shrubs, and anything that flowers needs to be pollinated, and few plants are wind, rain, or self-pollinated. We would not have our beautiful parks, community gardens, or small and large farms without our pollinators. Fall is when honey is harvested, so around this time of year it is available in great quantity. It is great to support locally grown, but we must remember that that includes honey as a local agricultural commodity.. Plus, some believe that if you eat honey from local plants and local pollen, it increases pollen immunity. Enjoy honey and the flavorful possibilities it creates, but also consider the importance of pollination that bees provide.”
Honey bees and native bees (which encompass 4,000 native species) pollinate local flowers and agricultural goods. However, many veggies on our Thanksgiving table are New World crops–things Native Americans cultivated and ate–and native bees are essential in the pollination of certain native plants that are not attractive to honey bees. Our pollinator population is extremely valuable, so the maintenance of our existing honeybee population is of great importance to our ecosystem.
“The projected value of our bee industry doesn’t include the value that pollination provides to our crops. In Ohio, cucumbers, pumpkins, peppers, peaches, cabbage, tomatoes, and apples need to be pollinated. That’s roughly $75-100 million in valued pollination. Corn is an example of a crop that is wind-pollinated, so bees stay away from it. But, as you can see, these remarkable creatures provide an incredible value to their communities.”
Are bees worthy to be a symbol of Medina pride? As an agricultural community and the historic home of A.I. Root, the answer is as resounding yes. While the busy bees seem to have fled for the winter, there are ways you can help them maintain and grow their existing population.. Special seed blends designed to provide pollinator forage can be planted now so that they bloom in the spring and provide a food source to our pollinators. For more info on how you can support your local bee population, visit Bit.ly/2z1KNFd.
I don’t know about you, but I’m sure thankful for the bees that bring beauty to our quaint community and local crops to our Thanksgiving tables. Have a great holiday!