Beekeeper Mary O’Riordan on the by-products of a hive

The Healing Bee by Roch Domerego from Northern Bee Books €10 approx.

Beekeeper Mary O’Riordan on the by-products of a hive

Roch Domerego is one of the most eminent specialists in the field of Apitherapy, he is also a naturotherapist, and a university professor. He is vice president of the Apitherapy Commission within Apimondia, which is the central body for beekeepers from all over the world, was born in France, but now lives in Brussels.

Apitherapy the science of healing through the use of bee products, which is a mixture of traditional and modern thinking, and which reconciles man with nature, has always been common knowledge. Products from the hive are good for health and our great-grandparents probably used honey for all sorts of ailments, especially burns.

Recent scientific research has demonstrated that the various substances manufactured by honeybees, along with other plant combinations, are real medicines with properties superior to chemical remedies, and without any adverse side effects or costly outlay.

The author draws our attention to the hope of ‘Green Medicine’ for the wellbeing of tablet-happy Westerners, as well as looking at the lower cost in terms of the survival of those in poorer countries.

His first encounter with bees was when he was four years old, following the traumatic event of his father’s death, (he was killed in a car accident). His mother sent him to stay with an uncle and aunt, in order to give herself time to get over the shock and to get organised, as she was left with three children.

His aunt worked 50 or so hives of bees, and had been doing so for more than 30 years, which was unusual for a woman at the time. She was very respected in the area because of the experience she had acquired and in spite of the fact that she never showed Domerego any overt affection or love, she managed to share with her passion for beekeeping with him. She used to bring him along to the hives, and even though he was frightened at first, he soon got to love working with the bees.

To avoid national service, he was allowed to do voluntary work in a Third World country, and because he had a degree in agriculture, he was sent to Rwanda for two years, before it became tragically notorious. His work with African bees was a total shock, they were extremely vicious, and after many stings he suited-up in serious armoury. Struck down with hepatitis,he was unable to complete his two years in Rwanda, and the French Government, taking no chances, flew him back to France to recover.

He returned to Africa several times over the years, but it was in Cuba where he was involved in several trials with different products from the bee hive, most particularly, propolis.

As beekeepers we open our hives several times during the active season to sometimes break down Queen cells ( we cut out the cells and depending on the age, take it home to put it in an incubator and it is very satisfying to see a queen hatched out some days later). We keep some of the royal jelly to use in queen rearing, but mostly it is just thrown away, it tastes awful.

However, having read The Healing Bee I feel guilty about discarding it. We never harvest our propolis in Ireland, we complain about it when it sticks hive parts together. Here, the author talks about all of the different types of propolis. To-date there are 11 listed types, each the subject of various scientific papers which demonstrate their distinct physical and chemical properties. He talks about green, red, brown, black, yellow propolis.

This book should be of great interest to people who are into alternative medicine/remedies, and of course to all beekeepers. There are several pages of the different potions comprising all the products from the bee hive mixed with plant oil extraction. And that’s without going into the detail of using bee stings as a cure for arthritis, asthma, eczema and more. On the whole, this book is a very interesting read — not only for the beekeeper, but for the lay person and those into alternative medicine.

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