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Honey health benefits touted as bees face extinction

French bee keepers spread the word, and the hives, to save critical creature

LAVAL, France — Sweet, healthy, vital for the planet, and perhaps even a good model for society. This is how beekeepers at a Honey Fair in Laval this fall described bees and the products made within their hives.

“Without the bee, the human race would die within five years,” said Daniel Mareau, vice president of Abeilles Mayennaise, the beekeeping association of the Mayenne region of France.

This association, along with several artisan honey makers organized the small fair that took place in Laval’s shady central plaza and attracted a trickle of passersby.

Abeilles Mayennaise displayed a dozen handmade beehives, as well as posters with information about bees.

That fuzzy striped creature with the dangerous backside pollinates between 70 and 80 percent of all plants, and thus is vital to the agricultural cycle, one placard at the fair stated.

The vendors sold honey as well as candy, cakes, honey wine and health products made with honey.

Dominique Girard, a third-generation French beekeeper, sells honey, pollen, royal jelly and propolis, a resin that bees use to seal the honeycomb.

And he swears by the health benefits of all four products.

Girard said propolis heals ulcers, inflammations and burns. Pollen, a spoonful of which can be sprinkled over your morning yogurt, contains amino acids, calcium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and over 14 vitamins, including B12, C, D, E and A, Girard said.

His leaflet also lists the human benefits of royal jelly, the special food for the queen bee and her babies. First on the list? Increased sexual ability.

It is also believed to be good for the immune system and boost self confidence.

Are the French cognizant of the benefits of bee-related products?

“The goal is to make them aware of the advantages,” Girard said.

Equally important, fair participants said they want to publicize the dangers bees face.

In France, as well as in the United States, honeybees face the threat of imminent extinction.

In the U.S., commercial beekeepers who want to maximize honey production artificially increase the size of the honeycomb and inject chemicals into the hive. Bees also become sick from pollinating chemically treated crops.

In France, the abundance of beehives that existed in the past has all but disappeared, and bees also suffer from chemically treated crops in the countryside and city pollution in urban areas, Marceau said.

Abeilles Mayennaises is part of a recent movement in France to revive ancient and natural beekeeping techniques. The association, created only two and a half years old, already has 150 members.

“[The club’s formation] is a response to people’s interest to return to nature,” said Mareau.