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Page One :Animal Rights Issues Concerning Bees

Page Three : A mention of Bumblebees

Page Two:
           Why It Is So Important That We Stop Exploiting Bees

Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it.
Henry David Thoreau

Does it matter, its only an insect?

In the 1990s I recall a radio talk show host presenting the discussion about the concern for dolphins and even whales inadvertently caught in nets designed to catch Tuna fish. Rather than continue this much publicised perspective, for which there was and continues to be significant public support, the presenter posed these questions:  What about the Tuna Fish? Why are dolphins and whales more important than tuna fish? Why is it okay to catch kill and eat tuna fish but not whales or dolphins? Was there a prejudice due to intelligence or simply size? I rather think that both of these considerations are determinant in the whys and wherefores concerning the reasons why it is considered okay to kill, mistreat or eat some creatures but not others. As outrageous as it may seem, intelligence and size, amongst other issues, has a lot to do with whether or not we consider an animal's life of value. Other than serious conservationists, who really cares or even is aware of some tiny beetle in the rain forest under the threat of extinction?

People often believe that how we treat bees and other insects is not important and consider that they' re only insects and not animals. For many people bees are only of concern because of the role they play in pollination and our supply of food and other commodities. Would there be as much concern if bees were not so vital to our existence? Probably not. Even some animal rights campaigners think we need to concentrate our attentions on mammals before considering insects. Why? Is it because they are small or because they are different ? Is it because we think they do not feel pain or we consider that they are not intelligent, not sentient ? Or perhaps because it appears that bees harm one another such as the fight to the death between virgin queen bees to establish the reigning queen, that it matters not if we cause harm ? Is it because some of us may be somewhat phobic about insects? Few people will help any creature who causes them fear, including other people. Many people are phobic about insects including myself or fearful of getting stung. What precisely is the issue here?  It is true of course that there is more concern about bees due to the implications to our own survival, of Colony collapse disorder CCD but I do wonder if anyone would really care if CCD did not effect us.

I will address these issues one by one

Are bees animals?

To begin with bees and other insects are animals, the notion that they are not is a common misconception which is easily addressed in basic biology. For the last two hundred years In the science of biology all living things have been divided into two basic categories or kingdoms: plants and animals. In more recent times however some biologists distinguish certain different types of organism that seem not to fit into either category which they consider need a classification separate from either plant or animal, such as Fungi and some single celled organisms, and that these should be given their own separate Kingdom or category. At the present time all living things are placed into one of the following kingdoms: Monera, (bacteria and most single celled organisms) Protista, Fungi, (microorganisms such as yeasts and molds, as well as the more familiar mushrooms) Plantae, (plants) or Animalia (animals). The classification of living things is part of the science of taxonomy. For a basic comparison between plants and animals please click here . As you can see insects are clearly animals. Insect is a subcategory, as is mammal and amphibian, but all are animals. 

Why is it that some animal rights campaigners or vegetarians and maybe even vegans do not consider the rights of insects in the same way as other animals, for instance mammals ? This consideration most likely occurs from the mistaken belief that bees are not animals which of course as mentioned above is a misconception that animal rights campaigners, just like anyone else, may have. A vegetarian is just as likely to pour salt on a slug or swat a fly as anyone else simply due to the erroneous idea that such creatures as slugs, which are molluscs, and insects are not animals.

Size matters?

Insects may simply not be considered of importance because they are small, which simply defies explanation as of course size is irrelevant. In a vast universe all creatures including man are insignificantly small. Size cannot be a reasonable consideration concerning our treatment of any creature, an animal is... an animal, a sentient being regardless of size. More about sentience in bees further down. Some mammals are smaller than some insects.

Bees and other insects are different?

Regarding  the difference between ourselves as mammals and insects, including bees, there are of course differences, but there are also similarities. Bees and other insects have a nervous system as do Mammals. Both have a skeleton, the only difference is that a mammal's in on the inside while for insects theirs is on the outside, an exoskeleton.  Yes bees like us have eyes, five in fact, two compound eyes and three simple eyes, instead of two single lens simple eyes.  Insects, like us and all other animals, and yes that includes fish, breathe and take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. Insects along with the rest of the animal kingdom have a circulatory system and when they get injured they feel pain and they may die. There are more similarities than differences, but even if there weren't again an animal animal, a conscious being regardless of a few differences. 

Do bees feel pain? 

Many people think that bees do not feel pain, again an incorrect assumption mostly likely due simply to faulty thinking related to the consideration that bees are not animals. It is more likely than not that bees feel pain.

Like vertebrates Bees have a nervous system. Bees and other insects have a brain extending from which are a series of cells which lead to complex neural ganglia; concentrations of nerve tissues situated in each body segment. You could think of ganglia as sub or secondary brains.  Nerves extending from the brain and ganglia send signals to all parts of the body to coordinate bodily functions, behaviours and senses.  Nerve fibres connect the ganglia with the sensory endings on the outer layer of the bee, other nervous impulses are carried by fibrous tissues from the ganglia to internal organs and muscles regulating their actions.

Tests demonstrate that bees respond to painful stimuli and they like us have an endorphinic system of pain modulation.

The biologists Balderrama et al. conducted an experiment in which bees were exposed to an "electrical stimuli" (i.e., shocked) and their stinging response was noted. Then different bees were given various injections (including morphine and naloxone) and shocked some more. They concluded that bees have a pain killing system, which can be enhanced with morphine or blocked by naloxone. In their own words:

Morphine (50 to 200 n-moles/bee) produces a dose-dependent inhibition of the honeybee response to the electrical stimulus and this effect is antagonized by naloxone. These findings indicate the occurrence of opiate receptors in the honeybee and suggest the existence of endogenous opiates (i.e., an endorphinic system for pain perception modulation). However, two facts have to be taken into account. First, even though the doses of naloxone that antagonize morphine are similar for bees and vertebrates, the D50 [50% inhibition of the stinging response] of morphine for honeybees (927 ug/g) was found to be far greater than that reported for behavioural tests in vertebrates (0.30 - 10.0 ug/g), and 3 to 10 times higher than that reported in other arthropods. Second, bees injected with enkephalins and related peptides at a dose of 200 n-moles/bee did not exhibit the effect of the same does of morphine. The results obtained by the morphine experiments suggest that an endorphinic system is responsible for pain modulation in bees (Balderrama 127).

The above quotations were taken from Why honey is not vegan where you can find more information about bees and their ability to feel pain.

While experimentation on any animals is inhumane these tests are cited here and in the website above, which is concerned with vegan issues relating to bees, no doubt because it is vital evidence that bees feel pain. 

However notwithstanding the above and other similar facts there appears to be no conclusive evidence widely accepted in scientific circles that bees or other insects feel pain. My opinion is that if any creature has a nervous system, than that animal feels pain and is sentient.

Even if it cannot be proved that bees feel pain they should be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their welfare. It should be assumed that they experience pain like all sentient creatures, as it is extremely unlikely that any creature with a nervous system does not.  Bear in mind that pain in any creature may be experienced differently, indeed pain between members of the same species is not experienced in exactly the same way. You can never know what the pain experience is like for another human being let alone a different species. For example some people are more sensitive to painful stimuli than others, women feel pain more keenly than men but women cope better with pain than men. Furthermore even if the pain response or the reaction to harmful stimuli, which is the definition of pain, is entirely different it is likely that this sensation is unpleasant, as of course the purpose of pain is a defence mechanism to ensure a creature takes action to remove himself from harmful situations.  Moreover as sentient beings bees wish to avoid harm and death, a powerful instinct present in all animals including man. Therefore If you take an action that would cause pain in any creature, the action has caused damage to the animal nonetheless even if the animal concerned does not feel pain in the way you and I understand pain.

Are bees intelligent?

Many consider bees and other insects to be automatons without intelligence or sentience. There is evidence that bees are intelligent. I cannot envision the complex organisation of the hive arising solely from some kind of hard wired thoughtless automation.

What are the indications that bees are intelligent?

Bees have a language, not of course in the same way that humans do, but language need not be dependent upon words. Bees perform complex behaviours which serve as a type of language or if you like a form of communication. In 1973 Karl Von Frishch's classic studies for which he shared the Noble prize demonstrated that bees tell other bees were food can be found by the means of the waggle and round dances.  This is a very complex form of communication: honey bee workers have the ability to search for and find food, return to the colony and convey this information to other bees and than return to the source of the food. More about the waggle dance later.

There is now evidence that honey bees are capable of reason and their behaviours indicate they understand the concepts of same and different, abilities usually associated only with vertebrates and then mostly primates.

Marc Beckoff in his book Minding Animals: Awareness, Emotions, and heart, commenting on research by Martin Giurfa and colleagues which elaborate the findings of Karl Von Frishch's  says:

...bees can "interpolate visual information, exhibit associative recall, categorize visual information and learn contextual information," abilities to be evidence of thinking. Giurfa  and his colleagues trained honey bees to recognise colors and grating patterns in a Y maze. When the bees entered the maze they saw either blue or yellow ,and when they arrived at the Y junction they saw that one direction was labelled blue and the other yellow. Bees where able to learn that the reward of sugar solution was found in the arm of the maze that was the same color as the entrance. They could learn the same task with similar and different grating patterns and also when lemon and mango odors were used instead of colors. Because the bees could tell sameness from difference, the researcher concluded that they could think.

How does a bee know which flowers to choose and know where she will find them. More or less the same as we do by a series of complex thought processes of which we are barely conscious. Bees are capable of pattern recognition and are able to learn shapes and can memorise and distinguish a wide range of visual patterns. Such abilities are vital in order for a bee to recognise a flower or locate the hive. Bees often choose one particular flower from which to extract nectar and pollen.

More about pattern recognition, memory and other capabilities:

There is increasing evidence that learning and perception in insects is more intricate and flexible than was previously imagined, and that insects are far from being reflexive automatons. Bees can abstract general features of a stimulus, such as its colour, shape and scent, and apply them to other stimuli they have not previously encountered. They can learn to use new cues to detect camouflaged objects. They can also learn to use symbolic rules for navigating through complex mazes, and to apply these rules in flexible ways. They are capable of using complex associations to recall journeys and so are able to return to previously visited food sources.

..experiments, using reward-based training, have revealed that bees can learn a wide variety of visual patterns and distinguish between them. Pattern recognition is pivotal in helping a foraging bee recognise some goal, which may be a flower or the entrance to the hive. Pattern recognition is also crucial in learning familiar landmarks that will guide the bee on its way to the goal.
Work in the 1970s suggested that bees memorise the shapes of targets (flowers for example) in an eidetic (photographic) fashion. Recognition of a familiar object, according to this view, involved comparing the image of the object with the 'snapshot' that had been stored in memory. Later work revealed that bees are also capable of recognising patterns in terms of their general properties, such as orientation, symmetry, or lack of symmetry.

Bees can also be trained to recognise scents through an experimental paradigm which uses the so-called proboscis extension reflex (PER). A bee is given a whiff of a scent, and is then immediately fed a drop of sugar water. After one or two cycles of this training procedure the bee extends its proboscis (tongue) immediately after it experiences the scent, in anticipation of the reward. This form of learning is very similar to that exhibited by the famous Pavlovian dog, which could be conditioned to salivate in anticipation of food when a bell was rung.

The Extracts above where taken from Bees do it - Fast Thinking ,where you will find comprehensive and fascinating information about the amazing capabilities of bees. Update 2013 - the source of the above information is now not available on-line

Bees are sentient?

How can we know if any creature is conscious, is aware of his surroundings and has a sense of self and others, has preferences and intentions, aversions, experiences pain and other forms of suffering, in other words is sentient?

In his book Pleasurable Kingdoms Jonathon Balcombe discusses the question of consciousness and quotes David Griffen:

'How can we know whether or not another animal is conscious? We cannot. You cannot even know for certain whether another a human being is a conscious, thinking individual. However far-fetched the possibility  you cannot know that your friends are not mechanical robots planted by extraterrestrials and programmed to respond to stimuli as they think and feel. .. Ultimately we cannot know and the  Solipsist has logically disputable argument. Do we accept it? Of course not. We reject this because it is so highly improbable and because it defies common sense.

Than what about other animals? To David Griffin, founder of the modern field of cognitive ethnology ( the behavioural study of animal thinking ), the belief that humans are the only thinking feeling beings on the plant is just an extension of solipsism. It's species solipsism and equally nonsensical. Says Griffin:

"Nature might find it more efficient to endow life-forms with a bit of awareness rather than attempting to hardwire every animal for every conceivable eventuality ." '

After reading the section concerning bee intelligence, their methods of communication, their capacity to learn, to find their way through a complex maze and their ability to recognise patterns and remember the shapes and odours of flowers along with their organisational skills surely we cannot say that bees are not sentient, not aware, do not make decisions and are automatons. If you are still in doubt here is an example of bee decision making : Worker bees not only go out seeking sources of nectar and pollen as described earlier but when it is time for the queen to leave the nest and found a new colony scout bees seek out a suitable location. This location must fit specific criteria; a hollow in a tree for instance, positioned at least three metres from the ground and facing south, the cavity must have a volume of at least twenty litres with an opening of 30sq feet *1) At least a dozen locations are found and remarkably within only one to two days a new site for the colony is selected from the alternatives.

Studies undertaken by Tom Sealey and Susannah Buruhman from Cornhill University reveal some fascinating insight into this phenomenon. Four hundred bees in a swarm where tagged and observed. It was discovered that the quality of the site was determined by the vigorousness of the waggle dance. The scout bees do not switch allegiance to a site, if once presented the bees do not dance again if they have not received attention, in this way decisions are quickly formulated. How the scout bees select a suitable location for consideration is not yet understood. However during his research Seeley demonstrated that direct measurements are taken by the scout bees to assess the volume of their potential new home based on the amount of walking they do to circumscribe the cavity*2)

Decision making is indicative of sentience. Moreover this decision making is not only quick but efficient, I rather doubt that a human committee making such a decision and considering so many choices would arrive at such a conclusion so swiftly and with such ease. Most importantly the ability to make a decision is considered an indicator of sentience.

Humans it seems are looking to bees for help in the process of decision making.

After writing the above I came across a very interesting article By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent
in The Telegraph with the headline:

"Honey bees work together to make group decisions"

"Honey bees use a complex system of consulting one another before choosing a hive in a process London scientists say could help humans make better decisions."

"The study concluded that the system bees use in nature of sending out scouting groups resulted in the best decision.

Professor Christian List, Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at The London School of Economics, said the bees natural decision-making process chose the best site.

"The honey bees' decision procedure is remarkably sophisticated," he said. "The swarm manages to block and prevent the kind of "group think" that can bedevil good decision making."

Please read the full article:
Honey bees work together to make group decisions - Telegraph

Again in reference to the waggle and round dance Eugene Lindon in his book The Parrots Lament relates a story told to him by Donald Griffin, quoted earlier as saying "that nature may find it more efficient to endow life forms with a bit awareness", concerning an experiment conducted by Princeton University ethnologist (animal behaviour specialist) James Gould involving bees:

 “the scientist brought some flowers and bees out to the middle of the lake in a rowboat, while another group of bees was brought to a feeder closer to the shore. Once released, the foragers returned to the hive and did their dance, telling the other bees the direction of the flowers. Evidently, the bees back on dry land reacted with disbelief to the suggestion conveyed by the bee dance that there was a source of pollen in the middle of the lake; almost no bees showed up at the rowboat. On the other hand, large numbers of bees came calling for pollen when a rowboat was close to shore.”

This account demonstrates conscious thinking and it is likely that the bees in this experiment were in fact using something equivalent to our thinking processes as a method to test out ideas. Surely this demonstrates cognisant awareness, independent thinking, the ability to analyse and interpret information in order to make an assessment. Such a reaction cannot have been hardwired into the behaviour of these creatures, such behaviour is surely not that of an automaton but a sentient being, an intelligent sentient being.

"Nature might find it more efficient to endow life-forms with a bit of awareness rather than attempting to hardwire every animal for every conceivable eventuality ." '

In another experiment conducted by James Gould he placed some food next to a bee hive which attracted bees to feed. After a while he moved the food 50 metres further away. A short time afterwards the bees found this food and commenced feeding once again. A little later on he moved the food another 50 metre in the same direction. This time the bees located the food in only one minute. They found the food the next time it was moved another 50 metres in less than a minute. The bees than  anticipated the next move and were waiting for him exactly 50 metres distant when he arrived.

In another study related in the August 1986 issue of Discover ("A Honey of a Question: Are Bees Intelligent?")  Gould lured some bees to a dish of artificial nectar, then gradually moved it farther from the hive after they became accustomed to it. He marked the addicted bees, placed them in a darkened jar, and relocated them to a spot where the hive was still visible, but not the dish. When released one by one, the bees would appear disoriented for a few seconds, then fly directly for the covert dish. 73 of 75 bees reached it in about 28 seconds. They apparently accomplished this feat by devising a new flight path based on a cognitive map of visible landmarks.

Bee learning and communication - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bees along with wasps, ants, and termites are eusocial creatures; this means that these animals are capable of creating a highly organised social structure with high levels of communication, co-operation, parental care and self sacrifice for the good of the colony.

The entomologist William Morton wheeler attributed to insects the ability to experience depression, pain, fear elation and affection when they were observed to help their injured or disabled nestmates.*3)

The ability to play and experience pleasure may well be within the capacity of bees .

Such are the prodigious feats of the honeybee that they have buried a number of previously held assumptions about the limitations of insect brains. Even play could be within the honey bees behavioural repertoire. During the so called 'training flights' by recently emerged workers , individuals launch themselves from the top of the hive and flap their wings as they flout to the ground; than they climb up and repeat the exercise.   Honeybee authority Martin Laindauer in 1961 described the behaviour as playful.

Pleasurable Kingdoms Jonathon Balcombe

Bees harm one another - does it matter if we harm them?

The fact that bees harm one another, the emerging virgin queens who fight one another to the death, as explained above is yet another excuse people make to continue their exploitation of bees. What does it matter if a few bees get killed as a result of beekeeping after all they kill one another?

Bees may harm each other but the harm humans cause to bees as described earlier is far more excessive. Moreover do we consider it okay to exploit a different group of human beings simply because that group harms one another? Of course not. Following this reasoning no aid would be sent to disaster areas anywhere in the world as of course within all human social co-operatives such as nations and organisations there are individuals and sections of the group that may and often do cause deliberate harm to other members. No, the fact that bees sometimes kill each other is no excuse, and remember bees support and co-operate with one another far more than they harm one another.

Nature maybe cruel but does that give us the right to be equally cruel. In many ways far worse than harm inflicted between bees is of course the harm human beings inflict upon one another. This in no way justifies inflicting harm on other humans simply because they cause harm to one another, although many wars are fought for such reasons when at times more harm is inflicted upon the people who have assumedly been liberated. And of course however dubious such conflicts are many people consider that such are fought for the greater good or at any rate believe that they are. In the case of bees of course human intervention has no benefit for the bees and there is no way beekeepers can claim that their interventions are helpful to bees. Beekeeping/factory farming and to a lesser extent the endeavours of some backyard hobbyists is undertaken solely to exploit these creatures for their honey and wax. Furthermore the annihilation of whole hives by cyanide gas, the clipping of the queen's wings and legs and other detrimental interventions are by far in access of any of the suffering bees inflict upon one another.

Does fear prevent you from considering the issue of animal rights regarding bees ?

Finally, there is sometimes a lack of concern for bees and other insects even amongst some animal rights activists, vegetarians and also vegans, who by the definition of the word should avoid in any way possible harm to any creature. Yes there is inequality and discrimination even amongst these groups who deem a mammal more important that a bee. Look up animal rights and bees for example in an internet search engine and you will find very little information supporting rights for these creatures or advocating welfare. Why? Is it  because a cat is cute but an ant is not and is to most people ugly. Although a bee is furry and more appealing than an ant there can be nonetheless some revulsion. You can cuddle a cat, stroke a guinea pig, be friends with your dog, but a bee is untouchable and unreachable on any level both physical and emotional.  Fear and aversion may play a role here, even deep seated phobic fear. I myself have a mild phobia of insects, at least their appearance, particularly en mass. One ant is okay but to thousands of them swarming I find I have a phobic reaction. I can't watch them on TV or in photographs and this includes bees, one bee fine but swarming bees bring on a phobic reaction. During the one day each year  when the female ants fly I am so anxious and will not leave the house. Nonetheless, I recognises the irrationality of such phobic anxiety and I would be very careful not to allow such to cause me to harm any creature. Phobias concerning insects and similar creatures such as arachnids, the most widespread focus being spiders, are common phobias.

I am not of course saying beekeepers exploit bees because of phobic reaction, I am though saying that few people take up the cause of these creatures simply because they find them unpleasant to look at and have some phobic fear of them. Phobias cannot be helped and if a phobia is seriously affecting your life you may be able to get help to desensitise your fear. However no one should allow fear to effect they way they treat bees or any other animal including human beings. Sadly though so much violence against other creatures or complacency arises simply from fear. I think that such a fear has some role in the general lack of concern regarding the consideration of animal rights and welfare concerning insects, along with the other reasons discussed above.

It is interesting  to note a case history of a patient suffering from depression who was, according to the psychiatrist, overly sensitive inasmuch that she became anxious about causing  harm to other creatures, including insects.  The consultation was centred around an incident when the patient was distressed by the accidental killing of a worm whilst gardening. The advice to the patient was to swat a few flies and thus desensitise herself should she accidentally kill another worm or similar creature. Admittedly the patient went to extreme lengths to avoid harming any living thing, however the advice given was inappropriate and demonstrates the lack of concern for tiny creatures such as insects, worms, and the like. After all the psychologist would not advise the patient to kill a few dogs or a guinea pig. Why? Why is it okay to swat a few flies but not a mammal? The reason most likely is that few consider insects, worms, slugs and similar as living conscious sentient beings for the reasons described above.

On a personal note I have found my slightly phobic response towards bees has been mitigated somewhat since preparing this webpage which has involved much research into these fascinating creatures. Knowledge is power so they say,  but knowledge also leads to understanding. Understanding the intricate complex lives of bees increases a respect for these creatures as intelligent, sentient beings with lives of their own, creatures with their own purpose and place in the world. I now see a bee buzzing around flowers on a summer's morning as a wonderful creature truly alive in the same way as a, cat, dog, a sheep, a goat, a fish or a human being.

What can you do to stop the exploitation of honey bees?

The simple answer is to stop eating honey or using other bee products which include: honey, beeswax, propolis, bee pollen, royal jelly and venom.   There is no need for honey in your diet and there are alternatives. There is no nutritional value in honey that cannot be found elsewhere and despite all the hype about royal jelly and longevity the same also applies. Even if there were do you have the right to enhance your life at the expense of another sentient being? In my opinion no you do not.

Royal jelly is a substance secreted from the hypopharyngeal glands in the heads of young worker bees to feed the queen, and when the eggs become larvae the baby bees also eat this food for a period of 2-3 days. Royal jelly is a mixture of honey and pollen mixed with enzymes produced in the throat of worker bees. It is the only source of food for the queen. This special food is extremely powerful, rich, and nutritious... to bees that is, not human beings. Odd isn't it how we can consider insects so different from ourselves and by so doing justify killing them or at least showing no concern for their welfare, yet consider that food produced by such a creature, deemed so different, can possibly have beneficial effects. Royal jelly is for queen bees and their larvae, not humans.

Scientists know that the properties of royal jelly are not unique, it is composed mostly of carbohydrates, proteins, sugars, and fats, along with vitamins like the B complex, niacin, folic acid, and enzymes. All of the these vitamins and minerals may be obtained elsewhere; to reiterate none of the aforementioned nutrients are unique to royal jelly. It is not a regulated medicine and has never been shown, through scientific studies on humans to have any health benefits. In fact it is possible to have a serious allergic reaction if you are susceptible.

The purported but dubious and unproven health benefits of bee products including honey, propolis and royal Jelly, all of which are used as medicine and food supplements, do not justify the use and abuse of honeybees, any more than are the equally dubious health claims regarding milk and eggs, which despite evidence to the contrary are still promoted as essential to health with healing properties. Venum, the sting of a bee, is also claimed to have medicinal properties and is extracted when bees fly into an electrically charged membrane which is positioned in front of the hive. As the bees fly into the membrane they receive an electric shock which causes them to sting the membrane, in this way the venom is deposited. The bees of course die.  There are many other non-animal alternative medicines and dietary supplements available.

Removing honey from your diet in a similar way to removing meat make the inhumane production of these products obsolete, unprofitable. Avoid using any of the above products for the same reason.

Honey can simply be replaced of course by using sugar but be sure to use unrefined cane sugar or beet sugar. Refined sugar is not good for you and it may be prepared by burning charcoal made from animal bones.  If you want something that looks and tastes like honey one of the best alternatives to honey is agave nectar which comes from the blue agava plant. In fact many claim it is sweeter than honey. Also try barley malt syrup, brown rice syrup, molasses maple syrup, liquid stevia, which is virtually calorie free and sweeter than sugar.

Bees wax may be present in many products in daily use including glazing on fruit, sweets and baked goods, always check the label.
What is Beeswax Used For?

Now before I go on do not feel overwhelmed, do the best you can. It may take a while to change to more bee friendly alternatives. Just do your best according to the dictates of your own personal ethics. Every time you avoid purchasing a product such as honey or royal jelly or other bee derivatives you are helping to stop the exploitation of bees, but no one is perfect and mistakes are made or are unavoidable.

I hope some of the information below will help you to make the transition from using bee products to cruelty free alternatives. Be aware that bee products may be present in everyday items such as candles, cosmetics and food supplements(see link directly above).

Candles made from bees wax and other animal products can easily be replaced by candles which contain no animal derivates. There are many such products on the market. It amazes me that candles which may contain animal derivatives are used in the religious ceromonies of religions that forbid the taking of the life any being. Candles used in serious religious mediation such as Buddhism which contain the remains of once living creatures seems, does it not, rather incongruous when meditating upon enlightenment for all beings. However often it is simply a matter of ignorance as a result simply of not questioning the ingredients of products in daily use.

Below is a list of on-line retailers of vegan animal friendly products were you can find alternatives to bee derivatives. With one exception I have no personal experience with these businesses and I include them merely as examples.


Here are just a few on-line examples of where you can buy vegan candles, that is candles which do not have any animals products including bees wax.

There are many similar providers of vegan candles.

A Lot of Candles: candles and candle holders

"Something for the Wicked" have a selection of vegan candles, but be careful as they do sell other types of candles including candles made of bees wax. I found the website rather confusing  and it is best to e-mail first and ask which candles are vegan and do not contain bee's wax.

Shop Vegan, also has a selection of vegan cosmetics and vitamin supplements which ship worldwide Vegan Candles

Treehuggar: Vegan Hemp Candles : TreeHugger


Polish also may contain bees wax. There are alternatives on the market such as: 
The Bio-D Company Ltd - Environmental Consultants Scroll down for polish which has The vegan Society's approval. You can sometimes find a range of their products in your local Oxfam Shop.

If you can't find a suitable polish here is a recipe from the Care 2 website:

"1/4 cup of vinegar and a few drops of oil

The best oils to use are those that have the longest shelf life. Olive oil works well. The best choice of all is the liquid wax jojoba, because it never goes rancid. It is found in most health food stores. Boiled linseed oils found in hardware stores have synthetic drying chemicals in them and shouldn’t be used. I do love the smell of linseed oil in a furniture polish—it is rich and nutty—but I only use that which is food grade.

You can substitute lemon juice for the vinegar. Organic apple cider vinegar is the best choice of vinegar, although I don’t usually recommend this for general cleaning because of the possibility of staining. If you are cleaning something that could possibly stain, use white distilled vinegar".

The above is a recipe from Care2 with more advice and polish recipes:

A recipe for shoe polish from About .com
Shoe Polish Recipe - Homemade Shoe Polish

Cosmetics and toiletries

Cosmetics and toiletries may contain bees wax and or honey along with other animal derivatives, in addition they may be tested on animals, there are many alternatives on the market, again check the label or look for a vegan symbol of validation.

Check your labels, look for the following:  How To Identify Animal Free Cosmetics - Animal Free Zone (UK)

Vegan Cosmetics | Vegan Products | So Organic  

honesty cosmetics cruelty free shop shopping makeup cosmetics vegetarian vegan

Beauty Without Cruelty

Animal Aid Shop : Beauty Without Cruelty (BWC) : vegan cosmetics, cruelty free Here you can buy Beauty Without Cruelty products in The UK

There are many alternatives if you look for them just enter vegan cosmetics in the search engine.

Here in the UK you can find vegan products in shops like Holland and Barrett and the Oxfam shop may have a small selection of vegan products, but check the labels.  Of course you do not have to be a vegan to stop using bee products but typing in the word vegan in your search ensures that the product will not have any bee derivatives.

What is a vegan :

“A vegan is someone who tries to live without exploiting animals, for the benefit of animals, people and the planet. Vegans eat a plant-based diet, with nothing coming from animals – no meat, milk, eggs or honey, for example. A vegan lifestyle also avoids leather, wool, silk and other animal products for clothing or any other purpose.” 

The above definition of vegan, from the Vegan Society  excludes the consumption of honey and all the other bee derivatives mentioned above.:

If you not sure what the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian click here

Now please read page  Page Three where you will find information concerning the threat to bumblebees.

Back to page Page One  Also see Bee facts

1)Talking with Animals by Charlotte Uhlenbrook

2)Talking with Animals by Charlotte Uhlenbrook

3) Pleasurable Kingdoms Jonathon Balcombe


Bees and Honey ­ and the Vegan Ethic
by James Van Alstine

Bees and Honey ­ and the Vegan Ethic - From Mid-Hudson Vegetarian Society, Inc
Extract below but please read the rest of the article
"What¹s with the bees, anyway?
Honey is always on the list of animal foods vegans avoid, but after 16 years as a vegetarian and years of animal friendly activism, I¹ve yet to meet one strong bee-issue advocate.

The defence of bees is certainly at or near the bottom of the list of vegan concerns, and I confess it¹s one point where I¹ve cheated from time to time.

So low is this priority that when I did a Google search of "bees" and "animal welfare" or "animal rights," most of the returned hits were from pro-meat sources or cynical corporate media outlets ridiculing the animal rights movements' defence of oppressed worker bees.
So does a bee advocate have a leg (or six) to stand on? "

Friends of Animals | Is Honey Vegan?

"Honeybees, like other animals, have a complex central nervous system, which means they are able to experience pain and suffering. At peak honey-production time in 2003, an estimated 155 billion bees, from 2.59 million colonies, were exploited in the U.S. to produce honey for human consumption.[3] Honey, beeswax, bee pollen, royal jelly, propolis and venom are taken from bees for human uses. In the process of acquiring these, beekeepers regularly disturb the bees’ homes by removing the honeycombs from the hive. When this is done some bees will inevitable be injured or crushed, and any bees who sting the beekeepers will also die.

Honey is usually taken from the hive in the spring and fall. In the fall, beekeepers replace honey with white sugar syrup — a poor substitute for the bees’ natural food supply — or kill off the colonies to avoid maintaining the hives throughout the winter"


Honey bee banner Creative Commons — Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic   Honey Bee - Apis mellifera on Flickr - Photo Sharing!


  Important please note:

I am not an animal expert of any kind just your average person who loves animals, all animals, and feels deeply about the plight of many of our fellow creatures. Neither am I a writer, or any other expert. Therefore please keep in mind that the information included in this website has been researched to the best of my ability and any misinformation is quite by accident but of course possible.

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