The bees are waking up!


Actually, they never sleep. During the coldest parts of the winter they form a tight cluster and vibrate their wings in order to provide the heat the colony needs to survive. The bees that hatch from eggs laid in the autumn are physiologically different from those in the earlier part of the year, having bigger bodies and they can live for up to six months compared with the workers in the summer who only live for six to eight weeks. The winter bees live on stored honey and it is this excess that allows us to take the surplus.

However the colony as a super-organism is waking up now. Workers will be visiting the cherry trees in the street, dandelions, willow catkins and other flowers for pollen and nectar. The protein in the pollen, in particular stimulates the queen to start laying eggs which after three days hatch into larvae which initially will produce more workers.  Only later as preparations for swarming take place will drones, (male bees) and new queens emerge. The queens are initially identical to the workers but fed on a diet of royal jelly after the first three days when all larvae are fed on this, they develop to sexual maturity.

How does this relate to aromatherapy? I hear you asking. Well, the vast majority of species that essential oils are produced from require pollinating insects in order to reproduce. This is important because it means the exact genetics of the species keep changing. When all of a species comes from vegetative reproduction then a disease is much more likely to have a devastating effect. This is what happened with Dutch Elm Disease.

Without pollinating insects, we would also lose a lot of variety to our diet. Most of our fruit and vegetables rely on insect pollinators.

For myself, it also means that by the start of next month the bees will have started to build up their honey stores and of course to build the wax that I use in making hand cream.

With organic olive oil and organic essential oils which complement the therapeutic properties of the beeswax the standard mix using Geranium, Sea Buckthorn and Frankincense oils is what I use myself to prevent my hands getting covered with ingrained dirt when I garden. It also stops my hands getting covered in hard callouses from things like chopping wood and scything.

While, I personally have nothing against callouses, I suspect that most of my massage and aromatherapy clients in Cambridge would object.

Another property of beeswax is that it aids skin healing, though if that is the primary aim then I might use a different combination of oils. With shingles for example I have just made up a pot for someone with German Chamomile, which is an anti-inflammatory oil, Lavender as an analgesic and to aid healing and Tea Tree to aid in fighting the infection.

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