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Paying Sweet Homage To The Busy Little Bee....

By Jan Hoelscher. Reprinted from the Ft. Worth Star-Telegraph

Honeybees have gotten a great deal of negative press lately as a result of the so-called "Killer Bees" (more appropriately called Africanized honeybees). Let's not forget that the European honeybee you and I are familiar with today has served us well for many years. There is no better time than now, during National Honey Month, to give them credit.

European honeybees, the honeybees we see every day buzzing from flower to flower, were not a common sight to the American Indians. In fact, the first honeybees were brought over by the early settlers and were called the "White man's fly" by the Indians. Imagine how terrified they must have been of this new insect.

As time passed, we began to understand, respect and manage this creature. European honeybees have been kept in managed hives for more than two centuries in the Unites States and have been selected for behavioral characteristicts that make them easy and profitable to handle (gentleness, high honey production, etc.).

When we think of the beekeeping industry and it's products, most people think of the honey used for sweeteners, cooking (try honey in your pork and beans instead of brown sugar), and for treating allergies. How can honey be used to treat allergies? It has been said that individuals allergic to common weeds have found relief by including in their diet honey that has been produced from the nectar of those same weeds. Far treatment of allergies, it has been recommended for sufferers to purchase local honey that has been produced from the weeds within a 20 mile radius. Local honey may be found in area hardware stores, feed stores and health food stores. Many small, family owned grocery stores may carry local honey as well. While the medical profession may not prescribe this method to allergy sufferers, local beekeepers say they are sought out for this kind of product.

Beekeeping is a hobby for some and a serious business for others. Hives must be carefully tended so that they are not killed out by various diseases. Beekeepers must also carefully watch for certain plants to come into bloom. If honey is not harvested before broomweed is in bloom, there is a risk that the honey will become bitter. The weed referred to as Snow on the Mountain can cause honey to be hot. Local beekeepers say mesquite, clover and vitex produce the sweetest honey so they try locate their hives where these plants are abundant.

One other point that should be made about honey, especially honey by local bees and sold locally, is that there will be differences in color from jar to jar. There are many factors that determine what color the honey will be, one of which is the plants that the nectar was collected from. Just like hand blown glass, each batch is unique and will differ slightly.

Other products associated with this industry are those made from the beeswax, such as candles and furniture polish. We must also not forget that the honeybees have their greatest impact on the pollination of agricultural crops. They not only help to increase yields, but are necessary for the production of many seeds (something a gardener cannot do without.)

(Jan Hoelscher is a Tarrant County horticulture agent with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service)

At Last, a Bee Venom Study Set To Begin

(MSAA News Release By Peter Damiri)

It is with tremedous enthusiasm that Multiple Sclerosis Association of America announces the updated status of the bee venom therapy (BVT) and MS study at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, DC. On October 7th, the FDA officially took the study off hold and granted MSAA investigational new drug approval to begin Phase 1.

The Phase 1 study an BVT and MS will test the safety of injected venom on progressive MS patients. Through a revised protocol, 16 progressive patients will receive 2 intradermal injections of bee venom per week for 1 year. Researchers will divide participants into 4 groups. Each group will receive different dosage levels of venom and undergo test to monitor the safety of the extract. The study should begin by early January 1999.

"We, of course, are thrilled to begin this long-awaited study," said MSAA President John Hodson, Sr. "Also, I want to thank Georgetown University Medical Center for it's outstanding work in addressing all of the FDA concerns and producing a highly detailed scientific study protocol."

In following the FDA guidelines, the study will only address safety issues of bee venom extract. At this early stage, researchers will not be able to test whether injected bee venom has a neurological benefit to those with MS. A Phase 2 study would involve 30-50 MS patients receiving venom injections and performing measurable tasks to determine efficacy.

MSAA does not recommend or endorse bee venom or bee sting therapy. The Association's position is to advance scientific study to help address this issue.

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