To Bee or Not To Bee; Benefits of Beekeeping, with Osama Idlibi

Imagine you went to the grocery store to buy fruits, vegetables or just some mustard; you look in stands or on the shelf and see that everything costs ten times as much. You wonder why, so you ask an employee. They would tell you, it’s because the local producers can no longer meet the demand of consumers since there are very few local bees that can pollinate the crops. That is a very possible scenario.

To Bee or Not To Bee; Benefits of Beekeeping, with Osama Idlibi
Stan and Osama, backyard beekeepers in Harrisburg, NC

Already, large farming companies all over the world are resorting to importing bees to meet the demand. However, this is not a sustainable solution. If humanity has any interest in preserving natural organic methods of farming, it is now the time to take personal initiatives to help sustain bee populations.

Osama, a resident of Harrisburg, NC, started beekeeping two years ago. Since then, he has met many fellow beekeepers in the area. One of these friends is Stan, who has helped Osama by giving him a space to build the bee houses. Stan is also a Harrisburg resident who has a shed dedicated to his beekeeping projects. Stan has been keeping bees for about seven years now.

To Bee or Not To Bee; Benefits of Beekeeping, with Osama Idlibi
These two queenless hives (the green boxes) were split from the original hive.

He has quite a few hives which are located a quarter of a mile from his house. Stan jokingly said that, since becoming friends with Osama, the shed is no longer his. However, Stan

To Bee or Not To Bee; Benefits of Beekeeping, with Osama Idlibi
Simple syrup reservoir used to feed bees during cold months when food supply for bees is low.

expressed that he was happy to have Osama use the shed whenever he likes and gave a Osama a key to it. Osama was the first Muslim Stan had met in person; It is clear that Stan and Osama have mutual admiration. They discuss their hobbies and their faith openly and have very good rapport with each other in these matters.

Osama stated: “According to my mentors, bees are the most studied insects in the world. Bees have been around for over 300 million years. From Moses, Jesus to Muhammad (pbuh) bees have been mentioned in all the scriptures; which means it is something we should pay attention to”.

In surah an-Nahl, Allah says:

“And your Lord (Allah) revealed to the bees: Build your hives in mountains, trees and in what they build. Then eat (feminine verb used) from every fruit and follow (feminine verb used) your Lord’s commanded paths, from their bellies (feminine declension) exits drink of different colors, in it healing for man. These are signs for those who contemplate.” [Quran 16.68-69]

To Bee or Not To Bee; Benefits of Beekeeping, with Osama Idlibi
Osama next to his original hive, which he is checking to see whether they are aggitated.

It is important to note that Allah (swt) explicitly refers to the honey producing bees as females. This is an extraordinary distinction that could only be explained by the knowledge of Allah. This facet of the bees was only supported by scientists 300 years ago. However, for Muslims it was knowledge that was carried and recited for over 1400 years. With this knowledge comes a responsibility. A role that is essential to being Muslim; Which is, being aware of the creations of Allah and tending to them with mercy. Osama pointed out, “This is also mentioned in the words ‘…. and in what they build’, I believe this is referring to humans who build homes for the bees”.

To Bee or Not To Bee; Benefits of Beekeeping, with Osama Idlibi
Honey Bees collecting ingredients and food from the pollen sheets (left) and sugar rock candy (right)

Taking care of bees is not a effort free endeavor by any means. It takes time, energy and money to take care of a hive. It is also one of the most rewarding hobbies that someone can do; It helps the environment, it provides you with sustainable non-perishable food (honey) and you are rewarded by Allah for building a home for his creation.

To Bee or Not To Bee; Benefits of Beekeeping, with Osama Idlibi
Osama holding up a frame crawling with bees to see how far the comb structure has developed.

Bees are currently in danger. Due to climate change, bees have been struggling to keep pace with the seasons. It becomes difficult for queen bees to find mates and lay the larvae in time, since the flowers have begun to bloom ahead of schedule. This causes a delay in collecting food and pollen which makes it hard to maintain the hive. However, this is only one of many reasons bee populations are in decline.

To Bee or Not To Bee; Benefits of Beekeeping, with Osama Idlibi
Close up view of the frame. The bees are clusturing around areas where there are fully developed cells with honey.

Aside from beekeeping, there are many ways you can be merciful to bees. Bees are not in danger because of the environment alone.  They are plagued by pathogens, industrial agriculture and loss of habitat. It is difficult to fight a pathogen which plagues a hive, however, there are other steps you can take to be a kind neighbor:

  1. Do not use pesticides that are harmful to bees. Be informed, do your research and find the proper pest control agent which causes minimal damage and runoff.
  2. If you see a hive in your backyard, DO NOT KILL THEM. They are not a threat to you unless you threaten them. Call a local beekeeping company or bee farm; they will come collect the hive and give them a good home.
  3. Inform others and spread awareness. It is in everyone’s benefit to keep the bees alive and pollinating.

At the end of the day, the only ones we can blame for the decline in bees is ourselves. Therefore, it is up to us to take the burden of helping our dutiful friends, the bees.

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