Bees often get a bad rap, largely because of the fear that surrounds them by us afraid of being stung whether we're allergic or not, but these creatures do a lot of good for our environment, food and even for hospitals.

While one bee may seem scary or even a hive, what if I told you there's somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 bees in an aviary atop Ocean Medical Center?

That's true, explains Dr. Greg Mazzatta, a podiatrist at Southern Ocean Medical Center in Manahawkin, and the rooftop beekeeper with a team of assistants at Ocean Medical Center who raise the bees into a population who can pollinate the environment.

Even with the thousands of bees in the hive there is structure and order.

"The hive is made up of one Queen, Drones, Male Bees, Worker Bees and Female Bees and they all have a job," Mazzatta said.

They typically keep to themselves, don't bother anyone and get right to work once they're born making honey and hives.

"Right from birth they know what they're job is," Mazzatta said. "The average life span of a worker bee is anywhere between 20 and 40 days."

Which is why the Queen Bee lays so many eggs and mostly in the warmer/summer months.

These bees are an important part of our environment which does include giving you a little assist in the garden and gather some nectar in the process.

"We need them to pollinate from your everyday flowers at your home to residential level vegetation and vegetable gardens," Mazzatta said.

Now that we know that bees help pollinate the environment and make some sweet honey, you may be wondering why they are at a hospital.

Dr. Walter Wynkoop, who is a pulmonologist at Ocean Medical Center is also on the Medical Executive Committee and the Sustainability committee at OMC, explains that raising bees is just as much about helping people as our environment.

"The honey here we use for our cafeteria, we use for our team members but we mostly use it as a learning opportunity to connect the dots between a healthy environment for humans and for bees and it makes for a healthy planet," Wynkoop said.

Honey also serves as an antioxidant which helps reduce inflammation in the body which in turn lowers the risk of heart disease and certain cancers. It's also good for treating ulcers and burns among treating other medical conditions.

"There are some homeopathic physicians who use bees for arthritis and utilize their stinging capabilities and their venom for medical reasons," Mazzatta said.

If you're someone who has Asthma, COPD or seasonal allergies, honey is going to be your new best friend.

"We know that there's evidence to show that local bee honey mixed with local bee pollen can have a positive affect on helping to control allergens," Wynkoop said.

There's plenty of honey to go around for you and me to consume in our food and tea from the amount bees produce in the hives.

Dr. Mazzatta explains every hive is different and the amount of honey coming from it varies from hive to hive.

"It depends on the strength and the health of a hive but they can generate anywhere from 45 to 200 pounds of honey off of a hive is normal," Mazzatta said.

The bee aviary at Jersey Shore University Medical Center collected 4 pounds of honey in 2019 while 60 pounds of honey came from the aviary at Ocean Medical Center.

Dr. Mazzatta explains that the benefits and behaviors of the bees should be encouraged because we need them more than we realize.

"We have to try and keep this microcosm alive because without them we don't have food and without food we don't survive," Mazzatta said.

Dr. Wynkoop explains that the goal of their sustainability committee at OMC is to educate the public on the importance of a healthy planet.

"A healthy planet makes for healthy people," Wynkoop said. "We're taking steps here to make our hospital more sustainable by reducing electricity consumption, reducing water consumption, using cleaner cleaning products, by having a cafeteria that has sustainably sources fish and antibiotic free meats and more plant based diet options."

The bee keeping and even gardening efforts of Hackensack Meridian Health's Southern Region, (which is made up of Ocean Medical Center, Southern Ocean Medical Center and Jersey Shore University Medical Center), has earned them high praise for their environmental sustainability efforts.

Jersey Shore University Medical Center was recently named one of the Top 25 hospitals in the country for Environmental Excellence, while Ocean Medical Center and Southern Ocean Medical Center earned high marks for environmental sustainability including the Emerald Award.

You can follow Vin Ebenau on Twitter and Instagram and email news tips to vin.ebenau@townsquaremedia.com.

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