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Beehive and raw honey

Raw honey directly from a beehive.

We admire bees for their work ethic and know they are responsible for producing one out of every three bites of food we eat. The sweet, sticky honey they produce is certainly delicious, but did you know it contains several properties that make it great for medicinal use?

Raw honey is removed from the hive and bottled directly, leaving trace amounts of yeast, wax and pollen. It contains antibacterial and antimicrobial properties that naturally clean wounds and encourage healthy tissue growth. History tells us cultures have been using honey to treat wounds for centuries—cave paintings dating back 8,000 years depict this very practice.

Honey from our own beehive is being put to use right here at the Sea Turtle Healing Center. We use it on patients with fresh, open wounds like those caused by interactions with boats or predators.


Green sea turtle with honey packed in his shell wound

Honey made by bees onsite packed into the wounds of a green sea turtle rehab patient.

To date, we’ve treated 14 turtles with honey, including four current patients—Smash, Candy, Skipper and Guacamole. Healing properties from the honey help the shell, made of fused bone and keratin, recover from open wounds with minimal infection.

Bees and sea turtles are crucial to their respective environments. As one of the world’s most important pollinators, bees keep our ecosystems balanced and are essential to the production of crops like apples, oranges and avocados. Sea turtles also regulate their habitat—they graze on seagrass, control distribution and population of sponges and jellyfish, and transport nutrients throughout the water. Unfortunately, both of these animals are facing challenges in the wild. Locally, you can help them by avoiding the use of pesticides in your yard, which may poison bees when they interact with plants and wash into sea turtles’ habitat during rainstorms. Try an eco-friendly substitute like a mix of saltwater and vinegar to get rid of unwanted visitors.

Honey is used for several other medicinal purposes in humans, from treatment of allergies to weight management. Though there is some debate about the effectiveness of its use, there is no doubt this sticky substance can be used to heal several types of ailments. We are lucky enough to have a thriving bee colony on Zoo property that provides honey and honeycomb for our use. Bees helping turtles, who would have thought?