Here’s a fascinating headline from a story by The Associated Press: “A small but growing number of veterans around the country are turning to beekeeping as a potential treatment for anxiety, PTSD and other conditions.”

You would think that bees swarming around former soldiers who have been mentally injured by their war experiences would worsen post-traumatic stress disorder or similar afflictions. But Veterans Administration medical centers who have gotten a few patients involved in beekeeping say it has the opposite effect.

Several VA patients told the AP that the time they spend working with bees takes their mind off the problems that beset them continually. “It shows me there is a way to shut my brain down to get other things accomplished,” said one veteran in New Hampshire.

Beekeeping programs in several locations around the country do not have enough participants to reach any definite conclusions. But they say the anecdotal evidence clearly shows that veterans benefit from a little time managing hives and harvesting honey. It gives them a sense of purpose, helps them relax and helps them block negative thoughts.

Interestingly, the idea is not new. One couple in Nevada who trains veterans to manage their hives got involved with the former soldiers after coming across a 1919 government pamphlet that advocated beekeeping for “shellshocked” World War I veterans.

A century later, it’s worth finding out whether bees really can help wounded warriors.

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