State News

November 23, 2013

Honey helping to heal injured sea turtles

Most sea turtles live out their lives, which can span a century, without ever encountering a honey bee. But others, namely those that end up as patients at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, owe their lives to bees.

That’s because the center treats sea turtles with honey. While not always the first line of defense, it’s a regularly used tool, said veterinarian Terry Norton, director of the center.

Sea turtles also benefit from the ongoing support of the Savannah Bee Co., which on Wednesday made its annual donation to the center, this year for more than $10,000. The Savannah-based company has partnered with the Georgia Sea Turtle Center since 2011 to raise awareness about the benefits of honey and to raise money for the center.

“I love the ocean and the creatures of the ocean, and I really love the healing magic of honey,” said Ted Dennard, owner of the Savannah Bee Co. “It is pure sweetness, and I am grateful that we can all lend a helping hand.”

Honey has many properties that make it great for healing wounds, including its acidity, which kills bacteria and fungi. Its high concentration of glucose “helps pull debris and exudate out of the wound,” Norton said. It also carries the antiseptic qualities of hydrogen peroxide and with good reason:

“Bees inject an enzyme into the honey called glucose oxidase, which converts glucose to hydrogen peroxide,” Norton said.

Norton also uses honey to raise blood sugar levels in his patients.

“We get turtles coming in with low blood glucose, and honey can be given orally to bring the glucose up and seems to be relatively slow to absorb,” Norton said.

The center, on Jekyll Island, gets regular donations of fresh honey and honey comb from local bee keepers.

“For more serious wounds that need sterile care we also use Medihoney, a medically packaged honey,” Norton said.

Three dollars of every $15 jar of Savannah Bee Co. “Bee Buddies Honey” sold will help benefit sea turtle rehabilitation and the general operation of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center.

The honey is available for purchase at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center gift shop, Savannah Bee Co.’s four retail stores, at the Savannah Bee website (, and through Savannah Bee wholesalers.

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