There is a lot of discussion about how long bees have been around on the planet. Some sources claims about 40 million years, others state there are fossilised remains of honey bees dating back to 150 million years.
The earliest known record of humans keeping bees dates back 10,000 years. Prehistoric drawings of bees have been discovered in Spain. It believed to be around 7,000 years old and appear to point out a form of beekeeping. In Ancient Egypt, the title of ‘Sealer of Honey’ was used during the first dynasty. In the Old Kingdom pictures of beekeepers and smoking, hives were found in Niuserre’s sun temple. Afterwards, the honey term was used much more frequently. Ancient Egyptians maintained records numbers of domesticating bees. As a result, the bee was chosen as the symbol for the country. In Egypt, honey was used for cooking, wine and medicine. They also valued the use of beeswax. It was used as a building material for ships, as a sealant, in mummification and medicine. Wax was used as a base ingredient for making healing balms, lighting and candles. Beeswax can bee found even in ancient statues which dates back to Ramses and Maat.
Ancient China also has an extended history with the honey bees. The earliest record of bees in China goes back to 3,000 years ago. The idea of keeping bees became an apiculture commercial industry. Producing wooden hives and harvesting wax for candles was recorded as 158 BCE by Jiang-qi. In the Ming Dynasty era of 1368 CE - 1644 CE, honey harvesting became a national event. Even though China does not own any rock and cave drawings, they do hold records of beekeeping expansion of the industry.
Greece and Rome
Honey and bees were used as a symbol for a variety of things and were a part of legends of Roman and Greek Gods. For instance, in the legend about the birth of Zeus, his father wanted to destroy him. To protect Zeus his mother took him to cave. A bee colony lived in that cave and fed baby Zeus until he became an adult. As a result, his title became “Melissaios” name for “bee-man”. Additionally, people believed that humans were able to reincarnate as bees. Honey was perceived as a nectar of the Gods which have them immortality. Similarly to China, Ancient Rome did not have any pictures of cave paintings, but the written documents and legends showcased the importance of bees in Rome’s ancient culture.
A while later, bees and honey become an advantageous tool in the art of warfare. Rhododendron Ponticum or Azalea Ponticaare plant was poisonous to humans and the honey from it was used to poison enemies. The Roman Troops of Pompeii were severely poisoned after they discovered strategically placed honey and supplies on their travels. After eating the honey they experienced vomiting, seizures and delirium. Through the 11th- 18th-century bees had been used for battles. For example, King Richard applied full beehives to be catapulted at their enemies. Records of beehives used in was were found in Portugal, Turkey, Rome, Austria and many other Mediterranean countries.
Similar to the Ancient Greek and Roman legends, Celtic Myth consists of bees and their wisdom. For instance, it was believed that need is the messengers between worlds. In Scotland, the bees were recognized for carrying the knowledge of ancient druids and high ranking professionals. In addition to this, the Highlanders believed that a person’s soul leaves the body in the form of a bee while he’s asleep.
In the 7th - 8th century in Ireland specific laws were found regarding wild and domesticated bees encounters. These laws were called the ‘ Brehon laws’ which imply the value beekeeping before sugar cane was extensively accessible to the population. Owning a beehive in the garden was a common practice and beehives were know to be very prevalent in Ireland.
Denmark and Sweden
In the Scandinavian countries such as Sweden and Denmark, beekeeping became widespread around middle ages. Honey was used as capital to pay tax to the Danish King Valdemar (1231-1241). In 1574, according to the records, more than 166 barres of honey were paid in taxes. In Sweden, royal bee yards were found by King Gustav Vasa (1496-1560) honey became more common than butter. Beeswax was used for creating candles for churches and Christianity started to grow throughout the region.
In the 17th century, European colonists started bringing bees to the new worlds. In the 1600s, the European honey bees was carried to North America by colonists. In 1822, Captain Wallace brought the first hives to Australia. When bees were introduced to North America, the Cherokee tribe was the first Native American tribes to start ‘working’ the hives. There are records found of Native Americans using poisonous honey. In comparison to Rome and Greece, the honey was not used for poisoning the enemies. Honey was used in ceremonial purposes which is comparable to iowaska.
With every year beekeeping continues to evolve. In the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe, ‘natural beekeeping’ knows as ‘bee-friendly’ or ‘api-centre beekeeping’ became extremely popular. Because of that, it resulted in the development of a variety of different kinds of hives which allow the bees to build natural combs. Today beekeepers use hives made of wooden boxes which contain framed sheets of man-made wax. The sheets provide the bees to build honeycomb quickly. As a result, beekeepers can simply slide out the wooden frames and collect honey without harming bees or larvae. Bees can be extremely defensive of their hives a broken into, to be processed beekeepers wear special suit and veil to protect their necks and faces. Usually, the suits are made from smooth material and light coloured to stop bees from mistaking them furry predators such as bears and skunks. Smoke is used as well to calm the bees down and make them less likely to sting.