Bee keeping

Bee keeping, is the practice of maintaining colonies of honey bees, in hives. A bee keeper keeps bees in order to collect honey and other products of the hive (including bees wax, propolis, pollen, and royal jelly), to pollinate crops, or to produce bees for sale to other bee keepers. The location where bees are kept is called an apiary.

Bee keeper inspecting a frame

Some of the earliest evidence of gathering honey from wild colonies is from rock paintings, dated to around 13,000 BC!

Domestication of wild bees

honeybees on frames of wax foundation, in a modern hive

At some point humans began to domesticate wild bees in artificial hives made from hollow logs, wooden boxes, pottery vessels, and woven straw baskets or "skeps".

Our honeybees have a gentle, docile nature and will happily use us as a landing platform when returning to the hive - note the sacks of pollen on their back legs

It was not until the 18th century that European natural philosophers undertook the scientific study of honeybee colonies and began to understand the complex and hidden world of bee biology.

Early forms of honey collecting entailed the destruction of the entire colony when the honey was harvested. The wild hive was crudely broken into, using smoke to suppress the honeybees, the honeycombs were torn out and smashed along with the eggs, larvae and honey that they contained. The liquid honey from the destroyed brood nest was crudely strained through a sieve or basket.

The 18th and 19th centuries saw successive stages of a revolution in honeybee keeping, which allowed the bees themselves to be preserved when taking the honey crop, thus the modern form of bee keeping had begun.

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