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A Short Story of the Honey Bee. Humans, Flowers and Bees in the Eternal Chase of Honey

A short story of the honey beeBy Readicker-Henderson

2009

 Honey is the true distillation of the landscape.

Some of us are late bloomers, I know I am. This book was inspired by a man’s father and how he came to love bees after he retired.

I’ve always loved honey, for many years only honey and brown sugars were allowed in my house and I of course grew accustomed to its thickness, strong smell and intensely sweet flavour.

I remember visiting bee farms and learning from the process of honey and wax by-products.

Greek beesThis book certainly took me back. It is beautifully written, full of interesting historical, botanical and entomological facts.

Clear and thought-provoking enough appeal everyone, from bee enthusiast, honey lickers, foodie nutters and bug catchers.

Here are some nuggets of honey bees I harvested for you from this book:

Apis mellifera evolved on the warm shores around the Mediterranean and was taken to the Americas on board of warships by the Spaniards, a few thousands of bees and of course, a supply of their precious liquid gold.

Egypt Bee keepingAncient Egyptians were amongst the first cultures to have documented their interaction with bees. Honey was as valued as the bees themselves were worshiped.

The myth that explains how bees came to be tells the story of how the tears of the mighty God Ra rolled down his face and as they hit the ground they turned into thousands of bees.

There’s evidence that shows that since the year 3500BC the symbol of kings and royal power in Lower Egypt was the heliograph of a bee.

Bee was consumed but also used for ritual including burials as it was used to oint and preserve bodies.

In Greek mythology Zeus was fed as a baby by his mother with sacred honey. From Babylon to the Indus river honey was the food of the gods.

IMG_0449Aristotle was pretty sure that bees didn’t actually made honey but simply gathered like dew from the leaves “honey precipitates from the air when rainbows descent”.

Bees have been on earth for more than 100 million years, they flew amongst dinosaurs in the late Jurassic.

By this time the abundance of phanerogamae (plants with flowers) offered enough sustenance for pollinators which in exchange for the nectar they take they generate a massive by-product, the huge surplus of their work: golden, thick honey.

MEdieval bees

Due to the complexity of their interaction and communal work, bees evolved to have vertebrate-like behaviour which explains why they have circadian rhythms, sophisticated memory, a complex language system and great sense of orientation.

Ancient beesThe average bee hive has around 60,000 individuals and since mankind developed a relationship with bees, which doesn’t mean bees are domesticated, many have been the solutions to recreate beehives with various materials, from mud, hay, baked clay and organic materials.

On a historical note: in many cultures it was seen as a sign of good fortune to have swarm of bees landing on your property, a univocal sign of prosperous things to come.

Apart from its culinary uses, honey has long been used for medical purposes for its antimicrobial and antibacterial qualities, so next time you cut yourself, wash and dip that finger in honey…good luck trying not to kick it!

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