Honey collection is an ancient activity.

ancient honey collection
Rock art of the Iberian Mediterranean Basin proves ancient honey collection

Humans apparently began hunting for honey at least 8,000 years ago, as evidenced by this cave painting showing a honey hunter collecting honey and honeycomb from a wild bee nest. The figure carries a basket or gourd, and uses ropes to reach the wild nest.

There has been much debate over the dating of a variety of prehistoric rock art of the Iberian Mediterranean Basin, also known as Levantine art  and whether they belong to the Mesolithic, the end of the Paleolithic, or the Neolithic. This painting has been dated at around 8000 to 6000 BC and is at Cuevas de la Araña en Bicorp, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The caves are called the Araña Caves or the Spider Caves, in English, and are a group of caves in Bicorp in Valencia, eastern Spain. The caves are in the valley of the river Escalona and were used by prehistoric people. They are known for painted rock art images including this honey-gathering painting which is believed to be epipaleolithic.  a term used for the "final Upper Palaeolithic industries occurring at the end of the final glaciation which appear to merge technologically into the Mesolithic". (Bahn, Paul, The Penguin Archaeology Guide, Penguin, London.)

Drawing of a painting from the caves of Cueva de la Araña by fr:Utilisateur:Achillea


The bee in Aegean culture.

winged bee goddesses from Rhodes
Gold plaques embossed with winged bee goddesses
The bee, in Aegean civilization, was believed to be the sacred insect that connected the natural world to the underworld. Aegean civilization is a general term for the Bronze Age civilizations of Greece around the Aegean Sea.

These gold plaques (above) were found at Camiros on Rhodes, which is a large island in the Aegean Sea south east of Athens ,and are dated to 7th century BCE (British Museum). These Bee-goddess were perhaps associated with Artemis or perhaps the Thriai, nymphs, virginal sisters, in Greek mythology. Artemis was the patron of the Bee in all of Greece. Artemis was the goddess of nature and the daughter of Zeus and twin sister to Apollo.

In classical Greece the title potnia meaning "Mistress, Lady" is usually applied to the goddesses Artemis, Athena, Demeter and Persephone. The bee was an emblem of the Potnia, also referred to as "The Pure Mother Bee".  Her priestesses were called "Melissa" which means honey bee. 

READ MORE about the honey bee in ancient Greece here.

Scheinberg, Susan 1979. "The Bee Maidens of the Homeric Hymn to Hermes" Harvard Studies in Classical Philology.
G.W. Elderkin (1939) "The Bee of Artemis" The American Journal of Philology
Neustadt, Ernst 1906. De Jove cretico, (dissertation, Berlin). Chapter III "de Melissa dea" discusses bee-goddesses and bee-priestesses in Crete.
Harrison, Jane Ellen, (1903) 1922. Prolegomena to the Study of Greek religion, third edition


Bees in art

1917 illustration of bees in a garden and hive

This beautiful illustration shows the different types of bees that work for a hive at the top of the image, (left to right: worker, queen and drone) and some bees at work collecting pollen in a garden full of flowers and butterflies.

This illustration is from "The Home and School Reference Work, Volume I"
The book was published in 1917 by The Home and School Education Society


Beekeeping in Malta

Beekeeping in Malta
Bees in a baked clay jar in Malta
This is the traditional way of bee keeping in Malta - in a clay pot! 

Clay pots were the customary homes of domesticated bees in ancient Malta and in the eastern end of the Mediterranean. Long cylinders of baked clay were used. They were usually stacked to provide shade except for those on top of the stack. Sometimes the pots were used were used singly, but more often stacked in rows to provide some shade, at least for those not on top. Beekeepers would smoke one end of the cylinder to drive the bees to the other end while they harvested honey.

After the arrival of the varroa mite many beekeepers changed to the movable frame system.

SOURCE: This image was taken in 2008 in Malta.

Beekeeping in schools

Amanda Lengnick-Hall, a teacher, is teaching elementary school age children about beekeeping at the Shadow Glen Elementary School in Manor, Texas, USA.

"Beekeeping isn’t very common, especially in schools, so I like that they push themselves, even if they’re scared,” Amanda told myStatesman. "But once they get into the suits and get closer to the bees and they start learning more about them, they start becoming really protective of them. It’s really exciting to see them go from scared … to being advocates and getting an opportunity to try something they probably haven’t thought they wanted to try.

The school has six beehives as of December, 2015.  The students are learning about all aspects of beekeeping in an after-school club. They will sell the honey from their bees and use the money to continue funding the program.


In the video you can see Walter Schumacher, otherwise known as the bee czar, founder of the American Honey Bee Protection Agency. He came to the school to check on the health of the hives.


Bees in Napoleonic heraldry

Bees were used in Napoleonic heraldry. The bee was the emblem of the First and the Second Napoleonic Empire and was reserved so that no one could use a bee in their heraldry without a specific Imperial grant.
Imperial Coat of Arms of the French Second Empire
The bee image is in the red material. (Katepanomegas)

The First Empire of France was under Napoleon Bonaparte from 1804 to1815.  The Second Empire of France was the Imperial regime of Napoleon III from 1852 to 1870. This is when the above Coat of Arms was used.

The Bee was considered a symbol of immortality and resurrection. The bee was chosen so as to link the new dynasty to the very origins of France. "After much debate, Napoleon chose the bee as an emblem, due to its ancient origins and links to antiquity and the Merovingian dynasty." Swide

When trying to find a suitable emblem, Napoleon looked to one of his great heroes, the Emperor Charlemagne who had adopted the cicada as an emblem. Napoleon thought it was a bee and, due to the symbolism associated with the bee found it suitable for his purposes.

Large strip unused furnishing fabric, pure silk brocade,
Jacquard woven complete to selvages,
emerald green satin background to pattern of bees

Napoleon had the bee symbol used often and many examples still exist today – from tiny gilded replicas commonly attached to items such as snuff boxes, to the embroidered motifs on his coronation robe or painted images on wallpaper.

Satin and silver slippers worn by the Empress Josephine
at her coronation on December 2, 1804. Musée Des Arts Décoratifs.

Fondation Napoléon
Encyclopedia Britannica
National Gallery of Victoria


Good bee tattoos

These are some of the bee tattoos I have seen lately that I have loved for their strong black and white line. Which one do you like?

black and white bee tattoo
Bee tattoo by Rachel Hauer
black and white and gold bee tattoo
Tattos Time
black and white bee tattoo
Tattoo Zoo
black and white bee tattoo
Buzz Buzz

More great bee tattoos can be found on this site


An urban beehive installation

beehive design
Ru, beehive with cascading flowers attached.

The idea behind Ru, the urban beehive’s concept, is to encourage the reintegration of bees in urban environments.  It is a sculptural design for the urban landscape, which is hoping to create a closer relationship between people and the bees. The beehive would be installed in parks, on greenhouse roofs or other predetermined urban areas. It is designed for the city of Montreal, Quebec by Marc-André Roberge and is called Ru, an urban beehive installation.

See more information about the design concept and drawings of Ru here


Bee quote of the month: September

 bee on azalea
Bumble bee on azalea bloom
Even bees, the little almsmen of spring bowers,
know there is richest juice in poison-flowers. ~ John Keats
BEEKEEPERS: For your interest here is a forum thread about bees and poisonous flowers such as oleander and azalea and rhododendrons.


A bit about bumble bees

about bumblebees

A bumblebee, or bumble bee, is a member of the bee genus Bombus, in the family Apidae.

Bumblebees look different from honeybees. The main difference is that bumblebees are usually larger and covered with dense hair. Their round bodies covered in soft hair, called pile, make them appear fuzzy. They often have strong contrasting bands of colour, as a warning signal to their prey.

Bumble bee on a cherry blossom

Bumblebees are important agricultural pollinators, pollinating the crops that provide us with food to eat. Like their relatives the honeybees, they gather nectar to add to the stores in their nest, and pollen to feed their young. Their nests are small and they do not store large quantities of honey.

nest of bumblebees
Bumble bee nest
There are over 20 different species of bumblebees.
bumblebee species
Bumblebees of different species illustrated by Moses Harris in his 1782 Exposition of English Insects
bumblebee stamp russia
Bombus anachoreta on a Russian postage stamp, 2005

Bumblebees are quite popular in modern culture - there have been stamps designed around them and orchestral music composed about them - "Flight of the Bumblebee"

You can learn about Bumblebees in more depth and help save the bumblebee at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust


Bee Quote of the month: March

quotes about honey bees

The bee, from her industry in summer, eats honey all the winter.

Find out about uses for honey in cooking and skin care.


40 000 worker bees participate in avant garde artwork

art work created by bees
Tomas Gabzdil Libertiny: unbearable lightness

40 000 worker bees were released into the glass and plastic case to complete a wax honeycomb structure over a figure.
Libertiny's art work, called unbearable lightness, makes me wonder about using and controlling wild life as the means to fulfilling his final product. The bees, engaging in their natural process, created a honeycomb skin over the figure and then fill each cell with the honey. Find out more at DESIGNBOOM