Humans have been relishing in the sweet taste and the glistening colors of honey for over 10,000 years. How did beekeeping originate? How did it evolve in modern times? Here is the surprising history of beekeeping!
What Is Beekeeping and How Did It Begin?
Beekeeping or “apiculture” refers to the maintenance of bee colonies. Most commonly, that includes species like honey bees, worker bees, and stingless bees. In apiculture, apiarists (beekeepers) are in charge of keeping bees to collect their honey along with other products, including beeswax, flower pollen, propolis, honeycombs, and bee pollen.
So how did we end up domesticating bees? Well, the history of beekeeping may surprise you. Some sources that depict early beekeeping activities date back to 8000 BC. They include prehistoric drawings in caves that show people consuming honey. Another rock painting from 5000 BC gives us a glimpse into early beekeeping practices. This drawing was found in Spain, and it shows a honey hunter collecting honey from a bee’s nest. Beekeeping also had roots in ancient Egypt over 4,500 years ago. In fact, archeologists have discovered primitive hives, smoke traces, honey jars, and other apiculture tools in the tombs of pharaohs, such as Tutankhamun.
What’s more, in Israel’s Jordan Valley, an archeological dig has revealed an ancient beekeeping site that dates back to over 3,000 years ago. The site contains evidence of orderly rows. They could store 100 hives and up to one million bees. Other ancient civilizations, like the Greeks, Romans, Chinese, and even the Mayans, all collected honey.
At some point, we started to make tools and artificial hives to collect and store honey. Those tools include wooden boxes, hollow logs, straw baskets, or pottery vessels. However, apiculture was quite primitive in the early days because we knew little about the biology of bees.
The modern era of apiculture began when we started to learn more about bees from a scientific perspective. For example, in 1568, Nikel Jacob found that queens are bred by bees from the eggs of young larvae. Moreover, in 1586, Luis Torres discovered that the queen bee is a female “mother” bee who lays eggs for all bees in a hive.
Still, one of the biggest breakthroughs came in the 18th century when scientists focused on studying bee colonies and bee biology. This new perspective on bees allowed humans to construct the movable comb hive. The movable frame hive is one of the most important inventions in beekeeping. It has allowed beekeepers to harvest the honey without destroying the entire colony. During this period, we also learned about the different types of honey, different bee species, beeswax, industrial beekeeping practices, and modern hive designs. In the 19th century, there was an explosion of practical and commercial apiculture, which continues to this day.
Currently, beekeeping is still evolving. In North America and around the world, scientists and apiarists are focusing on bee-friendly and ethical practices. This has caused an explosion of all kinds of bee-friendly equipment and hives that allow bees to live in a safe “bee space” and create natural combs.
Little Giant Beekeepers Can Help
At Little Giant Beekeepers, we have a profound respect for bees, and we know they are some of the essential creatures on the planet. However, we also understand that bees can become a problem if you find them inside or outside your home. If you need quick and ethical bee removal, we can help you stay safe and bee-free. Contact us today to get rid of unwanted bees, and we’ll be happy to help!