Abstract: In Ancient Egypt honey bees seemed to have been of great significance during all periods – as decoration or motif in various contexts as well as icon within the religious and mythological sphere. In addition to that, bees also seemed to have been devoted as a symbol of the royal status and were applied in correlation with high-ranking officials. The practical use of bee products like wax and honey (apart from consumption) ranged from diverse applications within the fields of cosmetology or medical therapy to the utilization as an indispensable adjuvant for the mummification process.
Zusammenfassung: Im Alten Ägypten schienen Honigbienen durchweg von großer Bedeutung gewesen zu sein – als Dekoration oder Motiv in unterschiedlichen Kontexten sowie als Symbol und Ikone im religiösen und mythologischen Bereich. Darüber hinaus scheinen Bienen als Zeichen des königlichen Status zu dienen und wurden auch im Zusammenhang mit hochrangigen Beamten genutzt. Die praktische Verwendung von Bienenprodukten wie Wachs und Honig (abgesehen vom Verzehr) reichte von diversen Anwendungen im Bereich der Kosmetik oder bei Heilverfahren bis hin zur Verwendung als unverzichtbares Hilfsmittel für den Mumifizierungsprozess.
Egyptians may well have gathered the honey of
wild bees in the prehistoric period. As early as the first dynasty, the rare
inscriptions conserved show us that the canonical titles of the Pharaoh mention
“he who belongs to the sedge and the bee” (nesout-bity),
that is, the symbols respectively of Upper and Lower Egypt. Beekeeping is then
attested in the Old Kingdom: a bas-relief of the funerary temple of the Pharaoh
Nyuserre in Abusir (Fifth Dynasty, around 2500 BCE) represents peasants busying
themselves around beehives. A royal collar found at Saqqara and belonging to
Queen Hetepheres, the mother of Khufu (Cheops), has a handsome bee décor. Much
later in the New Kingdom (1580-1054 BCE), several beekeeping motifs are to be
found in the tombs of high-ranking civil officers, as in that of the Vizier Rekhmire
in Thebes showing honey being taken from the hive, as well as filling and
sealing jars of honey.
Later still, a bas-relief from the Saite period
of the 26th Dynasty in the tomb of the high-ranking civil officer Pabasa in
Thebes (26th Dynasty, around 700 BCE) shows peasants lifting a beehive. In the
Greek period of the Ptolemaic Dynasty, papyrus fragments mention it is
necessary to change the position of beehives twice a year so that bees can
forage in favourable areas with plenty of flowers. The Greek papyri of Zenon,
the manager of the estates of the diocetus
(minister of the economy) Apollonios in the 3rd century BCE tells us about
economic management and honey production, transport, storage and uses.
According to some of the medical papyri (among
them, the Ebers papyrus), honey was utilised in various compositions as a
softener or an adjuvant and it was also an ingredient in cosmetics. Honey and
wax were likewise indispensable in mummifying processes.
In mythology and religion, the bee was associated with the goddess Neith of the city of Sais in the Western Nile Delta, one of the creation goddesses (also a divinity of the hunt and of war). Some inscriptions also refer to Rê, God of the sun, whose tears, when they fell to earth, were transformed into bees, who created wax.
Catherine Chadefaud French agrégée in History Doctorate in Egyptology and Historical Geography (ancient Egyptian climate and vegetation)
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Abstract: Norway was early in starting to produce bumblebees for use in tomato cultivation in commercial greenhouses. This niche production is relatively complicated and therefore requires good knowledge and precise work. The Department for Agriculture was concerned that importing bumblebees could lead to importing of sicknesses and to genetic pollution of native Norwegian bumblebees. This article describes the start of bumblebee production in Norway and gives a technical description of the process of bumblebee rearing.
In Norway there are 35 species of bumblebee,
out of a total of around 250 species worldwide. Bumblebees belong to the family
of bumblebees and other bees, called Apidae. It is the large earth bumblebee (or buff-tailed bumblebee), Bombus terrestris, which dominates in
commercial bumblebee rearing, both in Norway and internationally.
It started in 1989
The idea and enthusiasm for starting up
commercial rearing of Norwegian-produced bumblebees came from The Norwegian
Beekeeping Society’s General Secretary, Trond Gjessing together with Rogaland
County Council’s Chief Agronomist, Ketil Fuglestad. Due to their positions, the
pair acted as coordinators, assistants and initiative takers, but they did not
provide technical assistance; this was provided by biologist Atle Mjelde.
It started with a public body, The Bee Sickness
Committee, of which Trond Gjessing was secretary. They received a request from
The Department for Agriculture with respect to the importing of bumblebees to
Norway. They were particularly concerned with the problem of taking insects
over the border, and the effects this would have on the genetic heredity of
Norway’s native population.
In 1991 The Norwegian Beekeeping Society
arranged a meeting inviting key people to attend. They had arranged for a Dutch
speaker to hold a presentation on this niche area of production: the commercial
rearing of bumblebees. The speaker was Ard de Ruijter, Director of The Research
Center for Insect Pollination and Beekeeping. Ketil Fuglestad, Rogaland County
Council’s Chief Agronomist, took part in the meeting and says himself that he
was excited by the possibility of Norwegian bumblebee production, and that
Ruitjer was very inspiring. Ruitjer’s experience from Holland, was that it was
beekeepers who were most successful at rearing queens. Some in the professional
community believed that it was easier for beekeepers to take care of the
bumblebees, because they understood how sensitive they are. One must learn the
signals given by the bumblebees and be able to interpret their behaviour.
In 1991 beekeepers Karl Ivar Stangeland and
Egil Fosse established the company “Pollinering Service ANS” and thereby
started Norwegian bumblebee production. They were the only company in Norway
engaged in bumblebee rearing up until the year 2000. At that time two new
companies started up, and all three of them were based in Jæren in Rogland.
Pollination in Norwegian commercial greenhouses has gone from manual pollination to Norwegian production of bumblebee colonies. This change has meant that tomatoes have become a much better commodity. Tomatoes have many seeds, and if the tomatoes are to swell to be round and even, they must be pollinated evenly inside the flower – this is the job of the bees. Bumblebee production has meant that several different growers have been able to use bees for pollination, and this has lead til a reduction in the use of chemical spraying in fruit and berry production.
Ban on import of bumblebees to Norway.
Since as early as 1991 it has been forbidden to import bumblebees in to Norway. There were two important reasons given by professionals in the field, for not allowing the import of bumblebees. The first was the risk of importing disease and parasites and the second was the danger of genetic pollution. The latter problem was a particular concern for The Department for Agriculture. The initiative to start up rearing of bumblebees in Norway came from Rogaland County Council and The Norwegian Beekeeping Society.
How is the bumblebee colony produced?
To understand the challenges of rearing
bumblebees, you need to have a good understanding of ecology and not least a
good understanding of bumblebee biology.
The large earth bumblebee
comes out of hibernation in the spring
After pairing, the large earth bumblebee queen
goes in to hibernation for the winter. She digs a hole in the earth in autumn
to protect her from the frost, but she makes sure that the hole will not be in
full sunlight. That is to say, she finds a place where spring will not come too
After coming out of hibernation the bumblebee
queen is alone at first and is therefore very busy. First she has to find a
site for a nest. She builds herself up by gathering nectar. She makes circular
honey pots from wax for storing nectar, pollen and eggs. When the store of
nectar and pollen is big enough, she lays the first egg.
Bumblebees can’t eat dry pollen: they need
extra nectar to moisten it. Unlike other bees, bumblebees do not have salivary
glands. They therefore chew a mixture of pollen and nectar, swallow it and then
regurgitate the mixture as food for the larvae. The queens, drones and workers
all die before the winter; only the queens that have mated and that have dug
themselves down under the earth, survive the winter.
How is this done in commercial rearing?
A new colony is started with a queen in a
starting case, which is about 5 cm x 10 cm in size. To get the queen to lay
eggs, live drone pupae are used. The drone pupae are taken from a larger
bumblebee colony. The bumblebee queen will warm up and brood the pupae. When
she has eaten enough pollen, she will start to lay eggs. The queen is given
fresh pollen every third day, and it is the new pollen that stimulates her to
lay eggs. After the first pupae have hatched, the worker bees start to feed the
larvae and from there the colony usually develops quickly.
The best way that has been found to get the
bumblebee queen to lay eggs, is to mate them in autumn and winter. Thereafter they
are put in to hibernation for four months at a temperature of +4°C.
Bumblebee queens are cooled to + 4°C
When the case containing the queens is taken
out of the cold room, following 4 months of hibernation, the queens are fed
with pollen and a sugar solution, and they soon come back to life. Their
ovaries start to grow and the queens must be separated within a couple of days.
If not, they get angry and start to attack each other.
To avoid in-breeding it is important to
constantly renew the breeding stock. If there are several queens that are to be
fertilised all from one nest, it is important to use drones from a nest that is
not related. It is important to take the queens out from the cold room at
exactly the right time, so that they can be mated with the right drones.
To make sure that the queens being used for
breeding don’t start to stagnate, the newly born queens need to be taken out
each day and fed with pollen and sugar solution, for a period of five days,
before they are put together with the drones for mating.
Life in the bumblebee colony is dynamic.
The queen uses pheromones to exercise full
control over the worker bees in the first weeks. The more eggs the queen lays
in this period, the stronger the colony will be. At a set point in the
development of the colony, activity goes over to the production of gendered individuals,
that is drones and queens. After this point the queens reduce the production of
pheromones that hinder egg laying by the worker bees. Some of the workers start
to lay eggs, but the queens eat most of the eggs laid by the workers. If the
queen is strong enough to lay enough eggs to keep the worker bees occupied with
feeding only larva hatched from them, the colony will last longer.
If the queen shows signs of weakness, which is
to say she lays too few eggs, the workers can kill the queen and take over
control of the nest. The dominant workers stress the others, fighting, killing
and threatening. In this phase, before the ranking within the workers has been
established, the nest should not be sold, as the workers will not be effective.
The nest is ready for the greenhouse.
When a nest is delivered to the greenhouse, it
contains between 200 and 400 worker bees. Some greenhouses buy a new nest every
month. Despite the fact that a nest can last from 7 to 8 weeks, they want to
have a period of overlapping. This means that they have several nests
simultaneously. It is important to make sure that the colonies are not too
large in relation to the greenhouse, as the workers can be too hard on the
pollen anther and style, causing them damage.