While the global pandemic disrupts our routines, those who care for livestock, including domesticated honey bees, must continue care without disruption. Patrice Fisher, the beekeeper at Firestone Farm, reports that bees are thriving at the living history farm within Greenfield Village, The Henry Ford, in Dearborn, Michigan, as of 4 June and 6 July 2020.
Während die globale Pandemie unsere täglichen Routinen durcheinanderbringt, müssen diejenigen, die sich um Nutztiere kümmern – und hierzu zählt auch die domestizierte Honigbiene – die Versorgung der Tiere ungehindert sicherstellen. Patrice Fisher, die Imkerin von Firestone Farms, berichtet, wie die Bienen sich in der Living History Farm innherhalb Greenfield Village, The Henry Ford, in Dearborn Michigan im Zeitraum vom 4. Juni bis 6. Juli 2020 entwickeln.
pandemic – beekeeping – Living History Farm – practical experience – beekeeping tools
Livestock need care daily despite the disruptions of a global pandemic. This includes domesticated honey bees. Beekeepers inspect their hives, monitor the food supply, harvest honey, and treat what may ail members of the colony. Patrice Fisher, the beekeeper at Firestone Farm, shares this report on the condition of hives at the living history farm within Greenfield Village, The Henry Ford, in Dearborn, Michigan, on 4 June and with a 6 July 2020 update.
Beekeepers at Firestone Farm use a Langstroth-type hive to house pollinators at the living history farm that interprets the birthplace of Harvey Firestone and farm life during the mid-1880s. The structures were originally located in Columbiana County, Ohio, but were relocated and reconstructed in Greenfield Village, and opened to the public in 1985. The project included an orchard with historic apple varieties. The bees pollinate the apples and other crops, shrubs, and flowering plants throughout Greenfield Village.
Lorenzo Langstroth observed bee behavior and patented a hive in 1852 that mimicked the spaces that bees created as they built their comb within hives. Langstroth designed a structure that consisted of stackable “supers” into which frames of a standard dimension were inserted, each located a “bee space” from the other. Within this structure, bees constructed their hives to nurture the bee larvae and store their honey food supply.
Firestone beekeepers had three objectives to accomplish during their 4 June hive inspection:
1) to replace
the solid bottom boards with screened boards for better ventilation.
2) to apply a
formic acid treatment for varroa mites. At the last hive inspection on 25
April, beekeepers did a mite count test and determined that #1 hive (closest to
barn) had 8 mites per 300 bees, #2 had 0 mites, and #3 had 4 mites per 300
bees. That’s not terrible but definitely needed to be addressed before the
numbers started increasing exponentially.
3) to add an
additional super with empty frames to each hive to give bees in each hive more
Inspection determined that the bees are doing fabulously. All three hives have a lot of bees and all have surplus honey already during springtime in Dearborn, Michigan. Patrice indicated that “This is the best I’ve seen for this time of the year in the five years I’ve been minding these bees. We were wondering if they were somehow benefiting from the lack of people in the vicinity and perhaps reduced landscaping, resulting in a lot more forage in their territory. Just supposition. We didn’t really look too deeply into the hives; it was obvious that they are all thriving.”
Beekeepers saw capped supercedure cells in every hive (photographs below). These cells were simultaneously attached to the bottom of one super and the top of the one below it. Maintaining the hive requires removing supers, even as this also can destroy some of these cells because the supers must be separated to get to the bottom layer.
The Master Farmer of Greenfield Village, Steve Opp, reported a swarm of bees just before the 4 June inspection. Beekeepers tried to figure out which hive they came from, but it seemed as though they could have come from any hive. They added an additional empty super to each hive to give the bees more room, hoping that increasing the hive capacity will quell the bees’ natural inclination to swarm. Yet, Patrice reported that she is “happy to see swarms even if we can’t catch them – it just means more native bees are being introduced into the environment.”
The Firestone Farm beekeepers returned to
the hives on 6 July 2020, with two goals:
to remove the medicated formic
acid pads attached 4 June
remove the entrance reducer and
take out the solid bottoms from each hive, to improve ventilation.
document the visit and actions
taken in writing
They found the hives buzzing with activity,
and bee “making honey like crazy. The empty supers added last month are already
full, so the keepers added another empty super to each hive, right above the
level where the bulk of the brood was residing” (see notes taken, and location
of new super documented below).
At the end of July the beekeepers will do another sugar roll test to monitor the mites and see if treatments continue having the desired effect. Toward the end of summer, after honey production slows late in July and before golden rod starts to bloom in the early fall, they will harvest some of the honey, probably 3 supers full. Then the bees can rebuild their food supply with pollen from the fall flowers before frost ends the growing season. Beekeepers will winterize the hives late in the fall to help sustain them through the winter season.
Submitted by Patrice Fisher, The
Henry Ford, Dearborn, Michigan
Abstracts Slovenia is home to excellent beekeepers and the indigenous Carniolan bee. Beekeeping is one of the oldest traditional activities and an important part of Slovenia’s identity, natural and cultural heritage. It is a kind of a national hobby; there are 5 beekeepers per 1000 inhabitants in a population of just two million, together around 11.000. The Slovenian landscape is adorned by nearly 14,000 apiaries, containing around 200,000 hives with bees that collect quality honey and other products.
Slowenien ist die Heimat exzellenter Imker und der einheimischen Kärntner Biene. Imkerei ist eine der ältesten traditionellen Kulturpraktiken und wichtiger Teil slowenischer Identität sowie des natürlichen und kulturellen Erbes. Es ist eine Art nationales Hobby; es gibt 5 Imker pro tausend Einwohner bei einer Bevölkerung on gerade mal zwei Millionen; zusamengenommen also etwa 11.000. Die slowenische Landschaft ist geschmückt durch annähernd 14.000 Bienenstände, die etwa 200.000 Beuten enthalten und deren Bienen Qualitätshonig und andere Produkte produzieren.
Slovenija je domovina odličnih čebelarjev in avtohtone krajnske čebele. Čebelarjenje je eno najstarejših tradicionalnih dejavnosti in s tem pomemben del slovenske identitete ter naravne in kulturne dediščine. Lahko bi rekli, da je čebelarjenje nacionalni hobi, saj imamo v le dvomilijonski državi kar 5 čebelarjev na 1000 prebivalcev, skupaj jih je okoli 11.000. Slovensko pokrajino bogati skoraj 14.000 čebelnjakov z okoli 200.000 panjev s čebelami, ki nabirajo kakovosten med in druge pridelke.
Beekeeping in the 18th
and 19th centuries was marked by outstanding figures
Successful beekeeping has always been based on
thorough knowledge of bees, ingenious beekeeping techniques, dictated by the
local foraging conditions, and especially on the Carniolan bee and its
excellent characteristics. Of key importance to the progress of beekeeping were
several figures, who with an enthusiasm based on great human qualities taught
sensible beekeeping to simple peasants, and at the same time spread their
knowledge about the Carniolan bee and beekeeping to the wider world.
The most outstanding among them was Anton Janša
(1734 – 1773), an excellent beekeeping theoretician and practitioner, and the
first teacher of the subject at the Beekeeping School in Vienna. His birthday,
May 20, was chosen as World Bee Day from 2018 onwards on the initiative of
Another figure highly important for the
development of Slovenian beekeeping was the priest Peter Pavel Glavar (1721 –
1784), the founder of the first beekeeping school in Slovenia. He was among the
first to write a treatise on bees in Slovene.
The Tyrolean natural scientist and physician
Joannes Antonius Scopoli (1723 – 1788) was active in the Slovene territory and
was the first to inform the world that the queen bee mates with drones outside
The great beekeeping expert and first Carniolan bee trader Emil Rothschütz (1836 – 1909) was instrumental to promoting the Carniolan bee.
The pride of Slovenia – the
The Carniolan bee, Apis mellifera carnica, is a Slovene indigenous bee species that
originated in the area of the Balkan Peninsula, and for historical reasons, its
homeland is held to be Slovenia. The species also lives in Carinthia and Styria
in Austria, in Hungary, Romania, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as in
Serbia; it has been artificially introduced in Germany and in many other places.
Following the Italian bee, the Carniolan bee is the second most common bee species
in the world.
The Carniolan bee has excellent characteristics: it is gentle, industrious, and long-lived, does not stray into other beehives, overwinters well, consumes little stored food, multiplies quickly in spring, efficiently builds combs, thoroughly exploits rich pastures, especially forest ones, has a well-developed cleaning instinct, making it less susceptible to diseases, and is very good at orientation and swarming.
Why do the Slovenes keep
their bees in hives grouped in apiaries?
The principal reason for this method of beekeeping are the AŽ-hives (AŽ stands for Alberti-Žnideršič). Slovenes are very attached to their bees and make sure that they dwell in dry, warm hives, protected against the cold, heat, and bad weather by the apiary’s shelter. Apiaries differ from one region to another and Slovenes are most proud of the Slovene Apiary which has preserved its typical form for centuries. It derives from Central Slovenia and was described by Anton Janša in his book Popolni nauk za vse čebelarje (The Perfect Theory of Beekeeping) in 1772. These apiaries were mostly built by self-taught craftsmen, based on knowledge passed on by their ancestors and enriched with their own experiences, discoveries, and creativity.
The traditional Slovene beehive is thus an AŽ leaf hive. Beekeepers claim that it is the beehive best suited to our climate and foraging conditions. It was introduced by Anton Žnideršič in the early 20th century and is by far the most popular type of beehive, since over 90% of all beekeepers use one of its variants. It is also spreading elsewhere around the world. The AŽ-beehive is very handy for transporting bees to different pastures, as well.
Painted beehive panels are a
specific Slovene phenomenon
The painted front panels of the formerly plain kranjič hives are part of Slovene cultural heritage that almost every Slovene is familiar with. They are a genuinely original Slovene cultural element. After emerging as a genre of folk art, largely created by and for members of the peasant classes, in a part of the Slovene ethnic territory in the mid-18th century, the custom peaked between 1820 and 1880, to decline due to socio-economic and religious conditions in the early 20th century.
Beekeeping in towns
Urban beekeeping is not something new or
exceptional in our towns, but the practice has recently seen a revival around
the world, including in Slovenia. The bees can produce quality and above all
pristine honey in our towns, since there are no areas affected by phytopharmaceutical products. Apiaries, but
more often stands of box hives, are set up on the roofs of commercial
buildings, on balconies, or in gardens.
Beekeeping is above all a relaxation activity for townspeople. It provides them with bee products and contact with nature close to their home, contributing to their well-being and a quality “green way of living”.
Transporting bees to pastures
Transporting bees from places with poor
pastures to better ones, especially forest pastures, is a centuries-old
tradition in Slovenia, which also spread elsewhere in the late 18th
century thanks to Anton Janša.
There are indeed no places in Slovenia that would provide enough pasture for an entire beekeeping season. Transporting bees is above all of economic importance, as it allows beekeepers to exploit the honeydew produced by some insects on plants at different times and in different places. The practice requires special knowledge and skills and these are continuously being improved.
Bees and bee products have a
beneficial effect on people
Beekeepers increasingly adapt their apiaries into apitherapy rooms, where people can inhale the healing aromatic air produced by the hives. Apiaries are thus no longer merely small or large structures protecting bees, but have been turned into refuges for the well-being of body and mind. Bee products like honey, propolis (bee glue), pollen, wax, and royal jelly have a beneficial effect on health, while apitherapy with bee-venom seems to be effective in treating rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases.
Barbara Sosič, Slovene Ethnographic Museum, Ljubljana
Honey was highly important in the Middle Ages. Cane sugar was known in Antiquity, but it was rare until the 17th century, so honey was used in food and drinks, as well as in medical treatments. Remember, too, that wax was needed for civil and religious lighting. We have evidence of all this from medieval texts such as agricultural treatises, encyclopaedias, fable-books and even religious texts, as well as the illustrations in them. They show us a great diversity of beehives in medieval times and deep interest in the insects’ lives.
seem to have been three periods according to the shape and function of
beehives. The first has fixed honeycombs – the bees attach their combs to an
immobile upper wall and this is the only kind used in the Middle Ages. The
second type has movable components added to the upper part of beehives with
fixed combs and it is only subsequently that we see hives with movable frames
appear. Still, the beehives we see in illustrations have a wealth of shapes and
materials that highlight regional diversity and personized craftsmanship, since
peasants made their beehives from their own local resources.
Trunk or box beehives
used in Gaul, tree trunk beehives are fairly rare in medieval images, although
a few appear in Italian illuminated manuscripts, while their widespread use is
attested to in texts from southern France and in Spain. This kind of beehive is
the closest to what bees do naturally, when they set up home in hollow trees.
Medieval written sources tell us that people often harvested a wild forest swarm by cutting out
part of the tree trunk and bringing it back as a beehive. In that case, the
trunk was cut out half-way down to provide a flight entrance.
Of course, there are other cylindrical beehives, always Italian and made of wooden slats or boards side-by-side. On the other hand, although we have much evidence in written sources from Provence, central and southern Italy, Spain and Portugal, of beehives made of a band of cylindrical cork oak off a tree trunk, we have no illustrations of these.
Parallel to trunk beehives, the box beehives so widespread in Greek and Roman Antiquity, seems to exist in nearly all Italian testimony, made of wide wooden boards, although we do not know what kind of wood – conifer, as Columella recommended because they resisted honeycomb moth.* Illustrations of light-coloured beehives might attest to this. Probably derived from a tree trunk laid out on the ground, these parallelepiped hives were always large, seeming to be about a meter long, even 1.5m, and about 1.30m wide. In most of these hives, flight holes were small, but there were many of them and they seem to be made of two movable partitions. Pliny mentioned “the cover should penetrate the hive, if the hive is too large or if the honey harvest is too small, for fear that the bees will be discouraged and not work well, then it can be made smaller, so that they are fooled about how much their work has progressed.
The beehives we see the most often in medievial illustrations are made of wickerwork woven wattle or split-wood. This kind of basketwork, which was used in Roman times, continued in Gaul and was widespread in the Middle Ages – we see it in illuminated manuscripts in England, northern France, Flanders or in the Rhineland, whereas we hardly find them in more southern manuscripts.
can see several types in these illustrations – some have a ribbed outside of
woven wattle over a framework, without any visible coating, so insulation from
heat and wet must have been poor. However, this woven surface was more frequently
covered with a brownish coating, which matches the written sources indicating
the use of cow pats, as in Antiquity, as the most common covering.
All this kind of beehives, usually about 50 cm in height, were woven over a wickerwork frame: a barked branch was split into several bundles for the vertical stays the wattles were woven around, usually with 8 to 12 ribs and sometimes these ran down to the bottom to make short feet, unless the bottom had a loop around it for the flight hole. The often golden colour of the wattlework does not enable us to see if they were made of oak, hazel, osier or clematis, as suggested by the texts.
beehives came in many shapes, some of them like a small dome with a flattened
top, others conical with a narrow top like a sugarloaf. It is rarer to see a
trunk-shaped hive with a flat top or a bell shape. Most of these hives had a
handle formed by the end of the branch under the woven framework, which made it
easier to carry and to attach the winter covering of straw.
of these hives are illustrated without a flight hole, but most of them have a
small opening in the lower part where the basketwork is looser or in the wooden
hoop between the sides and the base in the form of a small arch or rectangle.
Only conic or bell-shaped baskets have a hole in the lower third in the form of
a narrow slit.
are less frequent than the basketwork hives, and most are found in manuscripts
from northern France or Flanders and entirely missing in southern, especially
Italian, documents. This is due to the fact that they are connected with
cereal-growing, especially rye in more northern areas.
kind of beehive is mainly made of eight to 10 rows of light-coloured straw
twisted into rolls. Depending on the source, this is mainly of well-dried rye
straw, the stems of which are far longer than those of other cereal grains, put
together in rows and linked up with vertical osier (water willow) ties
Straw hives are usually dome-shaped and fairly small, hardly over some 40 cm. They may be capped by a round or stick-like handle, but most of them have none, in contrast to the wattle hives. They usually have a flight hold at the base, a simple arch in the straw, and more rarely, a rectangular slot in the lower third.
Written and ethnographic testimony tells us that these basketwork or straw beehives had a central cross to hold the swarm at the beginning of the comb construction and they could be open at the bottom for work on the colony.
This diversity of medieval beehives shows us the privileged relationship of human and bee at all times, even if the Middle Ages especially prized beehive products in the domestic economy. This is confirmed in the 14th and 15th centuries by permission for Royal, religious or secular lordly appointment of a bigre, a specialized forestry expert responsible for capturing, for his lordly masters, wild swarms of bees and putting them into productive beehives.
Author: Perrine Mane, Emerita Director of Studies, CNRS (CRH-EHESS) Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris, translated and edited by Cozette Griffin-Kremer
Archaeological finds provide proof of beekeeping in man-made places for bees to live in for the first sedentary cultures. Tubular wooden constructions (log hives) and skeps are the typical bee habitations for (pre-)historic beekeepingin Central Europe. Only two really groundbreaking changes can be pointed out that have led to the modern type of beehives which are a very new development in comparison to the ancient practice of beekeeping.
Archäologische Funde belegen die Bienenhaltung in von Menschen hergestellten Bienenbehausungen für die ersten sesshaften Kulturen. Hölzerne Röhren (Klotzbeuten) und Stülper sind die typischen Bienenbehausungen für die (prä) historische Bienenhaltung in Mitteleuropa. Nur zwei wirklich grundlegend neue Veränderungen können bis zu den modernen Magazinbeuten aufgezeigt werden. Letztere stellen eine sehr neue Entwicklung im Gegensatz zum Alter der Bienenhaltung in der Menschheitsgeschichte dar.
Honeybees – Beekeeping – Archaeology – Beehabitations – Central European Pre-/Early history
summary of beekeeping in prehistory is often reduced to two
highlights: a representation of the so-called honey hunting in
Mesolithic rock-art and the images of honey harvesting, commercial
collection of honey of wild or semi-wild honeybee colonies in living
trees) in the Middle Ages
Interestingly, this picture of honey harvesting as the origin of our
beekeeping has a strong impact. There are also pictures of manmade
beehives and beekeeping from that time, but the honey harvester
obviously considered so archaic that it remains in memory. Between
these two highlights there are approx. 7000-10,000 years and all the
archaeological eras that have brought great changes and developments
in handicraft and cultural techniques. This could also lead to the
conclusion that from the Mesolithic to the Middle Ages “bees were
kept in the living tree” implying that there was no development
from the Mesolithic to the Middle Ages and that sedentism had no
influence on beekeeping, and instead, that the first development
towards modern day beekeeping happened after the Middle Ages. But
this is not the case…
The Archaeological Beekeeping Project at the Zeiteninsel – Archaeological Open-Air Museum Marburger Land, Germany (www.zeiteninsel.de) started with one beehive – in a modified modern bee dwelling to show people how bees build the combs and construct their homes. However, the aim of the project from the beginning was to show beekeeping in five different prehistoric eras – Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age and finally the early Germanic Peoples – in Central Europe.
starting point of the prehistoric display was the Neolithic. Wooden
tubes found at a lake dwelling (Arbon Bleiche III on
Lake Constance in Switzerland)
were interpreted as bee habitations. Based on these wooden tubes, the
first “Neolithic beehive” was introduced at the
Zeiteninsel-project in 2017. The log hive was reconstructed according
to the smaller find from Arbon Bleiche III and was accepted very well
by the bees.
Next to be reconstructed was the bee dwelling for the early Germanic peoples. So, in 2018, the first wicker skep was introduced to the project. This is based on a find from the northern German coast dated to the 1st/2nd century CE from Feddersen Wierde, a terp settlement. The reconstruction of this skep started with harvesting the willow branches and working with techniques of basketmaking in order to build the frame of the skep. This frame was covered with a mixture of clay and long hay. There are no remains from the cover of the frame, therefore this is open to experiment and discussion. It is important that the clay can be applied in a very thin layer, so the skep will not become too heavy for handling and the clay will not crack. Until now, it is still an experiment in progress about how to harvest honey and find the right management technique for the hive in the wicker skep. The bees accepted the wicker skep very well, so the hive works! (In this project, the standards of modern beekeeping with regard to animal welfare and legal requirements are guaranteed.)
So today there are three different types of bee habitations at the Zeiteninsel: a wooden tube as a Neolithic bee dwelling, one wicker skep as a Germanic bee home and one modified modern beehive to actually show people more of the life of the bees, for example, for visiting school classes.
is archaeological evidence of wooden tubes aka log hives nearly
throughout all the time periods of central Europe, starting with the
Neolithic (as mentioned above). The Bronze Age is a particularly
interesting era for the question of the use of bee products. A steady
availability of huge amounts of wax was required for the lost wax
process. Beekeeping management may well have been implemented during
the Bronze Age to ensure the availability of wax. There is evidence
of a wooden log hive in a Bronze Age settlement in Berlin
Lichterfelde, Germany. During the first centuries CE (early Germanic
peoples) there are several archaeological finds of log hives, e.g. in
Pinnow, Germany. For the early Middle Ages there is a find in the
Venemoor, Germany, and there is evidence of the same types until
recent centuries, for example, a log hive dated to 1770 from
Spreewald, Gemany. The first evidence of a man-made bee dwelling that
is not a wooden tube is the wicker skep of the Feddersen Wierde,
Germany (as mentioned above). You can find a written source from a
Roman author (Columella,1st century CE) and pictures of wicker skeps
from the 8th century CE until the late Middle Ages. Sometime in the
middle of the first millennium of the Christian Era is when skeps
made of straw must have appeared, but we have no archaeological
evidence for exactly when. There are pictures of straw skeps from the
Central Middle Ages onwards. And there was beekeeping in straw skeps
in Germany until the middle of the 20th century.
explained in the article before “Which came first, bees or crops?
Why does it matter?” by Debra A. Reid, there was a huge development
towards beekeeping on a larger scale, having more control over the
bees, possibilities to manipulate the hive and of course to
centrifuge the harvested honey thanks to inventions in the mid-19th
century. This is the origin of the modern bee dwelling nearly all
beekeepers all over the world now use: (Mostly) wooden supers with
These are the three different types of central European bee hives: log, skep and modular supers. Log and skep have one central factor in common: these beekeeping methods work with fixed frames, with wax combs that are built by the bees in their free order and these are fixed at the insides of the habitation (top and sides, not the bottom). Only the invention of the movable frames brought a basic change in the handling of beehives.
So what is the reason for development or, let’s say remaining with what is already there? Is it a question of time or are there different influencing factors? There were two major changes in beekeeping methods:
the beginning of beekeeping in man-made bee habitations near
settlements co-evolving with sedentism and keeping livestock in
2) there was this huge development within beekeeping techniques in the middle of the 19th century (see above) and there was a completely different area of beekeeping in living trees in forests, but this is more an issue of different natural, agricultural and cultural landscapes and not a time-related development.
CRANE, E. (1999). The World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting. Cardiff, 1999.
CAPITANI, A., DESCHLER-ERB, S., LEUZINGER, U., MARTI-GRÄDEL, E.,
SCHIBLER, J.(2002). Die
jungsteinzeitliche Seeufersiedlung Arbon Bleiche 3, Funde.
Departement für Erziehung und Kultur des Kantons Thurgau.
S. (2018). Prähistorische
Bienenhaltung in Mitteleuropa – ein archäoimkerliches Projekt.
Archäologie in Europa,
Jahrbuch 2018. Unteruhldingen, 2018.
S. (2019). Prähistorische
Bienenhaltung in Mitteleuropa – Rekonstruktion und Betrieb eines
Archäologie in Europa,
Jahrbuch 2019. Unteruhldingen, 2019.
H. (1965). Ein dreitausendjähriger „Klotzstülper“ aus
Berlin-Lichterfelde in Berliner
Blätter für Vor- und Frühgeschichte.
11, 1965, Berlin.
F. (1981). Ein Bienenkorb von der Nordseeküste aus prähistorischer
Zeit in: Werner HAARNAGEL (ed.): Feddersen
Wierde: die Ergebnisse der Ausgrabung der vorgeschichtlichen Wurt
Feddersen Wierde bei Bremerhaven in den Jahren 1955 bis 1963.
III, Steiner, Wiesbaden.
We have evidence for honey-gathering from rock art dating back to the Mesolithic, but there is also information about beekeeping in the context of laws (and literature) in early Ireland – what do you do when a neighbour’s bees invade your property? Worse still, what happens if one stings you? Even worse, what happens when a bee stings a king in the eye and he can no longer reign as unblemished sovereign? Today, our customs and our laws – read pesticides, among other subjects – can deeply affect the existence of honeybees and the other bees so essential to production of agriculture, horticulture and even your flower garden.
Wir haben Hinweise auf das Sammeln von Honig welche bis in das Mesolithikum zurückreichen aber es gibt auch Informationen zum Thema Imkerei im Kontext von Gesetzen (und Literatur) im frühmittelalterlichen Irland – was passiert, wenn die Bienen eines Nachbarn auf das eigene Besitzgrundstück eindringen? Schlimmer: was passiert wenn man von einer Biene gestochen wird? Und sogar noch schwerwiegender: was passiert wenn ein König von einer Biene ins Auge gestochen wird und nicht weiter als makelloser Herrscher weiterregieren kann? Heute beeinflussen unsere Gewohnheiten und Gesetze – Pestizide und andere Dinge – die Existenz der Honigbienen und anderer Bienen so tiefgreifend, dass diese sogar Einfluss auf unsere Landwirtschaft, den Gemüseanbau und sogar unseren Blumengarten entfalten.
Nous avons des preuves de la collecte de miel de l’art rupestre datant du Mésolithique, mais il existe également des informations sur l’apiculture dans le contexte des lois (et de la littérature) en Irlande médiévale – que faites-vous lorsque les abeilles d’un voisin envahissent votre propriété? Pire encore, que se passe-t-il si la petite bête vous pique? Pire encore, que se passe-t-il lorsqu’une abeille pique un roi à l’oeil et qu’il ne peut plus régner en souverain sans tare? Aujourd’hui, nos coutumes et nos lois – voir la question des pesticides, par exemple – peuvent profondément affecter l’existence des abeilles, bourdons et les autres espèces si essentielles à l’agriculture, à l’horticulture et même à votre jardin à fleurs.
Keywords: bee-keeping – bees – Old Irish law – legal texts – museum practice
People all over the world are concerned about bees of every sort that ensure pollination and produce the honey that has been prized by humans for millennia, attested by the many examples of rock art paintings of honey-gathering, such as the well-known Mesolithic scene from the Cuevas de la Araña near Valencia in Spain (caves). That was long before any written legal documents, but among the earliest laws that have come down to us in Europe are in Old Irish, which had a special treatise on bee-keeping called the “Bee-Judgments” (Bechbretha).i
Although there is much debate about whether the honeybee in the British Isles is a native or was introduced by its human admirers, there is a tradition in Irish literature that it was brought to the island by a saint, and the 6th-century lady Saint Gobnait was patron of beekeepers. Saints in early traditions are often credited with introducing highly valued objects and practices. It may well be that monasteries practiced bee-keeping on an impressively large scale due to their need for large amounts of beeswax for candle-making.
any case, bees are exciting for lawyers. They fly away from you, even
trespass on your neighbour’s land, hence the inclusion of bees in
laws about good (or not) relations among neighbours. They can also be
stolen from you, and bee-rustling figured among the penalties to be
paid, which applied to swarms, just as did legal sanctions against
making off with cattle, pigs, horses, sheep, goats, chickens and
geese. Linguistic analysis of terms in Old Irish relating to bees and
bee-keeping indicates that the honeybee was present in Ireland well
before the arrival of Christianity. Keeping track of one’s bees was
deemed so important that it was not
included in the activities forbidden on Sundays.
Irish lawyers were sticklers for detail and the bee-keeping laws are
unique in containing a mention of the bees themselves as villains, in
that they could wander off and indulge in “grazing-trespass” on
other peoples’ property, just like a cow thinking the grass is
greener on the other side of the fence. This involved bees “stealing”
from a neighbour who had an especially fine stand of nectar-bearing
flowers and the culprits might have been identified by sprinkling
flour on them. This “offense” could seriously reduce a farmer’s
bees and their honey were so highly valued, it is no wonder that a
bee sting counted in legal proceedings. If a person was moving,
robbing or even watching the hives during swarming, s/he was not
compensated for resultant injury. However, if bees sting anyone not
interfering with them, the beekeeper is obliged to provide the victim
with a meal of honey. An extreme case is also cited: if a bee sting
caused the loss of an eye. That was an incident said to have happened
to a king, who consequently had to relinquish his kingship because of
this blemish. He sued the bee-keeper, and the legal judgment was to
cast a lot on all the hives in the apiary. The lot fell on one hive
and the king confiscated that. Hence, all the bees in the hive were
held to be guilty for the offense of one bee. The human eye-closing
reflex is so rapid that a bee sting would be unlikely to penetrate to
the cornea, so there are good chances the story is simply a fine
tale. Later commentary on the law, however, mentions payment of one
hive for blinding and two hives for killing a person by bee sting.iii
was the main sweetening product until sugar-cane was imported to
Europe, perhaps in the 12th century, and honey was valuable as a
source of carbohydrate energy. It was especially prized in the winter
months, and honey figures in literature as well as law, baked into
bread, as an ingredient in fine cuisine (honey salmon or rubbed into
meat before roasting) and in making mead or combined with malt to
make bragget, between mead and beer in strength. Although honey was
not considered appropriate for anyone suffering from diarrhea, it was
highly recommended in restoring general health and could be demanded
from a beekeeper for an invalid, even during the first three years of
a hive’s “life”, when it otherwise had immunity to all
obligations to neighbhours. As to bees’ legal home, there is some
indication that hives were made from hollowed logs and later,
wickerwork, with woven straw not coming in before the 17th century.iv
How does the law protect bees in your area? What are your traditions of honey in cuisine and in making beehives? Are bees associated with particular figures in your traditions? Above all, are there beehives in your collections?
Illustrations of beehives and all the materials appurtenant to beekeeping, even the human beings, are buzzing in to our files. So, mark this blog in your agenda and send us illustrations from your own collections.
Cozette Griffin-Kremer (FR) and Hanna Ignatowicz (PO), at the Slovene Ethnographic Museum, Photo Kerry-Leigh Burchill
i Among several texts, the only complete copy is in the oldest surviving Irish legal manuscript (H.2.15A pp.20a19-26a7) in D.A. Binchy Corpus Iuris Hibernici pp. 444-57 (vol. II) and the language is dated to the mid-7th century CE. See Thomas Charles-Edwards and Fergus Kelly (eds.) Bechbretha, An Old Irish Law Tract on Bee-keeping, Dublin Insitute for Advanced Studies, 1983, pp. 1, 13.
Abstracts: Flying insects, particularly bees, transfer pollen to flowers to facilitate plant reproduction. The Western or European honeybee (Apis mellifera) may get the most attention because of the honey they produce, but other bees pollinate vegetables, berries, and other fruits on which we all depend. Adding the natural history of bees to the agricultural history of food production underscores the fragile relationships between pollinator, plants, and humans.
Les insectes volants, en particulier les abeilles, transfèrent le pollen aux fleurs pour faciliter la reproduction des plantes. L’abeille à miel occidentale ou européenne (Apis mellifera) attire souvent le plus d’attention en raison du miel qu’elle produit, mais d’autres abeilles pollinisent les légumes, les baies et les autres fruits dont nous dépendons tous. Ajouter l’histoire naturelle des abeilles à l’histoire agricole de la production alimentaire souligne les relations fragiles entre les pollinisateurs, les plantes et les humains. (Google Translation)
Fliegende Insekten, insbesondere Bienen, transportieren Pollen zu Blumen, um Pflanzenreproduktion zu ermöglichen. Die Westliche oder Europäische Honigbiene (Apis mellifera) mag am meisten Aufmerksamkeit genießen aufgrund des Honigs, den sie produzieren, aber auch andere Bienen bestäuben Gemüse, Beeren und andere Früchte von denen wir alle abhängig sind. Das Hinzunehmen der Naturgeschichte der Bienen zur Agrargeschichte der Nahrungsproduktion unterstreicht die fragilen Zusammenhänge zwischen Bestäubern, Pflanzen und Menschen.
Flying insects, particularly bees, transfer
pollen to flowers to facilitate plant reproduction. The Western or European
honeybee (Apis mellifera), native to
Europe, Asia, and parts of Africa, often receives the most attention because
of the honey that results from their pollen-storage system. Yet other bees bear
the burden of pollinating vegetables, berries, and other fruits on which we all
Plants and insects developed mutually beneficial relationships over millions of years. The plants depended on insects to reproduce through the transfer of pollen from pollen grain to flower stigma, as the insects ate the plants’ pollen and nectar. Bees, a flying insect, became distinct by gathering and storing pollen to feed themselves and their young. DNA research confirms that bees coexisted with flowering plants from the beginning of flowering plants 130 million years ago. Archaeologists find evidence of bees in fossilized resin (amber).
All bee species (about 20,000) evolved along with plants in localized biospheres, but only those classified in the genus Apis are technically honeybees. Millenia before humans moved Apis mellifera around the globe, squash bees, bumble bees, and solitary bees, among many others, pollinated crops, including crops native to the Americas, i.e., squash, pumpkins, cranberries, tomatoes, avocados, and potatoes, to name a few. Native bees pollinate plants in their ecosystem more efficiently than does the popular Apis mellifera. In fact, the imported European or Western honeybee completes with the native species for pollen, and humans give Apis mellifera an advantage through special treatment to ensure honey production. This puts other bees more proficient in plant pollination at a disadvantage.
Do museums interpret the complexity of human intervention in the natural process of pollination?
Often interpretation focuses on honeybees, and
the artifacts of the beekeeper who worked with them. In North America,
colonists imported Avis mellifera to ensure access to honey and to
sustain crops imported with the bees. When honeybees swarmed into hollow trees,
the beekeepers sometimes cut out the tree and moved the pollinators closer to
their gardens, orchards, and clover fields and moved the honey source closer to
their kitchen table.
Humans intervened further in the lives of pollinators by designing different types of homes for bees. The most lasting example of innovation resulted from close and persistent observation of bee behavior. Lorenzo L. Langstroth’s 1852 U.S. Patent for an improved method of constructing beehives revolutionized beekeeping at the time. Langstroth established the concept others have called “bee space” and his basic removable-frame-in-hive design remains an industry standard.
At least one patent holder took inspiration from
bees’ natural homes, but only the form, not the function. An 1869 U.S. Patent confirms
that tree-hives captured the imagination of Charles E. Spaulding. He explained
that his “honey-boxes of a round form…conform more nearly to the natural
depositories of the wild bee” and that they “correspond to hollow limbs, which
are sought out by the bees in their natural or wild state.” Spaulding, a
cheese-box maker in Theresa, New York, thought in the round anyway (the common
form of cheese boxes), but his improved hive suited human need more than that
of bees. Security features to reduce the likelihood of theft and exterior artwork
advertised his product while appealing to consumers. Bee behavior influenced
his innovation little.
Rarely do museums address the other side of the honeybee story.
Pollinators evolved with other native vegetables
and fruits. Intimate relationships between native bees and native varieties
developed over time, and native bees do not naturally pollinate invasive
species. Neither do honeybees (technically an invasive species in parts of the
globe) pollinate native species that they did not evolve in tandem with.
In fact, honeybees undermine the natural relationship
of native species because honeybees compete for pollen to produce honey which
can undermine the work of less numerous native pollinators in their natural
habitat. Humans bear some responsibility for ensuring balance between the bees
that exist to pollinate, and those that exist to produce honey. Exploring this
reality increases opportunities for history museums to interpret the
environment, and agriculture.
In museums that do not interpret agriculture
as either their focus or as a topic relevant to their mission, staff can still
link their collections to link natural history and the history of
domestication. Specifically, advertisements or decorative arts featuring
beehives provide a hook to discuss relationships between honeybees, domestication,
natural and domesticated plant pollination, and human manipulation of the
process. Discussion of foodways in historic houses may naturally lead to the
topics of bees and pollination. Those discussions can provoke more thought by
distinguishing between food on the table, between imported plants compared to
native species, and between imported and native bees. Namely, crops such as
grain (wheat, rye, oats) and maize (corn) remained dependent on the wind to
move pollen. Humans cultivating these crops did not have to manage hives as
market gardeners and truck farmers did (and still do). These comparisons beg
for explanation of both natural history and the history of domestication.
Practice your powers of observation by
identifying the fruits in this painting by a Mexican artist, and then explore
the types of native species that cohabitated with them. Find a still life of
foods from your museum’s home (or use your own well-researched foodways program
as the basis). Then put the food on a plate in a historic house interpretation
that prompts conversations about plant propagation through the natural act of
pollination specific to your site (bee-specific about both the local and the
imports). That paints the most comprehensive picture of bees and their direct
relationships to food supplies historically and today.
In conclusion, most market-garden and
truck-farm crops (i.e., cabbage, green beans, and black-eyed peas); berries
(i.e., strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries); and orchard crops (i.e.,
apples, grapes, pears, peaches, and plums), depend on the mighty pollinator,
the native bee, to survive and thrive. Bees also pollinate crops that livestock
eat (buckwheat, clover), and crops that produce the fibers we wear (cotton and
flax). Bees also pollinate the flowers of matured plants that then yield seeds
for the next year’s crop. For these reasons, native species play a significant
role worthy of consideration to enrich conversations that the honeybee otherwise
Bees – one short name accounts for 16,000 to 20,000 species of hairy flying insects classified into seven families. All live within social communities that depend on strict work routines. They all seek the same food sources – pollen and nectar – and each processes their harvest and preserves it in hives built in the ground, in hollow trees, or in human-designed apiaries.
bee quest for pollen served plants well for 130 million years because bees
helped plants reproduce. Bees and humans have a much shorter but more emotional
relationship. Bees need plants for food, as do humans. Bees ensure plant
fertilization which ensures that humans will have food crops. Over millennia, humans
domesticated one species of bee to satisfy this and many other needs – Apis
mellifera (the honeybee).
Humans built hives for their honeybees and clustered these hives (apiaries) around orchards, grape arbors, and other areas of intense flowering-plant cultivation. These hives take many forms, but each houses a colony of honeybees. The hard work of the pollinators filled the hives with honey, and from the hives, humans harvested the most natural and veritably the only sweetener available before the introduction of heavily processed cane sugar – honey. Honey, pollen, and bee venom also had medicinal value, as did beeswax. Beeswax when processed became the binding agent for pigments in encaustic art, a component in the mummification process, the candles that lit cathedrals, and the sealing agent for small containers. Finally, the bees themselves were part of the supply chain on which apiarists depended as they harvested queens to propagate new honeybee colonies.
may hesitate to include hives in public areas because of the added expense and
expertise required to maintain them or because of concerns about allergic
reactions to bee stings. The hives, however, can launch numerous discussions
about the long and complicated history of bee, plant, and human interactions.
absence of hives can also lead to conversations about native pollinators, the
thousands of other bee species often ignored and feared. Sometimes all it takes
is a brief prompt – Bee Aware – to engage the public in an exploration of
nature and human interaction.
Seasons affect the stories to tell. During flowering seasons, all bees collect pollen from flowers. Watch closely and you will see Apis mellifera as well as other species native to your area including bumble bees and carpenter bees (also in the Apidae family) and sweat bees (the Halictidae family). These all have hairy bodies. Other striped flying insects may look like bees, but if they have hairless bodies, they are not bees. These insects, including paper wasps (Polistinae) or yellow jackets (Vespinae), are predators and they can be aggressive, especially in the fall when they have no responsibilities for their colonies, and food is in short supply. Stay calm, observe them in action, take a picture to identify the species later, and enjoy your nature lesson in a museum.
This series of blogs address topics that museums of all types may find useful in interpreting the bee- human relationship.
Which hive do bees prefer? Treehives and cultural heritage in Poland Adaptive use of trees as beehives support an exploration of the relationship of tangible and intangible cultural heritage in Poland.
What do bumblebees do that we overlook? A case-study in Norway Farmers today rely on other bee species, specifically the bumblebee, to pollinate greenhouse plants, as this museum documentation project in Norway explores.
How do museums support bee preservation? Learn about a range of efforts supported by AIMA museums that can help sustain bee diversity and spread the word to the general public.
How do bees inspire artists? Bee art from AIMA blogger museums Explore artistic expressions feature art and imagery inspired by bees in AIMA-member museums.
Submitted by Debra A. Reid, Curator of Agriculture & the Environment, The Henry Ford, Dearborn, Michigan
The Museum of English Rural Life (The MERL) at Reading University has a significant collection of 22 English farm wagons. A “Shoulder to the Wheel” exhibition developed in partnership with the Crafts Study Centre, University for the Creative Arts, Farnham, seeks to explore the skills of the wheelwright. Using a wheel collected by the Museum which dates back to c1894 as inspiration, three contemporary makers used their different skills to create a new wheel in its image. The exhibition was guest curated by Dr Glenn Adamson, Senior Scholar at the Yale Center for British Art and runs from January – April 2020.
Le Museum of English Rural Life (The MERL) de l’Université de Reading possède une importante collection de 22 véhicules à deux ou à quatre roues. Une exposition « Shoulder to the Wheel » développée en partenariat avec le Crafts Study Centre de l’Université des arts créatifs de Farnham cherche à explorer les compétences du charron. À l’aide d’une roue recueillie par le Musée qui remonte à c1894, trois fabricants contemporains ont utilisé leurs différentes compétences pour créer une nouvelle roue à son image. L’exposition a été organisée par le commissaire invité, Dr Glenn Adamson, Senior Scholar au Yale Center for British Art et se déroule de janvier à avril 2020.
The Museum of English Rural Life (The
MERL), at the University of Reading, has collected evidence of traditional
rural crafts from its earliest days in the 1950s. Amongst the most impressive elements of the
object collection is the group of 22 English farm wagons, 4 carts and a timber
carriage. Together they inspired the reference work, “The English Farm Wagon”
written in 1961 by a past assistant keeper, J Geraint Jenkins. As part of the redisplay of The MERL’s
collection in 2016 they were moved into a bespoke “Wagon Walk”. In January 2020
this space will be used to host an intervention and exploration of the work of
the wheelwright called, Shoulder to the
There is no point, the old adage goes, in reinventing the wheel. Whoever first said that must not have met a wheelwright. The four wheel components; hub, spokes, felloes and rim, have been constantly refined over centuries.
to the Wheel is a collaborative exhibition between
the Crafts Study Centre in Farnham, Surrey and The MERL curated by Dr Glenn
Adamson, Senior Scholar at the Yale Centre for British Art.
To create the exhibition we selected a late Victorian wheel collected by The MERL in the 1960s. Three contemporary makers were then invited to create a work in its image.
Greg Rowland is the latest in a long lineage of Devon wheelwrights, dating back to the fourteenth century.
Gareth Neal is a designer and maker who often refers to old furniture in his work.
Zoe Laughlin is Co-Director of the Institute of Making at University College London, a materials library and laboratory.
The exhibition was inspired by the work by
George Sturt, The Wheelwright’s Shop,
first published in 1923. His shop was
located in Farnham, the home of the Crafts Study Centre.
This wheel came into the object collection
of The Museum of English Rural Life in 1962, along with a West Country “ship
wagon”. Both were made in 1894, by
artisan C. Bailey of the village of Combe St Nicholas, Somerset, for Lords
Leaze Farm, located in the nearby town of Chard. When fully loaded the wagon could carry 1,100
sheaves of wheat.
As part of the commission, each of the contemporary makers participated in a discussion about the choices they made in the design and construction of their wheel.
“Wheels are what I do and what I have done for 30 years…My aim was to use as many processes that might have been used in Sturt’s shop but also to use some modern methods not available then. A contact near Farnham had some elm for the hub. I had to make wedges and use putty to fill the splits in the wood. My father, Mike, produced the spokes from oak. Traditionally spokes were cleft out of the wood but we used a more modern sawing technique using air-dried stock. The felloes – the curved pieces that make up the wheel rim, are from ash. This gave us the traditional wheel timbers of oak, ash and elm. The iron hub rings were shrunk on. We used traditional whalebone to get the front angle of the spokes, which would form the wheel’s dish.”
How could you possibly improve the wooden wheel? It is the result of an accumulation of knowledge and experience over centuries by wheelwrights who spent their whole lives mastering the craft.
Let’s start at the beginning, then. We can picture hundreds of men dragging huge
stones across a plain…Wherever they are, they are wondering how they can make
this transportation more efficient.
“My wheel and its accompanying drawings are an encyclopaedia of this evolution, from the problems of drying and splitting timber, through the first attempt to make a spindle, to a celebration of the cross directional strength of the elm hub. Each thought is a step along the road that led to the wheel we know now.”
“There is often a misconception that using digital tools allows the maker, intent on copying a form with exactitude, an easy route to high fidelity results. My first step was to scan the original wheel with a handheld infrared Asus Xtion camera attached to a laptop. No matter how slowly I swept the sensor over and around the subject, areas inexplicably failed to register. The wheel needed to stand unaided in order to be captured in one continuous scan. I constructed a relatively unobtrusive jig of floor chocks and a thin wooden shaft leading up to the central hub of the wheel. I decided to print the wheel with a diameter of 10cm in order to play to the strengths of the tool and ensure best print possible. I used an Ultimaker2 3D printer that extrudes polylactide (PLA) thermostat filament. The proprietary software performs a number of adjustments in order to render a scan fit to print. In this case, an array of support structures were added to the wheel’s typology in order to compensate for areas with undercuts and gaps. I chose to use a pink low-density polyurethane foam as my material stock from which to mill the digital ruin of a wheel. It is a material beloved of model makers in industries such as architecture, aerospace, film and Formula 1…It is lurid, smelly, relatively fragile, totally inappropriate for wheelmaking; and perfect for machinery with a CNC mill.”
All the wheels are now on display at the exhibition which opened just recently on January 14th 2020.
Isabel Hughes Associate Director (& Head of Curatorial and Public Engagement) Museum of English Rural Life