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.
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