Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Beekeeping and the Sweet Honey Bee

honey bee/apis

Honey (fra Germanic: honang = "the golden")  is the storing-nutrients of the honeybees which they use in connection to overwintering. The bees gather nectare from flowers but also sugar from the excrements of the aphids, known as honeydew, and from nectaries in ferns and on leaves from some hardwoods.

beehives in France

The colour of the honey mostly comes from the flowers from where the nectare is taken - and it can be from white-yellow til greenish black. The taste also depends on which flowers the bees have visited. Clover and lime honey are light and mild, while heather honey, lavender honey and rosemary honey are dark and spicy.

The type of honey can always be determined by examination of the pollen grains in the product.

bee carrying pollen

Honey types:
flower honey ( mild with a fine characteristic scent)
forest honey (dark, neutrally sweet)
heather honey (dark and spicy)
herb-honey (each spice delivers a dark and very characteristic honey)
rape-honey (very mild, light with a quick crystallization)
clover-honey (mild, light and with a gentle taste).

In addition is also the artificial honey made from sugar, glucose and fruktose

Honey is used as a herbal medicine but mostly in German-speaking countries, where they have a long tradition to value the preventive effect on the health. It was known since antiquity that honey works antiseptic  - and the Egyptians used honey for treating wounds.

The content of antioxidants enzymes, vitamins and minerals make honey a more healthy product than pure sugar.

a jar of honey
Some bacterias can survive in honey which makes the product unsuitable for small children under 12 months. Their gastric fluid is not yet sour enough to kill the harmful bacterias -  and eating honey might give them a serious food poisoning( fx botulism) ( netdoktor.dk ) 

Before humans made sugar from sugar cane, honey was a very important and sought for sweetener, and often the only one known. Today honey is used as a laying on and as a sweetener which brings a characteristic mild taste to dishes, desserts, cakes, candy and drinks.

Globally are more than 20.000 species of wild bees.

Harvesting honey from wild bees is one of the earliest human activities and is still being practized in some  native societies i Africa, Australia and South America. Beekeeping was known by humans for thousands of years. At some point humans began to attempt to domesticate wild bees in artificial hives made from hollow logs, wooden boxes, pottery vessels, and woven straw baskets or "skeps". Traces of beeswax are found in pot sherds throughout the Middle East beginning about 7000 BCE.
 According to legend the Irish Saint Modomnoc introduced the beekeeping in Ireland in the 500s.

cave painting, 15.000 years ago
Depictions of humans collecting honey from wild bees date to 15,000 years ago. The honey was usually being collected by pacifying the bees with smoke and then break the tree or the cliff where the bee-colony lived which resulted in the destruction of the colony.Beekeeping in pottery vessels began about 9,000 years ago in North Africa. Honeybees were kept in Egypt from antiquity. Domestication is shown in Egyptian art from around 4,500 years ago. Simple hives and smoke were used and honey was stored in jars, some of which were found in the tombs of pharaohs such as Tutankhamun.

stele, Mesopotamia 760 BCE
There was documented attempt to indtroduce bees to dry areas of Mesopotamia in the 8th century BCE by Shamash-resh-usur, governor of Mari and Suhu. His plans were detailed in a stele of 760 BCE.

In ancient Greece the god Aristaios was the shepherd god for beehives. Beekeeping was also very specifically addressed by the Roman writers of antiquitiy like Virgil, and the life of the bees were described by Aristoteles.

In prehistoric Greece (Crete and Mycenae), there existed a system of high-status apiculture, as can be concluded from the finds of hives, smoking pots, honey extractors and other beekeeping paraphernalia in Knossos. Beekeeping was considered a highly valued industry controlled by beekeeping overseers—owners of gold rings depicting apiculture scenes.

Archaeological finds relating to beekeeping have been discovered at Bronze and Iron Age archaeological sites in Israel in the ruins of a city dating from about 900 BCE. Beekeeping has also been practiced in ancient China since antiquity. In the book "Golden Rules of Business Success" written by Fan Li (or Tao Zhu Gong) there are sections describing the art of beekeeping, stressing the importance of the quality of the wooden box used and how this can affect the quality of the honey.

P. Bruegel 1568: Beekeepers.
Beekeeping, 14th century

It wasn't until the 18th century that European understanding of the colonies and biology of bees allowed the construction of the moveable comb hive so that honey could be harvested without destroying the entire colony.

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