Bee keeping is the second oldest profession. The first apiarists were the ancient Greeks and Egyptians. In Greek mythology Aristaeus, the god of beekeeping was taught by nymphs to tend bees. Melissa is the goddess of bees, she is said to have been a nymph. As one of the nurse servants to Zeus, she fed him honey. Zeus blessed the honey as Ambrosia and declared it as food for the god’s forevermore. Bees are also present in the Bible, honey is mentioned over fifty times and is always related to purity and abundance.
My garden is suddenly alive, the bees are back! The dandelions were the first to bloom, they provide nectar for many insects, especially the bees. Bees rely on dandelions for their pollen for protein and nectar for sugar. The dandelion leaves are a favorite of my pet bunny, Pearl, who in turn provides the garden with his super fertilizer (poop) which red wiggler worms love, and we all know how good worms are for the garden. As the weather gets warmer I set up my bee watering station that is nestled in my flower garden. The watering station is a shallow dish filled with water and halved wine corks so that the bees have little rafts to stand on while drinking.
It takes twenty one days for a worker bee to go from egg to adult. Sixteen days for the queen and twenty four for a drone. Queens and worker bees are female, drones are male. A drone’s only job is to mate with the queen to create more bees. Worker bees collect pollen and nectar to fed the whole colony, clean the hive, and take care of the babies. The worker bees are also the hive’s undertakers, they work in pairs to drag out the dead. The worker bees also feed and clean the queen who lays fifteen hundred eggs a day. Bees perform a special waggle dance to tell the other bees where the food is located. Only female bees sting. The buzz of the bee is the sound of its wings beating a thousand times a minute.
Bees are a wonderful reminder that hard work pays off. Honey bees pollinate more than 100 crops in the U.S., 85% of plants exist because of bees. Each bee produces 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime, a whole hive can produce 60 pounds of honey a year.
Honey has been valued for its medicinal benefits since ancient times. It is most widely known for its healing and restorative use to treat sore throats and coughs and topically to treat burns and promote wound healing. Honey helps with allergies, when consumed raw, local, and organic. Honey can help lower blood pressure, boosts the immune system, keeps skin healthy, helps with digestion, and fights tooth decay. Irish labs have proven that honey combats MRSA infections.
After he died in 323 B. C., Alexander the Great was reportedly immersed in a golden sarcophagus brimming with honey. The ancient Egyptians cherished honey so much that jars of the liquid gold were buried with deceased royalty to give them a sweet transition to the afterlife. Honey was found stashed in King Tut’s golden tomb-still edible after 3,000 years.
Queen Elizabeth II was reportedly a bee enthusiast and had a number of hives on the palace grounds. The Royal Family’s chefs use the honey in their cooking and sell any leftovers to fundraise for their charities. The Royal beekeeper informed the bees of the queen’s death as per an arcane tradition thought to date back centuries. The beekeeper placed black bows on each hive as he quietly said a prayer and explained that their mistress had died and that a new master would be in charge from now on.
Bees live a life of profound generosity. When they take from the land, they are actually giving back at the same moment (pollination). They take care of their community. Bees in all cultures are loved and appreciated thanks to their honey. As we stray away from natural beekeeping practices, it is important to show the bees the courtesy that they deserve. Doing something as simple as growing native flowers and avoiding the spraying of pesticides can help.
The Honey Bee Trading Post on Race Street in Cambridge is the perfect destination for anything Bee. Beeswax wraps, candles, lip balm, honey lollipops, and Tupelo honey are a few of the many carefully curated items in the shop. It even has a honey tasting bar, it’s one of my favorite shops ever.
“If the bees disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would have only four years of life left.” Albert Einstein