A mellifera in the Middle East Europe and Africa

Humans have obtained honey and wax from bees' nests in the Middle East, Europe, and Africa since very early times. Beekeeping with A. mellifera was probably initiated in an area when the human population increased so much that it needed more honey or wax than was available at existing nest sites, or when some change occurred that reduced the number of nest sites—for instance, when trees were felled to clear land for agriculture.

In the Middle East, population increase was linked with the development of civilizations. The earliest known hive beekeeping was done in ancient Egypt, and similar traditional beekeeping is still carried out in Egypt. In Abu Ghorab, near Cairo, an Old Kingdom bas-relief from around 2400 B.C. shows a kneeling beekeeper working at one end of hives built into a stack; smoke is used to pacify the bees, and honey is being transferred into large storage pots. Over time, the use of horizontal cylindrical hives spread throughout the Mediterranean region and Middle East, and also to tropical Africa, where hollow log hives were often fixed in trees, out of reach of predators.

In the forests of northern Europe, where honey bees nested in tree cavities, early humans obtained honey and wax from the nests. When trees were felled to clear the land, logs containing nests were stood upright on the ground as hives. As a result, later traditional hives in northern Europe were also set upright. In early types such as a log or skep, a swarm of bees built its nest by attaching parallel beeswax combs to the underside of the hive top. If the base of the hive was open as in a skep, the beekeeper harvested honey from it. Otherwise harvesting was done from the top if there was a removable cover, or through a hole previously cut in the side.

Skeps used in northwestern Europe were made small so that colonies in them swarmed early in the active season; each swarm was housed in another skep, and stored some honey. At the end of the season, bees in some skeps were killed with sulfur smoke and all their honey harvested; bees in the other skeps were overwintered, and their honey was left as food during the winter.

Bee Keeping

Bee Keeping

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