The History of Bee’s (Day 156)

History of Bee's at Vet School

Today’s Diary Entry is sponsored by Vet School Success

Well today I started two of my new subjects for this semester, diseases of bee’s, and diseases of fish. As I had bee’s first I decided that today’s diary post should go to talking about bee’s, todays lecture was an introduction and covered the history of bee’s which I found pretty fascinating so I wanted to share some of it with you.

History of Bee's at Vet School

With fossils dating back millions of years, and rock paintings from 6000 BC found in Bicorp in eastern Spain bee’s are one of the oldest documented animal species. The product of bee’s, honey is mentioned in Sumerian and Babylonian cuneiform writings. Looking back to ancient Egypt, the first official mention of bee-keeping dates from about 2400 BC with the keepers looking after the bee’s in natural hollows in rocks and trees. In 1990 BC honey was mixed with crocodile dung and sour milk to use as a contraceptive (Kahun Medical papyrus), and in 1552 BC honey was mixed with tortoise brain to treat cataracts (Eber’s papyrus). In fact with Egpyt being split into lower and upper the bee was the symbol for the lower Egypt. Even Cleopatra’s cosmetics were honey based.

In China 9000 year old pottery vessels containing honey were found in burial sites at a cemetery in the Neolithic village of Jiahu in the Henan province. Greek legend has the god Zeus being born in a cave of bee’s and being fed by them, and Greek athletes have long used honey as a carbohydrate boost. Several coins have featured images of bee’s, and the bee was carved onto statues of Artemis – the goddess of nature. Hippocrates (460-377 BC) recognised honey and pollen for cleaning sores and ulcers and offering good health. Aristotle (348 – 322BC) wrote about bee’s and how honey from different regions and seasons be used to treat specific ailments, in addition he created the word propolis.

Modern day beekeeping collecting the honeyDuring my previous degree I actually looked into honey when looking at natural antibiotics and found it had suprising results (Sick animals still need to go to a VET!) with antiseptic properties against certain bacteria but thats for another day. Moving forward to the 1st century AD a Roman author included beekeeping in a series of books on agriculture (The De Rustica). And the medicinal use of honey grew during this time with people like Dioscorides, Alexander of Tralles with honey also appearing in the Bible and other religious texts. The royal tomb of Childeric (457 – 481 AD) also contained 300 golden bee’s. Honey was not only used in medicine as Stradivarius (1644 – 1737) handmixed his own propolis to polish his handcrafted musical instruments.

In 18th century in Philadelphia bee skeps made from straw were used as beehives for keeping bee’s. In Brazil the Law 72 passed in 1839 gave the jesuit priest Antonio Pinto Carneir exclusive permission to import honeybees from Europe and Africa into the country. In 1603 in astrology there used to the bee of the northern sky, however in the 1801 Bode’s star atlas this became a fly and now no longer exists as a seperate constellation. The honey bee appeared on many crests and coats of arms including Louis XII, and Napolean.

Off course few species have escaped Charles Darwin who published research into termites and honey bee’s in Nature 1874, and then also included them in The Origin of Species in 1859 and I leave you today with his words on natural selection.

As natural selection acts by competition, it adapts the inhabitants of each country only in relation to the degree of perfection of their associates; so that we need feel no surprise at the inhabitants of any one country, although on the ordinary view supposed to have been specially created and adapted for that country, being beaten and supplanted by the naturalised productions from another land. Nor ought we to marvel if all the contrivances in nature be not, as far as we can judge, absolutely perfect; and if some of them be abhorrent to our ideas of fitness. We need not marvel at the sting of the bee causing the bee’s own death; at drones being produced in such vast numbers for one single act, and being then slaughtered by their sterile sisters; at the astonishing waste of pollen by our fir-trees; at the instinctive hatred of the queen bee for her own fertile daughters; at ichneumonidae feeding within the live bodies of caterpillars; and at other such cases. The wonder indeed is, on the theory of natural selection, that more cases of the want of absolute perfection have not been observed.
– Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species (1859)