The History of Honey

Honey bees are the only species of bees that produces enough  honey to harvest.

Chase K.

Honey bees are the only species of bees that produces enough honey to harvest.

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Humans have been enthralled with honey and bees for as long as history can tell. In Africa, tribes even learned the trills of the honeyguide so they could follow it all the way to a wild beehive and get the honey. People have gone through great lengths to taste the sweet reward of honey. What is honey’s history, and what influence has it had on people?

   Honeybees evolved from wasps in the Cretaceous period because of the growth of a new group of plants called angiosperms. The flowers on these plants attracted more insects due to their color, pattern, and had more pollen and nectar. They soon became wasps’ new food source because of their reliably high amounts of food. To utilize the potential of the flower, wasps evolved. Pollen became the wasps’ primary protein source instead of meat and was collected better with a fuzzy body and pollen “baskets” on the legs. A longer tongue allowed the wasps to collect the nectar better. The wasps became the bees known today.

Along with the new ability to gather vast amounts of nectar came the need to store any extra nectar that remained after bee consumption. By putting the nectar in wax cells and dehydrating it, honey was formed. Once the cell was capped with wax, the honey could last for about a year.

   Soon, humans began to discover honey. In many places, humans learned how to harvest wild beehives for the honey. Made in 6000 BC, a cave painting in Spain shows a man climbing to reach a wild beehive in hopes of getting the honey. This was the oldest sign that our ancestors loved honey until a team of researchers looked for beeswax in Neolithic pottery. Because of the complex chemical formula of beeswax, it lasts forever unless put under any extreme conditions like heat. Utilizing this, the researchers were able to look for evidence of beeswax on the pottery. Fragments from a 7000 BC container showed clear signs that it once held beeswax.

   Honey also shows its mark on the cultures of the world. Many of the world’s religions have honey as a symbolism of holiness and good. In Upper Egypt, bees were associated with the Pharaoh and symbolized the king in Lower Egypt. In Greece and Rome, honey was offered to the gods as a divine food, and in Rome, it could sometimes be used as money instead of gold.

   Now, honey is easily accessible through revolutions in beekeeping. Humans have developed more advanced ways of harvesting honey that are easier. The breakthrough of the Langstroth hive that allowed honey harvest without killing bees has sparked newer technologies that ensure bees will stay for a long time to come. Honey has had an enormous influence on the modern world.