Bees In Ancient Greece & Rome
Monday Fun Historical Facts
The Greek patron god of beekeeping was Aristaeus, who was the son of – no surprise! – Apollo, the Greek god who was raised by bees and fed on a diet of honey, and Cyrene, a water-nymph and huntress. Apollo was considered the first beekeeper.
Aristotle, the famous Greek philosopher, was fascinated with animals and studied them throughout his lifetime. He wrote many volumes of his Historia Animalium and should be credited for the fact that he never feared looking silly when making observations.
Over time even the observations he got wrong helped scientists move forward to discover many truths.
Although he never kept bees himself, Aristotle wrote a thought-provoking account of beekeeping with important and detailed observations in Book IX of the Historia Animalium, written sometime between 344 and 342BC.
Some of his insights make it sound like beekeepers, both ancient and modern, have much in common. For instance, he shared that bees were fed sweet foods like figs as supplemental food. And, when it was honey-collecting time, beekeepers would remove the honeycombs from the hives but always made sure to leave plenty of food for the bees to survive the winter. Back then, a hive could yield anywhere from about 5 pints to a lavish and somewhat rare 18 pints.
FUN FACT & MYSTERY: In those days, a mystery surrounded the reproduction of bees, and people only knew what they could see with their own eyes. The ancient people thought baby bees came about not by older bees giving birth to new bees, but by collecting them from flowers!
Aristotle accurately figured out that baby bees grew in the cells of the honeycomb. He also knew there were three groups of bees, but while he got the worker bees and drones right, he mistook the Queen to be a King!
Using common sense, he concluded that honey came from the atmosphere rather than from flowers. While he saw bees collecting something from flowers, he was puzzled by the fact that when flowers were abundant there were times when little honey was produced, whereas at other times honeycombs were filled fast to overflowing in a short few days.
If you enjoy historical tidbits like this, stay tuned most Mondays for more fun historical facts from many ancient cultures.