History of honey

The first record documenting humanity’s relationship with honey is a painting on the wall of the cave of L’Aranya, in Bicorp, Valencia, about 9000 years ago, a time when human groups were formed by small groups of people who migrated through the territory from one place to another looking for the resources of each era.

In that painting, they represented a woman and a boy with baskets, suspended from some ropes in a ravine, collecting honeycombs from a hole in the wall, and the bees flying around them.

For the Greeks honey was a very important product in their diet, they have a multitude of recipies and drinks in which they used it, and according to their mythology, was a favorite food for their gods. From that time we have received important writings on the management of beehives and the uses of honey.

More recently, the hegemonic culture of our area was the Roman, which came to dominate the entire Mediterranean basin, which came to be called “Mare nostrum” (our sea).

The Romans deeply admired the classical Greek culture, and copied many things from it, among other things the Beekeeping and the use of honey and even imported some famous honeys from certain areas of Greece. They also imported oil and honey from La Bética, or Andalusia as we called today. From that time we have also received Beekeeping books published by famous Roman writers, cookbooks, and representations of bees and beehives in bas-reliefs and other works of art.

Before Romans arrival to the Iberian Peninsula, the people who lived in there, were known as Tartessians, and already produced honey for export from the sixth century BC. In the excavations of their settlements, ceramic hives have been found exactly like those still used in some areas of North Africa, in ancient apiaries in the Balearics, in the Portuguese Alentejo and in the Azores. it was found in different European countries the containers of ceramic that they used to transport the honey, the cálatos “(with rest of the pollen of the honey in the fund and seeds of figs) in which they fit between 3,5 and 4 Kg. Very probably arrived there through the network of commerce of the Phoenician ships first, and later of the Romans that replaced them.

History´s Milestones:

2006 Consortium of Sequencing of the Bee Genome (Nature vol 443. 931-949 .: A group of almost 200 researchers from about 80 research centers, from about 20 countries, collaborating as a team, decipher the complete sequence of the genetic code of the bee, genome, to better study its medical uses.


1998 Various, Canada: The pheromones of the queen are identified and synthesized that allow to manipulate the behaviors of the workers with productive purposes: rearing of queens, pollination …


1973 Von Frisch, Germany, Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine: He discovered the individual and collective patterns of bees’ behavior.


1957 Kerr, Brazil: Introduces African bee in Brazil to produce in tropical zones, 26 swarms escape and begins hybridization, the Africanization, of the bee in America (currently from Argentina to the USA).


1954 Rob Smith, Australia: World record for honey production: average of 345.9 kg. per hive in its 460 hives.


1953 Hillary, Australia: First occidental to reach the summit of Everest, according to him thanks to the honey he carried from his hives.


1950 Anonymous, several, Salamanca: The industrial production of pollen begins in Spain.


1932 Laidlaw, USA: Publishes the first book on genetics of bees.


1901 Maeterlinch, Nobel Prize for literature: Writes “The life of bees”, describing the behavior.


1891 Belloch, Barcelona: First Spanish apiculture magazine, El Colmenero Español.


1889 Doolittle, USA: He publishes his book ” Scientific Queen Rearing”, with the bases of the method that is still used to produce queens and royal jelly.


1888 Ledo, Galicia: Introduction of the beehive of mobile frames, mobilist, type “Layens” in Galicia.


1888 Femenías, Mahón: Introduction of the beehive of mobile pictures, mobilist, of hikes in the Balearic Islands, publication of the first Spanish apiculture magazine.


1888 Bertha Wihelmy, Granada: Introduction of the beehive of movable frames, mobilist, of hikes in Andalusia.


1874 Layens, France: Designed the hive “Layens”, currently the majority of 12 combs of 30 x 35 cm. (originally with more combs).


1875 Quinby, USA: He invented the smoker, to tame and handle the bees, and the uncapping knife to unclog the cells with ripe honey.


1865 Hruschka, Austria: Centrifugal extractor of honey, allows to empty the honey combs without breaking them, being able to be returned to the hives for other honey production cycles.


1865 Collin, France: Excluder of queens, grid of 4.23 mm. that prevents the passage of the queen to the upper hikes, allowing to harvest in that area of ​​the hive honeycombs with only honey, without breeding.


1857 Mehling, Germany: He invented the sheets of wax stamped with the hexagons of the cells, to mark to the bees the positions of the combs and the pictures of the beehives and the machines to make them.


1855 Dadant, USA: Hive “Dadant”, increases the size of the lower body, breeding, to 42 × 27 cm., And makes the upper ones smaller, 42×17 cm.


1759 Dobbs, Ireland: Describes the importance of pollination for the production of seeds and fruits.


1636 The Dutch introduce domestic bees in America.

Beekeeper’s tools


The smoker was invented in 1875, by Moses Quinby. Smoke from the smoker produces a sensation of fire in the bees, which reduces the aggressiveness of the bees that prepare to save themselves, many of them dedicating themselves to filling the crop with honey.

Consist of a bellows, fixed to a tin, which is usually made of zinc plate, or steel. The bellows blows air to the bottom of the tin where it burns the grass, dry leaves, etc …, producing the exit of smoke through the upper part, which finishes in the form of a tube, to direct the direction of the smoke.

At present, smokers are developed that operate with compressed liquid smoke canisters, which do not produce combustion.


Pincers or Spatula

Because bees glue all elements of the beehive with propolis, a tool is needed to separate, on the one hand, the top of the hive (if it is a hive with rise) and on the other, the frames to each other for to be able to access them with their hands.

For this purpose, the beekeeper uses a metal spatula with slightly sharpened ends, to be able to split the frames put it in between them and to use it in cases of cleaning as a scraping element.

The Pincer has a part like a spatula of smaller size for the separation of the frames, which is attached to a clamp that ends in four claws, with which the frame is taken, without having to use the hand.



The beekeeping brush is used to unseal, or remove the bees on both sides of the combs, when necessary because the comb will be removed from the hive.

It is used continuously in the work of extracting honey from the hives. In this case, the beekeeper usually takes more than one brush and places them in a bucket with water, to avoid the pillage of the bees and to keep the brushes clean and not to cause damage to the bees. You have to shake them well, every time they are going to be used.

In farms with hives rised on top, with a large number of beehives, and several people doing the work of extracting honey, frames are uncoupled of bees with an air blower, without taking frames of the rise, as long as they are all honey.



The bees seal the honey in the honeycombs with a layer of wax called operculum. In order to extract the honey from the honeycomb it is necessary to remove this operculum, for which the uncapping knife is used.

The knives must be permanently sharp and, if possible, tempered, to facilitate the cutting of the wax. One way to keep them warm was to have a container with hot water within easy reach, where several knives are placed, which are exchanged in use.

Currently there are knives on the market with an internal electrical resistance that keeps them at the right temperature.



The extraction of honey from the combs has been done many years ago by squeezing the combs, which prevented their reuse.

The extractor of honey by centrifugal force was invented by Francesco de Hruschka in 1883 and allows the use of framed mobile panels that are reused while the wax is useful.

The first extractors were manual, and had capacities between two and four frames. Today they are manufactured with electric motors, reversible, vertical axis, horizontal, and for different types, and number of frames, even in large farms, which extract the honey with the frames without removing the rise.


Pollen Trap

The extraction of pollen is done outside the hive, because once in the combs, the bees press it and removal is not possible.

For this, a pollen trap is needed which is placed at the entrance of the hive and forces the bees to pass through a drilled panel with five mm holes, causing the pollen grains that the bees carry on their hind legs to detach. .

The pollen falls through a mesh, to a drawer, whose content periodically withdraws the beekeeper during flowering. Later the pollen needs a drying process and in its case of cleaning, before its commercialization.


Grids for propolis

The bees seal all the cracks in the hive and stick all their elements with propolis.

For the extraction of propolis it is necessary to have special grids designed for the accumulation of the product. Another method is to replace the sides of the hive with interchangeable slats, separated by a few millimeters, which are removed.

The grids are placed on the top of the frames at the beginning of Spring . Once the grids are removed, they are placed in the refrigerator, and once cold, the propolis, which is usually sticky, becomes brittle and brittle, easily detaching from the grids.


Poison Collector

The extraction of bee venom takes place outside the hive, and is a minority production.

The poison is used in apitherapy and in homeopathy, as an alternative therapy in cases of rheumatism, and as an adjuvant in multiple sclerosis.

To obtain it, an electric collector is used, which is placed at the entrance to the hive. The equipment provides through a grid, electrical impulses to the bees causing them to deposit droplets of poison in the glass that is placed under the grid. The poison is scraped with a spoon and stored in glass jars that do not let the light through. The equipment needs electrical connection or solar batteries.

The apiarist’s equipment

Beekeeper’s clothing

Because of the hot season in which the apiary is worked and the characteristics of the work, it is essential that the clothing meets the following conditions: it must be comfortable, fresh, light and totally impenetrable for bees.

The garments should be light colors and completely smooth fabric, since dark colors and / or “furry” cloth irritate the bee. You must take special care in vulnerable areas, such as fists, neck, booties; they must be adjusted by elastics, laces or otherwise, so that the beekeeper feels safe and can work with absolute peace of mind. In any case, each beekeeper adapts his clothing according to his taste and comfort.


In both cases the equipment mask can be attached to it or not (through a quick lock). The coverall is placed on the clothes and the individual masks that adapt to the equipment, are tied to it by a cord that goes under the neck and then ends with a double loop around the body. Another way to equip yourself is to put on a light colored work trousers, and a blouse that has the facepiece incorporated in one piece.


It can be wire or plastic, there are different types and shapes of masks on the market today. It is placed on a hat, which is usually straw or cloth, but should never be felt since this material it could irritate bees. It should be wide enough so that it is not in contact with parts of the face such as the nose, since bees could sting through the holes of the mallar.


Some veteran beekeepers do not use them, because they are too immunized and do not feel the bites. But it is advisable to use gloves, to avoid unnecessary stings, as well as to work more comfortable and faster, since the work with the bare hand creates an instinctive tendency to work more slowly, and usually there are many hives to attend and what is most needed is time. The material of the gloves can be canvas material or leather. Canvas gloves have certain advantages: they are fresh, lightweight and easy to wash. Leather gloves are the most used, but they are heavier and difficult to wash.

There is also who works with rubber gloves, or even latex, but they are very hot, making your hands sweat and in some cases damage the skin, besides this type of gloves has a very short duration, since they tend to break when hooked with some edge of the hive, nail, or the spatula of the beekeeper.


The footwear must be strong in order to avoid risks when walking in the field, especially when it is loaded with hives or other material.

On the other hand should be careful the union between shoes and pants or overalls, so that bees can not bite in the area of ​​the ankles. It is advisable to use high boots, where you can tuck the bottom of the pants. Some beekeepers when they use lower footwear, put on leggings to avoid stings.

Honey, did you know?

  • A bee would need to make two hundred thousand flights to make a kilogram of honey.
  • A bee would need to make eight thousand kilometers to make a kilogram of honey.
  • A bee would need to visit 1,400,000 flowers to make a kilogram of honey.
  • A bee makes 10 to 15 collection trips per day, and visits up to 100 flowers during a trip.
  • A bee could travel 6.5 million kilometers at 11 kilometers per hour with the energy it would obtain from 3.785 liters of nectar.
  • A bee produces only 1/12 teaspoon of honey in the course of its life.
  • The queen can get to put three thousand eggs in a day.
  • Honey from bees was used in ancient Greece and Egypt to embalm their dead.
  • Bee venom is 500,000 times stronger than any known antibiotic.
  • Honey preserves the juices of plants, roots, flowers, fruits and even meat from putrefaction.
  • Bee honey has a bactericidal substance (with inhibitory action).
  • The bees possess the organs of smell in the antennae, and on their surface a number of 500,000 olfactory pores.
  • The bee has 5 eyes, two compound and three simple, the first to observe the objects apart and the second to observe objects up to 1 or 2 cm.
  • Bees distinguish blue, yellow and white. They do not see red and they confuse green with yellow and blue.
  • Imperial Rome also delighted in a dish made of mice cooked in honey, accompanied by a tasty mix of peacock brains and flamingo tongues.
  • Honey has been found in excavations in Egypt and has been preserved until now, for thousands of years, with all its taste properties.
  • The priests of ancient Egypt used propolis to embalm the mummies of the pharaohs.
  • Honey bees have been producing honey more than 10 million years ago.
  • A bee flies at an average of 25 km / h.
  • Modern science says that it is aerodynamically impossible for bees to fly.
  • In the hive there are bees that produce royal jelly to feed the larvae and the queen.
  • While a larva, which is going to give rise to a worker, receives approximately 140 daily visits from workers who feed it, a larva that will give rise to a queen, it´s attended approximately 1,600 times a day.
  • The bee has a type of hair in its eyes and can see ultraviolet light.
  • Bees dance to communicate the direction and distance of flowers.
  • Worker bees live for 4 to 8 weeks.
  • The drones (bee male) do not have any stings, fertilize the queen bee, produce heat and distribute the nectar.
  • Honey bees that drink fermented nectar have more flying accidents, die younger and often suffer rejection from their beehive companions.
  • Between 40,000 and 60,000 bees live in each hive.
  • The Hebrew prophets called the propolis “ballad of the Gilead or Judea” in antiquity, and hundreds of years later Stradivarius incorporated propolis into the varnish of its famous violins.