A Brief History of Honeybees and Honey

Interesting Facts about Honey in Various Cultures

  • Honey’s history is evident in an 8,000-year-old cave painting in Valencia, Spain, which illustrates a human figure harvesting honey.
  • Honey retains its moisture and does not freeze, but can be fermented.
  • Pottery vessels discovered in Northern China, circa 6500-7000 BC contained mead, a blend of fermented honey, rice and other fruits along with organic compounds.
  • King Tut’s tomb contained vats of sealed honey over 2,000 years old.
  • Ancient Egyptian and Middle Eastern cultures also used honey for embalming their dead, because it never spoils.
  • In the Old Testament’s Book of Deuteronomy, the land of Israel was often referred to as the “land flowing of milk and honey“. God nourished Jacob with honey from the rock, and gave Israel fine flour, olive oil and honey.
  • John the Baptist ate locusts and wild honey.
  • Honey is mentioned in the scrolls of the Orient, the Talmud and the Koran.
  • The Romans provided their soldiers with honey to treat their wounds.
  • Honey played an important part in the evolution of man for thousands of years, spanning various cultures and applications.
  • The honeybee is believed to have originated in southern Asia, although some scholars say Africa.
  • There are approximately 12,000 varieties of bees in the world.
  • The Europeans introduced honey bees to North America in the early mid-1600s.
  • Native Indians called the bees “the white man’s fly”.

How Honey is Produced

Honey is a sweet food produced by bees extracting nectar from flowers, which the bees then store in their extra stomach. The honey variety produced by honey bees is the most common. Honey can also be produced by bumblebees, stingless bees, and other hymenopteran (sawflies, wasps, bees, ants) insects. The bees store the nectar in wax hexagons cells called honeycombs inside the beehive.

Bees work in colonies which consist of the queen, drones and workers. The queen bee can lay up to 3,000 eggs in a day. The drone’s only function is to mate with the queen. A colony is comprised of 50,000-60,000 worker bees.

The term “busy bee” is an understatement—it is estimated that it takes 160,000 bees to produce one pound of honey. Two million flowers are tapped by honey bees to produce a pound of honey. During one collection, a honeybee visits 50-100 flowers, and makes several trips a day. The life span of a bee is four to six weeks, and during this time the bee collects about one-twelfth teaspoon of nectar.

Honey flavours vary based on the nectar source, reflecting the various types and grades of honey available for purchase.

Sometimes honey contains dormant endospores of bacterium, the endospores can transform into toxin-producing bacteria in infants’ immature intestinal tracts, can cause illness or death.   Never allow children less than one year of age to consume honey, because they can choke.

cave painting honey



Louise R.


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