Panning for Gold: Harvesting Honey

Bees beekeeping_Bruegel
"The Beekeepers," by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Left to their own devices, bees usually built their hives in hollowed-out trees or other such spaces.

Through the centuries, people learned how find beehives with their highly sought-after honey. And they started creating new homes for bees, in a number of ways and styles.

The following picture essay illustrates some of these unique, and not so unique, beehives. (Some experts believe bishops’ mitres served as models for beehives. Or maybe it was the other way around? Certainly the iconography of St. Ambrose of the 4th century shows him with bees and beehives.)

And don’t forget the mobile beekeepers, who move their flocks like cattle from field to field, town to town, state to state, province to province. Why? Many, many crops depend upon bees for pollination, to the tune of over $15 billion a year just in the U.S. alone.

Following the medieval renditions of beehives below, you’ll see some examples of more modern hives, in several countries.

Bees France medieval
Abeilles, De Proprietatibus Rerum
Bees from Taccuino Sanitatis
Medieval Beekeeper, by Sebastian Munster
Medieval Beekeeper, by Sebastian Munster
Bee Boles, Cornwall
Bee Boles, Cornwall
Beehives from the Old Days, Ukraine
Beehives from the Old Days, Ukraine
Beehive in Malawi (Photo credit: Josh Wood)
Beehive in Malawi (Photo credit: Josh Wood)
Beehives in Ethiopia (Photo credit: Carsten ten Brink)
Beehives in Ethiopia (Photo credit: Carsten ten Brink)
Beehive in Yunan, China
Beehive in Yunan, China

Typical Beehive in Modern USA
Typical Beehive in Modern USA (Photo credit: Stewart and Vickie Carrington)

To be continued …

9 thoughts on “Panning for Gold: Harvesting Honey

  1. Re: “The Beekeepers,” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

    I want to use this image in a website that I am doing up. DO you know where you got it and where I can get permission to use it?

    If it is yours, do you mind if I use it in my website?

  2. GO FOR IT honstly depending on where you live the risk of killer bees is quite small i live in ky and if you live in any state above ky dont expect to see killer bees for a long while they are coming albiet slowed by winters. The very best way to get started is by typing in the county youre in for example scott county beekeepers asociation going to some meetings of youre local asocation will get you as much information as you need and they often hold a entire day of seminars once a year for beginners im a noob bekeeper and im very glad i decided to start

  3. Such a good read!

    We’ve felt the effects of fewer bees in our garden this year. There was much less of everything with less pollination.

    So sad. I almost want to keep a hive myself, but I’m scared of those darned killer bees taking over the hive.

    Maybe I’ll work up the courage eventually.


  4. And “sweetness and light” provided the title for a wonderful book about bees, by Hattie Ellis. Thanks for the references to the books with the passages about bees.

  5. I just read two books that have long passages on bees — Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” and Margaret Atwood’s brand-new “The Year of the Flood.” Jonathan Swift referred to bees as bringing “sweetness and light” — honey and wax. The photos in this and the previous post are wonderful.

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