Beekeeping (apiculture), maintenance of bees in man-made hives, had to pass a long way to develop into what we know today. “Brief” History of Beekeeping is not short at all, it is very lengthy. It lasts from most primitive honey harvests at the dawn of man. Until we came to modern hives and production lines, advancement of beekeeping was based upon concept of trial and error which would result in countless stings.
It is believed that bees exist since Tertiary period. This makes them older inhabitants than mankind for millions of years. This means that men, since it’s dawn, were searching for and plundering honeybee hives!
One of earliest historical sources (dated to be 7000 years old) was found in a cave near Valencia (Spain). On it is depiction of honey-seeker harvesting honey from a tree. Then mankind discovered that bees can be settled for easier harvests. First settlement of bees was in tree-trunks. Mankind was drilling holes in them to settle bees. And thus beekeeping was born! Very sweet practice!
Ancient and Medieval History
Based on known historical sources, today it is known that first beekeepers were ancient Egyptians and Assyrians. Difference here is that from simple harvesting, men were also keeping bees. They were settling honeybees into pottery vessels. Furthermore, Egyptians were also first as nomadic beekeepers. They were moving massive amount of colonies between Upper and Lower Egypt, according to the seasons. They also learned how to harvest honey without destroying hives. Later Romans, as well as many other communities in Asia, Africa and Europe started beekeeping too.
In early medieval age men were using honey as a basic sweetener. Feudal rulers and church stimulated beekeeping. Monasteries stimulated beekeeping because they were in constant need for beeswax from which they produced candles. In this manner rich financed this beautiful
With discovery of America and Australia, we exported honeybees to those continents as well. It was Portuguese that exported bees to Brazil. While to North America it was colonists that brought honeybees in first half of 17th century. To Australia they were brought in 1822. and to New Zealand in 1842. This way beekeeping was spread to most of Earth. With spread of beekeeping, humanity also spread wonderful knowledge of health benefits of honeybee products.
History of Beekeeping – Modern Era
Modern form of beekeeping started in late 18th and beginning of 19th century with three huge discoveries. From these discoveries we still are benefiting today. Those crucial discoveries were; removable frames, beeswax foundation, and centrifuge for honey extraction.
Even though there are conflicting information about who designed first removable frame, one thing is for sure, Lorenzo Langstroth perfected this concept and designed LR (Langstroth) supers. This super type brought revolution to beekeeping. Now beekeepers could maniupalte frames and slide and placed as per their desire. This discovery led to serious growth of commercial beekeeping in USA as well as in Europe. LR supers are today most used supers in the world, and most likely easiest to work with.
Today biggest producer of honey is China, followed by Turkey and third spot belongs to USA. Beekeeping is certainly on the rise, so who knows what scores would very next season bring.
Sources: Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beekeeping
B. Relić, “Pčelarenje kao profesija i hobi”
M. Hadžiomerović, “Pčelinji proizvodi u porodici”