DAY 11 – BEE HISTORY “120 million years old bee fossils are essentially fauna that are pretty much like modern groups that you could go out and collect today,” said Bryan Danforth, associate professor of entomology at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Honey storing social bees developed during the Miocene, between 20-10 million years ago. These bees made their nests in hollow trees, caves, crevices, rocks and holes in the ground. MB_fossilized_ancestor_api%20copy

  • The latest bee find, one preserve in amber found in Myanmar, now dates bees to an estimated 100 million years ago, during the Cretaceous. This is the time of dinosaurs, and makes (honey) bees even older than the Australian native bees (These were solitary, non-social bees).
  • Honey storing social bees developed during the Miocene, between 20-10 million years ago.
  • Hives have been in existence since Paleolithic times, about 10.000 years (as depicted in early rock paintings in a Spanish cave in Valencia, in which a ladder was used to reach the nest and a container was used to hold the honey combs).
  • Ancient Honey as been found in Egyptian tombs, dating back 5.000 years. It was edible, although the color had changed significantly.
  • In 3.000 B.C., Egyptians kept written records of bee keeping activities. Egyptian hives were transported down the Nile on barges to access floral sources.
  • The Rig-Veda, India`s oldest sacred book (between 3.000 – 2.000 B.C.), contains many references to both honey and bees. Here, honey was also used in many rituals and ceremonies, and in pharmacy.
  • The Greeks have always been closely tied to the world of bees. In the history of animals and other works, we see that the first who scientifically worked with those in 300 BC was Aristotle.
  • At that time the Hymettus Mountain was the sacred mountain of beekeepers and the honey from there was known beyond the borders of ancient Greece.

RECIPE 11 – LEKACH is the honey cake eaten at Rosh Hashanah or Jewish New Year.

INGREDIENTS: 12oz all-purpose flour / 1 tsp cinnamon / ½ tsp cloves / zest of an orange /1 tsp baking soda / 1 tsp baking powder / 8oz caster sugar / 2 large eggs / 9oz clear honey / ½ cup olive oil / ½ cup strong black coffee / a handful of sultanas and walnuts (optional)

DIRECTIONS: Preheat the oven to 360*F LEKACH

Sift the flour with the spices, orange zest, bicarbonate soda and baking powder. Beat the sugar and eggs until creamy. Beat in the honey, oil and coffee. Gradually add the flour mixture to the honey mixture, beating well. If you like, you can add a handful each of sultanas and walnuts at the stage. Pour into two lined 2-pound loaf tins or one 23-cm square tin. Bake for 40-90 minutes, depending on your tin and your oven. It is done when firm to the touch on top.

SOURCE: The Hive – The Story of the Honeybee and Us by Bee Wilson, Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin’s Press, 2004


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