The Winter Solstice

the winter solstice.jpg

The Winter Solstice has been observed as an important date in beekeeping for over 2000 years.
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Read more to find out what the ancients have to say about winter and bees.

Aristotle says in Historia Animālium (History of Animals) Book IX
circa. 4 B.C.

"In healthy swarms the progeny of the bees only cease from reproduction for about forty days after the winter solstice."


Pliny the Elder says in Naturalis Historia (Natural History)
circa. 77 - 79 AD

"From the winter solstice to the rising of Arcturus the bees are buried in sleep for sixty days, and live without any nourishment. Between the rising of Arcturus and the vernal equinox, they awake in the warmer climates, but even then they still keep within the hives, and have recourse to the provisions kept in reserve for this period."


Virgil says in Georgics, Book IV
circa. 29 B.C.E

"Contracto frigore pigrae."
"With cold benumbed, inactive they remain."


In the book 'The Universal Magazine of
Knowledge and Pleasure' circa. 1755

"The ancients mention a very extraordinary method of preserving the bees in their hives, which was by filling up a considerable part of the vacancy of every hive with the bodies of small birds, which had been killed, gutted, and dried for that purpose. This was certainly a way of keeping out some of the cold air, but it is so odd an one, that, probably, no-body since that time has tried it."

Original source unknown: perhaps Columella, Palladius or Pinly (the elder)


Image: Stonehenge - Winter Solstice 2014

2017 World's Oldest Beehives, Found in Israel, Promise Biblically Sweet New Year

BreakingIsraelNews     By Adam Eliyahu Berkowit    September 26, 2017

“My son, eat honey, for it is good; Let its sweet drops be on your palate.” Proverbs 24:13 (The Israel Bible™)



Beeswax was found at the bottom of the ancient beehives excavated at Tel Rehov in the Jordan Valley, the oldest ever discovered. (Courtesy Amihai Mazar)

An Israeli archaeologist made a remarkable and rare discovery to ensure that all of Israel has a year as sweet as honey, while helping understand the Bible just a little bit better.

Hebrew University professor Amihai Mazar was exploring an archaeological dig at a site in the Jordan Valley called Tel Rehov when he found evidence of beekeeping 3,000 years ago, the oldest evidence of this industry ever discovered.

“Beekeeping is not described in the Bible and Israel is not especially suited for beekeeping, no more or less than any other place with flowers,” Professor Mazar said. “But even today, if you go out to the fields in that region, there are hives in the field.”

Biblical scholars believe that when the Bible mentions honey, it is usually referring to honey made from dates. Professor Mazar pointed to his discovery as evidence that the Bible could also be referring to honey from bees.


Just last week, Jews around the world dipped apples in honey in hopes of a blessedly sweet New Year. This find may indicate that the link between Jews and honey is more ancient than previously thought.

The archaeologists did not expect to find beehives while digging, but there was no other explanation for the discovery.

“We found a long row of clay cylinders, each one of them approximately two and a half feet long and about one foot in diameter,” Professor Mazar told Breaking Israel News. The clay pots, made of unbaked clay mixed with straw, were piled three high.


The researchers eventually concluded they had discovered the oldest beehives in the world. Sealed with removable lids at one end, the other end of the cylinder had a small hole for the bees to enter. The discovery was unprecedented, and no other ancient hives have been found in Israel.

“This is the only archaeological dig in Israel at which beehives have been found,” Dr. Mazar said. “It was also unusual since normally, beehives are kept outside of the city. We were surprised when we found the hives where they were – inside a large and thriving city.”


Many archaeologists believe the site is where the Prophet Elisha lived at approximately the same time bees were buzzing around.

“Though it was not mentioned in the Bible, this was a very large and important city in the time of King Achav and Elijah the prophet,” Professor Mazar said. He estimated that at the time, the city was home to approximately 2,500 people.

Researchers believe there were at least 180 hives housing more than a million bees, with each hive producing about 11 pounds of honey each year.

The archaeologists also found remains of actual bees, identifying the breed as being native to Turkey.

“These are the most ancient bees ever found in the world,” Professor Mazar said. “They did not arrive in Israel by themselves, so there had to be thriving trade between Israel and Turkey at the time.”

Unfortunately, the story has a bitter ending. The hives were found under a layer of ash and debris, indicating the city was destroyed by fire. Inside some of the pots was a black substance the researchers identified as burned beeswax.


So, Where Do Honey Bees Come From, Really? California Scientists Want to Know

CATCH THE BUZZ    March 8, 2017

A new study from researchers at the University of California, Davis and UC Berkeley clears some of the fog around honey bee origins. The work could be useful in breeding bees resistant to disease or pesticides.

UC Davis postdoctoral researcher Julie Cridland is working with Santiago Ramirez, assistant professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, and Neil Tsutsui, professor of environmental science, policy and management at UC Berkeley, to understand the population structure of honey bees (Apis mellifera) in California. Pollination by honey bees is essential to major California crops, such as almonds. Across the U.S., the value of “pollination services” from bees has been estimated as high as $14 billion.

“We’re trying to understand how California honey bee populations have changed over time, which of course has implications for agriculture,” Ramirez said.

To understand California bees, the researchers realized that they first needed to better understand honey bee populations in their native range in the Old World.

“We kind of fell into this project a little bit by accident,” Cridland said. “Initially we were looking at the data as a preliminary to other analyses, and we noticed some patterns that weren’t previously in the literature.”

The new study combines two large existing databases to provide the most comprehensive sampling yet of honey bees in Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

Unrelated Bee Lineages in Close Proximity

Previously, researchers had assumed an origin for honey bees in north-east Africa or the Middle East. But the situation turns out to be more complicated than that, Cridland said.

“You might think that bees that are geographically close are also genetically related, but we found a number of divergent lineages across north-east Africa and the Middle East,” she said.

There are two major lineages of honey bees in Europe – C, “Central European,” including Italy and Austria and M, including Western European populations from Spain to Norway – which give rise to most of the honey bees used in apiculture worldwide. But although C and M lineage bees exist side by side in Europe and can easily hybridize, they are genetically distinct and arrived in different parts of the world at different times.

M lineage bees were the first to be brought to North America, in 1622. The more docile C lineage bees came later, and today many California bees are from the C lineage, but there is still a huge amount of genetic diversity, Ramirez said.

“You can’t understand the relationships among bee populations in California without understanding the populations they come from,” Cridland said.

In the Middle East, the O lineage hails from Turkey and Jordan, and Y from Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The main African lineage is designated A.

At this point, the researchers cannot identify a single point of origin for honey bees, but the new work does clear up some confusion from earlier studies, they said. In some cases, diverged lineages that happen to be close to each other have mixed again. Previous, more limited studies have sampled those secondarily mixed populations, giving confusing results.

“We’re not making any strong claim about knowing the precise origin,” Cridland said. “What we’re trying to do is talk about a scientific problem, disentangling these relationships between lineages, the genetic relationships from the geography.”

This article has been republished from materials provided by University of California Davis. Note: material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.


Cridland, J. M., Tsutsui, N. D., & Ramírez, S. R. (2017). The complex demographic history and evolutionary origin of the western honey bee, Apis mellifera. Genome biology and evolution.

The History of Thanksgiving!

The History of Thanksgiving Via: Historical Honeybee Articles - Beekeeping History

Did you know?.... The first Thanksgiving in 1621 did not include honey from bees in America, but the second Thanksgiving would have included honey.

On 5 December 1621, the Council of the Virginia Company in London wrote to the Governor and Council in Virginia: ‘We have by this ship (from the context, either the Bona Nova or the Hopewell) and the Discovery sent you divers sorte of seed, and fruit trees, as also Pidgeons, connies (rabbits). Peacock maistives (mastiffs), and Beehives, as you shall by the Invoice perceive; the preservation and increase whereof we recommend unto you.’

At this period the voyage could take 6-8 weeks. The arrival of the hives, presumably early in 1622, is not recorded, but we have no reason to believe that they did not reach Virginia safely, because by May 1622 the Discovery, the Bona Nova and the Hopewell had delivered 20, 50 and 20 settlers.”

Eva Crane, World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting, Pg. 359

Veterans Day: Veterans in Beekeeping

‘Veterans in Beekeeping’
-All Week In Honor of All Our War Veterans.
via; Historical Honeybee Articles - Beekeeping History
Image: 1919 Pamphlet; Bee Keeping to the Disabled Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines to Aid Them in Choosing a Vocation

During WW1 the Federal Government was concerned about disabled veterans finding work when they returned from the war. Because of advancements in warfare, veterans were coming home with severe war injuries, and the Government was concerned about the disabled veterans ability to integrate back into society and earn a living. The Government developed vocational training for veterans in various fields of work to help advance them in the direction of the occupation of which he or she choose. One of the programs developed to help wounded veterans adapt to their injuries was Beekeeping. Beekeeping was considered a viable alternative career because a veteran could work alone, and a slower pace, and still contribute to society.

A group of seven extension workers was hired to teach better beekeeping methods to the veterans. -George Demuth, Dr, E.F. Phillips, Frank Pellett, Jay Smith, E. R, Root, and M. I. Mendelson. Walter Quick wrote the pamphlet pictured above in 1919, titled: “Bee Keeping to the Disabled Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines to Aid Them in Choosing a Vocation” (Ref. Bees in America: How the Honey Bee Shaped a Nation. By Tammy Horn)

Beekeeping to the Disabled Soldiers...