Find out how bees make honey and how man has learnt their secrets.
The honeybee is the most amazing creature in the insect world. The bee’s body is delicate, her life is short and enemies are many. Yet these daunting drawbacks are shrugged off as the bee goes daily about her task of collecting nectar and pollen to take back to the hive so that future generations of bees can thrive. And the bee is willing to die to defend the hive.
Even though throughout history man and animals have plundered beehives for a taste of honey, the honeybee has survived and adapted to climates and conditions far removed from that where bees were first recorded.
If we journey back 4000 years to ancient Egypt, hieroglyphics show the story of the bee’s life. So primitive man had discovered the delight of honey by then — for centuries it was the only sweetener available. In the 4th century B.C., Aristotle wrote of the bee. Three hundred years later, Virgil the poet and Pliny the naturalist, carried the story further. In England under Saxon rule, honey was accepted by some landlords as part-payment for rent from tenants. The bee had truly earned a valuable place in society.
In 1792 a blind naturalist, Huber, published a book in Geneva on bees and honey. The honey industry that we know today began to grow. Sixty years later in Philadelphia, Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth, a minister and teacher, invented a new kind of beehive. It was a rectangular wooden box in which he stood a row of frames. Each frame provided a place for bees to build the wax cells that form the honeycomb. The frames could be taken out separately so that one honeycomb could be removed without hurting the others. The Langstroth hive is used by all Australian beekeepers today.
Introducing the Bee to Australia
The honeybee is not native to Australia. The colonists who came to Australia in its early days missed so many of the comforts and treats of “home” (England), they tried to introduce many of them to their new country. Plants, trees, animals, birds and many other reminders of home were introduced during those early years.
In the early 1820’s the honeybee was brought to Australia aboard the ship Isabella. She arrived in our waters in 1822 and adapted so successfully that other bee species were introduced from Italy, Yugoslavia and North America.
Bees are inspired engineers. Each wax cell in the comb has six sides and all cells have a slight backward tilt so that the honey will not spill out. Wax cells average 140 to the one centimetre in thickness and each cell fits snugly against its neighbour on all sides — a construction so strong and cleverly planned down to the most minute detail that we never cease to find the work of these little creatures truly amazing.