A Short History of Honeybees on Earth
Honeybees have been around a lot longer than we have. A fossilized stingless bee has been found in resin 80 million years old from the late Cretaceous period.
The oldest record we have of honey hunting is a cave painting near Valencia, Spain from the Middle Stone Age. It portrays a person atop a ladder. Surrounded by flying bees, he or she is precariously leaning against a rock face while collecting honey from hive in a declivity on the rock. Because of the importance of beekeeping, bees were a symbol of the Egyptian kings’ power. Homer wrote of the bees in The Iliad, and from his time to ours, bees and honey have been ever entwined with literature, from Milton to Jonathan Swift, from Maeterlinck to Sylvia Plath.
Though there are stingless honey-making bees in South and Central America, honeybees are not native to North America. Because of the importance of honey and wax, the early colonists brought bees and skeps with them and honeybees have been an integral part of the American garden ever since.
Modern beekeeping came about with the Reverend L.L. Langstroth’s hive with moveable frames in 1851. This simple yet radical design allows beekeepers to harvest the honey without killing bees or destroying their carefully wrought honeycomb. To this day, we are all using beehives that look essentially like the hives designed by Langstroth.