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Beekeeping


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Beekeeping (or apiculture) is the maintenance of bee colonies, commonly in man-made beehives. Honey bees in the genus Apis are the most-commonly-kept species but other honey-producing bees such as Melipona stingless bees are also kept. Beekeepers (or apiarists) keep bees to collect honey and other products of the hive: beeswax, propolis, bee pollen, and royal jelly. Pollination of crops, raising queens, and production of package bees for sale are other sources of beekeeping income. Bee hives are kept in an apiary or "bee yard".


The keeping of bees by humans, primarily for honey production, began around 10,000 years ago. Georgia is known as the "cradle of beekeeping" and the oldest honey ever found comes from that country. The 5,500-year-old honey was unearthed from the grave of a noblewoman during archaeological excavations in 2003 near the town Borjomi.[1] Ceramic jars found in the grave contained several types of honey, including linden and flower honey. Domestication of bees can be seen in Egyptian art from around 4,500 years ago; there is also evidence of beekeeping in ancient China, Greece, and Maya.


In the modern era, beekeeping is often used for crop pollination and the production of other products, such as wax and propolis. The largest beekeeping operations are agricultural businesses but many small beekeeping operations are run as a hobby. As beekeeping technology has advanced, beekeeping has become more accessible, and urban beekeeping was described as a growing trend as of 2010. Some studies have found city-kept bees are healthier than those in rural settings because there are fewer pesticides and greater biodiversity in cities.[2]


The oldest archaeological finds directly relating to beekeeping have been discovered at Rehov, a Bronze and Iron Age archaeological site in the Jordan Valley, Israel.[11] Thirty intact hives made of straw and unbaked clay were discovered in the ruins of the city, dating from about 900 BCE, by archaeologist Amihai Mazar. The hives were found in orderly rows, three high, in a manner that according to Mazar could have accommodated around 100 hives, held more than one million bees and had a potential annual yield of 500 kilograms (1,100 lb) of honey and 70 kilograms (150 lb) of beeswax, and are evidence an advanced honey industry in Tel Rehov, Israel 3,000 years ago.[12][13][14]


The ancient Maya domesticated a species of stingless bee, which they used for several purposes, including making balché, a mead-like alcoholic drink.[19] By 300 BCE they had achieved the highest levels of stingless beekeeping practices in the world.[20] The use of stingless bees is referred to as meliponiculture, which is named after bees of the tribe Meliponini such as Melipona quadrifasciata in Brazil. This variation of beekeeping still occurs today.[21] For instance, in Australia, the stingless bee Tetragonula carbonaria is kept for the production of honey.[22]


Intermediate stages in the transition from older methods of beekeeping were recorded in 1768 by Thomas Wildman, who described advances over the destructive, skep-based method so bees no longer had to be killed to harvest their honey.[29] Wildman fixed an array of parallel wooden bars across the top of a straw hive 10 inches (25 cm) in diameter "so that there are in all seven bars of deal to which the bees fix their combs", foreshadowing future uses of movable-comb hives. He also described using such hives in a multi-story configuration, foreshadowing the modern use of supers: he added successive straw hives below and later removed the ones above when free of brood and filled with honey so the bees could be separately preserved at the harvest the following season. Wildman also described the use of hives with "sliding frames" in which the bees would build their comb.[30]


In the 19th century, changes in beekeeping practice were completed through the development of the movable comb hive by the American Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth, who was the first person t




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