Monday, June 7, 2010

The Strangeness of Bees...

For thousands of years, man has held a very close relationship with the honeybee. It is the only known insect that can be "tamed" or domesticated by man. Over the years, many strange beliefs and customs have developed due to this close relationship.

It was believed, in order to maximize their output and keep the bees happy and productive, they had to be included as part of the family. Any event, no matter how large or small, must be "told to the bees". Anything traumatic that might disrupt the harmony of the hive, like a birth, or death in the family, required special measures to be taken. A funeral called for the placement of a piece of Funeral Cake and wine in the hive after they were informed of the sad news. This event also called for giving the bees a formal handwritten invitation to the funeral, lest they take offense and decide to stop making honey, or die out completely.

The bees themself, were seen as the epitomy of a harmonious family relationship, and served as role models for mankind. They have been seen by many cultures as being the reincarnated spirits of past ancestors, and the vessels of long dead souls as they travel to re-birth. They have mystical ties to a plethora of ancient deities, one of the oldest being the ancient Egyptian goddess Ma'at, who symbolised universal harmony and justice. She is often portrayed wearing a necklace shaped like a honeybee. The honey was also used in the Egyptian Embalming rituals. In ancient Greece, the meade from their honey was called the "Nectar of the Gods" and used in strange rituals to the god Dionysis. And in Rome, the goddess Mellona was said to be the incarnation of the hive spirit.

Whatever they may be to us, they have become an integral part of our survival. In these days of "gassing the hive" honey production, where the entire hive is killed off at the end of the production cycle, is it any wonder that we have been affected by such niceties as Colony Collapse Disorder and that bee numbers are now dwindling.

Man's relationship with this insect has shown that we both share the same fate. As they go, so do we.

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