The Ancient World

The art of beekeeping was known to many ancient civilizations.


Relief from Tomb of Pabasa at ThebesProfessional beekeeping existed in Egypt as early as the Fifth Dynasty (2494-2345 BCE). Reliefs from the Tomb of Pabes or Pabasa at Thebes show a beekeeper kneeling beside traditional beehives made of clay pipes or jars. Hives like this are still used in rural areas of Egypt today.

Some ancient documents suggest that the Egyptians were able to 'call' their bees by hissing or whistling.


thymeSince ancient times, Greece has been famous for its wild thyme honey from Mount Hymettus.




During the Middle Ages, attacking and besieging forces hurled beehives among their enemies to ‘encourage’ them to surrender or retreat. Even during the First World, Second World and Vietnam Wars, beehives were attached to trip wires to serve as booby traps.



Beekeeping in Britain

straw skep hive

Beekeeping has probably existed in Britain since pre-Christian times and was known to the ancient Druids. Since the time of the Romans, dome-shapd hives made of wattle and daub have been in use. These were made from willow or hazel twigs woven together and plastered with cow dung! Gradually they were replaced by straw skep basket hives. Skep is an old Norse word meaning basket. Nowadays multi-sectioned hives with separate frames make the beekeeper’s task easier. Even so, a beekeeper may be stung if they do something to upset the bees, such as taking their honey! Usually, though, colonies of placid bees will only sting if provoked.