The phobia of bees is called melissophobia and is one of the most common phobias. Yet bees are perhaps one of the most important pollinators in the world, and as the fear of them spreads, people begin destroying their hives. There are many things in our lives that depend upon bees in order to exist. Almonds, cucumbers, grapefruit, and apples, would all be non-existent without bees. Perhaps the greatest food to come from bees is honey itself. Full of nutrients and health benefits, humanity has been a fan of this wonder food for generations.
No one is quite sure when early humans started gathering honey from hives. Early cave paintings from 7000 BC show prehistoric bee keeping, though fossilized honey bees from over 150 million years ago have been found (that’s some old honey). In Ancient Egypt, the first record of beekeeping was found near Cairo in a sun temple that was built around 2400 BC. They also appear frequently in hieroglyphics and Egyptologists believe that they represented royalty. It was also used in mummification and as an offering to the gods.
The Ancient Greeks and Romans also held honey in a high regard. Not only did they use it as a food sweetener and an offering, but they also knew of the healing properties of this golden liquid. When Christianity rolled around, beekeeping became extremely popular, with most monasteries having an apiary. Not only did this supply them with honey, but also with the beeswax to make candles for church service. Yet during the Renaissance, the use of honey slowly lessened with the introduction of sugar.
There’s a reason that ancient humans risked the wrath of the little stinging devils in order to get to the honey inside the hives. The wonder food has a slew of medical uses, including as a sleep aid and treatment for burns. Bacteria can’t actually grow in honey, so ancient humans (and some people in modern day) coated wounds with honey in order to keep them from getting infected. There are two types of honey can can be consumed by humans, rare and pasteurized. Just like it sounds, raw honey is honey straight from the hive while pasteurized is heated to remove impurities. Raw honey can be used to help with allergies, since small amounts of native pollen is found in the honey. This allows a form of exposure therapy, by ingesting such small amounts of pollen, it allows your body to build up an immune response.
Consuming honey can also help with acid reflux and help with children suffering for stomach issues, though don’t feed honey to children under age one due to them not having the same immune systems as older humans. Honey contains clostridium botulinum in very small quantities. Clostridium botulinum is bacteria that can make people very sick and even be deadly in large amounts. Babies don’t have strong enough immune systems to filter it out, and so can get botulism from eating honey at too young of an age. Honey can also be taken as a sugar subsitute for people with diabetes and if mixed with cinnamon or lemon it helps with coughing and the common cold. Since honey is loaded with nutrients, it makes for a very healthy and hearty snack.
Speaking of snacks, there are many culinary uses for honey. Ancient Greeks used to add honey to cheese in order to make cheesecake. The main uses for honey are as a sweetener for just about anything. Put it on your toast, cereal, add it to your cookies, pretty much if you can think of it, it’ll work. Different beekeepers will actually sell different flavors of honey too, depending on the plants the pollen comes from. Lavender honey tastes different from wildflower honey, so experiment to find your favorite.
Honey has also left it’s mark on alcohol with the creation on mean. Going back over 8000 years, the oldest record of mead was found in Ancient Crete. So popular was this drink in Ancient Greek that their word for drunk literally translates to “honey-intoxicated”. Both Ancient Greek and Norse gods loved this drink and it often appears in their mythology. It was also really popular in Poland where, according to Prince Leszek I, Polish knights could not participate in the crusades because there was no mead in Palestine. The phrase honeymoon also comes from the golden drink, for the bride’s father would usually supply her with enough of the drink for a month long celebration. Want to continue this long tradition? Mead is still popular today and can be bought at speciality stores. Go forth, eat, drink, and bee merry!