The Wall of Hives: the “home of Chinese bees”

A near-vertical cliff wall in the mountains of Shennongjia Nature Reserve, China’s Hubei Province, is home to over 700 wooden boxes which make up one of the country’s last sanctuaries for native wild bees. Beekeeping has been carried out in China since at least the 2nd century AD, and about half of the world’s supply of honey comes from the Asian country but, sadly, over 80% of the native bee population is now extinct. The introduction of the European honey bee (Apis Mellifera) is considered the main cause of the…

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The Folklore of Bees

In the middle of spring, outside, in addition to the greening of the earth, we notice a change in the local wildlife. Suddenly, squirrels are everywhere, birds are twittering away madly in the trees, worms are popping in the soil and, everywhere you look, life has returned. Among others, you’ll see bees buzzing around your garden, partaking of the rich pollen in your flowers. The plants are in full bloom at this time of the spring, and the bees take advantage, buzzing back and forth, carrying pollen from one blossom…

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Telling the Bees: the curious folklore of Rural England and not only

Many do not know that there was a time when almost every rural British family who kept bees followed a strange tradition: whenever there was a death in the family, someone had to go out to the hives and tell the bees of the terrible loss that had befallen the family. Failing to do so often resulted in further losses such as the bees leaving the hive, or not producing enough honey or even dying. The custom is best known in England, but has also been recorded in Ireland, Wales,…

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Mad Honey: the hallucinogenic honey that can sell for over $60 a pound on the black market

When bees feed on the pollen of rhododendron flowers, the resulting honey can become a hallucinogenic punch. It’s called “mad honey”, and it has a slightly bitter taste and a reddish color. More notably, a few types of rhododendrons, among them Rhododendron luteum and Rhododendron ponticum, contain grayanotoxin, which can cause serious physiological reactions in humans and animals. Depending on how much a person consumes, reactions can range from hallucinations and a slower heartbeat to temporary paralysis, but also unconsciousness, dizziness, hypotension and atrial-ventricular block. However, rhododendrons flourish at high…

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