In 2016, the United Nations declared May 20 as World Bees Day at the request of Slovenia, the anniversary of the birth of Anton Janša, founder of Slovenian beekeeping in the 18th century. The United Nations thus recognized the importance of pollinators in the functioning of ecosystems. Bees and pollinators in general are now considered as a "universal value" for the 21st century. Celebrated for the first time in 2018, this event went relatively unnoticed.
Yet this is a great opportunity to raise public awareness of the crucial role that bees play for our benefit.
The UN project is to organize a series of events, involving all sectors concerned with threats to beekeeping, environmental protection and wild bees, as well as agriculture, science, politics, consumers and the general public. 
This could take the form of an "open door to the apiary", a honey tasting, a stand or table at the market, a brunch in an orchard or in a bee-fertilised culture, in a museum, an agricultural school or a talk or a honey coffee at a workplace.
Since May 20, 2019 is a Monday, the UN is calling for a mobilization starting Saturday, May 18, 2019. All initiatives and proposals will be listed in a large calendar that will be accessible online (see links).

What about us?
We are proud to sponsor a wooden hive with bees4you, which includes a swarm of about 20,000 bees. Once a year the harvest will be about 100 150g pots.
To be continued...


#WorldBeeDay #SavetheBee 






The story could begin with the Boran nomads in the savannah of northern Kenya. The men of these African tribes have established a lasting and symbiotic relationship with a small bird, the Indicator indicator, a bird with brown plumage, which guides the nomads to the wild hives with its powerful cries. The different notes it emits and its way of flying are all signs that allow men to spot the nest, often perched high in the trees. Once the bees are out of harm's way thanks to anesthetic fumes, they recover the honey and reward the bird by giving up wax and larvae, two dishes he loves.

This exchange of good practices between man and bird was long mistaken for a myth... until a few curious zoologists decided in the 1980s to find out. They then discover not a tale, but an ancestral tradition. Their article published in Science in 1989 fascinated the scientific community. But above all, the anecdote reveals a process that has been at work for millennia: societies have, at all times, "thought" animals by juxtaposing imaginary stories and The Bee, symbol of all the virtues Multiform figure, a receptacle of infinite metaphors, the bee has slipped into all mythologies. Especially in the West. Naturalistic knowledge. But not all species are equally successful. Because not all of them have the same potential. The bee is, in the words of Marianne Mesnil, anthropologist, and professor at the Free University of Brussels, "a dream material for mythical activity". A pollinating insect, organized in society, capable of producing in an almost magical way a substance universally recognized for its sweetening and nourishing power, its gustatory and healing qualities, it offers an infinite number of "metaphors" capable of expressing a vision of the world.

Order emerging from chaos

She thus remains, among the heroes of the symbolic bestiary, one of those who have most nourished beliefs. Nantosuelta, the Celtic, who carries a hive in her hand, Vishnu, the Hindu, known as born of the Nectar, figured as a blue bee on a lotus flower symbolizing the resurrection, or Ah Mucen Cab, the Maya, to whom honey and mead were offered for abundant flowering: so many divinities linked to him. The hive also appears in cosmogonies around the world as an expression of an order emerging from chaos. Honey, on the other hand, belongs to the sphere of the sacred: it is used as an offering, as divine food or to make mead, a fermented drink intended for religious ceremonies. In many countries, he is also called to rites of passage: birth, marriage, and death (see box below). In some parts of Greece, it is a tradition for mothers-in-law to deposit a little honey on their daughter-in-law's tongue on the wedding day: the new wife will only have sweet words for her husband.

The bee has thus left its symbolic mark on many civilizations. With particular success in Western history, where its presence has gradually asserted itself, going beyond the mythological universe to become part of the world of political philosophy. A narrative in three acts, at pivotal moments. Egypt, Ancient Greece, and the Western Middle Ages.

1/ The other name of the pharaoh

Act I takes place in ancient Egypt, an expert in the art of cultivating bees. Several representations reflect the economic importance of hive products. The oldest known, dating back to about 2400 BC, is a beekeeping scene found in the "Hall of Seasons" of the Neouserrê Temple in Abu Ghorab, Lower Egypt. We can see busy beekeepers in front of their hives. Later, around 1400 BC, on another representation discovered in Upper Egypt, in the tomb of Rekhmirê, great vizier of the 18th dynasty, the beekeeping techniques are detailed in detail, up to the cup filled with smoke products to calm the bees. The hives appear as open cylinders, stacked one on top of the other. Finally, there is this scene discovered on the left bank of the Nile, opposite the city of Luxor, in the tomb of Pabesa, steward of Nitocris, daughter of Pharaoh Psammetic I. Dated from the 26th dynasty (664 to 525 B.C.), it depicts a man kneeling in front of his hives, as if in prayer. "There is no doubt that honey is an intimate component of ancient Egypt," observes Pascal Vernus, holder of the Egyptology Chair at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes études. Its production is carefully organized and depends on the temples. Some - like that of the god Amen - have their own beekeeper service. "Honey is also an integral part of the Egyptian pharmacopeia. Its anesthetic, soothing, healing and antiseptic properties are widely recognized. It is a prestigious commodity. As for wax, it is used as a dye or to lacquer statues. The tears of Re, however, do bees and honey have a symbolic value for the Egyptians? "What Egyptology can say for sure about this is surprisingly meager," wrote Jean Yoyotte, who was one of the great specialists of the Pharaonic civilization and the author, with Pascal Vernus, of a Bestiary of the Pharaohs. However, an episode relating to bees is often cited in popular books: the birth of bees (also called "honey flies") from the tears of the god Re. It is, in fact, a myth taken from the papyrus Salt, a late text from the Ptolemaic period (332 to 30 B.C.): "Then, it is written, Re wept again, so that liquid came down from his eye to the ground and turned into a fly. When the fly was shaped, its work came into the flowers of all the countryside. That is how wax came about; that is how honey came about. "(825 II, 5-6). Is this a matter for interpretation? For Pascal Vernus, nothing is less certain: "It is difficult to reconstruct a symbolic theory from such a story. The process of creation is almost always the same: moods - tears, sweat, blood - from the gods and falling to the ground emerge all the elements of the world. There is nothing specific to bees. "The analysis of ideograms seems even more delicate. Indeed, as Pascal Vernus explains, the ideogram which means "bee" but also "honey" is also used to say "work". It is possible, Egyptologists believe, that the insect has become the model of industrial activity.
But then, it is necessary to explain why, in a very surprising way, the Egyptians also use the ideogram of the bee to designate the "king of the North" in one of the five titles of the pharaoh. "The question of the relationship between bees and royalty has not yet been resolved," Pascal Vernus admits. Two hypotheses have been proposed to explain the enigma of this ideogram. The first is that it is a phonogram, an image that works on the principle of the rebus: the figure of the bee would be used as a phonetic sign, and this sound would refer to the word "king of the North". The second hypothesis is that there is a real semantic link between the king and the bee. "In this case, the bee, a metaphor for work, would also be the paragon of monarchical organization," explains Pascal Vernus.
However attractive it may be, there is little evidence to support this second hypothesis. On this subject, the texts are late. In the 15th and 5th centuries AD, two authors, the Egyptian Horapollon and the Greek Ammian Marcellin, report that the Egyptians drew a parallel between the bee colonies, where there is a dominant insect and the organization of their monarchy around a king. Yes, but here it is: bees have a queen and not a king. This point is not discussed by the Greeks, as they consider that the insect that dominates the colony is a king; the parallel between the hive and the monarchy is therefore not a problem for them. The controversy is not over yet: "In the current state of research, and without Egyptian texts relaying precisely such symbolism, we cannot settle," Pascal Vernus admits.


"Metaphor of work, the bee would also be the paragon of the monarchical organization"


2/ In the land of Melissa

Act II of our journey begins in ancient Greece with the myth of Melissa, the Bee with a big A. The latter feeds her honey to little Zeus, a refugee on Mount Ida in Crete to escape the fate of her brothers and sisters: being eaten by their father Cronos. In this myth, the philosopher Pierre-Henri Tavoillot deciphers it, "the sweetness of honey carries within it the seeds of civilization". When Zeus, who had become strong thanks to the power of mountain honey, found his father Cronos, he offered him a vomit drink, impregnating the edges of the glass with honey in order to make this drink more attractive. Cronos then vomited Zeus' brothers and sisters. "With bees and honey, we leave anthropophagy, brutal violence, to enter into a logic of ordering the world," explains the philosopher.
Another great myth of Greek antiquity supports this hypothesis. Aristotle's. This demigod, the protector of bees, indirectly causes the death of a young girl, Eurydice, by trying to seduce her. The beautiful woman, who fled, was mortally stung in the ankle by a snake. "What is disturbing," continues Pierre-Henri Tavoillot, "is that Aristée, a friendly and devoted character, in short, the ideal son-in-law, has a crush on Eurydice. She has just married Orpheus and forms a fusional couple with him. In my opinion, Aristaeus is in a way commissioned by the gods to put an end to what can jeopardize civilization: the "too much civilization" symbolized by the merging couple Orpheus-Eurydice. Its role, and therefore symbolically that of the bee, is to remind us that we need a balance between nature and culture. »
In the rest of the myth, Aristotle was punished by the gods for Eurydice's death: all his swarms of bees disappeared. If he wants them to reappear on Earth, he must make a rather special sacrifice: kill a calf and let it rot. For anthropologist Gilles Tétart, this episode is rich in meaning: first, it "reiterates the common belief in antiquity that bees are born by spontaneous generation, particularly from rotting matter. "But the anthropologist also sees in it a reason to question the particular status of honey because "Aristotle makes meat and rotting food the source of food of vegetable origin and rotten".

Télipinu the Hittite
This myth, of great richness, finally evokes the return to a lost harmony. Evoking another story of the same kind, from Anatolia. Striking parallelism that one of the French specialists in Hittite religion, Michel Mazoyer, a professor at the University of Paris-I, deciphers. Aristotle and the Hittite god Tellipinu are both protectors of agriculture and both have the mission of transmitting agrarian techniques, including beekeeping, to humans. However, as Michel Mazoyer writes, "the two myths are marked by the disappearance of agrarian goods; the totality of agriculture in the myth of Télipinu, the disappearance of beekeeping in the myth of Aristée, which could prefigure the disappearance of agriculture as a whole". The parallel does not stop there: "It is by carrying out expiatory rites that harmony can be restored. "In the Anatolian myth, it is the bee that finds Telipinu and creates the conditions for the survival of the world.
The bee as a reflection of the cosmic order? Poets and scholars will endeavor to demonstrate this. Aristotle thus devotes a vast study to the insect and its high technicality. Based on his observations, sometimes contradictory, he shows that it occupies a well-defined place in the cosmos: between man and nature. He also insists on the model of virtue delivered by the insect. A point of view that will be taken up and developed by Virgil, who sees in the bee an ideal of life. Imitating the bee would, according to the Latin poet, make us happy.
In his book Le Sang des fleurs, Gilles Tétart also reveals powerful networks of association between bees, honey and a whole set of interconnected values: impossible to rot but also purity, chastity, fertility, virginity. "The bee," he writes, "provides the ideological model of a female gender that produces maternal food without having given birth or gone through sexual reproduction. "During Greek antiquity, this sublimated female body incorporates the masculine, as suggested by some representations, including the statue of the goddess Artemis Ephesia. For Gilles Tétart, "what makes this chimeric anatomy intelligible is based on the imaginary transmutation of sperm into honey". Honey became "a maternal and nutritious equivalent of paternal seed", a symbolism that would be recycled in the Middle Ages.

3/ The bestiary of Christ

It is in the Christian West that the third act of this saga takes place. The authors of the Middle Ages also lend bees an impressive quantity of virtues: purity, virginity, but also innocence, cleanliness, labor, courage, intelligence, wisdom and... eloquence! The connection between the bee and speech is a feature that is found in many cultures. Is it because its buzzing resembles a language that the Hebrews call it Deborah, with a root that means "word"? In any case, the great orators of the Middle Ages were involved with the bee, as were their ancient predecessors, Plato or the poet Pindar, whose legend tells us that bees landed on their lips. A legend took up again for the patron saint of beekeepers, Saint Ambrose (15th century): when he was an infant, he fell asleep with a swarm of bees in his mouth. That's a hell of an omen. Through his sermons, the former bishop of Milan encouraged his life as a Christian to think of the bee as a model of work and chastity. In the Middle Ages, honey was considered one of the elective signs of holiness: "The writings of the time indicate that, during their lifetime, many saints like Catherine of Siena exuded honey or oils through their mouths, related to divine ointments," notes Gilles Tétart. Anorexia, often the preserve of "blessed women", is usually accompanied by a loss of the menstrual cycle. "The blood of rules, the blood of fertility, is replaced by honey and other fluids to nourish the Christian community: a way of rethinking motherhood without sexuality. »

The Patriots' Hive
It must be said that the success of bees in the Middle Ages is not unrelated to the belief in "spontaneous generation". It is a miracle that bees can be born without sexual reproduction - as beekeepers and scientists claim. And gives our little worker a dimension of purity. Hence the comparison with Mary, the mother of Christ. Or with Christ himself! Because the bee is ambivalent: it offers sweetness, but it can sting. "A little like Jesus who, on the one hand, offers a paradise to men, and on the other hand, to the damned, his avenging sword," notes the historian Michel Pastoureau, who continues: "The bee is the star animal in Christ's bestiary. Moreover, a certain number of prelates have given themselves as heraldic figures of bees.

More generally, the hive is the image of the monastery around an abbot. No wonder that honey and wax have important liturgical functions. They also have exchange value in everyday life. "Every year, Michel Pastoureau points out, farmers owe the lord, the neighboring abbey or other powerful people quantities of honey and wax. The last avatar of this multifaceted symbol: feudal society is compared to the hive, with its vassals and lord.

After the Middle Ages, the insect will be summoned to establish domination. The scientific discoveries of the 18th and 18th centuries (particularly on the behavior of bees) are important sources of inspiration for increasingly political use of the insect. Is it any wonder to find Apis mellifera on many coats of arms and coats of arms?
Paradoxically, the bee, symbol of absolute power, is also used as an emblem of an industrious life built on collective intelligence and devotion to a group in which everyone nevertheless holds a share of power. It is perhaps this vision that prompted Freemasons to use the bee as a symbol or to refer to it in the titles of some lodges ("The Patriots' Hive", "The Masonic Bee", etc.). In any case, it has encouraged various social economy initiatives, such as the project of industrialist Jean-Baptiste André Godin. Built like a beehive, Godin's "social palace" in Guise (Aisne), baptized Familistère, was, in the second half of the 19th century, the symbol of a new social order inherited from the work of the thinker Charles Fourier. Solidarity plays the role of the queen. Proof - if there were any need - that bees have largely inspired political philosophy in the West.

Illustrations: British library/ DR / Science and Future




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