Nowadays in every supermarket you can buy honey, all sorts and from any country in the world. We are used to cheep honey, because honey is mass produced or cheaply imported. It was not always like that. In pre-industrial times honey was a valuable issue, as well as beeswax that was needed for the production of candles in times of no electricity.
People have already discovered the sweet food before thousands of years. Here, in Europe, cultivation of wild bees began when people understood how to exploit nests. Perhaps by cutting off the honeycombe in hollow tree trunks our forefathers learned that it was better to leave a part of the nest untouched, so that next year it could be used again. From the Early Middle Ages collecting the honey of wild or semi-wildbees in the forests became a trade, known in central Europe as Zeidlerei (german-honey cutter). Men with ropes climbed on large trees, and many meters above the ground they cut a slot in the tree, around two feet high and 4 inches wide. But inside a trunk a biger space was required. They covered the entrance with a piece of wood, which had only a small entrance opening for the bees. When bees nested there, every year honey was available. The men cleaned and took care of the tree hives. The trees were marked by symbols cut in the bark. There trade was a protected craft and there was even a particular jurisdiction. Honey stealing was often punished by death penalty.
This craft in Europe had a long tradition, however, when natural forests yielded more and more to the need of fields, people would rather have honeybees near their villages. But in Russia and in Poland this tradition has continued in some places.
In recent years the fate of wildbees and the common honeybee has alarmed us a lot. As we understood the environmental damage caused by industrial agriculture and large-scale commercially oriented beekeeping, we begin to re-evaluate traditional methods of beekeeping. In Switzerland and Germany are associations that are currently following methods of Polish forest beekeepers so that the old craft is kept alive. In Uk the Natural Beekeeping Trust brings people together which are interested in natural honey making.
Images: 1. bienesuchtbluete.wordpress.co, 2. bienenschutzgarten.at