The following information on the history of Egyptian beekeeping can be found at http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/timelines/topics/beekeeping.htm

Beekeeping in Egypt

The God Ra wept and his tears fell to the ground and were turned into bees. The bees began to build and were active on all flowers of every kind belonging to the vegetable kingdom. Thus wax came into being, thus was created honey from the tears of the God Ra.

Bee hives     The first official mentioning of bee-keeping dates from about 2400 BCE, in official lists of apiarists. The kind of hives depicted in reliefs are still seen in the Sudan today: woven wicker baskets covered with clay.

    Cylindrical hives like the ones in the picture on the left from the tomb of Pabasa were made of clay.

    The main centre of beekeeping was Lower Egypt with its extensive cultivated lands, where the bee was chosen as a symbol for the country. But even nomadic Upper Egyptians must have kept some bees, as their use of honey in the production of green eye paint indicates. There were itinerant apiarists who loaded their hives onto boats and shipped them upriver in early spring, following the flowering of the plants northwards.

    The Egyptians seem to have valued wild honey even more. Honey hunters, often protected by royal archers, would scour the wild wadis for bee colonies.


    Temples kept bees in order to satisfy the desire of the gods for honey and for the production of medicines and ointments. But demand far outran local production. Honey, like many other luxury goods was imported from Retenu and even further afield.

Pouring honey     Honey was used for sweetening, as sugar was unknown in antiquity. It was added to wine, various kinds of bread and cakes. Medicines and salves often contained honey as is attested in the Smith Papyrus where the practice was to apply honey to open wounds - a reasonable treatment considering honey's antibacterial and fungicidal qualities.


    Wax found use in mummification, boat and ship building, as a binding agent for paints and in metal casting. Sometimes it served as a base for medicines. Mixed with pulverized stone it made an adhesive for connecting razor blades to their handles. Wigs were waxed to give permanence to plaits.
    In execration rituals figurines were made of wax which could then easily be destroyed by force or by fire


Photos courtesy of Dr. Kenneth J. Stein. Please visit Dr. Stein's Tour of Egypt.

Sedge and bees

Sedge and bee
(Symbolizing Upper and Lower Egypt)

( Kenneth J. Stein)

Removing honeycombs

The standing bee-keeper produces smoke, while the one kneeling removes the combs
(Line drawing after a picture in the tomb of Rekhmire)

Small Hive Beetle
Brood Diseses
Greater Wax Moth
History of Beekeeping
Mathematical conversions