Why do we need honeybees?

Why do we need honeybees?

Why  do we need honeybees?

 The answer to the question: Why do we need honeybees? would seem on the surface pretty obvious. The honeybee pollinates around 60% of our crops. Albert Einstein is reputed to have said that if the honeybee disappeared then human beings would survive for only four years. Whether or not this is exactly true doesn’t really matter  to me, the point is that the honeybee is a vital part of nature and without it  we are probably in deep trouble one way or another.  But is the honeybee merely a device that somehow nature has provided to pollinate our crops and provide a food supply?

Let’s look a bit deeper. The honeybee has been around probably for 100 million years or more, whereas the human being has been around for about 7 million years. Again, the exact numbers are not important. The fact is, the honeybee has been around for a whole lot longer than we have.

What has really interested me during my 35 years  research journey looking at the medicinal properties of bee products (www.iprg.info & www.beevitalpropolis.com ) is the way and form in which the honeybee appeared in the earliest records of human beings thinking about themselves .

If we go back 5000 years to Egyptian times, we can note how the temple in which The Egyptian Goddess Neith was worshipped was called the House of the Bee. Neith was seen as the creator of human reality, and she was referred to as the Queen bee.

This would not be too remarkable if this kind of association was not repeated in other cultures where again the honeybee is closely associated with spiritual understanding and the priestly function.

In the same period in ancient India for example, the  Hindu gods were also associated with bees. The Gods Vishnu, Krishna, and Indra were all called Madhava or the nectar-born ones, and their symbol was the bee. Vishnu  for example is represented as a blue bee upon a lotus flower, the symbol of life, of resurrection, and nature.

Kama the Indian God of Love  can be seen on the side of a vase as riding on a lion but with the lion riding on a honeybee, intimating somehow the chronology of creation.  

We can pick up this fascinating connection again 2500 years ago in Greek times , in the time of the Cult  of Artemis at Ephesus. Artemis herself we see here was covered in bees.  But there is more. The priestesses in  the cult of Artemis in Greece were known as  Melissa or honeybees and the priests as Essene or King bee.  Clearly the honeybee had a very potent meaning  and sat at the spiritual religious centre of the city of Ephesus.


Moving into the 7th century AD is the famous reference to the honeybee in the Koran - Surah An-Nahl - 69

From their bellies comes forth liquid of varying colours, in which there is healing for people. Surely in this is a sign for those who reflect.

Clearly the honeybee is seen here as providing healing or wholeness to human beings. It is a sign for human beings who want to think !

Skipping forward to the 20th century  one man more than any other has triggered for me an understanding of this sweetest of  riddles. Rudolf Steiner the Austrian scientist and philosopher and the man behind the worldwide movements of  Biodynamic farming, Waldorf Education and the Camphill movement had this to say about the honeybee in his nine lectures on bees in 1923.

“Whoever looks at a beehive should actually say with an exalted mind; making this detour by way of the beehive the entire cosmos can find its way into human beings and help to make them sound in mind and body.”

This statement which is not entirely different from the contents of Surah 69 is significant for me in that Rudolf Steiner uses the word detour “making this detour by way of the beehive…. The whole cosmos can find its way into human beings ….”

Turning back to the cult of Artemis and the Mystery School of Ephesus we are told that those searching for initiation (i.e. learning to understand the deepest riddle and meaning of humanity outside our physical being,) used the honeybee as a model to aspire to, to imitate, to reach up to. In this sense Rudolf Steiner’s detour sounds more like a stepping stone i.e. by understanding the honeybee we come nearer to understanding who we are as human beings, and when we do this it helps to make us .. “ sound in mind and body”.

As we said at the beginning, the honeybee has been around ten times as long as human beings. Some have suggested that the honeybee has, at a certain level and in a certain sense, evolved beyond man him/herself. Certainly, if we look at the extraordinary  social organisation of the honeybee - of  this collection of up to 70,000 insects that act as one body, one superorganism -something quite extraordinary has been created. Perhaps the honeybee does have a unique and special relationship with man ,one through which we can teach ourselves to become “ sound in mind and body”.  www.beearc.com


James Fearnley - CEO of Nature's Laboratory & BeeVital

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