Beekeeping is an ancient activity consisting of breeding by humans of the bees, for the use of products made by the same: honey, pollen, propolis or wax. Other useful natural products are also obtained for the human being, as Royal Jelly and medicines: man has always pursued this activity for their own benefit.

The etymology of the word "Bee" comes from the Latin words APIs (Bee) and Cultura (care or breeding), so, beekeeping is human activity dedicated to the breeding and care of bees.

Honey production is the main result of the bee farm, the pollination carried out the bees as it is an indirect benefit, because flower pollen is transferred through it and favors the germination of new plants and fruits. This pollination can occur or to form natural crops outdoor, or artificially in greenhouses.

We are faced with one of the current manual and traditional professions, which is subject to climatic variability, the conservation of biodiversity and of course to the care of the protagonists of the same: the bees. This care can only be made through the knowledge and understanding of bees and their society, knowing their needs and anticipating their demands to ensure the best state of these insects.


The bees

Adopting the taxonomic classification, the bees are included in the animal Kingdom, in the insect class, the order Hymenóptera and family Apidae. Within this family, there are two classifications:

  • The Bombinae: they are the Orchid bees and bumblebees.
  • The Apinae: subdivided into tribes Meliponini (stingless bees) and Apini (honey or honey-producing bee). The latter only have a gender, the APIs, which includes four species:
    • The giant honey bee APIs dorsata.
    • The dwarf honey bee APIs florea.
    • The Eastern honey bee APIs cerana.
    • Western honeybee Melliferous APIs.

Giant bee, the dwarf and the Eastern only reproduce naturally in Asia. The APIs honey is originally from Europe, Africa and Asia South-West, and it includes at the same time more geographical races.

As for the internal organization of the hive, the bees are organized into three castes or groups of individuals:

  • The Queen: its main function is reproduction, through the implementation of up to 3.000 eggs a day. Morphologically it is more elongated and have wings shorter than the rest of the hive.
  • The workers: by far are the most numerous members of the hive, finding groups of the same (cleaning, suckler, receivers and warehousemen, guardians and foragers or covered).
  • The drones: the males of the colony, they are born from unfertilized eggs. Their eyes are larger than the rest, they don't sting and his only task is the fertilize the Queen. In time of shortage of food, they are expelled from the colony.

Bee queen and workers

Drone_24a_zángano abeja melífera_wikimedia

Honey bee drone, by Waugsberg, licensed under GFDL, CC BY-SA 3.0, 2.5, 2.0 and 1.0


It is the best-known product of bees, and is defined as "the substance produced by the honey bee and its different subspecies from the nectar of flowers and other secretions extrafloral, the bees to convey, transform with other substances, dehydrate, they are concentrated and stored in the Combs".

Raw honey is the nectar of the flowers, It is composed of water (20-95%), sugars (5-80%) and minerals (0,45%). The transformation of the nectar into honey begins when pecoreadora or dust bee takes the flower and carries it in his crop to the hive. Once there, they will pass some other and mixed it with her saliva (It contains enzymes that convert the sugar in the nectar to other sugars, such as glucose and fructose), to go into honey. The workers placed it in the cells of the honeycomb, but as still contains lots of water, air with wings for several days to reduce this moisture and, When the honey is ripe, sealed cells (opercular).

honey-1958464. Pixabay


bee-1726659. pixabay

Pecoreadora bee

Brief history of beekeeping

The origins of this activity date back to prehistory, found reference to it before from the 3000 BC, in the stone age:

  • Mesolithic period (10.000 BC- 5.000 BC) dating back to the cave paintings in the cave of the spider in Bicorp (Valencia). Honey harvesting scenes abound in them. Its origin is not clear, but it is believed that the paintings could have between the 7.000 and the 8.000 years old. In one of these paintings is represented a human figure with a basket of beaker shaped alienated by Rocky walls with ropes to access a diaper.

Is at this time when human beings began to collect honey from hives that were in the nature, and control swarms.

The caves of the spider cave painting (Bicorp, Valencia): Individual collecting diapers, by Achillea, licensed under GNU GPL

Declared world heritage by the UNESCO in 1998

  • In Egypt there are references to the beekeeping practice during the predynastic period (4.000-3.050 BC), moving hives in boats on the Nile.
  • In the Mesopotamian culture, We have one of the oldest written sources which are known, made on clay tables, that it dating back a few 2.700 years B.c., and that includes the use of honey as medicine.
  • The Greeks paid cult to beekeeping, Since Artemis (Target for the Romans) It is represented on the coins as a bee, towards the 480 BC, practice that continued in Thrace. Later the Romans adopted and continued the practice of Hellenic.
  • The Arabs, that you were 700 years in Spain, they left a great legacy in gastronomic, especially sweet, being the honey one of the fundamental ingredients.
Beekeeping activities in the Sierra Norte de Madrid

One of the values that characterize the development of the tourism and food production in the Sierra Norte de Madrid is sustainability. Beekeeping is a profession largely associated with this concept, It is a trade that is strongly linked to the rural culture.

In this context it develops its activity the Jabardo SAT, which is constituted by a group of beekeepers who are dedicated to the care and maintenance of apiaries to the subsequent extraction of honey and other products.

With clear principles and a commitment to beekeeping, they seek to carry out an activity beneficial to the environment and sustainable, within canyons of quality assurance of its products with technical criteria, commercial and social.

Find out more about the courses and conferences for families or for expert beekeepers organized throughout the year through this link.

Beekeepers. Image courtesy of Jabardo SAT

In collaboration with the Sierra Norte de Madrid tourist Innovation Center "Villa San Roque" SAT the Jabardo offers you the possibility to become a beekeeper for a day, and discover the secrets of this ancient tradition. More information on this activity in this link.

Base text: The Jabardo SAT; Introduction to beekeeping, by José María Ros Piqueras, (Legal deposit MU-1920-2009)

Photographs: The Jabardo SAT, Pixabay, PXHere, Wikimedia, Antrophistoria.

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