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NIHIL NOVUM SUB SOLE

1001 deeds, sayings, curiosities and anecdotes of the ancient world

Bees, divine animals (Petronius, 56)

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Wheat, oil, wine, milk (often in the form of cheese) and honey are certainly the most characteristic foods in the Mediterranean world. Honey is used by man from the farthest prehistory

Who does not have engraved on his retina scene gathering honey in the Cave of  the Spider, in  Bicorp (Valencia, Spain) from  the years 8000-6000 B.C.?

The truth is that bees and their hives have always been an issue that has amazed men. I present another picture of an astonishing gem of ancient Crete in which two bees are foraging pollen from a flower.

Jewel from the necropolis of Krissolakkos, Mailla (Crete).

They are numerous Greek and then Roman authors who refer to honey by two different reasons: think first that the ancients did not know the sugar and therefore honey is the sweetener used and second the observation of the organization and industriousness of the bees in the hive induce them to establish fruitful comparisons with the society of men. Is a recurring topic well that the hive is a perfect society worthy of imitation and so men learned many things from them.

It appears already mentioned in Homer and Hesiod and its activity regulated by the  laws of Solon. Then there are countless poets and philosophers who focus their attention on bees and honey. But besides being bee an animal whose activity can be channeled and economically exploit their product, they are also many technical and scientific authors who write general agriculture beekeeping or more specific treaties.

Aristotle dedicates the book V, chapters 18 and 19 to bees and several references in Book IX of his Animalium History. Pseudo-Aristotle also addresses the issue in his Mirabilium Auscultationes (Περὶ θαυμασίων ἀκουσμάτων). Theophrastus, Democritus, Aristomachus of Solos, Nicander of Colophon, Philiscus of Tasus wrote apiculture treaties,.

In the Carthaginian world, Mago wrote a general treatise on Agriculture frequently cited by Greek and Latin authors, which  also refers to the bees.

In the Latin world, Virgil, in addition to referring it frequently in his Bucolic, dedicated the book IV of his Georgics to the world of bees; Pliny in his Naturalis Historia devotes several chapters of book XI and numerous references in his work, for example in the book XX dedicated to  remedies of  garden plants, and  in the XXI dedicated to flowers; Varro  with his De re rustica; Columela with his De re rustica; Ovid in his  Metamorphoses; Elianus in Natura Animalium; Iginus and Celsus in his medical treatises; Petronius in the Satyricon; Martial in his epigrams, Apicius in his  De re coqinaria, Cook book. Etc etc.

Petronius called them "divine animals":

Satyricon, 56

Then there's the bee: in my opinion, they're divine insects because they puke honey, though there are folks that claim that they bring it from Jupiter, and that's the reason they sting, too, for wherever you find a sweet, you'll find a bitter too."  (Translation by W. C. Firebaugh)

Apes enim ego divinas bestias puto, quae mel vomunt, etiam si diuntur illud a Iove afferrre. Ideo autem pungunt, quia ubicunque dulce est, ibi et acidum invenies.

Honey is used in ancient times in religious ceremonies because it is related to numerous gods and goddesses and appears in numerous myths; and especially in food to make cakes and delicious dishes; wine is sweetened with it to produce the famous "mulsum" or sweet wort and the "mead" or honey water was manufactured with it. But it was also used in medicine and pharmacology  and perfumery and jewelry to clean up the jewels  give a special texture to tissues.

If today the most famous honey in the world, at least in Spain, is the "honey of the Alcarria",  in Antiquity the most valued was the "honey of Attica", but it was produced in many parts of the Empire, from Germany to Africa and around it an important industry and economic activity was generated. All this deserves a special article.

Marcus Terentius Varro (116-27 BC), who is considered "the wisest of the Romans," wrote many works on the most diverse subjects; but we retain only the title of 55 of them and only a complete, precisely on "agriculture". His "De re rustica" or "Rerum rusticarum libri III", that is "On Agriculture". The greater part of  his work "De lingua latina", On Latin language, is preserved and only some fragments of other works remain. In his work on agriculture he devotes part of Book III to treat bees.

Well, there is very harmful to bees mite, Varroa, which produces the disease called "varroasis" which finishes with hives. A.C. Oudemans described in 1904 the mite that Edward Jacobson had discovered in Java in Indonesia. When putting the scientific name, indicating the genus and species, he called "varroa iacobsoni". Jacobson named the species but for the genre Oudemans remembered Varro and his treatise on agriculture and he took  from him the name "varroa".

I will transcribe the entire chapter 16 of the third book of his work, dedicated to bees, but devotes only disease ... I leave for another time the texts of other authors cited above also relate to the world of bees:

Marcus Terentius Varro
On Agriculture

16 1    ”Well,” remarked Appius, “the third act of the husbandry of the steading is left — fishponds.” “Why third?” inquired Axius. “Or, just because you were accustomed in your youth not to drink honey-wine at home for the sake of thrift, are we to overlook honey?” “It is the truth he is telling,” Appius said to us. 2 “For I was left in straitened circumstances, together with two brothers and two sisters, and gave one of them to Lucullus without a dowry; it was only after he relinquished a legacy in my favour that I, for the very first time, began to drink honey-wine at home myself, though meantime mead was none the less commonly served at banquets almost daily to all guests. 3 And furthermore, it was my right and not yours to know these winged creatures, to whether nature has given so much talent and art. And so, that you may realize that I know bees better than you do, hear of the incredible art that nature has given them. Our well-versed Merula, as he has done in other cases, will tell you of the practice followed by bee-keepers.

4 “In the first place, bees are produced partly from bees, and partly from the rotted carcass of a bullock. And so Archelaus, in an epigram, says that they are ‘the roaming children of a dead cow’; and the same writer says: ‘While wasps spring from horses, bees come from calves.’ Bees are not of a solitary nature, as eagles are, but are like human beings. Even if jackdaws in this respect are the same, still it is not the same case; for in one there is a fellowship in toil and in building which does not obtain in the other; in the one case there is reason and skill — it is from these that men learn to toil, to build, to store up food. 5 They have three tasks: food, dwelling, toil; and the food is not the same as the wax, nor the honey, nor the dwelling. Does not the chamber in the comb have six angles, the same number as the bee has feet? The geometricians prove that this hexagon inscribed in a circular figure encloses the greatest amount of space. They forage abroad, and within the hive they produce a substance which, because it is the sweetest of all, is acceptable to gods and men alike; for the comb comes to the altar and the honey is served at the beginning of the feast and for the second table. 6 Their commonwealth is like the states of men, for here are king, government, and fellowship. They seek only the pure; and hence no bee alights on a place which is befouled or one which has an evil odour, or even one which smells of sweet perfume. So one who approaches them smelling of perfume they sting, and do not, as flies do, lick him; and one never sees bees, as he does flies, on flesh or blood or fat — so truly do they alight only on objects which have a sweet savour. 7 The bee is not in the least harmful, as it injures no man’s work by pulling it apart; yet it is not so cowardly as not to fight anyone who attempts to break up its own work; but still it is well aware of its own weakness. They are with good reason called ‘the winged attendants of the Muses,’ because if at any time they are scattered they are quickly brought into one place by the beating of cymbals or the clapping of hands; and as man has assigned to those divinities Helicon and Olympus, so nature has assigned to the bees the flowering untilled mountains. 8 They follow their own king where he goes, assist him when weary, and if he is unable to fly they bear him upon their backs, in their eagerness to serve him. They are themselves not idle, and detest the lazy; and so they attack and drive out from them the drones, as these give no help and eat the honey, and even a few bees chase larger numbers of drones in spite of their cries. On the outside of the entrance to the hive they seal up the apertures through which the air comes between the combs with a substance which the Greeks call erithace. They all live as if in an army, sleeping and working regularly in turn, and send out as it were colonies, and their leaders give certain orders with the voice, as it were in imitation of the trumpet, as happens when they have signals of peace and war with one another. But, my dear Merula, that our friend Axius may not waste away while hearing this essay on natural history, in which I have made no mention of gain, I hand over to you the torch in the race.”

10 Whereupon Merula: “As to the gain I have this to say, which will perchance be enough for you, Axius, and I have as my authorities not only Seius, who has his apiaries let out for an annual rental of 5,000 pounds of honey, but also our friend Varro here. I have heard the latter tell the story that he had two soldiers under him in Spain, brothers named Veianius, from the district near Falerii. They were well-off, because, though their father had left only a small villa and a bit of land certainly not larger than one iugerum, they had built an apiary entirely around the villa, and kept a garden; and all the rest of the land had been planted in thyme, snail-clover, and balm — a plant which some call honey-leaf, others bee-leaf, and some call bee-herb. 11 These men never received less than 10,000 sesterces from their honey, on a conservative estimate, as they said they preferred to wait until they could bring in the buyer at the time they wanted rather than to rush into market at an unfavourable time.” “Tell me, then,” said he, “where I ought to build an apiary and of what sort, so as to get a large profit.” 12 “The following,” said Merula, “is the proper method for building apiaries, which are variously called melitrophia and mellaria: first, they should be situated preferably near the villa, but where echoes do not resound (for this sound is thought to be a signal for flight in their case); where the air is temperate, not too hot in summer, and not without sun in winter; that it preferably face the winter sunrise, and have near by a place which has a good supply of food and clear water. 13 If there is no natural food, the owner should sow crops which are most attractive to bees. Such crops are: the rose, wild thyme, balm, poppy, bean, lentil, pea, clover, rush, alfalfa, and especially snail-clover, which is extremely wholesome for them when they are ailing. It begins flowering at the vernal equinox and continues until the second equinox. 14 But while this is most beneficial to the health of bees, thyme is best suited to honey-making; and the reason that Sicilian honey bears off the palm is that good thyme is common there. For this reason some bruise thyme in a mortar and soak it in lukewarm water, and with this sprinkle all the plots planted for the bees. 15 So far as the situation is concerned, one should preferably be chosen close to the villa — and some people place the apiary actually in the portico of the villa, so that it may be better protected. Some build round hives of withes for the bees to stay in, others of wood and bark, others of a hollow tree, others build of earthenware, and still others fashion them of fennel stalks, building them square, about three feet long and one foot deep, but making them narrower when there are not enough bees to fill them, so that they will not lose heart in a large empty space. All such hives are called alvi, ‘bellies,’ because of the nourishment (alimonium), honey, which they contain; and it seems that the reason they are made with a very narrow middle is that they may imitate the shape of the bees. 16 Those that are made of withes are smeared, inside and out, with cow-dung, so that the bees may not be driven off by any roughness; and these hives are so placed on brackets attached to the walls that they will not be shaken nor touch one another when they are arranged in a row. In this method, a second and a third row are placed below it at an interval, and it is said that it is better to reduce the number than to add a fourth. At the middle of the hive small openings are made on the right and left, by which the bees may enter; 17 and on the back, covers are placed through which the keepers can remove the comb. The best hives are those made of bark, and the worst those made of earthenware, because the latter are most severely affected by cold in winter and by heat in summer. During the spring and summer the bee-keeper should examine them about thrice a month, smoking them lightly, and clear the hive of filth and sweep out vermin. 18 He should further see to it that several chiefs do not arise, for they become nuisances because of their dissensions. Some authorities state also that, as there are three kinds of leaders among bees — the black, the red, and the striped — or as Menecrates states, two — the black and the striped — the latter is so much better that it is good practice for the keeper, when both occur in the same hive, to kill the black; for when he is with the other king he is mutinous and ruins the hive, because he either drives him out or is driven out and takes the swarm with him. 19 Of ordinary bees, the best is the small round striped one. The one called by some the thief, and by others the drone, is black, with a broad belly. The wasp, though it has the appearance of a bee, is not a partner in its work, and frequently injures it by its sting, and so the bees keep it away. Bees differ from one another in being wild or tame; by wild, I mean those which feed in wooded places, and by tame those which feed in cultivated ground. The former are smaller in size, and hairy, but are better workers.
“In purchasing, the buyer should see whether they are well or sick. 20 The signs of health are their being thick in the swarm, sleek, and building uniformly smooth comb. When they are not so well, the signs are that they are hairy and shaggy, as if dusted over — unless it is the working season which is pressing them; for at this time, because of the work, they get tough and thin. 21 If they are to be transferred to another place, it should be done carefully, and the proper time should be observed for doing it, and a suitable place be provided to which to move them. As to the time, it should be in spring rather than in winter, as in winter it is difficult for them to form the habit of staying where they have been moved, and so they generally fly away. If you move them from a good situation to one where there is no suitable pasturage, they become runaways. And even if you move them from one hive into another at the same place, the operation should not be carried out carelessly, 22 but the hive into which the bees are going should be smeared with balm, which has a strong attraction for them, and combs full of honey should be placed inside not far from the entrance, for fear that, when they notice either a lack of food. . . . He says that when bees are sickly, because of their feeding in the early spring on the blossoms of the almond and the cornel, it is diarrhoea that affects them, and they are cured by drinking urine. 23 Propolis is the name given to a substance with which they build a protectum (‘gable’) over the entrance opening in front of the hive, especially in summer. This substance is used, and under the same name, by physicians in making poultices,c and for this reason it brings even a higher price than honey on the Via Sacra. Erithace is the name given a substance with which they fasten together the ends of the comb (it is a different substance than either honey or propolis) and it is in it that the force of the attraction lies. So they smear with this substance, mixed with balm, the bough or other object on which they want the swarm to settle. 24 The comb is the structure which they fashion in a series of cells of wax, each separate cell having six sides, the same number as that of the feet given to each bee by nature. It is said that they do not gather wholly from the same sources the materials which they bring in for making the four substances, propolis, erithace, comb, and honey. Sometimes what they gather is of one kind, since from the pomegranate and the asparagus they gather only food, from the olive tree wax, from the fig honey, but of a poor quality. 25 Sometimes a double service is rendered, as both wax and food from the bean, the balm, the gourd, and the cabbage; and similarly a double service of food and honey from the apple and wild pear, and still another double service in combination, since they get wax and honey from the poppy. A threefold service, too, is rendered, as food, honey, and wax from the almond and the charlock. From other blossoms they gather in such a way that they take some materials for just one of the substances, other materials for more than one; 26 they also follow another principle of selection in their gathering (or rather the principle follows the bees); as in the case of honey, they make watery honey from one flower, for instance the sisera, thick honey from another, for instance from rosemary; and so from still another they make an insipid honey, as from the fig, good honey from snail-clover, and the best honey from thyme. 27 As drink is a component of food, and as this, in the case of bees, is clear water, they should have a place from which to drink, and this close by; it should flow past their hives, or run into a pool in such a way that it will not rise higher than •two or three fingers, and in this water there should lie tiles or small stones in such a way that they project a little from the water, so that the bees can settle on them and drink. In this matter great care should be taken to keep the water pure, as this is an extremely important point in making good honey. 28 As it is not every kind of weather that allows them to go far afield for feeding, food should be provided for them, so that they will not have to live on the honey alone at such times, or leave the hives when it is exhausted. So about ten pounds of ripe figs are boiled in six congii of water, and after they are boiled they are rolled into lumps and placed near the hives. Other apiarists have water sweetened with honey placed near the hives in vessels, and drop clean pieces of wool into it through which they can suck, for the double purpose of keeping them from surfeiting themselves with the drink and from falling into the water. A vessel is placed near each hive and is kept filled. Others pound raisins and figs together, soak them in boiled wine, and put pellets made of this mixture in a place where they can come out to feed even in winter.
29 “The time when the bees are ready to swarm, which generally occurs when the well hatched new brood is over large and they wish to send out their young as it were a colony (just as the Sabines used to do frequently on account of the number of their children), you may know from two signs which usually precede it: first, that on preceding days, and especially in the evenings, numbers of them hang to one another in front of the entrance, 30 massed like a bunch of grapes; and secondly, that when they are getting ready to fly out or even have begun the flight, they make a loud humming sound exactly as soldiers do when they are breaking camp. Those which have gone out first fly around in sight, looking back for the others, which have not yet gathered, to swarm. When the keeper observes that they have acted so, he frightens them by throwing dust on them and by beating brass around them; 31 and the place to which he wishes to carry them, and which is not far away, is smeared with bee-bread and balm and other things by which they are attracted. When they have settled, a hive, smeared on the inside with the same enticing substances, is brought up and placed near by; and then by means of a light smoke blown around them they are induced to enter. When they have moved into the new colony, they remain so willingly that even if you place near by the hive from which they came, still they are content rather with their new home.

32 “As I have given my views on the subject of feeding, I shall now speak of the thing on account of which all this care is exercised — the profit. The signal for removing the comb is given by the following occurrences . . . if the bees make a humming noise inside, if they flutter when going in and out, and if, when you remove the covers of the hives, the openings of the combs are seen to be covered with a membrane, the combs being filled with honey. 33 Some authorities hold that in taking off honey nine-tenths should be removed and one-tenth left; for if you take all, the bees will quit the hive. Others leave more than the amount stated. Just as in tilling, those who let the ground lie fallow reap more grain from interrupted harvests, so in the matter of hives if you do not take off honey every year, or not the same amount, you will by this method have bees which are busier and more profitable. 34 It is thought that the first season for removing the comb is at the time of the rising of the Pleiades, the second at the end of summer, before Arcturus is wholly above the horizon, and the third after the setting of the Pleiades. But in this case, if the hive is well filled no more than one-third of the honey should be removed, the remainder being left for the wintering; but if the hive is not well filled no honey should be taken out. When the amount removed is large, it should not all be taken at one time or openly, for fear the bees may lose heart. If some of the comb removed contains no honey or honey that is dirty, it should be cut off with a knife. 35 Care should be taken that the weaker bees be not imposed upon by the stronger, for in this case their output is lessened; and so the weaker are separated and placed under another king. Those which often fight one another should be sprinkled with honey-water. When this is done they not only stop fighting, but swarm over one another, licking the water; and even more so if they are sprinkled with mead, in which case the odour causes them to attach themselves more greedily, and they drink until they are stupefied. 36 If they leave the hive in smaller numbers and a part of the swarm remains idle, light smoke should be applied, and there should be placed near by some sweet-smelling herbs, especially balm and thyme. 37 The greatest possible care should be taken to prevent them from dying from heat or from cold. If at any time they are knocked down by a sudden rain while harvesting, or overtaken by a sudden chill before they have foreseen that this would happen (though it is rarely that they are caught napping), and if, struck by the heavy rain-drops, they lie prostrate as if dead, they should be collected into a vessel and placed under cover in a warm spot; the next day, when the weather is at its best, they should be dusted with ashes made of fig wood, and heated a little more than warm. Then they should be shaken together gently in the vessel, without being touched with the hand, and placed in the sun. 38 Bees which have be warmed in this way recover and revive, just as happens when flies which have been killed by water are treated in the same way. This should be carried out near the hives, so that those which have been revived may return each to his own work and home.”
(The English translation is by W. D. Hooper and H. B. Ash. published in the Loeb Classical Library, 1934)

16  Appius, Igitur relinquitur, inquit, de pastione villatica tertius actus de piscinis. Quid tertius? inquit Axius. An quia tu solitus es in adulescentia tua domi mulsum non bibere propter parsimoniam, nos mel neclegemus? Appius nobis, Verum dicit, inquit. 2 Nam cum pauper cum duobus fratribus et duabus sororibus essem relictus, quarum alteram sine dote dedi Lucullo, a quo hereditate me cessa primum et primus mulsum domi meae bibere coepi ipse, cum interea nihilo minus paene cotidie in convivio omnibus daretur  mulsum. 3 Praeterea meum erat, non tuum, eas novisse volucres, quibus plurimum natura ingeni atque artis tribuit. Itaque eas melius me nosse quam te ut scias, de incredibili earum arte naturali audi. Merula, ut cetera fecit, historicos quae sequi melitturgoe soleant demonstrabit.

4 Primum apes nascuntur partim ex apibus, partim ex bubulo corpore putrefacto. Itaque Archelaus in epigrammate ait eas esse
βοὸς φθιμένης πεπλανημένα τέκνα,
idem
ἵππων μὲν σφῆκες γενεά, μόσχων δὲ μέλισσαι.

Apes non sunt solitaria natura, ut aquilae, sed ut homines. Quod si in hoc faciunt etiam graculi, at non idem, quod hic societas operis et aedificiorum, quod illic non est, hic ratio atque ars, ab his opus facere discunt, ab his aedificare, ab his cibaria condere. 5 Tria enim harum: cibus, domus, opus, neque idem quod cera cibus, nec quod mel, nec quod domus. Non in favo sex angulis cella, totidem quot habet ipsa pedes? Quod geometrae hexagonon fieri in orbi rutundo ostendunt, ut plurimum loci includatur. Foris pascuntur, intus opus faciunt, quod dulcissimum quod est, et deis et hominibus est acceptum, quod favus venit in altaria et mel ad principia convivi et in secundam mensam administratur. 6 Haec ut hominum civitates, quod hic est et rex et imperium et societas. Secuntur omnia pura. Itaque nulla harum adsidit in loco inquinato aut eo qui male oleat, neque etiam in eo qui bona olet unguenta. Itaque iis unctus qui accessit, pungunt, non, ut muscae, ligurriunt, quod nemo has videt, ut illas, in carne aut sanguine aut adipe. Ideo modo considunt in eis quorum sapor dulcis. 7 Minime malefica, quod nullius opus vellicans facit deterius, neque ignava, ut non, qui eius conetur disturbare, resistat; neque tamen nescia suae imbecillitatis. Quae cum causa Musarum esse dicuntur volucres, quod et, si quando displicatae sunt, cymbalis et plausibus numero redducunt in locum unum; et ut his dis Helicona atque Olympon adtribuerunt homines, sic his floridos et incultos natura adtribuit montes. 8 Regem suum secuntur, quocumque it, et fessum sublevant, et si nequit volare, succollant, quod eum servare volunt. Neque ipsae sunt inficientes nec non oderunt inertes. Itaque insectantes ab se eiciunt fucos, quod hi neque adiuvant et mel consumunt, quos vocificantes plures persecuntur etiam paucae. Extra ostium alvi opturant omnia, qua venit inter favos spiritus, quam erithacen appellant Graeci. 9 Omnes ut in exercitu vivunt atque alternis dormiunt et opus faciunt pariter et ut colonias mittunt, iique duces conficiunt quaedam ad vocem ut imitatione tubae. Tum id faciunt, cum inter se signa pacis ac belli habeant. Sed, O Merula, Axius noster ne, dum haec audit physica, macescat, quod de fructu nihil dixi, nunc cursu lampada tibe trado.

10 Merula, De fructu, inquit, hoc dico, quod fortasse an tibi satis sit, Axi, in quo auctorem habeo non solum Seium, qui alvaria sua locata habet quotannis quinis milibus pondo mellis, sed etiam hunc Varronem nostrum, quem audivi dicentem duo milites se habuisse in Hispania fratres Veianios ex agro Falisco locupletis, quibus cum a patre relicta esset parva villa et agellus non sane maior iugero uno, hos circum villam totam alvaria fecisse et hortum habuisse ac relicum thymo et cytiso opsevisse et apiastro, quod alii meliphyllon, alii melissophyllon, quidam melittaenam appellant. 11 Hos numquam minus, ut peraeque ducerent, dena milia sestertia ex melle recipere esse solitos, cum dicerent velle expectare, ut suo potius tempore mercatorem admitterent, quam celerius alieno. Dic igitur, inquit, ubi et cuius modi me facere oporteat alvarium, ut magnos capiam fructus. 12 Ille, melittonas ita facere oportet, quos alii melitrophia appellant, eandem rem quidam mellaria. Primum secundum villam potissimum, ubi non resonent imagines (hic enim sonus harum fugae existimatur esse protelum), esse oportet aere temperato, neque aestate fervido neque hieme non aprico, ut spectet potissimum ad hibernos ortus, qui prope se loca habeat ea, ubi pabulum sit frequens et aqua pura. 13 Si pabulum naturale non est, ea oportet dominum serere, quae maxime secuntur apes. Ea sunt rosa, serpyllon, apiastrum, papaver, faba, lens, pisum, ocimum, cyperum, medice, maxime cytisum, quod minus valentibus utilissimum est. Etenim ab aequinoctio verno florere incipit et permanet ad alterum aequinoctium. 14 Sed ut hoc aptissimum ad sanitatem apium, sic ad mellificium thymum. Propter hoc Siculum mel fert palmam, quod ibi thymum bonum frequens est. Itaque quidam thymum contundunt in pila et diluunt in aqua tepida; eo conspergunt omnia seminaria consita apium causa. 15 Quod ad locum pertinet, hoc genus potissimum eligendum iuxta villam, non quo non in villae porticu quoque quidam, quo tutius esset, alvarium collocarint. Ubi sint, alii faciunt ex viminibus rutundas, alii e ligno ac corticibus, alii ex arbore cava, alii fictiles, alii etiam ex ferulis quadratas longas pedes circiter ternos, latas pedem, sed ita, ubi parum sunt quae compleant, ut eas conangustent, in vasto loco inani ne despondeant animum. Haec omnia vocant a mellis alimonio alvos, quas ideo videntur medias facere angustissimas, ut figuram imitentur earum. 16 Vitiles fimo bubulo oblinunt intus et extra, ne asperitate absterreantur, easque alvos ita collocant in mutulis parietis, ut ne agitentur neve inter se contingant, cum in ordinem sint positae. Sic intervallo interposito alterum et tertium ordinem infra faciunt et aiunt potius hinc demi oportere, quam addi quartum. Media alvo, qua introeant apes, faciunt foramina parva dextra ac sinistra. 17 Ad extremam, qua mellarii favum eximere possint, opercula imponunt. Alvi optimae fiunt corticeae, deterrimae fictiles, quod et frigore hieme et aestate calore vehementissime haec commoventur. Verno tempore et aestivo fere ter in mense mellarius inspicere debet fumigans leniter eas et ab spurcitiis purgare alvum et vermiculos eicere. 18 Praeterea ut animadvertat ne reguli plures existant; inutiles enim fiunt propter seditiones. Et quidam dicunt, tria genera cum sint ducum in apibus, niger ruber varius, ut Menecrates scribit, duo, niger et varius, qui ita melior, ut expediat mellario, cum duo sint in eadem alvo, interficere nigrum, cum sit cum altero rege, esse seditiosum et corrumpere alvom, quod fuget aut cum multitudine fugetur. 19 De reliquis apibus optima est parva varia rutunda. Fur qui vocabitur, ab aliis fucus, est ater et lato ventre. Vespa, quae similitudinem habet apis, neque socia est operis et nocere solet morsu, quam apes a se secernunt. Hae differunt inter se, quod ferae et cicures sunt. Nunc feras dico, quae in silvestribus locis pascitant, cicures, quae in cultis. Silvestres minores sunt magnitudine et pilosae, sed opifices magis.

In emendo emptorem videre oportet, valeant an sint aegrae. 20 Sanitatis signa, si sunt frequentes in examine et si nitidae et si opus quod faciunt est aequabile ac leve. Minus valentium signa, si sunt pilosae et horridae, ut pulverulentae, nisi opificii eas urget tempus; tum enim propter laborem asperantur ac marcescunt. 21 Si transferendae sunt in alium locum, id facere diligenter oportet et tempora, quibus id potissimum facias, animadvertendum et loca, quo transferas, idonea providendum: tempora, ut verno potius quam hiberno, quod hieme difficulter consuescunt quo translatae manere, itaque fugiunt plerumque. Si e bono loco transtuleris eo, ubi idonea pabulatio non sit, fugitivae fiunt. Nec, si ex alvo in alvum in eodem loco traicias, neglegenter faciendum, 22 sed et in quam transiturae sint apes, ea apiastro perfricanda, quod inlicium hoc illis, et favi melliti intus ponendi a faucibus non longe, ne, cum animadverterint aut inopiam esse . . . habuisse dicit. Is ait, cum sint apes morbidae propter primoris vernos pastus, qui ex floribus nucis graecae et cornus fiunt, coeliacas fieri atque urina pota reficiendas. 23 Propolim vocant, e quo faciunt ad foramen introitus protectum ante alvum maxime aestate. Quam rem etiam nomine eodem medici utuntur in emplastris, propter quam rem etiam carius in sacra via quam mel venit. Erithacen vocant, quo favos extremos inter se conglutinant, quod est aliut melle et propoli; itaque in hoc vim esse illiciendi. Quocirca examen ubi volunt considere, eum ramum aliamve quam rem oblinunt hoc admixto apiastro. 24 Favus est, quem fingunt multicavatum e cera, cum singula cava sena latera habeant, quot singulis pedes dedit natura. Neque quae afferunt ad quattuor res faciendas, propolim, erithacen, favum, mel, ex iisdem omnibus rebus carpere dicunt. Simplex, quod e malo punico et asparago cibum carpant solum, ex olea arbore ceram, e fico mel, sed non bonum. 25 Duplex ministerium praeberi, ut e faba, apiastro, cucurbita, brassica ceram et cibum; nec non aliter duplex quod fit e malo et piris silvestribus, cibum et mel; item aliter duplex quod e papavere, ceram et mel. Triplex ministerium quoque fieri, ut ex nuce Graeca et e lapsano cibum, mel, ceram. Item ex aliis floribus ita carpere, ut alia ad singulas res sumant, alia ad plures, 26 nec non etiam aliut discrimen sequantur in carptura aut eas sequatur, ut in melle, quod ex alia re faciant liquidum mel, ut e siserae flore, ex alia contra spissum, ut e rore marino; sic ex alia re, ut e fico mel insuave, e cytiso bonum, e thymo optimum. 27 Cibi pars quod potio et ea iis aqua liquida, unde bibant esse oportet, eamque propinquam, quae praeterfluat aut in aliquem lacum influat, ita ut ne altitudine escendat duo aut tres digitos; in qua aqua iaceant testae aut lapilli, ita ut extent paulum, ubi adsidere et bibere possint. In quo diligenter habenda cura ut aqua sit pura, quod ad mellificium bonum vehementer prodest. 28 Quod non omnis tempestas ad pastum prodire longius patitur, praeparandus his cibus, ne tum melle cogantur solo vivere aut relinquere exinanitas alvos. Igitur ficorum pinguium circiter decem pondo decoquont in aquae congiis sex, quas coctas in offas prope apponunt. Alii aquam mulsam in vasculis prope ut sit curant, in quae addunt lanam puram, per quam sugant, uno tempore ne potu nimium impleantur aut ne incidant in aquam. Singula vasa ponunt ad alvos, haec supplentur. Alii uvam passam et ficum cum pisierunt, affundunt sapam atque ex eo factas offas apponunt ibi, quo foras hieme in pabulum procedere tamen possint.

29 Cum examen exiturum est, quod fieri solet, cum adnatae prospere sunt multae ac progeniem ut coloniam emittere volunt, ut olim crebro Sabini factitaverunt propter multitudinem liberorum, huius quod duo solent praeire signa, scitur: unum, quod superioribus diebus, maxime vespertinis, multae ante foramen 30 ut uvae aliae ex aliis pendent conglobatae; alterum, quod, cum iam evolaturae sunt aut etiam inceperunt, consonant vehementer, proinde ut milites faciunt, cum castra movent. Quae primum exierunt, in conspectu volitant reliquas, quae nondum congregatae sunt, respectantes, dum conveniant. A mellario cum id fecisse sunt animadversae, iaciundo in eas pulvere et circumtinniendo aere perterritae, 31 quo volunt perducere, non longe inde oblinunt erithace atque apiastro ceterisque rebus, quibus delectantur. Ubi consederunt, afferunt alvum eisdem inliciis litam intus et prope apposita fumo leni circumdato cogunt eas intrare. Quae in novam coloniam cum introierunt, permanent adeo libenter, ut etiam si proximam posueris illam alvum, unde exierunt, tamen novo domicilio potius sint contentae.

32 Quod ad pastiones pertinere sum ratus quoniam dixi, nunc iam, quoius causa adhibetur ea cura, de fructu dicam. Eximendorum favorum signum sumunt ex ipsis † uiris alvos habeat nem congerminarit † coniecturam capiunt, si intus faciunt bombum et, cum intro eunt ac foras, trepidant et si, opercula alvorum cum remoris, favorum foramina obducta videntur membranis, cum sint repleti melle. 33 In eximendo quidam dicunt oportere ita ut novem partes tollere, decumam relinquere; quod si omne eximas, fore ut discedant. Alii hoc plus relincunt, quam dixi. Ut in aratis qui faciunt restibiles segetes, plus tollunt frumenti ex intervallis, sic in alvis, si non quotannis eximas aut non aeque multum, et magis his assiduas habeas apes et magis fructuosas. 34 Eximendorum favorum primum putant esse tempus vergiliarum exortu, secundum aestate acta, antequam totus exoriatur arcturus, tertium post vergiliarum occasum, et ita, si fecunda sit alvos, ut ne plus tertia pars eximatur mellis, reliquum ut hiemationi relinquatur; sin alvus non sit fertilis, ne quid eximatur. Exemptio cum est maior, neque universam neque palam facere oportet, ne deficiant animum. Favi qui eximuntur, siqua pars nihil habet aut habet incunatum, cultello praesicatur. 35 Providendum ne infirmiores a valentioribus opprimantur, eo enim minuitur fructus; itaque imbecilliores secretas subiciunt sub alterum regem. Quae crebrius inter se pugnabunt, aspargi eas oportet aqua mulsa. Quo facto non modo desistunt pugna, sed etiam conferciunt se lingentes, eo magis, si mulso sunt asparsae, quo propter odorem avidius applicant se atque obstupescunt potantes. 36 Si ex alvo minus frequentes evadunt ac subsidit aliqua pars, subfumigandum et prope apponendum bene olentium herbam maxime apiastrum et thymum. 37 Providendum vehementer ne propter aestum aut propter frigus dispereant. Si quando subito imbri in pastu sunt oppressae aut frigore subito, antequam ipsae providerint id fore, quod accidit raro ut decipiantur, et imbris guttis uberibus offensae iacent prostratae, ut efflictae, colligendum eas in vas aliquod et reponendum in tecto loco ac tepido, proximo die quam maxime tempestate bona cinere facto e ficulneis lignis infriandum paulo plus caldo quam tepidiore. Deinde concutiendum leviter ipso vaso, ut manu non tangas, et ponendae in sole. 38 Quae enim sic concaluerunt, restituunt se ac revivescunt, ut solet similiter fieri in muscis aqua necatis. Hoc faciendum secundum alvos, ut reconciliatae ad suum quaeque opus et domicilium redeant.

   
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