The Apiary

28 Mar

We were walking a road built by the Romans when they occupied Malta during the time of the Punic Wars. Going up some crumbling stone steps off the main path we came upon this sign.

Those of you who know me may know I used to be a beekeeper in Upstate New York. I worked in an apiary with 4000 hives. It was one of my favorite jobs. We took the honey to local farmers’ markets, made candles, had a demonstration hive that was for kids, mostly. Now here I was with the chance to see a Roman apiary over 2000 years old.

The stones were beautifully and uniformly hollowed to make arched chambers for the bees to build their combs. I imagined the smaller holes near the doorways as breeding chambers for queen bees. I must do some research to find out if that is true.

The combs would have hung in vertical panels side-by-side from the ceilings of the chambers, created as the bees worked the wax in their linear and uniform fashion from cell to cell. Most convenient as the beekeepers could reach in and slice the combs from the ceiling, not disturbing the liquid honey in the capped cells.

The smell in this bee yard must have been intoxicating when it was in full production. What a privilege to see this and feel I have been a part of an ancient tradition and craft…gratifying.

4 Responses to “The Apiary”

  1. Jon March 28, 2017 at 12:05 pm #

    this discovery is very cool. Did you find any birds in the chambers?

  2. faltan March 28, 2017 at 1:26 am #

    Now THAT…is called making a connection…terrific

    • Jill March 28, 2017 at 1:29 am #

      The sense memory of the smell of honey was so strong I swore I could smell it here.

    • Jill March 28, 2017 at 1:42 pm #

      Not a one Jon. But the bee yard was very clean. I expect they clean the chambers regularly.

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