And your Lord inspired the bee, saying, ‘Build yourselves houses in the mountains and trees and what people construct.’ (16:68)
One of the numerous highlights from this blessed Makkan journey was visiting two apiaries in desert areas north of Makkah.
Having kept bees ‘way back when’ rekindled the great memories associated with working with hives. While watching these tiny insects up close once again, sent the Iman soaring! The intricate and fascinating details of their society is awesome, not to mention the miraculous healing properties of the honey, the elixir of life, SubhanAllah! SubhanAllah! SubhanAllah!
From the road one merely sees what looks like tattered covers, over table like structures, flapping in the brisk wind. This area is obviously a conducive place for bee farms as there were many along what was the old road to Madinah, between Jamoun and ‘Usfan. The little vegetation seen was sparse, so where the bees actually go seems a mystery. Allahu Akbar, such is His Greatness!
The first farm we drove into was very basic with dilapidated hive boxes and no sign that the apiarist lived on the sight. He did not have any honey for us to try saying his bees were just beginning to form their hives, but he was very welcoming and eager to show us his simple farm and inviting us to drink tea on a sandy carpet spread beside his ‘flock’.
Older style boxes, some with thick wads of foam wedged into the door as insulation during the cooler months, with tarpaulins protecting the stacks.
A discarded circular barrel shaped container for the hive. The desolate, arid landscape just visible in the background.
‘Then feed on all kinds of fruit and follow the ways made easy for you by your Lord.’ From their bellies comes a drink of different colours in which there is healing for people. (16:69)
With this method the bees are free to ‘design’ their own comb shapes. The precision and engineering makes man made structures seem flimsy and awkward.
The comb is composed of hexagonal cells, which are paper thin walls but support 25 times their own weight. Experts say that any shape other than hexagonal would not support the heavy honey, SubhanAllah! To produce half a kilo of wax, the bees have to digest five kilograms of honey!
In about another month, Insha’Allah, the box will be full of comb dripping with honey and almost ready for extraction.
The Yemeni apiarist was delighted to show us his ‘farm’, and have his photo taken! explaining that his hives were not producing honey yet due to the winter season, all action was on building the waxy comb.
Sometimes mud is used to seal the doors.
These were rectangular boxes in the second farm we stopped at. This method is more geared to commercial production, but this farm also had the smaller frame-less boxes, as seen below.
These removable frames are fitted with ready-made comb foundations, that are wax sheets with imprints of honey cells on them. In this way, the colony expands faster and produces more honey.
Rows and rows ready for more hives.
Ali, the apiarist lived beside his bees in a humble one room tent structure which was his basic kitchen, bedroom, living room and storage space for several 20 gallon containers. This was his water ‘tank’, a flattened balloon! The conditions were harsh as the wind blew sand everywhere.
He had three varieties of honey which we sampled, including the local Sedr, the best of honeys for healing, produced from the flowers of ilb (Ziziphus spina Christi and here)
All were exceptionally delicious, with the Sedr being SR300 for a kilo, which is a good price compared to what one pays in retail outlets.
Busy busy bees!!! The workers never stop. A bee strokes its wings 11,400 times per minute! They have a lifespan between 28 and 35 days in summer, but longer in winter when they do not work themselves to death. They communicate by dancing (pdf file details, and more) and releasing pheromones (more here and here) The female worker produces only one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime. A worker will visit between fifty and 100 flowers in a day and return with over half her weight in pollen and nectar. To make 500grams of honey, workers in a hive collectively fly more than 34,000 kilometres and tap more than two million flowers. The yellow seen on the above frame are the wax-capped cells of honey, indicating that the honey in that cell is ripe, meaning that the workers have fanned the nectar deposited in the cells creating a draft that is necessary for evaporating the moisture from the nectar. A colony can have from 60,000 to 200,000 workers!
The male drones do not do any work in the hive, they are designed for procreation purposes only.
Ali looking for the queen bee after smoking the hive ( He simply lit the frayed end of a rolled up piece of hessian bag, dredging it in the sand when he finished ) and wearing this protective head piece. He follows his father and grandfather in this profession.
Finally she was spotted, the central one with the longer golden abdomen.She was surrounded by her guards, but Ali gently put her on his finger to isolate her so we could see how she differs from the workers and the fat stubby drones. The queen lays up to 200,000 eggs in a year.
Our Esteemed Lady Aishah RadhiAllahu anha narrated: Allah’s Apostle SallAllahu alaihi wasallam used to love sweet edible things and honey.
Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas RadhiAllahu anhu: The Prophet SallAllahu alaihi wasallam said, “Healing is in three things: cupping, a gulp of honey or cauterization, (branding with fire) but I forbid my followers to use cauterization “
Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri RadhiAllahu anhu: A man came to the Prophet SallAllahu alaihi wasallamand said, “My brother has some abdominal trouble.” The Prophet said to him “Let him drink honey.” The man came for the second time and the Prophet said to him, ‘Let him drink honey.” He came for the third time and the Prophet said, “Let him drink honey.” He returned again and said, “I have done that ‘ The Prophet then said, “Allah has said the truth, but your brother’s abdomen has told a lie. Let him drink honey.” So he made him drink honey and he was cured.
Narrated Abu Hurairah RadhiAllahu anhu: I used to accompany Allah’s Apostle SallAllahu alaihi wasallam to fill my stomach; and that was when I did not eat baked bread, nor wear silk. Neither a male nor a female slave used to serve me, and I used to bind stones over my belly and ask somebody to recite a Quranic Verse for me though I knew it, so that he might take me to his house and feed me. Ja’far bin Abi Talib RadhiAllahu anhu was very kind to the poor, and he used to take us and feed us with what ever was available in his house, (and if nothing was available), he used to give us the empty (honey or butter) skin which we would tear and lick whatever was in it.
There truly is a sign in this for those who think. (16:69)
All good is from Allah Ta’ala whereas mistakes are from this humble speck. May Allah Ta’ala Bless all readers, bringing you all closer to Him and His Rasul SallAllahu alaihi wasallam. May He accept our humble efforts and grant us the capacity to be good and do good. Ameen.