Apis Mellifera: the BEE-ginnings
In 2011, John and Liam, the founders of Apis Mercantile, started their first hives in a small backyard apiary. The first two hives on St Philip street in downtown Charleston, SC became the inspiration for what would eventually evolve into Apis Mercantile, a company focused on combining the best in hemp and hive ingredients. Each product line is connected through the use of hive ingredients, which represent the countless thousands of hours of productivity of the European honeybee, Apis mellifera, the namesake of the Apis Mercantile brand. The honeybee is a eusocial insect that has fascinated humankind for thousands of years, with the first evidence of domestication found in Turkey and North Africa dating back nearly 9,000 years.
Although humankind and honeybees have had a relatively short relationship, the origin of the honeybee predates their domestication by some tens of millions of years. It is thought that the first bees probably appeared around the same time as flowering plants in the Cretaceous period between 146 and 74 million years ago. Current theories suggest bees evolved from wasps, with Apis mellifera, the modern Western honeybee, evolving at a much later date. The honey bee likely originated in Eurasia or Africa and spread during warm periods following the ice age, establishing its domain from Asia through Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, and Africa.
Despite cave paintings depicting humans foraging for honey from feral bee hives have been found dating back 10,000 years, the first evidence of domestication of honey bees dates nearly 9,000 years ago. The most famous ancient beekeepers are perhaps the Ancient Egyptians, who refined the art of keeping bees with hives dating back nearly 6,000 years. The Ancient Egyptians attached great religious and political significance to the honey bee and used rafts along the Nile river to transport beehives the entire length of Ancient Egypt. The honey, propolis, and beeswax were used for a variety of applications in Egyptian society, and were utilized by all social classes. The widespread use of honey in Egyptian society across all social classes is indicative of its wide scale production; it was not a cost-prohibitive commodity, and it could be enjoyed by everyone, rich and poor.
As the honeybee spread and humans continued to domesticate honeybee colonies, honey became an important staple in the diets of humans spanning from Northern Europe to Asia and Africa. As Europeans continued to expand their global footprint and explore new worlds, they were sure to bring their hives with them. Bees belonging to the Apinae subfamily, or true honeybees like Apis mellifera, were not native to the continents of North and South America, but found themselves traveling months across the Atlantic to eventually establish their presence throughout the “New World.” Apis mellifera is not a native species in the Americas, but feral colonies have exploded since their introduction to the continents by European settlers.