We go to the village of Yunquera were the beehives are situated in the outskirts of town. Once there we dress up with the obligatory protection suits in order to be able to approach the beehives and to receive a broad and detailed introduction to beekeeping, its history and the collection of honey. The group will see how the bees are calmed down so we can open the hives and collect the honey – if the season permits it.
The experience of being surrounded by these friendly, hardworking and peaceful insects, to break into their home and see the results of their hard daily work and to discover the perfect organization of their society leaves no one indifferent. The suits make us look like astronauts but it gives us a reassuring sense of security and the constant humming sound of the bees has a calming effect that is essential to approach these animals. In order to avoid disturbing and frightening them too much we split the group so that only 5 to 6 persons approach the hive at once.
Obviously the flavour and colour of the honey depends a lot of the flowers and plants that grow around the beehives. Therefore we will learn a lot about the flora and the crops of the Sierra de las Nieves, which determine the aroma of the final product.
Since immemorial times man takes advantage of the bees and their products – as we are not only talking about honey but also about pollen, royal jelly, wax and all other products used by the beekeeper and which are usually unknown to the general public.
The first evidence of the use of bees by the Egyptians in their hieroglyphics dates back to 2500 B.C.. However, it’s in the year 1500 B.C., when the Hittite left the first written evidence of beekeeping.
In Spain the first manuscript on the importance of beekeeping dates back to 1100 B.C. and is from the so called Tartessos Empire, based in Andalusia. The cultivation of the beehives was so important that in the first century A.C. the writer from Cadiz called Columella described in detail the beekeeping at the time. He also referred to the handling and usage of the hives.
Subsequently, this culture is maintained by the Arabs, who used honey as a main component in many of their dishes and desserts.
The Christian king Alfonso X originates the first ordinances about beekeeping. Until the 18th century we are talking about a traditional beekeeping. In the sixteenth century MENDEZ DE TORRES wrote the first textbook on beekeeping in Spain and also establishes how the bees reproduce.
From this century onwards and due to new scientific and biological discoveries mankind reaches a deeper understanding about the behaviour of the bees and the swarm in general. Together with the invention of the mobile apiaries (by Langtroth in 1895) and further investigations of the bees all this knowledge finally leads to an industrial beekeeping, which guarantees the quality and quantity of the honey throughout the year.
Today we would have serious problems if the bees disappeared, since they are primarily responsible for the fertilization of our staple foods, vegetables and fruits – an importance that is in general badly underestimated.
During this visit we recover all the wisdom that mankind accumulated during thousands of years about the bees and the properties of their products, as we are not talking only about the famous amber coloured syrup.
This activity is usually combined with a visit to the village in order to know more about some of the most emblematic corners, streets and personalities of Yunquera until we get to the wine cellar “El Porfin”, where we will taste different types of honey with the corresponding explanations.
In order to change the sweet taste in our mouth we can finish the visit with a the tasting of another typical product of this region – the local wine, here popularly called “must” – accompanied by some “tapas”. Afterwards we return to the vehicles.