Climbing Trees with Honey Bees – Short History on Tree Beekeeping


Evidence dating back from the last Ice Age about 10,000 years ago, shows the first links between humans and the wild honey bee. As humans shifted from a hunter-gatherer society towards farming crops and domesticated animals, apiculture (beekeeping) was formed. During this period in time, humans shifted from hunting wild hives for honey to beekeeping domesticated hives. Ancient pottery dates beekeeping to about 9,000 years ago in Europe, East and North Africa.

Although the roots of Tree beekeeping only dates back over 1,000 years, it is considered one of the oldest methods of beekeeping traditionally practiced in the forests of Eastern Europe. Since wild bees in nature build nests high above the floor, beekeepers would replicate a natural hive by scaling trees and building cavities into it’s trunk.

Traditional tree keeping involved scaling trees and building hives inside the tree 9 meters above the ground

During the Middle Ages, an increase in demand for honey would spark a revolution in beekeeping, economics and politics. Since profits from beeswax and honey were worth more than 30 times the price of wood, the beekeeping industry became highly regulated and protected by Kings and city governments. Parcels of forest would be leased out to beekeepers and taxes would be paid in production of beeswax and honey. The wealthiest beekeeper would own more than 400 hives. By the middle of the nineteenth century, wars and industrial developments fueled the demand for wood and caused extensive bans on tree beekeeping. This resulted in the transition from beekeeping in live trees to log hives platformed on trees to log hives on the ground. As tree beekeeping largely disappeared by the end of the nineteenth century, Modern beekeeping methods emerged and dominated the industry.

A log hive attached to tree trunk ‘platform; in the Gruszki village on the edge of Bialowieza Forest in Poland

Ancient apiary with log hives scattered along the country side

Tune in next week for Kelley’s blog on types of modern day hives.

Interested in becoming a beekeeper? We are always encouraging others to pick up the practice as a hobby so we are offering hand-on backyard beekeeping education along with your very own backyard beehive. Learn more about our beehive sponsorship here.

Modern Day Hives:

Bees getting ready to swarm on a Top-Bar hive

Kelley Honey Farm Langstroth Hive

Warre style hives in France