Bees in Judaism and Christianity
Bees and honey are mentioned widely in the Bible and clearly have significance in Judaism and Christianity.
In Judaism, their symbolic role can, for example, be seen in the celebration of Rosh Hashana. On the eve of the holiday it is customary to eat symbolic foods which may include dipping challah (leavened bread) and an apple into honey. This can symbolise the hopes for a happy and healthy new year.
In Christianity, the bee has historically been seen as a symbol of Jesus Christ’s attributes. The honey reflecting his sweet and gentle character, whilst the sting pertaining to justice and the cross.
There are four mentions of bees in the Bible (Deuteronomy 1:44, Judges 14:8, Psalm 118:12, Isaiah 7:18). In one of these mentions, in the story of Samson, the reference of bees relates also to honey
‘After some days he returned to take her. And he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion, and behold, there was a swarm of bees in the body of the lion, and honey.’ Judges 14:8
The three other passages refer to the power of bees:
‘Then the Amorites who lived in that hill country came out against you and chased you as bees do and beat you down in Seir as far as Hormah.’ Deuteronomy 1:44
‘They surrounded me like bees; they went out like a fire among thorns; in the name of the Lord I cut them off!’ Psalm 118:12
‘In that day the Lord will whistle for the fly that is at the end of the streams of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.’ Isaiah 7:18
There are many references to honey in the Bible. These emphasise the health benefits of honey:
‘My son, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste.’ Proverbs 24:13
They also refer to the pleasurable aspects of eating honey:
‘And when the people entered the forest, behold, the honey was dropping, but no one put his hand to his mouth, for the people feared the oath. But Jonathan had not heard his father charge the people with the oath, so he put out the tip of the staff that was in his hand and dipped it in the honeycomb and put his hand to his mouth, and his eyes became bright.’ 1 Samuel 14:26-27
And they advise to eat in moderation:
‘It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory.’ Proverbs 25:27
‘One who is full loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet.’ Proverbs 27:7
Bees in Islam
Chapter 16 of the Quran, believed by Muslims to be the revelation of God, is called ‘The Bee’. The specific reference to the bees is in verse 68 (the translation by M.A.S Abdel Haleem (Oxford University Press) is used throughout):
‘… your Lord inspired the bee, saying ‘Build yourselves houses in the mountains and trees and what people construct. 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. There truly is a sign in this for those who think.’ The Bee 16:68
Interestingly, the words relating to the worker bees are grammatically assigned the female gender throughout (as they should be!). Even several hundred years later, the correct assignment of gender, as we discussed in the last article was mistaken.
Honey is also mentioned in the context of paradise:
‘Here is a picture of the Garden promised to the pious: rivers of water forever pure, rivers of milk forever fresh, rivers of wine, a delight for those who drink, rivers of honey clarified and pure, [all] flow in it; there they will find fruit of every kind; and they will find forgiveness from their Lord.’ Muhammad 47:15
The healing characteristic of bees is also emphasized in the Hadith (sayings of the Prophet):
‘A man came to the Prophet and said, “My brother has some abdominal trouble.” The Prophet said to him “Let him drink honey.” The man came for a second time and the Prophet said to him, “Let him drink honey.” He came for a third time and the Prophet said, “Let him drink honey.” He returned again and said, “I have done that.” The Prophet then said, “God 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 by Abu Said Al-Khudri
Bees in Other religions
In Hinduisim early Hindu Vedic scriptures, as old as 1500 BC, have references to pollen and honey which it refers to as:
“the nectar of the Sun”
In the Hindu scripture Srimad Mahabhagavatam, it states:
“Like a honey bee gathering honey from all type of flowers the wise men search every where for truth and sees only good in all religions.”
Honey is also one of the ingredients of Panchamrit ‘the five Nectars’ which also include milk, sugar, ghee, and buttermilk.
In Buddhism, honey is important in the festival of Madhu Purnima. This commemorates the Buddha making peace between two disputing factions of disciples by retreating into the wilderness. The legend is that during this time, an elephant brought him fruit and a monkey brought honeycomb. The monkey, so excited by the Buddha’s acceptance of his gift, jumped from tree to tree and fell to his death. But because of his generosity, he is reborn in Tavatimsa (second heaven). Buddhists observe this festival by bringing gifts of honey and fruit to the monasteries.
Most willow species grow and thrive close to water or in damp places, and this theme is reflected in the legends and magic associated with these trees. The moon too recurs as a theme, the movement of water being intimately bound up with and affected by the moon. For example, Hecate the powerful Greek goddess of the moon and of willow, also taught sorcery and witchcraft, and was ‘a mighty and formidable divinity of the Underworld’.
During the 16th and 17th centuries the association became particular to grief suffered by forsaken lovers, who also adopted the custom of wearing a cap or crown made of willow twigs and leaves. By the nineteenth century illustrations of weeping willows were commonly used as ornaments on gravestones and mourning cards. Willow boughs were also used to decorate churches in Britain on Palm Sunday instead of largely unavailable palm leaves.
Young willow twigs were also chewed to relieve pain. In the early nineteenth century modern science isolated the active ingredient responsible, salicylic acid, which was also found in the meadowsweet plant. From this the world’s first synthetic drug, acetylasylic acid, was developed and marketed as Aspirin, named after the old botanical name for meadowsweet, Spirea ulmaria.
by Paul Kendall
The Yew has been the subject of myths, legends and Acts of Parliament. It has become part of religious beliefs and is featured in a wealth of literary material. The Yew has also been used as a marker in the landscape because of its exceptional longevity.
Probably the most profound way in which trees are regarded is by their association with mythology. Trees bewitch us and offer a sense of mystery, and our association of known myths with particular trees fuels this. This association takes place not only on a species level but also in geographical terms, with individual trees. In mythology, trees take on magical powers and become the centre of our fascination.
The virus restrictions have altered people's attitudes to the natural world with 58% of us now venturing outside to green and natural spaces
82% planning to continue to do so.
53% of people surveyed are noticing more British wildlife than they did before lockdown.
92% said they worry about the consequences of the decrease in biodiversity in the UK.
43% picked up litter when they saw it helping to limit the impact of natural habitats.
41% said they had been teaching their children about nature more frequently since the beginning of the pandemic.
90% of participants in the study how to fix this to gardens Luton found comfort in gardening
Hibernation is nature’s ingenious solution for creatures unable to generate enough heat to survive the cold winter months.
Underground, or tucked into wood piles, warm-blooded animals can slow their metabolisms right down by lowering heart rate and temperature, and thus live on their stores of fat until the spring.
I in the UK there are only three types of mammal who do so: hedgehogs, dormice and bats -although there are insects who behave in the same way- But there are certain UK species, like frogs, slowworms and toads, which have periods of torpor, but reawaken on warmer days to continue to feed.
Hibernation of Hedgehogs
Hedgehogs hibernate when their food sources, such as slugs and caterpillars, become scarce in the colder months. Image by Laurie Campbell
Hedgehogs hibernate (if they are fat enough – young hedgehogs need to weigh around 550g, older hedgehogs need to weigh more) when their food sources, such as slugs and caterpillars, become scarce in the colder months.
During hibernation a hedgehog’s heart rate will slow from around 190 beats per minute to a mere 20 bpm, causing their body temperature to drop around 25 degrees! Breathing is also slowed, as they only require around one breath every few minutes to supply oxygen to their slow system.
The exact time for hibernation varies from year to year, depending on how early the temperature drops, although it’s generally from November to March. According to the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (http://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/) hedgehogs often wake up several times during the winter, and they recommend offering food and water to any you happen to see.
As winter approaches resulting colder months, well-stocked bird feeders help to supplement birds’ food when it’s in short supply. High-fat foods and water are in need during this time so adding a bird feeder to your garden can vastly increase the number of birds you will see.
regularlly topping up the bird feeder, the same birds will continue to return as they learn your garden is a good source of food.puchasing bird cakes, seeds,and mealworms are all good options and supplying a variety of foods is a good way of attracting a range of birds to your garden.
But bird feeders are not only important for the winter. In the warmer months, birds will have new chicks and a consistent food supply will help ensure they are raised successfully.
Look out for some autumn colours amongst your garden insect life. Moths and butterflies at this time of year often have oranges, yellows and browns. The brimstone butterfly is a good example with its bright yellow colouration.
October sees the appearance of one of our most spectacularly named and beautiful moths – the Merveille de Jour. Translated, that means ‘wonder of the day’. It certainly will be if you’re lucky enough to discover one.
Look out for a new bee on the block: the ivy bee. This species is rapidly colonising the UK and spreading fast. They were first recorded in Dorset in 2001, not far from where this video was filmed at RSPB Arne.
Male house spiders are looking for love and may scuttle inside in search of a mate. You can tell a male by his long legs and boxing glove – like palps either side of his jaws. If you’re not keen on sharing your home with these amorous arachnids, gently trap them under a glass with a piece of card or paper slid underneath and release them outdoors, somewhere sheltered.
The berries in your garden are a feast for birds, while song thrushes and blackbirds become more noticeable, venturing onto lawns searching for worms and fallen fruit. Small flocks of greenfinches can be a common sight at bird tables, sometimes queuing up with chaffinches and sparrows to take a turn at feeders.
At this time of year, traditional countryside hedges are full of blackberries, elderberries, rosehips, haws and sloes, forming a supply of food for birds through the winter.