HONEYBEES IN WARFARE
The Greek soldier Xenophon (born 430
BC) reports that while Greek soldiers were looting
villages near Trapezus, Turkey, they "found" some
honeybee hives. After the soldiers had stolen and eaten
the honey, they lost their senses and were stricken with
vomiting and purging. Later the Heptakometes used the
same type of poisoned honey to drive the Roman soldiers
serving under Pompey insane, then attacked and killed
them all when they were defenseless. The honey used was
made from the nectar of Rhododendron ponticum and/or
Azalea puntica. In both cases the locals were eventually
subjugated and forced to pay taxes (is their another
reason for "central authority"?), but they were
prohibited from paying their taxes with honey. And
history repeats itself again.
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Swarms of bees can be induced to
settle into large clay jars called amphorae. These sturdy
beehives were loaded into catapults by the Romans and
launched into walled fortresses or into massed
In the 11th Century, Irnmo, general of
Emperor Henry I, threw beehives from cliffs onto the
attacking troops of Geiselbert, Duke of Lorraine. The
citizens of Gussing, Hungary used the same technique in
1289 against the troops of Albert, Duke of Austria. In
1642, during the Thirty Years War, a beekeeper in
Kissengen, Germany named Peter Heil threw his skeps among
the horses of the attacking Swedish army under the
command of General Reichwald, stopping a siege of the
Also during the Thirty Years War bees
saved the town of Beyenburgen, Prussia (now Germany).
Soldiers returning from a battle passed through a
defenseless town and found a nunnery. Rather suspecting
the soldiers had less-than-noble intentions, the nuns
quickly overturned the skeps surrounding their nunnery
and hid inside. The marauding soldiers left, and the town
was renamed Beyenburg ("Beyen" = Bees) in honor of the
defenders of the town.
St. Gosnata lived in Ballyvourney,
County Cork, Ireland, during the 6th Century, and was the
patron saint of bees. She is credited with starting the
practice in old England of placing skeps in and on castle
walls to deter invaders.
In WW I, German soldiers rigged a
number of beehives in Tanga, East Africa, with tripwires
and mild explosives. Advancing British troops triggered
the hives and many were quickly incapacitated.
In 1933, an old beekeeper was
assaulted in his apiary but defended himself the easy
way. The badly-stung would-be robbers were easy to
identify and prosecute! During the height of the Cold
War, Austrian authorities arrested an East German spy,
one Otto Wiltschko, who had posed as a beekeeper near an
airfield at Freidstadt. The bees were intended to keep
away curious onlookers, and one hive had a hidden radio
transmitter while another hive hid the receiver!
In WW II, Belgian soldiers trapped in
a bee house escaped by throwing frames of bees at
attacking German soldiers.
Beehives can also be used as safes!
The Roman poet Virgil hid his valuables in his beehives
to protect them from marauding "tax" collectors. Modern
Langstroth deep hive bodies would be ideal for this
purpose. For small cavities which could be easily sealed,
division board feeders could be used, or even the two
outside frames on each side could be walled off with thin
plywood to make larger "safes." A deep body could be
placed over a fake bottom board, topped with another
bottom board, and the entire hive body used as a