- BEE (Heb. דְּבוֹרָה). Beekeeping was practiced early in the Mediterranean region. However, there is no reference to it in the Bible where the bee is mentioned only four times and only once in connection with honey (Judg. 14:9). References to bees stinging those who approach them (Deut. 1:44; Ps. 118:12) may refer to the gathering of wild honeycombs, and the finding of honey is mentioned (I Sam. 14:25; Prov. 16:4). Bees swarm when the land is desolate and untilled, so that a child will then eat "butter and honey" (Isa. 7:22). On the other hand, the honey of "a land flowing with milk and honey" (Deut. 8:8) is date honey according to the rabbis. There are frequent references to beekeeping in the talmudic era. The rabbis give detailed accounts of the beehives which were made of wicker and attached to the ground with clay (Oho. 8:1; Uk. 3:10) and discuss the number of honeycombs which it was permitted to take from the hives in the case of a man who acquires them for one year only (BB 5:3). Bee honey is permitted as food and the rule "that which derives from the unclean is itself unclean" does not apply to it. The reason adduced is that the bee does not produce the honey but sucks it from the flowers and discharges it through the mouth (Bek. 7b). The bee referred to is the Apis mellifica whose sting is especially acute. For this reason in recent times the Italian species Apis ligustica, which is easier to handle, has been introduced into Israel. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Lewysohn, Zool, 301; Dalman, Arbeit, 7 (1942), 291 ff.; F.S. Bodenheimer, Ha-Ḥai be-Arẓot ha-Mikra, 2 (1956), index; J. Feliks, Animal World of the Bible (1962), 120. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Feliks, Ha-Ẓome'aḥ, 215. (Jehuda Feliks)
Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.