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Widespread exploitation of the honeybee by early Neolithic farmers [Nature]

Keywords : palaeoecology, waxes

par Frédéric Magné - publié le

The pressures on honeybee (Apis mellifera) populations, resulting from threats by modern pesticides, parasites, predators and diseases, have raised awareness of the economic importance and critical role this insect plays in agricultural societies across the globe. However, the association of humans with A. mellifera predates post-industrial-revolution agriculture, as evidenced by the widespread presence of ancient Egyptian bee iconography dating to the Old Kingdom (approximately 2400 bc)1. There are also indications of Stone Age people harvesting bee products ; for example, honey hunting is interpreted from rock art2 in a prehistoric Holocene context and a beeswax find in a pre-agriculturalist site3. However, when and where the regular association of A. mellifera with agriculturalists emerged is unknown4. One of the major products of A. mellifera is beeswax, which is composed of a complex suite of lipids including n-alkanes, n-alkanoic acids and fatty acyl wax esters. The composition is highly constant as it is determined genetically through the insect’s biochemistry.(...)

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