'Tanging' the bees

Engraving from Dutch book

In this late 17th-century engraving from a book printed in Amsterdam, a swarm can be seen coming out of one of the straw hives or 'skeps' in the middle of the picture. A beekeeper stands to the right and hits what looks like a metal pan or drum in a procedure known as 'tanging'. Tanging would alert the neighbourhood that bees are swarming and its rhythmic sound would help coax the bees into the overturned hive in the foreground. This empty hive would also have been lined with honey in order to entice the bees to take up residence within it.

Tanging was also a way for a beekeeper to alert other beekeepers that a claim was being made on a found swarm. Acquiring new bees by laying claim to a swarm was important, as it was routine at this time for beekeepers to asphyxiate their bees with fumes from burning sulphur in order to access the honeycomb safely.

Image: 'Den Naarstigen byen-houder, onderregtende hoe men met nut en profijt de Byen regeeren en onderhouden sal: als mede hoedanigh men honingh en wasch, op een korte en bequame manier sal vergaderen, bereyden en suyveren'. Amsterdam, [1669?]. [NLS shelfmark: MRB.181]

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