FAIR is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing well-documented answers to criticisms of the doctrine, practice, and history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Book of Mormon/Animals/Bees
Bees in the Book of Mormon
Summary: Among the supposed Book of Mormon anachronisms is the mention of “bees” (Ether 2:3)...It should be noted firstly that the Book of Mormon's use of the term "bees" occurs in an Old World (Jaredite) setting, it is never used in connection with the New World.
Jump to Subtopic:
- Question: Did the Jaredites bring swarms of bees across the ocean in their barges
- Padilla et al.: "The maya codex Tro-Cortesianus shows drawings of bees and parts of honey combs"
- Head: "The indigenous American bee is the melipona (a stingless bee). It produces only about one kilogram of honey per year"
- Ronan James Head, "A Brief Survey of Ancient Near Eastern Beekeeping"
Question: Did the Jaredites bring swarms of bees across the ocean in their barges?
The Book of Mormon states that the Jaredites carried swarms of bees with them to the seashore in the Old World
The Book of Mormon does not claim that the Jaredites carried honey bees to the New World. It does state that they carried swarms of honeybees with them to their encampment on the sea shore, where they spent the next four years as they built barges. This is entirely feasible.
There is only one reference to honeybees in the Book of Ether (Ether 2:3-4), and it talks of them being among the provisions that the people of Jared took with them as they traveled to the land of Moriancumer, where they spent the next four years. (Ether 2:13)
3 And they did also carry with them deseret, which, by interpretation, is a honey bee; and thus they did carry with them swarms of bees, and all manner of that which was upon the face of the land, seeds of every kind.
4 And it came to pass that when they had come down into the valley of Nimrod the Lord came down and talked with the brother of Jared; and he was in a cloud, and the brother of Jared saw him not.
5 And it came to pass that the Lord commanded them that they should ago forth into the wilderness, yea, into that quarter where there never had man been. And it came to pass that the Lord did go before them, and did talk with them as he stood in a cloud, and gave directions whither they should travel.
6 And it came to pass that they did travel in the wilderness, and did build barges, in which they did cross many waters, being directed continually by the hand of the Lord.
13 And now I proceed with my record; for behold, it came to pass that the Lord did bring Jared and his brethren forth even to that great sea which divideth the lands. And as they came to the sea they pitched their tents; and they called the name of the place Moriancumer; and they dwelt in tents, and dwelt in tents upon the seashore for the space of four years.
The Book of Mormon does not claim that the Jaredites carried honey bees to the New World
So, the Jaredites definitely carried swarms of bees with them to the place of the "great sea which divideth the lands," where they "dwelt in tents upon the seashore for the space of four years." Does this mean that the Jaredites carried the swarms of honey bees to the New World with them? The Book of Mormon does not state this. This does not preclude the possibility that they did.
Michael Ash notes,
Among the supposed Book of Mormon anachronisms is the mention of “bees” (Ether 2:3)...It should be noted firstly that the Book of Mormon's use of the term "bees" occurs in an Old World (Jaredite) setting, it is never used in connection with the New World, therefore the argument could simply end here. Did the Jaredites bring bees to the New World? We may never know. Some studies suggest, however, that bees were known in the ancient New World. Bruce Warren, for instance, notes that there “are many references in the Maya region to honey bees in ancient times, and these references occur in ritual contexts, i.e., are of native or pre-Spanish origin." Other New World scholars have observed that “not only was the domesticated bee in ancient America but that there were gods of bees and beekeepers . . . Honey was considered a real treat for the Indians. Equally important was black wax taken from the hives which was often traded for other commodities." 
Padilla et al.: "The maya codex Tro-Cortesianus shows drawings of bees and parts of honey combs"
Padilla et al:
In America some stingless bees were kept by the native population. The maya codex Tro-Cortesianus shows drawings of bees and parts of honey combs. Maya beekeepers worked in Yucatan and adjacent regions with the specie Mellipona beecheii, using horizontal logs with end enclosures of clay or stone. With the arrival of spanish colonizers the indians of Yucatan were obliged to pay tributes which consisted mainly of clothing (mostly blankets) and food, although they also allowed payment in wax and honey. 
Head: "The indigenous American bee is the melipona (a stingless bee). It produces only about one kilogram of honey per year"
Ronan James Head: 
The apis mellifera species was not found in the New World until it was imported from about the seventeenth century AD onward. The indigenous American bee is the melipona (a stingless bee). It produces only about one kilogram of honey per year (compared with apis mellifera, which can produce fifty kilograms). Nevertheless, pre-Columbian Americans did indeed have knowledge of beekeeping and made the most of the melipona. Cortés wrote to the king of Spain in 1519 about the extent of beekeeping among the Indians of Cozumel (Mexico):
The only trade which the Indians have is in bee hives, and our Procurators will bear to Your Highness specimens of the honey and the bee hives that you may commend them to be examined.
The earliest archaeological evidence for American apiculture comes from the Late Preclassic Maya period (ca. 300 BC–AD 300). Modern peasant apiculture in the Yucatán is reminiscent of Egyptian beekeeping: hives (often hollowed-out logs) are stacked vertically on a rack. The lost-wax technique was known in the New World,. and the ancient Maya pantheon included a bee god called Ah Mucan Cab..
Both the ancient world and contemporary traditional apiculture elicit some evidence for nomadic beekeeping, what the Germans call Wanderbienenzucht. Ancient hives (and modern Near Eastern peasant hives) were most often shaped like pipes or logs (where bees naturally swarm) and were made from pottery, wicker, mud, clay, and wood. All of these hives would be portable on pack animals and boats. Pliny the Elder (AD 23–79) describes the moving of hives along the River Po:Writing in 1740, a French traveler described migratory beekeeping in Egypt: at the end of October (the end of the flowering season in Upper Egypt), the hives were placed on boats and floated down the Nile. At places where plants were still in flower, the boats were halted and the bees allowed to forage. 
When food for bees is lacking in the immediate neighbourhood, the inhabitants put their hives in boats and take them by night five miles upstream. The bees emerge at dawn, feed and return every day to the boats. They change the position of the boats until they sink low in the water under the weight and it is realised that the hives are full. Then the boats are brought back and the honey harvested. 
See FairMormon Evidence:
More on bees in the Book of Mormon
- Further information on New World bees in a domestic context can be found in F. Padilla, F. Puerta, J. M. Flores and M. Bustos, "Bees, Apiculture and the New World," in Archivos de zootécnica, 41/154 (1992-extra): 563–567. PDF link
- Mike Ash, mormonfortress.com
- Padilla, F., F. Puerta, J.M. Flores and M. Bustos, "Abejas, Apicultura y el Nuevo Mundo" (Bees, Apiculture and the New World)," Archivos de zootecnia, vol. 41, núm. 154 (extra), p. 565 (Departamento de Ciencias Morfológicas. Facultad de Veterinaria. Universidad de Córdoba. 14005 Córdoba. España.)
- Roman James Head, "A Brief Survey of Ancient Near Eastern Beekeeping," FARMS Review 20/1 (2008): 57–66. off-site wiki
- Eva Crane, The Archaeology of Beekeeping (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983), 33.
- Eva Crane, The World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting (London: Duckworth, 1999)
- Charles F. Calkins, "Beekeeping in Yucatán: A Study in Historical-Cultural Zoogeography (PhD diss., University of Nebraska, 1974), as quoted in Crane, World History of Beekeeping, 292. Calkins cites the original translated source as Hernán Cortés, Letters of Cortés: The Five Letters of Relation from Fernando Cortes to the Emperor Charles V, trans. and ed. Francis A. MacNutt (New York: Putnam, 1908), 1:145.
- Head note that "The Inca and Aztec civilizations settled at altitudes too high for apiculture."
- Natural History XXI.43.75.
- Eva Crane, Archaeology of Beekeeping, 42