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Widespread, but particular noted for a huge variety found in the gardens of Beorn in the Vales of Anduin
Various species of the genus Apis1
From Old English beo2


About this entry:

  • Updated 15 May 2021
  • This entry is complete


Honey-making insects

Buzzing domestic insects kept for their ability to make honey. Particularly famous were those of Beorn, which he kept in straw-roofed hives, and which reached an enormous size. Beorn's liking for honey was no doubt due to his bear-nature, and indeed his name partly derives from béo, an old word for 'bee'.

It's clear that bees lived far afield in Middle-earth, but our other encounters with them are mainly in the form of metaphors and allusions: for example, the aroma of the healing herb athelas was said to recall the smell of heather on a summer's day busy with bees. Hobbits were said to be able to mirror the industry of bees, too, when the need arose. More ominously, the outlaws of the Gaurwaith likened their prey among the Woodmen to hive-bees: when angered and banded together, they made a formidable foe.



Actually, the total number of different species of bees of all kinds (that is, members of the family Apidae) approaches six thousand, but given that the bees described in Beorn's garden were kept for making honey, they would presumably have belonged to the genus of honey bees, Apis. Apis mellifera is the most familiar honey bee, but Beorn's bees were described as unusually large, and so potentially represented an unknown kind of bee.


Old English beo reflects a connection between Beorn and his extraordinary bees. The name Beorn originally meant 'bear', which derives in turn from beo 'bee' because of the great fondness of bears for honey. Indeed, according to Gandalf, Beorn the skin-changer ate little besides cream and honey.

See also...

Clover, Hornets, Wasps


About this entry:

  • Updated 15 May 2021
  • This entry is complete

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