Twenty-first century beekeepers know that using a bellows to gently blow smoke on a beehive makes it easier to harvest the honey without getting stung by hundreds of furious insects. Smoke is thought to sedate the bees while the honey heist takes place.
It’s not exactly a new strategy. An article from The New York Times on August 9 analyzed the impact of early humans’ ability to build fires. On the plus side, for example, fire allowed people to keep warm, socialize together around the hearth, and eat cooked rather than raw food. On the negative side, some scientists contend that fires allowed certain diseases, including tuberculosis, to spread more easily among people huddled in close contact around their fireplaces. The illustration that accompanied the article showed a cave painting thought to have been done 15,000 years ago in Spain which depicts a person holding a lit torch in one hand to smoke a beehive. In the other hand is a sac presumably used to hold the purloined honey.
Below is a photo of the cave painting, although not the one used by the Times.