According to …

… Tickner Edwards, discussing the ancient myth that honey bees emerged spontaneously from the rotting carcasses of dead oxen, in his 1908 book The Lore of the Honey Bee:

“It is on record that the experiment was carried through with complete success by a certain Mr. Carew, of Anthony, in Cornwall. The practice, moreover, was of infinitely great antiquity than even Virgil supposed. He was probably right in giving it an Egyptian origin, and this alone may date it back thousands of years. In Egypt the custom had a curious variant. The ox was placed underground, with its horns above the surface of the soil. Then, when the process of generation was presumed to be complete, the tips of the horns were sawn
off, and the bees are said to have issued from them, as out of two funnels.

Nearly all the ancient writers, with the exception of Aristotle, mention the practice in some form or other. Varro, writing half a century before Virgil, says, ‘it is from rotten oxen that are born the sweet bees, the mothers of honey.’ Ovid gives the story of the Egyptian shepherd Aristaeus as enlarged upon by Virgil, and adds some speculations of his own. He suggests that the soul of the ox is converted into numberless bee-souls as a punishment to the ox for his lifelong depredations amongst the flowers and herbage, the bee being a creature that can only do good to, and cannot injure, vegetation.”

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