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Honey Bees In The American Colonies

1086 words - 5 pages

Many people know very little about how honey bees have been apart of our history from colonial times. Why were honey bees important to the colonial beekeeper? How were the bees kept? Does beekeeping now, vary from what it was then? These are all questions that must be asked. The honey bee is a unique insect that has been apart of the history of our country for centuries. Beekeeping has changed over time yet many of the essential results of keeping honey bees are unchanged. Lets look at their similarities and differences.
The honey bee is not native to North America. In Notes on Virginia1 Thomas Jefferson stated: “The honey-bee is not a native of our continent. Marcgrove, indeed, ...view middle of the document...

The ‘white man’s fly’ influenced colonial America from the first time the bees arrived, in many significant ways.
Honey bees and their by-products were very important to colonists for many reasons. Primarily the use of honey; the bee’s number one product, was an excellent sweetener5 as sugar was an expensive commodity. Cakes and cornbread might have been enhanced by the presence of honey. The antibacterial properties may have been used medicinally in colonial homes as well. In the county of Essex, Massachusetts the year 1660 a stand of bees was assessed at five pounds;6 a large sum in those days. This proves that not only their yield of honey and wax, but also the honey bees themselves were greatly valued by the colonists. Used for candles, the wax was desirable because of its clean burn and non drip qualities.7 Other uses for it included waxing furniture, floors, harnesses and a multitude of other equipment. Pollination did not become a major focus until a much later time. The products honey bees produced were a key part of the colonist’s daily lives, very much like they are for us now.
Unlike Colonial America the focus of beekeeping today is on large scale pollination of agricultural crops. We still enjoy our honey and value many of the same products but beekeeping is an industry now. The private beekeeper is not the heart of beekeeping in the twenty-first century. We see business men with thousands of bee colonies pollinating hundreds of acres of fruits, nuts and vegetables all across the country; scientific men with the latest news on Colony Collapse Disorder, and all of it pointing to the beekeeping industry. The colonists were naturalist beekeepers, interested in the behavior of their bees,8 the honey and other bee by-products. Each veteran beekeeper that I spoke to said that the difference between what was important to colonial beekeepers and what is important to us now is pollination. “Pollination is more important today because of large farms and orchards: the commercial cop industry.” said Wayne Lemar, president of the La Crosse Area Beekeepers Association.9 With one half million colonies of bees pollinating pecan...

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