We're thrilled to introduce our new editorial intern, Christopher Li. Christopher is a student at Dougherty Valley High School and writer extraordinaire! Enjoy his first blog post for Planet Bee, and "bee" sure to keep a look out for more of his work over the coming months!
Did you know that honey bees, which are critical in the pollination of popular U.S. produce such as almonds, apples, and blueberries, are not native to the Americas? The honey bees that you see dancing from flower to flower in many farms and gardens actually originated in Europe!
The introduction of the honey bee began with European colonization of the Americas in the 17th century; before that, wild native bees, other insects, and some birds and mammals pollinated the native flowers of the continent. The honey bee's ability to pollinate crops, produce honey, and be easily domesticated allowed for the occupation of beekeeping to grow in the U.S.
Managed beehives were not only limited to the East Coast colonies where they were initially established but were also taken across the country during beekeepers’ journeys westward. Of course, natural bee migration played its role as well; when colonies would swarm, they would establish new hives up to 3 miles away. This westward migration occurred relatively gradually, with no reported sightings of honey bees beyond Kansas in 1843. Ultimately, it was the carrying of beehives by way of sea and the Isthmus of Panama that resulted in the successful development of the beekeeping industry in the west. This spread and development of beekeeping now forms the backbone of the production of many crops. Today, for example, the Californian almond industry is directly dependent on our buzzing gals.
No doubt, the spread of honey bees also came with the development of beekeeping technology within the U.S. An American apiarist named L.L. Langstroth created a method of beekeeping that is still used today. He invented a “bee box” that held multiple wooden rectangular frames. These frames were interchangeable, which allowed beekeepers to check on the condition of their bee colonies and monitor any parasites, viruses, or general issues within the colony. The design also allowed for the easy collection of honey by including natural space between the frames. Thus, honey could be collected without destroying the whole structure and disrupting the bees. We use Langstroth hives here at Planet Bee, and we think they are the bee's knees!
In summary, since its introduction to the U.S., beekeeping has evolved to be less dangerous and more reliable. honey bees have provided immeasurable services, including honey production and pollination of important crops. Thanks to scientific knowledge about bee behavior and modern beekeeping technologies, humans have never been better suited interact with bees. If you'd like to see what all the buzz around beekeeping is about, be sure to read Beekeeping 101.
Here’s to the sweet history of beekeeping!
Calderone, Nicholas. "Insect Pollinated Crops, Insect Pollinators and US Agriculture: Trend Analysis of Aggregate Data for the Period 1992-2009." PLoS One Vol. 7, Ed. 5. 2012. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3358326/
Oertel, Everett. "History of Beekeeping in the United States." Agricultural Handbook Number 335. 1980. http://beesource.com/resources/usda/history-of-beekeeping-in-the-united-states/
Walker, Donna. "The History of Beekeeping and Honey Bees in North America." Hearts Pest Management, Inc. 2012. https://www.heartspm.com/beekeeping-honey-bees-north-america.php
Written by Christopher Li
Planet Bee Editorial Intern