THE introduction of the HONEY BEE into California was an important event, and engrossed a large share of public attention ; wherefore it is peculiarly appropriate to preserve as full a record of the transaction as possible.

The following letter from one of the earliest and most successful apiarists of this State, contains an authentic account of the introduction of the first bees into California, as well as the success attending their first five years' cultivation in San Jose* Valley.

SAN JOSE, Jan. llth, 1860. Mr. J. S. HARBISON,

Dear Sir : Yours of the 26th December, propounding certain inquiries, has been received.

The first bees imported into California was in March, 1853. Mr. Sbelton purchased a lot consisting of twelve swarms, of some person to me unknown, at Aspinwall. The party who left New York became disgusted with the experiment, and returned. All of the hives contained bees when landed in" San Francisco, but finally dwindled down to one. They were brought to San Jose and threw off three swarms the first season. Mr. Shelton was killed soon after his arrival, by the explosion of the ill-fated steamer Jenny Lind. In December, two of the swarms were sold at auction to settle up his estate and were bought by Major James W. Patrick, at $105 and $110, respectively. Mr. Wm. Buck imported the second lot in November, 1855. He left New York with thirty-six swarms and saved eighteen. I purchased a half-interest in them. I also, in the fall of 1854, bought one swarm of Major Patrick, from which I had an increase of two. Mr. Buck returned East immediately, and arrived in February, 1856, with forty-two swarms, of which he saved but seven. Our increase in 1856, from the twenty-eight swarms, was seventy-three ; we also had about 400 Ibs. of honey in boxes, which we sold at from $1.50 to $2.00 per Ib. Mr. Wm. Briggs, of San Jose, brought out, spring of 1856, one swarm, from which he had an increase of seven or eight swarms the following summer. The above were the only importations I know of prior to the year (spring) 1857, which covers the ground of your ii" quiries. There are in our county at this time, about one thousand swarms. Very respectfully, &c., F. G. APPLETON.

The first hive of bees ever in the SACRAMENTO VALLEY, was brought from San Jose* in the summer of 1855, by Mr. A. P. Smith, the eminent nurseryman of Sacramento ; they however soon died, which gave the impression that bees would not do well in this vicinity. In this belief I did not concur, and therefore took measures to test the matter further. In the fall of 1855, 1 sent East and had one hive of bees brought out, which arrived in Sacramento February the 1st, 1856. Though most of the bees had died or escaped from the hive during the passage enough remained to prove that by careful handling they could be imported with little loss, and that they would increase and make large quantities of honey when here. I left San Francisco May the 5th, 1857, on board the steamship Golden Gate, on my way East, for the purpose of preparing a stock of bees for shipping to California.

Sixty-seven colonies were prepared from my own apiaries, situated in Lawrence county, Pennsylvania. They were taken to New York, and shipped on board the steamer Northern Light, which sailed from that port November the 5th, bound for Aspinwall. The bees were put on board in good order, were placed on the hurricane deck,^ept well shaded and ventilated, and arrived at the latter port on the 15th of the same month, being ten days from port to port. Having arrived at Aspinwall in the forenoon, and ascertained that no passengers or freight would be sent forward before the next morning, I obtained permission to open the hives on the Company's grounds, and let the bees fly during that evening^ which greatly relieved them, and contributed to their health during the remainder of the voyage. The hives were closed up and placed on board the cars, crossed safely to Panama, and reshipped on board the steamer Sonora, which sailed from that port on the evening of the 16 th, bound for San Francisco, where she arrived on the evening of the 30th.*

The bees had ample stores within their hives before they were started, to last them through their long journey. I neither watered or gave them any additional food during the whole trip, except what they obtained while flying out at Aspinwall. During each day's confinement the bees labored incessantly to gain their liberty, but as soon as it was dark they always became quiet, and remained so during the night.

At San Francisco the bees were transferred from the Sonora to the steamer New World, and landed in Sacramento on the morning of December the 2d, 1857, thus terminating a journey of 5,900 miles, which was at that time the longest distance that bees had been known to be* transported at one continuous voyage.f On opening the hives, I found that considerable numbers of bees had died in each, and that in five

  • There were other importations of bees made during the winter

of 1857 and 1858, a large proportion of which died. t To the officers and agents of the various transportation companies, over whose routes I passed from Newcastle, Pennsylvania, to Sacramento, California, particularly Mr. J. F. Joy, agent, Panama Railroad Company, Capt. Tinklepaugh, of the steamship Northern Light, and Capt. Whiting, of the Sonora, I am indebted for their valuable and efficient aid in securing a safe transit, and probably the most successful shipment of bees ever made to California.

all were dead, having been destroyed by worms which had been hatched on entering the warm climate from eggs laid by the moth previous to starting. The combs were entirely enveloped in webs containing the worms, and were a perfect ruin. A few worms were found in each of the hives containing living bees, but were soon exterminated. Some hives were found to contain so few bees that they were united with other weak ones, till the number was reduced to fifty. In the latter part of January, 1858, 1 made a discovery which has since been verified in a number of instances. All the bees in 1;wo hives swarmed out, leaving them entirely deserted. On examining, I found young brood, the combs were clean and healthy, and each hive contained some six or eight pounds of honey. But it was nearly all sealed up, only a few cells containing honey being open. The cause of their deserting was then a mystery. as they had apparently all the requisites to do well. I finally suspected that, owing to their long confinement, and frequent passing over the sealed surface of the comb, it had become glazed so that the bees were not aware that they possessed so ample a store.*

  • In the spring of 1859, and particularly the present one,

1860, I have known fhe bees (California-raised) from a number of hives, to leave in like manner. The only difference was that the hives were not over half full of combs. But these were full of honey and tightly sealed, like those before mentioned.

Acting from this belief, I at once with a knife uncapped a portion of the honey in each remaining hive ; this was repeated twice a week for the two following ones, and as the honey became scarce, feed was given to the most destitute. The result was that no more hives were deserted. There was no indication of disease of any kind existing in any of them. Hence there is no doubt of the above being a cause of bees deserting their hives.

The stock was still further reduced by sale, so that thirty-four hives of bees remained on the 1st of April. These were increased to one hundred and twenty, most of which were sold in the summer and fall of that year. Again, on the steamer of September the 20th, 1858, I returned East, for the purpose of transporting another stock, which had been prepared for that purpose during the previous summer. On the 6th of December, in company with my brother, W. C. Harbison, I sailed from New York with one hundred and fourteen colonies, and arrived at Sacramento January 1st, 1859, with one hundred and three living. Of this importation, sixty-eight were from Centralia, Illinois ; the remaining forty-six were from Lawrence county, Pennsylvania. Owing to the lateness of the season of shipping, and unfavorable weather during the first three weeks after our arrival, we were only able to save sixty-two out of the whole number ; these, together with six "good hives remaining from the previous year, we increased to four hundred and twenty-two (422) colonies, including the sixty-eight old ones ; three hundred of them filled standard hives, and the remainder averaged half full. The increase was all made on the artificial principle (as laid down in this work) . Not a single natural swarm issued from any hive during the whole season. I also formed a large number of colonies, for different parties in Sacramento and vicinity, which were attended with like success. During the time between the 1st of October, 1858, and April 1st, 1859, there were shipped from New York for California, over one thousand hives of bees, not' over two hundred of which survived on the 1st of May of the latter year. All but three of the parties engaged in shipping them lost money by the operation, many of them being unacquainted with the business. Of the modes of importing bees to California, the most novel was that of Mr. J. Gridley, who brought four swarms across the Plains from Michigan, placed in the rear end of a spring wagon. He arrived in Sacramento on the 3d of August, 1859, with them, in good condition. His plan was to feed them, and in addition, stop occasionally in the afternoon and allow the bees to fly out and work till dark, when they were closed up, to resume their journey early on the following morning. This was repeated from time to time, as they required their liberty.

Notwithstanding such disastrous results attending" the previous years' shipments, there were upwards of six thousand hives of bees imported during the winter of 1859-60. They arrived in better condition apparently than those of previous years ; yet, owing to the fact that large numbers of them were infected with the disease known as foul brood prior to their purchase and shipment, together with the effects of so long a voyage, probably one-half of the whole number were lost. Many of the remainder have since died, or now linger in a diseased condition, which is infinitely worse for the parties owning them than if all had died at once. Thus, the result has been bad for all concerned ; for, while some have lost their money, others have injured their reputation, besides paralyzing for a time an important branch of productive industry.

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.

Also on FANDOM

Random Wiki