Beekeeping is the maintenance of honey bee colonies, commonly in hives, by humans. Beekeeping is also called ‘Apiculture’. A beekeeper keeps bees in order to collect honey and beeswax, for the purpose of pollinating crops, or to produce bees for sale to other beekeepers. A location where bees are kept is called an apiary.
Development of beekeeping in the United States
John Harbison, originally from Pennsylvania, successfully brought bee keeping to the US west coast in the 1860s, in an area now known as Harbison Canyon, California, and greatly expanded the market for honey throughout the country.
Beekeeping was traditionally practiced for the bees’ honey harvest, although nowadays crop pollination service can often provide a greater part of a commercial beekeeper’s income. Other hive products are pollen, royal jelly, and propolis, which are also used for nutritional and medicinal purposes, and beeswax, which is used in candle making, cosmetics, wood polish, and for modelling. The modern use of hive products has changed little since ancient times.
Western honey bees are not native to the Americas. American, Australian, and New Zealand colonists imported honey bees from Europe, partly for honey and partly for their usefulness as pollinators. The first honey bee species imported were likely European dark bees. Later Italian bees, Carniolan honey bees and Caucasian bees were added.
Western honey bees were also brought to the Primorsky Krai in Russia by Ukrainian settlers around 1850s. These Russian honey bees that are similar to the Carniolan bee were imported into the U.S. in 1990. The Russian honey bee has shown to be more resistant to the bee parasites Varroa destructor and Acarapis woodi.
Before the 1980s, most U.S. hobby beekeepers were farmers or relatives of a farmer, lived in rural areas, and kept bees with techniques passed down for generations. The arrival of tracheal mites in the 1980s and varroa mites and small hive beetles in the 1990s led to the discontinuation of the practice by most of these beekeepers as their bees could not survive among these new parasites.
In Asia, other species of Apis exist which are used by local beekeepers for honey and beeswax. Non-Apis species of honey bees, known collectively as melipolines or stingless bees, have also been kept from antiquity in Australia and Central America, although these traditions are dying, and some of the meliponine species used are endangered.