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Barry Digman
06-09-2015, 08:16 PM
Did the Spanish explorers who came into the American Southwest bring bees? We associate other domestic livestock with them, such as sheep and horses, but I don't recall hearing anything about bees.

06-09-2015, 08:50 PM
Historical evidence suggests that the Spaniards did not import honeybees into Pacific Western America, but probably were introduced there by the Spaniards by way of Florida and eastern Mexico. Beeswax was being imported in great quantities into western America from Pacific routes in order to supply the missionaries. Between 1565 and 1815; some 250 years, Spanish Galleons maintained extensive trade routes. These vessels traveled across the North Pacific from Manila in the Philippines, to Acapulco, New Spain for the purpose of supplying Catholic Missionaries with beeswax and other commodities. Spanish galleons were known to carry a cargo of up to 75 tons of beeswax, which was sometimes acquired in China and transported to the Americas for use in the missionaries. So this suggests a later date for bees being transported into the South West

But others say that the Spaniards must have imported honeybees
into America:

Below is a quote from:
'Origins of Apis Mellifica in America'
By Benjamin Smith Barton
American Philosophical Society, 1793

"....I will not deny that the true honey-bee is now found in Mexico; not only because so respectable an author as Clavigero has alerted that it is, or at least a bee agreeing with it, but because we can hardly suppose that the Spaniards, in the long period of more than two centuries and an half, would have neglected to introduce an animal of

Page 246

so much importance. But it must be recollected that Clavigero only informs us, that this true honey-bee is now found in Mexico. He has not attempted to prove that it was found there two or three hundred years ago. In order to ascertain this point, with more certainty, it is necessary to recur to the more early writers concerning America,..."


Barry Digman
06-09-2015, 09:34 PM
Thanks for that. Now I'm curious about who brought the first bees and when.

Michael Bush
06-10-2015, 05:59 AM
There is a lot of Apis mellifera iberica genetics in the bees in Florida and other places in North America. That would seem to indicate that the Spaniards did bring bees, though I know of no manifest showing them being shipped.

06-10-2015, 07:31 AM
Brand, Donald D.
1988 The Honey Bee in New Spain and Mexico. Journal of Cultural Geography 9(1):71-81

His first conclusion was the Mexican conquistadors introduced honeybees in the 1520's or 1530's.
His paper was published posthumously and does not include references in the off-print I secured.

Source: The Southwestern Naturalist, Vol. 51, No. 4 (Dec., 2006), pp. 542-551

This paper is very skeptical of some of Brand's assertions. Viz:

Honeybees were probably
first brought to what is now Mexico from Spain
in the 1520s or 1530s and secondarily introduced
from Cuba in 1764 (Brand, 1988; Crane, 1999).
Although Sonoran folklore and an oddly un
supported assertion by Brand (1988) maintain
that European missionaries brought honeybees
to northwestern Mexico in the 1600s or 1700s,
contemporary accounts refute this (del Barco,
1980; Pfefferkorn, 1989; see also Crane, 1999).
Honeybees apparently reached northwestern
Mexico much later from the United States. The
first honeybees in what is now the United States
were brought from England to the Jamestown
colony in 1622 (Crane, 1999). In 1853, they were
successfully introduced into the Sacramento
Valley of California from New York via Panama
(Woodward, 1938; Watkins, 1969). In 1872,
colonies from southern California were brought
to southern Arizona, and it is thought that feral
honeybees dispersed from these 2 regions south
ward into Baja California and Sonora (Waller,

06-10-2015, 03:23 PM
You are in New Mexico?
I don't have much in my files for NM

First bees in NM was in 1872

1872 (T. after 1872) New Mexico - Transported Within the Americas. (Source: Eva Crane, World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting, Pg. 359)


I have more in my files for Arizona - 1864, Arizona

Arizona, prehistoric, aboriginal, pioneer, modern: the nation's ..., Volume 2 By James H. McClintock 1916

Page 321

The first family to locate in Prescott is said to have been that of*Joseph Ehle,*who came with his wife and daughters early in 1864, though the Leib family also must have been in the vicinity. One of the Ehle girls, Mary, was married in November, 1864, to J. A. Dickson, the ceremony being performed by Governor Goodwin. In the following January was born Mollie Simmons, probably the first white child of Northern Arizona nativity.

Miss Hall has written that Mrs. Ehle brought to Prescott its first chickens, of Black Spanish strain, its first cat, from whose progeny a kitten was sold to a miner for an ounce of gold dust, and the first hives of honey*bees,*estimated to have cost $50 a stand. Mrs. Ehle found that bacon sold for 75 cents a
pound in gold dust and that flour was held at $44 a sack in greenbacks. Sugar and lard each cost above 50 cents a pound.


Transported Within the Americas. 1872

Eva Crane, World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting, Pg. 359


Waller (1992) found an entry in Arizona Citizen for 27 July 1872: “The bees brought here from California (San Diego) by Gen. J. B. Allen are doing very well.”

Eva Crane, World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting, Pg. 361


…in 1872, Gen J. B. Allen brought bees from San Diego, California, to Tucson, Arizona. On July 27, 1872, the Arizona Citizen happily predicted:“The bees brought here from California by Gen. J. B. Allen are doing very well.They swarmed last week and were hives without other than ordinary labor.We may soon expect to have fresh honey added to our list of local products and bills of fare.”

Bees in America By Tammy Horn 2006 Page 127


State Beekeepers Association

Report of the Governor of Arizona to the Secretary of the Interior By Arizona. Governor 1890

Page 22

Bee keeping is proving one of the most profitable industries in the Salt River Valley. The climate is well adapted for the business, and the blossoms of the
alfalfa plant, the mesquite tree, and the sunflower are excellent honey producers. The bees are always healthy and require but little attention. The product is equal, in quality and flavor to any made on the coast. It is white and clear, and readily commands the maximum price. There is a good market all over the Territory, and a great deal is being now exported. Several car-loads have been exported this year. A bee-keeper's association has been formed in Maricopa County, and the industry is developing into large proportions.