Beekeeping as an occupation and a hobby originated centuries ago in Asia and Europe, says Dr. James Tew of the Apiculture Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In the 1600s, the American colonists apparently longed for honey, a sweetener they had enjoyed "back home." Thus, they imported honeybees from Europe to Jamestown, Va."Because the American Indians had never seen bees and did not know what bees could contribute, they simply thought the strangers had brought in a new kind of `fly,' " Tew said.
During the next 200 years, beekeeping grew steadily until honeybees became a familiar sight across North America.
Although William Jones, secretary of the Utah Beekeeping Association, concedes that Utah is "not a great bee state" because of its comparatively small agricultural industry, there are few other people who have higher regard for the tiny winged insects.
Indeed, we live in "the Beehive State," and this symbol of industry can be found all over Utah, including on the state seal. The word "Deseret," this newspaper's name and the name of the original State of Deseret, part of which later became Utah, literally means "honeybee."
An early use of the word "deseret" comes from the book of Ether in the Book of Mormon, where it says, "And they did also carry with them deseret, which, by interpretation, is a honeybee; and thus they did carry with them swarms of bees."
An early Utah history book says the beehive symbolizes thrift, unity, perseverance and industry - values necessary for survival in the early West of the Mormon pioneers.
As a national industry, beekeeping grew dramatically during the first half of this century. During World War II, when sugar was rationed, managing bees for honey production gave AmeriKEEPContinued from D?
cans an alternative way to have their sweets and eat it too.
Also, beeswax was an essential component of machine lubricants used by the military.
It was during that war, said Tew, that people began to realize how important honeybees are to crop pollination. Records show that prior to 1941, the United States had 4.3 million honeybee colonies. By 1947, that number had increased 27 percent to 5.9 million colonies.
Today, there are 250,000 beekeepers (mostly hobbyists) managing some 4 million colonies, mostly in rural settings but occasionally in back yards, rooftops and even balconies of high-rise apartments. So called "migratory beekeepers," about 1,600 nationwide, take their colonies around the country to provide pollination services to agriculture.
The bee industry is specialized. One segment focuses on the sale of bees, as opposed to bee products, selling the insects several thousand to a package to begin new colonies. Queen bees, for breeding, are sold individually.
The queen bee lays eggs and rules the hive with chemical messages called pheromones. Worker bees, sterile females, do all the work of the hive. Drones, male bees, have only one function: fertilize the queen in her first few days of life.
As worker bees gather pollen and nectar from blossoms, pollen that has stuck to their hairy bodies falls into and fertilizes the flowers they contact, thus unintentionally pollinating more than 90 cultivated crops.