The history of the honeybee arriving in Australia is an interesting topic. It may well have been earlier than 1822 that honey bees first arrived in Australia. But who’s to know? Peter Barrett of Caloundra, Queensland has looked into the history of the honeybee arriving in Australia in extra ordinary detail.
Read his amazingly well researched writings into Australia’s honey history and then decide.
Hint – The paper trail will blow your mind!
A fresh perspective on the first successful (?) introduction of honey bees into Australia in 1822.
During the early years of the 1990’s I’d been keeping bees in the lower Blue Mountains as a hobby, at the same time accumulating books on bees, concentrating on those published in Australia. My natural tendency towards logical thinking reinforced by my professional training as an analyst, inevitably drew me to their historical references. Hence grew my dissatisfaction with the depth and accuracy of information then available on Australian beekeeping history. In December 1994 I acquired a copy of Albert Gale’s 1912 Australian Bee Lore and Bee Culture.
Its contents very quickly inspired the commencement of my research, centred upon the question “by whom and when and how were honey bees introduced into Australia?” Many others before me had addressed the whom and the when, with few exceptions concluding or reiterating the same 1822 answer. Recent research has revealed a fresh perspective which challenges the general belief that Captain Wallace’s Isabella hives of bees were the first to successfully establish in Australia from 1822.
Failed Attempts – both before and after 1822.
Others, both before and after 1822 had tried and failed to successfully introduce bees into the antipodean colonies:
1806: Gregory Blaxland sailed from England on 1 September 1805, arriving New SouthWales 13 April 1806, a journey of seven and a half months. Henry Hacker states in the Illustrated Australian Encyclopaedia of 1925 that “The first reference to bees in Australian records occurs in a letter from Gregory Blaxland dated 1st March, 1805, asking for cargo space on the William Pitt for a ‘swarm of bees in cabin with wire cage over the hive’. There is, however, no record of their safe landing.” (p.1). From the Historical Records of Australia, a report to Governor King dated 13 July 1805 from Viscount Castlereagh states “Mr. Blaxland takes out no live Stock excepting possibly a few Spanish Sheep.” This letter was despatched upon the William Pitt – the sheep numbered twelve. Amongst the extensive list of the supplies that Blaxland did bring includes “2 cases of plants, hops, & c, in cabin, 2 cases of field and garden seeds” (p.569) During the voyage Blaxland lost many valuable seeds. These seeds he had collected at the Cape of Good Hope literally cooked in the heat. They did not germinate “owing to the heat of the ships hold in which they were stowed”
Not surprising then that Blaxland planned to keep his hive of bees in cabin which may have afforded a greater degree of ventilation and heat control. There is no evidence that the bees were ever taken on board. Blaxland’s letter requesting shipment was written before he embarked on the William Pitt under Captain Boyce. The fate of the bees could be explained by an ongoing dispute between Blaxland and Boyce, both before, during and after the voyage, the basis for which is unclear. Blaxland attempted to litigate on his arrival and legal opinion on his right do so was sought by the Governor.