“Then & Now.”
By Glen L. Stanley
The honeybee has been in existence since early
biblical days. The Romans used them as a weapon of war. As the
enemy approached the fort, colonies of bees were thrown over the
side near the enemy and the angry bees soon caused the warriors
to retreat. There were no honeybees in the western hemisphere
in the early days after the discovery of America. The first bees
were brought to the western hemisphere in the early 1600s, about
1620, the first known date of their arrival. It would be interesting
to know just what kind of container or confinement they were kept
in while making the many day trip over the ocean.
Years went by and as people that arrived in
America migrated westward so did the honeybee. They were helped
by the people because they had learned of the value of bees for
their production of honey. That was a sweet that was readily available
as soon as the bees had produced it. At that time bees were kept
in all sorts of containers called hives, homes, or houses anyplace
they could be kept where it was available to the owner to get
some of the honey. It was 128 years after the discovery of America
until the first bees were brought here from Italy and Germany.
It was another 233 years until Dr. Langstroth designed the removable
frame hive. That came about in 1853. The German bees were black
and quite aggressive stinging at every chance and this made it
quite difficult for the beekeepers. That bee continued to be used
for many, many years. The last of that sort died out about the
late 1930’s or early 40’s. The Italian bee was of
yellow color and reasonably gentle. Some strains of the Italian
bee were quite a golden yellow. The Italian honeybee is or has
been the most popular bee kept throughout the United States for
all these years. In the early 1900’s a breed of bees was
brought to the U.S. from the Caucas Mountains of Russia known
as the Caucasian. They are of grey color and quite gentle.
Following all that we now have mixed breeds
and some crosses between the various breeds. Our scientists some
35 years ago discovered a means of artificial insemination so
now we not only have the advantage of different breeds of bee,
but also bees that are more gentle and bread for various uses.
For EXAMPLE: Some are better pollinators while others are better
at gathering an abundance of honey.
There is no official record, as far as I know,
as to when honeybees were first brought into Iowa. We do know
that in 1856 or 150 years ago, the Henry Stanley family came to
homestead in Ringgold county Iowa near Beaconsfield. Again we
have no knowledge of just what kind of home or hive they may have
had for the bees. That having been just three years after the
advent of the removable frame hive, it is doubtful they had modern
hives. Years later Wendle Stanley, the son, kept bees in numbers
of 40 or 50 colonies. After that, the beginning of the next generation,
Orin Stanley, son of Wendle became of age and began beekeeping
as a business. His main objective was to produce a quantity of
quality queens to sell to other beekeepers, most of which were
hobbyist. However, many large orders of the queens were sold through
the A.I. Root Company’s branch office in Council Bluffs.
I worked with my father as he went about his
work producing queens, then after that the bees were moved to
Gilbert, Iowa in 1936. In 1938 my brother Lloyd upon returning
from a hitch in the Navy, joined Father in beekeeping. In the
late 1930’s and early 40’s we operated 1300 colonies
and it just happened those were the golden years of honey production
in Iowa. In 1942 I joined the Armed services and returned in 1946.
After that Lloyd and I continued keeping a few hundred colonies
of bees and we did so until 1996.
Following that I managed a few colonies for
a friend until three years ago. They were sold so now I am keeping
only a couple of colonies. It is a great hobby which I enjoy but
it is all together different than managing a few hundred. With
many colonies there is always that advantage of shifting bees
and equipment where necessary BUT with only two it is all together
different. Fortunately I have been able to get bees that are so
gentle I seldom bother to put on a veil. The last ten years of
our partnership the bees were nearly as gentle and what a pleasure
it is to work bees of that nature. Beekeeping has com a long way
when we think of how important bees are to our every day living.
Many problems face the beekeeper today the mites being the major
This is my 77th year among the bees. Maybe it’s
time to give it up.
Glen L. Stanley
Pollination Services Wanted
The Iowa Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association
would like a listing of all the available beekeepers that do pollination.
They are featuring a speaker from the Iowa Honey Producers Association
at their meeting in January and want a listing of the pollination
services available in the state. Please send your name, name of
your beekeeping business, address, phone number, e-mail address,
and the areas of the state you would be willing to pollinate.
Please indicate the number of colonies you have available for
the pollination services. We can discuss this at the annual meeting
also and we will compose this list and have it ready for distribution
at their meeting which is also held in Marshalltown.
Also check out the Agricultural Diversification
and Market Development Bureau website at: