Honey bees were first brought to the Americas in 1622. They are first noted to have been brought to Virginia. The honey bees were an important aspect to early colonial life in America. The bees provided honey, wax, propolis, and helped to pollinate and spread seeds and trees the European brought with them. The bees also played a role in boosting the economy of the East coast of America.
Evidence of honeybees’ existence in the new world can be found in written records that survived. There are ship records that list bee hives as cargo brought to the Americas throughout the 17th century.
The small populations of honey bees brought to Virginia were able to breed and spread well. Soon colonists in Massachusetts and Rhode Island were sending word to London asking for beehives to be sent over. Honey bees had become so populous that simply going into the woods to gather honey and hunt the wild bees became a common pastime. Honey bee farms were also beginning to show up in records and were a good source of income. One colonist in Pennsylvania wrote of the availability of the bees and their byproducts, “often get great store of them [honey bees] in the woods where they are free for any Body. Honey (and choice too) is sold in the Capital City for Five Pence per Pound. Wax is also plentiful, cheap, and a considerable Commerce.” (Bidwell, Percy Wells and John I. Falconer. History of Agriculture in the Northern United States 1620-1860. Washington: Carnegies Institution of Washington, 1925.)
The picture above shows what colonist farming the bees might have looked like.