beekeeping and honey production | Wisconsin Historical Society

Historical Essay

Beekeeping and Honey Production

beekeeping and honey production | Wisconsin Historical Society
Dictionary of Wisconsin History.


Beekeeping was a familiar household practice throughout the 19th century. The difficulty of raising bees in Wisconsin's climate and the uncertainty of the harvest largely confined the industry to personal and local use, though technical advances helped to lay the groundwork for commercial production. In 1841, for example, the world's first human-made hive was developed. Ten years later, the completely movable "Langthroth" frame was developed which facilitated honey extraction.  By 1860, the first Italian honey bees, considered the finest honey producers, arrived in Wisconsin.  Beekeeping depended on pollen-producing crops and the agricultural diversification that occured after 1860 provided rich sources of pollen and nectar, allowing honey production to boom in the late 19th century.  By 1900, over 2.6 million pounds of honey were produced on Wisconsin farms. Farmers also began organizing into beekeeping associations to provide technical assistance and to devise standards for quality and the eradication of foulbrood epidemics. Bees were increasingly seen as necessary to large-scale agricultural production after scientific studies  proved that fields visited by bees produced more seed. Today, Wisconsin ranks 14th in honey production.

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