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John's Beekeeping Notebook

Texas Beekeeping History: The Southland Queen

A glimpse at Texas beekeeping in 1901

by John Caldeira

Southland Bee cover, September, 1901The more things change, the more they remain the same.  So it seems in beekeeping, at least.  I recently happened across an old Texas beekeeping journal titled The Southland Queen, describing Texas beekeeping in 1901.  

At that time, beekeepers were struggling with low honey prices, lack of funding for basic research, organizational issues and new beekeeping products and techniques.  Sound familiar?  The Southland Queen was a monthly journal “Devoted to the Exchange of Thoughts on Apiculture” appropriately published in Beeville, Texas[i]. 

The September 1901 issue reports on the proceedings of a general session of North, South and Central Texas Bee-keepers Association held at College Station.  The report of this session includes much discussion and controversy about low honey prices, blamed on farmers who are also part-time beekeepers and “have a surplus, rush it to town and lump it off at any old price.”

Z. Weaver, the great-grandfather of the association’s current (2001) vice-president, Danny Weaver, spoke at the meeting:

“….bee-keeping must be followed as a business… how many would be here now if not started on their farm?  It just depends which, whether the bees or the farm is the thing that one should follow, and of course turn the one loose that is not the best paying.  Some keep bees as a side issue, become enthusiastic and succeed, while other fail.”


 Professor Fred Mally, the state entomologist at College Station, was invited to speak at the meeting on establishing a department of bee-keeping and apiary on the grounds at College Station.  Later in the journal, Mr. Mally reports:

  “The finance committee in the house has allowed $750 for the first year and $500 the second year for an apiary at the A. & M. College.  The senate has not allowed it, but think we can keep it in when the bill goes to conference.  Make an announcement in the bee-keepers’ journals of the State and urge all the bee people in Texas to write their members in the house and senate….have them poke up their senator.”

 The Southland Queen reports 150,000 bee colonies in Texas, producing honey worth $787,000, valued at 7 cents per pound.


A highlight of the September 1901 session was the reading and adoption of a new constitution and new name for the joint organizations.  The new constitution begins:


This organization shall be known as the Texas Bee-keepers’ Association.

Its objects shall be to promote the interests of the bee-keepers; exchange of thoughts; experiments etc., in apiculture, through the meetings of this association, and maintain a closer relation of its members.


An A. I. Root Company advertisement includes a report that E. R. Root has just returned from a 6000 mile trip and intends to write about the best bee locations.  He provided this preview of his Texas report:

“Some little time ago, I promised to tell about the bee-keepers’ paradises in Texas…. The fact is, millions of capital are being invested in irrigation; irrigation means alfalfa; alfalfa means a paradise for bees.  But I found all along my trip that alfalfa-growing preceded bee-keeping by two or three years, for it seems to take about that length of time before bee-keepers find these gold mines that have been hitherto unoccupied.”


Southland Bee cover girlSome things do change.  Annual dues to the Texas Bee-keepers’ Association were $1.00, Root’s ABC of Bee Culture book is priced at $1.20, postpaid.  The swarming of bees was also encouraged as a way to increase the number of one’s colonies.

Some things may change but, 100 years later, we are still struggling with low honey prices, funding for bee research, organizational issues and new beekeeping products!

Beeville, and Bee County, Texas was actually named for Barnard E. Bee, Sr., who served as secretary of war under Sam Houston and later was secretary of state in the first administration of Mirabeau B. Lamar.

A good summary of early American beekeeping can be found in the 1952 Master's thesis of Clark Griffith Dumas at Southern Methodist University, titled Apiculture in Early Texas.  The first 9 pages on beekeeping in  colonial times have been scanned and posted here:

Dumas thesis:  Title Page  01  02  03  04  05  06  07  08  09 

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John's Beekeeping Notebook  http://www.outdoorplace.org/beekeeping/   Content from John's Beekeeping Notebook may be used for any non-commercial purpose except internet duplication, providing the source is acknowledged.  Created by John Caldeira, Dallas, Texas, USA    john@outdoorplace.org