In 1857, John Harbison imported sixty-seven colonies of bees into Sacramento and initiated a new era in California beekeeping. Records of his voyage and his innovative hives are held in the Department of Special Collections and form the basis for other apicultural collections relating to the management of honeybees, both for the pollination of agricultural crops and for honey production.

In addition to the Harbison papers, the Department holds the papers of other early California apiculturists who made significant contributions to the field. The papers of John McCubbin contain his autobiography and correspondence relating to commercial beekeeping in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in California, as well as photographs of Harbison and other early apiculturists. The Richter papers focus on queen rearing, and contain correspondence, photographs, and scrapbooks concerning apiculture in California, Europe, and South America.

University of California faculty and extension agents played a seminal role in the development of apicultural science, and the papers of Laidlaw, Eckert, and Watkins reflect their research in this field. The papers of Watkins, an apicultural staff research assistant with the University of California at Davis, contain his notes on American beekeeping history and a wealth of information about other apiculturists, including John Harbison. Laidlaw, Professor of Entomology, Emeritus, left a small collection of correspondence relating to his pioneering research in queen bee artificial insemination, while the Eckert papers contain correspondence and articles relating to all aspects of apiculture.

The Department also collects the archival records of beekeeping associations and organizations at the state and national level. The efforts of the California State Beekeepers Association to educate beekeepers and promote honey consumption are documented in department minutes and business correspondence, while the American Beekeeping Federation’s focus on equipment and skills is documented in its archives. Supplementing this collection of organizational material is the Mussen collection, which consists of programs for the early state beekeepers’ conventions.

Both the Apiculture Subject File and the Apiculturists Collection contain material on history and methods of beekeeping, with specific information on pollination, hive construction, diseases, and pesticides. The Department continues to enhance its holdings in this field by acquiring beekeeping supply catalogs and ephemeral materials.

Collections in apiculture comprise approximately 60 linear feet of material and date from 1857 to the present. Though collections tend to highlight the history of beekeeping in California, there are no geographical or chronological exclusions. All materials are in English; formats include manuscript material, photographs, and realia. Related information in can be found under the subject heading of Entomology.