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The Story of John Harbison, King of the Bees

The Story of John Harbison, King of the Bees is a story about the finest American honey and the bee revolution.

(Mirror Daily, United States) – The story of John Harbison, king of the bees is a story about success and hard works and should be an inspiration for the efforts of maintaining the present bee population in the United States.

The tiny insects are not only valuable because they produce honey and wax, but they are also vital to the survival of thousands of plant species. If the bee population is not taken care of, entire ecosystems can disappear alongside the common bee.

The United States was one the home of the largest honey producer in the world. John Harbison settled along the Sweetwater River with his family. Later on, this region would flourish and the county of San Diego would end up being the major honey producing area in what was known in history as the “Golden Age of Beekeeping”.

But the story of John Harbison, king of the bees is not one depicting a linear success. The now famous beekeeper had to deal with extreme weather conditions when he tried to bring the precious insects from Europe, and after succeeding to do so, his farm was burned down by vindictive farmers.

Bee importation was not the easiest business in the late 19th century. The insects are quite sensible so they usually perished during the voyages. But Harbison was an innovative person and he ended up becoming the first person to ever use the transcontinental railroad to transport bees.

In 1869, he arrived in San Diego and started a partnership with R.G. Clark. The two men harvested crops and looked after their shared bee nursery. The R.S. Pardee farm was the place where the first Clark & Harbison apiary was established.

The first batches of honey were delicious. But the honey industry was not very developed at that time, and the two had no idea what the plants behind the clear, white honey were. After Clark explored the entire region starting with the Mexican border and ending in the northern part of the Riverside, he discovered that the bees were gathering pollen from different types of mountain sage.

Harbison then settled in what is now known as Harbison canyon. There he opened up the way to beekeeping. According to the Historical Society from San Diego, almost every farmer was in the bee business.

But there must also be somebody who complains about something. San Diego was starting to complain about the insects and calling them a nuisance. Jealous sheep owners and cattlemen started to trespass their farms and orchard owners sued them for “damaging fruits”.

The orchard owners were so convinced of the fact that the bees were responsible for fruit damage that they burned almost 350 hives.

Harbison then moved to the real estate and orchard business. And even though he didn’t return to beekeeping he wrote books about the art of taking care of the wondrous insects. And for the American people, he will always remain the King of Bees.

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