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Some early German beekeepers in Queensland

It should not be surprising that many German immigrants, particularly those with a farming background, brought with them their beekeeping skills and the intention to keep bees following their settlement here. The first mention of early German beekeepers in Queensland appears to have been in the Brisbane Courier, 17 January 1863. The real worth of many things may be often enough talked about, and even widely known; yet, somehow, people don't care to trouble themselves about making use of them, and this is the case with bees. They thrive to a remarkable degree here, but the German settlers are nearly the only parties who seem to appreciate their value. I know a small farmer, who has over thirty hives; he sells the honey at sixpence per lb., and the wax he sells to people at less than one-half its value, and they use it with their tallow in making candles. Young hives he sells at 10s. each, and he has cleared from 25 to 30 a year by them for these last three years. Some arrived skilled in modern European beekeeping methods. Rather than extol the exquisitely designed American movable bar-frame hive, invented by Rev. Lorenzo Langstroth in October 1852, and still in use today by both commercial and hobby beekeepers, these Germanic beemasters followed the teachings of their countryman, Rev Dr Johannes Dzierzon (pronounced zerzon). The Queenslander, 14 October 1871, saluted him as an eminent German apiarian, [who] resides in Lower Silesia has succeeded in realising nine hundred dollars as the product of his bees in one season. The Brisbane Courier, 2 February 1907, printed an obituary: Germany's oldest beekeeper has passed away at the good old age of 95 years. As Langstroth was the father of American beekeepers, so was Dzierzon that of the German and the great progress made in apiculture in Europe during the last century is attributable to his research in no small degree. He was an able writer and contributed to many of the leading German journals. His work Rational Beekeeping was subsequently translated into English, and forms one of the leading text books of modern beekeeping. His father kept bees in logs which were eventually placed by young Dzierzon in improved hives and here he was within an ace of the discovery of the movable bar frame. A Dzierzon hive, from Deutscher Bienenfreund, Dec. 1876 (p.205)

Gustaf Adolph Ziebig (1845-1927),


citrus farmer, apiarist, Saxon Gardens Apiary, Rockhampton, ca. 1883: Despite Dzierzons many German beekeeping publications, there was no guarantee the latest improvements in beekeeping techniques always entered Australia via German immigration. Some beekeepers may have brought with them, or manufactured after their arrival, a bagenstulper, a hive with a round top. (mentioned in The Queenslander, 10 Sept. 1887) Once exposed to the society of advanced Queensland beekeepers and the modern methods promoted in the press, no doubt some Bienenzchter (beekeepers) eventually recognised the benefits of change. One such was Dresden born Gustaf Adolph Ziebig. His Saxon Garden apiary and citrus orchard, located on nine acres abutting the river about four miles up from Rockhampton, was purchased in 1883. He claimed to be the first settler in the scrub in that district. The Bee Notes report in Rockhamptons The Capricornian (TC), 7 June 1890, indicates Ziebig had been keeping bees from at least that year: Mr. Ziebig began the season with four hives, increased to twelve, and produced

160 lbs. honey. Forty pounds per hive, spring count, is rather a low average, but he confidently expects to do better next season. Fellow ex-patriot Emil Weisse has had a pretty favourable season, and has been somewhat fortunate in getting runaway swarms from different places. Bee Notes for July (MB, 3 July 1889) also mentioned Weisse. Other apiaries have been worked for more or less satisfactory results by Mr. Henry Beak, Mr. Holt, Mr. Weiss, Mr. Mossop, and the Messrs. Knight, while several ladies and gentlemen in and about town have been engaged in beekeeping for pleasure. From what information we have been able to gather, we should judge that the total yield of honey in the district was a little over three tons, and when it is considered that two or three years ago it was practically nil, we think it is a very satisfactory result.

elsewhere). "Bees ought to be in winter quarters now, but it appears to me bees don't care about changing yet. They almost force me to extract again, but I will not do it. They shall have abundance of tucker for winter to prevent robbery, although I never saw such a thing among my bees. At the beginning I expected a very bad season, but I am satisfied after all. Ziebig opened the season with thirty four colonies, increased to 48. Between July 1892 and May 1893 his apiary's honey production amounted to a total of 11,740 lb. of extracted and 100 lb. of comb honey which gave him a grand total of 11,840 lb. for the season's work. Thats a crop of just over 5.3 metric tons! Competing against other local beekeepers who presented their produce in the Bees section under the patronage of the Central Queensland Dog and Poultry Club, Ziebig won first prize for his exhibit of a "1 lb. cake of beeswax" and a second for a frame hive of local manufacture." (MB, 11 Nov. 1893) In the MB, 3 Dec. 1897 It will doubtless interest our readers to learn that quite recently there have been several large transactions in bee business in this district. Mr. Ziebig has recently sold out a large portion of his apiary and, so we are informed, intends to go into beekeeping on a new system. Presumably, Ziebig intended to change over to the American Langstroth designed barframe hive style.

Gustaf Adolph Ziebig In July 1892 Ziebig opened the season with thirty four colonies, increased to 48. (TC, 1 July 1893) A year later Adolph Ziebig [now apparently using his second Christian name] reported his Saxon Gardens Apiary consisted of 56 hives which produced a honey surplus of 6.5 imperial tons. The apiary subsequently increased to 65 colonies. (Morning Bulletin (MB), 27 July 1894) From TC, 2 Sept. 1893 During the year Mr. Ziebig ... exported a trial parcel [of honey] to his native country, but owing to the opposition of merchants who handle an article they call 'Californian honey', it has, so far, been difficult to make an impression on the German market. Ziebig's contribution to the Bee Notes column in The Capricornian, 1 July 1893, suggests his adoption of colonial vernacular through the use of words such as tucker and scrub (noted

In addition his planning included the continued use of the Italian honey bee: Mr. Adolph Zeibig, of Saxon Gardens apiary, [is] expecting a good consignment of queens from Italy direct. [This] consignment will probably be landed during the present month. (TC, 5 Sept. 1896) Seven years previously Bee Notes for July (MB, 3 July 1889) commented We would have our beekeeping friends note that this result [a 3 ton honey yield] has been obtained principally through the introduction of the Italian bees, and while the Italians have justified the claims made for them, we may fairly claim that their constant advocacy in this journal has greatly helped to popularize them. Mr. Adolph Ziebig is again going into the bee business. He has purchased the bees owned by Mr. Emil Weisse, and is recommencing at a fresh yard a short distance from his old and well-known apiary on the river bank. (MB, 5 Aug. 1898)

Adolphs beekeeping expertise was recognised in April 1899 when he performed as sole judge of the bee section at Rockhamptons Agricultural Society Show. (TC, 6 May 1899) In 1914 he belatedly joined the Queensland Beekeepers Association. (BC, 11 July 1914) In Friedrich Ruttners 1981 article Johannes Dzierzon und die deutsche Bienenzucht (Dzierzon and German beekeeping) published in Allgemeine Deutche Imkerzeitung (Vol. 15 No. 11), he commented no good explanation has been found for the prolonged dichotomy between the use of movable-frames in back-opening hives often in a bee house in German-speaking parts of Europe - and in top-opening hives out of doors in the rest of the continent and of the world. Was it perhaps partly a reverence for Dzierzon, who had a very strong personality? Or an attachment to bee houses, which preceded movable-frame hives? In German-speaking areas the use of top opening hives lagged a full century behind their full use elsewhere, and most hives were still back-opening in the 1980s. Even so, not all Queensland beekeepers, German or otherwise, upgraded their methods from those commonly practiced during the latter years of the 19th Century. Many continued to use the wicker weidenkorb, a simple straw skep similar in shape to an inverted baskets, or the problematic and antiquated, simple, closed and frameless box hive made from a gin case, kerosene case, candle box or similar.

observed In my hives any comb may be taken out without removing the others, whereas in the German hive it is often necessary to remove many combs to get to a particular one. Around the year 1862 Isambert stated he procured a pattern-box from the Rev. Mr. Dzierzon and adopted his system entirely, and I must state that my German patience was more severely tried by the Woodbury system and in working the hives from the top than by the Dzierzon system, and working the hives from the sides.

Jean Baptiste Louis Isambert (ca. 1889) Image from State Library of Qld. The energetic ebb and flow of argument supporting the Langstroth and Dzierzon hive styles dominated the honey bee columns of the Brisbane newspapers for a time. For example, in The Queenslander, 2 Nov. 1872 In the Brisbane Courier, 12 Dec. 1872, Brisbane regional apiarist Mark Blasdale of Long Pocket, Indooroopilly, recognized Ipswichs Mr. Isambert with the introduction of the Dzierzon hive to Queensland. His observation epitomized the Australian fair go. Should the Dzierzon hive prove superior, I shall be greatly pleased and acknowledge greatly surprised, for I was certainly under the impression that the class of hive I am now working (Mr. Carroll's pattern) are very closely allied to perfection. I have twenty four now at work, and if any person will pay me a visit I think I can convince him by an inspection of the inside of my hives that if the Dzierzon hive is really superior to mine, both for honey and brood producing, it must be a very desirable hive indeed.

Jean Baptiste Louis Isambert (18411906) wine merchant and apiarist, soap and
candle manufacturer, politician, mining investor, ca. 1865: There was much debate in the pages of The Queenslander and the Brisbane Courier (eg., 12 Dec. 1872), between the Germanic proponents of the Berlepsch / Dzierzon style of hive and the zealots such as bee columnist Jas Carroll, who preached the benefits of the American designed Langstroth style hive and variants known by such names as the Quinby, Kedder's, Pettitt's improved, Neighbours, the Woodbury improved or the Milton [Carrolls pattern]. Carroll quoted a French bee-master, writing to the French Bee Journal in Dec. 1867: ... the construction of the hives in Germany requires the patience of a German to manage them, and would not suit anyone accustomed to the simplicity and ease of control of the Langstroth hive. Carroll

Isambert must at some stage have kept bees commercially for in The Queenslander, 23 Nov. 1872 Mr. Isambert no longer keeps bees as a business, or he would give instructions in the art of making the Dzierzon hive and managing bees, but there are some of the hives in Brisbane, as well as other places, and they are so simple that any carpenter can easily make them after seeing the pattern. Isambert considered the Dzierzon hive to be ne plus ultra (ie., nothing more beyond being the best or most extreme example of something) in principle and construction. (The Queenslander, 2 Nov. 1872) From an 1865 issue of Melbournes Weekly Age and reproduced in the Brisbane Courier, 18 Jan. 1873, its editor commented on Dzierzon's bee hives: the principle and plan of which are new to the colony, although not to the continent of Europe.

discussions, this one surrounding the ebb and flow of the honey season in different Queensland districts. Isambert commented, in part The beekeepers of Germany have an extensive and high class literature on bees and their management, in books and bee journals. [eg.,] the Eichstadter Bee Journal [is] a bi-monthly paper of about sixteen sides. No beekeeper there of any standing would be without a bee journal, as they contain much useful information, and are frequently interesting through the lively controversies therein; and no matter how keen these controversies and their arguments are, yet they are entirely free from all animosity. ...

German tobacco pipe bee smoker from Dzierzons Rational Bee-keeping, 1882 On a recent occasion we had the pleasure of witnessing the depriving process as performed by Mr Isambert, who, having covered his face with a light net and lighted a pipe of tobacco, one side of the door of a hive was opened, and the inmates having been treated to two or three whiffs of smoke to keep them quiet, the door was taken quite down. From Dzierzons Rational beekeeping For the purpose of pacifying them, and making them submissive, tobacco-smoke is sufficient, and is peculiarly suited for quieting them. The smoke may be blown out of the pipe it-self, especially if its cover is provided with a cone-shaped tube directed forwards, but it is best to take a mouthful of smoke and blow it on to the bees. Despite his German heritage, Isamberts letter to The Honey Bee column of The Queenslander, 7 June 1873, displays a commanding use of the English language. Typical of such beekeeping letters, he and others entered into lively

German style bee hood. Isambert used only a light veil. from Dzierzons Rational Bee-keeping, 1882 The Queenslander, 10 Sept. 1887, mentions one beekeeping journal subscribed to by German expatriot beekeepers - the Illustrated German Bee JournaI. Copies of Dzierzons magazines Der Bienenfreund aus Schlesien (The Silesian bee friend) published 1854-1856 and Rationelle Bienenzucht (Rational Apiculture) published 18611878 was likely subscribed to by Australian resident German beekeepers. His Rational beekeeping; or The theory and practice of Dr. Dzierzon of Carlsmarkt, translated into English and published in London by Houlston & sons, 1882, no doubt found an antipodean readership. Indeed, this author has a 1909 copy, in German, by one Prof. R. Caio, of Unfere Honigbiene [Apis mellifera, ie., The common honey bee], very likely brought to Australia a century ago by a German immigrant. One obituary for J.B.L. Isambert appeared in the MB, 2 March 1906 ... at one time member for Rosewood in the Legislative Assembly of Queensland, [between July 1882 and 25 Oct. 1892] says the Townsville Bulletin of the 24th of

February, died in the Cooktown Hospital on Thursday last from fever contracted on the Alice River goldfield. At one time Mr. lsambert was in a good position as a vigneron and wine maker in the Ipswich district; but misfortune overtook him, and of late years he had a hard job to make ends meet. He was a well-educated and highly intelligent man, and his death will be regretted by many who remember him in the good old days. [Note: The Alice River Goldfield, discovered in 1904, is located approximately 30 km slightly south west of Townsville on Cape York Peninsula, and about 440 km by road from Cairns in far north Queensland. The Alice River fever probably equates to todays Ross River Virus, given that the two locations are but 51 km apart by todays roads.]

W. Boldeman, Rockhampton brewer,


soap manufacturer, apiarist, ca. 1867: From the Rockhampton Bulletin and Central Queensland Advertiser, 2 Nov. 1867 We have lately examined four hives at Mr. Boldeman's, near the Upper Dawson Road, which, though common enough in Germany, will seem to the British eye complete novelties. There are four hives, two over two. Each hive consists of an oblong box standing upright; there is a door in front extending nearly the whole length of the box, with a small aperture at the bottom for the bees. On opening this door, the bees are discovered in full work. At each side of the box is a ledge supporting a series of moveable partitions, or frames, on which the bees build their combs. These frames can be removed separately.

an intelligent German bee-keeper, near Walloon ca. 1873: In The


Queenslander, 15 Feb. 1873, a beekeeper at Mount Alfred [located in western Queensland, 300 km NW of Birdsville] sought assistance Can any of your correspondents - Mr. Bee-master Carroll or other - give a description of how to avoid, and how to expel, moths and their maggots from the hives? A gentleman who owned a large number of bees on the Patterson was looking at my bees last week, and told me I should lose them all from this [wax] moth: since then, I have seen an intelligent German bee-keeper, near Walloon; [off the Warrego Hwy, 17 km west of Ipswich] he told me that at the commencement of the season he had 27 hives, - now (although he has saved swarms) he is reduced to 15. He further told me that an uncle of his owned over 100 swarms, and now has not a single swarm left, all through these pests. I have nine hives, but no honey - owing to this moth and grub I suppose; and in an observing hive [Jas Carrolls, editor of The Honey Bee column in The Queenslander] the bees stopped making comb or filling it for nearly a fortnight. I, and I doubt not many others, would feel grateful if you could publish a remedy in a foot-note to this enquiry. The following engraving, taken from The Town and Country Journal, 24 Nov. 1883, is a caricature of a late 19th Century German beekeeper, operator of a large commercial queen bee breeding apiary in eastern Australia from 1882. Note the oversize tobacco pipe used to smoke the bees. The honey frame in hand comes from the German Berlespch / Dzierzon style of hive.

German beekeeper with tobacco pipe bee smoker, eastern Australia, 1882 The operator, previously to opening the hive, lights a piece of dry wood, and opening the door cautiously, effectually mesmerizes the tiny labourers by incensing them. He then takes out frame after frame with its load of golden honey, the bees clustering over it harmlessly. Our practical German friend went so far as to cut a large slice off one of the outer combs, to the astonishment of the bees, and putting it on a plate invited us to try it. We found it delicious This style of hive has been almost universally adopted on the Continent. We would recommend any one

who intends forming an apiary, to visit Mr. Boldeman's establishment, and that gentleman and his obliging and polite partner will give the necessary information. In the MB, 13 Oct. 1886 ... the Black or English Bees ... were first introduced into this district about twenty years ago, by Mr. Boldeman and Mr. Isambert ... For a time they did remarkably well, and colonies were planted in many parts of the surrounding country. When the [bee] Moth began its destructive course, Bee-keeping, as a rural industry, was destroyed. One selector, [Glenny Naish] near Raglan, who, we have been informed, had sixty hives, did not manage to save one. ..." The MB for 19 Dec. 1923 reported Boldeman established his soap making business at Rockhampton in 1867 in conjunction with J.B.L. Isambert, who, after some years in partnership, removed to Ipswich. Boldeman and family were initially resident in Sydney around 1854 and relocated to Queensland in 1862.

received from San Francisco. They, no doubt, contained the germs of this fell disease, which had at that time decimated some of the largest apiaries in America. In conveying my hives from the steamer, they were unavoidably exposed to the full glare of the sun's rays, a state most favourable to the spread of the disease, which I at that time unknowingly assisted, by giving frames of brood combs from infected hives to others which were fairly healthy. As the disease developed, and showed itself in a more marked degree, I was enabled, by my acquired knowledge, to see what the trouble was; but to remedy it was another matter. After battling with it until my colonies were reduced to small proportions, I adopted the only remedy then generally known, viz., destroying the balance, and subjecting the hives to a bath of I caustic soda, with the idea of starting at some future time with non-infected colonies from another district. ... Begin again he did, for in a report on the Summer Show of the Fitzroy Pastoral, Agricultural, and Horticultural Society, which appeared in the MB, 24 Jan. 1880 ... the visitor is ... pleased and surprised by what might be called a bee trophy. Honey in the comb, of the purest quality, is displayed in glass cases, underneath which is the honey bottled, tinned, and attractively labelled, and all varied by specimens of wax evidently prepared by an adept at the business. These are the exhibits of Mr. G. Naish, North Rockhampton, and both from an industrial and artistic point of view deserve the attention of the visitor. In The Capricornian, 23 Sept. 1893 The crops of maize and potatoes have been most abundant. Dairying has been most successfully carried on, and bee-keeping has succeeded beyond all expectations. Mr. Naish and Mr. Christiansen are large bee-keepers, and they have already sent away over three tons of honey this year. (To place large bee-keepers in context, Christiansen had 20 hives of bees in 1900. MB, 2 June.) The MB for 1 Nov. 1892 reported There seems quite a craze in this district for bee-keeping, and some of the apiarists seem to be doing remarkably well too, judging from the way their stocks are increasing. The largest apiary contains sixteen colonies, the owner of which commenced last December with only one. Continuing to work as a commercial traveller in 1900, Naishs peregrinations extended all over

Glenny Naish, Raglan citrus, lucerne and


maize farmer, apiarist ca. 1875: The MB for 2 June 1900 stated Mr Naish came to Rockhampton twenty-five years ago [ca. 1875]. [he] has an apiary from which he gets about two tons of honey annually. He has received high encomiums [praise] for the product, which finds a ready sale in the western country. It is arranged in neat tins, labeled Cedar Valley, the name of the farm. His thoughts on "The Habits of Bees in Queensland appeared some twenty years previously in The Honey Bee column of The Queenslander, 13 Sept. 1879. I have in my apiary over thirty colonies of bees, the direct descendants of two hives imported into Queensland some years ago. A beekeeping pioneer in the Rockhampton region, he informed the MB, 18 Oct. 1886: Some years ago I conveyed over forty hives by steamer to Raglan. [470 km NNW of Brisbane, being west of Gladstone and south of Rockhampton.] These being the first ever landed Disaster was to strike these hives. Naishs letter to The Capricornian appeared on 23 October 1886. His hives, which died out around a decade previous were manipulated by me substantially to my satisfaction for some years prior to bringing them to Raglan. My bees succumbed to an insidious foe, commonly known in Europe and America as foul brood. ... The disease originated through the purchase of an imported hive, which had been supplemented by brood combs from a so-called Italian colony,

the far west to the border. The prevailing drought that year debarred his traveling and he has in consequence remained at home to work on the farm. While away he manages it by correspondence. Mrs. Naish and the Misses Naish are enthusiasts in agriculture, and they do the supervising during the absence of the chief. Cedar Valley Farm must have been a pleasant place to visit for the cottage home is almost embowered with trailing vines and creeper flowers, trained and tended by the feminine hand, a place where music, mirth, and jollity help to while away the hours.

Would that I had lived in that region and in that time for I could have gathered together my beekeeping paraphernalia and looked forward to a convivial visit to Cedar Valley. (This article was researched and written by Peter Barrett, author of The Immigrant Bees volumes I to IV. Vol. V is under construction. Contact address: 33 Osprey Street, Caloundra QLD 4551, Australia. His latest book, An Australasian Beekeeping Bibliography, was published in October 2011 by Northern Bee Books of Scout Bottom Farm, Mytholmroyd, Hebden Bridge, England.)

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