There is much debate on the arrival of the honeybee into the United States. Some say the Spaniards were the first to bring them and they migrated north by swarming and transported with the first Spanish explorers arriving into the American Southwest. However, Purdue University states that California's first honeybees did not arrived until 1853. Purdue goes on stating that prior to the arrival of the settlers honeybees were unknown to the Native Americans. We have seen limited evidence in archaeological studies to even prove this otherwise.
This author has seen a Mogollon Mimbres bowl with a possible depiction of a "beekeeper" and his bees. A crude figure wearing a head cover and stingy flying creatures all around him. This vessel, dating to AD 1050-1150 is the only known representation of an ancient beekeeper on Native American art making one question the interpretation of the potter's depictions. As a restoration artist, I wanted to hold the vessel in my hands to study but was refused by the then owner.
It is said that several early american writers, including Thomas Jefferson, reported that honeybees were called "white man's flies" by the Native Americans. Plus it has been documented that Native Americans have said that when they noticed honeybees, white settlers were not far behind. Most believe honeybees arrived in Virginia around 1622. Like cows, chickens, and sheep, honeybees are an imported livestock. Migrating swarms (mother nature's way of honeybees multiplying) brought honeybees into Connecticut and Pennsylyvania by the 1650's. Michigan by 1776. Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, and Illinois by 1800. Within twenty years they swarmed to Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin. Moving west was slower and in 1843 it was reported that there were no honeybees west of Kansas. It was documented that honeybees traveled by Mormon wagons into Utah in 1848. Swarming reached Nevada by 1852. Honeybees reportedly were brought to California by Botanist, C.A. Shelton in 1853. Arizona in 1864. But documentation proves there was a German immigrant, Willhelm Brukish, that had bees and settled into Texas in 1842. Other writings from early settlers may provide other dates and state otherwise as diaries pop up and occasional mention of honeybees may come to surface. Studies of early Native American languages and boat manifestos also provide more evidence.
The point here is not to argue who brought what when. We all know why. Honeybees not only produce sweet honey but also pollinate our food crops. For every one out of three bites of food you put in your mouth to nourish your body - you owe to honeybees and to beekeepers.
Most people have read about population decline in recent years and even large corporations such as the makers of Haagan das Ice Cream and Cheerios Cereal have gotten on board the "save the bees" train. Education on neonicotinoids, GMO's, mites and other causes of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) have been in the news. So some population education is happening. So why does Spring trigger an explosion of social media experts? Because Spring and swarm season go hand in hand. As temperatures warm and flowers begin to blossom, photos of swarms pop up on facebook posts on gardening group pages nationwide. What is completely baffling to me is the reluctance to allow a hobbyist or beekeeper that have a deep connection to these sometimes downright cranky, hurtful, yet interesting social insects gather them and give them a good home.
Honeybee swarms are like finding a stray cat or dog, or more correctly a sheep or cow that got out. I have never heard of someone say "just leave them alone to move on". A feral cat moved her kittens into your yard....your response is never "oh I respect them, they will move on in 48-72 hours". No, your first reaction is to find them a good home or get someone else to. Honeybees, a non-native species, brought by man, managed by man, to feed man, are no different. Just not as huggable ;) Honeybees need your help too.
If left to "move on". Where will they go? possibly into a neighbors roof, under a shed, or other unwanted, potentially dangerous location. Dangerous for the bees as the next person may opt to kill them with poisons instead of calling for a removal and relocation. Dangerous to humans as 98% of the Southern Arizona bee population has a percentage of Africanized Hybrid genetics. A hobbyist or beekeeper will save these bees and requeen them with a gentler European stock line. Within 2-3 months the Africanized genes will be cycled out and the European line takes over the hive. The more this can be done the more European drones will take to the air to mate with the feral populations in hopes of drowning out the unwanted, unpredictable Africanized stock. Those hybrids are strong, resourceful creatures and it may be a losing fight, but you can do your part to help save the bees by calling a swarm chaser. If you are in Southern Arizona and have bees in need of help please call one of the beekeepers or hobbyists on the Southern Arizona Beekeepers Asscoation list: http://southernazbeekeepers.org/bee-removal/