There appears to be doubt over the first arrival of honey bees to Western Australia. One of the first references to honey bees is in the diary of Captain John Molloy who sailed on the Warrior to Western Australia in 1829-30. In his diary 1 December 1829 he wrote:
“Had the bees upon the deck. Inspected them and cleared out the hive and found a great number dead”.
Another record of honey bees being shipped to Western Australia from England was in Mary Bussell’s diary who arrived in 1834 on the boat James Pattison. Unfortunately all the bees died before arriving in Perth. Mary wrote to her mother claiming “the only live things” to have landed are “Foot’s dog and cat”. The first reference to a bee hive being established in the Swan River Colony is in The Inquirer, 11 November 1846.
“…the persevering patriotism of Lt Helpman, RN after more than one unsuccessful and discouraging attempt, succeeded in establishing at Fremantle, a hive which swarmed on Friday last, and, a new hive being in readiness, the young swarm was carefully secured and will we trust, found their own colonies through Western Australian “saecula saeculorum”.
It appears Lt Helpman transported these bees into the Swan River Colony on 12 June 1846 or 2 March 1846 from Sydney. Helpman’s enthusiasm was motivated by Governor Hutt’s offer of a premium to the first person to successfully establish bees in the new colony. Rob Manning, research scientist at the Department of Agriculture and Food argues that the first landing of bees in the colony was 15 September 1841 when Helpman collected his five pound prize. If you are interested in further information on the history of beekeeping in Western Australia visit the new display “Honey Come Back” in the Battye Library, third floor of the State Library of Western Australia.