Frank Benton

Frank Benton
Frank Benton
(July 5, 1852 – Febr. 28, 1919)

Frank Benton (July 5, 1852 – February 28, 1919) was an prominent American entomologist, researcher, beekeeping innovator and author. Benton studied at Michigan Agricultural College, University of Tennessee, the University of Munich, and the University of Athens. He was a member of various organizations: Bureau of Entomology in the United States Department of Agriculture, Entomological Society of Washington, North American Beekeepers Association, National Geographic Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is also known for invention of special mailing cage for shipping queen bees (Benton Cage).

Frank Benton in Caucasus, 1905 Frank Benton with Georgian entomologist Ilarion Kavtaradze, circa 1905 Georgia, Caucasus.

At the dawn of industrial farming, many countries faced sometimes formidable challenge of increasing agricultural productivity by naturally stimulating the plants that had been declared a priority for national farming and the agriculture industry. Numerous attempts to enhance the efficiency of local beekeeping farms did not lead to tangible results. It was then that a program arose for the US Department of Agriculture for the introduction of best suitable bee breeds capable of providing the farming with the most important biological functionality - pollination.

For this aim Benton traveled to many countries from Europe to Palestine and Far East. In 1905 Benton visited Georgia to further investigate the Caucasian honeybees which were already known to US beekeepers from 1890.

Here is what K. A. Gorbachev writes about this visit ("Beekeeping Life", No. 2, 1907, p. 45): “A famous American beekeeper visited us in the Caucasus. The purpose of his visit is to get acquainted with the Caucasian bee... Benton is delighted with the Caucasian bees and predicts the most brilliant future... There is another huge advantage for the Caucasian bees: their tongue is longer than that of the bees of Central Europe”.

Benton greatly supported the import of Caucasian (Georgian) Mountain Grey honey bees to the United States. It was only after Benton had been placed in charge of bee culture in the United States Department of Agriculture and made his second trip abroad, that Caucasian bees became well known in the USA. Based on a list of breeding facilities published by the US Department of Agriculture in 1943 (Bulletin E 297) there were 43 Mountain Grey breeding apiaries in the United States, including the first in Iowa, accounting for approximately 25% of all queens produced in the USA.

The merit of Benton, who opened the export of the Caucasian Bee to Western countries, is great. During his research of big bees (Apis dorsata) in India Benton contracted "jungle fever". Benton died at Fort Myers, February 28, 1919.