Everett Franklin Phillips

Everett Franklin Phillips
Everett Franklin Phillips

Everett Franklin Phillips (1878-1951) was a renowned American apiculturist, scholar, and innovator in the beekeeping field. Phillips’ interest in honey bees began during his graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the early 1900s. As part of his studies, he spent the summers of 1903 and 1904 in Medina, Ohio, with the A. I. Root family, befriending E. R. Root. While there, he completed the first of what would become more than 600 written works on bees. This particular article appeared in the September 1903 edition of Gleanings in Bee Culture.

After graduation, he served as the Expert in Charge of Apiculture within the Bureau of Entomology of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). There, he spearheaded efforts to bring the U.S. beekeeping industry in line with modern scientific standards. Not only did this work help beekeeping practitioners and scholars, it also contributed directly to the 400% increase in U.S. commercial honey production incurred during the first World War.

Everett Franklin Phillips In 1924, Phillips joined the faculty of Cornell University as professor of apiculture, and remained there until his retirement in 1946. He worked with long-time friend and major U.S. apiculturist E. R. Root to establish a world-class beekeeping library at Cornell. An endowment fund started by the New York State Beekeepers’ Association, supplemented with proceeds from the Dyce Honey Patent—an innovation in the production of creamed honey patented by Elton J. Dyce, also of Cornell—made possible the purchase of new library acquisitions over the years. The E. F. Phillips Beekeeping Collection, housed at the A. R. Mann Library at Cornell University, is today one of the largest beekeeping libraries in the world, containing some of the oldest existing beekeeping treatises, complete collections of writings by famed apiculturists such as L. L. Langstroth and Moses Quinby, and an ever-growing number of new publications.

In 1932 Professor E. F. Phillips spent a month in Soviet Union, particularly in Georgia visiting various beekeeping and bee research establishments.

Phillips and his wife Mary Geisler Phillips, continued to work at expanding the beekeeping library at Cornell until his death in 1951.

A beekeeping visit to the Soviet Union.

By Eva Crane
SOURCE: Bee World 44 (2) 48 – 76
DATE: 1963


In 1932 Professor and Mrs. E. F. Phillips, from Cornell University in the United States, spent a month in Soviet Union visiting various beekeeping and bee research establishments. The reorganization of the Soviet Union since the Revolution has proceeded for twice as long again since Professor Phillip's visit; yet as far as I know, there has been no ' bee visit' to the country from the western world during these thirty years. I was therefore very pleased to have the opportunity last year to visit the Soviet Union, and to meet some of the bee research workers and beekeepers.


Our visit to Georgia was as unalloyed pleasure to me. The sight of the long range of the Caucasus mountains from the air, as we approached from the north, was a relief after the seemingly endless east-European plain — it was like the first sight of the Rockies after crossing the Middle West. To Russians who have spent their lives as plain-dwellers, mountainous country can seem remote and forbidding; one of my Russian companions dismissed the scene as ' Nature in her savage mood '. But it was the type of country that I knew and loved, with wooded foothills and sheltered valleys and, standing high above all — like the string of volcanic peaks of the Cascade Range along the Pacific coast of North America — was Mount Elbruz, 18 526 feet high and the highest point of Europe. This range of mountains was the refuge of honeybees during part of the Ice Age period, and here the varieties of the Caucasian race evolved. In another way, too, I was approaching familiar country. In classical times the Caucasus mountains were the northern border of the known world, and we were entering a region which formed the background of stories familiar to me since childhood. Here in the Caucasus, Prometheus was chained; to the south, where we were heading, was the Rion valley where Jason sought and found the Golden Fleece. And I knew that up the valley, over the watershed between the Black Sea and the Caspian, was Tbilisi (Tiflis), where fourth-century churches still stand as memorials to Georgia's importance in early Christian history. (Georgia shares with England her patron saint, St. George.) We landed first just north of the Georgian border at Adler, in what used to be Circassia, famed for centuries for the beauty and docility of her maidens. In a smaller plane we flew low along the Black Sea coast to Sukhumi, and I could not help wondering just where along this coast Jason and his Argonauts had landed. The Greek city Dioscuria is now beneath the sea, and Sukhumi contains no traces of it; it was replaced by Sevastopolis, then by Tskhumi; in the sixteenth century the Turks built a fortress called Sukhum-Kaleh — hence the present name. Modern Sukhumi is one of the Black Sea resorts, in a lovely position with the snow-capped peaks and wooded foothills of the Caucasus for a backdrop. Here the staff of the Beekeeping Department of the Georgian Experimental Station at Tbilisi had come to meet us, since a congress on wine-growing in Tbilisi prevented our making that town our headquarters. Our welcome at the airport (Fig. 9) was a fair introduction to the hospitality to come. In both Russia and Georgia bouquets are presented to men and women alike; here some of the species were new to me, for we were in Asia. As we drove from the airport to the town, the hard blue sky and palm-lined roads, and even the buildings beside them, reminded me forcibly of Cuba. My companions were interested when I told them this, but I had to disappoint them by admitting that I had only visited the island ' before the revolution '. There was a great loosening of restraint in Georgia: clothes were less formal, voices seemed louder, and laughter and song were easily provoked. The food was more varied — and hot in the Mexican sense — and the light Georgian wines added to the general feeling of well-being. By day the sea was brilliant blue, but by night it was truly black, except for a path of silver beneath the full moon. We seemed worlds away from Moscow.

Beekeeping in Georgia

Even in early times Georgia was famous for its honey and beeswax. Strabo, however, complained of the bitterness of some of the honey from Colchis, the ancient country at the mouth of the Rion valley. (It was near Trebizond, 150 miles away across the Black Sea, that Xenophon's soldiers were poisoned by rhododendron honey.) Sukhumi is in Abkhazia, now an ' autonomous ' republic of Georgia, but formerly part of Circassia. A hundred years ago the Circassians still worshipped Merissa, protectress of the bees. They said that once all the bees were destroyed but one, which took refuge in Merissa's sleeve, and that this bee was the ancestor of all the bees that followed. By the nineteenth century there were large apiaries in Georgia, and vodka was made from some of the honey. In 1910 there were 50 000 colonies, and these have now been increased to 250 000. At a formal meeting in the drama theatre, and elsewhere, we heard about present-day Georgian beekeeping from the staff of the Beekeeping Research Station: Director Mateshvili, and Michael Lekashvili, Zurab Makashvili, George Mchedlishvili, Maria Mrevlishvili… Almost all the Georgians I met had names ending with shvili, which presumably means ' son of'. Georgians speak Russian as well as their native language, which has affinities to few others, and does not belong to the Indo-European group; The Georgian peoples are not Slavs. The Station has a staff of forty, in four departments: beekeeping organization and technique, bee diseases, bee breeding, and bee forage. And Georgia is half the size of England and Wales, with a tenth the population; it has about the same number of colonies of bees. One of the chief aims of the station is to train beekeepers in the best use of their indigenous Caucasian bees. There are three chief strains of these, in Abkhazia, Mingrelia, and Svanetia in the higher mountains. In Krasnodar on the northern slopes of the Caucasus there are other mountain strains, and in the plain of Azerbaijan, between Georgia and the Caspian Sea, there are yellow ' Caucasians' which are not a mountain strain, and which seem to be more like Italians. All these belong to the Caucasian race. One of their characteristics is their great tongue length, which varies from strain to strain and is greatest of all in Svanetian bees. Georgian bees are said to be easily acclimatized in other regions; their other characteristic — docility — I could see for myself in the apiaries we visited. The first of belonged to Il'ich State Farm in the coastal plain; it was an example of the 60 000 apiaries on the Soviet collective and state farms. We had a terrific welcome, and the beekeeper opened various hives for us, so that we could see Abkhazian bees on their own home ground. I was amazed at their complete docility, and the way in which they remained on the combs as these were removed from the hive, photographed, and generally handled. No propolis was visible, but I learned on enquiry that the frames had recently been cleaned up. We were finally called to a table in the open, laden with fruit and wine, and here Mr. Aiba, Deputy Minister of Agriculture for Abkhazia, presented me with a comb of honey from the apiary weighing 1\ pounds. We were given as many pears and bunches of grapes as we could carry away, and two very happy and merry bus loads returned to Sukhumi, full-throated Georgian songs speeding us on our way. The other apiary was up a sheltered valley in the foothills, beyond a bridge built in Queen Tamara's time. It was part of the Sukhumi State Queen-rearing Apiary, under the Ministry of Agriculture. The Apiary has a staff of 22, consisting of four chiefs, and six brigades of three each (see page 56). Each brigade can manage 250 colonies; it has 10 rearing colonies, 1 or 2 drone colonies, and 150 mating nuclei. Colonies are migrated fifty miles into the mountains in the spring, where various flows can be obtained at different heights until September. The average honey surplus is 25 kg. per colony, largely from Spanish chestnut and lime (Castanea sativa and Tilia parvifolid). The Apiary has expanded from 180 colonies in 1950 to 1200 in 1962, queen production rising from 250 to 4080; there is considerable pride that queens are now exported to Cuba. Packages have increased from 50 in 1954 to 560; a package here is what we would call a nucleus — several combs with queen, bees and stores. To give ventilation during transport, these are dispatched in a wooden box large enough to make about six American package-bee boxes. I was impressed with the beekeeping potential in Georgia. In Texas I had once watched the loading up of a single consignment of 1500 packages from the Weaver Apiaries, each with queen, bees and stores, to be driven 2000 miles to Minnesota in one truck. Here in Georgia they have good bee country, and good bees, which seem still to be sufficiently homogeneous within the different regions to make special breeding unnecessary. The range of latitude is about the same in the Soviet Union as in North America, where in recent years some 500 tons of package bees have been produced annually — approaching half a million packages. There would seem to be no reason why production should not be developed on a similar scale in the Soviet Union, as and when adequate roads and transport vehicles are built, and beekeeping operations can be speeded up to absorb less manpower.

Georgian hospitality

We were finally taken into the honey house, where another Georgian spread was laid out; cold meats and fish and the local salty cheese, flat bread-cakes called lavash, and towering dishes of fruit. The wine was in traditional decanters and glasses, of a beautiful Bristol blue. There were speeches and songs, and we felt immersed in Georgian hospitality and friendship. When we finally left, we found an overflow party on the hillside among the hives (Fig. 15). Here a barrel of wine was fitted with an outlet tube, but no stopper; it was just kept moving from glass to glass. When the time came to leave the apiary, we found the gate closed against us ' in the Georgian tradition ': guests were let through singly as they drank a final glass. One of the Hungarian delegates, Dr. Orosi-Pal, did not drink wine at all; he managed his numerous toasts very well by starting off' With an empty glass but with a full heart... But this did not help him here, and he led an escape party through a bramble hedge, where persimmons and pomegranates grew. On the bus ride back to Sukhumi there was dancing as well as singing: in their singing the Georgians reminded me of a Welsh choir. Throughout their history — which is much longer than that of the Russians — the various races of Georgia have been noted for their bravery, hospitality, musical ability and good looks. The first quality I was not in a position to test, but I can certainly confirm the continued existence of the other three. We were given a final banquet that evening; in both Russia and Georgia speeches go on all through the meal, and mine usually came early, since Anglia took precedence alphabetically over even Bulgaria. We were presented with drinking horns, but were told that those used traditionally by Georgians were much larger, and that having no stand they could not be set down until they were emptied. On our way to the airport next morning we were also given some of the tea grown in Georgia — which is outstandingly good. We were all unwilling to leave Georgia. I badly wanted to go to Tbilisi with the staff of the Beekeeping Station, but such individual deviations from collective life are unthinkable in any of the republics of the Soviet Union, and I can only hope that one day, in some way, I shall be able to enjoy the hospitality of Georgia again, and see more of its mountains and its beekeeping.

The Habits of the Honeybee pp. 23. Medina, OH: A. I. Root (1905).

  • Morris-Knower, James P.. "Beeman of Ithaca: E. Franklin Phillips & the Phillips’ Beekeeping Collection at Cornell’s Albert R. Mann Library." Bee Culture Nov (2000): 23-25.
  • Caron, Dewey M.. "Dr. E. F. Phillips." EAS Meeting. University of Delaware, Aug 2002

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