The honey-bee is not a native of our continent. Marcgrove, indeed, mentions a species of the honey-bee in Brazil. But this has no sting, and is therefore different from the one we have, which resembles perfectly that of Europe. The Indians concur with us in the tradition that it was brought from Europe; but when, and by whom, we know not. The bees have generally extended themselves into the country, a little in advance of the white settlers. The Indians, therefore, call them the white man’s fly, and consider their approach as indicating the approach of the settlements of the whites.
Notes on Virginia, 1782, 794
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Notes on Virginia was Jefferson’s compilation of the natural history (science) of his native state. This excerpt comes at the end of Query (Chapter) VI, “Productions Mineral, Vegetable and Animal.” Little escapes his attention, not even the honeybee.
It’s interesting to note that even as a young man, in his late 30s, Jefferson has a personal library extensive enough that he could research honeybees from Brazil and Europe.
A longer version of this quote plus more information on Jefferson’s interest in bees, wax and honey are found on Monticello’s web site.