How admirably are all these difficulties obviated by the present arrangement! Their domicile is well supplied with all the materials for the rearing of brood, and long before any of the insects which depend upon the heat of the sun, are able to commence breeding, the bees have added thousands in the full vigor of youth to their already numerous population. They are thus able to send off in season, colonies sufficiently powerful to take advantage of the honey-harvest, and provision the new hive against the approach of Winter. From these considerations, it is very evident that swarming, so far from being, as some Apiarians have considered it, a forced or unnatural event, is one, which in a state of nature, could not possibly be dispensed with.
Let us now inquire under what circumstances it ordinarily takes place.
The time when swarms may be expected, depends of course, upon climate, season, and the strength of the stocks. In the Northern and Middle States, bees seldom swarm before the latter part of May; and June may be considered as the great swarming month. The importance of having powerful swarms early in the season, will be discussed in another place.
In the Spring, as soon as a hive well filled with comb and bees, becomes too much crowded to accommodate its teeming population, the bees begin the necessary preparations for emigration. A number of royal cells are commenced about the time that the drones first make their appearance; and by the time that the young queens arrive at maturity, the drones are always found in the greatest abundance. The first swarm is invariably led off by the old queen, unless she has previously died from accident or disease, in which case, it is accompanied by one of the young queens reared to supply her loss. The old mother leaves soon after the royal cells are sealed over, unless delayed by unfavorable weather. There are no signs from which the Apiarian can, with certainty, predict the issue of a first swarm. I devoted annually, much attention to this point, vainly hoping to discover some infallible indications of first swarming; until taught by further reflection that, from the very nature of the case, there can be no such indications. The bees, from an unfavorable state of the weather, or the failure of the blossoms to yield an abundant supply of honey, often change their minds, and refuse to swarm, even after all their preparations have been completed. Nay more, they sometimes send out no new colonies that season, when a sudden change of weather has interrupted them on the very day when they were intending to emigrate, and after they had taken a full supply of honey for their journey.
If on a fair, warm day in the swarming season, but few bees leave a strong hive, while other colonies are busily at work, we may, unless the weather suddenly prove unfavorable, look with great confidence for a swarm. As the old queens, which accompany the first swarm, are heavy with eggs, and fly with considerable difficulty, they are shy of venturing out, except on fair, still days. If the weather is very sultry, a swarm will sometimes issue as early as 7 o'clock in the morning; but from 10 to 2, is the usual time, and the majority of swarms come off from 11 to 1. Occasionally, a swarm will venture out as late as 5 P. M. An old queen is seldom guilty of such a piece of indiscretion.
I have in repeated instances witnessed the whole process of swarming, in my observing hives. On the day fixed for their departure, the queen appears to be very restless, and instead of depositing her eggs in the cells, she travels over the combs, and communicates her agitation to the whole colony. The emigrating bees fill themselves with honey, some time before their departure: in one instance, I noticed them laying in their supplies, more than two hours before they left. A short time before the swarm rises, a few bees may generally be seen, sporting in the air, with their heads turned always to the hive, occasionally flying in and out, as though they were impatient for the important event to take place. At length, a very violent agitation commences in the hive: the bees appear almost frantic, whirling around in a circle, which continually enlarges, like the circles made by a stone thrown into still water, until at last the whole hive is in a state of the greatest ferment, and the bees rush impetuously to the entrance, and pour forth in one steady stream. Not a bee looks behind, but each one pushes straight ahead, as though flying "for dear life," or urged on by some invisible power, in its headlong career. The queen often does not come out, until a large number have left, and she is frequently so heavy, from the large number of eggs in her ovaries, that she falls to the ground, incapable of rising with the colony into the air.
The bees are very soon aware of her absence, and a most interesting scene may now be witnessed. A diligent search is immediately made for their missing mother; the swarm scatters in all directions, and I have frequently seen the leaves of the adjoining trees and bushes, almost as thickly covered with the anxious explorers, as they are with drops of rain after a copious shower. If she cannot be found, they return to the old hive, though occasionally they attempt to enter some other hive, or join themselves to another swarm if any is still unhived.
The ringing of bells, and beating of kettles and frying-pans, is one of the good old ways more honored by the breach than the observance; it may answer a very good purpose in amusing the children, but I believe that as far as the bees are concerned, it is all time thrown away; and that it is not a whit more efficacious than the custom practiced by some savage tribes, who, when the sun is eclipsed, imagining that it has been swallowed by an enormous dragon, resort to the most frightful noises, to compel his snake-ship to disgorge their favorite luminary. If a swarm has selected a new home previous to their departure, no amount of noise will ever compel them to alight, but as soon as all the bees which compose the emigrating colony have left the hive, they fly in a direct course, or "bee-line," to the chosen spot. I have noticed that when bees are much neglected by those who pretend to take care of them, such unceremonious leave-taking is quite common; on the contrary, when proper attention is bestowed on them, it seldom occurs.
It can seldom if ever occur to those who manage their bees according to my system; as I shall show in the Chapter on Artificial Swarming. If the Apiarian perceives that his swarm instead of clustering begins to rise higher and higher in the air, and evidently means to depart, not a moment is to be lost: instead of empty noises, he must resort to means much more effective to stay their vagrant propensities. Handfulls of dirt cast into the air, or water thrown among them, will often so disorganize them as to compel them to alight. Of all devices for stopping them, the most original one that I have ever heard of, is to flash the sun's rays among them, by the use of a looking glass! I have never had occasion to try it, but the anonymous writer who recommends it, says that he never knew it to fail. If they are forcibly prevented from eloping, then special care must be taken or they will be almost sure soon after hiving, to leave for their selected home. The queen should be caught and confined for several days in a way which will be subsequently described. The same caution must be exercised, when new swarms abandon their hive. If the queen cannot be caught, and there is reason to dread a desertion, the bees may be carried into the cellar, and confined in total darkness, until towards sun-set of the third day after they swarmed, being supplied in the mean time with water and honey to build their combs.
If a colony decides to go, they look upon the hive in which they are put as only a temporary stopping place, and seldom trouble themselves to build any comb in it. If the hive is so constructed as to permit inspection, I can tell by a glance whether bees are disgusted with their new residence, and mean before long to clear out. They not only refuse to work with that energy so characteristic of a new swarm, but they have a peculiar look which to the experienced eye at once proclaims the fact that they are staying only upon sufferance. Their very attitude, hanging as they do with a sort of dogged or supercilious air, as though they hated even so much as to touch their detested abode, is equivalent to an open proclamation that they mean to be off. My numerous experiments in attempting from the moment of hiving, to make the bees work in observing hives exposed to the full light of day, instead of keeping them as I now do in darkness for several days, have made me quite familiar with all their graceless, do-nothing proceedings before their departure. Bees sometimes abandon their hives very early in the Spring, or late in Summer or Fall. They exhibit all the appearance of natural swarming; but they leave, not because the population is crowded, but because it is either so small, or the hive so destitute of supplies, that they are discouraged or driven to desperation. I once knew a colony to leave the hive under such circumstances, on a springlike day in December! They seem to have a presentiment that they must perish if they stay, and instead of awaiting the sure approach of famine, they sally out to see if something cannot be done to better their condition.
At first sight, it seems strange that so provident an insect should not always select a suitable domicile before venturing on so important a step as to abandon the old home. Often before they are safely housed again, they are exposed to powerful winds and drenching rains, which beat down and destroy many of their number.
I solve this problem in the economy of the bee, in the same manner that I have solved so many others, by considering in what way, this arrangement conduces to the advantage of man.
The honey-bee would have been of comparatively little service to him, if instead of tarrying until he had sufficient time to establish them in a hive in which to labor for him, their instinct impelled them to decamp, without any delay, from the restraints of domestication. In this, as in many other things, we see that what on a superficial view, appeared to be a very obvious imperfection, proves, on closer examination, to be a special contrivance to answer important ends.
To return to our new swarm. The queen sometimes alights first, and sometimes joins the cluster after it has commenced forming. It is a very rare thing for the bees ever to cluster, unless the queen is with them; and when they do, and yet afterwards disperse, I believe that usually the queen, after first rising with them, has been lost by falling into some spot where she is unnoticed by the bees. In two instances, I performed the following interesting experiment.
Perceiving a hive in the very act of swarming, I contracted the entrance so as to secure the queen when she made her appearance. In each case, at least one third of the bees came out, before the queen presented herself to join them. When I perceived that the swarm had given up their search for her, and were beginning to return to the parent hive, I placed her, with her wings clipped, on the limb of a small evergreen tree: she crawled to the very top of the limb, as if for the purpose of making herself as conspicuous as possible. A few bees noticed her, and instead of alighting, darted rapidly away; in a few seconds, the whole colony were apprised of her presence, flew in a dense cloud to the spot, and commenced quietly clustering around her. I have often noticed the surprising rapidity with which bees communicate with each other, while on the wing. Telegraphic signals are hardly more instantaneous. (See Chapter on the Loss of the Queen.)
That bees send out scouts to seek a suitable abode, it seems to me, can admit of no serious question. Swarms have been traced to their new home, either in their flight directly from their hive, or from the place where they have clustered; and it is evident, that in such instances, they have pursued the most direct course. Now such a precision of flight to a "terra incognita," an unknown home, would plainly be impossible, if some of their number had not previously selected the spot, so as to be competent to act as guides to the rest. The sight of the bees for distant objects, is wonderfully acute, and after rising to a sufficient elevation, they can see the prominent objects in the vicinity of their intended abode, even although they may be several miles distant. Whether the bees send out their scouts before or after swarming, may admit of more question. In cases where the colony flies without alighting, to its new home, they are unquestionably dispatched before swarming. If this were their usual course, then we should naturally expect all the colonies to take the same speedy departure. Or if, for the convenience of the queen over fatigued by the excitement of swarming, or for any other reason, they should see fit to cluster, then we should expect that only a transient tarrying would be allowed. Instead of this, they often remain until the next day, and instances of a more protracted delay are not unfrequent. The cases which occur, of bees stopping in their flight, and clustering again on any convenient object, are not inconsistent with this view of the subject; for if the weather is hot, and the sun shines directly upon them, they will often leave before they have found a suitable habitation; and even when they are on the way to their new home, the queen being heavy with eggs, and unaccustomed to fly, is sometimes from weariness, compelled to alight, and her colony clusters around her. Queens, under such circumstances, sometimes seem unwilling to entrust themselves again to their wings, and the poor bees attempt to lay the foundations of their colony, on fence rails, hay-stacks, or other most unsuitable places.
I have been informed by Mr. Henry M. Zollickoffer of Philadelphia, a very intelligent and reliable observer, that he knew a swarm to settle on a willow tree in that city, in a lot owned by the Pennsylvania Hospital; it remained there for sometime, and the boys pelted it with stones, to get possession of its comb and honey.
The absolute necessity for scouts or explorers, is evident from all the facts in the case, unless we admit that bees have the faculty of flying in an air-line to a hollow tree, or some suitable abode which they have never seen, though they cannot find their hive, if, in their absence, it is moved only a few rods from its former position.
These obvious considerations are abundantly confirmed by the repeated instances in which a few bees have been noticed prying very inquisitively into a hole in a hollow tree or the cornice of a building, and have been succeeded, before long, by a whole colony. The importance of these remarks will be more obvious, when I come to discuss the proper mode of hiving bees.
Having described the common method of procedure pursued by the new swarm, when left without interference to their natural instincts, it is time to return to the parent stock from which they emigrated.
In witnessing the immense number which have abandoned it, we might naturally suppose that it must be almost entirely depopulated. It is sometimes asserted that as bees swarm in the pleasantest part of the day, the population is replenished by the return of large numbers of workers that were absent in the fields; this, however, can seldom be the case, as it is rare for many bees to be absent from the hive at the time of swarming.
To those who limit the fertility of the queen to 200, or at most 400 eggs per day, the rapid replenishing of the hive after swarming, must ever be a problem incapable of solution; but to those who have ocular demonstration that she can lay from one to three thousand eggs a day, it is no mystery at all. A sufficient number of bees is always left behind, to carry on the domestic operations of the hive, and as the old queen departs only when the population of the hive is super-abundant; and when thousands of young bees are hatching daily, and often 30,000 or more, are rapidly maturing, in a short time the hive is almost as populous as it was before swarming. Those who assert that the new colony is composed of young bees which have been forced to emigrate by the older ones, have certainly failed to use their eyes to much advantage, or they would have seen, in hiving a new swarm, that it is composed of both young and old; some, having wings ragged from hard work, while others are evidently quite young. After the tumult of swarming is entirely over, not a bee that did not participate in it, seeks afterwards to join the new colony, and not one that did, seeks to return. What determines some to go, and others to stay, we have no certain means of knowing.
How wonderfully abiding the impression made upon an insect, which in a moment causes it to lose all its strong affection for the old home in which it was bred, and which it has entered, perhaps hundreds of times; so that when established in another hive, though only a few feet distant, it never afterwards pays the slightest attention to its former abode! Often, when the hive into which the new swarm is put, is not removed from the place where the bees were hived, until some have gone to the fields, on their return, they fly for hours, in ceaseless circles about the spot where the missing hive stood. I have often known them to continue the vain search for their companions until they have, at length, dropped down from utter exhaustion, and perished in close proximity to their old homes!
It has been already stated that the old queen, if the weather is favorable, generally leaves about the time that the young queens are sealed over, to be changed into nymphs. In about eight days more, one of these queens hatches, and the question must now be decided whether any more colonies are to be sent out that season, or not. If the hive is well filled with bees, and the season in all respects promising, this question is generally decided in the affirmative; although colonies often refuse to swarm more than once when they are very strong, and when we can assign no reason for such a course; and they sometimes swarm repeatedly, to the utter ruin of both the old stock, and the after-swarms.
If the bees decide to swarm again, the first hatched queen is allowed to have her own way. She rushes immediately to the cells of her sisters, and, (as was described in the Chapter on Physiology,) stings them to death. From some observations that I have made, I am inclined to think that the other bees aid her in this murderous transaction: they certainly tear open the cradles of the slaughtered innocents, and remove them from the cells. Their dead bodies may often be found on the ground in front of the hive.
When a queen has emerged in the natural way from her cell, the bees usually nibble away the now useless abode, until only a small acorn cup remains; but when by violence she has met with an untimely end, they take down entirely the whole of the cell. By counting these acorn-cups, it can always be ascertained how many young queens have hatched in a hive.
Before the queens emerge from their cells, a fluttering sound is frequently heard, which is caused by the rapid motion of their wings, and which must not be confounded with the piping notes which will soon be described. If the bees of the parent stock decide to swarm again, the first hatched queen is prevented from killing the others. A strong guard is kept over their cells, and as often as she approaches them with murderous intent, she is bitten, or otherwise rudely treated, and given to understand by the most uncourtier-like demonstrations, that she cannot, in all things, do just as she pleases.
When thus repulsed, like men and women who cannot have their own way, she is highly offended and utters an angry sound, given forth in a quick succession of notes, and which sounds not unlike the rapid utterance of the words, "peep, peep." I have frequently, by holding a queen in the closed hand, caused her to make the same noise. To this angry note, one or more of the queens still unhatched, will respond, in a somewhat hoarser key, just as chicken-cocks, by crowing, bid defiance to each other. These sounds are entirely unlike the usual steady hum of the bees, and when heard, are the almost infallible indications that a second swarm will soon issue. They are occasionally so loud that they may be heard at some distance from the hive.
About a week after first swarming, the Apiarian should, early in the morning or at evening, when the bees are still, place his ear against the hive, and he will, if the queens are piping, readily recognize their peculiar sounds. If their notes are not heard, at the very latest, sixteen days after the departure of the first swarm, by which time the young queens are mature, even if the first colony left as soon as the eggs were deposited in the royal cells, it is an infallible indication that the first hatched queen is without rivals in the hive, and that swarming is over, in that stock, for the season.
The second swarm usually issues on the second or third day after this sound is heard: although I have known them to delay coming out, until the fifth day, in consequence of a very unfavorable state of the weather. Occasionally, the weather is so unfavorable, that the bees permit the oldest queen to kill the others, and refuse to swarm again. This is a rare occurrence, as the young queens, unlike the old ones, do not appear to be very particular about the weather, and sometimes venture out, not merely when it is cloudy, but even when rain is falling. On this account, if a very close watch is not kept, they are often lost. As piping ordinarily commences about eight or nine days after first swarming, the second swarm generally issues ten or twelve days after the first. It has been known to issue as early as the third day after the first, and as late as the seventeenth. Such cases, however, are of rare occurrence. It frequently happens in the agitation of swarming, that several of the young queens emerge from their cells at the same time, and accompany the colony: when this is the case, the bees often alight in two or more separate clusters. Young queens not having their ovaries burdened with eggs, are much more quick on the wing, than old ones, and fly frequently much farther from the parent stock, before they alight; though I never knew a second swarm to depart to the woods without clustering at all. After the departure of a second swarm, the oldest of the remaining queens leaves her cell; and if another swarm is to be sent forth, piping will still be heard, and so before the issue of each swarm after the first. I once had five stocks issue from one swarm, and they all came out in about two weeks. In warm latitudes more than twice this number of swarms have been known to issue in one season from a single stock. The third swarm commonly makes its appearance on the second or third day after the second swarm, and the others, at intervals of about a day.
After-swarms, or casts, (these names are given to all swarms after the first,) reduce very seriously the strength of the parent stock; for after the departure of the old queen, no more eggs are deposited in the cells, until all swarming is over. It is a very wise arrangement that the second swarm does not ordinarily issue until all the eggs left by the first queen are hatched, and the young fed and sealed over, so as to require no further care. The departure of the second swarm earlier than this, would leave too few laborers to attend to the wants of the young bees. As it is, if the weather after swarming, suddenly becomes chilly, and the hives are thin and admit too much air, the bees are too much reduced in numbers, to maintain the heat requisite for the proper development of the brood, and numbers are destroyed.
In the Chapter on Artificial Swarming, I shall discuss the effect of too frequent swarming, on the profits of the Apiary. If the bee-keeper desires to have no casts, he can, by the use of my hives, very easily, prevent their issue. As soon as the first swarm is hived, the parent stock may be opened, and all the queen cells except one removed. How much better this is, than to attempt to return the after-swarms to the parent hive, can only be appreciated by one who has thoroughly tried both plans. If the Apiarian desires the most rapid multiplication of colonies possible, where natural swarming is relied on, full directions will be furnished, in the sequel, for building up all after-swarms, however small, into vigorous stocks. It will be remembered that both the parent stock from which the swarm issues, and all the colonies except the first, have a young queen. These queens never leave the hive for impregnation, until after they have been established as the acknowledged heads of independent families. They generally go out for this purpose, the first pleasant day after they are thus acknowledged, early in the afternoon, at which hour the drones are flying in the greatest numbers. On first leaving their hive, they always fly with their heads turned towards it, and enter and depart often several times before they finally soar up into the air. Such precautions on the part of a young queen, are highly necessary that she may not mistake her own hive on her return, and lose her life by attempting to enter that of another colony. Mistakes of this kind are frequently made when the hives stand near, and closely resemble each other, and are fatal, not only to the queen, but to her whole colony. In the new hive there is no brood at all, and in the old one it is too far advanced towards maturity to answer for raising new queens. Such calamities, in my hive, admit of a very easy remedy, as I shall show in the Chapter on the Loss of the Queen.
To guard the young queen against such frequent mistakes, I paint the covered fronts of my hives, with the alighting boards, and blocks guarding the entrance, of different colors. This answers the same purpose as to paint the whole surface of the boxes, some of one color, and some of another. The only proper color for a hive when exposed to the weather, is a perfect white; any shade of color will absorb the heat of the sun, so as to warp the wood-work of the hive, besides exposing the bees to a pent and suffocating heat.
When a young queen leaves the hive for the purpose above mentioned, the bees, on missing her, are often filled with alarm, and rush from the hive, just as though they were intending to swarm. Their agitation soon calms down, if she returns to them in safety. I shall give through the medium of the Latin tongue, some statements which are important only to the scientific naturalist, and entomologist.
Post coitum fucus statim perit. Penis ejectio, ut ego comperi, lenem compressionem fuci ventris, consequitur; et fucus extemplo similis fulmine tacto, moritur. Dominus Huber saepe videbat fuci organum post congressum, in corpore feminae haesisse. Vidi semel tam firme inhaerens, ut nisi disruptione reginae ventris, non possim divellere.
The queen commences laying eggs, about two days after impregnation, and for the first season, lays none but the eggs of workers; no males being needed in colonies which will throw no swarm till another season. It is seldom until after she has commenced replenishing the cells with eggs, that she is treated with any special attention by the bees; although if deprived of her before this time, they show, by their despair, that they thoroughly comprehended her vast importance to their welfare.
I shall now give such practical directions for the easy hiving of swarms, as will, I trust, greatly facilitate the whole operation, not merely to the novice, but even to many experienced bee-keepers; and I shall try to make these directions sufficiently minute, to guide those who having never seen a swarm hived, are very apt to imagine that the process must be a formidable one, instead of being, as it usually is to those who are fond of bees, a most delightful entertainment. Experience in this, as in other things, will speedily give the requisite skill and confidence; and the cry of "the bees are swarming," will soon be hailed with greater pleasure than an invitation to the most sumptuous banquet.
The hives for the new swarms should all be in readiness before the swarming season begins, and should be painted long enough beforehand, to have the paint most thoroughly dried. The smell of fresh paint is well known to be exceedingly injurious to human beings, and is such an abomination to the bees, that they will often desert a new hive sooner than put up with it. If the hives cannot be painted in ample season, then such paints should be used, as contain no white lead, and they should be mixed in such a manner as to dry as quickly as possible. Thin hives ought never to stand in the sun, and then, when heated to an insufferable degree, be used for a new swarm. Bees often refuse to enter such hives at all, and at best, are very slow in taking possession of them. It should be borne in mind, that bees, when they swarm, are greatly excited, and unnaturally heated. The temperature of the hive, at the moment of swarming, rises very suddenly, and many of the bees are often drenched with such a profuse perspiration that they are unable to take wing and join the departing colony. The attempt to make bees enter a heated hive in a blazing sun, is as irrational as it would be to try to force a panting crowd of human beings into the suffocating atmosphere of a close garret. If bees are to be put in hives through which the heat of the sun can penetrate, the process should be accomplished in the shade, or if this cannot conveniently be done, the hive should be covered with a sheet, or shaded with leafy boughs. If a hive with my movable frames is used, these should all be furnished, or at least, every other one, with a small piece of worker-comb, attached to the center of the frame, with melted wax or rosin. Without such a guide comb, the bees will almost always work some of the combs out of the true direction, and this will interfere with their easy removal. A sheet of comb, not larger than five inches square, will answer for all the frames of one hive. If even so small a piece of comb as this cannot be procured, let a thin line of melted wax be drawn, lengthwise, over the middle of each frame, and let the colony be examined, on the second day after hiving, and all the frames which contain irregular comb, be removed. This comb may be cut off, and attached so as to serve as a proper guide to the bees. The possession of six frames containing good worker comb, and wrought with perfect accuracy, may be made by the following device, to answer a most admirable end. Put them into a hive with six empty frames; first a frame with comb, then an empty one, &c. After the bees have had possession of this hive two or three days, visit them, and very politely inform them that the full frames were intended as a loan, and not as a gift; and that having served to set them an example how they should work, you must now have them to teach other young swarms the same useful lesson; and that the new combs which they have built with such admirable regularity, are beautiful patterns for the empty ones which you must give them. In this way, the same combs may be made to answer for many successive swarms.
Drone combs should never be attached to the frames as a guide, unless it is desired to have the bees follow the pattern, and build large ranges of drone comb, to breed a vast horde of useless consumers. Such comb, if white, may be used to great advantage in the surplus honey-boxes; if old and discolored, it should be melted for wax. I am now engaged in a course of experiments, which I hope, will enable me to dispense with the necessity of guide-combs for my frames, as they are sometimes difficult to be procured by those who have just commenced bee-keeping. As a general thing, however, every one, after a few weeks' experience, may have enough and to spare, for such purposes. Every piece of good worker-comb, if large enough to be attached to a frame, should be used both for its intrinsic value, and because bees are so wonderfully pleased when they find such unexpected treasures in a hive, that they will seldom desert it. A new swarm has been known to take possession of an old hive without any occupants, but well stored with comb. Though dozens of empty hives may be in the Apiary, they never unless under such circumstances, enter a hive, of their own accord. It might seem as though an instinct impelling them to do so, would have been a most admirable one, and so doubtless, it may seem to some that it would have been much better for man, if the earth had only brought forth spontaneously all things requisite for the support of man and beast, without any necessity for the sweat of the brow. The first and last frames in my hive, are placed about a quarter of an inch from the ends, and the others just half an inch apart. When first put in, it will be advisable to attach them slightly with a very little glue or melted wax, to keep them in their places, until they are fastened with propolis, by the bees. The rubbing of hives with various kinds of herbs or washes, has always seemed to me, useless, and often positively injurious. There ought always to be some small trees near the hives, on which the swarms can cluster, and from which they can be easily gathered. If there are none, limbs of trees about six feet high, (evergreens are best,) may be fastened into the ground, a few rods in front of the hives, and they will answer a very good temporary purpose. It will inspire the inexperienced Apiarian with much greater confidence, to remember that almost all the bees in a swarm, have filled themselves with honey, before leaving the parent stock, and are therefore in a very peaceable mood. If he is at all timid, or liable, as some are, to suffer severely from the sting of a single bee, he should, by all means, furnish himself with the protection of a bee-dress. (See Bee-Dress.)
I shall, in another place, give the best remedies for the relief of a sting. As soon as the bees have quietly clustered around their queen, preparation should be made to hive them without any unnecessary delay. The headlong haste of some Apiarians, which, by throwing them into a profuse perspiration, renders them very liable to be stung, is altogether unnecessary. The very fact that the bees have clustered, after leaving the parent stock, is almost equivalent to a certainty that they will not leave, for at least one or two hours. All convenient despatch should be used, however, lest other colonies issue before the first one is hived, and attempt to add themselves, as they frequently do, to the first swarm. The proper course to be pursued, in such a case, will be subsequently explained. If my hives are used, the entrance on the whole front must be opened, so that the bees may have every chance to enter as rapidly as possible; and a sheet must be fastened to the alighting-board, to keep the bees from being separated from each other or soiled by dirt, for a bee thoroughly covered with dust or dirt, is almost sure to perish. Unless the bees cluster at a considerable distance from the place where they are intended to be permanently stationed, the new hive which receives them may stand on the Protector in its proper place, with the sheet tacked or pinned to the alighting-board, and spread out over the mound in front of the entrance. If the common hives are used, they must generally be carried to the swarm, and propped up on the sheet, so as to give the bees a free admission. When the bees alight where they can be easily reached from the ground, the limb on which they have clustered, should, with one hand, be shaken, so that they may gently fall into a basket held under them, by the other. If the basket is sufficiently open to admit the air freely, and not so open as to allow the bees to get through the sides, it will answer all the better. The bees should now be carried very slowly to their new home, and be gently shaken, or poured out, on the sheet, in front of it. If they seem at all reluctant to enter, take up a few of them in a large spoon, (a cup will answer equally well,) and shake them close to the entrance. As they go in, they will fan with their wings, and raise a peculiar note, which communicates the joyful news that they have found a home, to the rest of their companions; and in a short time, the whole swarm will enter, and they are thus safely hived, without injury to a single bee. When bees are once shaken down on the sheet, the great mass of them are very unwilling to take wing again; for they are loaded with honey, and like heavily armed troops, they desire to march slowly and sedately to the place of encampment. If the sheet hangs in folds, or is not stretched out, so as to present an uninterrupted surface, they are often greatly confused, and take a long time to find the entrance to the hive. If it is desired to have them enter sooner than they are sometimes inclined to do, they may be gently separated, with a feather, or leafy twig, when they cluster in bunches on the sheet. On first shaking them down into the basket, multitudes will again take wing, and multitudes more will be left on the tree, but they will speedily form a line of communication with those on the sheet, and enter the hive with them; for many of them will follow the Apiarian, as he slowly carries the basket to the hive.
It sometimes happens that the queen is left on the tree: in this case, the bees will either refuse to enter the hive, or if they go in, will speedily come out, and all take wing again, to join their queen. This happens much more frequently in the case of after-swarms, whose young queens, instead of exhibiting the gravity of the old matron, are apt to be constantly flying about, and frisking in the air. When the bees cluster again on the tree, the process of hiving must be repeated.
If the Apiarian has a pair of sharp pruning-shears, and the limb on which the bees have clustered, is of no value, and so small, that it can be cut without jarring them off, this may be done, and the bees carried on it and then shaken off on the sheet.
If the bees settle too high to be easily reached, the basket should be fastened to a pole, and raised directly under the swarm; a quick motion of the basket will cause the mass of the bees to fall into it, when it may be carried to the hive, and the bees poured out from it on the sheet.
If the bees light on the trunk of a tree, or any thing from which they cannot easily be gathered in a basket, place a leafy bough over them, (it may be fastened with a gimlet,) and if they do not mount it of their own accord, a little smoke will compel them to do so. If the place is inaccessible, and this is about the worst case that occurs, they will enter a basket well shaded by cotton cloth fastened around it, and elevated so as to rest with its open top sideways to the mass of the bees. When small trees, or limbs fastened into the ground, are placed near the hives, and there are no large trees near, there will seldom be found any difficulty in hiving swarms. If two swarms light together, I advise that they should be put into one hive, and abundant room at once be given them, for storing surplus honey. This can always be readily done in my hives. Large quantities of honey are generally obtained from such stocks, if the season is favorable, and they have issued early. If it is desired to separate them, place in each of the hives which is to receive them, a comb containing brood and eggs, from which, in case of necessity, a new queen may be raised. Shake a portion of the bees in front of each hive, sprinkling them thoroughly, both before and after they are shaken out from the basket, so that they will not take wing to unite again. If possible, secure the queens, so that one may be given to each hive. If this cannot be done, the hives should be examined the next day, and if the two queens entered the same hive, one will have killed the other, and the queenless hive will be found building royal cells. It should be supplied with a sealed queen nearly mature, taken from another hive, not only to save time, but to prevent them from filling their hive with comb unfit for the rearing of workers. (See Artificial Swarming.) Of course, this cannot be done with the common hives, and if the Apiarian does not succeed in getting a queen for each hive, the queenless one will refuse to stay, and will go back to the old stock.
The old-fashioned way of hiving bees, by mounting trees, cutting and lowering down large limbs, (often to the injury of valuable trees,) and placing the hive over the bees, frequently crushing large numbers, and endangering the life of the queen, should be entirely abandoned. A swarm may be hived in the proper way with far less risk and trouble, and in much less time. In large Apiaries managed on the swarming plan, where a number of swarms come out on the same day, and there is constant danger of their mixing, the speedy hiving of swarms is an object of great importance. If the new hive does not stand where it is to remain for the season, it should be removed to its permanent stand as soon as the bees have entered; for if allowed to remain to be removed in the evening, or early next morning, the scouts which have left the cluster, in search of a hollow tree, will find the bees when they return, and will often entice them from the hive. There is the greater danger of this, if the bees have remained on the tree, a considerable time before they were hived. I have invariably found that swarms which abandon a suitable hive for the woods, have been hived near the spot where they clustered, and allowed to remain to be moved in the evening. If the bees swarm early in the day, they will generally begin to work in a few hours (or in less time, if they have empty comb,) and many more may be lost by returning next day to the place where they were hived, than would be lost, by removing them as soon as they have entered; in this latter case, the few that are on the wing, will generally be able to find the hive if it is slowly moved to its permanent stand.
If the Apiarian wishes to secure the queen, the bees should be shaken from the hiving basket, about a foot from the entrance to the hive, and if a careful look-out is kept, she will generally be seen as she passes over the sheet, to the entrance. Care must be taken to brush the bees back from the entrance when they press forward in such dense masses that the queen is likely to enter unnoticed. An experienced eye readily catches a glance of her peculiar form and color. She may be taken up without danger, as she never stings, unless engaged in combat with another queen. As it will sometimes happen, even to careful bee-keepers, that swarms will come off when no suitable hives are in readiness to receive them, I shall show what may be done in such an emergency. Take any old hive, box, cask, or measure, and hive the bees in it, placing them with suitable protection against the sun, where their new hive is to stand; when this is ready, they may, by a quick jerking motion, be easily shaken out on a sheet, and hived in it, just as though they were shaken from the hiving basket. If they are to remain in the temporary hive over the second day, they ought to be shaken out on a sheet, and after their comb is taken from them, allowed to enter it again, or else there will be danger of crushing the queen by the weight of the comb.
I have endeavored, even at the risk of being tedious, to give such specific directions as will qualify the novice to hive a swarm of bees, under almost any circumstances; for I know the necessity of such directions and how seldom they are to be met with, even in large treatises on Bee-Keeping. Vague or imperfect directions always fail, just at the moment that the inexperienced attempt to put them into practice.
Before leaving this subject, I will add to the directions for hiving already given, a method which I have practiced with good success.
When the situation of the bees does not admit of the basket being easily elevated to them, the bee-keeper may carry it with him to the cluster, and then after shaking the bees into it, may lower it down by a string, to an assistant standing below.
That Natural Swarming may, with suitable hives, be made highly profitable, I cannot for a moment question. As it is the most simple and obvious way of multiplying colonies, and the one which requires the least amount of knowledge or skill, it will undoubtedly, for many years at least, be the favorite method with a large number of bee-keepers. I have therefore, been careful to furnish suitable directions for its successful practice; and before I discuss the question of Artificial Increase, I shall show how it may be more profitably conducted than ever before; many of the most embarrassing difficulties in the way of its successful management being readily obviated by the use of my hives.
1. The common hives fail to furnish adequate protection in Winter, against cold, and those sudden changes to unseasonable warmth, by which bees are tempted to come out and perish in large numbers on the snow; and the colonies are thus prevented from breeding on a large scale, as early as they otherwise would. Under such circumstances, they can make no profitable use of the early honey-harvest; and they will swarm so late, if they swarm at all, as to have but little opportunity for laying up surplus honey, while often they do not gather enough even for their own use, and their owner closes the season by purchasing honey to preserve them from starvation. The way in which I give the bees that amount of protection in Winter, which conduces most powerfully to early swarming, has already been described in the Chapter on Protection.
2. Another serious objection to all the ordinary swarming hives, is the vexatious fact that if the bees swarm at all, they are liable to swarm so often as to destroy the value of both the parent stock and the after-swarms. Experienced bee-keepers obviate this difficulty, by uniting second swarms, so as to make one good colony out of two; and they return to the parent stock all swarms after the second, and even this if the season is far advanced. Such operations consume much time, and often give much more trouble than they are worth. By removing all the queen cells but one, after the first swarm has left, second swarming in my hives will always be prevented; and by removing all but two, provision may be made for the issue of second swarms, and yet all after-swarming be prevented. The process of returning after-swarms is not only objectionable, on account of the time it requires, having often to be repeated again and again before one queen is allowed to destroy the others; but it also causes a large portion of the gathering season to be wasted; for the bees seem unwilling to work with energy, so long as the pretensions of several rival queens are unsettled.
3. Another very serious objection to Natural Swarming, as practiced with the common hives, is the inability of the Apiarian who wishes rapidly to multiply his colonies, to aid his late and small swarms, so as to build them up into vigorous stocks. The time and money which are ordinarily spent upon small colonies, are almost always thrown away; by far the larger portion of them never survive the Winter, and the majority of those that do, are so enfeebled, as to be of little or no value. If they escape being robbed by stronger stocks, or destroyed by the moth, they seldom recruit in season to swarm, and very often the feeding must be repeated, the second Fall, or they will at last perish. I doubt not that many of my readers will, from their own experience, endorse every word of these remarks, as true to the very letter. All who have ever attempted to multiply colonies by nursing and feeding small swarms, on the ordinary plans, have found it attended with nothing but loss and vexation. The more a man has of such stocks, the poorer he is: for by their weakness, they are constantly tempting his strong swarms to evil courses; so that at last, they prefer to live as far as they can, by stealing, rather than by habits of honest industry; and if the feeble colonies escape being plundered, they often become mere nurseries for raising a plentiful supply of moths, to ravage his whole Apiary.
I have already shown, in what way by the use of my hives, the smallest swarms that ever issue, may be so managed as to become powerful stocks. In the same way the Apiarian can easily strengthen all his colonies which are feeble in Spring.
4. As the loss of the young queens in the parent stock after it has swarmed, and in the after-swarms, is a very common occurrence, a hive which like mine, furnishes the means of easily remedying this misfortune, will greatly promote the success of those who practice natural swarming. A very intelligent bee-keeper once assured me, that he must use at least one such hive in his Apiary, for this purpose, even if in other respects it possessed no superior merits.
5. Bees, as is well known, often refuse to swarm at all, and most of the swarming hives are so constructed, that proper accommodations for storing honey, cannot be furnished to the super-abundant population. Under such circumstances, they often hang for several months, in black masses on the outside of the hive; and are worse than useless, as they consume the honey which the others have gathered. In my hives, an abundance of room for storing honey can always be given them, not all at once, so as to prevent them from swarming, but by degrees, as their necessities require: so that if they are indisposed, for any reason to swarm, they may have suitable receptacles easily accessible, and furnished with guide comb to make them more attractive, in which to store up any amount of honey that they can possibly collect.
6. In the common hives, but little can be done to dislodge the bee-moth, when once it has gained the mastery of the bees; whereas in mine, it can be most effectually rooted out when it has made a lodgment. (See Remarks on Bee-Moth.)
7. In the common hives, nothing can be done except with great difficulty, to remove the old queen when her fertility is impaired; whereas in my hives, (as will be shown in the Chapter on Artificial Swarming,) this can easily be effected, so that an Apiary may constantly contain a stock of young queens, in the full vigor of their re-productive powers.
I trust that these remarks will convince intelligent Apiarians, that I have not spoken boastfully or at random, in asserting that natural swarming can be carried on with much greater certainty and success, by the use of my hives, than in any other way; and that they will see that many of the most perplexing embarrassments and mortifying discouragements under which they have hitherto prosecuted it, may be effectually remedied.
 Dr. Scudamore, an English physician who has written a small tract on the formation of artificial swarms, says that he once knew "as many as ten swarms go forth at once, and settle and mingle together, forming literally a monster meeting!" Instances are on record of a much larger number of swarms clustering together. A venerable clergyman, in Western Massachusetts, related to me the following remarkable occurrence. In the Apiary of one of his parishioners, five swarms lit in one mass. As there was no hive which would hold them, a very large box was roughly nailed together, and the bees were hived in it. They were taken up by sulphur in the Fall, when it was perfectly evident that the five swarms had occupied the same box as independent colonies. Four of them had commenced their works, each one near a corner, and the fifth one in the middle, and there was a distinct interval separating the works of the different colonies. In Cotton's "My Bee Book," there is a cut illustrating a hive in which two colonies had built in the same manner.
The numerous efforts which have been made for the last fifty years or more, to dispense with natural swarming, plainly indicate the anxiety of Apiarians to find some better mode of increasing their colonies.
Although I am able to propagate bees by natural swarming, with a rapidity and certainty unattainable except by the complete control of all the combs in the hive, still there are difficulties in this mode of increase, inherent to the system itself, and therefore entirely incapable of being removed by any kind of hive. Before describing the various methods which I employ to increase colonies by artificial means, I shall first enumerate these difficulties, in order that each individual bee-keeper may decide for himself, in which way he can most advantageously propagate his bees.
1. The large number of swarms lost every year, is a powerful argument against natural swarming.
An eminent Apiarian has estimated that one fourth of the best swarms are lost every season! This estimate can hardly be considered too high, if all who keep bees are taken into account. While some bee-keepers are so careful that they seldom lose a swarm, the majority, either from the grossest negligence, or from necessary hindrances during the swarming season, are constantly incurring serious losses, by the flight of their bees to the woods. It is next to impossible, entirely to prevent such occurrences, if bees are allowed to swarm at all.
2. The great amount of time and labor required by natural swarming, has always been regarded as a decided objection to this mode of increase.
As soon as the swarming season begins, the Apiary must be closely watched almost every day, or some of the new swarms will be lost. If this business is entrusted to thoughtless children, or careless adults, many swarms will be lost by their neglect. It is very evident that but few persons who keep bees, can always be on hand to watch them and to hive the new swarms. But, in the height of the swarming season, if any considerable number of colonies is kept, the Apiarian, to guard against serious losses, should either be always on the spot himself, or have some one who can be entrusted with the care of his bees. Even the Sabbath cannot be observed as a day of rest; and often, instead of being able to go to the House of God, the bee-keeper is compelled to labor among his bees, as hard as on other days, or even harder. That he is as justifiable in hiving his bees on the Sabbath, as in taking care of his stock, can admit of no serious doubt; but the very liability of being called to do so, is with many, a sufficient objection against Apiarian pursuits.
The merchant, mechanic and professional man, are often so situated that they would take great interest in bees, if they were not deterred from their cultivation by inability to take care of them, during the swarming season; and they are thus debarred from a pursuit, which is intensely fascinating, not merely to the lover of Nature, but to every one possessed of an inquiring mind. No man who spends some of his leisure hours in studying the wonderful habits and instincts of bees, will ever complain that he can find nothing to fill up his time out of the range of his business, or the gratification of his appetites. Bees may be kept with great advantage, even in large cities, and those who are debarred from every other rural pursuit, may still listen to the soothing hum of the industrious bee, and harvest annually its delicious nectar.
If the Apiarian could always be on hand during the swarming season, it would still, in many instances, be exceedingly inconvenient for him to attend to his bees. How often is the farmer interrupted in the business of hay-making, by the cry that his bees are swarming; and by the time he has hived them, perhaps a shower comes up, and his hay is injured more than his swarm is worth. In this way, the keeping of a few bees, instead of a source of profit, often becomes rather an expensive luxury; and if a very large stock is kept, the difficulties and embarrassments are often most seriously increased. If the weather becomes pleasant after a succession of days unfavorable for swarming, it often happens that several swarms rise at once, and cluster together, to the great annoyance of the Apiarian; and not unfrequently, in the noise and confusion, other swarms fly off, and are entirely lost. I have seen the Apiarian so perplexed and exhausted under such circumstances, as to be almost ready to wish that he had never seen a bee.
3. The managing of bees by natural swarming, must, in our country, almost entirely prevent the establishment of large Apiaries.
Even if it were possible, in this way, to multiply bees with certainty and rapidity, and without any of the perplexities which I have just described, how few persons are so situated as to be able to give almost the whole of their time in the busiest part of the year, to the management of their bees. The swarming season is with the farmer, the very busiest part of the whole year, and if he purposes to keep a large number of swarming hives, he must not only devote nearly the whole of his time, for a number of weeks, to their supervision, but at a season when labor commands the highest price, he will often be compelled to hire additional assistance.
I have long been convinced that, as a general rule, the keeping of a few colonies in swarming hives, costs more than they are worth, and that the keeping of a very large number is entirely out of the question, unless with those who are so situated that they can afford to devote their time, for about two months every year, almost entirely to their bees. The number of persons who can afford to do this must be very small; and I have seldom heard of a bee-keeper, in our country, who has an Apiary on a scale extensive enough to make bee-keeping anything more than a subordinate pursuit. Multitudes have tried to make it a large and remunerating business, but hitherto, I believe that they have nearly all been disappointed in their expectations. In such countries as Poland and Russia where labor is deplorably cheap, it may be done to great advantage; but never to any considerable extent in our own.
4. A serious objection to natural swarming, is the discouraging fact that the bees often refuse to swarm at all, and the Apiarian finds it impossible to multiply his colonies with any certainty or rapidity, even although he may find himself in all respects favorably situated for the cultivation of bees, and may be exceedingly anxious to engage in the business on a much more extensive scale.
I am acquainted with many careful bee-keepers who have managed their bees according to the most reliable information they could obtain, never destroying any of their colonies, and endeavoring to multiply them to the best of their ability, who yet have not as many stocks as they had ten years ago. Most of them would abandon the pursuit, if they looked upon bee-keeping simply in the light of dollars and cents, rather than as a source of pleasant recreation; and some do not hesitate to say that much more money has been spent, by the mass of those who have used patent hives, than they have ever realized from their bees.
It is a very simple matter to make calculations on paper, which shall seem to point out a road to wealth, almost as flattering, as a tour to the gold mines of Australia or California. Only purchase a patent bee-hive, and if it fulfills all or even a part of the promises of its sanguine inventor, a fortune must, in the course of a few years, be certainly realized; but such are the disappointments resulting from the bees refusing often to swarm at all, that if the hive could remedy all the other difficulties in the way of bee-keeping, it would still fail to answer the reasonable wishes of the experienced Apiarian. If every swarm of bees could be made to yield a profit of 20 dollars a year, and if the Apiarian could be sure of selling his new swarms at the most extravagant prices, he could not, like the growers of mulberry trees, or the breeders of fancy fowls, multiply his stocks so as to meet the demand, however extensive; but would be entirely dependent upon the whims and caprices of his bees; or rather, upon the natural laws which control their swarming.
Every practical bee-keeper is well aware of the utter uncertainty of natural swarming. Under no circumstances, can its occurrence be confidently relied on. While some stocks swarm regularly and repeatedly, others, strong in numbers and rich in stores, although the season may, in all respects, be propitious, refuse to swarm at all. Such colonies, on examination, will often be found to have taken no steps for raising young queens. In some cases, the wings of the old mother will be found defective, while in others, she is abundantly able to fly, but seems to prefer the riches of the old hive, to the risks attending the formation of a new colony. It frequently happens, in our uncertain climate, that when all the necessary preparations have been made for swarming, the weather proves unpropitious for so long a time, that the young queens coming to maturity before the old one can leave, are all destroyed. This is a very frequent occurrence, and under such circumstances, swarming is almost certain to be prevented, for that season. The young queens are frequently destroyed, even although the weather is pleasant, in consequence of some sudden and perhaps only temporary suspension of the honey-harvest; for bees seldom colonize even if all their preparations are completed, unless the flowers are yielding an abundant supply of honey.
From these and other causes which my limits will not permit me to notice, it has hitherto been found impossible, in the uncertain climate of our Northern States, to multiply colonies very rapidly, by natural swarming; and bee-keeping, on this plan, offers very poor inducements to those who are aware how little has been accomplished, even by the most enthusiastic, experienced and energetic Apiarians.
The numerous perplexities which have ever attended natural swarming, have for ages, directed the attention of practical cultivators, to the importance of devising some more reliable method of increasing their colonies. Columella, who lived about the middle of the first century of the Christian Era, and who wrote twelve books on husbandry (De re rustica,) has given directions for making artificial colonies. He says, "you must examine the hive, and view what honey-combs it has; then afterwards from the wax which contains the seeds of the young bees, you must cut away that part wherein the offspring of the royal brood is animated: for this is easy to be seen; because at the very end of the wax-works there appears, as it were, a thimble-like process (somewhat similar to an acorn,) rising higher, and having a wider cavity, than the rest of the holes, wherein the young bees of vulgar note are contained."
Hyginus, who flourished before Columella, had evidently noticed the royal jelly; for he speaks of cells larger than those of the common bees, "filled as it were with a solid substance of a red color, out of which the winged king is at first formed." This ancient observer must undoubtedly have seen the quince-like jelly, a portion of which is always found at the base of the royal cells, after the queens have emerged. The ancients generally called the queen a king, although Aristotle says that some in his time called her the mother. Swammerdam was the first to prove by dissection that the queen is a perfect female, and the only one in the hive, and that the drone is the male.
For reasons which I shall shortly mention, the ancient methods of artificial increase appear to have met with but small success. Towards the close of the last century, a new impulse was given to the artificial production of swarms, by the discovery of Schirach, a German clergyman, that bees are able to rear a queen from worker-brood. For want, however, of a more thorough knowledge of some important principles in the economy of the bee, these efforts met with slender encouragement.
Huber, after his splendid discoveries in the physiology of the bee, perceived at once, the importance of multiplying colonies by some method more reliable than that of natural swarming. His leaf or book hive consisted of 12 frames, each an inch and a half in width; any one of which could be opened at pleasure. He recommends forming artificial swarms, by dividing one of these hives into two parts; adding to each part six empty frames. After using a Huber hive for a number of years, I became perfectly convinced that it could only be made servicable, by an adroit, experienced and fearless Apiarian. The bees fasten the frames in such a manner, with their propolis, that they cannot, except with extreme care, be opened without jarring the bees, and exciting their anger; nor can they be shut without constant danger of crushing them. Huber nowhere speaks of having multiplied colonies extensively by such hives, and although they have been in use more than sixty years, they have never been successfully employed for such a purpose. If Huber had only contrived a plan for suspending his frames, instead of folding them together like the leaves of a book, I believe that the cause of Apiarian science would have been fifty years in advance of what it now is.
Dividing hives of various kinds have been used in this country. After giving some of the best of them a thorough trial, and inventing others which somewhat resembled the Huber hive, I found that they could not possibly be made to answer any valuable end in securing artificial swarms. For a long time I felt that the plan ought to succeed, and it was not until I had made numerous experiments with my hive substantially as now constructed, that I ascertained the precise causes of failure.
It may be regarded as one of the laws of the bee-hive, that bees, when not in possession of a mature queen, seldom build any comb except such as being designed merely for storing honey, is too coarse for the rearing of workers. Until I became acquainted with the discoveries of Dzierzon, I supposed myself to be the only observer who had noticed this remarkable fact, and who had been led by it, to modify the whole system of artificial swarming. The perusal of Mr. Wagner's manuscript translation of that author, showed me that he had arrived at precisely similar results.
It may seem at first, very unaccountable that bees should go on to fill their hives with comb unfit for breeding, when the young queen will so soon require worker-cells for her eggs; but it must be borne in mind, that bees, under such circumstances, are always in an unnatural state. They are attempting to rear a new queen in a hive which is only partially filled with comb; whereas, if left to follow their own instincts, they never construct royal cells except in hives which are well filled with comb, for it is only in such hives that they make any preparations for swarming. It must be confessed that they do not show their ordinary sagacity in filling a hive with unsuitable comb; but if it were not for a few instances of this kind of bad management, we should perhaps, form too exalted an idea of their intelligence, and should almost fail to notice the marked distinction between reason in man, and even the most refined instincts of some of the animals by which he is surrounded.
The determination of bees, when they have no mature queen, if they build any comb at all, to build such as is suited only for storing honey, and unfit for breeding, will show at once, the folly of attempting to multiply colonies by the dividing-hives. Even if the Apiarian has been perfectly successful in dividing a colony, and the part without a queen takes the necessary steps to supply her loss, if the bees are sufficiently numerous to build a large quantity of new comb, (and they ought to be in order to make the artificial colony of any value,) they will build this comb in such a manner that it will answer only for storing honey, while they will use the half of the hive with the old comb, for the purposes of breeding. The next year, if an attempt is made to divide this hive, one half will contain nearly all the brood and mature bees, while the other, having most of the honey, in combs unfit for breeding, the new colony formed from it will be a complete failure.
Even with a Huber hive, the plan of multiplying colonies by dividing a full hive into two parts, and adding an empty half to each, will be attended with serious difficulties; although some of them may be remedied in consequence of the hive being constructed so as to divide into many parts; the very attempt to remedy them, however, will be found to require a degree of skill and knowledge far in advance of what can be expected of the great mass of bee-keepers.
The common dividing hives, separating into two parts, can never, under any circumstances, be made of the least practical value; and the business of multiplying colonies by them, will be found far more laborious, uncertain and vexatious, than to rely on natural swarming. I do not know of a solitary practical Apiarian, who, on trial of this system, has not been compelled to abandon it, and allow the bees to swarm from his dividing hives in the old-fashioned way.
Some Apiarians have attempted to multiply their colonies by putting a piece of brood comb containing the materials for raising a new queen, into an empty hive, set in the place of a strong stock which has been removed to a new stand when thousands of its inmates were abroad in the fields. This method is still worse than the one which has just been described. In the dividing hive, the bees already had a large amount of suitable comb for breeding, while in this having next to none, they build all their combs until the queen is hatched, of a size unsuitable for rearing workers. In the first case, the queenless part of the dividing hive may have had a young queen almost mature, so that the process of building large combs would be of short continuance; for as soon as the young queen begins to lay, the bees at once commence building combs adapted to the reception of worker eggs. In some of my attempts to rear artificial swarms by moving a full stock, as described above, I have had combs built of enormous size, nearly four inches through! and these monster combs have afterwards been pieced out on their lower edge, with worker cells for the accommodation of the young queen! So uniformly do the bees with an unhatched queen, build in the way described, that I can often tell at a single glance, by seeing what kind of comb they are building, that a hive is queenless, or that having been so, they have now a fertile young queen. When a new colony is formed, by dividing the old hive, the queenless part has thousands of cells filled with brood and eggs, and young bees will be hourly hatching, for at least three weeks: and by this time, the young queen will be laying eggs, so that there will be an interval of not more than three weeks, during which no accessions will be made to the numbers of the colony. But when a new swarm is formed by moving, not an egg will be deposited for nearly three weeks; and not a bee will be hatched for nearly six weeks; and during all this time, the colony will rapidly decrease, until by the time that the progeny of the young queen begins to emerge from their cells, the number of bees in the new hive will be so small, that it would be of no value, even if its combs were of the best construction.
Every observing bee-keeper must have noticed how rapidly even a powerful swarm diminishes in number, for the first three weeks after it has been hived. In many cases, before the young begin to hatch, it does not contain one half its original number; so very great is the mortality of bees during the height of the working season.
I have most thoroughly tested, in the only way in which it can be practiced in the ordinary hives, this last plan of artificial swarming, and do not hesitate to say that it does not possess the very slightest practical value; and as this is the method which Apiarians have usually tried, it is not strange that they have almost unanimously pronounced Artificial swarming to be utterly worthless. The experience of Dzierzon on this point has been the same with my own.
Another method of artificial swarming has been zealously advocated, which, if it could only be made to answer, would be, of all conceivable plans the most effectual, and as it would require the smallest amount of labor, experience, or skill, would be everywhere practiced. A number of hives must be put in connection with each other, so as to communicate by holes which allow the bees to travel from any one apartment to the others. The bees, on this plan, are to colonize themselves, and in time, a single swarm will, of its own accord, multiply so as to form a large number of independent families, each one possessing its own queen, and all living in perfect harmony.
This method so beautiful and fascinating in theory, has been repeatedly tried with various ingenious modifications, but in every instance, as far as I know, it has proved an entire failure. It will always be found if bees are allowed to pass from one hive to another, that they will still, for the most part, confine their breeding operations to a single apartment, if it is of the ordinary size, while the others will be used, chiefly for the storing of honey. This is almost invariably the case, if the additional room is given by collateral or side boxes, as the queen seldom enters such apartments for the purpose of breeding. If the new hive is directly below that in which the swarm is first lodged, then if the connections are suitable, the queen will be almost certain to descend and lay her eggs in the new combs, as soon as they are commenced by the bees; in this case, the upper hive is almost entirely abandoned by her, and the bees store the cells with honey, as fast as the brood is hatched, as their instinct impels them always, if they can, to keep their stores of honey above the breeding cells. So long as bees have an abundance of room below their main hive, they will never swarm, but will use it in the way that I have described; if the room is on the sides of their hive, and very accessible, they seldom swarm, but if it is above them, they frequently prefer to swarm rather than to take possession of it. But in none of these cases, do they ever, if left to themselves, form separate and independent colonies.
I am aware that the Apiarian, by separating from the main hive with a slide, an apartment that contains brood, and directing to it by some artificial contrivance a considerable number of bees, may succeed in rearing an artificial colony; but unless all his hives admit of the most thorough inspection, as he can never know their exact condition, he must always work in the dark, and will be much more likely to fail than succeed. Success indeed can only be possible when a skillful Apiarian devotes a large portion of his time to watching and managing his bees, so as to compel them to colonize, and even then it will be very uncertain; so that this plausible theory to be reduced to even a most precarious practice, requires more skill, care, labor and time, than are necessary to manage the ordinary swarming hives.
The failure of so many attempts to increase colonies by artificial means, as well in the hands of scientific and experienced Apiarians, as under the direction of those who are almost totally ignorant of the physiology of the bee, has led many to prefer to use non-swarming hives. In this way, very large harvests of honey are often obtained from a powerful stock of bees; but it is very evident that if the increase of new colonies were entirely discouraged, the insect would soon be exterminated. To prevent this, the advocates of the non-swarming plan, must either have their bees swarm, to some extent, or rely upon those who do.
My hive may be used as a non-swarmer, and may be made more effectually to prevent swarming, than any with which I am acquainted: as in the Spring, (See No. 34. p. 104,) ample accommodations may be given to the bees, below their main works, and when this is seasonably done, swarming will never take place.
There are certain objections however, which must always prevent the non-swarming plan from being the most successful mode of managing bees. To say nothing of the loss to the bee-keeper, who has, after some years, only one stock, when if the natural mode of increase had been allowed, he ought to have a number, it is usually found that after bees have been kept in a non-swarming hive for several seasons, they seem to work with much less vigor than usual. Of this, any one may convince himself, who will compare the industrious working of a new swarm, with that of a much more powerful stock in a non-swarming hive. The former will work with such astonishing zeal, that to one unacquainted with the facts, it would be taken to be by far the more powerful stock.
As the fertility of the queen decreases by age, the disadvantage of using non-swarming hives of the ordinary construction, will be obvious. This objection to the system can be remedied in my hive, as the old queen can be easily caught and removed; but when hives are used in which this cannot be done, the Apiary, instead of containing a race of young queens in the full vigor of their reproductive powers, will contain many that have passed their prime, and these old queens may die when there are no eggs in the hive to enable the bees to replace them, and thus the whole colony will perish.
If the bee-keeper wishes to winter only a certain number of stocks, I will, in another place, show him a way in which this can be done, so as to obtain more honey from them, than from an equal number kept on the non-swarming plan, while at the same time, they may all be maintained in a state of the highest health and vigor.
I shall now describe a method of artificial swarming, which may be successfully practiced with almost any hive, by those who have sufficient experience in the management of bees.
About the time that natural swarming may be expected, a populous hive, rich in stores is selected, and what I shall call a forced swarm is obtained from it, by the following process. Choose that part of a pleasant day, say from 10 A. M. to 2 P. M., when the largest number of bees are abroad in the fields; if any bees are clustered in front of the hive, or on the bottom-board, puff among them a few whiffs of smoke from burning rags or paper, so as to force them to go up among the combs. This can be done with greater ease, if the hive is elevated, by small wedges, about one quarter of an inch above the bottom-board. Have an empty hive or box in readiness, the diameter of which is as nearly as possible, the same with that of the hive from which you intend to drive the swarm. Lift the hive very gently, and without the slightest jar, from its bottom-board; invert it and carry it in the same careful manner, about a rod from its old stand, as bees are always much more inclined to be peaceable, when removed a short distance, than when any operation is performed on the familiar spot. If the hive is carefully placed on the ground, upside down, scarcely a single bee will fly out, and there will be little danger of being stung. Timid and inexperienced Apiarians will, of course, protect themselves with a bee-dress, and they may have an assistant to sprinkle the hive gently with sugar-water, as soon as it is inverted. After placing the hive in an inverted position on the ground, the empty hive must be put over it, and every crack from which a bee might escape, must be carefully closed with paper or any convenient material. The upper hive ought to be furnished with two or three slats, about an inch and a half wide, and fastened one third of the distance from the top, so as to give the bees every opportunity to cluster.
As soon as the Apiarian is perfectly sure that the bees cannot escape, he should place an empty hive upon the stand from which they were removed, so that the multitudes which return from the fields may enter it, instead of dispersing to other hives, where some of them may meet with a very unkind reception; although as a general rule, a bee with a load of freshly gathered honey, after the extent of his resources is ascertained, is almost always, welcomed by any hive to which he may carry his treasures; while a poor unfortunate that ventures to present itself empty and poverty stricken, is generally at once destroyed! The one meets with as friendly a reception as a wealthy gentleman who proposes to take up his abode in a country village, while the other is as much an object of dislike as a pauper who is suspected of wishing to become a parish charge!
To return to our imprisoned bees. Beginning at the top, or what is now, (as the hive is upside down,) the bottom, their hive should be beaten smartly with two small rods on the front and back, or on the sides to which the combs are attached, so as to run no risk of loosening them. If the hive when removed from its stand was put upon a stool or table, or something not so solid as the ground, the drumming will cause more motion, and yet be less apt to start any of the combs. These "rappings" which certainly are not of a very "spiritual" character, produce nevertheless, a most decided effect upon the bees: their first impulse is to sally out and wreak their vengeance upon those who have thus rudely assailed their honied dome; but as soon as they find that they are shut in, a sudden fear that they are to be driven from their treasures, seems to take possession of them. If the two hives have glass windows, so that all the operations can be witnessed, the bees, in a few moments, will be seen most busily engaged in gorging themselves with honey. During all this time, the rapping must be continued, and in about five minutes, nearly every bee will have filled itself to its utmost capacity, and they are now prepared for their forced emigration; a prodigious hum is heard, and the bees begin to mount into the upper box. In about ten minutes from the time the rapping began, the mass of the bees with their queen will have ascended, and will hang clustered, just like a natural swarm. The box with the expelled bees must now be gently lifted off, and should be placed upon a bottom-board with a gauze wire ventilator, so that the bees may be confined, and yet have plenty of air. A shallow vessel or a piece of old comb containing water, ought to be first placed on the bottom-board. If no gauze wire bottom-board is at hand, the hive must be wedged up, so as to admit an abundance of air, and be set in a shady place.
The hive from which the bees were driven, must now be set, without crushing any of the bees, on its old spot, in the place of the decoy hive, that all the bees which have returned from abroad, may enter. Before this change is made, these bees will be running in and out of the empty hive, (See p. 72,) but as soon as the opportunity is given them, they will crowd into their well-known home, and if there are no royal cells started, will proceed, almost at once, to construct them, and the next day they will act as though the forced swarm had left of its own accord. When the operation is delayed until about the season for natural swarming, the hive will contain immature queens, if the bees were intending to swarm, and a new queen will soon take the place of the old one, just as in natural swarming. If it is performed too early, and before the drones have made their appearance, the young queen may not be seasonably impregnated, and the parent stock will perish.
It will be obvious that this whole process, in order to be successfully performed, requires a knowledge of the most important points in the economy of the bee-hive; indeed the same remark may be made of almost any operation, and those who are willing to remain ignorant of the laws which regulate the breeding of bees, ought not to depart in the least, from the old-fashioned mode of management. All such deviations will only be attended with a wanton sacrifice of bees. A man may use the common swarming hives a whole life-time, and yet remain ignorant of the very first principles in the physiology of the bee, unless he gains his information from other sources; while, by the use of my hives, any intelligent cultivator may, in a single season, verify for himself, the discoveries which have only been made by the accumulated toil of many observers, for more than two thousand years. The ease with which Apiarians may now, by the sight of their own eyes, gain a knowledge of all the important facts in the economy of the hive, will stimulate them most powerfully, to study the nature of the bee and thus to prepare themselves for an enlightened system of management.
In giving directions for the creation of forced swarms, I advised that it should be done during the pleasantest part of the day, when the largest number of bees are foraging abroad. If the operation is performed when all the bees are at home, and they are all driven into the empty hive, the old hive will be so depopulated that many of the young will perish for want of suitable attention, and the parent stock will be greatly deteriorated in value. If only a part of the bees are expelled, the queen may be left behind, and the whole operation will be a failure, and at best it will be difficult to make a suitable division of the bees between the two hives. Indeed, under any circumstances, this is the most difficult part of the process, and it often requires no little judgment to equalize the two colonies.
Some recommend placing the forced swarm on the old stand, and removing the parent hive with the bees that are deemed sufficient, to a new place. If this is done, and the bees have their liberty, so many of them will leave for the familiar spot, that the hive will be almost deserted, and a very large proportion of its brood will perish. The bees in this hive, if it is to be set in a new place, must have water given to them, and be so shut up as to have an abundance of air, until late in the afternoon of the third day, when the hive may be opened, and they will take wing, almost as though they were intending to swarm. Some will even then, return to the place where they originally stood, and join the forced swarm, but the most of them, after hovering in the air for a short time, will re-enter the hive. During the time that they have been shut up, thousands of young bees will have emerged from their cells, and these, knowing no other home, will aid in taking care of the larvae, and in carrying on the work of the hive.
Instead of trying to make an equitable division at the time of driving out the bees, I prefer to expel all that I can, and to rely upon the bees returning from their gatherings, to replenish the old stock. If the number appears to be too small, I open temporarily the entrance of the hive containing the forced swarm, and permit as many as I judge best, to come out and enter their old abode. It must here be borne in mind, that bees which are thus ejected from a hive, do not, in all respects, act like a natural swarm, which having left the parent stock, of its own accord, never seeks, unless it has lost its queen, to return; whereas, many of the forced swarm, as soon as they leave the hive into which they have been driven, will return to their former abode. The same is true of bees which are moved to any distance not far enough to be beyond the limits of their previous excursions in search of food. If we could only make our bees when moved, or forced to swarm, adhere to their hives as faithfully as a natural swarm, many difficulties which now perplex us, would be at once removed.
Having ascertained that the parent hive contains a sufficient number of bees to carry on operations, about sun-set, after the bees are all at home, it may be removed to a new stand, and the bees, after being supplied with water, must be shut up, according to the directions previously given. If the hive is so constructed that water cannot be conveniently given them, the following plan I have found to answer most admirably. Bore a small hole towards the top on the front side, and with a straw, water may be injected with scarcely any trouble. A mouthful once or twice a day, will be sufficient. If the bees are confined without water, they will not be able to prepare the food for the larvae, and multitudes of them must necessarily perish.
The expelled colony must be placed, on the same evening, precisely where the hive from which they were driven stood, and have their liberty given to them. The next morning, they will work with as much vigor as though they had swarmed in the natural way.
The directions which have here been given for creating forced swarms, will be found to differ in some important respects from any which other Apiarians have previously furnished. I have already shown that it is difficult to secure the right number of bees for the parent stock, unless it is set temporarily on its old stand, so as to catch up the returning bees. The common plan has been to try to leave in it, as many bees as are needed, and then to shut it up for a few days, having placed it in a new spot, while the forced swarm is immediately replaced so that all the stragglers may be added to it. If we could always be sure of driving out the queen, and with her, as many bees as we want and no more, this would undoubtedly be the simplest plan; but for the reasons already assigned, it will be found a very precarious operation.
Some Apiarians recommend putting the forced swarm in a new place in the Apiary; but as large numbers of the bees will be sure, when they go out to work, to return to the familiar spot, the new colony will often be so seriously depopulated as to be of but little value. If the Apiarian can remove his forced swarms, some two or three miles off, he may give them their liberty at once, and in the course of a few weeks, he can, without risk, bring them back to his Apiary.
If he chooses, he may allow the parent stock to remain on the old stand, and confine the forced swarm, until about an hour before sun set of the third day. They must in the mean time be supplied with both honey and water, and if they cannot be kept cool and quiet, they should be removed into the cellar until they are placed in their new position. Many will even then return to the old spot, but not enough to interfere seriously with their prosperity. If the bees cannot, as in my hives, be kept cool and dark, they will be excessively uneasy, and may suffer very seriously from so long confinement: hence the very great importance of setting them in the cellar.
It may seem strange, that bees, when their hive is moved, or when they are forcibly expelled from it, should not adhere to the new spot, just as when they have swarmed of their own accord. In each case, as soon as a bee leaves its new place, it flies with its head turned towards the hive, in order to mark the surrounding objects, that it may be able to return to the same spot; but when they have not emigrated of their own accord, many of them seem, when they rise in the air, or return from work, entirely to forget that their location has been changed; and they return to the place where they have lived so long, and if no hive is there, they often die on the deserted and desolate, yet home-like spot. If, on the contrary, they swarmed of their own accord, they seldom, if ever, make such a mistake. It may truly be said that
"A 'bee removed' against its will Is of the same opinion still."
I have been thus minute in describing the whole process of creating forced swarms, not merely on account of the importance of the plan in multiplying colonies, but because the driving or drumming out of bees from a common hive, is employed with great success in a variety of ways which will be hereafter specified. I doubt not that many bee-keepers, on reading this mode of creating colonies, are ready to object that it not only requires more skill, but more time and labor, than to allow them to swarm, and then to hive them in the old-fashioned way.
As practiced with ordinary hives, it is undoubtedly liable to this serious objection, and I would easily with my basket hiver, undertake to hive four natural swarms, in the time that it would require to create one forced swarm; to say nothing of the care which must be bestowed upon the artificial swarms, with their parent stocks, after the driving process has been completed. For this reason, I do not advise the bee-keeper to force his swarms from the common hives, until he has first ascertained that they are not likely to swarm in tolerably good season, of their own accord, unless he is afraid that they will come out during his absence, and decamp to the woods.
By the aid of my hives, this process may be most expeditiously performed. An empty hive, with its frames furnished with guide combs, must be in readiness. The cover of the full hive should be removed, and the bees gently sprinkled with sugar-water from a watering pot that discharges a fine stream. In about two minutes, the frames may be taken out, and the bees, by a quick motion, shaken on a sheet directly in front of their hive. As fast as a comb is deprived of its bees, it should be set in a proper position in the new hive, and an empty frame put in its place. Two or three of the combs containing brood, eggs, &c., should be left in the old hive, as well to give them greater encouragement, as to prevent them from being dissatisfied if their queen should, by any possibility, be taken from them. In removing the frames with the bees, I always look for the queen, and if I see her, as I generally do, I return to the hive the frame which contains her, without shaking off the bees. In that case, I put several of the necessary combs into the new hive, with all the bees upon them.
In dislodging the bees upon the sheet, I do not shake them all off from the frames; but leave about one quarter of them on, and put them with the combs into the new hive. I never knew the queen to be left on a frame after it was shaken so that the larger portion of the bees would fall off. As soon as the operation is completed, and the necessary number of bees have been transferred with their comb to the new hive, it should be managed according to the directions previously given, in the case of the old hive from which a swarm was drummed out.
If in the operation the Apiarian does not see the queen, he must, in the course of the third day, examine the hive having the larger portion of bees, and if they have commenced building royal cells among the combs given to them, he may be certain that she is in the other hive. The comb containing the royal cells may then be transferred to that hive, and the queen searched for, and returned with the combs on which she is found, to her proper place. A little experience, however, will enable the operator to be sure from the first, that the queen is with the right division.