HotFreeBooks.com
Langstroth on the Hive and the Honey-Bee - A Bee Keeper's Manual
by L. L. Langstroth
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Before describing the way in which I protect my hives from this deadly pest, I shall first show why the bee-moth has so wonderfully increased in numbers in this country, and how the use of patent hives has so powerfully contributed to encourage its ravages. It ought to be borne in mind that our climate is altogether more propitious to its rapid increase, than that of Great Britain. Our intensely hot summers develop most rapidly and powerfully, insect life, and those parts of our country where the heat is most protracted and intense, have, as a general thing, suffered most from the devastations of the bee-moth.

The bee is not a native of the American continent; it was first brought here by colonists from Great Britain, and was called by the Indians, the white man's fly. With the bee, was introduced its natural enemy, created for the special purpose, not of destroying the insect, on whose industry it thrives, and whose extermination would be fatal to the moth itself, but that it might gain its livelihood as best it could in this busy world. Finding itself in a country whose climate is exceedingly propitious to its rapid increase, it has multiplied and increased a thousand fold, until now there is hardly a spot where the bees inhabit, which is not infested by its powerful enemy.

I have often listened to the glowing accounts of the vast supplies of honey obtained by the first settlers, from their bees. Fifty years ago, the markets in our large cities were much more abundantly supplied than they now are, and it was no uncommon thing to see exposed for sale, large washing-tubs filled with the most beautiful honey. Various reasons have been assigned for the present depressed state of Apiarian pursuits. Some imagine that newly settled countries are most favorable for the labors of the bee: others, that we have overstocked our farms, so that the bees cannot find a sufficient supply of food. That neither of these reasons will account for the change, I shall prove more at length, in my remarks on Honey, and when I discuss the question of overstocking a district with bees. Others lay all the blame upon the bee-moth, and others still, upon our departure from the good old-fashioned way of managing bees. That the bee-moth has multiplied most astonishingly, is undoubtedly true. In many districts, it so superabounds, that the man who should expect to manage his bees with as little care as his father and grandfather bestowed upon them, and yet realize as large profits, would find himself most wofully mistaken. The old bee-keeper often never looked at his bees after the swarming season, until the time came for appropriating their spoils. He then carefully "hefted" all his hives so as to be able to judge as well as he could, how much honey they contained. All which were found to be too light to survive the Winter, he at once condemned; and if any were deficient in bees, or for any other reason, appeared to be of doubtful promise, they were, in like manner, sentenced to the sulphur pit. A certain number of those containing the largest supplies of honey, were also treated in the same summary way: while the requisite number of the very best, were reserved to replenish his stock another season. If the same system precisely, were now followed, a number of colonies would still perish annually, through the increased devastations of the moth.

The change which has taken place in the circumstances of the bee-keeper, may be illustrated by supposing that when the country was first settled, weeds were almost unknown. The farmer plants his corn, and then lets it alone, and as there are no weeds to molest it, at the end of the season he harvests a fair crop. Suppose, however, that in process of time, the weeds begin to spread more and more, until at last, this farmer's son or grandson finds that they entirely choke his corn, and that he cannot, in the old way, obtain a remunerating crop. Now listen to him, as he gravely informs you that he cannot tell how it is, but corn with him has all "run out." He manages it precisely as his father or grandfather always managed theirs, but somehow the pestiferous weeds will spring up, and he has next to no crop. Perhaps you can hardly conceive of such transparent ignorance and stupidity; but it would be difficult to show that it would be one whit greater than that of a large number who keep bees in places where the bee-moth abounds, and who yet imagine that those plans which answered perfectly well fifty or a hundred years ago, when moths were scarce, will answer just as well now.

If however, the old plan had been rigidly adhered to, the ravages of the bee-moth would never have been so great as they now are. The introduction of patent hives has contributed most powerfully, to fill the land with the devouring pest. I am perfectly aware that this is a bold assertion, and that it may, at first sight, appear to be very uncourteous, if not unjust, to the many intelligent and ingenious Apiarians, who have devoted much time, and spent large sums of money, in perfecting hives designed to enable the bee-keeper to contend most successfully against his worst enemy. As I do not wish to treat such persons with even the appearance of disrespect, I shall endeavor to show just how the use of the hives which they have devised, has contributed to undermine the prosperity of the bees. Many of these hives have valuable properties, and if they were always used in strict accordance with the enlightened directions of those who have invented them, they would undoubtedly be real and substantial improvements over the old box or straw hive, and would greatly aid the bee-keeper in his contest with the moth. The great difficulty is that they are none of them, able to give him the facilities which alone can make him victorious. No hive, as I shall soon show, can ever do this, which does not give the complete and easy control of all the combs.

I do not know of a single improved hive which does not aim at entirely doing away with the old-fashioned plan of killing the bees. Such a practice is denounced as being almost as cruel and silly as to kill a hen for the sake of obtaining her feathers or a few of her eggs. Now if the Apiarian can be furnished with suitable instructions, and such as he will practice, for managing his bees so as to avoid this necessity, then I admit the full force of all the objections which have been urged against it. I have never read the beautiful verses of the poet Thompson, without feeling all their force:

"Ah, see, where robbed and murdered in that pit Lies the still heaving hive! at evening snatched, Beneath the cloud of guilt-concealing night, And fixed o'er sulphur! while, not dreaming ill, The happy people, in their waxen cells, Sat tending public cares; Sudden, the dark oppressive steam ascends, And, used to milder scents, the tender race, By thousands, tumble from their honied dome! Into a gulf of blue sulphureous flame."

The plain matter of fact however, is, that in our country, as many bees, if not more, die of starvation in their hives, as ever were killed by the fumes of sulphur. Commend me rather to the humanity of the old-fashioned bee-keeper, who put to a speedy and therefore merciful death, the poor bees which are now, by millions, tortured by slow starvation among their empty combs! At the present time, (April 1853,) I am almost daily hearing of swarms which have perished in this way, during the last Winter; and I know of only one person who was merciful enough to kill his weak stocks, rather than suffer them to die so cruel a death.

If the use of the common patent hives could only keep the stocks strong in numbers, and if the bee-keepers would always see that they were well supplied with honey, then I admit that to kill the bees would be both cruel and unnecessary. Such however, are the discouragements and losses necessarily attending the use of any hive which does not give the control of the combs, that there will be few who do not continually find that some of their stocks are too feeble to be worth the labor and expense of attempting to preserve them over Winter. How many colonies are annually wintered, which are not only of no value to their owner, but are positive nuisances in his Apiary; being so feeble in the Spring, that they are speedily overcome by the moth, and answer only to breed a horde of destroyers to ravage the rest of his Apiary. The time spent upon them is often as absolutely wasted, as the time devoted to a sick animal incurably diseased, and which can never be of any service, while by nursing it along, its owner incurs the risk of infecting his whole stock with its deadly taint. If, on the score of kindness, he should shut it up, and let it starve to death, few of us, I imagine, would care to cultivate a very intimate acquaintance with one so extremely original in the exhibition of his humanity!

Ever since the introduction of patent hives, the notion has almost universally prevailed, that stocks must not, under any circumstances, be voluntarily broken up; and hence, instead of Apiaries, filled in the Spring, with strong and healthy stocks of bees, easily able to protect themselves against the bee-moth, and all other enemies, we have multitudes of colonies which, if they had been kept on purpose to furnish food for the worms, could scarcely have answered a more valuable end in encouraging their increase. The simple truth is, that improved hives, without an improved system of management, have done on the whole more harm than good; in no country have they been so extensively used as in our own, and no where has the moth so completely gained the ascendency. Just so far as they have discouraged bee-keepers from the old plan of killing off all their weak swarms in the Fall, just so far have they extended "aid and comfort" to the moth, and made the condition of the bee-keeper worse than it was before. That some of them might be managed so as in all ordinary cases, to give the bees complete protection against their scourge, I do not, for a moment, question; but that they cannot, from the very nature of the case, answer fully in all emergencies, the ends for which they were designed, I shall endeavor to prove and not to assert.

The kind of hives of which I have been speaking, are such as have been devised by intelligent and honest men, practically acquainted with the management of bees: as for many of the hives which have been introduced, they not only afford the Apiarian no assistance against the inroads of the bee-moth, but they are so constructed as positively to aid it in its nefarious designs. The more they are used, the worse the poor bees are off: just as the more a man uses the lying nostrums of the brazen-faced quack, the further he finds himself from health and vigor.

I once met with an intelligent man who told me that he had paid a considerable sum, to a person who professed to be in possession of many valuable secrets in the management of bees, and who promised, among other things, to impart to him an infallible remedy against the bee-moth. On the receipt of the money, he very gravely told him that the secret of keeping the moth out of the hive, was to keep the bees strong and vigorous! A truer declaration he could not have made, but I believe that the bee-keeper felt, notwithstanding, that he had been imposed upon, as outrageously, as a poor man would be, who after paying a quack a large sum of money for an infallible, life-preserving secret, should be turned off with the truism that the secret of living forever, was to keep well!

There is not an intelligent, observing Apiarian who has been in the habit of carefully examining the operations of bees, not only in his own Apiary, but wherever he could find them, who has not seen strong stocks flourishing under almost any conceivable circumstances. They may be seen in hives of the most miserable construction, unpainted and unprotected, sometimes with large open cracks and clefts extending down their sides, and yet laughing to defiance, the bee-moth, and all other adverse influences.

Almost any thing hollow, in which the bees can establish themselves, and where they have once succeeded in becoming strong, will often be successfully tenanted by them for a series of years. To see such hives, as they sometimes may be seen, in possession of persons both ignorant and careless, and who hardly know a bee-moth from any other kind of moth, may at first sight well shake the confidence of the inquirer, in the necessity or value of any particular precautions to preserve his hives from the devastations of the moth.

After looking at these powerful stocks in what may be called log-cabin hives, let us examine some in the most costly hives, which have ever been constructed; in what have been called real "Bee-Palaces;" and we shall often find them weak and impoverished, infested and almost devoured by the worms. Their owner, with books in his hand, and all the newest devices and appliances in the Apiarian line, unable to protect his bees against their enemies, or to account for the reason why some hives seem, like the children of the poor, almost to thrive upon ill-treatment and neglect, while others, like the offspring of the rich and powerful, are feeble and diseased, almost in exact proportion to the means used to guard them against noxious influences, and to minister most lavishly to all their wants.

I once used to be much surprised to hear so many bee-keepers speak of having "good luck," or "bad luck" with their bees; but really as bees are generally managed, success or failure does seem to depend almost entirely upon what the ignorant or superstitious are wont to call "luck."

I shall now try to do what I have never yet seen satisfactorily done by any writer on bees; viz.: show exactly under what circumstances the bee-moth succeeds in establishing itself in a hive; thus explaining why some stocks flourish in spite of all neglect, while others, in the common hives, fall a prey to the moth, let their owner be as careful as he will, I shall finally show how in suitable hives, with proper precautions, it may always be kept from seriously annoying the bees.

It often happens, when a large number of stocks are kept, that in spite of all precautions, some of them are found in the Spring, so greatly reduced in numbers, that if left to themselves, they are in danger of falling a prey to the devouring moth. Bees, when in feeble colonies, seem often to lose a portion of their wonted vigilance, and as they have a large quantity of empty comb which they cannot guard, even if they would, the moth enters the hive, and deposits a large number of eggs, and thus before the bees have become sufficiently numerous to protect themselves, the combs are filled with worms, and the destruction of the colony speedily follows. The ignorant or careless bee-keeper is informed of the ravages which are going on in such a hive, only when its ruin is fully completed, and a cloud of winged pests issues from it, to destroy if they can, the rest of his stocks. But how, it may be asked, can it be ascertained that a hive is seriously infested with the all-devouring worms? The aspect of the bees, so discouraged and forlorn, proclaims at once that there is trouble of some kind within. If the hive be slightly elevated, the bottom-board will be found covered with pieces of bee-bread, &c. mixed with the excrement of the worms which looks almost exactly like fine grains of powder. As the bees in Spring, clean out their combs, and prepare the cells for the reception of brood, their bottom-board will often be so covered with parings of comb and with small pieces of bee-bread, that the hive may appear to be in danger of being destroyed by the worms. If, however, none of the black excrement is perceived, the refuse on the bottom-board, like the shavings in a carpenter's shop, are proofs of industry and not the signs of approaching ruin. It is highly important, however, to keep the bottom-boards clean, and if a piece of zinc be slipt in, (or even an old newspaper,) by removing and cleansing it from time to time, the bees will be greatly assisted in their operations. As soon as the hive is well filled with bees, this need no longer be done.

Even the most careful and experienced Apiarian will find, too often, that although he is perfectly well aware of the plague that is reigning within, his knowledge can be turned to no good account, the interior of the hive being almost as inaccessible as the interior of the human body. The way in which I manage, in such cases, is as follows.

Having ascertained, in the Spring, as soon as the bees begin to fly out, that a colony although feeble, has a fertile queen, I take the precaution at once to give it the strength which is indispensable, not merely to its safety, but to its ability for any kind of successful labor.

As a certain number of bees are needed in a hive, in order as well to warm and hatch the thousands of eggs which a healthy queen can lay, as to feed and properly develop the larvae after they are hatched, I know that a feeble colony must remain feeble for a long time, unless they can at once be supplied with a considerable accession of numbers. Even if there were no moths in existence to trouble such a hive, it would not be able to rear a large number of bees, until after the best of the honey-harvest had passed away: and then it would become powerful only that its increasing numbers might devour the food which the others had previously stored in the cells. If the small colony has a considerable number of bees, and is able to cover and warm at least one comb in addition to those containing brood which they already have, I take from one of my strong stocks, a frame containing some three or four thousand or more young bees, which are sealed over in their cells, and are just ready to emerge. These bees which require no food, and need nothing but warmth to develop them, will, in a few days, hatch in the new hive to which they are given, and thus the requisite number of workers, in the full vigor and energy of youth, will be furnished to the hive, and the discouraged queen, finding at once a suitable number of experienced nurses[23] to take charge of her eggs, deposits them in the proper cells, instead of simply extruding them, to be devoured by the bees. While bees often attack full grown strangers which are introduced into their hive, they never fail to receive gladly all the brood comb that we choose to give them. If they are sufficiently numerous, they will always cherish it, and in warm weather, they will protect it, even if it is laid against the outside of their hive! If the bees in the weak stock, are too much reduced in numbers, to be able to cover the brood comb taken from another hive, I give them this comb with all the old bees that are clustered upon it, and shut up the hive, after supplying them with water, until two or three days have passed away. By this time, most of the strange bees will have formed an inviolable attachment to their new home, and even if a portion of them should return to the parent hive, a large number of the maturing young will have hatched, to supply their desertion. A little sugar-water scented with peppermint, may be used to sprinkle the bees, at the time that the comb is introduced, although I have never yet found that they had the least disposition, to quarrel with each other. The original settlers are only too glad to receive such a valuable accession to their scanty numbers, and the expatriated bees are too-much confounded with their unexpected emigration, to feel any desire for making a disturbance. If a sufficient increase of numbers has not been furnished by one range of comb, the operation may, in the course of a few days, be repeated. Instead of leaving the colony to the discouraging feeling that they are in a large, empty and desolate house, a divider should be run down into the hive, and they should be confined to a space which they are able to warm and defend, and the rest of the hive, until they need its additional room, should be carefully shut up against all intruders. If this operation is judiciously performed, the bees will be powerful in numbers, long before the weather is warm enough to develop the bee-moth, and they will thus be most effectually protected from the hateful pest.

A very simple change in the organization of the bee-moth would have rendered it almost if not quite impossible to protect the bees from its ravages. If it had been so constituted as to require but a very small amount of heat for its full development, it would have become very numerous early in the Spring, and might then have easily entered the hives and deposited its eggs among the combs, without any let or hindrance; for at this season, not only do the bees at night maintain no guard at the entrance of their hive, but there are large portions of their comb bare of bees, and of course, entirely unprotected. How does every fact in the history of the bee, when properly investigated, point with unerring certainty to the power, wisdom and goodness, of Him who made it!

If there is reason to apprehend that the combs which are not occupied with brood, contain any of the eggs of the moth, these combs may be removed, and thoroughly smoked with the fumes of burning sulphur; and then, in a few days, after they have been exposed to the fresh air, they may be returned to the hive. I hope I may be pardoned for feeling not the slightest pity for the unfortunate progeny of the moth, thus unceremoniously destroyed.

Bees, as is well known to every experienced bee-keeper, frequently swarm so often as to expose themselves to great danger of being destroyed by the moth. After the departure of the after-swarms, the parent colony often contains too few bees to cover and protect their combs from the insidious attacks of their wily enemy. As a number of weeks must elapse before the brood of the young queen is mature, the colony, for a considerable time, at the season when the moths are very numerous, are constantly diminishing in numbers, and before they can begin to replenish the exhausted hive, the destroyer has made a fatal lodgment.

In my hives, such calamities are easily prevented. If artificial increase is relied upon for the multiplication of colonies, it can be so conducted as to give the moth next to no chance to fortify itself in the hive. No colony is ever allowed to have more room than it needs, or more combs than it can cover and protect; and the entrance to the hive may be contracted, if necessary, so that only a single bee can go in and out, at a time, and yet the bees will have, from the ventilators, as much air as they require.

If natural swarming is allowed, after-swarms may be prevented from issuing, by cutting out all the queen cells but one, soon after the first swarm leaves the hive; or if it is desired to have as fast an increase of stocks, as can possibly be obtained from natural swarming, then instead of leaving the combs in the parent hive to be attacked by the moth, a certain portion of them may be taken out, when swarming is over, and given to the second and third swarms, so as to aid in building them up into strong stocks.

But I have not yet spoken of the most fruitful cause of the desolating ravages of the bee-moth. If a colony has lost its queen, and this loss cannot be supplied, it must, as a matter of course, fall a sacrifice to the bee-moth: and I do not hesitate to assert that by far the larger proportion of colonies which are destroyed by it, are destroyed under precisely such circumstances! Let this be remembered by all who have any thing to do with bees, and let them understand that unless a remedy for the loss of the queen, can be provided, they must constantly expect to see some of their best colonies hopelessly ruined. The crafty moth, after all, is not so much to blame, as we are apt to imagine; for a colony, once deprived of its queen, and possessing no means of securing another, would certainly perish, even if never attacked by so deadly an enemy; just as the body of an animal, when deprived of life, will speedily go to decay, even if it is not, at once, devoured by ravenous swarms of filthy flies and worms.

In order to ascertain all the important points connected with the habits of the bee-moth, I have purposely deprived colonies in some of my observing hives, of their queen, and have thus reduced them to a state of despair, that I might closely watch all their proceedings. I have invariably found that in this state, they have made little or no resistance to the entrance of the bee-moth, but have allowed her to deposit her eggs, just where she pleased. The worms, after hatching, have always appeared to be even more at home than the poor dispirited bees themselves, and have grown and thrived, in the most luxurious manner. In some instances, these colonies, so far from losing all spirit to resent other intrusions, were positively the most vindictive set of bees in my whole Apiary. One especially, assaulted every body that came near it, and when reduced in numbers to a mere handful, seemed as ready for fight as ever.

How utterly useless then, for defending a queenless colony against the moth, are all the traps and other devices which have been, of late years, so much relied upon. If a single female gains admission, she will lay eggs enough to destroy in a short time, the strongest colony that ever existed, if once it has lost its queen, and has no means of procuring another. But not only do the bees of a hive which is hopelessly queenless, make little or no opposition to the entrance of the bee-moth, and to the ravages of the worms, but by their forlorn condition, they positively invite the attacks of their destroyers. The moth seems to have an instinctive knowledge of the condition of such a hive, and no art of man can ever keep her out. She will pass by other colonies to get at the queenless one, for she seems to know that there she will find all the conditions that are necessary to the proper development of her young. There are many mysteries in the insect world, which we have not yet solved; nor can we tell just how the moth arrives at so correct a knowledge of the condition of the queenless hives in the Apiary. That such hives, very seldom, maintain a guard about the entrance, is certain; and that they do not fill the air with the pleasant voice of happy industry, is equally certain; for even to our dull ears, the difference between the hum of the prosperous hive, and the unhappy note of the despairing one, is sufficiently obvious. May it not be even more obvious to the acute senses of the provident mother, seeking a proper place for the development of her young?

The unerring sagacity of the moth, closely resembles that peculiar instinct by which the vulture and other birds that prey upon carrion, are able to single out a diseased animal from the herd, which they follow with their dismal croakings, hovering over its head, or sitting in ill-omened flocks, on the surrounding trees, watching it as its life ebbs away, and stretching out their filthy and naked necks, and opening and snapping their blood-thirsty beaks that they may be all ready to tear out its eyes just glazing in death, and banquet upon its flesh still warm with the blood of life! Let any fatal accident befall an animal, and how soon will you see them, first from one quarter of the heavens, and then from another, speeding their eager flight to their destined prey, when only a short time before, not a single one could be seen or heard.

I have repeatedly seen powerful colonies speedily devoured by the worms, because of the loss of their queen, when they have stood, side by side with feeble colonies which being in possession of a queen, have been left untouched!

That the common hives furnish no available remedy for the loss of the queen, is well known: indeed, the owner cannot, in many cases, be sure that his bees are queenless, until their destruction is certain, while not unfrequently, after keeping bees for many years, he does not even so much as believe that there is such a thing as a queen bee!

In the Chapter on the Loss of the Queen, I shall show in what way this loss can be ascertained, and ordinarily remedied, and thus the bees be protected from that calamity which more than all others, exposes them to destruction. When a colony has become hopelessly queenless, then moth or no moth, its destruction is absolutely certain. Even if the bees retained their wonted industry in gathering stores, and their usual energy in defending themselves against all their enemies, their ruin could only be delayed for a short time. In a few months, they would all die a natural death, and there being none to replace them, the hive would be utterly depopulated. Occasionally, such instances occur in which the bees have died, and large stores of honey have been found untouched in their hives. This, however, but seldom happens: for they rarely escape from the assaults of other colonies, even if after the death of their queen, they do not fall a prey to the bee-moth. A motherless hive is almost always assaulted by stronger stocks, which seem to have an instinctive knowledge of its orphanage, and hasten at once, to take possession of its spoils. (See Remarks on Robbing.) If it escape the Scylla of these pitiless plunderers, it is soon dashed upon a more merciless Charybdis, when the miscreant moths have ascertained its destitution. Every year, large numbers of hives are bereft of their queen, and every year, the most of such hives are either robbed by other bees, or sacked by the bee-moth, or first robbed, and afterwards sacked, while their owner imputes all the mischief that is done, to something else than the real cause. He might just as well imagine that the birds, or the carrion worms which are devouring his dead horse, were actually the primary cause of its untimely end. How often we see the same kind of mistake made by those who impute the decay of a tree, to the insects which are banqueting upon its withering foliage; when often these insects are there, because the disease of the tree has both furnished them with their proper aliment, and deprived the plant of the vigor necessary to enable it to resist their attack.

The bee keeper can easily gather from these remarks, the means upon which I most rely, to protect my colonies from the bee-moth. Knowing that strong stocks supplied with a fertile queen, are always able to take care of themselves, in almost any kind of hive, I am careful to keep them in the state which is practically found to be one of such security. If they are weak, they must be properly strengthened, and confined to only as much space as they can warm and defend: and if they are queenless, they must be supplied with the means of repairing their loss, or if that cannot be done, they should be at once broken up, (See Remarks on Queenlessness, and Union of Stocks,) and added to other stocks.

It cannot be too deeply impressed upon the mind of the bee-keeper, that a small colony ought always to be confined to a small space, if we wish the bees to work with the greatest energy, and to offer the stoutest resistance to their numerous enemies. Bees do most unquestionably, "abhor a vacuum," if it is one which they can neither fill, warm nor defend. Let the prudent bee-master only keep his stocks strong, and they will do more to defend themselves against all intruders, than he can possibly do for them, even if he spends his whole time in watching and assisting them.

It is hardly necessary, after the preceding remarks, to say much upon the various contrivances to which so many resort, as a safeguard against the bee-moth. The idea that gauze-wire doors, to be shut daily at dusk, and opened again at morning, can exclude the moth, will not weigh much with one who has seen them flying and seeking admission, especially in dull weather, long before the bees have given over their work for the day. Even if the moth could be excluded by such a contrivance, it would require, on the part of those who rely upon it, a regularity almost akin to that of the heavenly bodies in their courses; a regularity so systematic, in short, as either to be impossible, or likely to be attained but by very few.

An exceedingly ingenious contrivance, to say the least, to remedy the necessity for such close supervision, is that by which the movable doors of all the hives are governed by a long lever in the shape of a hen-roost, so that the hives may all be closed seasonably and regularly, by the crowing and cackling tribe, when they go to bed at night, and opened at once when they fly from their perch, to greet the merry morn. Alas! that so much ingenuity should be all in vain! Chickens are often sleepy, and wish to retire sometime before the bees feel that they have completed their full day's work, and some of them are so much opposed to early rising, either from ill-health, or downright laziness, that they sit moping on their roost, long after the cheerful sun has purpled the glowing East. Even if this device were perfectly successful, it could not save from ruin, a colony which has lost its queen. The truth is, that almost all the contrivances upon which we are instructed to rely, are just about equivalent to the lock carefully put upon the stable door, after the horse has been stolen; or to attempts to prevent corruption from fastening upon the body of an animal, after the breath of life has forever departed.

Are there then no precautions to which we may resort, except by using hives which give the control over every comb? Certainly there are, and I shall now describe them in such a manner as to aid all who find themselves annoyed by the inroads of the bee-moth.

Let the prudent bee-master be deeply impressed with the very great importance of destroying early in the season, the larvae of the bee-moth. "Prevention is," at all times, "better than cure": a single pair of worms that are permitted to undergo their changes into the winged insect, may give birth to some hundreds which before the close of the season, may fill the Apiary with thousands of their kind. The destruction of a single worm early in the Spring, may thus be more efficacious than that of hundreds, at a later period. If the common hives are used, these worms must be sought for in their hiding places, under the edges of the hive; or the hive may be propped up, on the two ends, with strips of wood, about three eighths of an inch thick; and a piece of old woolen rag put between the bottom-board and the back of the hive. Into this warm hiding place, the full grown worm will retreat to spin its cocoon, and it may then be very easily caught and effectually dealt with. Hollow sticks, or split joints of cane may be set under the hives, so as to elevate them, or may be laid on the bottom-board, and if they have a few small openings through which the bees cannot enter, the worms will take possession of them, and may easily be destroyed. Only provide some hollow, inaccessible to the bees, but communicating with the hive and easily accessible to the worms when they want to spin, and to yourself when you want them, and if the bees are in good health, so that they will not permit the worms to spin among the combs, you can, with ease, entrap nearly all of them. If the hive has lost its queen, and the worms have gained possession of it, you can do nothing for it better than to break it up as soon as possible, unless you prefer to reserve it as a moth trap to devastate your whole Apiary.

I make use of blocks of a peculiar construction, in order both to entrap the worms, and to exclude the moth from my hives. The only place where the moth can enter, is just where the bees are going in and out, and this passage may be contracted so as to suit the size of the colony: the very shape of it is such that if the moth attempts to force an entrance, she is obliged to travel over a space which is continually narrowing, and of course, is more and more easily defended by the bees. My traps are slightly elevated, so that the heat and odor of the hive pass under them, and come out through small openings into which the moth can enter, but which do not admit her into the hive. These openings, which are so much like the crevices between the common hives and their bottom-boards, the moth will enter, rather than attempt to force her way through the guards, and finding here the nibblings and parings of comb and bee-bread, in which her young can flourish, she deposits her eggs in a place where they may be reached and destroyed. All this is on the supposition that the hive has a healthy queen, and that the bees are confined to a space which they can warm and defend. If there are no guards and no resistance, or at best but a very feeble one, she will not rest in any outer chamber, but will penetrate to the very heart of the citadel, and there deposit her seeds of mischief. These same blocks have also grooves which communicate with the interior of the hives, and which appear to the prowling worm in search of a comfortable nest, just the very best possible place, so warm and snug and secure, in which to spin its web, and "bide its time." When the hand of the bee-master lights upon it, doubtless it has reason to feel that it has been caught in its own craftiness.

If asked how much will such contrivances help the careless bee-man, I answer, not one iota; nay, they will positively furnish him greater facilities for destroying his bees. Worms will spin and hatch, and moths will lay their eggs, under the blocks, and he will never remove them: thus instead of traps he will have most beautiful devices for giving more effectual aid and comfort to his enemies. Such persons, if they ever attempt to keep bees on my plans, should use only my smooth blocks, which will enable them to control, at will, the size of the entrance to the hives, and which are exceedingly important in aiding the bees to defend themselves against moths and robbers, and all enemies which seek admission to their castle.

Let me, however, strongly advise the thoroughly and incorrigibly careless, to have nothing to do with bees, either on my plan of management, or any other; for they will find their time and money almost certainly thrown away; unless their mishaps open their eyes to the secret of their failure in other things, as well as in bee-keeping.

If I find that the worms, by any means have got the upper hand in one of my hives, I take out the combs, shake off the bees, route out the worms and restore the combs again to the bees: if there is reason to fear that they contain eggs and small worms, I smoke them thoroughly with sulphur, and air them well before they are returned. Such operations, however, will very seldom be required. Shallow vessels containing sweetened water, placed on the hives after sunset, will often entrap many of the moths. Pans of milk are recommended by some as useful for this purpose. So fond are the moths of something sweet, that I have caught them sticking fast to pieces of moist sugar-candy.

I cannot deny myself the pleasure of making an extract from an article[24] from the pen of that accomplished scholar, and well-known enthusiast in bee-culture, Henry K. Oliver, Esq. "We add a few words respecting the enemies of bees. The mouse, the toad, the ant, the stouter spiders, the wasp, the death-head moth, (Sphinx atropos,) and all the varieties of gallinaceous birds, have, each and all, "a sweet tooth," and like, very well, a dinner of raw bee. But the ravages of all these are but a baby bite to the destruction caused by the bee-moth, (Tinea mellonella.) These nimble-footed little mischievous vermin may be seen, on any evening, from early May to October, fluttering about the apiary, or running about the hives, at a speed to outstrip the swiftest bee, and endeavoring to effect an entrance into the door way, for it is within the hive that their instinct teaches them they must deposit their eggs. You can hardly find them by day, for they are cunning and secrete themselves. "They love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil." They are a paltry looking, insignificant little grey-haired pestilent race of wax-and-honey-eating and bee-destroying rascals, that have baffled all contrivances that ingenuity has devised to conquer or destroy them."

"Your committee would be very glad indeed to be able to suggest any effectual means, by which to assist the honey-bee and its friends, against the inroads of this, its bitterest and most successful foe, whose desolating ravages are more lamented and more despondingly referred to, than those of any other enemy. Various contrivances have been announced, but none have proved efficacious to any full extent, and we are compelled to say that there really is no security, except in a very full, healthy and vigorous stock of bees, and in a very close and well made hive, the door of which is of such dimensions of length and height, that the nightly guards can effectually protect it. Not too long a door, nor too high. If too long, the bees cannot easily guard it, and if too high, the moth will get in over the heads of the guards. If the guards catch one of them, her life is not worth insuring. But if the moths, in any numbers, effect a lodgment in the hive, then the hive is not worth insuring. They immediately commence laying their eggs, from which comes, in a few days, a brownish white caterpillar, which encloses itself, all but its head, in a silken cocoon. This head, covered with an impenetrable coat of scaly mail, which bids defiance to the bees, is thrust forward, just outside of the silken enclosure, and the gluttonous pest eats all before it, wax, pollen, and exuviae, until ruin to the stock is inevitable. As says the Prophet Joel, speaking of the ravages of the locust, "the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness." Look out, brethren, bee lovers, and have your hives of the best unshaky, unknotty stock, with close fitting joints, and well covered with three or four coats of paint. He who shall be successful in devising the means of ridding the bee world of this destructive and merciless pest, will richly deserve to be crowned "King Bee," in perpetuity, to be entitled to a never-fading wreath of budding honey flowers, from sweetly breathing fields, all murmuring with bees, to be privileged to use, during his natural life, "night tapers from their waxen thighs," best wax candles, (two to the pound!) to have an annual offering from every bee-master, of ten pounds each, of very best virgin honey, and to a body guard, for protection against all foes, of thrice ten thousand workers, all armed and equipped, as Nature's law directs. Who shall have these high honors?"

It might seem highly presumptuous for me, at this early date, to lay claim to them, but I beg leave to enroll myself among the list of honorable candidates, and I cheerfully submit my pretensions to the suffrages of all intelligent keepers of bees.

In the chapter on Requisites, I have spoken of the ravages of the mouse, and have there described the way in which my hives are guarded against its intrusion. That some kinds of birds are fond of bees, every Apiarian knows, to his cost; still, I cannot advise that any should, on this account, be destroyed. It has been stated to me, by an intelligent observer, that the King-bird, which devours them by scores, confines himself always, in the season of drones, to those fat and lazy gentlemen of leisure. I fear however, that this, as the children say, "is too good news to be true," and that not only the industrious portion of the busy community fall a prey to his fatal snap, but that the luxurious gourmand can distinguish perfectly well, between an empty bee in search of food, and one which is returning full laden to its fragrant home, and whose honey-bag sweetens the delicious tit-bit, as the crushed unfortunate, all ready sugared, glides daintily down his voracious maw! Still, I have never yet been willing to destroy a bird, because of its fondness for bees; and I advise all lovers of bees to have nothing to do with such foolish practices. Unless we can check among our people, the stupid, as well as inhuman custom of destroying so wantonly, on any pretence, and often on none at all, the insectivorous birds, we shall soon, not only be deprived of their aerial melody, among the leafy branches, but shall lament over the ever increasing horde of destructive insects, which ravage our fields and desolate our orchards, and from whose successful inroads, nothing but the birds can ever protect us. Think of it, ye who can enjoy no music made by these winged choristers of the skies, except that of their agonizing screams, as they fall before your well-aimed weapons, and flutter out their innocent lives before your heartless gaze! Drive away as fast and as far as you please, from your cruel premises, all the little birds that you cannot destroy, and then find, if you can, those who will sympathize with you, when the caterpillars weave their destroying webs over your leafless trees, and insects of all kinds riot in glee, upon your blasted harvests! I hope that such a healthy public opinion will soon prevail, that the man or boy who is armed with a gun to shoot the little birds, will be scouted from all humane and civilized society, and if he should be caught about such contemptible business, will be too much ashamed even to look an honest man in the face. I shall close what I have to say about the birds, with the following beautiful translation of an old Greek poet's address to the swallow.

"Attic maiden, honey fed, Chirping warbler, bear'st away, Thou the busy buzzing bee, To thy callow brood a prey? Warbler, thou a warbler seize? Winged, one with lovely wings? Guest thyself, by Summer brought, Yellow guest whom Summer brings? Wilt not quickly let it drop? 'Tis not fair, indeed 'tis wrong, That the ceaseless warbler should Die by mouth of ceaseless song." Merivale's Translation.

I have not the space to speak at length of the other enemies of the honied race: nor indeed is it at all necessary. If the Apiarian only succeeds in keeping his stocks strong, they will be their own best protectors, and if he does not succeed in this, they would be of little value, even if they had no enemies ever vigilant, to watch for their halting. Nations which are both rich and feeble, invite attack, as well as unfit themselves for vigorous resistance. Just so with the commonwealth of bees. Unless amply guarded by thousands ready to die in its defence, it is ever liable to fall a prey to some one of its many enemies, which are all agreed in this one opinion, at least, that stolen honey is much more sweet than the slow accumulations of patient industry.

In the Chapters on Protection and Ventilation, I have spoken of the fatal effects of dysentery. This disease can always be prevented by proper caution on the part of the bee-keeper. Let him be careful not to feed his bees, late in the season, on liquid honey, (see Chapter on Feeding,) and let him keep them in dry and thoroughly protected hives. If his situation is at all damp, and there is danger that water will settle under his Protector, let him build it entirely above ground; otherwise it may be as bad as a damp cellar, and incomparably worse than nothing at all.

There is one disease, called by the Germans, "foul brood," of which I know nothing, by my own observation, but which is, of all others, the most fatal in its effects. The brood appear to die in the cells, after they are sealed over by the bees, and the stench from their decaying bodies infects the hive, and seems to paralyze the bees. This disease is, in two instances, attributed by Dzierzon, to feeding bees on "American Honey," or, as we call it, Southern Honey, which is brought from Cuba, and other West India Islands. That such honey is not ordinarily poisonous, is well known: probably that used by him, was taken from diseased colonies. It is well known that if any honey or combs are taken from a hive in which this pestilence is raging, it will most surely infect the colonies to which they may be given. No foreign honey ought therefore to be extensively used, until its quality has been thoroughly tested. The extreme violence of this disease may be inferred from the fact, that Dzierzon in one season, lost by it, between four and five hundred colonies! As at present advised, if my colonies were attacked by it, I should burn up the bees, combs, honey, frames, and all, from every diseased hive; and then thoroughly scald and smoke with sulphur, all such hives, and replenish them with bees from a healthy stock.

There is a peculiar kind of dysentery which does not seem to affect a whole colony, but confines its ravages to a small number of the bees. In the early stages of this disease, those attacked are excessively irritable, and will attempt to sting any one who comes near the hives. If dissected, their stomachs are found to be already discolored by the disease. In the latter stages of this complaint, they not only lose all their irascibility, but seem very stupid, and may often be seen crawling upon the ground unable to fly. Their abdomens are now unnaturally swollen, and of a much lighter color than usual, owing to their being filled with a yellow matter exceedingly offensive to the smell. I have not yet ascertained the cause of this disease.

FOOTNOTES:

[21] Bevan.

[22] Bevan.

[23] A bee, a few days after it is hatched, is as fully competent for all its duties, as it ever will be, at any subsequent period of its life.

[24] Report on bees to the Essex County Agricultural Society, 1851.



CHAPTER XII.

LOSS OF THE QUEEN.

That the queen of a hive is often lost, and that the ruin of the whole colony soon follows, unless such a loss is seasonably remedied, are facts which ought to be well known to every observing bee-keeper.

Some queens appear to die of old age or disease, and at a time when there are no worker-eggs, or larvae of a suitable age, to enable the bees to supply their loss. It is evident, however, that no very large proportion of the queens which perish, are lost under such circumstances. Either the bees are aware of the approaching end of their aged mother, and take seasonable precautions to rear a successor; or else she dies very suddenly, so as to leave behind her, brood of a suitable age. It is seldom that a queen in a hive that is strong in numbers and stores, dies either at a period of the year when there is no brood from which another can be reared, or when there are no drones to impregnate the one reared in her place. In speaking of the age of bees, it has already been stated that queens commonly die in their fourth year, while none of the workers live to be a year old. Not only is the queen much longer lived than the other bees, but she seems to be possessed of greater tenacity of life, so that when any disease overtakes the colony, she is usually among the last to perish. By a most admirable provision, their death ordinarily takes place under circumstances the most favorable to their bereaved family. If it were otherwise, the number of colonies which would annually perish, would be very much greater than it now is; for as a number of superannuated queens must die every year, many, or even most of them might die at a season when their loss would necessarily involve the ruin of their whole colony. In non-swarming hives, I have found cells in which queens were reared, not to lead out a new swarm, but to supply the place of the old one which had died in the hive. There are a few well authenticated instances, in which a young queen has been matured before the death of the old one, but after she had become quite aged and infirm. Still, there are cases where old queens die, either so suddenly as to leave no young brood behind them, or at a season when there are no drones to impregnate the young queens.

That queens occasionally live to such an age as to become incapable of laying worker eggs, is now a well established fact. The seminal reservoir sometimes becomes exhausted, before the queen dies of old age, and as it is never replenished, (see p. 44,) she can only lay unimpregnated eggs, or such as produce drones instead of workers. This is an additional confirmation of the theory first propounded by Dzierzon. I am indebted to Mr. Wagner for the following facts. "In the Bienenzeitung, for August, 1852, Count Stosch gives us the case of a colony examined by himself, with the aid of an experienced Apiarian, on the 14th of April, previous. The worker-brood was then found to be healthy. In May following, the bees worked industriously, and built new comb. Soon afterwards they ceased to build, and appeared dispirited; and when, in the beginning of June, he examined the colony again, he found plenty of drone brood in worker cells! The queen appeared weak and languid. He confined her in a queen cage, and left her in the hive. The bees clustered around the cage; but next morning the queen was found to be dead. Here we seem to have the commencement, progress and termination of super-annuation, all in the space of five or six weeks."

In the Spring of the year, as soon as the bees begin to fly, if their motions are carefully watched, the Apiarian may even in the common hives, generally ascertain from their actions, whether they are in possession of a fertile queen. If they are seen to bring in bee-bread with great eagerness, it follows, as a matter of course, that they have brood, and are anxious to obtain fresh food for its nourishment. If any hive does not industriously gather pollen, or accept the rye flour upon which the others are feasting, then there is an almost absolute certainty either that it has not a queen, or that she is not fertile, or that the hive is seriously infested with worms, or that it is on the very verge of starvation. An experienced eye will decide upon the queenlessness, (to use the German term,) of a hive, from the restless appearance of the bees. At this period of the year when they first realize the magnitude of their loss, and before they have become in a manner either reconciled to it, or indifferent to their fate, they roam in an inquiring manner, in and out of the hive, and over its outside as well as inside, and plainly manifest that something calamitous has befallen them. Often those that return from the fields, instead of entering the hive with that dispatchful haste so characteristic of a bee returning well stored to a prosperous home, linger about the entrance with an idle and very dissatisfied appearance, and the colony is restless, long after the other stocks are quiet. Their home, like that of the man who is cursed rather than blessed in his domestic relations, is a melancholy place: and they only enter it with reluctant and slow-moving steps!

If I could address a friendly word of advice to every married woman, I would say, "Do all that you can to make your husband's home a place of attraction. When absent from it, let his heart glow at the very thought of returning to its dear enjoyments; and let his countenance involuntarily put on a more cheerful look, and his joy-quickened steps proclaim, as he is approaching, that he feels in his "heart of hearts," that "there is no place like home." Let her whom he has chosen as a wife and companion, be the happy and honored Queen in his cheerful habitation: let her be the center and soul about which his best affections shall ever revolve. I know that there are brutes in the guise of men, upon whom all the winning attractions of a prudent, virtuous wife, make little or no impression. Alas that it should be so! but who can tell how many, even of the most hopeless cases, have been saved for two worlds, by a union with a virtuous woman, in whose "tongue was the law of kindness," and of whom it could be said, "the heart of her husband doth safely trust in her," for "she will do him good and not evil, all the days of her life."

Said a man of large experience, "I scarcely know a woman who has an intemperate husband, who did not either marry a man whose habits were already bad, or who did not drive her husband to evil courses, (often when such a calamitous result was the furthest possible from her thoughts or wishes,) by making him feel that he had no happy home." Think of it, ye who find that home is not full of dear delights, as well to yourselves, as to your affectionate husbands! Try how much virtue there may be in winning words and happy smiles, and the cheerful discharge of household duties, and prove the utmost possible efficacy of love and faith and prayer, before those words of fearful agony are extorted from your despairing lips,

"Anywhere, anywhere Out of the world;"

when amid tears and sighs of inexpressible agony, you settle down into the heart-breaking conviction that you can have no home until you have passed into that habitation not fashioned by human hands, or inhabited by human hearts!

Is there any husband who can resist all the sweet attractions of a lovely wife? who does not set a priceless value upon the very gem of his life?

"If such there be, go mark him well; High though his titles, proud his fame, Boundless his wealth as wish can claim, The wretch, concentered all in self, Living, shall forfeit fair renown, And doubly dying, shall go down To the vile dust from whence he sprung Unwept, unhonored, and unsung."—Scott.

I trust my readers, remembering my profession, will pardon this long digression to which I felt myself irresistibly impelled.

When the bees commence their work in the Spring, they give, as previously stated, reliable evidence either that all is well, or that ruin lurks within. In the common hives however, it is not always easy to decide upon their real condition. The queenless ones do not, in all cases, disclose their misfortune, any more than all unhappy husbands or wives see fit to proclaim the full extent of their domestic wretchedness: there is a vast amount of seeming even in the little world of the bee-hive. One great advantage in my mode of construction is that I am never obliged to leave anything to vague conjecture; but I can, in a few moments, open the interior, and know precisely what is the real condition of the bees.

On one occasion I found that a colony which had been queenless for a considerable time, utterly refused to raise another, and devoured all the eggs which were given to them for that purpose! This colony was afterwards supplied with an unimpregnated queen, but they refused to accept of her, and attempted at once to smother her to death. I then gave them a fertile queen, but she met with no better treatment. Facts of a similar kind have been noticed, by other observers: thus it seems that bees may not only become reconciled, as it were, to living without a mother, but may pass into such an unnatural state as not only to decline to provide themselves with another, but actually to refuse to accept of one by whose agency they might be rescued from impending ruin! Before expressing too much astonishment at such foolish conduct, let us seriously inquire if it has not often an exact parallel in our obstinate rejection of the provisions which God has made in the Gospel for our moral and religious welfare.

If a colony which refuses to rear another queen, has a range of comb given to it containing maturing brood, these poor motherless innocents, as soon as they are able to work, perceive their loss, and will proceed at once, if they have the means, to supply it! They have not yet grown so hardened by habit to unnatural and ruinous courses, as not to feel that something absolutely indispensable to their safety is wanting in their hive.

A word to the young who may read this treatise. Although enjoined to "remember your Creator in the days of your youth," you are constantly tempted to neglect your religious duties, and to procrastinate their performance until some more convenient season. Like the old bees in a hive without a queen, that seek only their present enjoyment, forgetful of the ruin which must surely overtake them, so you may find that when manhood and old age arrive, you will have even less disposition to love and serve the Lord than you now have. The fetters which bind you to sinful habits will have strengthened with years until you find both the inclination and ability to break them continually decreasing.

In the Spring, as soon as the weather becomes sufficiently pleasant, I carefully examine all the hives which do not present the most unmistakable evidences of health and vigor. If a queen is wanting, I at once, if the colony is small, break it up, and add the bees to another stock. If however, the colony should be very large, I sometimes join to it one of my small stocks which has a healthy queen. It may be asked why not supply the queenless stock with the means of raising another? Simply because there would be no drones to impregnate her, in season; and the whole operation would therefore result in an entire failure. Why not endeavor then to preserve it, until the season for drones approaches, and then give it a queen? Because it is in danger of being robbed or destroyed by the moth, while the bees, if added to another stock, can do me far more service than they could, if left to idleness in their old hive. It must be remembered that I am not like the bee-keepers on the old plan, extremely anxious to save every colony, however feeble: as I can, at the proper season, form as many as I want, and with far less trouble and expense than are required to make anything out of such discouraged stocks.

If any of my colonies are found to be feeble in the Spring, but yet in possession of a healthy queen, I help them to combs containing maturing brood, in the manner already described. In short, I ascertain, at the opening of the season, the exact condition of all my stock, and apply such remedies as I find to be needed, giving to some, maturing brood, to others honey, and breaking up all whose condition appears to admit of no remedy. If however, the bees have not been multiplied too rapidly, and proper care was taken to winter none but strong stocks, they will need but little assistance in the Spring; and nearly all of them will show indubitable signs of health and vigor.

I strongly recommend every prudent bee-keeper who uses my hives, to give them all a most thorough over-hauling and cleansing, soon after the bees begin to work in the Spring. The bees of any stock may, with their combs, &c., all be transferred, in a few minutes, to a clean hive; and their hive, after being thoroughly cleansed, may be used for another transferred stock; and in this way, with one spare hive, the bees may all be lodged in habitations from which every speck of dirt has been removed. They will thus have hives which can by no possibility, harbor any of the eggs, or larvae of the moth, and which may be made perfectly free from the least smell of must or mould or anything offensive to the delicate senses of the bees. In making this thorough cleansing of all the hives, the Apiarian will necessarily gain an exact knowledge of the true condition of each stock, and will know which have spare honey, and which require food: in short, which are in need of help in any respect, and which have the requisite strength to lend a helping hand to others. If any hive needs repairing, it may be put into perfect order, before it is used again. Hives managed in this fashion, if the roofs and outside covers are occasionally painted anew, will last for generations, and will be found, on the score of cheapness, preferable, in the long run, to any other kind. But I ought to beg pardon of the Genius of American cheapness, who so kindly presides over the making of most of our manufactures, and under whose shrewd tuition we are fast beginning to believe that cheapness in the first cost of an article, is the main point to which our attention should be directed!

Let us to be sure, save all that we can in the cost of construction, by the greatest economy in the use of materials; let us compel every minute to yield the greatest possible practical result, by the employment of the most skillful workmen and the most ingenious machinery; but do let us learn that slighting an article, so as to get up a mere sham, having all the appearance of reality, with none of the substance, is the poorest possible kind of pretended economy; to say nothing of the tendency of such a system, to encourage in all the pursuits of life, the narrow and selfish policy of doing nothing thoroughly, but everything with reference to mere outside show, or the urgent necessities of the present moment.

We have yet to describe under what circumstances, by far the larger proportion of hives, become queenless. After the first swarm has gone out with the old mother, then both the parent stock and all the subsequent swarms, will have each a young queen which must always leave the hive in order to be impregnated. It sometimes happens that the wings of the young female are, from her birth, so imperfect that she either refuses to sally out, or is unable to return to the hive, if she ventures abroad. In either case, the old stock must, if left to its own resources, speedily perish. Queens, in their contests with each other, are sometimes so much crippled as to unfit them for flight, and sometimes they are disabled by the rude treatment of the bees, who insist on driving them away from the royal cells. The great majority, however, of queens which are lost, perish when they leave the hive in search of the drones. Their extra size and slower flight make them a most tempting prey to the birds, ever on the watch in the vicinity of the hives; and many in this way, perish. Others are destroyed by sudden gusts of winds, which dash them against some hard object, or blow them into the water; for queens are by no means, exempt from the misfortunes common to the humblest of their race. Very frequently, in spite of all their caution in noticing the position and appearance of their habitation, before they left it, they make a fatal mistake on their return, and are imprisoned and destroyed as they attempt to enter the wrong hive. The precautions which should be used, to prevent such a calamity, have been already described. If these are neglected, those who build their hives of uniform size and appearance, will find themselves losing many more queens than the person who uses the old-fashioned boxes, hardly any two of which look just alike.

The bees seem to me, to have, as it were, an instinctive perception of the dangers which await their new queen when she makes her excursion in search of the drones, and often gather around her, and confine her, as though they could not bear to have her leave! I have repeatedly noticed them doing this, although I cannot affirm with positive certainty, why they do it. They are usually excessively agitated when the queen leaves, and often exhibit all the appearance of swarming. If the queen of an old stock is lost in this way, her colony will gradually dwindle away. If the queen of an after-swarm fails to return, the bees very speedily come to nothing, if they remain in the hive; as a general rule, however, they soon leave and attempt to add themselves to other colonies.

It would be highly interesting to ascertain in what way the bees become informed of the loss of their queen. When she is taken from them under such circumstances as to excite the whole colony, then we can easily see how they find out that she is gone; for when greatly excited, they always seek first to assure themselves of her safety; just as a tender mother in time of danger forgets herself in her anxiety for her helpless children! If however, the queen is carefully removed, so that the colony is not disturbed, it is sometimes a day, or even more, before they realize their loss. How do they first become aware of it? Perhaps some dutiful bee feels that it is a long time since it has seen its mother, and anxious to embrace her, makes diligent search for her through the hive! The intelligence that she cannot anywhere be found, is soon noised abroad, and the whole community are at once alarmed. At such times, instead of calmly conversing by merely touching each other's antennae, they may be seen violently striking as it were, their antennae together, and by the most impassioned demonstrations manifesting their agony and despair. I once removed a queen in such a manner as to cause the bees to take wing and fill the air in search of her. She was returned in a few minutes, and yet, on examining the colony, two days after, I found that they had actually commenced the building of royal cells, in order to raise another! The queen was unhurt and the cells were not tenanted. Was this work begun by some that refused for a long time to believe the others, when told that she was safe? Or was it begun from the apprehension that she might again be removed?

Every colony which has a new queen, should be watched, in order that the Apiarian may be seasonably apprised of her loss. The restless conduct of the bees, on the evening of the day that she fails to return, will at once inform the experienced bee-master of the accident which has befallen his hive. If the bees cannot be supplied with another queen, or with the means of raising one, if an old swarm it must be broken up, and the bees added to another stock; if a new swarm it must always be broken up, unless it can be supplied with a queen nearly mature, or else they will build combs unfit for the rearing of workers. By the use of my movable comb hives, all these operations can be easily performed. If any hives have lost their young queen, they may be supplied, either with the means of raising another, or with sealed queens from other hives, or, (if the plan is found to answer,) with mature ones from the "Nursery."

As a matter of precaution, I generally give to all my stocks that are raising young queens, or which have unimpregnated ones, a range of comb containing brood and eggs, so that they may, in case of any accident to their queen, proceed at once, to supply their loss. In this way, I prevent them from being so dissatisfied as to leave the hive.

About a week after the young queens have hatched, I examine all the hives which contain them, lifting out usually, some of the largest combs, and those which ought to contain brood. If I find a comb which has eggs or larvae, I am satisfied that they have a fertile queen, and shut up the hive; unless I wish to find her, in order to deprive her of her wings, (see p. 203.) I can thus often satisfy myself in one or two minutes. If no brood is found, I suspect that the queen has been lost, or that she has some defect which has prevented her from leaving the hive. If the brood-comb which I put into the hive, contains any newly-formed royal cells, I know, without any further examination, that the queen has been lost. If the weather has been unfavorable, or the colony is quite weak, the young queen is sometimes not impregnated as early as usual, and an allowance of a few days must be made on this account. If the weather is favorable, and the colony a good one, the queen usually leaves, the day after she finds herself mistress of a family. In about two days more, she begins to lay her eggs. By waiting about a week before the examination is made, ample allowance, in most cases, is made.

Early in the month of September, I examine carefully all my hives, so as to see that in every respect, they are in suitable condition for wintering. If any need feeding, (See Chapter on Feeding,) they are fed at this time. If any have more vacant room than they ought to have, I partition off that part of the hive which they do not need. I always expect to find some brood in every healthy hive at this time, and if in any hive I find none, and ascertain that it is queenless, I either at once break it up, or if it is strong in numbers supply it with a queen, by adding to it some feebler stock. If bees, however, are properly attended to, at the season when their young queens are impregnated, it will be a very rare occurrence to find a queenless colony in the Fall.

The practical bee-keeper without further directions, will readily perceive how any operation, which in the common hives, is performed with difficulty, if it can be performed at all, is reduced to simplicity and certainty, by the control of the combs. If however, bee-keepers will be negligent and ignorant, no hive can possible make them very successful. If they belong to the fraternity of "no eyes," who have kept bees all their lives, and do not know that there is a queen, they will probably derive no special pleasure from being compelled to believe what they have always derided as humbug or book-knowledge; although I have seen some bee-keepers very intelligent on most matters, who never seem to have learned the first rudiments in the natural history of the bee. Those who cannot, or will not learn for themselves, or who have not the leisure or disposition to manage their own bees, may yet with my hives, entrust their care to suitable persons who may, at the proper time, attend to all their wants. Practical gardeners may find the management of bees for their employers, to be quite a lucrative part of their profession. With but little extra labor and with great certainty, they may, from time to time, do all that the prosperity of the bees require; carefully over-hauling them in the Spring, making new colonies, at the suitable period, if any are wanted, giving them their surplus honey receptacles, and removing them when full; and on the approach of Winter, putting all the colonies into proper condition, to resist its rigors. The business of the practical Apiarian, and that of the Gardener, seem very naturally to go together, and one great advantage of my hive and mode of management is the ease with which they may be successfully united.

Some Apiarians after all that has been said, may still have doubts whether the young queens leave the hive for impregnation; or may think that the old ones occasionally leave, even when they do not go out to lead a swarm. Such persons may, if they choose, easily convince themselves by the following experiments of the accuracy of my statements. About a week after hiving a second swarm, or after the birth of a young queen in a hive, and after she has begun to lay eggs, open the hive and remove her: carry her a few rods in front of the Apiary, and let her fly; she will at once enter her own hive and thus show that she has previously left it. If, however, an old queen is removed a short time after hiving the swarm, she will not be able to distinguish her own hive from any other, and will thus show that she has not left it, since the swarm was hived. If this experiment is performed upon an old queen, in a hive in which she was put the year before, when unimpregnated, the same result will follow; for as she never left it after that event, she will have lost all recollection of its relative position in the Apiary. The first of these experiments has been suggested by Dzierzon.



CHAPTER XIII.

UNION OF STOCKS. TRANSFERRING BEES FROM THE COMMON HIVE. STARTING AN APIARY.

Frequent allusions have been made to the importance, for various reasons, of breaking up stocks and uniting them to other families in the Apiary. Colonies which in the early Spring, are found to be queenless, ought at once to be managed in this way, for even if not speedily destroyed by their enemies, they are only consumers of the stores which they gathered in their happier days. The same treatment should also be extended to all that in the Fall, are found to be in a similar condition.

As small colonies, even though possessed of a healthy queen, are never able to winter as advantageously as large ones, the bees from several such colonies ought to be put together, to enable them by keeping up the necessary supply of heat, to survive the Winter on a smaller supply of food. A certain quantity of animal heat must be maintained by bees, in order to live at all, and if their numbers are too small, they can only keep it up, by eating more than they would otherwise require. A small swarm will thus not unfrequently, consume as much honey as one containing two or three times as many bees. These are facts which have been most thoroughly tested on a very large scale. If a hundred persons are required to occupy, with comfort, a church that is capable of accommodating a thousand, as much fuel or even more will be required, to warm the small number as the large one.

If the stocks which are to be wintered, are in the common hives, the condemned ones must be drummed out of their old encampment, sprinkled with sugar-water scented with peppermint, or some other pleasant odor, and added to the others, (see p. 212.) The colonies which are to be united ought if possible, to stand side by side, some time before this process is attempted. This can almost always be effected by a little management, for while it would not be safe to move a colony all at once, even a few yards to the right or left of the line of flight in which the bees sally out to the fields, (especially if other hives are near,) they may be moved a slight distance one day, and a little more the next, and so on, until we have them at last in the desired place.

As persons may sometimes be obliged to move their Apiaries, during the working season, I will here describe the way by which I was able to accomplish such a removal, so as to benefit, instead of injuring my bees. Selecting a pleasant day, I moved, early in the morning, a portion of my very best stocks. A considerable number of bees from these colonies, returned in the course of the day to the familiar spot; after flying about for some time, in search of their hives, (if the weather had been chilly many of them would have perished,) they at length entered those standing next to their old homes. More of the strongest were removed, on the next pleasant day: and this process was repeated, until at last only one hive was left in the old Apiary. This was then removed, and only a few bees returned to the old spot. I thus lost no more bees, in moving a number of hives, than I should have lost in moving one: and I conducted the process in such a way, as to strengthen some of my feeble stocks, instead of very seriously diminishing their scanty numbers. I have known the most serious losses to result from the removal of an Apiary, conducted in the manner in which a change of location is usually made.

The process of uniting colonies in my hive, is exceedingly simple. The combs may, after the two colonies are sprinkled, be at once lifted out from the one which is to be broken up, and put with all the bees upon them, directly into the other hive. If the Apiarian judges it best to save any of his very small colonies, he can confine them to one half or one third of the central part of the hive, and fill the two empty ends with straw, shavings, or any good non-conductor. Any one of my frames, can, in a few minutes, by having tacked to it a thin piece of board or paste-board, or even an old newspaper, be fashioned into a divider, which will answer all practical purposes, and if it is stuffed with cotton waste, &c., it will keep the bees uncommonly warm. If a very small colony is to be preserved over Winter, the queen must be confined, in the Fall, in a queen cage, to prevent the colony from deserting the hive.

I shall now show how the bee-keeper who wishes only to keep a given number of stocks, may do so, and yet secure from that number the largest quantity of surplus honey.

If his bees are kept in non-swarming hives, he may undoubtedly, reap a bounteous harvest from the avails of their industry. I do not however, recommend this mode of bee-keeping as the best: still there are many so situated that it may be much the best for them. Such persons, by using my hives, can pursue the non-swarming plan to the best advantage. They can by taking off the wings of their queens, be sure that their colonies will not suddenly leave them; a casualty to which all other non-swarming hives are sometimes liable; and by taking away the honey in small quantities, they will always give the bees plenty of spare room for storage, and yet avoid discouraging them, as is so often done when large boxes are taken from them. (See Chapter on Honey.)

By removing from time to time, the old queens, the colonies can all be kept in possession of queens, at the height of their fertility, and in this way a very serious objection to the non-swarming, or as it is frequently called, the storifying system, may be avoided. If at any time, new colonies are wanted, they may be made in the manner already described. In districts where the honey harvest is of very short continuance, the non-swarming plan may be found to yield the largest quantity of honey, and in case the season should prove unfavorable for the gathering of honey, it will usually secure the largest returns from a given number of stocks. I therefore prefer to keep a considerable number of my colonies, on the storifying plan, and am confident of securing from them, a good yield of honey, even in the most unfavorable seasons. If bee-keepers will pursue the same system, they will not only be on the safe side, but will be able to determine which method it will be best for them to adopt, in order to make the most from their bees. As a general rule, the Apiarian who increases the number of his colonies, one third in a season, making one very powerful swarm from two, (See p. 211,) will have more surplus honey from the three, than he could have obtained from the two, to say nothing of the value of his new swarms. If, at the approach of Winter, he wishes to reduce his stocks down to the Spring number, he may unite them in the manner described, appropriating all the good honey of those which he breaks up, and saving all their empty comb for the new colonies of the next season. The bees in the doubled stock will winter most admirably; will consume but little honey, in proportion to their numbers, and will be in most excellent condition when the Spring opens. It must not, however, be forgotten, that although they eat comparatively little in the Winter, they must be well supplied in the Spring; as they will then have a very large number of mouths to feed, to say nothing of the thousands of young bees bred in the hive. If any old-fashioned bee-keeper wishes, he can thus pursue the old plan, with only this modification; that he preserves the lives of the bees in the hives which he wishes to take up; secures his honey without any fumes of sulphur, and saves the empty comb to make it worth nearly ten times as much to himself, as it would be, if melted into wax. Let no humane bee-keeper ever feel that there is the slightest necessity for so managing his bees as to make the comparison of Shakespeare always apposite:

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse