"When like the Bee, tolling from every flower The virtuous sweets; Our thighs packed with wax, our mouths, with honey, We bring it to the hive; and like the bees, Are murdered for our pains."
While I am an advocate for breaking up all stocks which cannot be wintered advantageously, I never advise that a single bee should be killed. Self interest and Christianity alike forbid the unnecessary sacrifice.
TRANSFERRING BEES FROM THE COMMON HIVE TO THE MOVABLE COMB HIVE.
The construction of my hive is such, as to permit me to transfer bees from the common hives, during all the season that the weather is warm enough to permit them to fly; and yet to be able to guarantee that they will receive no serious damage by the change.
On the 10th of November, 1852, in the latitude of Northern Massachusetts, I transferred a colony which wintered in good health, and which now, May, 1853, promises to make an excellent stock. The day was warm, but after the operation was completed, the weather suddenly became cold, and as the bees were not able to leave the hive in order to obtain the water necessary for repairing their comb, they were supplied with that indispensable article. They went to work very busily, and in a short time mended up their combs and attached them firmly to the frames.
The transfer may be made of any healthy colony, and if they are strong in numbers, and the hive is well provisioned, and the weather is not too cool when the operation is attempted, they will scarcely feel the change. If the weather should be too chilly, it will be found almost impossible to make a colony leave its old hive, and if the combs are cut out, and the bees removed upon them, large numbers of them will take wing, and becoming chilled, will be unable to join their companions, and so will perish.
The process of transferring bees to my hives, is performed as follows. Let the old hive be shut up and well drummed and the bees, if possible, be driven into an upper box. If they will not leave the hive of their own accord, they will fill themselves, and when it is ascertained that they are determined, if they can help it, not to be tenants at will, the upper box must be removed, and the bees gently sprinkled, so that they may all be sure to have nothing done to them on an empty stomach. If possible, an end of the old box parallel with the combs, must be pried off, so that they may be easily cut out. An old hive or box should stand upon a sheet, in place of the removed stock, and as fast as a comb is cut out, the bees should be shaken from it, upon the sheet; a wing or anything soft, will often be of service in brushing off the bees. Remember that they must not be hurt. If the weather is so pleasant that many bees from other hives, are on the wing, great care must be taken to prevent them from robbing. As fast therefore as the bees are shaken from the combs, these should be put into an empty hive or box, and covered with a cloth, or set in some place where they will not be disturbed. As soon as all the combs have been removed, the Apiarian should proceed to select and arrange them for his new hive. If the transfer is made late in the season, care must be taken, of course, to give the bees combs containing a generous allowance of honey for their winter supplies; together with such combs as have brood, or are best fitted for the rearing of workers. All coarse combs except such as contain the honey which they need, should be rejected. Lay a frame upon a piece of comb, and mark it so as to be able to cut it a trifle larger, so that it will just crowd into the frame, to remain in its place until the bees have time to attach it. If the size of the combs is such, that some of them cannot be cut so as to fit, then cut them to the best advantage, and after putting them into the frames, wind some thread around the upper and lower slats of the frame, so as to hold the combs in their place, until the bees can fasten them. If however, any of the combs which do not fit, have no honey in them, they may be fastened very easily, by dipping their upper edges into melted rosin. When the requisite number of combs are put into the frames, they should be placed in the new hive, and slightly fastened on the rabbets with a mere touch of paste, so as to hold them firmly in their places; this will be the more necessary if the transfer is made so late in the season that the bees cannot obtain the propolis necessary to fasten them, themselves.
As soon as the hive is thus prepared, let the temporary box into which the bees have been driven, be removed, and their new home put in its place. Shake out now the bees from the box, upon a sheet in front of this hive, and the work is done; bees, brood, honey, bee-bread, empty combs and all, have been nicely moved, and without any more serious loss than is often incurred by any other moving family, which has to mourn over some broken crockery, or other damage done in the necessary work of establishing themselves in a new home! If this operation is performed at a season of the year when there is much brood in the hive, and when the weather is cool, care must be taken not to expose the brood, so that it may become fatally chilled.
The best time for performing it, is late in the Fall, when there is but little brood in the hive; or about ten days after the voluntary or forced departure of a first swarm from the old stock. By this time, the brood left by the old queen, will all be sealed over, and old enough to bear exposure, especially as the weather, at swarming time, is usually quite warm. A temperature, not lower than 70 deg., will do them no harm, for if exposed to such a temperature, they will hatch, even if taken from the bees.
I have spoken of the best time for performing this operation. It may be done at any season of the year, when the bees can fly without any danger of being chilled, and I should not be afraid to attempt it, in mid-winter, if the weather was as warm as it sometimes is. Let me here earnestly caution all who keep bees, against meddling with them when the weather is cool. Irreparable mischief is often done to them at such times; they are tempted to fly, and thus perish from the cold, and frequently they become so much excited, that they cannot retain their faeces, but void them among the combs. If nothing worse ensues, they are disturbed when they ought to be in almost death-like repose, and are thus tempted to eat a much larger quantity of food than they would otherwise have needed. Let the Apiarian remember that not a single unnecessary motion should be required of a single bee: for all this, to say nothing else, involves a foolish waste of food. (See p. 116.)
In all operations involving the transferring of bees, it is exceedingly desirable that the new hives to which they are transferred should be put, as near as possible, where the old ones stood. If other colonies are in close proximity, the bees may be tempted to enter the wrong hives, if their position is changed only a little; they are almost sure to do this if the others resemble more closely than the new one, their former habitation. If will be often advisable, to transport to the distance of one or two miles, the stocks which are to be transferred; so that the operation may be performed to the best advantage. In a few weeks they may be brought back to the Apiary. In hiving swarms, and transferring stocks, care must be taken to prevent the bees from getting mixed with those of other colonies. If this precaution is neglected many bees will be lost by joining other stocks, where they may be kindly welcomed, or may at once be put to death. It is exceedingly difficult, to tell before hand, what kind of a reception strange bees will meet with, from a colony which they attempt to join. In the working season they are much more likely to be well received, than at any other time, especially if they come loaded with honey: still new swarms full of honey, that attempt to enter other hives, are often killed at once. If a colony which has an unimpregnated queen seeks to unite with another which has a fertile one, then almost as a matter of course they are destroyed! If by moving their hive, or in any other way, bees are made to enter a hive containing an unimpregnated queen, they will often destroy her, if they came from a family which was in possession of a fertile one! If any thing of this kind is ever attempted, the queen ought first to be confined in a queen cage. If while attempting a transfer of the bees to a new hive, I am apprehensive of robbers attacking the combs, or am pressed for want of time, I put only such combs as contain brood into the frames, and set the others in a safe place. The bees are now at once allowed to enter their new hive, and the other combs are given to them at a more convenient time. The whole process of transferal need not occupy more than an hour, and in some cases it can be done in fifteen minutes. If the weather is hot, the combs must not be exposed at all to the heat of the sun.
Until I had tested the feasibility of transferring bees from the old hives, by means of my frames, I felt strongly opposed to any attempt to dislodge them from their previous habitation. If they are transferred in the usual way, it must be done when the combs are filled with brood; for if delayed until late in the season, they will have no time to lay in a store of provision against the Winter. Who can look without disgust, upon the wanton destruction of thousands of their young, and the silly waste of comb, which can be replaced only by the consumption of large quantities of honey? In the great majority of such cases, the transfer, unless made about the swarming season, and previous to the issue of the first swarm, will be an entire failure, and if made before, at best only one colony is obtained, instead of the two, which are secured on my plan. I never advise the transfer of a colony into any hive, unless their combs can be transferred with them, nor do I advise any except practical Apiarians, to attempt to transfer them even to my hives. But what if a colony is so old that its combs can only breed dwarfs? When I find such a colony, I shall think it worth while to give specific directions as to how it should be managed. The truth is, that of all the many mistakes and impositions which have disgusted multitudes with the very sound of "patent hive," none has been more fatal than the notion that an old colony of bees could not be expected to prosper. Thousands of the very best stocks have been wantonly sacrificed to this Chimera; and so long as bee-keepers instead of studying the habits of the bee, prefer to listen to the interested statements of ignorant, or enthusiastic, or fraudulent persons, thousands more will suffer the same fate. As to old stocks, the prejudice against them is just as foolish as the silly notions of some who imagine that a woman is growing old, long before she has reached her prime. Many a man of mature years who has married a girl or a child, instead of a woman, has often had both time enough, and cause enough to lament his folly.
It cannot be too strongly urged upon all who keep bees, either for love or for money, to be exceedingly cautious in trying any new hive, or new system of management. If you are ever so well satisfied that it will answer all your expectations, enter upon it, at first, only on a small scale; then, if it fulfills all its promises, or if you can make it do so, you may safely adopt it: at all events, you will not have to mourn over large sums of money spent for nothing, and numerous powerful colonies entirely destroyed. "Let well enough alone," should, to a great extent, be the motto of every prudent bee-keeper. There is, however, a golden mean between that obstinate and stupid conservatism which tries nothing new, and, of course, learns nothing new, and that craving after mere novelty, and that rash experimenting on an extravagant scale, which is so characteristic of a large portion of our American people. It would be difficult to find a better maxim than that which is ascribed to David Crockett; "Be sure you're right, then go ahead."
What old bee-keeper has not had abundant proof that stocks eight or ten years old, or even older, are often among the very best, in his whole Apiary, always healthy and swarming with almost unfailing regularity! I have seen such hives, which for more than fifteen years, have scarcely failed, a single season, to throw a powerful swarm. I have one now ten years old, in admirable condition, which a few years ago, swarmed three times, and the first swarm sent off a colony the same season. All these swarms were so early that they gathered ample supplies of honey, and wintered without any assistance!
I have already spoken of old stocks flourishing for a long term of years in hives of the roughest possible construction; and I shall now in addition to my previous remarks assign a new reason for such unusual prosperity. Without a single exception, I have found one or both of two things to be true, of every such hive. Either it was a very large hive, or else if not of unusual size, it contained a large quantity of worker-comb. No hive which does not contain a good allowance of regular comb of a size adapted to the rearing of workers, can ever in the nature of things, prove a valuable stock hive. Many hives are so full of drone combs that they breed a cloud of useless consumers, instead of the thousands of industrious bees which ought to have occupied their places in the combs. It frequently happens that when bees are put into a new hive, the honey-harvest is at its height, and the bees finding it difficult to build worker comb fast enough to hold their gatherings, are tempted to construct long ranges of drone comb to receive their stores. In this way, a hive often contains so small an allowance of worker-comb, that it can never flourish, as the bees refuse to pull down, and build over any of their old combs. All this can be easily remedied by the use of the movable comb hive.
PROCURING BEES TO START AN APIARY.
A person ignorant of bees, must depend in a very great measure, on the honesty of those from whom he purchases them. Many stocks are not worth accepting as a gift: like a horse or cow, incurably diseased, they will only prove a bill of vexatious expense. If an inexperienced person wishes to commence bee-keeping, I advise him, by all means, to purchase a new swarm of bees. It ought to be a large and early one. Second swarms and all late and small first swarms, ought never to be purchased by one who has no experience in Apiarian pursuits. They are very apt, in such hands, to prove a failure. If all bee-keepers were of that exemplary class of whom the Country Curate speaks, (see p. 33,) it would be perfectly safe to order a swarm of any one keeping a stock of bees. This however, is so far from being true, that some offer for sale, old stocks which are worthless, or impose on the ignorant, small first swarms, and second and even third swarms, as prime swarms worth the very highest market price. If the novice purchases an old stock, he will have the perplexities of swarming, &c., the first season, and before he has obtained any experience. As it may, however, be sometimes advisable that this should be done, unless he makes his purchase of a man known to be honest, he should select his stock himself, at a period of the day when the bees, in early Spring, are busily engaged in plying their labors. He should purchase a colony which is very actively engaged in carrying in bee-bread, and which, from the large number going in and out, undoubtedly contains a vigorous population. The hive should be removed at an hour when the bees are all at home. It may be gently inverted, and a coarse towel placed over it, and then tacked fast, when the bees are shut in. Have a steady horse, and before you start, be very sure that it is impossible for any bees to get out. Place the hive on some straw, in a wagon that has easy springs, and the bees will have plenty of air, and the combs, from the inverted position of the hive, will not be so liable to be jarred loose. Never purchase a hive which contains much comb just built; for it will be next to impossible to move it, in warm weather, without loosening the new combs. If a new swarm is purchased, it may be brought home as follows. Furnish the person on whose premises it is to be hived, with a box holding at the very least, a cubic foot of clear contents. Let the bottom-board of this temporary hive be clamped on both ends, the clamps being about two inches wider than the thickness of the board, so that when the hive is set on the bottom-board, it will slip in between the upper projections of the clamps, and be kept an inch from the ground, by the lower ones, so that air may pass under it. There should be a hole in the bottom-board, about four inches in diameter, and two of the same size in the opposite sides of the box, covered with wire gauze, so that the bees may have an abundance of air, when they are shut up. Three parallel strips, an inch and a half wide, should be nailed, about one third of the way from the top of the temporary hive, at equal distances apart, so that the bees may have every opportunity to cluster; a few pieces of old comb, fastened strongly in the top with melted rosin, will make the bees like it all the better. A handle made of a strip of leather, should be nailed on the top. Let the bees be hived in this box, and kept well shaded; at evening, or very early next morning, the temporary hive which was propped up, when the bees were put into it, may be shut close to its bottom-board, and a few screws put into the upper projection of the clamps, so as to run through into the ends of the box. In such a box, bees may be safely transported, almost any reasonable distance: care being taken not to handle them roughly, and never to keep them in the sun, or in any place where they have not sufficient air. If the box is too small, or sufficient ventilators are not put in, or if the bees are exposed to too much heat, they will be sure to suffocate. If the swarm is unusually large, and the weather excessively warm, they ought to be moved at night. Unless great care is taken in moving bees, in very hot weather, they will be almost sure to perish; therefore always be certain that they have an abundance of air. If they appear to be suffering for want of it, especially if they begin to fall down from the cluster, and to lie in heaps on the bottom-board, they should immediately be carried into a field or any convenient place, and at once be allowed to fly: in such a case they cannot be safely moved again, until towards night. This will never be necessary if the box is large enough, and suitably ventilated.
I have frequently made a box for transporting new swarms, out of an old tea-chest. When a new swarm is brought in this way to its intended home, the bottom-board may be unscrewed, and the bees transferred at once, to the new hive; (See p. 168.) In some cases, it may be advisable to send away the new hive. In this case, if one of my hives is used, the spare honey-board should be screwed down, and all the holes carefully stopped, except two or three which ought to have some ventilators tacked over them: the frames should be fastened with a little paste, so that they will not start from their place, and after the bees are hived, the blocks which close the entrance should be screwed down to their place, keeping them however, a trifle less than an eighth of an inch from the entrance, so as to give the bees all the air which they need. I very much prefer sending a box for the bees: one person can easily carry two such boxes, each with a swarm of bees; and if he chooses to fasten them to two poles, or to a very large hoop, he may carry four, or even more.
If the Apiarian wishes, to be sure the first season, of getting some honey from his bees, he will do well to procure two good swarms, and put them both into one hive. (See p. 213.) To those who do not object to the extra expense, I strongly recommend this course. Not unfrequently, they will in a good season, obtain in spare honey from their doubled swarm, an ample equivalent for its increased cost: at all events, such a powerful swarm lays the foundations of a flourishing stock, which seldom fails to answer all the reasonable expectations of its owner. If the Apiary is commenced with swarms of the current season, and they have an abundance of spare room in the upper boxes, there will be no swarming, that season, and the beginner will have ample time to make himself familiar with his bees, before being called to hive new swarms, or to multiply colonies by artificial means.
Let no inexperienced person commence bee-keeping on a large scale; very few who do so, find it to their advantage, and the most of them not only meet with heavy losses, but abandon the pursuit in disgust. By the use of my hives, the bee-keeper can easily multiply very rapidly, the number of his colonies, as soon as he finds, not merely that money can be made by keeping bees, but that he can make it. While I am certain that more money can be made by a careful and experienced bee-keeper in a good situation, from a given sum invested in an Apiary, than from the same money invested in any other branch of rural economy, I am equally certain that there is none in which a careless or inexperienced person would be more sure to find his outlay result in an almost entire loss. An Apiary neglected or mismanaged, is far worse than a farm overgrown with weeds, or exhausted by ignorant tillage: for the land is still there, and may, by prudent management, soon be made again to blossom like the rose; but the bees, when once destroyed, can never be brought back to life, unless the poetic fables of the Mantuan Bard, can be accepted as the legitimate results of actual experience, and swarms of bees, instead of clouds of filthy flies, can once more be obtained from the carcases of decaying animals! I have seen an old medical work in which Virgil's method of obtaining colonies of bees from the putrid body of a cow slain for this special purpose, is not only credited, but minutely described.
A large book would hardly suffice to set forth all the superstitions connected with bees. I will refer to one which is very common and which has often made a deep impression upon many minds. When any member of a family dies, the bees are believed to be aware of what has happened, and the hives are by some dressed in mourning, to pacify their sorrowing occupants! Some persons imagine that if this is not done, the bees will never afterwards prosper, while others assert, that the bees often take their loss so much to heart, as to alight upon the coffin whenever it is exposed! An intelligent clergyman on reading the sheets of this work, stated to me that he had always refused to credit this latter fact, until present at a funeral where the bees gathered in such large numbers upon the coffin, as soon as it was brought out from the house, as to excite considerable alarm. Some years after this occurrence, being engaged in varnishing a table, and finding that the bees came and lit upon it, he was convinced that the love of varnish, (see p. 85,) instead of sorrow or respect for the dead, was the occasion of their gathering round the coffin! How many superstitions in which often intelligent persons most firmly confide, might if all the facts were known, be as easily explained.
Before closing this Chapter, I must again strongly caution all inexperienced bee-keepers, against attempting to transfer colonies from an old hive. I am determined that if any find that they have made a wanton sacrifice of their bees, they shall not impute their loss to my directions. If they persist in making the attempt, let them, by all means, either do it at break of day, before the bees of other hives will be induced to commence robbing; or better still, let them do it not only early in the morning, but let them carry the hive on which they intend to operate, to a very considerable distance from the vicinity of the other hives, and entirely out of sight of the Apiary. I prefer myself this last plan, as I then run no risk of attracting other bees to steal the honey, and acquire mischievous habits.
The bee-keeper is very often reminded by the actions of his bees of some of the worst traits in poor human nature. When a man begins to sink under misfortunes, how many are ready not simply to abandon him, but to pounce upon him like greedy harpies, dragging, if they can, the very bed from under his wife and helpless children, and appropriating all which by any kind of maneuvering, they can possibly transfer to their already overgrown coffers! With much the same spirit, more pardonable to be sure in an insect, the bees from other hives, will gather round the one which is being broken up, and while the disconsolate owners are lamenting over their ruined prospects, will, with all imaginable rapacity and glee, bear off every drop which they can possibly seize.
 Instead of using sticks, I much prefer to make the drumming with the open palms of my hands.
Bees are exceedingly prone to rob each other, and unless suitable precautions are used to prevent it, the Apiarian will often have cause to mourn over the ruin of some of his most promising stocks. The moment a departure is made from the old-fashioned mode of managing bees, the liability to such misfortunes is increased, unless all operations are performed by careful and well informed persons.
Before describing the precautions which I successfully employ, to guard my colonies from robbing each other, or from being robbed by bees from a strange Apiary, I shall first explain under what circumstances they are ordinarily disposed to plunder each other. Idleness is with bees, as well as with men, a most fruitful mother of mischief. Hence, it is almost always when they are doing nothing in the fields, that they are tempted to increase their stores by dishonest courses. Bees are, however, much more excusable than the lazy rogues of the human family; for the bees are idle, not because they are indisposed to work, but because they can find nothing to do. Unless there is some gross mismanagement, on the part of their owner, they seldom attempt to live upon stolen sweets, when they have ample opportunity to reap the abundant harvests of honest industry. In this chapter, I shall be obliged, however much against my will, to acknowledge that some branches of morals in my little friends, need very close watching, and that they too often make the lowest sort of distinction, between "mine and thine." Still I feel bound to show that when thus overcome by temptation, it is almost always, under circumstances in which their careless owner is by far the most to blame.
In the Spring, as soon as the bees are able to fly abroad, "innatus urget amor habendi," as Virgil has expressed it; that is, they begin to feel the force of an innate love of honey-getting. They can find nothing in the fields, and they begin at once, to see if they cannot appropriate the spoils of some weaker hive. They are often impelled to this, by the pressure of immediate want, or the salutary dread of approaching famine: but truth obliges me to confess that not unfrequently some of the strongest stocks, which have more than they would be able to consume, even if they gathered nothing more for a whole year, are the most anxious to prey upon the meager possessions of some feeble colony. Just like some rich men who have more money than they can ever use, urged on by the insatiable love of gain, "oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow and the fatherless," and spin on all sides, their crafty webs to entrap their poorer neighbors, who seldom escape from their toils, until every dollar has been extracted from them, and as far as their worldly goods are concerned, they resemble the skins and skeletons which line the nest of some voracious old spider.
When I have seen some powerful hive of the kind just described, condemned by its owner, in the Fall, to the sulphur pit, or deprived unexpectedly of its queen, its stores plundered, and its combs eaten up by the worms, I have often thought of the threatenings which God has denounced against those who make dishonest gains "their hope, and say unto the fine gold, Thou art my confidence."
In order to prevent colonies from attempting to rob, I always examine them in the Spring, to ascertain that they have honey and are in possession of a fertile queen. If they need food they are supplied with it, (see Chapter on Feeding,) and if they are feeble or queenless, they are managed according to the directions previously given. Bees seem to have an instinctive perception of the weakness of a colony, and like the bee-moth, they are almost certain to attack such stocks, especially when they have no queen. Hence I can almost always tell that a colony is queenless, by seeing robbers constantly attempting to force an entrance into it.
It requires some knowledge of the habits of bees, to tell from their motions, whether they are flying about a strange hive with some evil intent, or whether they belong to the hive before which they are hovering. A little experience however, will soon enable us to discriminate between the honest inhabitants of a hive, and the robbers which so often mingle themselves among the crowd. There is an unmistakable air of roguery about a thieving bee, which to the observing Apiarian, proclaims the nature of his calling, just as truly as the appearance of a pickpocket in a crowd, enables the experienced police officer to distinguish him from the honest folks, on whom he intends to exercise his skill.
There is a certain sneaking look about a rogue of a bee, almost indescribable, and yet perfectly obvious. It does not alight on the hive, and boldly enter at once like an honest bee which is carrying home its load. If they could only assume such an appearance of transparent honesty, they would often be allowed by the unsuspecting door-keepers to enter unquestioned, to see all the sights within, and to help themselves to the very fat of the land. But there is a sort of nervous haste, and guilty agitation in all their movements: they never alight boldly upon the entrance board, or face the guards which watch the passage to the hive; they know too well that if caught and overhauled by these trusty guardians of the hive, their lives would hardly be worth insuring; hence their anxiety to glide in, without touching one of the sentinels. If detected, as they have no password to give, (having a strange smell,) they are very speedily dealt with, according to their just deserts. If they can only effect a secret entrance, those within take it for granted that all is right, and seldom subject them to a close examination.
Sometimes bees which have lost their way, are mistaken by the inexperienced, for robbers; there is however, a most marked distinction between the conduct of the two. The arrant rogue when caught, attempts with might and main, to pull away from his executioners, while the poor bewildered unfortunate shrinks into the smallest compass, like a cowed dog, and submits to whatever fate his captors may see fit to award him.
The class of dishonest bees which I have been describing, may be termed the "Jerry Sneaks" of their profession, and after they have followed it for some time, they lose all disposition for honest pursuits, and assume a hang-dog sort of look, which is very peculiar. Constantly employed in creeping into small holes, and daubing themselves with honey, they often lose all the bright feathers and silky plumes which once so beautifully adorned their bodies, and assume a smooth and almost black appearance; just as the hat of the thievish loafer, acquires a "seedy" aspect, and his garments, a shining and threadbare look. Dzierzon is of opinion that the black bees which Huber describes, as being so bitterly persecuted by the rest, are nothing more than these thieving bees. I call them old convicts, dressed in prison garments, and incurably given up to dishonest pursuits.
Bees sometimes act the part of highway robbers; some half dozen or more of them, will waylay and attack a poor humble-bee which is returning with a sack full of honey to his nest, like an honest trader, jogging home with a well filled purse. They seize the poor bee, and give him at once to understand that they must have the earnings of his industry. They do not slay him. Oh no! they are much too selfish to endanger their own precious persons; and even if they could kill him, without losing their weapons, they would still be unable to extract his sweets from the deep recesses of his honey bag: they therefore begin to bite and teaze him, after the most approved fashion, all the time singing in his ears, "not your money," but, "your honey or your life;" until utterly discouraged, he delivers up his purse, by disgorging his honey from its capacious receptacle. The graceless creatures cry "hands off," and release him at once, while they lick up his spoils and carry it off to their home.
The remark is frequently made that were rogues to spend half as much time and ingenuity in gaining an honest living, as they do, in seeking to impose upon their fellow-men, their efforts would often be crowned with abundant success. Just so of many a dishonest bee. If it only knew its true interests, it would be safely roving the smiling fields, in search of honey, instead of longing for a tempting and yet dangerous taste of forbidden sweets.
Bees sometimes carry on their depredations on a more magnificent scale. Having ascertained the weakness of some neighboring colony, through the sly intrusions of those who have entered the hive to spy out all "the nakedness of the land," they prepare themselves for war, in the shape of a pitched battle. The well-armed warriors sally out by thousands, to attack the feeble hive against which they have so unjustly declared a remorseless warfare. A furious onset is at once made, and the ground in front of the assaulted hive is soon covered with the dead and dying bodies of innumerable victims. Sometimes the baffled invaders are compelled to sound a retreat; too often however, as in human contests, right proves but a feeble barrier against superior might; the citadel is stormed, and the work of rapine and pillage forthwith begins. And yet after all, matters are not nearly so bad, as at first they seem to be. The conquered bees, perceiving that there is no hope for them in maintaining the unequal struggle, submit themselves to the pleasure of the victors; nay more, they aid them in carrying off their own stores, and are immediately incorporated into the triumphant nation! The poor mother however, is left behind in her deserted home, some few of her children which are faithful to the last, remaining with her, to perish by her side, amid the sad ruins of their once happy home!
If the bee-keeper is unwilling to have his bees so demoralized, that their value will be seriously diminished, he will be exceedingly careful to do all that he possibly can to prevent them from robbing each other. He will see that all queenless colonies are seasonably broken up in the Spring, and all weak ones strengthened, and confined to a space which they can warm and defend. If once his bees get a taste of forbidden sweets, they will seldom stop until they have tested the strength of every stock, and destroyed all that they possibly can. Even if the colonies are able to defend themselves, many bees will be lost in these encounters, and a large waste of time will invariably follow; for bees whether engaged in attempting to rob, or in battling against the robbery of others, are, to a very great extent, cut off both from the disposition and the ability to engage in useful labors. They are like nations that are impoverished by mutual assaults on each other: or in which the apprehension of war, exerts a most blighting influence upon every branch of peaceful industry.
I place very great reliance on the movable blocks which guard the entrance to my hive, to assist colonies in defending themselves against robbing bees, as well as the prowling bee-moth. These blocks are triangular in shape, and enable the Apiarian to enlarge or contract the entrance to the hive, at pleasure. In the Spring, the entrance is kept open only about two inches, and if the colony is feeble, not more than half an inch. If there is any sign of robbers being about, the small colonies have their entrances closed, so that only a single bee can go in and out at once. As the bottom-board slants forwards, the entrance is on an inclined plane, and the bees which defend it, have a very great advantage over those which attack them; the same in short, that the inhabitants of a besieged fortress would have in defending a pass-way similarly constructed. As only one bee can enter at a time, he is sure to be overhauled, if he attempts ever so slyly to slip in: his credentials are roughly demanded, and as he can produce none, he is at once delivered over to the executioners. If an attempt is made to gain admission by force, then as soon as a bee gets in, he finds hundreds, if not thousands, standing in battle array, and he meets with a reception altogether too warm for his comfort. I have sometimes stopped robbing, even after it had proceeded so far that the assaulted bees had ceased to offer any successful resistance, by putting my blocks before the entrance, and permitting only a single bee to enter at once: the dispirited colony have at once recovered heart, and have battled so stoutly and successfully, as to beat off their assailants.
When bees are engaged in robbing a hive, they will often continue their depredations to as late an hour as possible, and not unfrequently some of them return home so late with their ill-gotten spoils, that they cannot find the entrance to their own hive. Like the wicked man who "deviseth mischief on his bed, and setteth himself in a way that is not good," they are all night long, meditating new violence, and with the very first peep of light, they sally out to complete their unlawful doings.
Sometimes the Apiarian may be in doubt whether a colony is being robbed or not, and may mistake the busy numbers that arrive and depart, for the honest laborers of the hive; but let him look into the matter a little more closely, and he will soon ascertain the true state of the case: the bees that enter, instead of being heavily laden, with bodies hanging down, unwieldy in their flight, and slow in all their movements, are almost as hungry looking as Pharaoh's lean kine, while those that come out, show by their burly looks, that like aldermen who have dined at the expense of the City, they are filled to their utmost capacity.
If the Apiarian wishes to guard his bees against the fatal propensity to plunder each other, he must be exceedingly careful not to have any combs filled with honey unnecessarily exposed. An ignorant or careless person attempting to multiply colonies on my plan, will be almost sure to tempt his bees to rob each other. If he leaves any of the combs which he removes, so that strange bees find them, they will, after once getting a taste of the honey, fly to any hive upon which he begins to operate, and attempt to appropriate a part of its contents. (See p. 304.) I have already stated that when they can find an abundance of food in the fields, bees are seldom inclined to rob; for this reason, with proper precautions, it is not difficult to perform all the operations which are necessary on my plan of management, at the proper season, without any danger of demoralizing the bees. If however, they are attempted when honey cannot be obtained, they should be performed with extreme caution, and early in the morning, or late in the evening; or if possible, on a day when the bees are not flying out from their hives. I have sometimes seen the most powerful colonies in an Apiary, either robbed and destroyed, or very greatly reduced in numbers, by the gross carelessness or ignorance of their owner. He neglects to examine his hives at the proper season, and the bees begin to rob a weak or queenless stock: as soon as they are at the very height of their nefarious operations, he attempts to interfere with their proceedings, either by shutting up the hive, or by moving it to a new place. The air is now filled with greedy and disappointed bees, and rather than fail in obtaining the expected treasures, they assail with almost frantic desperation, some of the neighboring stocks: in this way, the most powerful colonies are sometimes utterly ruined, or if they escape, thousands of bees are slain in defending their treasures, and thousands more of the assailants meet with the same untimely end.
If the Apiarian perceives that one of his colonies is being robbed, he should at once contract the entrance, so that only a single bee can get in at a time; and if the robbers still persist in entering, he must close it entirely. In a few minutes the outside of the hive will be black with the greedy cormorants, and they will not abandon it, until they have explored every crevice, and attempted to force themselves through even the smallest openings. Before they assail a neighboring colony, they should be sprinkled with cold water, and then instead of feeling courage for new crimes, they will be glad to escape, thoroughly drenched, to their proper homes. Unless the bees that are shut up can, as in my hives, have an abundance of air, it will be necessary to carry them at once into a dark and cool place. Early next morning the condition of the hive should be examined, and the proper remedies if it is weak or queenless should be applied; or if its condition is past remedy, it should at once be broken up, and the bees united to another stock.
I have been credibly informed of an exceedingly curious kind of robbing among bees. Two colonies, both in good condition, seemed determined to appropriate each other's labors: neither made any resistance to the entrance of the plundering bees; but each seemed too busily intent upon its own dishonest gains, to notice that the work of subtraction kept pace with that of addition. An intelligent Apiarian stated to me this singular fact as occurring in his own Apiary. This is a very near approximation to the story of the Kilkenny cats. Alas! that there should be so much of equally short-sighted policy among human beings; individuals, communities and nations seeking often to thrive by attempting to prey upon the labors of others, instead of doing all that they can, by industry and enterprise, to add to the common stock. I have never, in my own experience, met with an instance of such silly pilfering as the one described; but I have occasionally known bees to be carrying on their labors, while others were stealing more than the occupants of the hive were gathering, without their being aware of it.
 The bees in each colony had probably contracted the same smell, and could not distinguish friends from foes.
DIRECTIONS FOR FEEDING BEES.
Few things in the practical department of the Apiary, are more important and yet more shamefully neglected, or grossly mismanaged, than the feeding of bees. In order to make this subject as clear as possible, I shall begin with the Spring examination of the hives, and furnish suitable directions for feeding during the whole season in which it ought to be attempted. In the movable comb hives, the exact condition of the bees with regard to stores, may be easily ascertained as soon as the weather is warm enough to lift out the frames. In the common hives, this can sometimes be ascertained from the glass sides; but often no reliable information can be obtained. Even if the weight of the hive is known, this will be no sure criterion of the quantity of honey it contains. The comb in old hives, is often very thick, and of course, unusually heavy; while vast stores of useless bee-bread have frequently been accumulated, which entirely deceive the Apiarian, who attempts to judge of the resources of a hive from its weight alone. On my system of bee-culture, such an injurious surplus of bee-bread, is easily prevented; (See p. 102.)
If the bee-keeper ascertains or even suspects, in the Spring, that his bees have not sufficient food, he must at once supply them with what they need. Bees, at this season of the year, consume a very large quantity of honey: they are stimulated to great activity by the returning warmth, and are therefore compelled to eat much more than when they were almost dormant among their combs. In addition to this extra demand, they are now engaged in rearing thousands of young, and all these require a liberal supply of food. Owing to the inexcusable neglect of many bee-keepers, thousands of swarms perish annually after the Spring has opened, and when they might have been saved, with but little trouble or expense. Such abominable neglect is incomparably more cruel than the old method of taking up the bees with sulphur; and those who are guilty of it, are either too ignorant or too careless, to have any thing to do with the management of bees. What would be thought of a farmer's skill in his business, who should neglect to provide for the wants of his cattle, and allow them to drop down lifeless in their stalls, or in his barn-yard, when the fields, in a few weeks, will be clothed again with the green mantle of delightful Spring! If any farmer should do this, when food might easily be purchased, and should then, while engaged in the work of skinning the skeleton carcasses of his neglected herd, pretend that he could not afford to furnish, for a few weeks, the food which would have kept them alive, he would not be a whit more stupid than the bee-keeper attempting to justify himself on the score of economy, while engaged in melting down the combs of a hive, starved to death, after the Spring has fairly opened! Let such a person blush at the pretence that he could not afford to feed his bees, the few pounds of sugar or honey, which would have saved their lives, and enabled them to repay him tenfold for his prudent care.
I always feed my bees a little, even if I know that they have enough and to spare. There seems to be an intimate connection between the getting of honey, and the rapid increase of breeding, in a hive; and the taste of something sweet, however small, to be added to their hoards, exerts a very stimulating effect upon the bees; a few spoonsfull a day, will be gratefully received, and will be worth much more to a stock of bees in the Spring, than at any other time.
By judicious early feeding, a whole Apiary may be not only encouraged to breed much faster than they otherwise would have done; but they will be inspired with unusual vigor and enterprise, and will afterwards increase their stores with unusual rapidity. Great caution must be exercised in supplying bees at this time with food, both to prevent them from being tempted to rob each other, or to fill up with honey, the cells which ought to be supplied with brood. Only a small allowance should be given to them, and this from time to time, unless they are destitute of supplies; and as soon as they begin to gather from the fields, the feeding should be discontinued. Feeding, intended merely to encourage the bees, and to promote early breeding, may be done in the open air. No greater mistake can be made than to feed largely at this season of the year. The bees take, to be sure, all that they can, and stow it up in their cells, but what is the consequence? The honey which has been fed to them, fills up their brood combs, and the increase of population is most seriously interfered with; so that often when stocks which have not been over-fed, are prepared not only to fill all the store combs in their main hive, but to take speedy possession of the spare honey boxes, a colony imprudently fed, is too small in numbers, to gather even as much as the one which was not fed at all! The inexperienced Apiarian has thus often made a worse use of his honey than he would have done, if he had actually thrown it away! while all the time, he is deluding himself with the vain expectation of reaping some wonderful profits, from what he considers an improved mode of managing bees.
Such conduct in its results, appears to me very much like the noxious influences under which too many of the children of the rich are so fatally reared. With every want gratified, pampered and fed to the very full, how often do we see them disappoint all the fond expectations of parents and friends, their money proving only a curse, while not unfrequently beggared in purse, and bankrupt in character, they prematurely sink to an ignoble or dishonored grave. Think of it, ye who are slaving in the service of Mammon, that ye may leave to your sons, the overgrown wealth which usually proves a legacy of withering curses, while you neglect to train them up in those habits of stern morality and steady industry, and noble self-reliance, without which the wealth of Croesus would be but a despicable portion! Think of it, as you contrast its results in the bitter experience of thousands, with the happier influences under which so many of our noblest men in Church and State, have been nurtured and developed, and then pursue your sordid policy, if you can. "There is that withholdeth" from good objects, "more than is meet, and it tendeth to poverty:" yes, to poverty of Christian virtue and manliness, and of those "treasures" which we are all entreated by God himself, to "lay up" in the store-house of Heaven. Call your narrow-mindedness and gross deficiencies in Christian liberality, nothing more than a natural love of your children, and an earnest desire to provide for your own household. Little fear there may be that you will ever incur the charge of being "worse than an infidel" on this point; but lay not on this account, any flattering unction to your souls; look within, and see if the base idolatry of gold has not more to do with your whole course of thinking and acting, than any love of wife or children, relatives or friends!
Another sermon! does some one exclaim? Would then that it might be to some of my readers a sermon indeed; "a word fitly spoken," "like apples of gold in pictures of silver."
The prudent Apiarian will always regard the feeding of bees, except the little, given to them by way of encouragement, as an evil to be submitted to, only when absolutely necessary; and will very much prefer to obtain his supplies from what Shakspeare has so beautifully termed the "merry pillage" of the blooming fields, than from the more costly stores of the neighboring grocery. If not engaged in the rapid increase of stocks, he will seldom see a season so unfavorable as to be obliged to purchase any food for his bees, unless he chooses to buy a cheaper article, to replace the choice honey of which he has deprived them. Just as soon as the Apiarian begins to multiply his stocks with very great rapidity, he must calculate upon feeding great quantities of honey to his bees. Before he attempts this on a large scale, let me once more give him a friendly caution, and if possible, persuade him to try very rapid multiplication with only a few of his stocks. In this way, he may experiment to his heart's content, without running the risk of seriously injuring his whole Apiary, and he may not only gain the skill and experience which will enable him subsequently to conduct a rapid increase, on a large scale, but may learn whether he is so situated that he can profitably devote to it the time and money which it will inevitably require.
Before giving directions for feeding bees when a rapid increase of colonies is aimed at, I shall first show in what manner the bee-keeper may feed his weak swarms in the Spring. If they are in the common hives, a small quantity of liquid honey may, at once be poured among the combs in which the bees are clustered: this may be done by pouring it into the holes leading to the spare honey boxes, but a much better way is to invert the hives, and pour in about a tea-cup full at once. The Apiarian can then see just where to pour it; he need not fear that the bees will be hurt by it; any more than a child will be either hurt or displeased by the sweets which adhere to its hands and face, as it feasts upon a generous allowance of the best sugar candy! When the bees have taken up all that has been poured upon them, the hive may be replaced, and the operation repeated in a few days: the oftener it is done, the better it will suit them. If the weather is sufficiently warm to allow the bees to fly without being chilled, the food may be put in some old combs, or in a feeder, and set in a sunny place, a rod or more from their hives. If placed too near, the bees may be tempted to rob each other. With my hives, I can pour the honey into some empty comb, and then put the frame containing it, directly into the hive; or I can set the feeder or honey in the comb, in the hive near the frames which contain the bees. I have already stated, (see p. 225,) that unless a colony can be supplied with a sufficient number of bees, it cannot be aided by giving it food. If the bees are not numerous enough to take charge of the eggs which the queen can lay, or at least, of a large number of them, they can seldom, unless they have a tropical season before them, increase rapidly enough to be of any value. If they are numerous enough to raise a great many young bees, but too few to build new comb, they must be fed very moderately, or they will be sure to fill up their brood comb with honey, instead of devoting themselves to the rapid increase of their numbers. If the Apiarian has plenty of empty worker comb which he can give them, he ought to supply them quite sparingly with honey, even when they are considerably numerous, in order to have them breed as fast as possible; not so sparingly however, as to prevent them from storing up any honey in sealed cells; or they will not be encouraged to breed as fast as they otherwise would. If he has no spare comb, and the hive is populous enough to build new comb, it must be supplied moderately, and by all means, regularly with the means of doing this; the object being to have comb building and breeding go together, so as mutually to aid each other. If the feeding is not regular, so as to resemble the natural supplies when honey is obtained from the blossoms, the bees will not use the food given to them, in building new comb, but chiefly in filling up all the cells previously built. If honey can be obtained regularly, and in sufficient quantities from the blossoms, the small colonies or nuclei will need no feeding until the failure of the natural supplies.
In all these operations, the main object should be to make every thing bend to the most rapid production of brood; give me the bees, and I can easily show how they may be fed, so as to make strong and prosperous stocks; whereas if the bees are wanting, every thing else will be in vain: just as a land where there are many stout hands and courageous hearts, although comparatively barren, will in due time, be made to "bud and blossom as the rose," while a second Eden, if inhabited by a scanty and discouraged population, must speedily be overgrown with briars and thorns.
If strong stocks are deprived of a portion of their combs, so that they cannot from natural sources, at once begin to refill all vacancies, they too must be fed.
I have probably said enough to show the inexperienced that the rapid multiplication of colonies is not a very simple matter, and that they will do well not to attempt it on a large scale. By the time the honey harvest ordinarily closes, all the colonies in the Apiaries of all except the skillful, ought to be both strong in numbers and in stores; at least the aggregate resources of the colonies should be such that when an equal division is made among them, there will be enough for them all. This may ordinarily be effected, and yet the number of the colonies be tripled in one season; and in situations where buckwheat is extensively cultivated, a considerable quantity of surplus honey may even then be frequently obtained from the bees. Early in the month of September, or better still, by the middle of August, if the colonies are sufficiently strong in numbers, I advise that if feeding is necessary to winter the bees, it should be thoroughly attended to. If delayed later than this, in the latitude of our Northern States, the bees may not have sufficient time to seal over the honey fed to them, and will be almost sure to suffer from dysentery, during the ensuing Winter. Unsealed honey, almost always, in cool weather, attracts moisture, and sours in the combs, and if the bees are compelled to feed upon it, they are very liable to become diseased. This is the reason why bees when fed with liquid honey, late in the Fall, or during the Winter, are almost sure to suffer from disease. A very interesting fact confirming these views as to the danger resulting from the use of sour food, has come under my notice this Spring. A colony of bees were fed for some time with suitable food, and appeared to be in perfect health, flying in and out with great animation. Their owner, on one occasion, before leaving for the day, gave them some molasses which was so sour, that it could not be used in the family. On returning, at evening, he was informed that the bees had been dropping their filth over every thing in the vicinity of the hive. On examining them, next day, they were all found dead on the bottom-board and among the combs! The acid food had acted upon them as a violent cathartic, and had brought on a complaint of which they all died in less than 24 hours: the hive was found to contain an ample allowance of honey and bee-bread.
If the Apiarian, on examining the condition of his stocks, finds that some have more than they need, and others not enough, his most prudent course will be to make an equitable division of the honey, among his different stocks. This may seem to be a very Agrarian sort of procedure, and yet it will answer perfectly well in the management of bees. Those that were helped, will not spend the next season in idleness, relying upon the same sort of aid; nor will those that were relieved of their surplus stores, remember the deprivation, and limit the extent of their gatherings to a bare competency. With men, most unquestionably, such an annual division, unless they were perfect, would derange the whole course of affairs, and speedily impoverish any community in which it might be attempted. I always prefer to take away a considerable quantity of honey from my stocks, which have too generous a supply, and to replace it with empty combs suitable for the rearing of workers; as I find that when bees have too much honey in the Fall, they do not ordinarily breed as fast in the ensuing Spring, as they otherwise would. A portion of this honey should be carefully put away in the frames, and kept in a close box, safe against all intruders, and where it will not be exposed to frost; so that if any colonies in the Spring, are found to be in want of food, they may easily be supplied.
In the Spring examination, if any colonies have too much honey, a portion of it ought by all means to be taken away. Such a deprivation, if judiciously performed, will always stimulate them to increased activity. Every strong stock, as soon as it can gather enough honey to construct comb, ought to have one or two combs which contain no brood removed, and their places supplied with empty frames, in order that they may be induced to exert themselves to the utmost. An empty frame inserted between full ones, will be replenished with comb very speedily, and often the combs removed will be so much clear gain. If at any time there is a sudden supply of honey, and the bees are reluctant to enter the boxes, or it is not probable that the supply will continue long enough to enable them to fill them, the removal of some of the combs from the main hive so as to have empty ones filled, will often be highly advantageous.
If in the Fall of the year, the bee-keeper finds that some of his colonies need feeding, and if they are not populous enough to make good stock hives in the ensuing Spring, then instead of wasting time and money on them, he should at once, break them up; (See p. 322.) They will seldom pay for the labor bestowed on them, and the bees will be much more serviceable, if added to other stocks. The Apiarian cannot be too deeply impressed with the important truth, that his profits in bee-keeping will all come from his strong stocks, and that if he cannot manage so as to have such colonies early, he had better let bee-keeping alone.
If liquid honey is fed to bees, it should always, (see p. 322,) be given to them seasonably, so that they may seal it over before the approach of cold weather. West India honey has for many years, been used to very good advantage, as a bee-feed. It should never be used in its raw state, as it is often filled with impurities, and is very liable to sour or candy in the cells, but should be mixed with about two parts of good white sugar, to three of honey and one of water, and brought to the boiling point; as soon as it begins to boil, it should be set to cool, and all the impurities will rise to the top, and may be skimmed off. If it is found to be too thick, a little more water may be added to it; it ought however, never to be made thinner than the natural consistence of good honey. Such a mixture will cost for a small quantity, about seven cents a pound, and will probably be found the cheapest liquid food, which can be given to bees. Brown sugar may be used with the honey, but the food will not be so good.
If one of my hives is used, the bee-keeper may feed his bees at the proper season, without using any feeder at all, or rather he may use the bottom-board of the hive as a feeder. On this plan, the bees should be fed at evening; so as to run no risk of their robbing each other. The hive which is to be fed, should have the front edge of its bottom-board elevated on a block, so as to slant backwards, and the honey should be poured into a small tin gutter inserted at the entrance; one such will answer for a whole Apiary, and may be made by bending up the edges of any old piece of tin. As the frames in my hive are kept about half an inch above the bottom-board, which is water-tight, the honey runs under them, and is as safe as in a dish, while the bees stand on the bottom of the frames, and help themselves. The quantity poured in, should of course, depend upon the size and necessities of the colony; no more ought to be given at one time than the bees can take up during the night, and the entrance to the hive ought always to be kept very small during the process of feeding, to prevent robber bees from getting in; a good colony will easily take up a quart. It is desirable to get through the feeding as rapidly as possible, as the bees are excited during the whole process, and consume more than they otherwise would; to say nothing of the demand made upon the time of the Apiarian, by feeding in small quantities. If the bees cannot, in favorable weather, dispose of at least a pint at one time, the colony must be too small to make it worth while to feed them, if they are in hives by which they can be readily united to stronger stocks.
If the bees have not a good allowance of comb, it will not, as a general rule, pay to feed them. This will be obvious to any one who reflects that at least 20 pounds of honey are required to elaborate one pound of wax. I know that this estimate may to some, appear enormous; but it is given as the result of very accurate experiments, instituted on a large scale, to determine this very point. The Country Curate says, "Having driven the population of four stocks, on the 5th of August, and united them together, I fed them with about 50 pounds of a mixture of sugar, honey, salt and beer, for about five weeks. At that time, the box was only 16 pounds heavier than when the bees were put into it." He then makes an estimate that at least 25 pounds of the mixture were consumed in making about half a pound of wax!! No one who has ever tried it, will undertake to feed bees for profit, when they are destitute of both comb and honey.
If the weather is cool when bees are fed, it will generally be necessary to resort to top feeding. For this, my hive is admirably adapted: a feeder may be put over one of the holes in the honey-board directly over the mass of the bees, into which the heat of the hive naturally arises, and where the bees can get at their food without any risk of being chilled. This is always the best place for a feeder, as the smell of the food is not so likely to attract the notice of robbing bees.
I shall here describe the way in which a feeder can at small expense, be made to answer admirably every purpose. Take any wooden box which will hold, say, at least one quart; make it honey-tight, by pouring into the joints the melted mixture, (see p. 99,) and brush the whole interior with the mixture, so that the honey may not soak into the wood. Make a float of thin wood, filled with quarter inch holes, with clamps nailed on the lower sides to prevent warping, and to keep the float from settling to the bottom of the box, so as to stick fast: it should have ample play, so that it may settle, as fast as the bees consume the honey. Tacks on the clamps will always be sure to prevent sticking. Before you waste any time in making small holes, for fear the bees will be drowned in the large ones, try a float made as directed. In one corner of the box, fasten with the melted mixture, a thin strip of wood, about one inch wide; let it project above the top of the box about an inch, and be kept about half an inch from the bottom; this answers as a spout for pouring the honey into the feeder, and when not in use, it should be stopped up. Have for the lid of the box, a piece of glass with the corner cut off next the spout, so as to cover the feeder and keep the bees in, and at the same time allow the bee-keeper to see when they have consumed all their food. The feeder is now complete, with one important exception; it has, as yet no way of admitting the bees. On the outside corners of one of the ends, glue or tack two strips, inch and a half wide, extending down to the bottom of the box, and half an inch from the top; fasten over them a piece of thin board, (paste-board will answer.) You have now a shallow passage without top or bottom, outside of your feeder; give it a top of any kind; cut out just below the level of this top, a passage into the feeder for the bees. It is now complete, and when properly placed over any hole on the top of the hive, will admit the bees from the hive, into the shallow passage which has no bottom, and through this into the feeder. Such a feeder will not only be cheap, but it might almost be made by a child, and yet it will answer every purpose most admirably. If you have no wooden box that will answer, a feeder may be made of pasteboard, and if brushed with the melted mixture it will be honey-tight. By packing cotton or wool around it, it might be used in most hives, even in the dead of Winter. Bees however, ought never to need feeding in Winter, and if they do, it will always be unsafe at this season to feed them with liquid honey.
I ought here to speak of the importance of water to the bees. It is absolutely indispensable when they are building comb, or raising brood. In the early Spring, they take advantage of the first warm weather, to bring it to their hives, and they may be seen busily drinking around pumps, drains, and other moist places. As they are not noticed frequenting such spots much, except in the early part of the season, many suppose that they need water only at this period. This is a great mistake, for they need it, and must have it, during the whole breeding season. But as soon as the grass starts, and the trees are covered with leaves, they prefer to sip the dew from them. If a few cold days come on, after the bees have commenced breeding, so as to prevent them from going abroad for water, a very serious check will be given to their operations. Even when it is not so cold as to prevent their leaving the hive, many become so chilled in their search for water, that they are not able to return.
Every wise bee-keeper will see that his bees have an abundant supply of water. If he has not some warm and sunny spot where they can safely obtain it, he will furnish them with shallow wooden troughs or vessels filled with pebbles, from which they can drink, without any risk of drowning, and where they will be sheltered from cold winds, and warmed by the genial rays of the sun. I believe that the reason why bees very much prefer the impure water of barn-yards and drains, is not because they find any medicinal quality in it, but because as it is near their hives and warm, they can fill themselves without being fatally chilled.
I have used water feeders of the same construction with my honey feeders, with great success. The bees are able to enter them at all times, as they are filled with the warm air of the hive, and thus breeding goes on, without interruption, and the lives of many bees are saved.
The same end may be obtained, by pouring daily, a few table spoonsfull of water into the hive, through one of the holes leading to the spare honey boxes. As soon as the weather becomes warm, and the bees can supply themselves from the dew on the grass and leaves, it will not be worth while to give them water in their hives.
When supplied with water in their hives, I advise that enough honey or sugar be added to it, to make it tolerably sweet. They will take it with greater relish, and it will stimulate them more powerfully to the raising of brood.
I come now to mention a substitute for liquid honey, the value of which has been extensively and thoroughly tested in Germany, and which I have used with great advantage. It was not discovered by Dzierzon, although he speaks of its excellence, in the most decided terms. The article to which I refer, is plain sugar candy, or as it is often called, barley candy. It has been ascertained that about four pounds of this, will sustain a colony during the Winter, when they have scarcely any honey in their hive! If it is placed where they can get access to it without being chilled, they will cluster upon it, and gradually eat it up. It not only goes further than double the quantity of liquid honey which could be bought for the same money, but is found to agree with the bees perfectly; while the liquid honey is almost sure to sour in the unsealed cells, and expose them to dangerous, and often fatal attacks of dysentery. I have sometimes, in the old-fashioned box hives, pushed sticks of candy between the ranges of comb, and have found it even then to answer a good purpose. In any hive which has surplus honey boxes, the candy may be put into a small box, which after being covered thoroughly with cotton or wool, may have another box put over it, the outside of which may be also covered. Unless great precautions are used, the boxes will be so cold, that the bees will not be able to enter them in Winter, and may thus perish in close proximity to abundant stores.
In my hives, the candy may be laid on the top of the frames, in the shallow chamber between the frames and the honey-board; it will here, if the honey-board is covered with straw, be always accessible to the bees, even in the coldest weather. I sometimes put it directly into a frame, and confine it with a piece of twine, or fine wire.
I have made a very convenient use of sugar candy, as a bee-feed in the Summer, when I wished to give small colonies a little food, and yet not to be at the trouble to use a feeder, or incur the risk of their being robbed by putting it where strange bees might be attracted by the scent. A small stick of candy, slid in on the bottom-board, under the frames, answers admirably for such a purpose. If a little liquid food must be used in warm weather, I advise that it be the best white sugar, dissolved in water; this makes an admirable food; costs but little more than brown sugar, and has no smell to tempt robbers to try to gain an entrance into the hive.
If the Apiarian is skillful, and attends to his bees, at the proper time, they will rarely need much feeding; if he manages them in such a manner that this is frequently and extensively needed, I can assure him, if he has not already found it out to his sorrow, that his bees will be nothing but a bill of cost and vexation.
The question how much honey a colony of bees needs, in order to carry them safely through the perils of Winter, is one to which it is impossible to give an answer which will be definite, under all circumstances. Very much will depend upon the hive in which they are kept, and the forwardness of the ensuing Spring; (see Chapter on Protection.) It is often absolutely impossible in the common hives, to form any reliable estimate, as to the quantity of honey which they contain, for the combs are often so heavy with bee-bread, as entirely to deceive even the most experienced bee-keeper.
I should always wish to leave at least 20 lbs. of honey in a hive; and as I can examine each comb, I am never at a loss to know how much a colony has. If I have the least apprehension that their supplies may fail, I prefer to put a few pounds of sugar candy where they can easily get access to it, in case of need. In my hive, the careful bee-keeper may not only know the exact extent of the resources of each hive, in the Fall, but he may, very early in the Spring, ascertain precisely how much honey is still on hand, and whether his bees need feeding, in order to preserve their lives. It is a shameful fact that a large number of colonies perish after they have begun to fly out, and when, they might easily have been saved, in any kind of hive.
FEEDING, TO MAKE A PROFIT BY SELLING THE HONEY STORED UP BY THE BEES.
For many years, Apiarians have attempted to make the feeding of bees on a large scale, profitable to their owners. All such attempts however, must, from the very nature of the case, meet with very limited success. If large quantities of cheap West India honey are fed to the bees in the Fall, they are induced to fill their hives to such an extent, that in the Spring, the queen does not find the necessary accommodations for breeding. If they are largely fed in the Spring, the case is still worse; (See p. 320.) It must therefore be obvious that the feeding of cheap honey can only be made profitable where it serves as a substitute for an equal quantity of choice honey taken from the bees. In the latter part of Summer, the Apiarian may take away from the main hive, some of the combs which contain the best honey, and replace them with combs into which he has poured the cheaper article; or if he has no spare combs on hand, he may slice off the covers of the cells, drain out the honey, fill the empty combs with West India honey, and return them to the bees: giving them at the same time, the additional food which they need to elaborate wax to seal them over. If he attempts to take away their full combs, and gives them honey in order to enable them, first to replace their combs, and then to fill them, the operation, (see p. 326,) will result in a loss, instead of a gain.
I am aware that for a number of years, persons have attempted to derive a profit from supplying the markets of some of our large cities, with an article professing to be the best of honey, but which has been nothing more than the cheap West India honey fed to the bees, and stored up by them in new comb. In the City of Philadelphia, large quantities of such honey have been sold at the highest prices, and perhaps at some profit to the persons who have fed it to their bees. Within the last two years, however, the article has become so well known that it can hardly be sold at any price; as those who purchase honey, instead of paying 25 cents per pound for West India honey in the comb, much prefer to buy it, (if they want it at all,) for 6 or 7 cents, in a liquid state! It must be perfectly obvious that to sell a cheap and ill-flavored article at a high price, under the pretence that it is a superior article, is nothing less than downright cheating.
I am perfectly well aware that many persons imagine that if any thing sweet is fed to bees, they will quickly transmute it into the purest nectar. There is, however, no more truth in such a conceit, than there would be in that of a man who supposed that he had found the veritable philosopher's stone; and that he was able to change all our copper and silver coins into the purest gold! Bees to be sure, can make white and beautiful comb, from almost any kind of sweet; and why? because wax is a natural secretion of the bee, (see p. 76,) and can be made from any sweet; just as fat can be put upon the ribs of an ox, by any kind of nourishing food.
"But," some of my readers may ask, "do you mean to assert that bees do not secrete honey out of the raw material which they gather, or which is furnished to them, just as cows secrete milk from grass and hay?" I certainly do mean to assert that they can do nothing of the kind, and no intelligent man who has carefully studied their habits, will for a moment, venture to affirm that they can, unless for the sake of "filthy lucre," he is attempting to deceive an unwary community. What bee-keeper does not know, or rather ought not to know that the quality of honey depends entirely upon the sources from whence it is gathered; and that the different kinds of honey can easily be distinguished by any one who is a judge of the article.
Apple-blossom honey, white clover honey, buckwheat honey, and all the different kinds of honey, each has its own peculiar flavor, and it is utterly amazing how any sensible man, acquainted with bees, can be so deluded as to imagine any thing to the contrary. But as this is a matter of great practical importance, let us examine it more closely.
When bees are engaged in rapidly storing up honey in their combs, they may be seen, as soon as they return from the fields, or from the feeding boxes, putting their heads at once into the cells, and disgorging the contents of their "honey-bags." Now that the contents of their sacs undergo no change at all, during the short time that they remain in them, I will not absolutely affirm, because I have endeavored, through this whole treatise, never to assert positively when I had not positive evidence for so doing: but that they can undergo but a very slight change, must be evident from the fact that when thus stored up, the different kinds of honey or sugar can be almost if not quite as readily distinguished as before they were fed to the bees. The only perceptible change which they appear to undergo in the cells, is to have the large quantity of water evaporated from them, which is added from thoughtlessness, or from the vain expectation that it will be just so much water sold for honey, to the defrauded purchaser! This evaporation of the water from the honey by the heat of the hive, is about the only marked change that it appears to undergo, from its natural state in the nectaries of the blossoms; and it is exceedingly interesting to see how unwilling bees are to seal up honey, until it is reduced to such a consistency that there is no danger of its souring in the cells. They are as careful as to the quality of their nectar, as the good lady of the house is, to have the syrup of her preserves boiled down to a suitable thickness to keep them sweet.
Let all who for any purpose whatever, feed bees, keep this fact in mind, and never add to the food which they give them, more water than is absolutely necessary. To do so, is a piece of as great stupidity as to pour a barrel of water into the sugar pans, for every barrel of sap from the maples, or juice from the canes! If a strong colony is set upon a platform scale, it will be found on a pleasant day, during the height of the honey harvest, to gain a number of pounds; if examined again, early next morning, it will be found to have lost considerably, during the night. This is owing to the evaporation of the water from the freshly gathered honey, and it may often be seen running down in quite a stream from the bottom-board.
Those who feed cheap honey to sell it in the market at a high advance over its first cost, are either deceivers or deceived; if any of my readers have been deceived by the plausible representations of ignorant or unprincipled men, I trust they will be able from these remarks, to see exactly how they have been deceived, and they will no longer persist in an adulteration, the profits of which can never be great, and the morality of which can never be defended. A man who offers for sale, inferior honey, or sugar which he calls honey, and which he is able to sell because it is stored in white comb, to those who would never purchase it if they knew what it was, or once had a taste of it, is not a whit more honest, if he understands the nature of the article in which he deals, than a person engaged in counterfeiting the current coin of the realm: for poor honey in white comb, is no less a fraud than eagles or dollars, golden to be sure, on their honest exteriors, but containing a baser metal within! "The Golden Age" of bee-keeping, in which inferior honey can be quickly transmuted into such balmy spoils as are gathered by the bees of Hybla, has not yet dawned upon us; or at least only in the fairy visions of the poet who saw
"A golden hive, on a Golden Bank, Where golden bees, by alchemical prank, Gathered Gold instead of Honey."
If a pound of West India honey costs about 6 cents, and the bees use, as they will, about one pound to make the comb in which it is stored, it costs the producer at least 12 cents a pound, and if to this, he adds, say 5 cents more, for extra time and labor in feeding, then his inferior honey costs him at least as much as the market price of the very best honey on the spot where it is produced! If the bee-keeper allows his bees to make what they will, from the blossoms, and then begins to feed, after he has harvested the produce from the natural supplies, the advance over the first cost will hardly pay for the trouble, even if it were fair to palm off such inferior honey as a first-rate article. If, however, bees are fed on this food very largely in the latter part of Summer, they will fill up their hive with it, before they put it into the spare honey boxes, and the production of brood will often be most seriously interfered with, at a season of the year when it is important to have the hives well stocked with bees, that they may winter to the best advantage.
If Apiarians are anxious to have large quantities of choice honey, let them manage their bees so as to have powerful stocks in the early Spring, and they will then be able to have heavy purses and light consciences into the bargain. I shall now show how liquid honey, exceedingly beautiful to the eye, and tempting to the taste, may be made to great advantage.
Dissolve two pounds of the purest white sugar, in as much hot water as will be just necessary to reduce it to a syrup; take one pound of the nicest white clover honey, (any other light colored honey of good flavor will answer,) and after warming it, add it to the sugar syrup, and stir the contents. When cool, this compound will be pronounced, even by the best judges of honey, to be one of the most luscious articles which they ever tasted; and will be, by almost every one, preferred to the unmixed honey. Refined loaf sugar is a perfectly pure and inodorous sweet, and one pound of honey will communicate the honey flavor, in high perfection, to twice that quantity of sugar: while the new article will be destitute of that smarting taste which honey alone, so often has, and will be often found to agree perfectly with those who cannot eat the clear honey with impunity. If those engaged in the artificial manufacture of honey, never brought any thing worse than this, to the market, the purchasers would have no reason to complain. As however, the compound can be furnished much cheaper than the pure honey, many may prefer to purchase the materials, and mix them themselves. If desired, any kind of flavor may be given to the manufactured article; thus it may be made to resemble in fragrance, the classic honey of Mount Hymettus, by adding to it the fine aroma of the lemon balm, or wild thyme; or it may have the flavor of the orange groves, or the delicate fragrance of beds of roses washed with dew.
I have recently ascertained that if two pounds of the best refined sugar be added to one of common maple sugar, the compound will be a light colored article, retaining perfectly the maple taste, and yet far superior to the common maple sugar. After making this discovery, I learned that a large part of the very nicest maple sugar is made in this way!
Attempts have been made to feed to bees, to be stored in the honey boxes, a mixture of the whitest honey and loaf sugar; but the result shows a loss rather than a gain. The mixture, before it is fed, will cost about 10 cents per pound. At the very furthest, not more than one half of what is fed, can be secured in the comb, for it requires about one pound of honey, to manufacture comb enough to hold a pound of honey. The actual cost of the honey in the comb, will therefore be, at least 20 cents per pound; and the pure white clover honey can be bought for less than that. Those who desire to have something exceedingly beautiful to the eye, and delicate to the taste, at a season when the bees are not storing up honey from the blossoms, and in situations where the natural supply is of an inferior quality, if they do not regard expense, can place upon their tables, something which will be pronounced by the best judges, a little superior to any thing they ever tasted before.