Mysteries of Bee-keeping Explained
by M. Quinby
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Entered according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1853, by M. QUINBY, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York.





Three kinds of Bees, 9 Queen described, 9 Description and Duty of Workers, 10 Description of Drones, 11 Most Brood in Spring, 11 Their Industry, 12



Hives to be thoroughly made, 13 Different opinions about them, 14 The Author has no Patent to recommend, 14 Speculators supported long enough, 15 Prefix of Patent a bad recommendation, 15 Ignorance of affairs and committees, 15 Opposition to simplicity, 16 By gaining one point produce another evil, 16 First Delusion, 17 Chamber Hive, 17 Mrs. Griffith's Hive, 18 Weeks' Improvement, 18 Inclined Bottom-Boards do not throw out all the worms, 19 Objections to suspended hives, 19 See bees often, 20 Hall's Patent, 21 Jones's Patent, 21 An Experiment, 21 Reason of failure in dividing hive, 22 Cause of starving in such hives, 23 Advantages of the changeable hive considered, 24 Variation of these hives, 25 Expense in constructing changeable hives, 25 The surplus honey will contain bee-bread, 26 Description of Cutting's changeable hive, 26 First objection cost of construction, 28 Hives can be made with less expense, 29 Old breeding cells will last a long time, 29 Cells larger than necessary at first, 30 Expense of renewing combs, 30 Best to use old combs as long as they will last, 31 Method for Pruning when necessary, 31 Tools for Pruning, 32 Use of Tobacco Smoke, 33 Further objections to a sectional hive, 34 Non-Swarmers, 35 Contrast of profit, 35 Principle of swarming not understood, 36 Not to be depended upon, 37 Hives not always full before swarming, 37 Size of hives needed, 37 An Experiment, 37 Bees do not increase if full after the first year in same hive, 38 Gillmore's system doubted, 39 Utility of moth-proof hives doubted, 39 Instincts of the bee always the same, 40 Profit the object, 41 Common hive recommended, 42 Size Important, 42 Small hives most liable to accidents, 42 Apt to deceive, 43 Unprofitable if too large, 43 Correct size between two extremes, 43 Size for warm latitudes, 44 Larger hives more safe for long Winters or backward Spring, 44 2,000 inches safe for this section, 45 Kind of Wood, width of Board, &c., 46 Shape of little consequence, 46 Directions for making hives, 47 Size of cap and boxes, 48 Miner's Hive, 48 Directions for making holes, 49 A Suggestion, 50 Glass boxes preferred, 51 Glass boxes—how made, 51 Guide-combs necessary, 52 Wood Boxes, 53 Cover for Hives, 54 Jars and Tumblers—how prepared, 54 Perfect Observatory Hive described, 55 One like Common Hive preferred, 56 What may be seen, 56 Directions for making Glass Hive, 57 Plate for Hive, 61



Imperfectly Understood, 62 Good stocks seldom without brood, 63 How small stocks commence, 64 Different with larger ones, 65 How Pollen is stored in the breeding season, 65 Operation of Laying, and the Eggs described, 66 Time from the Egg to the perfect Bee, 67 Rough treatment of the young Bee, 67 Guess-work, 68 Terms applied to young Bees, 69 Discrepancy in time in rearing brood as given by Huber, 70 The number of Eggs deposited by the Queen guessed at, 71 A test for the presence of a Queen, 73 When Drones are reared, 74 When Queens, 74 Liability of being destroyed, 76 Drones destroyed when honey is scarce, 77 Old Queen leaves with the first swarm, 78 A young Queen takes the place of her mother in the old stock, 79 Other Theories, 80 Subject not understood, 80 Necessity for further observation, 84 Two sides of the question, 85



Substitute for Pollen, 88 Manner of packing it, 89 Alder yields the first, 89 Fruit Flowers important in good weather, 91 Red Raspberry a favorite, 91 Catnip, Mother-wort and Hoarhound, are sought after, 92 Singular fatality attendant on Silkweed, 93 Large yield from Basswood, 96 Garden Flowers unimportant, 97 Honey-dew, 97 Singular Secretion, 98 Secretions of the Aphis, 98 Advantages of Buckwheat, 101 Amount of honey collected from it, 101 Do Bees injure the crop? 102 Are not Bees an advantage to vegetation? 103 A test for the presence of Queen doubted, 106 An extra quantity of Pollen not always detrimental, 107 What combs are generally free from Bee-bread, 108 Manner of packing stores, 108 Philosophy in filling a cell with honey, 109 Long cells sometimes turned upward, 110 Is a dry or wet season best for honey? 111 How many Stocks should be kept, 112 Three principal sources of honey, 112



Is Pollen converted into Wax? 115 How is it obtained? 115 Huber's account of a commencement of comb, 117 Best time to witness comb-making, 118 Manner of working Wax, 119 Are crooked Combs a disadvantage? 120 Uncertainty in weight of Bees, 122 Some wax wasted, 124 Water necessary in Comb-making, 124 Remarks, 126



What used for, 128 Is it an elaborate or natural substance? 129 Huber's Opinion, 129 Further Proof, 129 Remarks, 132



Its location, 132 Decide Early, 133 Bees mark their location on leaving the hive, 134 Changing stand attended with loss, 134 Can be taken some distance, 135 Danger of setting Stocks too close, 135 Space between Hives, 136 Small Matters, 136 Economy, 137 Cheap arrangement of stands, 138 Canal Bottom-board discarded, 139 Some advantage in being near the earth, 139 Utility of Bee-Houses doubted, 141



Not properly understood, 142 Improper Remedies, 143 Difficulty in deciding, 144 Weak families in most danger, 144 Their Battles, 145 Bad policy to raise in Hives, 146 Indications of Robbers, 146 A Duty, 147 A Test, 147 Robbing usually commences on a warm day, 148 Remedies, 149 Common Opinion, 149 A case in point, 149 Further Directions, 150 Common cause of commencing, 151 Spring the worst time, 152 No necessity to have Bees plundered in the fall, 153



Should be a last resort, 154 Care needed, 154 Apparent contradiction when feeding causes starvation, 155 How long it will do to wait before feeding, 156 Directions for feeding, 157 Whole Families may desert the Hive, 158 Objections to general feeding, 159 Arrangement for feeding, 159 Feeding to induce early swarms, 161 What may be fed, 162 Is candied honey injurious? 162



Some in the best Stocks, 164 How Found, 165 A tool for their destruction, 165 Mistaken Conclusions, 167 Objections to suspended Bottom-board, 167 Advantage of the Hive close to the board, 168 Objection Answered, 169 Insufficiency of inclined Bottom-board 169 A Moth can go where Bees can, 170 Trap to catch Worms, 170 Box for Wren, 171



Advantage of the Patent Vender, 172 Time of putting on—Rule, 172 Making holes after the Hive is full, 174 Advantage of proper arrangement, 174 Directions for boring holes in full Stock, 176 To be taken off when filled, 177 Time taken to fill a box, 178 When to take off boxes part full, 178 Tobacco Smoke preferred to Slides, 178 Manner of disposing of the Bees in the boxes, 179 Bees disposed to carry away honey, 179 Not disposed to sting, 180 Rule, 181



Two things to be prevented, 181 Apt to be deceived about the Worms, 182 Their progress described, 182 A Solution offered, 183 Method of killing Worms in boxes, 185 Freezing destroys them, 186 Objection to using Boxes before the Hive is full, 187



Time to expect them, 187 All Bee-Keepers should understand it as it is, 188 Means of understanding it, 188 Inverting a stock rather formidable at first, 189 Requisites before preparation of Queen's cells, 189 State of Queen-cell when used, 190 State when swarms issue, 190 Clustering outside not always to be depended upon, 191 Examinations—the result, 191 Remarks, 192 Conflicting Theories, 192 Both Old and Young leave with swarms, 192 Cause of the Queen's inability to fly suggested, 193 Evidence of the Old Queen's leaving, 193 Mr. Weeks's Theory not satisfactory, 194 Particular directions for testing the matter, 196 Empty Hives to be ready, 197 Bottom-boards for hiving, 197 Description of swarm issuing, 198 Manner of hiving can be varied, 199 Usual Methods, 199 When out of reach, 200 When they cannot be shaken off, 202 All should be made to enter, 203 Should be taken to the stand immediately, 203 Protection from the Sun necessary, 203 Clustering Bushes, 204 How swarms are generally managed that leave for the woods, 205 Nothing but Bees needed in a Hive, 206 Seldom go off without clustering, 207 Do swarms choose a location before swarming? 207 Means of arresting a swarm, 208 Some Compulsion, 208 How far will they go in search of honey? 209 Two or more swarms liable to unite, 211 Disadvantage, 211 Can often be prevented, 212 Indications of swarming inside the Hive, 212 Preventing a swarm issuing for a time, 213 To prevent swarms uniting with those already hived, 213 When two have united—the method of separating, 214 No danger of a sting by the Queen, 215 Some precautions in hiving two swarms together, 216 How to find Queen when two strangers are together, 217 Boxes for double swarms immediately, 218 Returning a part to the old stock, 218 Method of uniting, 219 When care is necessary, 219 Swarm-Catcher, 220 Swarms sometimes return, 222 Repetition prevented, 222 Liability to enter wrong stocks, 223 First issues generally choose fair weather, 224 After Swarms, 225 Their Size, 225 Time after the first, 225 Piping of the Queen, 225 May always be heard before and after swarm, 226 Time of continuance varies, 226 Time between second and third issues, 227 Not always to be depended upon, 227 A Rule for the time of these issues, 228 When it is useless to expect more swarms, 229 Plurality of Queens destroyed, 229 The Manner, 230 Theory doubted, 231 After-swarms different in appearance from the first, when about to issue, 232 Time of day, weather, &c., 233 Swarms necessary to be seen, 233 Returning after-swarms to the old stock, 235 When they should be returned, 235 Method of doing it, 235 More care needed by After-swarms when hived, 237 Two may be united, 237



Of swarms that lose their Queen, 238 A suggestion and an answer, 239 A disputed question, 240 A multitude of Drones needed, 241 The Queen liable to be lost in her excursions, 243 The time when it occurs, 243 Indications of the loss, 244 The Result, 245 Age of Bees indicated, 246 Necessity of care, 246 Remedy, 247 Mark the date of swarms on the Hive, 248 Obtaining a Queen from worker brood, 249 They are poor dependence, 249



Principles should be understood, 252 Some Experiments, 253 The result unsatisfactory, 253 Further Experiments, 254 A successful method, 256 Advantages of this method, 257 Artificial swarms only safe near the swarming season, 259 Sometimes hazardous, 259 Some Objections, 259 Natural and artificial swarms equally prosperous, 260 This matter too often delayed, 261 Is the age of the Queen important? 261



Different opinions as to time, 262 Another time preferred, 263 Should not be delayed, 263 Objection to Pruning, 264 Stocks pruned now are better for winter, 265



Not generally understood, 266 My own experience, 267 Description of Disease, 267 The cause uncertain, 268 Remedial Experiments, 268 Public inquiry and answers, 268 Answers not satisfactory, 270 A cause suggested, 270 Reasons for the opinion, 272 Cause of its spreading, 273 Not easily detected at first, 274 Symptoms to be observed, 274 Scalding the honey to destroy the poison for feeding, 275 When to examine stocks that have swarmed, 275 Care in selecting stock-hives for winter, 276 Accusations not always right, 276



Their means of defence, 277 Time of greatest Irritability, 278 Proper Conduct, 278 How to proceed when attacked, 279 A person's breath offensive, and other causes, 279 Their manner of attack, 279 Smoker described, 280 Effect of Tobacco Smoke, 281 Sting described, 282 Does its loss prove fatal? 283 Means of protection, 284 Remedies for stings, 285



Are they all guilty? 286 Rats and Mice, 287 Are all the Birds guilty? 288 King-bird—one word in his favor, 288 Cat-bird acquitted, 289 Toad got clear, 290 Wasps and Hornets not favored, 290 Ants—a word in their favor, 291 Spider condemned, 292 Wax-Moth unrivalled for mischief, 293 Indications of their presence, 296 Management, 296 Care in turning over Hives, 297 Other symptoms of Worms, 298 When they grow larger than usual, 299 Time of Growth, 299 Time of Transformation, 300 Freezing destroys Worms, Cocoon, and Moth, 300 How they pass the Winter, 301 Stocks more liable to be destroyed last of Summer, 301 When Bees are safe, 302 Means to destroy them, 302 Making them drunk and their execution by Chickens, 303



The Cause, 304 Effects, 304 First Indications, 305 Prevention, 305



First care, 307 Strong Stocks disposed to plunder, 307 Bees Changeable, 308 Requisites for good Stocks, 308 Great disadvantage of killing the Bees, 309 Section of country may make a difference in what poor stocks need, 309 When Bees are needed, 310 Caution, 311 Principal Difficulty, 311 How Avoided, 311 Advantages of making one good stock from two poor ones, 312 Two families together will not consume as much as if separate, 312 An Experiment, 312 Season for operating, 313 The Fumigator, 314 Directions for uniting two families, 315 Uniting with Tobacco Smoke, 317 Condition of Stocks in 1851, 318 How they were managed, 318 Cause of their superior Thrift, 319 Swarms partly filled pay better than to cut out the honey, 320 Advantages in transferring, 320 Another method of uniting two families, 321 Uniting Comb and Honey as well as Bees, 322 When feeding should be done for Stock Hives, 323



Different methods have been adopted, 325 The idea of Bees not freezing has led to errors in practice, 326 Appearance of Bees in cold weather, 326 How part of the swarm is frozen, 327 How a small family may all freeze, 327 Frost and Ice sometimes smother Bees, 328 Frost and Ice in a Hive accounted for, 329 The effect of Ice or Frost on Bees and Comb, 330 Frost may cause starvation, 330 Other Difficulties, 330 Further Illustrations, 332 Accumulation of Faeces described by some writers as a disease, 336 The Author's remedy, 337 Buying Bees, 337 Experiments of the Author to get rid of the Frost, 338 Success in this matter, 338 Bees when in the house should be kept perfectly dark, 339 A room made for wintering Bees, 339 Manner of stowing away Hives, 340 Temperature of room, 341 Too much Honey may sometimes be stored, 342 Management of room towards Spring, 342 Time for setting out Bees, 343 Not too many stocks taken out at once, 343 Families may be equalized, 344 Snow need not always prevent carrying out Bees, 344 Does not Analogy prove that Bees should be kept warm in Winter? 345 The next best place for wintering Bees, 346 Evils of wintering in the open air considered, 347 But little risk with good stocks, 348 Effect of keeping second-rate stocks out of the sun, 348 Effects of Snow considered, 349 Stocks to be protected on some occasions, 350 Do the Bees eat more when allowed to come out occasionally in Winter? 352



Are not Bees directed alone by instinct? 353 What they do with Propolis, 353 Mending broken Combs, 354 Making passages to every part of their Combs, 355



Methods of removing Combs from the Hive, 357 Different modes of straining Honey, 358 Getting out Wax—different methods, 360



Why the word luck is applied to Bees, 362 Rule in taking Bees for a share, 364 A man may sell his "luck," 364 First-rate stocks recommended to begin with, 365 Old stocks are good as any if healthy, 365 Caution respecting diseased brood, 366 Result of ignorance in purchasing, 366 Size of Hives important, 367 How large Hives can be made smaller, 368 Moderate weather best to remove Bees, 369 Preparations for transporting Bees, 370 Securing Bees in the Hive, 370 Best Conveyance, 370 Hive to be inverted, 371 Conclusion, 372


Before the reader decides that an apology is necessary for the introduction of another work on bees into the presence of those already before the public, it is hoped that he will have the patience to examine the contents of this.

The writer of the following pages commenced beekeeping in 1828, without any knowledge of the business to assist him, save a few directions about hiving, smoking them with sulphur, &c. Nearly all the information to be had was so mingled with erroneous whims and notions, that it required a long experience to separate essential and consistent points. It was impossible to procure a work that gave the information necessary for practice. From that time to the present, no sufficient guide for the inexperienced has appeared. European works, republished here, are of but little value. Weeks, Townley, Miner, and others, writers of this country, within a few years, have given us treatises, valuable to some extent, but have entirely neglected several chapters, very important and essential to the beginner. Keeping bees has been, and is now, by the majority, deemed a hazardous enterprise. The ravages of the moth had been so great, and loss so frequent, that but little attention was given to the subject for a long time. Mr. Weeks lost his entire stock three times in fifteen years. But soon after the discovery was promulgated, that honey could be taken from a stock without destroying the bees, an additional attention was manifest, increasing to a rage in many places. It seems to be easily understood, that profit must attend success, in this branch of the farmer's stock; inasmuch as the "bees work for nothing and find themselves." This interest in bees should be encouraged to continue till enough are kept to collect all the honey now wasted; which, compared with the present collections, would be more than a thousand pounds to one. But to succeed, that is the difficulty. Some eighteen years since, after a propitious season, an aged and esteemed friend said to me, "It is not to be expected that you will have such luck always; you must expect they will run out after a time. I have always noticed, when people have first-rate luck for a time, that the bees generally take a turn, and are gone in a few years."

I am not sure but, to the above remarks, may be traced the cause of my subsequent success. It stimulated me to observation and inquiry. I soon found that good seasons were the "lucky" ones, and that many lost in an adverse season, all they had before gained. Also, that strong families were the only ones on which I could depend for protection against the moth. This induced the effort to ascertain causes tending to diminish the size of families, and the application of remedies. Whether success has attended my efforts or not, the reader can judge, after a perusal of the work.

It is time that the word "luck," as applied to beekeeping, was discarded. The prevailing opinion, that bees will prosper for one person more than another, under the same circumstances, is fallacious. As well might it be applied to the mechanic and farmer. The careless, ignorant farmer, might occasionally succeed in raising a crop with a poor fence; but would be liable, at any time, to lose it by trespassing cattle. He might have suitable soil in the beginning, but without knowledge, for the proper application of manures, it might fail to produce; unless a chance application happened to be right.

But with the intelligent farmer the case is different: fences in order, manures judiciously applied, and with propitious seasons, he makes a sure thing of it. Call him "lucky" if you please; it is his knowledge, and care, that render him so. So with bee-keeping, the careful man is the "lucky" one. There can be no effect without a preceding cause. If you lose a stock of bees, there is a cause or causes producing it, just as certain as the failure of a crop with the unthrifty farmer, can be traced to a poor fence, or unfruitful soil. You may rest assured, that a rail is off your fence of management somewhere, or the proper applications have not been made. In relation to bees, these things may not be quite so apparent, yet nevertheless true. Why is there so much more uncertainty in apiarian science than other farming operations? It must be attributed to the fact, that among the thousands who are engaged in, and have studied agriculture, perhaps not more than one has given his energies to the nature and habits of bees. If knowledge is elicited in the same ratio, we ought to have a thousand times more light on one subject than the other, and still there are some things, even in agriculture, that may yet be learned.

It is supposed, by many, that we already have all the knowledge that the subject of bees affords. This is not surprising; a person that was never furnished with a full treatise, might arrive at such conclusions. Unless his own experience goes deeper, he can have no means of judging what is yet behind.

In conversation relative to this work, with a person of considerable scientific attainments, he remarked, "You do not want to give the natural history of bees at all; that is already sufficiently understood." And how is it understood; as Huber gives it, or in accordance with some of our own writers? If we take Huber as a guide, we find many points recently contradicted. If we compare authors of our day, we find them contradicting each other. One recommends a peculiarly constructed hive, as just the thing adapted to their nature and instincts. If a single point is in accordance with their nature, he labors to twist all the others to his purpose, although it may involve a fundamental principle impossible to reconcile. Some one else succeeds in another point, and proceeds to recommend something altogether different. False and contradictory assertions are made either through ignorance, or interest. Interest may blind the judgment, and spurious history may deceive.

It is folly to expect success in bee-keeping for any length of time, without a correct knowledge of their nature and instincts; and this we shall never obtain by the course hitherto pursued. As much of their labor is performed in the dark, and difficult to be observed, it has given rise to conjecture and false reasoning, leading to false conclusions.

When I say a thing is so, or say it is not so, what evidence has the reader that it is proved or demonstrated? My mere assertions are not expected to be taken in preference to another's; of such proof, we have more than enough. Most people have not the time, patience, or ability, to set down quietly with close observation, and investigate the subject thoroughly. Hence it has been found easier to receive error for truth, than to make the exertion necessary to confute it; the more so, because there is no guide to direct the investigation. I shall, therefore, pursue a different course; and for every assertion endeavor to give a test, that the reader may apply and satisfy himself, and trust to no one. As for theories, I shall try to keep them separate from facts, and offer such evidence as I have, either for or against them. If the reader has further proof that presents the matter in another light, of course he will exercise the right to a difference of opinion.

I could give a set of rules for practice, and be very brief, but this would be unsatisfactory. When we are told a thing must be done, most of us, like the "inquisitive Yankee," have a desire to know why it is necessary; and then like to know how to do it. This gives us confidence that we are right. Hence, I shall endeavor to give the practical part, in as close connection with the natural history, that dictates it, as possible.

This work will contain several chapters entirely new to the public: the result of my own experience, that will be of the utmost value to all who desire to realize the greatest possible advantages from their bees.

The additions to chapters already partially discussed by others, will contain much original matter not to be found elsewhere. When many stocks are kept, the chapter on "Loss of Queens," alone, will, with attention, save to any one, not in the secret, enough in one season to be worth more in value than many times the cost of this work. The same might be said of those on diseased brood, artificial swarms, wintering bees, and many others.

If such a work could have been placed in my hands twenty years ago, I should have realized hundreds of dollars by the information. But instead of this, my course has been, first to suffer a loss, and then find out the remedy, or preventive; from which the reader may be exempt, as I can confidently recommend these directions.

Another new feature will be found in the duties of each season being kept by itself, commencing with the spring and ending with the winter management.

In my anxiety to be understood by all classes of readers, I am aware that I have made the elegant construction and arrangement of sentences of secondary importance; therefore justly liable to criticism. But to the reader, whose object is information on this subject, it can be of but little consequence.




Every prosperous swarm, or family of bees, must contain one queen, several thousand workers, and, part of the year, a few hundred drones.


The queen is the mother of the entire family; her duty appears to be only to deposit eggs in the cells. Her abdomen has its full size very abruptly where it joins the trunk or body, and then gradually tapers to a point. She is longer than either the drones or workers, but her size, in other respects, is a medium between the two. In shape she resembles the worker more than the drone; and, like the worker, has a sting, but will not use it for anything below royalty. She is nearly destitute of down, or hairs; a very little may be seen about her head and trunk. This gives her a dark, shining appearance, on the upper side—some are nearly black. Her legs are somewhat longer than those of a worker; the two posterior ones, and the under surface, are often of a bright copper color. In some of them a yellow stripe nearly encircles the abdomen at the joints, and meets on the back. Her wings are about the same as the workers, but as her abdomen is much longer, they only reach about two-thirds the length of it. For the first few days after leaving the cell, her size is much less than after she has assumed her maternal duties. She seldom, perhaps never, leaves the hive, except when leading a swarm, and when but a few days old, to meet the drones, in the air, for the purpose of fecundation. The manner of the queen's impregnation is yet a disputed point, and probably never witnessed by any one. The majority of close observers, I believe, are of opinion that the drones are the males, and that sexual connection takes place in the air,[1] performing their amours while on the wing, like the humble-bee and some other insects. It appears that one impregnation is operative during her life, as old queens are not afterwards seen coming out for that purpose.

[1] The objectors to this hypothesis will be generally found among those who are unable to give a more plausible elucidation. Those who oppose the fact that one bee is the mother of the whole family, will probably be in the same class.


As all labor devolves on the workers, they are provided with a sack, or bag, for honey. Basket-like cavities are on their legs, where they pack the pollen of flowers into little pellets, convenient to bring home. They are also provided with a sting, and a virulent poison, although they will not use it abroad when unmolested, but, if attacked, will generally defend themselves sufficient to escape. They range the fields for honey and pollen, secrete wax, construct combs, prepare food, nurse the young, bring water for the use of the community, obtain propolis to seal up all crevices about the hive, stand guard, and keep out intruders, robbers, &c., &c.


When the family is large and honey abundant, a brood of drones is reared; the number, probably, depends on the yield of honey, and size of the swarm, more than anything else. As honey becomes scarce, they are destroyed. Their bodies are large and rather clumsy, covered with short hairs or bristles. Their abdomen terminates very abruptly, without the symmetry of the queen or worker. Their buzzing, when on the wing, is louder, and altogether different from the others. They seem to be of the least value of any in the hive. Perhaps not more than one in a thousand is ever called upon to perform the duty for which they were designed. Yet they assist, on some occasions, to keep up the animal heat necessary in the old hive after a swarm has left.


In spring and first of summer, when nearly all the combs are empty, and food abundant, they rear brood more extensively than at any other period, (towards fall more combs are filled with honey, giving less room for brood.) The hive soon becomes crowded with bees, and royal cells are constructed, in which the queen deposits her eggs. When some of these young queens are advanced sufficiently to be sealed over, the old one, and the greater part of her subjects, leave for a new location, (termed swarming.) They soon collect in a cluster, and, if put into an empty hive, commence anew their labors; constructing combs, rearing brood, and storing honey, to be abandoned on the succeeding year for another tenement. One in a hundred may do it the same season, if the hive is filled and crowded again in time to warrant it. Only large early swarms do this.


Industry belongs to their nature. When the flowers yield honey, and the weather is fine, they need no impulse from man to perform their part. When their tenement is supplied with all things necessary to reach another spring, or their store-house full, and no necessity or room for an addition, and we supply them with more space, they assiduously toil to fill it up. Rather than to waste time in idleness, during a bounteous yield of honey, they have been known to deposit their surplus in combs outside the hive, or under the stand. This natural industrious habit lies at the foundation of all the advantages in bee-keeping; consequently our hives must be constructed with this end in view; and at the same time not interfere with other points of their nature; but this subject will be discussed in the next chapter. Those peculiar traits in their nature, mentioned in this, will be more fully discussed in different parts of this work, as they appear to be called for, and where proof will be offered to sustain the positions here assumed, which as yet are nothing more than mere assertions.




Hives should be constructed of good materials, boards of good thickness, free from flaws and cracks, well fitted and thoroughly nailed.

The time of making them is not very particular, providing it is done in season. It certainly should not be put off till the swarming period, to be made as wanted, because if they are to be painted; it should be done as long as possible before, as the rank smell of oil and paint, just applied, might be offensive to the bees.

But what kind of hive shall be made?

In answer, some less than a thousand forms have been given. The advantages of bee-keeping depend as much upon the construction of hives, as any one thing; yet there is no subject pertaining to them on which there is such a variety of opinions, and I have but little hopes of reconciling all these conflicting views, opinions, prejudices, and interests.


One is in favor of the old box, and the cruel practice of killing the bees to obtain the honey, as the only means to obtain "luck;" "they are sure to run out if they meddle with them." Another will rush to the opposite extreme, and advocate all the extravagant fancies of the itinerant patent-vender, as the ne plus ultra of all hives, when perhaps it would be worth more for fire-wood than the apiary.


To remove from the mind of the reader all apprehension that I am about condemning one patent to recommend another, I would say in the beginning, that I have no patent to praise, no interest in deceiving, and I hope no prejudices to influence me, in advocating or condemning any system. I wish to make bee-keeping plain, simple, economical, and profitable; so that when we sum up the profit "it shall not be found in the other pocket."

It is a principle recognized by our statute, that no person is suitable as a Juror, who is biased either by interest or prejudice. Now whether I am the impartial Jurist, is not for me to say: but I wish to discuss the subject fairly. I hope some few will be enabled to see their own interest: at any rate, dismiss prejudice, as far as possible, while we examine wherein one class in community is unprofitable to bee-keepers.


We have faithfully supported a host of speculators on our business for a long time; often not caring one straw about our success, after pocketing the fee of successful "humbuggery." One is no sooner gone, than we are beset by another, with something altogether different, and of course the acme of perfection.


This has been done until the very prefix of patent, or premium, attached to a hive, renders it almost certain that there must be something deleterious to the apiarian; either in expense of construction or intricate and perplexing in management, requiring an engineer to manage, and a skilful architect to construct.

What does the American savage, who without difficulty can track the panther or wolf, know of the principles of chemistry? What does the Chemist know of following a track in the forest, when nothing but withered leaves can guide him? Each understands principles, the minutiae of which the other never dreamed.


Thus it appears to be with granting patents and premiums, if we take what has been patented and praised by our committees and officers as improvements in bee-culture. These men may be capable, intelligent, and well fitted for their sphere, but in bee matters, about as capable of judging, as the Hottentot would be of the merits of an intricate steam-engine. Knowledge and experience are the only qualifications competent to decide.


I am aware that among the thousands whose direct interest is opposed to my simple, plain manner of getting along, many will be ready to contend with me for every departure from their patent, improved or premium hives, as the case may be.


I think it will be an easy matter to show that every departure from simplicity to gain one point, is attended in another by a correspondent evil, that often exceeds the advantage gained. That we have made vast improvements in art and science, and in every department of human affairs, no one will deny; consequently, it is assumed we must correspondingly improve in a bee-hive; forgetting that nature has fixed limits to the instinct of the bee, beyond which she will not go!

It will be necessary to point out the advantages and objections to these pretended improvements, and then we will see if we cannot avoid the objections, and retain the advantages, without the expense, by a simple addition to the common hive; because if we expect to encourage bee-keeping, they must have better success than a neighbor of mine, who expended fifty dollars for bees and a patent, and lost all in three years! Most bee-keepers are farmers; very few are engineers sufficient to work them successfully. I would say to all such as do not understand the nature of bees, adhere to simplicity until you do, and then I am quite sure you will have no desire for a change.


Probably the first delusion in the patent line originated with the idea, that to obtain surplus honey, it was absolutely necessary to have a chamber hive. To get rid of the depredations of mice, the suspended hive was contrived. The inclined bottom-board was then added to throw out the worms. To prevent the combs from sliding down, the lower end was contracted.

The principle of bees rearing queens from worker-eggs when destitute, gave rise to the dividing hive in several forms. Comb, when used several years, becomes thickened and black, and needs changing; hence the changeable hives, Non-swarmers have been introduced to save risk and trouble. Moth-proof hives to prevent the ravages of worms, &c., &c.


The chamber hive is made with two apartments; the lower and largest is for the permanent residence of the bees, the upper or chamber for the boxes. Its merits are these: the chamber affords all the protection necessary for glass boxes; considered as a cover, it is never lost. Its demerits are inconvenience in handling; it occupies more room if put in the house in the winter; if glass boxes are used, only one end can be seen, and this may be full when the other may hold some pounds yet, and we cannot possibly know until it is taken out. I know we are told to return such boxes when not full "and the bees will soon finish them," but this will depend on the yield of honey at the time; if abundant, it will be filled; if not, they will be very likely to take a hint, and remove below what there is in the box; whereas if the chamber was separate from the hive, and was not a chamber but a loose cap to cover the boxes, it could be raised at any time without disturbing a single bee, and the precise time of the boxes being filled ascertained, (that is, when they are of glass.)


Mrs. Griffith, of New Jersey, is said to have invented the suspended chamber hive with the inclined bottom-board. One would suppose this was sufficiently inconvenient to use, and difficult and expensive to construct.


Yet Mr. Weeks makes an alteration, calls it an improvement, the expense is but a trifle more; it is sufficient to be sanctioned by a patent. From front to rear, the bottom is about three inches narrower than the top, somewhat wedge-shape; it has the merit to prevent the combs from slipping down, when they happen to be made, to have the edges supported. The objections are, that filth from the bees will not fall as readily to the bottom as if every side was perpendicular, and the extra trouble in constructing.


Inclined bottom-boards form the basis of one or two patents, said to be good to roll out the worms. I can imagine a pea rolling off such a board; but a worm is not often found in a rolling condition. Most of us know, that when a worm drops from the combs, it is like the spider, with a thread attached above. The only way that I can imagine one to be thrown out by these boards, is to have it dead when it strikes it, or so cold that it cannot spin a thread, and wind to shake the board, till it rolls off. The objections to these boards are coupled with the suspended hive, with which they are usually connected.


All suspended hives must be objectionable to any one who wishes to know the true condition of his bees at all times. Only think of the trouble of unhooking the bottom-board, and getting down on your back, or twisting your neck till your head is dizzy, to look up among the combs, and then see nothing satisfactory for want of light; or to lift the hive from its supporters, and turn it over. The operation is too formidable for an indolent man, or one that has much other business. The examination would very probably be put off till quite sure it would do no longer, and sometimes a few days after that, when you will very often find your bees past remedy.


"See your bees often," is a choice recipe,—it is worth five hundred dollars at interest, even when you have but few stocks. How necessary then that we have every facility for a close and minute inspection. How much easier to turn up a hive that simply rests on a stand. Sometimes it is necessary to turn the hive, even bottom up, and let the rays of the sun directly among the combs, to see all the particulars. By this close inspection, I have often ascertained the cause of some difficulty, and provided a remedy, thus saving a good many that in a short time would have been lost; yet, with a little help, were as valuable as any by another year.


Mr. Hall has added a lower section to his hive, about four inches deep, with two boards inside, like the roof of a house, to discharge the worms, &c.; but as these boards would interfere with close inspection, they are objectionable. Several other variations of inclined bottom-boards and suspended hives have been contrived, to obtain a patent, but the objections offered will apply to most of them. I shall not weary the reader by noticing in detail every hive that has been patented; I think if I notice the principles of each kind, it will test his patience sufficiently.


Jones' dividing hive was probably suggested by this instinctive principle of the bee, viz.: when a stock by any accident loses its queen, and the combs contain eggs or very young larvae, they will rear another. Now if a hive is constructed so as to divide the brood-combs, it would seem quite certain that the half without a queen, would raise one; and we could multiply our stocks without swarms, the trouble of hiving, and risk of their going to the woods, &c.


Several years ago, I thought I had obtained a principle that would revolutionize the whole system of bee management. In 1840 I constructed such hives, and put in the bees to test by actual experiment, the utility of what seemed so very plausible in theory. It would appear that this principle suggested the same idea to Mr. Jones; perhaps with this difference: I think he did not wait to test the plan thoroughly, before obtaining his patent in '42. One vender of rights asserted that 63 stocks were made from one in three years; but somehow a great many that obtained the rights, failed in their expectations. From my experiments, I think I could guess at some of the reasons.

Mr. A.—"Well, what are the reasons? give us your experience, if you please, I am interested; I had the right for such a hive, and had a lot made to order, that cost more money in the end than I shall ever pay again for anything about bees."

Do not be too hasty, friend, I think I can instruct you to keep bees on principles in accordance with their nature, which is very simple, so that if you can be induced to try again, we will have the hives cost but little, at any rate.


The greatest difficulty with dividing hives, appeared to be here. It must be constructed with a partition or division to keep the combs in each apartment separate; otherwise, we make tearing work in the division. When bees are first put into such hives, unless the swarm is very large, and honey abundant, one apartment will be filled to the bottom before a commencement is made in the other.

Mr. A.—"What difference can that make? It is necessary to have the hive full; if it cannot be all filled at once, why let them fill part."

The difference is this. The first combs built by a swarm are for brood, and store-combs afterwards, as needed; one apartment will be nearly filled with all brood-combs, and the other with store-combs and honey. Now in the two kinds of cells there is a great difference; those for breeding are near half an inch in length, while those for storing are sometimes two inches or more; totally unfit for breeding; until the bees cut them off to the proper length, which they will not do, unless compelled for want of room, consequently this side of store-combs is but little used for brood. When such hive is divided, the chances are not more than one in four, that this apartment will have any young bees of the proper age from which to raise a queen; if not, and the old queen is in the part with the brood-comb, where she will be ninety-nine times in a hundred, one half of the hive is lost for want of a queen.

Mr. A.—"Ah! I think I now understand how I lost one-half of nearly every hive I divided. I also lost some of them in the winter; there was plenty of bees as well as honey; can you tell the cause of this?"

I will guess that they starved.

Mr. A.—"Starved! why, I said there was plenty of honey."

I understood it, but nevertheless feel quite sure.

Mr. A.—"I would like to see that made plain; I can't understand how they could starve when there was honey!"


I said one apartment would be filled with brood-combs; this will be occupied, at least partially, with brood as long as the yield of honey lasts; consequently, there will be but little room for storing here, but the other side may be full throughout. The bees will take up their winter quarters among the brood-combs. Now suppose the honey in this apartment is all exhausted during a severe turn of cold weather, what can the bees do? If one should leave the mass and go among the frosty combs for a supply, its fate would be as certain as starvation. Without frequent intervals of warm weather to melt all frost on the combs, and allow the bees to go into the other apartment for honey, they must starve.

The cost of construction is another objection to this hive, as the labor bestowed on one is more than would finish two, that would be much better.


The value of changeable hives is based upon the following principle:—Each young bee when it first hatches from the egg, is neither more nor less than a worm; when it receives the necessary food, the bees seal it over; it will then spin a cocoon, or line its cell with a coating of silk, less in thickness than the thinnest paper: this remains after the bee leaves it. It is evident, therefore, that after a few hundreds have been reared in a cell, and each one has left its cocoon, that such cell must be somewhat diminished, although the thickness of a dozen cocoons could not be measured; and this old cell needs removing, that the bees may replace it with a new one. But how shall it be done? This is a feat for the display of ingenuity. A common man might go about it in a very sensible, simple manner, might possibly turn the hive over, and cut out the old combs when necessary, without knowing perhaps that the patent-vender could sell a receipt to do the thing scientifically, the benefit of which would be many times on the principle of a surgeon cutting off your head, to get a good chance to tie a small artery according to system; or would show you a roundabout way of half a dozen miles to accomplish what the same number of rods would do. Had we not ocular demonstration of the fact, we could not suppose so many variations for the same end could be invented. But if we reward ingenuity, it will be stimulated to great exertions. Perhaps if we describe the merits of one or two of this class, the utility of this principle may be comprehended.


First, then, the sectional hive of various patterns has been patented; it consists generally of about three boxes, one above another; the top of each has one large hole, or several small ones, or cross-bars, about an inch wide, and half an inch apart; these holes or spaces allowing the bees to pass from one box to the other. When all are full, the upper one is removed, and an empty one put under the bottom; in this way all are changed, and the combs renewed in three years; very easily and quietly done. This is as far as a patent-vender wishes the subject investigated; and some of his customers have not gone beyond this point. As an offset for these advantages, we will first look at the cost of such hive.


It is as much work to construct each separate section, as a common hive; consequently, it is three times the expense to begin with. It is objectionable for wintering bees, on the same principle as the dividing hive. I object to it on another point: our surplus honey will never be pure, as each section must be used for breeding, and every cell so used, will contain cocoons corresponding to the number of bees raised.


Also pollen, or bee-bread, is always stored in the vicinity of the young brood; some of this will remain mixed with the honey, to please the palate with its exquisite flavor. The majority will probably prefer all surplus honey stored in pure comb, where it will be with proper management.

I will here give a full description of a hive on this principle, as I have the description from one of its advocates, in the Dollar Newspaper, Philadelphia: called Cutting's Patent Changeable Hive.


"The size of the changeable hive most used in this section, has an outside shell, made of inch boards, about two feet high and sixteen and a half inches square, with a door hung in the rear. On the inside are three boxes or drawers, which will hold about one thousand cubic inches each, and when filled with honey, usually weigh about thirty-five pounds, which is a sufficient amount of honey to winter a large swarm. The sides of these drawers are made of boards, about half an inch thick; the tops and bottoms of the lower drawers and ends of the upper drawers should be three-fourths of an inch, and the drawers should be fourteen inches high, fourteen inches from front to rear, and six and three-fourths inches wide. Two of these drawers stand side by side, with the third placed flatwise upon the two, with a free communication from one drawer to another, by means of thirty three-fourth inch holes on the side of each drawer, and twenty-four in the bottom of the upper drawer, and holes in the top and bottom of the lower drawers, to correspond, and slides to cut off the communication when occasion may require. Thus we see our hive may be one hive, with communication sufficiently free throughout, or we may have three hives combined. The drawers have tubes made in them, (for the bees to pass and repass), which are made to go through the front side of the hive. The back-side of the drawers are doors, with glass set in them. These drawers set up from the bottom of the hive, and rest on pieces of wood, closely fitted in such a way, as to make a space under the drawers for the dirt, dead bees, and water, which collect in the bottom of hives in winter; between the drawers and the outside is an air space of about one-third of an inch.

These hives, when well made and painted, will last many years, and those doing much in the business will find it an advantage to have a few extra drawers. Having given you some idea of the construction of the changeable hive, I will proceed to notice some of the most important reasons why I prefer this hive to any I have yet seen. First because the hive, being constructed upon the changeable principle, so that by taking out a full drawer, and placing an empty one in its stead, our comb is always kept new, wherefore, the size of the bee is preserved, and kept in a more healthy, or prosperous state, or condition, than when obliged to remain and continue to breed, in the old comb, when the cells have become small. Secondly, because small, late swarms may be easily united. Thirdly, because large swarms may be easily divided. Fourthly, because however late a swarm may come off, it may be easily supplied with honey for the winter, by taking from a full hive a surplus drawer, and placing it in the hive of the late swarm. Fifthly, because a column of air between the drawers and the outside of the hive is a non-conductor of both heat and cold, preventing the melting of the comb, and securing the bees against frost and cold."

Now here is a full description of perhaps as good a hive as any of its class; it is given for the benefit of those who wish to go miles instead of rods; they may know the road, especially as they can have the privilege by paying for it: for myself, I had rather be excused,—why, reading the description has nearly exhausted my patience; what should I do if I attempted to make one?


The first obstacle in the way (after the right is obtained) is the construction. Let's see; we want inch boards to make the shell, three-quarter inch boards for the tops and bottoms of drawers, half inch for sides, hinges to hang a door, glass for back of drawers, tubes for the egress of the bees, and slides to cut off communication. It will be necessary to get a mechanic, and a workman too. Those 108 holes that must be bored, must match, or it is of no use to make them. But few farmers would have the tools requisite, a still less number the skill and patience to do it. What the cost might be by the time a hive was ready to receive the bees, I could not say; but guess it might be some three or four dollars.


The one I shall recommend, without paint, will not cost, or need not, over 37-1/2 cents, with cover, etc. Now, if we wish hives for ornament, it is well enough to expend something for the purpose; but it is well not to refine too much, as there are limits which, if passed, will render it unfit for bees. Therefore, when profit is an object, the extra expense will or ought to be made up by the bees, in return for an expensive domicil. But will they do it? The merits of the one under consideration are fully given. "First, by taking out a full drawer and putting in an empty one in its stead, the combs are always kept new, and cells of full size." Now this fear of bees becoming dwarfs in consequence of being reared in cells too small, has done more mischief among the bees, and their owners' pockets, than if the fact had never been thought, or heard of.


These old cells do not need renewing half as often as has been represented. It is the interest of these patent-venders to sell rights; this interest either blinds their eyes as to facts, or lulls the internal monitor of right, while acquisitiveness is gratified. The same cells can be used for breeding six or eight years, perhaps longer, and no one can tell the difference by the size of the bees; I have two stocks now in their tenth year without renewal of comb. A neighbor of mine kept a stock twelve years in the same combs; it proved as prosperous as any. I have heard of their lasting twenty, and am inclined to believe it.


The bees seem to make a provision for this emergency, the sheets of comb are farther apart than actually necessary at first, the diameter of the cell is also a little larger than the size of the young bee requires. Of this we are certain—great many young bees can be raised in a cell, and not be diminished in size, sufficient to be detected. The bottom fills up faster than at the sides, and as they do so, the bees add a little to the length, until the ends of these cells on two parallel combs approximate too close to allow the bees to pass freely; before which time it is unnecessary to remove comb for being old.


One important item should be considered in this matter, by those who are so eager for new combs. It is doubtful whether one in 500 ever thought of the expense of renewing comb. I find it estimated by one writer,[2] that twenty-five lbs. of honey was consumed in elaborating about half lb. wax. This without doubt is an over estimate, but no one will deny that some is used.

[2] See Appendix of Cottage Bee-keeper, page 118.


I am satisfied of this much, from actual experience, that every time the bees have to renew their brood-combs in a hive, they would make from ten to twenty-five lbs. in boxes, hence I infer that their time can be more profitably employed than in constructing brood-combs every year. I would also suggest that when combs have been once used for breeding it is the best use they can be applied to, after that, as the cocoons render it unfit for much else than a little wax.


But when the combs do actually need removing, I prefer the following method of pruning, to driving the bees out entirely, as has been recommended. It can be done in about an hour. As we are comparing the merits of different methods of getting rid of old combs, I shall give mine here, notwithstanding it may seem a little out of place.

The best time is a little before night. The first movement is to blow under the hive some tobacco smoke (the best means of charming them I ever found); the bees, deprived of all disposition to sting, retreat up among the combs to get away from the smoke; now raise the hive from the stand and carefully turn it bottom upwards, avoiding any jar, as some of the bees that were in the top when the smoke was introduced, and did not get a taste, will now come to the bottom to ascertain the cause of the disturbance; these should receive a share, and they will immediately return to the top, perfectly satisfied. When so many bees are in the hive, as to be in the way in pruning, (which if there is not it is not worth it,) get an empty hive the size of the old one, and set it over, stopping the holes; now strike the lower hive with a hammer or stick, lightly and rapidly, five or ten minutes, when nearly all the bees will be in the upper hive, and set that on the stand. There being now nothing in the way, except a few scattering bees, that I will warrant not to sting, unless you pinch or get them fast.

The broad one is very readily made from a piece of an old scythe, about 18 inches long, by any blacksmith, by simply taking off the back, and forming a shank for a handle at the heel. The end should be ground all on one side, and square across like a carpenter's chisel. This is for cutting down the sides of the hive; the level will keep it close the whole length, when you wish to remove all the combs; it being square instead of pointed or rounded, no difficulty will be found in guiding it,—it being very thin; no combs are mashed by crowding.

The other tool is for cutting off combs at the top or any other place. It is merely a rod of steel three-eighths of an inch diameter, about two feet long, with a thin blade at right angles, one and a half inches long, and a quarter inch wide, both edges sharp, upper side bevelled, bottom flat, &c. You will find these tools very convenient; be sure and get them by all means, the cost cannot be compared to the advantages.

Now with the tools just described, proceed to remove the brood-combs from the centre of the hive. The combs near the top and outside are used but little for breeding, and are generally filled with honey; these should be left as a good start for refilling, but take out all that is necessary, while you are about it; then reverse the hives, putting the one containing the bees under the other; by the next morning all are up; now put it on the stand, and this job is done without one cent extra expense for a patent to help you, and the bees are much better off for the honey left, which has to be taken away with all patent plans that I have seen, and this, as has been remarked, is not worth much, occupied as it is with a few cocoons and bee-bread. It is worth much more to the bees, and they will give us pure comb and honey for it.


"I would not do it for fifty dollars, the bees would sting me to death." Stop a moment, if you never tried the efficacy of tobacco smoke, you know nothing of a powerful agent; this is the grand secret of success; without it, I admit it would be somewhat hazardous; but with it, I have done it time after time without receiving a single sting, and no protection whatever, for either hands or face.

But is there no difficulty with our sectional or changeable hive, when this feat is to be performed? The combs will be made in the two drawers similar to the dividing hive, brood-combs in one side, and store-combs in the other. We wish to remove the one with brood-combs of course, (as that is the one where the combs are thick and bad, &c.) Where will the queen be? With the brood-comb, where her duty is most likely to be; well, this is the one we want, and we take it out. How is she to get back? She must go back, or we have three chances in four of losing the stock; but her majesty will remain perfectly easy, as well as some of the workers, wherever you put the drawer.


I can see no other way but to break the box, look her up, and help the helpless thing home, (the chances of being stung may be here too.) Now, for a time at least, they must use the other drawer for breeding, where most of the cells are unfit. There is altogether too great a proportion of drone-cells; these, as well as the other size, will nearly all be much too long, and will have to be cut off to the proper length, a waste of wax as well as labor. Another thing might be set down per disadvantage of Mr. Cutting's hive; the job of getting a swarm into such hive, at first, I fancy would not be desirable to many. Now, when we strike the balance, putting expense, difficulties, and perplexities on one side, and simplicity and economy on the other, it appears like a "great cry for little wool." But stop a moment, four other advantages are enumerated in its favor: second, third, and fourth are borrowed from the common hive, or are all available here when required. But fifthly, allows a "column of air between the drawers and outside of the hive, is a non-conductor of heat and cold," &c. This is an advantage not possessed by the common hive; neither does the common hive offer such advantages to the moth, by affording such snug quarters for worms to spin their cocoons, when they cannot be destroyed without considerable trouble.


Here I will endeavor to be brief; I feel anxious to get through with this disagreeable part, where every word I say will clash with somebody's interest or prejudice. The merits of this hive are to obtain surplus honey with but little trouble, which often succeeds in satisfying people of its utility. The principal objection is found on the score of profit. Suppose we start with one, call it worth five dollars in the beginning, at the end of ten years it is worth no more, very likely not as much, (the chances of its failing, short of that time, we will not take into the account;) we might get annually, say five dollars worth of surplus honey, amounting to fifty dollars.


The swarming hive, we suppose, will throw off one swarm annually, and make us one dollar's worth of surplus honey, (we will not reckon that yielded by the first swarm, which is often more than that from the old stocks,) about one third of the average in good seasons. The second year there will be two to do the same; take this rate for ten years, we have 512 stocks, either of them worth as much as the non-swarmer, and about a thousand dollars worth of surplus honey. Call these stocks worth five dollars each, which makes $2,560, all added together will make the snug little sum of about $3,500, against $55. It is not to be expected that any of us will realize profits to this extent, but it is a forcible illustration of the advantages of the swarming hive over the non-swarmer.


But many of these non-swarmers, 'tis said, can be changed to swarmers to suit the convenience of the apiarian—Colton's is one. It is asserted that it can be made to swarm within two days at any time, merely by taking off the six boxes or drawers that are very ingeniously attached; as this contracts the room, the bees are forced out. Now I will candidly confess that I could never get this thing to work at all. Of this I am quite positive, that he (Mr. Colton) is either ignorant of the necessary and regular preparations that bees make before swarming, or supposes others are. Mr. Weeks has advocated the same principle: he says, "There is no queen in any stage of existence, in the old stock, immediately after the first swarm leaves it." I have examined this matter till I am satisfied I risk but little in the bold assertion, that not one stock in fifty will cast a swarm short of a week after commencing preparations. This opinion will be adopted by whoever will take the trouble to investigate for themselves. (The chapter on swarming will give the necessary instructions for examining this point, if you wish.)


Further, these non-swarmers are not always to be depended upon as such. They will sometimes throw off swarms when there is abundant room in the hive as well as in the boxes.


I know Weeks, Colton, Miner and others, tell us the hive must be full before we need expect a swarm; but experience is against them. Bees do sometimes cast a swarm before filling the hive. From close observation, I find when a hive is very large, say 4,000 cubic inches, and is filled with comb, the first season, that such seldom swarm except in very good years.


But if such hive is only half full, or 2,000 inches, it is very common for them to swarm without adding any new comb; proving very conclusively that a hive that size, is sufficient for all their wants in the breeding season. When about 1,200 inches only had been filled the first year, I have known them to add combs until they had filled about 1,800, and then cast a swarm, proving also that a little less than 2,000 will do for breeding. I have tested the principle of giving room to prevent swarming, a little further.


In the spring of '47, I placed under five full hives, containing 2,000 solid or cubic inches, as many empty ones, the same size, without the top. I had a swarm from each; but two had added any new comb, and these but little. If these hives had been filled to the bottom with comb in the spring, it is very doubtful whether either of them would have swarmed. The only place we can put a good stock and not expect it to swarm in good seasons, is inside a building, where it is perfectly dark, and even here a few have been known to do it. If we could manage to get a very large hive filled with combs, it would perhaps be as good a preventive as any. All the bees that could be reared in one season, would have sufficient room in the combs ready made for their labors, and there would be no necessity for their emigration. "But what becomes of all the bees raised in the course of several years?" To this question I shall not probably be able to give a satisfactory answer at present.


I only will notice the fact, that the bees somehow disappear, and there is no more at the end of five years than at the end of one. A stock of bees may contain 6,000 the first of May, and raise 20,000 in the course of the year; by the first of the next May, as a general thing, not one more will be found, even when no swarm had issued.


Now this fact is not known by a recent patentee from the State of Maine, (else he supposes others do not,) as he recommends placing bees in a house, and empty hives in connection with the one containing bees, and in a few years all will be full. He has discovered a mixture to feed bees, (to be noticed hereafter); this may account for an unusual quantity being stored by an ordinary sized family. He said another thing, that is, each of these added hives would contain a queen! This would seem to explain away the first difficulty of the continued increase of bees, and so it would if it did not get into another equally erroneous; one error never made another true. This idea of bees raising a queen, merely because they have a side box to the main hive, is contrary to all my experience, and to the experience of all writers (except himself) that I have consulted. If the principle is correct, why not sometimes raise a queen in a box on the top or side for us? I never discovered a single instance, where two perfect queens were quietly about their duties in connection with one hive. The deadly hostility of queens is known to all observing apiarians. Not having the least faith in the principle, I will leave it.


As for moth-proof hives, I have but little to say, as I have not the least faith in one of them. When I come to speak of that insect, I will show, I think, conclusively, that no place where bees are allowed to enter is safe from them.

Several other perfect hives might be mentioned; yet I believe that I have noticed the principles of each. Have I not said enough? Such as are not satisfied now would not be if I filled a volume. Our view of things is the result of a thousand various causes; the most powerful is interest, or prejudice.

It is said that in Europe, the same ingenuity is displayed in twisting and torturing the bee, to adapt her natural instinct to unnatural tenements; tenements invented not because the bee needs them, but because this is a means available for a little change. "Patent men" have found the people generally too ignorant of apiarian science. But let us hope that their days of prosperity in this line are about numbered.


Let us fully understand that the nature of the bee, when viewed under any condition, climate, or circumstance, is the same. Instincts first implanted by the hand of the Creator, have passed through millions of generations, unimpaired, to the present day, and will continue unchanged through all future time, till the last bee passes from the earth. We may, we have, to gratify acquisitiveness, forced them to labor under every disadvantage; yes, we have compelled them to sacrifice their industry, prosperity, and even their lives have been yielded, but never their instincts. We may destroy life, but cannot improve or take from their nature. The laws that govern them are fixed and immutable as the Universe.

Spring returns to its annual task; dissolves the frost, warms into life nature's dormant powers. Flowers with a smile of joy, expand their delicate petals in grateful thanks, while the stamens sustain upon their tapering points the anthers covered with the fertilizing pollen, and the pistil springs from a cup of liquid nectar, imparting to each passing breeze delicious fragrance, inviting the bee as with a thousand tongues to the sumptuous banquet. She does not need an artificial stimulus from man, as an inducement to partake of the feast; without his aid or assistance she visits each wasting cup of sweetness, and secures the tiny drop, while the superabundant farina, dislodged from the nodding anthers, covers her body, to be brushed together and kneaded into bread. All she requires at the hands of man, is a suitable storehouse for her treasures. In good seasons, her nature Will prompt the gathering for her own use an over supply. This surplus man may appropriate to his own use, without detriment to his bees, providing his management is in accordance with their nature.


To give the bees all necessary advantages, and obtain the greatest possible amount of profit, with the least possible expense, has been my study for years. I might keep a few stocks for amusement, even if it was attended with no dollar and cent profit, but the number would be very small; I will honestly confess then, that profit is the actuating principle with me. I have a strong suspicion that the majority of readers have similar motives. I am sure, then, that all of us with these views, will consider it a pity, when a stock produces five dollars worth of surplus honey, to be obliged to pay three or four of it for patent and other useless fixings.


I would not exchange the hive I have used for the last ten years for any patent I ever saw, if furnished gratis. I will guarantee that it affords means to obtain surplus honey, as much in quantity and in any way which fancy may dictate, whether in wood or glass, and what is more than all, it shall cost nothing for the privilege of using.


After deciding what kind of hive we want, the next important point is the size. Dr. Bevan, an English author, recommends a size "eleven and three-eighths inches square, by nine deep in the clear," making only about 1,200 inches, and so few pounds necessary to winter the bees, that when I read it, I found myself wondering if the English inch and pound were the same as ours.


At all events, I think it too small for our Yankee bees in any place. We must remember, that the queen needs room for all her eggs, and the bees need space to store their winter provisions; for reasons before given, this should be in one apartment. When this is too small, the consequences will be, their winter supply of food is liable to run out. The swarms from such will be smaller and the stock much more liable to accidents, which soon finish them off.


Yet I can imagine how one can be deceived by such a small hive, and recommend it strongly; especially if patented. Suppose you locate a large swarm in a hive near the size of Dr. Bevan's; the bees would occupy nearly all the room with brood-combs; now if you put on boxes, and as soon as filled put on empty ones, the amount of surplus honey would be great; very satisfactory for the first summer, but in a year or two your little hive is gone. This result will be in proportion as we enlarge our hives, until we arrive at the opposite extreme.


If too large, more honey will be stored than is required for their winter use. It is evident a portion might have been taken, if it had been stored in boxes. The swarms will not be proportionably large when they do issue, which is seldom—but there is this advantage, they last a long time, and are but little profit in surplus honey, or swarms.


Between the two extremes, like most other cases, is found the correct place. A hive twelve inches square, each way, inside, has been recommended as the correct size. Here are 1,728 cubic inches. This, I think, is sufficient for many places, as the queen probably has all the room necessary for depositing her eggs; and as the swarms are more numerous, and nearly as large as from hives much larger; also, there is room for honey sufficient to carry the bees through the winter, at least, in many sections south of 40 degrees latitude, where the winter is somewhat short.


This size will also do in this latitude (42 degrees,) in some seasons, but not at all in others.[3] Not one swarm in fifty will consume twenty-five lbs. of honey through the winter, that is, from the last of September to the first of April, (six months). The average loss in that time is about eighteen lbs.; but the critical time is later; about the last of May, or first of June, in many places.

[3] When Mr. Miner wrote his manual recommending this size, 1,728 inches, for all situations, it should be remembered he lived on Long Island. Since removing to Oneida County in this State, either his own experience or some other cause has changed his views, as he now recommends my size, viz., 2,000 inches.


About the first of April they commence collecting pollen and rearing their young; by the middle of May all good stocks will occupy nearly, if not quite all, their brood-combs for that purpose, but little honey is obtained before fruit blossoms appear; when these are gone, no more of any amount is obtained until clover appears, which is some ten days later. (I am speaking now particularly of this section; I am aware it is very different in other places, where different flowers exist.) Now if this season of fruit flowers should be accompanied by high winds, or cold rainy weather, but little honey is obtained; and our bees have a numerous brood on hand that must be fed. In this emergency, if no honey is on hand of the previous year, a famine ensues; they destroy their drones, perhaps some of their brood, and for aught I know put the old bees on short allowance. This I do know, that the whole family has actually starved at this season; sometimes in small hives. This of course depends on the season; when favorable, nothing of the kind occurs. Prudence therefore dictates the necessity of a provision for this emergency, by making the hive a little larger for northern latitudes, as a little more honey will be stored to take them through this critical period. From a series of experiments closely observed.


I am satisfied that 2,000 inches in the clear, is the proper size for safety in this section, and consequently, profit. On an average, swarms from this size are as large as any.

The dimensions should be uniform in all cases, whatever size is decided on. It is folly to accommodate each swarm with a hive corresponding in size; a very small family this year, may be very large next, and a very large one, very small, &c. A queen belonging to a small swarm will be capable of depositing as many eggs, as another belonging to a barrel full. A small family able to get through the winter and spring, may be expected by another year to be as numerous as any.


Of the kinds of wood for hives, pine is preferable, still other kinds will do; I have no faith in bees liking one kind better than another, and less likely to leave on that account. Hemlock is cheaper, and used to a great extent; when perfectly sound is as good as anything, but is very liable to split, even after the bees have been in them some time. It should be used only when better wood cannot be obtained. Bass wood when used for hives should always be painted, and then will be very liable to warp from the moisture arising from the bees inside. When not painted outside, and allowed to get wet, if only for a few hours, so much moisture is absorbed that it will bend outward, and cleave from the combs and crack them. A few days of dry weather will relieve the outside of water, and the inside kept moist by the bees, the bending will be reversed, and the combs pressed inward, keeping the bees fixing that which will not "stay fixed." Perhaps there is wood as suitable or better than pine, but it is not as common.


Boards should be selected, if possible, that will be the proper width to make the hive about square, of the right size. Say twelve inches square, inside, by fourteen deep. I prefer this shape to any other, yet it is not all important. I have had some ten inches square by twenty in length; they were awkward looking, but that was all, I could discover no difference in their prosperity. Also, I have had them twelve inches deep by thirteen square, with the same result. Hence, if we avoid extremes, and give the required room, the shape can make but little difference.

It has been recommended to plane the boards for hives, "inside and out;" but bees, when first put into such hive, find much difficulty in holding fast until they get their combs started, hence this trouble is worse than useless.


If hives are not desired of the cheapest possible construction, the outside may be planed and painted; but it is doubtful whether strict economy would demand it. Yet a painted hive appears so much better, that it ought to be done, especially as the paint adds almost enough to its durability to pay the expense. The color may be whatever fancy dictates; the moth will not probably be attracted by one color more than another. White is affected the least by the sun in hot weather. Lime is put on as white-wash, annually, by many, as a protection against insects.

When hives are not painted, the grain should never be crosswise, having the width of boards form the height; not that the bees would have any dislike to such, but nails will not hold firmly, they draw out in a few years. The size, shape, materials, and manner of putting together, are now sufficiently understood, for what I want. Sticks half an inch in diameter, should cross each way through the centre, to help support the combs. A hole about an inch diameter in the front side, half way to the top, is a great convenience for the bees to enter when coming home heavy laden.

It now remains to make the top, cover, and boxes, (the bottom-board will be described in another chapter.) The tops should be all alike; boards fifteen inches square are just the right size; three-fourths of an inch is the best thickness, (inch will do;) plane the upper side, rabbet out around the edge of the upper side one inch wide, and three-eighths deep; this will leave the top inside the rabbeting, just thirteen inches.


A box for a cover or cap, that size inside, will fit any hive. The height of this box should be seven inches. Of course other sizes will do, but it is best to commence with one that we can adhere to uniformly, and no vexations arise by covers not fitting exactly, &c. I think this size is as near correct as we shall be likely to get; we want all the room in the boxes that the majority of our stocks demand for storing in a yield of honey,[4] at the same time not be necessitated to give too much of the room in the height. They will commence work in a box five inches high, much sooner than one seven or eight. To give the requisite room, and have the boxes less than five inches high, would require more than thirteen inches on the top, this would make the hive too much out of shape; it would appear top-heavy.

[4] I have added a side box occasionally, but it has seldom paid me for the trouble.


Miner's Equilateral Hive has a cap somewhat smaller than this in diameter; consequently, if we have the requisite room, it must be in its height. But by making the cap of his a little larger, and a few trifling alterations, it would do very well for a patent. And if any one must have a patent hive, my advice is to get that; it costs but two dollars for the right of using, and is nearer what we want for bees, than any I ever saw. I prefer rabbeting around the edge of the top, instead of nailing on a thin board the size of the inside of the cover, with room for a slide under it; it affords too nice a place for worms to spin their cocoons. Also, without the rabbeting water may get under the cap, and pass along the top till a hole lets it among the bees. As for slides, I do not approve of them at all; in shutting off communication, it is almost certain to crush a few bees. This makes them irritable for a week; they are unnecessary for me, at least. We will now finish the hive.


After the top is got out as directed, strike a line through the centre, three and a quarter inches from this, make another on each side, now measure on one of the last lines, two and a half inches for the first hole, two inches for the next, and so on till five are marked on this, and the same number on the other side, ten in all; these holes should be about an inch diameter, a pattern three and a quarter inches wide, and thirteen in length, with places for holes marked on it, will save time when many are made. When this top is nailed on, the hive is ready. A less number of holes is often used, and one is thought by some to be sufficient; experience has satisfied me that the more room bees have to enter boxes, the less reluctance is manifested in commencing their work in them; but here is another extreme to be avoided: when the holes are much larger, or more of them, or even one very large one, the queen is very apt to go into the boxes and deposit her eggs, which renders the comb tough, dark, &c., also bee-bread is stored near the brood. Dr. Bevan's and Miner's cross-bar hives are objectionable on this account, they offer too free access to the boxes; we want all the room that will answer, and no more.


Mr. Miner's cross-bar hive is intended to make the bees construct all straight combs, and probably will do it. But the disadvantage of bee-bread and brood in the boxes will not be made up by straight combs.

For the benefit of those who have been made to believe straight combs all important, and perhaps have purchased the right to make the hive, and had some constructed, and have found bee-bread in their surplus honey, I would suggest an improvement, (that is, if it is thought the straight combs will pay. If you have not the right for the cross-bar hive, and you wish to use it, I would say, buy the right, and remove all grounds of complaint with him.) Put in the bars and hive your bees as he directs. After all the combs are started, instead of setting the open bottom boxes (which are also unsuitable for sending to market) directly on the bars as he recommends, take off the cloth, and with screws fasten on a top with ten holes, that I have just described; and then you will have the straight combs, and surplus honey in the boxes pure.


Having told how I make a hive, I will now give some reasons for preferring a particular kind of boxes. I have taken great quantities of honey to market, put up in every style, such as tumblers, glass jars, glass boxes, wooden boxes with glass ends, and boxes all wood. I have found the square glass boxes the most profitable; the honey in such appears to the best possible advantage, so much so, that the majority of purchasers prefer paying for the box at the same rate as the honey, than the wood box, and have the tare allowed. This rate of selling boxes always pays the cost, while we get nothing for the wood. Another advantage in this kind of boxes is, while being filled, the progress can be watched, and the time they are finished known precisely, when they should be taken off, as every day they remain after that, soils the purity of the combs.


Directions for making.—Select half-inch boards of pine or other soft light wood, cut the length twelve and three-quarters inches, width six and three-eighths inches, dress down the thickness to three-eighths or less, two pieces for a box, top and bottom, in the bottom bore five holes throughout the centre to match with those in the top of the hive, (the pattern used in marking the top of hives is just the one to mark these). Next, get out the corner posts, five-eighths of an inch square, and five inches in length; with a saw, thick enough to fit the glass, cut a channel length-wise on two sides, one-fourth of an inch deep, one-eighth from the corner, for the glass. A small lath nail through each corner of the bottom into the posts will hold them; it is now ready for the glass—10x12 is the right size to get—have them cut through the centre the longest way for the sides, and they are right, and again the other way, five and five-eighths long for the ends. These can now be slipped into the channels of the posts, and the top nailed on like the bottom, and the box is ready.


It will be found a great advantage, previous to nailing on the top, to stick fast to it some pieces of guide-combs in the direction you wish the bees to work. They are also an inducement for them to commence several days sooner, than if they had to start combs for themselves;[5] a piece an inch square will do; it is well to start every comb you want in the box; two inches apart is about the right distance to look well. To make these pieces hold fast, melt one edge by the fire, or candle, or melt some bees-wax, and dip one edge in that, and apply it before cooling; with a little practice you can make them stick without difficulty. For a supply of such combs, save all empty, clean, white pieces you can, when removing combs from a hive.

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