In the chapter on Feeding, it has already been stated that honey is not a natural secretion of the bee, but a substance obtained from the nectaries of the blossoms; it is not therefore, made, but merely gathered by the bees. The truth is well expressed in the lines so familiar to most of us from our childhood,

"How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower."

Bees not only gather honey from the blossoms, but often obtain it in large quantities from what have been called honey dews; "a term applied to those sweet, clammy drops that glitter on the foliage of many trees in hot weather." Two different opinions have been zealously advocated as to the origin of honey-dews. By some, they are considered a natural exudation from the leaves of trees, a perspiration as it were, occasioned often by ill health, though sometimes a provision to enable the plants to resist the fervent heats to which they are exposed. Others insist that this sweet substance is discharged from the bodies of those aphides or small lice which infest the leaves of so many plants. Unquestionably they are produced in both ways. [343]

Messrs. Kirby and Spence, in their interesting work on Entomology, have given a description of the kind of honey-dew furnished by the aphides.

"The loves of the ants and the aphides have long been celebrated; and that there is a connection between them, you may, at any time in the proper season, convince yourself; for you will always find the former very busy on those trees and plants on which the latter abound; and if you examine more closely, you will discover that the object of the ants, in thus attending upon the aphides, is to obtain the saccharine fluid secreted by them, which may well be denominated their milk. This fluid, which is scarcely inferior to honey in sweetness, issues in limpid drops from the abdomen of these insects, not only by the ordinary passage, but also by two setiform tubes placed, one on each side, just above it. Their sucker being inserted in the tender bark, is without intermission employed in absorbing the sap, which, after it has passed through their system, they keep continually discharging by these organs. When no ants attend them, by a certain jerk of the body, which takes place at regular intervals, they ejaculate it to a distance."

"Mr. Knight once observed," says Bevan, "a shower of honey-dew descending in innumerable small globules, near one of his oak-trees, on the 1st of September; he cut off one of the branches, took it into the house, and holding it in a stream of light, which was purposely admitted through a small opening, distinctly saw the aphides ejecting the fluid from their bodies with considerable force, and this accounts for its being frequently found in situations where it could not have arrived by the mere influence of gravitation. The drops that are thus spurted out, unless interrupted by the surrounding foliage, or some other interposing body, fall upon the ground; and the spots may often be observed, for [344] some time, beneath and around the trees affected with honey-dew, till washed away by the rain. The power which these insects possess of ejecting the fluid from their bodies, seems to have been wisely instituted to preserve cleanliness in each individual fly, and indeed for the preservation of the whole family; for pressing as they do upon one another, they would otherwise soon be glued together, and rendered incapable of stirring. On looking steadfastly at a group of these insects (Aphides Salicis) while feeding on the bark of the willow, their superior size enables us to perceive some of them elevating their bodies and emitting a transparent substance in the form of a small shower."

"Nor scorn ye now, fond elves, the foliage sear,
When the light aphids, arm'd with puny spear,
Probe each emulgent vein, till bright below,
Like falling stars, clear drops of nectar glow."

"The willow accommodates the bees in a kind of threefold succession; from the flowers they obtain both honey and farina;—from the bark propolis;—and the leaves frequently afford them honey-dew at a time when other resources are beginning to fail."

"Honey-dew usually appears upon the leaves as a viscid, transparent substance, as sweet as honey itself, sometimes in the form of globules, at others resembling a syrup; it is generally most abundant from the middle of June to the middle of July, sometimes as late as September."

"It is found chiefly upon the oak, the elm, the maple, the plane, the sycamore, the lime, the hazel, and the blackberry; occasionally also on the cherry, currant, and other fruit trees. Sometimes only one species of trees is affected at a time. The oak generally affords the largest quantity. At the season of its greatest abundance, the happy humming noise of the bees may be heard at a considerable distance [345] from the trees, sometimes nearly equalling in loudness the united hum of swarming."

In some seasons, extraordinary quantities of honey are furnished by the honey-dews, and bees will often, in a few days, fill their hives with it. If at such times, they can be furnished with empty combs, the amount stored up by them, will be truly wonderful. No certain reliance, however, can be placed upon this article of bee-food, as in some years, there is scarcely any to be found, and it is only once in three or four years, that it is very abundant. The honey obtained from this source, is generally of a very good quality, though seldom as clear as that gathered from the choicest blossoms.

The quality of honey is exceedingly various, some being dark, and often bitter and disagreeable to the taste, while occasionally it is gathered from poisonous flowers, and is very noxious to the human system.

An intelligent Mandingo African informed a lady of my acquaintance, that they do not in his country, dare to eat unsealed honey, until it is first boiled. In some of the Southern States, all unsealed honey is generally rejected. It appears to me highly probable that the noxious qualities of the honey gathered from some flowers, is, for the most part, evaporated, before it is sealed over by the bees, while the honey is thickening in the cells. Boiling the honey, would, of course, expel it much more effectually, and it is a well ascertained fact that some persons are not able to eat even the best honey with impunity, until after it has been boiled! I believe that if persons who are injured by honey would subject it to this operation, they would usually find it to exert no injurious influence on the system. Honey is improved by age, and many are able to use with impunity, that which has been for a long time, in the hive, and which [346] seems to be much milder than any freshly gathered by the bees.

Honey, when taken from the bees, should be carefully put where it will be safe from all intruders, and where it will not be exposed to so low a temperature as to candy in the cells. The little red ant, and the large black ant are extravagantly fond of it, and unless placed where they cannot reach it, they will soon carry off large quantities. I paste paper over all my boxes, glasses, &c., so as to make them air-tight, and carefully store them away for future use. If it is drained from the combs, it may be kept in tight vessels, although in this state it will be almost sure to candy. By putting the vessels in water, and bringing it to the boiling point, it will be as nice as when first strained from the comb. In this way, I prefer to keep the larger portion of my honey. The appearance of white honey in the comb, is however, so beautiful, that many will prefer to keep it in this form, especially, if intended for sale.

In my hives, it may be taken from the bees, in a great variety of ways. Some may prefer to construct the main hive in such a form, that the surplus honey can be taken from it, on the frames. Others will prefer to take it on frames put in an upper box; (see p. 231.) Glass vessels of almost any size or form will make beautiful receptacles for the spare honey. They ought always, however, to have a piece of comb fastened in them, before they are given to the bees; (see p. 161) and if the weather is cool, they must be carefully covered with something warm, or they will part with their heat so quickly, as to discourage the bees from building in them. Unless warmly covered, glass vessels will often be so lined with moisture, as to annoy the bees. This is occasioned by the rapid evaporation of the water from the newly gathered honey, (see p. 335.) All [347] hives during the height of the gathering season, abound in moisture, and this no doubt furnishes the bees, for the most part, with the water they then need.

Honey, when stored in a pint tumbler, just large enough to receive one comb, has a most beautiful appearance, and may be easily taken out whole, and placed in an elegant shape upon the table. The expense of such glass vessels is one objection to their use; the ease with which they part with their heat, another, and a more serious objection still, is the fact that the shallow cells, so many of which must be made in a round vessel, require as large a consumption of honey for their wax covers, as those which hold more than twice their quantity of honey.

I prefer rectangular boxes made of pasteboard, to any other: they are neat, warm and cheap; and if a small piece of glass is pasted in one of their ends, the Apiarian can always see when they are full. When the honey is taken from the bees, the box has its cover put on, and is pasted tight, so as to exclude air and insects. In this form, honey may be packed, and sent to market very conveniently: and when the boxes are opened, the purchaser can always see the quality of the article which he buys. The box in which these small boxes of honey are packed in order to be sent to market, should be furnished with rope handles, so that it can be easily lifted, without the least jarring. Honey should be handled with just as much care as glass. A box, four inches wide, will admit of two combs, and if small pieces of comb are put in the top, the bees will build them, of the proper dimensions, and will thus make them too large for brood combs, and of the best size to contain their surplus honey. The use of my hives enables the Apiarian to get access to all the comb which he needs for such purposes, and he will find it to his interest, [348] never to give the bees a box which does not contain some comb, as well for encouragement as for a pattern. I have never seen the use of pasteboard boxes suggested, but after experimenting with a great many materials, I believe they will be found, all things considered, preferable to any others. Wooden boxes, with a piece of glass, are very good for storing honey: but they are much more expensive than those made of pasteboard, and the covers cannot be removed so conveniently.

Honey may be safely removed from the surplus honey boxes of my hives, even by the most timid. When the outside case which covers the boxes, is elevated, a shield is thrown between the Apiarian and the bees which are entering and leaving the hive. Before removing a vessel or box, a thin knife should be carefully passed under it, so as to loosen the attachments of the comb to the honey-board, without injuring the bees; then a small piece of tin or zinc may be pushed under to prevent the bees that are below, from coming up, when the honey is removed. The Apiarian should now tap gently on the box, and the bees in it, perceiving that they are separated from the main hive, will at once proceed to fill themselves, so as to save as much as possible, of their precious sweets. In about five minutes, or as soon as they are full, and run over the combs, trying to get out, the glass or box may at once be removed, and they will fly directly to the hive with what they have been able to secure. Bees under such circumstances, never attempt to sting, and a child of ten years, may remove, with ease and safety, all their surplus stores. If a person is too timid to approach a hive when any bees are flying, the honey may be removed towards evening, or early in the morning, before the bees are flying, in any considerable numbers. In performing this operation, it should always be borne in [349] mind, that large quantities of honey should never be taken from them at once, unless when the honey-harvest is over. Bees are exceedingly discouraged by such wholesale appropriations, and often refuse entirely, to work in the empty boxes, even although honey abounds in the fields. Not unfrequently when large boxes are removed, and being found only partially filled, are returned, the bees will carry every particle of honey down into the main hive! If, however, the honey is removed in small boxes, one at a time, and an empty box with guide comb is put instantly in its place, the bees, so far from being discouraged, work with more than their wonted energy, and usually begin in a few hours, to enlarge the comb.

I would here repeat the caution already given, against needlessly opening and shutting the hives, or in any way meddling with the bees so as to make them feel insecure in their possessions. Such a course tends to discourage them, and may seriously diminish the yield of honey.

If the Apiarian wishes to remove honey from the interior of the hive, he must remove the combs, as directed on page 195, and shake the bees off, on the alighting board, or directly into the hive.


Some blossoms yield only pollen, and others only honey; but by far the largest number, both honey and pollen. Since the discovery that rye flour will answer so admirably as a substitute, before the bees are able to gather the pollen from the flowers, early blossoms producing pollen alone, are not so important in the vicinity of an Apiary. Willows are among the most desirable trees to have within reach of the bees: some kinds of willow put out their catkins very [350] early, and yield an abundance of both bee-bread and honey. All the willows furnish an abundance of food for the bees; and as there is considerable difference in the time of their blossoming, it is desirable to have such varieties as will furnish the bees with food, as long as possible.

The Sugar Maple furnishes a large supply of very delicious honey, and its blossoms hanging in drooping fringes, will be all alive with bees. The Apricot, Peach, Plum and Cherry are much frequented by the bees; Pears and Apples furnish very copious supplies of the richest honey. The Tulip tree, Liriodendron, is probably one of the greatest honey-producing trees in the world. In rich lands this magnificent tree will grow over one hundred feet high, and when covered with its large bell-shaped blossoms of mingled green and golden yellow, it is one of the most beautiful trees in the world. The blossoms are expanding in succession, often for more than two weeks, and a new swarm will frequently fill its hive from these trees alone. The honey though dark in color, is of a rich flavor. This tree has been successfully cultivated as a shade tree, even as far North as Southern Vermont, and for the extraordinary beauty of its foliage and blossoms, deserves to be introduced wherever it can be made to grow. The Winter of 1851-2, was exceedingly cold, the thermometer in Greenfield, Mass. sinking as low as 30° below zero, and yet a tulip tree not only survived the Winter uninjured, but was covered the following season with blossoms.

The American Linden or Bass Wood, is another tree which yields large supplies of very pure and white honey. It is one of our most beautiful native trees, and ought to be planted much more extensively than it is, in our villages and country seats. The English Linden is worthless for bees, and in many places, has been so infested by worms, as to make it necessary to cut it down. [351]

The Linden blossoms soon after the white clover begins to fail, and a majestic tree covered with its yellow clusters, at a season when very few blossoms are to be seen, is a sight most beautiful and refreshing.

"Here their delicious task, the fervent bees
In swarming millions tend: around, athwart,
Through the soft air the busy nations fly,
Cling to the bud, and with inserted tube,
Suck its pure essence, its etherial soul."

Our villages would be much more attractive, if instead of being filled as they often are, almost exclusively with maples and elms, they were adorned with a greater variety of our native trees. The remark has often been made, that these trees are much more highly valued abroad than at home, and that to see them in perfection, we must either visit their native forests, or the pleasure grounds of some wealthy English or European gentleman.

Of all the various sources from which the bees derive their supplies, white clover is the most important. It yields large quantities of very white honey, and of the purest quality, and wherever it flourishes in abundance, the honey-bee will always gather a rich harvest. In this country at least, it seems to be the most certain reliance of the Apiary. It blossoms at a season of the year when the weather is usually both dry and hot, and the bees gather the honey from it, after the sun has dried off the dew: so that its juices are very thick, and almost ready to be sealed over at once in the cells.

Every observant bee-keeper must have noticed, that in some seasons, the blossoms of various kinds yield much less honey than in others. Perhaps no plant varies so little in this respect, as the white clover. This clover ought to be much more extensively cultivated than it now is, and I consider myself as conferring a benefit not only on bee-keepers, but [352] on the agricultural community at large, in being able to state on the authority of one of New England's ablest practical farmers, and writers on agricultural subjects, Hon. Frederick Holbrook, of Brattleboro', Vermont, that the common white clover may be cultivated on some soils to very great profit, as a hay crop. In an article for the New England Farmer, for May, 1853, he speaks as follows:—

"The more general sowing of white clover-seed is confidently recommended. If land is in good heart at the time of stocking it to grass, white clover sown with the other grass-seeds will thicken up the bottom of mowings, growing some eight or ten inches high and in a thick mat, and the burden of hay will prove much heavier than it seemed likely to be before mowing. Soon after the practice of sowing white clover on the tillage-fields commences, the plant will begin to show itself in various places on the farm, and ultimately gets pretty well scattered over the pastures, as it seeds very profusely, and the seeds are carried from place to place in the manure and otherwise. The price of the seed per pound in market is high; but then one pound of it will seed more land, than two pounds of red clover seed; so that in fact the former is the cheaper seed of the two, for an acre."

"Red-top, red clover and white clover seeds, sown together, produce a quality of hay universally relished by stock. My practice is, to seed all dry, sandy and gravelly lands with this mixture. The red and white clover pretty much make the crop the first year; the second year, the red clover begins to disappear, and the red-top to take its place; and after that, the red-top and white clover have full possession and make the very best hay for horses or oxen, milch cows or young stock, that I have been able to produce. The crop per acre, as compared with herds-grass, is [353] not so bulky; but tested by weight and by spending quality in the Winter, it is much the most valuable."

"Herds-grass hay grown on moist uplands or reclaimed meadows, and swamps of a mucky soil, or lands not overcharged with silica, is of good quality; but when grown on sandy and gravelly soils abounding in silex, the stalks are hard, wiry, coated with silicates as with glass, and neither horses nor cattle will eat it as well, or thrive as well on it as on hay made of red-top and clover; and as for milch cows, they winter badly on it, and do not give out the milk as when fed on softer and more succulent hay."

By managing white clover, according to Mr. Holbrook's plan, it might be made to blossom abundantly in the second crop, and thus lengthen out, to very great advantage, the pasture for the bees. For fear that any of my readers might suspect Mr. Holbrook of looking at the white clover, through a pair of bee-spectacles, I would add that although he has ten acres of it in mowing, he has no bees, and has never particularly interested himself in this branch of rural economy. When we can succeed in directing the attention of such men to bee-culture, we may hope to see as rapid an advance in this as in some other important branches of agriculture.

Sweet-scented clover, (Mellilotus Leucantha,) affords a rich bee-pasturage. It blossoms the second year from the seed, and grows to a great height, and is always swarming with bees until quite late in the Fall. Attempts have been made to cultivate it for the sake of its value as a hay crop, but it has been found too coarse in its texture, to be very profitable. Where many bees are kept, it might however, be so valuable for them as to justify its extensive cultivation. During the early part of the season, it might be mowed and fed to the cattle, in a green and tender state, [354] and allowed to blossom later in the season, when the bees can find but few sources to gather from.

For years, I have attempted to procure, through botanists, a hybrid or cross between the red and white clover, in order to get something with the rich honey-producing properties of the red, and yet with a short blossom into which the honey-bee might insert its proboscis. The red clover produces a vast amount of food for the bumble-bee, but is of no use at all to the honey-bee. I had hoped to procure a variety which might answer all the purposes of our farmers as a field crop. Quite recently I have ascertained that such a hybrid has been originated in Sweden, and has been imported into this country, by Mr. B. C. Rogers, of Philadelphia. It grows even taller than the red clover, bears many blossoms on a stalk which are small, resembling the white, and is said to be preferred by cattle, to any other kind of grass, while it answers admirably for bees.

Buckwheat furnishes a most excellent Fall feed for bees; the honey is not so well-flavored as some other kinds, but it comes at a season when it is highly important to the bees, and they are often able to fill their hives with a generous supply against Winter. Buckwheat honey is gathered when the dew is upon the blossoms, and instead of being thick, like white clover honey, is often quite thin; the bees sweat out a large portion of its moisture, but still they do not exhaust the whole of it, and in wet seasons especially, it is liable to sour in the cells. Honey gathered in a dry season, is always thicker, and of course more valuable than that gathered in a wet one, as it contains much less water. Buckwheat is uncertain in its honey-bearing qualities; in some seasons, it yields next to none, and hardly a bee will be seen upon a large field, while in others, it furnishes an extraordinary supply. The most practical and scientific agriculturists [355] agree that so far from being an impoverishing crop, it is on many soils, one of the most profitable that can be raised. Every bee-keeper should have some in the vicinity of his hives.

The raspberry, it is well known, is a great favorite with the bees; and the honey supplied by it, is very delicious. Those parts of New England, which are hilly and rough, are often covered with the wild raspberry, and would furnish food for numerous colonies of bees.

It will be observed that thus far, I have said nothing about cultivating flowers in the garden, to supply the bees with food. What can be done in this way, is of scarcely any account; and it would be almost as reasonable to expect to furnish food for a stock of cattle, from a small grass plat, as honey for bees, from garden plants. The cultivation of bee-flowers is more a matter of pleasure than profit, to those who like to hear the happy hum of the busy bees, as they walk in their gardens. It hardly seems expedient, at least for the present, to cultivate any field crops except such as are profitable in themselves, without any reference to the bees.

Mignonnette is excellent for bees, but of all flowers, none seems to equal the Borage. It blossoms in June, and continues in bloom until severe frost, and is always covered with bees, even in dull weather, as its pendant blossoms keep the honey from the moisture; the honey yielded by it, is of a very superior quality. If any plant which does not in itself make a valuable crop, would justify cultivation, there is no doubt that borage would. An acre of it would support a large number of stocks. If in a village those who keep bees would unite together and secure the sowing of an acre, in their immediate vicinity, each person paying in proportion to the number of stocks kept, it might be found profitable. The plants should have about two feet of [356] space every way, and after they covered the ground, would need no further attention. They would come into full blossom, cultivated in this manner, about the time that the white clover begins to fail, and would not only furnish rich pasture for the bees, but would keep them from the groceries and shops in which so many perish.

If those who are engaged in adorning our villages and country residences with shade trees, would be careful to set out a liberal allowance of such kinds as are not only beautiful to us, but attractive to the bees, in process of time the honey resources of the country might be very greatly increased.

Overstocking a District with Bees.

I come now to a point of the very first importance to all interested in the cultivation of bees. If the opinions which the great majority of American bee-keepers entertain, are correct, then the keeping of bees must, in our country, be always an insignificant pursuit. I confess that I find it difficult to repress a smile, when the owner of a few hives, in a district where as many hundreds might be made to prosper, gravely imputes his ill success, to the fact that too many bees are kept in his vicinity! The truth is, that as bees are frequently managed, they are of but little value, even though in "a land flowing with milk and honey." If in the Spring, a colony of bees is prosperous and healthy, (see p. 207) it will gather abundant stores, even if hundreds equally strong, are in its immediate vicinity, while if it is feeble, it will be of little or no value, even if there is not another swarm within a dozen miles of it.

Success in bee-keeping requires that a man should be in some things, a very close imitator of Napoleon, who always [357] aimed to have an overwhelming force, at the right time and in the right place; so the bee-keeper must be sure that his colonies are numerous, just at the time when their numbers can be turned to the best account. If the bees cannot get up their numbers until the honey-harvest is well nigh gone, numbers will then be of as little service as many of the famous armies against which "the soldier of Europe" contended; which, after the fortunes of the campaign were decided, only served to swell the triumphant spoils of the mighty conqueror. A bee-keeper with feeble stocks in the Spring, which become strong only when there is nothing to get, is like a farmer who contrives to hire no hands to reap his harvests, but suffers the crops to rot upon the ground, and then at great expense, hires a number of stalworth laborers to idle about his premises and eat him out of house and home!

I do not believe that there is a single square mile in this whole country, which is overstocked with bees, unless it is one so unsuitable for bee-keeping as to make it unprofitable to attempt it at all. Such an assertion will doubtless, appear to many, very unguarded; and yet it is made advisedly, and I am happy to be able to confirm it, by reference to the experience of the largest cultivators in Europe. The following letter from Mr. Wagner, will I trust, do more than I can possibly do in any other way, to show our bee-keepers how mistaken they are in their opinion as to the danger of overstocking their districts, and also what large results might be obtained from a more extensive cultivation of bees.

York, March 16, 1853.
Dear Sir:

In reply to your enquiry respecting the overstocking of a district, I would say that the present opinion of the correspondents of the Bienenzeitung, appears to be that it [358] cannot readily be done. Dzierzon says, in practice at least, "it never is done;" and Dr. Radlkofer, of Munich, the President of the second Apiarian Convention, declares that his apprehensions on that score were dissipated by observations which he had opportunity and occasion to make, when on his way home from the Convention. I have numerous accounts of Apiaries in pretty close proximity, containing from 200 to 300 colonies each. Ehrenfels had a thousand hives, at three separate establishments indeed, but so close to each other that he could visit them all in half an hour's ride; and he says that in 1801, the average net yield of his Apiaries was $2 per hive. In Russia and Hungary, Apiaries numbering from 2000 to 5000 colonies are said not to be unfrequent; and we know that as many as 4000 hives are oftentimes congregated, in Autumn, at one point on the heaths of Germany. Hence I think we need not fear that any district of this country, so distinguished for abundant natural vegetation and diversified culture, will very speedily be overstocked, particularly after the importance of having stocks populous early in the Spring, comes to be duly appreciated. A week or ten days of favorable weather, at that season, when pasturage abounds, will enable a strong colony to lay up an ample supply for the year, if its labor be properly directed.

Mr. Kaden, one of the ablest contributors to the Bienenzeitung, in the number for December, 1852, noticing the communication from Dr. Radlkofer, says: "I also concur in the opinion that a district of country cannot be overstocked with bees; and that, however numerous the colonies, all can procure sufficient sustenance if the surrounding country contain honey-yielding plants and vegetables, in the usual degree. Where utter barrenness prevails, the case is different, of course, as well as rare." [359]

The Fifteenth Annual Meeting of German Agriculturists was held in the City of Hanover, on the 10th of September, 1852, and in compliance with the suggestions of the Apiarian Convention, a distinct section devoted to bee-culture was instituted. The programme propounded sixteen questions for discussion, the fourth of which was as follows:—

"Can a district of country embracing meadows, arable land, orchards, and woodlands or forests, be so overstocked with bees, that these may no longer find adequate sustenance and yield a remunerating surplus of their products?"

This question was debated with considerable animation. The Rev. Mr. Kleine, (nine-tenths of the correspondents of the Bee-Journal are clergyman,) President of the section, gave it as his opinion that "it was hardly conceivable that such a country could be overstocked with bees." Counsellor Herwig, and the Rev. Mr. Wilkens, on the contrary, maintained that "it might be overstocked." In reply, Assessor Heyne remarked that "whatever might be supposed possible as an extreme case, it was certain that as regards the kingdom of Hanover, it could not be even remotely apprehended that too many Apiaries would ever be established; and that consequently the greatest possible multiplication of colonies might safely be aimed at and encouraged." At the same time, he advised a proper distribution of Apiaries.

I might easily furnish you with more matter of this sort, and designate a considerable number of Apiaries in various parts of Germany, containing from 25 to 500 colonies. But the question would still recur, do not these Apiaries occupy comparatively isolated positions? and at this distance from the scene, it would obviously be impossible to give a perfectly satisfactory answer.

According to the statistical tables of the kingdom of Hannover, the annual production of bees-wax in the province of [360] Lunenburg, is 300,000 lbs., about one half of which is exported; and assuming one pound of wax as the yield of each hive, we must suppose that 300,000 hives are annually "brimstoned" in the province; and assuming further, in view of casualties, local influences, unfavorable seasons, &c., that only one-half of the whole number of colonies maintained, produce a swarm each, every year, it would require a total of at least 600,000 colonies, (141, to each square mile,) to secure the result given in the tables.

The number of square miles stocked even to this extent, in this country, are, I suspect, "few and far between." The Shakers at Lebanon, have about 600 colonies; but I doubt whether a dozen Apiaries equally large can be found in the Union. It is very evident, that this country is far from being overstocked; nor it is likely that it ever will be.

A German writer alleges that "the bees of Lunenburg, pay all the taxes assessed on their proprietors, and leave a surplus besides." The importance attached to bee-culture accounts in part for the remarkable fact that the people of a district so barren that it has been called "the Arabia of Germany," are almost without exception in easy and comfortable circumstances. Could not still more favorable results be obtained in this country under a rational system of management, availing itself of the aid of science, art and skill?

But, I am digressing. My design was to furnish you with an account of bee-culture as it exists in an entire district of country, in the hands of the common peasantry. This I thought would be more satisfactory, and convey a better idea of what may be done on a large scale, than any number of instances which might be selected of splendid success in isolated cases.

Very truly yours,

Rev. L. L. Langstroth.

[361]The question how far bees will fly in search of honey, has been very differently answered by different Apiarians. I am satisfied that they will fly over three miles in search of food, but I believe as a general rule, that if their food is not within a circle of about two miles in every direction from the Apiary, they will be able to store up but little surplus honey. The nearer, the better. In all my arrangements, (see p. 96.) I have made it a constant study to save every step for the bees that I possibly can, economizing to the very utmost, their time, which will all be transmuted into honey; an inspection of the Frontispiece of this treatise will exhibit the general aspect of the alighting board of my hives, and will show the intelligent Apiarian, with what ease bees will enter such a hive, even in very windy weather. By such arrangements, they will be able to store up more honey, even if they have to go a considerable distance in search of it, than they would in many other hives, when the honey abounded in their more immediate vicinity. Such considerations are entirely overlooked, by most bee-keepers, and they seem to imagine that they are matters of no importance. By the utter neglect of any kind of precautions to facilitate the labors of their bees, you might suppose that they imagined these delicate insects to be possessed of nerves of steel and sinews of iron or adamant; or else that they took them for miniature locomotives, always fired up and capable of an indefinite amount of exertion. A bee cannot put forth more than a certain amount of physical exertion, and if a large portion of this is spent in absolutely fighting against difficulties, from which it might easily be guarded, it must be very obvious to any one who thinks on the subject at all, that a great loss must be sustained by its owner.

If some of these thoughtless owners returning home with [362] a heavy burden, were compelled to fall down stairs half a dozen times before they could get into the house, they might perhaps think it best to guard their industrious workers against such discouraging accidents. If bees are tossed violently about by the winds, as they attempt to enter their hives, they are often fatally injured, and the whole colony so discouraged, to say nothing more, that they do not gather near so much as they otherwise would.

The arrangement of my Protector is such that the bees, if blown down, fall upon a sloping bank of soft grass, and are able to enter the hives without much inconvenience.

Just as soon as our cultivators can be convinced, by practical results, that bee-keeping, for the capital invested, may be made a most profitable branch of rural economy, they will see the importance of putting their bees into suitable hives, and of doing all that they can, to give them a fair chance; until then, the mass of them will follow the beaten track, and attribute their ill success, not to their own ignorance, carelessness or stupidity, but to their want of "luck," or to the overstocking of the country with bees. I hope, before many years, to see the price of good honey so reduced that the poor man can place it on his table and feast upon it, as one of the cheapest luxuries within his reach.

On page 20, a statement was given of Dzierzon's experience as to the profits of bee-keeping. The section of country in which he resides, is regarded by him as unfavorable to Apiarian pursuits. I shall now give what I consider a safe estimate for almost any section in our country; while in unusually favorable locations it will fall far below the results which may be attained. It is based upon the supposition that the bees are kept in properly constructed hives so as to be strong early in the season, and that the increase of stocks is limited to one new one from two old ones. Under [363] proper management, one year with another, about ten dollars worth of honey may be obtained for every two stocks wintered over. The worth of the new colonies, I set off as an equivalent for labor of superintendence, and interest on the money invested in bees, hives, fixtures, &c.

A careful, prudent man who will enter into bee-keeping moderately at first, and extend his operations only as his skill and experience increase, will, by the use of my hives, find that the preceding estimate is not too large. Even on the ordinary mode of bee-keeping, there are many who will consider it rather below than above the mark. If thoroughly careless persons are determined to "try their luck," as they call it, with bees, I advise them by all means, in mercy to the bees, to adopt the non-swarming plan. Improved methods of management with such persons will be of little or no use, unless you could improve their habits first, and very often their brains too! Every dollar that such persons spend upon bees, unless with the slightest possible departure from the old-fashioned plans, is a dollar worse than thrown away. In those parts of Europe where bee-keeping is carried on upon the largest scale, the mass adhere to the old system; this they understand, and by this they secure a certainty, whereas in our country, thousands have been induced to enter upon the wildest schemes, or at least to use hives which could not furnish them the very information needed for their successful management. A simple box furnished with my frames, will enable the masses, without departing materially from the common system, to increase largely the yield from their bees.

In addition to the information given in the Introduction, respecting the success of Dzierzon's system of management, I have recently ascertained that one of its ablest opponents in Germany, has become thoroughly convinced of its superior [364] value. The Government of Norway has appropriated $300, per annum, for the ensuing three years, towards diffusing a knowledge of Dzierzon's method, in that country; having previously despatched Mr. Hanser, Collector of Customs, to Silesia to visit Mr. Dzierzon, and acquire a practical knowledge of his system of management. He is now employed in distributing model hives, in the provinces, and imparting information on improved bee-culture.

Note.—The time has hardly come when the attention of any of our State authorities can be attracted to the importance of bee-culture. It is only of late that they have seemed to manifest any peculiar interest in promoting the advancement of agricultural pursuits. A Department of Agriculture ought to have been established, years ago, by the National Government at Washington. Let us hope that the Administration now in power, will establish a lasting claim to the gratitude of posterity, by taking wise and efficient steps to advance the agricultural interests of the country. A National Society to promote these interests has recently been established, and much may be hoped from its wisdom and energy. Until some disinterested tribunal can be established, before which all inventions and discoveries can be fairly tested, honest men will suffer, and ignorance and imposture will continue to flourish. Lying advertisements and the plausible misrepresentations of brazen-faced impostors, will still drain the purses of the credulous, while thousands, disgusted with the horde of impositions which are palmed off upon the community, will settle down into a dogged determination to try nothing new. A society before which every thing, claiming to be an improvement in rural economy, could be fairly tested, would undoubtedly be shunned by ignorant and unprincipled men, who now find it an easy task to procure any number of certificates, but who dread nothing so much as honest and intelligent investigation. The reports of such a society after the most thorough trials and examinations, would inspire confidence, save the community from severe losses, and encourage the ablest minds to devote their best energies to the improvement of agricultural implements.

Bee Culture


Bee Culture: Honey, Pasturage, Overstocking
Page Updated 6:33 PM Monday 22 January 2018