INTRODUCTION [13]
CHAPTER I.

The present condition of practical bee-keeping in this country, is known to be deplorably low. From the great mass of agriculturists, and others favorably situated for obtaining honey, it receives not the slightest attention. Notwithstanding the large number of patent hives which have been introduced, the ravages of the bee-moth have increased, and success is becoming more and more precarious. Multitudes have abandoned the pursuit in disgust, while many of the most experienced, are fast settling down into the conviction that all the so-called "Improved Hives" are delusions, and that they must return to the simple box or hollow log, and "take up" their bees with sulphur, in the old-fashioned way.

In the present state of public opinion, it requires no little courage to venture upon the introduction of a new hive and system of management; but I feel confident that a new era in bee-keeping has arrived, and invite the attention of all interested, to the reasons for this belief. A perusal of this Manual, will, I trust, convince them that there is a better way than any with which they have yet been acquainted. They will here find many hitherto mysterious points in the physiology of the honey-bee, clearly explained, and much valuable information never before communicated to the public. [14]

It is now nearly fifteen years since I first turned my attention to the cultivation of bees. The state of my health having compelled me to live more and more in the open air, I have devoted a large portion of my time, of late years, to a careful investigation of their habits, and to a series of minute and thorough experiments in the construction of hives, and the best methods of managing them, so as to secure the largest practical results.

Very early in my Apiarian studies, I procured an imported copy of the work of the celebrated Huber, and constructed a hive on his plan, which furnished me with favorable opportunities of verifying some of his most valuable discoveries; and I soon found that the prejudices existing against him, were entirely unfounded. Believing that his discoveries laid the foundation for a more extended and profitable system of bee-keeping, I began to experiment with hives of various construction.

The result of all these investigations fell far short of my expectations. I became, however, most thoroughly convinced that no hives were fit to be used, unless they furnished uncommon protection against extremes of heat and more especially of COLD. I accordingly discarded all thin hives made of inch stuff, and constructed my hives of doubled materials, enclosing a "dead air" space all around.

These hives, although more expensive in the first cost, proved to be much cheaper in the end, than those I had previously used. The bees wintered remarkably well in them, and swarmed early and with unusual regularity. My next step in advance, was, while I secured my surplus honey in the most convenient, beautiful and salable forms, so to facilitate the entrance of the bees into the honey receptacles, as to secure the largest fruits from their labors.

Although I felt confident that my hive possessed some [15] valuable peculiarities, I still found myself unable to remedy many of the casualties to which bee-keeping is liable. I now perceived that no hive could be made to answer my expectations unless it gave me the complete control of the combs, so that I might remove any, or all of them at pleasure. The use of the Huber hive had convinced me that with proper precautions, the combs might be removed without enraging the bees, and that these insects were capable of being domesticated or tamed, to a most surprising degree. A knowledge of these facts was absolutely necessary to the further progress of my invention, for without it, I should have regarded a hive designed to allow of the removal of the combs, as too dangerous in use, to be of any practical value. At first, I used movable slats or bars placed on rabbets in the front and back of the hive. The bees were induced to build their combs upon these bars, and in carrying them down, to fasten them to the sides of the hive. By severing the attachments to the sides, I was able, at any time, to remove the combs suspended from the bars. There was nothing new in the use of movable bars; the invention being probably, at least, a hundred years old; and I had myself used such hives on Bevan's plan, very early in the commencement of my experiments. The chief peculiarity in my hives, as now constructed, was the facility with which these bars could be removed without enraging the bees, and their combination with my new mode of obtaining the surplus honey.

With hives of this construction I commenced experimenting on a larger scale than ever, and soon arrived at results which proved to be of the very first importance. I found myself able, if I wished it, to dispense entirely with natural swarming, and yet to multiply colonies with much greater rapidity and certainty than by the common methods. I [16] could, in a short time, strengthen my feeble colonies, and furnish those which had lost their Queen with the means of obtaining another. If I suspected that any thing was the matter with a hive, I could ascertain its true condition, by making a thorough examination of every part, and if the worms had gained a lodgment, I could quickly dispossess them. In short, I could perform all the operations which will be explained in this treatise, and I now believed that bee-keeping could be made highly profitable, and as much a matter of certainty, as any other branch of rural economy.

I perceived, however, that one thing was yet wanting. The cutting of the combs from their attachments to the sides of the hive, in order to remove them, was attended with much loss of time to myself and to the bees, and in order to facilitate this operation, the construction of my hive was necessarily complicated. This led me to invent a method by which the combs were attached to MOVABLE FRAMES, and suspended in the hives, so as to touch neither the top, bottom, nor sides. By this device, I was able to remove the combs at pleasure, and if desired, I could speedily transfer them, bees and all, without any cutting, to another hive. I have experimented largely with hives of this construction, and find that they answer most admirably, all the ends proposed in their invention.

While experimenting in the summer of 1851, with some observing hives of a peculiar construction, I discovered that bees could be made to work in glass hives, exposed to the full light of day. The notice, in a Philadelphia newspaper, of this discovery, procured me the pleasure of an acquaintance with Rev. Dr. Berg, pastor of a Dutch Reformed church in that city. From him, I first learned that a Prussian clergyman, of the name of Dzierzon, (pronounced Tseertsone,) had attracted the attention of crowned heads, by his important [17] discoveries in the management of bees. Before he communicated the particulars of these discoveries, I explained to Dr. Berg, my system of management, and showed him my hive. He expressed the greatest astonishment at the wonderful similarity in our methods of management, both of us having carried on our investigations without the slightest knowledge of each other's labors. Our hives, he found to differ in some very important respects. In the Dzierzon hive, the combs are not attached to movable frames, but to bars, so that they cannot, without cutting, be removed from the hive. In my hive, which is opened from the top, any comb may be taken out, without at all disturbing the others; whereas, in the Dzierzon hive, which is opened from one of the ends, it is often necessary to cut and remove many combs, in order to get access to a particular one; thus, if the tenth comb from the end is to be removed, nine combs must be first cut and taken out. All this consumes a large amount of time. The German hive does not furnish the surplus honey in a form which would be found most salable in our markets, or which would admit of safe transportation in the comb. Notwithstanding these disadvantages, it has achieved a great triumph in Germany, and given a new impulse to the cultivation of bees.

The following letter from Samuel Wagner, Esq., cashier of the bank in York, Pennsylvania, will show the results which have been obtained in Germany, by the new system of management, and his estimate of the superior value of my hive to those in use there.

York, Pa., Dec. 24, 1852.
Dear Sir,

The Dzierzon theory and the system of bee-management based thereon, were originally promulgated, hypothetically, in the "Eichstadt Bienenzeitung" or Bee-journal, [18] in 1845, and at once arrested my attention. Subsequently, when in 1848, at the instance of the Prussian government, the Rev. Mr. Dzierzon published his "Theory and Practice of Bee Culture," I imported a copy, which reached me in 1849, and which I translated prior to January 1850. Before the translation was completed, I received a visit from my friend, the Rev. Dr. Berg, of Philadelphia, and in the course of conversation on bee-keeping, mentioned to him the Dzierzon theory and system, as one which I regarded as new and very superior, though I had had no opportunity for testing it practically. In February following, when in Philadelphia, I left with him the translation in manuscript—up to which period, I doubt whether any other person in this country had any knowledge of the Dzierzon theory; except to Dr. Berg I had never mentioned it to any one, save in very general terms.

In September, 1851, Dr. Berg again visited York, and stated to me your investigations, discoveries and inventions. From the account Dr. Berg gave me, I felt assured that you had devised substantially the same system as that so successfully pursued by Mr. Dzierzon; but how far your hive resembled his I was unable to judge from description alone. I inferred, however, several points of difference. The coincidence as to system, and the principles on which it was evidently founded, struck me as exceedingly singular and interesting, because I felt confident that you had no more knowledge of Mr. Dzierzon and his labors, before Dr. Berg mentioned him and his book to you, than Mr. Dzierzon had of you. These circumstances made me very anxious to examine your hives, and induced me to visit your Apiary in the village of West Philadelphia, last August. In the absence of the keeper, as I informed you, I took the liberty to explore the premises thoroughly, opening and inspecting a [19] number of the hives, and noticing the internal arrangement of the parts. The result was, that I came away convinced that though your system was based on the same principles as Dzierzon's, yet that your hive was almost totally different from his, in construction and arrangement; that while the same objects substantially are attained by each, your hive is more simple, more convenient, and much better adapted for general introduction and use, since the mode of using it can be more easily taught. Of its ultimate and triumphant success I have no doubt. I sincerely believe that when it comes under the notice of Mr. Dzierzon, he will himself prefer it to his own. It in fact combines all the good properties which a hive ought to possess, while it is free from the complication, clumsiness, vain whims, and decidedly objectionable features, which characterize most of the inventions which profess to be at all superior to the simple box, or the common chamber hive.

You may certainly claim equal credit with Dzierzon for originality in observation and discovery in the natural history of the honey bee, and for success in deducing principles and devising a most valuable system of management from observed facts. But in invention, as far as neatness, compactness, and adaptation of means to ends are concerned, the sturdy German must yield the palm to you. You will find a case of similar coincidence detailed in the Westminster Review for October, 1852, page 267, et seq.

I send you herewith some interesting statements respecting Dzierzon, and the estimate in which his system is held in Germany.

Very truly yours,
SAMUEL WAGNER.

Rev. L. L. Langstroth.

[20]The following are the statements to which Mr. Wagner refers.—

"As the best test of the value of Mr. Dzierzon's system, is the results which have been made to flow from it, a brief account of its rise and progress maybe found interesting. In 1835 he commenced bee-keeping in the common way, with 12 colonies—and after various mishaps, which taught him the defects of the common hives and the old mode of management, his stock was so reduced that in 1838 he had virtually to begin anew. At this period he contrived his improved hive in its ruder form, which gave him the command over all the combs, and he began to experiment on the theory which observation and study had enabled him to devise. Thenceforward his progress was as rapid as his success was complete and triumphant. Though he met with frequent reverses—about 70 colonies having been stolen from him, sixty destroyed by fire, and 24 by a flood—yet in 1846 his stock had increased to 360 colonies, and he realized from them that year six thousand pounds of honey, besides several hundred weight of wax. At the same time most of the cultivators in his vicinity who pursued the common methods, had fewer hives than they had when he commenced.

In the year 1848, a fatal pestilence, known by the name of "foul brood," prevailed among his bees, and destroyed nearly all his colonies before it could be subdued—only about ten having escaped the malady, which attacked alike the old stocks and his artificial swarms. He estimates his entire loss that year at over 500 colonies. Nevertheless he succeeded so well in multiplying by artificial swarms, the few that remained healthy, that in the fall of 1851 his stock consisted of nearly 400 colonies. He must, therefore, have multiplied his stocks more than three fold each year. [21]"

The highly prosperous condition of his colonies is attested by the Report of the Secretary of the Annual Apiarian Convention which met in his vicinity last spring. This Convention, the fourth which has been held, consisted of 112 experienced and enthusiastic bee-keepers from various districts of Germany and neighboring countries, and among them were some who when they assembled were strong opposers of his system.

They visited and personally examined the Apiaries of Mr. Dzierzon. The report speaks in the very highest terms of his success, and of the manifest superiority of his system of management. He exhibited and satisfactorily explained to his visitors his practice and principles; and they remarked, with astonishment, the singular docility of his bees, and the thorough control to which they were subjected. After a full detail of the proceedings, the Secretary goes on to say:—

"Now that I have seen Dzierzon's method practically demonstrated, I must admit that it is attended with fewer difficulties than I had supposed. With his hive and system of management it would seem that bees become at once more docile than they are in other cases. I consider his system the simplest and best means of elevating bee-culture to a profitable pursuit, and of spreading it far and wide over the land—especially as it is peculiarly adapted to districts in which the bees do not readily and regularly swarm. His eminent success in re-establishing his stock after suffering so heavily from the devastating pestilence—in short the recuperative power of the system demonstrates conclusively, that it furnishes the best, perhaps the only means of reinstating bee-culture lo a profitable branch of rural economy.

Dzierzon modestly disclaimed the idea of having attained perfection in his hive. He dwelt rather upon the truth and importance of his theory and system of management." [22]

From the Leipzig Illustrated Almanac—Report on Agriculture for 1846.

"Bee culture is no longer regarded as of any importance in rural economy."

From the same for 1851, and 1853.

"Since Dzierzon's system has been made known an entire revolution in bee culture has been produced. A new era has been created for it, and bee-keepers are turning their attention to it with renewed zeal. The merits of his discoveries are appreciated by the government, and they recommend his system as worthy the attention of the teachers of common schools.

Mr. Dzierzon resides in a poor sandy district of Middle Silesia, which, according to the common notions of Apiarians, is unfavorable to bee-culture. Yet despite of this and of various mishaps, he has succeeded in realizing 900 dollars as the product of his bees in one season!

By his mode of management, his bees yield, even in the poorest years, from 10 to 15 per cent on the capital invested, and where the colonies are produced by the Apiarian's own skill and labor they cost him only about one-fourth the price at which they are usually valued. In ordinary seasons the profit amounts to from 30 to 50 per cent, and in very favorable seasons from 80 to 100 per cent."

In communicating these facts to the public, I have several objects in view. I freely acknowledge that I take an honest pride in establishing my claims as an independent observer; and as having matured by my own discoveries, the same system of bee-culture, as that which has excited so much interest in Germany; I desire also to have the testimony of the translator of Dzierzon to the superior merits of my hive. Mr. Wagner is extensively known as an able German scholar. He has taken all the numbers of the Bee Journal, a [23] monthly periodical which has been published for more than fifteen years in Germany, and is probably more familiar with the state of Apiarian culture abroad, than any man in this country.

I am anxious further to show that the great importance which I attach to my system of management, is amply justified by the success of those who while pursuing the same system with inferior hives, have attained results, which to common bee-keepers, seem almost incredible. Inventors are very prone to form exaggerated estimates of the value of their labors; and the American public has been so often deluded with patent hives, devised by persons ignorant of the most important principles in the natural history of the bee, and which have utterly failed to answer their professed objects, that they are scarcely to be blamed for rejecting every new hive as unworthy of confidence.

There is now a prospect that a Bee Journal will before long, be established in this country. Such a publication has long been needed. Properly conducted, it will have a most powerful influence in disseminating information, awakening enthusiasm, and guarding the public against the miserable impositions to which it has so long been subjected.

Two such journals are now published monthly in Germany, one of which has been in existence for more than 15 years—and their wide circulation has made thousands well acquainted with those principles, which must constitute the foundation of any enlightened and profitable system of culture.

The truth is that while many of the principal facts in the physiology of the honey bee have long been familiar to scientific observers, it has unfortunately happened that some of the most important have been widely discredited. In themselves they are so wonderful, and to those who have [24] not witnessed them, often so incredible, that it is not at all strange that they have been rejected as fanciful conceits, or bare-faced inventions.

Many persons have not the slightest idea that every thing may be seen that takes place in a bee-hive. But hives have for many years, been in use, containing only one large comb, enclosed on both sides, by glass. These hives are darkened by shutters, and when opened, the queen is exposed to observation, as well as all the other bees. Within the last two years, I have discovered that with proper precautions, colonies can be made to work in observing hives, without shutters, and exposed continually to the full light of day; so that observations may be made at all times, without in the least interrupting the ordinary operations of the bees. By the aid of such hives, some of the most intelligent citizens of Philadelphia have seen in my Apiary, the queen bee depositing her eggs in the cells, and constantly surrounded by an affectionate circle of her devoted children. They have also witnessed, with astonishment and delight, all the steps in the mysterious process of raising queens from eggs which with the ordinary development, would have produced only the common bees. For more than three months, there was not a day in which some of my colonies were not engaged in making new queens to supply the place of those taken from them, and I had the pleasure of exhibiting all the facts to bee-keepers who never before felt willing to credit them. As all my hives are so made that each comb can be taken out, and examined at pleasure, those who use them, can obtain from them all the information which they need, and, are no longer forced to take any thing upon trust.

May I be permitted to express the hope that the time is now at hand, when the number of practical observers will [25] be so multiplied, that ignorant and designing men will neither be able to impose their conceits and falsehoods upon the public, nor be sustained in their attempts to depreciate the valuable discoveries of those who have devoted years of observation and experiment to promote the advancement of Apiarian knowledge.

Hobby
Bee Culture - Introduction
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