If a well populated bee hive is examined on a warm Summer day, a considerable number of bees will be found standing on the alighting board, with their heads turned towards the entrance, the extremity of their bodies slightly elevated, and their wings in such rapid motion that they are almost as indistinct as the spokes of a wheel, in swift rotation on its axis. A brisk current of air may be felt proceeding from the hive, and if you suspend something such as a small piece of down by a thread, it will be blown out from one part of the entrance, and drawn in at another.

What are these bees expecting to accomplish, that they appear so deeply absorbed in their fanning occupation, while busy numbers are constantly crowding in and out of the hive, and what is the meaning of this double current of air?

It is to François Huber (1750-1831), that we owe the first satisfactory explanation of these curious phenomena.

These bees plying their rapid wings in such a singular attitude, are performing the important business of ventilating the hive; and this double current is composed of pure air rushing in at one part, to replace the foul air being forced out at another.

By a series of the most careful and beautiful experiments, Huber ascertained that the air of a crowded hive is almost, if not quite, as pure as the atmosphere by which it is surrounded. Now, as the entrance to [131] a hive, is often, (more especially in a state of nature,) very small, the interior air cannot be renewed without resort to some artificial means. If a lamp is put into a close vessel with only one small hole for air to enter, it will soon exhaust all the oxygen, and go out. If another small hole is made, the same result will follow; but if by some device a current of air is drawn out from one, an equal current of clean air will force its way into the other, and the lamp will burn until its fuel is exhausted.

Keeping beesIt is precisely on this principle, of maintaining a double current by artificial means, that the bees ventilate their crowded habitations. A body of active ventilators stands inside of the hive, as well as outside, all with their heads turned towards the entrance, and by the rapid fanning of their wings, a current of air is blown briskly out of the hive, and an equal current drawn in. This important office is one which requires great physical exertion on the part of those to whom it is entrusted; and if their proceedings are carefully watched, it will be found that the exhausted ventilators, are, from time to time, relieved by fresh detachments. If the interior of the hive will admit of inspection, in very hot weather, large numbers of these ventilators will be found in regular files, in various parts of the hive, all busily engaged in their laborious employment. If the entrance at any time is contracted, a speedy accession will be made to the numbers, both inside and outside; and if it is closed entirely, the heat of the hive will quickly increase, the whole colony will commence a rapid vibration of their wings, and in a few moments will drop lifeless from the combs, for want of air.

It has been proved by careful experiments that pure air is necessary not only for the respiration of the mature bees, but that without it, neither the eggs can be hatched, nor the [132] larvæ developed. A fine netting of air-vessels covers the eggs; and the cells of the larvæ are sealed over with a covering which is full of air holes. In Winter, as has been stated in the Chapter on Protection, bees, if kept in the dark, and neither too warm nor too cold, are almost dormant, and seem to require but a small allowance of air; but even under such circumstances, they cannot live entirely without air; and if they are excited by being exposed to atmospheric changes, or by being disturbed, a very loud humming may be heard in the interior of their hives, and they need quite as much air as in warm weather.

If at any time, by moving their hives, or in any other way, bees are greatly disturbed, it will be unsafe to confine them, especially in warm weather, unless a very free admission of air is given to them, and even then, the air ought to be admitted above, as well as below the mass of bees, or the ventilators may become clogged with dead bees, and the swarm may perish. Under close confinement, the bees become excessively heated, and the combs are often melted down. When bees are confined to a close atmosphere, especially if dampness is added to its injurious influences, they are sure to become diseased; and large numbers, if not the whole colony, perish from dysentery. Is it not under circumstances precisely similar, that cholera and dysentery prove most fatal to human beings? How often do the filthy, damp and unventilated abodes of the abject poor, become perfect lazar-houses to their wretched inmates?

I examined, last Summer, the bees of a new swarm which had been suffocated for want of air, and found their bodies distended with a yellow and noisome substance, just as though they had perished from dysentery. A few were still alive, and instead of honey, their bodies were filled with this same disgusting fluid; though the bees had not been shut up, more than two hours. [133]

In a medical point of view, I consider these facts as highly interesting; showing as they do, under what circumstances, and how speedily, disease may be produced.

In very hot weather, if thin hives are exposed to the sun's rays, the bees are excessively annoyed by the intense heat, and have recourse to the most powerful ventilation, not merely to keep the air of the hive pure, but to carry off, as much as possible, its internal warmth. They often leave the interior of the hive, almost in a body, and in thick masses, cluster on the outside, not simply to escape the close heat within, but to guard their combs against the danger of being dissolved. At such times they are particularly careful not to cluster on the combs containing sealed honey; for as most of these combs have not been lined with the cocoons of the larvæ, they are, for this reason, as well as on account of the extra amount of wax used for their covers, much more liable to be melted, than the breeding cells.

Apiarians have often noticed the fact, that as a general thing, the bees leave the honey cells almost entirely bare, as soon as they have sealed them over; but it seems to have escaped their observation, that in hot weather, there is often an absolute necessity for such a course. In cool weather, on the contrary, the bees may often be found clustered among the sealed honey-combs, because there is then no danger of their melting down.

Few things in the range of their wonderful instincts, are so well fitted to impress the mind with their admirable sagacity, as the truly scientific device, by which these wise little insects ventilate their dwellings. I was on the point of saying that it was almost like human-reason, when the painful and mortifying reflection presented itself to my mind that in respect to ventilation, the bee is immensely in advance of the great mass of those who consider themselves [134] as rational beings. It has, to be sure, no ability to make an elaborate analysis of the chemical constituents of the atmosphere, and to decide how large a proportion of oxygen is essential to the support of life, and how rapidly the process of breathing converts this important element into a deadly poison. It has not, like Leibig, been able to demonstrate that God has set the animal and vegetable world, the one over against the other; so that the carbonic acid produced by the breathing of the one, furnishes the aliment of the other; which, in turn, gives out its oxygen for the support of animal life; and that, in this wonderful manner, God has provided that the atmosphere shall, through all ages, be as pure as when it first came from His creating hand. But shame upon us! that with all our intelligence, the most of us live as though pure air was of little or no importance; while the bee ventilates with a scientific precision and thoroughness, that puts to the blush our criminal neglect.

To this it may be replied that ventilation in our case, cannot be had, without considerable expense. Can it be had for nothing, by the industrious bees? Those busy insects, which are so indefatigably plying their wings, are not engaged in idle amusement; nor might they, as some would-be utilitarian may imagine, be better employed in gathering honey, or in superintending some other department in the economy of the hive. They are at great expense of time and labor, supplying the rest of the colony with pure air, so conducive in every way, to their health and prosperity.

I trust that I shall be permitted to digress, for a short time, from bees to men, and that the remarks which I shall offer on the subject of ventilation in human dwellings, may make a deeper impression, in connection with the wise arrangements of the bee, than they would, if presented in the [135] shape of a mere scientific discussion; and that some who have been in the habit of considering all air, except in the particular of temperature, as about alike, may be thoroughly convinced of their mistake.

Recent statistics prove that consumption and its kindred diseases are most fearfully on the increase, in the Northern, and more especially in the New England States; and that the general mortality of Massachusetts exceeds that of almost every other state in the Union. In these States, the tendency of increasing attention to manufacturing and mechanical pursuits, is to compel a larger and larger proportion of the population to lead an in-door life, and to breathe an atmosphere more or less vitiated, and thus unfit for the full development of vigorous health. The importance of pure air can hardly be over-estimated; indeed, the quality of the air we breath, seems to exert an influence much more powerful, and hardly less direct, than the mere quality of our food. Those who, by active exercise in the open air, keep their lungs saturated as it were, with the pure element, can eat almost anything with impunity; while those who breath the sorry apology for air which is to be found in so many habitations, although they may live upon the most nutritious diet, and avoid the least excess, are incessantly troubled with head-ache, dyspepsia, and various mental as well as physical sufferings. Well may such persons, as they witness the healthy forms and happy faces of so many of the hardy sons of toil, exclaim with the old Latin poet,

"Oh dura messorum illia!"

It is with the human family very much as it is with the vegetable kingdom. Take a plant or tree, and shut it out from the pure air, and the invigorating light, and though you may supply it with an abundance of water and the very soil, which by the strictest chemical analysis, is found to contain [136] all the elements that are essential to its vigorous growth, it will still be a puny thing, ready to droop, if exposed to a summer's sun, or to be prostrated by the first visitation of a winter's blast. Compare now, this wretched abortion, with an oak or maple which has grown upon the comparatively sterile mountain pasture, and whose branches, in Summer are the pleasant resort of the happy songsters, while, under its mighty shade, the panting herds drink in a refreshing coolness. In Winter it laughs at the mighty storms, which wildly toss its giant branches in the air, and which serve only to exercise the limbs of the sturdy tree, whose roots deep intertwined among its native rocks, enable it to bid defiance to anything short of a whirlwind or tornado.

To a population, who, for more than two-thirds of the year, are compelled to breathe an atmosphere heated by artificial means, the question how can this air be made, at a moderate expense, to resemble, as far as possible, the purest ether of the skies is, (or as I should rather say ought to be,) a question of the utmost interest. When open fires were used, there was no lack of pure air, whatever else might have been deficient. A capacious chimney carried up through its insatiable throat, immense volumes of air, to be replaced by the pure element, whistling in glee, through every crack, crevice and keyhole. Now the house-builder and stove-maker with but few exceptions[15] seem to have joined hands in waging a most effectual warfare against the unwelcome intruder. By labor-saving machinery, they contrive to make the one, the joints of his wood-work, and the other, those of his iron-work, tighter and tighter, and if it were possible for them to accomplish fully their manifest [137] design, they would be able to furnish rooms almost as fatal to life as "the black hole of Calcutta." But in spite of all that they can do, the materials will shrink, and no fuel has yet been found, which will burn without any air, so that sufficient ventilation is kept up, to prevent such deadly occurrences. Still they are tolerably successful in keeping out the unfriendly element; and by the use of huge cooking-stoves with towering ovens, and other salamander contrivances, the little air that can find its way in, is almost as thoroughly cooked, as are the various delicacies destined for the table.

On reading an account of a run-away slave, who was for a considerable time, closely boxed up, a gentleman remarked that if the poor fellow had only known that a renewal of the air was necessary to the support of life, he could not have lived there an hour without suffocation: I have frequently thought that if the occupants of the rooms I have been describing, could only know as much, they would be in almost similar danger.

Bad air, one would think, is bad enough: but when it is heated and dried to an excessive degree, all its original vileness is stimulated to greater activity, and thus made doubly injurious by this new element of evil. Not only our private houses, but our churches and school-rooms, our railroad cars, and all our places of public assemblage, are, to a most lamentable degree, either unprovided with any means of ventilation, or, to a great extent, supplied with those which are so wretchedly deficient that they

"Keep the word of promise to our ear,
And break it to our hope."

That ultimate degeneracy must surely follow such entire disregard of the laws of health, cannot be doubted; and those who imagine that the physical stamina of a people [138] can be undermined, and yet that their intellectual, moral and religious health will suffer no eclipse or decay, know very little of the intimate connection between body and mind, which the Creator has seen fit to establish.

The men may, to a certain extent, resist the injurious influences of foul air; as their employments usually compel them to live much more out of doors: but alas, alas! for the poor women! In the very land where women are treated with more universal deference and respect than in any other, and where they so well deserve it, there often, no provision is made to furnish them with that great element of health, cheerfulness and beauty, heaven's pure, fresh air.

In Southern climes, where doors and windows may be safely kept open for a large part of the year, pure air is cheap enough, and can be obtained without any special effort: but in Northern latitudes, where heated air must be used for nearly three-quarters of the year, the neglect of ventilation is fast causing the health and beauty of our women to disappear. The pallid cheek, or the hectic flush, the angular form and distorted spine, the debilitated appearance of a large portion of our females, which to a stranger, would seem to indicate that they were just recovering from a long illness, all these indications of the lamentable absence of physical health, to say nothing of the anxious, care-worn faces and premature wrinkles, proclaim in sorrowful voices, our violation of God's physical laws, and the dreadful penalty with which He visits our transgressions.

Our people must, and I have no doubt that eventually they will be most thoroughly aroused to the necessity of a vital reform on this important subject. Open stoves, and cheerful grates and fire-places will again be in vogue with the mass of the people, unless some better mode of warming shall be devised, which, at less expense, shall make still more ample [139] provision for the constant introduction of fresh air. Houses will be constructed, which, although more expensive in the first cost, will be far cheaper in the end, and by requiring a much smaller quantity of fuel to warm the air, will enable us to enjoy the luxury of breathing air which may be duly tempered, and yet be pure and invigorating. Air-tight and all other lung-tight stoves will be exploded, as economizing in fuel only when they allow the smallest possible change of air, and thus squandering health and endangering life.

The laws very wisely forbid the erection of wooden buildings in large cities, and in various ways, prescribe such regulations for the construction of edifices as are deemed to be essential to the public welfare; and the time cannot, I trust, be very far distant, when all public buildings erected for the accommodation of large numbers, will be required by law, to furnish a supply of fresh air, in some reasonable degree adequate to the necessities of those who are to occupy them.

I shall ask no excuse for the honest warmth of language which will appear extravagant only to those who cannot, or rather will not, see the immense importance of pure air to the highest enjoyment, not only of physical, but of mental and moral health. The man who shall succeed in convincing the mass of the people, of the truth of the views thus imperfectly presented, and whose inventive mind shall devise a cheap and efficacious way of furnishing a copious supply of pure air for our dwellings and public buildings, our steamboats and railroad cars, will be even more of a benefactor than a Jenner, or a Watt, a Fulton, or a Morse.

To return from this lengthy and yet I trust not unprofitable digression.

In the ventilation of my hive, I have endeavored, as far as possible, to meet all the necessities of the bees, under the varying circumstances to which they are exposed, in our [140] uncertain climate, whose severe extremes of temperature impress most forcibly upon the bee-keeper, the maxim of the Mantuan Bard,

"Utraque vis pariter apibus metuenda."

"Extremes of heat or cold, alike are hurtful to the bees." In order to make artificial ventilation of any use to the great majority of bee-keepers, it must be simple, and not as in Nutt's hive, and many other labored contrivances, so complicated as to require almost as constant supervision as a hot-bed or a green-house. The very foundation of any system of ventilation should be such a construction of the hive that the bees shall need a change of air only for breathing.

In the Chapter on Protection, I have explained the construction of my hives, and of the Protector by which the bees being kept warm in Winter, and cool in Summer, do not require, as in thin hives, a very free introduction of air, in hot weather, to keep the combs from softening; or a still larger supply in Winter, to prevent them from moulding, and to dry up the moisture which runs from their icy tops and sides; and which, if suffered to remain, will often affect the bees with dysentery, or as it is sometimes called, "the rot." The intelligent Apiarian will perceive that I thus imitate the natural habitation of the bees in the recesses of a hollow tree in the forest, where they feel neither the extremes of heat nor cold, and where through the efficacy of their ventilating powers, a very small opening admits all the air which is necessary for respiration.

In the Chapter on the Requisites of a good hive, I have spoken of the importance of furnishing ventilation, independently of the entrance. By such an arrangement, I am able to improve upon the method which the bees are compelled to adopt in a state of nature. As they have no means of admitting air by wire-cloth, and at the same time, of effectually [141] excluding all intruders, they are obliged in very hot weather, and in a very crowded state of their dwellings, to employ a larger force in the laborious business of ventilation, than would otherwise be necessary; while in Winter, they have no means of admitting air which is only moderately cool. I can keep the entrance so small, that only a single bee can go in at once, or I can, if circumstances require, entirely close it, and yet the bees need not suffer for the want of air. In all ordinary cases, the ventilators will admit a sufficient supply of duly tempered air from the Protector, and the bees can, at any time, increase their efficiency by their own direct agency, while yet they will, at no time, admit a strong current of chilly air, so as to endanger the life of the brood. As bees are, at all times, prone to close the ventilators with propolis, they must be placed where they can easily be removed, and cleansed, by soaking them in boiling water.

As respects ventilation from above, as well as from below, so as to allow a free current of air to pass through the hive, I am decidedly opposed to it, as in cool and windy weather, such a current often compels the bees to retire from the brood, which in this way is destroyed by a fatal chill. In thin hives, ventilation from above may be desirable in Winter, to carry off the superfluous moisture, but in properly constructed hives, standing over a Protector, there is, as has already been remarked, little or no dampness to be carried off. The construction of my hives will allow, if at all desirable, of ventilation from above; and I always make use of it, when the bees are to be shut up for any length of time, in order to be moved; as in this case, there is always a risk that the ventilators on the bottom-board may be clogged by dead bees, and the colony suffocated. As the entrance of the hive, may in a moment, be enlarged to any desirable extent, [142] without in the least perplexing the bees, any quantity of air may be admitted, which the necessities of the bees, under any possible circumstances, may require. It may be made full 18 inches in length, but as a general rule, in Summer, in a large colony, it need not exceed six inches: while in Spring and Fall, two or three inches will suffice. In Winter, it should be entirely closed; unless in latitudes so warm, that even with the Protector, the bees cannot be kept quiet. The bee-keeper should never forget that it is almost certain destruction to a colony, to confine them when they wish to fly out. The precautions requisite to prevent robbing, will be subsequently described. In Northern latitudes, in the months of April and May, I prefer to keep the ventilators entirely closed; as the air of the Protector, at such times, like the air of a cellar in Spring, is uncomfortably cool, and has a tendency to interfere with breeding.

Note. - Since the remarks on the neglect of ventilation were put in type, my attention has been called by Hon. M. P. Wilder, of Dorchester, to an article on the same subject, in the Nov. number of the Horticulturist, for 1850, from the pen of the lamented Downing. It seems to have been written shortly after his return from Europe, and when he must have been most deeply impressed by the woeful contrast, in point of physical health between the women of America and Europe. While he speaks in just and therefore glowing terms of the virtues of our countrywomen, he says: "But in the signs of physical health and all that constitutes the outward aspect of the men and women of the United States, our countrymen and especially countrywomen, compare most unfavorably with all but the absolutely starving classes on the other side of the Atlantic." Close stoves he has most appropriately styled "little demons," and impure air "The favorite poison of America." His article concludes as follows:

"Pale countrymen and countrywomen rouse yourselves! Consider that God has given us an atmosphere of pure health-giving air 45 miles high, and ventilate your houses."

Bee Culture: Ventilation of the Hive
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