Cyclopedia of American Agriculture

Volume III -- Animals.

Part III -- North American Farm Animals

278a     Bees

Bees.  Apis mellifica, Linn.  Apidae.  Figs. 308-323.

By W. K. Morrison.

     It is abundantly evident from the records of the remote past that bee-keeping has always been a favorite occupation with civilized nations.  Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Palestine, Greece, Rome, and Carthage all had their bee-keepers, and probably bee-culture in Egypt today difers but slightly from what existed there four thousand years ago.  If there is any difference, it is likely for the worse.  In the days of Aristotle there are said to have existed two or three hundred treatises on bees, so that then, as now, bee-keeping was a favorite topic with authors.  More books have appeared on bees and bee-culture than have ever been published about any domestic animal, not excepting the horse or the dog.  Aristotle wrote a special treatise on bees, but all traces of it have been lost, and we are chiefly dependent on Columella for a knowledge of ancient apiculture; and we learn from him that the Greeks were skilful and painstaking bee-keepers.  The fourth book of Vergil's Georgics is wholly devoted to bees.  It was not until the appearance of L. L. Langstroth's hive (1852) that we of the West may be said to have surpassed the Greeks.  In the palmy days of Egypt, when she was at her zenith, floating apiaries were a feature of her apiculture; floating apiaries still exist on the Nile, lacking a historian to record them, for it is admitted by our best bee-keepers that such an apiary requires expert skill to manage it, and American attempts of the kind have ended in failure.

     Like other industries, bee-keeping began to articulate in the sixteenth century.  Various authors

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in English, French and German are entitled to credit for their efforts to create a science of bee-keeping free from charlatanism; but it was not till the appearance of the work of Jan Swammerdam, a Dutch naturalist, that bee-keeping may be said to have found its place among the sciences.  He illustrated the anatomy of the bee in a masterly way, and set at rest a lot of superstitious notions about bees and their life-history.  Had he continued as he began, Swammerdam would surely have anticipated some of the most important discoveries of our time by several centuries.  An English edition of Swammerdam appeared about 1757.

     The next observer of note was Maraldi, an Italian astronomer, followed by Reaumur, the distinguished French investigator.  Reaumur shed a flood of new light on the habits of bees at work in the hive; but as he neglected to state by what means he had obtained his information, readers were slow to believe him.  Huber, a blind Swiss naturalist, took up the work of Reaumur where he left off, and with the aid of his faithful, clever wife, and an extraordinarily able hired man named Burnens, proved Reaumur's work on the habits of the honey-bee to be correct, in the main.  His work is a masterpiece in experimentation; and all entomologists, as well as bee-keepers, are generally indebted to him.  Henceforth, empirical bee-keeping was at a discount.  Huber invented a leaf-hive to enable him better to conduct his researches, so that he was the original inventor of movable combs, the basis of practical bee-keeping in the United States and Europe.  But Huber's hive was not practical.  It was not until the Rev. Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth, of Philadephia, invented his movable-frame hive, in 1852, that bee-keeping developed into something more than a pleasant and profitable fad.

     It is difficult to convey to the lay mind the importance of the Langstroth invention, but it is comparable to the invention of the locomotive in land transport.  The whole science of bee-keeping has been recast, and Langstroth's hive has been adopted in some form by the United States, Canada, Mexico, West Indies, South America, South Africa, Australasia, England, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Russia, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and other less-known countries.  Germany, Austria, Poland, and other central European countries, under the advice of Dzierzon, have refused to adopt Langstroth's invention; but there can be little doubt as to its ultimate conquest of these countries also.  Pastor Dzierzon, who was born in 1811, three weeks after the birth of Langstroth, who died in 1906, at his home in Silesia, Prussia, had by virtue of his ability exercised immense autocratic influence on European apiculture, due to his discovery of the law of parthenogenesis as applied to bees.  Dzierzon had noted that when a pure Italian queen was mated with a German drone, the females were cross-breeds, while the drones were pure Italians; hence, he asserted that the drones had no father.  Prof. Von Siebold, the brilliant German microscopial anatomist, at once saw the importance of Dzierzon's discovery, and hastened to his assistance and, with characteristic German thoroughness and consumate skill in

[Plate VI.  A good farm apiary; different forms of the honey-bee; Apis dorsata and A. Indica; Queen bee, Worker, Drone]

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handling microscopical materials, he labored until the law was firmly established.  Of course, a knowledge of the workings of the law of parthenogenesis is necessary to all bee-breeders with any pretensions of scientific skill.

     Dr. Von Planta, a Swiss savant, now dead, also put us under abiding obligations to the land of Huber by his brilliant researches into the chemistry of the bee-hive.  In scientific, painstaking style he furnished us with an analysis of the flower-nectar, honey, honey-dew, royal jelly, chyle food, bee-bread, wax, and the like.  We, of America, are much in want of a clear exposition of Von Planta's work in the English language.

     It only remains for us to mention the work of A. I. Root in the United States.  The friend of Langstroth, he set about the work of improving our hives and other necesary appliances, and with the true Yankee sense, succeeded in making American apiarian implements the standard of the world; and the present proud position of our apiculture as the model for all others, is in no small part due to the work of Root, who took up the work of improving crude and imperfect apicultural tools until America was recognized as the land of bee-keepers, bee-ranches, bee-appliances, honey, and wax.

     At the present time, our apiculturists are optimistic, self-reliant, and as inventive as ever before, and the future is full of promise.  In Europe, bee-keeping is often stated to be an ideal occupation for peasants.  With us, the highest intelligence is required, and our bee-keepers turn out tons of honey, whereas they of the old nations produce hundred weights.  On reliable authority, California is stated to have produced for export, in one year, five hundred carloads of fine honey, single apiarists producing as much as eighty tons; and one baking concern has bought approximately one thousand tons in one lot.  Apiarists who can produce twenty to thirty tons of honey per annum are not unusual.  Europeans are loath to believe of our success, but both England and France have frankly admitted our superiority by adopting our methods.  The quality of our honey is also higher than European, in general, due to the far greater mobility of our hives, enabling us to keep the honey of each flower separate from any other with the greatest ease.

     The honey and wax industry of the United States has an annual value of between $20,000,000 and $30,000,000, and this on a capitalization of about $100,000,000.  There is much room for improvement, as far better results could be secured without increasing the capitalization.  On $100,000,000 of capital we should secure at least $50,000,000 of return.  In many parts of this country, bees are still kept in common boxes and hollow logs, particularly in the Southern states, where the conditions are good for successful bee-keeping.

Classification of bees.

     Among insects the bee is placed by entomologists in the order Hymenoptera, with ants and other insects having four membraneous wings.  It belongs to the family Apidae, or long-tongued bees;

Bees     279b

to the genus Apis and the species mellifica.  Linnaeus originally named the ordinary hive-bee Apis mellifera, meaning honey-gatherer.  On having the fact pointed out that the bee makes honey from flower-nectar, he changed the specific name to mellifica, meaning honey-maker.  Attempts have recently been made to change this latter name in accordance with the law of priority in scientific names, but the name mellifica is so well-chosen, and so firmly-established in bee literature, that it would be a sacrilege to change it.

     A careful systematic study of the different species and subspecies or varieties of the genus Apis found in all parts of the world was published in 1906 by H. von Bettel-Reepen.  The following arrangement is adapted from his work (varieties of Apis dorsata and A. Indica omitted):

     Apis dorsata, India and eastward.
     Apis florea, India, Ceylon, Java.
     Apis mellifica, the common hive-bee in many subspecies and varieties:
          (a) Subspecies mellifica proper, with varieties Ligustica, remipes, Carnica, Cypria, Lehzeni.
          (b) Subspecies Indica, with varieties Peroni, Sinensis, Japonica, picea, Koschevnikovi.
          (c) Subspecies unicolor, with verieties Adansoni, fasciata, intermissa, Friesei, Syriaca.

     Two species have not been domesticated,--dorsata, the giant of the genus, and florea, the dwarf.  Attempts have been made to reduce dorsata to a state of domestication, but its nomadic habits, fierce temper,and custom of living out-of-doors render the task difficult.  To introduce fasciata, Adansonii, unicolor and Indica into the United States would seem to be entirely feasible; and such a bee as the Egyptian--beautiful and industrious--should find a place in America, very probably in Arizona and California.

     We know but little about the bees of China and Japan, except that the natives of those countries have had them domesticated for centuries.  We know, also, that the Chinese bees are smaller, hence American hives and apparatus are failures with them.  The same is true of the Apis Indica, a very useful bee.

     The stingless bees of South America, Melipona trigona and M. tetrasoma, have recently occupied some attention with apicultural students.  Von Ihering, of Brazil, and Morrison, of the United States, have devoted considerable attention to them, with the result that we are able to get a fair conception of their value.

     It is evident that in South America we have to do with an immense number of bee species, some of which are readily domesticated and have been kept in apiaries for centuries by the natives.  It seems probable that the natives, so ruthlessly swept away by the Spaniards under Pizarro, were good bee-keepers.  Captain Basil Hall, in the eighteenth century, mentions stingless-bee apiaries in Peru.  Koster also mentions them in Brazil.  In so large a country as the United States a place prob- 

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ably will be found for them.  Honey-gathering wasps are also common in tropical South America.

     There are a number of sub-species or races of bees cultivated in this country at the present time, all having their partisans:

Apis mellifica
     Blacks, or German race.
     Albino (a variety of the Italian).
     Holy Land, or Syrian.
     Hybrids, cross between Italian and German.

In general popularity, the Italians easily lead, and justly so.  The Cyprians and Holy Lands have had a fair trial and, all things considered, are not equal to the Italians.  The Carniolans are favored for elevated cool localities in the North.  The only American breed is the Albino, a beautiful sport from American-bred Italians.

     The Italian bee has been so carefully nurtured in this country that our bee-keepers now send queens of this breed to all parts of the world, in small mailing-cages.  They have sent them repeatedly to Italy to improve the race there.  There is some danger at the present moment of the production of an American mongrel as a result of the indiscriminate introduction of new races.  We control the fertilization of queens so badly that it is with great difficulty we can keep our bees pure.  Only bees of very considerble distinctive qualities should be experimented with, or the result is chaos; and this stage has already been reached in some places.

The queen.

     Cattle-breeders say the bull is half the flock; with equal truth bee-keepers can affirm that the queen is 75 per cent of a nest of bees, for the law of parthenogenesis operates to give greater importance to the queen.  The least imperfection in a queen is fatal, and some bee-keepers fail at this very point.  It is frequently noted that a colony of bees will give a handsome return, while a colony at its side under preciesely similar condition will give no return at all.  This is simply due to the difference in the queens; hence, successful bee-keeping depends largely on paying the greatest possible attention to the queens of the apiary.

     The queen is the only fully developed female in a hive of bees; that is to say, she has not had to submit to a process of weaning on the fifth day of her existence (from the laying of the egg) as is the case with workers.  On the contrary, she is fed in the most liberal manner on royal jelly, a pre-digested food made by the nurse-bees for the occasion.  The workers, on the other hand, never seem to get enough food--chyle-food, a sort of bee milk--and before being closed up to undergo their transformations, are fed a meal of inferior food.  The net result is a deficient development of the

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ovaries, although, by rare exception, worker-bees may appear which have the power of laying eggs, but these workers, being unfertilized, produce only drones.

     The queen, on the other hand, has her sexual organs fully developed, and it is the opinion of Leuckart, a German authority, that a good queen has within her 25,000,000 spermatozoa from the male, and during her lifetime will lay 1,500,000 to 2,500,000 eggs.  In about a week after emergence fertilization takes place, far from the hive, and high in the air, so that the act of copulation is seldom seen--high up to be clear of enemies, and far away to give unrelated drones a chance to find her, and thereby to prevent inbreeding.

     The stages of a queen may be expressed thus:
     (1) The egg hatches in three days.
     (2) Fed for two days on chyle-food as workers are.
     (3) Fed for three days on royal jelly.
     (4) Her cell clsoed up by the bees.
     (5) Emerges in seven days (fifteen days in all), a perfect bee.
     (6) Mated in seven days (sometimes only five, and sometimes nine or ten days) on an average.  The queen mates only once.
     (7) Begins to lay in about two days usually.

     During their lifetime the queens and drones are fed a chyle-food by the nurse bees.  It will be apparent that the queen requires this, since she will frequently lay 3000 eggs per day, and possibly on rare occasions 5000.  In other words, she is a laying machine, and has no time for digesting regular bee-food, hence the nurses save her the labor.  In the fall of the year in this country, the drones are killed by the nurses withholding the necessary chyle-food.


     If a young queen is debarred in some manner from mating with a drone, she is not always barren, as would be supposed, but some such queens lay drone eggs in profusion, and these hatch into perfect drones.  It has been observed, also, that drone eggs laid by a fertile queen have never been impregnated, as female eggs always are.  Hence it is true that drones require no father, and always resemble their mothers.  It is important here to credit the skilful manner by which Dzierzon, Von Siebold, Leuckart, Schönfeld, and others proved this wonderful fact of parthenogenesis.  Our bee-keepers owe the Germans a debt of gratitude for the work they have done in this connection.


     Despite all that has been said by many authors, the queen is by no means the most perfect in the equipment of the bees of a hive.  "The lazy, yawning drone" has more eyes, better wings, and probably better faculties all round, the better to overtake and conquer the queen.  Good bee-keepers pay great attention to the quality of the drones in their apiaries.

Bees     281a

The workers.

     As has been already noted, the workers are "weaned" or imperfectly developed females--amazons, Dr. Warder termed them in the eighteenth century.  Weaning has nearly the same effect that gelding has on a horse.  It also retards development, so that the worker requires twenty-one days for development from the laying of the egg, whereas the queen needs only fifteen days.

     The first duty of a bee is to nurse the larvae in the cells, cap the cells with wax, and secrete wax ready for comb-building, although this can be done by older bees when required.  In ten to fourteen days they proceed out-of-doors to collect honey and pollen in the fields.  The young bees are also, as Shakespeare denoted, "singing masons, building roofs of gold,"--i.e., comb-builders.


     No satisfactory reason has ever been given for this peculiar phenomenon.  Maeterlinck says that it is the "spirit of the hive" which orders it, and this expresses it as well as anything.  Our modern bee-keepers dislike this instinct, as it frequently upsets all their nicely laid plans; and it is no exaggeration to say the yield of honey from a modern apiary could be doubled, and even trebled, if swarming could be checked without injury to the stock of bees.  The best we can do is to minimize its effect and gently guide the force we can not control completely.

     In normal swarming, the colony of bees affected reaches a stage when there is an abundance of food on hand, numerous young bees in process of growth, and all signs of a vigorous prosperity evident on every hand; then, with a wild, pent-up energy, the queen, accompanied by the best part of the bees, fully laden with honey in their sacs, rushes forth, and, after some maneuvering in the atmosphere, they settle on some branch or bush near by, at the same time sending out scouts to find a suitable home in a hollow tree or other receptacle.  Then the bee-keeper gives them a hive to live in by simply shaking them into it, or by shaking them

[Illustration:  Fig. 308.  An English apiary; and the old-fashioned straw beehive.]

down in front of an enlarged entrance-hole.  They seem glad to find a home, particularly if it is clean.

     Generally speaking, swarms can be handled with impunity without veils, gloves, or smoke, as the bees are in great good humor, unless allowed to hang too long, when hunger sets in.

Bees     281b


     It is supposed by the general public that honey is gathered by the bees directly from the nectaries of flowers.  On the contrary, honey is a prepared food

[Illustration:  Fig. 309.  Straw hives in a French apiary.]

digested by the bees in anticipation of its being used as a food by themselves or young.  The nectar of the flowers, as has been proved by Dr. Von Planta, is almost identical with the juice of the sugar-cane plant, and is, therefore, a right-handed sugar; whereas, on the contrary, honey is a left-handed sugar and belongs with the grape-sugar class.

     It is difficult to explain to a layman what processes the honey undergoes from the time it leaves the flower in the form of nectar.  Usually the nectar is reduced to a third or a fourth of its original bulk, and has been "inverted."  It also acquires formic acid from the bees, and probably some other ingredients, such as phosphoric acid.  Nectar runs as freely as water, whereas honey is very thick, and at a comparatively low temperature turns into a granulated condition--granulates, in fact, at a temperature as high as 65° Fahr.  Honey is often sold in Europe in a solid state, and some progress has been made in familiarizing the American market with granulated honey.

Wax secretion.

     For a long time the production of wax was involved in mystery:  not until John Hunter, the English anatomist, pointed out that wax is a secretion from certain glands in the abdomen of the worker bees, was the matter fairly settled.  Huber proved that bees could make a liberal amount of wax if fed exclusively on sugar, showing conclusively that it is a manufacture.  A high, steady temperature is necessary for wax secretion, so that our northern bee-keepers are rather consumers than producers of wax.  In warm countries wax production is a profitable part of apiculture, and the bees produce it involuntarily, even when no combs are being built.  To produce wax in large amount, the bees hang themselves in festoons motionless for

282a     Bees

days.  Young bees do this work, although old bees can be used in a strait.

Hives.  (Figs. 308-320).

     The question of what is the best hive is always an interesting topic in apicultural discussions, but this is not the place to enter into a consideration of the relative merits of the various hives now in use in the United States.  All our modern hives, however, are based on the hive invented by the Rev. L. L. Langstroth in 1852, which possessed two striking features differentiating it from all others:  First, a movable comb-frame having a bee-space on all sides; second,

[Illustration:  Fig. 310.  The Langstroth hive as figured by the inventor in 1859.  "Movable comb hive, with full glass arrangement."]

a movable roof.  The latter feature is seldom referred to, although, even now, in Germany a movable roof is strongly condemned as unhygienic; but our bee-keeping industry would be poor indeed with a fixed hive-roof.  Broadly speaking, then, all our modern hives are Langstroth hives, with small improvements.  The original Langstroth was made as shown in Figs. 310, 311.

     The only improvement we have made thus far is in the mode of spacing the frames.  In the original Langstroth hive the eye was trusted to space the frames correctly one and one-half inches apart from center to center.  It was found in practice, however, that the eye is a poor judge of space; besides, the frames slid about if the hive was moved.  The latest and probably the best means of self-spacing is a tin projection which automatically spaces the frames one and three-eighths inches apart.  (Fig. 312.)  With very accurate spacers we can place the combs still closer, say one and one-fourth inches.  Our most common hive is the dove tailed, or

[Illustration:  Fig. 311.  The hive as pictured by Langstroth.  "A perspective view with the cover elevated, so as to show the working of the bees, both in the main hive and the upper honey-box."  1859.]

lock-cornered; but it is only the old Langstroth hive improved by lock-corners, therefore simpler, easier to make, and far stronger.  (Fig. 313.)  It may be necessary here to point out that a bee-space is one-sixth of an inch or, if expressed in decimals, .17 of an inch.  Between two combs, therefore, one-third

282b     Bees

of an inch is required to provide sufficient space to let two bees pass.

     The upper story of a hive is the same as the lower, if the apiarist is running for "strained" or extracted honey.  Between the two stories, however, a piece of perforated metal is placed to prevent the queen gaining access to the upper chamber and laying eggs in the combs reserved exclusively for honey.  The holes in the metal (zinc) honey-board are so perforaed as to allow the worker to pass freely, but not the queen or drones.  (Fig. 314-316).

[Illustration:  Fig. 312.  Self-spacing Langstroth frames.]

     A hive intended to produce honey in one-pound boxes is entirely different in the upper chamber, and is a triumph of Yankee ingenuity and wood-working skill.  In the comb-honey hive the upper story contains a number of small frames which apiarists term "sections" (Fig. 317.)  These are termed sections because eight of them constitute a full-sized Langstroth frame.  The general public uses the word "box" or "cap" to denote the same thing.  To insure regularity these "sections" are arranged with separators or fences between each two rows.  These act as guide-

[Illustration:  Fig. 313.  Standard American hive.  Langstroth type.]

posts or plumb-lines to the bees, thereby insuring combs so regular in outline as to resemble so many pressed bricks.  This allows of the sections (boxes) being arranged in crates in mathematical order and, of course, are liked by the retailers of honey.  It is easier to produce honey without fences being used, and when one sells directly to the consumers there is no necessity for these; in point of fact, some consumers prefer crooked combs as a proof that they were not made by some sort of machine.

[Illustration:  Fig. 314.  Marbach entrance, showing drone excluder.]

     The production of comb-honey in "sections" or boxes holding one pound, is almost a business by itself, requiring an expert knowledge of bees, together with a certain amount of refinement in preparing and adjusting the boxes, and also in preparing them for sale.  The European poets have sung the praises of the honey of Mt. Hymettus and of Narbonne, but we are safe in saying that the poets never saw honey that would

[Illustration: Fig. 315.  Marbach-Alley drone trap.]

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bear comparison with the section comb-honey of America.  To see ten or twenty tons of comb-honey in snow-white sections, pile up in a bee-keeper's honey-house, is a beautiful sight.

     Comb-honey is now popular in England.  Many wealthy persons of America are not so liberal minded, and some are actually prejudiced.  Because it is so uniform in appearance, many think it is made by

[Illustration:  Fig. 316.  Marbach wire drone- and queen-excluding metal.  One-half natural size.]

mechanical means, and a canard to that effect has been very extensively circulated by the newspaper press, and has even been copied by eminent authorities on food analysis.  This canard has done very great damage to this particular branch of the bee industry.  It was thought by bee-keepers at one time that, by offering honey in the comb to their customers, all fear of adulteration would pass away.  These hopes have been rudely dispelled.  We are safe in saying that all comb-honey is pure, unadulterated honey; and the more beautifully white it is, the better it is in taste, generally speaking.

     The main principle in comb-honey production is to have one's hives abundant in bees on the very day the honey campaign begins, and to have all fixtures in readiness.  If the honey is to be obtained from clover or basswood blossoms, the apiarist

[Illustration:  Fig. 317.  One-piece basswod comb-sections unfolded.  1.  Beeway, commonly called closed top; 2, beeway open top and bottom; 3, beeway open on three sides; 4, beeway open on all four sides; 5 P, plain no beeways, used with fences; 5 M, plain, no beeways, size 4 X 5 X 1 3/8.]

must be in a position to prophesy fairly the day the blossoms will appear.  The chief difficulty the comb-honey specialist has to contend with, is the desire of the bees to swarm; for if a swarm issues, that generally puts an end to the work on the comb-honey supers.  To retrieve themselves, bee-keepers capture the swarm and place the upper chamber of the parent colony on the swarm colony.  To compel the bees to begin work actually at once, our best apiarists confine the colony to a small brood-compartment, which has the effect of causing the bees to invade the upper chamber at once; once in there, they will proceed to work on the boxes.

     A goodly proportion of our apiarists are turning to what is termed the shallow or divisible brood-chamber hives

[Illustration:  Fig. 318.  Farmer's section-box.]

to accomplish this result with the least possible labor.  (Fig. 319.)  A shallow hive is simply a hive which is shallow in proportion to its length and breadth.  Langstroth's hive was ten inches deep,

Bees     283b

whereas a shallow hive is seven and one-half inches or less in depth, say six inches.  The reason for resorting to this kind of hive is that the bees are very loath to enter the small compartments, holding no more than a pound of honey, and compulsion must be used to some extent.  To produce extracted or strained honey is easier, as the brood-chamber and upper story are alike; and as there is pleny of room, there is little desire to swarm.  By robbing the hives occasionally, the bee-master deprives them of all signs of high prosperity, and this is sufficient to hold in check the swarming instinct, which is, undoubtedly, the bane of successful bee-keeping.  Swarming and honey-production are not compatible, and the modern bee-keepers would give a great sum for a method of action which would

[Illustration:  Fig. 319.  Divisible brood-chamber, hive and super.  The two lower stories for a brood- or breeding-chamber, upper one for honey.]

effectually control it.  There are many minds at work on the problem.

Comb foundation.

     The invention of comb foundation marked a distinct advance in American bee-keeping.  This is the midrib, or septum, of the comb already prepared by man for the bees to add cells to.  It is made by subjecting long sheets of beeswax to pressure in a mold which will yield impressions of a six-sided cell.  The process resembles printing except that no color is used.  The first foundation-machine was made by Mehring, a German highly skilled mechanic.  The old process was to dip thin boards in melted wax, and, when cooled sufficiently, to peel the adhering wax sheets from the boards.  The Weed process has largely displaced this practice and is considerably better, because large blocks of wax are "laminated" into sheets very much as steel ingots are rolled into sheet-iron.

     The skilful use of foundation marks the successful bee-keeper.  He uses full

[Illustration:  Fig. 320.  A type of observation hive.]

sheets of foundation in the brood-frames to prevent the bees building drone-cells, which they will do to the amount of 25 per cent of the space available.  To allow so large a propoertion of a brood-chamber to be occupied with worse than useless drone-comb is, obviously, a losing speculation; still, it is frequently done.  Sheets of foundation properly placed, produce combs so straight and uniform in outline as to resemble so many planed boards.  As a result, every comb in the apiary is interchangeable with any other, which represents no small gain.  Attention to these details enables our

284a     Bees

bee-keepers to attend to a number of hives which would seem incredible to a European bee-master.  Full sheets or sometimes only small "starters" of very thin foundation also are inserted in the section comb-honey boxes to insure rapid work, as the bees naturally dislike so small a comb-frame; but, finding foundation in it, they work it out.

The honey-extractor.  (Fig. 322.)

     After the appearance of the moveable-comb hive of Langstroth, various aids to bee-keepers appeared, the first of which was Major Von Hruschka's mel-extractor,

[Illustration:  Fig. 321.  A smoker.]

which removed the honey from combs by centrifugal force.  All Americans are familiar with the principles involved.  The capping is first removed from the comb by means of a honey-knife, then the combs are placed in wire baskets inside the extractor, the handle of the latter is turned with great rapidity and the honey is thrown from the combs against the side of the extractor.

     Our American mechanics have greatly improved the original honey-extractor, until now it is almost a perfect instrument.  Occasionally the extractor is turned by engine-power.  Centrifugal extractors for wax have also been tried, but none is practical.

Wax-extractor and honey-press.  (Fig. 323.)

     The most familiar form of wax-extractor is the "solar," working by the sun's heat.  It is excellent as far as it goes, but leaves too much wax in the slumgum, or residue, to be termed effective.  The latest and by far the most useful wax-extractor is the steam wax-press, in which both steam- and screw-pressure are used to force the wax to part from the mass operated on.  It costs considerable, but this is more than counterbalanced by the usefulness.  It may be used as a honey-press when the bee-keeper desires to secure a large production of wax.  Where the seasons are long, as

[Illustration:  Fig. 322.  A modern type of automatic honey-extractor.]

in the South and West Indies, there is not the same necessity to use combs over again as in the North; and as the price of wax is good, some bee-keepers resort to the practice of pressing out the honey in this press, saving themselves labor and securing a larger production of wax.  There can be little doubt that this practice will become popular.


     One of the absorbing phases of bee-keeping is the rearing of queens.  It has assumed large proportions of late years, and there is really more room for very skilful bee-keepers who will undertake

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this work and do it with scientific thoroughness.  But it requires very considerable skill and a complete knowledge of bee-keeping in all its branches to be a really good queen-breeder.  The remuneration, however, is excellent for the skilful man.  It is almost unnecessary to say that the queen-breeder should locate in the South, in a particularly early locality.  Southern Texas takes the lead in queen-breeding matters; but the whole Gulf coast should be equally good.  Our northern bee-keepers would be greatly assisted by the production of queens early enough to put them into colonies which have become queenless during the winter, for these require a mother at the earliest possible moment.

     American queen-breeders are famous the world over, and our principal breeders are constantly sending their stock to all parts of the world, even to Italy, the home of our best bees.

     The theory of queen-rearing is to have a colony of bees in a condition bordering on madness for want of a queen.  In such a condition the bees will accept almost any young larvae the bee-keeper may provide.  They will also accept the artificial queen-cell cups, and provide food in abundance for the young larvae which have been "grafted" therein.  The beekeeper, on his part, selects

[Illustration:  Fig. 323.  A wax-press.]

larvae two days old from the combs of the best hive of bees he can find, and "grafts" these into artificial cell-cups to suit his convenience.  Natural queen-cells are extremely delicate, and the slightest squeeze injures the immature queen, though an amateur would not perceive the defect.  The defect is generally in the wing-structure.  There are various methods in vogue.  There are two schools--the Alley and the Doolittle--both of which are good, although the latter is the more popular.  We can not here enter into a description of the practices now in use.  A bulletin issued by the United States Department of Agriculture, entitled "Rearing of Queen-bees" (Bulletin No. 55, Bureau of Entomology, 1905), covers the ground very fully.

     When bred and ready for use, the queens are sent in small cages by mail almost anywhere, but it is doubtful whether such queens are as good as those never subjected to the jolts and jars of a mailbag.  Some persons now order their queens sent in small colonies of bees, technically a nucleus.  This gives the queen a far better chance.  One can not be too careful in buying queens to see that the seller has something else than the mere desire to sell queens, as it is so easy to deceive any but the most experienced bee-buyers.

 Bees as flower-fertilizers.

     Bees are often accused by fruit-growers of being inimical to their industry, when, as a matter of fact, they are absolutely necessary to the success of fruit-culture.  Mueller, who is the best authority, made the statement that bees pollinate more flowers

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than all other insect agencies put together.  It has been proved repeatedly that, without bees, fruit-culture is a precarious business; and, in California particularly, bee-keepers have been asked to return to localities when public opinion had compelled them to abandon the locality.  It is a case when familiarity breeds contempt.  We are likely to forget that it is the industry of the bee which fructifies the flower, taking the event as a matter of course.  If any one doubts this, let him cover up a melon or cucumber plant so that the bees can not reach the flowers.

Enemies and diseases.

     Luckily, the bee is not greatly pursued by enemies in the United States, and probably the ignorance and neglect of man are the only sources of trouble.  Most farmers who have kept bees and failed, attribute their failure to the wax-moth, when, as a matter of fact, neglect was the real cause.  Moths never attack vigorous colonies of bees; hence, the "secret" of success lies in having the bees in prime condition to resist all enemies.  The moths are like vultures, coming around when the colony is weak.  Very often the colony is queenless, or, if not, lacks food.  The remedies are obvious.

     Foul brood is a real enemy, and by "foul brood" may be included "black brood," and "pickled brood."  We are still very much in the dark as to the cause of the so-called "foul brood."  Cheshire attributes it to a bacillus, which he names Bacillus alvei; but later investigations have overthrown this opinion, and it is clearly evident that our information on the subject is very faulty.  It will be sufficient for us to give the cure (McEvoy method) for foul brood, which is easily recognized by its stinking, noisome smell, and "ropy" condition of the affected brood.  The McEvoy method is to take away the combs from a colony and burn them.  The colony is given a new set of frames with "starters," which are allowed to stay only four days, when an entirely new set, on full sheets of foundation, are given.  The new combs, made in four days, are melted into beeswax, and the treatment is finished.  The idea is to deprive the bees of every atom of honey (which conceals the germs), and give the colony a clean, fresh start in life.


     America possesses a large number of honey-yielding plants, that is to say, plants which secrete nectar in the floral organs, which the bees gather and convert into honey.  It is necessary to mention only the more important.  In New England, New York and Pennsylvania, clover, basswood and buckwheat may be denominated leaders; but in special localities some other plant or tree may be an important factor, as, for example, the locust on Long Island.  In some remote localities the fireweed (Epilobium) or the wild raspberry may be important.  The culture of sainfoin in the East would be a great boon for eastern bee-keepers; but its extensive introduction seems far distant, although in Europe it is very valuable.  [Pages 564, Vol. II.]

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     In Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa, clover and basswood are the leaders.  In some parts of Michigan, fireweed and raspberry give large yields of superior honey, and in other places goldenrod and aster give liberal returns; and on the overflowed lands of the Mississippi, heartsease (Persicaria) is an excellent bee-flower.

     In the border states, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, West Virginia and Arkansas, in addition to clover and basswood, there are some excellent honey-producers not common farther north--tulip-tree, persimmon, crimson clover (in Delaware), blue thistle, black gum, Judas-tree, laurel, varnish-tree, magnolia, sourwood, yellow-wood, and others.  In North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas, honey-bearing plants are abundant, the leaders being the so-called "gum" trees (Nyssa and Liriodendron), and cotton, corn, sweet clover (in Alabama), okra, sourwood, sorrel, ti-ti, persimmon, gallberry, with many minor plants.  In Texas, similar plants exist; but in southwestern Texas, which is a sort of bee-keepers' Paradise, and a semi-arid region, an entirely different set of bee-plants exists.  Catclaw and huajilla are probably the chief, both being species of Lygia; also Lippia repens, certain labiate plants, and, where irrigation is followed, alfalfa.  In the arid and semi-arid states, alfalfa is the favorite; but the Rocky mountain bee-plant (Cleome integrifolia) is very valuable, while the sweet clover growing along the canal courses and by the fence-corners is not despised.  The habit of cutting alfalfa before blooming has curtailed the yield from that source during the last few years; still, in Utah and Colorado excellent yields of very high-grade honey are often reported from this source, and the bee-keepers of the Rockies are second to none in ability and enterprise.

     Florida stands apart, the leading honey-plants being tropical, namely, false mangrove, palmetto and saw-palmetto, all three being excellent yielders of fine honey when the conditions are proper.  West Florida is an exception, tupelo being the main reliance of the bee-keepers.  Arizona and southern California form another bee region, with manzanito, madrona, mesquite, black sage and white sage as the leading honey-plants.  It is the latter two which have given California a world-wide reputation for honey, in both quality and quantity.  Lima beans and alfalfa have proved, however, to be more reliable yielders than wild plants.  Fruit-bloom, together with eucalypti and pepper-trees, are also valuable.  All things considered, northern California is probably just as good in the long run.  In central California, carpet-grass (Lippia) and alfalfa are important yielders, with some fruit-bloom.

     Ontario and Quebec resemble New York and Ohio in honey-plants, except that thistles are important.  In Mexico, on the border at least, in the semi-arid parts, catclaw, huajilla, madrona, manzanito, and century plants are great yielders.  In Sonora, the garvanza peas are very important, also mesquite; while in the far South, on the bay of Campeche, the logwood stands without a peer as a honey-

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yielder, quality and quantity both considered.  The tropics have numberless honey plants.

     Cuba has many honey-plants, the leading being the celebrated bellflower (Ipomaea sidaefolia), pomarosa, algarroba, and the royal palm.  In Porto Rico, the leading honey-producers are the rose-apple (Eugenia Jambos), royal palm, coconut, coffee and its shade tree (Gliricidia), and a number of fruit trees.  The coffee districts are excellent for bees, although but little has been done in scientific apiculture.

     Jamaica produces a large amount of honey and wax.  Chili is a good honey-producer, from alfalfa principally, and Argentina has taken up the new apiculture in earnest.  The giant thistle of the pampas produces honey.  In Hawaii, the algarroba is a heavy yielder.

     It seems probable that new plants, that is, plants new to our bee-keepers, will be widely introduced in the years to come.  Nothing would give greater satisfaction to bee-keepers than to see sainfoin clover widely introduced into the eastern states.  In Arizona and southern California, the date promises to become important, and the eucalypti and pepper-tree are gaining ground rapidly.  The carob bean, in the Southwest, may become an acquisition, and the garvanza pea, of Sonora, would surely flourish in many sections of the South.  Soola clover, also a Spanish culture, would be a great benefit to the Southern bee-master; but the sweet clovers, both white and yellow, grow readily in the South on neglected land, and will probably improve the fertility of the soil.  Bee-keepers, generally, object to the laws which class sweet clover as a weed, inasmuch as it is a cultivated plant in Europe, and a valuable soil-improver.

     The American tropics possess a wonderfully rich bee-keepers' flora, and it is certainly very remarkable that nearly all the famous timber trees of the tropics are honey-producers.  Witness, for example, logwood, mahogany, rosewood, mangrove, divi-divi, lignum-vitae, teak, greenheart, balata (gutta-percha).  The great palms, also, such as coconut, date, Palmyra, Carnauba, Royal (Arenga saccharifera), Palmetto, the sugar palm (Phoenix sylvestris), are all very good, and, in the case of the date, exremely good.  It may be stated broadly that trees that are tapped for their sweet juice are also good nectar-yielders for bees.  Sugar-cane and corn produce nectar for bees when conditions are favorable, that is, when there is plenty of moist heat.  The most remarkable families of plants to bee-keepers in the tropics are the Verbenacae, Leguminosae Eucalypti, and the Proteacae, practically all the species of each being honey-producers.

The present position of bee-keeping.

     Our American apiculture is in a prosperous state, and the bee-keepers are enthusiastic and hopeful.  New inventions making for the improvement of the industry are constantly appearing, and doubtless more will follow; a main need at present is that the subject be given due attention in agricultural colleges.  It is unfortunate, indeed, that no agricultural college is at present providing a complete

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course in bee-keeping.  The industry is forcing its attention on the colleges, and sooner or later they must respond.


     The literature of bee-keeping is very rich and extensive in the English, French and German languages particularly.  De Montfort of Luxemburg, writing in 1646, enumerated 600 apicultural authors previous to him, and, of course, there has been a vast increase since his day.  Even the American literature is rather extensive, but is nevertheless of high quality, free from the pedantic tendency which is likely to characterize European bee-book authors; and there is but little need of an American student going beyond his own literature of this subject.  Space permits mention of only a few references here.

D. L. Adair, Annals of Bee-keeping, Louisville, Kentucky (1872)
Henry Alley, Thirty Years Among the Bees.  The author, Wenham, Massachusetts (1880)
Anna Botsford Comstock, How to Keep Bees, Doubleday, Page & Co. (1905)
A. J. Cook, Manual of the Apiary, or Bee-keeper's Guide, G. W. York & Co., Chicago, Illinois, twentieth edition (1904)
T. W. Cowan, The Anatomy and Physiology of the Honey-bee, Houlston & Co., London, England
G. M. Doolittle, Queen-rearing, Scientific, G. W. York, Chicago, Illinois (1889)
W. Z. Hutchinson, Advanced Bee Culture, Flint, Michigan (1905)
Harbison, The Bee-keepers Directory, H. H. Bancroft & Son, San Francisco (1861)
N. H. and H. A. King, The Bee-keeper's Text Book, The Authors, New York City
L. L. Langstroth, The Hive and Honey-bee, New York (1853)
Same, Revised by Dadant, Hamilton, Illinois (1906)
C. C. Miller, Forty Years Among the Bees, G. W. York & Co., Chicago (1902)
Miner, The American Bee-keepers' Manual, C. M. Saxton, fourth edition (1851)
T. G. Newman, Bees and Honey, The Author, Chicago (1892)
J. Phin, A Dictionary of Bee-keepers' Terms, The Author, New York (1890)
Moses Quinby, The New Bee-keeping, or The Mysteries of Bee-keeping Explained, Revised by L. C. Root, New York (1903)
A. I. Root, The A B C of Bee Culture, The A. I. Root Company, Medina, Ohio (1907)
G. L. Tinker, Bee-keeping for Profit, The Author, New Philadelphia, Ohio (1880)
M. D. Thacher, Bee-keeping, Marsh and Capen, Boston (1829)
Dr. H. and Phil Von Ihering, Bulletin of the Museu Paulista, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 1903, 1904, and 1905, on the bees of South American and the honey-gathering wasps--the first real attempt to grapple with the life-histories of the Meliponia, trigona and tetrasoma bees of that continent.

Among the magazines devoted to bee-keeping may be mentioned
The American Bee Journal (Chicago)
Gleanings in Bee Culture (Medina, Ohio)
The Bee-keeper's Review (Flint, Michigan)
Canadian Bee Journal (Brantford, Ontario)
American Bee-keeper (Fort Pierce, Florida)

See also various governmental publications, as Frank Benton's Honey-Bee, United States Department of Agriculture (1899); Also a valuable phamphlet on "Queen-rearing," by Phillips; and another on foul brood, entitled "Bacteria of the Apiary," issued in 1907.