Domestic Encyclopædia (1802)/Bee-hives
BEE-HIVES made of straw, have been generally preferred, as they are not liable to be over-heated by the rays of the sun, keep out the cold better than wood, and are cheaper than those of any other material.
M. Chabouille, in France, has lately suggested improvements upon bee-hives, which appear to us deserving of notice. His principal object is to procure the greatest degree of cleanliness for these delicate and industrious insects, by covering the bottom of the hive with plaster of Paris, and constructing the cylindrical inclosure of rye-straw, and cross ligaments, or bands, made of the inner rind of the lime-tree. When the basket-work is completed, he coats it over with a cement made of two-thirds of cow-dung, and one-third of ashes. In the interior part of the hive, he places two thin pieces of oak, crowing each other at right angles, which greatly facilitate the deposition of the honey-combs. The cover of the hive consists of a firm board, seventeen inches in diameter, and the entrance is so constructed, that it may be closed by a small door, to exclude injurious animals during winter. The lower part of this door has small semi-lunar incisions, each of which admits two bees abreast: above these, are made two rows of holes, just large enough for one bee to pass. The floor should be so constructed, that it may encompass and secure the foundation of the hive, to prevent any disturbance from that quarter. Such a smooth and white floor of gypsum, greatly contributes to cleanliness, and the bees become so much attached to it, that they will not easily relinquish their habitation. The straw-wall ought to be one-inch, and the cement before described, half an inch in thickness: the latter is the best coating yet contrived, for excluding noxious insects which would perforate the straw, and for sheltering the bees from rain and wind, while it exhales an odour very grateful to them. M. Chabouille has also observed, that bees kept in a hive of this description, are sufficiently protected against the effect of cold during winter; and that they swarm much earlier than those reared in any other.
However ingenious this contrivance may appear, we regret that the inventor has not stated the particular dimensions of the bee-hive, nor attended to many other circumstances relative to the culture of the insect itself. Hence we are induced to communicate a later, more accurate, and circumstantial description of a bee-hive, invented in Italy by Professor Gaetano Harasti, which has proved of practical utility. This account is translated from the Transactions of the Patriotic Society of Milan, and as it contains much useful information on the subject, we have endeavoured to render it of practical service, by accompanying it with the appropriate cuts of the different figures described.
It is well known that bees, when properly cultivated, produce considerable profit, and in order to obtain the greatest possible advantage, it is necessary to supply them with every convenience for the support of themselves and their young. We should also contrive means to take the wax and honey with the smallest possible loss. In short, when the apiary is placed in a good situation (either south or south-east), that is, in a country abounding with flowers, at a distance from brew-houses, smelting works, &c. the next and most important point, is the choice of well-constructed hives.
In Lombardy, the common hive, composed of straw, or twigs, is generally used, though ill-contrived; as it is difficult to take away the wax and honey without destroying the bees.
Reflecting on these circumstances, M. Harasti, during his cultivation of bees, conceived that it would be possible to form a hive which should have all the advantages of the best kind, while the simplicity and cheapness of its construction, might bring it into general use among husbandmen.
A good bee-hive ought to possess the following properties: First, it should be capable of enlargement or contraction, according to the number of the swarm. Secondly, it should admit of being opened without disturbing the bees, either for the purpose of cleaning it; of freeing it from insects; of increasing or dividing the swarm; or for the admission of a stock of provisions for the winter. Thirdly, it should be so constructed, that the produce may be removed without injury to the bees. Fourthly, it should be internally clean, smooth, and free from flaws. All these properties unite in the hive here described.
It is formed of four open square boxes, A, B, C, D, as represented by the following cut:
These boxes are fastened to each other by several wooden buttons, b, b, &c. which turn upon a nail or screw. The whole is covered with a moveable roof, which projects over the boxes slanting from the centre a, that the rain-water may ran off. It is necessary to place a stone on the top of the roof, to keep it on firm.
Instead of buttons, the boxes may be combined by a rabbet fastened with wooden pegs; but in either case, the conjoined parts should be closed with cement. If the swarm is not very numerous, three, or even two, boxes will be sufficient. Each of them should be about three inches, or three inches and a half in height, and about six inches in the clear within. They should be made of wood, at least three quarters of an inch thick, that the bees, wax, &c. may be less affected by changes in the temperature of the atmosphere.
Within the boxes, at the upper part, there should be fixed two bars, in the form of a cross, with the extremities extending to the angles of the box, as is represented in the following figure:
To these bars the bees attach their combs. At the lower part of each box, in front, there must be an aperture or door, as at c, c, c, d, as high as is necessary for the bees to pass conveniently, and about an inch and a half wide; of these apertures, only the lowest (marked d), is to be left open for the passage of the bees; the others are to be closed by means of a piece of wood, properly fitted to them.
It must be evident, that this bee-hive has all the advantages before mentioned. To lessen or enlarge it, only requires a diminution or increase of the number of the boxes: and a communication with the internal part can easily be effected by the removal of the cover.
The cheapness and facility of the construction of this hive is evident, as nothing is requisite but to join four boards with nails, or in any other manner, so simple that it may be done by a day-labourer.
When the hives are made, they should be placed in a good situation: the best it south-east. The rays of the morning sun will rouse the bees to their labour; but they must not be too much exposed to the heat of noon, which may be mitigated, by placing the branches of trees to shade the hives, as violent heat is injurious, not only to the bees, but to the wax and honey. The country around the apiary should be of a sandy soil, abounding with plants and shrubs. As bees love cleanliness and quiet, the circumjacent space should be kept clean, and free from offensive smells and noise: smoke is particularly disagreeable to them. The boards or table on which the hives are placed, should be dry, clean, and sound; and the hives ought to be sufficiently raised to prevent their exposure to dampness and insects; they should also be kept at a distance from a wall, to avoid the reflected heat of the sun. In the table on which the hives are to stand, there should be an aperture, under each, about two inches square, as is represented at e, in the following cut:
This aperture should be covered with a piece of tin, drilled full of small holes, so as to afford a free passage to the air, and at the same time prevent the ingress of insects. That this may not occasion any inconvenience to the bees in cold and damp weather, there must be a sliding piece of wood, f, under the tin, by which the hole may be completely covered.
When it is intended to introduce a swarm of bees into a new hive, it must be thoroughly cleaned, and the inside rubbed with virgin wax. It is advantageous to place a piece of clean honey-comb, about nine inches long, in the hive, and care should also be taken to choose that which is made of very white wax. This piece being supported by a stick passed through it, offers to the bees a kind of nest, and excites them to continue their work.
The new hive being thus prepared, the manner of introducing the bees into it, from an old hive, is as follows: the latter must be placed upon one of the boxes of the new one; but as it will seldom happen that they are of the same size, and exactly fit each other, a board, at least as wide as the largest of the two hives, and which has a hole equal in size to the smallest, must be placed between them, and completely joined with cement, or by any other means, in such a manner as to be quite close, and to leave the bees no passage except into the new hive. As these insects generally work downwards, they will soon get into the new hive; and, when it is occupied by about one-half of the swarm, some holes must be made in the top of the old hive, and kept covered, till the proper time for making use of them.
Every thing being disposed as above directed, we must take the opportunity of a fine morning (but not a very hot one), about eight or nine o'clock, at which time most of the bees are generally out of the hive, gathering their harvest. The comb is to be cut through, by means of a piece of iron wire, and the old hive, with the board on which it stands, is to be separated from the new one. An assistant must immediately place the cover (already well fitted) upon the top of the new hive. The old hive is then to be taken away, to the distance of thirty or forty paces, and to be there placed upon two chairs, or other supports, in such a manner as to be quite firm, but leaving a free space, both above and below, for the following purpose.
Upon this old hive (the holes at the top of it being first opened) is to be placed one of the boxes of the new hive, having the cover loosely fastened on it, so that it can easily be removed; this box must be fixed upon the old hive, in such a manner (by closing the intervals between them with linen cloths, &c.) that the bees, upon going out by the holes in the top of the old hive, can only go into the new one. In order to drive them into it, some live coals must be placed under the old hive, upon which a few linen rags may be thrown, to produce a great volume of smoke. As the smoke rises, the bees, being incommoded by it, will ascend to the top of the old hive, and at length will go through the holes into the new one. When all the bees, or nearly all, are gone into it (which may be known by looking in at the little door, or by their noise), it is to be removed gently from the old hive, and placed under the box already alluded to, the top or cover being previously taken off. The next morning, if it should appear that the two boxes, of which the new hive is now composed, do not afford sufficient space for the bees, a third box may be added, under the others; and after that a fourth, if necessary, as their work goes on, changing them from time to time, so long as the season permits the bees to gather wax and honey.
In performing the operations here described, it will be necessary to defend the hands and face from the stings of the bees. The best way of doing this, is to cover the whole of the head, neck, &c. (over a hat) with coarse cloth, or canvass, which may be brought as low as the waistcoat, and fastened to it: through this cloth we may see the operations of the bees, without fearing their stings. The hands may be protected by means of gloves, of which the best are those made of wool.
When we mean to bring a new swarm into a hive, that prepared as above, and formed of two, three, or four boxes, according to the size of the swarm, must be brought near the place where the swarm is. The upper box, with the cover fastened on (but so that it may easily be removed), must be taken from the others. The cross bars, before described, should be smeared with honey, diluted with a little water: the small door must be shut; and the box must be turned upside down, and brought under the swarm, which is then to be introduced, in the same way, and with similar precaution as into a common hive. When the whole swarm is in the box, it is to be carried to the other boxes (previously placed in their destined situation), and, turning it very carefully, is to be put upon them. The buttons are then to be turned, the interstices closed with the cement already described, and all the little doors closed, except the lowest, through which the bees are to pass. Nothing is more disagreeable to a fresh swarm than a hot sun, for which reason, that the bees may not wish to leave their new habitation, it will be right to shade the hive for some days.
But it is more advantageous to form artificial swarms, than to collect those which abandon their native hives, and the hive here described is very convenient for that purpose. The following method, M. Harasti conceives to be more simple, and more secure than any other hitherto proposed.
Take a well-stocked hive, of four boxes, in some of these, particularly in the two lowermost, if they are well filled, there is certainly a young brood; for in these lower boxes the young bees are accustomed to change from the chrysalis to the perfect state, about the end of April, or beginning of May, if the hive be very full; but, if otherwise, this change does not take place till towards the end of May, or even the middle of June. At that time, a fine serene day, but not excessively hot, must be chosen, and about eight or nine o'clock, the hive must be divided into two, in the following manner: Between the two upper boxes and the two lower ones, force in a few slips of wood, so as to separate the boxes sufficiently for the comb to be cut through with a piece of iron or brass wire. To prevent the bees from coming out through this opening, and thereby annoying the person employed in the operation, the smoke of tobacco may be blown (by introducing the small end of a pipe) into the opening; this will cause the bees to resort to the inner part of the hive, and will keep them quiet. Or, instead of the pipe, a small pair of bellows
may be used, to the nozle of which is fitted a hollow cylinder of tin, or other metal, furnished
with a little door i, and terminating at one end in a tube h, (into which the nozle of the bellows is fitted) and at the other end, in a smaller tube, k, through which the smoke is to pass. Into the body of the box, through the door i, is to be put a lighted rag, the smoke of which may be blown, by means of the bellows, into the hive. But, if the hands and face are well covered, these precautions are unnecessary. An empty box must be in readiness, in the place where the hive is to stand; a cover must also be procured; and, as soon as the hive is divided in two parts, the two upper boxes must be taken from the lower ones, and the cover must be immediately put upon the latter, closing all the interstices with the usual cement. The upper boxes are to be placed upon the empty one just mentioned, so that a hive will there be formed of three boxes. The lower boxes, on which the fresh cover was put, must be left at rest till the evening, at which time a third may be placed under them; and when it appears that a proper quantity of work has been done in the lower box (of either hive), a fourth box may be added, under the others.
In the above manner, artificial swarms may be formed; and, by this method, we not only avoid the inconveniencies which attend the procuring of swarms in the common way, but we obtain the advantage of having the hives always well stocked. This ought to be the first object of every one who cultivates bees; for it is allowed to be of more advantage to keep the hives well stocked, than to increase their number; and, in fact, it has been observed, that if a hive of 4000 bees gives six pounds of honey, one of 8000 will give twenty-four pounds.
Upon this principle, it is proper to unite two or more hives, when they happen to be thinly stocked. This may easily be done, by taking a few handfuls of balm, and scattering it in those hives which are intended to be united. By this means, the bees will all acquire the same smell; and, it has been observed, that, by the sense of smelling, bees distinguish those which belong to the same hive. After the above preparations, the hives are to be joined, by placing them one upon the other, in the evening, when they are at rest, taking away those boxes which contain few or no bees. Care must be taken to shut all the little doors, except the lowest.
It may even be proper sometimes to shut the lower door also, when, for instance, any tumult within the hive, causes the bees to endeavour to quit it; which may happen from there being more queens than one, or from the invasion of wasps, hornets, &c. In such case, that the bees may not be deprived of air, a piece of tin, perforated with numerous holes, may be used to close the opening, instead of the usual door, and may be taken away when the bees become quiet.
The following is the method of taking the wax and honey, with little or no injury to the bees; but it should be previously remarked, that the honey is chiefly at the top of the hive, the young brood in the middle, and the greatest stock of wax is at the bottom. For this reason, when three of the four boxes are filled with comb, &c. the upper one A is to be first taken off, in the manner here described. The buttons b, b, &c. which serve to unite the boxes, are to be turned, or the wooden pegs (if such are used) taken out; the cement employed for closing the intervals is to be scraped off; and then a piece of iron wire is to be drawn through the comb, so as to divide it. When the box A, is separated, its cover is to be taken off and put upon the box B, now become the highest. After taking out the contents of the box A, it is to be cleaned, and again placed upon the stand or table, under the box D, taking care to open its little door, and to shut that of the box D. To prevent any bees remaining in the upper box, when taken away, a little smoke may be introduced by means of the bellows already described.
The more empty space the bees find in the hive, the more eagerly they go to work. The brood of the box B, which remained at top, do not long delay to swarm, or at least they pass from the state of chrysalis into that of the perfect and laborious animal; therefore, when it is perceived that the lower part of the hive is occupied, the box B, may be taken off, in the manner already described, and, after being emptied, may be placed under A.
In the same way, the third box C, in which there is generally a good stock of wax, may afterwards be taken off; but this is a matter of greater consequence, because in general the eggs are deposited in it. We must also take care not to deprive the bees entirely of the stock of wax and honey which they have collected for the winter.
A hive made in the manner here pointed out, appears to me to be such as would be most useful to husbandmen in general, who wish to cultivate bees; but a hive may be made, upon the same principles, which will shew the work of the bees, through its whole progress, and thereby enable any one to study the natural history of these wonderful insects.
A hive of this kind is composed of three, or four boxes, with a cover, like the hive already described; it may also be of the same form and size. But, in every box, on that side which is opposite the little door, there must be fixed a pane of glass, with a sliding shutter over it, so that by drawing back sliders, the inside of the hive will be exposed to view. To see the bees at work, however, it is necessary that the comb should be disposed in a regular manner, and perpendicular to the pane of glass. This may be obtained, by placing in the boxes, instead of the two cross-sticks already described, in p. 218, five parallel sticks or bars, as represented in the following figure:
The bees will attach their combs to these bars, and the intermediate space will afford sufficient light for seeing them work. If more light is desired, it may be obtained by opening the little doors opposite the glass; which doors may be made considerably higher than is above directed, and may have a slider over them, by which their aperture may be diminished at pleasure.
The sliders which cover the panes of glass, ought never to be opened, except for the purpose of observing the bees; because a strong light lessens their disposition to work. If it should be perceived that the coldness of the glass is prejudicial to the bees in winter, it may then be covered with a cotton cloth; or it may be entirely taken away, and a piece of paste-board put in its place; for at that time, the operations of the bees are suspended.
Instead of making a little door to each box, to be left open when the box is lowermost, for the passage of the bees, perhaps it might be better (because more simple) to cut a groove in the board or table on which the hive is placed. This groove should be about two inches wide, and about three-fourths of an inch high at the outer edge, and should be gradually diminished, both in width and height, towards the part where it meets the hive, as is represented at b, in the following figure:
Two advantages are derived from this construction. First, the little door in the box, and the contrivance for opening and shutting it, will be unnecessary. Secondly, it is sometimes proper to diminish or enlarge the opening for the passage of the bees, according to circumstances, without shutting it entirely, and this may be done with the greatest ease, by moving the hive nearer to, or farther from, the edge of the table; or this passage may be entirely closed, by moving the front of the hive beyond the groove; but, in that case, some small holes must be made in the hive to let in air, which may be stopped up when that formed by the groove is open.
A farther advantage attending this construction is, that as the groove will have a slanting direction, the bees will thereby be enabled, with very little trouble, to remove from the hive any dead bees, excrement, &c. which may be obnoxious to their nature.
Another very curious and useful bee-hive, is that originally contrived by Mr. Thorley, of London; which, from near sixty years experience, has proved of superior utility to any other—it is constructed as follows: the lower part is an octangular box, made of deal boards, about an inch in thickness, the cover of which is externally seventeen inches in diameter, but internally only 151, and its height ten inches. In the middle of this cover is a hole, which may be opened or shut at pleasure, by means of a slider. In one of the pannels is a pane of glass covered with a wooden door. The bee-hole at the bottom of the box is about 31 inches broad, and half an inch high. Two slips of deal, about half an inch square, cross each other in the centre of the box, and are fastened to the pannels by means of small screws. To these slips the bees fasten their combs. In this octangular box the bees, after swarming in the usual manner, are hived, and suffered to continue there, till they have built their combs, and filled them with honey; which may be known by opening the door, and viewing their works through the glass pane, or by the weight of the hive. When they have filled their habitation, a common bee-hive of straw, made either flat at the top, or in the common form, must be placed on the octangular box, and the slider drawn out; thus a communication will be opened between the box and the straw-hive, so that these industrious insects will fill this hive also with the product of their labours. When the straw-hive is sufficiently filled, the slider may be pushed in, and after placing another in its room, again speedily removed.
Mr. Thorley has added another part to his bee-hive, which consists of a glass receiver 18 inches in height, 8 inches in diameter at the bottom, and in the greatest part 13. This receiver has a hole at the top, about an inch in diameter, through which a square piece of deal is extended to nearly the bottom of the vessel, having two cross bars, to which the bees fasten their combs. Into the other end of this square piece is screwed a piece of brass, which serves for a handle to the receiver, or glass hive. When the bees have filled their straw hive (which must have a hole in the centre, covered with a piece of tin) Mr. T. places the glass receiver upon the top of the straw hive, and draws out the piece of tin. The bees now, finding their habitation enlarged, pursue their labours with such alacrity, that they likewise fill this glass hive with their stores.
The Egyptian bee-hives are made of coal-dust and clay, which being well blended together, the mixture is formed into a hollow cylinder, about a span in diameter, and from six to twelve feet high: this is dried in the sun, and becomes so hard that it may be handled at pleasure.
Another, of a very simple and ingenious construction, has been invented by M. De Gelieu. It may be made either of straw or wood: but, as its internal dimensions must be the same throughout its whole length, it is necessary that its form should be either cylindrical or prismatic. Its principal advantage is, that its bases are moveable, and may be fixed by pins at any distance from each other; by which means its size may be increased, or diminished, according to circumstances. It must lie on its side, and, in the foremost base, there must be a passage left for the bees. Hence, by drawing out the posterior base, the honey may be taken from the back part of the hive, without hurting the bees; and, when this is done, the base should be pushed in close to the remaining comb, that an intermediate space may remain. By turning the hive, and making the entrance in that part, which had before been the posterior base, the bees will build new cells, in the room of those taken away; consequently the honey will be whiter, and more pure.
Whoever intends to erect an apiary, should purchase hives towards the close of the year, when they are cheapest; and such only as are full of combs, and stocked with a sufficient number of bees. In order to ascertain the age of the hives, it should be remarked, that the combs of the last year are white, while those of the former year acquire a darkish yellow. Where the combs are black, the hive should be rejected as too old, and liable to the inroads of vermin.
Bees never swarm till the hive is too much crowded by the young brood. They sometimes begin to swarm in May, or earlier, according to the warmth of the season. As soon as a swarm is settled, the bees should be immediately hived, to prevent their taking wing again. If they settle on a low branch of a tree, it may be cut off and laid on a cloth, the hive being ready for their reception. If the queen can be placed in the hive, the rest of the bees will soon follow; but if it be difficult to reach them, it will be advisable to let them remain where they have settled till the evening, when there will be less danger of their escaping.
When the swarm is hived, they should be immediately removed to the apiary, but the hive should be kept near the place at which the bees settled, till the evening, lest some stragglers might be lost.
The usual method of uniting swarms, is by spreading a cloth at night upon the ground close to the hive in which the two swarms are to be placed. Lay a stick across the cloth, on which place the hive with the new swarm: on giving a smart stroke on the top of the hive, all the bees will drop in a cluster upon the cloth. Then take another hive from the stool, and place it over the bees, when they will ascend into it, and mix with those already there. Another method is, to invert the hive in which the united swarms are to live, and strike the bees of the other hive into it, in the manner before described.
All the writers on this subject acknowledge, that one of the queens is slain on this occasion, together with a considerable number of the working bees; but Columella only, has suggested an easy mode of killing the queen of the latter swarm before the union, and consequently of preserving the lives of the working bees. This may be effected, by finding her when the bees are beaten down upon the cloth.
A large swarm weighs eight pounds, and others gradually less, to one pound. Hence a good swarm should weigh five or six pounds. Such as are less than four pounds weight, should be strengthened by a small additional swarm. The size of the hive ought to be proportionate to the number of the bees, and it should be rather too small than too large, as these insects require to be kept warmer than a large hive will admit.
Great improvements may be made in providing plenty of pasture for bees; and as a rich corn country is unfavourable to their industry, the practice of other nations, in shifting the abode of their bees, is deserving of imitation.
M. Maillet, in his description of Egypt, informs us, that the natives of that fertile country annually send their bees into distant regions to procure sustenance for tnem, when they cannot find any at home. About the end of October, the inhabitants of Lower Egypt embark their bees on the Nile, and convey them to Upper Egypt, when the inundation is withdrawn, the lands are sown, and the flowers are beginning to bud. These insects are thus conducted through the whole extent of Egypt, and, after having gathered all the rich produce of the banks of the Nile, are re-conducted home about the beginning of February.
In France, floating bee-hives are very common. One barge contains from sixty to a hundred hives, which are well defended from the inclemency of the weather. Thus the owners float them gently down the stream, while they gather their honey from the flowers along its banks; a single bee-house yields the proprietor a considerable income.
Their method of transporting bees by land, is also worthy of our attention. The hives are fastened to each other by laths, placed on thin pack-cloth, which is drawn up on each side, and then tied by a piece of pack-thread several times round their tops. In this state they are laid in a cart, which generally contains from thirty to fifty hives, and conveyed to places where the bees can collect honey and wax.
During the winter, bees are in so lethargic a state, that a little food is sufficient for their sustenance: but as every sunny day revives, and prompts them to exercise, food is necessary on these occasions. Some hives of bees which are supposed to have died of cold, have in reality perished by famine, especially when a rainy summer prevented them from collecting a sufficient store of provision. Hence the hives should be carefully examined in autumn, and ought then to weigh at least eighteen pounds each.
With respect to the feeding of bees, the common practice is, to leave them as much honey in autumn as will make the hive weigh twenty pounds. The honey should be diluted with water, and put into an empty comb, split reeds, or upon clean wool, which the bees will suck perfectly dry. By the dilution with water, however, the honey is apt to become candied, in which state it is prejudicial to the bees. A better method is, to replenish the weak hives in September, with such a portion of combs filled with honey taken from other hives, as may be deemed a sufficient supply. This is done by turning up the weak hive, cutting out the empty combs, and placing full ones in their stead, secured by pieces of wood, that they may not fall down when the hive is replaced. If this method be considered too troublesome, a plate of honey, unmixed with water, maybe placed under the hive, and straws laid across the plate, covered with paper perforated with several small holes, through which the bees will suck the honey without difficulty.
The degree of cold which bees can endure, has not been ascertained. In the cold parts of Russia, they are often found in hollow trees. Their hives are frequently made of bark, which does not afford them much protection. Hence Mr. White observes, that bees which stand on the north side of a building, will not consume more than one-half of the honey necessary to supply others which stand in the sun. In winter, however, they should be examined; and if, instead of being clustered between the combs, they are found in numbers at the bottom of the hive, they should be carried to a warmer place, where they will soon recover. In winters extremely severe, lay on the bottom of an old cask the depth of half a foot of very dry earth, powdered, and pressed down hard. On this, place the stool with the hive; and, to preserve a communication with the air, cut a hole in the cask, opposite to the entrance of the hive, in which fix a piece of reed, or hollow alder, and then cover the whole with dry earth.
In Britain, it is usual, in taking the honey, to deprive the bees of their lives. The common method is, to suffocate them with the smoke of brimstone; but Mr. Manley has adopted a more humane and judicious plan: he says, "I never destroy the old stock of bees; but after lifting them, to examine what honey there is, if I think the hive is full, I put another under it with a flat top, having a square hole in the centre. When the bees are in the under hive, I place a shutter, which is of wood, in the hole at the top; and that prevents them from going into the upper hive. I then invert it in a bucket, and strike it with a rod till I think they are all out, after which they go into the under hive."
Mr. Wildman gives the following instructions for taking the honey and wax: Remove the hive into a darkened room, that it may appear to the bees as if it was late in the evening; then gently invert the hive, and place it between the frames of a chair, or any other steady support, and cover it with an empty hive raised a little towards the window, to give the bees sufficient light to guide their ascent. Hold the empty hive, steadily supported, on the edge of the full hive, between the left side and arm, and continue striking with the right hand round the full hive, from the bottom upwards, and the bees being frightened by the noise, will ascend into the other. Repeat the strokes, rather quick than strong, round the hive, till all the bees are gone out of it, which will be in about five minutes. As soon as a number of the bees have got into the empty hive, it should be raised a little from the full one, that they may not return, but continue to ascend. When they are all out of the full hive, that in which they are must be placed on the stand, to receive the absent bees as they return from the fields.
If this is done early in spring, the royal cells should be examined, that any of them which contain young bees, as well as those in the other combs, may be preserved. These should on no account be injured; though, by sparing them, a good deal of honey be left behind. The combs should be cut from the sides and top as clean as possible, to save the future labour of the bees. During this operation, the hive should be placed, reclining to the side from which the combs are taken, and afterwards put for some time upright, that the remaining honey may run out.
Having finished the taking of the wax and honey, the next business is to return the bees to their old hive, for which purpose we must refer the reader to the directions already given, when we stated the usual method of uniting swarms.
By inverting the hive which contains the bees, and placing their own over it, they will immediately ascend, especially if the lower hive be struck on the sides to alarm them.
With regard to the increase of bees, Mr. Hubbard, of Bury St. Edmunds, advises the owner to wait with patience, until he has acquired twenty stocks, and in the month of April to separate ten of the strongest hives for swarming; the other ten must be raised on large empty hives, the tops of which should be previously taken off, and the joinings of the two hives secured with a little clay; which plan prevents the bees from swarming. He also recommends the prime swarms from the other stocks, to be put into three-peck hives at least; for, when they appear very early, they will probably swarm again in a few weeks, which should always be prevented, and all the after-swarms be united, two or three into one; for the great advantage arises from a large quantity of bees being kept together; and, by that mode, ten stocks will generally yield fifteen good ones.
The manner of treating bees in Portugal, is as follows: A spot of ground is chosen for the hives, exposed towards the south or south-east, well sheltered from the northern blasts, and surrounded with shrubs and flowers; of the latter, rosemary is preferred. The richer the neighbouring grounds are, the better; for bees are said to range for food to the distance of a league from their home. Lanes are cut through the shrubby thickets, of five or six feet wide. The fences between the lanes are about the same dimensions, and formed at intervals into small recesses, like bowers or niches, to receive the hives.
The Portuguese hives, in general, are of a cylindrical form, and about twenty-seven inches high by fourteen in diameter. They are constructed of the rind of the cork-tree, and covered with an inverted pan of earthen ware, the edge of which projects over the hive like a cornice. The whole is fastened with pegs made of hard and durable wood, and the joints cemented with peat. In the front of the cylinder, at the height of about eight inches, there is a small aperture, where the bees enter. The inside is divided into three equal compartments, winch are separated by cross sticks, on which the bees form their combs, or cells.
When they swarm, which is usually in May or June, the hives are placed to receive them, where they settle. If, on attempting to collect them, they fly away, a sheet is placed at night on the ground, contiguous to the swarm; and when they alight, the hive is put over them, with the entrance closed; then the whole is covered with the sheet, in which they are carried home. The honey-combs are taken out in June, during the heat of the day, but not if a high wind prevail, or at the commencement of a new or full moon. A person holds a chaffing dish, with a coal fire, covered with moist peat, to increase the smoke; which being introduced among the bees, from the top of the cylinder, they either escape, or remain intoxicated at the bottom; then the hive is taken to pieces, by drawing out the pins. The combs, except two cells around the hive, are cut out, without destroying the bees, and die incision is covered with pulverized clay. It is not advisable to remove them, until they be full of honey.
In this country, at former periods, many artificial methods have been invented and practised, with a view of stimulating the industrious bee to still greater exertions; and thus to increase the production of honey. Although we are no advocates for such schemes, nor do we give credit to the marvellous reports circulated to confirm their success, yet we consider the recipe given by the late Prof. Bradley, in his Family Dictionary, sufficiently curious, if not practically useful, to communicate it to our readers: Take a handful of sweet yeast, one dram of camphor, half a dram of musk dissolved in rose-water, a sufficient quantity of yellow bees-wax, and oil of roses (which last, however, being an expensive article, may be safely omitted); pound the first two ingredients well together, and put them into the melting wax; then add the oil of roses, and make it up into a mass, which should be cool, before the musk is incorporated with it. Of this composition, place a piece of the size of a hazel-nut at the side of a hive, and it will be found, that it not only increases the number of the bees, but also enables them to improve the honey, in the proportion of three to one. Yet the learned editor does not inform us, whether this improvement is productive of a superior quality, or larger quantity of honey, or perhaps of both.
With respect to the Diseases of Bees, we shall mention a few hints, extracted from the above-mentioned work.
Bees are sometimes afflicted with a diarrhœa, in consequence of feeding greedily on the blossoms of the milk-thistle, and elm. The best cure is, pounded pomegranate seed and honey, moistened with rich, sweet wine; or raisins mixed with similar wine or mead, in which rosemary has been boiled.—When they are infested with vermin, the hive must be cleansed, and perfumed with a branch of pomegranate, or the wild fig-tree, which will inevitably destroy them.
Butterflies are said to conceal themselves in the hives, and annoy the bees: these intruders may easily be exterminated, by placing lighted candles in deep tin pots between the hives; as the flame will attract them, and conduce to their destruction.
In order to extirpate hornets preying upon the honey, it is only necessary to expose shallow vessels near the hive, with a little water; to which these predatory insects will eagerly repair, to quench their diirst, and thus easily drown themselves.
To prevent bees of one society from attacking or destroying those of another, Dr. Darwin recommends a board, about an inch thick, to be laid on the bee-bench, and the hive to be set on this board, with its mouth exactly on the edge; the mouth of the hive should also be contracted to about an inch in length, and a semi-circular hollow made in the board, immediately under the mouth of the hive. By this simple method, the assailing bees will be constrained to act with great disadvantage.
If, however, this should not succeed, Dr. Darwin advises a removal of the bee-hive to a distant part of the garden, and to a more easterly aspect; as he has from experience observed the good effects of such a change. This acute philosopher farther observes, in his admirable "Phytologia," when treating of the glands and secretions of vegetables, that the depredations of insects committed on that nutritious fluid, honey, is probably injurious to the products of vegetation; and that some plants are more exposed and accessible to bees than others, winch are either better defended, or secrete a greater portion of honey than is necessary for their own economy. Of the latter description are, the catch-fly, sundew, hellebore, and aconite: of the former, the Doctor mentions the Polygonum melampyrum, or Buck-wheat, and the Cacalia suaveolens, or Alpine Colts-foot; in both of which there also appears to be a superabundant quantity of honey secreted. The flowers of the two last-mentioned plants are perpetually loaded with bees and butterflies; insomuch, that at Kempton-land, in Germany, Mr. Worlidge says, in his "Mysteries of Husbandry," chap. ix. 3, he saw forty great bee-hives filled with honey, to the amount of seventy pounds in each, in one fortnight, by their being placed near a large field of buck-wheat in flower: and Dr. Darwin adds, that he well remembers having seen an astonishing number of bees on a field of buck-wheat in Shropshire, as well as on a plant of the alpine colts-foot in his garden; from which the scent of honey could be perceived at several feet distance from the flower.
To conclude this interesting subject, we cannot omit the judicious remarks of a veteran writer, Dr. J. Anderson, whose numerous and useful works, in every branch of rural and domestic economy, are of inestimable value to the British farmer. In one of his practical papers, "On the Management of the Dairy," communicated to the Bath and West-of-England Society, he observes in a note, that bees, in this variable climate, are a very precarious stock, though extremely profitable where they thrive. During the frequent mild days of winter, and the warm mornings of spring, which are suddenly succeeded by a nipping frost, or sleety rain, these creatures are roused from their torpid state; and, being unable to obtain food abroad, they are obliged to consume and exhaust their stores, and to perish from want. And as the warmth of the weather in spring invites them to search in vain for flowers affording them nourishment, they are often chilled by cold, before they are able to return to the hive. To prevent such fatal accidents, Dr. Anderson is of opinion, that no method would be so effectual as that of placing the hives in an ice-house, at the approach of winter. Here they may be kept till the spring has so far advanced, that no danger is to be apprehended from bad weather. During the whole winter, they will remain in a state of torpor, and require no food. As soon as the mild weather incites them to appear, they will commence their labours with vigour. The intense degree of cold which the bees sustain, without the least injury, in Poland and Russia, where even quick-silver is sometimes frozen, removes every doubt, or anxiety, concerning the safety of bees in a British ice-house.