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BEE

experiences the same pleasurable thrill as did the skeppist of old at the sight of the first drone of the year, which betokens an early swarm. As the drones increase in number queen-cells are formed, unless steps be taken to turn aside the swarming impulse by affording additional room beforehand in the hive. The above brief outline of the guiding principles of natural swarming is merely intended as introductory to the fuller information given in a good text-book.

Management of an Apiary.—The main consideration in establishing an apiary is to secure a favourable location, which means a place where honey of good marketable quality may be gathered from the bee-forage growing around without any planting on the part of the bee-keeper himself. It is impossible to deal here with the varying conditions under which apiculture is carried on in all parts of the world, but, as a rule, the same principle applies everywhere. The bee industry prospers greatly Bee-forage in U.S.A. in America, where amid the vast stretches of mountain and canyon in California the bee-forage extends for miles without a break, and the climatic conditions are so generally favourable as to reduce to a minimum the chances of the honey crop failing through adverse weather.

The bee-keeper’s object is to utilize to the utmost the brief space of a worker-bee’s life in summer, by adopting the best methods in vogue for building up stocks to full strength before the honey-gathering time begins, and preparing for it by the exercise of skill and intelligence in carrying out this work.

In the United Kingdom there is a difference of several weeks in the honey season between north and south. Swarming usually begins in May in the south of England, and in mid-July in the north of Scotland, the issue of swarms coinciding with the early part of the main honey flow. The weather is naturally more precarious in autumn than earlier in the year, and chances of success proportionately smaller for northern bee-men, but the disadvantage to the latter is more than compensated for by the heather season, which extends well into September. With regard to the British bee-keeper located in the south, Value of pollen. the early fruit crop is what concerns him most, and where pollen (the fertilizing dust of flowers) is plentiful his bees will make steady progress. If pollen is scarce, a substitute in the form of either pea-meal or wheaten flour must be supplied to the bees, as brood-rearing cannot make headway without the nitrogenous element indispensable in the food on which the young are reared. But the main honey-crop of both north and south is gathered from the various trifoliums, The queen of bee-plants. among which the white Dutch or common clover (Trifolium repens) is acknowledged to be the most important honey-producing plant wherever it grows. In the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and in many other parts of the world honey of the finest quality is obtained from this “queen of bee-plants,” and in lesser degree from other clovers such as sainfoin, alsike (a hybrid clover), trefoil, &c.

Before undertaking the management of a modern apiary, the bee-keeper should possess a certain amount of aptitude for the pursuit, without which it is hardly possible to succeed. He must also acquire the ability to handle bees judiciously and well under all imaginable conditions. In doing this it is needful to remember that bees resent outside interference with either their work or their hives, and will resolutely defend themselves when aroused even at the cost of life itself. Experience has also proved that, when alarmed, bees instinctively begin to fill their honey-sacs with food from the nearest store-cells as a safeguard against contingencies, and when so provided they are more amenable to interference. The bee-keeper, therefore, by the judicious application of a little smoke from smouldering fuel, blown into the hive by means of an appliance known as a bee-smoker, alarms the bees and is thus able to manipulate the frames of comb with ease and almost no disturbance. The smoker (fig. 26) devised by T. F. Bingham of Farwell, Michigan, U.S.A., is the one most used in America and in the United Kingdom. No other protection is needed beyond a bee-veil of fine black net, which slipped over a wide-brimmed straw hat protects the face from stings when working among bees; as experience is gained the veil is not always used. The man who is hasty and nervous in temperament, who fears an occasional sting, and resents the same by viciously killing the bee that inflicts it will rarely make a good apiarist. The methods of handling bees vary in different countries, this being in a great measure accounted for by the number of hives kept. Very few apiaries in the United Kingdom contain more than a hundred hives; consequently the British bee-keeper has no need for employing the forceful or “hustling” methods found necessary in America, British and American methods. where the honey-crop is gathered in car-loads and the hives numbered by thousands. It naturally follows that bee-life is there regarded very slightly by comparison, and the bee-garden in England becomes the “bee-yard” in America, where the apiarist when at work must thoroughly protect himself from being stung, and, safe in his immunity from damage, cares little for bee-life in getting through his task, the loss of a few hundred bees being considered of no account. There are, however, other reasons, apart from humanity, to account for the difference in handling bees as advocated in the United Kingdom. The great majority of apiaries owned by British bee-keepers are located in close proximity to neighbours; consequently a serious upset among the bees would in many cases involve an amount of trouble which should if possible be avoided; therefore quietness and the exercise of care when manipulating are always recommended by teachers, and practised by those who wisely take their lessons to heart.

1911 Britannica - Bee - Bee-Smoker.png
Fig. 26.—Bee-Smoker.
(Redrawn from the A B C of Bee-Culture,
published by the A. I. Root Co, Medina, Ohio,
U.S.A.)

Having made himself proficient in practical bee-work and chosen a suitable location for his apiary, the bee-keeper should carefully select the particular type of hive most suited to his means and requirements. This point settled, uniformity is Chosing a location. secured, and all loose parts of the hives being interchangeable time will be saved during the busy season when time means money. Beginning with not too many stocks he can test the capabilities of his location before investing much capital in the undertaking, so that by utilizing the information already given and adopting the wise adage “make haste slowly” he will realize in good time whether it will pay best to work for honey in comb or extracted honey in bulk; not only so, but the knowledge gained will enable him to select such appliances as are suited to his needs. As a rule, Bee-keeping for profit. it may be said that the man content to start with an apiary of moderate size—say fifty stocks—may realize a fair profit from comb-honey only; but so limited a venture would need to be supplemented by some other means before an adequate income could be secured. On the other hand, the owner of one or two hundred colonies would find it more lucrative to work for extracted honey and send it out to wholesale buyers in that form. By so doing a far greater weight of surplus per hive may be secured, and extracted honey will keep in good condition for years, while comb-honey must be sold before granulation sets in. At the same time it is but fair to say that bee-culture in the United Kingdom, if limited to honey-production alone, is not sufficiently safe for entire reliance to be placed on it for obtaining a livelihood. The uncertain climate renders it necessary to include either other branches of the craft less dependent on warmth and sunshine, or to combine it with fruit-growing, poultry-rearing, &c. Under such conditions the bees will usually occupy a good position in the balance-sheet.

Another indispensable feature of good bee-management is “forethought,” coupled with order and neatness; the rule of