“a place for everything and everything in its place” prepares the bee-keeper for any emergency; constant watchfulness is Need of forethought. also necessary, not only to guard against disease in his hives, but to overlook nothing that tends to be of advantage to the bees at all seasons. Among the many ways of saving time nothing is more useful than a carefully-kept note-book, wherein are recorded brief memoranda regarding such items as condition of each stock when packed for winter, amount of stores, age and prolific capacity of queen, strength of colony, healthiness or otherwise, &c., all of which particulars should be noted and the hives to which they refer plainly numbered. It also enables the bee-keeper to arrange his day’s work indoors while avoiding disturbance to such colonies as do not need interference. In the early spring stores must be seen to and replenished where required; breeding stimulated when pollen begins to be gathered, and appliances cleaned and prepared for use during the busy season.
The main honey-gathering time (lasting about six or seven weeks) is so brief that in no pursuit is it more important to “make hay while the sun shines,” and if the bee-keeper needs a reminder of this truism he surely has it in the Length of bee season. example set by his bees. As the season advances and the flowers yield nectar more freely, visible signs of comb-building will be observed in the whitened edges of empty cells in the brood-chambers; the thoughtful workers are lengthening out the cells for honey-storing, and the bee-master takes the hint by giving room in advance, thus lessening the chance of undesired swarms. In other words, order and method, combined with the habit of taking time by the forelock, are absolutely necessary to the bee-keeper, seeing that the enormous army of workers under his control is multiplying daily by scores of thousands. As spring merges into summer, sunny days become more frequent; the ever-increasing breadth of bee-forage yields still more abundantly, and the excitement among the labourers crowding the hives increases, rendering room in advance, shade and ventilation, a sine qua non. It requires a level head to keep cool amongst a couple of hundred strong stocks of bees on a hot summer’s day in a good honey season. Swarm prevention. Moreover, it will be too late to think of giving ventilation at noontide, when the temperature has risen to 80° F. in the shade; the necessary precautions for swarm prevention must therefore be taken in advance, for when what is known as the “swarming fever” once starts it is most difficult to overcome.
The well-read and intelligent bee-keeper, content to work on orthodox lines, will be able to manage an apiary—large or small—by guiding and controlling the countless army he commands in a way that will yield him both pleasure and profit. All he needs is good bee weather and an apiary free from disease to make him appreciate bee-craft as one of the most remunerative of rural industries; affording a wholesome open-air life conducive to good health and yielding an abundance of contentment.
Diseases of Bees.—It is quite natural that bees living in colonies should be subject to diseases, and only since the introduction of movable-comb hives has it been possible to learn something about these ailments. The most serious disease with which the bee-keeper has to contend is that commonly known as “bee-pest” or “foul brood,” so called because of the young brood dying and rotting in the cells. This disease has been known from the earliest ages, and is probably the same as that designated by Pliny as blapsigonia (Natural History, bk. xi. ch. xx.). Coming to later times, Della Rocca minutely describes a disease to which bees were subject in the island of Syra, between the years 1777 and 1780, and through which nearly every colony in the island perished. From the description given it was undoubtedly foul brood, and the bee-keepers of the island became convinced, after bitter experience, that it was extremely contagious. Schirach also mentioned and described the disease in 1769, and was the first to give it the name of “foul brood.” Still later, in 1874, Dr Cohn, after the most exhaustive experiments and bacteriological research, realized that the disease was caused by a bacillus, and—nine years later—the name Bacillus alvei was given to it by Cheyne and Cheshire, whose views were in agreement with those of Dr Cohn.
The illustration (fig. 27) shows a portion of comb affected with foul brood in its worst form. The sealed cells are dark-coloured and sunken, pierced with irregular holes, and the larvae in all stages from the crescent-shaped healthy condition to that in which the dead larvae are seen lying at the bottom of the cells, flaccid and shapeless. The remains then change to buff colour, afterwards turning brown, when decomposition sets in, and as the bacilli present in the dead larvae increase and the nutrient matter is consumed, the mass in some cases becomes sticky and ropy in character, making its removal impossible by the bees. In course of time it dries up, leaving nothing but a brown scale adhering to the bottom or side of the cell. In the worst cases the larvae even die after the cells are sealed over; a strong characteristic and offensive odour being developed in some phases of the disease, noticeable at times some distance away from the hive.
|Fig. 27.—Foul Brood (Bacillus alvei).|
(From Cheshire’s Bees and Bee-keeping, Scientific and Practical.)
Two forms of foul brood have been long known, one foul smelling, the other odourless; and investigations made during 1906 and 1907 showed that the etiology of the disease is not by any means simple, but that it is produced by different microbes, two others in addition to Bacillus alvei playing an important part. These are Bacillus brandenburgiensis, Maassen (syn. B. burri, Burri: B. larvae, white), and Streptococcus apis, Maassen (syn. B. Guntheri, Burri). The first two are found in both forms of foul brood, whereas the last is only present with B. alvei in the strong-smelling form of the disease, in which the larvae are attacked prior to the cells being sealed over.
The brood of bees, when healthy, lies in the combs in compact masses, the larvae being plump and of a pearly whiteness, and when quite young curled up on their sides at the base of the cells. When attacked by the disease, the larva moves uneasily, stretches itself out lengthwise in the cell, and finally becomes loose and flabby, an appearance which plainly indicates death.
When the disease attacks the larvae before they are sealed over Bacillus alvei is present, usually associated with Streptococcus apis, which latter imparts a sour smell to the dead brood. In cases where the disease is odourless the larvae are attacked after the cells are sealed over, and just before they change to pupae, when they become slimy, sputum-like masses, difficult to remove from the cells. Under these conditions Bacillus brandenburgiensis is found, although Bacillus alvei may also be present. The two bacilli are antagonistic, each striving for supremacy, first one then the other predominating. Various other microbes are also present in large numbers, but are not believed to be pathogenic or disease-producing in character.
It is, therefore, seen that at least three different microbes play an important part in the same disease. The danger of contagion lies in the wonderful vitality of the spores, and their great resistance to heat and cold. Dr Maassen records a case where he had no difficulty in obtaining cultures from spores removed from combs after being kept dry for twenty years. It should be