Wise words from 100+ years ago.

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Finman 

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If maximising honey yields means ensuring we have strong healthy colonies and place them where there is plenty of forage, then I fail to see what the problem is.
100 years ago. From where they imported honey in those days?
 

pargyle 

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My thoughts too, but put better than me below.. :)



From what I have seen so far, I admire your approach to beekeeping, but I think your interpretation of that statement of intent is flawed. Even amongst those amateur beekeepers for whom maximum honey production is not the major objective, most people will try to be efficient in our beekeeping and try not to waste money. Keeping total bee populations low does not seem to be anyones' priority and obviously, the bees and their keepers want them to be as busy as possible.
I'm not suggesting that we should be either inefficient or seek (as Roger Patterson suggests) to keep colonies small ... I just feel that we should be lead by the bees we keep as to how they want to develop ... some small colonies I have had have been bigger honey producers than some colonies who grow to a much larger size and yet do not produce a honey crop that would be commensurate with the colony size.
I like to think that I work with the bees that I keep and my actions are led by them .. I just don't think forceing or even encouraging them to grow artificially beyond where they would seek to be in their natural order of things is doing them a service ... It's my way, I'm not critical of those who seek to run their apiaries for an absolute maximum honey crop - each to their own. If my interpretation of the paragraph is flawed then I may not be alone in reading it that way ... and I still think it is not the best code to prescribe to modern beekeeping. We've moved on from skeps and seasonal wild swarm catching and stripping the colony at the end of the season with little concern for a resource.

We've mostly learnt that stretching nature to produce more than it would naturally crop comes with some potential side effects that have a detrimental affect on the species ... applying the same exploitative principles to our beekeeping cannot, in time, be good for the bees we keep.
 

Finman 

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100 years ago. From where they imported honey in those days?

One feature of good pastures: no another beekeepers
 

jenkinsbrynmair 

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I see nowhere a mention of 'forcing' them to work, I don't think that it is even possible. He mentions proper management (something the 'experts' even in those days seemed incapable of doing). Maximising a colony's capacity is nowhere near the same as forcing them - if bees are given a fair chance they will do it (maximising their capacity) without being asked, in fact, trying to force them not to maximise their capacity is where the problems start (try putting a colony with but one super on, on an OSR field, or a heather moor working full swing in perfect conditions, and come back four weeks later expecting them to have not strained themselves and only filled that one box before relaxing) because that is their natural objective, we just cash in on that.
 

Murox 

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100 years ago. From where they imported honey in those days?

One feature of good pastures: no another beekeepers
Well it's more or less 100 years ago that the native honeybee was practically wiped out (the so called 'Isle of Wight Disease') so I reckon mainly from the near continent and it was only about 20 years later that Rowse began to source honey from overseas to meet demand.
 

pargyle 

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I see nowhere a mention of 'forcing' them to work, I don't think that it is even possible. He mentions proper management (something the 'experts' even in those days seemed incapable of doing). Maximising a colony's capacity is nowhere near the same as forcing them - if bees are given a fair chance they will do it (maximising their capacity) without being asked, in fact, trying to force them not to maximise their capacity is where the problems start (try putting a colony with but one super on, on an OSR field, or a heather moor working full swing in perfect conditions, and come back four weeks later expecting them to have not strained themselves and only filled that one box before relaxing) because that is their natural objective, we just cash in on that.
It's inferred in that paragraph that I find contentious ...

I have no issues with giving bees the opportunity to expand and thrive and maximise their particular ability but we both know there are ways and means to create conditions where a colony is artificially encouraged to develop beyond the confines of the local environmental conditions ... Early spring feeding of pollen patties and sugar syrup to encourage colony build up prior to the point in the season where they will naturally expand on the forage available ... exploitative beekeeping as we see in the USA (I would accept that it it not really evident here) has a significant detrimental effect on colonies. I'm not picking holes in anyone's beekeeping - just throwing some words of caution about the potential problems of going beyond the natural order of things to the point where we are trying to force more from our bees than perhaps they are capable of.
 

Finman 

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It's inferred in that paragraph that I find contentious ...

going beyond the natural order of things to the point where we are trying to force more from our bees than perhaps they are capable of.
That is not possible. You cannot force bees to do anything. Feeding syrup and patty is not forcing. Bees gather honey, if pastures have nectar.

If you arrange to bees good pastures, what forcing is that,
 

Antipodes 

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Just remember, next time you worry about how much you are spending on beekeeping, think of the bloke in the USA who spent 254 000 pounds just on queens in one year.;) I guess it would be an incentive to get things right....
 

oxnatbees 

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... just using the skeppist's system of kill and harvest...
... even Manley started off collecting bees from other skeppists when they were drumming them.
A common slur against skeppists is that they killed (sulfured) bees. As you yourself say some did, others drummed.

Killing bees isn't down to hive type, it's a beekeeper choice. Canadian beekeepers regularly killed their hives rather than try to overwinter them, then restocked with packages from California, until their government closed the border to bee imports when varroa arrived around 1990(!!!) (many Canadian beeks simply switched to New Zealand packages). The Canadian equivalent of the NBU still refers to killing as a wintering option in its advice.
 

understanding_bees 

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An image was posted a few days ago, from an old book, “MY COTTAGE FARM”, by Kinard B Edwards.

The poster of this image, SteveG, very kindly sent to me a copy of all of the images of the relevant sections of this book. I have had some experience at republishing an old book, and spent some time cleaning up the images and submitting them to an OCR program which has converted the images into text. Even though OCR programs are able to do an impressive job, unfortunately they do not do a perfect job, and a lot of manual editing was still required.

The story, from this old book, is presented below for your enjoyment. A couple of comments in the book indicate that it was first published in about 1874, and that this particular edition dates from about 1879 or 1880. Beekeeping methods, and equipment used by beekeepers, have changed much in the last 140 years. Some of the methods which were once used, for example the killing of a hive to extract honey, or the use of chloroform to anaesthetize bees, have thankfully been abandoned a long time ago.

Having said that, I found this book to be a fascinating insight into ideas which seem to have been regarded by many people as radical, at the time when this book was written.

Here are a few morsels from that book:

There is perhaps no occupation that can be followed by cottagers and people of small means with greater profit than that of Bee-keeping.

It should be remembered that honey is gathered at no cost to the owner, and that the poor are in as good a position to reap a rich honey harvest as the wealthy.

When we consider the tens of thousands of poor cottagers who are in a position to keep Bees, and the thousands of miles of country, affording hundreds of tons of honey, evaporating its sweetness upon the desert air, it is sad to contemplate how little is done to utilize the riches which the bounty of Providence has scattered broadcast and within the reach of all, rich and poor alike.

I have further preferred in these pages to give the experience of those eminent authorities who have made a study of this subject all their lives, rather than bring forward new theories and speculations of my own, unconfirmed by those better qualified to speak.

The common plan amongst cottage Bee-keepers is to bestow little or no care upon their stocks, from the time their swarms are hived until the fatal fumes consign them to the pit. The hives are often subjected to the scorching heat of a southern aspect, and unprotected from the severity of the coldest winters.

The principles to be acted upon are as follows:—

1st. Never destroy—i.e., smother—your Bees.(4):-

2nd. Keep a few large hives densely populated, rather than a multiplicity of small weakly ones.

3rd. Encourage early swarming, and the maximum production of comb and honey, by a liberal and systematic feeding.


= = = = =
When I attempted to post this story to the forum, a message was generated that it was too large. I will therefore submit in manageable chunks.
 

understanding_bees 

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= = = Installment 1 = = =

MY COTTAGE FARM


By Kinard B Edwards

My cottage farm of five acres; how I made a living by it, stocked, cultivated, and managed it.

"At present market prices a clear annual profit of £240 may be realized from the produce raised upon a five acre farm";

PREFACE

The belief that a great good may be done by disseminating practical knowledge in the form of short, cheap, and popular handbooks, that may be read and understood by all, leads me to appear again in print, to advocate the merits of that valuable and industrious little insect, the "busy Bee", so little under-stood or appreciated in this country.

There is perhaps no occupation that can be followed by cottagers and people of small means with greater profit than that of Bee-keeping. The necessary outlay in establishing an apiary is very trifling; a few shillings will suffice to purchase a good stock-hive, and this hive, with proper care and attention, will in a short time become the parent of many hives, forming a prosperous and profitable apiary.

It should be remembered that honey is gathered at no cost to the owner, and that the poor are in as good a position to reap a rich honey harvest as the wealthy. Examples are not wanting where clergymen, and even simple cottagers, have realized £30 and £40 a year by following a rational and proper system of Bee culture. When we consider the tens of thousands of poor cottagers who are in a position to keep Bees, and the thousands of miles of country, affording hundreds of tons of honey, evaporating its sweetness upon the desert air, it is sad to contemplate how little is done to utilize the riches which the bounty of Providence has scattered broadcast and within the reach of all, rich and poor alike.

In drawing together what I believe to be a thoroughly practical, simple, and intelligible system of Bee-culture, I have endeavoured to study brevity, and avoid even the semblance of a technical phrase or expression, confining myself to a simple statement of facts and forcible arguments, such as a child may understand and put into practice.

I have further preferred in these pages to give the experience of those eminent authorities who have made a study of this subject all their lives, rather than bring forward new theories and speculations of my own, unconfirmed by those better qualified to speak.

KINARD B. EDWARDS.
THE OLD HALL, BURBAGE, NEAR HINCKLEY
LEICESTERSHIRE.

(Editor’s note, April 2021:
In this story, there is reference to “the previous year, 1873”, suggesting that the book was first published in about 1874. Notes at the end of the book mention the first appearance of the book five years earlier, suggesting that this reprint of the book was made in about 1879 or 1880.

The values of honey and of bees, and the purchase price of equipment, which are mentioned in this story may not be readily understood by us in the twenty-first century. Information found on the Internet suggests that inflation since 1880 has been of the order of 12,000 percent! That is, 120 times!

A honey price of one shilling a pound, in 1880, equates to about 120 shillings per pound in this present time. In that monetary system, of 20 shillings in a
£1, that means £6 per pound of honey, or £13.20 per kilogram.)

A CODE ON BEE-KEEPING.

SHOWING HOW TEN STOCK HIVES WILL RETURN A CLEAR ANNUAL PROFIT OF £50.


The notes throughout are meant to be read as much as the body of the work; they are merely condensed to save space. They will tend generally to illustrate and confirm the statements made.

Perhaps there is no country in the world where the profitable management of Bees is so little understood and practised as in England. It is only of late years that the attention of the educated classes has been directed to this important subject — one which has for years past received the closest attention of our foreign neighbours, who have so largely benefited by the study and the exertions of this industrious insect.

The Germans and Americans are pre-eminently celebrated as apiarists, and are acknowledged to far surpass us in the quantity of wax and honey they produce, and generally in the management of their Bees.(1) Not only do they supply their own enormous demand, but produce a large surplus, exporting as they do to this country, annually, upwards of 10,000,000 pounds of honey, for which we pay over half a million pounds sterling.

Bee-keeping is admitted by all who have tried it to be highly profitable, even as practised in this country, where it is quite the exception to find any who may be said to do justice to these willing workers, or obtain one-fourth the return they are capable of affording under proper treatment.

The object in keeping Bees should be to produce the greatest quantity of honey as expeditiously as possible, and at the smallest cost; and this can only be done by adopting a system which multiplies to a maximum the number of working Bees, and stimulates them to the greatest activity.

(1) In Germany large conferences on the subject of Bees are periodically held. Every small town, and almostt every village, has its Bee Society, and its members constantly meet together to compare notes and discuss the subject. Honey is there much appreciated as an article of daily use. In many parts of Germany, Bee culture is taught in the schools and colleges.
 

understanding_bees 

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= = = Installment 2 = = =

The common plan amongst cottage Bee-keepers is to bestow little or no care upon their stocks, from the time their swarms are hived until the fatal fumes consign them to the pit. The hives are often subjected to the scorching heat of a southern aspect, and unprotected from the severity of the coldest winters. Artificial feeding is unknown, or, at least, unpractised. From 5,000 to 10,000 Bees are annually destroyed, in each hive, for every 10 pounds weight of honey that is obtained. Swarms are taken throughout the summer as they appear, regardless of the season or number, nothing being done to encourage early or to prevent late and after swarming. Hives, highly objectionable both as to size and shape, are in general use, and these are seldom more than half populated.

The result of such treatment leads to impoverishment and degeneration, caused by the destruction of valuable life, and the multiplication of weak and feeble stocks, yielding but little honey, and incapable of throwing off either a strong or early swarm to propagate its species.

By this continual sub-division and annual killing of your Bees, you weaken, instead of strengthen, your hives, and reduce, instead of increase, the number of your working Bees. In each hive some 10,000 or 15,000 valuable lives, that would enrich you the following year, are destroyed to obtain that honey which may be easily procured without the sacrifice of a single life.(2)

The first swarms that are obtained from the stock each year are retained as stock for the following year, and any after swarms that come off are hived for what they are worth; but, being unable, from the lateness of the season and weakness in numbers, to collect sufficient store to carry them through the winter, they also are destroyed in the autumn for what wretched store of honey they may have been able to collect; or, if not so destroyed, they gradually die from cold and starvation as the winter comes upon them.(3)

(2) Bees may be chloroformed or fumigated, and so rendered perfectly harmless, and their honey extracted without any destruction of life; or they may be “shaken" from a hive in less than half a minute without fumigating; or the more general system of "driving" may be practised. All are fully described in Part Two of this treatise.

(3) Mr Pettigrew says, “Nine-tenths of the hives in England are weakened from want of sufficient food and protection in cold winters, and weak ones are killed outright, and thousands of swarms are ruined, from want of a little feeding after being put into empty hives."

The most improved and useful feeding troughs are illustrated in Part Two, adapted for the "American “and all flat-topped hives.

The prime, or first swarm, if it be a tolerably early one, and the summer fine, may gather sufficient store to carry it through the winter; but if it be a June or a July swarm, and the summer short and wet, this first swarm, on which the following year's supply is to depend, inevitably perishes from cold and want of food, or, if just able to pull through, it will be weak, and late in working in the spring, and consequently fail to throw off an early and profitable swarm, or accumulate itself a plentiful supply of honey. If, with such treatment as this, Bee-keeping is considered profitable, and Bees continue to be kept, how much more would they be kept and appreciated if it were known that eight or ten times the usual return may be realized by following a proper treatment.

I will now endeavour, as briefly and clearly as possible, to explain a system whereby Bees may be kept and made to return a large and certain profit, involving but comparatively little trouble and the most trifling outlay.

The principles to be acted upon are as follows:—

1st. Never destroy—i.e., smother—your Bees.(4):-

2nd. Keep a few large hives densely populated, rather than a multiplicity of small weakly ones.

3rd. Encourage early swarming, and the maximum production of comb and honey, by a liberal and systematic feeding.

4th. Multiply your stocks annually from strong early second or first swarms.

5th. Prevent late and after swarms from leaving your hives by giving increased room within by fixing an eke or super to the hive.

6th. When necessary, feed all your hives in the autumn that are to stand the winter until they weigh 30 pounds, exclusive of the hive, and increase, if possible, the population of each by the addition of a swarm, and provide extra covering for the winter.

(4) Mr Henry Taylor says, “Fumigation and uniting swarms necessitate no more expense or trouble than the destructive brimstone system; the plea of necessity no longer exists for the wanton waste of valuable life. Impress upon the cottager, in particular, the importance of this, and let him see that his interest is not to kill his Bees". Mr Pettigrew says, "No poor words of mine can describe the value of preserving your Bees, and uniting them to your stocks in autumn. The awful brimstone pit, now used to destroy valuable life, will soon be considered as something which belongs to the ' dark' ages. The way to unite swarms is both simple and easy."
 

understanding_bees 

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= = = Installment 3 = = =

By following this system it will be found—

Firstly. That by not killing your Bees you can multiply the number and strength of your hives to any extent, and by the increased number of your working Bees, you obtain a maximum yield of honey.(5)

Secondly. That by keeping large and densely populated hives you have a maximum number of working Bees in proportion to the number of your hives. The dense population brings the hive into early activity, and causes the queen to lay early and vacate the hive with a large swarm; an early first and second swarm is thereby obtained.(6)

Thirdly. That by liberal and systematic feeding comb and honey can be produced during eight months of the year to a prodigious extent; the cost of raw material, sugar, being 4 pence per pound, whereas honey is 10 pence to one shilling. By encouraging early swarming you bring all your Bees into full activity during the season when honey is most abundant, and give them the entire summer to gather it.

Fourthly. That by multiplying or propagating your hives only with early first or second swarms, you obtain the strongest and best foundation to form your stock hive for the following year, they having the entire summer to breed and collect honey; and by adding in the autumn a second swarm, it becomes densely populated, and better able to stand the severity of winter, and produce the following spring a strong and early swarm.

Fifthly. That by giving increased hive accommodation within (after the first and second swarms have left) by the use of ekes or supers, you prevent further swarming, and encourage the building of fresh comb and storing of honey by the remaining Bees.

Sixthly. That by feeding(7) in the autumn (when necessary) your hives up to a certain weight, and providing extra covering, you enable them to live through the longest and most severe winter without impairing their strength, and so insure early first and second swarms being thrown off.

(5) The quantity of honey collected by Bees is in proportion to the size of the hive, and the number of Bees that can be spared to gather it; and the number of young Bees bred in a hive is in proportion to the quantity of comb built to receive the eggs. In a small hive with few Bees, not one twentieth of the queen's eggs can be hatched, for want of cells to deposit them in and Bees to hatch them. The hive, therefore, remains weak, and little honey is collected; whereas, in a large hive well populated, a large quantity of comb is constructed, tens of thousands of eggs are hatched into Bees, and the gathering of honey is great in proportion as the number is great to gather it. It is easy to understand that 40,000 Bees will collect ten times the quantity of honey that 4,000 will; hence the importance of large hives densely populated.

(6) Mr Pagden says, "By all intelligent Bee-keepers it is now a well-understood fact that one fully-populated hive will produce more honey than three or four weakly ones”.
Mr Pettigrew says that “the basis of all success in Bee-keeping are large hives densely populated".
Henry Taylor says, " One rich colony is worth more than two or three half-starved communities".

(7) By judicious and systematic feeding during wet weather and at night-time, large quantities of wax and honey can be manufactured, and hives that would, from necessity, remain idle and consume their own store, are by feeding enabled to increase their store to the profit of their master in all weather, as well as night and day. "The honey made from syrup is not to be distinguished from flower-honey."—Pagden.

The best artificial food for Bees is sugar and water syrup. To every pound of loaf-sugar add half a pint of water, boil for a few minutes, and allow to cool. Whitey-brown sugar may be given in spring and summer. Feed in a pan or basin through a hole in the floor-board, the hive and floor-board resting on the pan. (See also the "Universal" feeding-trough in Part Two.)
 

understanding_bees 

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= = = Installment 4 = = =

The results that will follow this treatment will be that six or eight strong active stock hives will be found to produce more honey than was formerly obtained from fifteen or twenty hives, and with proportionately loss cost and trouble, and where 10 to 15 pounds of honey were formerly gathered from each hive, 60 to 80 pounds will he now obtained.

To better illustrate the working of a good and bad system, I will describe that which may be seen practised throughout England by the general run of cottage Bee-keepers, and that practised by those who really understand the profitable management of Bees.

I visit a cottager in the month of May; I find him possessed of, say, one stock hive, which appears to have pulled somehow through the winter; it was formed from a swarm that was hived at the end of June the year previous. This hive I find placed against a wall due south; it is very weak, and shows no sign of activity until late in May, having suffered from cold and insufficiency of food through the past winter. At the end of June a swarm leaves the hive; this is at once secured, to become the stock hive for the following year. The mother hive is further weakened by another swarm leaving in about a week; this is also hived for what it may be worth. About the middle of August a swarm (termed a “maiden" swarm) leaves the swarm that was first hived; this is allowed to escape as useless, or thrown back into the hive, owing to the summer being gone.

Well, the autumn comes, and here are three hives to operate upon—the stock and the two swarms. The stock is first smothered, and 8 pounds of honey obtained. The first swarm, as before said, is left to take its place as the stock for the following wear. The second swarm is now smothered, it being too weak in numbers, and hived too late to carry it through the winter. 3 pounds of honey are obtained from this, making a total of 11 pounds of honey, value 9 shillings and 2 pence.(8) Well, here we have from two hives, after destroying 20,000 Bees, 9 shillings and 2 pence worth of honey as the return or profit from each stock hive. So much for our friend the cottager, who is no better nor worse than his neighbours, all of whom act on much the same principle.
 

understanding_bees 

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= = = Installment 5 = = =

We will now turn our attention to one who really understands the management of Bees, in the person of a certain “Intelligent Mechanic," who has made a study of Bee-keeping, and is eminently successful. He is called by his neighbours the "new-fangled party", who has scruples about smothering Bees, feeds them on beer and sugar, and has hives, as large as barrels, etc. I will now describe what this “party" really does. I visit him also early in May. I find him possessed of (say) one hive, but such a hive! He calls it his stock; and well he may, for stocked it is; and judging from the life and animation which is going on at the mouth of it, one would expect it was about to swarm; and this is early in May. This hive was composed of a strong early second swarm of the previous year, strengthened in the autumn by the addition of a swarm from another hive, after which it received a little feeding, and was warmly covered up for the winter.(9) A little feeding in the early spring had brought it into the early activity in which I found it.(10)

(8) I find, on inquiry, that this may be taken as a fair average yield obtained from the hives of the general run of cottage Bee-keepers in England; occasionally 15 pounds and 20 pounds may be taken from a hive, but this is only in exceptionally good seasons, and in such seasons 130 pounds to 160 pounds would be taken, had the hives been large and well populated.

(9) The operation of “driving" and shaking Bees is a very simple one. This autumn I transferred two swarms from full hives into empty ones in less than two minutes. Full particulars respecting the driving and shaking out of swarms from full hives is fully described in Part Two.

(10) The feeding of hives in early spring is very important. It brings the hive into activity, encourages the formation of comb, and encourages the queen to commence laying, and so increase to the utmost the population of the hive to gather honey at the most abundant season.

A strong swarm issues from it early in May, which is hived and fed for two or three days to give it a start. Ten days later a second swarm comes off. This also is placed in a large-sized hive. The parent hive is now removed three feet to one side, and this second swarm is placed-on the stand of the old stock. By so doing, some 2,000 Bees that are abroad in the fields return to their stand, laden with honey, to augment this swarm, and at once commence to build comb and store honey. A little feeding assists the operation considerably. To return to the old stock. We find it considerably reduced in numbers, and to prevent further swarming, an eke(11) or neider is added to the hive. The Bees now set to work to hatch out the eggs stored within the hive, and in three weeks the hive appears almost as populated as ever, governed by a young fertile queen.(12) The eke or neider is shortly filled, and a large store of honey collected.

To prevent the first and second swarms (before mentioned) from throwing off “maiden" swarms, supers are placed in good time upon these hives. These are shortly filled with comb and honey, and in three weeks 15 to 20 pounds of pure virgin honey-comb are taken from the super, and 10 to 12 pounds are taken from the super of the second swarm.(13)

The autumn comes, and with it, the harvest; and such a harvest. As I said before, 20 pounds were obtained from the first super, and 12 pounds from the second. The Bees of the first swarm are now "driven" from their hive, and 20 pounds of honey is extracted. The old stock or mother is now operated upon, and the Bees driven; and 40 pounds of run honey is obtained from the eked hive, making a total of 95 pounds. A portion of the Bees that have been driven from those hives, are either added to the second swarm, which is retained as stock for the following year, or the two swarms may be united, and placed in an empty hive, and fed liberally for a fortnight or so, to enable them to build comb and seal up sufficient food for winter use. The operation of "uniting", "driving", and “shaking" Bees is a very simple one, and is fully described in Part Two.

(11) Adding an eke (or a neider) to a hive, will in 99 cases out of 100 prevent swarming. It is by the use of ekes that Bee-keepers can get their hives in good seasons to rise to 100 and 140 pounds in weight (Pettigrew). Ekes far surpass supers in the quantity of honey stored, and breeding is much increased by their use.

(12) An established stock have during the breeding season should contain 40,000 Bees, besides probably 30,000 in different stages of development.

(13) Mr Fox, of Kingsbridge, Devonshire, obtained from two supers 221 ½ pounds of pure honey-comb, net weight, and 93 pounds were obtained from a swarm hived the 28th of June. The following year Robert Reid obtained from an old hive and its two swarms 328 pounds of honey, and the same year Mr Pettigrew states his cousin realized £40 from nine hives; the great Scotch Bee-keeper realized £100 a-year by his Bees. Second swarms should not be taken later than the middle of June. When they do come off later, it is better to hive them until the evening, and then throw them back into the parent hive.
 

understanding_bees 

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Well, to sum up, here we have 95 pounds of honey, 55 pounds of which is virgin honey-comb, value 1 shilling and 3 pence per pound, and 40 lbs of run honey from the old stock, worth 10 pence per pound, making a total of £5 2s, together with a large, strong swarm provisioned for winter, value £1 10s., besides the two united swarms fed, as before described, to form a second winter stock, which may be valued at £1. This makes a grand total of £7 12s, as against our cottager's wretched 9 shillings and 2 pence worth of honey and reserved weakly stock, value about 10 shillings.(14)

This is no imaginary picture at all. These results, and even larger, are commonly obtained by those who really understand the management of Bees, and keep them on a proper- system.

There is a right and wrong way of managing Bees, as there is in managing everything else; and as a tree is known by its fruit, so the best management is known by the results obtained. No one can be said to manage Bees properly unless they obtain from them the largest return they are capable of realizing. Only those can do this who are prepared to live and learn, and benefit by the experience and teaching of others who have thoroughly studied the matter, and made discoveries such as close investigation and modern science have revealed. During the past summer, 1873, which was a particularly wet and unfavourable honey season, one of my hives increased in one day 10 pounds, the day before 5 pounds, and the day after 5 ½ pounds, and the total weight of the hive at the end of July was 95 pounds; had the season been a favourable one, I am satisfied this hive would have weighed 150 pounds. Most of my neighbours’ hives, at the end of this season, weighed only 5 to 10 pounds, and many less; my hive was permanently suspended upon one of Salter's scales, so that I was able to register daily the condition of the hive. I estimate it contained 50,000 Bees.

(14) Such a return as this may seem incredible to those who have been accustomed to get from 8 to 10 pounds from their hives. Such results, however, and far larger than I name, are annually obtained from those who understand the management of Bees and the advantages of large and densely-populated hives. I firmly believe that the above results may be obtained in almost any district in England.
The returns obtained in the North of England and parts of Scotland are more than double what I speak of, as will be seen from the quotation I make from the work of that old and celebrated Manchester Bee-keeper, Mr Pettigrew. He says, "The Carluke (Scotland) swarms last year yielded 100 pounds, 130 pounds, and 160 pounds from each hive, 90 pounds and 100 pounds being of common occurrence."
Robert Reid obtained from one stock and its two swarms 328 pounds of honey, and the following year his first swarm rose to 106 pounds and 112 pounds each, and the year after again 90 to 120 pounds each.
Robert Scoater's return for three swarms, 120 pounds each, and another 130 pounds;
Mr Jack, the year, obtained 161 pounds and 104 pounds from first swarms, and 68 pounds from a second swarm, and took 230 pounds from two old stocks.
"If", said Mr Pettigrew, "Carluke swarms rise to these weights, why not elsewhere? Large hives, densely populated, are the basis of success. Bee-keepers who adopt these hives are utterly astonished at their former blindness."—Pettigrew on Bees.
 

understanding_bees 

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As I fear there is little hope of inducing the confirmed Bee-keeper under the old system to mend his ways, "charm ye never so wisely", I shall endeavour rather to induce the novice, at present unswayed by prejudice, to take up this profitable and interesting occupation, and to them I echo the words of the French bishop's advice to his poor clergy, and say, “Keep Bees, keep Bees", and those who may be led, by reading these pages, to give Bees a trial, following the system advocated, will have no cause to fear as to the results, either in respect to the pleasure they afford or the profit that may be realized by them.

There is no one in the country, or town suburbs, that may not with advantage keep a few hives of Bees. They involve but little trouble and less cost, and are easily managed and understood, and may be as easily and profitably kept by the poor as by the rich.

It has been estimated by those who have fully considered the subject, that every square mile of country in Great Britain affords an inexhaustible supply of honey for 1,000 hives, and at present the number of hives kept is probably less than one to the square mile; there can, therefore, be no fear of overstocking any locality, and as long as we look abroad for our supply there can be no lack of a ready market for the produce. The celebrated Bee-keeper, Pettigrew, says "A twenty-acre field of grass, well sprinkled with white clover, affords to the suck of Bees 100 pounds, at least of honey per day, or twenty acres of heather probably 200 pounds per day. Who will calculate the honey value of Great Britain? Now, supposing Bees to range a distance of four miles from their hives, this gives each hive a range of 60,000 acres."

Thousands of tons or honey, representing millions of pounds sterling, are allowed annually to evaporate and be lost from want of Bees to gather it, and yet we are satisfied to import from abroad that which may be had at our very doors, and this at a time when our pauper population is increasing to such an extent as to become a great national disgrace, and cause the greatest anxiety to our legislators, who have utterly failed to stem the torrent which threatens to overthrow our social position.(15)

Before concluding I will give such necessary information as will enable the complete novice in the art to make a right beginning; and to do this it will not be necessary for me to bewilder my readers with elaborate details, trifling in themselves, and better learned from experience as they present them-, selves one by one.

There is, perhaps, no occupation that can be followed by the poor with greater ease, less cost, and certain profit than Bee keeping. All that is absolutely necessary in the first instance is a 2 shillings and 6 pence, or 3 shilling hive, and a swarm of Bees, value 15 shillings. It is far better for the novice to be with one or two swarms and gain experience as he goes, rather than to set up in haste a large number of hives at one time.

To commence, provide yourself with a hive measuring not less than fifteen inches in diameter, and not more than eleven or twelve inches high. I do not know of any hive that can compare with the American Nest Hive, combining efficiency and durability with extreme cheapness(16). The top must be flat, with a hole in the centre four inches in diameter, to admit the Bees into the “super", or top hive, which is placed over the hole. The super should be two inches less in diameter than the former hive, and only nine inches high. Having provided yourself with these hives, you should agree with your nearest Bee-keeper to provide you with the first early swarm from the strongest hive. This will be worth 15 shillings up to the first week in June, and 12 shillings and 6 pence after this time until the end of June.(17) Leave your hive, and when you hear that the Bees have been swarmed into it, remove it the same evening to the spot where the hive is to remain permanent. This hive should be fed with a little syrup for a few days, to give it a start. If the swarm be a good one, and the weather fine for honey-gathering, this hive will be quickly filled with comb, and, in a few weeks, a large number of young Bees will be rapidly hatched out, increasing the population of the hive to swarming,-point. To prevent a ("maiden") swarm issuing, the super should be placed on the hive in good time to give the Bees increased room to work.

(15) Cottage economy is untaught and unpractised in this country. Tens of thousands of our paupers and half-starved cottagers might live in ease and comfort if they had been taught in their youth the spirit of independence and how to gain an honest living. I most implicitly affirm that any industrious cottager living by the roadside, and having a small garden, may realize from £40 to £50 a-year clear profit by keeping thirty laying hens, eight or ten hives, and three or four doe rabbits, and a sow pig; but to do this I admit proper management must be first learned and then acted upon.

(16) A complete set or nest of these American hives, four in number, can be obtained at a price not exceeding that of the commonest straw hive of equal size. Particulars of all the best and most improved make of box and wooden hives will be found illustrated and described in Part Two.

(17) A good swarm should weigh 5 pounds, and number from 20,000 to 35,000 Bees. The wretched 1 ½ and 2 pound swarms one daily sees shaken into hives are, as Mr Pettigrew says, "not even worth the worthless hives they are put into". Small and weak swarms are seldom or ever able to live through the coining winter.
 

understanding_bees 

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If the season continues good, this super will be quickly filled with the purest honey comb, and from 15 to 20 pounds of the best honey will be stored. When full, the super may be removed. If the weather should now become wet and unfavourable for honey-gathering, it little feeling may be resorted to with advantage, the Bees allowed to store as large a quantity of honey as possible within their hive. When the autumn comes the hive should be weighed, and if less than 30 pounds, it should be fed up to this weight, and if more, a comb or two of honey may be cut out of the hive for sale. The population of this hive may now with advantage be increased by the addition of a swarm. Before the winter frosts appear, an old strip of carpet, or other warm substance should be wrapped round the hive to protect it from the cold, and a felt cover over all to protect it from wet. No further attention is necessary until the following spring, when the hive begins to show signs of life and activity. From this time on, the treatment to be pursued has been already described in the person of the "Intelligent Mechanic", who is supposed to be taking up the management from this point.

By this it will be seen that the first year the newly-purchased swarm will yield from 15 to 20 pounds of virgin honey, value from 20 shillings to 25 shillings, and the following year the profits from this hive will increase; to 5l. or 6l.

(Editor’s note: I do not know what is meant by “5l. or 6l.” Having seen the website:
https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/static/Coinage.jsp, which includes the statement: “Values are generally expressed as £.s.d., or else l.s.d” I am speculating that it may mean “5L.or 6L.”which would be £5 or £6).

Now, supposing a man to possess ten such hives, it is quite clear that his profits will be proportionately increased, and that where one hive realized £5, ten will realize £50, or twenty, £100.

To quote the words of Mr Pagden, who says : "After the purchase of your first swarm the following summer, you will have one swarm independent of the old stock; then your stock will consist of three hives; the next season they will have increased to nine; and if you continue this system for three years, and have no losses, you will have 729 hives." He concludes by saying, "This calculation is not a credulous imagination, or even theoretical or visionary, as it is based on what any one may see progressing practically, yearly, in my own apiaries". Now, supposing each swarm to be worth even 10 shillings each, here is a return of some £365 in six years from the purchase of a single swarm. Mr Pagden concludes by saying, "I commenced Bee keeping with one hive only, purposely to prove the self-supporting nature of a properly-managed apiary, and also to convince the cottager how, by starting in the same manner, he may attain the same position as myself; he will then have the satisfaction of knowing that his Bees will supply him with double the income he could gain by expending all his strength and labour in-the fields."

Those who desire to study Bee culture in all its details, may peruse with advantage some of the many exhaustive works that treat on this interesting subject. The following are a list of some of the most eminent writers on this subject, many of which I have studied with great interest and profit. The cost and voluminous character, however, of most of these works prevents their being generally read. Those who desire to do so, can gain access to all or any of these works, free of cost, at the Library of the British Museum :—Huber, Schirach, Swammerdam, Gelieu, Beaumer; Muraldi, Langstroth, Quinby, Golding, Dunbar, Bevan, Payne, White, Rerm, Debrard, Jurino, Dobbs, Cobbet, Thorley, Hamel, Wheeler, Pettigrew, etc. But those who believe that "where ignorance is bliss 'tis folly to be wise", and are satisfied to keep Bees for their profit alone, will find in these pages all the information which is essential to be known in the profitable management of Bees.(18)

(18) What would greatly encourage a proper system of Bee keeping in this country, would be for the clergyman or squire of every parish to offer a prize of £1 for the heaviest hive of honey, and £1 for the heaviest super; or the prize given may take the form of one of the best and most improved make of hives.

There is probably no occupation that will make so large a return for the expense and trouble involved in Bee keeping, the most simple and illiterate may practise it as successfully as the educated. It is a study well deserving of the attention of rich and poor alike, and affording interest to the one and profit to the other.

A great deal has been written and said of late years in favour of the Ligurian or Alpine Bee, but my own experience of them (confirmed by eminent Bee masters) is that they possess no advantages over the common English Bee. One disadvantage they certainly possess is that a good swarm costs £2 to £3 as against 15 shillings for a common swarm.

With these remarks I will conclude, hoping that what I have said may be the means of drawing attention to this important subject, and encourage the more general keeping of Bees by the lower and middle classes of this country, and that by following a proper system of management, such results may be obtained as will annually increase their number and the production of those articles which we at present import.
 

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