CHAPTER II Edit
HOW TO BEGIN BEE-KEEPING
THE VARIOUS WAYS OF BEGINNING
THERE are so many ways of beginning this inter- esting work that no classic way obtains. Many people have received the stimulus from a swarm of bees, escaped from some apiary, which has alighted on a tree or bush on the premises, and which seemed too much like a gift of the gods to be ignored. In fact, no one with blood in him would do otherwise under such circumstances than to hunt up a soap- box or a nailkeg and, with an intrepidity amounting almost to heroism, place it under the cluster and shake the bees into it. Then, if the swarm feels content, the fact is accomplished ; and the involuntary owner finds a new interest in life, and enthusiastically becomes a bee-keeper. This is an excellent and inexpensive way to begin, and for all who are thus favoured it is by far the best way. But one may wait many years before this happens, and after all there are other and more direct methods. The best way is to begin by wishing sincerely to keep bees, and then to adopt one of the following plans :
The cheapest way is to visit the nearest neighbour who keeps bees, and buy of him a swarm, which will cost, perhaps, two or three dollars. If the neighbour be a good apiarist, this may be an excellent method, for he will give practical advice and be a most helpful friend in time of future difficulties and doubts; he will also explain appliances and make the labours and perplexities of the beginner much smoother. Besides these advantages, it is a help to neighbour- liness, for keeping bees is almost as close a bond be- tween two neighbours as an interest in golf or automobiles, and has a much broader and more philosophical basis.
Of course, the bees may be bought at any time of the year convenient, but the early spring is the best season for beginning, for then one has the ad- vantage of increase by swarms. If one is ingenious and inventive, one may easily construct other hives like the one bought; but there are other things needed which may be obtained cheaper and better from firms that sell apiarists' supplies. However, we are acquainted with several apiarists who furnish all of their own supplies except the sections for comb- honey, the wax foundations, the smoker, the cartons and the honey-extractor.
The usual way of beginning is to send to some of the dealers in bee-keepers' supplies for a catalogue and to invest in a library of bee books. There is something most fascinating about these books written by bee-keepers, for no one makes a success of bee-keeping unless he loves the bees; and if he loves bees he writes of them so persuadingly, and his lines are so full of insidious allusions to the enchantments of the occupation, that whoever reads one of these volumes finds life arid without bees.
Then the catalogue of bee-keepers' supplies has its own attractions. Never were such breathlessly interesting pamphlets written; and I would add that, on the whole, they are the most honest and reliable of all advertising catalogues. They almost invariably give good and sensible advLe to beginners, suggesting proper outfits at moderate prices. To the would-be bee-keeper these catalogues are so delightful that, if the purse is long enough, he feels inclined to order a specimen of everything listed. However, this is not the best way to do. A moderate number of things can be ordered at first, and other things may be ordered later as the growing sense of their need develops.
If one is minded to go into bee-keeping as a regular business, the best way to begin is to spend a year with a successful bee-keeper, working for him and with him and paying for the tuition, whatever may be charged. Thus one may gain his knowledge of the business and get his practical training under the guidance of experience. The very worst way to begin, and one that is sure to result in disaster, is to buy a large number of colonies at first. This is a too expensive way of learning the extent of one's own ignorance and limitations as a bee-keeper.
As we have begun keeping bees three times in the course of our lives, we feel more or less competent to give advice about this special phase of bee-keeping.
We first began when we were children and two swarms were bestowed upon us by an uncle who moved away from the neighbourhood. This was long before, the idea of supers and box comb-honey had been thought of. We were among the first to adopt the old glass-sided super when it was introduced. The second and third times we purchased our outfit of a dealer in apiarists' supplies, and both of these beginnings were good and suc- cessful ; so perhaps the best way to tell others how to begin is to describe how we began. The following is the order which we sent to a dealer.
A BEGINNER'S ORDER
One colony of bees, in an eight-frame, dovetailed, chaff hive with a deep telescope cover, and with a tested Italian queen.
Two complete supers ready for use, with 4| x 4|- x 1^ plain sections.
One super cover.
Three extra H-story chaff hives uniform with the above, and with super covers.
One standard Cornell smoker.
One pair bee-gloves.
Two hundred and fifty sections, plain, no bee- way, 4^ x 4| x \\.
One pound medium brood foundation.
Two pounds thin super foundation.
One Daisy foundation-fastener.
One Van Deusen wax-tube fastener.
One J-pound spool No. 30, tinned wire.
One Porter bee-escape, with board.
One Manum's swarm-catcher.
One Dixie bee-brush.
One Doolittle division-board feeder.
One Alley's queen and drone trap.
NOTES ON A BEGINNER'S ORDER
The selection of the bees is the first and most im- portant consideration, since race and heredity determine to so great an extent the bee's efficiency and disposition.
The consensus of opinion to-day is in favour of the Italian bees; this is so much so that the other races, except the German, are hardly on the general market in America. Taking all points into con- sideration, the Italian has a higher average of sat- isfactory qualities than has any of the other races.
Our earliest experiences were with the ordinary black German bees, and it was through them that we first learned to love bees, although their nervous- ness and their unhappy habit of considering us in- truders when we neared their domain were always somewhat embarrassing, and made us feel like James Whitcomb Riley's visiting base-ball team, that "we weren't so welcome as we aimed to be." Therefore, when we decided to buy bees, we un- hesitatingly ordered Italians. These are much more gentle and friendly than the others, and it is one of our greatest pleasures to be on good terms with our bee-folk. Under all ordinary circumstances the Italian bees are not only tolerant of human interference, but are sweet tempered and optimistic, believing that we mean well by them; and one can- not work with them without learning to love them.
If one begins bee-keeping in the spring, some money can be saved by buying a nucleus and tested queen, instead of a full colony of bees. A nucleus in bee-keeping parlance is a small colony with only one, two, or three frames. The colony should be large enough to build combs with sufficient rapidity to keep the queen fairly busy, so as not to encourage in her the habit of loafing, and so that too much time shall not be required to build up a full colony. Two frames with about a quart of bees will accomplish this well.
Such a nucleus as this in a hive, with a division board on either side of the two adjacent frames, can be soon built up into a full colony if there is v plenty of nectar and pollen to be had. A division board is a solid board of the shape of the frame, but a little larger so that it is close-fitting in the hive. The frame should be watched closely, and as soon as the comb is filled with brood, and there are enough bees to cover the brood well, another frame filled with brood foundation should be added ; this should be continued until the hive is filled with frames.
A TESTED QUEEN
As the queen is the mother of the whole colony, her powers for transmitting a kind disposition and superior honey-making qualities are of the greatest importance. It is essential, therefore, to know that the queen, which is to serve as a foundation for the apiary, has mated with a drone of the desired race. A tested queen is one that has been kept until some of her offspring have been reared. The colour, of these will indicate whether the queen has mated with a drone of her own race.
Next to choosing the bees comes the selection of the hive, for there are several kinds of hives in gen- eral use, and all of them are apparently good. We chose the Langstroth hive because its merits are attested by the fact that it is more largely used than all others taken together. We chose the eight-frame in preference to the ten-frame form because we wished to produce comb-honey, and it is easier to induce bees to store surplus in the sections when the brood-chamber is small. If one wishes to produce extracted honey, the ten-frame hive is the better one. We ordered the more expensive chaff hives, as we wished to save the trouble of moving the bees into winter quarters; and we think this would be the case with anyone with whom bee-keeping is an avocation instead of a vocation. In fact many peo-
(a) The Dixie bee-brush, spur wire-embedder, and Van Deusen wax-tube fastener.
A super with fences and two rows of section-boxes in place; a separate fence.
PLATE III. (c) The Porter bee-escape in a honey-board.
pie who make bee-keeping their principal business prefer chaff hives, for they not only keep out the cold in winter, but also protect the bees from the heat in summer. The objections to them are that they are heavy to handle and are expensive, though the expense can be reduced considerably if one has the ability to make them. Another thing we like about the chaff hives is that they are fine and dig- nified in appearance, and we find that their majestic proportions, white and beautiful, set against the background of our larches, add much to our con- scious pleasure every time we look upon our apiary. We ordered a deep telescope cover, as we wished room for two, supers on the hive at once.
The hive-stand we ourselves made from lumber taken from dry-goods boxes. It is simply a smooth platform, six inches wider than the hive on three sides and extending about a foot out in front of the hive, thus serving as an alighting-board.
TWO COMPLETE SUPERS
We knew that we would need these very soon, for the basswood harvest was imminent ; we ordered them ready for use, as we wished to see all the "new wrinkles" in supers, and exactly how the parts are arranged. We used the supers as models later in putting together and fitting other supers. This proved a wise precaution, as it saved us much time in reading directions and studying out independently the arrangement of parts. We ordered 4J x 4J x H sections, as this is the size most generally used, and we chose the no-beeway, or "plain" style, because we think it presents a better appearance when filled with honey. We will return to this question in Chapter VIII.
THREE EXTRA HIVES
We wished to have these on hand for any swarms which might possibly issue.
ONE STANDARD CORNEIL SMOKER
I do not know just why we chose this of the many excellent smokers, but perchance the name called to mind happy experiences with sundry Cornell smokers of quite a different feather, and we were thus favourably disposed toward this one. It has not disappointed us in the least, for it is both handy and practical. It may seem an unfriendly act to smoke one's own bee-people, but a little smoke wisely applied is as efficacious in preserving pleasant relations with the bees, as was the smoke from the pipe of peace in preserving similar relations between our forefathers and the savages. (Plate I.)
The senior partner of our apiary rarely uses a veil, but when he does use one he needs it very much, and it is an article necessary to have at hand. To the beginner it gives a calmness of nerve and a sur- plus of courage which are highly desirable when deal- ing with such high-strung creatures as bees. Also there always occur times during the year when the bee-tempers are on edge for some reason or other; and at such times, if one be intrenched behind a bee- veil, it facilitates work and encourages a serene spirit.
ONE PAIR OF BEE-GLOVES
While we do not use these ordinarily, yet when we have some special work to do which involves changing many bees from one location to another, we find these gloves most convenient to keep the disturbed little citizens from crawling up our sleeves, thus saving both them and ourselves from a most embarrassing situation.
Only a small supply of sections was ordered, as but few would be needed the first year in addition to those in the two complete supers. (Plate II.)
ONE POUND BROOD-FOUNDATION
This was for use in the frames in the extra hives.
TWO POUNDS THIN SUPER-FOUNDATION
This was for use in the sections.
ONE DAISY FOUNDATION-FASTENER
In the early days of our bee-keeping we fastened the foundation into the sections and frames with a common kitchen-knife which we heated over a lamp and then applied to the edge of the wax foundation held against the section, thus melting it and pressing it fast to the wood. Afterward we used a Parker . fastener, and found it a great improvement over the primitive method. But this Daisy foundation- fastener as described in the catalogue appealed to the modern spirit in us. When we tried to use the machine, we were bitterly disappointed at the end of five minutes, but that was because the iron was not hot enough to properly melt the wax. After a little we learned to hold the foundation on the plate just long enough to melt it to a proper consistency so that it adhered to the section as soon as it was dropped upon it. Then it was that filling sections was placed on the list of sports. The rapidity with which we filled four dozen sections almost took our breath away.
ONE VAN DEUSEN WAX-TUBE FASTENER
This was ordered under the impression that it would be needed for fastening the foundation in the brood-frames, but when the hives came we found that a much better method of fastening the founda- tions had been devised. This is described in Chap- ter VIII. (Plate III.)
This is used for strengthening the foundation in the brood-frames, as described later.
ONE PORTER BEE-ESCAPE
The Porter bee-escape is a simple and most use- ful device. It is set in a thin board just the size of the top of the hive; in the middle is a bit of tin which forms a round pit on the upper side. The bees descend into this pit, and, trying to get out, push apart two strips of tin set at angles to each other, fastened at the ends, which act like a valve, letting the bee out but not permitting her to push back. This is put between the super and the hive in order to free the super of bees before removing the honey. This escape is also used on the doors and windows of workshops or extracting-rooms or other places where bees get in and it is desirable to get them out. (Plates III., XVIII.)
THE MANUM SWARM-CATCHER
We bought this because we liked the idea of it, but as yet we have never had occasion to use it; how- ever, we never look at its long handle without being filled with a mad desire to try it on a provoking swarm of bees clustered in the top of a cherry tree.
ONE DIXIE BEE-BRUSH
This is an exceedingly useful instrument for brush- ing bees from frames and from sections. (Plate III.)
ONE DOOLITTLE FEEDER
Bee-keepers of extended experience consider this the best and most satisfactory kind of feeder in use for small apiaries. (Plate XII.)
QUEEN AND DRONE TRAP
This is not a necessity; we bought it in order to try experiments in preventing swarming by its use, and also to have on hand in case an excess of drones should be developed in any of our colonies. (Plate XIV.)