CHAPTER III Edit
THE LOCATION AND THE ARRANGEMENT OF THE APIARY
WHERE to put the hives is the first question, and this must be determined by two or three conditions necessary for the health and comfort of the bees. Hives should be placed where the sunshine may reach them in the morning up to eight or nine o'clock, and in the afternoon from three to four o'clock. An old orchard such as is kept because of picturesque beauty rather than for its crop of apples is an ideal place. The clean-culture orchards of the modern horticulturists are undoubtedly more efficient as producers of apples and money; but we are always grateful that there are still remaining many fine old orchards, on sod ground where the trees, more or less gnarled and twisted, are a joy to the artistic eye. Little wonder that such a place is the ideal spot for the apiary; if the hives are grouped four or 'five together beneath one tree, the requirements of shade will be met.
If there is no old orchard, what then ? A young orchard will do, unless clean culture is practised; in the latter case horses and cultivator will not be per- mitted on the domain of the bee-people. If no orchard offers, then a trellis of vines extending east and west, eight feet high, may shade a few hives, and may be a thing of beauty in the garden as well. Grape vines, hops, Virginia creeper, or any other rapidly growing vines will do. To the one who loves his garden, there will be many ways suggested whereby the hives may be placed to compass both comfort for the bees and joy to the beholder. We started an apiary at the north of the lilac trees, and made it a part of the lawn.
If no such happy position for natural shade is to be found for the hives, then one must have recourse to artificial shade or double-walled hives. A very good method of shading, much in vogue among the farmers of our country, consists of a few boards placed awning-fashion above the row of hives. This is not an attractive solution to the problem, although perhaps it might be made so if this method were ever resorted to by anyone with a sense of beauty; but usually it is limited to a simple cover consisting of two or three boards nailed together, slanting a little toward the back of the hives to shed rain, supported by four posts, which hold it a foot or more above the row of hives.
In California instead of boards a thatched roof is made for this sort of protection, and is ample enough to allow an aisle for the apiarist between the rows of hives set back to back.
Many people use a single shade board, which consists of slats fastened together by cleats made large enough to project a foot beyond the hive on either side. This is placed directly on top of the hive, and has to be weighted down with stones, and is therefore awkward to handle when working with the bees. If the climate is hot, or in any case, a double-walled cover to the hive is most excellent, since it affords a chance for free circulation of air between the two boards which form it. However, these double covers do not obviate the need of shade, and natural shade is the most desirable sort.
In case the region is exposed to high winds, there should be a windbreak around the apiary. Mr. Root, who is one of the greatest of American bee- keepers, uses for this a row of hardy evergreens which grow together into a solid hedge. In case a windbreak, either natural or made, is impracticable, a board fence about eight or ten feet high, built on two sides of the apiary, usually the north and west sides, will be found to serve the purpose. This fence may be made the trellis for vines.
In the rear of the village garden is an excellent place for bees. A high board fence as a boundary, and perhaps a barn at the side will act as a wind- break, while the fruit trees yield a grateful shade. We know several such modest apiaries which are most attractive in appearance. There are those who live in cities or towns who are filled with the bee-keeper's ambitions; and even they need not despair. There are on record accounts of several small apiaries kept on the housetops of the owners, who believe that roofs are for more than mere pro- tection. Where bees kept thus get their honey is a bee secret, but undoubtedly every flower in the region yields them tribute. If bees be kept in town, they must be placed on a roof or else a high fence must intervene between the hives and the highway, so that the plane of bee flight shall be set above the heads of horses and drivers; for these brave little honeymakers have never been taught to turn to the right, and so they often dispute the way with teams and usually come off victorious ; and this might make the bee-keeper unpopular in his community.
Another necessity in the apiary is that the grass in front of the entrance to the hives be kept mown; otherwise many a heavily laden bee will experience loss or injury among interfering grass blades. It is not practicable, even if one were heroic enough to try it, to run a lawn mower nearer than four or five inches from the hives, so many bee-keepers place salt or coal ashes on the grass within this area. Mr. Root goes so far as to advise the use of sheep as automatic lawn mowers in the apiary, as nothing else can cut grass so short as does the sheep. People say "as silly as a sheep," but that is a silly saying, for many people may learn something of value about the management of bees from the sheep, which, when attacked by them, thrusts its head philosophically into a bush where the bees cannot reach the tender parts, and trusts to its wool to protect it elsewhere. As a matter of experience, sheep kept in apiaries are rarely stung at all.
In our own apiary, where it was not practical to mow close to the hives, we followed two methods: When we had many bees we placed a rough board over the ground in the immediate front of the hive; when we had only a few swarms, it was one of our joys to get on our knees on cold days, when only a few adventurous workers were going into the field, and with shears cut the grass close to the ground; and this period spent on our knees was not penance, but joy. However, it might well get to be penance in a large apiary.
Having found the place for the apiary, the next thought is of hive stands. Many bee-keepers use a hive that has a combination bottom board and hive stand ; this has an inclined plane up which the loaded bees may climb if they strike the ground. This is a device which also saves the lives of many bees in cool weather, when they would scarcely be able, through numbness, to reach the entrance of the hive otherwise. However, there are other bee stands which hold two or three hives, which are very com- fortable in height for the work of the bee-keeper. But it is always well to remember that the opening of a hive should be low down, as it is easier for the weary wings to let the honey-weighted bee down than to lift her up to the doorway. We use a simple platform, with blocks under the corners, so that there may be circulation of air beneath, and extending about a foot out in front of the hive, thus serving as an alighting board.
The arrangement of the hives in the apiary is a subject which will pay for thought. When begin- ning, this is easy enough, as they may be arranged almost any way, so long as shade and short grass are assured. After the apiary grows they may be arranged in several convenient ways; one is to have the lines of hives facing' each other, thus making an alley for the bees; while there is a safe passageway for the man in the rear of the two rows.
When there are only a few hives, it is best to have the entrances face the south. In fact, the entrance should never face northward in a climate as cold as that of New York State. There is one thing to bear in mind in arranging an apiary; make the groups under the trees individual, so that the bees will have no tendency to become confused as to the location of their own homes. If two face west, then let two others face east, or perhaps a group of three face to the south, etc.
When it becomes necessary, for any reason, to change the location of a colony, a board should be set against the hive, in front of its entrance. The bees, meeting this obstruction as they emerge from the hive, will fly about the hive for some time, and thus mark the new location, to which they will return. If this precaution is not taken, many bees will fly from the hive, directly into the field, without noticing the change, and will then return to the old location and thus be lost.
A honey-house near the apiary is a great conven- ience. If this is not practicable, the next best arrange- ment is a honey-room in house, cellar, or shed. Such a room is a necessity even in a small apiary. This room should be well ventilated and screens should cover the windows, and a swinging automatic screen protect the door; bee-escapes should be placed in door and windows.
The room should contain workbench and tools; a table, chairs of varying height, an oil-stove, and boxes or cupboards in which all of the apiary sup- plies, implements, and machinery may be stored and kept ready for use.
PLATE V. /. Queen Bee, enlarged. 2. Drone. 3. Worker. 4. Queer Cells. J. Miller's Cage for Introducing Queens.