CHAPTER XIII Edit
LOCATION OF THE APIARY OUT APIARIES Edit
MOVING BEES Edit
LOCATION is of a twofold character, and has to do first with the possibilities of the flora of any given section of the country where bees are to be kept, and secondly with the position of the hives in the apiary. As we stated in the first chapter, in any section of the country where agricultural pursuits are successfully carried on bees are sure to be a source of profit to their keepers, and even in suburban towns where the farming districts are remote, there is more or less forage for the bees, so that one is not compelled to seek an isolated country district in order to make a success of the venture. In fact, there are wild regions, such as the Middle West, where there is an abundant natural growth of clover, basswood, and wild raspberries, where some of the greatest crops are secured, so that we can see that the bees adapt themselves to almost any environment. While the buckwheat sections of New York state, the alfalfa districts of Utah, Colorado, and California, are particularly favorable for large returns, nevertheless in almost every section of the country bees are able to extract a goodly surplus for their owners.
Where the nectar-secreting flowers are more or less restricted, there is danger of overstocking, and this has led a good many eastern beekeepers to resort to a system of out apiaries. Instead of placing five hundred colonies in the home yard, a thing that is possible in the regions referred to above, it will be best in an average location to place not more than seventyfive colonies in the home yard, and then at distances of say three to five miles from each other, place additional apiaries of like number. In this way a large number of colonies may be kept in sections of the country that are often only of an average character. The management of these apiaries is identically the same as the home yard, the only difference being that the operation of the out-yards requires a trip to them by the operator, which can be easily accomplished with horse and buggy, bicycle, motor cycle, or automobile.
Whether there be many or one yard, it is essential that the home yard be placed in a favorable or safe position so that the neighbors shall not be annoyed, or the keeper's family be constantly stung. This should also be the rule in the location of the out-yards. In the matter of the out apiaries, a purchase of land for their location is not at all necessary, for a farmer or other person having a little land will usually be glad to rent it for from $5 to $10 a year, as an apiary of considerable size occupies but a small space.
If horses or other stock are at hand, the apiary should be placed a sufficient distance away from them to avoid annoyance, and the exercise of a little judgment will enable the beekeeper to adjust himself to local conditions. Formerly an orchard was advocated as the best place in which to locate an apiary, but experience has proved that the bees do better if their hives are placed so that the sun can shine on them, and, during very hot weather, a little extra ventilation and the use of a shade Hive stand. board on top of the hives will offset the disadvantages of the hot spells. There is no doubt but that a back yard or open field is the very best place in the world for the bees, as the sun's rays in spring aid very materially in the rearing of brood, and even during the winter months it is a decided help to the bees. A good plan is to arrange the hives in groups of four or five, as this renders manipulation much easier, and by equalizing things in the matter of distributing brood and honey, each group forms a convenient unit by itself. A stand of some sort for each hive is a necessity, as it keeps the hive from contact with the moist earth, and adds to the life of the hive, for rotting of wood is not likely to occur, and when stormy and winter days come on its protection is important.
Some beekeepers make concrete stands for each hive while others buy stands ready made, but both of these are an unnecessary expense, as any man can with a few boards, saw, and hatchet, make his own, and though such stands may be more or less crude, they are nevertheless just as useful as the expensive ones. All that is necessary is to get some rough hemlock boards and cut two lengths about a foot longer than the width of the bottom board of the hive; then cut two shorter lengths about six inches longer than the length of the bottom board of the hive and using each of the shorter lengths for the ends, nail the longer pieces on top of the shorter ones, and the stand is complete. The advantage of these low stands over the taller ones is that the bees when coming in from the fields heavily loaded will not fall to the ground a foot or more from the entrance of the hive, but get into their homes at once. When it comes to operating an out apiary, the methods and fixtures are the same as in the case of the home apiary. To avoid carrying back and forth the necessary implements, it is well to have a small building, or even a large box covered with heavy waterproofed paper, with a door that can be locked, and in this little building keep the smokers, hive tools, veils, fuel, and such other little articles that are necessary for the work to be done. These things are inexpensive, and much trouble is saved by having located at each yard the necessary tools, etc. The extra hive bodies, and comb and^extracting supers, can be stored in the barn or other such buildings that may be at hand by the owner of the land from which it is rented, or else they can be brought over as needed.
When extracting at the out yard, the extracting supers can be taken off late in the afternoon and be carted back to the home yard, extracted in the place set apart for this work, and be returned to the bees in the morning, If this is too much trouble, a wooden frame extracting cage about ten feet square, covered with wire cloth, and when set up secured by hooks and eyes, can be carried to the yard and the extracting done on the spot. As these large cages are inexpensive, and when taken down can be easily carried in a small wagon, an increasing number of bee-keepers who have a system of out yards are using them. If the bees at the out yards are to be wintered outdoors with winter cases, there will be no carting of the bees to the home cellar in the fall and carting them back to their yards in the spring, and this is an important item in favor of outdoor wintering, which will be considered in the chapter on "How to Winter Bees Successfully." If, however, the bees are to be carted back home in the fall to be placed in the cellar, great care should be used in preparing and carting them. To prepare the bees properly for carting to the home for cellar wintering the following is a most excellent plan: For each hive to be moved, take some wooden strips about an inch wide and about seven-eighths of an inch thick, and make frames just the size of the top and bottom of the hive; over these frames tack securely some ordinary mosquito wirenetting, and after all the bees are in their hives nail one of these frames to both the top and the bottom of the hive, and it is ready for moving either by wagon or train. As an extra precaution against smothering the bees, it is well to tack or nail an extra strip of wood on the front ends of the bottom screen to elevate it above the floor of the wagon or car, as this will give a free circulation of air for the colony and insure their better condition when arriving at their destination. Some of the supply houses have in the making of their screens overlooked this extra bottom cleat, so that when the hive of bees is set on the floor, they might as well be entirely without the bottom screen. The lids and bottom boards that were removed from the hives to be moved can be sent or carried separately. When bees have been bought in the oldfashioned box hives, all that is necessary is to turn the hive upside down and tack some wire net over the bottom, and ship the hive in this position.
When a quantity of bees are to be shipped a considerable distance by rail it will be a good thing for their owners to accompany them, and give them in warm weather an occasional sprinkling of cold water to cool and keep them quiet. If horses and wagon are employed, by all means unhitch the horses before the bees are loaded on the wagon and take them a safe distance from the bees until the wagon is loaded, and, when the other bees have stopped flying, hitch up again, and there will be no risk of the horses being stung.
In some sections of the country, migratory bee-keeping is practised, the bees being moved from place to place to take advantage of the flow that may come in districts remote from the yards already located; though this has been tried in Florida and other parts of the country, the results have not warranted the extra trouble, save in some parts of Europe, where it is carried on quite extensively. The better plan is to locate the bees where the forage is abundant, and leave them there permanently.
In shipping full colonies of bees, or two- or three-frame nuclei, the screens referred to above are all that is needed, and in the case of nuclei, small boxes made from old boxes secured at some store with a piece of screen tacked over the top and the bottom, with the frames firmly secured by small nails, fully answer the purpose. Be sure in every case to see that the wire screens are properly adjusted to the hives to prevent the escape of the bees, or otherwise most of them will escape in transit, and the colony become almost entirely depopulated by the time it arrives at its destination.
If a shipment of a large number of hives is to go a long distance, it is essential that some one accompany them, and if the bees are found to be clustering on the upper screens, some water, which can be carried in five-gallon honey cans, can be sprinkled on them with a small hand sprinkler, or whisk broom, and after sprinkling, the bees will return to their combs, with the result that there is greater ventilation and air for the colony. In warm weather especially, it is a mistake to ship a very strong colony, for they are almost certain to smother, as I know by some sad experiences. For this reason it is best to screen and pack the colony about noon, when a large number of bees are in the field, and on the stand from which the colony was taken there should be placed an empty hive with frames of full foundation, with a frame of unsealed brood in its centre, which will take care of the returning bees. A queen can be given to them, and in an incredibly short time the hive will build up to a strong colony.
This method, however, should not be adopted, unless the colony so divided is unusually strong. It is no detriment to the colony shipped, for by the time it reaches its destination, enough new bees will have hatched out to fill it full, and it has this advantage to the buyer, that the bees in the colony will be largely young bees, and their gentleness will be a decided gain to him, as he can handle them with greater confidence. Some years ago beekeepers advocated migratory bee-keeping, believing that the colonies could be located in the far South at the opening of the early flows there, and be gradually moved north to take advantage of the continuing flows, and a gigantic crop secured ; but few have tried it, and those who have declare that the results do not warrant the effort. I have not heard of any phenomenal crops being gathered by this method. The majority of beekeepers are content to leave their home and out apiaries in their permanent locations, and where a section is found to be unusually good, an out apiary is established at that point. This has proved to be the most satisfactory and profitable plan.
Before closing this chapter, a few words concerning out apiaries seem necessary. It is the fear of overstocking a given location that has led to the adoption of out apiaries, but after all is said, the danger of overstocking is more imaginary than real, if a little care is exercised. There are few locations that will not support as many as one hundred colonies, and add a goodly surplus at that, and if one hundred colonies are the limit, it will be better to keep them all at the home yard than to go to the extra trouble of establishing an out yard.
If one hundred and fifty or several hundred colonies are to be kept, then it becomes an absolute necessity to establish some out yards, and if one hundred and fifty are to be kept it will be best to put, say, seventy-five hives in the home yard, and seventy-five in an out yard, say from three to five miles from home; and these out yards can be so located along the line of trolley and railroad as to be of easy access by their operator. It is a disputed question how far bees will travel from their homes in quest of nectar; some authorities go so far as to say that bees will travel a distance of five miles or more, but, generally speaking, three miles will be their limit, and even if the apiaries are located but three miles from each other (though five miles would be better), there is not a great deal of danger in the matter of crowding, as many experiments have proved.
There are some beekeepers fortunately located, notably the late Mr. Alexander of Delanson, who is in the midst of the buckwheat country of New York state, who kept all of his hives, some eight hundred, located in the one home yard, and during favorable years produced in the neighborhood of eighty thousand pounds of extracted honey, principally buckwheat. This, however, is an exceptional case, and the average location will demand the keeping of not more than one hundred hives in one yard; in case a large number of colonies are kept, a system of out apiaries is absolutely essential to success. The novice will be wise to go slowly in the matter of out apiaries, until he has the necessary experience to make it a success.