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CHAPTER VI Edit

HOW TO START BEE-KEEPING HIVES AND TOOLS TRANSFERRING BEES Edit

IT is a mistake to imagine that bee-keeping -*- can be carried on successfully in the remote country districts alone, for a large percentage of those engaged in this profitable and interesting work reside in suburban towns, and in some instances dwellers in large cities have successful apiaries located on the roofs of office buildings.

Another popular fallacy is the idea that only those sections of the country are suitable where some specific honey-producing blossom abounds in large numbers, such as alfalfa, sweet clover, basswood, and buckwheat. While it is true that those beekeepers who are located in such favorable sections are reasonably sure of a good crop of honey, in fact, of even obtaining record crops, yet the bees have such wonderful ability to adapt themselves to almost any locality, that it is astonishing how often they produce a goodly surplus for their owners when there are few evidences of large areas devoted to the cultivation of those plants of which they are most fond. Even in the suburban districts it is surprising how much white and sweet clover are accessible to them, to say nothing of fruit blossoms and locust for the early flow. Again, there are many localities where the fall flow from goldenrod and the white and blue asters yields a supply that often surprises the incredulous. One of the most successful beekeepers in the profession, and one who for forty years has made bee-keeping a sole means of support, is Dr. C. C. Miller of Marengo, Illinois, who has again and again declared that his location is really below the average, showing how a little experience will enable the determined man to make good. Of course, if one is fortunate enough to be located in the buckwheat region of New York state, or the basswood sections of the Middle West, or in the heart of the alfalfa ranches of Colorado, Utah, and California, it is an easy matter to make money very rapidly ; nevertheless, no one should be deterred from engaging in this interesting and profitable industry because he is located remote from these sources of supply.

Bees are wonderfully industrious little folk, and if properly cared for will extract tribute from unheard-of sources. For three years I owned an apiary located on the shores of Long Island Sound, where the flora appeared decidedly unfavorable, yet to my surprise and joy the bees did remarkably well. This led me to a more careful survey of the country by which I found that there was quite an abundance of locust trees, considerable fruit bloom, while the lawns abounded with clover.

While it is true that the beekeeper in the favored locations referred to has the advantage of being able to keep a great many hives in the home yard, yet the suburbanite can overcome this by resorting to a system of out apiaries, and by having two or more apiaries three or four miles from home be able to harvest crops. These out apiaries can be located so that they are accessible by buggy, trolley, or train, and the only difference in their management and the home yard is that their owner has to take a short trip to get to them. Indeed, the majority of large beekeepers prefer a system of out apiaries, as they claim they get larger crops without the danger of overstocking the home yard. Having decided to get some bees, the question arises, "How and when shall I start?" Spring is the best season of the year to begin, as such hives as will be purchased will not be heavy with honey and can be the more easily transported. Another advantage of starting 'n the spring is that the season is just beginning to open and the beginner will get experience in every phase of the industry, and should he make mistakes, he will have ample time in which to remedy them before the winter comes on.

It is the truest economy to purchase bees of a pure breed in modern hives from some reputable beekeeper in the neighborhood, and if none are located within a reasonable distance, there is a large number who advertise stock in the leading bee journals. Oftentimes it will be more convenient to purchase a couple of colonies in old-fashioned box hives from a near-by beekeeper, though a beekeeper who keeps his colonies in such makeshifts is far behind the times and must of necessity have to kill his faithful wards in order to get their honey, poor honey it is at that, as it generally is stored in old combs along with brood and even pollen from poisonous plants. These swarms can generally be purchased for from $1 to $2 a swarm, and all that is needed to put them in shape for shipping home by wagon or express is to wait until toward dark, when all the bees are in the hive, and then quickly turn it upside down and tack a piece of mosquito wire net over the bottom, making sure that no openings are left for bees to escape and make trouble. Keep the hive upside down, and in this position take them home or ship them by express. Under no circumstances allow the bottom to be closed up, as the bees will smother. When the journey is ended, by using a little smoke, to be described later on in this chapter, drive all the bees away from the screen, take it off, and set the hive in proper position on some boards or a large box.

Do not leave the bees in the old hive, but send away at once to a bee supply house and purchase a complete hive with full sheets of wax foundation wired in the frames, and as soon as it comes transfer the bees automatically. The best way to transfer is to bore a large hole through the top of the old hive, making it no less than an inch in diameter, and over this is to be placed the new hive without its bottom board, but with its lid on and the frames all in place. Sometimes the outside bottom dimensions of the new hive will be larger than the top of the old hive, and special pains will have to be taken to keep the bees from coming out of the new hive when they are drummed upstairs. To prevent this it will be necessary to nail some cleats around the four edges of the top of the old box hive, or better still, take two boards and tack them together so that they can be set on top of the old box hive and project at least an inch outside of the bottom of the new hive on all sides. With an auger bore one or two holes about an inch in diameter through the platform and old hive top near the centre, and place over it the new hive with its lid on, but no bottom board, for it must be remembered that we want no entrance to this double hive except the one at the bottom of the old box hive. Of course you should have your smoker going and your face and hands protected by veil and gloves. Having everything in place, puff smoke in at the entrance of the old hive, and with a stick begin to pound on its sides. Renew the smoke every four or five minutes, and keep up the drumming, and the bees will soon begin to go up into the new hive body, and in a half hour or so most of the bees will be up there, with the queen.

In a few days take off the lid of the new hive, and if you find that many of the bees are there and the queen has laid her eggs in the new combs, give the old box another smoking and pounding to drive up the rest, and in about a half hour you are ready to remove the new hive from the top, containing as it does the queen and most of the bees. To do this properly and to be sure of getting all the bees, lift the old hive to one side and, placing the bottom board of the new hive on the stand formerly occupied by the old hive, gently lift the new hive, bees and all, from the top of the old one and place it in position on the bottom board on the old stand. The old hive can be placed to one side of the new one not more than two feet away, and in about a week put it the same distance on the other side of the new hive, for by doing this all the bees that hatch from the brood that was left in the old hive will enter the new one and in a matter of three or four weeks all of the bees from the old hive will have entered the new one, whose work will be going on without interruption. After the bees have been transferred, the old combs in the old hive can be cut out without angering the bees, and may be melted up for beeswax. This method is certainly far superior to the old-fashioned way of tearing the old hive to pieces, and having to cut out a lot of sticky old combs and piece them together with strings in the new frames. It also has the advantage of putting the bees on frames whose combs will all be wired and making them more secure in handling and extracting. Where the colonies are bought in modern hives there need be no transferring, and the only thing necessary to do to make them ready for moving will be to make a couple of frames of wood seven-eighths of an inch thick, cover them with wire netting, and nail a frame to the top and bottom of the hive after the lid and bottom board have been removed and the bees sent to their destination ; where with the use of a little smoke the net frames can be removed, the hive body set in position on its bottom board, and the lid put on. The methods for transferring and moving bees are identically the same whether one or more hives are secured. It is a waste of time, money, and patience for the beginner to attempt to make his own hives, as many a beekeeper has found to his sorrow, for the work as done by the hive manufacturers is so smooth and accurate, and the result of so many years of experience, that nothing made by the novice will equal them. Modern hives as made by a number of supply houses are of the best lumber planed smooth, and dovetailed at the corners to prevent warping.

Hives should conform to the habits of the bees, and there should be no more space in them than a bee space, or otherwise the bees will build brace-combs all around the frames and render their handling almost impossible,

The Root Smoker.

  • A. Metal projection to aid the fingers in holding bellows.
  • B. Coiled wire handler. C. Hook on back of bellows.
  • D. Locked nuts. E. Stamped metal cap. F. Flexible hinge.

to say nothing of the robbing that is sure to result from broken combs.

Before we take up the matter of the hives to be adopted, let me speak of the tools and implements necessary. The first thing essential is a good smoker, one that has large fuel capacity, and a good strong bellows. After a thorough test of all the smokers on the market, I have no hesitancy in saying I prefer the Root Jumbo, a cold blast smoker, as it perfectly meets all the requirements. A good smoker can be purchased for $1.25 and with proper care will last for years. Planer shavings, old rags, dried leaves, gunny bags soaked in a solution of saltpetre and dried in the sun, rotten wood, and dried pieces of apple branches all make excellent fuel, for what we want is plenty of smoke with little heat, and the beginner can take his pick.

I generally use planer shavings, though there are times when I want an enduring smoke I start a good fire with shavings ; when I have about an inch of good red embers in the smoker I pile in rotten wood or apple wood, and a couple of replenishings of the fuel are sufficient for all day. As the fire gets low a few puffs of the bellows occasionally will bring it up so that it is ready whenever needed.

Another essential is a good veil, and after trying many I find that the Rauchfauss veil, a combination of muslin and wire net, is the best, as the cloth net veils seldom last over a season, often not so long, and the net may be blown by the wind so close to the face that the bees find no difficulty in stinging through it. The Rauchfauss veil is made of stout muslin and ties around the crown of the straw hat. There is a circle of wire netting about a foot wide that comes just from below the brim of the hat and goes all around the head, permitting a current of air to enter and at the same time keeping out all the bees. From the bottom edge of the wire net there is another section of muslin with a drawing-string, so that all bees are excluded at its lower edge, and thus making a veil that is both durable and effective. Such a veil can be bought for seventy-five cents, but can be made at home at a cost of about twenty-five cents.

Another essential is a hive tool for prying off the hive lids, lifting out the frames, and scrap- ing propolis from the hives and frames, more or less of which is sure to be gathered by the bees. There are a few other conveniences for the apiary which, though not essential, add to the comforts of working with the bees. A good market basket with stout handle is a handy thing for carrying the smoker, fuel, and hive tool, and as soon as one thing is used and set aside it can be dropped into the basket, which will save hunting around in the grass for it when wanted. A good wheelbarrow is also a great convenience, as it saves the back when it comes to carrying hives either filled or empty ; the best one has removable sides. In preparing yourself to work among the bees, don't fail to close the ends of the trouser legs by using bicycle clips or by tying them with stout cords. Though some of the most successful beekeepers are women, there has never yet been given in a bee journal a satisfactory bee dress for them. Some have advocated male attire, others bloomers, things the average woman detests, and yet there is available for women one of the most satisfactory and bee-proof dresses imaginable, and it is as follows. A woman to prepare herself properly for work in the bee yard should first purchase a pair of men's overalls of proper length and in the bottom of each leg place a drawing-string. The overalls should be put on just over the underwear, and when they are properly adjusted, tie the drawing-strings tightly about the ankles. Over this she may put her skirt, and in this attire she will suffer no annoyance whatever from the bees and yet be properly dressed. The drawing-strings at the bottoms of the legs of the overalls will effectively exclude the bees that may be in the grass, while the waist band of the skirt will keep out any bees that may adhere to the overalls. When the work is finished in the yard the skirt can be lifted and any adhering bees brushed off before entering the house. After many years' experience I have found that by wearing a suit of white cotton material such as painters wear, consisting of overalls and jumper, I am less liable to be stung than when I wear dark woollen clothes. Whether it is because they detect the animal scent in the woollen goods, or have a natural aversion to black, I am not able to say, but I do know that bees are more gentle and docile when I wear the light suit in preference to the dark. I was visiting a few years ago the large apiary of Mr. Alexander at Delanson, New York. He had a large flock of white wyandotte hens, which would wander all day among the hives, picking up drones. In the flock was one single black minorca hen, and strange to say the bees never troubled the white fowls at all, but again and again they would drive the black hen from their midst, which seemed to prove that they have a hatred for black. "What hive shall I use?" is a question that is frequently asked, and its answer is the question, "What do you intend to produce, comb or extracted honey?"

If you intend to produce comb honey, by all means adopt a hive having a shallow brood nest, as the shallow brood nest compels the bees to put the surplus up in the supers just where you want it, and not so much in the frames of the brood nest, which they are sure to do with the hives of regular depth. The brood nest is the hive body proper, in which the bees rear their brood, and must not be confused with the super or surplus chambers that are put on top of it at the beginning of the honey flow. In the case of bees in a comb-producing hive they are wintered in the brood body and the surplus supers are set away for the next season, as will be described later. At the beginning of the honey flow, the supers containing the little section boxes are set over the brood nest; each of these little boxes holds about a pound of honey, and there are usually twenty-four of them in a super chamber.

If comb honey is desired, purchase the shallow brood nest hive such as the Danzenbaker hive, or other shallow hive, of which a number of different kinds are on the market. Not less than four supers for each hive should be made ready for the flow. This phase of the subject will be more amply discussed in the chapter on How to Produce Comb Honey. There are a large number of beekeepers who use the deep brood bodies even when producing comb honey, but their numbers are diminishing as the advantages of the shallow brood nest for comb honey production are becoming more and more manifest. The ordinary hive body should be adopted if extracted honey is to be the object, and a hive containing ten frames is the standard, though the tendency among certain producers of extracted honey is toward a larger hive such as the twelve-frame. In any case the standard self-spacing frame known as the Hoffman frame should be adopted, as it is the easiest frame to handle, and is made by all manufacturers of bee supplies. A careful reading of the catalogues of the leading supply houses will give the beginner much light and enable him to adopt the hive best suited to his purposes.

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