Those of any profession or business, -who can give a little time in spring, summer, and autumn, who may desire to be associated with, and study natural objects, and supplement their present means of increasing their income, - provided, they have a little ground three or four rods from the street. Thus, citizens of country, village, or city, male or female, who wish to add to the pleasures and profits of life, will here find an ever-waiting opportunity. To the ladies, so often shut out from fresh air and sunlight, till palor and languor sadly to departing vigor, and to those men, the nature of whose business precludes air and exercise, the apiary offers special attractions.
This has been called the poetry of rural pursuits, and very properly too. There is a fascination about the apiary that is indescribable. Nature is always presenting the most pleasurable surprises to those on the alert to behold them. And among insects, especially bees, the instincts and habits are so inexplicable and marvelous, that the student of this department of nature never ceases to meet with exhibitions that startle him, no less with wonder than with admiration. Show me a scientific bee-keeper, and I will show you an enthusiast. A thorough study of the wonderful economy of the hive, must from its very nature go hand in hand with delight and admiration. Said I, a short time since, to an extensive apiarist who also owns a fine large farm, Why do you keep bees? The reply was characteristic: Even could I not make a good deal the most money from my bees, I should keep them for the real pleasure they bring me.
Again there is no other manual labor pursuit in which the returns are so large, compared with the labor and expense. An experienced apiarist may invest in bees any spring in Michigan, with the absolute certainty of more than doubling his investment the first season, while a net gain of four hundred per cent. causes no surprise to the bee-keepers of our State. During the past season an investment in bees has returned to me five hundert per cent., and though this has been a good season for honey, yet i have done better than this everal times. No less than three farmers of our State who possess good improved farms, and also keep about ne hundred colonies of bees, have told me within a few weeks that their income from their bees far exceeded that from their farms. What greater recommendation has any vocation? Money getting, even with the greatest privations is attractive, and is slighted by no class. Money getting, with labor that brings, in itself, constant delight, leaves little to be desired.
Bee-keeping, too, an a limited scale, demands very little time; and since the pleasures would be just as great with but few colonies, no one would object to thus add to his income. I know, in fact, of no business (and I seak from experience) that is so convenient and desirable as an avocation. To the man with sedentary habits, it brings wholesome exercise; to the man tied to an office, air and exercise; to the clerk and factory hand, or others, whose lives are monotonous and machine-like, it gives occasion for intellectual effort; and, in inciting to thought and study, makes them feel more truly that they are men. To our sisters, it offers all the above attractions, and more, may serve to drive the wolf from the door. To all of us, who become philosophers would have envied, furnishes the rarest food for the observing faculties, and brings us into that intimate communion with nature which is never-failing in its tendency to refine the tastes, elevate the feelings, and ennoble manhood.
No one should commence this business who is not willing to read, think, and study. To be sure, the unthinking may stumble on success for a time, but sooner or later failure will set her seal upon his efforts. Those of our apiarists who have studied the hardest, observed the closest, and thought the deepest, have even passed the late terrible winters with but slight loss.
Prompt attention to the needs of his industrious little servants, is another absolute requirement. To be sure, this attention is slight, and so is apt to be neglected; but always with loss, -often with disaster. That bees work for nothing and board themselves is only comparatively true. Their demands are indeed light; but they must be met.
Enthusiasm, or real love for this business, is another requisite. This is a plat whose growth, with the least opportunity, is sure. It only demands persistence. The beginner, without either experience or knowledge, may meet with discouragements, -undoubtly will. Swarms will be lost, others will fail the winter, the young apiarist will become nervous, -which will disgust the bees in so much that they will essay to administer reproof af a sharp and pointed kind. Yet, with persistence all of these difficulties will fade away. Every contingency will be foreseen and provided against, and the myriad little workers will become as manageable and may be fondled as safely as a pet dog or cat. And the apiarist will minister to their needs with the same fearlessness and self-possession that he would attend to his gentlest cow or favorite horse. Persistence in the face of those discouragements, which are so apt to confront inexperience, will surely triumph. For he who has one jot of appreciation of the beautiful and the marvelous in his character will soon grow to love his insect pets, and the labor attendant upon their care and management, and this love will soon kindle into enthusiasm.