HONEY is a well known sweet, tenacious substance, which in fine weather is continually secreting in the nectaries of flowers, chiefly from certain vesicles or glands situated near the basis of every petal from whence it is collected by bees and other insects. The domestic honey bees consume a portion of this honey for food at or near the time of gathering, but the principal part of what they collect is regurgitated and poured into the cells of the hives for the use of the community in winter ; so very abundant are these collections in favorable seasons as to afford the apiarian an extensive share of them without distressing the provident hoarders. Mr. Wildman states that in the year 1789 he purchased a glass filled with exceedingly fine honey-combs, weighing sixty-three pounds, which had been collected within a month, and that the hive which it had surmounted, still contained a full supply for the winter's consumption of the bees.

" The 'honey intended for early use, and for the nursing bees and drones, is deposited in cells which are allowed to remain open ; whilst the finest honey, which is laid up in store for winter, is placed in the most inaccessible parts of the hive, and closed in the cells with waxen lids."

" In the Philosophical Transactions for 1792, Mr. Hunter has stated that whatever time the contents of the honey bags may be retained, they still remain pure and unaltered by the digestive process. Mr. Polhill, a gentleman to whom the public are indebted for several articles in Rees's Cyclopedia appertaining to bees, is also of this opinion. Messrs. Kirby and Spence do not admit this statement ; as the nectar of flowers is not of so thick a consistency as honey, they think it must undergo some change in the stomach of the bee. They are countenanced in this opinion by Swammerdam and Reaumur ; the latter has observed that if there was a deficiency of flowers at the season of honey-gathering, and the bees were furnished with sugar, they filled their cells with honey differing in no other respect from honey collected in the usual way, but in its possessing a somewhat higher flavor, and in its never candying nor even losing its fluidity by long keeping.

" The naturalists just named, highly and deservedly as they are celebrated, are not borne out in their opinions, either by my own experiments or those of my apiarian correspondents ; we have each tried supplying bees with syrup of sugar as a resource for winter, without finding any material change in it after it was stored. It might be somewhat clearer, but no other difference whatever was perceptible." Bevan.

I here agree with Mr. Bevan, but will add that the bees impart a peculiar musk which gives the honey a sharpish, pungent taste found in no other sweet. This is more perceptible in honey made in cold climates than that made in warm ; the reason is, the bees are compelled to cluster in large masses in the former in order to maintain animal heat ; this process also creates the musk thus imparted, while in the latter, where a high temperature prevails, they are enabled to build comb with scarcely any cluster surrounding; in this case but little musk is imparted to the honey.

This musk is the probable cause of honey inducing colic in some persons, so that they cannot use it when new ; but after it has attained age, it loses this effect, proving to my mind that the musk is the cause. "The power of regurgitation in the bee is very remarkable ; its alimentary organs, like those of the pigeon, besides being subservient to the purposes of nutriment, afford a temporary store-room, or reservoir. Ruminating animals may be considered as regurgitating animals, though in them the operation is performed for different purposes. In some it is exercised for the purpose of digesting the food, in others for feeding the young ; but in bees its use is to enable them to disburden themselves of the honey which they gather for the winter's store of the community."

" The finest flavored and most delicate honey is that which is collected from aromatic plants and has been stored in clean, new cells ; it has been usually called virgin honey, as though it were elaborated by a fresh swarm of bees ; but this is not essential to the perfection of honey, for, provided the cells in which it is deposited have never contained either brood or farina, it is not material whether it have been collected by swarms or by stocks ; the season and the flowers having been the same, the quality of the honey will in both cases be alike." prime honey possesses a whitish color, an agreeable smell, a pleasant taste, and a thick consistency. When taken from the combs it is in a fluid state, but gradually thickens by age, and in cold weather there will be deposited, if the quality be genuine, a firm and solid mass of honey, which it may be unnecessary to state is of more value than the softer portion which rises to the top. In England, honey has seldom been known to assume a solid state while in the hives; and even out of them, if it remain in the combs, it will preserve its fluidity, clearness and fine flavor for at least a year, if not exposed to a low temperature. The honey of tropical climates is always in a fluid state."

When honey is first gathered from flowers it is quite thin. The cells are only partly filled at first, and are then left so for some time, to allow the watery particles to evaporate, after which they are filled up, and when the honey is of proper consistency it is sealed over with wax, and remains without further diminution.

The manner of placing the honey in the cell is as follows : The loaded bee enters the cell head foremost, it then commences to regurgitate, and as the honey passes from the proboscis, it is kept in motion, brushing it first on the bottom of the cell, then advancing it regularly on all sides so that the air is expelled, and the honey is kept concave and in its place, by the pressure of the atmosphere. In this manner the bees will fill the underside of a comb when the mouftis of the cells are placed downwards, without the honey running out.

This very interesting operation may be witnessed through glass, when the bees join their comb to it and make it serve as a portion of the wall of a cell. In California the quantity of honey gathered by a single hive in a year, is greater, and the quality better than is usually found in any other country. Owing to the peculiarly dry climate the honey is more dense, weighing nearly one pound more per gallon than that usually made in the Atlantic States ; in consequence of which it will keep good for years, and can be transported to the Atlantic cities and to Europe in prime order, and at a profit to the producer. And the time is not distant when, if the business of bee-raising receives the attention it deserves, the export of honey and bees-wax will be no inconsiderable item of revenue to the apiarists of the Pacific coast. The mountain honey will probably take the lead, both for beauty and excellence of flavor.

Honey gathered on the plains and in the valleys previous to July, is of good flavor and of various shades of color, that from mustard being whiter than any other ; the prevailing color is, however, a dark yellow, with occasionally a reddish tint. But the honey most esteemed for both flavor and density is that gathered from the Cephalanthus in the months of July and August. It is of a golden yellow color and transparent, while most of that gathered from other sources at a later period, is of dark color, resembling Orleans molasses, and is in flavor or density but little better; the amount gathered of the latter, however, is not usually large. When buying honey, choose that which is of a clear color (yellow to be preferred) and thick consistency. All red or dark honey should be tested before buying, unless it is warranted by responsible parties-.

In the Atlantic States the principal sources whence honey is obtained are white clover, poplar, (or whitewood) chestnut, linden- (or bass-wood) and buckwheat. The honey from the two former is of nearly the same quality, and is gathered during the same period, which is June and part of July. It is nearly white and transparent, and is considered the standard of excellence.

The chestnut and linden bloom together, from the first to the twentieth of July, and afford honey of a much darker color, and not as fine flavored as the above.

Honey from buckwheat is of a reddish color and fine flavor, preferred by some, even, to that from white clover. In some of the western States, the golden rod and other wild flowers afford large quantities of honey of good quality.


The production of honey, which is the most desirable, and at the same time the most remunerative product of the bee, should be the aim of every beekeeper; hence, to so manage the apiary that the largest possible yield of the precious nectar is obtained, and at the same time leave the stock in good condition at the close of the season, is the great desideratum in bee-keeping.

This result can be secured with the greatest certainty by making a small increase in the number of stock each year. This increase may be either by artificial colonization or natural swarming, as suits the owner's convenience. Thus, if a watch can be kept so as to secure the swarms when they issue, it is best to let them stand until they fill one set of boxes ; (which a part of the stocks usually do before swarming, while others only partially fill them) these are then to be taken out, and if increase is preferred to honey, then form a colony as directed in Chap. xvn. Then after one interchange of combs between the colony and the parent hive, place other honey boxes in the chamber, to allow them to resume storing honey, which they do as soon as the main apartment of the hive is full, provided there is ample pasturage.

If only one swarm increase is wanted from a hive during a season, proceed as follows : on the fifth or sixth day after a swarm issues from a hive, open it and remove all the queen cells but one. A better plan, however, is to procure a fertile queen, (from a colony prepared for that purpose, as directed in Chap, xvn) and introduce her into the hive that has sent out the swarm ; this may be done at any time within six days from the time the swarm leaves, at which time all the queen cells should be removed, if wanted for use. (If the queen cells are not removed, it is possible thmt the queen so introduced would lead another swarm.) This will effectually prevent after swarming, at least for fifty days thereafter. But should an increase of two or more swarms or colonies be wanted, then on the fifth or sixth day as above, the combs and bees of the parent hive are to be equally divided, one part being placed in a new hive ; see that each have one embryo queen ; all others are to be removed, else when they emerge, there is danger of a swarm departing, although the hive be not half full of comb or bees. These divisions are to be managed as directed in the Chapter on Formation of Colonies.

There is no certain way to keep bees from swarming during the natural period thereof, but to divide them just previous to their swarming, and remove the supernumerary queen cells from the queenless divis ion on the ninth or tenth day from the time of making the division.

Then, by making one interchange of comb on the fourteenth to the sixteenth day, by the time either hive would be full the propensity to swarm would be abated ; honey boxes might then be put in with tolerable safety from further swarming, yet the chances to get the boxes filled would not be as good as at an earlier period.

The aim of every bee-keeper (who understands his business) will always be to keep his stock in such a shape that he can have his hives full and ready to store surplus honey at the commencement of a harvest of flowers that are known to bloom at a certain time. This object is to be accomplished by keeping the stocks strong ; also by furnishing pasture, or feeding at a time when nature does not afford a sufficient supply.

I will here describe a peculiarity of the honey bee, or rather, a provision of nature to guard against overpopulation. This feature seems not to have been noticed by any previous author. Where bees are sparsely scattered over a country having abundant pasturage, the propensity to swarm is very great ; so much so, that from three to four-fold increase per year can be counted on with tolerable certainty. (There are instances where more than twice this increase has been attained.) But as the same country becomes largely populated with bees, the number of swarms departing is gradually lessened, till finally there will not be more than enough to keep the numbers of the stock whole. When this point is attained, it is certain that the locality is fully stocked, and that an increase over that number can only be made with safety by increasing the pasture in an equal ratio, or by liberal feeding during such portions of the year as do not afford enough food for the stock. Such feeding, however, can only be made profitable where a certain and sufficiently abundant pasturage can be depended on at a given time to ensure a large yield of surplus honey.

Hence it is apparent that a certain number of bees kept in a place will yield a profit to their owner ; but go beyond that and it will require all the gatherings to sustain themselves. However, as there are no two seasons in succession alike in productiveness, it will readily occur to every thinking mind, that where a population of bees exists equal to the resources of the neighborhood for an ordinary season, a more productive one will increase the number of colonies, while a less productive one will again diminish them, unless special provisions are made for their subsistence. A knowledge of the above facts will prove valuable to all persons interested in bee culture, showing as it does the impropriety of a rapid multiplication of colonies after a neighborhood has become sufficiently populated, but instead thereof to produce merchantable honey.


PLATE XXX, p. 199, fig. 55. Hive with Collateral Honey Box and Ventilating Block separate.

There are usually two short periods in each year, when flowers are so abundant and rich in honey that bees are enabled to fill their storehouses in an incredibly short time. When this occurs in the spring or early part of summer, it is usual for them to swarm, unless there is an over-population as before shown. There are always some hives, however, amongst all stocks, that have so many bees that all cannot enter the hive, but remain clustered on the outside, without sending out a single swarm during the whole season. Again ; in many districts, bees are afforded a very abundant harvest of honey after the twentieth of July, yet it is but seldom that any swarm after that time, consequently some hives become excessively crowded and cluster on the outside of the hive in large masses ; (this is sometimes the case when the hive is not entirely full, being occasioned by heat ; to relieve them, more ventilation should be given and the hive well shaded) in which case, more room should be given to them in the following manner: First place suitable boxes for receiving surplus honey in the chamber made for that purpose ; should these still not afford sufficient room for all the bees to enter, then add collateral boxes, as shown in plate xxx, fig. 55. ee, are two boxes, same as used in the chamber with an apertureLone and one-half inches in diameter. In each, corresponding holes are made in the sides of the hive as shown at M\ tin caps are attached as shown at JV, for the purpose of keeping the holes closed while, the boxes are removed ; O is an outer case to cover the boxes e e, made twelve and one-half by twelve and one-half inches, in the clear, in height and depth, and six and one-half inches wide ; this case is composed of four boards, leaving one side and the bottom open, the hive and stand serving instead.

When in use the boxes, together with the case, are brought in contact with the hive and held in place by means of hooks and staples bb. If guide combs are attached in these boxes it will induce the bees to enter them more readily. As soon as the boxes in the chamber are full and the comb properly sealed over, they should be removed, and if any combs have been built in the collateral boxes, gently move them with their contents into the chamber and supply empty boxes in their stead. Although these side boxes may never be entirely filled, while in that position, yet there is a gain if even partially so, as the bees complete them in a short time when placed in the chamber.

As soon as the bees cease to make comb or store honey in the side boxes, they should be removed to a dry and safe place till again wanted ; otherwise, if they remain when not actually needed, they form a harbor for worms.

Various kinds of collateral boxes have been used by different bee-keepers at various times, occasionally with success, but oftener resulting in failure. Many people, for the want of the necessary knowledge of the habits of the bee, as well as the resources of pasturage at the different seasons, freqifently defer supplying boxes till it is too late, or supply them to hives perhaps not half full either of comb or bees, and vainly expect to get them filled with delicious honey within a short time ; failing in this, they are apt to attribute it to a wrong cause.


There are three requisites necessary to obtain surplus honey ; the first of which is, a hive with the main apartment full of comb, with the interspace full of bees ; (no danger of there being too many) the second, abundant pasturage, and the third, favorable weather ; with these three requisites, boxes for the reception of surplus honey may be added, with the assurance that they will be filled in due time. When full, the combs present an even surface, all the cells being sealed over with wax, and they are ready for removal.


Open the hive and remove the glass frame and blow in a little smoke ; then take a chisel or knife and loosen the boxes ; after giving the bees four or five minutes to descend, take out the boxes, and as the bees emerge from them, brush them off at the entrance of the hive. Or the boxes may be set in a dark room, leaving one window open for the bees to fly out and return to their hive, which they will do after they have filled their sacs with honey. If there are many young bees in the boxes, they are apt to remain, as they do not know where to go, in which case they should be brushed out and returned to the hive.

In removing boxes filled in the early part of the season, they should be carefully examined, to ascertain if there is any brood in them ;[1] this being frequently the case, particularly in boxes filled in small hives, or such as have the bees to enter the boxes near the center of the hive. If brood is found, either cut it out, or return the box until the brood emerges. A sure preventive, is to have hives of a proper size, and only permit the bees to enter the boxes from the side spaces, away from the brood, in the main apartment.

The boxes of honey should be kept either with the top or bottom uppermost, so that the combs remain on their edges.


As soon as all the bees are out, the boxes of honey should be placed in a dry room, from which the bees, as well other insects, are excluded ; or they may be placed in' pack-boxes, as hereafter directed, and kept in a dry place, (a cool one if possible) where it should remain, ready to transport to market at any time.


Pack-boxes, for carrying honey to market, should be made out of sound inch lumber, and of a size convenient for handling. One that will hold ten boxes of honey, (which is a suitable size for two persons to handle) should be thirteen and one-half inches square in the clear, and thirty-three inches long in the clear ; a strip should be nailed on each side two-thirds of the distance from the bottom, and extending at either end to form handles to lift by.


The boxes of honey should be packed in the packbox crosswise and with the bottom side uppermost ; when full, they should be firmly wedged together, as it serves to prevent breakage ; the lid should then be fastened and prominently marked: " THIS SIDE UP, WITH CARE;" and if kept so, will carry safely any desired distance ; while if changed, with a different side up, the honey-combs are sure to be broken, which not only damages its appearance, but causes the honey to run out, resulting in great loss.


In the Atlantic States, it is a thing of common occurrence to find bee-worms in boxes of honey that are filled in the early part of the season. The eggs from which they hatch are evidently in the boxes at the time they are removed from the hive, being laid there by the miller herself, or accidentally carried there by the bees from some other place of deposit. Several days of warm weather must elapse, after the honey is removed from the hive, before the worms are hatched and sufficiently developed to be noticed. Mr. Quinby describes their progress as follows: " In a few days, I could see at first a little white dust, like flour, on the sides of the combs, and on the bottom of the jar. As the worms grew larger, this dust was coarser. By looking closely at the combs, a small white thread-like line was first perceptible enlarging as the worms progressed.

When combs are filled with honey, the worms go only on the surface ; seldom penetrating to the center, unless they find an empty cell. Disgusting as they seem to be, they dislike being daubed with honey.

" Wax, and not honey, is their food" is the opinion that mostly prevails ; yet, I believe that a portion of honey and also of pollen is consumed by the worms.

If the honey is left in the care of the bees, it is not disturbed by worms, while there is a numerous swarm to protect it ; but if the hive once becomes weak, the furniture in it is usually soon eaten up by the worms.


The honey should be kept in a place where the temperature is permanently below sixty degrees ; it must, however, be a dry one, as dampness injures the quality of the honey.

If a cool and dry place, in which to keep honey, cannot be had, the boxes should be taken (after the bees are all out of them) and closely covered over, and after one week elapses, they should be frequently examined, and if any worms are found, they should be removed without breaking the comb. This can easily be done in the section honey box; but if the ordinary boxes are used, the bottom of the box should be drawn, in order to remove the worms. Where the combs become much mutilated or soiled with honey, I have frequently put the box into a hive of bees, and let it remain for ten hours, and sometimes longer, to allow them to lick up the daubed honey ; as soon as they do so, the box should be taken out, Mr. Quinby's Method of Killing Worms in Boxes

Perhaps you may find one box in ten that will have no worms about it ; others may contain from one to twenty, when they have been off a week or more. "All the eggs should have a chance to hatch, which, in cool weather, may be three weeks. They should be watched, that no worms get large enough to injure the combs much, before they are destroyed. " Get a close barrel or box, that will exclude the air as much as possible ; in this put the boxes, with the holes in the bottom open ; in one corner leave a place for a cup or dish of some kind to hold some sulphur matches, while burning. (They are made by...

References Edit

  1. It is seldom that any but drone brood is found in the top, or surplus boxes.

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