This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
A question about " stupifying bees with nitre," may be perhaps satisfied by the following advice: - If you will use chloroform they will find it perfect in its action and preferable to the fungus. The way to proceed is to put two teaspoonfuls of chloroform into a cup, to soak a bit of rag in it, and to put the rag into the box or hive, of course closing the entrance; the bees will almost immediately begin to drop, and in less than 10 minutes every bee will be stupified. They will come to themselves in about half an hour.
There is a subject connected with Horticulture that you do not treat of - the Honey Bee. The directions in the Treatises on Bee Culture, for making artificial swarms, I have not as yet been able to carry out in practice.
First. Can you or any of your correspondents, say from experience, whether a Queen can be raised from a worker egg or larva?
Second. Will merely closing the passage from one part of the hive to another, at the proper season, cause them to raise a queen in that portion which has none, (as some assert,) or is it necessary that the part containing the queen should be removed?
Third. If it is necessary to remove that part of the hive, how can it be ascertained, (for here is the practical difficulty,) which part contains the queen?
I have kept bees for several years, and have watched them at their labors with much interest, both by day and by night. I have seen them making comb at mid-n':ght, and even later, but have never yet been able to increase my stock, as it is not easy to hive a swarm in a city.
One thing is certain, they pertinaciously adhere to their old plan of working, and cannot be made to comprehend the value of any improvement in a hive, that interferes with their ancient usages, however much it may be lauded by the inventor.
The bleeding of the vine in the spring is such an obstacle as to prevent its success with me. Oh one occasion a piece of India-rubber was tied around a cut, and seemed effectual at first, but the sap after a time stretched it to the size of a hen's egg, and then burst it.
It is well to place hives within a little distance of a small pond, or shallow stream; but if there is no water near, you ought to sink some large dish or milk-pan in the ground close by, in a warm nook if possible, where the sun always shines in the afternoon. Fill it with stones, or pieces of wood, for the bees to light upon, without risk of drowning, when they come to drink. They cannot do without water in spring or summer; and if they find none near, they will go long distances in search of it, especially in dry weather.
In handling bee-hives you must go quietly to work: touch them very gently, so as not to knock or jar them; and, above all, never breathe upon your bees. A knock will rouse them in a minute, but the breath of man or woman makes them vicious.
Keep on watching your bees through March and April; never let a day pass without looking after them, if you want them to do well. If they go on taking large quantities of pollen into their hive, all is well; but it will sometimes happen that they cease doing bo by degrees, - less and less every day. This is the worst possible sign. As soon as you discover any idleness in your bees like this, and they cease carrying pollen into their hive in spring, you had better take up your hive at once, and get what honey you can out of it. The bees which remain in the hive (and there are often a good many of them) will do nothing but amuse themselves with flying in and out on fine days, and eating up the honey while it lasts, or till they die. The honey you see had better be stored up in your cupboard, than wasted upon idle bees. Either the queen-mother is dead, or she is getting old and worn out.
I hate been interested as well as amused by bee culture during a long life. Made to minister to man, the best examples of their utility are found in the tropics. In Cuba a cottager will have a hundred or store swarms, which are treated thus: a Hollow log is set upon supporters two feet fa height, and the log being open at both ends, the bees work to great advantage; a plan I would recommend for trial in this country; that is, to make two entrances to the hive, back and front. I have tried this to advantage in various experiments made years ago. As a result, I have not found bees very profitable, though they are companions whose society has always been among the minor pleasures of a garden.
But what I want to say, as a suggestion, is the following. I lately purchased an old farm on the Schuylkill River, of fifty acres, which had been in the occupancy of a single tenant for thirty years. The house is of wood, much the worse for age, and had been a really handsome country seat when the Schuylkill banks were not considered (as they really are) unhealthy. Originally, the mansion was well built; the eaves, and indeed the whole structure, when I came into possession, were without paint, and had been so for a very long time. In the northwest corner, and in that of the southwest, swarms of bees had found Small apertures, into which they entered - one, accordi ng to the tenant, thirty years agone, and the other about twenty years.
Here they continued to live and perform their working duties till last year, 1867, when the old tenant of the farm, who had used up every particle of available soil, and all the trees, was displaced for a new and more intelligent tenant, who had heard his predecessor lament his inability to get at the supposed horde of honey which must have accumulated greatly. He was afraid of the stings!
Not so the new occupant. A few days since he went into the chambers, ripped up a flooring board, the weather quite cool, aid was rewarded by such a quantity of fine old and new honey as surprised him greatly. Bucketful after bucketful awaited his labors, including bee bread, etc., ad libitum.
Now, what do we learn by this raid upon an old swarm ? Simply this. There was not the slightest perch in either of the eaves for the bees to alight on; they arrived as regularly as bees do, alighted on the eave boards at a very small hole, and went their way rejoicing in the absence of the moth; and they had done this for twenty and thirty years! What does this teach? Undoubtedly, that a perch, which will also accommodate the great enemy of the bee colony, the moth, is unnecessary. The hint is given to bee fanciers, and should it be found, on further experiment, successful, a new era in bee culture may result. Two openings may also be tried with success. Germantown, Philadelphia.
WE ask those who keep bees to report the extent of the Kentucky Desertion Disease. Bees died last winter largely of dysenteria, leaving the putrid smell and marks of the disease. But hives dead of Desertion Disease smell sweetly with the finest perfume, have large quantities of honey and clean combs. I am almost prepared to show that this is a decay of the internal muscles of the bee, but not yet.
S. J. Parker, M. D.