The typical honey bee (female forager) will visit 100 flowers in an hour’s time before returning to the hive to drop off collected pollen. The bee will repeat this process about ten times in a day. I like to say the honey bee travels at a speed of 100 FPH, even though it beats it wings around 12,000 times per minute.
One of our own took a few stings to the face last night. It seems instinctual for bees to go for the face.
If you’ve just started keeping bees you’re going to be asked by your friends and family, “Do you get stung?” I typically am cordial and say, “Yes, sometimes.” Then in an effort to be a good bee ambassador I go on to minimize the sting and tell them stings to the hands and arms are not so troubling. I also have a tendency to lift up the honey bee by maligning the yellow jacket. If any yellow jackets are reading this I apologize.
The true fact of the matter is, I just don’t like being stung! So, just a reminder for everyone to suit up or get yourself a veil for quick chores. Especially new beekeepers may fall victim to the bees’ gentleness during the nectar flow. Yes, they are most typically gentle during the nectar flow but even then things like queenlessness, an overcast, drizzly day, or entry early or late in the day may draw unwelcome attention from guards or foragers in the hive. Yes, you may get away with opening them up for changing a feed jar 20 times before one day when you pull that cover and wham!
And then the dearth comes. New beekeepers out there need to know that our Midlands area nectar flow will take a sharp turn downward very close to the beginning of June. It doesn’t turn off, but nectar in excess of colony needs will. This happens at a time when colony population is booming as a result of spring growth and times of plenty. What happens is those numerous foragers now become unemployed. Often they will head out in the morning and “clean up” what nectar is available early in the day, then hang out at home afterwards. It’s hot, nectar is becoming scarce, they’re crowded, and ready to guard their honey stores from other colonies also out looking for food. Also, yellow jackets and other pests may be on the increase which makes them more defensive than normal. My point being, that docile, gentle nature you have become used to during the current nectar flow will become more defensive after the nectar flow so let’s get in the habit now of suiting up or wearing a simple veil. Don’t be the test case for when dearth starts in the Midlands.
Beard balm is a leave-in conditioner that softens, moisturizes, and helps style your beard. The beeswax in beard balm offers a light to medium hold, but its main job is to seal in moisture. A well-made beard balm will also condition the skin, leaving it soft and moisturized. Beard balm is a thicker, more moisturizing product than beard oil.
Safety is always important but summer heat, dearth behavior, harvesting, and other factors make it especially important to talk about it now that dearth has started and the summer heat is upon us.
Your suit/jacket/veil: Make sure your jacket and especially your veil is “bee tight.” Holes in your veil, which you may have been ignoring. will be found by the bees this time of year. If you need a new jacket this year, consider one of the newer light weight ventilated jackets to help with the heat. And just a reminder to double check your zippers before opening the hives.
Gloves: You may have tried going gloveless during the nectar flow and had success. You may still have success. Don’t throw your old gloves away though. You may find having them handy a good idea for times the bees object to your presence.
First aid kit: I keep an old small metal Band-Aid box in my yard bucket. In it I have:
1) an old expired plastic card similar to a credit card for scraping stings out. I usually use my fingernail but having a card may come in handy and is actually probably more efficient in removing stingers with minimal injection of venom.
2) Benedryl, StingEze, Aspirin, Tylenol
3) Bandaids, tweezers, alcohol wipes.
I also have a chemical ice pack in my yard bucket and always a spare bottle of water.
You can quickly overheat in the summer while working your bees while wearing multiple layers of clothing and headgear. Last year, when out in the heat of the day, I started wearing one of those bandanas that absorb water (gel). For Christmas my kids found some fancy ones that hold a bit more water. I have not tried the new ones yet but the old ones worked well. A fellow beekeeper showed me a handy trick once when she poured a bottle of water into a cloth diaper and wrapped it around her neck before putting on her jacket.
Drinking Water: It’s not enough to have a backup bottle of water. Have multiple bottles of water close by when working your bees on hot days. Take frequent breaks. Hydrate!
EpiPen: A company has started selling generic Epipens for $10 through our local box store CVS pharmacy. I am not allergic but at my next doctor’s visit I’ll be asking for a prescription and will keep one with me on bee yard visits.
Cell Phone: A few years ago I stumbled when my foot hit a root stob while I was turning with a heavy box. I dislocated my knee and went down. I managed to reduce the dislocation and get back to the house but it made me think, “what if…?” Make sure you take a cell phone with you. It may be the most valuable safety equipment you pack. Also, there’s no harm in telling someone where you’re going before you go out either.
Summer in the “famously hot” Midlands of South Carolina can be especially difficult on the beekeeper as well as the bees. Take extra precautions to ensure your safety in the bee yard.
Charles Mraz, Advocate of Therapeutic Bee Sting Therapy
Obituary as published in the New York Times By Karen Freeman
Charles Mraz, an inventive beekeeper who since the 1930’s had been the country’s leading evangelist for the therapeutic use of bee stings, a still unproven treatment, died on Monday at his home in Middlebury, Vt. He was 94.
Mr. Mraz was widely known among beekeepers for developing a hardy strain of bees well suited to survive in the chilly Champlain Valley in Vermont and for figuring out how to get cranky bees safely out of the way so honey could be harvested more easily.
But many thousands of people with chronic diseases knew him for his campaign to have bee venom and other bee products accepted as medical therapies in the United States — a quest that began when he deliberately bared his own arthritic knees for bee stings. His proselytizing prompted people from all over the world to seek his advice on treatment.
”Letters mailed to The Bee Man, Middlebury, Vt., would make it to his house,” said Mitchell Kurker, his son-in-law.
A federally supervised clinical trial of the safety of such treatments is only now being undertaken.
For decades, many sick people made pilgrimages to Middlebury for bee sting therapy, for which Mr. Mraz never charged. He would pluck bee after bee from a jar, holding each one with forceps as it sank its stinger into the visitor’s skin, then crushing the mortally wounded bee.
Mr. Mraz was convinced that the venom in bee stings could relieve the symptoms of autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis by, among other things, triggering an anti-inflammatory response. Though that idea is not accepted by a vast majority of doctors, many people with such diseases heard his message and came to believe that it offered them hope.
Now the treatment could be moving closer to respectability. In a few weeks, the first clinical study of bee venom injections under the supervision of the Food and Drug Administration will begin at Georgetown University. The research is sponsored by the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America, based in Cherry Hill, N.J. The yearlong study will examine safety; if the treatment clears that hurdle, the next step will be to find out whether it works.
Mr. Mraz tried to encourage research during the decades he promoted bee sting therapy. He was a founding member and a director of the American Apitherapy Society, which was set up in 1998 to promote research and education. And he helped any researcher who asked.
”He used a technique developed at Cornell in the 1960’s to collect sterile venom,” said Roger Morse, a retired professor of apiculture at Cornell who was a friend of Mr. Mraz for 50 years but disagreed with him about whether bee venom has medicinal properties. ”He would collect and supply venom free of charge to anyone who was doing research with it, no matter what kind of research was being done. He was a very unusual man who wanted to help society — both preacher and practitioner.”
Mr. Mraz was enthralled by bees at an early age. He was born on July 26, 1905, in Queens and set up his first beehives at age 14, while he still lived in the city. After working for other beekeepers in the Finger Lakes region of New York, he moved to Middlebury in 1928 and started Champlain Valley Apiaries in 1931.
His beekeeping business became one of the largest in New England. At one point, he had a thousand bee colonies, each with a population of 30,000 to 60,000. He ran the business for more than 60 years, until he turned it over to his son William.
He discovered that the fumes of carbolic acid would prompt the bees to take cover in the bottom of the hive, leaving their honey unprotected. ”That was a very significant advance,” said Kirk Webster, owner of Champlain Valley Bees and Queens in Middlebury. ”It enabled one person to harvest much more honey than possible before.”
That technique is now widely used, and it brought Mr. Mraz an award from the American Beekeeping Federation in 1992.
The strain of bees developed by Mr. Mraz were disease-resistant and adapted to the local climate. ”That’s become almost the native bee of the Champlain Valley,” Mr. Webster said. ”They produce a very light clover honey, the standard for very light honeys in the United States.”
He also designed new kinds of equipment for processing honey, Dr. Morse said.
His passion for what came to be called apitherapy came when painful arthritis threatened his ability to do the heavy work around an apiary.
Mr. Mraz described the episode in his book, ”Health and the Honeybee,” which was published in 1995 by Honeybee Health Products, owned by his daughter Michelle Mraz and her husband, Mr. Kurker.
He had heard about bee sting therapy as a folk remedy in many cultures but initially considered that ”an old wives’ tale,” Mr. Kurker said. But the pain drove him to try bee stings on both knees.
” ‘I wonder if there is anything to that damned nonsense about bee stings for arthritis,’ ” Mr. Mraz thought, according to his book.
The next day, he wrote, the pain was gone. ”I couldn’t believe it,” he said. ”There wasn’t a trace of pain or stiffness in my knees.”
His second patient was not long in coming. A neighbor had arthritic hands that were bringing tears to his eyes during the twice-a-day milking on his dairy farm, and Mr. Mraz offered to help, he wrote. After a regimen of bee stings over several weeks, the dairy farmer’s hands opened and closed easily and were no longer swollen, Mr. Mraz said.
He said he had become more confident about the bee sting technique when he found out that a doctor in midtown Manhattan, Dr. Bodog F. Beck, was using the same therapy. Mr. Mraz visited Dr. Beck’s office, which had a beehive on the windowsill. The bees flew to Central Park for pollen, Mr. Mraz said, and Dr. Beck used them to sting patients.
As an expert on beekeeping techniques, Mr. Mraz lectured and consulted all over the world, especially in Mexico, and he frequently published in industry journals. At the same time, he spread the word about bee venom therapy, undeterred by the resistance he encountered.
”Most people would look at me as if I was some kind of nut,” he wrote. Mr. Mraz also promoted what he contended were the medicinal effects of honey, pollen, royal jelly and a bee resin called propolis.
He considered stings from living bees superior to injections of purified bee venom, although he would provide the venom to researchers if they wished. Some multiple sclerosis patients treat themselves with dozens of stings a day.
”Michelle remembers growing up with a jar of bees always on the table ready to go,” Mr. Kurker said. ”He’d treat people and send them away with a jar of bees so they could treat themselves.”
Besides Michelle Mraz, of Burlington, Vt., Mr. Mraz is survived by his wife, Pamela. His first wife, Letitia, died in 1948, and his second wife, Margaret, died in 1992. Other survivors include his daughters, Marna Ehreck of Shelburne, Vt., and Laurie Zwaan of Exeter, N.H.; his sons, William, of Middlebury, and Charles, of Destin, Fla.; 13 grandchildren, and 7 great-grandchildren.
While Mr. Mraz started cutting down on his work at his apiary in the 1980’s, he remained an active proponent and practitioner of apitherapy for the rest of his life.
”People were still coming to see him for treatment,” Mr. Kurker said. ”Somebody came to the house on the morning he died for bee stings.”
A burly bumblebee nose dives into the unfurling gold petals of a California poppy and vanishes. I lean ever closer until I’m a foot away. The bee spirals up and out, bearing pollen on her legs. Off she hums to the next flower, almost bumping into the honeybees plying the summer morning air.
The only registered treatment for Nosema disease is no longer commercially available. On April 12, 2018, Medivet Pharmaceuticals Ltd. – a company based out of High River, Alberta – announced that they were closing their doors. And shutting down Medivet means shutting down production of the world’s supply of fumagillin, in the form of their quick-dissolving product, Fumagilin-B.
Apis mellifera honey bees are also known as “western honey bees” and “European honey bees”. It is considered that many of the “pure” bees aren’t totally pure due to interbreeding from other sub-species (races). This has come about in the last few hundred years because man has moved bees into areas they were previously excluded […]
I’d encourage all new beekeepers to maintain a journal. There are commercial beekeeping journals available with hive inspection sheets and other features but any old notebook will do. You will appreciate your journal next year when you’re trying to remember when the nectar flow started, when you first saw white wax, swarm dates, when various plants started blooming, when dearth began, and much more. These events have a direct bearing on your hive management such as making splits, adding boxes, removing reducers, treating for mites and hive beetles, etc. Keeping a journal will make you a better beekeeper, more observant, and increase your enjoyment and knowledge of what’s happening with your bees.
Coming home I felt revitalised to get on with the never-ending chores and to-do’s though feeling much more centred and energised. I even managed 45 mins before leaving to pick up the kids to whip up some of my favourite afternoon treats. My Lemon, Chia, Honey Yoghurt Cakes ready and waiting for the troops to come for then the chaos begins…
First and second year beekeepers! You may be pulling honey supers, extracting, and have empty drawn comb. Or maybe a hive failed leaving you with drawn comb. Drawn comb is gold! You can always buy more bees, catch a swarm, make a split, or otherwise replace bees. But drawn comb can not be purchased. Having drawn comb exponentially increases a colony’s productivity versus starting on foundation. A spring package on drawn comb typically makes honey the same year.
Beekeepers must protect their drawn comb from wax moths which will take every opportunity to destroy your bee’s legacy.
Here are a few excerpts from an email I sent discussing protecting drawn comb:
Be thankful they are on plastic foundation. Otherwise you often have to replace the foundation. And if they are in wooden frames wax moths will actually bore holes in the wood as well. On plastic you can scrape it off and re-coat with wax for next year.
As for the freezer: You can Google wax moth, life cycle, etc and find some research. It’s like anything else, dependent on temperature and length of time of exposure. Two days may be sufficient IF your freezer is at 0 degrees F. If your freezer is kept at 10 degrees F it may take 6 days. And if at 20 degrees F it may take 14 days. (These are guesses but you get the idea.)
There is a temperature range for wax moth reproduction. When the temperatures get cool enough outside they are no longer a threat. I guess there are some people with a limited number of frames who can store them in the freezer until the weather cools enough.
Every year we get posts on the local discussion board with pictures saying they froze the comb for X number of days and then placed in in a Tupperware or other container and under the house or some similar dark place only to find the comb destroyed by spring. Last year in bee school a member of the class asked me about this specifically and said if he placed them in the freezer for days and then immediately placed it in lawn trash bags and sealed them completely and absolutely shouldn’t that work? I told him that “in theory” his plan would work but my experience is some eggs will hatch and if conditions are right they will destroy his comb.
On Para-moth (paradichlorobenzene) crystals: They do work but it is not a one and done application. Use them generously. Periodically check them through the storage period and replenish them as needed. They do “melt” as they release their gas into the supers. I’ve seen some people tape the edges of the supers to make a gas seal. Unfortunately this dark, sealed environment is also ideal for the moths when the para-moth dissolves and no longer provides protection.
Using open air and light: I did this one year with good success. I simply have too many supers now. Also, anything I place outside now is subject to squirrels who seem to like the comb, pollen, honey residuals.
BT (bacillus thuringiensis aizawa): Reports are, this works well. As you know it used to be a recognized method of wax moth control in bee hives but the company decided to not renew it’s license for use as such. Data used to be on the Clemson site. BT for use on crops is recognized as non chemical, organic bio control method and approved for use on organic crops. While an approved organic pest control method, it is no longer legal for use in bee hives.
I have a friend that uses BT and sprays the comb coming out of the extractor.
If you do not protect your comb from wax moths don’t despair, I understand the larvae are great as fishing bait.
The thing about beekeeping is there’s always something to do and something to learn.
In the Spring the chores and responding to situations can get overwhelming but with our eyes on the approaching end of the nectar flow, we try to maximize the time we have remaining with nature’s help.
Now we enter dearth period. For most this is definitely not as appealing as Spring when nature offered up its bounty of nectar to support our efforts. One thing that beekeeping has taught me well is to stay ahead of the needs of the hive. Knowing what comes next is what makes us beekeepers rather than beehavers. The bees themselves are on schedule and living in the now. We must pave the way to make their now a success.
So, keywords for summer are: pest control, and food management.
Pest Control is all about staying ahead of the problem. Primarily we have varroa, small hive beetles, and wax moths.
Varroa is undoubtedly the most deadly and difficult management problem. Deadly because the mites are vectors for deadly viri which will decimate your colony. Difficult largely because 1) they aren’t very visible and 2) you don’t get much of any warning before collapse occurs. I’ve used the analogy of a flu virus going rampant through a college dormitory when talking to others and that seems to be mostly accurate – one day someone has a cough and fever; the next day everyone in the dorm is bedridden with symptoms. Your method of dealing with varroa is a decision you’ll have to make. At a minimum you might simply want to start with a mite count using the sticky board method, sugar shake, alcohol wash, or ether roll and go from there. I know a number of beekeepers who pull their honey off and then proceed to treat using one of the many treatment options. Timing can be key with many treatments as some treatments have temperature restrictions. For South Carolina that may mean waiting too long takes some of the treatment options off the table.
Small hive beetles are another summer pest that you will want to get ahead of. These little pests will multiple inside your hive and destroy the food stores of the colony. I have seen them run a colony out of a hive (abscond) due to pest pressure. And I’ve seen colonies fail to progress due to beetles taxing the resources of the colony. I’ve also seen a colony recover and thrive once the beetles are under control. But don’t wait for a situation to develop before getting them under control. Now is the time to use one or more methods to keep them in check: place oil traps, barriers, and / or dry microfiber pads before the situation develops. Get ahead of the problem and there will not be a problem.
Wax moths are a management problem. They are opportunists looking for a weakened hive in which to run amuck. The solution is simply to keep your hive strong. Easier said than done you might say. But “strong” doesn’t mean maintaining a six box high hive full of bees. It means managing your hive such that they are strong with the boxes they have. I look at my hives daily and if I see a hive declining in population (maybe no bees at the entrance) I look inside with the idea a box needs to come off. Push your bees into a smaller space such that there are always a few bees standing around the entrance. This is what is meant by keeping a hive “strong enough” to defend itself.
Food management: The other big management goal during summer is food management.
In class we covered the ideal hive configuration size going into winter as approximately the size of 2 ten frame deeps OR a single ten frame deep + a medium. I have a friend that configures for winter with a ten frame deep and a shallow and he does just fine in our South Carolina winters.
Depending on when you acquired your bees this year you may have already satisfied this goal. Some will have more than they need already and they can relax a bit and let the bees consume some of their stores. Others may still need to feed their bees to get to this goal or to encourage more comb building. You’ll have to figure out where you are with your goals and manage accordingly by feeding if needed or pulling some off now for use later in the fall or winter, or otherwise managing the hive so that you begin working through your management techniques, towards the ideal size I mention above.
In closing, the above is my opinion based on what I have been taught by my mentors, read, experienced, failed at, and found success with while managing my bees. Your opinions and results may vary from mine. That’s okay.
By now all the new beekeepers have watched a bunch of YouTube videos showing people without any personal protective equipment handling swarms, doing hive inspections, and maybe even wearing bee beards. Even while visiting mentor and bee buddy bee yards they have seen gloveless inspections and shorts being worn by more experienced beekeepers while handling their bees. A walk through the bee yard or a quick trip out to deliver a jar of syrup is usually done without formal wear. These sorts of super-human feats of coolness are typically performed during nectar flows.
Introducing dearth, a seasonal period when the available nectar is less than colony day-to-day needs. Hungry, irritable bees. Foraging bees with nowhere to ply their trade, jobless and loafing in and around the hive. And I don’t know about you but, like the Snickers commercial, I too am just a bit grumpy when I’m hungry.
Act One, Scene One: Older bees with their fully developed venom sacs hanging out at home, irritable and ready to defend their precious stores of honey goodness.
For the beekeeper dearth means you too must make changes in the manner in which you conduct yourself around the bees.
1) Wear your protective equipment. Once the nectar flow ends I begin wearing my veil even if just walking though the bee yard or exchanging a jar feeder. You may have 1,000,000 honey bees out there but it only takes one bee having a bad day. A sting between the eyes can turn your pleasant evening stroll into a evening on the couch with an ice pack coupled with periodic and annoying questions from family members.
2) Work your bees during mid-day when the foragers are out of the hive. Depending on the size of the hive, the number of ill tempered foragers not in your way makes a big difference. A hive filled with mild mannered nurse bees is a pleasure compared to cranky guards and foragers. Also, avoid working on days that keep the bees from flying like rainy or windy days. I have noticed that if we get a mid-day rain shower the foragers will return and, during dearth, many will stay home even if the sun comes back out – learned that the hard way.
3) When going into the hive suit up, use smoke, move slowly, and get out when they tell you – when you hear them increasing their “roar.” Your time inside may be limited so work efficiently. Don’t feel you “must” look at everything regardless of them being annoyed. If you’re showing a friend your bees and yammering away then go briefly into a few hives rather than keep one open too long.
4) Start to look at how your body mechanics affect the bees while working them. Are you frequently moving your hands across the top of the frames as you break apart the frames. Instead, use your right hand to break the entire line of bars along the right side then do the left side (with your left hand preferably). Pull the frames closest to you first so you don’t reach across any more than needed. Don’t stand in front of the hive. If possible, try working from the side of the hive instead of the back and you won’t be reaching across them as much. If you have multiple boxes and you “must” inspect to the bottom take the tower of boxes off first and inspect from the bottom, adding one box back at a time rather that stirring them up in each box as you work downward. And finally, if you have to shake bees off the inner cover, out of a box, or elsewhere, save that until last – no need to stir them up while you still have work remaining.
5) When all else fails walk away. You may even have to walk away, wait a few minutes and return to close them up. And if you do get stung, after you take care of yourself, take a picture. We’d like to welcome you to the club!
“The Witch, No. 3” circa 1892 Feb. 29. by Baker, Joseph E., ca. 1837-1914, artist.
I’m calling journalistic foul on the spate of recent articles I have seen placing the honey bees at odds with native bees.
So, who’s today’s scapegoat in the blame game on bee decline. Today’s top scape goat is apis mellifera. Seems like the latest press release being picked up by several publications is a report that honey bees are severely impacting native bee species. The researchers imply that honey bees, in the numbers kept by beekeepers, are so thoroughly diminishing the nectar and food sources that the native bees are having a hard time surviving. They admit that as a society we need and demand foods requiring pollination but add that the honey bee is to blame for the troubles of native bees. One article I read says the solution may be to eliminate feral honey bees. (After all we don’t want to step too hard on the toes of those ensuring we have our almond milk.)
I had to laugh as, for the most part, feral honey bees have already been decimated due to the Varroa mite. If reducing feral honey bees was a solution then it should have been offered as a solution 30 or 40 years ago when we actually had populations of ferals. I’m involved in a local study of feral honey bees and I can tell you that, even in the countryside of the largely undeveloped rural areas we are studying, even finding feral honeybees is a challenge. I believe the truth of the matter is these authors aren’t looking for a solution but rather 1) a step towards a general acceptance that non-native honey bees are to blame and perhaps 2) an angle to obtain research funding using the honey bee as “a problem” to be studied. Or perhaps it’s just a quick fix and human nature to point the finger at someone or something for every issue nowadays. I say Hogwash.
Do I think we can overpopulate areas with honey bees? Well, yes in some instances honeybees are overwintered and at other times placed in stock yards awaiting pollination contracts. But I can also offer an instance not considered by the native bee enthusiasts. An instance probably a thousand fold more frequently encountered. I have lived on poor, sandy land for the past 16 years. When I moved here the foliage was scant. So scant in fact that even insects and wildlife were equally scant. After introducing honey bees I have visibly seen an increase in both quantity of nectar producing plants as well as an increase in native bees. How? Keeping honey bees has greatly increased the pollination of the local nectar producing plants which in turn has increased their seed production and reproduction. Now, the area foraged on my the bees has become much more attractive and productive to all species of bees. It is not uncommon for me to now see dozens of flowering plant species in the nearby fields that were not present or minimally present even 5 years ago. And nowadays there are many more native bees on flowers during the day when the honey bees are home bearding on the hive or working a brief nectar flow on a flowering tree.
My take on this is that as humans we simply find it of some psychological benefit to play the blame game in this matter – someone or something must be at fault. And Apis Mellifera, that newcomer, non-native must be at fault. Yes, forage is at a premium these days and yes, all bees need forage. But I’m not buying the implication that the decline of native bees is largely to be blamed on honey bees. Apis mellifera mellifera was introduced to North America in 1622 – that’s 396 years ago. Since 1622, many changes to our environmental landscape have occurred, largely due to man. But now, apparently ignoring history but with an overabundance of historical shortsightedness, some journalists are misreading the scientific studies and placing the blame of a lack of forage on honey bees? There is a lengthy list of reasons we have gotten us to our current state of affairs with regard to habitat and lack of forage. Journalists need to look a little more to the obvious if the intent is to truly find solutions to native bee declines.
“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.” -A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
Whenever a new queen is introduced to the existing colony there is always a chance your worker bees will not accept her, and the result of this could be the death of your new queen – no matter which method of introduction you use.
The main things you need to be sure of when introducing a new queen, whether it be into a full colony or nucleus, is that you do not have a virgin queen or indeed a mated queen that has simply gone off lay in your colony. You need to ensure you have removed all queen cells or queen cups, shake the bees off the frames if necessary to find the queen cells they hide in the edges of the frames. Also ensure you do not have laying workers in your hive.
Our local club past President, Danny Cannon, delivered one of the best lectures I’ve ever sat through at a MSBA meeting several years ago. It was titled Flexibility in Beekeeping, Being Flexible in Beekeeping, or some such similar title. It literally changed my beekeeping.
That lecture keeps ringing through my brain lately and for good reason. One of the ideas in the lecture was the understanding that we must move backwards and side to side as easily as we move forward in our management. For instance, recently I’ve been playing musical chairs with supers, frames, and bees. Let me explain.
In the Spring it’s all about adding, expanding, and growth. Things seem to get bigger. A lot of “addition” taking place – boxes, hive stands, and new hives. The thinking is, If I can stay ahead of them with “more” they won’t swarm. Add, add, add. Grow, grow, grow. Feed, feed, feed. Gotta add more boxes! Look and act – usually with more, more, more. Find a swarm and be prepared and flexible enough to have an extra stand, bottom board, and box – capture, and add to the apiary. And that’s how most of the management goes in the Spring.
And then comes the post flow Summer, Fall, and early Winter management. But can I break my addiction to adding? Can I be flexible enough to read the bees and act according to the situation? The queen will slow her production down as nectar wanes and more so when the days start getting shorter. Can I tap the brakes, slow down, make changes? I sense that I’m reluctant to pull that super off that I worked so hard to build them up to needing. Or maybe they’ve swarmed and the hive is half empty now, yet I want to leave those boxes on in hopes they will build back up – and they very well might if I’m flexible in my management!
Maybe a queen starts to fail and it becomes noticeable at the hive entrance that activity has slowed. But it’s hot and I’d rather not suit up and look inside; say it isn’t so because I’d really rather not have to track down a replacement queen.
Or I have two hives that are in steep decline, should I combine them with stronger hives? After all, I have a vision of how many hives I need to complete the mental picture I have of my hives sitting on their designated hive stands in my well designed apiary. I want X number of hives not X – 1 hives.
And so, I return to the topic of flexibility. Can I be flexible enough to respond appropriately during these months post nectar flow? Oh, it’s difficult. But if I don’t employ the discipline of flexibility in removing sparsely or unpopulated boxes, combining weak hives, or replacing a failing queen what penalty is paid? Unlike the threat of swarms in the spring, the lack of my flexibility now is paid for with increased pests, hive failures, and loss of valued comb. Hives no longer able to cover comb with bees allow Small Hive Beetles to go unchecked and run amuck in nectar. Worse still is the bane of Wax Moths that move in on weakened or poorly populated hives and destroy your most precious resource – your hard earned comb. Weak and declining hives, if disease free, may need to be combined with strong hives and I have to accept that empty spot on the hive stand and tell myself that maybe a split may be possible later in the year or at least next spring.
It’s all flexibility. I’ll read the bees as best I can, make adjustments, go with the flow every time I visit the apiary or open a hive. I must accept that it’s a roller coaster with ups and downs, round and rounds, bright lights and dark tunnels. When I get off the ride I don’t want to say I enjoyed the ups but not the downs or the round and rounds. No, really I enjoyed the ride itself. Be flexible.
Charles Martin Simon was born on July 8, 1941, at 6 A.M., in Newark, N.J. He graduated from Montclair Academy, a private, pseudo-military high school famous for it’s state-of-the-art dress code and discipline, in 1959, and went on to Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, where he majored in Agriculture and English Literature.
He was always a writer, having started his first novel in 1948, at the age of seven, and always a nature boy, therefore the split major. But after two years at Rutgers, he realized the agriculture he was being taught was not the agriculture he wanted to learn, and it was only going to get worse. He’d had enough of castrating sheep, calculating chemical fertilizer specifications, and murdering chickens. His English literature studies weren’t much more promising. The high point came when the editor-in-chief of the College Literary Magazine, who, although never having learned to write himself, went on to become the has-been of an illustrious career as the Clinton Administration’s Poet Laureate, recognized Simon’s writing and asked him to take over the magazine, which offer Simon graciously declined.
Simon dropped out and drifted for a few years and then went to California and became part of the organic farming movement, as a partner in a 21-acre piece. Believing strongly in non-mechanized farming, he worked the farm completely by hand from 1967 until 1977. And that was where his involvement with bees began in earnest in 1967.
The 21 acres cost $5,000 originally, but when the partners were offered $350,000.00, they just couldn’t resist. Simon voted against the sale, arguing that the ten years put into the land was worth more than any amount of money. He was outvoted, the land was not divisible, and he lost the farm.
But he did not lose the bees. He was able to keep them on various pieces of property and continue with bee culture, since it is not dependent on stable locations as are horses, chickens, goats, gardens, and orchards.
In 1990, he invented and began marketing world-wide the SuperUnfoundation bee frame. This was well-received and selling well when the price of wood doubled and then tripled. It suddenly cost more for the raw materials than he could get selling the finished frames, and he was out of business. Never one to accept things “as they are” and being much more interested in the health of the bees than in their produce, he is developing an apiculture system to allow the bees to actualize their true potential vitality and really solve the varroa and many other bee problems.
Simon had no hobbies, having followed Henry David Thoreau’s advice to make one’s vocation and avocation one. He operated a one-man bee and wasp removal service and cared for bees in several locations. He also helped people overcome disease and get healthy and stay healthy.
And he wrote, with twelve books in print. He self-published, executed every part of the book process himself: conceived, wrote, edit, designed, formatted, printed, cut, bound each volume by hand. His books are in stock in a few bookstores and available from all bookstores via the ISBN system, but he sold mostly direct to the public at CharlesMartinSimon.com.
Gentle Bee! bright example to mankind of industry, economy, concord, and obedience! What triumphs, what wonders, dost thou not achieve! It shall be our delightful task to talk of thee, to write of thee; and if we talk not, and write not, pleasantly, then, indeed, the fault is in-ourselves, and not in thee. Sweet is the sound of thy mourning hum, attuned to music, when thou revellest on some gay bank of purple heather, visiting bell after bell in quest of their ambrosial essence, heaven-distilled! Sweet is the air around thee, air impregnated with the breath of flowers! Sweet is the joyous concert of feathered choristers above and about thee! Sweet is the memory of those few happy days when we have drunk freely of scenes like these, and basked in the early sunshine on some fragrant bed of thyme, “ dazzled and drunk with beauty ”-—the beauty of nature. ~The entomological magazine, 1835, Volume 2, Page 270. By Bevan, Edward, M.D.
The Biography of Edward Bevan.
Edward Bevan M.D. (July 8, 1770 – January 31, 1860)
The Honey Bee: its Natural History, Physiology, and Management. By Edward Bevan, M.D. was first published in London, 1827. The critics in 1827 write of Bevans book; “The latter part of the last century and the commencement of the present, have given birth to a considerable number of valuable tracts, elucidating the Natural History and Physiology of the Honey Bee, as well as several regular treatises on its management; but the work before us, by Dr. Bevan, is the first possessing any claim to the character of scientific.”
Bevan, Edward, M.D. (1770-1860), physician and an eminent apiarian, was born, in London on 8 July 1770. Being left fatherless in early infancy, he was received into the house of his maternal grandfather, Mr. Powle, of Hereford, and at the age of eight was placed at the grammar school, Woottonunder- Edge, where he remained for four years. He was afterwards removed to the college school at Hereford, and it having been determined that he should adopt medicine as a profession, he was apprenticed to a surgeon in that town. He then proceeded to London, was entered as a student at St. Bartholomew’ s Hospital, and during three sessions of attendance on the lectures of his instructors Abernethy, Latham, and Austin, he acquired the honourable appellation of ‘the indefatigable.’ His degree of M.D. was obtained from the university of St. Andrew’s in 1818. He commenced practice at Mort-lake as assistant to Dr. John Clarke. After five years so spent he settled on his own account first at Stoke-upon-Trent, and then at Congleton. There he married the second daughter of Mr. Cartwright, an apothecary, one of the last of the ‘ bishops ‘ of a sect called the primitive Christian church. After twelve years’ residence in Cheshire, his health not bearing the fatigue of a country business, Bevan again returned to Mortlake, and practised there for two years, but with a like result. He thereupon retired to a small estate at Bridstow, near Ross, in Herefordshire, where he devoted himself to the development of an apiary which he found already established on his newly acquired property. Previous to this he had, in 1822, assisted his friend Mr. Samuel Parkes in the preparation of the third and revised edition of the latter’s ‘ Rudiments of Chemistry.’ The first edition of his book on bees was issued in 1827, with the title, `The Honey- Bee : its Natural History, Physiology, and Management.’ This treatise at once established the author’s reputation as a scientific apiarian, and was read wherever the bee is regarded as an object of interest. The second edition, published in 1838, is dedicated to her Majesty. In it the author has included much new and valuable matter. A third edition, by W. A. Munn, appeared in 1870. Bevan also wrote a paper on the ‘ Honey-Bee Communities ‘ in the first volume of the ‘ Magazine of Zoology and Botany,’ and published a few copies of ‘ Hints on the History and Management of the Honey-Bee,’ which had formed the substance of two lectures read before the Hereford Literary Institution in the winter of 1850-51. He had from 1849 fixed his residence at Hereford, where he died on 31 Jan. 1860, when within a few months of completing his ninetieth year As a public man Bevan was shy and retiring, but was much beloved in the circle of his private acquaintances. It is recorded as a proof of the esteem in which he was held, that on the occasion of a great flood in the Wye, in February 1802, washing away all the doctor’s beehives, a public subscription was raised, and a new apiary presented to him, of which, as a very pleasing substitute for what he had playfully called his ‘ Virgilian Temple,’ the venerable apiarian was justly proud. Bevan was one of the founders of the Entomological Society in 1833.
It’s no mystery that Varroa mites are the single most problem facing honey bees and leading to large percentages of colony deaths a year.
Understanding Varroa Risk. We either understand the enemy or he defeats us. The good news is, once understood I can understand the mite’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Conquering the mites means I can enjoy my bees much like generations of beekeepers before me enjoyed their bees. In addition, my bees perform better, make more honey, make more bees, and I don’t have the number of odd, random incidents occur in the apiary. All this results when we perform one management task – Varroa assessment, management, and control.
View the video below by Meghan Milbrath at Michigan State University for an excellent review of understanding the Varroa risks and assessing Varroa in your colonies.
He was the author of 76 scientific articles and six books, including Insects, Their Ways and Means of Living (1930) and the book considered to be his crowning achievement, the Principles of Insect Morphology (1935). (ed note: Also The Anatomy of the Honey Bee)
R.E. Snodgrass was born in St. Louis, Missouri on July 5, 1875, to James Cathcart Snodgrass and Annie Elizabeth Evans Snodgrass, where he lived until he was eight years old. He was the oldest of three children. His admitted first ambition in life was to be a railway engineer or a Pullman conductor, though frequent visits to the St. Louis Zoo aroused his early interests in zoology. His first recollections of entomology were recorded by E.B. Thurman:
The first entomological observation which Dr. Snodgrass recalls is seeing that the legs of grasshoppers, cut off by his father’s lawnmower, could still kick while lying on the pavement. This apparently mysterious fact made a strong impression on him, and he decided that sometime he would look into the matter.
In 1883, he and the his family moved to Wetmore, Kansas, where his father worked in a local bank, and young Snodgrass began work as a self-taught taxidermist. He had a particular interest in birds, even expressing a desire to become an ornithologist, though his family only allowed limited shooting of birds for his mounted collections. At age 15, the family again moved, this time to Ontario, California, where they settled on a 20-acre (81,000 m2) ranch and grew oranges, prunes, and grapes. It was here that Snodgrass entered a Methodist preparatory school at the high school level, then known as Chaffey College. He studied Latin, Greek, French, German, physics, chemistry, and drawing, but notably no biology because the curriculum forbade involving the teaching of evolution. Snodgrass bypassed this problem by reading Darwin, Huxley, and Spencer in his free time. His openly professed belief in evolution caused him problems in his relationships at home, and eventually resulted in being expelled from church activities in his community.
In 1895, at the age of 20, Snodgrass entered Stanford University and majored in zoology, taking classes such as general zoology, embryology, entomology with Dr. Vernon Lyman Kellogg, ichthyology with then Stanford president Dr. David Starr Jordan, and comparative vertebrate anatomy. His first opportunity to conduct research came from Dr. Kellogg, who set him to work on the biting lice (Mallophaga). The excitement of research, and the prospect for publishing original work led to his giving up the desire to become an ornithologist, and the publication of his first two science articles (works 1, 2). During this time, Snodgrass also participated in his first two field expeditions, the first to the Pribilof Islands led by Dr. Jordan, and the second to the Galapagos Islands, led by Edmund Heller. Snodgrass eventually published seven papers with Heller regarding organisms collected during the Galapagos expedition (works 3, 5, 6, 7, 12, 16, 19). Snodgrass graduated from Stanford University with his A.B. degree in Zoology in 1901.
He was awarded the 1961 Leidy Award from the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.
The Biography of Frank Benton
(July 5, 1852 – February 28, 1919) …
Frank Benton – born July 5, 1852, in Coldwater, Mich. His education was obtained in the public school of that city and in the Michigan Agricultural College. He taught for a few years in rural schools and in the University of East Tennessee. but soon abandoned this work for beekeeping.
For many years Frank Benton was prominently identified with the beekeeping industry of America. He spent 12 years abroad, living in Cypress, Beirut, Syria, Germany, and Austria, investigating the different races of bees in those foreign countries, and exported thousands of queens from numerous subspecies shipping them to all parts of the world. He was the inventor of the Benton cage for shipping queen bees. The cage is used almost exclusively in the modern queen shipping industry, allowing for convenient transport of bees over long distances.
Benton Bee Cage
In 1890, he took a position in the United States Department Agriculture, as the first Apiculture Specialist. During his administration of the Department of Apiculture at Washington he occupied very much of his time in the investigation of the various kinds of bees, and traveled much abroad in this work. He was especially interested in the big bee of India, the Apis dorsata, and tried to acclimate them in this country. His administration of the department was a stormy one, but today no one questions the right purpose of his great enthusiasm, and his devotion to the cause and advancement of beekeeping.
His contributions to the beekeeping industry in America are many, if relatively unknown. Besides being the inventor of the Benton queen shipping cage, he exported thousands of queens from numerous subspecies, adding to the genetic diversity of A. Mellifera in the New World. Ironically, many of the bees he imported were not popular with beekeepers, who stopped managing them in favor of gentler races. In 1899, while with the Department of Agriculture, Benton wrote The Honey Bee: A manual For Apicultural Instruction, a 118 page guide for new beekeepers.
He wrote many articles on bees for different publications and was the inventor of the mailing cage known as the “Benton cage.” He was a linguist, speaking fluently several languages. Searching for the big bees of India for Apis Dorsata, be contracted jungle fever. which was the beginning of years of ill-health for him and caused his retirement from active labor, but not from continued interest in apiculture. He sought some betterment of his condition in the warm climate of Florida. Death occurred at Fort Myers, February 28. Benton remains one of the lesser known figures in beekeeping, largely because he lived during a time when critical labor-saving and profit-making making devices, such as the moveable frame hive and the centrifugal honey extractor, were invented, and the Italian honey bee rose to prominence in American beekeeping; by comparison, his contributions seem modest Upon his death in February 1919, the American Bee Journal published an obituary and a short travelogue about Benton (Anonymous 1919); but, apart from a mention of his importations in Pellett’s History of American Beekeeping, little else was written of his work.
Early in 1880, Frank Benton. went abroad, where eleven eventful years were spent in travel and study, and in investigating the honeybees of Europe, Asia and Africa. Apiaries were established on the Island of Cyprus and in the Holy Lands at Beirut. Syria. In the winter of 1880-81 Ceylon, India. Farther India and Java were visited and extensive collections and studies were made of the native bees of those regions. It was on this expedition that the “jungle fever” was contracted, which ultimately claimed its own. but only after many years of active service had intervened. The winter of 1882-3 found Dr. Benton a student at the University of Athens, and the years 1884-86 were spent at the University of Munich, where he all but completed his work for the doctorate. He was granted the Master of Science degree by the Michigan Agricultural College in 1885 in view of his studies abroad; and some years later the degree of Se. D. was conferred upon him by the Oriental University of America for similar studies. During the years spent in Munich several trips were made to Cyprus and Syria, and on one occasion Tunis and the African coast were visited and the bees of these regions studied. Italy was visited by the way as was also the little province of Carniola, in southern Austria, with the result that the four years from 1886-90 were spent in the fastnesses of the Carnic Alps in investigating, breeding and giving to the world the docile bees native to these mountains.
In 1890 Dr. Benton was commissioned by Dr. C. V. Riley, the United States Entomologist at Washington, to proceed to the Orient for the purpose of carrying on further investigations of the giant bees of India, and to study and import the Blastophaga wasp from Smyrna in the interest of establishing the Smyrna fig industry in California. Unfortunately, this commission passed Dr. Benton on the high seas, as he had already sailed from Hamburg for New York in December of 1890, after an absence from his native land of eleven years.
On ‘his arrival in America Dr. Benton was offered a chair in modern languages at Cornell University, and at the same time came an offer from the United States Government to go into scientific work at Washington. It was not an easy matter to decide, especially for one so rarely gifted in both fields of endeavor. But at the parting of the ways Dr. Benton, at the age of 39 years elected to go into scientific work, thereafter ‘becoming only indirectly identified with academic life as an occasional lecturer. He proceeded to Washington in July, 1891, ‘the proposed trip of exploration abroad being held in abeyance for the time being. and fourteen years intervened before this second journey was finally undertaken.
It was not until June, 1905, that Dr. Benton finally undertook his second tour of apicultural and botanical exploration which became a world embracing expedition, and everywhere he was welcomed and given the highest attention and every consideration by both scientific workers and members of apicultural societies and of the apicultural press. One leading periodical in summarizing his work closed with the statement, “Happy America that can speed such a man on such a journey!”—an index of his appreciative reception abroad. The overland route through the Balkans to Constantinople was followed and from thence the Caucasus was visited, where, in spite of the Russian revolution of that year, much data of value was collected, and representatives of the Caucasian races of bees imported. During the height of the revolution the Bishop of Armenia extended to Dr. Benton the hospitality of his monastery at Erivan, where Dr. Benton took refuge for several weeks until able to proceed to Baku on the Caspian Sea, from which point the long journey inland through Asia was started. Turkestan and Bokhara were visited, from where was imported the Turkestan melon, now becoming extensively grown in this country as a table delicacy. Turning southward, Dr. Benton organized a caravan, traveling a thousand miles through Persia, reaching Teheran early in January, 1906, and India the fore part of March. During the next seven months every part of India was visited, from Quetta in the northwest to the jungles of Assam, front the plains of Jubbulpore to the Himalayas of Simla and Darjeeling. and extensive studies made of the native honeybees which were captured and kept under observation in experimental hives. The guest of His Highness, the Maharaja of Kashmir, Dr. Benton had placed at his disposal a herd of elephants and retainers which greatly facilitated the work of exploration that he was engaged in. Finally, in September, the Philippines were reached and several months were spent in a long tour of this thousand-mile archipelago. At Zamboango, in Mindanao, Dr. Benton was very ill with fever contracted in the jungles of Assam, but despite these difficulties, he was able to rally and continue his work of investigation. The homeward journey was made by way of the Chinese coast. and some time was spent in Japan, Dr. Benton reaching America early in 1907, after an absence of nearly two years, with his long-planned journey an accomplished fact.
American Bee Journal, 1919 – Volume 59 – Page 197
Frank Benton and His 1881 Search for Apis Dorsata, by James P. Strange
Roger A. Morse, who turned a childhood interest in beekeeping into an encyclopedic knowledge that made him one of the best-known apiculturists in the world, died May 12, 2000 at his home in Ithaca, N.Y. He was 72.
Dr. Morse, an entomology professor at Cornell University for more than 40 years, was a quiet man of fluid motion — traits that served him well in a field that often put him in intimate proximity with thousands of bees.
That is not to say that he did not get his share of stings. Four days before his death, he visited his laboratory and returned home with what proved to be a final trophy. ”He died with a little bee sting on his eye,” said his daughter Susan.
A prolific author, Dr. Morse straddled the worlds of professional beekeepers and amateur ones, whose numbers in the United States are put around 200,000. Although much of his renown came from such popular books as ”The Complete Guide to Beekeeping” (E. P. Dutton), which for many beekeepers is almost as much a necessity as the hives themselves, Dr. Morse’s knowledge was widely sought by commercial beekeepers around the world.
These beekeepers not only produce honey but play a vital role in pollinating vast swaths of cultivated land: in the United States alone, about $10 billion worth of crops each year are pollinated entirely or partly by bees.
Dr. Morse traveled the world, often for the United States Department of Agriculture, teaching local beekeepers from Africa to South America how to improve their craft.
”There wasn’t any subject that you could bring up in the area of bees and beekeeping that he couldn’t discuss with you,” said Philip A. Mason, a corporate lawyer in Boston who worked as Dr. Morse’s last graduate student while he was on a sabbatical from the business world.
Roger Alfred Morse was born July 5, 1927, in Saugerties, N.Y. His father, Grant, a superintendent of schools, kept bees as a hobby and instilled the interest in his son. Roger Morse began tending his own hives when he was about 10, his family said.
After serving in the Army in Europe from 1944 to 1947, he enrolled at Cornell, where he earned a bachelor’s degree and, in 1955, his doctorate. He joined the faculty about two years later, and from 1986 was chairman of the entomology department. Over the years, he also taught in Helsinki, Brazil and the Philippines.
When he was not thinking about how to improve the general practice of beekeeping, he was looking at the intricate network of bee societies. Scientists have long been fascinated by the complexity of the hives and their elaborate division of labor, in which roles are assigned ranging from queen to, in essence, undertaker.
”If you want to understand sociology in this world, there is nothing like the honeybees,” Dr. Morse said in a 1991 interview.
He spent much time studying the incursion of the Africanized bee, a cross-breed known popularly, if fancifully, as the killer bee, which escaped from a laboratory in Brazil in the 1950’s. The bees’ reputation for aggressiveness made for many scare stories as they made their way north, eventually arriving in this country in the early 1990’s.
Dr. Morse, though, was more sanguine than many. He suggested once that after the bees began mating with local species, they might end up strengthening the domestic bee population. ”I’m not saying these bees are kittens, but they can be worked with,” he said in an interview in Popular Science magazine.
He was more worried about two forms of mite — tracheal and varroa — that in recent years have been ravaging wild bee populations, forcing commercial beekeepers to monitor their hives vigilantly. Dr. Morse estimated that in the mid-1990’s, as many as 45 billion bees from 750,000 hives had been killed by the mites.
In addition to his daughter Susan, of Ithaca, Dr. Morse is survived by his wife, the former Mary Louise Smith, whom he married in 1951; another daughter, Mary Ann, of New York; a son, Joseph, an entomologist at the University of California at Riverside; a sister, Jean Kallop of Voorheesville, N.Y.; and a brother, Stanley, of Millbrook, N.Y.
At Cornell, in addition to his other teaching duties, Dr. Morse taught the introductory beekeeping course and, as recently as last fall, a laboratory course on practical beekeeping. In the early 1960’s, an article described how he had figured out a way to lure swarms of bees to follow him wherever he walked. The trick was to carry filter paper saturated with the ground-up queen bee mandible glands.
Dr. Morse also maintained his own hives at home, and he did so using the same sort of utilitarian approach he urged on his readers.
In ”A Year in the Beeyard” (Charles Scribner’s Sons), he wrote: ”My apiaries are not picturesque; my combs are not uniformly free of drone comb; and not all of my equipment is well painted.
”Still, I manage to harvest a reasonable amount of honey every year. More importantly, in the occasional year when conditions are perfect, I can make sure that my hives are filled with honey. At these times beekeeping is the most fun.”
He often gave the honey away to acquaintances, which endeared him to them. But not so much, perhaps, as when he was a graduate student at Cornell and writing his thesis on mead, the wine made from honey. His fellow students often benefited from the fruits of his research.
”I was very popular at school,” Mr. Mason recalled Dr. Morse saying.
A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay;
A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon;
A swarm of bees in July is not worth a fly.
Proverbial bee-keepers’ saying, mid 17th century; meaning that the later in the year it is, the less time there will be for bees to collect nectar and pollen from flowers in bloom in preparation for winter..
I used to buy bees, lots and lots of bees; singles from South Carolina, nuclei from Florida and frames of brood from New York. I used to buy queens, lots and lots of queens; queens from Georgia, queens from Texas and queens from California. Every year it was the same. Pick up the pieces of my apiary in the Spring, send a big check to southern queen breeders, split up my best colonies, and hope I made enough of a honey crop to pay the bills. Some years I did, some years I did not.
Prior to the middle of the 1800’s, most bee hives in North America and Europe were simple shelters for the bees. Skeps, log gums and box hives were common types of hives in this period.
Bees attached their wax combs to the hive’s roof and walls, just like they do in wild hives. Today we refer to these types of hives as fixed-comb hives.
Skeps were made from grass straw, and often had sticks inside to provide support for the honey combs. Beekeepers inspected skep hives from the bottom.
Box hives were simple shelters to house a swarm of bees.
François Huber (July 2, 1750 – December 22, 1831) was a Swiss naturalist, born at Geneva, of a family which had already made its mark in the literary and scientific world: his great-aunt, Marie Huber, was known as a voluminous writer on religious and theological subjects, and as the translator and epitomizer of The Spectator (Amsterdam, 3 vols., 1753); and his father Jean Huber (1721–1786), who had served for many years as a soldier, was a prominent member of the coterie at Ferney, distinguishing himself by his Observations sur le vol des oiseaux (Geneva, 1784).
François Huber was only fifteen years old when he began to suffer from a disease which gradually resulted in total blindness; but, with the aid of his wife, Marie Aimée Lullin, and of his servant, François Burnens, he was able to carry out investigations that laid the foundations of a scientific knowledge of the life history of the honey bee. His Nouvelles Observations sur les Abeilles was published at Geneva in 1792 (Eng. trans., 1806). A second volume of work published along with the first came out in 1814 which covered many more subjects including the construction of comb and experiments on the respiration of bees. Huber’s New Observations Upon Bees The Complete Volumes I & II has been replublished in English by Michael Bush – Visit Amazon to Purchase
Movable comb hives allow beekeepers to start new colonies easily by dividing a hive. They also allow beekeepers to inspect the health of colonies, find the queen, and even cut honey comb without destroying the brood nest. Bees in movable comb colonies were disturbed less than bees in fixed-comb hives, so beekeepers received fewer stings!
Many movable comb hive inventions used “frames” for the bees to build their combs inside.
Huber’s leaf hive. The Leaf Hive, invented in Switzerland in 1789 by Francis Huber, was a fully movable frame hive. The combs in this hive were examined like pages in a book. A.I. Root and E.R. Root credit Huber with inventing the first movable frame hive.
Huber’s contribution was also acknowledged by Lorenzo Langstroth, inventor of the hive style that is most commonly used today:
“The use of the Huber hive had satisfied me, that with proper precautions the combs might be removed without enraging the bees, and that these insects were capable of being tamed to a surprising degree. Without knowledge of these facts, I should have regarded a hive permitting the removal of the combs, as quite too dangerous for practical use.”
– L.L. Langstroth in Langstroth on the Honey-Bee, 1860.
The leaf or book hive consists of twelve vertical frames or boxes, parallel to each other, and joined together. The cross spars, nine or ten. The thickness of these spars an inch (2.5 cm), and their breadth fifteen lines (1 line=1/12th in. 15 lines=1 1/4 in.=32mm). It is necessary that this last measure should be accurate; a piece of comb which guides the bees in their work; d. a movable slider supporting the lower part; b b. pegs to keep the comb properly in the frame or box; four are in the opposite side; e e. pegs in the sides under the movable slider to support it.
A book hive, consisting of twelve frames. Between 6 and 7 are two cases with lids, that divide the hive into two equal parts, and should only be used to separate the bees for forming an artificial swarm; a, two frames which shut up the two sides of the hive, have sliders.
The entrance appears at the bottom of each frame. All should be close but 1 and 12. However it is necessary that they should open at pleasure.