Born June 10, 1831
“America’s Best Known Beekeeper” (Quote: C. P. Dadant 1916) …
The Biography of Charles. C. Miller (1831 – 1920)
One among the very few who make bee-keeping their sole business is Dr. C. C. Miller. of Marengo. Ill. He was born June 10, 1831. at Ligonier. Pa. With a spirit of independence. and a good deal of self-denial sometimes bordering upon hardship. young Miller worked his way through school. graduating at Union College. Schenectady. N. Y.. at the age of 22. Unlike many boys who go through college self-supported. running into debt at the end of their course, our young friend graduated with a surplus of some seventy odd dollars. over and above his current expenses at school; but. as we shall presently see. it. was at the expense of an otherwise strong constitution. He did not know then, as he does now. the importance of observing the laws of health. Inst cad of taking rest he immediately took a course in medicine. graduating from the University of Michigan at the age of 25. After settling down to practice, poor health. he says, coupled with a nervous anxiety as to his fitness for the position. drove him from the field in a year. He then clerked, traveled , and taught. He had a natural talent for music, which by hard study he so developed that he is now one of the finest musicians in the country. If you will refer to the preface to Root’s Curriculum for the Piano (a work. by the way. which is possessed or known in almost every household where music is appreciated), you will see that this same Dr. Miller rendered “much and important aid ” to the author in his work. In this he wrote much of the lingering; and before the Curriculum was given to the printers for the last time. Mr. Root submitted the revised proofs to the doctor for final correction.
His musical compositions are simple and delightful. and you would be surprised to learn that one or two of the songs which are somewhat known were composed by Dr. Miller. Speaking of two songs composed by friend M . especially to be sung at a beekeepers convention. Dr. Geo. F. Root. than whom no one now living is better able to Judge. said. “They are characteristic and good.” Dr. Miller also spent about a year as music agent, helping to get up the first Cincinnati Musical Festival in 1873, under Theodore Thomas. Dr. M. is a fine singer. and delights all who hear him. Upon hearing and knowing of his almost exceptional talents for music. we are unavoidably led to wonder why he should now devote his attention solely to bee-keeping; and this wonder is increased when we learn that he has had salaries offered by music-publishing houses which would dazzle the eyes of most of us. But he says he prefers God‘s pure air. good health. and a good appetite. accompanied with a smaller income among the bees. to a larger salary indoors with attendant poor health.
As has been the case with a good many others. the doctor’s first acquaintance with bees was through his wife, who. in 1861, secured a runaway swarm in a sugar-barrel. A natural hobbyist, he at once became interested in bees. As he studied and worked with them he gradually grew into a bee-keeper, against the advice and wishes of his friends. In 1878 he made beekeeping his sole business. He now keeps from 200 to 400 colonies. in four out-apiaries. All the colonies are run for comb honey, and his annual products run up into the tons. He is intensely practical. and an enthusiast on all that pertains to his chosen pursuit.
As a writer he is conversational. terse. and right to the point. Not infrequently his style betrays here and there glimmerings of fun, which he seems, in consequence of his Jolly good nature, unable to suppress. His “Year Among the Bees”, his large correspondence for the bee-journals, and his biographical sketches preceding this, as also his writings elsewhere in this work. are all characteristic of his style.
Of him as a man, a personal friend, and a Christian brother, affords me great pleasure to speak. Physically he is rather under the medium height, thickset, and of an exceptionally pleasant face. To know him intimately, and to feel his intense friendship, is to know a near kinsman indeed. There are few more devoted Christians than Dr. C. C. Miller. He has always been active in Christian Work, especially in all lines of Sunday-school work. E. R. Root
The ABC of Bee Culture: 1905
By Amos Ives Root
Happy Birthday Charles Dadant ! -Born May 22, 1817
Share Birthday Wishes for Charles Dadant !
Biography of Charles Dadant (1817-1902) …
Mr. Charles Dadant was born May 22, 1817, at Vaux-Sous-Aubigny, in the golden hills of Burgundy, France. After his education in the College of Langres, he went into the mercantile business in that city, but ill-success induced him to remove to America. He settled in Hamilton, Illinois, in 1863, and found a profitable occupation in bee-culture, which in his hands yielded marvelous results. He soon became noted as one of the leading apiarists of the world.
After a few years of trial he made a trip to Italy, in 1873, to import the bees of that country to America. Though at first unsuccessful, he persisted in his efforts and finally achieved great success. He was the first to lay down rules for the safe transportation of queen bees across the sea, which is now a matter of daily occurrence.
Later on, in partnership with his son C. P. Dadant, he undertook the manufacture of comb foundation which has been continued by the firm, together with the management of several large apiaries, run almost exclusively for the production of extracted honey.
Although well versed in the English language which he had mastered at the age of forty-six, with the help of a pocket dictionary, Mr. Dadant was never able to speak it fluently and many of the readers of his numerous writings were astonished when meeting him to find that he could converse with difficulty. His writings were not confined to American publications, for in 1870 he began writing for European bee-journals and continued to do so until his methods were adopted, especially in Switzerland, France and Italy, where the hive which he recommended is now known under his name. For twenty years he was a regular contributor to the Revue Internationale D’Api-culture, and the result has been that there is probably not another bee-writer whose name is so thoroughly known, the world over. Mr. Dadant has been made an honorary member of more than twenty bee-keepers associations throughout the world and his death which occurred July 16, 1902, was lamented by every bee publication on both continents.
Mr. Dadant was a congenial man, and a philosopher. He retained his cheerfulness of spirit to his last day.
In addition to his supervision of the revision of this book, he was the author of a small treatise of bees, “Petit Cours d’ Apiculture Pratique.” He also published in connection with his son a pamphlet on “Extracted honey,” Revised into the French Language was also undertaken by their united effort. This book has since been translated into the Russian language.
Source: (1905) Langstroth on the Hive and Honey Bee
Author: Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth, Charles Dadant, Camille Pierre Dadant
World Bee Day was initiated in Slovenia, Europe, and has been quickly catching around the world. For example, German Chancellor Angela Merkel concluded a major speech Wednesday with a rousing endorsement of World Bee Day, telling members of the Bundestag to do something good for the bees:
“I want to finish with something that some may consider insignificant but is actually very important: on May 20 is the first World Bee Day. On this day we should really think about biodiversity and do something good for the bees.”
World Bee Day became World Bee Day after a successful campaign by the country of Slovenia (Anton Janša’s birthplace) to promulgate the message. Their petition to the United Nations was accepted in December 2017, so this year marks the first official World Bee Day. I’ve been following (and promoting World Bee Day) ever since I heard the effort was underway a couple of years ago, so below you’ll see some of my earlier posts.
One Beekeeper, Two Wright Brothers
Posted on September 14, 2016
Leave it to a beekeeper to make aviation history. An Ohio entrepreneur/beekeeper named Amos Root was, according to reports, the only person to actually witness the Wright brothers’ airplane flights in 1904 and 1905. And not just witness them, but write about them in a publication he founded called “Gleanings in Bee Culture.”
Root makes an appearance in David McCullough’s “The Wright Brothers” and also in an article on PBS’s Nova site. As the Nova site says, “almost as astonishing as the fact that a pair of bicycle shop owners invented the airplane” is that the first “accurate reporting on their earliest flights appeared” not in The New York Times or Scientific American, but in “an obscure journal for beekeepers.”
Root, a beekeeping hobbyist from his early twenties on, started a company in Medina, Ohio, that made beehives and beekeeping equipment. One of his best inventions was (improving ed.) removable frames so that a beekeeper could harvest honey without destroying the hive.
Root also started a candle-making company called Root Candles that is still in existence today. According to an article in The Cleveland Plain Dealer, the company, which sits next to Amos Root’s old homestead in Medina, makes 20 million home décor candles every year. The company’s president is a great-great grandson of Amos.
Moses Quinby is known as the “Father of Commercial Beekeeping in the United States,” Among his innovations in beekeeping, he is credited with the invention of the modern bee smoker with bellows. He is also the author of the book Mysteries of Bee-Keeping Explained (1853). At his peak, he kept over 1200 hives of bees.
Moses Quinby was born April 16, 1810, in Westchester Co.,N. Y. While a boy he went to Greene Co., and in 1853 from thence to St. Johnsville, Montgomery Co., N. Y., where he remained till the time of his death, May 27, 1875.
Mr. Quinby was reared among Quakers, and from his earliest years was ever the same cordial, straightforward, and earnest person. He had no special advantages in the way of obtaining an education, but he was an original thinker, and of that investigating turn of mind which is always sure to educate itself, even without books or schools. When about twenty years old he secured for the first time, as his own individual possession, sufficient capital to invest In a stock of bees, and no doubt felt enthusiastic in looking forward hopefully to a good run of “luck” in the way of swarms, so that he could soon “take up” some by the aid of the brimstone-pit. But “killing the goose that laid the golden egg” did not commend itself to his better judgment, and he was not slow to adopt the better way of placing boxes on the top of the hive, with holes for the ascent of the bees, and these boxes be improved by substituting glass for wood in the sides, thus making a long stride in the matter of the appearance of the marketable product. With little outside help, but with plenty of unexplored territory, his investigating mind had plenty of scope for operation, and he made a diligent study of bees and their habits. All the books he could obtain were earnestly studied, and everything taught therein carefully tested. The many crudities and inaccuracies contained in them were sifted out as chaff, and after 17 years’ practical experience in handling and studying the bees themselves as well as the books, he was not merely a bee-keeper but a bee-master; and with that philanthropic character which made him always willing to impart to others, he decided to give them, at the expense of a few hours’ reading, what had cost him years to obtain, and in 1853 the first edition of Mysteries of Beekeeping Explained made its appearance. Thoroughly practical in character and vigorous in style, it at once won its way to popularity. From the year 1853, excepting the interest he took in his fruits and his trout-pond, his attention was wholly given to bees, and he was owner or half-owner of from 600 to 1200 colonies, raising large crops of honey. On the advent of the movable frame and Italian bees, they were at once adopted by him, and in 1862 he reduced the number of his colonies, and turned his attention more particularly to rearing and selling his Italian bees and queens. In 1865 he published a revised edition of his book, giving therein the added experience of 12 years. He wrote much for agricultural and other papers, his writings being always of the same sensible and practical character. The Northeastern Bee-keepers’ Association, a body whose deliberations have always been of importance, owed its origin to Mr. Quinby, who was for years its honored president—perhaps it is better to say its honoring president, for it was no little honor, even to so important a society, to have such a man as president. In 1871 Mr. Quinby was president of the N. A. B. K. A.
It Is not at all impossible that the fact that so many intelligent beekeepers are found in New York is largely due to there being such a man as Mr.Quinby in their midst. The high reverence in which he was always held by the bee-keepers, particularly those who knew him best, says much, not only for the bee-master, but for the man.
On the occasion of the first meeting of the Northeastern Society, after the death of Mr. Quinby, Capt. J. E. Hetherington said in his address, in a well-merited eulogium on Mr. Quinby: “Of the great amount of gratuitous labor performed by him, to advance the science of bee culture, the fraternity as a whole will never know, nor can they realize the information imparted to the numbers who flocked to see him personally, especially in the busy season…
“His life has been in every sense a life of usefulness and not wholly devoted to the interests of bee culture, for he took it living interest in any movement he thought would benefit society : and as an advocate and helper in the temperance work he did no mean service. He possessed true kindness of heart, and regarded it as a religious duty to make all better and happier with whom he came in contact, and regarded that life a failure that did not leave the world the better for having lived.
The European Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) arrived in the Americas aboard European ships around 1622. In a way this was a homecoming, America had regained her long lost honey bees. It has always been assumed that honey bees are not native to North America until a recent discovery found a single fossil of a native North American honey bee in the Stewart Valley basin in west-central Nevada. The 14 million year old fossil was a female worker of the extinct honey bee (Apis nearctica) that lived in North America during the middle Miocene epoch and was found in a paper shale deposit along with other insects of the period. The fossil record proved honey bees lived in North America but for how long? And when did they go extinct? These questions remain unanswered.
Do you like to watch behavior? Are you itching for more during this “leave ’em alone” period of time after package installation? Okay here’s your treat. Recently a friend, posted a positive review about a book link she had read titled, “At the Hive Entrance” by H. Storch. It was one of my favorites when I started beekeeping. And it’s something you can do now – watch the hive entrance. Just place your chair off to the side of the front entrance about 6 or 8 ft. away and watch. After a few days you’ll start to see the routine of the bees. You’ll notice different pollens coming in on different days. Some days they’ll almost jump into the air on takeoff and zoom in on landings. Other days they’re a little slow. You’ll start to relate this to the temperatures, the flow, the season, and other things. You’ll get a feeling for the range of normal behavior (which also varies depending on seasons). In time, you’ll also notice behavior that’s not their norm which may necessitate an inspection. Which brings up the single warning about enjoying this book – it is only one factor in your assessment – entrance observation. If it looks like something unusual you may have to open them up to take a look. Enjoy.
Abbe Warré developed the popular hive based on his experience with 350 hives of different systems existing at the time as well as on the natural behaviors of the bee . In order to disseminate his works, he wrote several books: Health or the Best Treatments of All Diseases , Honey, Its Properties and Uses , Health,Guidebook forthe Sick and Well- Being and especially the Most Important ‘Beekeeping for all’ , a new edition was published by Coyote in 2005. The previous edition was published in 1948.
Its goal was to obtain a hive closest to the natural conditions of the bee, while being practical for the beekeeper. He preferred to make savings rather than profits and was looking for savings instead of productivity.His hive was thus based on a small financial investment for its manufacture and its exploitation.He hoped that everyone could have a hive and harvest honey without having to equip themselves with many tools of extraction.
Happy Birthday William Woodley born at Oxford on March 9, 1846.
Source: originally written in the Obituary British Bee Journal – 25 October 1923 and presented here as found at: Beehive Yourself
From Mr. Woodley’s Obituary Notice in 1923:
Thirty years ago Mr Woodley had become famous as a bee-keeper. He specialised in sections with great success, and for years carried off the best prizes at the biggest shows. He was no jealous guarder of secrets, but for many years by his contributions to the “Bee-Keepers’ Record,” the “Berkshire Bee-Keeper;” to this journal, and occasionally to the American bee-keeping magazines he placed the advantage of his knowledge and great experience at the disposal of those who were seeking success in bee culture. Until the last he was a reader of current American bee literature, but his habit of thought saved him from the error of imagining that methods and practices that suit America are equally suitable for this country, with its different climate and flora. Years ago Mr Woodley worked over 200 stocks, and did a large business in honey and in supplying swarms of bees, many going to Scotland, where they were worked for the heather. Acarine disease robbed him of the whole of his stock, but he had began to work it up again, without any intentions, however, of going so extensively as formerly into the business.
Mr Woodley was led by his cousin to take an interest in bees. Mr A. D. Woodley’s father promised him a hive of bees, but for some time he did not accept the offer. An article in “Chambers’s Journal” which he read in 1879, and the subsequent possession of Cheshire’s “Practical Bee-Keeping,” published about that time, filled him with enthusiasm. He accepted the offer, and got his father during the Easter holidays to help him make a frame hive, into which he transferred the combs and bees. He persuaded Mr Woodley to take an interest in the bees his great-aunt kept at Beedon, and at Whitsuntide of the same year went over to Beedon and made him his first hive. This hive Mr Woodley called “Jumbo,” and it is in existence today. Mr Woodley secured some most beautiful honey in bell glasses, which were exceedingly popular in his novitiate days, and the products of his bees were soon on the show bench at the Crystal palace and elsewhere. Until disease swept away his stock Mr Woodley had been a regular exhibitor at the Royal Agricultural Show.
Read the full article originally written in the Obituary British Bee Journal – 25 October 1923 at: Beehive Yourself. There you will also be able to further explore the life and works of Mr. William Woodley.
Nikolai Viktorovich Nasonov (Feb. 14 1855 ~ Feb. 11, 1939)
Nikolai Nasonov is best known among beekeepers for the Nasonov gland in honeybees which is named after Nasonov who was first to described it in 1883.…
“The scent organ of a worker honeybee lies on the dorsal surface of the abdomen, at the front edge of the last abdominal segment. It consists of several hundred gland cells. The Nasonov gland was named after the Russian scientist who first described it, in 1883. (Honeybee Democracy By Thomas D. Seeley 2010)
Nasonov pheromone are emitted by the worker bees and used for orientation. Known as the “come and join us” scent. Bees use the pheromone to find the entrance to their colony or hive, and they release them on flowers so other bees know which flowers have nectar. Nasonov pheromone in synthetic form should be 2:1 ratio of citral and geraniol. It consists of glandular cells which secrete pheromone through c. 600 ducts into a groove between the 6th and 7th tergite. Honeybees release this pheromone for attracting other bees to join the swarm, to mark the entrance to the hive, to mark a source of water while foraging.
Nikolai Nasonov was a Soviet zoologist. Academician of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences (1906; corresponding member, 1897). He was born in Moscow, Feb. 14 1855. In 1879, Nasonov graduated from the University of Moscow. From 1889 to 1906 he was a professor at the University of Warsaw. From 1906 to 1921 he was director of the Zoological Museum, and from 1921 to 1931 he was director of the Laboratory of Experimental Zoology of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. His principal works were on the morphology, taxonomy, faunistics, zoogeography, ecology, and embryology of insects, crustaceans, Turbellaria, and some vertebrates, such as mountain sheep and the ostrich. In 1911, Nasonov organized the publication of the comprehensive work Fauna of Russia and the Neighboring Countries, subsequently called Fauna of the USSR. Twenty-five books of this work were published under his editorship. In 1916 on Nasonov’s initiative, a commission was created in the Academy of Sciences of the USSR to study Lake Baikal and to organize the Baikal Biological Station (now the Institute of Limnology of the Siberian Division of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR). Nasonov was a prolific author producing works in four languages but was not a honeybee specialist nor did he have a knowledge about pheromones. Nikolai Nasonov died in Moscow Feb. 11, 1939
Nasonov, N. V. 1889. Contribution to the natural history of the ants primarily of Russia. 1. Contribution to the ant fauna of Russia. Izv. Imp. Obshch. Lyubit. Estestvozn. Antropol. Etnogr. Imp. Mosk. Univ. 58: 1-78 PDF
N. E. McIndoo, PH.D. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia Vol. 66 No. 2 (Apr. – Aug. 1914), pp. 542-555
“ It is reported that Nassonoff first described the morphology of the scent-producing organ of the honey bee. His original work in Russian cannot be had here , but according to Zoubareff (1883), nassonoff did not describe the structure of this organ as seen by the writer, and he suggested that the gland cells of the organ produce perspiration.
Nasonov pheromone are emitted by the worker bees and used for orientation. Discovered by Nasonov, Nikolai Viktorovich (1883) from Russia. Known as the “come and join us” scent. Nasonov includes a number of different terpenoids including geraniol, nerolic acid, citral and geranic acid. Bees use these to find the entrance to their colony or hive, and they release them on flowers so other bees know which flowers have nectar.Nasonov pheromone in synthetic form should be 2:1 ratio of citral and geraniol (Born Feb. 14 (26), 1855, in Moscow; died there Feb. 11, 1939. Soviet zoologist. Academician of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences (1906; corresponding member, 1897). It consists of glandular cells which secrete pheromone through c. 600 ducts into a groove between the 6th and 7th tergite.Honeybees release this pheromone for attracting other bees to join the swarm,to mark the entrance to the hive, to mark a source of water while foraging.
Nikolai Victrovich Nasonov ( N. V. Nassonov) 1855 – 1939
Dr. Nasonov studied taxonomy and distribution of various groups of invertebrates. He was a member of the Academy of Sciences of the URSS. He visited Japan (June-July, 1928) for the study of freshwater microturbellarians. For his scientific activities and the publication list, see the following paper.
Académie des Sciences de l’Union des Républiques Soviétiques Socialistes, 1937. À l’Académicien N. Nassonov pour le Quatrevingtième Anniversaire de sa Naissance et le Soixantième Anniversaire de Son Activité Scientifique. Cover page and prefatory portrait + pp.13-32. http://www.ras.ru/win/db/show_per.asp?P=jd-51438.In-en
Literature (a selection):
Nassonov, N. V., 1924. K faune Turbellaria Rhabdocoelida Kryma. Izves. Akad. Nauk, SSSR, 18: 35-46.
Nassonov, N. V., 1925. Die Turbellarienfauna des Leningrader Gouvernements. 1-2. Izves. Akad. Nauk, 20: 817-836, 869-883.
Nassonov, N. V., 1927. Über eine neue Familie Multipenatidae (Alloeocoela) aus dem Japanischen Meer mit einem aberranten Bau der Fortpflanzungsorgane. Izves. Akad. Nauk, 1927: 865-874.
Nassonov, N. V., 1929. Zur Fauna der Turbellaria Rhabdocoelida der japanischen Susswasserbecken. Doklady Akad. Nauk, SSSR, 1929: 423-428.
Nassonov, N. V., 1932. Zur Morphologie der Turbellaria Rhabdocoelida des Japanischen Meeres. Trudy Laborat. Exper. Zool. Morfol. Zhivotnykh. Akad. Nauk, II: 1-115 + Taf. I-VIII.
Let’s first look at Mr Woodley’s experiences, he writes in 1917:-
“I, as a scourged member of the craft, am not chastened by being wiped out [by the “Isle of Wight” Disease], or nearly so, twice…I set about repairing the damage at the outset with some success; in fact, by using formalin and Lysol in equal proportions spread on strips of thin board and pushed in at the entrances twice weekly of many of my hives, the first spring of the outbreak of “Isle of Wight” disease I preserved every stock so treated, and I quite thought I had got a remedy, and had a good take of honey from these hives, but the following winter and spring I lost most of them. Then I bought new swarms, both English and Dutch. Both strains were hived in disinfected hives, boiled frames, new foundations. Again using most of the advertised remedies, I had a fair take of honey.”1
Trained as a nuclear physicist, world renowned bee expert Eva Crane is easily one of the most intriguing and accomplished figures who have found their way onto the Land Library’s shelves. Her sudden shift from quantums to bees came on the occasion of her wedding in 1942. Among the wedding presents that day was a […]
The Life of The Bee by Maurice Maeterlinck (Translated by Alfred Sutro) Illustrated by E J Detmold George Allen & Co Ltd Illustrated edition 1911
The Life of The Bee by Maurice Maeterlinck is a wonderfully eccentric book written in a variety of genres. It is informed by the author’s years of experience studying the complex behaviour of bees. Yet this intricate factual account is suffused with epic drama and wildly poetic philosophical digressions.
Maeterlinck, in telling the story of the bee, explores the subjects of life, death, truth, nature, humanity, and everything in between.
The story of the bee becomes almost a mystic parable to describe all human experience. It has the added charm of being one of the most beautifully illustrated books in our collection. Edward Detmold’s paintings perfectly reflect the sentiment and beauty of the writing.
Below I have gathered together some of Detmold’s illustrations and selected a few memorable passages from the chapter entitled, ‘ The Nuptial Flight’ which presents the tragic sex life of the heroic male bee. I hope you enjoy them.
‘Most creatures have a vague belief that a very precarious hazard, a kind of transparent membrane, divides death from love and that the profound idea of Nature demands that the giver of life should die at the point of giving. Here this idea, whose memory lingers still over the kisses of man, is realised in its primal simplicity. No sooner has the union been accomplished than the male’s abdomen opens, the organ detaches itself, dragging with it the mass of the entrail, the wings relax, and, as though struck by lightning , the emptied body turns on itself and sinks into the abyss.’
(Part V THE NUPTIAL FLIGHT 87 –page 166)
‘Nor does the new bride , indeed, show more concern than her people, (for the poor male Bee ) there being no room for many emotions in her narrow, barbarous, practical brain. She has but one thought, which is to rid herself of as quickly as possible of the embarrassing souveniers her consort has left her,…She seats herself on the threshold, and carefully strips off the useless organs…’
(Part V THE NUPTIAL FLIGHT 89 –page 173)
‘Prodigious nuptials these, the most fairy-like that can be conceived, azure and tragic , raised high above life by the impetus of desire; imperishable and terrible, unique and bewildering, solitary and infinite. An admirable ecstasy, wherein death, supervening in all that our sphere has of most limpid and loveliest, in virginal, limitless space, stamps the instant of happiness on the sublime transparence of the great sky;…’
(Part V THE NUPTIAL FLIGHT 90 –page 174)
(click to enlarge to full size) The British Black Bee (Apis mellifera mellifera), or European Dark Honeybee, was common until the beginning of the 20th Century. Fully adapted for the cooler climate she was responsible for the pollination of the wild flowers you see in the British Isles today. Sadly a virus practically wiped the […]
This year, beekeepers are celebrating the 207th year anniversary of “the Father of American Beekeeping.” Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth was born Christmas Day, December 25, 1810 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. L. L. Langstroth developed the modern hive after exploring existing hives including the pre-cursor to the top bar hive. Francis Huber invented the Leaf Hive in 1789 in Switzerland. The leaf hive had movable solid frames that touched making the box like top bar hives. The leaf hive was examined like pages in a book.
(photo: In 2010 the Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild began a wonderful Christmas tradition. They gather each year at 106 South Front Street, Philadelphia; the birthplace of Lorenzo L. Langstroth on Christmas Day, which is also Langstroth’s birthday, for a Champagne / mead toast to Langstroth.) A Toast to Langstroth)
In the summer of 1851 Langstroth developed the hive that is still used today and the “bee space.” Langstroth patented the first movable frame hive on October 5, 1852. Henry Bourquin, a fellow beekeeper and Philadelphia cabinetmaker, made Langstroth’s first hives. Langstroth hives encourage rapid inspection without enraging the bees. Weak colonies can be strengthened. Strong colonies can increase space. Queens are quickly replaced. Diseases, pests and parasites can be quickly determined and remedied. Inspection by removable frames is now required in the United States. Langstroth also began using queen excluders to confine eggs to the lower boxes. Removable frames encouraged honey extraction without destroying the comb. Honey comb requires 7 to 14 pounds of honey for every pound of beeswax. Besides increased honey production, the beehive no longer had to be killed to remove the honey.
Langstroth published “The Hive and the Honey-Bee” in 1853 still in print today after 40 editions. Langstroth died October 6, 1895 while preaching a sermon on the love of God at the Wayne Avenue Presbyterian church in Dayton. L. L. Langstroth is buried at Woodland Cemetery, Dayton, Ohio. Langstroth’s epitaph reads —
INSCRIBED TO THE MEMORY OF REV. L.L. LANGSTROTH, “FATHER OF AMERICAN BEEKEEPING,” BY HIS AFFECTIONATE BENEFICIARIES WHO, IN THE REMEMBRANCE OF THE SERVICES RENDERED BY HIS PERSISTENT AND PAINSTAKING OBSERVATIONS AND EXPERIMENTS WITH THE HONEY BEE, HIS IMPROVEMENTS IN THE HIVE, AND THE LITERARY ABILITY SHOWN IN THE FIRST SCIENTIFIC AND POPULAR BOOK ON THE SUBJECT OF BEEKEEPING IN THE UNITED STATES, GRATEFULLY ERECT THIS MONUMENT.
Next time you have a reason to check out Napoleon Bonaparte’s coat of arms, look closely at the left hand side. You will see a grouping of honeybees — Napoleon’s choice to represent his imperial rule.
The bee apparently sent several different messages to Napoleon’s constituents. It referred back to earlier French kings who chose the bee as a symbol of immortality and resurrection. The bee is also a nod to French industry where it was incorporated into clothing, curtains, carpets and furniture.
Happy Birthday Emily Dickinson – Born Dec. 10, 1830
By Emily Dickinson
Like trains of cars on tracks of plush
I hear the level bee:
A jar across the flowers goes,
Their velvet masonry
Withstands until the sweet assault
Their chivalry consumes,
While he, victorious, tilts away
To vanquish other blooms.
His feet are shod with gauze,
His helmet is of gold;
His breast, a single onyx
With chrysoprase, inlaid.
His labor is a chant,
His idleness a tune;
Oh, for a bee’s experience
Of clovers and of noon! … A team of archaeologists is rediscovering just how extensive Emily Dickinson’s garden was. Historical evidence shows Emily Dickinson’s Garden contained an abundance of blooming flowers. Archaeologists recently uncovered portions of a pathway leading to nineteenth-century flower and vegetable beds.Emily Dickinson – was an American poet born in Amherst, Massachusetts. (December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886) ~ during her lifetime she “was known more widely as a gardener, perhaps, than as a poet”. Emily Dickinson’s niece, Martha Dickinson Bianchi, remembered “carpets of lily-of-the-valley and pansies, platoons of sweetpeas, hyacinths, enough in May to give all the bees of summer dyspepsia. There were ribbons of peony hedges and drifts of daffodils in season, marigolds to distraction—a butterfly utopia” Archaeology – Remnants of Emily Dickinson’s Gardens Sought
AMHERST, MASSACHUSETTS—Emily Dickinson is known today as one of the greatest poets of the nineteenth century, but in her lifetime she may have been more renowned for her gardening. At her family estate, she helped to tend an orchard, a greenhouse, and an expanse of flower and vegetable gardens. The size of these gardens was dramatically decreased in the decades after Dickinson died in 1886, but now a team of archaeologists is searching for their remnants. Last summer, they uncovered portions of a pathway leading to nineteenth-century flower and vegetable beds. “If we can follow out the historic path to its end, then theoretically we would find the location of past gardens,” Kerry Lynch of Archaeological Services at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, told the New York Times. If they do locate these gardens, the archaeologists hope to find seeds or other botanical evidence dating back to when Dickinson was alive.
Amos Ives Root – Born December 9, 1839 (1839–1923)
Biography of A. I. Root
Written by E. R. Root
A. I. Root was born in a log house, December 9, 1830, about two miles north of the present manufacturing plant of The A. I. Root Co. He was a frail child, and his parents had little hopes of raising him to manhood, although some of the neighbors said his devoted mother would not let him die. As he grew older his taste for gardening and mechanics became apparent. Among his early hobbies were windmills, clocks, poultry, electricity, and chemistry —anything and everything in the mechanical line that would interest a boy who intensely loved machinery. Later on we find him experimenting in electricity and chemistry; and at 18 he is out on a lecturing-tour with a fully equipped apparatus of his own construction.
We next find Mr. Root learning the jeweler’s trade, and it was not long before he decided to go into business for himself. He accordingly went to an old gentleman who loaned money, and asked him if he would let him have a certain amount of money for a limited time. This friend agreed to lend him the amount, but he urgently advised him to wait a little and earn the money by working for wages. This practical piece of advice, coming as it did at the very beginning of his career, was indeed a God-send, and. unlike most boys, he decided to accept it. Imbued with a love for his work, and having indomitable push, he soon earned enough to make a start in business, without borrowing a dollar. The business prospered till A. I. Root & Co. were the largest manufacturers of real coin-silver jewelry in the country. From $200 to $300 worth of coin was made weekly into rings and chains, and the firm employed something like 15 or 20 men and women.
It was about this time, or in 1865, that a swarm of bees passed over his shop; but as this incident is given so fully in the introduction I omit it here. Not long after he became an A B C scholar himself in bees, he began to write for the American Bee Journal under the nom de plume of “Novice.” In these papers he recounted a few of his successes and many of his failures with bees. His frank confession of his mistakes, his style of writing, so simple, clear, and clean-cut, brought him into prominence at once. So many inquiries came in that he was finally induced to start a journal, entitled Gleanings in Bee Culture of this, now his business grew to such a size that the manufacturing plant alone covered five acres, and employed from 100 to 200 men —all this and more is told in the Introduction by the writer.
As an inventor Mr. Root has occupied quite a unique field. He was the first to introduce the one pound-section honey-box, of which something like 50,000,000 are now made annually. He made the first practical ail-metal honey-extractor. This he very modestly styled the “Novice,” a machine of which thousands have been made and are still made. Among his other inventions may be named the Simplicity hive, the Novice honey-knife, several reversible frames, and the metal-cornered frame. The last named was the only invention he ever patented, and this he subsequently gave to the world long before the patent expired.
In the line of horticultural tools he invented a number of useful little devices which he freely gave to the public. But the two inventions which he considers of the most value is one for storing up heat, like storing electricity in a storage battery, and another for disposing of sewage in rural districts. The first named is a system of storing up the heat from exhaust steam in Mother Earth in such a way that greenhouses and dwelling-houses can be heated, even after the engine has stopped at night, and for several days after. The other invention relates to a method of disposing of the sewage from indoor water-closets so that “Mother Earth,” as he calls it, will take it automatically and convert it into plant life, without the least danger to health or life, and that, too, for a period of years without attention from any one.
Some of the secrets of his success in business may be briefly summed, up by saying that it was always his constant aim to send goods by return train, and to answer letters by return mail, although, of course, as the business continued to grow this became less and less practicable. He believed most emphatically in mixing business and religion—in conducting business on Christian principles; or to adopt a modern phrase, doing business “as Jesus would do it.” As might be expected, such a policy drew an immense clientage, for people far and wide believed in him. But how few, comparatively, in this busy world, go beyond the practice that honesty is the best policy! While A. 1. Root believed in this good rule he did not think it went far enough, and, accordingly, tried to adopt and live the Golden Rule.
The severe strain of long hours of work, together with constantly failing health, compelled Mr. Root to throw some of the responsibilities of the increasing business on his sons and sons-in-law. This was between 1886 and 1890. At no definite time could it be said that there was a formal transfer of the management of the supply business and the management of the bee department of Gleanings to his children; but as time went on they gradually assumed the control, leaving him free to engage in gardening and other rural pursuits, and for the last ten years he has given almost no attention to bees, devoting nearly all his time to travel and to lighter rural Industries. He has written much on horticultural and agricultural subjects; indeed, it is probable that he has done more writing on these subjects than he ever did on bees.
Note: He did not invent a section box for holding honey, but only a box just the right size to put 8 into a Langstroth frame.
For the last twenty-five years he has been writing a series of lay sermons, touching particularly on the subject of mixing business and religion, work and wages, and, in general, the great problem of capital and labor. As an employer of labor he had here a large field for observation, and well has he made use of it. Perhaps no series of articles he ever wrote has elicited a more sympathetic response from his friends all over this wide world than these same talks; and through these he has been the means of bringing many a one into the fold of Christ.
It has been a rather difficult matter to get a picture that was in any way satisfactory to the members of his family. Finally the writer, one day, with a Kodak, took a “time view” of him in his favorite place of resort, the greenhouse, among his “posies,” where he spends hours of his happiest moments. This view shows him just as he appears around home in his everyday work clothes. Ill health, or a sort of malaria that has been hanging about him for years, has forced him. during winter, to wear a fur cap and to keep his overcoat constantly on, indoors and outdoors, with the collar turned up.
Mr. Root, ever since his conversion, in 1875 has been a most active working Christian. No matter what the condition of his health, he is a regular attendant at church and prayer-meeting. He takes great interest in all lines of missionary work, and especially in the subject of temperance. He annually gives considerable sums of money to support the cause of missions, and to the Ohio Antisaloon League; and now that the heavier responsibilities of the business have been lifted from his shoulders he is giving more and more of his time and attention to sociological problems.—E. R. Root.Source:
The ABC of Bee Culture, page 438, 1903
SassafrasBeeFarm: Beautiful pictures accompany this blog post titled: “Honey and Keeping Bees in Slovenia.” Take a few minutes out of your day to appreciate the painted beehives and craftsmanship found here by following the link below.
Honey and Keeping Bees in SloveniaWhen I first saw the traditional beehives that beekeepers in Slovenia use to house their bees, I was in awe.
In most places around the world, beehives are kept in wooden boxes, which open from the top.
In some places they paint the wooden boxes in bright colors, to attract the bees.
In Slovenia, a traditional beehive is built like a beautiful cabinet, with many drawers and with a roof, to keep it dry.
The bees create their colonies inside those cabinet drawers, and the fronts of the drawers are elaborately painted with either religious scenes, or scenes from daily life.
The beautiful naive paintings were usually done by professional or semi professional artists, but some also served as church painters, while others were entirely self-taught.
The paintings were done to identify the owners of the beehives, and to bless the production of honey.
Note: Contrary to the text found in the article below, Berlepsch may have beaten Lorenzo Langstroth to the recognition of bee space as a consideration to be utilized in the construction of bee hives – by as little as 5 months. Berlepsch was working with Dzierzon on a movable frame hive and is now noted for his perfecting of other’s efforts.
Given that information and publishing was very slow in the mid nineteenth century, it is quite possible that the two men refined the use of bee space as a valuable addition to beekeeping independently and at approximately the same time.
Berlepsch was also, during the same period, working with Dzierzon on a moveable frame hive. However it was the American Langstroth that got it right combining the two features of bee space and removable frame hive which proved to be simple, flexible, and would later go on to dominate managed beekeeping in the United States. <end of note>
In 1851, Reverend Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth invented a better beehive and changed beekeeping forever. The Langstroth Hive didn’t spring fully formed from one man’s imagination, but was built on a foundation of methods and designs developed over millenia.
Beekeeping dates back at least to ancient Egypt, when early apiarists built their hives from straw and clay (if you happen to find a honeypot in a tomb, feel free to stick your hand in it, you rascal, because honey lasts longer than a mummy). In the intervening centuries, various types of artificial hives developed, from straw baskets to wood boxes but they all shared one thing: “fixed combs” that must be physically cut from the hive. These early fixed comb hives made it difficult for beekeepers to inspect their brood for diseases or other problems.
In the 18th century, noted Swiss naturalist François Huber developed a “movable comb” or “movable frame” hive that featured wooded leaves filled with honeycombs that could be flipped like the pages of a book. Despite this innovation, Huber’s hive was not widely adopted and simple box hives remained the popular choice for beekeepers until the 1850s. Enter Lorenzo Langstroth.
Charles Napier Hemy (1841-1917) – Telling the Bees
Telling the Bees
The telling of the bees is a traditional English custom, in which bees would be told of important events in their keeper’s lives, such as births, marriages, or departures and returns in the household. The bees were most commonly told of deaths in their master’s family.
To inform the bees of a death their hive might be hung with a black cloth, while a “doleful tune” is sung. Another method of “telling the bees” would be for their master to approach the hive and knock gently upon it. The house key might also be used to knock on the hive. When the master of the house had the attention of the bees they would tell the bees the name of the person that had died.
Food and drink from a beekeeper’s funeral would also be left by the hive for the bees, including the funeral biscuits and wine. The hive would also be lifted a few inches and put down again at the same time as the coffin. The hive might also be rotated to face the funeral procession, and draped with mourning cloth.
The charred remains of 2,500-year-old honeycombs, as well as other beekeeping artifacts, have been discovered in an Etruscan workshop in northern Italy.
The findings included the remains of a unique grapevine honey produced by traveling beekeepers along rivers, according to a new study.
“The importance of beekeeping in the ancient world is well known through an abundance of iconographic, literary, archaeometric and ethnographic [or cultural] sources,” Lorenzo Castellano, a graduate student at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University and first author of the new study, told Live Science. (In archaeometry, scientists use physical, chemical and mathematical analyses to study archaeological sites.)
Even so, since honeycombs are perishable, direct fossil evidence of them is “extremely rare,” he added.
I just can’t resist sharing this wonderful post by Adventures in Beeland. Facinating stuff!
Today we visited the Lost Gardens of Heligan and saw the old ‘bee boles’. These are recesses in a wall big enough to hold straw skeps. The wall would have provided shelter and typically would have been south or east facing. At Heligan most of the boles have removable wooden doors in place. I would be interested to know how the wooden doors would have been used. I’m guessing they may have been in place over winter to provide extra protection from the wind and rain and then removed come spring?
Having delivered many talks to non/new beekeepers on honeybees and their importance, the Egyptian tomb honey question is asked more often than not.
Now Georgia (in the Caucasus region of Eurasia, not the US.) appears to trump Egypt by more than 2000 years!
Georgians have long laid claim to being the first winemakers in the world, but could they also be pioneer beekeepers? After a thorough examination of some five-millennia-plus-old jars unearthed in Georgia, archeologists have declared that the artifacts contain the world’s oldest honey.
The honey stains found in the ceramic vessels, found 170 kilometers west of Tbilisi, are believed to be made by bees that buzzed around in Georgia 5,500 years ago — some 2,000 years older than the honey found in Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamen’s tomb, which had been considered the oldest before, Rustavi2 proudly pointed out.
As in ancient Egypt, in ancient Georgia, honey was apparently packed for people’s journeys into the afterlife. And more than one type, too — along for the trip were linden, berry, and a meadow-flower variety.
Honey produced in Poland has always been esteemed as a type of liquid gold. Historically, many bee colonies were under control of the royal landowners. Stealing honey from their estates was often met with death on the gallows. Destroying an entire colony of bees, even if they belonged to the accused, resulted in an unimaginable […]
Birth: Aug. 30, 1842
Death: Sep. 29, 1916
Albert J. Cook (1842-1916) was a 19th century educator and writer who influenced an entire generation of American beekeepers. He served as an instructor at Michigan Agricultural College (Michigan Agricultural University) in 1866 (Michigan State University later) where he offered one of the first collegiate courses in beekeeping culture.
Cook published the first textbook on American beekeeping, The Manual of the Apiary, in 1876 based upon his lecture series. The book was an instant success. Beginning as a mere brochure, this textbook expanded through ten editions in less than a decade, growing with each edition.
Albert J. Cook, professor of zoology and entomology, established the insect collection at Michigan Agricultural College (Agricultural University of Michigan) in 1867. By 1878, the collection consisted of nearly 1,200 local specimens collected primarily used for demonstration classrooms, for comparison, and to aid in species identification for farmers Michigan.
Maurice Polydore Marie Bernard Maeterlinck (also called Comte (Count) Maeterlinck from 1932;[mo.ʁis ma.tɛʁ.lɛ̃ːk] in Belgium, [mɛ.teʁ.lɛ̃ːk] in France; 29 August 1862 – 6 May 1949) was a Belgian playwright, poet, and essayist who was a Fleming, but wrote in French. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1911 “in appreciation of his many-sided literary activities, and especially of his dramatic works, which are distinguished by a wealth of imagination and by a poetic fancy, which reveals, sometimes in the guise of a fairy tale, a deep inspiration, while in a mysterious way they appeal to the readers’ own feelings and stimulate their imaginations”. The main themes in his work are death and the meaning of life. His plays form an important part of the Symbolist movement.
In an exuberantly poetic work that is less about bees and more about life, Maurice Maeterlinck expresses his philosophy of the human condition. The renowned Belgian poet and dramatist offers brilliant proof in this, his most popular work, that “no living creature, not even man, has achieved in the center of his sphere, what the bee has achieved.” From their amazingly intricate feats of architecture to their intrinsic sense of self-sacrifice, Maeterlinck takes a “bee’s-eye view” of the most orderly society on Earth.
An enthusiastic and expert beekeeper, Maeterlinck did not intend to write a scientific treatise, even though he details such topics as the mathematically accurate construction of the hive, the division of labor among community members, the life of the young queen and her miraculous nuptial flight, and the movement and meaning of the swarm.
An enchanting classic by one of the most important figures of world literature in the twentieth century and winner of the 1911 Nobel Prize in Literature, this fascinating study is a magnificent tribute to one of the most orderly communities in the world. It is also filled with humble lessons for the human race.
Walt Wright was born and raised in Burtonsville, MD, then a barefoot country boy area, and now suburbia of a sprawling Washington, DC. He enlisted in the Air Force to get electronics training, and served as a radar repairman. After service time he joined General Electric in maintaining overseas sites of the Security Service (spell that SPY).
Still with GE, in 1960 he relocated to Huntsville, Ala./Redstone Arsenal to make his contribution on the nation’s quest to put a man on the moon. Development of the propulsive stages of the Saturn V moon rocket was accomplished by NASA on Redstone Arsenal. His responsibility on that program was electronic compatibility of subsystems within stages and compatibility between propulsive stages and the electronics of the instrument ring. No interaction (interference/noise) was permitted between systems on the man-rated launch vehicle.
For the Shuttle program, an added responsibility was systems engineer for on-board Range Safety components. The Air Force has autonomous authority to destroy any launch from the Cape area that poses a threat to populated areas of eastern Florida. Astronauts on board is no exception. If the launch strays from the predicted trajectory, the Air Force can destroy the vehicle by radio command. On-board equipment to implement destruct includes the command receiving and processing electronics and pyrotechnics to disperse propellants.
Walt is aware that the above work history provides very weak credentials to be considered as a honey bee “expert.” He took up beekeeping in his late fifties to supplement retirement income. Confident in his trouble shooting skills, he accepted the challenge “very early” to get to the bottom of the swarming problem. He credits observation skills, sharpened by years of electronics trouble-shooting, for solving the riddle. He was surprised that it was as easy as it was. When his hypothesis was in place in three years, he thought at first it must be in error. Surely, thousands of beekeepers, looking into millions of hives, could not possibly have missed the obvious. His conclusion: beekeepers see, but do not observe, or ask themselves why the bees do what they do.
Honey bees are motivated by survival of the colony. Survival of the existing colony is priority one. In the spring, priority two is the generation of the reproductive swarm. Not even that much is described in the popular literature. Walt concentrated his investigation of swarming in terms of colony activities that support those survival objectives. His findings are a radical departure from literature conventional wisdom. As an example, he claims that all the elements of “congestion”, such as bee crowding and nectar in the brood nest, are deliberate steps to implementing the reproductive swarm process, and not the other way around. The literature has congestion as the “cause” and that’s backwards.
Getting his observations published has been slow moving. Editors of the magazines have an obligation to their subscribers to weed out the chaff from crackpots. Natural skepticism creates mostly rejections of submitted articles. For the year 06 he resorted to writing articles on general beekeeping techniques to build a base of credibility.
He looks forward to presenting his observations through Beesource. It should not be necessary via this medium to appease editors or their advisors. As a start in telling it like it is, he announces point blank: The mystery of reproductive swarming has been solved.
Walter William Wright
August 24, 1932 – February 6, 2016
When people start looking for a place to live – a home to own – they generally have a good idea what their needs are. And they know their wants – some special things to make it their dream home. The needs and wants are highly variable, even different in different climates. And frequently the needs of a perfect place to live come before considering the wants. However, many homeowners are enthusiastic do-it-yourselfers. After a few weekends a want leads to a new patio. After that perhaps a garden shed. The DIY projects are endless. Build bookshelves, reconfigure a closet, turn a bedroom into an office and perhaps build a beehive.
What do European stock honey bees in search of a home look for? A dry cavity. That is top priority on the need list. (Sometimes it can’t be found.) What about the wants? Well, the preferred size is 40 liters, making a deep Langstroth hive body just right. Close to that size is acceptable. Next, a definite need is a small entrance that can be easily defended. The bees would like the cavity placed not too close to the ground. The bees, industrious do-it-yourselfers, will take care of building their own furniture (comb).
10 Principles truly from another side of beekeeping
I have established mystic contact with the spiritual core of apiculture, and now anything is possible. Some of you old timers might resonate with this statement, but most of you, I’m sure, will not have a clue. Many will be irritated by what you perceive to be my arrogance; but, you have it backwards. It is not arrogance; it is humility. I will attempt to enlighten but without – a technique gleaned from the gurus – giving up any trade secrets. That was a self-deprecating joke. I’m no guru. I view their antics with cynicism. What I am is a beekeeper with forty years experience and the ability to tell you what you’re doing wrong.
Our apicultural forefathers, those great men who defined the principles of modern beekeeping, Langstroth, Dadants, Root . . . why were they so extravagantly successful? The answer is simple: because they didn’t know what they were doing. They made it up, as it were, as they went along. That is the creative principle, and that is the way it works. Once the standards have been set and carved in stone, the pictures and diagrams and procedures etched into the books, we have then models to live up to, and we can’t do it. Everything that comes after primary is secondary, or less. It will never be the same. For us to succeed, we have to become primary. We have to view beekeeping with entirely new eyes, just as our great pioneers did.
The more I studied beekeeping, the less I knew, until, finally, I knew nothing. But, even though I knew nothing, I still had plenty to unlearn. For we can never, and I do mean never, reiterate the ideals of the books, of history. How did Langstroth manage all his colonies without power tools? Especially when he was totally disabled for months and months. How did he do it? Simple again. He was crazy. Crazy people can do phenomenal things. The other side of insanity is genius.
I realized early on that if I followed the rules as written, I would fail. And how could anyone who knows better choose to fail? But it did take me a long time to figure that out. I started out just like everybody else, trying my best to go by the book.
Charles Martin Simon’s Ten Principles of Beekeeping Backwards:
Principle #1: Work with Nature, not against Her.
Principle #2: Profit doesn’t mean a whole heck of a lot if you’re dead.
Our forefathers postulated that bigger bees would make more honey. The bigger the bee, the more nectar and pollen she can carry. The bigger the cell, the more it can hold. And so forth. So they devised a larger worker cell size, and it became the standard.
Principle #3: Dead bees make no honey.
Anatomically bigger bees are metabolically slower bees, more prone to disease and predation. And the diseases did come. The industry standard is a sickly bee.
My encounters with feral bees have instilled in me a greater respect for bees and contempt for the way we usually deal with them.
I knew I was finished with beekeeping as we know it the day I read the publication of the great scientific discovery of the “housekeeping gene” in relation to survivability in regard to Varroa. That was exactly where my suspension of disbelief finally snapped, and I realized our industry is directed by madmen. They have been driven mad by the fear of death and simultaneously compelled irresistibly toward it. Death of our beloved bees. Death of our beloved industry. Death of ourselves.
The Asian bee, the historic host for the mite, the bee that has coexisted with it successfully for a million years, does not usually inhabit enclosures. It hangs out in the open. This leads to the conclusion that when the mite drops off, it falls into the void, which is a good place for it. The immature Asian bee spends less time in the cell, which gives the mite less time to do it’s dirty work. Those are the keys, not the “housekeeping gene , never mind what the “scientists” have to say. But I am not meaning to imply that this “gene” does not exist. I’m questioning its interpretation. Just as I question the interpretation of the “bee dance”. The traditional interpretation of the bee dance is destroyed categorically by the observation of one single factor: The human observer observes from above. The bee dances face to face on a lateral plane. What the bee perceives and what the human perceives are two entirely different things. I grant that the dance occurs. I do not grant that it communicates anything at all. It is a sharing of excitement. The knowledge of where the nectar or whatever is is deeper than that. The colony is a manifestation of generations integrated with the patterns of the environment. There is a great mind at play that humans are generally incapable of comprehending.
Another significant factor in the retardation of Apis melliflera is the chronic abuse perpetrated by the teachings of the art. Colonies left to their own devices have an entirely different consciousness than domesticated varieties. Domestic bees are constantly messed with. A colony is a unified Mind. When it is opened and manipulated, the thought process is jumbled. When it is smoked, it must turn its attention to other things. Stress is good. Stress is bad. It depends on the kind. Exercise is stress. Getting beat up is stress. One event can build self-esteem; the other can destroy it. But the effects are reversible, based on other conditions, the most significant of which being how the subject interprets the experience. There are many variables.
The skill with which one messes with a hive has a great deal to do with the effect the messing is going to have on the future. The master manipulator will do it so that the bees will never even notice anything happening. Indeed, they will proceed with their process as though nothing was happening at all. The quality, quantity, and kind of mentality of the manipulator have everything to do with this. Some beekeepers make bees nervous just by showing up in the proximity of a hive. Woe be unto those keepers and their bees if they light the smokers and crack the hive lids. Beekeeping should be licensed, and I should be the licensing entity. There would be very few beekeepers. Again I need to point out: This is not arrogance, it is humility. For I truly have your best interests and the best interests of the bees at heart.
Principle #4: Don’t fight it.
When I think of all the years I’ve spent fighting ants and all the techniques I’ve employed, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Right now I’ve got naked honey comb and open bowls of honey in my kitchen, and plenty of ants too, but they’re leaving the honey alone. How come? Because I don’t fight them. I feed them. There is a bowl of honey on the counter established for them, where they can come and get all they want. At first they were hitting it heavily, then they lost interest. Apparently, if they can’t have it, they want it. If they can have all they want, they don’t want it.
Principle #5: Beekeeping is not about honey.
Principle #6: It’s not about money.
Principle #7: It’s about survival.
Well, actually, it’s not about survival, since nobody survives. It’s about the quality of life while you’re alive. Do your best to make the bees’ life the best it can be and it will be the best it can be for you. Stop thinking “maximum production”. Substantially less than most is way better than nothing at all. Learn how to leave the bees alone. Benign neglect is the way. Provide them with appropriate cavities. Standard beehives, if they’re right, are acceptable habitations for bees, but don’t use foundation.
In addition to the size consideration, foundation is contaminated. Only the oldest, most used wax gets rendered into foundation. Old wax absorbs and retains contaminants such as pesticide. Go ahead, use frames. Frames do make it easier to perform manipulations. But actually, just the top bars are enough, at least for brood chambers. Further up the hive, you might want complete frames for the definition of the bottom bars, to maintain the space between the top of the frame below and the bottom of the frame above.
I have 15 hives as of this writing (December 2000), after years of having none at this time of year. How did I do It? I don’t know, and that’s the answer. As the years have progressed, I have tried more and more to keep them as close to wild as possible, to not mess with them. I do harvest some honey, pollen, and propolis, but I do it with a leave-alone attitude. I am hoping for their well being. Beyond that I am asking nothing from them, expecting nothing. If they are prospering I add supers. If they make extra honey, I take some. When my combs are crooked and stuck across several frames, I use bee escapes to clear the supers before removing.
I crush the combs and strain them through a system of perforated plastic buckets. I keep quite a few cut combs around to eat au naturel. The wilder, more funky combs may very well be the best.
I’ve been reluctant in recent years to invest money in equipment, because of the Varroa situation. Consequently, I’m using old equipment a normal beekeeper would have thrown out a long time ago – In fact quite a bit of it has been thrown out by normal beekeepers – and I’m liking it better and better the worse it gets.
I’m thinking about running hives without bottoms and up on stands this season, at least during the warm months, and considering designing a bottom board to catch and destroy mites.
Principle #8: Forget everything you ever learned and start observing what is really going on.
In regard to this last principle. One of the first injunctions I received starting out was to keep accurate records. But I realized that accurate records would be obfuscations at best. When you refer to a notebook describing the events of a hive to date, you will not see the hive as it actually is. The level of information that can be cataloged is not vital, has nothing to do with what’s going on with the hive in question, and prevents you from seeing what is.
Furthermore, I have observed that the harder you fight to keep your bees alive, the faster they die. Cut them loose, give them freedom, the freedom to die as well as the freedom to live, and they live better.
This week we will honor a Charles Martin Simon’s birthday with a series of articles written by him or about his beekeeping style. Today, on his birthday, we will start with his biography.
Charles Martin Simon was born on July 8, 1941, at 6 A.M., in Newark, N.J., the first major U.S. city to go bankrupt due to racial strife. 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 lit 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.
This year, 2017, marks the 100th birthday of the North Carolina State Beekeepers Association. The first meeting was held in Winston-Salem. The site was probably chosen as being a large city (for that time) and located centrally in a long state. It also was an important railroad stop. North Carolina stretches 560 miles…
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.
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.
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
Ron is the author of the excellent Bad Beekeeping blog, which has recently been selected by Beesker as “the world’s very best website on bees and beekeeping”. Bad Beekeeping by Ron Miksha – available on Amazon Bad Beekeeping is no ordinary beekeeping book. Instead it’s a memoir of Ron’s time as a commercial beekeeper, spending […]
A Facebook friend’s post this week told how a large honeybee swarm had taken up residence in an empty hive on his property. All on its own! He’d left the hive out all winter, “seasoning it with lemon grass every month,” (rubbing lemon grass into the wood), and the day before saw a scout bee […]
Leave it to a beekeeper to make aviation history. An Ohio entrepreneur/beekeeper named Amos Root was, according to reports, the only person to actually witness the Wright brothers’ airplane flights in 1904 and 1905. And not just witness them, but write about them in a publication he founded called “Gleanings in Bee Culture.”
Root makes an appearance in David McCullough’s “The Wright Brothers” and also in an article on PBS’s Nova site. As the Nova site says, “almost as astonishing as the fact that a pair of bicycle shop owners invented the airplane” is that the first “accurate reporting on their earliest flights appeared” not in The New York Times or Scientific American, but in “an obscure journal for beekeepers.”
Root, a beekeeping hobbyist from his early twenties on, started a company in Medina, Ohio, that made beehives and beekeeping equipment. One of his best inventions was developing removable…
Well, I’d never seen one of these before. There it was outside the walled garden at Attingham Park, one of Shropshire’s grandest historic houses. Closer inspection and the spotting of an information panel inside one of the half-moon ‘windows’ yielded the knowledge that it was in fact the bees knees in accommodation – a grand house commissioned specially for the Second Duke of Berwick’s bees.
The house was originally sited in the Duke’s extensive orchards to encourage the pollination of the fruit trees. Behind each opening there would have been a traditional hive or skep – an upturned, domed basket made from coils of straw. This apian ‘des res’ apparently dates from the early 1800s and is only one of two known Regency examples in the country. The great landscape designer Humphry Repton and architect John Nash were both employed at Attingham around this time, and so either one could be responsible for the design.
The hall and park are in the care of the National Trust, and it is currently one of their most visited properties – over 400,000 visitors last year and growing. Millions have been spent on the house, and the next huge project is the recreation of Lord Berwick’s pleasure grounds. Nor have the bees been forgotten. There are a quarter of a million honey bees in the Park, and the Trust has recently established a large, new apiary in the Deer Park. There is also a National Observation Hive in the orchard where you can watch the bees coming and going. Attingham honey may be going on sale soon. So a big cheer to the National Trust for championing the bee cause, this in the face of determined eradication of the species by the Big Unfriendly Pesticide Giants. We’ll all be very sorry if bees become ‘a thing of the past’.
The walled garden in winter: a restoration project in progress. You can just glimpse the orchard beyond the far wall.
It’s the middle of the night, you’ve driven miles outside of town. You’re a nomad, traveling around the country, staying out of the public eye. Out of sight, out of mind. This is how Dan Wyns (a faculty research assistant and ex-commercial beekeeper) describes the reality of beekeeping: a merging of agriculture and science. “Part farmer, part carpenter, part biologist, part machine operator.” He explains. This image sparks the imagination, but this is not what many people think of when they think beekeeper. This idea is not what has caused an undeniable spike in hobbyist beekeepers in recent years.
Within the last decade, media has latched onto bees, creating a story about the extinction of bees. One fascination is Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, which was spotted around 2006, and quickly made the news. These sudden reports put bees in the spotlight, and this spotlight inspired average people; there’s nothing like a sob story to get people to take interest in an issue, and this interest soon became a trend. Bill Catherall is just one example of someone who was captivated by the news, which was one of the motivations for him to begin beekeeping in 2012. Catherall is now the president of the Portland Urban Beekeepers, an organization that aims to support both honeybees and native bees in the Portland, Oregon area. Catherall is only one of many that can confirm the sudden spike in beekeepers, “Portland beekeeping is exploding, our club almost doubles in size every year. A lot more people are in it to save the bee.” This is where many beekeepers begin: by joining local clubs, and caring for a single hive, of up to 80,000 bees .
There are three types of beekeeper: the hobbyist beekeeper, the semi-commercial beekeeper and the commercial beekeeper. Beekeepers are sorted by size and agenda, not skill level. In fact, there is a wide range of skill levels across all types of beekeeping. Commercial beekeepers keep bees as a job, this is how they make their living. According to Wyns, commercial beekeepers are also the smallest group there are only 2,000 commercial beekeepers, but, they keep thousands of hives and are responsible for about one-third of food production. The hobbyist beekeeper, or the small-scale beekeeper, keep bees as pets in their backyard. They have a small number of hives for personal enjoyment, and nothing else. This is the most common group, and the group that was inspired by the media to take up beekeeping. Semi-commercial or sideliners, fall into the middle and keep several hundred hives. At this level beekeeping is more than just a hobby, often semi-commercial beekeepers do make some money off of their bees, but they do not depend on it.
So, news teams caught wind of the struggles that were being faced primarily by commercial beekeeping , the public read these stories and became worried. This prompted individuals to begin keeping bees, and the pendulum swung upwards. But the media may have deceived us all. Dr. Michael Burgett, professor emeritus and published entomologist disagrees with the media’s claims, pointing out that “The death of large numbers of bees in an area didn’t start in 2006, there have been lots of instances in the past where large numbers of bees have died.” Dr. Burgett also pointed out that Aristotle wrote about the subject of bee die-outs and diseases 2,000 years ago, bringing to light that this is neither a new, nor surprising phenomenon, in his opinion. Bees have always bee important enough to pay attention to, and now is no different.
Overtime beekeeping has become an essential part of human life, even if you do not keep bees yourself, the pollination industry is a $15 billion industry (in 2000) in America alone  it is responsible for 35% of the food that we consume daily . According to Burgett, it’s not a beekeeping industry, its industries: the pollination industry, and the hobbyist industry. Because of the importance, and size of the pollination industry, this is where the news is focusing, but the media does not understand how this industry works. Pollination is done on a contract basis. Farmers hire hives from commercial beekeepers all around the country. Each hive cost about $50, and stays in the crop from 3 weeks to 2 months, depending on the need of the crop. Every year the bees begin their journey in the almonds in California. In late January, about 2 million beehives are shipped from all over America to California for almond pollination. All commercial hives are fed syrup and protein pellets to give them the energy that they need to begin pollination after the winter. After the almonds, bees are driven around the country on palettes to pollinate tree fruits, then blueberries, then vegetable crops, and so on until September, when there is nothing else to pollinate. At this point, the bees are fed more syrup and protein pellets, the hives are inspected, and treated if needed. This is to prepare to the bees for winter, the hives will sit until they are needed for pollination again, and the bees will stay inside the hive to keep warm, and eat reserves.
Because of the reality of commercial pollinators trucking their bees around the country, feeding them syrup, and keeping them from sickness with the use of chemicals, it is easy to see how one could blame the pollination industry for the sudden decline in bees. But this is not the case. While commercial beekeepers are losing more hives by sheer numbers, hobbyist beekeepers lose more hives by percentage. Burgett emphasized how the success of a beekeeper depends on their experience. “Commercial beekeepers cannot afford to lose hives, so they have a higher learning curve.” He says, “I have no worry whatsoever about the extinction of honeybees. I have no worry whatsoever about the extinction of commercial beekeeping. Simply because the need is so great.”
There is a misconception that you can stick a beehive in your backyard, and have honey “on tap.” This is what Catherall first thought when he had the initial idea to begin beekeeping. Then he began doing research, during this time he was fascinated by bee biology, saying, “The honeybee biology is really exciting and interesting, because they are such a weird insect, they behave in ways that we don’t find normal, or natural.” Honey bees are eusocial, meaning that they have a complex social structure. Only a handful of animals share this type of complex hierarchy in their daily lives.
The honey bee hive is run entirely by female bees, which are sorted into subcategories: the queen, and the workers. Each worker has their own role, some collect pollen, some care for the brood (the larval stage in the bee life cycle), some make honey, and so on. Every worker in the hive is controlled by the queen, who emits pheromones which allows the hive to work as a single unit. Her pheromones control the workers mood, and makes the workers unable to reproduce. The queen has one other job: to lay eggs. Without a queen, the hive will slowly die off because the workers have a lifecycle of 2 to 8 weeks, while a queen can live for years. Every bee in the colony is a daughter of the queen bee, and every bee is related to her. Genetic diversity in the hive, and in bees is entirely related to queen bees.
In 1621 the European honey bee was brought to the colonies in Virginia by settlers to aid with food production. In Europe the honey bee was already an important part of the economy . This was the beginning of the genetic diversity bottleneck. Because the European honey bee is not native, and the only means of getting honey bees to the New World was by boat, not many hives were brought over. By 1856 bees were in every part of the United States . Soon after, the importation of honey bees into America was banned. The millions of beehives that are in America today are products of the hives initially brought over from Europe.
When a queen bee is created she must go and breed with male bees or drones in order to birth workers. The queen leaves the hive once in her life, and mates with many drones as she can store the sperm for later use . After, she returns to the hive and begins to lay eggs. Unfortunately, most queen bees are only at their prime for the first year or two, then they begin to lay less eggs; for this reason, many commercial beekeepers will “re-queen” the hive yearly. To do this, they buy a new, already mated queen from a supplier, and squish the old queen. This may sound harsh, but a hive cannot have two queens, because the bees are loyal to their queen, they will kill any new queen that enters. Next, the new queen is added to the hive in a cage, and the bees get used to her scent, and will accept her. They will only accept her if the old queen is gone, the new queen is then released into the hive to live her life for the next year.
Commercial beekeepers rarely breed queens, this is often done by an outside company. There are several problems with queen breeding that is leading to a problem in genetic diversity. Firstly, in the wild, a queen bee will lay 2 to 3 eggs that will become queens, but a breeder will create up to 5,000 queens from one mother bee. Catherall puts the largest problem best, “The genetics that are found in the breeders are very tight, there are about four or five different mothers, and that’s all. But in the wild, feral populations, there is a lot more diversity, in fact the genetics in the wild populations are different than the ones in the commercial population; showing that they are not interbreeding.” Because all of the genetics in bees are so close, commercial beekeepers could easily run into problems. Should a disease come to your hive, your bees genetics are so similar, that one thing could easily wipe out your business.Genetic diversity is the key to the survival of the species, and more genetics lead to stronger, healthier hives now and in the future . Genetically diverse colonies are stronger foragers, thus creating more food storage for the winter, and the ability to grow their populations, and swarm faster and more easily . Genetic diversity also leads to a boost in fitness, and thus higher survival rates for over-wintering. The more people keep bees, the more opportunity there is for genetic diversity, luckily, bees can be kept in almost every space imaginable.
In 2014, about 1,500 people kept bees in the city of London. Camilla Goddard was one of the first, she began beekeeping in the city around 2005. The beginning was rocky, as she struggled to find place where her bees would not be disturbed. But when beekeeping became fashionable, the city of London was just one city that embraced the trend, and began keeping bees within it’s walls . Wyns says, “It is definitely possible, in a lot of ways urban bees potentially can do a lot better than bees in agriculture. Because of the diversity, everybody has their flowers and vegetables, even in real true urban areas, inevitably there are flowers and trees in city parks, and people have their verandas with a couple plants on it.” Because bees can fly several miles away from the hive, they will find the flowers. Not only are there many of diverse forage opportunities, but there are also less pesticides used in urban areas due to the close proximity to humans, and the lack of a monoculture.
“It’s in that vein of self-sustainability, grow your own food. It all fits together.” Says Wyns, who believes that monocultures, and big agricultural farming is a big cause of the current struggles that honey bees are facing. The pollination of urban areas is the opposite of monoculture.
Beekeepers agree that the current public interest in bees is a good thing. The more people who keep bees, the greater the opportunity that bees will outlive these problems . Hobbyists become very attached and protective of their bees, which is one way that this will help the bee population . Even if you’re not a beekeeper yourself, education and awareness is the key. People who begin beekeeping pay attention to the bees by planting more bee friendly flowers, and avoiding pesticides in their own gardens. There is no argument that European honey bees are facing more challenges than ever, but with the spotlight on bees, “the future looks rosy to tell the truth” says Burgett. There is more research, more interest, and more information about bees than ever before.
Wyns paints a picture of the future, saying, “It’s pretty cool to be standing on the rooftop of some giant building in the middle of a metropolitan area looking at the skyline playing with bees. I think that there’s potential there.”
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2. Chadwick, Kristi. “McFarland, Rob & Chelsea McFarland. Save the Bees with Natural Backyard Hives: The Easy and Treatment-Free Way To Attract and Keep Healthy Bees.” Library Journal 1 Jan. 2016: 123. Academic OneFile. Web. 2 May 2016.
3. Genersch, Elke. “Honey Bee Pathology: Current Threats to Honey Bees and Beekeeping.” Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology 87 (2010): 87-97. Web.
4. Mattila, Heather R., and Thomas D. Seeley. “Genetic Diversity in Honey Bee Colonies Enhances Productivity and Fitness.” Science 317.3836 (2007): 362-64.
5. Sammataro, Diana, and Jay Yoder. Honey Bee Colony Health: Challenges and Sustainable Solutions. Boca Raton, FL: CRC, 2012. Print.
6. Shimanuki, H. “Beekeeping.” Dictionary of American History. Ed. Stanley I. Kutler. 3rd ed. Vol. 1. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003. 436. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 1 May 2016.
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Catherall, Bill. Interview. 14 May. 2016.
Burgett, Dr. Michael. Phone Interview. 18 May. 2016.
He was known to have enjoyed beekeeping all his life. In 1981, Mr. Aebi told the Santa Cruz Sentinel he knew his bees so well that, when out driving, his father would say, ” “Ormond, isn’t that one of our bees?,” and I’ll say, “No, I don’t think so,” or “Yep, sure is.”
Ormond told me a curious story that day though, which I’ll retell just as he told it to me. Ormond was a character with very strong beliefs, beliefs that I don’t happen to share, but he was earnest and sincere and his beliefs do make for a good story. So here it is.
He said that Jesus came to him in a dream one night and told him that if he wanted to increase the productivity of his hives that he should attach a wire to the queen excluders of his hives. Jesus was very specific about the length of the wire and Ormond carefully complied with Jesus’ instructions.
For those who don’t know, the queen excluder is a series of parallel wires placed closely together in a bee hive. It sits between the lower brood boxes and the upper supers, the boxes where the honey is stored. It functions to keep the queen from laying eggs in the boxes that contain the honey in them. She’s too big to fit between the wires, but the worker bees can still come and go unimpeded.
So Ormond attaches the precisely measured wires to the queen excluders and waits. Sure enough, just as Jesus promised in the dream, the productivity of the hives increases significantly.
Ormond is a religious man, and so he doesn’t think it is too surprising that Jesus’ advice worked. He mentions his experience to his beekeeping friends, and word eventually reaches the biology department of Stanford University.
Stanford University finds it surprising, very surprising. They come to his home in Santa Cruz to investigate.
What the scientists eventually conclude is that somehow the wires that Ormond attached to his hives were acting as antennae, turning the hives into natural radios and piping in the local classical music radio station to the hives. The bees loved it. (KSCO AM 1080, if you’re curious, it is now a right-wing talk radio station. I wonder what effect Rush Limbaugh would have on honey production.)
In his later years he was diagnosed with Diabetes, which did not seem to affect his health, but did contribute to his decision not to continue beekeeping when his swarms were destroyed by varroa mites. He worked as a part-time handyman at a daycare next door to his home for the last several years of his life, and continued to write to friends he made worldwide due to his books.