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1. Preface | 2. Advertisement | 3. Introduction | 4. Tamed or Domesticated | 5. Queen Drones Workers | 6. Comb | 7. Propolis | 8. Pollen | 9. Advantages improved hive | 10. Protection Temperature | 11. Ventilation | 12. Swarming Natural | 13. Swarming Artificial | 14. Enemies and Diseases | 15. Loss of the Queen | 16. Union Transferring Starting up | 17. Robbing | 18. Feeding | 19. Pasturage | 20. Anger Sting Dress Instincts | 21. Pictures | Online Books Home | Admin

14. Enemies and Diseases



Of all the numerous enemies of the honey-bee, the Bee-Moth (Tinea
mellonella,) in climates of hot Summers, is by far, the most to be
dreaded. So wide spread and fatal have been its ravages in this country,
that thousands have abandoned the cultivation of bees in despair, and in
districts which once produced abundant supplies of the purest honey,
bee-keeping has gradually dwindled down into a very insignificant
pursuit. Contrivances almost without number, have been devised, to
defend the bees against this invidious foe, but still it continues its
desolating inroads, almost unchecked, laughing as it were to scorn, at
all the so-called "moth-proof" hives, and turning many of the ingenious
fixtures designed to entrap or exclude it, into actual aids and comforts
in its nefarious designs.

I should feel but little confidence in being able to reinstate
bee-keeping in our country, into a certain and profitable pursuit, if I
could not show the Apiarian in what way he can safely bid defiance to
the pestiferous assaults of this, his most implacable enemy. I have
patiently studied its habits for years, and I am at length able to
announce a system of management founded upon the peculiar construction
of my hives, which will enable the careful bee-keeper to protect his
colonies against the monster. The CAREFUL bee-keeper, I say: for to
pretend that the careless one, can by any contrivance effect this, is "a
snare and a delusion;" and no well-informed man, unless he is steeped to
the very lips, in fraud and imposture, will ever claim to accomplish any
thing of the kind. The bee-moth infects our Apiaries, just as weeds take
possession of a fertile soil; and the negligent bee-keeper will find a
"moth-proof" hive, when the sluggard finds a _weed-proof_ soil, and I
suspect not until a consummation so devoutly wished for by the slothful
has arrived. Before explaining the means upon which I rely, to
circumvent the moth, I will first give a brief description of its

Swammerdam, towards the close of the 17th century, gave a very accurate
description of this insect, which was then called by the very expressive
name of the "bee-wolf." He has furnished good drawings of it, in all its
changes, from the worm to the perfect moth, together with the peculiar
webs or galleries which it constructs and from which the name of Tinea
Galleria or gallery moth, has been given to it by some entomologists. He
failed, however, to discriminate between the male and female, which,
because they differ so much in size and appearance, he supposed to be
two different species of the wax-moth. It seems to have been a great
pest in his time; and even Virgil speaks of the "dirum tineŠ genus," the
dreadful _offspring_ of the moth; that is the worm. This destroyer
usually makes its appearance about the hives, in April or May; the time
of its coming, depending upon the warmth of the climate, or the
forwardness of the season. It is seldom seen on the wing, (unless
startled from its lurking place about the hive,) until towards dark, and
is evidently, chiefly nocturnal in its habits. In dark cloudy days,
however, I have noticed it on the wing long before sunset, and if
several such days follow in succession, the female oppressed with the
urgent necessity of laying her eggs, may be seen endeavoring to gain
admission to the hives. The female is much larger than the male, and
"her color is deeper and more inclining to a darkish gray, with small
spots or blackish streaks on the interior edge of her upper wings." The
color of the male inclines more to a light gray; they might easily be
mistaken for different species of moths. These insects are surprisingly
agile, both on foot and on the wing. The motions of a bee are very slow
in comparison. "They are," says Reaumur, "the most nimble-footed
creatures that I know." "If the approach to the Apiary[21] be observed
of a moonlight evening, the moths will be found flying or running round
the hives, watching an opportunity to enter, whilst the bees that have
to guard the entrances against their intrusion, will be seen acting as
vigilant sentinels, performing continual rounds near this important
post, extending their antennŠ to the utmost, and moving them to the
right and left alternately. Woe to the unfortunate moth that comes
within their reach!" "It is curious," says Huber, "to observe how
artfully the moth knows how to profit, to the disadvantage of the bees,
which require much light for seeing objects; and the precautions taken
by the latter in reconnoitering and expelling so dangerous an enemy."

The entrance of the moth into a hive, and the ravages committed by her
progeny, forcibly remind one of the sad havoc which sin often makes of
character and happiness, when it finds admission into the human heart,
and is allowed to prey unchecked, upon all its most precious treasures;
and he who would not be so enslaved by its power, as to lose all his
spiritual life and prosperity, must be constantly on the defensive, and
ever on the "watch" against its fatal intrusions.

Only some tiny eggs are deposited by the moth, and they give birth to a
very delicate, innocent-looking worm; but let these apparently
insignificant creatures once "get the upper hand," and all the fragrance
of the honied dome, is soon corrupted by their abominable stench; every
thing beautiful and useful, is ruthlessly destroyed; the hum of happy
industry is stilled, and at last, nothing is left in the desecrated
hive, but a set of ravenous, half famished worms, knotting and writhing
around each other, in most loathsome convolutions.

Wax is the proper aliment of the larvŠ of the bee-moth: and upon this
seemingly indigestible substance, they thrive and fatten. When obliged
to steal their living as best they can, among a powerful stock of bees,
they are exposed, during their growth, to many perils, and seldom fare
well enough to reach their natural size: but if they are rioting at
pleasure, among the full combs of a feeble and discouraged population,
they often attain a size and corpulency truly astonishing. If the
bee-keeper wishes to see their innate capabilities fully developed, let
him rear a lot for himself among some old combs, and if prizes were
offered for fat and full grown worms, he might easily obtain one. In the
course of a few weeks, the larva like that of the silk-worm, stops
eating, and begins to think of a suitable place for encasing itself in
its silky shroud. In hives where they reign uncontrolled, this is a work
of but little difficulty; almost any place will answer their purpose,
and they often pile their cocoons, one on top of another, or join them
in long rows together: but in hives strongly guarded by healthy bees,
this is a matter not very easily accomplished; and many a worm while it
is cautiously prying about, to see where it can find some snug place in
which to ensconce itself, is caught by the nape of the neck, and very
unceremoniously served with an instant writ of ejection from the hive.
If a hive is thoroughly made, of sound materials, and has no cracks or
crevices under which the worm can retreat, it is obliged to leave the
interior in search of such a place, and it runs a most dangerous
gantlet, as it passes, for this purpose, through the ranks of its
enraged foes. Even in the worm state, however, its motions are
exceedingly quick; it can crawl backwards or forwards, and as well one
way as another: it can twist round on itself, curl up almost into a
knot, and flatten itself out like a pancake! in short, it is full of
stratagems and cunning devices. If obliged to leave the hive, it gets
under any board or concealed crack, spins its cocoon, and patiently
awaits its transformation. In most of the common hives, it is under no
necessity of leaving its birth place for this purpose. It is almost
certain to find a crack or flaw into which it can creep, or a small
space between the bottom-board and the edges of the hive which rest upon
it. A _very_ small crevice will answer all its purposes. It enters, by
flattening itself out almost as much as though it had been passed under
a roller, and as soon as it is safe from the bees, it speedily begins to
give its cramped tenement, the requisite proportions. It is utterly
amazing how an insect apparently so feeble, can do this; but it will
often gnaw for itself a cavity, even in solid wood, and thus enlarge its
retreat, until it has ample room for making its cocoon! The time when it
will break forth into a winged insect, depends entirely upon the degree
of heat to which it is exposed. I have had them spin their cocoons and
hatch in a temperature of about 70░, in ten or eleven days, and I have
known them to spin so late in the Fall, that they remained all Winter,
undeveloped, and did not emerge until the warm weather of the ensuing

If they are hatched in the hive, they leave it, in order to attend to
the business of impregnation. In the moth state, they do not actually
attack the hives, to plunder them of food, although they have a "sweet
tooth" in their head, and are easily attracted by the odor of liquid
sweets. The male, having no special business in the hive, usually keeps
himself at a safe distance from the bees: but the female, impelled by an
irresistible instinct, seeks admission, in order to deposit her eggs
where her offspring may gain the readiest access to their natural food.
She carefully explores all the cracks and crevices about the
bottom-board, and if she finds a suitable place under them, lays her
eggs among the parings of the combs, and other refuse matter which has
fallen from the hive. If she enters a feeble or discouraged stock, where
she can act her own pleasure, she will lay her eggs among the combs. In
a hive where she is too closely watched to effect this, she will insert
them in the corners, into the soft propolis, or in any place where there
are small pieces of wax and bee-bread, which have fallen upon the
bottom-board, and which will furnish a temporary place of concealment
for her progeny, and also the requisite nourishment, until they have
strength and enterprise enough to reach the main combs of the hive, and
fortify themselves there. "As soon as hatched,[22] the worm encloses
itself in a case of white silk, which it spins around its body; at first
it is like a mere thread, but gradually increases in size, and during
its growth, feeds upon the cells around it, for which purpose it has
only to put forth its head, and find its wants supplied. It devours its
food with great avidity, and consequently increases so much in bulk,
that its gallery soon becomes too short and narrow, and the creature is
obliged to thrust itself forward and lengthen the gallery, as well to
obtain more room as to procure an additional supply of food. Its
augmented size exposing it to attacks from surrounding foes, the wary
insect fortifies its new abode with additional strength and thickness,
by blending with the filaments of its silken covering, a mixture of wax
and its own excrement, for the external barrier of a new gallery, the
_interior_ and partitions of which are lined with a smooth surface of
white silk, which admits the occasional movements of the insect, without
injury to its delicate (?) texture. In performing these operations, the
insect might be expected to meet with opposition from the bees, and to
be gradually rendered more assailable as it advanced in age. It never,
however, exposes any part but its head and neck, both of which are
covered with stout helmets or scales impenetrable to the sting of a bee,
as is the composition of the galleries that surround it." As soon as it
has reached its full growth, it seeks in the manner previously
described, a secure place for undergoing its changes into a winged

Before describing the way in which I protect my hives from this deadly
pest, I shall first show why the bee-moth has so wonderfully increased
in numbers in this country, and how the use of patent hives has so
powerfully contributed to encourage its ravages. It ought to be borne in
mind that our climate is altogether more propitious to its rapid
increase, than that of Great Britain. Our intensely hot summers develop
most rapidly and powerfully, insect life, and those parts of our country
where the heat is most protracted and intense, have, as a general thing,
suffered most from the devastations of the bee-moth.

The bee is not a native of the American continent; it was first brought
here by colonists from Great Britain, and was called by the Indians, the
white man's fly. With the bee, was introduced its natural enemy,
created for the special purpose, not of destroying the insect, on whose
industry it thrives, and whose extermination would be fatal to the moth
itself, but that it might gain its livelihood as best it could in this
busy world. Finding itself in a country whose climate is exceedingly
propitious to its rapid increase, it has multiplied and increased a
thousand fold, until now there is hardly a spot where the bees inhabit,
which is not infested by its powerful enemy.

I have often listened to the glowing accounts of the vast supplies of
honey obtained by the first settlers, from their bees. Fifty years ago,
the markets in our large cities were much more abundantly supplied than
they now are, and it was no uncommon thing to see exposed for sale,
large washing-tubs filled with the most beautiful honey. Various reasons
have been assigned for the present depressed state of Apiarian pursuits.
Some imagine that newly settled countries are most favorable for the
labors of the bee: others, that we have overstocked our farms, so that
the bees cannot find a sufficient supply of food. That neither of these
reasons will account for the change, I shall prove more at length, in my
remarks on Honey, and when I discuss the question of overstocking a
district with bees. Others lay all the blame upon the bee-moth, and
others still, upon our departure from the good old-fashioned way of
managing bees. That the bee-moth has multiplied most astonishingly, is
undoubtedly true. In many districts, it so superabounds, that the man
who should expect to manage his bees with as little care as his father
and grandfather bestowed upon them, and yet realize as large profits,
would find himself most wofully mistaken. The old bee-keeper often never
looked at his bees after the swarming season, until the time came for
appropriating their spoils. He then carefully "hefted" all his hives so
as to be able to judge as well as he could, how much honey they
contained. All which were found to be too light to survive the Winter,
he at once condemned; and if any were deficient in bees, or for any
other reason, appeared to be of doubtful promise, they were, in like
manner, sentenced to the sulphur pit. A certain number of those
containing the largest supplies of honey, were also treated in the same
summary way: while the requisite number of the _very best_, were
reserved to replenish his stock another season. If the same system
precisely, were now followed, a number of colonies would still perish
annually, through the increased devastations of the moth.

The change which has taken place in the circumstances of the bee-keeper,
may be illustrated by supposing that when the country was first settled,
weeds were almost unknown. The farmer plants his corn, and then lets it
alone, and as there are no weeds to molest it, at the end of the season
he harvests a fair crop. Suppose, however, that in process of time, the
weeds begin to spread more and more, until at last, this farmer's son or
grandson finds that they entirely choke his corn, and that he cannot, in
the old way, obtain a remunerating crop. Now listen to him, as he
gravely informs you that he cannot tell how it is, but corn with him has
all "run out." He manages it precisely as his father or grandfather
always managed theirs, but somehow the pestiferous weeds will spring up,
and he has next to no crop. Perhaps you can hardly conceive of such
transparent ignorance and stupidity; but it would be difficult to show
that it would be one whit greater than that of a large number who keep
bees in places where the bee-moth abounds, and who yet imagine that
those plans which answered perfectly well fifty or a hundred years ago,
when moths were scarce, will answer just as well now.

If however, the old plan had been rigidly adhered to, the ravages of the
bee-moth would never have been so great as they now are. The
introduction of _patent hives_ has contributed most powerfully, to fill
the land with the devouring pest. I am perfectly aware that this is a
bold assertion, and that it may, at first sight, appear to be very
uncourteous, if not unjust, to the many intelligent and ingenious
Apiarians, who have devoted much time, and spent large sums of money, in
perfecting hives designed to enable the bee-keeper to contend most
successfully against his worst enemy. As I do not wish to treat such
persons with even the appearance of disrespect, I shall endeavor to show
just how the use of the hives which they have devised, has contributed
to undermine the prosperity of the bees. Many of these hives have
valuable properties, and if they were always used in strict accordance
with the enlightened directions of those who have invented them, they
would undoubtedly be real and substantial improvements over the old box
or straw hive, and would greatly aid the bee-keeper in his contest with
the moth. The great difficulty is that they are none of them, able to
give him the facilities which alone can make him victorious. No hive, as
I shall soon show, can ever do this, which does not give the complete
and easy control of all the combs.

I do not know of a single improved hive which does not aim at entirely
doing away with the old-fashioned plan of killing the bees. Such a
practice is denounced as being almost as cruel and silly as to kill a
hen for the sake of obtaining her feathers or a few of her eggs. Now if
the Apiarian can be furnished with suitable instructions, and such as he
will _practice_, for managing his bees so as to avoid this necessity,
then I admit the full force of all the objections which have been urged
against it. I have never read the beautiful verses of the poet
Thompson, without feeling all their force:

"Ah, see, where robbed and murdered in that pit
Lies the still heaving hive! at evening snatched,
Beneath the cloud of guilt-concealing night,
And fixed o'er sulphur! while, not dreaming ill,
The happy people, in their waxen cells,
Sat tending public cares;
Sudden, the dark oppressive steam ascends,
And, used to milder scents, the tender race,
By thousands, tumble from their honied dome!
Into a gulf of blue sulphureous flame."

The plain matter of fact however, is, that in our country, as many bees,
if not more, die of starvation in their hives, as ever were killed by
the fumes of sulphur. Commend me rather to the humanity of the
old-fashioned bee-keeper, who put to a speedy and therefore merciful
death, the poor bees which are now, by millions, tortured by slow
starvation among their empty combs! At the present time, (April 1853,) I
am almost daily hearing of swarms which have perished in this way,
during the last Winter; and I know of only one person who was merciful
enough to kill his weak stocks, rather than suffer them to die so cruel
a death.

If the use of the common patent hives could only keep the stocks strong
in numbers, and if the bee-keepers would always see that they were well
supplied with honey, then I admit that to kill the bees would be both
cruel and unnecessary. Such however, are the discouragements and losses
necessarily attending the use of any hive which does not give the
control of the combs, that there will be few who do not continually find
that some of their stocks are too feeble to be worth the labor and
expense of attempting to preserve them over Winter. How many colonies
are annually wintered, which are not only of no value to their owner,
but are positive nuisances in his Apiary; being so feeble in the Spring,
that they are speedily overcome by the moth, and answer only to breed a
horde of destroyers to ravage the rest of his Apiary. The time spent
upon them is often as absolutely wasted, as the time devoted to a sick
animal incurably diseased, and which can never be of any service, while
by nursing it along, its owner incurs the risk of infecting his whole
stock with its deadly taint. If, on the score of kindness, he should
shut it up, and let it starve to death, few of us, I imagine, would care
to cultivate a very intimate acquaintance with one so extremely original
in the exhibition of his humanity!

Ever since the introduction of patent hives, the notion has almost
universally prevailed, that stocks must not, under _any_ circumstances,
be voluntarily broken up; and hence, instead of Apiaries, filled in the
Spring, with strong and healthy stocks of bees, easily able to protect
themselves against the bee-moth, and all other enemies, we have
multitudes of colonies which, if they had been kept on purpose to
furnish food for the worms, could scarcely have answered a more valuable
end in encouraging their increase. The simple truth is, that improved
hives, without an improved system of management, have done on the whole
more harm than good; in no country have they been so extensively used as
in our own, and no where has the moth so completely gained the
ascendency. Just so far as they have discouraged bee-keepers from the
old plan of killing off all their weak swarms in the Fall, just so far
have they extended "aid and comfort" to the moth, and made the condition
of the bee-keeper worse than it was before. That some of them might be
managed so as in all ordinary cases, to give the bees complete
protection against their scourge, I do not, for a moment, question; but
that they cannot, from the very nature of the case, answer fully in all
emergencies, the ends for which they were designed, I shall endeavor to
prove and not to assert.

The kind of hives of which I have been speaking, are such as have been
devised by intelligent and honest men, practically acquainted with the
management of bees: as for many of the hives which have been introduced,
they not only afford the Apiarian no assistance against the inroads of
the bee-moth, but they are so constructed as positively to aid it in its
nefarious designs. The more they are used, the worse the poor bees are
off: just as the more a man uses the lying nostrums of the brazen-faced
quack, the further he finds himself from health and vigor.

I once met with an intelligent man who told me that he had paid a
considerable sum, to a person who professed to be in possession of many
valuable _secrets_ in the management of bees, and who promised, among
other things, to impart to him an infallible remedy against the
bee-moth. On the receipt of the money, he very gravely told him that the
secret of keeping the moth out of the hive, was to keep the bees strong
and vigorous! A truer declaration he could not have made, but I believe
that the bee-keeper felt, notwithstanding, that he had been imposed
upon, as outrageously, as a poor man would be, who after paying a quack
a large sum of money for an infallible, life-preserving secret, should
be turned off with the truism that the secret of living forever, was to
keep well!

There is not an intelligent, observing Apiarian who has been in the
habit of carefully examining the operations of bees, not only in his own
Apiary, but wherever he could find them, who has not seen strong stocks
flourishing under almost any conceivable circumstances. They may be seen
in hives of the most miserable construction, unpainted and unprotected,
sometimes with large open cracks and clefts extending down their sides,
and yet laughing to defiance, the bee-moth, and all other adverse

Almost any thing hollow, in which the bees can establish themselves, and
where they have once succeeded in becoming strong, will often be
successfully tenanted by them for a series of years. To see such hives,
as they sometimes may be seen, in possession of persons both ignorant
and careless, and who hardly know a bee-moth from any other kind of
moth, may at first sight well shake the confidence of the inquirer, in
the necessity or value of any particular precautions to preserve his
hives from the devastations of the moth.

After looking at these powerful stocks in what may be called log-cabin
hives, let us examine some in the most costly hives, which have ever
been constructed; in what have been called real "Bee-Palaces;" and we
shall often find them weak and impoverished, infested and almost
devoured by the worms. Their owner, with books in his hand, and all the
newest devices and appliances in the Apiarian line, unable to protect
his bees against their enemies, or to account for the reason why some
hives seem, like the children of the poor, almost to thrive upon
ill-treatment and neglect, while others, like the offspring of the rich
and powerful, are feeble and diseased, almost in exact proportion to the
means used to guard them against noxious influences, and to minister
most lavishly to all their wants.

I once used to be much surprised to hear so many bee-keepers speak of
having "good luck," or "bad luck" with their bees; but really as bees
are generally managed, success or failure does seem to depend almost
entirely upon what the ignorant or superstitious are wont to call

I shall now try to do what I have never yet seen satisfactorily done by
any writer on bees; viz.: show exactly under what circumstances the
bee-moth succeeds in establishing itself in a hive; thus explaining why
some stocks flourish in spite of all neglect, while others, in the
common hives, fall a prey to the moth, let their owner be as careful as
he will, I shall finally show how in suitable hives, with proper
precautions, it may always be kept from seriously annoying the bees.

It often happens, when a large number of stocks are kept, that in spite
of all precautions, some of them are found in the Spring, so greatly
reduced in numbers, that if left to themselves, they are in danger of
falling a prey to the devouring moth. Bees, when in feeble colonies,
seem often to lose a portion of their wonted vigilance, and as they have
a large quantity of empty comb which they cannot guard, even if they
would, the moth enters the hive, and deposits a large number of eggs,
and thus before the bees have become sufficiently numerous to protect
themselves, the combs are filled with worms, and the destruction of the
colony speedily follows. The ignorant or careless bee-keeper is informed
of the ravages which are going on in such a hive, only when its ruin is
fully completed, and a cloud of winged pests issues from it, to destroy
if they can, the rest of his stocks. But how, it may be asked, can it be
ascertained that a hive is seriously infested with the all-devouring
worms? The aspect of the bees, so discouraged and forlorn, proclaims at
once that there is trouble of some kind within. If the hive be slightly
elevated, the bottom-board will be found covered with pieces of
bee-bread, &c. mixed with the _excrement of the worms_ which looks
almost exactly like fine grains of powder. As the bees in Spring, clean
out their combs, and prepare the cells for the reception of brood, their
bottom-board will often be so covered with parings of comb and with
small pieces of bee-bread, that the hive may appear to be in danger of
being destroyed by the worms. If, however, none of the _black_ excrement
is perceived, the refuse on the bottom-board, like the shavings in a
carpenter's shop, are proofs of industry and not the signs of
approaching ruin. It is highly important, however, to keep the
bottom-boards clean, and if a piece of zinc be slipt in, (or even an old
newspaper,) by removing and cleansing it from time to time, the bees
will be greatly assisted in their operations. As soon as the hive is
well filled with bees, this need no longer be done.

Even the most careful and experienced Apiarian will find, too often,
that although he is perfectly well aware of the plague that is reigning
within, his knowledge can be turned to no good account, the interior of
the hive being almost as inaccessible as the interior of the human body.
The way in which I manage, in such cases, is as follows.

Having ascertained, in the Spring, as soon as the bees begin to fly out,
that a colony although feeble, has a fertile queen, I take the
precaution at once to give it the strength which is indispensable, not
merely to its safety, but to its ability for any kind of successful

As a certain number of bees are needed in a hive, in order as well to
warm and hatch the thousands of eggs which a healthy queen can lay, as
to feed and properly develop the larvŠ after they are hatched, I know
that a feeble colony must remain feeble for a long time, unless they can
at once be supplied with a considerable accession of numbers. Even if
there were no moths in existence to trouble such a hive, it would not be
able to rear a large number of bees, until after the best of the
honey-harvest had passed away: and then it would become powerful only
that its increasing numbers might devour the food which the others had
previously stored in the cells. If the small colony has a considerable
number of bees, and is able to cover and warm at least one comb in
addition to those containing brood which they already have, I take from
one of my strong stocks, a frame containing some three or four thousand
or more young bees, which are sealed over in their cells, and are just
ready to emerge. These bees which require no food, and need nothing but
warmth to develop them, will, in a few days, hatch in the new hive to
which they are given, and thus the requisite number of workers, in the
full vigor and energy of youth, will be furnished to the hive, and the
discouraged queen, finding at once a suitable number of experienced
nurses[23] to take charge of her eggs, deposits them in the proper
cells, instead of simply extruding them, to be devoured by the bees.
While bees often attack full grown strangers which are introduced into
their hive, they never fail to receive gladly all the brood comb that we
choose to give them. If they are sufficiently numerous, they will always
cherish it, and in warm weather, they will protect it, even if it is
laid against the outside of their hive! If the bees in the weak stock,
are too much reduced in numbers, to be able to cover the brood comb
taken from another hive, I give them this comb with all the old bees
that are clustered upon it, and shut up the hive, after supplying them
with water, until two or three days have passed away. By this time, most
of the strange bees will have formed an inviolable attachment to their
new home, and even if a portion of them should return to the parent
hive, a large number of the maturing young will have hatched, to supply
their desertion. A little sugar-water scented with peppermint, may be
used to sprinkle the bees, at the time that the comb is introduced,
although I have never yet found that they had the least disposition, to
quarrel with each other. The original settlers are only too glad to
receive such a valuable accession to their scanty numbers, and the
expatriated bees are too-much confounded with their unexpected
emigration, to feel any desire for making a disturbance. If a sufficient
increase of numbers has not been furnished by one range of comb, the
operation may, in the course of a few days, be repeated. Instead of
leaving the colony to the discouraging feeling that they are in a large,
empty and desolate house, a divider should be run down into the hive,
and they should be confined to a space which they are able to warm and
defend, and the rest of the hive, until they need its additional room,
should be carefully shut up against all intruders. If this operation is
judiciously performed, the bees will be powerful in numbers, long before
the weather is warm enough to develop the bee-moth, and they will thus
be most effectually protected from the hateful pest.

A very simple change in the organization of the bee-moth would have
rendered it almost if not quite impossible to protect the bees from its
ravages. If it had been so constituted as to require but a very small
amount of heat for its full development, it would have become very
numerous early in the Spring, and might then have easily entered the
hives and deposited its eggs among the combs, without any let or
hindrance; for at this season, not only do the bees at night maintain no
guard at the entrance of their hive, but there are large portions of
their comb bare of bees, and of course, entirely unprotected. How does
every fact in the history of the bee, when properly investigated, point
with unerring certainty to the power, wisdom and goodness, of Him who
made it!

If there is reason to apprehend that the combs which are not occupied
with brood, contain any of the eggs of the moth, these combs may be
removed, and thoroughly smoked with the fumes of burning sulphur; and
then, in a few days, after they have been exposed to the fresh air, they
may be returned to the hive. I hope I may be pardoned for feeling not
the slightest pity for the unfortunate progeny of the moth, thus
unceremoniously destroyed.

Bees, as is well known to every experienced bee-keeper, frequently swarm
so often as to expose themselves to great danger of being destroyed by
the moth. After the departure of the after-swarms, the parent colony
often contains too few bees to cover and protect their combs from the
insidious attacks of their wily enemy. As a number of weeks must elapse
before the brood of the young queen is mature, the colony, for a
considerable time, at the season when the moths are very numerous, are
constantly diminishing in numbers, and before they can begin to
replenish the exhausted hive, the destroyer has made a fatal lodgment.

In my hives, such calamities are easily prevented. If artificial
increase is relied upon for the multiplication of colonies, it can be so
conducted as to give the moth next to no chance to fortify itself in the
hive. No colony is ever allowed to have more room than it needs, or more
combs than it can cover and protect; and the entrance to the hive may be
contracted, if necessary, so that only a single bee can go in and out,
at a time, and yet the bees will have, from the ventilators, as much air
as they require.

If natural swarming is allowed, after-swarms may be prevented from
issuing, by cutting out all the queen cells but one, soon after the
first swarm leaves the hive; or if it is desired to have as fast an
increase of stocks, as can possibly be obtained from natural swarming,
then instead of leaving the combs in the parent hive to be attacked by
the moth, a certain portion of them may be taken out, when swarming is
over, and given to the second and third swarms, so as to aid in building
them up into strong stocks.

But I have not yet spoken of the most fruitful cause of the desolating
ravages of the bee-moth. If a colony has _lost its queen_, and this loss
cannot be supplied, it must, as a matter of course, fall a sacrifice to
the bee-moth: and I do not hesitate to assert that by far the larger
proportion of colonies which are destroyed by it, are destroyed under
precisely such circumstances! Let this be remembered by all who have any
thing to do with bees, and let them understand that unless a remedy for
the loss of the queen, can be provided, they must constantly expect to
see some of their best colonies hopelessly ruined. The crafty moth,
after all, is not so much to blame, as we are apt to imagine; for a
colony, once deprived of its queen, and possessing no means of securing
another, would certainly perish, even if never attacked by so deadly an
enemy; just as the body of an animal, when deprived of life, will
speedily go to decay, even if it is not, at once, devoured by ravenous
swarms of filthy flies and worms.

In order to ascertain all the important points connected with the habits
of the bee-moth, I have purposely deprived colonies in some of my
observing hives, of their queen, and have thus reduced them to a state
of despair, that I might closely watch all their proceedings. I have
invariably found that in this state, they have made little or no
resistance to the entrance of the bee-moth, but have allowed her to
deposit her eggs, just where she pleased. The worms, after hatching,
have always appeared to be even more at home than the poor dispirited
bees themselves, and have grown and thrived, in the most luxurious
manner. In some instances, these colonies, so far from losing all spirit
to resent other intrusions, were positively the most vindictive set of
bees in my whole Apiary. One especially, assaulted every body that came
near it, and when reduced in numbers to a mere handful, seemed as ready
for fight as ever.

How utterly useless then, for defending a queenless colony against the
moth, are all the traps and other devices which have been, of late
years, so much relied upon. If a single female gains admission, she will
lay eggs enough to destroy in a short time, the strongest colony that
ever existed, if once it has lost its queen, and has no means of
procuring another. But not only do the bees of a hive which is
hopelessly queenless, make little or no opposition to the entrance of
the bee-moth, and to the ravages of the worms, but by their forlorn
condition, they positively invite the attacks of their destroyers. The
moth seems to have an instinctive knowledge of the condition of such a
hive, and no art of man can ever keep her out. She will pass by other
colonies to get at the queenless one, for she seems to know that there
she will find all the conditions that are necessary to the proper
development of her young. There are many mysteries in the insect world,
which we have not yet solved; nor can we tell just how the moth arrives
at so correct a knowledge of the condition of the queenless hives in the
Apiary. That such hives, very seldom, maintain a guard about the
entrance, is certain; and that they do not fill the air with the
pleasant voice of happy industry, is equally certain; for even to our
dull ears, the difference between the hum of the prosperous hive, and
the unhappy note of the despairing one, is sufficiently obvious. May it
not be even more obvious to the acute senses of the provident mother,
seeking a proper place for the development of her young?

The unerring sagacity of the moth, closely resembles that peculiar
instinct by which the vulture and other birds that prey upon carrion,
are able to single out a diseased animal from the herd, which they
follow with their dismal croakings, hovering over its head, or sitting
in ill-omened flocks, on the surrounding trees, watching it as its life
ebbs away, and stretching out their filthy and naked necks, and opening
and snapping their blood-thirsty beaks that they may be all ready to
tear out its eyes just glazing in death, and banquet upon its flesh
still warm with the blood of life! Let any fatal accident befall an
animal, and how soon will you see them, first from one quarter of the
heavens, and then from another, speeding their eager flight to their
destined prey, when only a short time before, not a single one could be
seen or heard.

I have repeatedly seen powerful colonies speedily devoured by the worms,
because of the loss of their queen, when they have stood, side by side
with feeble colonies which being in possession of a queen, have been
left untouched!

That the common hives furnish no available remedy for the loss of the
queen, is well known: indeed, the owner cannot, in many cases, be sure
that his bees are queenless, until their destruction is certain, while
not unfrequently, after keeping bees for many years, he does not even so
much as believe that there is such a thing as a queen bee!

In the Chapter on the Loss of the Queen, I shall show in what way this
loss can be ascertained, and ordinarily remedied, and thus the bees be
protected from that calamity which more than all others, exposes them to
destruction. When a colony has become hopelessly queenless, then moth or
no moth, its destruction is absolutely certain. Even if the bees
retained their wonted industry in gathering stores, and their usual
energy in defending themselves against all their enemies, their ruin
could only be delayed for a short time. In a few months, they would all
die a natural death, and there being none to replace them, the hive
would be utterly depopulated. Occasionally, such instances occur in
which the bees have died, and large stores of honey have been found
untouched in their hives. This, however, but seldom happens: for they
rarely escape from the assaults of other colonies, even if after the
death of their queen, they do not fall a prey to the bee-moth. A
motherless hive is almost always assaulted by stronger stocks, which
seem to have an instinctive knowledge of its orphanage, and hasten at
once, to take possession of its spoils. (See Remarks on Robbing.) If it
escape the Scylla of these pitiless plunderers, it is soon dashed upon a
more merciless Charybdis, when the miscreant moths have ascertained its
destitution. Every year, large numbers of hives are bereft of their
queen, and every year, the most of such hives are either robbed by other
bees, or sacked by the bee-moth, or first robbed, and afterwards sacked,
while their owner imputes all the mischief that is done, to something
else than the real cause. He might just as well imagine that the birds,
or the carrion worms which are devouring his dead horse, were actually
the primary cause of its untimely end. How often we see the same kind of
mistake made by those who impute the decay of a tree, to the insects
which are banqueting upon its withering foliage; when often these
insects are there, because the disease of the tree has both furnished
them with their proper aliment, and deprived the plant of the vigor
necessary to enable it to resist their attack.

The bee keeper can easily gather from these remarks, the means upon
which I most rely, to protect my colonies from the bee-moth. Knowing
that strong stocks supplied with a fertile queen, are always able to
take care of themselves, in almost any kind of hive, I am careful to
keep them in the state which is practically found to be one of such
security. If they are weak, they must be properly strengthened, and
confined to only as much space as they can warm and defend: and if they
are queenless, they must be supplied with the means of repairing their
loss, or if that cannot be done, they should be at once broken up, (See
Remarks on Queenlessness, and Union of Stocks,) and added to other

It cannot be too deeply impressed upon the mind of the bee-keeper, that
a small colony ought always to be confined to a small space, if we wish
the bees to work with the greatest energy, and to offer the stoutest
resistance to their numerous enemies. Bees do most unquestionably,
"abhor a vacuum," if it is one which they can neither fill, warm nor
defend. Let the prudent bee-master only keep his stocks strong, and they
will do more to defend themselves against all intruders, than he can
possibly do for them, even if he spends his whole time in watching and
assisting them.

It is hardly necessary, after the preceding remarks, to say much upon
the various contrivances to which so many resort, as a safeguard against
the bee-moth. The idea that gauze-wire doors, to be shut daily at dusk,
and opened again at morning, can exclude the moth, will not weigh much
with one who has seen them flying and seeking admission, especially in
dull weather, long before the bees have given over their work for the
day. Even if the moth could be excluded by such a contrivance, it would
require, on the part of those who rely upon it, a regularity almost akin
to that of the heavenly bodies in their courses; a regularity so
systematic, in short, as either to be impossible, or likely to be
attained but by very few.

An exceedingly ingenious contrivance, to say the least, to remedy the
necessity for such close supervision, is that by which the movable doors
of all the hives are governed by a long lever in the shape of a
hen-roost, so that the hives may all be closed seasonably and regularly,
by the crowing and cackling tribe, when they go to bed at night, and
opened at once when they fly from their perch, to greet the merry morn.
Alas! that so much ingenuity should be all in vain! Chickens are often
sleepy, and wish to retire sometime before the bees feel that they have
completed their full day's work, and some of them are so much opposed to
early rising, either from ill-health, or downright laziness, that they
sit moping on their roost, long after the cheerful sun has purpled the
glowing East. Even if this device were perfectly successful, it could
not save from ruin, a colony which has lost its queen. The truth is,
that almost all the contrivances upon which we are instructed to rely,
are just about equivalent to the lock carefully put upon the stable
door, after the horse has been stolen; or to attempts to prevent
corruption from fastening upon the body of an animal, after the breath
of life has forever departed.

Are there then no precautions to which we may resort, except by using
hives which give the control over every comb? Certainly there are, and I
shall now describe them in such a manner as to aid all who find
themselves annoyed by the inroads of the bee-moth.

Let the prudent bee-master be deeply impressed with the very great
importance of destroying _early_ in the season, the larvŠ of the
bee-moth. "Prevention is," at all times, "better than cure": a single
pair of worms that are permitted to undergo their changes into the
winged insect, may give birth to some hundreds which before the close of
the season, may fill the Apiary with thousands of their kind. The
destruction of a single worm early in the Spring, may thus be more
efficacious than that of hundreds, at a later period. If the common
hives are used, these worms must be sought for in their hiding places,
under the edges of the hive; or the hive may be propped up, on the two
ends, with strips of wood, about three eighths of an inch thick; and a
piece of old woolen rag put between the bottom-board and the back of
the hive. Into this warm hiding place, the full grown worm will retreat
to spin its cocoon, and it may then be very easily caught and
effectually dealt with. Hollow sticks, or split joints of cane may be
set under the hives, so as to elevate them, or may be laid on the
bottom-board, and if they have a few small openings through which the
bees cannot enter, the worms will take possession of them, and may
easily be destroyed. Only provide some hollow, inaccessible to the bees,
but communicating with the hive and easily accessible to the worms when
they want to spin, and to yourself when you want them, and if the bees
are in good health, so that they will not permit the worms to spin among
the combs, you can, with ease, entrap nearly all of them. If the hive
has lost its queen, and the worms have gained possession of it, you can
do nothing for it better than to break it up as soon as possible, unless
you prefer to reserve it as a moth trap to devastate your whole Apiary.

I make use of blocks of a peculiar construction, in order both to entrap
the worms, and to exclude the moth from my hives. The only place where
the moth can enter, is just where the bees are going in and out, and
this passage may be contracted so as to suit the size of the colony: the
very shape of it is such that if the moth attempts to force an entrance,
she is obliged to travel over a space which is continually narrowing,
and of course, is more and more easily defended by the bees. My traps
are slightly elevated, so that the heat and odor of the hive pass under
them, and come out through small openings into which the moth can enter,
but which do not admit her into the hive. These openings, which are so
much like the crevices between the common hives and their bottom-boards,
the moth will enter, rather than attempt to force her way through the
guards, and finding here the nibblings and parings of comb and
bee-bread, in which her young can flourish, she deposits her eggs in a
place where they may be reached and destroyed. All this is on the
supposition that the hive has a healthy queen, and that the bees are
confined to a space which they can warm and defend. If there are no
guards and no resistance, or at best but a very feeble one, she will not
rest in any outer chamber, but will penetrate to the very heart of the
citadel, and there deposit her seeds of mischief. These same blocks have
also grooves which communicate with the _interior_ of the hives, and
which appear to the prowling worm in search of a comfortable nest, just
the very best possible place, so warm and snug and secure, in which to
spin its web, and "bide its time." When the hand of the bee-master
lights upon it, doubtless it has reason to feel that it has been caught
in its own craftiness.

If asked how much will such contrivances help the careless bee-man, I
answer, not one iota; nay, they will positively furnish him greater
facilities for destroying his bees. Worms will spin and hatch, and moths
will lay their eggs, under the blocks, and he will never remove them:
thus instead of traps he will have most beautiful devices for giving
more effectual aid and comfort to his enemies. Such persons, if they
ever attempt to keep bees on my plans, should use only my smooth blocks,
which will enable them to control, at will, the size of the entrance to
the hives, and which are exceedingly important in aiding the bees to
defend themselves against moths and robbers, and all enemies which seek
admission to their castle.

Let me, however, strongly advise the thoroughly and incorrigibly
careless, to have nothing to do with bees, either on my plan of
management, or any other; for they will find their time and money
almost certainly thrown away; unless their mishaps open their eyes to
the secret of their failure in other things, as well as in bee-keeping.

If I find that the worms, by any means have got the upper hand in one of
my hives, I take out the combs, shake off the bees, route out the worms
and restore the combs again to the bees: if there is reason to fear that
they contain eggs and small worms, I smoke them thoroughly with sulphur,
and air them well before they are returned. Such operations, however,
will very seldom be required. Shallow vessels containing sweetened
water, placed on the hives after sunset, will often entrap many of the
moths. Pans of milk are recommended by some as useful for this purpose.
So fond are the moths of something sweet, that I have caught them
_sticking fast_ to pieces of moist sugar-candy.

I cannot deny myself the pleasure of making an extract from an
article[24] from the pen of that accomplished scholar, and well-known
enthusiast in bee-culture, Henry K. Oliver, Esq. "We add a few words
respecting the enemies of bees. The mouse, the toad, the ant, the
stouter spiders, the wasp, the death-head moth, (Sphinx atropos,) and
all the varieties of gallinaceous birds, have, each and all, "a sweet
tooth," and like, very well, a dinner of raw bee. But the ravages of all
these are but a baby bite to the destruction caused by the bee-moth,
(Tinea mellonella.) These nimble-footed little mischievous vermin may be
seen, on any evening, from early May to October, fluttering about the
apiary, or running about the hives, at a speed to outstrip the swiftest
bee, and endeavoring to effect an entrance into the door way, for it is
within the hive that their instinct teaches them they must deposit their
eggs. You can hardly find them by day, for they are cunning and secrete
themselves. "They love darkness rather than light, because their deeds
are evil." They are a paltry looking, insignificant little grey-haired
pestilent race of wax-and-honey-eating and bee-destroying rascals, that
have baffled all contrivances that ingenuity has devised to conquer or
destroy them."

"Your committee would be very glad indeed to be able to suggest any
effectual means, by which to assist the honey-bee and its friends,
against the inroads of this, its bitterest and most successful foe,
whose desolating ravages are more lamented and more despondingly
referred to, than those of any other enemy. Various contrivances have
been announced, but none have proved efficacious to any full extent, and
we are compelled to say that there really is no security, except in a
very full, healthy and vigorous stock of bees, and in a very close and
well made hive, the door of which is of such dimensions of length and
height, that the nightly guards can effectually protect it. Not too long
a door, nor too high. If too long, the bees cannot easily guard it, and
if too high, the moth will get in over the heads of the guards. If the
guards catch one of them, her life is not worth insuring. But if the
moths, in any numbers, effect a lodgment in the hive, then the hive is
not worth insuring. They immediately commence laying their eggs, from
which comes, in a few days, a brownish white caterpillar, which encloses
itself, all but its head, in a silken cocoon. This head, covered with an
impenetrable coat of scaly mail, which bids defiance to the bees, is
thrust forward, just outside of the silken enclosure, and the gluttonous
pest eats all before it, wax, pollen, and exuviŠ, until ruin to the
stock is inevitable. As says the Prophet Joel, speaking of the ravages
of the locust, "the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and
behind them a desolate wilderness." Look out, brethren, bee lovers, and
have your hives of the best unshaky, unknotty stock, with close fitting
joints, and well covered with three or four coats of paint. He who shall
be successful in devising the means of ridding the bee world of this
destructive and merciless pest, will richly deserve to be crowned "King
Bee," in perpetuity, to be entitled to a never-fading wreath of budding
honey flowers, from sweetly breathing fields, all murmuring with bees,
to be privileged to use, during his natural life, "night tapers from
their waxen thighs," best wax candles, (two to the pound!) to have an
annual offering from every bee-master, of ten pounds each, of very best
virgin honey, and to a body guard, for protection against all foes, of
thrice ten thousand workers, all armed and equipped, as Nature's law
directs. Who shall have these high honors?"

It might seem highly presumptuous for me, at this early date, to lay
claim to them, but I beg leave to enroll myself among the list of
honorable candidates, and I cheerfully submit my pretensions to the
suffrages of all intelligent keepers of bees.

In the chapter on Requisites, I have spoken of the ravages of the mouse,
and have there described the way in which my hives are guarded against
its intrusion. That some kinds of birds are fond of bees, every Apiarian
knows, to his cost; still, I cannot advise that any should, on this
account, be destroyed. It has been stated to me, by an intelligent
observer, that the King-bird, which devours them by scores, confines
himself always, in the season of drones, to those fat and lazy gentlemen
of leisure. I fear however, that this, as the children say, "is too good
news to be true," and that not only the industrious portion of the busy
community fall a prey to his fatal snap, but that the luxurious gourmand
can distinguish perfectly well, between an empty bee in search of food,
and one which is returning full laden to its fragrant home, and whose
honey-bag sweetens the delicious tit-bit, as the crushed unfortunate,
all ready sugared, glides daintily down his voracious maw! Still, I have
never yet been willing to destroy a bird, because of its fondness for
bees; and I advise all lovers of bees to have nothing to do with such
foolish practices. Unless we can check among our people, the stupid, as
well as inhuman custom of destroying so wantonly, on any pretence, and
often on none at all, the insectivorous birds, we shall soon, not only
be deprived of their aerial melody, among the leafy branches, but shall
lament over the ever increasing horde of destructive insects, which
ravage our fields and desolate our orchards, and from whose successful
inroads, nothing but the birds can ever protect us. Think of it, ye who
can enjoy no music made by these winged choristers of the skies, except
that of their agonizing screams, as they fall before your well-aimed
weapons, and flutter out their innocent lives before your heartless
gaze! Drive away as fast and as far as you please, from your cruel
premises, all the little birds that you cannot destroy, and then find,
if you can, those who will sympathize with you, when the caterpillars
weave their destroying webs over your leafless trees, and insects of all
kinds riot in glee, upon your blasted harvests! I hope that such a
healthy public opinion will soon prevail, that the man or boy who is
armed with a gun to shoot the little birds, will be scouted from all
humane and civilized society, and if he should be caught about such
contemptible business, will be too much ashamed even to look an honest
man in the face. I shall close what I have to say about the birds, with
the following beautiful translation of an old Greek poet's address to
the swallow.

"Attic maiden, honey fed,
Chirping warbler, bear'st away,
Thou the busy buzzing bee,
To thy callow brood a prey?
Warbler, thou a warbler seize?
Winged, one with lovely wings?
Guest thyself, by Summer brought,
Yellow guest whom Summer brings?
Wilt not quickly let it drop?
'Tis not fair, indeed 'tis wrong,
That the ceaseless warbler should
Die by mouth of ceaseless song."
_Merivale's Translation._

I have not the space to speak at length of the other enemies of the
honied race: nor indeed is it at all necessary. If the Apiarian only
succeeds in keeping his stocks strong, they will be their own best
protectors, and if he does not succeed in this, they would be of little
value, even if they had no enemies ever vigilant, to watch for their
halting. Nations which are both rich and feeble, invite attack, as well
as unfit themselves for vigorous resistance. Just so with the
commonwealth of bees. Unless amply guarded by thousands ready to die in
its defence, it is ever liable to fall a prey to some one of its many
enemies, which are all agreed in this one opinion, at least, that stolen
honey is much more sweet than the slow accumulations of patient

In the Chapters on Protection and Ventilation, I have spoken of the
fatal effects of dysentery. This disease can always be prevented by
proper caution on the part of the bee-keeper. Let him be careful not to
feed his bees, late in the season, on liquid honey, (see Chapter on
Feeding,) and let him keep them in dry and thoroughly protected hives.
If his situation is at all damp, and there is danger that water will
settle under his Protector, let him build it entirely _above ground_;
otherwise it may be as bad as a damp cellar, and incomparably worse than
nothing at all.

There is one disease, called by the Germans, "foul brood," of which I
know nothing, by my own observation, but which is, of all others, the
most fatal in its effects. The brood appear to die in the cells, after
they are sealed over by the bees, and the stench from their decaying
bodies infects the hive, and seems to paralyze the bees. This disease
is, in two instances, attributed by Dzierzon, to feeding bees on
"American Honey," or, as we call it, Southern Honey, which is brought
from Cuba, and other West India Islands. That such honey is not
ordinarily poisonous, is well known: probably that used by him, was
taken from diseased colonies. It is well known that if any honey or
combs are taken from a hive in which this pestilence is raging, it will
most surely infect the colonies to which they may be given. No foreign
honey ought therefore to be extensively used, until its quality has been
thoroughly tested. The extreme violence of this disease may be inferred
from the fact, that Dzierzon in one season, lost by it, between four and
five hundred colonies! As at present advised, if my colonies were
attacked by it, I should burn up the bees, combs, honey, frames, and
all, from every diseased hive; and then thoroughly scald and smoke with
sulphur, all such hives, and replenish them with bees from a healthy

There is a peculiar kind of dysentery which does not seem to affect a
whole colony, but confines its ravages to a small number of the bees. In
the early stages of this disease, those attacked are excessively
irritable, and will attempt to sting any one who comes near the hives.
If dissected, their stomachs are found to be already discolored by the
disease. In the latter stages of this complaint, they not only lose all
their irascibility, but seem very stupid, and may often be seen crawling
upon the ground unable to fly. Their abdomens are now unnaturally
swollen, and of a much lighter color than usual, owing to their being
filled with a yellow matter exceedingly offensive to the smell. I have
not yet ascertained the cause of this disease.


[21] Bevan.

[22] Bevan.

[23] A bee, a few days after it is hatched, is as fully competent for
all its duties, as it ever will be, at any subsequent period of its

[24] Report on bees to the Essex County Agricultural Society, 1851.

Does the flower make the honeybee or the honeybee the flower?