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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

15. Loss of the Queen



That the queen of a hive is often lost, and that the ruin of the whole
colony soon follows, unless such a loss is seasonably remedied, are
facts which ought to be well known to every observing bee-keeper.

Some queens appear to die of old age or disease, and at a time when
there are no worker-eggs, or larvŠ of a suitable age, to enable the bees
to supply their loss. It is evident, however, that no very large
proportion of the queens which perish, are lost under such
circumstances. Either the bees are aware of the approaching end of their
aged mother, and take seasonable precautions to rear a successor; or
else she dies very suddenly, so as to leave behind her, brood of a
suitable age. It is seldom that a queen in a hive that is strong in
numbers and stores, dies either at a period of the year when there is no
brood from which another can be reared, or when there are no drones to
impregnate the one reared in her place. In speaking of the age of bees,
it has already been stated that queens commonly die in their fourth
year, while none of the workers live to be a year old. Not only is the
queen much longer lived than the other bees, but she seems to be
possessed of greater tenacity of life, so that when any disease
overtakes the colony, she is usually among the last to perish. By a most
admirable provision, their death ordinarily takes place under
circumstances the most favorable to their bereaved family. If it were
otherwise, the number of colonies which would annually perish, would be
very much greater than it now is; for as a number of superannuated
queens must die every year, many, or even most of them might die at a
season when their loss would necessarily involve the ruin of their whole
colony. In non-swarming hives, I have found cells in which queens were
reared, not to lead out a new swarm, but to supply the place of the old
one which had died in the hive. There are a few well authenticated
instances, in which a young queen has been matured before the death of
the old one, but after she had become quite aged and infirm. Still,
there are cases where old queens die, either so suddenly as to leave no
young brood behind them, or at a season when there are no drones to
impregnate the young queens.

That queens occasionally live to such an age as to become incapable of
laying worker eggs, is now a well established fact. The seminal
reservoir sometimes becomes exhausted, before the queen dies of old age,
and as it is never replenished, (see p. 44,) she can only lay
unimpregnated eggs, or such as produce drones instead of workers. This
is an additional confirmation of the theory first propounded by
Dzierzon. I am indebted to Mr. Wagner for the following facts. "In the
Bienenzeitung, for August, 1852, Count Stosch gives us the case of a
colony examined by himself, with the aid of an experienced Apiarian, on
the 14th of April, previous. The worker-brood was then found to be
healthy. In May following, the bees worked industriously, and built new
comb. Soon afterwards they ceased to build, and appeared dispirited; and
when, in the beginning of June, he examined the colony again, he found
plenty of drone brood in worker cells! The queen appeared weak and
languid. He confined her in a queen cage, and left her in the hive. The
bees clustered around the cage; but next morning the queen was found to
be dead. Here we seem to have the commencement, progress and termination
of super-annuation, all in the space of five or six weeks."

In the Spring of the year, as soon as the bees begin to fly, if their
motions are carefully watched, the Apiarian may even in the common
hives, generally ascertain from their actions, whether they are in
possession of a fertile queen. If they are seen to bring in bee-bread
with great eagerness, it follows, as a matter of course, that they have
brood, and are anxious to obtain fresh food for its nourishment. If any
hive does not industriously gather pollen, or accept the rye flour upon
which the others are feasting, then there is an almost absolute
certainty either that it has not a queen, or that she is not fertile, or
that the hive is seriously infested with worms, or that it is on the
very verge of starvation. An experienced eye will decide upon the
queenlessness, (to use the German term,) of a hive, from the restless
appearance of the bees. At this period of the year when they first
realize the magnitude of their loss, and before they have become in a
manner either reconciled to it, or indifferent to their fate, they roam
in an inquiring manner, in and out of the hive, and over its outside as
well as inside, and plainly manifest that something calamitous has
befallen them. Often those that return from the fields, instead of
entering the hive with that dispatchful haste so characteristic of a bee
returning well stored to a prosperous home, linger about the entrance
with an idle and very dissatisfied appearance, and the colony is
restless, long after the other stocks are quiet. Their home, like that
of the man who is cursed rather than blessed in his domestic relations,
is a melancholy place: and they only enter it with reluctant and
slow-moving steps!

If I could address a friendly word of advice to every married woman, I
would say, "Do all that you can to make your husband's home a place of
attraction. When absent from it, let his heart glow at the very thought
of returning to its dear enjoyments; and let his countenance
involuntarily put on a more cheerful look, and his joy-quickened steps
proclaim, as he is approaching, that he feels in his "heart of hearts,"
that "there is no place like home." Let her whom he has chosen as a wife
and companion, be the happy and honored Queen in his cheerful
habitation: let her be the center and soul about which his best
affections shall ever revolve. I know that there are brutes in the guise
of men, upon whom all the winning attractions of a prudent, virtuous
wife, make little or no impression. Alas that it should be so! but who
can tell how many, even of the most hopeless cases, have been saved for
two worlds, by a union with a virtuous woman, in whose "tongue was the
law of kindness," and of whom it could be said, "the heart of her
husband doth safely trust in her," for "she will do him good and not
evil, all the days of her life."

Said a man of large experience, "I scarcely know a woman who has an
intemperate husband, who did not either marry a man whose habits were
already bad, or who did not drive her husband to evil courses, (often
when such a calamitous result was the furthest possible from her
thoughts or wishes,) by making him feel that he had no happy home."
Think of it, ye who find that home is not full of dear delights, as well
to yourselves, as to your affectionate husbands! Try how much virtue
there may be in winning words and happy smiles, and the cheerful
discharge of household duties, and prove the utmost possible efficacy of
love and faith and prayer, before those words of fearful agony are
extorted from your despairing lips,

"Anywhere, anywhere
Out of the world;"

when amid tears and sighs of inexpressible agony, you settle down into
the heart-breaking conviction that you can have no home until you have
passed into that habitation not fashioned by human hands, or inhabited
by human hearts!

Is there any husband who can resist all the sweet attractions of a
lovely wife? who does not set a priceless value upon the very gem of his

"If such there be, go mark him well;
High though his titles, proud his fame,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim,
The wretch, concentered all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust from whence he sprung
Unwept, unhonored, and unsung."--_Scott._

I trust my readers, remembering my profession, will pardon this long
digression to which I felt myself irresistibly impelled.

When the bees commence their work in the Spring, they give, as
previously stated, reliable evidence either that all is well, or that
ruin lurks within. In the common hives however, it is not always easy to
decide upon their real condition. The queenless ones do not, in all
cases, disclose their misfortune, any more than all unhappy husbands or
wives see fit to proclaim the full extent of their domestic
wretchedness: there is a vast amount of _seeming_ even in the little
world of the bee-hive. One great advantage in my mode of construction is
that I am never obliged to leave anything to vague conjecture; but I
can, in a few moments, open the interior, and know precisely what is the
real condition of the bees.

On one occasion I found that a colony which had been queenless for a
considerable time, utterly refused to raise another, and devoured all
the eggs which were given to them for that purpose! This colony was
afterwards supplied with an unimpregnated queen, but they refused to
accept of her, and attempted at once to smother her to death. I then
gave them a fertile queen, but she met with no better treatment. Facts
of a similar kind have been noticed, by other observers: thus it seems
that bees may not only become reconciled, as it were, to living without
a mother, but may pass into such an unnatural state as not only to
decline to provide themselves with another, but actually to refuse to
accept of one by whose agency they might be rescued from impending ruin!
Before expressing too much astonishment at such foolish conduct, let us
seriously inquire if it has not often an exact parallel in our obstinate
rejection of the provisions which God has made in the Gospel for our
moral and religious welfare.

If a colony which refuses to rear another queen, has a range of comb
given to it containing maturing brood, these poor motherless innocents,
as soon as they are able to work, perceive their loss, and will proceed
at once, if they have the means, to supply it! They have not yet grown
so hardened by habit to unnatural and ruinous courses, as not to feel
that something absolutely indispensable to their safety is wanting in
their hive.

A word to the young who may read this treatise. Although enjoined to
"remember your Creator in the days of your youth," you are constantly
tempted to neglect your religious duties, and to procrastinate their
performance until some more convenient season. Like the old bees in a
hive without a queen, that seek only their present enjoyment, forgetful
of the ruin which must surely overtake them, so you may find that when
manhood and old age arrive, you will have even less disposition to love
and serve the Lord than you now have. The fetters which bind you to
sinful habits will have strengthened with years until you find both the
inclination and ability to break them continually decreasing.

In the Spring, as soon as the weather becomes sufficiently pleasant, I
carefully examine all the hives which do not present the most
unmistakable evidences of health and vigor. If a queen is wanting, I at
once, if the colony is small, break it up, and add the bees to another
stock. If however, the colony should be very large, I sometimes join to
it one of my small stocks which has a healthy queen. It may be asked why
not supply the queenless stock with the means of raising another? Simply
because there would be no drones to impregnate her, in season; and the
whole operation would therefore result in an entire failure. Why not
endeavor then to preserve it, until the season for drones approaches,
and then give it a queen? Because it is in danger of being robbed or
destroyed by the moth, while the bees, if added to another stock, can do
me far more service than they could, if left to idleness in their old
hive. It must be remembered that I am not like the bee-keepers on the
old plan, extremely anxious to save every colony, however feeble: as I
can, at the proper season, form as many as I want, and with far less
trouble and expense than are required to make anything out of such
discouraged stocks.

If any of my colonies are found to be feeble in the Spring, but yet in
possession of a healthy queen, I help them to combs containing maturing
brood, in the manner already described. In short, I ascertain, at the
opening of the season, the exact condition of all my stock, and apply
such remedies as I find to be needed, giving to some, maturing brood, to
others honey, and breaking up all whose condition appears to admit of
no remedy. If however, the bees have not been multiplied too rapidly,
and proper care was taken to winter none but strong stocks, they will
need but little assistance in the Spring; and nearly all of them will
show indubitable signs of health and vigor.

I strongly recommend every prudent bee-keeper who uses my hives, to give
them all a most thorough over-hauling and cleansing, soon after the bees
begin to work in the Spring. The bees of any stock may, with their
combs, &c., all be transferred, in a few minutes, to a clean hive; and
their hive, after being thoroughly cleansed, may be used for another
transferred stock; and in this way, with one spare hive, the bees may
all be lodged in habitations from which every speck of dirt has been
removed. They will thus have hives which can by no possibility, harbor
any of the eggs, or larvŠ of the moth, and which may be made perfectly
free from the least smell of must or mould or anything offensive to the
delicate senses of the bees. In making this thorough cleansing of all
the hives, the Apiarian will necessarily gain an exact knowledge of the
true condition of each stock, and will know which have spare honey, and
which require food: in short, which are in need of help in any respect,
and which have the requisite strength to lend a helping hand to others.
If any hive needs repairing, it may be put into perfect order, before it
is used again. Hives managed in this fashion, if the roofs and outside
covers are occasionally painted anew, will last for generations, and
will be found, on the score of cheapness, preferable, in the long run,
to any other kind. But I ought to beg pardon of the Genius of American
cheapness, who so kindly presides over the making of most of our
manufactures, and under whose shrewd tuition we are fast beginning to
believe that cheapness in the first cost of an article, is the main
point to which our attention should be directed!

Let us to be sure, save all that we can in the cost of construction, by
the greatest economy in the use of materials; let us compel every minute
to yield the greatest possible practical result, by the employment of
the most skillful workmen and the most ingenious machinery; but do let
us learn that slighting an article, so as to get up a mere sham, having
all the appearance of reality, with none of the substance, is the
poorest possible kind of pretended economy; to say nothing of the
tendency of such a system, to encourage in all the pursuits of life, the
narrow and selfish policy of doing nothing thoroughly, but everything
with reference to mere outside show, or the urgent necessities of the
present moment.

We have yet to describe under what circumstances, by far the larger
proportion of hives, become queenless. After the first swarm has gone
out with the old mother, then both the parent stock and all the
subsequent swarms, will have each a young queen which must always leave
the hive in order to be impregnated. It sometimes happens that the wings
of the young female are, from her birth, so imperfect that she either
refuses to sally out, or is unable to return to the hive, if she
ventures abroad. In either case, the old stock must, if left to its own
resources, speedily perish. Queens, in their contests with each other,
are sometimes so much crippled as to unfit them for flight, and
sometimes they are disabled by the rude treatment of the bees, who
insist on driving them away from the royal cells. The great majority,
however, of queens which are lost, perish when they leave the hive in
search of the drones. Their _extra size_ and _slower flight_ make them a
most tempting prey to the birds, ever on the watch in the vicinity of
the hives; and many in this way, perish. Others are destroyed by sudden
gusts of winds, which dash them against some hard object, or blow them
into the water; for queens are by no means, exempt from the misfortunes
common to the humblest of their race. Very frequently, in spite of all
their caution in noticing the position and appearance of their
habitation, before they left it, they make a fatal mistake on their
return, and are imprisoned and destroyed as they attempt to enter the
wrong hive. The precautions which should be used, to prevent such a
calamity, have been already described. If these are neglected, those who
build their hives of uniform size and appearance, will find themselves
losing many more queens than the person who uses the old-fashioned
boxes, hardly any two of which look just alike.

The bees seem to me, to have, as it were, an instinctive perception of
the dangers which await their new queen when she makes her excursion in
search of the drones, and often gather around her, and confine her, as
though they could not bear to have her leave! I have repeatedly noticed
them doing this, although I cannot affirm with positive certainty, why
they do it. They are usually excessively agitated when the queen leaves,
and often exhibit all the appearance of swarming. If the queen of an old
stock is lost in this way, her colony will gradually dwindle away. If
the queen of an after-swarm fails to return, the bees very speedily come
to nothing, if they remain in the hive; as a general rule, however, they
soon leave and attempt to add themselves to other colonies.

It would be highly interesting to ascertain in what way the bees become
informed of the loss of their queen. When she is taken from them under
such circumstances as to excite the whole colony, then we can easily see
how they find out that she is gone; for when greatly excited, they
always seek first to assure themselves of her safety; just as a tender
mother in time of danger forgets herself in her anxiety for her
helpless children! If however, the queen is carefully removed, so that
the colony is not disturbed, it is sometimes a day, or even more, before
they realize their loss. How do they first become aware of it? Perhaps
some dutiful bee feels that it is a long time since it has seen its
mother, and anxious to embrace her, makes diligent search for her
through the hive! The intelligence that she cannot anywhere be found, is
soon noised abroad, and the whole community are at once alarmed. At such
times, instead of calmly conversing by merely touching each other's
antennŠ, they may be seen violently striking as it were, their antennŠ
together, and by the most impassioned demonstrations manifesting their
agony and despair. I once removed a queen in such a manner as to cause
the bees to take wing and fill the air in search of her. She was
returned in a few minutes, and yet, on examining the colony, two days
after, I found that they had actually commenced the building of royal
cells, in order to raise another! The queen was unhurt and the cells
were not tenanted. Was this work begun by some that refused for a long
time to believe the others, when told that she was safe? Or was it begun
from the apprehension that she might again be removed?

Every colony which has a new queen, should be watched, in order that the
Apiarian may be seasonably apprised of her loss. The restless conduct of
the bees, on the evening of the day that she fails to return, will at
once inform the experienced bee-master of the accident which has
befallen his hive. If the bees cannot be supplied with another queen, or
with the means of raising one, if an old swarm it must be broken up, and
the bees added to another stock; if a new swarm it must always be broken
up, unless it can be supplied with a queen nearly mature, or else they
will build combs unfit for the rearing of workers. By the use of my
movable comb hives, all these operations can be easily performed. If any
hives have lost their young queen, they may be supplied, either with the
means of raising another, or with sealed queens from other hives, or,
(if the plan is found to answer,) with mature ones from the "Nursery."

As a matter of precaution, I generally give to all my stocks that are
raising young queens, or which have unimpregnated ones, a range of comb
containing brood and eggs, so that they may, in case of any accident to
their queen, proceed at once, to supply their loss. In this way, I
prevent them from being so dissatisfied as to leave the hive.

About a week after the young queens have hatched, I examine all the
hives which contain them, lifting out usually, some of the largest
combs, and those which ought to contain brood. If I find a comb which
has eggs or larvŠ, I am satisfied that they have a fertile queen, and
shut up the hive; unless I wish to find her, in order to deprive her of
her wings, (see p. 203.) I can thus often satisfy myself in one or two
minutes. If no brood is found, I suspect that the queen has been lost,
or that she has some defect which has prevented her from leaving the
hive. If the brood-comb which I put into the hive, contains any
newly-formed royal cells, I _know_, without any further examination,
that the queen has been lost. If the weather has been unfavorable, or
the colony is quite weak, the young queen is sometimes not impregnated
as early as usual, and an allowance of a few days must be made on this
account. If the weather is favorable, and the colony a good one, the
queen usually leaves, the day after she finds herself mistress of a
family. In about two days more, she begins to lay her eggs. By waiting
about a week before the examination is made, ample allowance, in most
cases, is made.

Early in the month of September, I examine carefully all my hives, so as
to see that in every respect, they are in suitable condition for
wintering. If any need feeding, (See Chapter on Feeding,) they are fed
at this time. If any have more vacant room than they ought to have, I
partition off that part of the hive which they do not need. I always
expect to find some brood in every healthy hive at this time, and if in
any hive I find none, and ascertain that it is queenless, I either at
once break it up, or if it is strong in numbers supply it with a queen,
by adding to it some feebler stock. If bees, however, are properly
attended to, at the season when their young queens are impregnated, it
will be a very rare occurrence to find a queenless colony in the Fall.

The practical bee-keeper without further directions, will readily
perceive how any operation, which in the common hives, is performed with
difficulty, if it can be performed at all, is reduced to simplicity and
certainty, by the control of the combs. If however, bee-keepers will be
negligent and ignorant, no hive can possible make them very successful.
If they belong to the fraternity of "no eyes," who have kept bees all
their lives, and do not know that there is a queen, they will probably
derive no special pleasure from being compelled to believe what they
have always derided as humbug or book-knowledge; although I have seen
some bee-keepers very intelligent on most matters, who never seem to
have learned the first rudiments in the natural history of the bee.
Those who cannot, or will not learn for themselves, or who have not the
leisure or disposition to manage their own bees, may yet with my hives,
entrust their care to suitable persons who may, at the proper time,
attend to all their wants. Practical gardeners may find the management
of bees for their employers, to be quite a lucrative part of their
profession. With but little extra labor and with great certainty, they
may, from time to time, do all that the prosperity of the bees require;
carefully over-hauling them in the Spring, making new colonies, at the
suitable period, if any are wanted, giving them their surplus honey
receptacles, and removing them when full; and on the approach of Winter,
putting all the colonies into proper condition, to resist its rigors.
The business of the practical Apiarian, and that of the Gardener, seem
very naturally to go together, and one great advantage of my hive and
mode of management is the ease with which they may be successfully

Some Apiarians after all that has been said, may still have doubts
whether the young queens leave the hive for impregnation; or may think
that the old ones occasionally leave, even when they do not go out to
lead a swarm. Such persons may, if they choose, easily convince
themselves by the following experiments of the accuracy of my
statements. About a week after hiving a second swarm, or after the birth
of a young queen in a hive, and after she has begun to lay eggs, open
the hive and remove her: carry her a few rods in front of the Apiary,
and let her fly; she will at once enter her own hive and thus show that
she has previously left it. If, however, an old queen is removed a short
time after hiving the swarm, she will not be able to distinguish her own
hive from any other, and will thus show that she has not left it, since
the swarm was hived. If this experiment is performed upon an old queen,
in a hive in which she was put the year before, when unimpregnated, the
same result will follow; for as she never left it after that event, she
will have lost all recollection of its relative position in the Apiary.
The first of these experiments has been suggested by Dzierzon.

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