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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

4. Tamed or Domesticated



If the bee had not such a necessary and yet formidable weapon both of
offence and defence, multitudes would be induced to enter upon its
cultivation, who are now afraid to have any thing to do with it. As the
new system of management which I have devised, seems to add to this
inherent difficulty, by taking the greatest possible liberties with so
irascible an insect, I deem it important to show clearly, in the very
outset, how bees may be managed, so that all necessary operations may be
performed in an Apiary, without incurring any serious risk of exciting
their anger.

Many persons have been unable to control their expressions of wonder and
astonishment, on seeing me open hive after hive, in my experimental
Apiary, in the vicinity of Philadelphia, removing the combs covered with
bees, and shaking them off in front of the hives; exhibiting the queen,
transferring the bees to another hive, and, in short, dealing with them
as if they were as harmless as so many flies. I have sometimes been
asked if the bees with which I was experimenting, had not been
subjected to a long course of instruction, to prepare them for public
exhibition; when in some cases, the very hives which I was opening,
contained swarms which had been brought only the day before, to my

Before entering upon the natural history of the bee, I shall anticipate
some principles in its management, in order to prepare my readers to
receive, without the doubts which would otherwise be very natural, the
statements in my book, and to convince them that almost any one
favorably situated, may safely enjoy the pleasure and profit of a
pursuit, which has been most appropriately styled, "the poetry of rural
economy;" and that, without being made too familiar with a sharp little
weapon, which can most speedily and effectually convert all the poetry
into very sorry prose.

The Creator intended the bee for the comfort of man, as truly as he did
the horse or the cow. In the early ages of the world, indeed until very
recently, honey was almost the only natural sweet; and the promise of "a
land flowing with milk and honey," had then a significance, the full
force of which it is difficult for us to realize. The honey bee was,
therefore, created not merely with the ability to store up its delicious
nectar for its own use, but with certain properties which fitted it to
be domesticated, and to labor for man, and without which, he would no
more have been able to subject it to his control, than to make a useful
beast of burden of a lion or a tiger.

One of the peculiarities which constitutes the very foundation, not
merely of my system of management, but of the ability of man to
domesticate at all so irascible an insect, has never, to my knowledge,
been clearly stated as a great and controlling principle. It may be thus


The man who first attempted to lodge a swarm of bees in an artificial
hive, was doubtless agreeably surprised at the ease with which he was
able to accomplish it. For when the bees are intending to swarm, they
fill their honey-bags to their utmost capacity. This is wisely ordered,
that they may have materials for commencing operations immediately in
their new habitation; that they may not starve if several stormy days
should follow their emigration; and that when they leave their hives,
they may be in a suitable condition to be secured by man.

They issue from their hives in the most peaceable mood that can well be
imagined; and unless they are abused, allow themselves to be treated
with great familiarity. The hiving of bees by those who understand their
nature, could almost always be conducted without the risk of any
annoyance, if it were not the case that some improvident or unfortunate
ones occasionally come forth without the soothing supply; and not being
stored with honey, are filled with the gall of the bitterest hate
against all mankind and animal kind in general, and any one who dares to
meddle with them in particular. Such radicals are always to be dreaded,
for they must vent their spleen on something, even though they lose
their life in the act.

Suppose the whole colony, on sallying forth, to possess such a ferocious
spirit; no one would ever dare to hive them, unless clad in a coat of
mail, at least bee-proof, and not even then, until all the windows of
his house were closed, his domestic animals bestowed in some safe place,
and sentinels posted at suitable stations, to warn all comers to look
out for something almost as much to be dreaded, as a fiery locomotive
in full speed. In short, if the propensity to be exceedingly
good-natured after a hearty meal, had not been given to the bee, it
could never have been domesticated, and our honey would still be
procured from the clefts of rocks, or the hollows of trees.

A second peculiarity in the nature of the bee, and one of which I
continually avail myself with the greatest success, may be thus stated.


It would be quite as easy for an inveterate miser to look with
indifference upon a golden shower of double eagles, falling at his feet
and soliciting his appropriation. If then we can contrive a way to call
their attention to a treat of running sweets, when we wish to perform
any operation which might provoke them, we may be sure they will accept
it, and under its genial influence, allow us without molestation, to do
what we please.

We must always be particularly careful not to handle them roughly, for
they will never allow themselves to be pinched or hurt without thrusting
out their sting to resent such an indignity. I always keep a small
watering-pot or sprinkler, in my Apiary, and whenever I wish to operate
upon a hive, as soon as the cover is taken off, and the bees exposed, I
sprinkle them gently with water sweetened with sugar. They help
themselves with the greatest eagerness, and in a few moments, are in a
perfectly manageable state. The truth is, that bees managed on this plan
are always glad to see visitors, and you cannot look in upon them too
often, for they expect at every call, to receive a sugared treat by way
of a peace-offering.

I can superintend a large number of hives, performing every operation
that is necessary for pleasure or profit, and yet not run the risks of
being stung, which must frequently be incurred in attempting to manage,
in the simplest way, the common hives. Those who are timid may, at
first, use a bee-dress; though they will soon discard every thing of the
kind, unless they are of the number of those to whom the bees have a
special aversion. Such unfortunates are sure to be stung whenever they
show themselves in the vicinity of a bee-hive, and they will do well to
give the bees a very wide berth.

Apiarians have, for many years, employed the smoke of tobacco for
subduing their bees. It deprives them, at once, of all disposition to
sting, but it ought never to be used for such a purpose. If the
construction of the hives will not permit the bees to be sprinkled with
sugar water, the smoke of burning paper or rags will answer every
purpose, and the bees will not be likely to resent it; whereas when they
recover from the effect of the tobacco, they not unfrequently remember,
and in no very gentle way, the operator who administered the nauseous

Let all your motions about your hives be gentle and slow. Accustom your
bees to your presence; never crush or injure them in any operation;
acquaint yourself fully with the principles of management detailed in
this treatise, and you will find that you have but little more reason to
dread the sting of a bee, than the horns of your favorite cow, or the
heels of your faithful horse.

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