Establishing an Apiary
§ 60. The intelligent lovers of nature admire the habits of the bees, their
skill in extracting the nectar of the flowers, their preference for the best
honey, for they never seek cheap sweets, sugars or syrups if nectar is to be
had; their eager ejection from their home of dead bodies of their own race or of
other insects, which if they cannot drag away, they will carefully cover up and
entomb in propolis; their love of cleanliness and quiet; their singularly clean
management and handling of so adhesive a liquid as honey, from which they issue
forth as if they had had nothing to do with it; the careful making of their
combs, remodeling to suit themselves even the pretty comb foundation furnished
to them; their orderly policy, their love of home; their apparent indifference
to anything regarding themselves which is not for the common good, throwing
themselves into danger and fighting for their hive at the loss even of life.
Beekeeping as a Science
To succeed in any calling, we must first gain a reasonable amount of knowledge
of the science upon which are founded the rules of that art. Beekeeping is
science, having for its object the attainment of a correct knowledge of all that
pertains to the habits and instincts of these wonderful insects. Therefore, to
make the pursuit both pleasant and profitable we must possess the requisite
knowledge of the laws that govern these industrious creatures. The lacking of
these things will account for the many failures of those whose enthusiasm is not
supported by experimental knowledge!
Who Should Keep Bees?
§ 61. The care of an apiary is well adapted to furnish recreation to men of
sedentary professions, lawyers, ministers, doctors, and teachers especially, who
are often at leisure during the summer months when the bees require the greatest
amount of attention, and who may thus add quite a little to their income. Ladies
may keep bees, and often succeed better than men, because they pay more
attention to details. “The bee-business is a business of details.” It has been
stated that the handling of heavy hives or supers full of honey is too hard for
women, but it is easy to secure occasional help to do the heavy lifting required
only when the honey crop is good.
Patience, persistence before discouragements, neatness and foresight are the
requirements of an apiarist. You must also learn to handle bees without fear, if
you expect to enjoy the work. This is not difficult, and directions will be
found in another chapter (74). Very little capital is required, for the business
must be learned on a small scale.
§ 62. Unless you expect to keep bees on a large scale, almost any location is
suitable for an apiary.
Mr. Newman’s apiary was located in Chicago, close to one of the main
thoroughfares and street-car lines, and the result in both increase of colonies
and honey was exceedingly satisfactory. Mr. Muth and Mr. Weber of Cincinnati,
had their apiaries on the roof of their store – and were successful with them.
Other apiarists without number have succeeded with bees, when owning only a very
limited amount of land in the suburbs of large cities. House-apiaries are
resorted to in congested locations. In Europe and especially in Switzerland the
house-apiary (Fig. 34) is often considered indispensable. Though it is less
convenient for handling the hives, making artificial increase and for many other
operations, it has the advantage of better protecting the hives, preventing
robbing and requiring less space.
It is a fact that even around large cities, many good honey-producing plants are
found, in vacant lots or about deserted streets. Sweet clover abounds around
many a large city, and two-thirds of the honey harvested about Chicago is of
A noted beekeeper of Missouri for years kept an apiary of from 60 to 100
colonies within the suburbs of the city of St. Louis. His bees often flew over
the city and across the Mississippi river, about two miles, to work upon
the bloom across this stream and harvested large crops.
If, however, you wish to make bee-culture a specialty is best to make choice of
a location where fruit and flowers abound, where white clover is found in the
pastures, and fall blossoms in the fields.
Don’t go where there are already many other bee-keepers for several reasons:
1st. If you should have Italians, you don’t want to have your queens fertilized
by impure drones.
2nd. The pasturage may not be sufficient to support more bees.
3rd. Older beekeepers may think you are “treading on their toes” and it may lead
to unpleasant feelings, and a disastrous competition. A territory of three or
four miles all alone is quite a luxury, if you intend keeping bees for profit.
A timber range is desirable, for a large portion of their honey and pollen they
may gather from timber and shrubs. Many good localities are found near rivers or
streamlets, where abound linden, sumac, maple, willow, cottonwood, and other
trees, shrubs and vines that yield honey and pollen.
§ 63. The bees should be near the house, or where they can be heard when they
swarm. They should be so located that the north winds would not strike them,
where they can have a warm, calm place to alight.
A hedge, high board-fence (Fig. 36) or building on the north and west are a
protection against the strong winds which destroy very many laboring in the
spring (183), when one bee is worth as much as a dozen in the latter part of
summer, as they are then much needed to care for the brood and keep it warm.
If, in April, the day has been rather warm and the evening cool and windy,
hundreds of bees may be found on the ground in front of the hive, perhaps loaded
with pollen, but exhausted from the flight and chilled with cold. As they
approach the hive they relax their exertions, and a light whiff of wind dashes
them to the ground, from which they are perhaps unable to arise, and before the
sun could warm them up, the next morning, they will be dead.
§ 64. If you have no shade for your hives, it would be best to plant fruit-trees
among them. These not only supply pollen and honey in blooming time, but
acceptable shade in hot summer days (86).
§ 65. Use sand, gravel or cinders under and around the hives, to prevent the
springing up of grass to the annoyance of the bees. Sawdust is also used but is
dangerous as it may get afire from the bee smoker.