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The Anger Of Bees Remedy For Their Sting Bee-dress Instincts Of Bees




If the bee was disposed to use, without any provocation, the effective
weapon with which it has been provided, its domestication would be
entirely out of the question. The same remark however, is equally true
of the ox, the horse or the dog. If these faithful servants of man were
respectively determined to use, to the very utmost their horns, their
heels and their teeth, to his injury, he would never have been able to
subject them to his peaceful authority. The gentleness of the honey-bee,
when kindly treated, and managed by those who properly understand its
instincts, has in this treatise been frequently spoken of, and is truly
astonishing. They will, especially in swarming time, or whenever they
are gorged with honey, allow any amount of handling which does not hurt
them, without the slightest show of anger. For the gratification of
others, I have frequently taken them up, by handfuls, suffered them to
run over my face, and even smoothed down their glossy backs as they
rested on my person! Standing before the hives, I have, by a rapid sweep
of my hands, caught numbers of them at once, just as though they were so
many harmless flies, and allowed them, one by one, to crawl out, by the
smallest opening, to the light of day; and I have even gone so far as to
imitate many of the feats which the celebrated English Apiarian,
Wildman, was accustomed to perform; who having once secured the queen of
a hive, could make the bees cluster on his head, or hang, like a flowing
beard, in large festoons, from his chin. Wildman, for a long time, made
as great a mystery of his wonderful performances, as the spirit-rappers
of the present day, do of theirs; but at last, he was induced to explain
his whole mode of procedure; and the magic control which he possessed
over the bees, and which was, by the ignorant, ascribed to his having
bewitched them, was found to be owing entirely to his superior
acquaintance with their instincts, and his uncommon dexterity and
boldness.

"Such was the spell, which round a Wildman's arm
Twin'd in dark wreaths the fascinated swarm;
Bright o'er his breast the glittering legions led,
Or with a living garland bound his head.
His dextrous hand, with firm yet hurtless hold,
Could seize the chief, known by her scales of gold,
Prune 'mid the wondering train her filmy wing,
Or o'er her folds the silken fetter fling."
_Evans._

M. Lombard, a skillful French Apiarian narrates the following
interesting occurrence, which shows how peaceable bees are in swarming
time, and how easily managed by those who have both skill and
confidence.

"A young girl of my acquaintance," he says, "was greatly afraid of bees,
but was completely cured of her fear by the following incident. A swarm
having come off, I observed the queen alight by herself at a little
distance from the Apiary. I immediately called my little friend that I
might show her the queen; she wished to see her more nearly, so after
having caused her to put on her gloves, I gave the queen into her hand.
We were in an instant surrounded by the whole bees of the swarm. In this
emergency I encouraged the girl to be steady, bidding her be silent and
fear nothing, and remaining myself close by her; I then made her stretch
out her right hand, which held the queen, and covered her head and
shoulders with a very thin handkerchief. The swarm soon fixed on her
hand and hung from it, as from the branch of a tree. The little girl was
delighted above measure at the novel sight, and so entirely freed from
all fear, that she bade me uncover her face. The spectators were charmed
with the interesting spectacle. At length I brought a hive, and shaking
the swarm from the child's hand, it was lodged in safety, and without
inflicting a single wound."

The indisposition of bees to sting, when swarming, is a fact familiar to
every practical bee-keeper: but I have not in all my reading or
acquaintance with Apiarians, ever met with a single observation which
has convinced me that the philosophy of this strange fact was thoroughly
understood. As far as I know, I am the only person who has ever
ascertained that when bees are filled with honey, they lose all
disposition to volunteer an assault, and who has made this curious law
the foundation of an extensive and valuable system of practical
management. It was only after I had thoroughly tested its universality
and importance, that I began to feel the desirableness of obtaining a
perfect control over each comb in the hive; for it was only then that I
saw that such control might be made available, in the hands of any one
who could manage bees in the ordinary way. The result of my whole
system, is to make the bees unusually gentle, so that they are not only
peaceable when any necessary operation is being performed, but at all
other times. Even if I could open hives and safely manage at pleasure,
still if the result of such proceedings was to leave the bees in an
excited state, so as to make them unusually irritable, it would all
avail but very little.

There is, however, one difficulty in managing bees so as not to incur
the risk of being stung at all, which attaches to every system of
bee-culture. If an Apiary is approached when the bees are out in great
numbers, thousands and tens of thousands will continue their busy
pursuits without at all interfering with those who do not molest them.
Frequently, however, there will be a few cross bees which come buzzing
around our ears, and seem determined to sting without the very slightest
provocation. From such lawless bees no person without a bee-dress is
absolutely safe. By repeated examinations I have ascertained that
_disease_ is the cause of such unreasonable irritability. I am never
afraid that a healthy bee will attack me unless unusually provoked; and
am always sure as soon as I hear one singing about my ears that it is
incurably diseased. If such a bee is dissected it will be found to
exhibit the unmistakable evidence that a peculiar kind of dysentery has
already fastened upon its system. In the first stages of this complaint
the insect is very irritable, refuses to labor, and seems unable or
unwilling to distinguish friend from foe. As the disease progresses, it
becomes stupid, its body swells up, and is filled with a great mass of
yellow matter, and being unable to fly, it crawls on the ground, in
front of the hive, and speedily perishes. I have never been able to
ascertain the cause of this singular malady, nor can I suggest any
remedy for it. I hope that some scientific Apiarians will investigate it
closely, for if it could only be remedied, we might have hundreds of
colonies on our premises and in our gardens, and yet be perfectly safe.

A person thoroughly acquainted with the leading principles of
bee-culture as they are set forth in this Manual, will _never under any
circumstances_ find it necessary to provoke to fury a colony of bees.
Let it be remembered that nothing can be more terribly vindictive than
a family of bees when thoroughly aroused by gross abuse or unskillful
treatment. Let their hive be suddenly overthrown or violently jarred, or
let them be provoked by the presence of a sweaty horse, or any animal
offensive to them, so that the anger at first manifested by a few, is
extended to the whole community, and the most severe and sometimes
dangerous consequences may ensue. In the same way in the management of
the animals most useful to man, by ignorance or abuse, they may be
roused to a state of frantic desperation, and limbs may be broken, and
often lives destroyed; and yet no one possessed of common sense,
attributes such calamities, except in very rare instances, to any thing
else than carelessness or want of skill. Let it be remembered that even
the most peaceable stock of bees can, in a very few days, by abusive
treatment be taught to look on every living thing as an enemy, and to
sally forth with the most spiteful intentions, as soon as any one
approaches their domicile. How often does it happen that the vicious
beast, which its owner so passionately belabors, is far less to blame
for its obstinacy, than the equally vicious brute who so unmercifully
beats it!

A word now to those timid females who are almost ready to faint, or to
go into hysterics if a bee enters the house, or approaches them in the
garden or fields. Such alarm is entirely uncalled for. It is only in the
vicinity of their homes, and in resistance to what they consider an evil
design upon their very altars and firesides that these insects ever
volunteer an attack. Away from home, they are as peaceably inclined as
you could desire. If you attack them, they are much more eager to escape
than to offer you any annoyance, and they can be induced to sting, only
when they are compressed, either by accident or design.

Let not any of my readers think that they have even a slight
encouragement, from this conduct of the bee, to reserve all their sweet
smiles and honied words for the world abroad, while they give free vent,
in the sacred precincts of home, to ill-natured looks and ill-tempered
language; for towards the occupants of its honied dome, the bee is all
kindness and affection. In the experience of many years I never saw an
instance in which two bees, members of the same family, ever seemed to
be actuated by any but the very kindest feelings toward each other. In
their busy haste they often jostle against each other, but where every
thing is well meant, every thing is well received: tens of thousands all
live together in the sweetest harmony and peace, when very often if
there are only two or three children in a family, the whole household is
tormented by their constant bickerings and contention. Among the bees
the good mother is the honored queen of her happy family; they all wait
upon her steps with unbounded reverence and affection, make way for her
as she moves over the combs, smooth and brush her beautiful plumes,
offer her food from time to time, and in short do all that they possibly
can to make her perfectly happy; while too often children treat their
mothers with irreverence or neglect, and instead of striving with loving
zeal to lighten their labors and save their steps, they treat them more
as though they were servants hired only to wait upon every whim and to
humor every caprice.

Let us pause for a moment, and contemplate further the admirable
arrangement by which the instinct of the bee which disposes it to defend
its treasures, is made so perfectly compatible with the safety both of
man and the domestic animals under his care. Suppose that away from
home, bees were as easily provoked, as they are in the immediate
vicinity of their hives, what would become of our domestic animals among
the clover fields in the pastures? A tithe of the merry gambols they now
so safely indulge in, would speedily bring about them a swarm of these
infuriated insects. In all our rambles among the green fields, we should
constantly be in peril; and no jocund mower would ever whet his
glittering scythe, or swing his peaceful weapon, unless first clad in a
dress impervious to their stings. In short, the bee, instead of being
the friend of man, would be one of his most vexatious enemies, and as
has been the case with the wolves and the bears, every effort would be
made for their utter extermination.

The sting of a bee often produces very painful, and upon some persons,
very dangerous effects. I am persuaded, from the result of my own
observation, that the bee seldom stings those whose systems are not
sensitive to its venom, while it seems to take a special and malicious
pleasure in attacking those upon whom it produces the most painful
effects! It may be that something in the secretions of such persons both
provokes the attack, and causes its consequences to be more severe.

I should not advise persons upon whose system the sting of a bee
produces the most agonizing pain, and violent, if not dangerous
symptoms, to devote any attention to the practical part of an Apiary;
although I am acquainted with a lady who is thus severely affected, and
who yet, strange to say, is a great enthusiast in Apiarian pursuits! I
have met with individuals, upon whom a sting produced the singular
effect of causing their breath to smell like the venom of the enraged
insect! The smell of the poison resembles almost perfectly that of a
ripe banana. It produces a very irritating effect upon the bees
themselves; for if a minute drop of it is extended to them, on a stick,
they at once manifest the most decided anger.

It is well known that the bee is a lover of sweet odors, and that
unpleasant ones are very apt to excite its anger. And here I may as well
speak plainly, and say that bees have a special dislike to persons whose
habits are not cleanly, and particularly to those who bear about them, a
perfume not in the very least resembling those

"Sabean odors
From the spicy shores of Araby the blest,"

of which the poet so beautifully discourses. Those who belong to the
family of the "great unwashed," will find to their cost that bees are
decided foes to all of their tribe. The peculiar odor of some persons,
however cleanly, may account for the fact that the bees have such a
decided antipathy to their presence, in the vicinity of their hives. It
is related of an enthusiastic Apiarian, that after a long and severe
attack of fever, he was never able to take any more pleasure in his
bees; his secretions seem to have undergone some change, so that the
bees assailed him as soon as he ventured to approach their hives.

Nothing is more offensive to bees than the impure breath exhaled from
human lungs; it excites them at once to fury. Would that in their hatred
for impure air, human beings had only a tithe of the sagacity exercised
by bees! It would not be long before the thought of breathing air loaded
with all manner of impurities from human lungs, to say nothing of its
loss of oxygen, would excite unutterable loathing and disgust.

As the smell of a sweaty horse is very offensive to the bees, it is
never safe to allow these animals to go near a hive, as they are
sometimes attacked and killed by the furious insects. Those engaged in
bee-culture on a large scale, will do well to enclose their Apiaries
with a strong fence, so as to prevent cattle from molesting the hives.
If the Apiary is enclosed by a high fence, with sharp and strong
pickets, and the door is furnished with a strong lock, it will prevent
the losses which in some localities are so common from human pilferers.
Such losses may be guarded against, by fastening a wrought iron ring
into the top of each hive, well clinched on the inside; an iron rod may
run through these rings, and thus with two padlocks and fixtures, (one
at each end,) a dozen or more hives may be secured. I am happy to say
that in most localities such precautions are entirely unnecessary. A
place in which the stealing of honey and fruit is practiced by any
except those who are candidates for State's Prison, is in a fair way of
being soon considered as a very undesirable place of residence. If
owners of Apiaries, gardens and orchards, could be induced to pursue a
more liberal policy, and not be so meanly penurious as they often are, I
am persuaded that they would find it conduce very highly to their
interests. The honey and fruit expended with a cheerful, hearty
liberality, would be more than repaid to them in the good will secured,
and in the end would cost much less than bars and bolts. Reader! do not
imagine that I have the least idea that a thoroughly selfish man, can
ever be made to practice this or any other doctrine of benevolence.
Demonstrate it again and again, until even to his narrow and contracted
view it seems almost as clear as light, still he will never find the
heart to reduce it to practice. You might almost as well expect to
transform an incarnate fiend into an angel of light, by demonstrating
that "Wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness," while "the path of the
transgressor is hard," as to attempt to stamp upon a heart encrusted
with the adamant of selfishness, the noble impress of a liberal spirit.

Of all the senses, that of smell in the bee, seems to be the most
perfect. Huber has demonstrated its exceeding acuteness, by numerous
interesting experiments. If honey is placed in vessels from which the
odor can escape, but in which it cannot be seen, the bees will soon
alight upon them and eagerly attempt to find an entrance. It is by this
sense, unquestionably, that they recognize the members of their own
community, although it seems to us very singular that each colony should
have its own peculiar scent. Not only can two colonies be safely united
by giving them the same odor, but in the same way any number of colonies
may be made to live in perfect peace. If hundreds of hives are all
connected by gauze wire ventilators, so that the air passes freely from
one to another, the bees will all live in absolute harmony, and if any
bee attempts to enter the wrong hive, he will not be molested. The same
result can often be attained by feeding colonies from a common vessel. I
have seen literally hundreds of thousands of bees that after being
treated in this way so as to acquire the same odor, were always gentle
towards each other, while if a single bee from a strange Apiary, lit
upon the feeder, it was sure to be killed.

I have described, (p. 213,) the use which I make of peppermint, in order
to prevent bees from quarreling when they are united. The Rev. Mr.
Kleine, (see p. 359,) in a recent number of the Bienenzeitung, has
recommended the use of another article, which he finds to be very useful
in preventing robbing. His statement would have come in more
appropriately in the Chapter on Robbing, but was not received until too
late. He says that the most convenient and effectual mode of arresting
and repelling the attacks of robbers, is, to impart to the attacked hive
some intensely powerful and unaccustomed odor. He effects this most
readily, by placing a small portion of _musk_ in the attacked hive, late
in the evening, when all the robbers have retreated. On the following
morning, the bees, (provided they have a healthy queen,) will promptly
and boldly meet their assailants, and these in turn are non-plussed by
the unwonted odor, and if any of them enter the hive and carry off some
of the coveted booty, they will not be recognized nor received at home
on their return, on account of their strange smell, but will be at once
seized as strangers, and killed by their own household. Thus the robbing
is speedily brought to a close.

In combination with my blocks, this device might be made very effectual.
When the Apiarian perceives that a hive is being robbed, let him shut up
the entrance: before dusk he can open it and allow the robbers to go
home, and then: put in a small piece of musk: the entrance next day may
be kept so contracted that only a single bee can enter at once. In the
union of stocks the same substance might be used advantageously. A short
time before the process is attempted, each colony might have a small
dose of musk (a piece of musk tied up in a little bag,) and they would
then be sure to agree. I prefer, however, in most cases, the use of
scented sugar-water.

By using my double hives, and putting a small piece of gauze-wire on an
opening made in the partition, the two colonies having the same scent
will always agree; this will be very convenient where they are compelled
to live as such near neighbors, and enables the Apiarian at any time to
unite them and appropriate their surplus stores. These double hives are
admirably adapted to the wants of those who wish to make the smallest
possible departure from the old system, as they need make no change,
except to unite the stocks instead of killing the bees.

I have already remarked that no operation should ever be attempted upon
bees, by which a whole colony is liable to be excited to an ungovernable
pitch of fury. Such operations are _never_ necessary; and a skillful
Apiarian will, by availing himself of the principles laid down in this
Treatise, both easily and safely do everything that is at all desirable,
even to the driving of a powerful colony from an old box hive. When bees
are improperly dealt with, they will "compass" their assailant "about,"
with the most savage ferocity, and woe be to him if they can creep up
his clothes, or find on his person a single unprotected spot! On the
contrary, when not provoked by foolish management or wanton abuse, the
few who are bent on mischief, appear to retain still some touch of
grace, amid all their desperation. Like the thorough bred scold, who by
the elevated pitch of her voice, often gives timely warning to those who
would escape from the sharp sword of her tongue, a bee bent upon
mischief raises its note almost an octave above the peaceable pitch, and
usually gives us timely warning, that it means to sting, if it can. Even
then, it will seldom proceed to extremities, unless it can leave its
sting somewhere upon the face of its victim, and usually as near as
possible to the eye; for bees and all other members of the stinging
tribe, seem to have, as it were, an intuitive perception that this is
the most vulnerable spot upon the "human face divine." If the head is
quietly lowered, and the face covered with the hands, they will often
follow a person for some rods, all the time sounding their war note in
his ears, taunting him for his sneaking conduct, and daring him, just
for one single moment, to look up and allow them to catch but a glimpse
of his coward face!

If a person is suddenly attacked by angry bees, no matter how numerous
or vindictive they may be, not the slightest attempt should ever be made
to act on the offensive. If a single bee is violently struck at, a dozen
will soon be on hand to avenge the insult, and if the resistance is
still continued, hundreds and at last thousands will join in the
attack. The assailed party should quickly retreat from the vicinity of
the hives, to the protection of a building, or if none is near, he
should hide himself in a clump of bushes, and lie perfectly still, with
his head covered, until the bees leave him.





Next: Remedies For The Sting Of A Bee

Previous: Overstocking A District With Bees



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