The Honey Bee Capable Of Being Tamed Or Domesticated To A Most Surprising Degree

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


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