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Artificial Swarming

The numerous efforts which have been made for the last fifty years or

more, to dispense with natural swarming, plainly indicate the anxiety of

Apiarians to find some better mode of increasing their colonies.

Although I am able to propagate bees by natural swarming, with a

rapidity and certainty unattainable except by the complete control of

all the combs in the hive, still there are difficulties in this mode of
br /> increase, inherent to the system itself, and therefore entirely

incapable of being removed by any kind of hive. Before describing the

various methods which I employ to increase colonies by artificial means,

I shall first enumerate these difficulties, in order that each

individual bee-keeper may decide for himself, in which way he can most

advantageously propagate his bees.

1. The large number of swarms lost every year, is a powerful argument

against natural swarming.

An eminent Apiarian has estimated that one fourth of the best swarms are

lost every season! This estimate can hardly be considered too high, if

all who keep bees are taken into account. While some bee-keepers are so

careful that they seldom lose a swarm, the majority, either from the

grossest negligence, or from necessary hindrances during the swarming

season, are constantly incurring serious losses, by the flight of their

bees to the woods. It is next to impossible, entirely to prevent such

occurrences, if bees are allowed to swarm at all.

2. The great amount of time and labor required by natural swarming, has

always been regarded as a decided objection to this mode of increase.

As soon as the swarming season begins, the Apiary must be closely

watched almost every day, or some of the new swarms will be lost. If

this business is entrusted to thoughtless children, or careless adults,

many swarms will be lost by their neglect. It is very evident that but

few persons who keep bees, can always be on hand to watch them and to

hive the new swarms. But, in the height of the swarming season, if any

considerable number of colonies is kept, the Apiarian, to guard against

serious losses, should either be always on the spot himself, or have

some one who can be entrusted with the care of his bees. Even the

Sabbath cannot be observed as a day of rest; and often, instead of being

able to go to the House of God, the bee-keeper is compelled to labor

among his bees, as hard as on other days, or even harder. That he is as

justifiable in hiving his bees on the Sabbath, as in taking care of his

stock, can admit of no serious doubt; but the very liability of being

called to do so, is with many, a sufficient objection against Apiarian


The merchant, mechanic and professional man, are often so situated that

they would take great interest in bees, if they were not deterred from

their cultivation by inability to take care of them, during the swarming

season; and they are thus debarred from a pursuit, which is intensely

fascinating, not merely to the lover of Nature, but to every one

possessed of an inquiring mind. No man who spends some of his leisure

hours in studying the wonderful habits and instincts of bees, will ever

complain that he can find nothing to fill up his time out of the range

of his business, or the gratification of his appetites. Bees may be kept

with great advantage, even in large cities, and those who are debarred

from every other rural pursuit, may still listen to the soothing hum of

the industrious bee, and harvest annually its delicious nectar.

If the Apiarian could always be on hand during the swarming season, it

would still, in many instances, be exceedingly inconvenient for him to

attend to his bees. How often is the farmer interrupted in the business

of hay-making, by the cry that his bees are swarming; and by the time he

has hived them, perhaps a shower comes up, and his hay is injured more

than his swarm is worth. In this way, the keeping of a few bees, instead

of a source of profit, often becomes rather an expensive luxury; and if

a very large stock is kept, the difficulties and embarrassments are

often most seriously increased. If the weather becomes pleasant after a

succession of days unfavorable for swarming, it often happens that

several swarms rise at once, and cluster together, to the great

annoyance of the Apiarian; and not unfrequently, in the noise and

confusion, other swarms fly off, and are entirely lost. I have seen the

Apiarian so perplexed and exhausted under such circumstances, as to be

almost ready to wish that he had never seen a bee.

3. The managing of bees by natural swarming, must, in our country,

almost entirely prevent the establishment of large Apiaries.

Even if it were possible, in this way, to multiply bees with certainty

and rapidity, and without any of the perplexities which I have just

described, how few persons are so situated as to be able to give almost

the whole of their time in the busiest part of the year, to the

management of their bees. The swarming season is with the farmer, the

very busiest part of the whole year, and if he purposes to keep a large

number of swarming hives, he must not only devote nearly the whole of

his time, for a number of weeks, to their supervision, but at a season

when labor commands the highest price, he will often be compelled to

hire additional assistance.

I have long been convinced that, as a general rule, the keeping of a few

colonies in swarming hives, costs more than they are worth, and that the

keeping of a very large number is entirely out of the question, unless

with those who are so situated that they can afford to devote their

time, for about two months every year, almost entirely to their bees.

The number of persons who can afford to do this must be very small; and

I have seldom heard of a bee-keeper, in our country, who has an Apiary

on a scale extensive enough to make bee-keeping anything more than a

subordinate pursuit. Multitudes have tried to make it a large and

remunerating business, but hitherto, I believe that they have nearly all

been disappointed in their expectations. In such countries as Poland and

Russia where labor is deplorably cheap, it may be done to great

advantage; but never to any considerable extent in our own.

4. A serious objection to natural swarming, is the discouraging fact

that the bees often refuse to swarm at all, and the Apiarian finds it

impossible to multiply his colonies with any certainty or rapidity, even

although he may find himself in all respects favorably situated for the

cultivation of bees, and may be exceedingly anxious to engage in the

business on a much more extensive scale.

I am acquainted with many careful bee-keepers who have managed their

bees according to the most reliable information they could obtain,

never destroying any of their colonies, and endeavoring to multiply them

to the best of their ability, who yet have not as many stocks as they

had ten years ago. Most of them would abandon the pursuit, if they

looked upon bee-keeping simply in the light of dollars and cents, rather

than as a source of pleasant recreation; and some do not hesitate to say

that much more money has been spent, by the mass of those who have used

patent hives, than they have ever realized from their bees.

It is a very simple matter to make calculations on paper, which shall

seem to point out a road to wealth, almost as flattering, as a tour to

the gold mines of Australia or California. Only purchase a patent

bee-hive, and if it fulfills all or even a part of the promises of its

sanguine inventor, a fortune must, in the course of a few years, be

certainly realized; but such are the disappointments resulting from the

bees refusing often to swarm at all, that if the hive could remedy all

the other difficulties in the way of bee-keeping, it would still fail to

answer the reasonable wishes of the experienced Apiarian. If every swarm

of bees could be made to yield a profit of 20 dollars a year, and if the

Apiarian could be sure of selling his new swarms at the most extravagant

prices, he could not, like the growers of mulberry trees, or the

breeders of fancy fowls, multiply his stocks so as to meet the demand,

however extensive; but would be entirely dependent upon the whims and

caprices of his bees; or rather, upon the natural laws which control

their swarming.

Every practical bee-keeper is well aware of the utter uncertainty of

natural swarming. Under no circumstances, can its occurrence be

confidently relied on. While some stocks swarm regularly and repeatedly,

others, strong in numbers and rich in stores, although the season may,

in all respects, be propitious, refuse to swarm at all. Such colonies,

on examination, will often be found to have taken no steps for raising

young queens. In some cases, the wings of the old mother will be found

defective, while in others, she is abundantly able to fly, but seems to

prefer the riches of the old hive, to the risks attending the formation

of a new colony. It frequently happens, in our uncertain climate, that

when all the necessary preparations have been made for swarming, the

weather proves unpropitious for so long a time, that the young queens

coming to maturity before the old one can leave, are all destroyed. This

is a very frequent occurrence, and under such circumstances, swarming is

almost certain to be prevented, for that season. The young queens are

frequently destroyed, even although the weather is pleasant, in

consequence of some sudden and perhaps only temporary suspension of the

honey-harvest; for bees seldom colonize even if all their preparations

are completed, unless the flowers are yielding an abundant supply of


From these and other causes which my limits will not permit me to

notice, it has hitherto been found impossible, in the uncertain climate

of our Northern States, to multiply colonies very rapidly, by natural

swarming; and bee-keeping, on this plan, offers very poor inducements to

those who are aware how little has been accomplished, even by the most

enthusiastic, experienced and energetic Apiarians.

The numerous perplexities which have ever attended natural swarming,

have for ages, directed the attention of practical cultivators, to the

importance of devising some more reliable method of increasing their

colonies. Columella, who lived about the middle of the first century of

the Christian Era, and who wrote twelve books on husbandry (De re

rustica,) has given directions for making artificial colonies. He says,

"you must examine the hive, and view what honey-combs it has; then

afterwards from the wax which contains the seeds of the young bees, you

must cut away that part wherein the offspring of the royal brood is

animated: for this is easy to be seen; because at the very end of the

wax-works there appears, as it were, a thimble-like process (somewhat

similar to an acorn,) rising higher, and having a wider cavity, than the

rest of the holes, wherein the young bees of vulgar note are contained."

Hyginus, who flourished before Columella, had evidently noticed the

royal jelly; for he speaks of cells larger than those of the common

bees, "filled as it were with a solid substance of a _red color_, out of

which the winged king is at first formed." This ancient observer must

undoubtedly have seen the quince-like jelly, a portion of which is

always found at the base of the royal cells, after the queens have

emerged. The ancients generally called the queen a king, although

Aristotle says that some in his time called her the mother. Swammerdam

was the first to prove by dissection that the queen is a perfect female,

and the only one in the hive, and that the drone is the male.

For reasons which I shall shortly mention, the ancient methods of

artificial increase appear to have met with but small success. Towards

the close of the last century, a new impulse was given to the artificial

production of swarms, by the discovery of Schirach, a German clergyman,

that bees are able to rear a queen from worker-brood. For want, however,

of a more thorough knowledge of some important principles in the economy

of the bee, these efforts met with slender encouragement.

Huber, after his splendid discoveries in the physiology of the bee,

perceived at once, the importance of multiplying colonies by some method

more reliable than that of natural swarming. His leaf or book hive

consisted of 12 frames, each an inch and a half in width; any one of

which could be opened at pleasure. He recommends forming artificial

swarms, by dividing one of these hives into two parts; adding to each

part six empty frames. After using a Huber hive for a number of years, I

became perfectly convinced that it could only be made servicable, by an

adroit, experienced and fearless Apiarian. The bees fasten the frames in

such a manner, with their propolis, that they cannot, except with

extreme care, be opened without jarring the bees, and exciting their

anger; nor can they be shut without constant danger of crushing them.

Huber nowhere speaks of having multiplied colonies extensively by such

hives, and although they have been in use more than sixty years, they

have never been successfully employed for such a purpose. If Huber had

only contrived a plan for suspending his frames, instead of folding them

together like the leaves of a book, I believe that the cause of Apiarian

science would have been fifty years in advance of what it now is.

Dividing hives of various kinds have been used in this country. After

giving some of the best of them a thorough trial, and inventing others

which somewhat resembled the Huber hive, I found that they could not

possibly be made to answer any valuable end in securing artificial

swarms. For a long time I felt that the plan _ought_ to succeed, and it

was not until I had made numerous experiments with my hive substantially

as now constructed, that I ascertained the precise causes of failure.

It may be regarded as one of the laws of the bee-hive, that bees, when

not in possession of a mature queen, seldom build any comb except such

as being designed merely for storing honey, is _too coarse for the

rearing of workers_. Until I became acquainted with the discoveries of

Dzierzon, I supposed myself to be the only observer who had noticed

this remarkable fact, and who had been led by it, to modify the whole

system of artificial swarming. The perusal of Mr. Wagner's manuscript

translation of that author, showed me that he had arrived at precisely

similar results.

It may seem at first, very unaccountable that bees should go on to fill

their hives with comb unfit for breeding, when the young queen will so

soon require worker-cells for her eggs; but it must be borne in mind,

that bees, under such circumstances, are always in an _unnatural_ state.

They are attempting to rear a new queen in a hive which is only

partially filled with comb; whereas, if left to follow their own

instincts, they never construct royal cells except in hives which are

well filled with comb, for it is only in such hives that they make any

preparations for swarming. It must be confessed that they do not show

their ordinary sagacity in filling a hive with unsuitable comb; but if

it were not for a few instances of this kind of bad management, we

should perhaps, form too exalted an idea of their intelligence, and

should almost fail to notice the marked distinction between reason in

man, and even the most refined instincts of some of the animals by which

he is surrounded.

The determination of bees, when they have no mature queen, if they build

any comb at all, to build such as is suited only for storing honey, and

unfit for breeding, will show at once, the folly of attempting to

multiply colonies by the dividing-hives. Even if the Apiarian has been

perfectly successful in dividing a colony, and the part without a queen

takes the necessary steps to supply her loss, if the bees are

sufficiently numerous to build a large quantity of new comb, (and they

ought to be in order to make the artificial colony of any value,) they

will build this comb in such a manner that it will answer only for

storing honey, while they will use the half of the hive with the old

comb, for the purposes of breeding. The next year, if an attempt is made

to divide this hive, one half will contain nearly all the brood and

mature bees, while the other, having most of the honey, in combs unfit

for breeding, the new colony formed from it will be a complete failure.

Even with a Huber hive, the plan of multiplying colonies by dividing a

full hive into two parts, and adding an empty half to each, will be

attended with serious difficulties; although some of them may be

remedied in consequence of the hive being constructed so as to divide

into many parts; the very attempt to remedy them, however, will be found

to require a degree of skill and knowledge far in advance of what can be

expected of the great mass of bee-keepers.

The common dividing hives, separating into two parts, can never, under

any circumstances, be made of the least practical value; and the

business of multiplying colonies by them, will be found far more

laborious, uncertain and vexatious, than to rely on natural swarming. I

do not know of a solitary practical Apiarian, who, on trial of this

system, has not been compelled to abandon it, and allow the bees to

swarm from his dividing hives in the old-fashioned way.

Some Apiarians have attempted to multiply their colonies by putting a

piece of brood comb containing the materials for raising a new queen,

into an empty hive, set in the place of a strong stock which has been

removed to a new stand when thousands of its inmates were abroad in the

fields. This method is still worse than the one which has just been

described. In the dividing hive, the bees already had a large amount of

suitable comb for breeding, while in this having next to none, they

build all their combs until the queen is hatched, of a size unsuitable

for rearing workers. In the first case, the queenless part of the

dividing hive may have had a young queen almost mature, so that the

process of building large combs would be of short continuance; for as

soon as the young queen begins to lay, the bees at once commence

building combs adapted to the reception of worker eggs. In some of my

attempts to rear artificial swarms by moving a full stock, as described

above, I have had combs built of enormous size, nearly four inches

through! and these monster combs have afterwards been pieced out on

their lower edge, with worker cells for the accommodation of the young

queen! So uniformly do the bees with an unhatched queen, build in the

way described, that I can often tell at a single glance, by seeing what

kind of comb they are building, that a hive is queenless, or that having

been so, they have now a fertile young queen. When a new colony is

formed, by dividing the old hive, the queenless part has thousands of

cells filled with brood and eggs, and young bees will be hourly

hatching, for at least three weeks: and by this time, the young queen

will be laying eggs, so that there will be an interval of not more than

three weeks, during which no accessions will be made to the numbers of

the colony. But when a new swarm is formed by moving, not an egg will be

deposited for nearly three weeks; and not a bee will be hatched for

nearly six weeks; and during all this time, the colony will rapidly

decrease, until by the time that the progeny of the young queen begins

to emerge from their cells, the number of bees in the new hive will be

so small, that it would be of no value, even if its combs were of the

best construction.

Every observing bee-keeper must have noticed how rapidly even a powerful

swarm diminishes in number, for the first three weeks after it has been

hived. In many cases, before the young begin to hatch, it does not

contain one half its original number; so very great is the mortality of

bees during the height of the working season.

I have most thoroughly tested, in the only way in which it can be

practiced in the ordinary hives, this last plan of artificial swarming,

and do not hesitate to say that it does not possess the very slightest

practical value; and as this is the method which Apiarians have usually

tried, it is not strange that they have almost unanimously pronounced

Artificial swarming to be utterly worthless. The experience of Dzierzon

on this point has been the same with my own.

Another method of artificial swarming has been zealously advocated,

which, if it could only be made to answer, would be, of all conceivable

plans the most effectual, and as it would require the smallest amount of

labor, experience, or skill, would be everywhere practiced. A number of

hives must be put in connection with each other, so as to communicate by

holes which allow the bees to travel from any one apartment to the

others. The bees, on this plan, are to _colonize themselves_, and in

time, a single swarm will, of its own accord, multiply so as to form a

large number of independent families, each one possessing its own queen,

and all living in perfect harmony.

This method so beautiful and fascinating in theory, has been repeatedly

tried with various ingenious modifications, but in every instance, as

far as I know, it has proved an entire failure. It will always be found

if bees are allowed to pass from one hive to another, that they will

still, for the most part, confine their breeding operations to a single

apartment, if it is of the ordinary size, while the others will be used,

chiefly for the storing of honey. This is almost invariably the case, if

the additional room is given by collateral or side boxes, as the queen

seldom enters such apartments for the purpose of breeding. If the new

hive is directly _below_ that in which the swarm is first lodged, then

if the connections are suitable, the queen will be almost certain to

descend and lay her eggs in the new combs, as soon as they are commenced

by the bees; in this case, the upper hive is almost entirely abandoned

by her, and the bees store the cells with honey, as fast as the brood is

hatched, as their instinct impels them always, if they can, to keep

their stores of honey _above_ the breeding cells. So long as bees have

an abundance of room below their main hive, they will never swarm, but

will use it in the way that I have described; if the room is on the

sides of their hive, and very accessible, they seldom swarm, but if it

is above them, they frequently prefer to swarm rather than to take

possession of it. But in none of these cases, do they ever, _if left to

themselves_, form separate and independent colonies.

I am aware that the Apiarian, by separating from the main hive with a

slide, an apartment that contains brood, and directing to it by some

artificial contrivance a considerable number of bees, may succeed in

rearing an artificial colony; but unless all his hives admit of the most

thorough inspection, as he can never know their exact condition, he must

always work in the dark, and will be much more likely to fail than

succeed. Success indeed can only be possible when a skillful Apiarian

devotes a large portion of his time to watching and managing his bees,

so as to _compel_ them to colonize, and even then it will be very

uncertain; so that this plausible theory to be reduced to even a most

precarious practice, requires more skill, care, labor and time, than are

necessary to manage the ordinary swarming hives.

The failure of so many attempts to increase colonies by artificial

means, as well in the hands of scientific and experienced Apiarians, as

under the direction of those who are almost totally ignorant of the

physiology of the bee, has led many to prefer to use non-swarming hives.

In this way, very large harvests of honey are often obtained from a

powerful stock of bees; but it is very evident that if the increase of

new colonies were entirely discouraged, the insect would soon be

exterminated. To prevent this, the advocates of the non-swarming plan,

must either have their bees swarm, to some extent, or rely upon those

who do.

My hive may be used as a non-swarmer, and may be made more effectually

to prevent swarming, than any with which I am acquainted: as in the

Spring, (See No. 34. p. 104,) ample accommodations may be given to the

bees, below their main works, and when this is seasonably done, swarming

will _never_ take place.

There are certain objections however, which must always prevent the

non-swarming plan from being the most successful mode of managing bees.

To say nothing of the loss to the bee-keeper, who has, after some years,

only one stock, when if the natural mode of increase had been allowed,

he ought to have a number, it is usually found that after bees have been

kept in a non-swarming hive for several seasons, they seem to work with

much less vigor than usual. Of this, any one may convince himself, who

will compare the industrious working of a new swarm, with that of a much

more powerful stock in a non-swarming hive. The former will work with

such astonishing zeal, that to one unacquainted with the facts, it would

be taken to be by far the more powerful stock.

As the fertility of the queen decreases by age, the disadvantage of

using non-swarming hives of the ordinary construction, will be obvious.

This objection to the system can be remedied in my hive, as the old

queen can be easily caught and removed; but when hives are used in which

this cannot be done, the Apiary, instead of containing a race of young

queens in the full vigor of their reproductive powers, will contain many

that have passed their prime, and these old queens may die when there

are no eggs in the hive to enable the bees to replace them, and thus the

whole colony will perish.

If the bee-keeper wishes to winter only a certain number of stocks, I

will, in another place, show him a way in which this can be done, so as

to obtain more honey from them, than from an equal number kept on the

non-swarming plan, while at the same time, they may all be maintained in

a state of the highest health and vigor.

I shall now describe a method of artificial swarming, which may be

successfully practiced with almost any hive, by those who have

sufficient experience in the management of bees.

About the time that natural swarming may be expected, a populous hive,

rich in stores is selected, and what I shall call a _forced swarm_ is

obtained from it, by the following process. Choose that part of a

pleasant day, say from 10 A. M. to 2 P. M., when the largest number of

bees are abroad in the fields; if any bees are clustered in front of the

hive, or on the bottom-board, puff among them a few whiffs of smoke from

burning rags or paper, so as to force them to go up among the combs.

This can be done with greater ease, if the hive is elevated, by small

wedges, about one quarter of an inch above the bottom-board. Have an

empty hive or box in readiness, the diameter of which is as nearly as

possible, the same with that of the hive from which you intend to drive

the swarm. Lift the hive very gently, and without the slightest jar,

from its bottom-board; invert it and carry it in the same careful

manner, about a rod from its old stand, as bees are always much more

inclined to be peaceable, when removed a short distance, than when any

operation is performed on the familiar spot. If the hive is carefully

placed on the ground, upside down, scarcely a single bee will fly out,

and there will be little danger of being stung. Timid and inexperienced

Apiarians will, of course, protect themselves with a bee-dress, and they

may have an assistant to sprinkle the hive gently with sugar-water, as

soon as it is inverted. After placing the hive in an inverted position

on the ground, the empty hive must be put over it, and every crack from

which a bee might escape, must be carefully closed with paper or any

convenient material. The upper hive ought to be furnished with two or

three slats, about an inch and a half wide, and fastened one third of

the distance from the top, so as to give the bees every opportunity to


As soon as the Apiarian is perfectly sure that the bees cannot escape,

he should place an empty hive upon the stand from which they were

removed, so that the multitudes which return from the fields may enter

it, instead of dispersing to other hives, where some of them may meet

with a very unkind reception; although as a general rule, a bee with a

load of freshly gathered honey, after the extent of his resources is

ascertained, is almost always, welcomed by any hive to which he may

carry his treasures; while a poor unfortunate that ventures to present

itself empty and poverty stricken, is generally at once destroyed! The

one meets with as friendly a reception as a wealthy gentleman who

proposes to take up his abode in a country village, while the other is

as much an object of dislike as a pauper who is suspected of wishing to

become a parish charge!

To return to our imprisoned bees. Beginning at the top, or what is now,

(as the hive is upside down,) the bottom, their hive should be beaten

smartly with two small rods on the front and back, or on the sides to

which the combs are attached, so as to run no risk of loosening them.

If the hive when removed from its stand was put upon a stool or table,

or something not so solid as the ground, the drumming will cause more

motion, and yet be less apt to start any of the combs. These "rappings"

which certainly are not of a very "spiritual" character, produce

nevertheless, a most decided effect upon the bees: their first impulse

is to sally out and wreak their vengeance upon those who have thus

rudely assailed their honied dome; but as soon as they find that they

are shut in, a sudden fear that they are to be driven from their

treasures, seems to take possession of them. If the two hives have glass

windows, so that all the operations can be witnessed, the bees, in a few

moments, will be seen most busily engaged in gorging themselves with

honey. During all this time, the rapping must be continued, and in about

five minutes, nearly every bee will have filled itself to its utmost

capacity, and they are now prepared for their forced emigration; a

prodigious hum is heard, and the bees begin to mount into the upper box.

In about ten minutes from the time the rapping began, the mass of the

bees with their queen will have ascended, and will hang clustered, just

like a natural swarm. The box with the expelled bees must now be gently

lifted off, and should be placed upon a bottom-board with a gauze wire

ventilator, so that the bees may be confined, and yet have plenty of

air. A shallow vessel or a piece of old comb containing water, ought to

be first placed on the bottom-board. If no gauze wire bottom-board is at

hand, the hive must be wedged up, so as to admit an abundance of air,

and be set in a shady place.

The hive from which the bees were driven, must now be set, without

crushing any of the bees, on its old spot, in the place of the decoy

hive, that all the bees which have returned from abroad, may enter.

Before this change is made, these bees will be running in and out of

the empty hive, (See p. 72,) but as soon as the opportunity is given

them, they will crowd into their well-known home, and if there are no

royal cells started, will proceed, almost at once, to construct them,

and the next day they will act as though the forced swarm had left of

its own accord. When the operation is delayed until about the season for

natural swarming, the hive will contain immature queens, if the bees

were intending to swarm, and a new queen will soon take the place of the

old one, just as in natural swarming. If it is performed too early, and

before the drones have made their appearance, the young queen may not be

seasonably impregnated, and the parent stock will perish.

It will be obvious that this whole process, in order to be successfully

performed, requires a knowledge of the most important points in the

economy of the bee-hive; indeed the same remark may be made of almost

any operation, and those who are willing to remain ignorant of the laws

which regulate the breeding of bees, ought not to depart in the least,

from the old-fashioned mode of management. All such deviations will only

be attended with a wanton sacrifice of bees. A man may use the common

swarming hives a whole life-time, and yet remain ignorant of the very

first principles in the physiology of the bee, unless he gains his

information from other sources; while, by the use of my hives, any

intelligent cultivator may, in a single season, verify for himself, the

discoveries which have only been made by the accumulated toil of many

observers, for more than two thousand years. The ease with which

Apiarians may now, by the sight of their own eyes, gain a knowledge of

all the important facts in the economy of the hive, will stimulate them

most powerfully, to study the nature of the bee and thus to prepare

themselves for an enlightened system of management.

In giving directions for the creation of forced swarms, I advised that

it should be done during the pleasantest part of the day, when the

largest number of bees are foraging abroad. If the operation is

performed when all the bees are at home, and they are all driven into

the empty hive, the old hive will be so depopulated that many of the

young will perish for want of suitable attention, and the parent stock

will be greatly deteriorated in value. If only a part of the bees are

expelled, the queen may be left behind, and the whole operation will be

a failure, and at best it will be difficult to make a suitable division

of the bees between the two hives. Indeed, under any circumstances, this

is the most difficult part of the process, and it often requires no

little judgment to equalize the two colonies.

Some recommend placing the forced swarm on the old stand, and removing

the parent hive with the bees that are deemed sufficient, to a new

place. If this is done, and the bees have their liberty, so many of them

will leave for the familiar spot, that the hive will be almost deserted,

and a very large proportion of its brood will perish. The bees in this

hive, if it is to be set in a new place, must have water given to them,

and be so shut up as to have an abundance of air, until late in the

afternoon of the third day, when the hive may be opened, and they will

take wing, almost as though they were intending to swarm. Some will even

then, return to the place where they originally stood, and join the

forced swarm, but the most of them, after hovering in the air for a

short time, will re-enter the hive. During the time that they have been

shut up, thousands of young bees will have emerged from their cells, and

these, knowing no other home, will aid in taking care of the larvae, and

in carrying on the work of the hive.

Instead of trying to make an equitable division at the time of driving

out the bees, I prefer to expel all that I can, and to rely upon the

bees returning from their gatherings, to replenish the old stock. If the

number appears to be too small, I open temporarily the entrance of the

hive containing the forced swarm, and permit as many as I judge best, to

come out and enter their old abode. It must here be borne in mind, that

bees which are thus ejected from a hive, do not, in all respects, act

like a natural swarm, which having left the parent stock, of its own

accord, never seeks, unless it has lost its queen, to return; whereas,

many of the forced swarm, as soon as they leave the hive into which they

have been driven, will return to their former abode. The same is true of

bees which are moved to any distance not far enough to be beyond the

limits of their previous excursions in search of food. If we could only

make our bees when moved, or forced to swarm, adhere to their hives as

faithfully as a natural swarm, many difficulties which now perplex us,

would be at once removed.

Having ascertained that the parent hive contains a sufficient number of

bees to carry on operations, about sun-set, after the bees are all at

home, it may be removed to a new stand, and the bees, after being

supplied with water, must be shut up, according to the directions

previously given. If the hive is so constructed that water cannot be

conveniently given them, the following plan I have found to answer most

admirably. Bore a small hole towards the top on the front side, and with

a straw, water may be injected with scarcely any trouble. A mouthful

once or twice a day, will be sufficient. If the bees are confined

without water, they will not be able to prepare the food for the larvae,

and multitudes of them must necessarily perish.

The expelled colony must be placed, on the same evening, precisely where

the hive from which they were driven stood, and have their liberty

given to them. The next morning, they will work with as much vigor as

though they had swarmed in the natural way.

The directions which have here been given for creating forced swarms,

will be found to differ in some important respects from any which other

Apiarians have previously furnished. I have already shown that it is

difficult to secure the right number of bees for the parent stock,

unless it is set temporarily on its old stand, so as to catch up the

returning bees. The common plan has been to try to leave in it, as many

bees as are needed, and then to shut it up for a few days, having placed

it in a new spot, while the forced swarm is immediately replaced so that

all the stragglers may be added to it. If we could always be sure of

driving out the queen, and with her, as many bees as we want and _no

more_, this would undoubtedly be the simplest plan; but for the reasons

already assigned, it will be found a very precarious operation.

Some Apiarians recommend putting the forced swarm in a new place in the

Apiary; but as large numbers of the bees will be sure, when they go out

to work, to return to the familiar spot, the new colony will often be so

seriously depopulated as to be of but little value. If the Apiarian can

remove his forced swarms, some two or three miles off, he may give them

their liberty at once, and in the course of a few weeks, he can, without

risk, bring them back to his Apiary.

If he chooses, he may allow the parent stock to remain on the old stand,

and confine the forced swarm, until about an hour before sun set of the

third day. They must in the mean time be supplied with both honey and

water, and if they cannot be kept cool and quiet, they should be removed

into the cellar until they are placed in their new position. Many will

even then return to the old spot, but not enough to interfere seriously

with their prosperity. If the bees cannot, as in my hives, be kept cool

and dark, they will be excessively uneasy, and may suffer very seriously

from so long confinement: hence the very great importance of setting

them in the cellar.

It may seem strange, that bees, when their hive is moved, or when they

are forcibly expelled from it, should not adhere to the new spot, just

as when they have swarmed of their own accord. In each case, as soon as

a bee leaves its new place, it flies with its head turned towards the

hive, in order to mark the surrounding objects, that it may be able to

return to the same spot; but when they have not emigrated of their own

accord, many of them seem, when they rise in the air, or return from

work, entirely to forget that their location has been changed; and they

return to the place where they have lived so long, and if no hive is

there, they often die on the deserted and desolate, yet home-like spot.

If, on the contrary, they swarmed of their own accord, they seldom, if

ever, make such a mistake. It may truly be said that

"A 'bee removed' against its will

Is of the same opinion still."

I have been thus minute in describing the whole process of creating

forced swarms, not merely on account of the importance of the plan in

multiplying colonies, but because the driving or drumming out of bees

from a common hive, is employed with great success in a variety of ways

which will be hereafter specified. I doubt not that many bee-keepers, on

reading this mode of creating colonies, are ready to object that it not

only requires more skill, but more time and labor, than to allow them to

swarm, and then to hive them in the old-fashioned way.

As practiced with ordinary hives, it is undoubtedly liable to this

serious objection, and I would easily with my basket hiver, undertake to

hive four natural swarms, in the time that it would require to create

one forced swarm; to say nothing of the care which must be bestowed upon

the artificial swarms, with their parent stocks, after the driving

process has been completed. For this reason, I do not advise the

bee-keeper to force his swarms from the common hives, until he has first

ascertained that they are not likely to swarm in tolerably good season,

of their own accord, unless he is afraid that they will come out during

his absence, and decamp to the woods.

By the aid of my hives, this process may be most expeditiously

performed. An empty hive, with its frames furnished with guide combs,

must be in readiness. The cover of the full hive should be removed, and

the bees gently sprinkled with sugar-water from a watering pot that

discharges a fine stream. In about two minutes, the frames may be taken

out, and the bees, by a quick motion, shaken on a sheet directly in

front of their hive. As fast as a comb is deprived of its bees, it

should be set in a proper position in the new hive, and an empty frame

put in its place. Two or three of the combs containing brood, eggs, &c.,

should be left in the old hive, as well to give them greater

encouragement, as to prevent them from being dissatisfied if their queen

should, by any possibility, be taken from them. In removing the frames

with the bees, I always look for the queen, and if I see her, as I

generally do, I return to the hive the frame which contains her, without

shaking off the bees. In that case, I put several of the necessary combs

into the new hive, with all the bees upon them.

In dislodging the bees upon the sheet, I do not shake them all off from

the frames; but leave about one quarter of them on, and put them with

the combs into the new hive. I never knew the queen to be left on a

frame after it was shaken so that the larger portion of the bees would

fall off. As soon as the operation is completed, and the necessary

number of bees have been transferred with their comb to the new hive, it

should be managed according to the directions previously given, in the

case of the old hive from which a swarm was drummed out.

If in the operation the Apiarian does not see the queen, he must, in the

course of the third day, examine the hive having the larger portion of

bees, and if they have commenced building royal cells among the combs

given to them, he may be certain that she is in the other hive. The comb

containing the royal cells may then be transferred to that hive, and the

queen searched for, and returned with the combs on which she is found,

to her proper place. A little experience, however, will enable the

operator to be sure from the first, that the queen is with the right


To most persons, it would seem to be of little consequence, in which

hive the queen is placed: but if the bees which have only a few frames

of comb, are compelled to rear another, they will be sure to fill their

hive with comb unfit for breeding purposes, and will also be so long

before they can have additions to their number, as to be of but little


If many swarms are to be created in this manner, and the operation is

delayed until near swarming time, in some of them, numerous royal cells

will be found, so that each stock which has no queen, may have one

nearly mature, given to it, and thus much valuable time may be saved.

By making a few forced swarms, about a week or ten days before the time

in which the most will be made, the Apiarian may be sure of having an

abundance of sealed queens almost mature, so that every swarm may have

one. If he can give each hive that needs it, an unhatched queen, without

removing her from her frame, so much the better; but if he has not

enough frames with sealed queens, while some of them contain two or more

queens, he must proceed as follows:

With a very sharp knife, carefully cut out a queen cell, on a piece of

comb an inch or more square; cut a place in one of the combs of the hive

to which this cell is to be given, just about large enough to receive it

in a natural position, and if it is not secure, put a little melted wax

with a feather, where the edges meet. The bees will soon fasten it, so

as to make all right. Unless very great care is used in transferring

these royal cells, the enclosed queens will be destroyed; as their

bodies, until they are nearly mature, are so exceedingly soft, that a

very slight compression of their cell often kills them. For this reason,

I prefer not to remove them, until they are within three or four days of

hatching. As the forcing of a swarm may always be conducted, with my

hives, in such a manner that the Apiarian can be sure to effect a

suitable division of the bees, the process may be performed at any time

when the sun is above the horizon, and the weather is not too

unpleasant. It ought not to be attempted when the weather is so cool as

to endanger the destruction of the brood, by a chill; and never unless

when there is not only sufficient light to enable the Apiarian to see

distinctly, but enough for the bees that take wing, to see the hive, and

direct their flight to its entrance. If hives are meddled with, when it

is dark, the bees are always more irascible, and as they cannot see

where to fly, they will constantly be alighting upon the person of the

bee-keeper, who will be almost sure to receive some stings. I have

seldom attempted night-work upon my bees, without having occasion most

thoroughly to rue my folly. If the weather is not too cool, early in the

morning, before the bees are stirring, will be the best time, as there

will be less danger of annoyance from robber-bees.

If honey-water is used instead of sugar-water in sprinkling the bees

when the hive is first opened, the smell will be almost certain to

entice marauders from other hives to attempt to take possession of

treasures which do not belong to them, and when they once commence such

a pilfering course of life, they will be very loth to lay it aside. When

the honey harvest is abundant, (and this is the very time for forcing

swarms,) bees, with proper precautions, are seldom inclined to rob. I

have sometimes found it difficult to induce them to notice honey-combs

which I wished them to empty, even when they were placed in an exposed

situation. This subject, however, will be more fully treated in the

remarks on Robbing.

Perhaps some of my readers will hardly be able to convince themselves

that bees may be dealt with after the fashion I have been describing,

without becoming greatly enraged; so far is this from being the case,

that in my operations, I often use neither sugar-water nor bee-dress,

although I do not recommend the neglect of such precautions.

The artificial swarm may be created with perfect safety, even at

mid-day, when thousands of bees are returning to the hive: for these

bees being laden with honey, never venture upon making an attack, while

those at home may be easily pacified.

I find a very great advantage in the peculiar shape of my hive, which

allows the top to be easily removed, and the sugar-water to be sprinkled

upon the bees, before they attempt to take wing. If like the Dzierzon

hive, it opened on the end, it would be impossible for me to use the

sweetened water, so as to make it run down between all the ranges of

comb, and I should be forced, as he does, to employ smoke, in all my

operations. Huber thus speaks of the pacific effect produced upon the

bees by the use of his leaf hive. "On opening the hive, no stings are to

be dreaded, for one of the most singular and valuable properties

attending my construction, is its rendering the bees tractable. I

ascribe their tranquility to the manner in which they are affected by

the sudden admission of light, they appear rather to testify fear than

anger. Many retire, and entering the cells, seem to conceal themselves."

I will admit that Huber has here fallen into an error which he would not

have made, had he used his own eyes. The bees do indeed enter the cells

when the frames are exposed, but not "to conceal themselves;" they

imagine that their sweets, thus unceremoniously exposed to the light of

day, are to be taken from them, and they fill themselves to their utmost

capacity, in order to save all that they can. I always expect them to

appropriate the contents of the open cells, as soon as I remove their

frames from the hive. It is not merely the _sudden_ admission of light,

but its introduction from an _unexpected quarter_, that seems for the

time to disarm the hostility of the bees. They appear for a few moments,

almost as much confounded as we should be, if without any warning the

roof and ceiling of a house should suddenly fly off into the air. Before

they recover from their amazement, the sweet libation is poured out upon

them, and surprize is quickly converted into pleasure rather than anger.

I believe that in the working season, almost all the bees near the top

are gorged with honey, and that this is the reason why opening the hive

from ABOVE is so easily effected. The bees below that are disposed to

resent any intrusions, are met in their threatening ascent, with an

avalanche of nectar which "like a soft answer," most effectually

"turneth away wrath." Who would ever be willing to use the sickening

fumes of the disgusting weed, when so much pleasure instead of pain may

be given to his bees. That bees never seem to be prepared to make an

instant assault from the top of their hive, but only near the entrance,

any one may be convinced of, who will put my frames into a suspended

hive with a movable bottom which may be made to drop at pleasure. If

now, for any purpose, he attempts to meddle with the combs from below,

he will find that unless he uses smoke, the bees will be almost, if not

quite unmanageable.

I shall now give some directions, which will greatly assist the Apiarian

in his operations. He must bear in mind that nothing irritates bees more

than a sudden jar, and that this must, in all cases, be most carefully

avoided. The inside cover of the hive, or as I shall term it, the

_honey-board_, because the surplus honey receptacles stand upon it, can

never be very firmly attached by the bees: it may always be readily

loosened with a thin knife, or better still, with an apothecary's

spatula, which will be very useful for many purposes in the Apiary. When

the honey-board is removed, its lower surface will be usually covered

with bees, and it should be carefully set on end, so as not to crush

them. There is not the least danger that one of them will offer to

sting, as they are completely bewildered by the sudden introduction of

light, and their removal from the hive. As soon as the cover is disposed

of, the Apiarian should sprinkle the bees with the sweet solution. This

should descend from the watering-pot in a fine stream, so as not to

_drench_ the bees, and should fall upon the tops of the frames, as well

as between the ranges of comb. The bees will at once, accept the

proffered treat, and will begin lapping it up, as peaceably as so many

chickens helping themselves to corn. While they are thus engaged, the

frames must be very gently pried by a stick, from their attachments to

the rabbets on which they rest; this may be done without any jar and

without wounding or enraging a single bee. They may all be loosened

preparatory to removing them, in less than a minute.[17] By this time,

the sprinkled bees will have filled themselves, or if all have not done

so, the grateful intelligence that sweets have been furnished them, will

diffuse an unusual good nature through all the honied realm. The

Apiarian should now remove one of the outside frames, taking hold of its

two ends which rest upon the rabbets, and carefully lifting it out

without inclining it from its perpendicular position, so as not to

injure a single bee. The removal of the next comb, and of all the

succeeding ones, will be more easily effected, as there will be more

room to operate to advantage. If bees were disposed to fly away at once

from their combs, as soon as they were taken out, it would be very

difficult to manage them, but so far are they from doing this, that they

adhere to them with most wonderful tenacity. I have sometimes removed

all the combs, and arranged them in a continued line, and the bees have

not only refused to leave them, but have stoutly defended them against

the thieving propensities of other bees. By shaking off the bees from

the combs upon a sheet, and securing the queen, I can, on any pleasant

day, exhibit nearly all the appearances of natural swarming. The bees,

as soon as they miss their queen, will rise into the air, and by

placing her on the twig of a tree, they will soon cluster around her in

the manner already described.

A word as to the manner of catching the queen. I seize her very gently,

as I espy her among the bees, and by taking care to crush none of them,

run not the least risk of being stung. The queen herself never stings,

even if handled ever so roughly.

In removing the frames from the hive, it will be found very convenient

to have a box with suitable rabbets in which they may be temporarily

put, and covered over with a piece of cotton cloth. They may thus be

very easily protected from the cold, and from robbing bees, if they are

to be kept out of the hive for some time; and such a box will be very

convenient to receive frames that are lifted out for examination. In

returning the frames to a hive, care must be taken not to crush the bees

where their ends rest upon the rabbets; they must be put in slowly, so

that a bee, when he feels the slightest pressure may have a chance to

creep from under them, before he is hurt.

The honey-cover, for convenience, is generally in two pieces: these

cannot be laid down on the hive, without danger of killing many bees;

they are therefore very carefully _slid_ on, so that any bees which may

be in the way, are pushed before them, instead of being crushed. If any

bees are upon such parts of the hive as to be imprisoned if the outside

cover is closed, it should be left a little open, until they have flown

to the entrance of the hive. It cannot be too deeply impressed upon the

bee-keeper, that all his motions must be slow and gentle, and that the

bees must not be injured or breathed upon. If he will carefully follow

the directions I have given, he may soon open a hundred hives and

perform any necessary operation upon them, without any bee-dress, and

yet with very little risk of being stung, but I almost despair of being

able to convince even the most experienced Apiarians, of the ease and

safety with which bees may be managed on my plan, until they have

actually been eye-witnesses of its successful operation.

I can make an artificial colony in the way above described in ten

minutes from the time that I open the hive, and if I see the queen as

quickly as I often do, in not more than five minutes. Fifteen minutes

will be a very liberal allowance of time to complete the whole work. If

I had an Apiary of a hundred colonies, in less than a week, if the

weather was pleasant, I could without any assistance easily finish the

business of swarming for the whole season.

But how can the Apiarian, if he delays the formation of artificial

swarms until nearly the season for natural swarming, be sure that his

bees will not swarm in the usual way? Must he not still be constantly on

hand, or run the risk of losing many of his best swarms? I come now to

the entirely novel plan by which such objections are completely

obviated. If the Apiarian decides that he can most advantageously

multiply his colonies by artificial swarming, he must see that all his

fertile queens are deprived of their wings, so as to be unable to lead

off new swarms. As an old queen never leaves the hive except to

accompany a new swarm, the loss of her wings does not, in the least

interfere with her usefulness, or with the attachment of the bees.

Occasionally, a wingless queen is so bent on emigrating, that in spite

of her inability to fly, she tries to go off with a swarm; she has "a

will," but contrary to the old maxim she can find "no way," but

helplessly falls upon the ground instead of gaily mounting into the air.

If the bees succeed in finding her, they will never desert her, but

cluster directly around her, and may thus be easily secured by the

Apiarian. If she is not found, the bees will return to the parent stock

to await the maturity of the young queens. The Apiarian will ordinarily

be prepared to form his artificial colonies before any of these young

queens are hatched.

The following is the best plan for removing the wings from the queens.

Every hive which contains a young queen, ought to be examined about a

week after she has hatched, (see Chapter on Loss of the Queen,) in order

to ascertain that she has been impregnated, and has begun to lay eggs.

Some of the central combs or those on which the bees are most thickly

clustered, should be first lifted out, for she will almost always be

found on one of them; the Apiarian when he has caught her, should remove

the wings on one side with a pair of scissors taking care not to hurt

her. On examining his hives next season, let him remove one of the two

remaining wings from the queen. The third season, he may deprive her of

her last wing. Bees always have four wings, a pair on each side. This

plan saves him the trouble of marking his hives so as to know the age of

the queens they contain.

As the fertility of the queen generally decreases after the second year,

I prefer, just before the drones are destroyed, to kill all the old

queens that have entered their third year. In this way, I guard against

some of my stocks becoming queenless, in consequence of the queen dying

of old age, when there is no worker-brood in the hive, from which they

can rear another: or of having a worthless, drone-laying queen whose

impregnation has been retarded. These old queens are removed at that

period of the year when their colony is strong in numbers; and as the

honey-harvest is by this time, nearly over, their removal is often a

positive benefit, instead of a loss. The population is prevented from

being over crowded at a time when the bees are consumers and not

producers, and when the young queen, reared in the place of the old one

matures, she will rapidly fill the cells with eggs, and raise a large

number of bees to take advantage of the late honey-harvest, and to

prepare the hive to winter most advantageously.

The certainty, rapidity and ease of making artificial swarms with my

hives, will be such as to amaze those most who have had the greatest

experience and success in the management of bees. Instead of weeks

wasted in watching the Apiary, in addition to all the other vexations

and embarrassments which are so often found to attend reliance on

natural swarming, the Apiarian will find not only that he can create all

his new colonies in a very short time, but that he can, if he chooses,

entirely prevent the issue of all after-swarms. In order to do this, he

ought to examine the stocks which are raising young queens, in season to

cut out all the queen cells but one, before the larvae come to maturity.

If he gave them a sealed queen nearly mature, they will raise no others,

and no swarming, for that season, will take place. If the Apiarian

wishes to do more than to double his stocks in one season, and is

favorably situated for practicing natural swarming, he can allow the

stocks that raise young queens to swarm if they will, and he can

strengthen the small swarms by giving to them comb with honey and

maturing brood from other hives. Or he can, after an interval of about

three weeks, make one swarm from every two good ones in his Apiary, in a

way that will soon be described.

I do not know that I can find a better place in which to impress certain

highly important principles upon the attention of the bee-keeper. I am

afraid, that in spite of all that I can say, many persons as soon as

they find themselves able to multiply colonies at pleasure, will so

overdo the matter, as to run the risk of losing all their bees. If the

Apiarian aims at obtaining a large quantity of honey in any one season,

he cannot at the furthest, more than double the number of his stocks:

nor can he do this, unless they are all strong, and the season

favorable. The moment that he aims, in any one season, at a more rapid

increase, he must not only renounce the idea of having any surplus

honey, but must expect to purchase food for the support of his colonies,

unless he is willing to see them all perish by starvation. The time,

food, care and skill required to multiply stocks with very great

rapidity, in our short and uncertain climate, are so great that not one

Apiarian in a hundred can expect to make it profitable; while the great

mass of those who attempt it, will be almost sure, at the close of the

season, to find themselves in possession of stocks which have been so

managed as to be of very little value.

Before explaining some other methods of artificial swarming, which I

have employed to great advantage, I shall endeavor to impress upon the

mind of the bee-keeper, the great importance of thoroughly understanding

each season, the precise object at which he is aiming, before he enters

on the work of increasing his colonies. If his object is, in any one

season, to get the largest yield of surplus honey, he must at once make

up his mind to be content with a very moderate increase of stocks. If,

on the contrary, he desires to multiply his colonies, say, three or four

fold, he must be prepared, not only to relinquish the expectation of

obtaining any surplus honey, if the season should prove unfavorable, but

to purchase food for the support of his bees. Rapid multiplication of

colonies, and large harvests of surplus honey cannot, in the very nature

of things, be secure in our climate, in any one season.

If the number of colonies is to be increased to a large extent, then the

bees in the Apiary will be tasked to the utmost in building new comb,

as well as in rearing brood. For these purposes, they must consume the

supply of honey which, under other circumstances, they would have stored

up, a part for their own use in the main hive, and the balance for their

owner, in the spare honey-boxes.

To make this matter perfectly plain, let us suppose a colony to swarm.

If the new hive, into which the swarm is put, holds, as it ought, about

a bushel, it will require about two pounds of wax to fill it with comb,

and at least forty pounds of honey will be used in its manufacture! If

the season is favorable, and the swarm was large and early, they may

gather, not only enough to build this comb and to store it with honey

sufficient for their own use, but a number of pounds in addition, for

the benefit of their owner. If the old stock does not swarm again, it

will rapidly replenish its numbers, and as it has no new comb to build

in the main hive which already contains much honey, it will be able to

store up a generous allowance in the upper boxes. These favorable

results are all on the supposition that the season was ordinarily

productive in honey, and that the hive was so powerful in numbers as to

be able to swarm early. If the season should prove to be very

unfavorable, the first swarm cannot be expected to gather more than

enough for its own use, while the parent stock will yield only a small

return. The profits of the bee-keeper, in such an unfortunate season,

will be mainly in the increase of his stocks. If the swarm was late, in

consequence of the stock being weak in Spring, the early part of the

honey-harvest will pass away, and the bees will be able to obtain from

it, but a small share of honey. During all this time of comparative

inactivity, the orchards may present

"One boundless blush, one white empurpled shower

Of mingled blossoms,"

and tens of thousands of bees