site logo

Feeding To Make A Profit By Selling The Honey Stored Up By The Bees

For many years, Apiarians have attempted to make the feeding of bees on

a large scale, profitable to their owners. All such attempts however,

must, from the very nature of the case, meet with very limited success.

If large quantities of cheap West India honey are fed to the bees in the

Fall, they are induced to fill their hives to such an extent, that in

the Spring, the queen does not find the necessary accommodations for

/> breeding. If they are largely fed in the Spring, the case is still

worse; (See p. 320.) It must therefore be obvious that the feeding of

cheap honey can only be made profitable where it serves as a substitute

for an equal quantity of choice honey taken from the bees. In the latter

part of Summer, the Apiarian may take away from the main hive, some of

the combs which contain the best honey, and replace them with combs into

which he has poured the cheaper article; or if he has no spare combs on

hand, he may slice off the covers of the cells, drain out the honey,

fill the empty combs with West India honey, and return them to the bees:

giving them at the same time, the additional food which they need to

elaborate wax to seal them over. If he attempts to take away their full

combs, and gives them honey in order to enable them, first to replace

their combs, and then to fill them, the operation, (see p. 326,) will

result in a loss, instead of a gain.

I am aware that for a number of years, persons have attempted to derive

a profit from supplying the markets of some of our large cities, with an

article professing to be the best of honey, but which has been nothing

more than the cheap West India honey fed to the bees, and stored up by

them in new comb. In the City of Philadelphia, large quantities of such

honey have been sold at the highest prices, and _perhaps_ at some profit

to the persons who have fed it to their bees. Within the last two years,

however, the article has become so well known that it can hardly be sold

at any price; as those who purchase honey, instead of paying 25 cents

per pound for West India honey in the comb, much prefer to buy it, (if

they want it at all,) for 6 or 7 cents, in a liquid state! It must be

perfectly obvious that to sell a cheap and ill-flavored article at a

high price, under the pretence that it is a superior article, is nothing

less than downright cheating.

I am perfectly well aware that many persons imagine that if any thing

_sweet_ is fed to bees, they will quickly transmute it into the purest

nectar. There is, however, no more truth in such a conceit, than there

would be in that of a man who supposed that he had found the veritable

philosopher's stone; and that he was able to change all our copper and

silver coins into the purest gold! Bees to be sure, can make white and

beautiful _comb_, from almost any kind of sweet; and why? because wax is

a natural secretion of the bee, (see p. 76,) and can be made from any

sweet; just as fat can be put upon the ribs of an ox, by any kind of

nourishing food.

"But," some of my readers may ask, "do you mean to assert that bees do

not secrete honey out of the raw material which they gather, or which is

furnished to them, just as cows secrete milk from grass and hay?" I

certainly do mean to assert that they can do nothing of the kind, and no

intelligent man who has carefully _studied their habits_, will for a

moment, venture to affirm that they can, unless for the sake of "filthy

lucre," he is attempting to deceive an unwary community. What bee-keeper

does not know, or rather ought not to know that the quality of honey

depends entirely upon the sources from whence it is gathered; and that

the different kinds of honey can easily be distinguished by any one who

is a judge of the article.

Apple-blossom honey, white clover honey, buckwheat honey, and all the

different kinds of honey, each has its own peculiar flavor, and it is

utterly amazing how any sensible man, acquainted with bees, can be so

deluded as to imagine any thing to the contrary. But as this is a matter

of great practical importance, let us examine it more closely.

When bees are engaged in rapidly storing up honey in their combs, they

may be seen, as _soon_ as they return from the fields, or from the

feeding boxes, putting their heads at once into the cells, and

disgorging the contents of their "honey-bags." Now that the contents of

their sacs undergo no change at all, during the short time that they

remain in them, I will not absolutely affirm, because I have endeavored,

through this whole treatise, never to assert positively when I had not

positive evidence for so doing: but that they can undergo but a _very

slight_ change, must be evident from the fact that when thus stored up,

the different kinds of honey or sugar can be almost if not quite as

readily distinguished as before they were fed to the bees. The only

perceptible change which they appear to undergo in the cells, is to have

the large quantity of water evaporated from them, which is added from

thoughtlessness, or from the vain expectation that it will be just so

much water sold for honey, to the defrauded purchaser! This evaporation

of the water from the honey by the heat of the hive, is about the only

marked change that it appears to undergo, from its natural state in the

nectaries of the blossoms; and it is exceedingly interesting to see how

unwilling bees are to seal up honey, until it is reduced to such a

consistency that there is no danger of its souring in the cells. They

are as careful as to the quality of their nectar, as the good lady of

the house is, to have the syrup of her preserves boiled down to a

suitable thickness to keep them sweet.

Let all who for any purpose whatever, feed bees, keep this fact in mind,

and never add to the food which they give them, more water than is

absolutely necessary. To do so, is a piece of as great stupidity as to

pour a barrel of water into the sugar pans, for every barrel of sap from

the maples, or juice from the canes! If a strong colony is set upon a

platform scale, it will be found on a pleasant day, during the height of

the honey harvest, to gain a number of pounds; if examined again, early

next morning, it will be found to have lost considerably, during the

night. This is owing to the evaporation of the water from the freshly

gathered honey, and it may often be seen running down in quite a stream

from the bottom-board.

Those who feed cheap honey to sell it in the market at a high advance

over its first cost, are either deceivers or deceived; if any of my

readers have been deceived by the plausible representations of ignorant

or unprincipled men, I trust they will be able from these remarks, to

see exactly _how_ they have been deceived, and they will no longer

persist in an adulteration, the profits of which can never be great, and

the morality of which can never be defended. A man who offers for sale,

inferior honey, or sugar which he calls honey, and which he is able to

sell because it is stored in white comb, to those who would never

purchase it if they knew what it was, or once had a taste of it, is not

a whit more honest, if he understands the nature of the article in which

he deals, than a person engaged in counterfeiting the current coin of

the realm: for poor honey in white comb, is no less a fraud than eagles

or dollars, golden to be sure, on their honest exteriors, but containing

a baser metal within! "The Golden Age" of bee-keeping, in which inferior

honey can be quickly transmuted into such balmy spoils as are gathered

by the bees of Hybla, has not yet dawned upon us; or at least only in

the fairy visions of the poet who saw

"A golden hive, on a Golden Bank,

Where golden bees, by alchemical prank,

Gathered Gold instead of Honey."

If a pound of West India honey costs about 6 cents, and the bees use, as

they will, about one pound to make the comb in which it is stored, it

costs the producer at least 12 cents a pound, and if to this, he adds,

say 5 cents more, for extra time and labor in feeding, then his inferior

honey costs him at least as much as the market price of the very best

honey on the spot where it is produced! If the bee-keeper allows his

bees to make what they will, from the blossoms, and then begins to feed,

after he has harvested the produce from the natural supplies, the

advance over the first cost will hardly pay for the trouble, even if it

were fair to palm off such inferior honey as a first-rate article. If,

however, bees are fed on this food very largely in the latter part of

Summer, they will fill up their hive with it, before they put it into

the spare honey boxes, and the production of brood will often be most

seriously interfered with, at a season of the year when it is important

to have the hives well stocked with bees, that they may winter to the

best advantage.

If Apiarians are anxious to have large quantities of choice honey, let

them manage their bees so as to have powerful stocks in the early

Spring, and they will then be able to have heavy purses and light

consciences into the bargain. I shall now show how liquid honey,

exceedingly beautiful to the eye, and tempting to the taste, may be made

to great advantage.

Dissolve two pounds of the purest white sugar, in as much hot water as

will be just necessary to reduce it to a syrup; take one pound of the

nicest white clover honey, (any other light colored honey of good flavor

will answer,) and after warming it, add it to the sugar syrup, and stir

the contents. When cool, this compound will be pronounced, even by the

best judges of honey, to be one of the most luscious articles which they

ever tasted; and will be, by almost every one, preferred to the unmixed

honey. Refined loaf sugar is a perfectly pure and inodorous sweet, and

one pound of honey will communicate the honey flavor, in high

perfection, to twice that quantity of sugar: while the new article will

be destitute of that smarting taste which honey alone, so often has, and

will be often found to agree perfectly with those who cannot eat the

clear honey with impunity. If those engaged in the artificial

manufacture of honey, never brought any thing worse than this, to the

market, the purchasers would have no reason to complain. As however, the

compound can be furnished much cheaper than the pure honey, many may

prefer to purchase the materials, and mix them themselves. If desired,

any kind of flavor may be given to the manufactured article; thus it may

be made to resemble in fragrance, the classic honey of Mount Hymettus,

by adding to it the fine aroma of the lemon balm, or wild thyme; or it

may have the flavor of the orange groves, or the delicate fragrance of

beds of roses washed with dew.

I have recently ascertained that if two pounds of the best refined sugar

be added to one of common maple sugar, the compound will be a light

colored article, retaining perfectly the maple taste, and yet far

superior to the common maple sugar. After making this discovery, I

learned that a large part of the very nicest maple sugar is made in this


Attempts have been made to feed to bees, to be stored in the honey

boxes, a mixture of the whitest honey and loaf sugar; but the result

shows a loss rather than a gain. The mixture, before it is fed, will

cost about 10 cents per pound. At the very furthest, not more than one

half of what is fed, can be secured in the comb, for it requires about

one pound of honey, to manufacture comb enough to hold a pound of honey.

The actual cost of the honey in the comb, will therefore be, at least 20

cents per pound; and the pure white clover honey can be bought for less

than that. Those who desire to have something exceedingly beautiful to

the eye, and delicate to the taste, at a season when the bees are not

storing up honey from the blossoms, and in situations where the natural

supply is of an inferior quality, if they do not regard expense, can

place upon their tables, something which will be pronounced by the best

judges, a little superior to any thing they ever tasted before.

I have repeatedly spoken of the great care which is necessary to prevent

bees from getting a taste of forbidden sweets, so as to be tempted to

engage in dishonest courses. The experienced Apiarian will fully

appreciate the necessity of these cautions, and the inexperienced, if

they neglect them, will be taught a lesson that they will not soon

forget. Let it be remembered that the bee was intended to gather its

sweets from the nectaries of flowers: to use the exquisitely beautiful

language of him whose wonderful writings supply us on almost every

subject, with the richest thoughts and happiest illustrations, they were

created to

"Make boot upon the Summer's velvet buds,

Which pillage they with merry march bring home

To the tent royal of their emperor:

Who, busied in his majesty, surveys

The singing masons, building roofs of gold."--_Shakspeare._

When thus engaged, the bees work in perfect accordance with their

natural instincts, and seem to have little or no disposition to meddle

with property that does not belong to them. If however, their incautious

owner tempts them with liquid food, especially at times when they can

obtain nothing from the blossoms, they seem to be so infatuated with

such easy gatherings, as to lose all discretion, and they will perish by

thousands, if the vessels which contain the food are not furnished with

floats, on which they can stand and help themselves in safety.

The fly was intended to feed, not upon the blossoms, but upon food in

which, without care, it could easily be drowned; and hence it alights

most cautiously, on the edge of any vessel containing liquid food, and

warily helps itself: while the poor bee, without any caution, plunges

right in and speedily perishes. The sad fate of their unfortunate

companions, does not in the least, deter others who approach the

tempting lure: but they madly alight on the bodies of the dying and the

dead, to share the same miserable end! No one can understand the full

extent of their infatuation, until after seeing a confectioner's shop,

assailed by thousands and tens of thousands of hungry bees. I have seen

thousands strained out from the syrups in which they had perished;

thousands more alighting even upon the boiling sweets; the floors

covered, and windows darkened with bees, some crawling, others flying,

and others still, so completely daubed as to be able neither to crawl

nor fly; not one bee in ten able to carry home its ill-gotten spoils,

and yet the air filled with new hosts of thoughtless comers.

It will be for the interest of all engaged in the manufacture of candy

and syrups, to fit gauze wire windows and doors to their premises, and

thus save themselves from constant loss and annoyance: for if only one

bee in a hundred escapes with his load, the confectioner will be

subjected in the course of the season to serious loss. I once furnished

such an establishment, after the bees had commenced their depredations,

with such protection; and when they found themselves excluded, they lit

on the wire by thousands, and fairly squealed with vexation and

disappointment, as they tried to force a passage through the meshes. At

last as they were daring enough to descend the chimney, reeking with

sweet odors, even although the most who attempted it, fell with scorched

wings into the fire, it became necessary to put wire gauze over the top

of the chimney also!

How often, as I have seen thousands of bees, in such places destroyed,

and thousands more deprived of all ability to fly, and hopelessly

struggling in the deluding sweets, and yet thousands more blindly

hovering over them, all unmindful of their danger, and apparently eager

to share the same destruction, how often has the spectacle of their

infatuation seemed to me, to be an exact picture of the woful delusion

of those who surrender themselves to the fatal influences of the

intoxicating cup. Even although they see the miserable victims of this

degrading vice, falling all around them, into premature and dishonored

graves, they still press on, madly trampling as it were, over their dead

and dying bodies, that they too may sink into the same abyss of agonies,

and that their sun may also go down in darkness and hopeless gloom. Even

although they know that the next cup may send them, with all their sins

upon their heads, to the dread tribunal of their God, that cup of bitter

sorrows and untold degradation, they will drain even to its most

loathsome dregs.

The avaricious bee that despised the slow process of extracting nectar

from "every opening flower," and plunged recklessly into the tempting

sweets, has ample time to bewail its folly. Even if it has not paid the

forfeit of its life, but has been able to obtain its fill, it returns

home with all its beautiful plumage sullied and besmeared, and with a

woe-begone look, and sorrowful note, in marked contrast with the bright

hues and merry sounds with which the industrious bee returns from its

happy rovings amid "the budding honey flowers, and sweetly breathing


Just so, has many a pilgrim from the golden shores of California and

Australia, returned; enfeebled in body and mind, bankrupt often in

character and happiness, if not in purse, and unfitted in every way, for

the calm and sober pursuits of common industry; while thousands, yes,

and tens of thousands too, shall never more behold their once happy

homes. Bibles and Sabbaths, altars and firesides, parents and friends,

wife and children, how often have all these been wantonly abandoned, in

the accursed greed for gain, by those who might have been happy and

prosperous at home, and who wandered from its sacred precincts only

because they were determined to make the possession of wealth, the chief

object of life, but whose bones now lie amid the coral reefs of the

ocean, or moulder in the howling wastes of the "overland passage;" just

as the bones of the unbelieving Israelites whitened the sands of the

desert. Of those who have reached the "land of" golden "promise," how

many have died in despair, or worse still, are living so besotted by

vice, so lost to all power of virtuous resolutions, that they shall

never more see the happy homes from which they so thoughtlessly

wandered, never more hear the soft accents of loving friends; never more

worship God, in a peaceful Sanctuary, or ever again behold an opened


"Gold! Gold! Gold! Gold!

Bright and yellow, hard and cold,

Molten, graven, hammer'd, and roll'd;

Heavy to get, and light to hold;

Hoarded, barter'd, bought, and sold,

Stolen, borrow'd, squander'd, doled:

Spurn'd by the young, but hugg'd by the old

To the very verge of the churchyard mould;

Price of many a crime untold;

Gold! Gold! Gold! Gold!

Good or bad a thousand-fold!

How widely its agencies vary--

To save--to ruin--to curse--to bless--

As even its minted coins express,

Now stamp'd with the image of Good Queen Bess,

And now of a Bloody Mary!"