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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

ubject 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


"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."


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


"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.