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The Bee-moth And Other Enemies Of Bees Diseases Of Bees

Of all the numerous enemies of the honey-bee, the Bee-Moth (Tinea

mellonella,) in climates of hot Summers, is by far, the most to be

dreaded. So wide spread and fatal have been its ravages in this country,

that thousands have abandoned the cultivation of bees in despair, and in

districts which once produced abundant supplies of the purest honey,

bee-keeping has gradually dwindled down into a very insignificant

Contrivances almost without number, have been devised, to

defend the bees against this invidious foe, but still it continues its

desolating inroads, almost unchecked, laughing as it were to scorn, at

all the so-called "moth-proof" hives, and turning many of the ingenious

fixtures designed to entrap or exclude it, into actual aids and comforts

in its nefarious designs.

I should feel but little confidence in being able to reinstate

bee-keeping in our country, into a certain and profitable pursuit, if I

could not show the Apiarian in what way he can safely bid defiance to

the pestiferous assaults of this, his most implacable enemy. I have

patiently studied its habits for years, and I am at length able to

announce a system of management founded upon the peculiar construction

of my hives, which will enable the careful bee-keeper to protect his

colonies against the monster. The CAREFUL bee-keeper, I say: for to

pretend that the careless one, can by any contrivance effect this, is "a

snare and a delusion;" and no well-informed man, unless he is steeped to

the very lips, in fraud and imposture, will ever claim to accomplish any

thing of the kind. The bee-moth infects our Apiaries, just as weeds take

possession of a fertile soil; and the negligent bee-keeper will find a

"moth-proof" hive, when the sluggard finds a _weed-proof_ soil, and I

suspect not until a consummation so devoutly wished for by the slothful

has arrived. Before explaining the means upon which I rely, to

circumvent the moth, I will first give a brief description of its


Swammerdam, towards the close of the 17th century, gave a very accurate

description of this insect, which was then called by the very expressive

name of the "bee-wolf." He has furnished good drawings of it, in all its

changes, from the worm to the perfect moth, together with the peculiar

webs or galleries which it constructs and from which the name of Tinea

Galleria or gallery moth, has been given to it by some entomologists. He

failed, however, to discriminate between the male and female, which,

because they differ so much in size and appearance, he supposed to be

two different species of the wax-moth. It seems to have been a great

pest in his time; and even Virgil speaks of the "dirum tineae genus," the

dreadful _offspring_ of the moth; that is the worm. This destroyer

usually makes its appearance about the hives, in April or May; the time

of its coming, depending upon the warmth of the climate, or the

forwardness of the season. It is seldom seen on the wing, (unless

startled from its lurking place about the hive,) until towards dark, and

is evidently, chiefly nocturnal in its habits. In dark cloudy days,

however, I have noticed it on the wing long before sunset, and if

several such days follow in succession, the female oppressed with the

urgent necessity of laying her eggs, may be seen endeavoring to gain

admission to the hives. The female is much larger than the male, and

"her color is deeper and more inclining to a darkish gray, with small

spots or blackish streaks on the interior edge of her upper wings." The

color of the male inclines more to a light gray; they might easily be

mistaken for different species of moths. These insects are surprisingly

agile, both on foot and on the wing. The motions of a bee are very slow

in comparison. "They are," says Reaumur, "the most nimble-footed

creatures that I know." "If the approach to the Apiary[21] be observed

of a moonlight evening, the moths will be found flying or running round

the hives, watching an opportunity to enter, whilst the bees that have

to guard the entrances against their intrusion, will be seen acting as

vigilant sentinels, performing continual rounds near this important

post, extending their antennae to the utmost, and moving them to the

right and left alternately. Woe to the unfortunate moth that comes

within their reach!" "It is curious," says Huber, "to observe how

artfully the moth knows how to profit, to the disadvantage of the bees,

which require much light for seeing objects; and the precautions taken

by the latter in reconnoitering and expelling so dangerous an enemy."

The entrance of the moth into a hive, and the ravages committed by her

progeny, forcibly remind one of the sad havoc which sin often makes of

character and happiness, when it finds admission into the human heart,

and is allowed to prey unchecked, upon all its most precious treasures;

and he who would not be so enslaved by its power, as to lose all his

spiritual life and prosperity, must be constantly on the defensive, and

ever on the "watch" against its fatal intrusions.

Only some tiny eggs are deposited by the moth, and they give birth to a

very delicate, innocent-looking worm; but let these apparently

insignificant creatures once "get the upper hand," and all the fragrance

of the honied dome, is soon corrupted by their abominable stench; every

thing beautiful and useful, is ruthlessly destroyed; the hum of happy

industry is stilled, and at last, nothing is left in the desecrated

hive, but a set of ravenous, half famished worms, knotting and writhing

around each other, in most loathsome convolutions.

Wax is the proper aliment of the larvae of the bee-moth: and upon this

seemingly indigestible substance, they thrive and fatten. When obliged

to steal their living as best they can, among a powerful stock of bees,

they are exposed, during their growth, to many perils, and seldom fare

well enough to reach their natural size: but if they are rioting at

pleasure, among the full combs of a feeble and discouraged population,

they often attain a size and corpulency truly astonishing. If the

bee-keeper wishes to see their innate capabilities fully developed, let

him rear a lot for himself among some old combs, and if prizes were

offered for fat and full grown worms, he might easily obtain one. In the

course of a few weeks, the larva like that of the silk-worm, stops

eating, and begins to think of a suitable place for encasing itself in

its silky shroud. In hives where they reign uncontrolled, this is a work

of but little difficulty; almost any place will answer their purpose,

and they often pile their cocoons, one on top of another, or join them

in long rows together: but in hives strongly guarded by healthy bees,

this is a matter not very easily accomplished; and many a worm while it

is cautiously prying about, to see where it can find some snug place in

which to ensconce itself, is caught by the nape of the neck, and very

unceremoniously served with an instant writ of ejection from the hive.

If a hive is thoroughly made, of sound materials, and has no cracks or

crevices under which the worm can retreat, it is obliged to leave the

interior in search of such a place, and it runs a most dangerous

gantlet, as it passes, for this purpose, through the ranks of its

enraged foes. Even in the worm state, however, its motions are

exceedingly quick; it can crawl backwards or forwards, and as well one

way as another: it can twist round on itself, curl up almost into a

knot, and flatten itself out like a pancake! in short, it is full of

stratagems and cunning devices. If obliged to leave the hive, it gets

under any board or concealed crack, spins its cocoon, and patiently

awaits its transformation. In most of the common hives, it is under no

necessity of leaving its birth place for this purpose. It is almost

certain to find a crack or flaw into which it can creep, or a small

space between the bottom-board and the edges of the hive which rest upon

it. A _very_ small crevice will answer all its purposes. It enters, by

flattening itself out almost as much as though it had been passed under

a roller, and as soon as it is safe from the bees, it speedily begins to

give its cramped tenement, the requisite proportions. It is utterly

amazing how an insect apparently so feeble, can do this; but it will

often gnaw for itself a cavity, even in solid wood, and thus enlarge its

retreat, until it has ample room for making its cocoon! The time when it

will break forth into a winged insect, depends entirely upon the degree

of heat to which it is exposed. I have had them spin their cocoons and

hatch in a temperature of about 70 deg., in ten or eleven days, and I have

known them to spin so late in the Fall, that they remained all Winter,

undeveloped, and did not emerge until the warm weather of the ensuing


If they are hatched in the hive, they leave it, in order to attend to

the business of impregnation. In the moth state, they do not actually

attack the hives, to plunder them of food, although they have a "sweet

tooth" in their head, and are easily attracted by the odor of liquid

sweets. The male, having no special business in the hive, usually keeps

himself at a safe distance from the bees: but the female, impelled by an

irresistible instinct, seeks admission, in order to deposit her eggs

where her offspring may gain the readiest access to their natural food.

She carefully explores all the cracks and crevices about the

bottom-board, and if she finds a suitable place under them, lays her

eggs among the parings of the combs, and other refuse matter which has

fallen from the hive. If she enters a feeble or discouraged stock, where

she can act her own pleasure, she will lay her eggs among the combs. In

a hive where she is too closely watched to effect this, she will insert

them in the corners, into the soft propolis, or in any place where there

are small pieces of wax and bee-bread, which have fallen upon the

bottom-board, and which will furnish a temporary place of concealment

for her progeny, and also the requisite nourishment, until they have

strength and enterprise enough to reach the main combs of the hive, and

fortify themselves there. "As soon as hatched,[22] the worm encloses

itself in a case of white silk, which it spins around its body; at first

it is like a mere thread, but gradually increases in size, and during

its growth, feeds upon the cells around it, for which purpose it has

only to put forth its head, and find its wants supplied. It devours its

food with great avidity, and consequently increases so much in bulk,

that its gallery soon becomes too short and narrow, and the creature is

obliged to thrust itself forward and lengthen the gallery, as well to

obtain more room as to procure an additional supply of food. Its

augmented size exposing it to attacks from surrounding foes, the wary

insect fortifies its new abode with additional strength and thickness,

by blending with the filaments of its silken covering, a mixture of wax

and its own excrement, for the external barrier of a new gallery, the

_interior_ and partitions of which are lined with a smooth surface of

white silk, which admits the occasional movements of the insect, without

injury to its delicate (?) texture. In performing these operations, the

insect might be expected to meet with opposition from the bees, and to

be gradually rendered more assailable as it advanced in age. It never,

however, exposes any part but its head and neck, both of which are

covered with stout helmets or scales impenetrable to the sting of a bee,

as is the composition of the galleries that surround it." As soon as it

has reached its full growth, it seeks in the manner previously

described, a secure place for undergoing its changes into a winged


Before describing the way in which I protect my hives from this deadly

pest, I shall first show why the bee-moth has so wonderfully increased

in numbers in this country, and how the use of patent hives has so

powerfully contributed to encourage its ravages. It ought to be borne in

mind that our climate is altogether more propitious to its rapid

increase, than that of Great Britain. Our intensely hot summers develop

most rapidly and powerfully, insect life, and those parts of our country

where the heat is most protracted and intense, have, as a general thing,

suffered most from the devastations of the bee-moth.

The bee is not a native of the American continent; it was first brought

here by colonists from Great Britain, and was called by the Indians, the

white man's fly. With the bee, was introduced its natural enemy,

created for the special purpose, not of destroying the insect, on whose

industry it thrives, and whose extermination would be fatal to the moth

itself, but that it might gain its livelihood as best it could in this

busy world. Finding itself in a country whose climate is exceedingly

propitious to its rapid increase, it has multiplied and increased a

thousand fold, until now there is hardly a spot where the bees inhabit,

which is not infested by its powerful enemy.

I have often listened to the glowing accounts of the vast supplies of

honey obtained by the first settlers, from their bees. Fifty years ago,

the markets in our large cities were much more abundantly supplied than

they now are, and it was no uncommon thing to see exposed for sale,

large washing-tubs filled with the most beautiful honey. Various reasons

have been assigned for the present depressed state of Apiarian pursuits.

Some imagine that newly settled countries are most favorable for the

labors of the bee: others, that we have overstocked our farms, so that

the bees cannot find a sufficient supply of food. That neither of these

reasons will account for the change, I shall prove more at length, in my

remarks on Honey, and when I discuss the question of overstocking a

district with bees. Others lay all the blame upon the bee-moth, and

others still, upon our departure from the good old-fashioned way of

managing bees. That the bee-moth has multiplied most astonishingly, is

undoubtedly true. In many districts, it so superabounds, that the man

who should expect to manage his bees with as little care as his father

and grandfather bestowed upon them, and yet realize as large profits,

would find himself most wofully mistaken. The old bee-keeper often never

looked at his bees after the swarming season, until the time came for

appropriating their spoils. He then carefully "hefted" all his hives so

as to be able to judge as well as he could, how much honey they

contained. All which were found to be too light to survive the Winter,

he at once condemned; and if any were deficient in bees, or for any

other reason, appeared to be of doubtful promise, they were, in like

manner, sentenced to the sulphur pit. A certain number of those

containing the largest supplies of honey, were also treated in the same

summary way: while the requisite number of the _very best_, were

reserved to replenish his stock another season. If the same system

precisely, were now followed, a number of colonies would still perish

annually, through the increased devastations of the moth.

The change which has taken place in the circumstances of the bee-keeper,

may be illustrated by supposing that when the country was first settled,

weeds were almost unknown. The farmer plants his corn, and then lets it

alone, and as there are no weeds to molest it, at the end of the season

he harvests a fair crop. Suppose, however, that in process of time, the

weeds begin to spread more and more, until at last, this farmer's son or

grandson finds that they entirely choke his corn, and that he cannot, in

the old way, obtain a remunerating crop. Now listen to him, as he

gravely informs you that he cannot tell how it is, but corn with him has

all "run out." He manages it precisely as his father or grandfather

always managed theirs, but somehow the pestiferous weeds will spring up,

and he has next to no crop. Perhaps you can hardly conceive of such

transparent ignorance and stupidity; but it would be difficult to show

that it would be one whit greater than that of a large number who keep

bees in places where the bee-moth abounds, and who yet imagine that

those plans which answered perfectly well fifty or a hundred years ago,

when moths were scarce, will answer just as well now.

If however, the old plan had been rigidly adhered to, the ravages of the

bee-moth would never have been so great as they now are. The

introduction of _patent hives_ has contributed most powerfully, to fill

the land with the devouring pest. I am perfectly aware that this is a

bold assertion, and that it may, at first sight, appear to be very

uncourteous, if not unjust, to the many intelligent and ingenious

Apiarians, who have devoted much time, and spent large sums of money, in

perfecting hives designed to enable the bee-keeper to contend most

successfully against his worst enemy. As I do not wish to treat such

persons with even the appearance of disrespect, I shall endeavor to show

just how the use of the hives which they have devised, has contributed

to undermine the prosperity of the bees. Many of these hives have

valuable properties, and if they were always used in strict accordance

with the enlightened directions of those who have invented them, they

would undoubtedly be real and substantial improvements over the old box

or straw hive, and would greatly aid the bee-keeper in his contest with

the moth. The great difficulty is that they are none of them, able to

give him the facilities which alone can make him victorious. No hive, as

I shall soon show, can ever do this, which does not give the complete

and easy control of all the combs.

I do not know of a single improved hive which does not aim at entirely

doing away with the old-fashioned plan of killing the bees. Such a

practice is denounced as being almost as cruel and silly as to kill a

hen for the sake of obtaining her feathers or a few of her eggs. Now if

the Apiarian can be furnished with suitable instructions, and such as he

will _practice_, for managing his bees so as to avoid this necessity,

then I admit the full force of all the objections which have been urged

against it. I have never read the beautiful verses of the poet

Thompson, without feeling all their force:

"Ah, see, where robbed and murdered in that pit

Lies the still heaving hive! at evening snatched,

Beneath the cloud of guilt-concealing night,

And fixed o'er sulphur! while, not dreaming ill,

The happy people, in their waxen cells,

Sat tending public cares;

Sudden, the dark oppressive steam ascends,

And, used to milder scents, the tender race,

By thousands, tumble from their honied dome!

Into a gulf of blue sulphureous flame."

The plain matter of fact however, is, that in our country, as many bees,

if not more, die of starvation in their hives, as ever were killed by

the fumes of sulphur. Commend me rather to the humanity of the

old-fashioned bee-keeper, who put to a speedy and therefore merciful

death, the poor bees which are now, by millions, tortured by slow

starvation among their empty combs! At the present time, (April 1853,) I

am almost daily hearing of swarms which have perished in this way,

during the last Winter; and I know of only one person who was merciful

enough to kill his weak stocks, rather than suffer them to die so cruel

a death.

If the use of the common patent hives could only keep the stocks strong

in numbers, and if the bee-keepers would always see that they were well

supplied with honey, then I admit that to kill the bees would be both

cruel and unnecessary. Such however, are the discouragements and losses

necessarily attending the use of any hive which does not give the

control of the combs, that there will be few who do not continually find

that some of their stocks are too feeble to be worth the labor and

expense of attempting to preserve them over Winter. How many colonies

are annually wintered, which are not only of no value to their owner,

but are positive nuisances in his Apiary; being so feeble in the Spring,

that they are speedily overcome by the moth, and answer only to breed a

horde of destroyers to ravage the rest of his Apiary. The time spent

upon them is often as absolutely wasted, as the time devoted to a sick

animal incurably diseased, and which can never be of any service, while

by nursing it along, its owner incurs the risk of infecting his whole

stock with its deadly taint. If, on the score of kindness, he should

shut it up, and let it starve to death, few of us, I imagine, would care

to cultivate a very intimate acquaintance with one so extremely original

in the exhibition of his humanity!

Ever since the introduction of patent hives, the notion has almost

universally prevailed, that stocks must not, under _any_ circumstances,

be voluntarily broken up; and hence, instead of Apiaries, filled in the

Spring, with strong and healthy stocks of bees, easily able to protect

themselves against the bee-moth, and all other enemies, we have

multitudes of colonies which, if they had been kept on purpose to

furnish food for the worms, could scarcely have answered a more valuable

end in encouraging their increase. The simple truth is, that improved

hives, without an improved system of management, have done on the whole

more harm than good; in no country have they been so extensively used as

in our own, and no where has the moth so completely gained the

ascendency. Just so far as they have discouraged bee-keepers from the

old plan of killing off all their weak swarms in the Fall, just so far

have they extended "aid and comfort" to the moth, and made the condition

of the bee-keeper worse than it was before. That some of them might be

managed so as in all ordinary cases, to give the bees complete

protection against their scourge, I do not, for a moment, question; but

that they cannot, from the very nature of the case, answer fully in all

emergencies, the ends for which they were designed, I shall endeavor to

prove and not to assert.

The kind of hives of which I have been speaking, are such as have been

devised by intelligent and honest men, practically acquainted with the

management of bees: as for many of the hives which have been introduced,

they not only afford the Apiarian no assistance against the inroads of

the bee-moth, but they are so constructed as positively to aid it in its

nefarious designs. The more they are used, the worse the poor bees are

off: just as the more a man uses the lying nostrums of the brazen-faced

quack, the further he finds himself from health and vigor.

I once met with an intelligent man who told me that he had paid a

considerable sum, to a person who professed to be in possession of many

valuable _secrets_ in the management of bees, and who promised, among

other things, to impart to him an infallible remedy against the

bee-moth. On the receipt of the money, he very gravely told him that the

secret of keeping the moth out of the hive, was to keep the bees strong

and vigorous! A truer declaration he could not have made, but I believe

that the bee-keeper felt, notwithstanding, that he had been imposed

upon, as outrageously, as a poor man would be, who after paying a quack

a large sum of money for an infallible, life-preserving secret, should

be turned off with the truism that the secret of living forever, was to

keep well!

There is not an intelligent, observing Apiarian who has been in the

habit of carefully examining the operations of bees, not only in his own

Apiary, but wherever he could find them, who has not seen strong stocks

flourishing under almost any conceivable circumstances. They may be seen

in hives of the most miserable construction, unpainted and unprotected,

sometimes with large open cracks and clefts extending down their sides,

and yet laughing to defiance, the bee-moth, and all other adverse


Almost any thing hollow, in which the bees can establish themselves, and

where they have once succeeded in becoming strong, will often be

successfully tenanted by them for a series of years. To see such hives,

as they sometimes may be seen, in possession of persons both ignorant

and careless, and who hardly know a bee-moth from any other kind of

moth, may at first sight well shake the confidence of the inquirer, in

the necessity or value of any particular precautions to preserve his

hives from the devastations of the moth.

After looking at these powerful stocks in what may be called log-cabin

hives, let us examine some in the most costly hives, which have ever

been constructed; in what have been called real "Bee-Palaces;" and we

shall often find them weak and impoverished, infested and almost

devoured by the worms. Their owner, with books in his hand, and all the

newest devices and appliances in the Apiarian line, unable to protect

his bees against their enemies, or to account for the reason why some

hives seem, like the children of the poor, almost to thrive upon

ill-treatment and neglect, while others, like the offspring of the rich

and powerful, are feeble and diseased, almost in exact proportion to the

means used to guard them against noxious influences, and to minister

most lavishly to all their wants.

I once used to be much surprised to hear so many bee-keepers speak of

having "good luck," or "bad luck" with their bees; but really as bees

are generally managed, success or failure does seem to depend almost

entirely upon what the ignorant or superstitious are wont to call


I shall now try to do what I have never yet seen satisfactorily done by

any writer on bees; viz.: show exactly under what circumstances the

bee-moth succeeds in establishing itself in a hive; thus explaining why

some stocks flourish in spite of all neglect, while others, in the

common hives, fall a prey to the moth, let their owner be as careful as

he will, I shall finally show how in suitable hives, with proper

precautions, it may always be kept from seriously annoying the bees.

It often happens, when a large number of stocks are kept, that in spite

of all precautions, some of them are found in the Spring, so greatly

reduced in numbers, that if left to themselves, they are in danger of

falling a prey to the devouring moth. Bees, when in feeble colonies,

seem often to lose a portion of their wonted vigilance, and as they have

a large quantity of empty comb which they cannot guard, even if they

would, the moth enters the hive, and deposits a large number of eggs,

and thus before the bees have become sufficiently numerous to protect

themselves, the combs are filled with worms, and the destruction of the

colony speedily follows. The ignorant or careless bee-keeper is informed

of the ravages which are going on in such a hive, only when its ruin is

fully completed, and a cloud of winged pests issues from it, to destroy

if they can, the rest of his stocks. But how, it may be asked, can it be

ascertained that a hive is seriously infested with the all-devouring

worms? The aspect of the bees, so discouraged and forlorn, proclaims at

once that there is trouble of some kind within. If the hive be slightly

elevated, the bottom-board will be found covered with pieces of

bee-bread, &c. mixed with the _excrement of the worms_ which looks

almost exactly like fine grains of powder. As the bees in Spring, clean

out their combs, and prepare the cells for the reception of brood, their

bottom-board will often be so covered with parings of comb and with

small pieces of bee-bread, that the hive may appear to be in danger of

being destroyed by the worms. If, however, none of the _black_ excrement

is perceived, the refuse on the bottom-board, like the shavings in a

carpenter's shop, are proofs of industry and not the signs of

approaching ruin. It is highly important, however, to keep the

bottom-boards clean, and if a piece of zinc be slipt in, (or even an old

newspaper,) by removing and cleansing it from time to time, the bees

will be greatly assisted in their operations. As soon as the hive is

well filled with bees, this need no longer be done.

Even the most careful and experienced Apiarian will find, too often,

that although he is perfectly well aware of the plague that is reigning

within, his knowledge can be turned to no good account, the interior of

the hive being almost as inaccessible as the interior of the human body.

The way in which I manage, in such cases, is as follows.

Having ascertained, in the Spring, as soon as the bees begin to fly out,

that a colony although feeble, has a fertile queen, I take the

precaution at once to give it the strength which is indispensable, not

merely to its safety, but to its ability for any kind of successful


As a certain number of bees are needed in a hive, in order as well to

warm and hatch the thousands of eggs which a healthy queen can lay, as

to feed and properly develop the larvae after they are hatched, I know

that a feeble colony must remain feeble for a long time, unless they can

at once be supplied with a considerable accession of numbers. Even if

there were no moths in existence to trouble such a hive, it would not be

able to rear a large number of bees, until after the best of the

honey-harvest had passed away: and then it would become powerful only

that its increasing numbers might devour the food which the others had

previously stored in the cells. If the small colony has a considerable

number of bees, and is able to cover and warm at least one comb in

addition to those containing brood which they already have, I take from

one of my strong stocks, a frame containing some three or four thousand

or more young bees, which are sealed over in their cells, and are just

ready to emerge. These bees which require no food, and need nothing but

warmth to develop them, will, in a few days, hatch in the new hive to

which they are given, and thus the requisite number of workers, in the

full vigor and energy of youth, will be furnished to the hive, and the

discouraged queen, finding at once a suitable number of experienced

nurses[23] to take charge of her eggs, deposits them in the proper

cells, instead of simply extruding them, to be devoured by the bees.

While bees often attack full grown strangers which are introduced into

their hive, they never fail to receive gladly all the brood comb that we

choose to give them. If they are sufficiently numerous, they will always

cherish it, and in warm weather, they will protect it, even if it is

laid against the outside of their hive! If the bees in the weak stock,

are too much reduced in numbers, to be able to cover the brood comb

taken from another hive, I give them this comb with all the old bees

that are clustered upon it, and shut up the hive, after supplying them

with water, until two or three days have passed away. By this time, most

of the strange bees will have formed an inviolable attachment to their

new home, and even if a portion of them should return to the parent

hive, a large number of the maturing young will have hatched, to supply

their desertion. A little sugar-water scented with peppermint, may be

used to sprinkle the bees, at the time that the comb is introduced,

although I have never yet found that they had the least disposition, to

quarrel with each other. The original settlers are only too glad to

receive such a valuable accession to their scanty numbers, and the

expatriated bees are too-much confounded with their unexpected

emigration, to feel any desire for making a disturbance. If a sufficient

increase of numbers has not been furnished by one range of comb, the

operation may, in the course of a few days, be repeated. Instead of

leaving the colony to the discouraging feeling that they are in a large,

empty and desolate house, a divider should be run down into the hive,

and they should be confined to a space which they are able to warm and

defend, and the rest of the hive, until they need its additional room,

should be carefully shut up against all intruders. If this operation is

judiciously performed, the bees will be powerful in numbers, long before

the weather is warm enough to develop the bee-moth, and they will thus

be most effectually protected from the hateful pest.

A very simple change in the organization of the bee-moth would have

rendered it almost if not quite impossible to protect the bees from its

ravages. If it had been so constituted as to require but a very small

amount of heat for its full development, it would have become very

numerous early in the Spring, and might then have easily entered the

hives and deposited its eggs among the combs, without any let or

hindrance; for at this season, not only do the bees at night maintain no

guard at the entrance of their hive, but there are large portions of

their comb bare of bees, and of course, entirely unprotected. How does

every fact in the history of the bee, when properly investigated, point

with unerring certainty to the power, wisdom and goodness, of Him who

made it!

If there is reason to apprehend that the combs which are not occupied

with brood, contain any of the eggs of the moth, these combs may be

removed, and thoroughly smoked with the fumes of burning sulphur; and

then, in a few days, after they have been exposed to the fresh air, they

may be returned to the hive. I hope I may be pardoned for feeling not

the slightest pity for the unfortunate progeny of the moth, thus

unceremoniously destroyed.

Bees, as is well known to every experienced bee-keeper, frequently swarm

so often as to expose themselves to great danger of being destroyed by

the moth. After the departure of the after-swarms, the parent colony

often contains too few bees to cover and protect their combs from the

insidious attacks of their wily enemy. As a number of weeks must elapse

before the brood of the young queen is mature, the colony, for a

considerable time, at the season when the moths are very numerous, are

constantly diminishing in numbers, and before they can begin to

replenish the exhausted hive, the destroyer has made a fatal lodgment.

In my hives, such calamities are easily prevented. If artificial

increase is relied upon for the multiplication of colonies, it can be so

conducted as to give the moth next to no chance to fortify itself in the

hive. No colony is ever allowed to have more room than it needs, or more

combs than it can cover and protect; and the entrance to the hive may be

contracted, if necessary, so that only a single bee can go in and out,

at a time, and yet the bees will have, from the ventilators, as much air

as they require.

If natural swarming is allowed, after-swarms may be prevented from

issuing, by cutting out all the queen cells but one, soon after the

first swarm leaves the hive; or if it is desired to have as fast an

increase of stocks, as can possibly be obtained from natural swarming,

then instead of leaving the combs in the parent hive to be attacked by

the moth, a certain portion of them may be taken out, when swarming is

over, and given to the second and third swarms, so as to aid in building

them up into strong stocks.

But I have not yet spoken of the most fruitful cause of the desolating

ravages of the bee-moth. If a colony has _lost its queen_, and this loss

cannot be supplied, it must, as a matter of course, fall a sacrifice to

the bee-moth: and I do not hesitate to assert that by far the larger

proportion of colonies which are destroyed by it, are destroyed under

precisely such circumstances! Let this be remembered by all who have any

thing to do with bees, and let them understand that unless a remedy for

the loss of the queen, can be provided, they must constantly expect to

see some of their best colonies hopelessly ruined. The crafty moth,

after all, is not so much to blame, as we are apt to imagine; for a

colony, once deprived of its queen, and possessing no means of securing

another, would certainly perish, even if never attacked by so deadly an

enemy; just as the body of an animal, when deprived of life, will

speedily go to decay, even if it is not, at once, devoured by ravenous

swarms of filthy flies and worms.

In order to ascertain all the important points connected with the habits

of the bee-moth, I have purposely deprived colonies in some of my

observing hives, of their queen, and have thus reduced them to a state

of despair, that I might closely watch all their proceedings. I have

invariably found that in this state, they have made little or no

resistance to the entrance of the bee-moth, but have allowed her to

deposit her eggs, just where she pleased. The worms, after hatching,

have always appeared to be even more at home than the poor dispirited

bees themselves, and have grown and thrived, in the most luxurious

manner. In some instances, these colonies, so far from losing all spirit

to resent other intrusions, were positively the most vindictive set of

bees in my whole Apiary. One especially, assaulted every body that came

near it, and when reduced in numbers to a mere handful, seemed as ready

for fight as ever.

How utterly useless then, for defending a queenless colony against the

moth, are all the traps and other devices which have been, of late

years, so much relied upon. If a single female gains admission, she will

lay eggs enough to destroy in a short time, the strongest colony that

ever existed, if once it has lost its queen, and has no means of

procuring another. But not only do the bees of a hive which is

hopelessly queenless, make little or no opposition to the entrance of

the bee-moth, and to the ravages of the worms, but by their forlorn

condition, they positively invite the attacks of their destroyers. The

moth seems to have an instinctive knowledge of the condition of such a

hive, and no art of man can ever keep her out. She will pass by other

colonies to get at the queenless one, for she seems to know that there

she will find all the conditions that are necessary to the proper

development of her young. There are many mysteries in the insect world,

which we have not yet solved; nor can we tell just how the moth arrives

at so correct a knowledge of the condition of the queenless hives in the

Apiary. That such hives, very seldom, maintain a guard about the

entrance, is certain; and that they do not fill the air with the

pleasant voice of happy industry, is equally certain; for even to our

dull ears, the difference between the hum of the prosperous hive, and

the unhappy note of the despairing one, is sufficiently obvious. May it

not be even more obvious to the acute senses of the provident mother,

seeking a proper place for the development of her young?

The unerring sagacity of the moth, closely resembles that peculiar

instinct by which the vulture and other birds that prey upon carrion,

are able to single out a diseased animal from the herd, which they

follow with their dismal croakings, hovering over its head, or sitting

in ill-omened flocks, on the surrounding trees, watching it as its life

ebbs away, and stretching out their filthy and naked necks, and opening

and snapping their blood-thirsty beaks that they may be all ready to

tear out its eyes just glazing in death, and banquet upon its flesh

still warm with the blood of life! Let any fatal accident befall an

animal, and how soon will you see them, first from one quarter of the

heavens, and then from another, speeding their eager flight to their

destined prey, when only a short time before, not a single one could be

seen or heard.

I have repeatedly seen powerful colonies speedily devoured by the worms,

because of the loss of their queen, when they have stood, side by side

with feeble colonies which being in possession of a queen, have been

left untouched!

That the common hives furnish no available remedy for the loss of the

queen, is well known: indeed, the owner cannot, in many cases, be sure

that his bees are queenless, until their destruction is certain, while

not unfrequently, after keeping bees for many years, he does not even so

much as believe that there is such a thing as a queen bee!

In the Chapter on the Loss of the Queen, I shall show in what way this

loss can be ascertained, and ordinarily remedied, and thus the bees be

protected from that calamity which more than all others, exposes them to

destruction. When a colony has become hopelessly queenless, then moth or

no moth, its destruction is absolutely certain. Even if the bees

retained their wonted industry in gathering stores, and their usual

energy in defending themselves against all their enemies, their ruin

could only be delayed for a short time. In a few months, they would all

die a natural death, and there being none to replace them, the hive

would be utterly depopulated. Occasionally, such instances occur in

which the bees have died, and large stores of honey have been found

untouched in their hives. This, however, but seldom happens: for they

rarely escape from the assaults of other colonies, even if after the

death of their queen, they do not fall a prey to the bee-moth. A

motherless hive is almost always assaulted by stronger stocks, which

seem to have an instinctive knowledge of its orphanage, and hasten at

once, to take possession of its spoils. (See Remarks on Robbing.) If it

escape the Scylla of these pitiless plunderers, it is soon dashed upon a

more merciless Charybdis, when the miscreant moths have ascertained its

destitution. Every year, large numbers of hives are bereft of their

queen, and every year, the most of such hives are either robbed by other

bees, or sacked by the bee-moth, or first robbed, and afterwards sacked,

while their owner imputes all the mischief that is done, to something

else than the real cause. He might just as well imagine that the birds,

or the carrion worms which are devouring his dead horse, were actually

the primary cause of its untimely end. How often we see the same kind of

mistake made by those who impute the decay of a tree, to the insects

which are banqueting upon its withering foliage; when often these

insects are there, because the disease of the tree has both furnished

them with their proper aliment, and deprived the plant of the vigor

necessary to enable it to resist their attack.

The bee keeper can easily gather from these remarks, the means upon

which I most rely, to protect my colonies from the bee-moth. Knowing

that strong stocks supplied with a fertile queen, are always able to

take care of themselves, in almost any kind of hive, I am careful to

keep them in the state which is practically found to be one of such

security. If they are weak, they must be properly strengthened, and

confined to only as much space as they can warm and defend: and if they

are queenless, they must be supplied with the means of repairing their

loss, or if that cannot be done, they should be at once broken up, (See

Remarks on Queenlessness, and Union of Stocks,) and added to other


It cannot be too deeply impressed upon the mind of the bee-keeper, that

a small colony ought always to be confined to a small space, if we wish

the bees to work with the greatest energy, and to offer the stoutest

resistance to their numerous enemies. Bees do most unquestionably,

"abhor a vacuum," if it is one which they can neither fill, warm nor

defend. Let the prudent bee-master only keep his stocks strong, and they

will do more to defend themselves against all intruders, than he can

possibly do for them, even if he spends his whole time in watching and

assisting them.

It is hardly necessary, after the preceding remarks, to say much upon

the various contrivances to which so many resort, as a safeguard against

the bee-moth. The idea that gauze-wire doors, to be shut daily at dusk,

and opened again at morning, can exclude the moth, will not weigh much

with one who has seen them flying and seeking admission, especially in

dull weather, long before the bees have given over their work for the

day. Even if the moth could be excluded by such a contrivance, it would

require, on the part of those who rely upon it, a regularity almost akin

to that of the heavenly bodies in their courses; a regularity so

systematic, in short, as either to be impossible, or likely to be

attained but by very few.

An exceedingly ingenious contrivance, to say the least, to remedy the

necessity for such close supervision, is that by which the movable doors

of all the hives are governed by a long lever in the shape of a

hen-roost, so that the hives may all be closed seasonably and regularly,

by the crowing and cackling tribe, when they go to bed at night, and

opened at once when they fly from their perch, to greet the merry morn.

Alas! that so much ingenuity should be all in vain! Chickens are often

sleepy, and wish to retire sometime before the bees feel that they have

completed their full day's work, and some of them are so much opposed to

early rising, either from ill-health, or downright laziness, that they

sit moping on their roost, long after the cheerful sun has purpled the

glowing East. Even if this device were perfectly successful, it could

not save from ruin, a colony which has lost its queen. The truth is,

that almost all the contrivances upon which we are instructed to rely,

are just about equivalent to the lock carefully put upon the stable

door, after the horse has been stolen; or to attempts to prevent

corruption from fastening upon the body of an animal, after the breath

of life has forever departed.

Are there then no precautions to which we may resort, except by using

hives which give the control over every comb? Certainly there are, and I

shall now describe them in such a manner as to aid all who find

themselves annoyed by the inroads of the bee-moth.

Let the prudent bee-master be deeply impressed with the very great

importance of destroying _early_ in the season, the larvae of the

bee-moth. "Prevention is," at all times, "better than cure": a single

pair of worms that are permitted to undergo their changes into the

winged insect, may give birth to some hundreds which before the close of

the season, may fill the Apiary with thousands of their kind. The

destruction of a single worm early in the Spring, may thus be more

efficacious than that of hundreds, at a later period. If the common

hives are used, these worms must be sought for in their hiding places,

under the edges of the hive; or the hive may be propped up, on the two

ends, with strips of wood, about three eighths of an inch thick; and a

piece of old woolen rag put between the bottom-board and the back of

the hive. Into this warm hiding place, the full grown worm will retreat

to spin its cocoon, and it may then be very easily caught and

effectually dealt with. Hollow sticks, or split joints of cane may be

set under the hives, so as to elevate them, or may be laid on the

bottom-board, and if they have a few small openings through which the

bees cannot enter, the worms will take possession of them, and may

easily be destroyed. Only provide some hollow, inaccessible to the bees,

but communicating with the hive and easily accessible to the worms when

they want to spin, and to yourself when you want them, and if the bees

are in good health, so that they will not permit the worms to spin among

the combs, you can, with ease, entrap nearly all of them. If the hive

has lost its queen, and the worms have gained possession of it, you can

do nothing for it better than to break it up as soon as possible, unless

you prefer to reserve it as a moth trap to devastate your whole Apiary.

I make use of blocks of a peculiar construction, in order both to entrap

the worms, and to exclude the moth from my hives. The only place where

the moth can enter, is just where the bees are going in and out, and

this passage may be contracted so as to suit the size of the colony: the

very shape of it is such that if the moth attempts to force an entrance,

she is obliged to travel over a space which is continually narrowing,

and of course, is more and more easily defended by the bees. My traps

are slightly elevated, so that the heat and odor of the hive pass under

them, and come out through small openings into which the moth can enter,

but which do not admit her into the hive. These openings, which are so

much like the crevices between the common hives and their bottom-boards,

the moth will enter, rather than attempt to force her way through the

guards, and finding here the nibblings and parings of comb and

bee-bread, in which her young can flourish, she deposits her eggs in a

place where they may be reached and destroyed. All this is on the

supposition that the hive has a healthy queen, and that the bees are

confined to a space which they can warm and defend. If there are no

guards and no resistance, or at best but a very feeble one, she will not

rest in any outer chamber, but will penetrate to the very heart of the

citadel, and there deposit her seeds of mischief. These same blocks have

also grooves which communicate with the _interior_ of the hives, and

which appear to the prowling worm in search of a comfortable nest, just

the very best possible place, so warm and snug and secure, in which to

spin its web, and "bide its time." When the hand of the bee-master

lights upon it, doubtless it has reason to feel that it has been caught

in its own craftiness.

If asked how much will such contrivances help the careless bee-man, I

answer, not one iota; nay, they will positively furnish him greater

facilities for destroying his bees. Worms will spin and hatch, and moths

will lay their eggs, under the blocks, and he will never remove them:

thus instead of traps he will have most beautiful devices for giving

more effectual aid and comfort to his enemies. Such persons, if they

ever attempt to keep bees on my plans, should use only my smooth blocks,

which will enable them to control, at will, the size of the entrance to

the hives, and which are exceedingly important in aiding the bees to

defend themselves against moths and robbers, and all enemies which seek

admission to their castle.

Let me, however, strongly advise the thoroughly and incorrigibly

careless, to have nothing to do with bees, either on my plan of

management, or any other; for they will find their time and money

almost certainly thrown away; unless their mishaps open their eyes to

the secret of their failure in other things, as well as in bee-keeping.

If I find that the worms, by any means have got the upper hand in one of

my hives, I take out the combs, shake off the bees, route out the worms

and restore the combs again to the bees: if there is reason to fear that

they contain eggs and small worms, I smoke them thoroughly with sulphur,

and air them well before they are returned. Such operations, however,

will very seldom be required. Shallow vessels containing sweetened

water, placed on the hives after sunset, will often entrap many of the

moths. Pans of milk are recommended by some as useful for this purpose.

So fond are the moths of something sweet, that I have caught them

_sticking fast_ to pieces of moist sugar-candy.

I cannot deny myself the pleasure of making an extract from an

article[24] from the pen of that accomplished scholar, and well-known

enthusiast in bee-culture, Henry K. Oliver, Esq. "We add a few words

respecting the enemies of bees. The mouse, the toad, the ant, the

stouter spiders, the wasp, the death-head moth, (Sphinx atropos,) and

all the varieties of gallinaceous birds, have, each and all, "a sweet

tooth," and like, very well, a dinner of raw bee. But the ravages of all

these are but a baby bite to the destruction caused by the bee-moth,

(Tinea mellonella.) These nimble-footed little mischievous vermin may be

seen, on any evening, from early May to October, fluttering about the

apiary, or running about the hives, at a speed to outstrip the swiftest

bee, and endeavoring to effect an entrance into the door way, for it is

within the hive that their instinct teaches them they must deposit their

eggs. You can hardly find them by day, for they are cunning and secrete

themselves. "They love darkness rather than light, because their deeds

are evil." They are a paltry looking, insignificant little grey-haired

pestilent race of wax-and-honey-eating and bee-destroying rascals, that

have baffled all contrivances that ingenuity has devised to conquer or

destroy them."

"Your committee would be very glad indeed to be able to suggest any

effectual means, by which to assist the honey-bee and its friends,

against the inroads of this, its bitterest and most successful foe,

whose desolating ravages are more lamented and more despondingly

referred to, than those of any other enemy. Various contrivances have

been announced, but none have proved efficacious to any full extent, and

we are compelled to say that there really is no security, except in a

very full, healthy and vigorous stock of bees, and in a very close and

well made hive, the door of which is of such dimensions of length and

height, that the nightly guards can effectually protect it. Not too long

a door, nor too high. If too long, the bees cannot easily guard it, and

if too high, the moth will get in over the heads of the guards. If the

guards catch one of them, her life is not worth insuring. But if the

moths, in any numbers, effect a lodgment in the hive, then the hive is

not worth insuring. They immediately commence laying their eggs, from

which comes, in a few days, a brownish white caterpillar, which encloses

itself, all but its head, in a silken cocoon. This head, covered with an

impenetrable coat of scaly mail, which bids defiance to the bees, is

thrust forward, just outside of the silken enclosure, and the gluttonous

pest eats all before it, wax, pollen, and exuviae, until ruin to the

stock is inevitable. As says the Prophet Joel, speaking of the ravages

of the locust, "the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and

behind them a desolate wilderness." Look out, brethren, bee lovers, and

have your hives of the best unshaky, unknotty stock, with close fitting

joints, and well covered with three or four coats of paint. He who shall

be successful in devising the means of ridding the bee world of this

destructive and merciless pest, will richly deserve to be crowned "King

Bee," in perpetuity, to be entitled to a never-fading wreath of budding

honey flowers, from sweetly breathing fields, all murmuring with bees,

to be privileged to use, during his natural life, "night tapers from

their waxen thighs," best wax candles, (two to the pound!) to have an

annual offering from every bee-master, of ten pounds each, of very best

virgin honey, and to a body guard, for protection against all foes, of

thrice ten thousand workers, all armed and equipped, as Nature's law

directs. Who shall have these high honors?"

It might seem highly presumptuous for me, at this early date, to lay

claim to them, but I beg leave to enroll myself among the list of

honorable candidates, and I cheerfully submit my pretensions to the

suffrages of all intelligent keepers of bees.

In the chapter on Requisites, I have spoken of the ravages of the mouse,

and have there described the way in which my hives are guarded against

its intrusion. That some kinds of birds are fond of bees, every Apiarian

knows, to his cost; still, I cannot advise that any should, on this

account, be destroyed. It has been stated to me, by an intelligent

observer, that the King-bird, which devours them by scores, confines

himself always, in the season of drones, to those fat and lazy gentlemen

of leisure. I fear however, that this, as the children say, "is too good

news to be true," and that not only the industrious portion of the busy

community fall a prey to his fatal snap, but that the luxurious gourmand

can distinguish perfectly well, between an empty bee in search of food,

and one which is returning full laden to its fragrant home, and whose

honey-bag sweetens the delicious tit-bit, as the crushed unfortunate,

all ready sugared, glides daintily down his voracious maw! Still, I have

never yet been willing to destroy a bird, because of its fondness for

bees; and I advise all lovers of bees to have nothing to do with such

foolish practices. Unless we can check among our people, the stupid, as

well as inhuman custom of destroying so wantonly, on any pretence, and

often on none at all, the insectivorous birds, we shall soon, not only

be deprived of their aerial melody, among the leafy branches, but shall

lament over the ever increasing horde of destructive insects, which

ravage our fields and desolate our orchards, and from whose successful

inroads, nothing but the birds can ever protect us. Think of it, ye who

can enjoy no music made by these winged choristers of the skies, except

that of their agonizing screams, as they fall before your well-aimed

weapons, and flutter out their innocent lives before your heartless

gaze! Drive away as fast and as far as you please, from your cruel

premises, all the little birds that you cannot destroy, and then find,

if you can, those who will sympathize with you, when the caterpillars

weave their destroying webs over your leafless trees, and insects of all

kinds riot in glee, upon your blasted harvests! I hope that such a

healthy public opinion will soon prevail, that the man or boy who is

armed with a gun to shoot the little birds, will be scouted from all

humane and civilized society, and if he should be caught about such

contemptible business, will be too much ashamed even to look an honest

man in the face. I shall close what I have to say about the birds, with

the following beautiful translation of an old Greek poet's address to

the swallow.

"Attic maiden, honey fed,

Chirping warbler, bear'st away,

Thou the busy buzzing bee,

To thy callow brood a prey?

Warbler, thou a warbler seize?

Winged, one with lovely wings?

Guest thyself, by Summer brought,

Yellow guest whom Summer brings?

Wilt not quickly let it drop?

'Tis not fair, indeed 'tis wrong,

That the ceaseless warbler should

Die by mouth of ceaseless song."

_Merivale's Translation._

I have not the space to speak at length of the other enemies of the

honied race: nor indeed is it at all necessary. If the Apiarian only

succeeds in keeping his stocks strong, they will be their own best

protectors, and if he does not succeed in this, they would be of little

value, even if they had no enemies ever vigilant, to watch for their

halting. Nations which are both rich and feeble, invite attack, as well

as unfit themselves for vigorous resistance. Just so with the

commonwealth of bees. Unless amply guarded by thousands ready to die in

its defence, it is ever liable to fall a prey to some one of its many

enemies, which are all agreed in this one opinion, at least, that stolen

honey is much more sweet than the slow accumulations of patient


In the Chapters on Protection and Ventilation, I have spoken of the

fatal effects of dysentery. This disease can always be prevented by

proper caution on the part of the bee-keeper. Let him be careful not to

feed his bees, late in the season, on liquid honey, (see Chapter on

Feeding,) and let him keep them in dry and thoroughly protected hives.

If his situation is at all damp, and there is danger that water will

settle under his Protector, let him build it entirely _above ground_;

otherwise it may be as bad as a damp cellar, and incomparably worse than

nothing at all.

There is one disease, called by the Germans, "foul brood," of which I

know nothing, by my own observation, but which is, of all others, the

most fatal in its effects. The brood appear to die in the cells, after

they are sealed over by the bees, and the stench from their decaying

bodies infects the hive, and seems to paralyze the bees. This disease

is, in two instances, attributed by Dzierzon, to feeding bees on

"American Honey," or, as we call it, Southern Honey, which is brought

from Cuba, and other West India Islands. That such honey is not

ordinarily poisonous, is well known: probably that used by him, was

taken from diseased colonies. It is well known that if any honey or

combs are taken from a hive in which this pestilence is raging, it will

most surely infect the colonies to which they may be given. No foreign

honey ought therefore to be extensively used, until its quality has been

thoroughly tested. The extreme violence of this disease may be inferred

from the fact, that Dzierzon in one season, lost by it, between four and

five hundred colonies! As at present advised, if my colonies were

attacked by it, I should burn up the bees, combs, honey, frames, and

all, from every diseased hive; and then thoroughly scald and smoke with

sulphur, all such hives, and replenish them with bees from a healthy


There is a peculiar kind of dysentery which does not seem to affect a

whole colony, but confines its ravages to a small number of the bees. In

the early stages of this disease, those attacked are excessively

irritable, and will attempt to sting any one who comes near the hives.

If dissected, their stomachs are found to be already discolored by the

disease. In the latter stages of this complaint, they not only lose all

their irascibility, but seem very stupid, and may often be seen crawling

upon the ground unable to fly. Their abdomens are now unnaturally

swollen, and of a much lighter color than usual, owing to their being

filled with a yellow matter exceedingly offensive to the smell. I have

not yet ascertained the cause of this disease.