Stock-raisers select breeds that are best adapted to their needs. Plant-growers exercise great care in their choice of plants, selecting for each planting those best suited to the conditions under which they are to be grown. Undoubtedly a larger yield of honey could be had each year if similar care were exercised in the selection of the breed of bees.
To prove this, one has only to compare the yield of two different kinds. The common East Indian honey bee rarely produces more than ten or twelve pounds to a hive, while the Cyprian bee, which is a most industrious worker, has a record of one thousand pounds in one season from a single colony. This bee, besides being industrious when honey material is plentiful, is also very persevering when such material is hard to find. The Cyprians have two other very desirable qualities. They stand the cold of winter well and stoutly defend their hives against robber bees and other enemies.
Fig. 263. A Carniolan Worker
The Italian is another good bee. This variety was brought into the United States in 1860. While the yield from the Italian is somewhat less than from the Cyprian, the Italian bees produce a whiter comb and are a trifle more easily managed.
The common black or brown bee is found wild and domesticated throughout the country. When honey material is abundant, these bees equal the Italians in honey-production, but when the season is poor, they fall far short in the amount of honey produced.
The purchase of a good Cyprian or Italian hive will richly repay the buyer. Such a colony will cost more at the outset than an ordinary colony, but will soon pay for its higher cost by greater production.
Fig. 264. A Carniolan Drone
A beehive in the spring contains one queen, several hundred drones, and from thirty-five to forty thousand workers. The duty of the queen is to lay all the eggs that are to hatch the future bees. This she does with untiring industry, often laying as many as four thousand in twenty-four hours.
The worker bees do all the work. Some of them visit the flowers, take up the nectar into the honey-sac, located in their abdomens, and carry it to the hive. They also gather pollen in basketlike cavities in their hind legs. Pollen and nectar are needed to prepare food for the young bees. In[Pg 288] the hive other workers create a breeze by buzzing with their wings and produce heat by their activity—all to cause the water to evaporate from the nectar and to convert it into honey before it is sealed up in the comb. After a successful day’s gathering you may often hear these tireless workers buzzing till late into the night or even all through the night.
Fig. 265. A Carniolan Queen
You know that the bees get nectar from the flowers of various plants. Some of the chief honey plants are alfalfa, buckwheat, horsemint, sourwood, white sage, wild pennyroyal, black gum, holly, chestnut, magnolia, and the tulip tree. The yield of honey may often be increased by providing special pasturage for the bees. The linden tree, for example, besides being ornamental and valuable for timber, produces a most bee-inviting flower. Vetch, clover, and most of the legumes and mints are valuable plants to furnish pasture for bees. Catnip may be cultivated for the bees and sold as an herb as well.
In spraying fruit trees to prevent disease you should always avoid spraying when the trees are in bloom, since the poison of the spray seriously endangers the lives of bees.
The eggs laid by the queen, if they are to produce workers, require about twenty-one days to bring forth the perfect bee. The newly hatched bee commences life as a nurse. When about ten days old it begins to try its wings in short flights, and a few days later it begins active work. The life of a worker bee in the busy season is only about six weeks. You may distinguish young exercising bees from real workers by the fact that they do not fly directly away on emerging from the hive, but circle around a bit in order to make sure that they can recognize home again, since they would receive no cordial welcome if they should attempt to enter another hive. They hesitate upon returning from even these short flights, to make sure that they are in front of their own door.
Fig. 266. Good Form of Hive
There are several kinds of enemies of the bee which all beekeepers should know. One of these is the robber bee, that is, a bee from another colony attempting to steal honey from the rightful owners, an attempt often resulting in frightful slaughter. Much robbery can be avoided by clean handling; that is, by leaving no honey about to cultivate a taste for stolen sweets. The bee moth is another serious enemy. The larva of the moth feeds on the wax. Keep the colonies of bees strong so that they may be able to overcome this moth.
Fig. 267. Anti-Robbing Entrance
st, stationary piece;
p, pin, or stop
Queenless or otherwise weak colonies should be protected by a narrow entrance that admits only one bee at a time, for such a pass may be easily guarded. Fig. 267 shows a good anti-robbery entrance which may be readily provided for every weak colony. Mice may be kept out by tin-lined entrances. The widespread fear of the kingbird seems unfounded. He rarely eats anything but drones, and few of them. This is also true of the swallow. Toads, lizards, and spiders are, however, true enemies of the honeybee.
Can you recognize drones, workers, and queens? Do bees usually limit their visits to one kind of blossom on any one trip? What effect has the kind of flower on the flavor of the honey produced? What kinds of flowers should the beekeeper provide for his bees? Is the kingbird really an enemy to the bee?