Monday, September 15, 2008


Apis Dorsata, The large bee of JAVA, captured at last.—I have at last
captured a swarm of Apis dorsata, and have it safely hived in an
observatory hive. There are about half a bushel of bees, and are they not
magnificent fellows? My hive is about 6 feet tall, and 3 by 3 wide and
deep. The bees were secured on a very high tree, on which were thirteen
other colonies. The limb was cut off, and forms the top bar for the comb,
and hangs like a movable frame in the hive. I have had a sheet of glass
9 by 16 inches, put into the back of the hive, and a door made to shut
all up, when one does not want to watch them. The brood-comb is about 14
by 16 inches, and is solid with brood. I see no pollen or honey in the
comb. There are young and old bees. The old have the abdomen a bright
yellow, with narrow black bands, while the young (?) are much darker in
colour; but I cannot speak with much certainty, for I have not studied
them long enough yet. They sting, but the sting is not much worse than
that of the Apia indica—at least I judged so, for in putting them into
place, my assistant was stung four times, but it was not followed by
swelling. The sting is much larger than the common bee, of course ; and
as one of my Karens said last night,` It makes a hole at once.' Yet, I
judge that it is bearable.
Their wings are beautifully irradiant; and looking at them on their comb
by night, with a strong light, they are most beautiful. This morning they
are going out of and into their hive, and looking all about their home.
Will they stay and go to work or not? is the question; we shall see.
One thing I notice : they are far less excitable than Apis indica. They
move slowly, do not dash about their cage, and struggle for exit like
that bee. They impress one, however, with an idea of ` reserve power,' if
they have a mind to use it. I do not think they are quick on their combs
to repair damage, but I cannot yet speak with definiteness. I also have a
swarm of the'Melipona' working well.
I have been studying the Apis dorsata, and there seem to be two kinds of
this bee in Burmah, each quite distinct, though I have not yet secured
specimens for comparison. One kind is yellowish in colour, and usually
builds nests on the limbs of very high trees, or in rocky cliffs, while
the other is nearly black, hairy, and builds in thickets or on limbs of
trees, or on creepers, often near the ground. Both are unicomb bees. The
former kind is often vicious; the latter is very gentle, according to all
reports, and the natives have no fear of it at all. They often approach
the nests of the latter by daylight, and take off pieces of comb, without
smoking or protection of any kind whatever, and without often being
attacked by the bees. The former kind defends its nest with great vigour;
and if they once set upon an enemy, they follow very persistently for a
long distance, and sometimes natives thus pursued must make to a
neighbouring stream to escape. One ruse for escape is to break off a
thickly leaved bush and plunge into the water, and allow the branch to
float down with the current, while the fugitive plunges into the water.
The bees then follow the branch down stream, and lose sight of their
victim. Yet, the first kind with the yellow markings is not always so
vicious, as they can be easily subdued with smoke; and if handled
carefully they seem to be as gentle as many kinds of Apis mellifica. Both
kinds leave Burmah at the beginning of the rains, and return on February
1st each year. They usually return to their former place of abode. This
is especially true of the yellow kind, which occupy a chosen tree or
trees in a particular locality, year after year, so that the natives buy
and sell these trees as valuable property.
I judge that these bees migrate to some distance to the north, for these
reasons: 1. The reason why they migrate at all seems to be the exposed
position of their nests, on the under side of the limbs of high trees,
exposed to all weathers. The high winds and the violent showers of the
beginning of the monsoons would always destroy their nests. I never saw a
nest survive the rains; hence, migrating on account of the rains, they
must needs go to a climate where the rains are less violent, or where
they can find sheltering cliffs in which to build. 2. When they return
they are often found resting near the ground, before selecting the tree
on which to build a new home. Sometimes they will rest there a week and
then take flight again. At such times they are very cross, and the
natives are very careful not to go near them. There are no cliffs or
rocks in Burmah in which these bees can build; if there were, they might
remain here the year round, as I understand they do in Ceylon and in
Northern India.
In the Padung-Karen country, about eighty miles north-east from Toungoo,
these bees are in some sense domesticated, as is also the Apis indica. In
order to secure the services of the Apis dorsata, the Padungs dig a
trench in a side hill, and drive a stout stake, inclined about 45° toward
the down slope of the hill, into the ground, and lean branches of trees
against the stake on either side, making a shield from the wind. The Apis
dorsata returns to these places year after year, and the natives secure
bountiful harvests of wax and honey, always leaving some for their yellow
workers. May it not be that the Apis dorsata builds one comb, only
because it does not usually find a place to build double combs ? The comb
is so large that it must indeed be a large limb of a tree to give room
for double combs.

I am strongly inclined to believe that the Apis dorsata can be
domesticated, especially the black-coloured species. Yet, to insure
success, doubtless much study must be given to the habits of this bee.
The fact, as I am informed, that in regions of less rain, in cliffs and
rocks, these bees are found year after year, goes to show that migration
is not necessary to this bee as to ' birds of passage,' &c. ; that if the
conditions are favourable they may be kept the year round. The fact that
these bees can be mistaken for hornets by the natives, as in Mr. Bentons
experience in Ceylon, shows how little we can depend on their judgment in
such matters.—A. Bunker, Toungoo, Burmah, Feb. 28,1885.
(American Bee Journal.)


The apiary seen above with its owner belongs to a bee-keeper of the
persevering sort, who is not deterred by a few failures owing to
mischance. His " advice ' to beginners " may be usefully taken to heart,
though we hardly go so far as waiting for "a yield of half a ton of honey
before seeing a queen bee." For the rest, his interesting "notes" need no
addition from us beyond a word of thanks for his appreciation of the help
he has had from our journals after ten years' reading. He says :
"I commenced bee-keeping at Nottingham in 1894, and like many other
beginners I bought my first stock in the autumn instead of spring. The
stock in question consisted of about half a pint of bees in an
ill-fitting frame-hive, with practically no food in stores. As might have
been expected, the bees died before Christmas, and, having been taken in
through ignorance, I determined that this should not occur again.
I therefore began taking the Bee Journal, and read `Modern
Bee-keeping,'and all other bee books I could get hold of. Thus prepared,
I made another start the following year on right lines, and succeeded in
getting together a nice little apiary ; when disaster overtook me in the
shape of a regular flood. My bee-garden was three miles from home, and I
had put the hives in a hollow for shelter, and weighted them well down.
Then we had a heavy fall of deep snow, followed by a sudden thaw, and,
later on, heavy rain, which drowned the lot! Nor did this end my
troubles. In the following spring I ordered two more swarms. One turned
out queen less, the other arrived when I happened to be away from home,
and was left next door till my return. My neighbour, seeing a few bees
escaping, promptly covered them over with a big hearthrug, and stifled
the lot! My wife now urged me, with some show of reason, I will admit,
not to go in for any more bee-keeping ; but being fully conscious that
this chapter of accidents was not due to any lack of adaptability on my
part for bee-keeping, I felt more determined than ever to have another
try. That year I removed to my present home, and laid down the lines upon
which I intended to work in the future.
The main feature was to adopt an inexpensive frame-hive that would answer
my purpose, from a practical point of view, equally well with a more
costly one.
I am indebted to Mr. E. J. Burtt, of Gloucester, for advice as to
details. The hive consisted of movable floor-board without legs,
double-walled brood-chamber at sides, eleven inch lift with deep roof
giving twenty inches of supering room.
I contracted to have them cut for me from wood, and had them delivered in
the flat. I put them together myself, felted the roofs, and tarred them
all over except the fronts, which are painted. I keep all the hives
tarred and painted every year. I ordered my shallow frames by the gross,
cut with a shoulder instead of using metal ends. They are spaced wide so
that seven take the place of ten ordinary-sixes ones. I have used full
sheets of foundation from the commencement, and stocked my hives by
driving cottagers' bees for them, and taking the bees for my trouble. I
also purchased some skeps cheap at the end of the season, so that
altogether I had an apiary of over forty hives in 1901, which yielded 1
ton 3 cwt. of extracted honey, besides two gross of sections. That year
I paid to a London firm £10 for glass honey jars.
In conclusion, my advice to beginners is not to disturb your bees unless
it is absolutely necessary. I had a yield of half a ton of honey before I
ever saw a queen bee.I consider that more than half of the troubles of
beginners arise through trying to run before they can walk. The main
points are to keep strong stocks in hives provided with plenty of
supering room. Get the super out in time, pack warmly, and watch for the
right time to get the next super on.Then, when the honey-gathering for
the year is over, see that the bees do not starve in winter for want of a
full supply of stores.Do not go in for novelties;do not experiment, keep
to the beaten track until you are a bee master in fact, as well as in
The photo was taken in the early spring of the year. My wife, who is a
great help to me in the apiary, stands on the left, having come out of
the house after a considerable amount of persuasion. Myself and faithful
collie stand on the right. Only a portion of the hives are shown, which
now number forty".


In my last I gave an account of our journey along the north coast of Wales, finishing off at Llandudno on the Saturday night. Staying in that
fashionable watering-place until Monday morning, we packed our appliances, baggage, and ourselves into the train for Conway, where
carriages were awaiting to take us on to Roe Wen, at which place we arrived at mid-day, and were hospitably entertained by a gentleman living
about two miles from the village. The lecture here was a great success.
Although only a little mountain village,there were over 150 present; in fact, the schoolroom was packed very uncomfortably close, especially for
the audience. Great interest was evinced, and the superiority of the
modern system of bee-keeping was universally approved. At this village
the first difficulty was experienced of my inability to speak Welsh, as
three-fourths of the audience were unable to speak English; but this was
surmounted very ably by Mr. Hughes,who on this occasion acted as
interpreter.On the next day, my morning was well occupied in visiting the
bee-keepers (killers) of the neighbourhood,cutting holes in the tops of
their skeps, and putting supers on.
The next move was to Llanwryst, the market-town of the mountains; the
drive here was comparatively easy, as the road led along the valley of
the Conway, but it rained in torrents, swelling the mountain streams
which leapt down from rock to rock at many points all along our road. The
lecture was very well attended, the Town Hall, where it was held, being
well filled. English was spoken and understood here, except in a few
instances, in such cases being interpreted by Mr. Davies, Hon. Sec. of
the Association. At this town, I met with the most striking instance
possible of the vast amount of good and useful information contained in
the pages of the British Bee Journal. A very intelligent young man,
working in a tannery, three years ago conceived the idea of keeping his
bees in a more profitable and humane manner, and hearing of the existence
of this Journal, became a regular subscriber, and from the information he
thus gathered entirely from its pages, has become the most successful
bee-keeper in North Wales. He had no one to assist him, no lecturer to
give him any information, no bee-keeping friend to compare notes with ;
but entirely with indefatigable perseverance and the help of the B. J.
surmounted all the difficulties of modern bee-keeping, and rode down all
the prejudices of the old school; and all this in a little stone-flagged
yard 21 ft. by 15 ft. in a densely-populated neighbourhood. He took 735
lbs. of splendid coloured honey last year, and has fifteen stocks in
bar-frame hives and two in skeps to commence this season with. In this
space the regulation 3 ft. apart is impossible; the hives have to be
packed with only sufficient room between to allow of the covers being
taken off. He allowed me to go over his accounts, but as I think that to
publish same would be treading on rather private ground, I will keep that
to myself ; but suffice to say, it was an exceedingly profitable season
with him.
Gwytherin was our next destination ; such roads, up one mountain, down
another, pushing up behind to assist the horses, mountains rising one
above the other all around; in fact, a piece of flat ground as big as a
cricket-field could not be seen; but at last we arrived, just in time for
tea and a ` brush-up.' Here English was of no use whatever, and I had to
' to take a back seat.' Mr. Davies explained in Welsh the working of
frame-hives, supers, &c., and with the assistance of the diagrams I
purchased from Mr. Huckle, a very entertaining evening was spent, except
by your humble servant, who was unable to understand a word. I called on
all the bee-keepers around the neighbourhood next morning, and with the
assistance of an interpreter got on famously. As we had arranged for a
holiday on this day, we all spent our spare time fly-fishing in the
neighbouring streams. The trout, I expect, didn't altogether appreciate
the visits of us modern bee-keepers in their neighbourhood.
Pentre Voelas on Friday, and Llangerniews on Saturday, finished up the
week. At both of these places success seemed to attend us, as our
audiences were large and very attentive.
Spending Sunday at Eglwysfach, the residence of Mr. Davies, on the
Conway. Monday I lectured at Maenan, a village on the top of a mountain
some four miles away. We had really an overflowing audience here, the
lecture being given in English, a description of the uses of the
appliances being given by Mr. Berry, the bee-keeper before mentioned at
Trefrew, on Tuesday, a fashionable salmon-fishing rendezvous.
Still the audience kept up in numbers. I fancy our former successes in
this direction must have been noised before us, as each succeeding
audience on Wednesday. Here Mr. Davies allowed me to take a frame from
one of his hives and place it in an "observatory,with mother, drones.
workers, brood, &c. This was a great attraction. It was past midnight
when we arrived back from the lecture.
On the next day, Thursday, I bade good-bye to my many bee-keeping friends
who had supported me through our wanderings in this wild and mountainous
district, proceeding to Wrexham, where I was due to lecture in the
evening. It rained as hard as it could all the evening, which of course
reduced the numbers of the audience, but those that did come—a good
sprinkling of ladies braved the weather--paid the utmost attention
through a lecture of two hours duration.
One idea seemed paramount in my thoughts all through the tour in
Denbighshire and Carnarvonshire : here is a country splendidly suited for
bee-culture, white clover in abundance, even the cottages in many
instances being completely covered with cotoneaster, and yet how few
bee-keepers ! The honey I did see taken from bar-frame hives was simply
I should like publicly to thank all those—and they were numerous—who
entertained me at their houses during the three weeks I was ` on the
tramp' with such evident appreciation of my endeavours to spread the
useful information of modern bee-cultivation.
—W. B. WEBSTER, Workingham, Berks. BBJ June 24th 1886


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