Mr D Wilsons lecture on
" THE PRODUCTION OF HEATHER AND OTHER HONEYS WHERE THE CROPS ARE SITUATED ABOUT TWENTY MILES APART"
The subject on which I have to lecture this evening, "The Production of Heather and other Honeys." is one which covers the whole year's work in an apiary, because in a properly conducted apiary at no time can it be said that effort may be relaxed. Where work such as the management of an apiary runs in a circle from year to year, it is rather difficult to fix a definite point for the beginner to start at, especially if, as is often the case, he has made some appreciable start in bee-keeping before he decides to work with a dual object in view, that is the production of ordinary flower honey at home and the gathering of a crop of heather honey at some point more or less remote from his home apiary. All the year through he must have this dual object in mind. I have now been engaged for some years, with greater or less success, according to the season, and, I may add, according to growing experience and ability, in the production of two distinct crops of honey, the first consisting of a crop somewhat limited in quantity but possessing a fair flavour gathered from fruit blossom, sycamore, clover, lime, and mixed sources. The other, the heather crop, is situated at a distance of about seventeen miles by road from my home apiary, and necessitates the transportation of bees. It is short and sharp, abundant while it lasts, but from the very shortness of its duration it is uncertain because of the vagaries of the weather. On a really fine day I doubt whether hundreds of stocks would exhaust the nectar-yielding capacities of the moor to which my bees have access, but during a bad season hives may come back lighter than they went.
I will endeavour to sketch out and make as clear as possible what departure from the normal routine of the apiary conducted for one crop only is necessary when an additional crop of heather honey is required. I shall presume for a start that all here are acquainted with this ordinary routine and understand the terms I shall use and references which I shall make to the ordinary work of the home apiary.
FRAMES.-It is now the general practice in every well-conducted apiary to nail together all frames and to wire all foundation into the frames before giving it to the bees to draw out. But although it is the general practice, I have reason to know from my own observation that in particular instances this simple precaution against breakdown of frames and combs is neglected. It should always be done to assure success in the ordinary manipulations as carried on at home. It is doubly necessary when it comes to the question of transporting bees over miles of rough roads in the heat of the summer season. Any bee-keeper who attempts to move a hive containing even one un wired comb or un nailed frame is asking for trouble, and will probably get it. He will be lucky if the breakdown of one comb is the end of his misfortunes. This, then, I put forward as being essential to success.
HIVES.—Next to the question of frames and combs I place the selection of a suitable hive—one which is equally serviceable at home and on the moors. There are scores of hives on the market which are more or less suitable for standing in the home apiary; some of them by a little adaptation may even be used for carrying bees to the moors and working them there; to take others is only to court disaster on the journey. A properly made heather hive is really indispensable if certainty of transportation and ease of working are to be considered. Such a hive ought also to be suitable for home work unless the bee-keeper desires to keep a duplicate set of hives by him. It is not the needs of the bees which have to be studied so much as the requirements of the bee-keeper in the matter of transportation.
A suitable heather hive should take up as little floor-space as possible. It should pack easily along with others on a dray. It should have no legs to lift it from the dray floor, and render it top-heavy and liable to swing. It should be entirely self-contained, with no loose parts, and should be capable of being shut up securely for transportation in a minute or so.
SKETCH.—I have here a rough drawing of my own hives which I make myself. I find them to be equally serviceable either at home or on the moors, and they are exactly what is needed for transportation of bees. I do not claim that this hive is the best which could be chosen for home work only. Indeed, there are plenty better to be had for that purpose, but it must be borne in mind that it has to serve two purposes. This hive contains no loose body-boxes or lifts. The brood-box contains ten frames, which run at right angles to the entrance. For wintering, by the extraction of two or more side frames and the insertion of division-boards at the sides of the nest, the hive is easily turned into a double-Walled one.
The lifts are similar in character, fitting over the body-box and each other when necessary by means of plinths. These lifts can be made of a depth suitable for carrying either shallow frames or" W.B.C." hanging frames for sections. Each hive may thus be worked either for the production of shallow frames or sections, or for producing both by the use of two or more lifts. The top of the roof is in one plane sloping backwards. Such roofs are more easy to pack separately from their hives than gabled or hipped roofs. There are no legs to this hive, but instead a couple of stout plinths about 4in. deep for floor joists. These are carried out to the front of the hive and above the alighting-board. A couple of notches are cut—one on either side—and into these drops a bit of wood. When in one position this piece of wood allows free access to the hive, but when reversed the piece of perforated zinc shown confines all bees. With such a hive bees can be shut up in a minute or so and confined either to the brood-chamber or to as many lifts as necessary by interposing a sheet of perforated zinc or piece of coarse sacking, and there is ample ventilation. Bees can be moved to the moors with all frames and sections in position, and may be brought back in the same way, the work of the removal of surplus being done in the apiary at home, where, generally speaking, there is more leisure,and where there are greater facilities for hive rather as a basis for anyone to work upon than as being a fixed type and unalterable. The addition of a porch, entrances, slides, stands, &c., I leave to the task of the individual bee-keeper. Such a hive, being without legs, necessitates the use of permanent stands or gantries in the home apiary, and the formation of temporary ones on the moors.
The selection of a suitable hive I believe to be half the battle won, so far as moor going is concerned. There is a certain satisfaction, and quiet ease comes into the mind of the bee-keeper travelling his bees when he knows they cannot get out to sting the driver, the horse, and himself, and when he knows that there is ample ventilation to prevent the breakdown of combs and the suffocation of his bees.
HONEY PRODUCTION.—Having dealt with what I consider to be the chief essential to success in the dual operation I am considering, I will now pass on to the question of honey-production itself.
The bee-keeper has to make the best use he can of the honey-flow at home and of that on the moors. I will divide the Work into two portions—the preparatory and the final stages. The preparatory stages include all the work done in the apiary previous to the removal of hives to the moors. By naming them as preparatory stages, I do not wish to minimise their importance or to suggest that in any way they are inferior to the moor-going stages, but for all that all work done in the early months should be done with one final aim and object in view—the heather crop.
HOME WORK.—If I were to attempt to draw up a calendar of operations in the apiary suitable for any bee-keeper to work to I should go wrong, because the time of these operations varies as we pass from one district to another, and there is a certain variation from year to year even in any selected district, due to the varying seasons. But, roughly, I suppose the main outline of a season's work may be sketched out. There is the spring stimulation of stocks to get them ready for the first honey flow, which in most districts, I suppose, comes from early fruit, such as plums, damsons, gooseberries, pears, and apples. There is no reason why a bee-keeper should not take full advantage of this early flow to secure surplus if he possibly can. In my own district of Derbyshire I generally find that this early flow is not sufficient to give me any surplus in the supers, but is generally quite enough to give a gentle stimulation to the brood raising, getting the stocks in fine condition for the later honey to be obtained from sycamore, hawthorn.
It is this succession of honey-flows, lasting, roughly, from the beginning of May to the middle of July or later, but varying in various districts, that I refer to as the preparatory period. It is during this series of crops that the bee-keeper must decide whether he intends to go in chiefly for sections or extracted honey, and whichever be his aim, he must work accordingly. Perhaps his idea will be to obtain honey in both forms. There is no need to labour this point. All here are thoroughly well acquainted with the operations which must be carried out. But what I particularly wish to emphasise is this, that whilst striving to obtain as much honey as possible during this period, the chief object of the bee-keeper should be to obtain as much drawn out comb as he can. Of course, the two go together. Drawn-out comb means honey and vice versa. The moor-going bee-keeper is at this disadvantage compared with the stay-at-home exponent of the craft—that whilst his stay-at-home brother has a quantity of 'drawn-out shallow bars, saved from year to year, ready to put upon his hives at the minute they are wanted for surplus honey, the moor-goer has to produce new comb year by year. This, because of his method of extracting heather honey by means of a press, it being too thick to extract by centrifugal force. Thus his surplus combs are to a great extent used up every year according to the success of his heather crop, and this necessitates the production of fresh comb yearly.Moreover,since bees manifest a reluctance to draw out comb so late in the season as the heather honey flow, it is during the spring and summer months that comb must be produced for use on the moors later. This not only refers to the production of shallow bars, but to sections also. It is necessary to have as many drawn out sections as possible if section honey is to be produced on the moors. For this purpose extract all partly filled and unsaleable sections after the clover flow is over, utilising them again when the' heather flow is on. It might be well for the bee-keeper to consider whether it would not be advisable to extract all his sections except the very best,using them again for heather honey. In this, of course, he would have to be guided by the relative values of the honey and sections to be obtained.
I wish to impress this one point most clearly : that is the necessity for the production of drawn-out comb. It often will make the difference of a handsome profit to have comb ready for the heather, because I have known bees glut up the brood-nest of a hive rather than draw out foundation in supers when on the moor. This necessity for comb preparation during the early summer months whilst the honey-flow from flowers is on places the moor-going bee-keeper at a disadvantage compared with his neighbour, who can super his stocks with drawn-out comb. The one who has combs ready drawn out in spring will get the greater weight per hive from the clover and other flowers, and the heather-goer loses somewhat in spring owing to having to make new comb. If anyone can bring out a machine which will extract heather honey and leave the combs intact he will be doing bee-keeping a great service. I saw a notice of such a machine some years ago, but have never heard whether it was a success nor whether it has been put on the market.
The foregoing remarks being perfectly well understood by the aspirant to a double crop, the only thing remaining for him to do during the early summer is to work his bees in his own way for the production of as much honey as he can possibly obtain. I am not going to be dogmatic and state upon what definite lines this honey production shall go. Methods vary in different parts of the country, and may have to vary according to circumstances or according to the pet fancies of the individual bee-keeper. Some still go upon the old fashioned swarming system, others approve of non-swarming with re-queening. Whichever plan the bee-keeper has followed in previous years he may still follow. But looking upon the summer as a time of preparation, I would advise each bee-keeper to go in for the non-swarming system as being productive of the greatest quantity of honey and comb. Coupled with this. there is the necessity for re-queening. This should be prepared for whilst the summer honey-flow is on. The bee-keeper must either rear his own queens or have some means of obtaining new queens when he wants them. This is not a treatise on queen-rearing, but I simply wish to point out the necessity of having them ready or easily obtainable. The substitution of a non-swarming system for the older swarming system spells ruination for an apiary unless coupled with it there is a systematic re-queening.
So, having proper hives, frames properly nailed and wired, the bee-keeper will go on working in his own way for the production of as much clover and other honey as he can possibly obtain.
In my own case the main honey flow at home is chiefly from clover and limes, and extends. roughly, according to the season. from June 15th to July 15th, to be followed about a month later by heather honey flow on the moors.
This period of inactivity of about a month is most important to the up-to-date heather going bee-keeper. It is then that he removes his shallow sections. Then he extracts his honey so as to have his combs ready for the next crop. His sections he selects for sale, extracting those he does not care to sell; in fact,extracting all possible so as to have as much comb ready as he can. I am aware that this interregnum does not always hold for such a length of time ; sometimes the two crops work into each other or nearly so. When this happens, if the bee-keeper has not a supply of drawn-out comb by him, he is rather rushed to make his preparation for moor-going.
When supers are removed the brood-nest should be thoroughly overhauled. Where doubts exist as to the age or quality of any queen, she should be superseded by one of undoubted age and quality. These the bee-keeper as I have said, should have by him. I would not advise total re-queening of all hives, but would suggest that the bee-keeper should use his own discretion. During the cessation of honey gathering I have mentioned the brood-nest should again be brought into the best form possible. Encourage egg-production by uncapping sealed stores, or even by stimulative feeding. Try to attain the desirable state of having every comb solid with brood by the time of removal of hives. If necessary extract from combs in the brood-nest if these are glutted, but leave sufficient food to tide your bees over a bad week or two which may come before there is any flow from the heather.
Remember that it is the quantity of brood taken to the moor along with the bees which is to determine the amount of success in terms of surplus heather honey.
Thus the bee-keeper conies to the time when he expects to make arrangements for the removal of his bees to the moors. In my case this generally happens by the first week in August, although I have not yet found the honey flow commence so early. Last year, 1913. it commenced about August 10th; this year it was a week later. So long as the bees are there in time it does not matter much about being there too early. A journey to the moors at about the time when the heather is expected to bloom will put the bee-keeper into possession of information as to the proper day to move his bees. I may add that if moved too early the bees, instead of giving a surplus of pure heather honey, may gather a certain amount of clover and other honey previous to the heather flow, and so present the bee-keeper with a blend instead of the pure stuff. This is because of the later flow from clover on the hills due to the higher elevation. It may not be any detriment—some people preferring a blend to the pure.
The bee-keeper who decides for the first time to take his bees to the moors will require accommodation to stand the hives. This he may get in the garden of an adjacent cottager or the field of a neighbouring farmer for quite a small trifle. In my own case I pay one shilling per hive, and for this the farmer in whose field they are keeps his eye upon them.
When prospecting for a likely situation the bee-keeper should make enquiries to find out who will be willing to oblige him in the matter of suitable accommodation. Whilst there is no necessity that the stand shall be quite on the moor, it is as well to have it as near as possible in order to save time taken by the bees in travelling backwards and forwards.
My bees I place at the edge of an extensive moor. A friend of mine gets quite a good crop whilst putting his about one mile from the nearest heather, although I would not advocate this. But it is as well to take into consideration other details, such as shelter and aspect, as well as nearness to the crop.
DISEASES.—It is as well, when considering the question of removal of hives to the moors, to look at the work in conjunction with the prevalence of disease in the country.
In the first place, the bee-keeper may have disease in his own apiary. However well we try to guard against this, none of us is immune, and we may be attacked at any time. I refer, of course, to foul brood, and more especially to the dreaded "Isle of Wight" disease.
In the second place, although our own apiaries may be free from any trace of disease, the district into which we are to move may be somewhat affected, or there may even be the risk of infected bees from other districts being brought into close proximity to our own.
In such cases the bee-keeper's duty is clear.
If his own bees are affected he has no right to move them from the home apiary to be a source of infection to other bees and a cause of annoyance to other bee-keepers. It may be something of a sacrifice, but for the sake of stopping the spread of disease, which we all know should be aimed at, the bee-keeper had better keep his bees at home.
Also, if he has any reasonable doubt as to the health of the district into which he intends to move, he had far better keep his bees at home than run the risk of introducing disease into his own apiary, and of disseminating it into his home district on the return of his bees from the moors.
The time being opportune, the bee-keeper who has worked on the lines laid out should have hives with prolific queens, overflowing with bees and crammed with brood. He has, besides, a full supply of drawn-out shallow bars and sections. If he has not enough of these latter, he had better get them from others if he can be sure of them being free from contact with disease.
With the hive I have previously sketched out there will be no difficulty in removing bees. Place all supers in position, both shallow bars and frames of sections, and close the hives above the last super either by means of perforated zinc or cheese cloth. This is better than travelling bees in the brood-box only ; it gives more room, at a time when hives are generally over-crowded. The front may be closed readily by means of the reversible bar I have shown. This should be done in the evening previous to removal, when the bees are all at home, and should not take much above a minute for each hive.
METHOD.—The question of method of transportation is an important one, and should occupy the mind for some time before the actual day comes. I believe that motor traction is preferable to all other methods of transporting bees. But failing that, take a good four-wheeled spring dray, a good horse, not necessarily so fleet as sure, and if you are not a good driver, take a driver also. Pay a good and fair price so as to command proper service.
The accommodation you can get for next to nothing is generally worth less and may land you in difficulties which will be far more costly in the long run than a few shillings extra for good service. Moorland roads are, of necessity, hilly and often bad and necessitate good wagoning. Start either in the evening, after the bees have been shut in, or very early in the morning so as to reach the moor before the heat of the day. To travel through the day is only to court disaster, unless the weather happens to be cold and wet, in which case as well travel by day as by night. Allow for the twenty miles of travel about four hours. The hive I have sketched will stand easily on a dray along with others and needs little roping, although it is advisable to make a turn or two of rope round all to make them doubly secure. But if the hives really need roping to hold them on the dray, better not start at all.
When on the moor, unpack and place in permanent locations your hives. As they are legless you will want stands. If you have not brought any a few stones from the moor answer the purpose well enough. Make all level and loose your bees. If the frames in the interiors of your hives
have been well packed, little more will be needed than to take away your perforated zinc or cloth and replace the quilts and warm packing.
When working bees on the moors there is no necessity (at least, I have found none) for queen-excluder. Although as a rule I use one at home on every hive, yet for heather honey I prefer to dispense with it. Even when young queens have been introduced there is a strong tendency on the part of the bees to keep on contracting the brood-nest, and I have never found the queen lay eggs to any appreciable extent in the supers. Besides, I believe that for all honey storing—heather especially—the less hindrances the bees have in their progress about a hive the better.
A word or two about the choice of location and standing for hives when on the moors. Choose the best you can under the circumstances, and if shelter can be got, such as a row of trees, then so much the better. But avoid, if possible, an open field, where one spot looks just about like another, and under such circumstances do not put the hives in rows but scatter them about, turn them various ways, and make the surroundings of one hive as much different from those of another as possible.
It is well known now that bees do far more visiting other hives than was at one time thought to be the case. This takes place, to a limited extent, in the home apiary, as can easily be found out if various races be kept, but at home each hive is generally better marked, as to its surroundings, than is the case on the moors. A bush here, a tree there, a row of peas elsewhere in the home garden, all serve to mark the positions of hives. But an the moor, where surroundings may be quite monotonous in character, if hives be put in rows there is a great tendency for the bees to gravitate towards the end hives.
Thus, these hives will strengthen up remarkably in bees, whilst those towards the middle of the row will gradually become weaker. The end hives will produce the surplus, the middle ones will do nothing. Thus when it comes to bringing home hives the bee-keeper has all his calculations upset by finding that perhaps what he thought were his best stocks have done nothing, and vice versa. Far better make such arrangements as will tend to assure that each hive shall work for itself, even if the surplus from any individual hive be not so great.
But a greater danger than this is incurred by setting hives in line, and that is the risk of queenlessness. A host of strange bees invades another hive, and is received if bringing in food, but I have known cases where they have balled the queen of the hive they have invaded,causing serious damage and loss,if not the total extinction of the colony.
SECTIONS OR END HIVES.—Then also this arrangement leads to serious fighting and robbing at such times as when bees returning home with little or no store miss their own hives and wander on to others.
I want to impress this point carefully; as it is one of the few things that can be done by the bee-keeper while on the moor to ensure success. Most of the work essential to success has to be done at home.
Having got his bees to the heather and settled them there as well as he can, the bee-keeper can do little to help them. He may visit periodically to see how they are going on. He may take more comb if needed, or even remove surplus, but, generally speaking, until the time of returning home comes he has little to do.
I have mentioned here very few tricks which the more advanced bee-keeper will carry out in order to increase his yield from individual stocks, while honey flow is on either at home or on the moor. I refer to doubling hives while on the moor, and to strengthening up for heather by utilising driven bees. These tricks will come later, but a man who is starting out for the double crop had better work at first on simple lines.
With such a hive as I have sketched the whole hive may be brought home on a dray without interfering with the surplus, which may be left in situ until the home apiary is reached, when it may be taken off at leisure.
Nothing then remains but to pack up carefully for winter.
When the last crop—the heather honey —is safely at home and taken from the hives the work for the year is not yet finished. There still remains the work of extracting and marketing the honey and of glazing or casing the sections.
The work of extraction of honey perhaps needs special mention.
As is well known, heather honey is too dense to extract by the ordinary method of using centrifugal force and must be pressed from the comb. For this purpose a press is absolutely necessary if ease in working is to be aimed at. The heather worker will be well advised to invest money on the purchase of such a press—say, a Rymer. This has a capacity of from four to six combs at a time according to their thickness. and work is quickly and expeditiously performed by its help.
It is much better to set up one of these at once or to make arrangements to hire one than to use home-made apparatus or trust to the very old, sticky and messy method of hand-squeezing.
Now a Rymer honey press is rather costly, and it would be a good move in co-operation if a number of bee-keepers could club together to purchase one for their own use. As even under the best circumstances the extraction or pressing of heather-honey is not a pleasant occupation and necessitates the destruction of plenty of comb, it would be well for anyone going in for heather-honey to consider whether it would not be best to work for sections as far as possible, and so get rid of the necessity of so much pressing.
By the method or working herein sketched out the bee-keeper will find himself at the end of the year with large quantities of wax on his hands ready for melting clown, especially if he has worked chiefly for extracted honey.
It becomes a question what to do with this surplus wax, which is far greater, from the nature of the case, than if the apiary was run for one crop only.
Coupled with this there is the necessary expenditure yearly on new comb-foundation to take the place of that used up, over and above the normal use of foundation.
The two should be made to balance themselves as nearly as possible.
The bee-keeper should turn this wax to good account. He may work up a little connection so as to sell it for domestic use amongst his neighbours and honey customers, or, failing that, send it away to his dealer in bee appliances and have it returned to him in the shape of comb-foundation for the expenditure of a few pence per lb.
WINTER PACKING AND WINTERING.—As wintering bees comes into the question of management of an apiary I wish to touch upon it in connection with the question of heather-honey.
When the bees are brought back from the moors, after even only a moderately successful season, there is, generally, quite sufficient store in the brood-nest. After a successful season there is always ample store. It is a bad season indeed when bees have to be fed on return.
I Wish to point out that there is a diversity of opinion as to the wintering quality of heather honey.
Some heather-going bee-keepers condemn heather honey totally as a winter food for bees, and make it a rule to take out as much store as possible, supplying syrup store in its place.
I myself am an advocate for wintering bees on heather stores, never having found it detrimental to them.
Indeed, observation has taught me that in my case year in and year out, bees do better on, heather than, on fed stores. I have no desire here to restart a controversy which is very old, but merely point out this apparent discrepancy for the benefit of those who may be contemplating heather-going. The subject requires more investigation.
Certainly, when competent investigators in different districts have arrived at different conclusions when examining the effects of heather honey as a winter food, we cannot say that one set is right and I the other wrong. Rather it may be said that both are right in their own location. Causes may be purely local. The moor-going bee-keeper must settle the question for himself in his own district, and, having settled it, must work accordingly, removing all stores if necessary and putting his bees on to combs filled with syrup, or summer honey, or on the other hand,allowing them to winter on their own sealed stores.
In conclusion, I wish to say that when a bee-keeper has arrived at a certain stage of competence in the management of bees in his home apiary, for what I have called for lack of better definition, " one crop only," he cannot do better than turn his thoughts to heather-going.
When he has done so, and has completed one season's working only, he will be compelled to admit that he is only on the threshold of bee-keeping as a paying hobby, or even as a business.
He will find that many of his notions and much of his apparatus need over-hauling and revising in view of what he has learnt on his first journey, and he will admit that his work, hitherto, at home has only been of an elementary type. There are so many other factors which enter into
the question that it is the beginning of a new course in bee education. '
Much can be said to lighten the burden of the bee-keeper who intends to take the journey for the first time, and he can be warned against many pitfalls; but, after all, there is no school like experience, and ajourney to the moor will make more impression on the bee practice of a beginner than months of teaching.
A personal experience of my own will go to illustrate what I mean. A young bee-keeper with up-to-date appliances was desirous of going to the moors for the first time. His hives were of the W.B.C. pattern. He came to me in 1913 and told me by what methods he was going to make the journey. I tried to lead him to see that these would hardly pay, but he was obstinate and inclined to think that he knew better, so I let it go at that. I understand that he travelled his bees in these W.B.C. hives with quilts in position, but giving then a little ventilation at the entrance by means of perforated zinc. Before he was far on his journey he had to borrow a saw to cut away the legs from the hives. Not much farther on he found the interior bodies were moving, and these he had to wedge with any material which came to hand. Before he got to the moors he had swung a hive from the dray, and had to take the mare out hurriedly and get her to a place of safety. More by good luck than good management he secured a crop. but this year I notice that his ideas have been revised, and that his hives are now suitable for transportation.
This closed the lecture, and the Chairman (Mr. Reid) asked the audience to put any questions on the subject of the lecture to Mr. Wilson. Among others the following questions were put:
Mr. Frankenstein asked whether the heather on the moor mentioned by Mr. Wilson was Ling or Bell Heather. Mr. Wilson said it was Ling.
Mr. Eales asked how many years Mr. Wilson had been working for heather honey. Mr. Wilson: I have had eight years' experience."
Mr. Crawshaw : ' I should like to ask whether the lecturer does not consider that the shallow-frame brood-chamber might be of considerable service in moor going?"
Mr. 'Wilson : " I have had no experience in using shallow frames in brood-boxes. I should consider it would be a very desirable object to work for—to make the hive so that instead of a standard frame a shallow frame could be used, and for this reason, the more confined for room we keep our bees when at the moors, the more likely are we to obtain finished comb. The only point is, when it comes to wintering will they winter as well.
Mr D Wilson The BBJ Nov 1914
BEES AT THE MOORSIt was agreed between Mr. D. Wilson and myself one day when we met on the moors that we should, between us, send a contribution to the BEE .JOURNAL. but I see He has got his part in first (page 406), and feel rather flattered at his reference to myself.
Nothing gives me more pleasure after a night's work down the mine than to ramble about among the blooming heatheR for two or three hours watching the bees at work (although I have a cycle ride of some seven or eight miles to get to it), so I knew practically where all hives stood within a two miles radius of my own, and where the best patches of heather or clover were to be found. I discovered Mr. Wilson's hives in one of my rambles by following the bees: they were crossing a road in such numbers that I felt sure there must be a lot of hives close at hand, so I followed them, and up the side of the moor, over a wall into a small field, where my search ended. A better place for about fifty hives it would be hard to find, the enclosure was about 100 yards wide, facing south, with a six foot wall all round it. The sun was hot, and the bees were fairly dancing as they went to and fro; I lay for about ten minutes on the top of the wall watching them. No human being was in sight, so I left them, and on reaching home, wrote Mr. Wilson, who asked me to look at them at any time I was in the neighbourhood, and take especial note of an Italian stock. I went again two days later, and found how easy it is to look at bees when honey is rolling in, (as it was then) without any veil or smoker. I never saw bees so quiet up there before; they are mostly very soon upset. The (White Star) Italians had only been there two days, but I could see they meant doing something now they had come. Mr. Wilson says in his notes that he put two other hives in the line of flight. The Italian stock was the centre one of three, standing behind one another, facing south. There were a lot of yellow
bees in the other two hives, and I lay for over an hour watching one day, within a foot of the entrance. The Italians would not allow a black bee near the hive; if one alighted on the flight-board five or six would seize it and drag it off. This happened many times while I was there. The noise of their wings fanning at the entranee was like a railway engine blowing steam off; I put this down to the fact that the entrance was too small (only about 6ins.).I have noticed some of mine have not been too wide with a 17in. entrance.
It really has been a season long to be remembered. During the whole of August bees only had one wet afternoon. there were two wet nights, but the rest of the time it kept warm, with not too much sun to hurry things on too fast, but warm dull days, such as the bees love. Two things struck me while on my rambles, one was the quantity of bloom (it really was a sight the third week in August when the heather was at its best), the other was the few bees one saw on it: in some years one could not sit down anywhere without five or six bees round one but I have sat a long time this year on some of the most glorious days and have only seen odd ones. One reason for this is there have been fewer hives sent to the moor, so perhaps that accounts for it, and I know I did not take nearly such good stocks as I did last season. My best stock will have given me about forty sections, and another thirty sections, besides several partly filled ones: then I shall have about 70lbs. to press out from four more stocks, but the brood-nest is about solid. One stock went to the moor with less than 2 1bs. of honey in the brood-combs ; they have filled eleven brood-combs solid, and put 20 1bs. in supers, after I had taken 58 lbs. of clover honey from them. I have come across another bee-keeper who had four hives that yielded over lO0 lbs. of the most delicious heather and clover blend I ever tasted. It appears about two-thirds clover but is so thick that when it was uncapped it would not run out a little bit.
I have been to the Grocers' Exhibition since the above was written, and to anyone interested in bees and honey it was a sight to behold. However, abler pens than mine have described the show, and as I had the honour of helping Mr. Herrod to pack the granulated honey, I will confine my remarks to calling attention to a few mistakes we exhibitors make, which I found out then. Firstly, always send good boxes. Mr. Herrod had to remake one that someone had sent twelve jars in. It was made out of a grocer's box and had simply fallen to pieces. How can we expect our honey to go and come back safely in such packages.
Secondly two large tin-tacks driven through the brass eyelets in the label can be prized out with a screwdriver, ana the label reversed quickly for returning, but I found some exhibitors had knocked in three or four sprigs, which could not.have been got out with pincers.
Thirdly, I cannot see any necessity for cord or rope tied round the packages. The right box has a handle on it, and is fastened with a universal fastener, and one screw in the top, with two tacks in the label. Such a box was a pleasure to handle. At this show there were some 2OO boxes to pack up and put away, and it behoves us exhibitors to make the work as light as possible.
Somene unscrewed my box and took a jar out in transit when going to the show, and I saw several exhibits with a jar short. If they had all been taken in transit it does not reflect creditably upon the railway companies' men.
Tom Sleight , Danesmoor The BBJ 1913
HOMES OF THE HONEY BEE
THE APIARIES OF OUR READERS
The lady whose apiary is shown left will be known to readers (in print) through her bright and cheery contributions under the nom-de-plume of " A Scottish Cousin." For some time past we have not been favoured with any report of the bee-season so far north in Scotland as Banffshire. Nor do we presume to inquire why the always welcome letters of " A. Scottish Cousin" have been missing from our pages, but we do hope that a sight of her pretty bee garden and the bright-looking hives will again arouse the desire to let us know what the bees have been doing in the orderly arranged apiary shown. The following extract from note—which accompanied the photo—shows that our " Scottish Cousin" has lost none of her interest in the bees :
DEAR Sirs,—Some time, perhaps, you will find room for enclosed photo in the " Homes of the Honey Bee." I expect it will be a long time before it appears, as I know you have a stock of pictures on hand, but it may take its turn with the rest. There was no idea when photo was taken of its being used in print, or of the bee-garden pictures in your journal, but they are most interesting, one and all.
By way of " text " to go with picture, I may say, under my old nom-de-plume : Three honey harvests have come and gone since last I sent any account of our doings. We had a wonderfully good harvest in 1896 (820 lbs.), all gathered between July 10 and 21. After that it was rain, rain, rain, scarcely a dry day until the bees were packed up for winter ; a sorry lot, breeding having stopped very early. Then the long cold spring of 1897 came down "like a wolf on the fold," leaving me nothing but weaklings, and many an empty hive. However, we bought a good many swarms, and on July 9 the honey flow began, continuing for three weeks without intermission, and when the extracting was finished, we had fully 1,000 lbs. If we had had a dozen good stooks we would have doubled that, but I think there will always be a good many "ifs" in my bee-keeping vocabulary, for I have been always more or less unfortunate in wintering, never once pulling all through. I have been very interested in the "Homes of the Honey Bee," and enclose a photo of our apiary, taken in the early summer of 1896 by the desire of one of our lads (long delicate, and my right 'hand among the bees for five years), who in January reached a "fairer country, far away, far away," and whose memory will ever be (to me at least) inseparably connected with the bees. I was very pleased to see Mr. Ness's apiary, for we had some swarms from him, and some from Mr. Walton, which did splendidly. I have also seen the " Honey Cott'' apiary, Mr. Walton kindly sending a photo. In closing, let me say how much I enioy "Lordswood's" letters,specially when he takes a walk among the
ferns, and primroses, and violets of spring.
There's a " Lo, the winters over and gone, and the time of the singing of the birds is come"about them which make them delightful reading.
September The BBJ 1898
THE APIARIES OF OUR READERS
Mr. L. Wren, whose apiary is depicted on the left of page, has been a reader of, and at times a contributor to, our journals for a good many years. Residing at Somerleyton, five and a half miles from the town of Lowestoft-where, in conjunction with his son, he carries on the business of saddlers and harness makers—Mr. Wren's residence (aptly named " The Retreat ") in the country, away from business cares, affords him the opportunity of indulging in such congenial hobbies as yield pleasure and restful recreation. Before taking " strong " to bee-keeping, about fifteen years ago, he was a poultry and pigeon fancier, and, as we learn, several cups won at such important shows as the annual exhibition at the Crystal Palace with birds from his yard bear testimony to his success in that line. But, as not seldom happens, when the bees got hold of our friend they " came to stay," and have since remained the home hobby which occupies all his spare time.
The location of the apiary is seen to be an uncommon one. Situated in a corner of what must be an extensive brickfield, the embankment of earth (over 20 ft. high), below which the hives stand, forms a useful protection from the north-east winds, which are severe on that part of the coast. A spring in the high bank trickles down its side and yields fresh water for the bees just as they like to get it from the moist surface with no fear of drowning. A small stream, too, runs through the way, which is five minutes' walk from The Retreat," and Mr. Wren passes the bees twice daily in his walk to and from the station for town.
From the few particulars of his bee experiences sent us for publication we learn that Mr. Wren was first actively attracted towards bees in May, 1882. When walking through the garden of J. J. Colman, Esq., he came across the bee-hives, i.e., about half a dozen stocks in skeps. The owner objected to the cruel sulphur-pit as a finish to the bees' labours in
the summer, and so—as frame-hives and modern methods of bee-keeping were unknown thereabouts at the time—the bees had been in the garden for many years, but no honey had ever been taken from them. After some cogitating on the matter, Mr. Wren, though not knowing much about bees, volunteered to drive the bees and transfer them to frame-hives. His brother, who was a bee-keeper, sent him a pattern-hive and section-rack to work from, and several were made, and in the end the bees were transferred to them without a single hitch, with the result that the first year after the owner got has first half cwt. of honey from the bees. This exploit got noised abroad, and so many " skeppists " sought Mr. Wren's help in adopting the "new system," that he eventually had to put down a gas engine and machinery at his business premises in Lowestoft for the manufacture of bees appliances. "In this way," he continues, "I was induced to become an active bee-keeper. The district is, indeed, blessed in being free from foul brood, but," he continues, " we do not secure any heavy takes of honey. I run about twenty hives for honey production, and retail annually about 1,000 pounds without soliciting a single customer." This year, and since the photo was taken, we learn that "the number of stocks has been increased to forty, so we are hoping to add to our harvest."
Mr. Wren concludes by saying, " you will notice my mode of spring feeding with the three inverted bottles fixed on an open frame-stand, seen in foreground on left of photo. I have followed that plan of open air feeding for the last ten years without a single case of robbing."
Mr. Wren is seen standing near the wooden erection on left of picture, which we take to be the " bee-shop," the boyish figure in front being that of his grandson. To the elder we wish many years of pleasure among the bees in the time to come, and to the younger, if not already a bee-keeper, we express the hope he will follow his grandfather's good example.
The BBJ 1898
THE APIARIES OF OUR READERS
The apiary or bee farm depicted in the illustration left belongs to the firm of Messrs. T. B. Blow Co., and is situated about twenty miles north of London, at Welwyn, Herts. The extensive appliance trade connected with the apiary was established about seventeen years ago--and has been successfully continued since—by Mr. T. B. Blow, who, having now disposed of his interest in the concern, spends a good deal of his time abroad. The view reproduced will be a familiar one to travellers going northward on the G.N.R., being located on the left-hand side—close on to the main line about four miles beyond Hatfield—known as the Marquis of Salisbury's stopping-place for Hatfield House. The rising ground on the left of photo is part of the railway embankment, from which a siding runs into the hive works.
In the lower portion of the grounds stands a substantial dwelling-house built by Mr. Blow —along with neat cottages for his workpeople—when he purchased the property some years ago. It is now occupied by Mr. E. H. Taylor, now at the head of this extensive bee-establishment.
The figure seen in centre of the higher land above the bottom row of hives in foreground, is that of Mr. Taylor himself, who in response to our request for some particulars to go along with picture, says :
" Our apiary consists of over 200 hives, the actual number necessarily varying as colonies increase on the one hand or are sent out to nearly every country in the world. We think it is safe to claim that it is the largest apiary in England. Located at Welwyn, Herts, the hives are placed on a gentle slope, a river running at the bottom of ground, from which bees get a plentiful supply of fresh water. It faces due south, and is so protected by the high bank of the G.N.R. that bees may be seen flying comfortably about when almost a gale is blowing from the west or north-west.
" The beds are laid out in horseshoe fashion, with gravel paths, the hives being placed backing thereon, so that all bee operations are done from the rear. The whole ground (about two and a half acres) is covered with thousands of young fruit trees, and in course of a few years it bids fair to become a fine fruit orchard. The flower-beds are sewn with such bee plants as borage,candytsuft, mignonette, wallflowers, &c, and in May, when nearly all are blooming at once, the mass of flowers gives the place a very gay and bright appearance. The apiary is solely worked for raising different races of bees and queens, and not for honey producing (it being found impossible to work both together) along with a large manufacturing trade in the shape of all appliances used in modern bee-culture.
" While the hives seen contain Italians, Carniolans, and English bees, the majority are a hybrid cross between the English and Italian varieties, experience apparently showing that this hybrid is best adapted to our climate. We intend to import some Tunisian bees during the coming year direct from a large apiary in Tunis, fitted up with 300 hives by us last autumn, and where we have sent out one of our experienced hands to manage it, assisted by Arabs, who, from reports since received, appear to be a lazy lot and very fond of eating the brood."
Considering the difficulty of introducing so large a number of hives into the picture while giving some ides of the general contour of the surrounding ground-the photo is very succesful, although it necessarily cuts off the residence of the proprietor, as well as tke pretty Swiss chalet occupied by the founder of the firm, Mr. T. B. Blow, when that gentleman happens to be in England.
In concluding his remarks, Mr. Taylor says :—"Considering the size of the apiary and the works, the site, the plan on which the 'bee-garden' is laid out, and the whole surroundings, I claim it to be a model apiary and Home of the Honey-Bee."
In the autumn of 1886 I sent all the information I could obtain from Borgue apiaries and also some particulars of the bee-flora pasture, to that most accomplished apiarian, who has, perhaps, done more to promote successful bee-culture than any other gentleman in Scotland, who is well known in bee-circles under the nom-de plume of ' A. Renfrewshire Bee-keeper.' He thus wrote:— 'A. little actual observation on the spot would soon solve the enigma of what flower the peculiar flavour of Borgue
honey is due. It is admitted all round the main element is the secretion of the white clover plant, and at the time it is in full bloom if the district where the flavour is most marked—if I mistake not, about Borgue
Village were visited, and which flowers the bees visit most persistently
watched, by pressing out the sweet secretion of the "smack" could be
caught stronger uncontaminated.'
'A Renfrewshire Bee-keeper' sent my note to the Rev. Mr. Sanders,
minister of Tundergarth. I have the authority of the Rev. Mr. Sanders to
quote from his reply to ' A Renfrewshire Bee-keeper,' qualified with the
remark that enlarged experience and increased knowledge sometimes change
one's opinions. The following is an extract from his letter:—' I have
read with great interest the report on Borgne. It is very exhaustive so
far as information is to be obtained from practical beekeepers. I think
we must discard the conjecture that Borgne honey owes its superiority to
the absence of spruce, or to richness of soil, or freedom from
contamination. Clover honey in districts where there are no fir-trees is
not better than in places where they abound.When pure, it is clear, and
has very little aroma, but it is much improved in good seasons when bees
have access to meadows and other flowers, that give it somewhat of
an amber colour, so it is probably Borgue clover honey per se is not
richer than our own, and that it owes all its virtues to contamination,
to the being mixed with honey of wild flowers found around the west coast
of Borgue, and in the unploughed dells and glens. It is not unlikely that
honey near the west coast is principally gathered from thyme, and on that
account may excel what is got further inland.'
The Rev. Mr. Sanders, in pursuit of further information, wrote to the
late Rev. Dr. Cook of Borgue.His reply, which follows, is dated October
7th, 1886,and it will be of general interest far beyond the confines of
Borgue :—' I am told by those who have personal experience of bee-culture
that the south, south-west,and west of this parish are most celebrated
for Borgue honey.The flavour is very delicate, and the honey from those
parts of the parish along the Atlantic shore is peculiar in colour, of a
very pale and beautiful green. The districts noted are very open, having
comparatively little wood, which is held to be unfavourable to the
production of honey. They abound in rich and in much old pasture, with
abundance of clover, especially white, and are celebrated for the
production of cattle as well as of honey. The experienced attribute the
delicacy in flavour and colour chiefly to the rich clover pasture. I am
told that the honey produced in the eastern and northern portions of the
parish, although rich in flavour, wants the peculiar and delicate green
of the south and south-west, and perhaps western portions of the parish.
The parish, especially along the cliffs, which extend along the
sea-shore, abounds in wild flowers, which possibly may contribute to the
peculiar colour and delicacy of the Borgue honey. I wish I could have
given you more full information, but I think what I have stated is
Rev. Mr. Sanders met a lady,a member of a well known and highly esteemed
Borgue family, who said ` the coast has steep cliffs, indented, and grows
natural flowers in the sheltered parts, which are supposed to give the
green honey of Borgue its high character. One of the varied and rare
plants clinging to the rocks is samphire,'
I venture now to give some of my own opinions on the matter. The choicest
Borgne honey is gathered in the centre, south, and west of the parish.
The first prize going so far north this year was a surprise, and would
not likely happen in a good honey year. White clover, we may take it,
yields the main body of the best Borgne honey, very probably influenced
by soil and climate; these affect the quality and flavour of butter and
cheese, and quite likely have a similar effect on the secretion of the
nectaries of flowers. Natural perennial flowers that grow on the untilled
knowes (so abundant in Borgue), I am strongly of opinion have a potent
influence on the flavour of Borgue honey—thyme probably one of these. The
richest flavoured Borgue honey I have yet tasted was of a pale amber
colour. I close with the hope that some of our apiarians or florists may
steal from the Borgue bees the secret of their cunning blend.
A.M.N Greenock ( Kirkcudbrightshire Advertiser / BBJ October 1888 )
Briefly, Borgue honey from time immemorial has enjoyed an
extraordinary reputation, and practically the whole amount produced is
bought by county and other wealthy families at high prices direct from
the beekeepers. In the spring 1880 a controversy arose in the
kirkcudbrightshire Advertieer regarding the merits of Borgue honey, as
apiarians from other districts questioned the superiority of the famous
Borgue product. To induce competition I offered to add half a guinea to
the first prize at Borgne show in the open class for dropped honey. This
increased the value of the first prize to one guinea. The offer was
accepted, and for three successive seasons wonderful displays of honey
were made, competitors coming from Ayrshire, Wigtonshire, and
Kirkcudbrightshire, and in each year the first and second, the only
prizes, were gained by the Borgue product.
`Improved Bar Frame,' in paper above mentioned, put the position of
Borgue very clearly when he wrote no outsider has ever gained a prize
against Borgue at their show. Borgue apiarians have nothing to gain by
going outside, as they already occupy the premier place, that there is
already sufficient demand for the product at high prices, that Borgue
honey is much prized by Her Majesty the Queen, by John Ruskin, and many
other less notable persons.
I may mention that one of the judges arranged for last show was Mr.
McNally, of GLenluce, but unfortunately he was unable to be present. I
have rather a delicate palate for honey when granulated or candied, and
Borgne honey imparts to that organ a peculiar and agreeable flavour that
no other honey that I have ever tasted does.
I have offered a guinea prize for the best answer to the query, To What
is the peculiar excellence of Borgue honey due? The Borgue Society has
accepted the offer, and are at present drawing out conditions of
competition. Next season we may therefore look for something new and
interesting on the subject.
I am not a bee-keeper, and cannot enter into any controversy on the
subject. What I have now written is necessary information in view of '
`Saint Mungo's` letter.
—A. McN., Greenock. The BBJ November 1888
HIVE AND HONEY-BEE L.L.LANGSTROTH (33MB)