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are kept full of brood, the surplus will go into the supers. If any of
the combs of brood are taken away, they must be cared for by other
bees somewhere else, so nothing is gained.

It is at the time of hiving a swarm that I have found contraction
of the brood-nest advisable. Years ago some of the "big guns" in api-

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Contraction of the Brood-nest 57

culture were given to lamenting the swarming of bees, because, they
said, with the swarm went all hopes of surplus. As the business was
then conducted, the "big guns" were correct in many instances. The
swarm would be hived in a ten-frame hive, and no supers put on until
the hive was filled. If they had been put on they would not have been
occupied until the lower hive was filled; and by the time this was ac-
complished it often happened that the white-honey harvest had passed.
If the old colony did not swarm again (usually it did), some return
might be expected from that, unless the season was nearly over. In most
of our Northern States the crop of white honey is gathered within six
weeks, often within a month. If a colony is in condition to begin work
in the supers at the opening of the white-honey harvest, and continues
faithfully at work without swarming, as I have already said, no con-
traction is needed; but suppose the harvest is half over; the bees are
working nicely in the supers ; there may be one case of sections almost
ready to come off, another two-thirds finished, and a third in which the
work has only nicely commenced; now the colony swarms; what shall
be done? By hiving the swarm in a contracted brood-chamber upon
the old stand, transferring the supers to the newly hived swarm, and
practicing the Heddon method of preventing after-swarming, work will
be resumed and continued in the supers without interruption, and the
surplus will be nearly as great as though no swarming had taken place.

When the brood-nest is only one tier of frames, the only way by
which it can be contracted is by taking out some of the outside combs,
and filling the space, thus left, by using "dummies." A "dummy" is
simply a brood-frame with thin boards tacked upon each side. It hangs
in the hive and occupies space the same as a comb, only it is a dummy,
just as its name indicates. A frame wider than a brood- frame may be
used, and this will make the dummy thicker. Don't have the dummy
touch the sides of the hive, then the bees can not glue it fast. How thick
a dummy should be depends upon how many combs are to be removed.
When using the Langstroth frame I prefer to contract to five frames.

With the Heddon hive, in which the brood-chamber is horizontally
divisible, simply using only one section of the brood-nest contracts the
brood-nest to about the proper capacity. This method of contraction
is preferable to using dummies. Not only is there less labor and com-
plication, but the flatness of the brood-nest, and the absence of any
dummies under the outer sections, make the bees more inclined to work
in the sections.

When the brood-nest is very much contracted, it has a tendency
to cause a newly hived swarm to "swarm out" and leave the hive. When
there is trouble from this source the brood-nest may be used nearly or
quite full size for two or three days, until the swarming fever has abated

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58 Advanced Bee Culture

and the bees have settled down to steady work. If newly hived swarms
begin swarming out when I am using the new Heddon hive, I use a
full-size brood-nest for three days, and then shake the bees from the
lower section of the hive, and use this section for the upper section of the
next hive into which I put a swarm.

It has been urged against contraction that it results in small colonies
at the end of the season. If it is carried to* too great an extent, and
too long continued, it certainly does. If a man wishes to turn bees into
honey, so to speak, contraction of the brood-nest will enable him to
accomplish his object. If colonies are too weak in the fall as the result
of severe contraction, they must be united; but the course pursued by
nearly all who practice contraction is to enlarge the brood-nest again in
time for the colony to build up sufficiently for a fall flow of honey, if
there is one, or to become strong enough for winter. When bees are
wintered in a repository of the proper temperature, I have never found
that unusually populous colonies were any more desirable than smaller
ones. This is one advantage of cellar wintering; the population may be
reduced to the minimum during the consumptive, non-productive part of
the year.

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The Use and Abuse of Comb Foundation

That comb foundation has been a boon to bee-keepers, no one doubts ;
that money expended in its purchase is often returned many fold is
equally true ; but such is not always the case. All through the working
season wax is being secreted to a greater or less extent. If not utilized
it is lost. Of course, bees that fill themselves full of honey and hang in
clustering festoons secrete wax to a very much greater extent than those
engaged in bringing in honey. The bees of a swarm will nearly always,
if not always, be found with large wax scales in the wax-pockets. Hav-
ing found that foundation is used at a profit in some places and at some
times, the bee-keeping world seems to have decided, with almost no experi-
ments, that bees ought never to be allowed to build comb naturally.

Years ago I practiced hiving swarms upon empty combs, upon foun-
dation, and upon empty frames — empty except starters of foundation.
The first swarm was hived upon comb, the second upon foundation, and
the third upon starters only. This order was continued, the first year
it was tried, until fifteen swarms were hived, when the use of empty
combs was discontinued, as it was only too evident that they were used
at a loss. I have reference here to what was used in the brood-nest in
hiving swarms when raising comb honey. The difficulty with drawn
combs is just this: Before the queen will lay in old combs, the cells
must be cleaned out and "varnished" or polished until they shine; and
long ere this, especially if there is a' good flow of honey, they will be badly
needed (and will be used) for storage. In other words, combs are
ready for honey before they are ready for eggs, and the bees fill the
combs at once with honey, when, from some perversity of bee-nature,
work, in many instances, comes almost to a standstill. Having filled the
body of the hive, the bees seem disinclined to make a start in the sections.
Where bees commence storing their surplus, there they seem inclined to
continue to store it; and let the bees once get the start of the queen
by clogging the brood-nest with honey, and that colony becomes prac-
tically worthless for the production of comb honey.

The advantage of full sheets of foundation over starters, or vice
versa, was not so apparent, and, until the close of the season, an equal
number of swarms were hived alternately upon full sheets of foundation
and upon starters. Enough was proved the first season to show that.

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6o Advanced Bee Culture

so far as surplus was concerned, nothing was gained by using foun-
dation in the brood-nc3t, except for starters, when hiving swarms. I have
since continued to experiment, year after year, by hiving swarms alter-
nately upon foundaticm and upon starters only, in the brood-nest, weigh-
ing both surplus and brood-nests at the end of the season, and the
evidence has been in favor of empty frames every time. Occasionally
I have hived a swarm upon drawn combs, but the loss has always
been so great that it seems like folly to repeat it.

When full sheets of foundation are used in the brood-nest, and
the brood-nest is so contracted that some of the bees must enter the
sections, and the sections are filled w'ith drawn comb, or partly drawn,

Bees Secreting Wax and Building Comb.

the honey must, from necessity, be stored in the supers until the foun-
dation in the brood-frames can be drawn out; and even then, having
commenced work in the sections, the bees will not desert them. But
there is only one queen furnishing eggs while hundreds of busy, eager
workers are pulling away, with might and main, drawing the founda-
tion out into comb; and the time eventually comes when there are
thousands of empty cells in the brood-nest. Now, Nature has no

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The Use and Abuse of Comb Foundation 6i

greater abhorrence for a vacuum than has a bee for an empty cell
during a flow of honey ; so, while the general orders are "up stairs with
the honey," no cells in the brood-nest are left empty very long. Es-
pecially is this true with a deep brood-nest and yellow Italians.

If a swarm is hived upon starters only, the first step is, necessarily,
the building of comb. If a super filled with drawn or partly drawn
comb (not foundation) is placed over the hive, the bees will begin
storing honey in the combs in the super at the same time that comb-
building is begun below. A queen-excluder must be used to keep the
queen out of the supers, then she will be ready with her eggs the
moment a few cells are partly finished in the brood-nest; and if the
latter has been properly contracted she will easily keep pace with the
comb-building. The result is that nearly all of the honey goes into the
supers, where it is stored in the most marketable shape, while the combs
in the brood-nest are filled almost entirely with brood. When bees are
hived upon empty frames, a small brood-nest is imperatively necessary,
otherwise large quantities of honey will be stored therein; and when
bees build comb to store honey, particularly if the yield is good, they
usually build drone comb. So long as the queen keeps pace with the
comb-builders, worker comb is usually built; but if the brood-nest is so
large that the bees begin hatching from its center before the bees
have filled it with comb, and the queen returns to refill the cells being
vacated by the hatching bees, the comb-builders are quite likely to
change from worker to drone comb.

No fairer question could be asked than : "What are - the advan-
tages of this system?" In the first place, the cost of the foundation
is saved; but, although this is a great saving, it comes about incidentally,
as the non-use of foundation is only a means to an end, and that is,
the profitable securing of the greatest possible amount of honey in
the most marketable shape, leaving the brood-nest so free from honey
that no extracting is needed when the time comes for feeding sugar
for winter stores. Those who for any reason do not wish to use
sugar may still take advantage of this system of putting the unfinished
sections back on the hives in time for the honey to be carried down
and stored in the brood-nest for winter. Or a case of brood-combs may
be put on over the sections as the harvest draws to a close, instead of
putting on another case of sections. This will do away with nearly all
unfinished sections, and the case of filled brood-combs can be given the
colony at the end of the season in place of its empty combs. By either
plan the number of finished sections is increased.

The greatest objection to this plan is that it can not be depended
upon to produce all perfect brood-combs. I think I am safe in saying
that I have had thousands of combs built under this management, and

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62 Advanced Bee Culture

I think that at least eighty per cent of them were as perfect as it would
be possible to secure by the use of full sheets of foundation. A much
larger percentage was perfect when I was using mostly the Langstroth
frame, and contracted the brood-nest to only five frames. This made
the top of the brood-nest, where the bees commence their combs, so
small that the swarm completely covered it. All of the combs were
thus commenced at the same time. As a rule, they were nearly as per-
fect as possible, at least so far as straightness was concerned. When
I came to using the Heddon hive more extensively I discovered that
the greater surface at the top allowed room for the starting of more
combs, that the outside combs would not always be started so soon as
the center ones, and this sometimes resulted in the bulging of some of
the combs.

Sometimes drone comb will be built in spite of contracted brood-
nests. Usually this is the result of old queens. But then, we can't
always have young queens, hence I can only repeat that this method
gives excellent results in the way of surplus, but can not be depended
upon always to furnish perfect brood-combs. Some keep watch of
the brood-combs while they are being built, cutting out crooked, bulged,
or drone comb, and using it in the sections. I can not think favorably
of such work. When I hive a swarm I wish that to be the end of the
matter. No opening of brood-nests, and puttering with imperfect combs,
during the hurly-burly of swarming-time, would be desirable for me.
But I do think favorably of contracting the brood-nests when hiving
swarms, then uniting colonies at the end of the season, culling out the
imperfect combs and rendering them into wax. I think all such combs
are built at a profit.

If securing straight, all-worker combs is not the greatest advantage
arising from the use of foundation, it is certainly next to the greatest.
The advantages of having each comb a counterpart of all the others,
to be able to place any comb in any hive — in short, to have each inter-
changeable with all the others, and to be able to control the production
of drones, to have them reared from such stock as we desire, and in
such quantities, no more and no less, all these are advantages that can
not be ignored, even at the cost of filling our frames with foundation,
and securing a little less surplus. We must have straight worker combs.
If they can be secured without foundation, well and good; if not, it
must be used. By using weak colonies or queen-rearing nuclei or by
feeding bees in the fall, straight all- worker combs may be secured at a

Perhaps the greatest immediate profit arising from the use of foun-
dation is not so much in the saving of honey that would otherwise
have been used in the elaboration of wax as in the quickness with which

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The Use and Abuse of Comb Foundation 63

it enables the bees to furnish storage for honey. When bees are storing
lioney slowly, the wax that they secrete without consuming honey ex-
pressly for that purpose probably furnishes sufficient material, and there
is probably abundant time for the building of comb in which to store
the honey. As the flow of honey increases, the handling of larger
quantities of nectar increases the natural or involuntary wax .secretion ;
but as the yield of honey increases, a point is reached when honey must
be consumed expressly that wax may be secreted. It is quite likely that,
at this point, foundation may be used at a profit to aid the bees in fur-
nishing storage. When the yield is so great that the bees can not secrete
wax and build comb with sufficient rapidity to store all of the honey
that they might gather, then foundation is certainly used at a profit.
Furthermore, I have seen the yield of honey so bountiful that even
foundation did not answer the purpose; the bees did not draw it out
fast enough to furnish storage for all of the honey that could have been
brought in. At such times drawn combs are needed in the supers.

It will be seen that this question of foundation is one to which
there may be profitably given much thought and experimentation. If
the bee-keeper lives where the honey-flow is light, but, perhaps, pro-
longed, he will find it more profitable to allow his bees to build their
own combs. If he can't get perfect brood-combs, he certainly can allow
the bees to build their own combs for the surplus comb honey. And,
by the way, no comb built from foundation can ever equal the delicate
flakiness of that built naturally by the bees. If the honey comes in
"floods," as it sometimes does in some -localities, the man who allows
his bees to build their store-combs unaided at such a time, loses dollars
and dollars. If foundation is needed only for the sake of securing
straight worker combs, it need not necessarily be heavy. All foundation
in brood-frames, upon which swarms are hived, should be wired to
prevent sagging and breaking down.

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Increase, Its Management and Control

There are two classes of bee-keepers who desire to prevent increase
in the number of their colonies. The first, and by far the larger class,
own large home apiaries, and prefer surplus to increase. This class
can allow szvarming, if, by some simple manipulation, the number of
colonies can be kept the same, and the bees induced to devote their
energies to the storing of honey. The second class are the owners of
out-apiaries; and while they may not be so particular about preventing
increase, they do wish to prevent swarming. This accomplished, the
out-apiaries can be left alone, except at stated intervals.

In reply tor the question, "Why do bees swarm ?" it has been replied
that "It is natural." "It is their method of increase.'' This may be
true, in part, but it is not a satisfactory answer. I have never known
a season to pass in which all of the colonies in my apiary swarmed or
else didn't swarm. One year I had seventy-five colonies. They were
worked for comb honey. Forty of them swarmed; thirty-five of them
didn't. It would have JDcen just as "natural," just as much "according
to nature," for one colony to swarm as for another. In Gleanings for
1889 there was quite a lengthy discussion in regard to the causes that
lead to swarming. The chit of the discussion seemed to be that an
undue proportion of young or nurse-bees to the brood to be nursed
was the prime cause of swarming. If the brood-nest is well filled with
brood, then for lack of room the bees begin storing honey in the cells
from which the bees are hatching; the result is that soon there is but
little brood to care for, compared with the number of nurses or young
bees. This theory is strengthened by the fact that, when bees are given
an abundance of empty comb in which to store their honey, swarming*
very seldom occurs. In short, .extracting the honey, or, to be more
exact, giving plenty of empty combs, is the most successful, practical
method of controlling increase. In large apiaries, especially out-apiaries
that can be visited only at intervals, it is well nigh impossible to keep
every colony always supplied with empty combs, hence there will be
occasional swarms. If there is to be some one present to hive what
few swarms do issue, and prevention of increase is desired simply that
the amount of surplus may be greater, and the surplus is preferred in

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Increase, Its Management and Control 65

the extracted form, then the man with these desires can have them

In the production of comb honey it is doubtful if there is a profitable
method of preventing swarming, although, of late, the practice of what
is termed "shook swarming" enables the bee-keeper to swarm a colony
in a manner very nearly approaching natural swarming when he finds
that preparations are being made for swarming. When he finds a colony
building queen-cells he knows that within a few days, a week at the
utmost, the colony will cast a swarm ; and, instead of waiting, and allow-
ing the colony to swarm when it has completed its first queen-cell, he
takes the matter into his own hands by shaking oflf most of the bees and
the queen into a new hive, treating this shaken swarm in exactly the
same manner as he would treat a swarm that had issued naturally. In
other words, the bee-keeper simply forestalls what would have occurred
naturally, in a few days, if the colony had been left undisturbed. The
advantage is that the bee-keeper can thus bring about the swarming
when he is present to attend to it, instead of having it happen when
no one is present. This plan enables him to visit out-apiaries at stated
intervals, giving each colony an examination, and ^'shaking" those that
are making preparations for swarming. A colony that is not building
queen-cells is not likely to swarm inside of a week, and may be left undis-
turbed until the next weekly visit. Another minor advantage of shook
swarming is that it does away with the uniting and mixing up of two
or more swarms that may issue at the same time in a large apiary, where
natural swarming is allowed. Failures in shook swarming result, as
a rule, from doing the work too early in the season, before the colony
has made preparations for swarming, and in not disturbing the bees
sufficiently at the time, thus causing them to fill themselves with honey,
as they do when swarming naturally. Before beginning the work, it is
well to jar the hive, or pound upon it, until the bees are thoroughly
frightened, and have filled themselves with honey. If it is desirable to
have increase, the old hive can be given a new location and a laying
queen, or a ripe queen-cell. If no increase is desired, the old hive can
be set by the side of the new one, with its entrance turned slightly to
one side; then, at the next visit, it may be shifted to the other side of
the new hive, when the flying bees will enter the new hive. A week
later it may be placed back upon the other side, and, at the next visit,
three weeks from the swarming, the few remaining bees may be shaken
out of the old hive. The shifting of the old hive, from side to side of
the new hive, may be omitted, the old hive being left standing by the
side of the new one until the three weeks have elapsed, when all of the
bees may be shaken in with the new colony. The advantage of the
former plan is that some of the hatching bees are sooner thrown into

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66 Advanced Bee Culture

the hew hive, where their work will be to the greater advantage of the

To avoid all danger from after-swarming, it is desirable to shake
the combs quite clear of bees when making a "shook swarm," and this
sometimes results in chilled or starved brood. There is a way, however,
to avoid this difficulty. Set the new swarm a little to one side of the
old stand. The flying bees return to the old stand and care for the
brood. At night the hive containing the brood, and the flying bees that
have returned and entered it, is picked up and carried to a new stand,
and the "shook swarm" placed upon the old stand. Of course, the old
bees that are carried to the new stand gradually come back to the old
stand, and join the "shook swarm," but it is one or two days before
they all get back, and, in the meantime, young bees are hatching out;
and by the time the old bees have all returned, there are sufficient young
bees hatched to protect and feed the brood.

When natural swarming is allowed to the extent of first swarms,
it is an easy matter to prevent the issuing of after-swarms in a home-
apiary where there can be daily attention. The plan is very similar to
the one just mentioned for preventing increase when practicing shook
swarming. When the season for surplus honey closes with clover or
basswood, it is better not to try to secure surplus from both the parent
colony and the swarm. Hive the swarm upon the old stand, transferring
the supers from the old to the new hive. If the brood-chamber of the
new hive is not too large, work will be at once resumed in the sections.
Place the old hive by the side of the new one, with its entrance turned
to one side — ^that is, have the rear ends of the hives nearly in contact,
but their entrances perhaps two feet apart. Each day turn the entrance
of the old hive a few inches toward that of the new hive. At the end
of the sixth day the two hives should stand side by side. Practically,
the two hives are on one stand. True, the bees of each hive recognize
and enter their own home; but, remove one hive and all of the flying
bees would enter the remaining hive. Usually the second swarm comes
out on the eighth day after the issuing of the first. Now, if the apiarist
will, on the seventh day, about noon, when most of the bees are a-field,
carry the old hive to a new location, all of the bees that have flown from
the old hive since the issuing of the swarm, that have marked the old
location as their home, will return and join the newly hived swarm.
This booms the colony where the sections are, and so reduces the old
colony, just as the young queens are hatching, that any farther swarm-

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Online LibraryWilliam Z. HutchinsonAdvanced bee-culture, its methods and management → online text (page 5 of 18)