ALBERT R. MANN
New York State Colleges
Agriculture and Home Economics
EVERETT FRANKLIN PHILLIPS
k ficc. t?^.
The original of tliis book is in
tine Cornell University Library.
There are no known copyright restrictions in
the United States on the use of the text.
BEE-MASTER OF WARRILOW.
The Bee-Master's Cottage.
IP 1^ sP #
By TICKNER EDWARDES,
\uthor of "Bees as Rent Payers," "Sidelights of Nature,"
"An Idler in the Wil^s." &c.
LONDON THE " PALU MALL * PRESS.
Among the beautiful things of the countryside which
are slowly but surely passing away must be reckoned the
old Bee Gardens — fragrant, sunny nooks of blossom,
where the bees are housed only in the ancient straw-
skeps, and have their own way in everything, the work of
the bee-keeper being little more than a placid looking-on at
events of which it would have been heresy to doubt the
To say, however, that modern ideas of progress in bee-
farming must inevitably rob the pursuit of all its old-
world poetry and picturesqueness would be to represent
the case in an unnecessarily bad light. The latter-day bee-
hive, it is true, has little more aesthetic value than a
Brighton bathing-machine ; and the new class of bee-
keepers, which is springing up all over the country, is
composed mainly of people who have taken to the calling
as they would to any other lucrative business, having, for
the most part, nothing but a good-humoured contempt
alike for the old-fashioned bee-keeper and the ancient tradi-
tions and superstitions of his craft.
Nor can the inveterate, old-time skeppist himself — the
man who obstinately shuts his eyes to all that is good and
true in modern bee-science — be counted on to help in the
preservation of the beautiful old gardens, or in keeping
alive customs which have been handed down from genera-
tion to generation, almost unaltered, for literally thou-
sands of years. Here and there, in the remoter parts of
the country, men can still be found who keep their bees
much in the same way as bees were kept in the time of
Columella or Virgil ; and are content with as little profit.
But these form a rapidly diminishing class. The advan-
tages of modern methods are too overwhelmingly apparent.
The old school must choose between the adoption of latter-
day systems, or suffer the only alternative — that of total
extinction at no very distant date.
Luckily for English bee-keeping, there is a third class
upon which the hopes of all who love the ancient ways and
days, and yet recognise the absorbing interest and value of
modern research in apiarian science, may legitimately rely.
Born and bred amongst the hives, and steeped from their
earliest years in the lore of their skeppist forefathers,
these interesting folk seem, nevertheless, imbued to the
core with the very spirit of progress. While retaining an
unlimited affection for all the quaint old methods in bee-
keeping, they maintain themselves, unostentatiously, but
very thoroughly, abreast of the times. Nothing new is
talked of in the world of bees that these people do not
make trial of, and quietly adopt into their daily practice, if
really serviceable ; or as quietly discard, if the contrivance
prove to have little else than novelty to recommend it.
As a rule, they are reserved, silent men, difficult of
approach ; and yet, when once on terms of familiarity,
they make the most charming of companions. Then they
are ever ready to talk about their bees, or discuss the
latest improvements in apiculture ; to explain the intrica-
cies of bee-life, as revealed by the foremost modern obser-
vers, or to dilate by the hour on the astounding delusions
of mediffival times. But they all seem to possess one
invariable characteristic — that of whole-hearted reverence
for the customs of their immediate ancestors, their own
fathers and grandfathers. In a long acquaintance with
bee-men of this class, I have never yet met with one who
could be trapped into any decided admission of defect in
the old methods, which — to say truth — were often as sense-
less as they were futile, even when not directly contrary
to the interest of the bee-owner, or the plain, obvious dic-
tates of humanity. In this they form a refreshing con-
trast to the ultra-modern, pushing young apicuiturist
of to-day ; and it is as a type of this class that the Bee-
Master of Warrilow is presented to the reader.
THE BEE-MASTER OF WARRILOW 11
FEBRUARY AMONGST THE HIVES 16
A TWENTIETH-CENTURY BEE-FARMER 21
CHLOE AMONG THE BEES 25
A BEE-MAN OF THE 'FORTIES 30
HEREDITY IN THE BEE-GARDEN „ 36
NIGHT ON A HONEY-FARM 41
IN A BEE-CAMP 45
THE BEE-HUNTERS 51
THE PHYSICIAN IN THE HIVE 56
WINTER WORK ON THE BEE-FARM 60
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
THE BEE-MASTER'S COTTAGE Fronttsptece.
THE WAX MAKERS Facing page 16
THE BEE-MASTER AT WORK: EVENING 22
"WHERE THE BEE SUCKS" „ „ 26
A QUIET CORNER , 30
A NATURAL HONEY-BEES' NEST 36
BROOD-COMB, SHOWING QUEEN , „ 40
"WARRILOW" „ 46
HONEY-COMB: ITS VARIOUS STAGES „ 50
AN OLD-FASHIONED BEE-HOUaE „ „ 56
ONE WAY OF BEE-KEEPING 60
BEE-MASTER OF WARRILOW.
Long, lithe, and sinewy, with three score of years of
sunburn on his keen, gnarled face, and the sure stride of
a mountain goat, the Bee-Master of Warrilow struck you
at once as a notable figure in any company.
Warrilow is a little precipitous village tucked away
under the green brink of the Sussex Downs ; and the bee-
farm lay on the southern slope of the hill, with a shelter-
ing barrier of pine above, in which, all day long, the
winter wind kept up an impotent complaining. But below,
among the hives, nothing stirred in the frosty, sun-
riddled air. Now and again a solitary worker-bee
darted up from a hive door, took a brisk turn or two in
the dazzling light, then hurried home again to the warm
cluster. But the flash and quiver of wings, and the
drowsy song of summer days, were gone in the iron-bound
January weather ; and the bee-master was lounging idly
to and fro in the great main-way of the waxen city, shot-
gun under arm, and with apparently nothing more to do
than to meditate over past achievements, or to plan out
operations for the season to come.
As I approached, the sharp report of the gun rang
out, and a little cloud of birds went chippering fearsomely
away over the hedgerow. The old man watched them as
they flew off dark against the snowy hillside. He threw
out the cartridge-cases disgustedly.
" Blue-tits ! " said he. " They are the great pest of
the bee-keeper in winter time. When the snow covers the
ground, and the frost has driven all insect-life deep into
The Bee-Master of Warrilow.
the crevices of the trees, all the blue-caps for miles round
trek to the bee-gardens. Of course, if the bees would only
keep indoors they would be safe enough. But the same
cause that drives the birds in lures the bees out. The
snow reflects the sunlight up through the hive-entrances,
and they think the bright days of spring have come, and
out they flock to their death. And winter is just the time
when every single bee is valuable. In summer a few hun-
dreds more or less make little difference, when in every
hive young bees are maturing at the rate of two or three
thousand a day to take the place of those that perish.
But now every bee captured by the tits is an appreciable
loss to the colony. They are all nurse-bees in the winter-
hives, and on them depends the safe hatching-out of the
first broods in the spring season. So the bee-keeper
would do well to include a shot-gun among his parapher-
nalia, unless he is willing to feed all the starving tits of
the countryside at the risk of his year's harvest."
" But the blue-cap," he went on, " is not always con-
tent to wait for his breakfast until the bees voluntarily
bring it to him. He has a trick of enticing them out of
the hive which is often successful even in the coldest
weather. Come into the extracting-house yonder, and^I
may be able to show you what I mean."
He led the way to a row of outbuildings which flanked
the northern boundary of the garden and formed additional
shelter from the blustering gale. A window of the ex-
tracting-house overlooked the whole extent of hives.
Opening this from within with as little noise as possible,
the bee-master put a strong field-glass into my hand.
" Now that we are out of sight," he said, " the tits
will soon be back again. There they come — whole fami-
lies of them together ! Now watch that green hive over
there under the apple-tree."
Looking through the glass, I saw that about a dozen
tits had settled in the tree. Their bright plumage con-
trasted vividly with the sober green and grey of the
lichened boughs, as they swung themselves to and fro
in the sunshine. But presently the boldest of them gave
up this pretence of searching for food among the
branches, and hopped down upon the alighting-board of
the hive. At once two or three others followed him ; and
The Bee-Master of Warrilow.
then began an ingenious piece of business. The little
company fell to pecking at the hard wood with their bills,
striking out a sharp ringing tattoo plainly audible even
where we lay hidden. The old bee-man snorted contemp-
tuously, and the cartridges slid home into the breech of
his gun with a vicious snap. ■«■
" Now keep an eye on the hive-entrance," he said
The glass was a good one. Now I could plainly make
out a movement in this direction. The noise and vibra-
tion made by the birds outside had roused the slumbering
colony to a sense of danger. About a dozen bees ran out
to see what it all meant, and were immediately pounced
upon. And then the gun spoke over my head. It was a
shot into the air, but it served its harmless purpose.
From every bush and tree there came over to us a dull
whirr of wings like far-off thunder, as the blue marauders
sped away for the open country, filling the air with
their frightened jingling note.
Perhaps of all cosy retreats from the winter blast it
has ever been my good fortune to discover, the extract-
ing-room on Warrilow bee-farm was the brightest and
most comfortable. In summer-time the whole life of the
apiary centred here ; and the stress and bustle, inevitable
during the season of the great honey-flow, obscured its
manifold possibilities. But in winter the extracting-
machines were, for the most part, silent ; and the natural
serenity and cosiness of the place reasserted themselves
triumphantly. From the open furnace-door a ruddy
warmth and glow enriched every nook and corner of the
long building. The walls were lined with shehes where
the polished tin vessels, in which the surplus honey was
stored, gave back the fire-shine in a hundred flickering
points of amber light. The work of hive-making in the
neighbouring sheds was going briskly forward ; but the
noise of hammering, the shrill hum of sawing and planing
machinery, and the intermittent cough of the oil-engine
reached us only as a subdued, tranquil murmur — the very
voice of rest.
The bee-master closed the window behind its thick bee-
proof curtains, and, putting his gun away in a corner,
drew a comfortable high-backed settle near to the cheery
The Bee-Master of Warrilow.
blaze. Then he disappeared for a moment, and returned
with a dusty cobweb-shrouded bottle, which he carried in
a wicker cradle as a butler would bear priceless old wine.
The cork came out with a ringing jubilant report, and the
pale, straw-coloured liquid foamed into the glasses like
champagne. It stilled at once, leaving the whole inner
surface of the glass veneered with golden bells. The old
beeman held it up critically against the light.
" The last of 19—," he said, regretfully. " The finest
mead year in this part of the country for many a decade
back. Most people have never tasted the old Anglo-
Saxon drink that King Alfred loved, and probably Harold's
men made merry with on the eve of Hastings. So they
can't be expected to know that metheglin varies with each
season as much as wine from the grape."
Of the goodness of the liquor there admitted no ques-
tion. It had the bouquet of a ripe Ribston pippin, and
the potency of East Indian sherry thrice round the Horn.
But its flavour entirely eluded all attempt at comparison.
There was a suggestive note of fine old perry about it,
and a dim reminder of certain almost colourless Rhenish
wines, never imported, and only to be encountered in
moments of rare and happy chance. Yet neither of these
parallels came within a sunbeam's length of the truth
about this immaculate honey-vintage of Warrilow. Pon-
dering over the liquor thus, the thought came to me that
nothing less than a supreme occasion could have war-
ranted its production to-day. And this conjecture was
immediately verified. The bee-master raised his glass
above his head.
" To the Bees of Warrilow ! " he said, lapsing into the
broad Sussex dialect, as he always did when much moved
by his theme. " Forty-one years ago to-day the first
stock I ever owned was fixed up out there under the old
codlin-tree ; and now there are two hundred and twenty
of them. 'Twas before you were born, likely as not ; and
bee science has seen many changes since then. In those
days there were nothing but the old straw skeps, and most
bee-keepers knew as little about the inner life of their bees
as we do of the bottom of the South Pacific. Now things
are very different ; but the improvement is mostly in the
bee-keepers themselves. The bees are exactly as thej
The Bee-Master of Warrilow.
always have been, and work on the same principles as they
did in the time of Solomon. They go their appointed way
inexorably, and all the bee-master can do is to run on
ahead and smooth the path a little for them. Indeed,
after forty odd years of bee-keeping, I doubt if the bees
even realise that they are ' kept ' at all. The bee-master's
work has little more to do with their progress than the
organ-blower's with the tune."
"Can you," I asked him, as we parted, "after all
these years of experience, lay down for beginners in bee-
manship one royal maxim of success above any other? "
He thought it over a little, the gun on his shoulder
" Well, they might take warning from this same King
Solomon," he said, " and beware the foreign feminine
element. Let British bee-keepers cease to import queen
bees from Italy and elsewhere, and stick to the good old
English Black. All my bees are of this strain, and mostly
from one pure original Sussex stock. The English black
bee is a more generous honey-maker in indifferent seasons ;
she does not swarm so determinedly, under proper treat-
ment, as the Ligurians or Carniolans ; and, above oil,
though she is not so handsome as some of her Conti-
nental rivals, she comes of a hardy northern race, and
stands the ups and downs of the British winter better than
any of the fantastic yellow-girdled crew from overseas."
FEBRUARY AMONGST THE HIVES.
The midday sun shone warm from a cloudless sky.
Up in the highest elm-tops the south-west wind kept the
chattering- starlings gently swinging, but below in the
bee-garden scarce a breath moved under the rich soft
As I lifted the latch of the garden-gate, the sharp
click brought a stooping figure erect in the midst of the
hives; and the bee-master came down the red-tiled wind-
ing path to meet me. He carried a box full of some yel-
lowish powdery substance in one hand, and a big pitcher
of water in the other; and, as usual, his shirt-sleeves were
tucked up to the shoulder, baring his weather-browned
arms to the morning sun.
" When do we begin the year's bee-work? " he said,
repeating my question amusedly. " Why, we began on
New Year's morning. And last year's work was finished
on Old Year's night. If you go with the times, every day
in the year has its work on a modern bee-farm, either in-
doors or out."
" But it is on these first warm days of spring," he con-
tinued, as I followed him into the thick of the hives,
" that outdoor work for the bee-man starts in earnest. The
bees began long ago. January was not out before the
first few eggs were laid right in the centre of the brood-
combs. And from now on, if only we manage properly,
each bee-colony will go on increasing until, in the height
of the season, every queen will be laying from two thou-
sand to three thousand eggs a day."
He stopped and set down his box and his pitcher.
"If we manage properly. But there's the rub.
Success in bee-keeping is all a question of numbers. The
more worker-bees there are when the honey-flow begins,
the greater will be the honey-harvest. The whole art of
the bee-keeper consists in maintaining a steady increase in
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February Amongst the Hives.
population from the first moment the queens begin to lay
in January, until the end of May brings on the rush of the
white clover, and every bee goes mad with work from
morning to night. Of course, in countries where the
climate is reasonable, and the year may be counted on to
warm up steadily month by month, all this is fairly easy;
but with topsy-turvy weather, such as we get in England,
it is a vastly different matter. Just listen to the bees
now ! And this is only February ! ' '
A deep vibrating murmur was upon the air. It came
from all sides of us; it rose from under foot, where the
crocuses were blooming; it seemed to fill the blue sky
above with an ocean of sweet sound. The sunlight was
alive with scintillating points of light, like cast handfuls
of diamonds, as the bees darted hither and thither, cr
hovered in little joyous companies round every hive. They
swept to and fro between us; gambolled about our heads;
came with a sudden shrill menacing note and scrutinised
our mouths, our ears, our eyes; or settled on our hands
and faces, comfortably, and with no apparent haste to
be gone. The bee-master noted my growing uneasiness,
not to say trepidation.
" Don't be afraid," he said. " It is only their com-
panionableness. They won't sting — at least, not if you
give them their way. But now come and see what we are
doing to help on the queens in their work." ,
At different stations in the garden I had noticed some
shallow wooden trays standing among the hives. The old
beeman led the way to one of these. Here the humming
was louder and busier than ever. The tray was full cf
fine wood-shavings, dusted over with the yellow powder
from the bee-master's box ; and scores of bees were at
work in it, smothering themselves from head to foot, and
flying off like golden millers to the hives.
"This is pea-flour," explained the master, "and it
takes the place of pollen as food for the young bees,
until the spring flowers open and the natural supply is
available. This forms the first step in the bee-keeper's
work of patching up the defective English climate.^ From
the beginning our policy is to deceive the queens into the
belief that all is prosperity and progress outside. We
keep all the hives well covered up, and contract the
The Bee-Master of Warrilow.
entrances, so that a high temperature is maintained
within, and the queens imagine summer is already ad-
vancing. Then they see the pea-flour coming in plenti-
fully, and conclude that the fields and hillsides are covered
with flowers ; for they never come out of the hives
except at swarming-time, and must judge of the year by
what they see around them. Then in a week or two we
shall put the spring-feeders on, and give each hive as
much syrup as the bees can take down ; and this, again,
leads the queens into the belief that the year's food-
supply has begun in earnest. The result is that the
winter lethargy in the hive is soon completely over-
thrown, the queens begin to lay unrestrictedly, and the
whole colony is forging on towards summer strength
long before there is any natural reason for it."
We were stooping down, watching the bees at the
nearest hive. A little cloud of them was hovering in the
sunshine, heads towards the entrance, keeping up a
shrill jovial contented note as they flew. Others were
roving round with a vagrant, workless air, singing a low
desultory song as they trifled about among the crocuses,
passing from gleaming white to rich purple, then to gold,
and back again to white, just as the mood took them. In
the hive itself there was evidently a kind of spring-clean-
ing well in progress. Hundreds of the bees were bring-
ing out minute sand-coloured particles, which accumulated
on the alighting-board visibly as we watched. Now and
again a worker came backing out, dragging a dead bee
laboriously after her. Instantly two or three others
rushed to help in the task, and between them they
tumbled the carcass over the edge of the foot-board,
down among the grass below. Sometimes the burden
was of a pure white colour, like the ghost of a bee, perfect
in shape, with beady black eyes, and its colourless wings
folded round it like a cerecloth. Then it seemed to be
less weighty, and its carrier usually shouldered the grue-
some thing, and flew away with it high up into the sun-
shine, and swiftly out of view.
"Those are the undertakers," said the bee-master,
ruminatively filling a pipe. " Their work is to carry the
dead out of the hive. That last was one of the New
Year's brood, and they often die in the cell like that,
February Amongst the Hives.
especially at the begintiingf of the season. All that fine
drift is the cell-cappings thrown down during- the winter
from time to time as the stores were broached, and every
warm day sees them cleaning up the hive in this way. And
now watch these others — these that are coming and going
straight in and out of the hive. ' '
I followed the pointing pipe-stem. The alighting-stage
was covered with a throng of bees, each busily intent on
some particular task. But every now and then a bee
emerged from the hive with a rush, elbowed her way ex-
citedly through the crowd, and darted straight off into the
sunshine without an instant's pause. In the same way
others were returning, and as swiftly disappearing into
" Those are the water-carriers," explained the master.
" Water is a constant need in bee-life almost the whole
year round. It is used to soften the mixture of honey and
pollen with which the young grubs and newly-hatched bees
are fed; and the old bees require a lot of it to dilute their
winter stores. The river is the traditional watering-place
for my bees here, and in the summer it serves very well;
but in the winter hundreds are lost either through cold
or drowning. And so at this time we give them a water-
supply close at home. ' '
He took up his pitcher, and led the way to the other
end of the garden. Here, on a bench, he showed me a
long row of glass jars full of water, standing mouth down-
ward, each on its separate plate of blue china. The water
was oozing out round the edges of the jars, and scores of
the bees were drinking at it side by side, like cattle at a
" We give it them lukewarm," said the old beeman,
" and always mix salt with it. If we had sea-water here,
nothing would be better; seaside bees often go down to the
shore to drink, as you may prove for yourself on any fine
day in summer. Why are all the plates blue? Bees are
as fanciful in their ways as our own women-folk, and in
nothing more than on the question of colour. Just this
particular shade of light blue seems to attract them more
than any other. Next to that, pure white is a favourite
with them; but they have a pronounced dislike to any-
thing brilliantly red, as all the old writers about bees
The Bee-Master of Warrilow.
noticed hundreds of years ago. If I were to put some of
the drinking-jars on bright red saucers now, you would
not see half as many bees on them as on the pale blue."
We moved on to the extracting-house, whence the
master now fetched his smoker, and a curious knife, with
a broad and very keen-looking blade. He packed the tin
nozzle of the smoker with rolled brown paper, lighted it,
and, by means of the little bellows underneath, soon blew
it up into full strength. Then he went to one of the
quietest hives, where only a few bees were wandering aim-
lessly about, and sent a dense stream of smoke into the
entrance. A moment later he had taken the roof and
coverings off, and was lifting out the central comb-frames
one by one, with the bees chnging in thousands all about
" Now," he said, " we have come to what is really the
most important operation of all in the bee-keeper's work
of stimulating his stocks for the coming season. Here in
the centre of each comb you see the young brood; but all
the cells above and around it are full of honey, still sealed
over and untouched by the bees. The stock is behind
time. The queen must be roused at once to her responsi-
bilities, and here is one very simple and effective way of
He took the knife, deftly shaved off the cappings from
the honey-cells of each comb, and as quickly returned the
frames, dripping with honey, to the brood-nest. In a few
seconds the hive was comfortably packed down again, and
he was looking round for the next languid stock.
" All these slow, backward colonies," said the bee-
master, as he puffed away with his smoker, " will have to
be treated after the same fashion. The work must be
smartly done, or you will chill the brood ; but, in uncap-
ping the stores like this, right in the centre of the brood-
nest, the effect on the stock is magical. The whole hive
reeks with the smell of honey, and such evidence of pros-
perity is irresistible. To-morrow, if you come this wav,
you will see all these timorous bee-folk as busy as any
in the garden."
A TWENTIETH-CENTURY BEE - FARMER.
It was sunny spring in the bee-garden. The thick
elder-hedge to the north was full of young green leaf ;
everywhere the trim footways between the hives were
marked by yellow bands of crocus-bloom, and daffodils
just showing a golden promise of what they would be in
a few warm days to come. From a distance I had caught
the fresh spring song of the hives, and had seen the
bee-master and his men at work in different quarters of th'^,
waxen city. But now, drawing nearer, I observed they
were intent on what seemed to me a perfectly astounding
enterprise. Each man held a spoon in one hand and a bowl
of what I now knew to be pea-flour in the other, and I saw
that they were busily engaged in filling the crocus-blos-
soms up to the brim with this inestimable condiment. My
friend the bee-master looked up on my approach, and, as
was his wont, forestalled the inevitable questioning.
" This is another way of giving it," he explained, "and
the best of all in the earliest part of the season. Instinct
leads the bees to the flowers for pollen-food when they will
not look for it elsewhere; and as the natural supply is very
meagre,'we just help them in this way."
As he spoke I became rather unpleasantly aware of a
change of manners on the part of his winged people. First
one and then another came harping round, and, settling
comfortably on my face, showed no inclination to move
again. In my ignorance I was for brushing them off, but
the bee-master came hurriedly to my rescue. He dislodged
them with a few gentle puffs from his tobacco-pipe.
" That is always their way in the spring-time," he ex-
plained. " The warmth of the skin attracts them, and the
best thing to do is to take no notice. If you had knocked
them off you would probably have been stung."
"Is it true that a bee can only sting once? " I asked
him, as he bent again over the crocus beds.
The Bee-Master of Warrilow.
" What would be the good of a sword to a soldier," he
said, " if only one blow could be struck with it? It is
certainly true that the bee does not usually sting a second
time, but that is only because you are too hasty with her.
You brush her off before she has had time to complete her
business, and the barbed sting, holding in the wound, is
torn away, and the bee dies. But now watch how the
thing works naturally."
A bee had settled on his hand as he was speaking. He
closed his fingers gently over it, and forced it to sting.
" Now," he continued, quite unconcernedly, " look
what really happens. The bee makes two or three lunges
before she gets the sting fairly home. Then the poison is
injected. Now watch what she does afterwards. See !
she has finished her work, and is turning round and round !
The barbs are arranged spirally on the sting, and she is
twisting it out corkscrew-fashion. Now she is free again !
there she goes, you see, weapon and all ; and ready to sting
again if necessary."
The crocus-filling operation was over now, and the bee-
master took up his barrow and led the way to a row of
hives in the sunniest part of the garden. He pulled up
before the first of the hives, and lighted his smoking appa-
" These," he said, as he fell to work, " have not been
opened since October, and it is high time we saw how
things are going with them."
He drove a few strong puffs of smoke into the entrance
of the hive and removed the lid. Three or four thicknesses
of warm woollen quilting lay beneath. Under these a
square of linen covered the tops of the frames, to which it
had been firmly propolised by the bees. My friend began
to peel this carefully off, beginning at one corner and using
the smoker freely as the linen ripped away.
" This was a full-weight hive in the autumn," he said,
' ' so there was no need for candy-feeding. But they must
be pretty near the end of their stores now. You see how
they are all together on the three or four frames in the
centre of the hive ? The other combs are quite empty and
deserted. And look how near they are clustering to the top
of the bars ! Bees always feed upwards, and that means
we must begin spring-feeding right away."
A Twentieth-Century Bee-Farmer.
He turned to the barrow, on which was a large box,
lined with warm material, and containing bar frames full
of sealed honeycomb.
" These are extra combs from last summer. I keep
them in a warm cupboard over the stove at about the same
temperature as the hive we are going to put them into.
But first they must be uncapped. Have you ever seen
the Bingham used? "
From the inexhaustible barrow he produced the long
knife with the broad, flat blade; and, poising the frame of
honeycomb vertically on his knee, he removed the sheet of
cell-caps with one dexterous cut, laying the honey bare
from end to end. This frame was then lowered into the
hive with the uncapped side close against the clustering
bees. Another comb, similarly treated, was placed on the
opposite flank of the cluster. Outside each of these a
second full comb was as swiftly brought into position.
Then the sliding inner walls of the brood-nest were pushed
up close to the frame, and the quilts and roof restored. The
whole seemed the work of a few moments at the outside.
" All this early spring work," said the bee-master, as
we moved to the next hive, " is based upon the recognition
of one thing. In the south here the real great honey-flow
comes all at once : very often the main honey-harve§t for
the year has to be won or lost during three short weeks
of summer. The bees know this, and from the first days of
spring they have only the one idea — to create an immense
population, so that when the honey-flow begins there may
be no lack of harvesters. But against this main idea there
is another one — their ingrained and invincible caution.
Not an egg will be laid nor a grub hatched unless there
is reasonable chance of subsistence for it. The populace
of the hive must be increased only in proportion to the
amount of stores coming in. With a good spring, and
the early honey plentiful, the queen will increase her pro-
duction of eggs with every day, and the population of
the hive will advance accordingly. But if, on the very
brink of the great honey-flow, there comes, as is so oftsn
the case, a spell of cold windy weather, laying is stopped
at once ; and, if the cold continues, all hatching grubs are
destroyed and the garrison put on half-rations. And so
the work of months is undone."
A Twentieth-Century Bee-Farmer.
He stooped to bring his friendly pipe to my succour
again, for a bee was trying to get down my collar in the
most unnerving way, and another had apparently mistaken
my mouth for the front-door of his hive. The intruders
happily driven off, the master went back to his work and
his talk together.
" But it is just here that the art of the bee-keeper comes
in. He must prevent this interrupltion to progress by
maintaining the confidence of the bees in the season. He
must create an artificial plenty until the real prosperity
begins. Yet, after all, he must never lose sight of the
main principle, of carrying out the ideas of the bees, not
his own. In good beemanship there is only one road (o
success : you must study to find out what the bees intend
to do, and then help them to do it. They call us bee-
masters, but bee-servants would be much the better name.
The bees have their definite plan of life, perfected through
countless ages, and nothing you can do will ever turn them
from it. You can delay their work, or you can even
thwart it altogether, but no one has ever succeeded in
changing a single principle in bee-life. And so the best
bee-master is always the one who most exactly obeys the
orders from the hive."
CHLOE AMONG THE BEES.
The Bee-Mistress looked' at my card, then put its owner
under a like careful scrutiny. In the shady garden where
we stood, the sunlight fell in quivering golden splashes
round our feet. High overhead, in the purple elm-blos-
som, the bees and the glad March wind made rival music.
Higher still a ripple of lark-song hung in the blue, and a
score of rooks were sailing by, filling the morning with
their rich, deep clamour of unrest.
The bee-mistress drew off her sting-proof gloves in
" If I show you the bee-farm," said she, eyeing me
somewhat doubtfully, " and let you see what women have
done and are doing in an ideal feminine industry, will you
promise to write of us with seriousness? I mean, will you
undertake to deal with the matter for what it is — a plain,
business enterprise by business people — and not treat it flip-
pantly, just because no masculine creature has had a hand
" This is an attempt," she went on — the needful assur-
ances having been given — " an attempt, and, we believe, a
real solution to a very real difficulty. There are thousands
of educated women in the towns who have to earn their own
bread; and they do it usually by trying to compete with men
in walks of life for which they are wholly unsuited. Now,
why do they not come out into the pure air and quiet of the
countryside, and take up any one of several pursuits open
there to a refined, well-bred woman? Everywhere the
labourers are forsaking the land and crowding into the
cities. This is a farmers' problem, with which, of course,
women have nothing to do. The rough, heavy work in the
cornfields must always be done either by men or machinery.
But there are certain employments, even in the country,
that women can invariably undertake better than men, and
bee-keeping is one of them. The work is light. It needs
The Bee-Master of Warrilow.
just that delicacy and deftness of touch that only a woman
can bring- to it. It is profitable. Above all, there is nothing
about it, from first to last, of an objectionable character, de-
manding masculine interference. In poultry-farming,
good as it is for women, there must always be a stony-
hearted man about the place to do unnameable necessary
things in a fluffy back-shed. But bee-keeping is clean,
clever, humanising, open-air work — essentially women's
work all through."
She had led the way through the scented old-world gar-
den, towards a gate in the farther wall, talking as she went.
Now she paused, with her hand on the latch.
"This," she said, "we call the Transition Gate. It
divides our work from our play. On this side of it we have
the tennis-court and the croquet, and other games that
women love, young or old. But it is all serious business
on the other side. And now you shall see our latter-day
Eden, with its one unimportant omission."
As the door swung back to her touch, the murmur that
was upon the air grew suddenly in force and volume. Look-
ing through, I saw an old orchard, spacious, sun-riddled,
carpeted with green; and, stretching away under the ancient
apple-boughs, long, neat rows of hives, a hundred or more,
all alive with bees, winnowing the March sunshine with
their myriad wings.
Here and there in the shade-dappled pleasance figures
were moving about, busily at work among the hives, figures
of women clad in trim holland blouses, and wearing bee-
veils, through which only a dim guess at the face beneath
could be hazarded. Laughter and talk went to and fro in
the sun-steeped quiet of the place; and one of the fair bee-
gardeners near at hand — young and pretty, I could have
sworn, although her blue gauze veil disclosed provokingly
little — was singing to herself, as she stooped over an open
hive, and lifted the crowded brood-frames one by one up
into the light of day.
" The great work of the year is just beginning with
us," explained the bee-mistress. " In these first warm
days of spring every hive must be opened and its condition
ascertained. Those that are short of stores must be fed;
backward colonies must be quickened to a sense of their
responsibilities. Clean hives must be substituted for the
tfl 9 5
c S >
■« S c
Chloe Among the Bees.
old, winter-soiled dwellings. Queens that are past their
prime will have to be dethroned, and their places filled by
younger and more vigorous successors. But it is all typi-
cally women's work. You have an old acquaintance with
the lordly bee-master and his ways; now come and see how
a woman manages. ' '
We passed over to the singing lady in the veil, and —
from a safe distance — watched her at her work. Each
frame, as it was raised out of the seething abyss of the hive,
was turned upside down and carefully examined. A little
vortex of bees swung round her head, shrilling vindictively.
Those on the uplifted comb-frames hustled to and fro like
frightened sheep, or crammed themselves head foremost
into the empty cells, out of reach of the disturbing light.
"That is a queenless stock," said the bee-mistress.
" It is going to be united with another colony, where there
is a young, high-mettled ruler in want of subjects."
We watched the bee-gardener as she went to one of the
neighbouring hives, subdued and opened it, drew out all
the brood-combs, and brought them over in a carrying-
rack, with the bees clustering in thousands all about them.
Then a scent-diffuser was brought into play, and the fra-
grance of lavender-water came over to us, as the combs of
both hives were quickly sprayed with the perfume, then
lowered into the hive, a frame from each stock alternately.
It was the old time-honoured plan for uniting bee-colonies,
by impregnating them with the same odour, and so induc-
ing the bees to live together peaceably, where otherwise a
deadly war might ensue. But the whole operation was
carried through with a neat celerity, and light, dexterous
handling, I had never seen equalled by any man.
" That girl," said the bee-mistress, as we moved away,
" came to me out of a London office a year ago, anaemic,
pale as the paper she typed on all day for a living. Now
she is well and strong, and almost as brown as the bees she
works among so willingly. All my girls here have come to
me from time to time in the same way out of the towns, for-
saking indoor employment that was surely stunting all
growth of mind and body. And there are thousands who
would do the same to-morrow, if only the chance could be
We stopped in the centre of the old orchard. Overhead
The Bee-Master of Warrilow.
the swelling fruit-buds glistened against the blue sky.
Merry thrush-music rang out far and near. Sun and
shadow, the song of the bees, laughing voices, a snatch of
an old Sussex chantie, the perfume of violet-beds and nod-
ding gillyflowers, all came over to us through the lichened
tree-stems, in a flood of delicious colour and scent and
sound. The bee-mistress turned to me, triumphantly.
" Would any sane woman," she asked, " stop in the din
and dirt of a smoky city, if she could come and work in a
place like this? Bee-keeping for women ! do you not see
what a chance it opens up to poor toiling folk, pining for
fresh air and sunshine, especially to the office-girl class,
girls often of birth and refinement — just that kind of poor
gentlewomen whose breeding and social station render them
most difficult of all to help? And here is work for them,
clean, intellectual, profitable; work that will keep them all
day long in the open air ; a healthy, happy country life,
humanly within the reach of all."
" What is wanted," continued the bee-mistress, as we
went slowly down the broad main-way of the honey-farm,
" is for some great lady, rich in business ideas as well as in
pocket, to take up the whole scheme, and to start a network
of small bee-gardens for women over the whole land. Very
large bee-farms are a mistake, I think, except in the most
favourable districts. Bees work only within a radius of
two or three miles at most, so that the number of hives that
can be kept profitably in a given area has its definite limits.
But there is still plenty of room everywhere for bee-farms
of moderate size, conducted on the right principles; and
there is no reason at all why they should not work together
on the co-operative plan, sending all their produce, to some
convenient centre in each district, to be prepared and
marketed for the common good."
" But the whole outcome," she went on, " of a scheme
like this depends on the business qualities imported into it.
Here, in the heart of the Sussex Weald, we labour together
in the midst of almost ideal surroundings, but we never lose
sight of the plain, commercial aspect of the thing. We
study all the latest writings on our subject, experiment with
all novelties, and keep ourselves well abreast of the times
in every way. Our system is to make each hive show a
clear, definite profit. The annual income is not, and can
Chloe Among the Bees.
never be, a very large one, but we fare quite simply, and
have sufficient for our needs. In any case, however, we
have oroved here that a few women, renting a small^house
and garden out in the country, can live together comfort-
ably on the proceeds from their bees; and there is no reason
in the world why the idea should not be carried out by
others with equal success."
We had made the round of the whole busy, murmuring
enclosure, and had come again to the little door in the wall.
Passing through and out once more into the world of merely
masculine endeavour, the bee-mistress gave me a final
"You may think," said she, "that what I advocate,
though successful in our own single. instance, might prove
impracticable on a widely extended scale. Well, do you
know that last year close upon three hundred and fifty
tons of honey were imported into Great Britain from foreign
sources, just because our home ajjiculturists were unable
to cope with the national demand? And this being so, is
it too much to think that, if women would only band them-
selves together and take up bee-keeping systematically,
as we have done, all or most of that honey could be pro-
duced — of infinitely better quality — here, on our own British
A BEE-MAN OF THE "FORTIES.
The old bee-garden lay on the verge of the wood. Seen
from a distance it looked like a great white china bowl
brimming over with roses ; but a nearer view changed the
porcelain to a snowy barrier of hawthorn, and the roses
became blossoming apple-boughs, stretching up into the
May sunshine, where all the bees in the world seemed to
have forgathered, filling the air with their rich wild chant.
Coming into the old garden from the glare of the dusty
road, the hives themselves were the last thing to rivet atten-
tion. As you went up the shady moss-grown path, perhaps
the first impresion you became gratefully conscious of was
the slow dim quiet of the place — a quiet that had in it all
the essentials of silence, and yet was really made up of a
myriad blended sounds. Then the sheer carmine of the
tulips, in the sunny vista beyond the orchard, came upon
you like a trumpet-note through the shadowy aisles of the
trees; and after this, in turn, the flaming amber of the
marigolds, broad zones of forget-me-nots, like strips of
the blue sky fallen, snow-drifts of arabis and starwort,
purple pansy-spangles veering to every breeze. And last
of all you became gradually aware that every bright nook
or shade-dappled corner round you had its nestling bee-
skep, half hidden in the general riot of blossom, yet marked
by the steadier, deeper song of the homing bees.
To stand here, in the midst of the hives, of a fine May
morning, side by side with the old bee-man, and watch
with him for the earliest swarms of the year, was an i^x-
perience that took one back far into another and a kindlisr
century. There were certain hives in the garden, grey
with age and smothered in moss and lichen, that were the
traditional mother-colonies of all the rest. The old bee-
keeper treasured them as relics of his sturdy manhood, just
as he did the percussion fowling-piece over his mantel ;
and pointed to one in particular as being close on thirty
A Quiet Corner.
A Bee-Man of the 'Forties.
years old. Nowadays remorseless science has proved that
the individual life of the honey-bee extends to four or five
months at most ; but the old bee-keeper firmly believed that
some at least of the original members of this colony still
flourished in green old age deep in the sombre corridors of
the ancient skep. Bending down, he would point out to
you, among the crowd on the alighting-board, certain bees
with polished thorax and ragged wings worn almost to a
stumo. While the young worker-bees were charging in
and out of the hive at breakneck speed, these suoer-
annuated amazons doddered about in the sunlight, with an
obvious and pathetic assumption of importance. They
were really the last survivors of the bygone winter's brood.
Their task of hatching the new spring generation was
over ; and now, the power of flight denied to them, they
busied themselves in the work of sentinels at the gate, or
in grooming the young bees as they came out for their first
adventure into the far world of blossoming clover under
For modern apiculture, with its interchangeable comb-
frames and section-supers, and American notions generally,
the old bee-keeper harboured a fine contempt. In its place
he had an exhaustless store of original bee-knowledge,
gathered throughout his sixty odd years of placid life
among the bees. His were all old-fashioned hives of
straw, hackled and potsherded just as they must have been
any time since Saxon Alfred burned the cakes. Each bee-
colony had its separate three-legged stool, and each leg
stood in an earthen pan of water, impassable moat for
ants and " wood-li's," and such small honey-thieves.
Why the hives were thus dotted about in such admired but
inconvenient disorder was a puzzle at first, until you learned
more of ancient bee- traditions. Wherever a swarm
settled — up in the pink-rosetted apple-boughs, under the
eaves of the old thatched cottage, or deep in the tangle of
the hawthorn hedge — there, on the nearest open grou'id
beneath, was its inalienable, predetermined home. When,
as sometimes happened, the swarm went straight away out
of sight over the meadows, or sailed off like a pirouetting
grey cloud over the roof of the wood, the old bee-keeper
never sought to reclaim it for th' garden.
" 'Tis gone to the shires fer change o' air," he would
The Bee-Master of Warrilow.
say, shielding his bleak blue eyes with his hand, as he
g-azed after it. " 'Twould be agen natur' to hike 'em
back here along. An' naught but ill-luck an' worry
He never observed the skies for tokens of to-morrow's
weather, as did his neighbours of the countryside. The
bees were his weather-glass and thermometer in one. If
they hived very early after noon, though the sun went
down in clear gold and the summer night loomed like
molten amethyst under the starshine, he would prophesy
rain before morning. And sure enough you were
wakened at dawn by a furious patter on the window, and
the booming of the south.west wind in the pine-clad crest
of the hill. But if the bees loitered afield far into the
gusty crimson gloaming, and the loud darkness that fol-
lowed seemed only to bring added intensity to the busy
labour-note within the hives, no matter how the wind
keened or the griddle of black storm-cloud threatened,
he would go on with his evening task of watering his
garden, sure of a morrow of cloudless heat to come.
He knew all the sources of honey for miles around ;
and, by taste and smell, could decide at once the particular
crop from which each sample had been gathered. He
would discriminate between that from white clover or sain-
foin ; the produce of the yellow charlock wastes ; or the
orchard-honey, wherein it seemed the fragrance of cherry-
bloom was always to be differentiated from that of apple
or damson or pear. He would tell you when good honey
had been spoilt by the grosser flavour of sunflower or
horse-chestnut ; or when the detestable honey-dew had
entered into its composition ; or, the super-caps having
been removed too late in the season, the bees had got at
the early ivy-blossom, and so degraded all the batch.
Watching bees at work of a fair morning in May,
nothing excites the wonder of the casual looker-on more
than the mysterious burdens they are for ever bringing
home upon their thighs ; semi-globular packs, always
gaily coloured, and often so heavy and cumbersome that
the bee can hardly drag its weary way into the hive.
This is pollen, to be stored in the cells, and afterwards
kneaded up with honey as food for the young bees. The
old man could say at once by the colour from which flower
A Bee-Man of the 'Forties.
each load was obtained. The deep brown-gold panniers
came from the gorse-bloom ; the pure snow-white from the
hawthorns ; the vivid yellow, always so big and seemingly
so weighty, had been filled in the buttercup meads. Now
and again, in early spring, a bee would come blundering
home with a load of pallid sea-green hue. This came
from the gooseberry bushes. And later, in summer, when
the poppies began to throw their scarlet shuttles in the
corn, many of these airy cargoes would be of a rich velvety
black. But there was one kind which the old bee-man had
never yet succeeded in tracing to its flowery origin. He
saw it only rarely, perhaps not a dozen times in the season
— a wonderful deep rose-crimson, singling out its bearer,
on its passage through the throng, as with twin danger-
lamps, doubly bright in the morning glow.
Keeping watch over the comings and goings of his bees
was always his favourite pastime, year in and year out ;
but it was in the later weeks of May that his interest in
them culminated. He had always had swarms in May as
far back as his memory could serve him ; and the oldest
hive in the garden was generally the first to swarm. As
a rule the bees gave sufficient warning of their intended
migration some hours before their actual issue. The
strenuous pell-mell business of the hive would come to a
sudden and portentous halt. While a few of the bees still
darted straight off into the sunshine on their wonted
errands, or returned with the usual motley loads upon their
thighs, the rest of the colony seemed to have abandoned
work altogether. From early morning they hung in a
great brown cluster all over the face of the hive, and down
almost to the earth beneath ; a churning mass of insect-life
that grew bigger and bigger with every moment, glisten-
ing like wet seaweed in the morning sun. In the cluster
itself there was an uncanny silence. But out of the depttis
of the hive came a low vibrating murmur, wholly distinct
from its usual note ; and every now and again a faint shrill
piping sound could be heard, as the old queen worked her-
self up to swarming frenzy, vainly seeking the while to
reach the royal nursery where the rival who was to oust
her from her old dominion was even then steadily gnawing
through her constraining prison walls.
At these momentous times a quaint ceremonial was
The Bee-Master of Warrilow.
rigidly adhered to by the old bee-master. First he brought
out a pitcher of home-brewed ale, from which all wha
were to assist in the swarm-taking were required to drink,
as at a solemn rite. The dressing of the skep was his
next care. A little of the beer was sprinkled over its in-
terior, and then it was carefully scoured out with a handful
of balm and lavender and mint. After this the skep was
covered up and set aside in the shade ; and the old bee-
keeper, carrying an ancient battered copper bowl in one
gnarled hand, and a great door-key in the other, would lead
the way towards the hive, his drab smock-frock mowing
the scarlet tulip-heads down as he went.
Sometimes the swarm went off without any preliminary
warning, just as if the skep had burst like a bombshell,
volleying its living contents into the sky. But oftener it
went through the several stages of a regular process.
After much waiting and many false alarms, a peculiar stir
would come in the throng of bees cumbering the entrance
to the hive. Thousands rose on the wing, until the sun-
shine overhead was charged with them as with countless
fluttering atoms of silver-foil ; and a wild joyous song
spread far and wide, overpowering all other sounds in the
garden. Within the hive the rich bass note had ceased ;
and a hissing noise, like a great caldron boiling over, took
its place, as the bees inside came pouring out to join the
carolling multitude above. Last of all came the queen.
Watching for her through the glittering gauzy atmosphere
of flashing wings, she was always strangely conspicuous,
with her long pointed body of brilliant chestnut-red. She
came hustling forth ; stopped for an instant to comb her
antennae on the edge of the foot-board ; then soared
straight up into the blue, the whole swarm crowding deli-
riously in her train.
Immediately the old bee-man commenced a weird tom-
tomming on his metal bowl. " Ringing the bees " was
an exact science with him. They were supposed to fly
higher or lower according to the measure of the music ;
and now the great door-key beat out a slow, stately chime
like a cathedral bell. Whether this ringing of the old-
time skeppists had any real influence on the movements of
a swarm has never been absolutely determined ; but there
was no doubt in this case of the bee-keeper's perfect faith
A Bee-Man of the 'Forties.
in the process, or that the bees would commence their
descent and settle, usually in one of the apple trees, very
soon after the din began.
The rapid growth of the swarm-cluster was always one
of the most bewildering things to watch. From a little
dark knot no bigger than the clenched hand, it swelled in
a moment to the size of a half-gallon measure, growing in
girth and length with inconceivable swiftness, until the
branch began to droop under its weight. A minute more,
and the last of the flying bees had joined the cluster ; the
stout apple-branch was bent almost double ; and the com-
pleted swarm hung within a few inches of the ground, a
long cigar-shaped mass gently swaying to and fro in the
flickering light and shade.
The joyous trek-song of the bees, and the clanging
melody of key and basin, died down together. The old
murmuring, songful quiet closed o^'er the garden again,
as water over a cast stone. To hive a swarm thus easily
within reach was a simple matter. Soon the old bee-man
had got all snugly inside the skep, and the hive in its self-
appointed station. And already the bees were settling
down to work ; hovering merrily about it, or packed in the
fragrant darkness busy at comb-building, or lancing
straight off to the clover-fields, eager to begin the task of
provisioning the new home.
HEREDITY IN THE BEE-GARDEN.
We were in the great high-road of the modern bee-farm,
and had stopped midway down in the heart of the waxen
city. On every hand the hives stretched away in long trim
rows, and the hot June sunshine was alive with darting
bees and fragrant with the smell of new-made honey.
" Swarming?" said the bee-master, in answer to a ques-
tion I had put to him. " We never allow swarming here.
My bees have to work for me, and not for themselves; so
we have discarded that old-fashioned notion long ago."
He brought his honey-barrow to a halt, and sat down
ruminatively on the handle.
" Swarming," he went on to explain, " is the great
trouble in modern bee-keeping. It is a bad legacy left us
by the old-time skeppists. With the ancient straw hives
and the old benighted methods of working, it was all very
well. When bee-burning was the custom, and all the heaviest
hives were foredoomed to the sulphur-pit, the best bees
were those that gave the earliest and the largest swarms.
The more stocks there were in the garden the more honey
there would be for market. Swarming was encouraged in
every possible way. And so, at last, the steady, stay-at-
home variety of honey-bee became exterminated, and only
the inveterate swarmers were kept to carry on the strain.
I quoted the time-honoured maxim about a swarm in
May being worth a load of hay. The bee-master laughed
"To the modern bee-keeper," he said "a swarm in May
is little short of a disgrace. There is no clearer sign of bad
beemanship nowadays than when a strong colony is allowed
to weaken itself by swarming on the eve of the great honey-
flow, just when strength and numbers are most needed. Of
course, in the old days, the maxim held true enough. The
straw skeps had room only for a certain number of bees,
and when they became too crowded there was nothing for
A Natural Honey-Bees' Nest.
Heredity in the Bee-Garden.
it but to let the colonies split up in the natural way. But
the modern frame-hive, with its extending brood-chamber,
does away with that necessity. Instead of the old beggarly
ten or twelve thousand, we can now raise a population of
forty or fifty thousand bees in each hive, and so treble and
quadruple the honey-harvest. "
" But," I asked him, " do not the bees go on swarming
all the same, if you let them?"
" The old instincts die hard," he said. " Some day
they will learn more scientific ways; but as yet they have
not realised the change that modern bee-keeping has made
in their condition. Of course, swarming has its clear,
definite purpose, apart from that of relieving the congestion
of the stock. When a hive swarms, the old queen goes off
with the flying squadron, and a new one takes her place at
home. In this way there is always a young and vigorous
queen at the head of affairs, and the well-being of the
parent stock is assured. But advanced bee-keepers, whose
sole object is to get a large honey yield, have long recog-
nised that this is a very expensive way of rejuvenating old
colonies. The parent hive will give no surplus honey for
that season; and the swarm, unless it is a large and very
early one, will do little else than furnish its brood-nest for
the coming winter. But if swarming be prevented, and
the stock requeened artificially every two years, we keep
an immense population always ready for the great honey-
flow, whenever it begins."
He took up the heavy barrow, laden with its pile of
super-racks, and started trundling it up the path, talking
as he went.
' ' If only the bees could be persuaded to leave the queen-
raising to the bee-keeper, and would attend to nothing else
but the great business of honey-getting ! But they won't —
at least, not yet. Perhaps in another hundred years or so the
old wild habits may be bred out of them; but at present it
is doubtful whether they are conscious of any ' keeping ' at
all. They go the old tried paths determinedly; and the
most that we can accomplish is to undo that part of their
work which is not to our liking, or to make a smoother
road for them in the direction they themselves have
" But you said just now," I objected, " that no swarm-
The Bee-Master of Warrilow.
ing was allowed among your bees. How do you manage
to prevent it?"
" It is not so much a question of prevention as of cure.
Each hive must be watched carefully from the beginning.
From the time the queen commences to lay, in the first
mild days of spring, we keep the size of the brood nest just
a little ahead of her requirements. Every week or two I
put in a new frame of empty comb, and when she has ten
frames to work upon, and honey is getting plentiful, I begin
to put on the store-racks above, just as I am doing now.
This will generally keep them to business; but with all the
care in the world the swarming fever will sometimes set in.
And then I always _treat it in this way. ' '
He had stopped before one of the hives, where the bees
were hanging in a glistening brown cluster from the alight-
ing^board; idling while their fellows in the bee-garden
seemed all possessed with a perfect fury of work. I
watched him as he lighted the smoker, a sort of bellows
with a wide tin funnel packed with chips of dry rotten wood.
He stooped over the hive, and sent three or four dense puffs
of smoke into the entrance.
" That is called subduing the bees," he explained, " but
it really does nothing of the kind. It only alarms them,
and a frightened bee always rushes and fills herself with
honey, to be ready for any emergency. She can imbibe
enough to keep her for three or four days; and once secure
of immediate want, she waits with a sort of fatalistic calm
for the development of the trouble threatening."
He halted a moment or two for this process to complete
itself, then began to open the hive. First the roof came
off; then the woollen quilts and square of linen beneath were
gradually peeled from the tops of the comb-frames, laying
bare the interior of the hive. Out of its dim depths came
up a steady rumbling note like a train in a tunnel, but only
a few of the bees got on the wing and began to circle round
our heads viciously. The frames hung side by side, with
a space of half an inch or so between. The bee-master
Ufted them out carefully one by one.
" Now, see here," he said, as he held up the first frame
in the sunlight, with the bees clinging in thousands to it,
' ' this end comb ought to have nothing but honey in it . but
you see its centre is covered with brood-cells. The queen
Heredity in the Bee-Garden.
has caught the bee-m,an napping, and has extended her
nursery to the utmost limit of the hive. She is at the end
of her tether, and has therefore decided to swarm. Directly
the bees see this they begin to prepare for the coming loss
of their queen by raising another, and to make sure of get-
ting one they always breed three or four. "
He took out the next comb and pointed to a round con-
struction, about the size and shape of an acorn, hanging
from its lower edge.
" That is a queen cell; and here, on the next comb, are
two more. One is sealed over, you see, and may hatch out
at any moment; and the others are nearly ready for closing.
They are always carefully guarded, or the old queen would
destroy them. And now to put an end to the swarming fit. "
He took out all the combs but the four centre ones; and,
with a goose wing, gently brushed the bees off them into
the hive. The six combs were then taken to the extricating-
house hard by. The sealed honey-cells on all of them were
swiftly uncapped, and the honey thrown out by a turn or
two in the centrifugal machine. Now we went back to the
hive. Right in the centre the bee-master put a new, per-
fectly empty comb, and on each side of this came the four
principal brood frames with the queen still on them. Out-
side of these again the combs from which we had extracted
all the honey were brought into position. And then a rack
of new sections was placed over all, and the hive quickly
closed up. The entire process seemed the work of only a
" Now," said the bee-master triumphantly, as he took
up his barrow again, " we have changed the whole aspect
of affairs. The population of the hive is as big as ever; but
instead of a house of plenty it is a house of dearth. The
larder is empty, and the only cure for impending famine is
hard work; and the bees will soon find that out and set to
again. Moreover, the queen has now plenty of room for
laying everywhere, and those exasperating prison-cradles,
with her future rivals hatching in them, have been done
away with. She has no further reason for flight, and the
bees, having had all their preparations destroyed, have the
best of reasons for keeping her. Above all, there is the new
super-rack, greatly increasing the hive space, and they will
be given a second and third rack, or even a fourth one, long
The Bee- Master of Warrilow,
before they feel the want of it. Every motive for swarming
has been removed, and the result to the bee-master will
probably be seventy or eighty pounds of surplus honey,
instead of none at all, if the bees had been left to their old
" You must always remember, however," he added, as
a final word, " that bees do nothing invariably. 'Tis an
old and threadbare saying amongst bee-keepers, but there's
nothing truer under the sun. Bees have exceptions to
almost every rule. While all other creatures seem to keep
blindly to one pre-ordained way in everything they do, you
can never be certain at any time that bees will not reverse
their ordinary course to meet circumstances you may know
nothing of. And that is all the more reason why the bee-
master himself should allow no deviations in his own work
about the hives : his ways must be as the ways of the Medes
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NIGHT ON A HONEY-FARM.
The sweet summer dark was over the bee-garden. On
every side, as I passed through, the starlight showed me
the crowding roofs of the waxen city ; and beyond these I
could just make out the dim outline of the extracting-house,
with a cheerful glow of lamplight streaming out from
window and door. The rumble of machinery and the
voices of the bee-master and his men grew louder as I
approached. A great business seemed to be going forward
within. In the centre of the building stood a strange-
looking engine, like a brewer's vat on legs. It was eight
or nine feet broad and some five feet high ; and a big hori-
zontal wheel lay within the great circle, completely filling
its whole circumference. As I entered, the wheel was
going round with a deep reverberating noise as fast as
two strong men could work the gearing ; and the bee-
master stood close by, carefully timing the operation.
"Halt!" he shouted. The great wheel-of -fortune
stopped. A long iron bar was pulled down and the wheel
rose out of the vat. Now I could see that its whole outer
periphery was covered with frames of honeycomb, each in
its separate gauze-wire cage. The bee-master tugged a
lever. The cages — there must have been twenty-five or
thirty of them — turned over simultaneously like single
leaves of a book, bringing the other side of each comb into
place. The wheel dropped down once more, and swung
round again on its giddy journey. From my place by the
door I could hear the honey driving out against the sides
of the vat like heavy rain.
" Halt ! " cried the bee-master again. Once more the
big wheel rose, glistening and dripping, into the yellow
lamplight. And now a trolley was pushed up laden with
more honeycomb ready for extraction. The wire-net cages
were opened, the empty combs taken out, and full ones
d^tly put in their place. The wheel plunged down again
The Bee-Master of Warrilow.
into its mellifluous cavern, and began its deep song once
more. The bee-master gave up his post to the foreman,
and came towards me, wiping the honey from his hands.
He was very proud of his big extractor, and quite willing
to explain the whole process. '' In the old days," he said,
' ' the only way to get the honey from the comb was to press
it out. You could not obtain your honey without destroy-
ing the comb, which at this season of the year is worth
very much more than the honey itself ; for if the combs can
be emptied and restored perfect to the hive, the bees will
fill them again immediately, without having to waste valu-
able time in the height of the honey-flow by stopping to
make new comb. And when the bees are wax-making they
are not only prevented from gathering honey, but have to
consume their own stores. While they are making one
pound of comb they will eat seventeen or eighteen pounds
of honey. So the man who hit upon the idea of drawing
the honey from the comb by centrifugal force did a splen-
did thing for modern bee-farming. English honey was
nothing until the extractor came and changed bee-keeping
from a mere hobby into an important industry. But come
and see how the thing is done from the beginning."
He led the way towards one end of the building. Here
three or four men were at work at a long table surrounded
by great stacks of honeycombs in their oblong wooden
frames. The bee-master took up one of these. " This,"
he explained, " is the bar-frame just as it comes from the
hive. Ten of them side by side exactly fill a box that
goes over the hive proper. The queen stays below in the
brood-nest, but the worker-bees come to the top to store
the honey. Then, every two or three days, when the honey-
flow is at its fullest, we open the super, take out the sealed
combs, and put in combs that have been emptied by the
extractor. In a few days these also are filled and capped
by the bees, and are replaced by more empty combs in the
same way ; and so it goes on to the end of the honey-
We stood for a minute or two watching the work at the
table. It went on at an extraordinary pace. Each work-
man seized one of the frames and poised it vertically over a
shallow metal tray. Then, from a vessel of steaming hot
water that stood at his elbow, he drew a long, flat-bladed
Night on a Honey-Farm.
knife, and with one swift slithering cut removed the whole
of the cell-capping's from the surface of the comb. At once
the knife was thrown back into its smoking bath, and a
second one taken out, with which the other side of the
comb was treated. Then the comb was hung in the rack
of the trolley, and the keen hot blades went to work on
another frame. As each trolley was fully loaded it was
whisked off to the extracting-machine and another took
" All this work," explained the bee-master, as we
passed on, ' ' is done after dark, because in the daytime the
bees would smell the honey and would besiege us. So we
cannot begin extracting until they are all safely hived for
the night. ' ' He stopped before a row of bulky cylinders.
" These," he said, " are the honey ripeners. Each of
them holds about twenty gallons, and all honey is kept here
for three or four days to mature before it is ready for
market. If we were to send it out at once it would fer-
ment and spoil. In the top of each drum there are fine
wire strainers, and the honey must run through these, and
finally through thick flannel, before it gets into the cylin-
der. Then, when it is ripe, it is drawn off and bottled."
One of the big cylinders was being tapped at the
moment. A workman came up with a kind of gardener's
water-tank on wheels. The valve of the honey-vat was
op>ened, and the rich fluid came gushing out like liquid
amber. "This is all white-clover honey," said the bee-
master, tasting it critically. " The next vat there ought to
be pure sainfoin. Sometimes the honey has a distinct
almond flavour; that is when hawthorn is abundant.
Honey varies as much as wine. It is good or bad accord-
ing to the soil and the season. Where the horse-chestnut
is plentiful the honey has generally a rank taste. But
this is a sheep-farmers' country, where they grow thou-
sands of acres of rape and lucerne and clover for sheep-
feed ; and nothing could be better for the bees. ' '
By this time the gardener's barrow was full to the brim.
We followed it as it was trundled heavily away to another
part of the building. Here a little company of women were
busy filling the neat glass jars, with their bright screw-
covers of tin ; pasting on the label of the big London
stores, whither most of the honey was sent ; and packing
The Bee-Master of Warrilow.
the jars into their travelling-cases ready for the railway-van
in the morningf. The whole place reeked with the smell of
new honey and the faint, indescribable odour of the hives.
As we passed out of the busy scene of the extracting-house
into the moist dark night again, this peculiar fragrance
struck upon us overpoweringly. The slow wind was set-
ting our way, and the pungent odour from the hives came
up on it with a solid, almost stifling, effect.
' ' They are fanning hard tonight, ' ' said the bee-master,
as we stopped halfway down the garden. " Listen to the
noise they're making !"
The moon was just tilting over the tree-tops. In its
dim light the place looked double its actual size. We
seemed to stand in the midst of a great town of bee-dwell-
ings, stretching vaguely away into the darkness. And from
every hive there rose the clear deep murmur of the ven-
The bee-master lighted his lantern, and held it down
close to the entrance of the nearest hive.
" Look how they form up in rows, one behind the
other, with their heads to the hive; and all fanning with
their wings ! They are drawing the hot air out. Inside
there is another regiment of them, but those are facing
the opposite way, and drawing the cool air in. And so
they keep the hive always at the right temperature for
honey-making, and for hatching out the young bees."
" Who was it," he asked ruminatively, as the gate
of the bee-garden closed at last behind us, and we
were walking homeward through the glimmering dusk
of the lane — " who was it first spoke of the ' busy bee '?
Busy ! 'Tis not the word for it ! Why, from the moment
she is born to the day she dies the bee never rests nor
sleeps ! It is hard work night and day, from the cradle-
cell to the grave ; and in the honey-season she dies of it
after a month or so. It is only the drone that rests. He is
very like some humans I know of his own sex ; he lives an
idle life, and leaves the work to the womenkind. But the
drone has to pay for it in the end, for the drudging woman-
bee revolts sooner or later. And then she kills him. In
bee-life the drone always dies a violent death ; but in human
life — well, it seems to me a little bee-justice wouldn't be
amiss with some of them."
IN A BEE-CAMP.
" 'Tis a good thing — life; but ye never know how good,
really, till you've followed the bees to the heather."
It was an old saying of the bee-master's, and it came
again slowly from his lips now, as he knelt by the camp-fire,
watching the caress of the flames round the bubbling pot.
We were in the heart of the Sussex moorland, miles away
from the nearest village, still farther from the great bee-
farm where, at other times, the old man drove his thriving
trade. But the bees were here — a million of them perhaps
— all singing their loudest in the blossoming heather that
stretched away on every side to the far horizon, under the
sweltering August sun.
Getting the bees to the moors was always the chief
event of the year down at the honey-farm. For days the
waggons stood by the laneside, all ready to be loaded up
with the best and most populous hives; but the exact
moment of departure depended on one very uncertain fac-
tor. The white-clover crop was almost at an end. Every
day saw the acreage of sainfoin narrowing, as the sheep-
folds closed in upon it, leaving nothing but bare yellow
waste, where had been a rolling sea of crimson blossom.
But the charlock lay on every hillside like cloth-of-gold.
Until harvest was done the fallows were safe from the
ploughshare, and what proved little else than a troublesome
weed to the farmer was like golden guineas growing to
every keeper of bees.
But at last the new moon brought a sharp chilly night
with it, and the long-awaited signal was given. Coming
down with the first grey glint of morning from the little
room under the thatch, I found the bee-garden in a swither
of commotion. A faint smell of carbolic was on the air, and
the shadowy figures of the bee-master and his men were
hurrying from hive to hive, taking off the super-racks that
stood on many three and four stories high. The honey-
The Bee-Master of Warrilow.
barrows went to and fro groaning under their burdens; and
the earliest bees, roused from their rest by this unwonted
turmoil, filled the grey dusk with their high timorous note.
The bee-master came over to me in his white overalls, a
weird apparition in the half-darkness.
" 'Tis the honey-dew," he said, out of breath, as he
passed by. " The first cold night of summer brings it out
thick on every oak-leaf for miles around; and if we don't
get the supers off before the bees can gather it, the honey
A\ill be blackened and spoiled for market."
He carried a curious bundle \\'ith him, an armful of
fluttering pieces of calico, and I followed him as he went to
work on a fresh row of hives. From each bee-dwelling the
roof was thro^\•n off, the inner coverings removed, and one
of the squares of cloth — damped with the carbolic solution
— quickly draA\n over the topmost rack. A sudden fearsome
buzzing uprose within, and then a sudden silence. There
is nothing in the world a bee dreads more than the smell of
carbolic acid. In a few seconds the super-racks were de-
serted, the bees crowding down into the lowest depths of
the hives. The creaking barrows went down the long row
in the track of the master, taking up the heavy racks as
they passed. Before the sun was well up over the hill-
brow the last load had been safely gathered in, and the
chosen hives were being piled into the waggons, ready for
the long day's journey to the moors.
All this was but a week ago; yet it might have been a
week of years, so completely had these rose-red highland
solitudes accepted our invasion, and absorbed us into their
daily round of sun and song. Here, in a green hollow of
velvet turf, right in the heart of the wilderness, the camp
had been pitched — the white bell-tents with their skirts
drawn up, showing the spindle-legged field-bedsteads
within; the filling-house, made of lath and gauze, where
the racks could be emptied and recharged \\ith the little
white wood section-boxes, safe from marauding bees ; the
honey-store, with its bee-proof crates steadily mounting
one upon the other, laden with rich brown heather-honey —
the finest sweet-food in the world. And round the camp,
in a vast spreading circle, stood the hives — a hundred or
more — knee-deep in the rosy thicket, each facing outward,
and each a whirling vortex of life from early dawn to the
In a Bee-Camp.
last amber gleam of sunset abiding under the flinching
silver of the stars.
The camp-fire crackled and hissed, and the pot sent
forth a savoury steam into the morning air. From the
heather the deep chant of busy thousands came over on
the wings of the breeze, bringing with it the very spirit of
serene content. The bee-master rose and stirred the pot
"B'iled rabbit !" said he, looking up, with the light of
old memories coming in his gnarled brown face. "And
forty years ago, when I first came to the heather, it used
to be b'iled rabbit too. We could set a snare in those days
as well as now. But 'twas only a few hives then, a dozen
or so of old straw skeps on a barrow, and naught but the
starry night for a roof-tree, or a sack or two to keep off
the rain. None of your women's luxuries in those times !"
He looked round rather disparagingly at his own tent,
with its plain truckle-bed, and tin wash-bowl, and other
deplorable signs of effeminate self-indulgence.
' ' But there was one thing, ' ' he went on ' ' one thing we
used to bring to the moors that never comes now. And that
was the basket of sulphur-rag. When the honey-flow is
done, and the waggons come to fetch us home again, all the
hives will go back to their places in the garden none the
worse for their trip. But in the old days of bee-burning
never a bee of all the lot returned from the moors. Come
a little way into the long grass yonder, and I'll show ye
the way of it. ' '
With a stick he threshed about in the dry bents, and
soon lay bare a^row of circular cavities in the ground. They
were almost choked up with moss and the rank under-
growth of many years; but originally they must have been
each about ten inches broad by as many deep.
" These," said the bee-master, with a shamefaced air
of confession, " were the sulphur-pits. I dug them the
first year I ever brought hives to the heather; and here, for
twenty seasons or more, some of the finest and strongest
stocks in Sussex were regularly done to death. 'Tis a drab
tale to tell, but we knew no better then. To get the honey
away from the bees looked well-nigh impossible with thou-
sands of them clinging all over the combs. And it never
occurred to any of us to try the other way, and get the bees
The Bee-Master of Warrilow.
to leave the honey. Yet bee-driving, 'tis the simplest thing
in the world, as every village lad knovi^s to-day. ' '
We strolled out amongst the hives, and the bee-master
began his leisurely morning round of inspection. In the
bee-camp, life and vi?ork alike took their time from the slow
march of the summer sun, deliberate, imperturbable, across
the pathless heaven. The bees alone keep up the heat and
burden of the day. While they were charging in and out
of the hives, possessed with a perfect fury of labour, the
long hours of sunshine went by for us in immemorial calm.
Like the steady rise and fall of a windless tide, darkness and
day succeeded one another; and the morning splash in the
dew-pond on the top of the hill, and the song by the camp-
fire at night, seemed divided only by a dim formless span
too uneventful and happy to be called by the old portentous
name of Time.
And yet every moment had its business, not to be de-
layed beyond its imminent season. Down in the bee-farm
the work of hojjey-harvesting always carried with it a
certain stress and bustle. The great centrifugal extractor
would be roaring half the night through, emptying the
super-combs, which were to be put back into the hives on
the morrow, and refilled by the bees. But here, on the
moors, modern bee-science is powerless to hurry the work
of the sunshine. The thick heather-honey defies the ex-
tracting-machine, and cannot be separated without destroy-
ing the comb. Moorland honey — except where the wild
sage is plentiful enough to thin down the heather sweets —
must be left in the virgin comb; and the beeman can do
little more than look on as vigilantly as may be at the
work of his singing battalions, and keep the storage-space
of the hives always well in advance of their need.
Yet there is one danger — contingent at all seasons of
bee-life, but doubly to be guarded against during the criti-
cal time of the honey-flow.
As we loitered round the great circle, the old bee-keeper
halted in the rear of every hive to watch the contending
streams of workers, the one rippling out into the blue air
and sunshine, the other setting more steadily homeward,
each bee weighed down with her load of nectar and pale
grey pollen, as she scrambled desperately through the
opposing- crowd and vanished into the seething darkness
In a Bee-Camp.
within. As we passed each hive, the old becrman carefully
noted its strength and spirit, comparing it with the con-
dition of its neighbours on either hand. At last he stopped
by one of the largest hives, and' pointed to if significantly.
" Can ye see aught amiss?" he asked, hastily rolling
his shirt-sleeves up to the armpit.
I looked, but could detect nothing wrong. The multi-
tude round the entrance to this hive seemed larger and
busier than with any other, and the note within as deeply
"Ay! they're erpulous enough," said the bee-master,
as he lighted his tin-nozzled bellows-smoker and coaxed
it into full blast. ' ' But hark to the din ! 'Tis not work
this time; 'tis mortal fear of something. Flying strong?
Ah, but only a yard or two up, and back again. There's
trouble at hand, and they've only just found it out. The
matter is, they have lost their queen."
He was hurriedly removing the different parts of the
hive as he spoke. A few quick puffs from the smoker were
all that was needed at such a time. With no thought but for
the tragedy that had come upon them, the bees were rush-
ing madly to and fro in the hive, not paying the slightest
attention to the fact that their house was falling asunder
piecemeal, and the sudden sunshine riddling it through
and through, where had been nothing but Cimmerian dark-
ness before. Under the steady slow hand of the master,
the teeming section-racks came off one by one, until the
lowest chamber — the nursery of the hive — was reached,
and a note like imprisoned thunder in miniature burst
out upon us.
The old bee-keeper lifted out the brood-frames, and
subjected each to a lynx-eyed scrutiny. At last he dived
his bare hand down into the thick of the bees, and brought
up something to show me. It was the dead queen; twice
the size of all the rest, with short oval wings and a shining
red-gold body, strangely conspicuous among the score or
so of dun-coloured workers which still crowded round her
on the palm of his hand.
" In the old days," said the bee-master, " before the
movable-comb hive was invented, if the queen died like this,
it would throw the whole colony out of gear for the rest
of the season. Three weeks must elapse before a new
The Bee-Master of Warrilow.
queen could be hatched and got ready for work; and then
the honey-harvest would be over. But see how precious
time can be saved under the modern system."
He led the way to a hive which stood some distance
apart from the rest. It was much smaller than the others,
and consisted merely of a row of little boxes, each with its
separate entrance, but all under one common roof. The
old bee-man opened one of the compartments, and lifted
out its single comb-frame, on which were clustered only a
few hundred bees. Searching among these with a wary
forefinger, at last he seized one by the wings and held it
up to view.
" This is a spare queen," said he. " 'Tis always wise
to bring a few to the heather, against any mischance. And
now we'll give her to the motherless bees; and in an hour
or two the stock will be at work again as busily as ever."
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" In that bit of forest," said the bee-master, indicating
a long stretch of neighbouring woodland with one com-
prehensive sweep of his thumb, " there are tons of honey
waiting for any man who knows how to find it."
I had met and stopped the old bee-keeper and his men,
bent on what seemed a rather singular undertaking. They
carried none of the usual implements of their craft, but
were laden up with the paraphernalia of woodmen — rip-
saws and hatchets and climbing-irons, and a mysterious
box or two, the use of which I could not even guess at.
But the bee-master soon made his errand plain.
" Tons of honey," he went on. " And we are going to
look for some of it. There have been wild bees, I suppose,
in the forest-country from the beginning of things. Then
see how the land lies. There are villages all round, and
for ages past swarms have continually got away from the
bee-gardens, and hived themselves in the hollow trunks of
the trees. Then every year these stray colonies have sent
out their own swarms again, until to-day the woods are full
of bees, wild as wolves and often as savage, guarding
stores that have been accumulating perhaps for years and
He shifted his heavy kit from one shoulder to the other.
Overhead the sun burned in a cloudless August sky, and the
willow-herb by the roadside was full of singing bees and
the flicker of white butterflies. In the hedgerows there
were more bees plundering the blackberry blossom, or
sounding their vagrant note in the white convolvulus-bells
which hung in bridal wreaths at every turn of the way.
Beyond the hedgerow the yellow cornlands flowed away
over hill and dale under the torrid light ; and each scarlet
poppy that hid in the rustling gold-brown wheat had its
winged musician chanting at its portal. As I turned and
The Bee-Master of Warrilow.
went along with the expedition, the bee-master gave me
more details of the coming enterprise.
" Mind you," he said, " this is not good beemanship
as the moderns understand it. It is nothing but bee-
murder, of the old-fashioned kind. But even if the bees
could be easily taken alive, we should not want them in the
apiary. Blood counts in bee-life, as in everything else ;
and these forest-bees have been too long under the old
natural conditions to be of any use among the domestic
strain. However, the honey is worth the getting, and if
we can land only one big stock or two it will be a profitable
We had left the hot, dusty lane, and taken to the field-
path leading up through a sea of white clover to the woods
" This is the after-crop," said the bee-master, as he
strode on ahead with his jingling burden. " The second
cut of Dutch clover always gives the most honey. Listen
to the bees everywhere — it is just like the roar of London
heard from the top of St. Paul's ! And most of it here is
going into the woods, more's the pity. Well, well ; we
must try to get some of it back to-day."
Between the verge of the clover-field and the shadowy
depths of the forest ran a broad green waggon-way ; and
here we came to a halt. In the field we had lately traversed
the deep note of the bees had sounded mainly underfoot ;
but now it was all above us, as the honey makers sped to
and fro between the sunlit plane of blossom and their
hidden storehouses in the wood. The upper air was full of
their music ; but, straining the sight to its utmost, not a
bee could be seen.
" And you will never see them," said the bee-master,
watching me as he unpacked his kit. " They fly too fast
and too high. And if you can't see them go by out here in
the broad sunshine, how will you track them to their lair
through the dim light under the trees? And yet," he
went on, " that is the only way to do it. It is useless to
search the wood for their nests ; you might travel the
whole day through and find nothing. The only plan is to
follow the laden bees returning to the hive. And now
watch how we do that in Sussex."
From one of the boxes he produced a contrivance like
a flat tin saucer mounted on the top of a pointed stick. He
stuck this in the ground near the edge of the clover-field
so that the saucer stood on a level with the highest blos-
soms. Now he took a small bottle of honey from his
pocket, emptied it into the tin receptacle, and beckoned me
to come near. Already three or four bees had discovered
this unawaited feast and settled on it ; a minute more and
the saucer was black with crowding bees. Now the bee-
master took a wire-gauze cover and softly inverted it over
the saucer. Then, plucking his ingenious trap up by the
roots, he set off towards the forest with his prisoners, fol-
lowed by his men.
" These," said he, " are our guides to the secret
treasure-chamber. Without them we might look for a
week and never find it. But now it is all plain sailing, as
He pulled up on the edge of the wood. By this time
every bee in the trap had forsaken the honey, and was
clambering about in the top of the dome-shaped lid, eager
" They are all full of honey," said the bee-master,
" and the first thing a fully-laden bee thinks of is home.
And now we will set the first one on the wing."
He opened a small valve in the trap-cover, and allowed
one of the bees to escape. She rose into the air, made a
short circle, then sped away into the gloom of the wood.
In a moment she was lost to sight, but the main direction
of her course was clear ; and we all followed helter-skelter
until our leader called another halt.
" Now watch this one," he said, pressing the valve
This time the guide rose high into the dim air, and was
at once lost to my view. But the keen eyes of the old bee-
man had challenged her.
"There she goes! " he said, pointing down a long
shadowy glade somewhat to his left. " Watch that bit of
sunlight away yonder ! ' '
I followed this indication. Through the dense wood-
canopy a hundred feet away the sun had thrust one long
golden tentacle ; and I saw a tiny spark of light flash
through into the gloom beyond. We all stampeded
The Bee-Master of Warrilow.
Another and another of the guides was set free, each
one taking us deeper into the heart of the forest, until at
last the bee-master suddenly stopped and held up his hand.
" Listen ! " he said under his breath.
Above the rustling of the leaves, above the quiet stir
of the undergrowth and the crooning of the stock-doves,
a shrill insistent note came over to us on the gentle wind.
The bee-man led the way silently into the darkest depths of
the wood. Halting, listening, going swiftly forward in
turn, at last he stopped at the foot of an old decayed elm-
stump. The shrill note we had heard was much louder
now, and right overhead. Following his pointing fore-
finger, I saw a dark cleft in the old trunk about twenty feet
above ; and round this a cloud of bees was circling, filling
the air with their rich deep labour-song. At the same in-
stant, with a note like the twang of a harp-string, a bee
came at me and fastened a red-hot fish-hook into my cheek.
The old bee-keeper laughed.
" Get this on as soon as you can," he said, producing
a pocketful of bee-veils, and handing me one from the
bunch. " These are wild bees, thirty thousand of them,
maybe ; and we shall need all our armour to-day. Only
wait till they find us out ! But now rub your hands all
over with this."
E.very man scrambled into his veil, and anointed his
hands with the oil of wintergreen — the one abiding terror
of vindictive bees. And then the real business of the day
The bee-master had strapped on his climbing-irons.
Now he struck his way slowly up the tree, tapping the
wood with the butt-end of a hatchet inch by inch as he
went. At last he found what he wanted. The trunk rang
hollow about a dozen feet from the ground. Immediately
he began to cut it away. The noise of the hatchet woke all
the echoes of the forest. The chips came fluttering to the
earth. The rich murmur overhead changed to an angry
buzzing. In a moment the bees were on the worker in a
vortex of humming fury, covering his veil, his clothes, hi';
hands. But he worked on unconcernedly until he had
driven a large hole through the crust of the tree and laid
bare the glistening honeycomb within. Now I saw him
take from a sling-bag at his side handful after handful of
some yellow substance and heap it into the cavity he had
made. Then he struck a match, lighted the stuff, and
came sliding swiftly to earth again. We all drew off and
" That," explained the bee-master, as he leaned on his
woodman's axe out of breath ; " is cotton-waste, soaked
in creosote, and then smothered in powdered brimstone.
See ! it is burning famously. The fumes will soon fill
the hollow of the tree and settle the whole company. Then
we shall cut away enough of the rotten wood above to get
all the best of the combs out ; there are eighty pounds of
good honey up there, or I'm no bee-man. And then it's
back to the clover-field for more guide-bees, and away on
a new scent."
THE PHYSICIAN IN THE HIVE.
It was a strange procession comingf up the red-tiled path
of the bee-garden. The bee-master led the way in his Sunday
clothes, followed by a gorgeous footman, powdered and
cockaded, who carried an armful of wraps and cushions.
Behind him walked two more, supporting between them a
kind of carrying-chair, in which sat a florid old gentleman
in a Scotch plaid shawl; and behind these again strode a
silk-hatted, black-frocked man, carefully regulating the
progress of the cavalcade. Through the rain of autumn
leaves, on the brisk October morning, I could see, afar off,
a carriage waiting by the lane-side ; a big old-fashioned
family vehicle, with cockaded servants, a pair of champing
greys, and a glitter of gold and scarlet on the panel, where
the sunbeams struck on an elaborate coat-of-arms.
The whole procession made for the extracting-house,
and all work stopped at its approach. The great centri-
fugal machine ceased its humming. The doors of the
packing-room were closed, shutting off the din of saw and
hammer. Over the stone floor in front of the furnace —
where a big caldron of metheglin was simmering — a carpet
was hastily unrolled, and a comfortable couch brought out
and set close to the cheery blaze.
And now the strangest part of the proceedings com-
menced. The old gentleman was brought in, partially dis-
robed, and transferred to the couch by the fireside. He
seemed in great trepidation about something. He kept
his gold eyeglasses turned on the bee-master, watching him
with a sort of terrified wonder, as the old bee-man produced
a mysterious box, with a lid of perforated zinc, and laid it
on the table close by. From my corner the whole scene
was strongly reminiscent of the ogre's kitchen in the fairy-
tale; and the muffled sounds from the packing-room might
have been the voice of the ogre himself, complaining at the
lateness of his dinner.
Now, at a word from the black-coated man, the. bee-
master opened his box. A loud angry buzzing uprose, and
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The Physician in the Hive.
about a dozen bees escaped into the air, and flew straight
for the window-glass. The bee-master followed them, took
one carefully by the wings, and brought it over to the old
gentleman. His apprehensions visibly redoubled. The
doctor seized him in an iron, professional grip.
" Just here, I think. Close under the shoulder-blade.
Now, your lordship ..."
Viciously the infuriated bee struck home. For eight or
ten seconds she worked her wicked will on the patient.
Then, turning round and round, she at last drew out her
sting, and darted back to the wmdow.
But the bee-master was ready with another of his liv-
ing stilettos. Half a dozen times the operation was re-
peated on various parts of the suffering patient's body.
Then the old gentleman — who, by this time, had passed
from whimpering through the various stages of glowing
indignation to sheer undisguised profanity — was restored
to his apparel. The procession was re-formed, and the
bee-master conducted it to the waiting carriage, with the
same ceremony as before.
As we stood looking after the retreating vehicle, the
old bee-man entered into explanations.
" That," said he, " is Lord H , and he has been a
martyr to rheumatism these ten years back. I could have
cured him long ago if he had only come to me before, as 1
have done many a poor soul in these parts; but he, and those
like him, are the last to hear of the physician in the hive.
He will begin to get better now, as you will see. He is to
be brought here every fortnight; but in a month or two he
will not need the chair. And before the winter is out he
will walk again as well as the best of us."
We went slowly back through the bee-farm. The work-
ing-song of the bees seemed as loud as ever in the keen
October sunshine. But the steady deep note of summer
was gone ; and the peculiar bee-voice of autumn — shrill,
anxious, almost vindictive — rang out on every side.
" Of course," continued the bee-master, "there is
nothing new in this treatment of rheumatism by bee-stings.
It is literally as old as the hills. Every bee-keeper for the
last two thousand years has known of it. But it is as
much as a preventive as a cure that the acid in a bee's
sting is valuable. The rarest thing in the world is to find
The Bee-Master of Warrilow.
a bee-keeper suffering from rheumatism. And if every
one kept bees, and got stung occasionally, the doctors
would soon have one ailment the less to trouble about.
" But," he went on, " there is something much
pleasanter and more valuable to humanity, ill or well, to be
got from the hives. And that is the honey itself. Honey
is good for old and young. If mothers were wise they
would never give their children any other sweet food. Pure
ripe honey is sugar with the most difficult and most impor-
tant part of digestion already accomplished by the bees.
Moreover, it is a safe and very gentle laxative; and before
each comb-cell is sealed up the bee injects a drop of acid
from her sting, and so gives to the honey an aseptic pro-
perty. That is why it is so good for sore throats or chafed
We had got back to the extracting house, where the
great caldron of metheglin was still bubbling over the fire.
The old bee-keeper relieved himself of his stiff Sunday coat,
donned his white linen over-alls, and fell to skimming
" There is another use," said he, after a ruminative
pause, " to which honey might be put, if only doctors could
be induced to seek curative power in ancient homely things,
as they do with the latest new poisons from Germany. That
is in the treatment of obesity. Fat people, who are order ed
to give up sugar, ought to use honey mstead . In my time
1 have persuaded many a one to try it, and the result has
always been the same^ — a steady reduction in weight, and
better health all round. Then, again, dyspeptic folk would
find most of their troubles vanish if they substituted the
already half-digested honey wherever ordinary sugar forms
part of their diet. And did you ever try honey to sweeten
tea or coffee? Of course, it must be pure, and without
any strongly-marked flavour; but no one would ever return
to sugar if once good honey had been tried in this way, or
in any kind of cookery where sugar is used."
The bee-master ran his fingers through his hair, of
which he had a magnificent iron-grey crop. The fingers
were undeniably sticky; but it was an old habit of his, when
in thoughtful mood, and the action seemed to remind him
of something. His eyes twinkled merrily.
" Now," said he, " you are a writer for the papers, and
The Physician in the Hive.
you may therefore want to go into the hair-restoring busi-
ness some day. Well, here is a recipe for you. It is
nothing but honey and water, in equal parts, but it is
highly recommended by all the ancient writers on beeman-
ship. Have I tried it? Well, no; at least, not intentionally.
But in extracting honey it gets into most places, the hair
not excepted. At any rate, honey as a hair-restorer was
one of the most famous nostrums of the Middle Ages, and
may return to popular favour even now. However, here is
something there can be no question about."
He went to a cupboard, and brought out a jar full of a
viscid yellow substance.
"This," he said, "is an embrocation, and it is the
finest thing I know for sprains and bruises. It is made of
the wax from old combs, dissolved in turpentine, and if
we got nothing else from the hives bee-keeping would yet
be justified as a humanitarian calling. Its virtues may
be in the wax, or they may be due to the turpentine, but
probably they lie in another direction altogether. Bees
collect a peculiar resinous matter from pine trees and else-
where, with which they varnish the whole surface of their
combs, and this may be the real curative element in the
Now, with a glance at the clock, the bee-master went
to the open door and hailed his foreman in from his work
about the garden. Between them they lifted away the
heavy caldron from the fire, and tilted its steaming contents
into a barrel close at hand. The whole building filled at
once with a sweet penetrating odour, which might well
have been the concentrated fragrance of every summer
flower on the countryside.
' ' But of all the good things given us by the wise physi-
cian of the hive, ' ' quoth the old bee-keeper, enthusiastically,
" there is nothing so good as well-brewed metheglin. This
is just as I have made it for forty years, and as my father
made it long before that. Between us we have been brew-
ing mead for more than a century. It is almost a lost art
now; but here in Sussex there are still a few antiquated folk
who make it, and some, even, who remember the old
methers — the ancient cups it used to be quaffed from. As an
everyday drink for working-men, wholesome, nourishing,
cheering, there is nothing like it in or out of the Empire.
WINTER WORK ON THE BEE-FARM.
The light snow covered the path through the bee-farm,
and whitened the roof of every hive. In the red winter
twilight it looked more like a human city than ever, with
its long double rows of miniature houses stretching away
into the dusk on either hand, and its broad central
thoroughfare, where the larger hives crowded shoulder to
shoulder, casting their black shadows over the glimmering
The bee-master led the way towards the extracting-
house at the end of the garden, as full of his work, seem-
ingly, as ever he had been in the press of summer days.
There was noise enough going on in the long lighted build-
ing ahead of us, but I missed the droning song of the great
" No ; we have done with honey-work for this year,"
said the old bee-man. " It is all bottled and cased long
ago, and most of it gone to London. But there's work
enough still, as you'll see. The bees get their long rest in
the winter ; but, on a big honey-farm, the humans must
work all the year round."
As we drew into the zone of light from the windows,
many sounds that from afar had seemed incongruous
enough on the silent, frost-bound evening began to explain
themselves. The whole building was full of busy life. A
furnace roared under a great caldron of smoking syrup,
which the foreman was vigorously stirring. In the far
corner an oil-engine clanked and spluttered. A circular
saw was screaming through a baulk of timber, slicing
it up into thin planks as a man would turn over the leaves
of a book. Planing machines and hammers and hand-
saws innumerable added their voices to the general chorus ;
and out of the shining steel jaws of an implement that
looked half printing-press and half clothes-wringer there
One Way of Bee-Keeping.
The hive in the photograph is oneof about a hundred and thirty similar
ones kept in the heart of a wood in Sussex. The bee-keeper is a very
successful honev-producer, working on the most modern systems.
But, outwardly, his hives present a very bizarre appearance, every
kind of domestic 'flotsam and jetsam beine used as coverings. The
hive shown has bed-ticking, old sacks, three or four newspapers,
linoleum, sheet-iron, &c., with several brickbats to keep all in place on
windv davs. It is but fair, however, to record that the bees seem to.
-*--■—•-■' ;--'sr ':-:ise peculiar conditions.
Winter Work on the Bee-Farm.
flowed sheet after sheet of some glistening golden material,
the use of which I could only dimly guess at.
But I had time only for one swift glance at this mys-
terious monster. The bee-master gripped me by the arm
and drew me towards the furnace.
" This is bee-candy," he explained, " winter food for
the hives. We make a lot of it and send it all over the
country. But it's ticklish work. When the syrup comes
to the galloping-point it must boil for one minute, no more
and no less. If we boil it too little it won't set, and if too
much it goes hard, and the bees can't take it. "
He took up his station now, watch in hand, close to the
man who was stirring, while two or three others looked
" Time! " shouted the bee-master.
The great caldron swung off the stove on its suspendins:
chain. Near the fire stood a water-tank, and into this the
big vessel of boiling syrup was suddenly doused right up
to the brim, the' stirrer labouring all the time at the seeth-
ing grey mass more fiu'iously than ever.
" The quicker we can cool it the better it is," explained
the old bee-keeper, through the steam. He was peering
into the caldron as he spoke, watching the syrup change
from dark clear grey to a dirty white, like half-thawed
snow. Now he gave a sudden signal. A strong rod was
instantly passed through the handles of the caldron. The
vessel was whisked out of its icy bath and borne rapidly
away. Following hard upon its heels, we saw the bearers
halt near some long, low trestle-tables, where hundreds of
little wooden boxes were ranged side by side. Into these
the thick, sludgy syrup was poured as rapidly as possible,
until all were filled.
" Each box," said the bee-master, as we watched the
candy gradually setting snow-white in its wooden frames,
" each box holds about a pound. The box is put into the
hive upside-down on the top of the comb-frames, just over
the cluster of bees ; and the bottom is glazed because then
you can see when the candy is exhausted, and the time has
come to put on another case. What is it made of ? Well,
every maker has his own private formula, and mine is a
secret like the rest. But it is sugar, mostly — cane-sugar.
Beet-sugar will not do ; it is injurious to the bees.
The Bee-Master of Warrilow.
" But candy-making-," he went on, as we moved slowly
throug-h the populous building, "is by no means the only
winter work on a bee-farm. There are the hives to make
for next season ; all those we shall need for ourselves, and
hundreds more we sell in the spring, either empty or
stocked with bees. Then here is the foundation mill. ' '
He turned to the contrivance I had noticed on my entry.
The thin amber sheets of material, like crinkled g^lass, were
still flowing out between the rollers. He took a sheet of
it as it fell, and held it up to the light. A fine hexagonal
pattern covered it completely from edge to edge.
"This," he said, "we call super-foundation. It is
pure refined wax, rolled into sheets as thin as paper, and
milled on both sides with the shapes of the cells. All
combs now are built by the bees on this artificial founda-
tion ; and there is enough wax here, thin as it is, to make
the entire honeycomb. The bees add nothing to it, but
simply knead it and draw it out into a comb two inches
wide ; and so all the time needed for wax-making by the
bees is saved just when time is most precious — during the
short season of the honey-flow."
He took down a sheet from another pile close at hand.
" All that thin foundation," he explained, " is for sec-
tion-honey, and will be eaten. But this you could not eat.
This is brood-foundation, made extra strong to bear the
great heat of the lower hive. It is put into the brood-nest,
and the cells reared on it are the cradles for the young
bees. See how dense and brown it is, and how thick ; it is
six or seven times as heavy as the other. But it is all
pure wax, though not so refined, and is made in the same
way, serving the same useful, time-saving purpose."
We moved on towards the store-rooms, out of the
clatter of the machinery.
" It was a great day," he said, reflectively, " a great
day for bee-keeping when foundation was invented. The
bee-man who lets his hives work on the old obsolete natural
system nowadays makes a hopeless handicap of things.
Yet the saving of time and bee-labour is not the only, and
is hardly the most important, outcome of the use of foun-
dation. It has done a great deal more than that, for it
has solved the very weighty problem of how to keep the
number of drones in a hive within reasonable limits."
Winter Work on the Bee-Farm.
He opened the door of a small side-room. From ceiling'
to floor the walls were covered with deep racks loaded with
frames of empty comb, all ready for next season. Taking
down a couple of the frames, he brought them out into the
" These will explain to you what I mean," said he.
" This first one is a natural-built comb, made without the
milled foundation. The centre and upper part, you see, is
covered on both sides with the small cells of the worker-
brood. But all the rest of the frame is filled with larger
cells, and in these only drones are bred. Bees, if left to
themselves, will always rear a great many more drones
than are needed; and as the drones gather no stores but
only consume them in large quantities, a superabundance
of the male-bees in a hive must mean a diminished honey-
yield. But the use of foundation has changed all that.
Now look at this other frame. By filling all brood-frames
with worker-foundation, as has been done here, we compel
the bees to make only small cells, in which the rearing of
drones is almost impossible; and so we keep the whole
brood-space in the hive avaflable for the generation of the
working bee alone."
"But," I asked him, " are not drones absolutely neces-
sary in a hive? The population cannot increase without
the male bees. ' '
" Good drones are just as important in a bee-garden as
high-mettled, prolific queens," he said ; " and drone-breed-
ing on a small scale must form part of the work on every
modern bee-farm of any size. But my own practice is to
confine the drones to two or three hives only. These are
stationed in different parts of the farm. They are always
selected stocks of the finest and most vigorous strain, and
in them I encourage drone-breeding in every possible way.
But the male bees in all honey-producing hives are limited
to a few hundreds at most. ' '
Coming out into the darkness from the brilliantly-
lighted building, we had gone some way on our home-
ward road through the crowded bee-farm before we marked
the change that had come over the sky. Heavy vaporous
clouds were slowly driving up from the west and blotting
the stars out one by one. All their frosty sparkle was
The Bee-Master ot Warnlow.
gone, and the night air had no longer the keen tooth of
winter in it. The bee-master held up his hand.
" Listen ! " he said. • " Don't you hear anything?"
I strained my ears to their utmost pitch. A dog barked
forlornly in the distant village. Some night-bird went past
overhead with a faint jangling cry. But the slumbering
bee-city around us was as silent and still as death.
" When you have lived among bees for forty years,"
said the bee-master, plodding on again, " you may get ears
as long as mine. Just reckon it out. The wind has
changed; that curlew knows the warm weather is coming;
but the bees, huddled together in the midst of a double-
walled hive, found it out long ago. Now, there are between
three and four hundred hives here. At a very modest com-
putation, there must be as many bees crowded together on
these few acres of land as there are people in the whole of
London and Brighton combined. And they are all awake,
and talking, and telling each other that the cold spell is
past. That is what I can hear now, and shall hear — down
in the house yonder — all night long."