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New York State Colleges 


Agriculture and Home Economics 


Cornell University 


J' (ItuCc^f'^''^ 

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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. 



The Bee-Master's Cottage. 





IP 1^ sP # 


\uthor of "Bees as Rent Payers," "Sidelights of Nature," 
"An Idler in the Wil^s." &c. 




E 558 


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 
finite perfection. 

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 WAX MAKERS Facing page 16 






"WARRILOW" „ 46 







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." 




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 
the hive. 

" 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 
doing it." 

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." 




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. 

He laughed. 


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." 



C 1^ 



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." 




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 
thoughtful deliberation. 

" 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 
in it?" 

" 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 


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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 
given them." 

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 




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 
the hill. 

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 
wi'out end." 

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 
c 33 

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. 




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 
few minutes. 

" 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 
primaeval ways." 

" 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 
and Persians." 






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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- 
harvest. " 

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 
its place. 

" 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- 
tilating bees. 

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." 




" '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 

D 49 

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 
day's work." 

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 

The Bee-Hunters. 

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 
you'll see." 

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 
for flight. 

" 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 
after it. 


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 

The Bee-Hunters. 

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." 




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 
the pot. 

" 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. 




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 
extractor itself. 

" 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 
anxiously on. 

" 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."