This lovely essay was shared by Doc Bullard, the founder of the Escarosa Beekeepers. Doc has 40+ years of beekeeping experience and has forgotten more than most of us can ever hope to learn!
THE PLEASANT OCCUPATION OF TENDING BEES
In the May number of the Cosmopolitan there is an interesting article by Mr. W. Z. Hutchinson, on “The Pleasant Occupation of Tending Bees,” to which we should like to call the attention of our readers. Mr. Hutchinson gives a very complete account of the honey-bee, his home, his migrations, his habits of life, his business methods. his storehouses, his food, and his communal life: and in a second article the same writer has given an equally charming account of the management of swarms, the arrangement of hives and apiaries, and the details of the interesting occupation of apiculture, which he commends particularly to women.
There is no doubt that the keeping of bees might be made a very profit able industry. A story is told of a venerable Italian priest who had long waited for promotion, and at last was presented to a benefice the emoluments of which were barely sufficient to keep the body and soul of the incumbent together. After a while he was visited by one of his superiors, who expected to find him living in penury, and intended to afford him some necessary relief. To his surprise he found the priest living in perfect contentment, surrounded with all ordinary comforts, and even enjoying a few modest luxuries. On inquiring how this had come about, his host smilingly led him into a garden where there were more beehives than he had ever before seen in his life; and it was from these that the worthy priest derived an income which was much greater than the emolument of his benefice!
The care of bees might be made an easy and profitable occupation by many clergymen and by many women living in the country. It would require some time and a good deal of attention, but it would be rewarded both by the profit which might be made from it, and by the constant and varied interest of the occupation itself. We can see no good reason why “the pleasant occupation of tending bees” might not become much more general in this country than it ever has been. We should be very glad if it could be made so, for every occupation which brings men and women into close and kindly relations with their humbler fellow-creatures is an education in humanity. Many persons are deterred from undertaking bee culture by the dread of the insect’s sting.
Doubtless the sting is unpleasant, but it ought always to be remembered that the bee is not disposed to sting on slight occasion, and can sting only at the cost of its own life. The social instinct of the little creature is so strong as to cause it to sacrifice its life in defence of the community to which it belongs; but it will not sting unless in what it imagines to be self-defence. It naturally supposes violent movements to be indicative of an intention to injure; and hence the bee-keeper must learn to move slowly and gently among his hives.
Again, the bee is one of the cleanliest of animals: foul odors make it furious: and hence the bee-keeper must be fastidiously cleanly, or he may expect some time to have an unpleasantly warm reception. But bees, like other animals, soon learn to recognize persons who are often among them, and, after a little time, the beekeeper may approach, and even handle, his small kine with perfect impunity. We commend the interesting articles to which we have referred to the careful attention of our readers who live in the country, and we hope that the industry of bee· keeping may be greatly extended. It would, undoubtedly, be profitable; it would also be morally educational.
Our Animal Friends: An Illustrated Monthly Magazine (1896 Vol. 23).