Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley



Should be situated so that the hives may have as much sun, and shelter from the wind, as possible. A few low trees or shrubs may be planted in the vicinity, to arrest the flight of the swarms, but all rubbish and noxious weeds must be carefully removed. The hives should be placed on pedestals, about two feet from the ground, and never less than five or six yards from each other. Of whatever form they be made, the material best suited for their construction is straw. When a hive is to be purchased, let it be chosen in the middle of the day; that which has the greatest number of bees going in with yellow pellets attached to their legs may be selected for farther examination. The interior should be crowded with bees, the comb of a yellow hue, and the side one filled; if there be many queen cells, which are like small inverted acorns attached to the sides of the combs, or if the wings of the bees should be ragged or town, the hive is certainly old, and ought to be rejected. If a hive is to be purchased in spring, its weight should not be less than fifteen pounds; if in autumn, not less than thirty; and if it is a stock hive, the weight should not be less than forty pounds. A good hive having been selected, it may be removed in the evening, and placed on its single pedestal; but it should not be plastered to the stool. The stand on which the hive is placed should be cleaned four times in the year, and sprinkled with salt. Dampness is very injurious to bees: in winter, therefore, the snow must be carefully brushed off the hives, and while it continues upon the ground, the bees must be confined. Should they at this season become unhealthy, a renovation of air may be beneficial; and were the hives to remain an hour turned up, it would be rather an advantage than otherwise. Where there is not a little running stream in the neighbourhood of the apiary, troughs with water should be placed near the hives. They may be made of stone or wood, the wood well pitched, of eight or ten inches in depth, and sunk in the earth. A few inches of mould may be put in the bottom, and some water-cresses therein, to preserve the purity of the water, with which they should be constantly supplied; or, put one or two pieces of wood in a basin of water, and place it near the hive.

Spring and autumn are the seasons for feeding the weak hives, beginning in February if the weather by fine. The food most approved of for them is a sirup composed of sugar or treacle, ale, and salt, in the proportion of two pints of ale to a pound of sugar, and about half an ounce of salt, the whole to be boiled a quarter of an hour, and carefully skimmed; when cold, it should be bottled, corked, and, to prevent its candying, kept for use in a warm place. In the beginning of the season, a little port-wine incorporated with the food, may prevent dysentery. When the bees to be fed are in a plain cottage hive, an eek must be provided, of the same diameter as the hive. When the sun is set, and the bees all returned from the fields, let the hives be gently raised, and the eek placed on the stool; fill an empty comb with the food, place it in the cell, and replace the hive upon it; the bees will be less disturbed, if a slip of the eek be made to open, large enough to admit the piece of comb. It should be removed on the following morning, if the cold has not prevented their taking their usual supply in the night. Should that be the case, shut them up for a day or two, to prevent the mischief which would occur from strange bees entering the hive while it is feeding, or remove the weak hive to a considerable distance. A well-peopled hive will require about two pounds of sirup in the month. A new swarm ought always to be put into a new hive, which should be provided in April. Sticks in the inside are unnecessary, but the projecting straws must be singed off. Should any hive in May seem wholly destitute of drones – in Scotland they do not appear till the end of May or beginning of June – watch at the entrance of that hive which appears to have the greatest number of them, and catch forty or fifty; confine them in a box till evening, when they may be easily introduced, and will be most thankfully received by the hive that appears to be without them. To supply a hive with a queen, cut out from some of the other hives that can be got at most easily, a piece of comb that has eggs in it; turn up the queenless hive, and with the left hand, shed two or the combs a little asunder, then with the right hand put in the piece of comb between them, observing that the cells be put in the hive in the same order as in their native hive, that is, the cells that were uppermost to be so still; then let the hand be removed, and hive replaced. In England, a swarm may be expected in May, but not till June in Scotland; preceding the swarming, may be observed, amongst other signs, small drops of perspiration at the entrance, and when the bees cluster on the outside of the hive, the bee-master must be constantly on the watch. In general, they will swarm with the first sunshine; but if they continue to lie out when the weather if favourable, a little water may be squirted on them. The swarm once on the wing, it should never be lost sight of. Ringing of bells, and other noises, are more likely to do harm than good. It is unnecessary to prepare the hive with any thing sweet or odoriferous; but if the swarm does not remain in one hive, give them another. The easiest situation for hiving a swarm is that in which the hive can be held under the swarm, and the bees shaken into it. In all cases, a goose wing will be found of essential service to brush the bees off the post into the hive; but great care must be taken that none of the knots of bees which may contain the queen bee, drop upon the ground. The hive, when the bees have been all shaken or brushed into it, should be placed on the board, and left near the place of the swarm’s first settling, until the evening, when it should be carefully removed and placed on a pedestal, at some distance from the parent hive. A second swarm may generally be looked for the eighth or tenth day after the first – sometimes sooner, but never later than the twelfth day after. The day before the departure of the second swarm, the call of the queen bees may be distinctly heard; the note of the one is loud and clear – that of the other, the young queen, is lower, but equally distinct, and totally different from the hum of the other bees. As they give no other signal of their second swarming, it is necessary to keep a vigilant watch over the hives, to ascertain from which the swarm departs. It is generally necessary to return the second swarm to the parent hive immediately. They are seldom or never worth preserving as a separate colony, except when two fly off together, in which case they become, by a union, of little inferior value to a first swarm. Supposing the two swarms to have alighted upon separate branches, proceed to shake one of them into the empty hive, and then immediately shake the other into the same, leaving it to the bees to kill the superfluous queen bee, that is, if the proprietor has not the skill or courage to do it.   

To join two swarms from different hives, it will be necessary to drench both with a mixture of beer, sugar, and water, made lukewarm, or, with the fumigating bellows, give them a little smoke from lime leaves or tobacco. When a second swarm is to be returned to the parent hive, turn down a chair, and place the back parallel with the entrance of the hive, over which a sheet or tablecloth may be spread; then holding the hive containing the second swarm over it, give it a few sharp knocks on the top, and the bees will fall immediately on the cloth; proceed then, either with the finger or a stick, to guide a few of the bees to the entrance of the parent hive, and they will instantly crowd into it: those who are acquainted with the person of the queen, should take this opportunity of catching her. In regard to a third swarm, it would be folly to keep it. When the weather proves unfavouable after the hiving of a swarm, some food should be administered to the bees at night. When they lie out in clusters, and no more swarms are desired, an eek should be placed on the hive. If the heat be very great, it would be advisable to shade the hives, in addition to the common covering of straw, with which they ought always to be provided, as the best protection from the cold in winter, and the heat of summer. A particular value should always be put on those hives that kill their drones the earliest. It sometimes happens that their numbers deter the bees from attempting any violence against them; therefore, when the other stocks kill their drones, let the bee-master place himself quietly be the side of the hive, in the middle of a fine day, and crush every drone with his finger or a stick, as it passes out or in. Every hive will be the better for a little assistance in this massacre, which may be looked for in the end of July or the beginning of August.

Instead of following the general plan of suffocating the bees in August, the hives should be removed to the vicinity of a heath, and there allowed to remain for four to six weeks. July is the best season for depriving the hives of a part of their store. When a hive is to be robbed of its honey, remove it from the stool to some distance; procure an empty hive, invert it on that from which you wish to dislodge the bees, either to take the honey, or to unite them with another hive. Stop up the entrance, and then strike gently the under hive on the side opposite to that to which the combs are fixed; in a few minutes, when the anger of the bees may be appeased, a piece of wood should be introduced to keep the two hives about an inch apart on one side; for the purpose of preventing the bees, after being driven up on the one side, descending, which they might do, by the other, to the hive from whence they were dislodged, the knocking on the under hive must be continued, till the bees, terrified by the noise, take refuge in the upper hive; then, with the fumigating bellows, or common tobacco pipe, blow into the hive a little smoke from lime leaves, or tobacco. The same operation having been performed on the other hive, that is, the hive destined to receive the new colony, the dislodged bees are emptied into it, and swept with a brush of feathers into the interstices between the combs; the board being then put upon the hive, it is instantly reverted, and placed upon the stand. When a hive is merely to be deprived of a part of its store, the hive with the bees in it may be placed upon the pedestal from which the full one was removed, and the hive from which the bees have been driven must then be taken into the house. A few bees will be found still straggling about the combs, but they will be too frightened to use their sting. When the requisite quantity of comb is cut out, breaking it as little as possible, the hive should be cleared of every noxious matter, and returned to its former position; but first invert the hive containing the bees, and place the deprived hive over it; leave them in this situation till the morning, when the bees will be found to have taken possession of their native home. At any season of the year, a weak hive may be strengthened from a strong one, by the following method: - Take a strong hive from its pedestal, and place on it that which has few bees in it; then turning up the strong one, give it several raps on its sides, when many of the bees will fly to their old station; then place the strong hive where the weak one stood, or the other at a considerable distance.

The bee-master, in approaching a hive, should avoid breathing on the bees; and, if his manner be soft, calm, and gently, he will in general need no protection from being stung; but when swarms are to be united, or hives deprived of a part of their store, the operator should be provided with thick worsted gloves, and a gauze, or piece of thin cloth, such as milk is usually strained through, for the head; this last must be large enough to go over a man’s hat, and round the neck, so as to tie before with a string running through a tape or loop holes; that part which comes next the face must to cut out, and a piece of very open gauze, catgut, or net-work, sewed therein. So protected, the most timid may proceed fearlessly; but every one who undertakes the management of the bee, is more or less subject to its sting. No time should be lost in extracting it. Rub the would briskly with a piece of woolen cloth till is ceases to smart, and apply goulard-water, laudanum, or vinegar and spirits, as may be soonest attained; or wash with spirit of ammonia, and wrap a piece of linen about the part, steeped in spirits of wine. If the pain continue six hours, put on a hot poultice of bread and milk, and change it every four hours.


Mignonette, heath, furze, white clover, thyme, particularly lemon thyme, rosemary, balm, beans, and every species of pulse, all resinous trees, borage, wild mustard, and golden rod; this last begins to bloom when all other flowers have faded, and continues to bloom till the middle of November; it will grow in the worst soil, and should be particularly cultivated in the vicinity of an apiary.


Is made of straw, in the form of a flower-pot inverted, but open at both ends, and having a band of straw projecting from the inside about two inches from the top; upon this band are placed seven bars of well-seasoned wood, about one and a half inch broad, and a quarter of an inch thick; they are slightly fastened down with small mails, then covered with thin gauze or net-work, and again with a circular board, in which small holes are made, to permit the steam to escape from the body of the hive. The whole to have a convex cover of straw, manufactured as the hive, and made to fit in like the cover of a sauce-pan. At any time or season of the year, when some honey-comb is required, or at the end of the season, when the bees are to be deprived of their superfluous store, removed the top and other coverings, and take the side bars out, from which having cut the honey-comb, replace them as before: the operation is facilitated by having some vacant bars ready to supply the places of the full ones. When the bees, by lying out in clusters, indicate that they stand in need of room, instead of an addition at the bottom, as in the common hive, this hive need only be deprived of a part of the comb attached to one or more of the bars. In time of snow, or when robbery is threatened, the centre should be closed by a tin wicket, or by a piece of lead with holes made in it to admit air.


The hive is formed as the common cottage-hive, being made to separate towards the middle. On the lower division, which may be made the largest, a board is placed, in which one large or some smaller holes are made, to admit of the bees ascending. When the upper part, or top, is filled with honey, it may be removed, and replaced by another prepared for the purpose. Those who wish to see the bees at work, may place a glass top under the straw one, or invert tumblers, or long glasses made for the purpose, over each hole, one or more of which may be removed as they are filled.


To obtain the primary honey, heat, celerity, and cleanliness, are necessary. Where a few hives only are kept, it will be sufficient to have two or three earthen pans, with a frame of wire adapted to their size, each wire being about one inch distant from another – a corn riddle or flour sieve placed over a tub answers the purpose very well – two horse-hair sieves, a bag of a conical form, that is, wide at top, and tapering to a point at the bottom, made of such canvas as is used in a dairy, and some jars for the reception of the honey, and in which it is to be preserved. The hives should be brought into a warm room, where no bees nor wasps can enter; the combs are then loosened from the hive by a long thin knife: - those parts of the comb which are empty should be cut off first, and those that are black and drossy drained by themselves; as also those in which there is any farina. Should there be any brood, care must be taken not to crush it, as the juice will communicate a bad flavour to the honey; and those pieces of the comb which contain it, may be placed under any stock that most wants strengthening. If there be any bees upon the combs when taken out, they should be brushed or blown off, and if besmeared with honey, washed in water made a little warm; then being laid on a sieve, and placed in the sunshine, they will revive, and fly to their respective homes. The pure combs should be cut in small pieces, sliced twice in a horizontal direction, that is, at the top and at the bottom, and laid on the wire frames to drain; in two or three hours they may be turned. When all the primary honey is extracted, it must be run through the bag, whereby it will be entirely freed from every particle of wax. This, the first drawn, should be preserved by itself; the next in value is that which drains preserved by itself; the next in value is that which drains from the combs indiscriminately; a third sort may be obtained by winging the combs in a cloth, or by placing them in a lukewarm oven. They may be afterwards steeped for mead or vinegar, and the water in which the utensils and the hands of the operator have been washed, may be kept likewise for the same purpose. As soon as the jars in which the honey is to be preserved are full, they should be corked down, and deposited in a dry place. Liquid honey should never be put into a vessel containing honey which has acquired any consistency; this mixture will make it ferment and turn sour. A hundred pounds of honey-comb will not in general yield more than four pounds of wax.


Where six or eight stocks of bees are kept, it will be most profitable and convenient to have a tin vessel made to fit a due proportioned kettle or pot, the sides of which should be quite straight, so that, when it slides down, there may be no vacancy for the farina or bee-bread to rise up between. The holes in the tin separator should be as numerous and small as possible in the bottom. Set the pot on the fire, with about five o six inches depth of water therein, in which is to be mixed single aquafortis, in the proportion of half an ounce for each quart of water. In this put as many combs as will conveniently boil, when melted. As soon as they begin to melt, they should be frequently stirred, until all be thoroughly melted; let it then boil without stirring, that the wax may rise clear. It should be made to boil briskly during the whole process. As soon as the yellow froth rises, put in the separator, and press it down in the liquor, until it be about full; with a wooden spoon, or what is better, a tin ladle, first dipped in cold water, lightly skim off the wax as it rises upon the surface, and put it in a narrow-bottomed pan, previously rinsed in cold water, set as near as may be to the pot on the fire, and continue skimming the wax off as long as it rises, depressing the separator in proportion as the liquor rises. When the liquor in the pan is nearly cold, the wax is to be taken out, and what dross adheres to it scraped off. The wax is then to be reboiled in a small quantity of water, and about a fourth part as much aquafortis as before to a quart; as soon as it boils, take it off, and let it stand until cold. The wax will concrete at the top, and the remaining dross, being scraped off, may be further purified with other combs.

Another and less expensive method is, to put the combs loosely into a canvas, or rather a fine hair bag, tied up close at the end, and put into a kettle, with a due proportion of aquafortis and water; a leaden or iron weight is to be laid on the bag, to keep it down to the bottom. It must be made to boil, so as to throw up the froth briskly, which is to be taken off with a ladle; a thick board with a handle in the middle is then to be put in, to press out what wax may be still adhering; it is afterwards to be re-melted, as in the first method. It should be carefully observed, that in these processes of skimming off the froth, what rises of a clear yellow should be reserved by itself, as often requiring no further purification. The more forcibly the froth is thrown up, the purer it will be, and the operation the sooner finished. The very old brood combs are not worth melting; but such refuse as has been pressed, may be kept in a close tub or vessel for five or six weeks, in which time the impurities will ferment and decay, and the wax will be in a better state of melting.

Return to our Practice of Cookery Index page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus