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Title: USDA Farmers' Bulletin No. 503: Comb Honey
Author: Demuth, George S.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "USDA Farmers' Bulletin No. 503: Comb Honey" ***

Transcriber Note

Text emphasis denoted as _Italics_ and =Bold=.

                                                   Issued August 23, 1912.

                   U. S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE.

                        FARMERS' BULLETIN 503.

                              COMB HONEY.


                            GEO. S. DEMUTH.

          _Apicultural Assistant, Bureau of Entomology._



                      GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE



                            U.S. Department of Agriculture,
                                         Bureau of Entomology,
                              _Washington, D. C., April 16, 1912_.

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith a manuscript
entitled "Comb Honey," by Geo. S. Demuth, apicultural assistant in this

In view of the increasing demand for the finest grade of comb honey
and a decrease in the amount of comb honey produced, it seems timely
to present to professional beekeepers an analysis of the best practice
as well as to point out some essentials to the production of maximum
crops of the best grade. I recommend the publication of this paper as a
Farmers' Bulletin.

                                               L. O. Howard,
                                    _Entomologist and Chief of Bureau_.

  Hon. James Wilson,
  _Secretary of Agriculture_.



  Introduction                                                          5

  Apparatus for comb-honey production                                   6
    Shop and honey house                                                6
    Hives                                                               7
      Sectional hives                                                  10
    Sections and supers                                                10
      Bee way v. plain sections                                        10
      Dimensions of sections                                           11
      Supers                                                           12
        The method of support                                          12
        Protection                                                     13
        Free communication within the super                            14
      The use of separators                                            15
      Shallow extracting supers                                        16
      Combination supers                                               16
    Other apparatus                                                    16
    Preparing supers                                                   17
      Folding sections                                                 17
      Fastening foundation in sections                                 17
  Manipulation of the bees                                             18
    Securing workers for the honey flow                                20
      Building up the colony in the early spring                       21
      The production of gathering bees                                 22
        Providing sufficient stores                                    23
        Providing available brood-rearing space                        23
      Summary                                                          24
    Using available workers to best advantage during the honey flow    25
    Swarming                                                           26
      Preventive measures                                              26
      Control measures                                                 27
        Control of natural swarms                                      28
          Using the removed brood to best advantage                    29
          What to use in the brood chamber when hiving swarms          32
          Extreme contraction of the brood chamber when hiving swarms  33
        Swarm control by manipulation                                  34
          Taking the queen from the hive                               35
          Removing the brood from the hive                             37
          Separating the queen and brood within the hive               40
    Manipulation of the supers                                         41
  Caring for the crop                                                  44
    Removing the honey from the hives                                  44
    Care of comb honey                                                 45
    Scraping propolis from sections                                    45
    Grading comb honey                                                 46
    Packages for comb honey                                            46
    Marketing                                                          47



  Fig.  1. A 10-frame hive with comb-honey super and perforated
             zinc queen excluder                                        8
        2. Perforated zinc queen excluder                               9
        3. Beeway and plain sections, unfolded                         10
        4. Plain section in super, showing method of spacing           11
        5. Beeway section in super, showing method of spacing          11
        6. Square and oblong sections                                  12
        7. The T super                                                 13
        8. Super with section holder for beeway sections               13
        9. Super with section holder for square plain section          14
       10. Super with section holder for oblong plain sections         14
       11. Combination super with wide frames for oblong plain
             sections                                                  15
       12. Bee-escape board for removing bees from supers              17
       13. Drone and queen trap on hive entrance                       28
       14. Colony before swarming; supers in place                     29
       15. Brood placed in hive turned 00 degrees from old entrance    29
       16. Hive with brood turned back to 45 degrees from old
             entrance                                                  30
       17. Hive with brood turned parallel to old entrance             30
       18. Hive with brood placed on other side of old entrance        31
       19. Arrangement of supers                                       42
       20. Shipping cases for comb honey                               47



The present tendency in beekeeping is decidedly toward the production
of extracted honey rather than of comb honey. The recent activity among
beekeepers toward specialization, which necessitates the establishing
of out-apiaries, and the rapidly increasing demand for extracted
honey are among the factors bringing about this condition. Enormous
quantities of honey are now used for manufacturing purposes, and this
demand is, of course, solely for extracted honey.

If the general public finally becomes convinced of the purity and
wholesomeness of extracted honey, this will become a staple article
of food. Comb honey to command the higher price--proportionate to
the greater cost of production--must justify the extra cost to the
consumer by its finer appearance. The consumer of extracted honey
is not concerned as to the straightness or finish of the combs in
which it was originally stored, but by virtue of its appearance there
will probably always be a good demand for the finest grade of comb
honey where appearance is the chief consideration. Present tendencies
therefore emphasize the desirability of producing comb honey of the
most attractive appearance possible.

Well-filled sections of comb honey with delicate white comb and perfect
cappings are obtainable only during a rapid honey flow of sufficient
duration to insure their completion. The production of comb honey, the
appearance of which is sufficient to justify its extra cost, requires
a combination of conditions that are peculiar to rather limited areas,
outside of which the beekeeper will find it decidedly advantageous to
produce extracted honey.

Comb-honey production should not be attempted in localities where the
honey flow is very slow or intermittent, where the character of the
honey is such that it granulates quickly in the comb while it is on the
market, where the honey is dark or "off color," or where honeys from
various sources are mixed if these different sources produce honey of
different colors and flavors. Local market conditions may of course in
some instances be such as to make it seem advisable to produce comb
honey in limited quantities in a locality that is not well suited to
comb-honey production, but the beekeeper who produces comb honey for
the general market should first be sure that his is a comb-honey
locality. Even in the best localities during an occasional season
conditions are such that it is not possible to produce comb-honey of
fine appearance. Some comb-honey specialists find it profitable to
provide an equipment for extracted honey for such an emergency. In some
cases comb honey is produced only during the height of the season, when
conditions are most favorable, extracting supers being used both at the
beginning and close of the honey flow.

While the professional beekeeper is thus curtailing the production of
indifferent grades of comb honey, bee diseases are rapidly eliminating
the careless producers. From the present indications, therefore, it
would seem certain that there must be a gradual elimination from the
markets of all inferior and indifferent comb honey--grades that must
compete directly with extracted honey. This should mark a new era in
the production of the beat grades of comb honey in the localities that
are peculiarly adapted to comb-honey production. The beekeeper who is
thus favorably located will do well to consider the possibilities of
future market conditions for a fancy grade of comb honey.

Tho following discussion is necessarily but a brief outline of modern
apparatus and methods and of course can not in any sense take the
place of the broad experience necessary in profitable comb-honey
production. It is assumed that the reader is more or less familiar with
the more general phases of beekeeping. (See Farmers' Bulletin No. 447.
This bulletin also contains a complete list of publications of the
Department of Agriculture on beekeeping.)


=Shop and Honey House.=

A building containing storage space for apparatus, a well-lighted
and ventilated workshop as well as a honey room, is a necessity in
comb-honey production. The arrangement and location of the shop and
honey house will depend upon local conditions and circumstances. Tho
usual mistake is in constructing those too small. In the North the
shop and honey house is usually built over the wintering repository or
collar. Since rats or mice would do great damage to the contents of
such a storehouse, the construction should be such as to exclude them.
If a concrete foundation is used and the sills are embedded in a layer
of "green" mortar, no trouble of this kind should be experienced. If a
series of out-apiaries are operated for comb honey, the supers, extra
hives, etc, are usually kept in one building located near the home of
the beekeeper. This serves as a central station and storehouse, the
supplies being hauled to and from the apiaries as needed. This building
may be supplemented by a very small building at each apiary, though in
comb-honey production this is not really necessary.

The honey room should be so located that it will receive the heat from
the sun, preferably an upstairs room immediately under the roof. When
so located a small hand elevator should be installed for taking the
honey up and down. The room should be papered or ceiled inside to keep
out insects and to permit fumigation if necessary and should contain
facilities for artificially heating in case continued damp or freezing
weather should occur before the honey is marketed. The honey room
should be provided with ample floor support for the great weight that
may be placed upon it.


A beehive must serve the dual purpose of being a home for a colony
of bees and at the same time a tool for the beekeeper. Its main
requirements are along the line of its adaptation to the various
manipulations of the apiary in so far as these do not materially
interfere with the protection and comfort it affords the colony of
bees. Since rapid manipulation is greatly facilitated by simple and
uniform apparatus, one of the fundamental requirements of the equipment
in hives is that they be of the same style and size, with all parts
exactly alike and interchangeable throughout the apiary. While the
hives and equipment should be as simple and inexpensive as possible,
consistent with their various functions, a cheap and poorly constructed
beehive is, all things considered, an expensive piece of apparatus.

In this country the Langstroth (or L) frame (9-1/8 by 17-5/8 inches)
(fig. 1) is the standard frame and throughout this paper frames of
brood will be discussed in terms of this size of frame. The advantages
of standard frames and hives are so great that the beekeeper can not
afford to ignore them for the sake of some slight advantage of another

There is, however, a wide difference of opinion as to the number of
frames that should be used in a single hive body. The wide variation
in the building up of colonies previous to the honey flow in different
localities and seasons, the race of bees, and the skill of the
beekeeper are all factors entering into this problem, which make it
improbable that beekeepers will ever fully agree on this point. The
races that build up more rapidly in the spring are, of course, other
things being equal, able to use to advantage a larger brood chamber
than the races that are more conservative in brood rearing. It is also
noticeable that within certain limits as the beekeeper's skill in
building up his colonies for the flow increases, so the size of the
brood chamber best adapted to his purpose increases. In other words,
while the careful and skillful beekeeper may succeed in having large
brood chambers well filled with brood at the beginning of the honey
flow, the less skillful beekeeper under similar conditions may be doing
well to approximate this condition with a much smaller brood chamber.

[Illustration: Fig. 1.--A 10-frame hive with comb-honey super
and perforated zinc queen excluder. (From Phillips.)]

For comb-honey production the brood chamber should be of such a size
that by proper management it may be well filled with brood at the
beginning of the honey flow, so that the brood and surplus apartments
maybe definitely separated. A brood chamber may be considered too large
if by proper management it is not on an average fairly well filled with
brood at the beginning of the honey flow, and too small if it provides
an average of less room than the colony is able to occupy with brood
previous to the honey flow. Unless the beekeeper practices feeding, a
brood chamber that does not contain sufficient room for both winter
stores and brood rearing during late summer and autumn may also be
considered too small. It may be well to note that by this standard
if the brood chamber seems to be too large the fault may lie in the
management during the previous autumn, winter, or spring. Of course the
brood chamber that is barely large enough for one colony will be too
large for another in the same apiary or the character of the season may
be such that all brood chambers may be too large for best results one
season and too small the next, so an average must be sought. While by
manipulation good results may be secured by the use of any of the sizes
in common use, any great departure in either direction from the size
best suited to conditions of a given locality necessitates an excessive
increase in labor to give best results. There is at the present
time a strong tendency toward the use of the 10-frame hive body as
a medium-sized brood chamber which may be used as a unit of a larger
elastic brood chamber when necessary.

[Illustration: Fig. 2.--Perforated zinc queen excluder. (From

The comb-honey producer is more exacting as to certain details of
construction of hives than is the producer of extracted honey since
it is more necessary for him to handle individual brood frames during
the honey flow. The spaces[1] above and between the top bars of the
brood frames must be accurate or they will be bridged with burr and
brace combs and these filled with honey. Burr and brace combs make the
removal and readjustment of the super and the manipulation of frames a
slow and disagreeable task, to say nothing of the waste of material,
which should have been placed in the sections in the beginning. The
use of the slatted honey board (fig. 2), while preventing brace combs
between itself and the super, does not prevent the building of burr and
brace combs between and above the top bars of the frames. This trouble
is largely eliminated by proper spacing. Most hive manufacturers are at
present making the top bars of the brood frames of such a width that
the spaces between them is from one-fourth to five-sixteenths inch with
the same spacing above them. The difficulty, however, is in maintaining
this spacing with any great degree of accuracy. Self-spacing frames[2]
are a partial solution of this difficulty. In some localities, however,
the ordinary self-spacing frames are so badly propolized as to render
their removal from the brood chamber difficult as well as materially
to interfere with the proper spacing. The advantages of such frames
are then nullified, while their disadvantages are retained or even
intensified. In such localities metal spacers having but small surfaces
of contact are sometimes used. Some beekeepers prefer omitting the
spacers entirely. However, some of the difficulties arising from the
use of self-spacing frames are the result of carelessness on the part
of the operator in not crowding the frames together properly when
closing the hive after having handled the frames.

[1] A bee space, or that space to which bees are least inclined to
put comb or propolis, is perhaps a scant one-fourth inch. In hive
construction one-fourth or five-sixteenths inch is usually used.

[2] These are so constructed that the end bars are one-fourth or
five-sixteenths inch wider than the top bars throughout a portion of
their length or furnished with projections of metal fitted to the edges
of the frame. In either case the adjustment is such that when the
frames are crowded together in the hive the spaces between the top bars
will be correct.


The sectional hive in which the brood chamber is composed of two or
more shallow hive bodies, making it horizontally divisible, offers
some advantages, especially to the comb-honey specialist. Most of the
ordinary manipulations can be performed readily with such hives without
removing the frames. One of their greatest advantages in comb-honey
production is the rapidity with which the apiarist can examine the
colonies for queen cells if natural swarming is to be controlled by
manipulation. They are also very elastic, the units or sections usually
being of 5-L frame capacity, permitting a brood chamber capacity of 5
or any multiple of 5-L frames. Among the disadvantages of these hives
are the extra cost owing to the greater number of parts necessary in
their construction and the difficulty in maintaining proper spacing
without the use of top bars on the frames heavier than would seem
advisable in the middle of the brood nest.

=Sections and Supers.=

There is a wide variation in the style of sections and the supers
designed to contain them. This, whole to some extent brought about
by different local conditions, is largely due merely to the notions
of individual beekeepers. Comb-honey apparatus could probably be
standardized without sacrificing any really vital features.


There are two general styles of sections in common use differing in the
method of spacing--the beeway section in which the spacer is a part
of the section itself (fig. 5), and the plain in which the spacer is a
permanent part of the separator (fig. 4). Each style has its advocates
and each offers some advantages.

[Illustration: Fig. 3.--Beeway and plain sections, unfolded.
(Original.) ]

Some of the advantages of the plain (fig. 3) over the beeway sections
are: (1) They are simpler in construction, therefore costing less.
(2) The edges being plain with no insets, the plain sections are more
easily cleaned of propolis when being prepared for market and are
especially adapted to cleaning by machinery. (3) By leaving the spacers
in the super, sections of the same honey content occupy less space in
the shipping case, thus reducing the cost of packages. (4) The plain
section is adapted to an arrangement permitting freer communication
lengthwise of the row of sections, especially at the corners (p. 15).

[Illustration: Fig. 4.--Plain section In super, showing method
of spacing. (Original.)]

Some of the advantages of the beeway sections (fig. 3) are: (1) The
honey is somewhat less liable to injury by handling. (2) Being wider at
the corners where folded, they are stronger. (3) Some markets, being
accustomed to the larger cases necessary to contain a given number of
beeway sections, object to the smaller package containing the same
number of plain sections, simply because it is smaller.

[Illustration: Fig. 5.--Beeway section In super, showing
method of spacing. (Original.)]


Sections of various dimensions are in use by beekeepers, but the sizes
in general use are the 4-1/4 inches square and the 4 by 5 inches. Some
producers prefer the 4 by 5 sections because of the more pleasing
appearance of the oblong package (fig. 6). The standard widths of the
4-1/4 by 4-1/4 inches section are 1-7/8 inches in the beeway style
and 1-1/2 inches in the plain section. The extra width in the beeway
style is for the purpose of spacing and does not add to the thickness
of the comb. The 4 by 5 is 1-3/8 or 1-1/2 inches wide in the plain
style and not much used in the beeway style. The 1-3/8 width of the 4
by 5 section contains practically the same amount of honey when filled
as the 4-1/4 by 4-1/4 by 1-1/2 plain or the 4-1/4 by 4-1/4 by 1-7/8
beeway, assuming of course that all are used with separators and filled
under like conditions. Since there are well-defined limits as to the
thickness of the combs most profitable to produce, the area of one comb
surface in a section weighing about a pound is usually from 16 to 20
square inches, the exact size and shape being an adaptation to given
space in the super. The thinner combs, showing more comb surface, have
the appearance of being larger and a greater number can be accommodated
on a given hive. Honey in such combs may also be ripened sooner and
possibly better than in thicker combs. They, however, require more
foundation for each pound of honey produced and a slightly greater
amount of wax, in proportion to the honey, to complete them. Also
the thinner the comb, the greater the difficulty with the sheets of
foundation swinging to one side on account of uneven work on the two
sides or because the hives do not stand level.

[Illustration: Fig. 6.--Square and oblong sections.


The main points of difference between the various types of comb-honey
supers are in (1) the method of supporting the sections, (2) the amount
of protection afforded to the outside of the section and (3) the degree
of free communication from section to section within the super.

=The Method of Support.=

Sections are supported either by means of cross supports under the
ends of the sections or by a slat of proper width supporting each
row of sections. The T super (fig. 7), so called from the shape of
a cross section of the strip of tin used to support the sections is
illustrative of the first, while the supporting slats, section holders
(figs. 8, 9 and 10), and wide frames (fig. 11) are illustrative of the
second type of support.

[Illustration: Fig. 7.--The T super. (Original.)]


The T super and others of this type offer no protection against
propolizing to either the top or bottom of the sections, the section
holder or slat (figs. 8, 9, and 10) protects the bottom, while in
the wide frame (fig. 11) the entire outer surface of the sections is
protected except at the edges. The greater the protection afforded
the section, the more complicated and expensive the super, and the
more complicated supers require more labor in cleaning of propolis and
filling with sections. On the other hand, sections of honey produced in
properly constructed wide-frame supers are much more easily cleaned of
propolis, and ordinarily present a neater appearance when packed for

[Illustration: Fig. 8.--Super with section holder for beeway
sections. (Original.)]

=Free Communication Within the Super.=

The use of closed-top sections (1-beeway) and solid separators, making
each section a separate compartment with openings for the bees at the
bottom only, illustrates one extreme; while the sections with openings
on all four sides (4-beeway) used without separators illustrate the
other extreme as to free communication; and between these extremes are
various intermediate types.

[Illustration: Fig. 9.--Super with section holder for square
plain sections. (Original.)]

[Illustration: Fig. 10.--Super with section holder for oblong
plain sections. (Original.)]

It would be desirable so to adjust the sections that when filled
with honey a row of them would, so far as the bees are concerned,
be equivalent to a single comb, that the bees might have the same
free access to the outside row of cells from all sides as they do
the other cells and might pass up or down from any section and the
full length of the row, as well as around the ends. While, under the
same conditions, such free access to the outside row of cells from
all sides would result in the sections being slightly better filled
than with the ordinary adjustments, such an arrangement presents some
mechanical difficulties and would add considerable to the first cost
of the supers. If separators were not necessary, such an adjustment of
sections could be readily accomplished. In Europe a type of separator
having transverse openings corresponding to the upright edges of the
sections is used to give free communication lengthwise of the row of
sections. In this country some such separators are used as well as a
separator made of wire cloth so spaced between the rows of sections as
to give free communication along the rows, as well as from one row to
another. These, however, are not widely used in the United States.

[Illustration: Fig. 11.--Combination super with wide frames
for oblong plain sections. (Original.)]

The plain section, when used in connection with the "fence" separator
(fig. 4), having the upright posts considerably shorter than the height
of the section, offers a fair compromise as to free communication
within the super. Most of the comb honey produced in this country,
however, is produced in sections which offer no communication from
section to section lengthwise of the super, being produced in the
regular 2-beeway section, having openings at the top and bottom only
(figs. 7 and 8).


Separators are made of strips of tin or wood and are used between the
rows of sections to compel the tees to build the combs straight and
all within the section. The thicker the combs the greater becomes the
necessity for separators. While an expert can produce very uniform
comb honey without separators during a heavy honey flow by using very
narrow sections, it is usually not advisable to do so on account of
the resulting large percentage of imperfect combs, especially during
poor and indifferent seasons and at the close of any season. The use of
separators results in a much more uniform product.


Some comb-honey producers add to their equipment one shallow extracting
super for each colony. These are a great convenience in a comb-honey
apiary and may be used for the following purposes: (1) To keep the
brood chamber free of honey before the beginning of the main honey
flow; (2) to use at the beginning of the honey flow to induce the bees
to begin work promptly in the supers; (3) to use at the close of the
honey flow instead of the last comb-honey super; (4) to use during any
flow of inferior honey or honeydew; (5) to use during very poor seasons
when first-class comb honey can not be produced.


Other comb-honey producers provide each comb-honey super with two
shallow extracting combs. These are placed one on each side of the
super with the sections between them (fig. 11). The purpose of this
arrangement is to induce the bees to begin work in the super promptly
without the use of "bait sections" (sections containing comb previously
drawn) or an extracting super and also to do away with the usual poorly
finished sections in the corners and outside rows. One great advantage
of this system over the use of an extracting super to start early super
work is that the combs are not removed. When shallow extracting supers
are used for this purpose, they are removed as soon as the bees have
started well in them and a comb-honey super substituted. This brings
back much the same conditions existing before giving the extracting
super, and while some colonies will begin work in the sections promptly
when the change is made, many colonies hesitate about beginning the
new work almost as though the extracting super had not been used. Such
colonies are thus thrown out of "condition", (p. 19) and may begin
preparations to swarm. The use of these combs in supers that are added
subsequently allows the apiarist to place the empty super over the one
already on the hive until the bees begin work therein without seriously
crowding the super room, because each super thus added contains room in
the form of empty comb into which the new nectar may be stored at once
(see p. 42).

=Other Apparatus.=

Among the other apparatus needed in commercial comb-honey production
are a honey extractor, wax press, bee-escapes, and escape boards (fig.
12), queen-excluding honey boards (fig. 2), feeders, tools, etc. It is
not necessary to provide queen-excluding honey boards for each colony
unless some special system is followed, yet a few excluders are very
desirable for various special manipulations. Good feeders may be had by
using tin pans in connection with an empty super. A handful of grass
should be placed on the sirup to prevent the bees from drowning. In
addition to these appliances in the northern States, if the hives are
single walled, some means of protection is necessary if the colonies
are wintered out of doors.

[Illustration: Fig. 12.--Bee-escape board for removing bees
from supers. (From Phillips.)]

=Preparing Supers.=


Section presses and foundation fasteners are sometimes combined in
one machine by which the section is pressed together square and the
foundation is fastened by a single operation. Usually, however,
they are separate machines requiring that each section be handled
twice before it is ready to be placed into the super. Ordinarily the
one-piece sections must be dampened before folding, as otherwise
the breakage is considerable and the sections are greatly weakened
by folding. A crate of sections as it comes from the factory may be
dampened by removing one side so as to expose the V-shaped grooves,
then directing a small stream of hot water into these grooves. Care
should be taken that only the thin portion where the section is folded
be dampened. Another very satisfactory method of dampening sections is
to wrap the crates containing them in a wet blanket the day before they
are to be folded.


The use of comb foundation in full sheets filling each section as
nearly as possible is considered a necessity in the production of fancy
comb honey. This foundation should be as thin as can be used without
being gnawed or torn down by the bees. The sheet of foundation is
usually fastened centrally at the top of the section, leaving only
enough space at the sides to allow it to swing freely without binding
and about three-sixteenths to one-fourth inch at the bottom to allow
for stretching while being drawn out. To secure better attachment
of the comb to the bottom of the section, a bottom starter about
five-eighths inch wide may be used. In this case the top starter should
reach to within three-sixteenths to one-fourth inch of the bottom
starter. In some localities the character of the flow is such that
but little is gained by the use of the bottom starter, while in other
localities it is difficult to produce honey that will stand shipment
well without it.

The various types of apparatus usually used for fastening foundation
in the sections make use of a heated metal plate which, after melting
the edge of the sheet of foundation, is withdrawn, allowing the melted
edge to be brought quickly in contact with the section. This fastens
one edge of the sheet of foundation firmly to the wood. Foundation
fasteners employing this principle may be simply a hand apparatus
consisting of a metal plate of proper size provided with a handle, the
operator transferring the tool from the source of heat to the edge
of the foundation. Or the principle may be incorporated in a more or
less complex machine which provides for the maintenance of the proper
temperature of the heated plate, its movement to melt the edge of the
foundation and a proper support for the section and foundation during
the process. For the purpose of securing better filled sections of
honey various methods of attaching the sheet of foundation to the
sides as well as the top of the section have been devised, but are not
extensively used by producers. Among these methods are fitting the
sheet of foundation in place, then directing a fine stream of melted
wax along its edges, or the use of split sections in which a sheet of
foundation is continuous through a row of sections, extending through
their sides and top.

Some super construction is such that the sections may be placed
directly into the super by the operator who puts in the foundation.
This work is usually done during the winter months when the bees
require no special attention. Enough supers should be provided to take
care of the largest possible crop, even though it is not often that
all are used the same season. The beekeeper who is operating several
apiaries can not afford to take time to prepare supers for the bees
during a good honey flow. Supers of sections thus prepared in advance
should be kept clean by storing them in piles and keeping the piles
covered from dust.


It is important to note that there are four essential factors entering
into the securing of a crop of honey: (1) A sufficient amount of bloom
of healthy and well-nourished nectar-secreting plants growing in sou
to which they are adapted and within range of the apiary. (2) Weather
conditions favorable to nectar secretion and bee flight. (3) A large
number of workers in excess of those needed for the routine work of
the colony. (4) Conditions of the colony making the storing instinct
dominant. If any one of these factors is absent, the effect of the
other three is immediately nullified, and the amount of honey secured
will vary as these factors are present at the same time in greater or
less degree or as the time during which they are all present is longer
or shorter. It is therefore possible to have each of these factors
present at some time during the season without securing a crop of honey
and the period of time during which they are all present at the same
time is usually quite short.

Grouping the first and second factors we have a combination usually
spoken of as the locality and season. These factors are largely beyond
the control of the beekeeper except as he may choose a location in
which both are usually present at some time or times during the season,
may take advantage of the plants of several locations by practising
migratory beekeeping, or may improve a given locality by directly or
indirectly increasing the amount of nectar-secreting plants, such as
buckwheat, alsike clover, sweet clover, or alfalfa.

Grouping the third and fourth factors we have conditions capable of
being brought about by manipulation and for which the beekeeper is
more directly responsible. The beekeeper's skill therefore lies in
supplying and maintaining these factors throughout the short period
during which the bees may store more than they consume. He should know
which plants may be expected to furnish the nectar for his crop of
honey, that his various manipulations may be properly timed. It should
be noted that the shorter the duration of the honey flow, the greater
becomes the necessity of having the colonies in proper condition at its
beginning and keeping them so until its close. However lavish nature
may be with the secretion of nectar and fine weather, it is of little
avail if the beekeeper fails to secure a large force of workers to
gather and store his crop or, even having provided workers, if he fails
to keep his forces together and contented, bending all their energy
in the one direction of gathering and storing honey. It is a common
occurrence among inexperienced beekeepers to have the colonies become
strong enough to work in the supers only after the flowers have ceased
blooming or to see strong colonies during a good honey flow doing
nothing in the supers simply because conditions are not such as to make
the storing instinct dominant.

So far as the skill of the beekeeper is concerned in the production of
the crop of honey in a given location, every manipulation of the season
should be directed (1) toward securing the greatest possible number of
vigorous workers at the proper time, and (2) keeping the entire working
force of each colony together and contentedly at work throughout the
given honey flow.

=Securing Workers for the Honey Flow.=

Of course, the shorter the period for brood rearing previous to the
honey flow, the more serious the problem of getting the colonies strong
enough. Adverse weather conditions greatly retard brood rearing and
thus have the effect of shortening this period. On the other hand, in
some localities the main honey flow comes so late in the season that
the colonies may even be divided and both divisions built up.

In most comb-honey localities the season is short and there is usually
during the season only one honey flow that furnishes any considerable
surplus suitable for comb honey, with perhaps other honey flows either
very meager or furnishing honey unsuitable in color. The early minor
flows are in such localities utilized in brood rearing in preparation
for the main flow, and those occurring after the main flow may be
utilized for winter stores, or if sufficient in quantity some surplus
may be secured. In localities where the season is made up of a series
of honey flows of almost equal importance and with sometimes a long
interval between, the problem of securing workers for the harvest is
rendered more complex, since the process must be repeated for each crop
or the colonies kept very strong throughout the season. As a rule such
localities are not the best for comb-honey production.

The workers that gather and store the crop of honey are those that
emerge during the few weeks preceding and during the first part of the
honey flow. Unless it is of unusual duration, the eggs that produce
these workers are all laid before the honey flow begins, since those
which develop from eggs laid later are not ready for work until after
the close of the flow. On the other hand, the workers that emerge six
weeks or more before the honey flow will have died of old age or be too
old to be of much value during the flow. Their services, however, are
of great value provided they expend their energy to the best possible
advantage in rearing brood. If brood rearing ceases or is greatly
restricted during this period, a colony that has been strong earlier in
the season is rendered almost worthless as gatherers, since it begins
the harvest with old and worn-out workers. This is exactly what often
happens unless the beekeeper is alert and provides conditions such
that brood rearing is not restricted during this period. In the clover
belt, for example, it frequently happens that there is a scarcity of
nectar during the period when the workers for the harvest should be
reared and, unless the colonies are abundantly supplied with stores,
brood rearing is greatly restricted. This may to some extent justify
the saying among beekeepers that if the early flowers yield well the
season will be good. The progressive beekeeper, however, provides
conditions favorable to brood rearing even though the early flowers
fail to yield nectar. It is therefore highly important (1) that each
colony be in a normal condition at a period six or eight weeks previous
to the honey flow, and (2) that brood rearing be at its maximum for the
entire period of six or eight weeks during which the brood is reared to
produce workers available for the honey flow.


The condition of the colonies in the early spring depends upon many
factors not all of which are under the control of the beekeeper. In
the white-clover belt for instance, where the honey flow comes early,
a large percentage of strong colonies in early spring means of course
that they have wintered well, which in turn is largely dependent
upon proper conditions the previous late summer and autumn. The
manipulations having for their purpose the rapid upbuilding of the
colony may therefore have their beginning at or even before the close
of the honey flow of the previous year, including late summer and fall
management and wintering. Good queens, preferably young, with enough
room for breeding purposes and a supply of stores during the previous
late summer and autumn are among the factors favoring good wintering.
During the winter the central idea is the conservation of the energy
of the bees, the complex details of which can not be presented in this

The rapidity with which the colonies build up in early spring depends
upon a number of conditions, some of which are: (1) The number and
vitality of the workers; (2) the age and fecundity of the queen;
(3) the supply and location of stores within the hive; (4) weather
conditions; (5) the supply of new pollen, nectar, and water; (6) the
conservation of heat within the brood nest; (7) the race of bees; (8)
the character of the brood combs, etc. Most of these conditions are to
a great extent within the control of the beekeeper. By supplying each
colony with a young queen the previous autumn, or at least supplanting
all undesirable ones, a greater number of young and vigorous workers
are reared late in the season, which usually means greater vitality
and numbers the next spring. Young queens reared the previous summer
or autumn should be in prime condition the next spring. If to this
combination is added an abundance of stores within the hives, brood
rearing should progress rapidly, even in spite of adverse weather
conditions. It is now the general practice among beekeepers to supply
enough stores the previous autumn not only for winter stores but for
brood-rearing purposes the next spring. Since the amount consumed
during the winter varies considerably with different colonies, an
early examination to determine the amount of stores may be necessary.
Under some conditions it may be found profitable to stimulate brood
rearing early in the spring by slowly feeding diluted sugar sirup to
each colony, by spreading brood, or by doing both, but any very early
stimulation of this kind should be used with caution. Among extensive
beekeepers the tendency is decidedly toward letting the bees alone
until the weather is more settled, simply making sure that they have
sufficient stores. The apiary should, if possible, be so located that
the bees may have access to water without the necessity of exposure of
a long flight during bad weather. In localities that do not furnish
natural pollen, it may be necessary to feed an artificial substitute,
such as rye meal. A good hive that will conserve the heat of the
cluster is also a great help in early brood rearing. Some beekeepers
who winter their colonies in the cellar in single-walled hives find
it profitable to give them some additional protection after they have
been removed from the cellar. In the northern States double-walled
hives are especially advantageous during the spring. A protected
location for the apiary in some instances makes a great difference in
early brood rearing. Some races breed up more rapidly in the spring
than others. The Italians are somewhat conservative in this respect,
but have so many excellent traits that they are generally used in this
country. In localities having intermittent honey flows Italian bees may
not give the best results because of their tendency to restrict brood
rearing during the honey flow by crowding the queen and to curtail the
production of brood during a scarcity of nectar. Drone comb within the
brood nest in early spring is a decided barrier to rapid brood rearing.
Many brood combs considered by the average beekeeper to be perfect
contain, especially in the upper portion, a large percentage of cells
which can not be used for rearing worker brood because of imperfections
in shape and size due to the stretching of this portion of the combs
during hot weather. This suggests the advisability of the use of a
heavier grade of foundation or some method of using vertical wires or
wooden splints in the upper half of the sheet of foundation.


During the six or eight weeks just preceding the honey flow every
colony should be encouraged to rear the greatest possible amount
of brood. Brood rearing during this period is often restricted by
insufficient stores or by insufficient room. It is therefore of great
importance that both stores and available brood-rearing space be
supplied in abundance. If stimulative feeding or spreading the brood is
practiced, this is the time it should be done.

=Providing Sufficient Stores.=

If feeding is not practiced during this critical period, the beekeeper
should see that each colony is at all times supplied with a reserve
of stores, for surprisingly large quantities are consumed when brood
rearing is going on rapidly. If any colonies should run short, brood
rearing will be carried on sparingly and the colony so severely
crippled that it may not recover its strength until after the honey
flow is over.

Whether stimulative feeding or supplying each colony with an abundance
of reserve stores is the more profitable depends upon circumstances and
must be decided by each beekeeper for his own conditions. Stimulative
feeding, if properly done, will undoubtedly result in the rearing of
more bees for the harvest. When the beekeeper is operating several
apiaries and must travel some distance to reach them the labor involved
is considerable, and the question to be decided is whether this labor
would yield greater returns if expended in stimulative feeding or in
operating a larger number of colonies. If the brood chamber is large
and well provisioned or if the flowers furnish some nectar in early
spring the colonies may have sufficient stores for this period of heavy
brood rearing. Some beekeepers save combs of honey of the previous year
to supply food for this period. This is one of the most convenient and
satisfactory methods of feeding.

=Providing Available Brood-Rearing Space.=

There should be no restriction whatever in the room for brood rearing
up to the time of putting on the supers, just previous to the honey
flow, for a crowded brood nest at this time tends to diminish the
number of workers available for the honey flow as well as to encourage

If the space for brood rearing should be restricted by too much early
honey in the brood chamber some of the heaviest combs should be removed
and empty ones given instead, or an extra brood chamber containing
empty combs may be given. In localities where considerable early honey
is gathered the brood chamber may be kept almost free of honey by
placing an extracting super over each colony at the beginning of such a
flow. This super should not be removed until the comb-honey supers are
given, for the honey may be needed later in brood rearing.

Should the brood nest be restricted by a small brood chamber the
colonies may be equalized by removing some frames of brood from the
stronger colonies, exchanging them for empty combs taken from weaker
colonies, or another brood chamber filled with empty combs may be
given, thus building the colonies up individually. The former method
has the following advantages: (1) After being built up to approximately
the same strength, most of the colonies will be ready for a given
manipulation at the same time, thus facilitating the work. (2) It
requires a smaller stock of extra brood chambers and combs, at least
previous to the honey flow. (3) The brood is in a more compact form,
which is a very desirable condition in comb-honey production. (4) When
properly done, the total number of young bees reared in a given time
is probably considerably greater, owing to the fact that none of the
colonies is strong beyond the capacity of the queen, the workers of the
entire apiary being so distributed that all the queens are utilized
to the best possible advantage. (5) When the honey flow begins the
colonies are ready for the supers without additional manipulation,
such as removing extra brood chambers, sorting combs of brood, etc.
In equalizing colonies combs of hatching brood with the adhering
workers, _without the queen_, are usually drawn from the strongest
colonies and given to colonies less strong, but _never to very weak
colonies_. The weakest colonies are left until the last, then built
up quickly, provided there is time enough to have all the hives well
filled with brood. If this is not possible the very weak colonies can
more profitably be used for purposes other than comb-honey production.
Another plan of equalizing is that of shaking bees from combs taken
from strong colonies at the entrance of colonies less strong. The older
bees at once take wing and return to their hives, while the younger
bees enter the weaker colony. The operator must, of course, be sure
that the queen is not on the comb thus shaken.

Some of the advantages of building up the colonies as individuals
are: (1) The labor required is considerably less, fewer visits being
required, so that this method is particularly adapted to out-apiary
conditions. (2) It is possible to determine with much greater accuracy
which colonies show the most desirable traits for breeding purposes.
(3) It can be more safely practiced if brood diseases are imminent.


(1) The workers that take part in storing a crop of honey from any
given honey flow are usually those reared within the period of six or
eight weeks just preceding the honey flow. The workers reared previous
to this period are too old to be of much value as gatherers while those
reared after this period mature after the flow has ceased.

(2) It is necessary that the beekeeper know what plants are likely to
furnish the surplus honey and their approximate period of bloom so that
he can determine the limits of the heavy brood-rearing period in order
to secure the largest possible working force for the honey flow.

(3) Colonies should be in a normal condition at the beginning of
this period. (_a_) If the surplus is from an early flow, this normal
condition can be obtained only by proper management the previous
late summer and autumn, together with good wintering. Good queens,
preferably young, together with sufficient room for brood rearing and
winter stores, are important conditions during late summer and autumn.
(_b_) Stores and protection are important factors in early brood
rearing. (_c_) The character of the brood combs and the race of bees
each have some influence upon brood rearing.

(4) During the time that workers for the harvest should be reared brood
rearing should be constantly accelerated.

(5) Brood rearing is often restricted during this period (_a_) because
of limited stores and (_b_) because of limited room in the brood

=Using Available Workers to Best Advantage During the Honey Flow.=

Brood rearing, which is of primary importance during the preceding
period, becomes of secondary consideration at about the beginning of
the honey flow, because this is nearing the limit beyond which time the
resulting bees develop too late to take part in gathering and storing
the crop of honey. At this time, therefore, there is a radical change
in purpose of the manipulations. Instead of continuing the expansion of
the brood chamber, the policy of the beekeeper should now be rather a
concentration of the workers and brood. There is perhaps a limit to the
number of workers that can be profitably kept in a single hive and set
of supers, but this limit is seldom reached, the usual mistake being in
having too few. Each colony should have its brood chamber well filled
with brood in a compact form and be so crowded with young and vigorous
workers that they will immediately occupy the supers when the honey
flow actually begins. The brood chamber of colonies occupying more
than one hive body should at this time be reduced to one, any extra
brood being used in colonies having less than one brood chamber full of
brood. After this operation, should there still be some colonies left
with the brood chamber but partly filled with brood, they should be
filled with combs of brood and adhering bees (without the queen) drawn
from some colony or colonies too weak to work well in comb-honey supers.

It may be advisable to unite the weaker colonies in order to secure
the proper strength for the best work. This massing of the workers
in strong colonies, so essential to the production of a fancy grade
of comb honey, renders necessary extremely careful and skillful
management, since the efforts of the beekeeper may still be nullified
in either of two ways: (1) The bees may divide their forces by swarming
into two or more parts, neither of which would be ready to work in the
supers until the season is much advanced or perhaps closed entirely,
or (2) being balked in their desire to swarm or from lack of convenient
storage space, etc., they may do very poor work even during a good
honey flow simply because the conditions of the colony are such that
the storing instinct is not dominant. _To bring about the best results
in comb honey, the entire working force of each colony must be kept
undivided and the means employed in doing so must be such that the
storing instinct remains dominant throughout any given honey flow._
Any increase made before or during the flow[3] is made at the expense
of the surplus honey unless it be made with brood that would emerge
too late for the young bees to be of use during the honey flow (p.
31). In general, however, increase may be made at much less expense by
setting aside some of the colonies for that purpose. To keep the forces
together and satisfied, with the storing instinct dominant during a
good flow, is the most difficult problem with which the producer of
comb honey must deal.

[3] In localities where the main honey flow is so late that colonies
may be divided long enough before the flow so that both colonies may be
built up to proper strength in time to take advantage of it, of course
increase previous to the flow would be advisable. This condition is
rare in comb-honey localities.


All colonies do not behave alike as to swarming. (1) There are certain
colonies that go through the season with apparently no thought of
swarming. Such colonies do the very best work in the supers, and their
number can be increased by skillful management. (2) Other colonies
start queen cells preparatory to swarming, but can be persuaded to give
it up by such mild measures as destroying the queen cells and perhaps
removing a few frames of brood. (3) Certain colonies are determined to
swarm and, unless the flow ceases, nothing short of swarming or some
radical manipulation will satisfy them. (4) A certain percentage of
queens fail during the honey flow and swarming may occur in connection
with the supersedure. Such colonies usually do very poor work in
comb-honey supers.

The beekeeper can do much (1) toward increasing the percentage in
the first group and discouraging those of the second--_preventive
measures_, and (2) toward making the most of the colonies under the
third and fourth groups--_control measures_.


Some effort has been made toward the final elimination of swarming by
breeding from colonies showing the least disposition to swarm. Although
after years of selection bees continue to swarm when conditions are
favorable, many practical beekeepers testify to having greatly reduced
the percentage of swarming colonies by years of careful selection and
breeding. It would certainly seem advisable to replace the queens of
all colonies which persist in swarming with young queens reared from
colonies less inclined to swarm. The swarming problem has also been
attacked from the standpoint of the hive and mechanical attachments,
finally resulting in the invention of a "nonswarming" hive. More
attention has, however, been paid to the prevention and control
of swarming by manipulation than along either of the other fines,
probably because proper manipulation gives immediate results and is
now available as a means of preventing the losses due to swarming. The
success in swarm control attained by the best beekeepers is a result of
some effort along all three of the above fines at the same time.

Among the manipulations that tend to discourage swarming are (1) the
introduction of young queens (preferably reared from selected stock);
(2) an abundance of empty comb in the brood chamber at all times
previous to the honey flow; (3) prompt work in the supers at the
beginning of the flow induced by using "bait sections" or extracting
combs in the first super given, thus tiding the colony over one of the
critical periods; (4) a judicious manipulation of the supers during the
honey flow (p. 41); (5) the use of more nearly perfect worker combs
in the brood chamber, since drone comb and imperfect cells (p. 22)
have the effect of contracting the brood chamber, thus bringing about
a crowded condition; (6) an abundance of ventilation during the honey
flow, obtained by means of a large entrance or by raising the hive
above the bottom board by means of small blocks; (7) protection of the
hive from direct rays of the sun during the hottest portion of the day
by some such means as a double cover or shade board; (8) the removal
of one or two frames of brood and the substitution therefor of empty
combs or sheets of foundation; (9) the destruction of all queen cells
provided they contain only eggs or very small larvæ.

If queen cells are well advanced, their destruction usually has little
or no effect as a swarm preventive measure. While destroying queen
cells in their early stages can not be relied upon as a preventive of
swarming, beekeepers who practice examining the brood chambers once a
week for queen cells during the swarming season are usually surprised
at the number of colonies that can be induced to give up swarming and
turn their attention to storing in this way. Such a result at least
partly compensates for the large amount of labor required for these
weekly examinations.


After having taken all precautions as to preventive measures there
win still be some colonies that will attempt to swarm when producing
comb honey. During poor seasons of course the percentage may be
quite low, but during good seasons the conditions are sometimes such
that a majority of the colonies may make an effort to swarm. Swarming
colonies, however, may be controlled in such a manner that practically
as much surplus honey is secured as if the colony made no attempt to
swarm. If but a single apiary is being operated and the beekeeper is
present during the swarming season, the bees may be permitted to swarm
naturally without loss to the beekeeper; but if several apiaries are
being operated, it is more economical to employ some method by which
swarming may be controlled by visiting each apiary at given intervals
during the swarming season, rather than to have an attendant at each.

=Control of Natural Swarms.=

Natural swarms may be managed (1) by allowing them to cluster
naturally, then hiving them in the ordinary manner; (2) by the clipped
queen method; (3) by the use of queen traps (fig. 13; see Farmers'
Bulletin No. 447, pp. 29-30); or (4) by use of the swarm catcher.[4]

[4] This is simply a wire-cloth cage large enough to be set over the
hive or be fitted over the entrance. If the attendant is provided with
a number of these catchers he can avoid the usual confusion ordinarily
occurring when several swarms issue at about the same time. After being
caught in this manner the swarms may be hived at the convenience of the

[Illustration: Fig. 13.--Drone and queen trap on hive
entrance. (From Phillips.)]

To keep the forces together (1) the swarm without the queen may be
returned to its hive, the queen cells destroyed a week later, and the
colony afterwards requeened (p. 36); or (2) the brood may be removed
from the hive while the swarm is out, after which the swarm with the
queen is returned. The former method is useful under some conditions
(p. 37), but the latter is the one usually preferred.

When the swarm is hived back without the brood on its old location in
this manner, the colony does not lose any of its flying bees and is
back at work with renewed energy in the same set of supers it was but a
few minutes before so eagerly deserting. Instead of removing the combs
from the brood chamber the usual practice is the removal of the entire
brood chamber and the substitution of another whose external appearance
is the same. This method of swarm management keeps the bees, queen,
and supers together and is one of the most satisfactory known. It is
not, however, adapted to out-apiaries or any apiaries not having an
attendant, and requires considerable time in watching for and hiving

[Illustration: Fig. 14.--Colony before swarming; supers in
place. (Original.)]


The disposition of the brood that is left when a swarm issues should be
such that (1) no "after-swarms" (swarms resulting from the emergence of
a plurality of virgin queens) are permitted to issue and (2) that the
emerging workers may be used to the best advantage.

"After-swarming" may be prevented by (1) breaking up the parent colony
before any of the young queens emerge, using the unhatched brood
elsewhere, (2) by destroying all queen cells but one before any young
queens emerge, or (3) by greatly reducing the population of the parent
colony[5] just before the young queens emerge.

[5] The term "parent colony" applies to the one in the hive from which
the swarm issues and is in common use, though the correctness of the
term is questionable.

[Illustration: Fig. 15.--Brood placed in hive turned 90
degrees from old entrance. (Original.)]

If swarming occurs at a time when the resulting young bees can take
part in gathering and storing the crop of honey, the usual practice
is to allow the brood to emerge in a separate hive and later to add
these young bees to the colony from which it was taken. Under such
circumstances this reenforcement of the swarm is especially desirable,
since otherwise its forces are constantly diminishing during the 21
days (the time required for worker brood to develop) immediately
following the removal of all its brood. The brood, however, may be used
anywhere in the apiary and should be placed where the resulting bees
will be most needed. The plans given below make use of at least a part
of the emerging bees in reenforcing the swarm from which the brood was

When hiving natural swarms on the old location as suggested above,
the old brood chamber is provided with a bottom and cover and set
aside, usually with its entrance turned away about 90° from its former
position (figs. 14, 15). This is to prevent any field bees returning
to the parent colony. A day or so later it is turned about 45° toward
its former position (fig. 16) and as soon as the bees have this
location of the entrance well marked the hive is placed parallel to the
hive on the old stand (fig. 17). So far as the bees returning from the
field are concerned, these two colonies are now on the same stand.

[Illustration: Fig. 16.--Hive with brood turned back to 45
degrees from old entrance. (Original.)]

[Illustration: Fig. 17.--Hive with brood turned parallel to
old entrance. (Original.)]

The further disposition of the remnant of the brood and young bees
may be by any one of the following methods: (1) One week after the
swarm issues, or just before the parent colony would cast a second or
"after-swarm," it may, when the bees are well at work in the fields, be
removed and given a new location. This throws the entire flying force
into the colony having the supers, where they are of greatest service,
and so depletes the other colony of its flying bees just when the
young queens are emerging that "after-swarming" is usually prevented.
(2) Before moving it, away the parent colony may be more thoroughly
depleted of its young bees by shaking most of them from their combs,
adding them of course to the colony with the supers. The comb
containing the finest queen cells should not be shaken, since to do so
will probably injure the immature queens. Two or three frames should
be left with their adhering bees in order that the parent colony will
still contain enough workers to care for the remaining unemerged brood.
(3) Instead of moving the parent colony away as in (1) above, the bees
may all be added to the swarm by shaking them from their combs, and the
combs then distributed among nuclei previously prepared. By successive
additions of frames of brood these nuclei are finally built up into
full colonies and "after-swarming" is prevented. (4) Instead of giving
the parent colony a new location, as in (1) above, it may be shifted
to the opposite side of the swarm on the old stand (fig. 18) and by
thus shifting it from one side to the other at intervals of several
days the young bees as they hatch and learn to fly will finally all be
added to the colony with the supers. Few beekeepers, however, go to
this extreme, as the season usually closes before the latest emerging
young bees are thus transferred to the colony with the supers and these
later-emerging bees may be used for increase at little if any expense
in surplus honey. (5) If increase is not desired, the bees may be added
to the swarm on the old stand as before, and after 10 or 15 days the
combs of the parent colony still containing some unhatched brood may be
used on which to hive another swarm. Before being used for this purpose
the bees are of course shaken from these combs and added as before to
the swarm on the old stand. (6) If the honey flow is of long duration
or conditions otherwise such that the storing colony may prepare to
swarm again, the brood chamber of the parent colony may be left by
the side of the swarm (fig. 18) until the young queen begins to lay,
then restored to its original position on the old stand and the supers
transferred to it. The brood chamber containing the old queen is moved
to one side, its flying bees thus induced to enter the hive containing
the young queen. The two colonies may afterwards be united or the one
containing the old queen may finally be moved to a new location for
increase. If, when using this plan, a virgin queen or a ripe queen cell
is given the parent colony just after the swarm issues, this colony is
ready to be restored to its original position on the old stand about a
week earlier than if left to requeen itself.

[Illustration: Fig. 18.--Hive with brood placed on other side
of old entrance. (Original.)]

In case the emerging bees are not to be added to the storing colony the
brood and young bees may be used in one of the following ways:

(1) They may be used immediately after the swarm issues to build up
such colonies as are not strong enough to work in the supers or to
build up previously prepared nuclei, as in (3) above. Before being used
in these ways the adhering bees are usually added to the swarm.

(2) The parent colony may be placed at once on a new stand and given
a laying or virgin queen. To allow such a colony to requeen itself
usually results in its casting an "after-swarm," since it becomes
quite populous again before the young queens emerge. This plan does
not make immediate use of the emerging bees but may be useful under
some conditions. (3) If the honey flow is of long duration or is
followed closely by a second, two parent colonies, as in (2) above, may
be placed upon the same stand, one of which is given a queen but with
the queen cells destroyed in the other. After two or three weeks the
bees may be shaken from the queenless colony in with the queen-right
one. Such colonies are in excellent condition for rapid work in the


(1) The use of narrow strips of foundation 1 inch or less in width in
the brood chamber offers some advantages. (_a_) When the brood chamber
contains only these narrow "starters" and supers of partly filled
sections are transferred from the parent colony to the new swarm at
the time of hiving, there being no cells below in which to store the
honey, it is taken to the supers. Under these conditions work in the
brood chamber goes on slowly, the work of the colony being largely in
the supers. (_b_) Colonies that are thus required to construct a set of
new combs in the brood chamber and that are supplied with sufficient
storage room seldom attempt to swarm again during the same season,
even though the flow be of long duration. (_c_) The treatment of brood
diseases may be combined with swarm control. (See Farmers' Bulletin No.
442, p. 14.) The greatest objection to their use is in the excessive
amount of drone comb usually built when anything less than full sheets
of foundation are used, especially if the queen is old or the brood
chamber large in proportion to the size of the swarm.

(2) The use of full sheets of foundation in the brood frames has the
decided advantage of resulting in straight combs having the maximum
number of cells of the worker size, but is more expensive than the
narrow strips and allows a more rapid building of comb in the brood
chamber, which under some conditions is considered a disadvantage.

(3) The exclusive use of either narrow strips or full sheets of
foundation in the brood chamber when hiving swarms necessitates the
use for a short time of a queen excluder (fig. 2) if the supers are
transferred from the parent colony to the swarm at the time of hiving,
since otherwise the queen would probably enter the sections and a brood
nest be established there. To avoid the use of queen excluders for this
purpose, one or more empty combs maybe used in each brood chamber,
the remaining frames containing full sheets of foundation. This empty
comb also serves as a storage place for pollen that may be gathered
before the other combs of the brood chamber are constructed. Otherwise
this pollen may be stored in the sections (p. 46). It is also
probable that fewer colonies will "swarm out" or desert their hives
if hived in a brood chamber containing one or more empty combs than
if foundation only is used. A disadvantage of this plan is that the
cells near the top bar of the comb may be so elongated as to interfere
with the complete drawing out of the foundation in the adjacent frame.
Empty combs can not well be used in connection with narrow strips of
foundation, since their use favors the construction of drone comb.

(4) Empty combs are sometimes used with the idea of saving the bees the
work of constructing a new set of combs. Under same conditions this is
false economy and gives poorer results than starters or foundation.
With very strong colonies, or with the brood chamber contracted to five
or six frames, empty combs in the brood chamber may give good results.
Medium colonies on a full set of empty combs are included to store the
honey in the brood chamber and neglect the supers.

(5) Combs of honey are sometimes used on which to hive swarms. In some
instances the beekeeper uses frames of foundation or empty combs above
the brood chamber previous to and during the first few days of the
honey, flow for the purpose of discouraging swarming and afterwards
uses these partly filled combs on which to hive swarms. In order to
make room for the queen, this honey is rapidly carried above, and
stored in the sections.

(6) Combs of sealed brood in which no eggs have been laid during
the previous 10 days or 2 weeks may be used. Such combs are usually
available toward the close of the swarming season from colonies that
have swarmed 10 days or 2 weeks before. This plan is especially
desirable when the beekeeper runs short of hives during the swarming
season. In some localities, however, the character of the flow is such
that the colonies may later again prepare to swarm when hived on either
empty combs or combs of sealed brood.


Some beekeepers contract the brood chamber, when hiving swarms, to five
or six frames, the remaining space being filled by means of division
boards or "dummies." This reduction in the capacity of the brood
chamber results in practically all the honey being stored in the supers
and also restricts brood rearing at a time when the resulting bees
develop too late to become gatherers. This is especially adaptable to
locations furnishing an early flow of white honey followed by a later
flow of darker honey. The white or more marketable honey is stored in
the supers and later the brood chamber is expanded and provisioned for
winter with the less desirable honey. Some beekeepers accomplish a
somewhat similar result by hiving two swarms together in a single hive

When practicing contraction it is best to give the full amount of
room at the time of hiving the swarm and to reduce the space three or
four days later, as otherwise the bees are apt to "swarm out" because
of their cramped quarters. Since contraction of the brood chamber is
but a temporary expedient, it should not be continued beyond the time
that its use is of advantage. If there should be a later honey flow,
the brood chamber should be expanded in time to rear the bees for it.
In any event, contraction should not continue so long as to interfere
with securing the proper conditions of the colonies for winter (p. 21).
Frames of foundation, empty combs, frames of brood or honey may be used
to complete the set of combs when expanding the brood chamber, and
these are usually given just before or at the close of the honey flow.
Contraction of the brood chamber to less than one hive body, except in
hiving swarms, is not usually advisable.

=Swarm Control by Manipulation.=

Swarm control by manipulation enables the beekeeper to operate a series
of apiaries by visiting each at certain intervals, thus eliminating
the necessity of an attendant in each apiary during the swarming
season. The fact that bees usually, by the construction of queen cells,
indicate about a week in advance their intention to swarm, enables the
beekeeper to control swarming by examining each colony once a week
during the swarming period and forestalling the colonies that are
making preparations to swarm. It is also possible to manipulate all the
colonies before any swarming occurs so that most of them go through the
honey flow without swarming, thus eliminating the weekly examinations.

Any manipulation for swarm control, whether applied after the colony
has acquired the "swarming fever" or applied to all colonies alike
previous to the swarming season, is based upon the single principle--_a
temporary disturbance in the continuity of the daily emergence of
brood_. This disturbance should occur just previous to or during the
swarming season. In natural swarming the brood and the swarm are
separated, the swarm being without hatching brood during a period of
three weeks. The brood from which the swarm came may be allowed to
emerge in a separate hive and the resulting bees may then be returned
to the swarm (p. 29). In this way the swarming instinct is satisfied,
at least temporarily, without materially decreasing the population of
the colony. The beekeeper may anticipate swarming by removing the brood
from the hive, allowing it to emerge in a separate hive and finally
returning these young bees to the colony in the same manner as is
done with the natural swarm. Under the same conditions the subsequent
behavior of a colony treated in this way is similar to that of a
natural swarm. In either case there has been a break in the continuity
of the emergence of young bees in the hive during a period of three

Instead of hiving a natural swarm upon empty combs or frames of
foundation, combs of emerging brood (without queen cells) taken from
a colony that has been queenless during a period of 10 to 15 days may
be used (p. 33) and a similar condition may be had without swarming
by removing all of the brood and substituting such combs of emerging
brood, thus at least temporarily avoiding swarming. In these cases
there is a break of 10 to 15 days in the continuity of the daily
emergence of bees.

A similar interruption of brood rearing may be accomplished by removing
the queen from the hive or caging her within the hive during a period
of 10 days or 2 weeks, then returning her to the combs. In this case no
queen cells must of course be allowed to mature. A condition similar to
this may be obtained without removing the queen by dividing the brood
chamber into two parts with queen-excluding metal, for a period of 10
to 15 days. The brood from the division containing the queen is then
removed and the bees, together with the queen, shaken into the other
(queenless) division, the queen cells if any being first destroyed.
The brood thus removed may later be returned to the colony in the form
of young bees in the usual manner (p. 29). Even the destruction of
the sealed brood by uncapping it has been advised as a means of swarm
control. This gives a period of about 12 days during which few or no
young bees emerge.

These methods are illustrative of the principle employed in the various
methods of control by manipulation, which may be classified under three
general headings: (1) Taking the queen from the hive. (2) Taking the
brood from the hive. (3) Separating the queen and brood within the hive.

The following methods of swarm control are given for the purpose of
illustrating the various types of control by manipulation. It is not
to be understood that all the methods given are equally adaptable to
any locality or season, but it is hoped that, presented in this way,
the beekeeper may more readily see the principle underlying each plan
as well as the basic principle underlying all the plans and thereby be
better enabled to elaborate a system of control to meet his particular


The temporary removal of the queen from the colony for the required
time (p. 36) and the return of the same queen is a method which has
been used in swarm control. Of course, no queen cells should be
permitted to develop in the meantime. Such colonies may prepare to
swarm again, especially if the period of queenlessness is not more than
10 days. The method is a valuable one, however, and may be used at any
time during the season on colonies making preparations to swarm.

=Dequeening in connection with requeening.=--Requeening each
colony with a young queen early in the season may greatly reduce the
percentage of colonies that attempt to swarm but can not be relied upon
as a method of complete control since during a good and prolonged honey
flow quite a number of such colonies prepare to swarm. If each colony
is requeened with a young queen at the beginning of the honey flow,
_after having been queenless for 10 or 15 days_, there will probably be
very little if any swarming during an ordinary season. This method is
not in general use among beekeepers, largely because of the difficulty
in so timing the operation that there will be no loss. The following
are illustrative of the various adaptations of requeening in connection
with a period of no brood rearing.

(1) Just previous to the honey flow and at about the time that heavy
brood rearing is no longer desirable, remove the queen from each
colony, (_a_) Eight or ten days later destroy all queen cells but one
and allow the colony to requeen itself, or (_b_) destroy _all_ queen
cells 8 or 10 days after removing the queen, then after 3 to 6 days
supply each colony with a "ripe" queen cell (one in which the queen
is ready to emerge), a virgin queen, or a young laying queen. It is
usually desirable that the interval of queenlessness be as short as
possible without defeating its purpose. Some beekeepers give a young
laying queen 10 days after removing the old one, or a virgin or ripe
cell considerably earlier, sometimes even at the time the old queen is
removed, while others prefer a period of at least 14 days before giving
either a laying or a virgin queen. However, colonies with virgin queens
sometimes swarm even though no other queen cells or larvæ from which to
rear a queen are present. Another objection to the use of queen cells
or virgin queens for this purpose is that some of the queens fail to
emerge and some virgin queens fail to mate, thus leaving the colony
hopelessly queenless. For these reasons, some prefer to have the young
queens mate and begin to lay in "nuclei" (very small colonies) before
introducing[6] them in the strong colonies. This method may be used
for the entire apiary at the beginning of the honey flow or it may be
applied only to those colonies making preparations to swarm.

[6] The young laying queens may be introduced Into the colony by the
ordinary indirect or caging method (Farmers' Bulletin No. 447, p. 44)
or together with a comb of brood and adhering from the nucleus from
which she was mated.

(2) Use two hive bodies as a brood chamber before the honey flow,
uniting if necessary to secure strong colonies. At the beginning of
the honey flow divide each colony, leaving the field bees and most
of the brood on the old stand in one hive body, placing the queen,
remaining brood, and enough bees to care for it in the other hive body
which is set beside the first. The supers are of course given to the
queenless colony on the old stand, which after the proper interval
of queenlessness is allowed to requeen itself or is requeened by the
beekeeper as in (1) above. The colony containing the old queen may be
used to strengthen the storing colony by shifting its position from one
side of it to the other (p. 31), or used for increase.

(3) Ten days before the honey flow is expected to begin, put most of
the brood into a single hive body, on this a queen excluder, and over
this a second hive body with a frame of brood and the queen, the other
combs of this set being empty except perhaps a little brood and honey.
Nine or ten days later remove the upper story, supply it with a bottom
board, and place it close beside the original hive. Destroy queen cells
if any are present in the queenless portion which remains on the old
stand, give a ripe queen cell, virgin queen, or a young laying queen,
and put on the supers. The brood chamber containing the old queen may
be used to make increase or its flying bees may be united with the
storing colony (p. 31).

By any of these methods there is a break of 10 to 15 days in the
continuity of brood emergence in the brood chamber left on the old
stand and the colonies are requeened with young queens--each a strong
factor in swarm control and when combined should with rare exceptions
result in no swarming.


Since removing the brood brings about conditions quite similar to that
of natural swarming (p. 28), such a management of the colonies is
practically identical with that of natural swarming. The use of the
brood that is removed (p. 29), the question of what should be used in
the brood chamber instead of the removed brood (p. 32), the contraction
of the brood chamber (p. 33), etc., have been discussed under natural
swarming and need not be repeated here. While some of the plans using
this principle may be applied to all the colonies in the apiary before
swarming actually begins, the usual practice is to apply them only to
such colonies as are making preparations to swarm. It should not be
used on weak colonies, on colonies having a small percentage of sealed
and emerging brood and few young bees, on colonies in which the queen
is failing, or on any colonies during a very poor season. Under any
of these conditions it is usually better to discourage swarming by
destroying queen cells (p. 27), by removing one or two frames of brood,
or, if some control measure is finally necessary, by requeening such
colonies after an interval of queenlessness. On the other hand, for
strong colonies having a high percentage of sealed and emerging brood
and a good queen the method usually gives excellent results, since
by its use the workers, queen, and supers are kept together during
the flow. The following are some of the various plans employing this
principle of swarm control:

(1) Find the queen and put the comb on which she is found to one side,
then shake the bees from most of the other combs into or in front of
their hive. As the combs of brood are removed put frames containing
either narrow strips or full sheets of foundation or combs into the
hive and replace the supers. When most of the shaken bees are in the
hive, place the queen among them. Put all the brood and the few bees
remaining thereon into another hive close beside the shaken colony
(fig. 17). Enough bees should be left on the combs of brood to care for
it; usually two combs are not shaken at all, but placed in the other
hive with all the adhering bees. For further disposition of the brood
see page 29.

(2) In order to avoid the trouble of finding the queen, the above plan
may be varied by shaking and brushing _all_ the bees from the combs so
as to be sure that the queen is among them. In this case the brood may
be utilized by one of the following plans: (_a_) Use it to build up
weaker colonies (p. 31) or (_b_) place it in a hive body over a queen
excluder on top of the forced swarm or some colony not being used for
comb-honey production that can spare enough bees to care for it. In a
short time bees will pass through the excluder and cover the brood,
after which the hive body containing it is removed, supplied with a
cover and bottom board, and placed at one side of the forced swarm so
that the emerging bees may later be added to the swarm. Or (_c_) after
the shaking is complete, remove the forced swarm and put the hive body
containing the brood temporarily back on the original stand to induce
field bees to enter it. Then in the evening set it aside and restore
the swarm to its position on the old stand. These field bees will
be able to prevent the brood being chilled during the night but in
returning from the fields the next day will enter the hive on the old
stand. In the meantime enough young bees will have emerged to care for
the brood.

(3) Removing all the brood and substituting frames containing narrow
strips or full sheets of foundation sometimes results in the colony
swarming out the next day. This may be avoided by removing the brood
in two installments with an interval of a few days between the
two operations. When the brood is not all removed, full sheets of
foundation or empty combs should be used or an excessive amount of
drone comb will be built.

With sectional hives, stand the brood chamber on end, smoke the bees
out of the lower section, and remove it. Destroy queen cells in the
upper hive section. These will almost universally be found projecting
into the space between the two sections of the brood chamber.
Substitute a new hive section containing empty combs or foundation for
the removed section. After, a few days remove the supers, smoke the
bees out of the upper section, remove it, and add it to the section
that was removed before, which at the time of its removal was given the
usual position beside the colony (fig. 17).

(4) Use two hive bodies as a brood chamber throughout the year except
during the honey flow. Have both as well filled with brood as possible
previous to the flow. About 10 days before the honey flow is expected
to begin, insert a queen-excluding honey board (fig. 2) between the
two hive bodies. The queen is now confined to a single one of the hive
bodies. After 10 days transfer the queen[7] to the other hive body
placed on the old stand and put on the supers. Remove the hive body
in which the queen has been confined to one side of the colony on the
old stand and supply it with a ripe queen cell (in a protector) or a
virgin queen. When the young queen begins to lay, exchange places with
the two hive bodies so that the one containing the young queen now
becomes the storing colony, giving it the supers and field bees. Shift
the hive containing the old queen from one side to the other of the
colony on the old stand about once a week, so that the entire flying
force of both are at work in the hive with the supers (p. 31). At the
close of the honey flow the old queen may be killed unless she is
especially valuable and the two divisions may be reunited. The period
of 10 days during which no eggs are laid in the hive body used by the
storing colony at the beginning of the honey flow should delay swarming
at least until the young queen begins to lay. When the other hive body
with the young queen is substituted, it has had a similar period of
no egg laying in addition to having a young laying queen, making a
desirable combination.

[7] It is not necessary to find the queen, since the presence of
unsealed brood indicates In which hive body she is confined. She may
be transferred to the other hive body by shaking all the bees from the
combs she is known to occupy in with the bees of the other hive body.
In this case some bees are returned to the shaken combs (p. 38) before
this brood is set aside, to prevent its being chilled.

=Mechanical devices.=--A number of mechanical devices have been
described for shifting bees from one brood chamber to another. These
permit the bees to leave the hive when going to the fields and are
so arranged that the returning bees are led to enter the new brood
chamber. This is accomplished by means of switches in the bottom board
or by a chute or tube so attached that the entrance to the old brood
chamber is closed, allowing exit only through the tube which opens near
the entrance of the new brood chamber. In either case the hives are so
arranged that the bees returning from the field readily enter the new
brood chamber. The queen is found and together with a comb of brood and
adhering bees is put into the new brood chamber, and the supers are
transferred from the old to the new brood chamber. The young bees as
they learn to fly are added to the swarm by the same device. Otherwise
the manipulation is the same as the other methods described.


In some swarm-control methods neither the queen nor the brood is
removed from the hive, but these are temporarily separated within
the hive. These methods are ordinarily used only on colonies making
preparations to swarm and are practically equivalent to the dequeening
plan. The following methods make use of this principle of swarm control:

(1) The queen may be placed in a wire-cloth cage within the hive or may
be confined to a small comb surface within the brood chamber by means
of queen-excluding zinc. No queen cells are permitted to mature, and
the queen is liberated after 10 to 15 days.

(2) The queen together with a comb containing a small amount of brood
is placed in a lower hive body containing no other frames or combs.
After destroying all queen cells the brood is placed in a second hive
body, the two hive bodies being separated by a queen-excluding honey
board and the supers adjusted above the brood as before. The queen,
being separated from the brood by means of the excluder, lays few eggs
in the comb on which she is confined during this period of separation.
After a week or 10 days the queen cells are again destroyed, and the
brood and queen are put back into a single hive body as before. This
method gives results quite similar to the dequeening method (p. 35).

If every season were alike in a given locality the beekeeper could
work out a manipulation to be applied to each colony just before or at
the beginning of the honey flow, which would result in practically no
swarming. The wide variation in the seasons, however, renders it next
to impossible to adopt a swarm-control measure that will prove most
profitable every year. The means of control adopted must be such as
to favor the domination of the storing instinct. Probably the plan of
making weekly visits is the most widely used system of swarm control
by manipulation. When a colony is found preparing to swarm, the brood
is removed if conditions are such as to justify doing so (p. 37).
Otherwise the removal of the queen is resorted to.

With any of these methods of control the colony may rapidly restore
former conditions, and even though it has been diverted from swarming
may later again prepare to swarm and require a second manipulation.
Generally speaking, when the honey flow is short, less radical measures
are required. Colonies that have been supplied with young queens after
a period of queenlessness have one factor (the queen) changed with at
least some degree of permanency. Colonies that have been compelled to
construct a new set of brood combs from narrow strips of foundation
have the most radical change of conditions as to brood rearing. Either
of these changes alone is usually sufficient to insure no further
preparations to swarm.

=Manipulation of the Supers.=

Proper manipulation of the comb-honey supers is not only a strong
factor in the prevention of swarming but is also a stimulus to
storing. The amount of room the colonies should have in the surplus
apartment varies so much that the ordinary standard super is simply
a unit in a large and flexible surplus apartment. If enough surplus
room is given at the beginning of the season for the storage of the
entire crop of honey, the space so given is too great for best results
at the beginning of the honey flow, and little of it is needed at
all if the season is poor. If, on the other hand, a single super is
given and no other added until the first is completed, the room in
the surplus apartment decreases from the time the super is given
until the combs are completely drawn out, when there is little space
left between the combs, the bees being practically crowded out. Thus
while the population of the colony is increasing their room is being
diminished--a condition highly conducive to swarming and less energetic
work. After the super is filled, it is some time before the honey is
ripened and sealed, ready to be removed. During this interval, if no
other supers are given, there is no place for storage of the incoming
nectar, and the comb builders must remain idle or waste their wax in
building burr and brace combs. To avoid loss in this way, empty supers
are added as they are needed, and the comb builders move from one super
to another as their work in each is completed. The surplus apartment,
whether consisting of a single super or several supers, should at all
times contain some space for the comb builders.

If the honey flow is heavy and promises to continue, it is desirable
to furnish not only sufficient room but to induce the bees to begin
work in as many sections as possible, giving large comb surface for
the storage and evaporation of the thin nectar, thus in a measure
approximating extracted honey conditions.

There is a danger, however, that if the bees are induced to extend
their work through too many supers, the sections when completed will be
less well filled and therefore lighter in weight. Also, if the honey
flow should not continue as expected a rapid expansion of the surplus
apartment results in a large number of unfinished sections.

The rapidity of the expansion of work in the supers may to some extent
be regulated by the position of each newly added super. If a rapid
expansion is desirable, the empty super is placed below the supers
already on the hive, while if it seems best to crowd the bees somewhat
the empty super is placed above those already on the hive. When the
empty super is placed above the partly finished ones, the bees do not
begin work therein unless they need the room. This practice is always
desirable during a slow honey flow or toward the close of any honey
flow, but when nectar is coming in rapidly does not result in a rapid
expansion of comb building sufficient to avoid a more or less crowded
condition, which in turn causes a loss of honey and increases the
probability of swarming. If each super is supplied with one or two
extracting combs (p. 16), this disadvantage of the practice of placing
the empty super on top largely disappears, since the extracting combs
are immediately available for the storage of nectar.

[Illustration: Fig. 19.--Arrangement of supers. (Original.)]

When the empty supers are placed under the partly filled ones, work
in them is commenced promptly, but this may be at the expense of the
nearly completed sections, which by this plan are moved farther from
the brood chamber as each empty super is added. In the case of the
super in which the honey is being sealed this distance is an advantage
in so far as the whiteness of the cappings is concerned, but it may
retard the completion of the work. An arrangement of the supers that
to some extent avoids this difficulty is as follows: Except toward the
close of the season, place each newly added super next to the brood
chamber and keep the one nearest completion just above it with all
others arranged above these two, the one in which least progress has
been made being on top (fig. 19). Thus super No. 1 is raised up and
No. 2 placed beneath it. When No. 3 is given, it is placed next to the
brood chamber, while above it is No. 1 with No. 2 on top. If No. 4 is
given, it is placed next to the brood chamber with Nos. 1, 2, and 3 in
order above it. By this arrangement, if conditions justify doing so,
strong colonies may be induced to expand their surplus apartment with
great rapidity, since as soon as the foundation is well drawn in each
newly added super it may be transposed to the top and an empty one put
in its place. Such rapid expansion of work in the supers should not be
attempted, however, except during a heavy honey flow.

If early in the honey flow the bees are storing rapidly, strong
colonies should be given a second super as soon as work has been fairly
begun in the first. Colonies of medium strength may of course be
allowed to do considerable work in the first super before the second is
given, while a weak colony may have sufficient room for comb building
until the first super is almost completed. The first super should
contain some empty comb when given to the colony, and each succeeding
super should be given in advance of the time when the bees would be
in any way crowded without it. At no time should all the sections be
removed and new supers containing only foundation be given, but the
surplus apartment should contain sections in all the various stages of
development. In this way there is no break in the work in the supers,
and the critical periods, so far as the super room bears upon the
problems of swarming and energetic work, are largely eliminated.

During the latter part of the honey flow the reasons for further
expansion of the surplus apartment in excess of the immediate needs of
the colonies (p. 41) no longer exist. At the beginning of a good honey
flow the maximum of new work consistent with well-filled sections is
desirable, while toward the close of the flow the beekeeper desires
the minimum of new work consistent with sufficient room. The precise
period when further expansion of the surplus apartment is no longer
desirable and a concentration of the work already begun should take
place is sometimes difficult to determine, and to do so requires a
thorough knowledge of the locality and good judgment on the part of the

It is usually desirable to remove the honey as soon after it is
finished as can well be done. If it is left on the hives too long after
it is finished, it is likely to become discolored or "travel stained,"
while if it is taken off too soon some of the sections are not
completed. It is desirable that the honey be removed by entire supers
instead of by individual sections, therefore conditions should be made
as favorable as possible for the completion of all the sections in a
super without the more advanced ones becoming "travel stained." The
bees are more inclined to stain the white surface of the combs toward
the close of the honey flow or during very slow flows. Trouble from
this source is at such time intensified because of the uneven progress
of work in the different sections, the more advanced sections therefore
being sealed some time before the super is sufficiently advanced to
justify its removal. Another form of discoloration is brought about by
the honey being sealed in close proximity to old and dark brood combs,
in which case some of the darker wax from the old combs is sometimes
apparently used for capping the honey.

During a good honey flow all except the last supers may be left upon
the hives until all or nearly all of the sections of honey are sealed,
since (1) there is little trouble from "travel stain" when work is
progressing rapidly, (2) all the sections in the super are ready to be
sealed at about the same time, and (3) when there are several supers on
each hive the one in which the honey is being sealed is at least one
super removed from the brood combs.

Toward the close of the honey flow all supers having most of their
sections finished should be removed and the sections sorted. The
unfinished sections should be graded according to the degree of
completion, the various grades placed in supers and given to such
colonies as are most likely to finish them. Every effort should be made
at this time to contract the surplus apartment, concentrating the work
upon the sections nearest completion. All supers in which work has not
yet been started should be removed and as soon as possible the surplus
apartment of each colony should be reduced to one super. Though little
room is necessary during the close of the honey flow, there should
always be some room for the storage of new nectar until it is ripened.
For such conditions extracting combs are valuable, since, instead of
giving the last comb-honey super in which little work would be done, a
set of extracting combs may be placed over the sections to afford room
for the incoming nectar and comb surface for its ripening.


=Removing the Honey from the Hives.=

If the honey flow is of considerable duration the major portion of the
crop is removed before the flow ceases. At this time the removal of the
finished supers is comparatively easy because the bees can readily be
driven from them and also because the operator is not hindered in his
work by robbing bees. At the close of the honey flow all the supers
remaining upon the hives should be removed promptly, since to leave
them on would result not only in some of the honey being carried down
into the brood chamber but also in badly propolized sections. After
the honey flow has ceased, great care should be exercised to keep bees
from robbing. The use of bee-escapes (fig. 12) greatly facilitates the
removal of the honey at any time, but their use is especially desirable
in removing the honey remaining on the hives at the close of the honey
flow. By their use the honey may be removed and stored in the honey
house with little disturbance or excitement among the bees. The supers
of honey should of course be taken directly to the honey house or kept
well covered[8] from robbers.

[8] Honey from out-apiaries should be loaded for transportation in
such a manner that the bees can not get at it, then before the horse
is hitched to the wagon the load of honey should be drawn by hand some
distance from the apiary if the slope of the ground will permit doing
so. If this is not possible the horse may be attached by means of a
long rope and the load drawn to a safe distance before the horse is
hitched to the wagon.

Before finally storing the supers of honey in the honey room those that
are but partly filled may have their sections removed and sorted. The
unfinished sections that can not be disposed of at a profit locally
are usually put back into supers and the honey they contain is fed to
the bees. This feeding is done by simply exposing the supers where the
flying bees can have access to them. If there are few supers compared
with the number of colonies they should be placed in piles and only
a small entrance allowed, since if free access were given to a large
number of bees they would tear the combs to pieces. When the bees have
finished removing the honey from these unfinished sections the latter
may be stored for future use as "bait" sections.

=Care of Comb Honey.=

In the honey room the supers of honey should be placed in piles in such
a manner as to allow a free circulation of air between them. This may
be done by "sticking them up" as lumber is piled to dry or by placing
alternate supers crosswise. The air in the honey room should be kept
as dry as possible. This is usually accomplished by means of a high
temperature, the honey room being located on the sunny side of the
building or directly under the roof. The windows should be opened only
during dry weather. Ventilation of the honey room is of no value except
when the air that is admitted contains less moisture than that already
present. Otherwise ventilation may be a positive detriment. If a
protracted period of rainy or damp weather should occur while the honey
is in this storage it may be necessary to use artificial heat to dry
the air in the honey room. Any great variation in temperature should be
avoided, since it may cause a condensation of moisture on the surface
of the cappings which will be absorbed by the honey.

Some beekeepers find it necessary to fumigate comb honey to prevent
damage by the larvæ of the wax moth. For this purpose sulphur fumes or
bisulphid of carbon may be used. If bisulphid of carbon is used, great
care should be taken not to bring it near a flame, as it is highly

=Scraping Propolis from Sections.=

Before being packed for market the sections of honey should be removed
from the supers and the wood scraped free of propolis. A convenient
bench should be provided for this work, with a large shallow box or
tray to catch the propolis as it is scraped from the sections. This
work is usually done by hand, though a few producers have designed and
are using machines for this purpose.

=Grading Comb Honey.=

The importance of properly grading and packing comb honey does not seem
to be well understood by the average beekeeper. Some extensive buyers
of comb honey find it profitable to regrade and repack practically all
the comb honey they receive before sending it out to their trade. The
producer of this honey of course bears this extra expense by receiving
a lower price for his honey. The lack of uniformity of grading is to
some extent a result of differences of opinion as to what should be the
standard for the various grades. Grading rules have been of material
aid toward greater uniformity, but various producers may use the same
set of grading rules with very different results. It would be well if
a single set of rules were in use, since honey from various localities
may be sent to the same market. The grading rules in most common use
are given in Farmers' Bulletin 447, page 39.

After scraping the propolis from the wood, each section of honey may
be placed in a pile with others of its grade. Some put the sections
directly into the shipping cases as fast as they are scraped, but
better grading can be done if each grade is put in a separate pile
and the final grading all done by one person. By thus having a large
number of sections in each grade from which to select there is greater
opportunity for making the sections of honey in each case more nearly
uniform as to weight and the various shades of finish. Such uniformity
is especially desirable from the standpoint of the retailer. Sections
containing only a few cells of pollen should be placed in a lower grade
or sold as culls, while those containing a considerable amount of
pollen should not be marketed in the form of comb honey. An excessive
amount of pollen in the sections is usually caused by the use of very
shallow brood combs, extreme contraction of the brood chamber, or
hiving swarms on narrow strips of foundation in the brood frames with
partly drawn comb in the sections (p. 32).

=Packages for Comb Honey.=

Comb honey is usually packed in cases holding 24 sections (fig. 20).
Other sizes are sometimes used to meet special market requirements. The
markets have become accustomed to cases with glass fronts, by means
of which the contents are displayed to advantage. However, in keeping
with present practice in other package goods, considerable comb honey
is now placed on the market having each section inclosed in a carton.
This practice, while losing the advantage of displaying the honey, has
a decided advantage in insuring security from dust and insects while
in the markets as well as greater safety to the fragile comb when the
package is finally delivered to the consumer.

[Illustration: Fig. 20.--Shipping cases for comb honey. (From


Many beekeepers are able to dispose of their entire output of honey
in their local markets, sometimes, creating quite a demand for their
product by advertising and demonstrating. Comb honey that is to be
sent to a distant market should be shipped before cold weather, since
the combs become extremely fragile when cold. Small lots should be
crated in "carriers" holding several cases to prevent breakage by rough
handling of individual cases, while in larger shipments the cases are
simply packed in the car in such a manner that the individual cases can
not be thrown about by the movement of the car.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber Notes

All illustrations were moved so as to not split paragraphs.
Irregularity in hyphenation (for comb-honey vs. comb honey and some
others) has been retained.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "USDA Farmers' Bulletin No. 503: Comb Honey" ***

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