A Guide to the Best Methods of Beekeeping

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From the Vintage Publication:
“The American Apiculturist.” (1885)
A Journal Devoted to Scientific and Practical Beekeeping.

By J. L. Christ.

R. F. Holterman, Translator.


It is a principle in beekeeping if one desires to derive a benefit from his bees, to see that one keeps very populous colonies. The mere number of colonies has nothing to do with amount of value; but their strength, the number of inhabitants in a hive, is the measure of its worth. One single populous colony is worth more and will store more honey than four weak ones. In fourteen days the one will bring in more honey than the four will in four weeks.

I place a strong colony at 40,000 working bees; of these 13,000 to 16,000 can daily fly out and bring in stores; the remainder stay at home to care for the brood, to build comb, and to perform such other duties as may be required of them.

Of four weak colonies, however, each calculated at 12,000 workers, only 4,000 can fly out leaving 8,000 at home. These four colonies together not only cannot send to the fields as many workers as the one strong one, but they also labor under many disadvantages.

It may be good weather for eight days and the flow of honey abundant and the strong colony may in that time gather all its winter stores, but the weak ones can take only sufficient advantage to gather at most one-fourth of the required stores. If unfavorable weather should follow, and the flow of honey cease, the strong colony is supplied and the four weak ones are lost in the winter if they be not fed, which latter is associated with much expense, trouble and inconvenience and even then often fails, not to mention the facts that the weaker ones cannot depend upon themselves as well against robbers, moths, ants, etc.; and in winter they cannot maintain the proper warmth as well, are more liable to be frozen, and are less able to stand the changes in temperature.

They cannot rear brood as early as the strong one and there are many advantages the strong one has over the weaker, one of the most prominent of which is that the strong one displays more energy and is more industrious than the weaker.


As important and well known as the fact now is of having the colonies strong, one cannot make them so if they are kept in the common, simple straw basket where one does nothing but destroy in a slovenly way, especially farmers. In the fall they take the heaviest and lightest colonies and in a sinful and thoughtless manner kill and smother its inhabitants thus doing themselves a deliberate injury, as if they permitted these useful creatures, these patterns of industry, to live, they would gain far more.

I once saw a beekeeper take a very heavy colony consisting of two colonies which in swarming clustered together, and smother them, because he thought that owing to the large number of bees the colony might not have enough winter stores. Yes! a clown of a fellow actually burned with straw his young swarms, because they came rather late. But I do not intend to occupy my time describing the wrong mode of keeping bees, as through the length and breadth of the land this has been so passionately spoken of and they will learn, only as matters progress, to adopt a better mode of beekeeping.


If one wishes to build up populous colonies, one must commence by controlling swarming: namely, swarming often. To do this, one must provide roomy dwellings and those that can be enlarged gradually; without this the object would fail. If one should give the bees a large dwelling at once they would become discouraged and would not half fill the hive and there would be many other disadvantages.

The dwelling must also be arranged in such a manner that the bees can be handled with ease and without damage to the bees, or ever to have to destroy the latter to enjoy the product of their industry and control their surplus in honey and wax.

All this is required; but now as to the care of the “magazine.”

As the bees conduct their domestic affairs within a limited space and they from time to time according to the demands of time, attentions, etc., are increased or diminished, one generally makes them of straw (at least I have seen no others) and lathes which are very useful, if not too large (as they generally are); nevertheless, these straw “storing cases” have several drawbacks which I have found by observation and manipulation. Thus, some years ago, I conceived the idea of making, as far as possible, those that were more complete and convenient; to that end I made wooden four-cornered hives of boards and put in the same at least one pane of glass which, although only costing but little, is of inestimable value.

I improved on these until I found the most useful and convenient to handle.

The samples that I have I not only had myself for several years, but I also made some for good friends, and others made copies of them and their great value makes me recommend them unhesitatingly. These hives are very little more expensive than straw (if they are made plain and cheap), they last longer, are better and more convenient and can be made anywhere, while men who can make straw hives are often difficult to get.

One should not allow himself to be frightened into thinking they are too expensive, when conducting an extensive bee business; or that, if one begins with them, the profits will soon disappear.

I will just describe their completeness and their general utility and their advantages over the straw hive, more especially for the purpose of giving guidance how to make them of the greatest use in beekeeping.

Rodheim, Germany, July, 1783.

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