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Bees in Borneo and Timor (S145b: 1869)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A personal letter to an unnamed ('a Devonshire bee-keeper') correspondent as part of the latter's communication to the Editor of the Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener, Country Gentleman, Bee-keeper, and Poultry Chronicle in its issue of 29 April 1869, appearing on page 301. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S145B.htm

    "In Borneo and Timor the wax forms an important article of commerce. The combs hang on the under side of horizontal limbs of lofty trees, often one hundred feet from the ground.

"I have seen three together as above, and they are often four feet in diameter. The natives of Timor I have seen take them. They climb up a tree carrying a smoke torch made of a split creeper bound up in palm leaves, and hanging by a rope from their waist. They cover up their body and hair carefully, but their arms and legs are bare. The smoke directed on the comb makes the bees fly off in a cloud as the man approaches. He sweeps off the remainder with his hand and then cuts off the comb with a large knife, and lets it down to his companions below by a thin cord. He is all the time surrounded by a cloud of bees, and though the smoke no doubt partly stupefies them, he must be severely stung. While looking on from a considerable distance a few came down and attacked me, and I did not get rid of them till I was half a mile from the place and had caught them all, one by one, in my insect net. The sting is very severe. I should imagine that in Timor the dry season answers to our winter, as the drought is very severe and much of the foliage is deciduous. Eucalypti are the most common trees, and their flowers I suspect supply the bees with their honey. In Borneo combs are placed in a somewhat similar manner, perhaps formed by the same species. The only bee I have seen domesticated in the East is one at Malacca; the natives hang up bamboos and hollow logs for it; but it is, I believe, not a true Apis, as it makes clusters of large oval shells of black wax."

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