Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

 
 
A. Pettigrew's "The Handy Book of Bees"
(S166: 1870)

 
Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A book review printed in the 2 June 1870 issue of Nature. Original pagination indicated within double brackets. To link directly to this page connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S166.htm


The Handy Book of Bees, being a Practical Treatise on their Profitable Management.
By A. Pettigrew. (William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh and London.)

     [[p. 82]] This book will be invaluable to the beginner in beekeeping, and will probably contain many useful hints to the more experienced. The author is one of a family of beekeepers, who have always made a large profit from their bees. He is eminently practical, and the greater part of the work consists of careful notes on the various details of successful bee management. In the descriptive parts he is also very good, but is not quite so successful when he comes to treat of some disputed points in the economy of bees. For example, he maintains the theory that the eggs of bees are of no sex, and can be made into queens, workers, or drones, as the wants of the community render necessary. In this he is opposed to all the great authorities who have studied bees; and he even gives a series of letters from Mr. Woodbury, of Exeter, on the question, which are almost conclusive as to eggs being of two sorts when laid, one producing drones only, and not capable by any subsequent treatment of producing anything else; the other capable of producing workers or queens, according to the treatment they receive. His arguments against this view are of the weakest, and he suggests an experiment, which, he says, "is within the reach of very inexperienced persons," and which would completely settle the question; and yet he writes a book in which he brings up the subject, and opposes the best authorities, without having first taken the trouble to make the experiment himself! Again, he states positively that worker-bees live nine months only--never more; yet he gives no account of how this can be ascertained, or refers to the variety of opinion that exists as to their longevity.

     As an example of the valuable matter in the practical part of the work, we quote his recipe for fumigation. "A few puffs of smoke from a bit of corduroy or fustian rolled up like a candle, stupefies and terrifies bees so much that they run to escape from its power. Tobacco smoke is more powerful still, but it has a tendency to make bees dizzy, and reel like a drunken man; besides, it is far more expensive, and less handy. Old corduroy or fustian is better than new, unless the matter used to stiffen it be completely washed out. The stiffening matter won't burn. The old worn-out and castaway fustian and corduroy clothes of labouring men cannot be surpassed for the purpose of stupefying bees. Let me ask the most timid beekeeper in the country to try it. Get a piece the size of a man's hand, rolled up rather tight, and fired at one end--not to blaze, but simply to smoke. Let him now place the smoking end so close to the door of a hive that all the smoke may go in when he blows on it. After six or eight puffs have been sent into the hive, let him lift it off the board, turn it gently over upside down, so that the bees and combs stare him in the face. [[p. 83]] By holding and moving the smoking ends of the rags over the face of the bees and blowing the smoke among them, they run helter skelter down amongst the combs far more afraid than hurt. Now he can carry the hive round the garden under his arm without being stung. Whenever the bees are likely to rise they should be dosed again. The bee-keeper will now find he has got the mastery over his bees, and can do what he likes with them. He will be able to drive them out of a hive full of combs into an empty one, and moreover shake them back, or tumble them back, or spoonful them back into the old hive or another, as men take peas from one basket to another. The smoke does not injure the health of the bees, does not stop them from work more than two or three minutes, and the use of it is so simple, easy, and efficacious, that we have no wish to find anything better for stupefying bees."

     Hives, their material, size and position; their covers, boards, supers, ekes and nadirs; the times and modes of swarming bees artificially; how to feed them, and how to take the honey; how to combine separate hives, and how best to preserve them during winter, with many other details of bee-management, will be found so fully and clearly described, and with such good reasons for every step, that we think this work may do much to render profitable beekeeping far more common than it seems to be at present.

A. R. Wallace


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