Bees And Beekeeping

A Master Beekeeper Shares His Experience

We will from time to time be publishing articles from a master beekeeper in our Beekeeping Resources section written by W.C. Harbison.  Below is an introduction to Mr. Harbison and his experience and insights into the fascinating hobby of beekeeping.

Mr Harbison, having been taught from youth to work with bees, ever admiring their great sagacity, industry and perseverance, and desiring to turn their industry to ac­count as a matter of profit, directed all his efforts to acquire a correct knowledge of their habits, wants and requirements necessary to continued prosperity and profit.

He observed years ago, that when the seasons were fa­vorable for producing abundance of honey, bees invariably flourished and increased rapidly, yielding large returns of surplus honey, bidding defiance to parasites and all other enemies, being evidently prosperous and happy; but when scarcity prevailed, the very reverse of this condition of things was true; adversity took the place of prosperity–some would starve, others would fall a prey to their enemies. The succession of honey producing flowers has been materially influenced by the clearing up and bringing under cultivation of our lands, essentially changing the condition of things, affecting the prosperity of bees at certain seasons of the year, in about the same ratio that it has cattle or other stock which was permitted to run in the woods, with this difference, that for all other stock provision has been made to suit the change of circumstances, but for bees no care has been manifested, hence they have been steadily decreasing in numbers until the fact becomes apparent, that without a change of policy in this direction they will eventually become extinct; or at least prevent beekeeping from assuming any importance, because of its uncertainty.

This state of facts led him to inquire, what could be done to render beekeeping as reliable and certain in its results as other rural pursuits. Having examined all the works on bee culture he could procure, all failed to point out a practical plan to feed bees, or supply them with a uniform succession of flowers, or pasturage, sufficient to keep them as prosperous as when wild flowers abounded. We are told, it is true, to feed them a little in the field to keep them from starving through the winter or early spring; but they rather discountenance feeding for any other purpose or providing pasturage with a view to keep them con­stantly advancing from spring to fall. Being well assured that it would pay better to keep bees employed from early spring until fall, than to let them remain idle for want of something to do, he adopted the plan of either feeding or cultivated such crops as would furnish them with abundant supplies. He put his plan into practice, both in Pennsylvania and California, with much success.