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Prospecting For Bees

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

In this article it is the intention of the writer to explain the manner in which the sport of hunting the wild bee is pursued, and I wish to explain it in such a way that the amateur may understand. If I am able to give some old bee hunters a pointer, my object in writing this will have been attained.

In hunting the wild honey bees as I hunt them, the following articles are necessary: A box 8 inches long, 3 inches wide and 2- inches deep, with a cover fitting loosely and down over the box one-half inch. Be sure your cover fits so as to exclude the light, but not tight enough to stick. In the center of the cover, cut a 1 1/2 inch hole and in this fit a circular piece of glass and wax it tight. Take a piece of comb that which has been used as brood comb and fit it nicely in your box. The reason I use brood comb is because it is heavier and tougher and the bees cannot break it so easily as they would a lighter comb.

Your box is now complete. Next you will need bait. Do not use clear honey, but dilute the honey by using two parts of cold tea to one part pure honey. Tea gives the bait a flavor very much liked by bees, for they will leave pure honey to take it. I also used a good scent which I think is of great value, especially if I have to drop a line by reason of a sudden storm or night coming on too soon.

We will suppose the season is early fall, and the flowers have become so scarce that Mr. Bee must do considerable hunting. Now select your locality, if possible in some opening in the woods. At this time of the year, look for bees on catnip, golden rod or fire weed. Having found them, select your bee; if Italian, take one that is fully developed, that has two or three distinct yellow bands. This indicates that he is an old worker, and will load heavy. Now be careful in the way you go about getting this bee. Take the box in one hand and the cover in the other hand ; slip the box under the bee and care-fully move the cover over him. Bring box and cover together so as to brush the bee into the box. If this operation is a success, the bee will appear on the glass in an endeavor to escape. Now darken the glass with the palm of your hand and in the meantime find a stump or some other elevation three, four or five feet from the ground and set the box on it. Now cautiously move the hand that covers the glass and if the bee has settled, proceed to lift the cover off the box. Be careful not to jar the box and move the cover away from it so that the incoming light will represent the passing of a cloud before the sun.

Now get back a rod or two from the box and sit down and watch your box. The bee will come out, examine the box and its surroundings, and will then go back in again, this time to fill with all he can carry. Now notice the direction in which the bee circles, as that will indicate the direction the line will take when you get them going. Keep still and wait until the bee has been gone ten minutes and you will see him coming again, evidently very much excited over his find. Notice the wide circles of his flight; they are for a purpose as you will soon see, for there is an-other bee with him. They fill and go in perhaps a like direction for it will take about one or two hours for them to get down to business. By that time bees will be at the box by the dozen and will leave the box without a circle, and one can see them for twenty rods or more. Now you can stand beside the box, for they are too busy to fear you. See that the box has plenty of bait and if near the woods take the line and examine it closely. If you don't find them, put cover on box with as many bees in it as possible, and move so as to have both lines meet. This will put them on an acre of ground. When you move and uncover box, set up high on stump or pole, but don't keep box covered more than three minutes.

Here are some things you must consider in hunting bees: The time of the year, the amount of lowers in bloom, and the lay of the land, and the kind of bees, Italian or black. Remember that the old saying "straight as a bee line" is not always true, as I lined one swarm of bees for miles Which formed almost a perfect square, and I found the bees not-over 30 rods from where I started.

When bees are heavily loaded, they will seek the protection of heavy timber and of ravines. In this way they do not have to travel against strong winds. Bees prefer to locate near water. Their color indicates the kind of timber they are in. In pine, white wood, chestnut you will find light colored bees, and in oak, beech, maple, the bees will be dark if they have been there for two or three months: One must know their nature to successfully hunt them.

Bees can be hived from their watering places. This can be most successfully done in the months of July, August and September or while they are raising brood. When there are young bees, a few are at work carrying water to the brood. Dry summers or when there is but little water is the best time for this method of bee hunting.

Hunters, trappers, guides and others who are in the forests during the early spring months, when the snow is still on, search the snow care-fully under all likely looking trees. The time for this is the first warm days as after venturing out they often get cold and drop. This method, of course, is-only good in the north where the snow gets deep.

Honey and beeswax are cash articles and the prospector, land cruiser, trapper, hunter, etc., may be able to make a few dollars by "prospecting" for bees during idle moments. A little honey and beeswax in camp comes in useful.

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