Welcome, Guest

Author Topic: Over half century of bees: past and present honeybees.  (Read 319 times)

Offline van from Arkansas

  • Super Bee
  • *****
  • Posts: 1720
  • Gender: Male
  • Van from Arkansas.
Over half century of bees: past and present honeybees.
« on: February 14, 2020, 08:09:03 pm »
I can distinguish no difference in honeybees today compared to honey bees of the 1950?s.  The bees are basically the same, some gentle, some defensive, however; disease and parasites have totally changed the landscape as the saying goes and beekeeping is not the same as yestercentury.  I have struggled to maintain natural treatment free bees as M. Bush, Cao, others but I have to admit failure as I grew weary of losing hives so I treat with organic acid, Oxalic acid.  However I look up to the treatment free folks with admiration.  But this is not about Varroa nor colony collapse, rather my vision of the honeybees the past many decades.

My story:

Going back to the fifties, yes, the mid nineteenth century, Grandpa had three hives of honeybees when I was born.  The bees were in hollowed oak logs, a bit less than four feet in height, about two and one half feet in diameter with a heavy solid wood roof roof and stood upright, painted white, placed on a concrete slab about ten feet by about four feet.  The inside had smooth sticks placed horizontally to which the bees made their comb.  The upper most sticks containing honey could be removed kinda of crudely I might add.  The hollow log hives were placed about a foot apart, setting under the shade of towering homestead oaks, the honeybees were quite content among the cattle with my favorite cow pond full of perch only forty yards away.  For years the bees remained and not once was I ever stung as I regularly passed the hives to go fishing.  These were gentle yellow striped honeybees.

The honeybees were most important as noted by their concrete slab.  These hives were placed on a concrete slab yet the homestead house did not even have a concrete slab nor concrete sidewalk, no concrete anywhere except for the beehives. The homestead house built in 1904 with the beehives to follow, the origin date I do not know.

These honeybees were self sustaining, self perpetuating and free to swarm.  Never any trouble and zero maintenance.  No disease nor parasites, only wax moth as the only threat.  Yes there were diseases but not known locally.  Honeybees were advertised for sale in the Sears and Roebuck catalog.  Yep, mail order honeybees in the 1960?s but no longer advertised in the Sears catalog 1970?s.  Not sure of the exact dates, I just remember seeing honey bees for sale when a boy looking through the sears catalog.

Grandpa passed on but the homestead farm remained as did the honeybees until my Uncle sold the hives.  Fast forward to my age of thirteen years and my Dad satisfied my desire to have my own beehive.  A local beekeeper delivered the $35 hive, painted silver, yes silver, to our backyard located in Houston Texas.  So, I had the honeybees n my backyard for daily observation.  For hours I would sit and watch the bees, yellow striped Italians I called them.  With only a face veil, smoker and gloves, I managed the hive which swarmed and the single hive soon became three.  For about fifteen years, three hives remained in the backyard.  I had moved along as work and college demanded my time.  Fast forward, no reason to go into the details of my career.

Three beehives would be my limit until about 2010 when a friend talked me into raising queens.  Then everything changed.  Today my limit is 20 hives which is actually difficult to maintain as the honeybees are so prolific.  No more hollow logs as a hive body: rather every hive configuration possible in Langstroth configuration, that is, styrofoam to wood, 10 frame, 5 frame, and 6 frame.  Single deeps, double, triple you name it, I am just having fun with my childhood fascination of honeybees.  Today, I raise queens naturally mated and artificially insemination with traits towards Varroa resistance selecting queens with the fewest mites for grafting.

The honeybees appear the same to me, 1950?s - 2020, no change with the bees; maintainability of hives, has changed drastically.  I have changed drastically also now that I think about it.

Hope I did not bore you with my story of honeybees.

Health to your bees.
I have been around bees a long time, since birth.  I am a hobbyist so my answers often reflect this fact.  I concentrate on genetics, raise my own queens by wet graft, nicot, with natural or II breeding.  I do not sell queens, I will give queens  for free but no shipping.

Offline sawdstmakr

  • Global Moderator
  • Universal Bee
  • *******
  • Posts: 11348
  • Gender: Male
Re: Over half century of bees: past and present honeybees.
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2020, 08:20:13 pm »
Good story Van.
My father ordered bees through the mail in 1974. The post office called and wanted him to come and get them out of the office. Not all of the bees were in the cage. Back then you did not inspect the bees. You installed them and then took honey the bees took care of themselves.
Jim Altmiller

Offline jtcmedic

  • House Bee
  • **
  • Posts: 447
  • Gender: Male
    • Sweetest sting honey
Re: Over half century of bees: past and present honeybees.
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2020, 09:07:40 pm »
Thank you for that wonderful story.

Offline Seeb

  • House Bee
  • **
  • Posts: 410
  • Gender: Female
Re: Over half century of bees: past and present honeybees.
« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2020, 08:06:07 am »
Van -  Is it possible that you have pictures of your grandpa's hives that you could share with us. Sounds like your childhood was full of wonderment.

Offline Bob Wilson

  • Field Bee
  • ***
  • Posts: 573
  • Gender: Male
Re: Over half century of bees: past and present honeybees.
« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2020, 08:34:51 am »
Interesting Can. You grew up with them, while I was completely unaware of beekeeping until a year and a half ago. I am glad you have the memories.

Offline Nock

  • Field Bee
  • ***
  • Posts: 571
  • Gender: Male
Re: Over half century of bees: past and present honeybees.
« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2020, 09:21:38 am »
Great story.  Thanks for posting.

Offline The15thMember

  • Queen Bee
  • ****
  • Posts: 1101
  • Gender: Female
  • Traveler of the Multiverse, Seeker of Knowledge
Re: Over half century of bees: past and present honeybees.
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2020, 11:19:15 am »
Thank you for sharing, Van.  I love to hear about beekeeping back in the good ol' days.   Just yesterday I finished chapter 4 of Thomas Seeley's book The Lives of Bees, and he speaks very much to your point.  He talks about how, in spite of the fact that people have been managing bees in some degree for hundreds, even thousands, of years, they are not really domesticated like a dog or a cow, since it's difficult to control the genetics of the bees due to how they reproduce.  I like how the bees of today are not noticeably different from the bees of yesterday.  It makes me feel connected to the past.  Once I heard somebody on a beekeeping podcast mention how the sensations of opening up a hive, the sounds and the smells and the bees themselves, are not much changed throughout all of history, although as you mentioned, the management style of the beekeepers has changed drastically.     
I come from under the hill, and under the hills and over the hills my paths led.  And through the air, I am she that walks unseen.

Offline van from Arkansas

  • Super Bee
  • *****
  • Posts: 1720
  • Gender: Male
  • Van from Arkansas.
Re: Over half century of bees: past and present honeybees.
« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2020, 04:36:46 pm »
Good story Van.
My father ordered bees through the mail in 1974. The post office called and wanted him to come and get them out of the office. Not all of the bees were in the cage. Back then you did not inspect the bees. You installed them and then took honey the bees took care of themselves.
Jim Altmiller


Exactly, well said Jim.  The bees took care of themselves, back then...

Thanks for all the kind remarks, fellas and Ms Member.

Van
I have been around bees a long time, since birth.  I am a hobbyist so my answers often reflect this fact.  I concentrate on genetics, raise my own queens by wet graft, nicot, with natural or II breeding.  I do not sell queens, I will give queens  for free but no shipping.