Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Bee Hunting.

Michel-Guillaume-Jean de Crevecoeur. 1735-1813.

Life on the Frontier. 18th century. Bee Hunting.
I take with me my dog,
as a companion, for he is useless as to this game; my gun, for no
man you know ought to enter the woods without one; my blanket, some
provisions, some wax, vermilion, honey, and a small pocket compass.

With these implements I proceed to such woods as are at a
considerable distance from any settlements. I carefully examine
whether they abound with large trees, if so, I make a small fire on
some flat stones, in a convenient place; on the fire I put some wax;
close by this fire, on another stone, I drop honey in distinct
drops, which I surround with small quantities of vermilion, laid on
the stone; and then I retire carefully to watch whether any bees
appear. If there are any in that neighbourhood, I rest assured that
the smell of the burnt wax will unavoidably attract them; they will
soon find out the honey, for they are fond of preying on that which
is not their own; and in their approach they will necessarily tinge
themselves with some particles of vermilion, which will adhere long
to their bodies. I next fix my compass, to find out their course,
which they keep invariably straight, when they are returning home
loaded. By the assistance of my watch, I observe how long those are
returning which are marked with vermilion. Thus possessed of the
course, and, in some measure, of the distance, which I can easily
guess at, I follow the first, and seldom fail of coming to the tree
where those republics are lodged. I then mark it; and thus, with
patience, I have found out sometimes eleven swarms in a season; and
it is inconceivable what a quantity of honey these trees will
sometimes afford. It entirely depends on the size of the hollow, as
the bees never rest nor swarm till it is all replenished; for like
men, it is only the want of room that induces them to quit the
maternal hive. Next I proceed to some of the nearest settlements,
where I procure proper assistance to cut down the trees, get all my
prey secured, and then return home with my prize. The first bees I
ever procured were thus found in the woods, by mere accident; for at
that time I had no kind of skill in this method of tracing them. The
body of the tree being perfectly sound, they had lodged themselves
in the hollow of one of its principal limbs, which I carefully sawed
off and with a good deal of labour and industry brought it home,
where I fixed it up again in the same position in which I found it
growing. This was in April; I had five swarms that year, and they
have been ever since very prosperous. This business generally takes
up a week of my time every fall, and to me it is a week of solitary
ease and relaxation.


Gorges Smythe said...

You can't do it here anymore since imported parasites have wiped out the wild bees.

Le Loup said...

Sad to hear that.

Theresa Bruno said...

Gorges, where do you live? In Indiana, there are plenty of feral bees. I prefer "tame" ones myself.


Le Loup said...

Theresa, thanks for your comment and link.