More Bees

From the book “How Dear to My Heart” by Walter Kilborn Billings


It was nearly the last week of haying. Father and a neighbour, Chris Bateson, had done this work together on both farms, and I drove the rake.

1874 Advertisement for a Ithaca Steel Horse Rake

This day we were on our neighbour’s farm, and I was following the wagon, cleaning up the rakings.  I remember I had gone over a small clump of grass and had wondered why the mower had missed it, when all at once my horse started to switch his tail, kick and shake his head. I did not realize what was wrong until I felt a sting on my bare leg, and looking down, saw a swarm of bumble bees. My rake was about half-full of hay, which was rolling over and over in front of the teeth, and each time it came over, more bees came from it. I had raked into the nest, pulled it into the hay, and was rolling out more bees at each turning. By this time my horse had started to run away, so I dumped out the hay and away we went down the fields. Fortunately there was noting in the way, so I hung on and let him run guiding him enough that we finally came to a high rail fence, and I got him stopped. We had left the bees still flying around the hay, and next day I went over and burned or smoked them out.

The foundry man in Lyn was of an inventive mind. One day he had been out in the country delivering a cultivator, and in the deal had secured three hives of honey bees. Bringing them home, he had placed them on a long bench at the edge of the garden.

Later on he was called form the shop with the news that he bees were swarming, and going to the garden found the whole swarm had lodged on the limb of an elm tree about ten feet from the ground. Backing up his spring wagon under them and placing a couple of packing boxes in it, he fastened a market basket on a short pole, tied a cord to the end to the limb and climbed up on the boxes. He held the basket under the bees and started jerking the cord, the bees dropping in bunches into the basket. All went well until he made a misstep, tipped over the boxes and fell on the floor of the wagon, with the basket of bees tipping over on him. I was talking to his son a short time ago. He gave me a part of the story, but he said he ran from the scene as his father fell, so that he could not remember any remarks that came from the occupant of that wagon !

There always seemed to be a fascination for some people in keeping bees, and my partner decided he was going into the bee business. Procuring one hive to start with, he placed it in his garden, under a small apple tree, between the house and barn. The weather turned warm and one day his bees swarmed, and lit in a limb of the apple tree. He had prepared for this event, had a large straw hat fixed up, with a netting around the rim and a cord to tie it around the neck. He had tied cord around the legs of his trousers at his boot-tops, his wife had placed a pair of leather gauntlets on his hands, tying them tightly at his wrists, and he was ready to get the swarm into the new hive already placed in position.

Stepping up to the limb he proceeded to shake it gently, the bees dropping around the hive, and some, of course, dropping around his boots. He was careful not to step on them. All at once he started to yell, and ran for the house. In moving around he had stepped on one of the ends of the bow-knot of the cord tied around his trouser leg, loosened it, and the bees had crawled up inside stinging him around the waist-band. He was met at the door by his wife, who told him not to come in there as the baby was asleep in the kitchen.

Then he turned and started for the barn but remembering his horse was loose inside, he again turned, ran out to the street and across the canal. His hat by this time had come off and was hanging behind his head with the netting still over his face. At that time the steps to the work shop were outside the main building, and up these steps he ran and into the room above. Wondering what the mater was, I followed him. Then he yelled “Don’t come in here”

He found a wood chisel, cut the strings on his gauntlets and the one on the other pant leg and finally got those trousers off and beat off the bees that still insisted on staying with him. Finally he went home and to bed. There were over twenty stings around his waist ! His wife had to go to the druggist for a remedy, but he was quite ill for a day or two.

Later he decided that bee-keeping was not in his line, and made someone else happy with his bees.