Chapter Eleven: Beekeeping in the New World
An account, by Cal Walthour, of the early years of the Community, of beekeeping for the Community, and of beekeeping in the New World, with a clear explanation of his beekeeping methods, based on those of C. C. Miller.
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Beekeeping in the New World

by Cal Walthour as told to Beth Godwin

I have been asked to first explain how I met up with the Community, and how I got started beekeeping.

Elmer likes to say that he was a part of the Community from the very beginning. That's true, but I was there when they got off the boat.

My father was a farmer in Central Pennsylvania, down the valley from the Community. I can remember the day when Charles Woods and some other men first stopped by our farmhouse to get some help. I was a teenager at the time. It seems that they were all businessmen who had bought a large farm north of us, and they intended to farm there, but they didn't know the first thing about farming.

As I learned the story much later, they and others had all belonged to an outing club that would make a trip every weekend to a different part of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, or New England in order to hike, bike, canoe, or skate, but mainly to hike in the woods and mountains. Every Saturday night, while in their lodgings, the men would get involved in long discussions. They all liked Nature and the outdoors, they all read books by Thoreau, Burroughs, and Grayson, and in spite of their occupations, they all had a belief that human society was gradually getting further and further away from the ideal life. They held a lot of friendly debates about what the world could and should be like instead. One day, Charles Woods challenged the rest of them. He pointed out that they had all been making good money during the flush times of the 20's, and he also pointed out that such times would not last forever, another panic was bound to come alone. Right then, the Germans were really suffering because their economy had collapsed, and Woods had predicted that the same was going to happen in the United States fairly soon because the world was very unstable. He suggested that they pool their money together, use it to purchase some farmland at reasonable cost, and create just the kind of community that they had been talking about.

The idea wasn't accepted immediately, but it wasn't dropped either. It actually caused a rift between those who liked the idea and those who didn't, with those liking the idea the most wanting to spend their weekends hunting for a farm.

After they bought the farm, nothing happened for a while, and then Mr. Woods and his wife moved into the farmhouse, hired some people, and began to buy livestock, set out trees, and plant fields. We thought it was kind of funny, because they didn't have a clue as to which animals to buy, trees to set out, or crops to plant. Their knowledge was all book knowledge. However, the work gave us all steady employment, because they didn't know how to work either. We finally recognized that some of their crazy ideas actually worked, and they finally recognized that a book doesn't tell you everything.

Then, they started having us build cottages around the place, small things really, and they didn't wire them for electricity or install plumbing. They told us that they were going to live in the cottages and use the farmhouse for meals. (The farmhouse did have electricity, plumbing, and a telephone.) After a few years, there were about a dozen families living in cottages and eating their dinners at the big house. They had a school in the farmhouse during the day, and a sizable library too.

At first, they ate meat just like everyone else, and they even had some pigs, which they got the work hands to slaughter. One day they announced that they had agreed that each person must kill his own meat, and that was the end of meat-eating. After a few years, they sold off the pigs, as no one was eating them.

For a few years, the men would have evening meetings and decide on everything they wanted to do, but some of their decisions must have displeased their wives, because the women one day marched into the meeting as a group and announced that they were going to be a part of the meetings and would vote with the men from then on.

In the beginning, they all had fine touring cars and would go on trips all the time, and they wore fancy clothing all the time. Gradually, they began wearing simple clothing more and more, and the cars were used less and less. When the stock market crash occurred, they quit using the cars on a regular basis, and then finally pooled them for everyone to use. In addition, they had begun to work in their own fields and gardens some. As the depression got worse, new people from the cities kept coming out and joining them. They bought up surrounding farms whenever they could, and in a couple of cases, they took over the care of elderly people in exchange for the deeds to the farms.

I think the original idea was to make money as farmers, but during the depression, they couldn't hope to compete with surrounding farmers, who were hurting as it was, so they adopted a new goal, of supplying all their own needs. They bought spinning wheels, looms, and sewing machines. They raised sheep for wool and flax for linen. They planted every kind of fruit and vegetable that they would want to eat. They learned how to freeze, can, and dry food. They started building their own outbuildings and cottages. They even started making shoes.

You would have thought that this would mean that they would no longer be needing any hired help, but since their numbers were increasing, and they knew that we weren't prospering, they continued to let people work for them. Some of the local people even moved into their community and adopted their ways.

My connection to them was largely based on a hive of bees. It seems that when Mr. Woods visited my father, he noticed a hive of bees in the yard and asked who was taking care of them. My father indicated me. Now actually, at the time, I really didn't know much about working bees, but I was the only person who wasn't afraid of them (we had black bees, which were bad about stinging). So, Mr. Woods asked me to be his beekeeper.

It seems that he had been dreaming about beehives for some time, and he had books by Dadant, Root, Miller, and Phillips on beekeeping, which he knew almost by heart and expected me to read. In addition, I soon learned that he intended for the two of us to make all of the beehives and some of the equipment. Before he had been living in the farmhouse very long, he had a sawshop built for him in an outbuilding, and he purchased lumber to make the hives.

Now, I had already had enough experience with our one beehive to know that things could be done a little better. That hive had bee glue and combs stuck everywhere, and some of the frames weren't straight, and as a result, the bees got furious every time I opened the hive. We also had a lot of trouble with swarming, as nearly every year, the bees swarmed, and we got little honey. The books by Charles Dadant and C. C. Miller suggested solutions to these problems.

Dadant would have us build a hive with deeper frames and more of them, so the bees could all be in one hive body, and Miller would have us build frames that touched each other nowhere, except with spacers, and with the spacing being a scant quarter inch. So, I suggested to Mr. Woods that we follow their suggestions. I thought he would think that I was crazy, but instead he was delighted. He suggested only one change: Dadant's hive contained eleven frames, and he suggested making it square, so it would hold twelve frames plus two of Miller's dummy boards.

So, that is what we did, as an experiment. We built five hives, set them up, ordered package bees, and installed them. The new hives were a delight to work with. By the way, when I say "we," you should understand that Mr. Woods was the person who supervised, and I was the person who did nearly all the work. But actually, he was a very friendly man and very helpful, so his supervision was more help than bother. I don't think I could have cut those beehives and frames out without him, because I had no experience with a table saw. On the other hand, he told me that he wouldn't have been able to do the job alone either. We made a good pair.

We built those hives up into a big apiary within the next few years, and they supplied the Community with all the honey they needed from then on. I also put a smaller apiary on our farm, which supplied our family with honey, and which was used for splitting hives from the main apiary (when a hive is split without leaving the bee yard, all of the older bees will return to the old location, thus it is better to move the whole hive to a distant yard before splitting).

During the depression, I could always find enough work at the Community, but the pay was not high. Mary and I were able to get married on what I made, but we lived with my parents. During the war, I started working in a factory in Pittsburgh, which paid a good bit more but kept me separated from my family. I also had to give up beekeeping.

After the war, a cousin got me a job with the road department, which I liked very much. We would be finished by two o'clock each day, unless there was some real problem. I really needed to work full-time too, as my folks and Mary's folks were beginning to need help. After some years, we moved Mary's parents in with mine, and we had four people in poor health to care for. My regular salary enabled us to afford help, although we did go into debt from the medical expenses involved.

In the beginning, I had seen the members of the Community as being rather silly in their habits. I had felt their abstention from smoking and meat eating, and their stress on regular walks and bicycle rides as being rather foolish, but having to cope with sick parents while people of the same age in the Community were in good health and having to watch my own health decline while men my own age in the Community were feeling robust, I began to ask questions. Mary and I soon began taking regular walks, and although we never gave up on meat and potatoes, we began eating more vegetables and fruit every day. It was especially important for us to take care of ourselves because we had others who were dependent on us.

I thought, after the war, that the Community would not want me to keep bees any more, as they had been taking care of the bees during that period. However, they had been very satisfied with my beekeeping and said that I had an understanding of the bees which none of them had acquired. While I was gone, the number of hives had decreased, the amount of honey had decreased, and the amount of stinging had increased. I don't think I had any magical ability. Following C. C. Miller's method, I kept a record of each colony, I equalized the hives during the spring and the fall, and I raised queens from the strongest and best tempered colonies, although I also purchased queens every few years to avoid inbreeding. So, I continued to work the bees, but someone else would saw out the hive equipment and do most of the assembly work, whenever new equipment was needed. Then as time passed, and the number of people we needed to care for at home declined, we gradually began to engage in activities that we had dropped, and I began to assemble the bee equipment more and more.

My parents, Mary's parents, and Charles and Elizabeth Woods all died during the fifties. Charles died last, in '59 at the age of 89. He had been in good health right up to the end. I continued to work with the road department to repay debts while working part-time on our own farm, and taking care of the bees for the Community. I planned to retire when I was 65, which would be in '73. After her mother died, Mary started helping me with the bee equipment, and one day she suggested that she work the bees with me. That was quite a surprise, but Mary took to beekeeping, although I think she got started just because she didn't like being alone in the house all the time. She also made friends in the Community and started spending time there when I was not around. We had some good years in the late 50's and early 60's, with our work on the bees and around the farm.

The discovery of the New World ended up changing our lives as it had those of others. I was offered the opportunity of starting beehives for every community in the New World. I would also be responsible for teaching others how to manage those beehives. I pointed out to them that I was nearly 60 years old, and that I was no longer able to perform back-breaking work all day long. They assured me that they would get me plenty of help, and that I could concentrate on whatever work best suited me. They also promised Mary and me that they would take care of us in our old age, which was an important consideration, considering what we had been through with our own parents. We did have one son, but he left home as soon as possible, and we seldom heard from him. We didn't even know how to get in touch with him. However, to be on the safe side, I decided to continue working until I was 60, so we would have social security and a small pension to fall back on if necessary.

We went down to Alabama and the New World in the spring of 1967 (year three) to install the first bee hives, as Beth has already explained. One detail that she included which might be misunderstood was when she said that we used rough-cut lumber for the bee stands. That might give a reader the impression that these were crude stands. Nothing could be further from the truth. They were carefully cut, so they could be assembled quickly. They were "rough-cut" only in the sense that the outsides of the boards were rough rather than planed. Another thing which she did not mention was that we also set up two hives on the Founder's farm. These hives were to be used for our queen mothers in the spring.

We returned in the fall to equalize the hives and to make sure that they had enough stores for the winter.

In the spring of 1968 (year 4), the real work began. The task was to begin three new bee yards near Seven Cedars, Quarry, and Brown Swiss. I had been promised that when we arrived, we would find waiting for us a cottage to live in, built next to our first bee yard, a building to build hives in, assembled hives (except for the beeswax foundation, which we wanted to install ourselves anyway), and three new complete bee yards, each with its own shed and loading platform. We were cutting it rather close, but I had to work until nearly my last day, although I did get off a little early due to accumulated sick leave. We planned to begin our operations by April 1 (Virgo, Earth the second).

I got six of my best queens, based on records from the previous year, from their hives and replaced them with some queens which I had overwintered in nuc boxes (a "nuc" box holds a smaller number of frames than a regular hive). Then we left our home, carrying with us the possessions we wanted the most. Friends promised to watch our house until we decided whether we wanted to sell it or return home.

In the New World, we found, to our pleasant surprise, that everything was waiting for us. The house had been put together just as we wanted. We had a nice building for assembling hives, which I had planned myself, and while not every hive was completely assembled, the work was far enough along that we wouldn't run out of boxes at any time. We would have plenty of time to install the combs in the evenings while working on the bees. I went around to check the new yards, and everything was in readiness there except for the placing of the hive stands.

Our helpers were Jan and Bob Rhines, who were interested in working with the bees full time. They were a very young couple that I knew from the Community, and they had helped me with the bees before back in Pennsylvania. In fact, they told me that they were in one of the classes I taught on honey bees, although I had forgotten. They were the ones who had assembled the equipment, using jigs, sample frames and boxes, and the instructions I had sent down for that purpose.

The first task was to look at the hives we had created the previous year to see what condition they were in. Although in the spring, we usually equalize the hives, here we had a different objective. We carefully noted how strong each colony was in terms of frames of brood, and we transferred combs of honey to make sure that no colony was in danger of starvation (one's best hives often starve in the spring due to early brood rearing). We also added feeders with a sack of sugar each to speed the development of the colonies (I used a sloppy method of feeding: one sack of sugar and no more water than would soak into the sugar). Fortunately, the weather was mild, and the bees were busy bringing in loads of light-yellow, orange-yellow, and yellow-green pollen. We had carried down some soy flour to use as pollen substitute, but it was never used. In fact, the combs had plenty of pollen in them from the preceding fall.

The second task was to divide the two colonies near the station into six nuc hives, each with four combs. Each nuc was given one of the queens that I had brought down and a feeder. These bees were bringing in yellow, orange, and red pollen. I gave two of the nucs a frame which was unwired and which contained a partial strip of beeswax foundation. The queens, lacking room to lay within these small nucs, would quickly fill these new combs with eggs. We had told Beth that we would bring only eggs into the New World, but we did get her to agree to allow us to bring the eggs in on small strips of new comb, which saved a lot of work for these tired eyes.

Third, we added beeswax foundation to twelve new empty hives, moved them to the bee yard, and stacked them near the strongest colony.

Our plan was to use the six strongest colonies for increase, the next six strongest colonies to support them, and the eight weakest colonies to supply comb as necessary and brood when possible.

Four days after adding foundation to the nucs at the station, we opened the strongest colony, searched and found the queen, and used her to replace the queen in one of the weakest colonies. We then removed from the hive any frames containing eggs or young brood, and replaced every empty comb or honey comb with a comb of capped brood from one of the other strong colonies. We also made sure that the feeder still had a good supply of sugar in it. Now, I went back to the station and removed the new frames from the nucs, giving two other nucs a new frame with foundation to draw out, and filling the empty spaces in the first two nucs with the frames from the second two. From each of the two combs, I cut a strip which included eggs just about to hatch. I destroyed two-thirds of the eggs, leaving one in every three cells. Then these strips of combs were carried to the New World and tacked onto the bottom of a comb which I had previously prepared by cutting two inches off of the bottom. As prepared, the about-to-hatch eggs were hanging straight down at the bottom of the comb, the perfect place for queen cells. I then opened the queenless hive, removed the two dummy boards at the end, pushed the combs to each end, and placed my prepared frame between them. The bees, of course, quickly created queen cells from these eggs, which were in the perfect position for queen cells and on soft, new comb.

A few days later, I returned to ensure that the cells were being prepared and to destroy any other queen cells found in the hive. Then, we left the hive alone until the ninth day, when the queen cells would be ready. Of course, before that colony was ready, we had performed the same operation on the second colony, and so on, but I will just follow the fate of this first one. On the ninth day, in the late evening, so the bees wouldn't fly, we put each of the combs from the colony into a separate hive, attaching one queen cell to each one. We also added one frame of brood to each from the six medium strength colonies and one other comb, with honey if possible, from the weakest colonies. We then moved these bees after dark on the streetcar to the new yard, and installed them on their stands. Each new colony was given a feeder and a sack of sugar. The queen in each new hive, after she had hatched, would fly and mate with the drones raised by previous queens. Two weeks later, we returned to ensure that the queens were laying. If a queen was laying and had a good pattern, we added one comb of sealed brood. If the queen was not laying or did not have a good pattern, we killed the queen and carried the combs and bees back to help start new colonies. (A good pattern means that nearly every cell in the comb has a worker of the same age as all the others. A queen that leaves behind empty cells is defective.) After a while, a few of the new colonies were carried back into the old yard.

A little math will determine that by this method we would get six dozen new colonies from six hives, provided that nothing went wrong. Of course, things did go wrong, but then we could also draw on the remaining colonies, and that is what we did. By counting the combs, someone would predict that we would use up nearly all the comb in the remaining hives, but since the bees were being fed, they drew new combs which were employed. When we were through, we had increased to four bee yards containing about two dozen hives each.

The main honey flow had begun by that time, so the new colonies began to grow rapidly, and our big worry was that they would turn all the new honey into brood and then starve when the honey flow stopped (some of the best bees will raise so many young that they run out of food), so we did not give them any supers (a super is a half-depth box intended for honey production only), but instead let the bees concentrate on filling out the combs they already had and stocking them with honey and pollen. Those hives that looked as though they were becoming honey-bound (that is, honey in every comb and no room for young bees) had full combs of honey taken away from them and frames with new foundation substituted. The combs of honey were given to weaker colonies. Even though the bees were crowded, we did not have to worry about any of the new hives swarming, as bees will never swarm during their first year. After we saw that the brood nests were going to be well-filled with honey, we started giving the bees some supers to fill, but even then, we supered a number of hives with full-depth boxes and frames [Editor's Note: Cal uses "super" as a verb also, meaning to add any size box on top of the brood chamber], to be filled with honey, as a way of being sure that the bees would not be short of food in the fall. At the end of the honey flow, the bees produced less than a pound of honey for every person that was in the New World at that time.

I couldn't help noticing that the bees were about two weeks later in the New World. A similar lateness occurred every year, and I was the first to notice it, I guess because our farmers and gardeners were all from Pennsylvania and were used to an even later start. But I could directly compare the blooming of the trees and the work of the bees in both worlds, so I had a very accurate gauge. I noticed some other features about the New World. The weather warmed up more slowly and evenly, which extended the honey flow, and the summer was never as hot. Cool weather arrived in the fall a couple of weeks sooner as well.

The honey producing plants in that region at the time were mostly trees, as our cotton and clover covered a relatively small patch of ground. Sugar maple is one of the earliest honey producers of note, and produces well, but the bees consume all of this honey. Redbud blooms very early along the river, but the honey goes entirely towards brood production, although it is supposed to have a good flavor. Tupelo grows along the river and in other wet places. The honey is light amber and very pleasant and mild. Black locust blooms rather early and produces a water-white honey with good flavor. Black cherry, not too common fortunately, produces a red honey with a bitter flavor. Persimmon produces a light-amber honey with a fair flavor. Persimmon is the first honey to go up into the supers for most hives at most locations, although we received none of it due to dividing the bees. Blackberries, growing along the river, produce an amber honey. Tulip tree, also called yellow poplar, produces honey that is reddish in color and mild in flavor. This tree produces more honey than all the rest together, and it usually darkens other crops. This is usually the main honey crop, and it very seldom fails. Basswood or linden, common in those woods, produces a very clear honey with a good flavor, but not dependable like the tulip tree. Rattan is a strangling vine, found mostly along the river, with a dark amber honey. Sourwood is the last tree crop produced, coming in mid to late summer, and is light in color with a tasty twang. Blooming both earlier and later is clover, with a good yield, and light and mild honey. Cotton is a strong honey producer with white to light amber honey and a good flavor, coming late also. Because our supers went on so late, they contained a high proportion of sourwood honey, which made it especially attractive.

It was very interesting how the value of this first crop of honey was determined. The Community had always just paid me in cash every week for the work that I had done that week, paying me a flat rate per hour which gradually increased over the years. It wasn't a generous salary, but then I have always liked bees. In the New World, they don't use cash at all. Mary and I turned in the number of hours and moments we worked every week, and they were credited to our account at the store. Then we could buy whatever we wanted from the store, using those hours and moments. Each time we turned in hours or bought something, we were given a receipt, and we were encouraged to keep our own separate record, in case there was a fire or someone made a mistake. The store kept the records in two books, one of which was carried home at night. If I needed to buy something from someone -- and not from the store -- I would make out a check, which the store would honor.

Now here's an interesting question, How did they determine how much the honey was worth? Well, each time we worked, we had to record how long we worked and what kind of work we were doing, so I might put down: 3 moments (that would be fifteen minutes according to the old time), sweeping building; 3 hours, 5 moments, installing foundation on supers; 3 moments, traveling to bee yard with supers; 1 hour, 7 moments, placing supers on hives; and so on. Thus we knew every bit of time that we had spent on the supers and on packing the honey, plus every bit of time that we had spent on the bees as a whole. The time spent on the bees by us and the Rhines on taking care of the bees was to be averaged over six years, the investment in our buildings and yards was to be averaged over twelve years, so figuring those in with the time spent on the honey, we could determine how many hours we put into that crop.

Because such a small amount of honey was produced, everyone was given an opportunity during the first week to buy just one jar of honey, with or without a piece of comb in it, with a price set by the method above. Then, on the second week, everyone could buy as much as they wanted. So, even though the price was pretty high, the last of the honey was sold on the eighth day. I must admit that this honey was especially good.

By the way, the price of everything in the New World is determined in the same fashion; however, losses can be transferred from year to year or from item to item. That is, the price of honey varies less than the true costs, as we sell it for somewhat more during the good years and somewhat less during the poor years. We also carry over honey from good years to poor years, which also helps average out the costs. As beekeepers, we have only honey to sell, but if we had been farmers, with a variety of crops, we might add the cost of growing peas, which produced nothing, to the cost of growing beans, which was a bumper crop.

It occurred to me to ask, What would happen when we have many beekeepers working independently, as we planned to do, and some of them produced much more honey for the same number of hours of work? I was told that the methods of averaging already mentioned would first be used, and then the Community would average the cost of the honey and sell it all at one price, if it were all identical. If it varied, say comb honey vs. extracted honey, or tulip tree honey vs. clover honey, then the price of the two products would be allowed to differ. In any case, the Community would make every effort to ensure that all beekeepers used the most efficient methods, spending more time on ways to improve the management of the poorest beekeeper, which would tend to bring the costs closer together. If someone was using the best methods and still getting a poorer crop, year after year, then that beekeeper would be asked to move to a better location. If, on the other hand, the fault was a beekeeper who was not doing a good job and who would not improve, he would be replaced with another beekeeper. Under all of these methods, the beekeeper would be paid for every hour of work put in; thus, anyone being replaced would have already been compensated for all the work involved. Nonetheless, the Community was reluctant to replace workers who took great pride in their jobs and tried to do their very best. After a while, the person begins to think, "These are my bees," and has an emotional commitment to them. But on the other hand, it must be pointed out that the person who can not be successful as a beekeeper will be paid the same amount working anywhere else.

But I haven't explained anything about our supers. Our supers are exactly half the depth of our brood chambers, and the reason for this is so the bees can more easily fill them. The last thing a beekeeper wants is half-filled supers. The frames inside are of two types: One holds very thin foundation, and after the bees have drawn out the combs and filled them with honey, it is cut into pieces to serve as comb honey. The other contains thick, wired foundation, which will result in tougher combs which can be decapped and run through the extractor to sling the honey out. We also have two slightly different supers. The one is called a "first year super," and the other is called a regular super. First year supers have an added stripe of paint on all sides (so we know which ones they are) and can contain either comb honey foundation or regular foundation, and the frames in these supers are placed very close together, resting on rabbets in the boxes (a "rabbet" is a ledge cut into the wood). The super frames are made from grooved wood 3/8ths inch thick, 1¼ wide, and of even width all the way around the outside, and the bees cap them flush with the ends of the frames. Because it is difficult to tell wired and unwired foundation apart after the comb has been drawn and filled, the frames intended for comb honey have a crayon mark on the top. The comb honey can be sold in the frame, as is, or cut into squares and drained, and then placed in a jar and covered with honey. When we sell it in the frame, we sell it for an extra moment and when we sell it in a jar, we sell it for two extra moments; the extra cost is returned when the frame or jar is returned to be reused. The jars are regular canning jars, which can be used by anyone, so many don't come back, but we charge approximately what they cost anyway. The frames are cleaned up after use and are saved to be used the next year.

Wired frames have a different fate. We use a sharp knife to cut off the caps, and then the frames are placed in a honey slinger (more usually called an extractor) which spins the honey out of the combs. After the honey is removed, these combs are still quite wet, so we place them on beehives just at sunset to allow the bees to clean them up. After the first year, we place these frames in supers which space them further apart. That is, there are eleven frames per super in the first year supers, and ten frames per super from then on. There are two advantages to this: first, the frames are easier to uncap, and second, we use fewer frames and get more honey per super.

Honey cappings are drained of their honey, and then are melted -- along with any scrap pieces of white comb -- to form blocks of beeswax. Old dark brown brood combs (they are dark due to cocoons left in them by the bees) are melted in a black box with a glass lid which is left in the bright sunshine. Gradually, the wax leaves the cocoons and can be reused. The wax made by both methods can be manufactured into new foundation from plain sheets by using special rollers which imprint the base of the cell, although we purchased foundation initially. The bees take this foundation and draw it out (both thinning it and adding additional wax) to make nearly perfect combs. Surplus wax can be used as an ingredient in polishes, lubricants, cosmetics, and even foods (it is digestible).

To explain another part of the business which I rushed past earlier, when we assemble the hive and super bodies, the frames, or add the wax foundation, we use simple jigs which we make ourselves. These hold everything square during assembly, and save a great deal of time. By using jigs and sitting properly, we also avoid back strain. In the beeyards, we use boxes of three unequal dimensions to sit on, using an idea from C. C. Miller. In fact, these boxes inspired Charles Woods to create a seat which could be rotated to give three different useful heights. You find these seats everywhere in the Community and the New World, but nowhere else.

Mary and I found ourselves generally pleased with living in the New World. We found our little house more pleasant than we would have thought, we had a nice little garden, nice places for walks every evening, and good entertainment at night. It seems that there was usually a play, some musicians, a sing-along, a class, or a presentation in the evenings. We were a little uncomfortable in the public bath, however, and never went when nudity was allowed, and we missed our local church. However, for a weekly worship service, we formed a small group of like-minded people, including Beth. We also missed eating meat, but not as much as we thought. We did get some fertile Rhode Island Red eggs imported, so we could raise our own eggs and meat.

The problem came up the first year of how to find enough work to do year around. The solution was for us to saw out the beehives, and once again the Community was very cooperative, building us a saw shop. However, they asked us to saw in the evenings, due to a higher demand for power during the days. Since we took turns on the sawing with the Rhines's and didn't saw every night anyway, this still left us plenty of time to enjoy the entertainment in the evenings. We sometimes canceled work to attend a performance.

We also found that the Community wanted us to work one day a week in place of taxes, or we could pay eight hours each per week. I asked what I could do, and I was offered the job of operating a trolley one day per week. They especially wanted someone who was careful, and I was known as a careful driver. For her time, Mary worked in the library.

For our second year in the New World (1969, or year five), when the bee season began, Jan and Bob devoted their efforts to the honey-producing hives, while I received two new helpers, Toby and Amanda McClelland, to instruct about beekeeping, who would be assigned to operate the new yards the following year, except Jan and Bob would swap the Brown Swiss yard for the Eagle Rock yard. The other new yards were at Lakeside and Northlake. Just our home yard was used to make the increase, and the eggs for the new queens came from some queens I had ordered (we planned to use ordered bees from different queen breeders every year to start the new hives, in order to increase genetic variability). We also started a little later, due to having to wait for the queens, and we didn't produce any honey off of the new hives as a result. The three established hives averaged about a hundred and twenty (ten dozen) pounds of honey apiece, which should have been plenty, but due to the huge number of people who entered that year, we had no more honey per person than the year before. Unfortunately, there was no way for us to keep up with the rapid growth of the railroad or with the influx of population. In 1969 (year five) for instance, we would have had to have increased the total number of colonies by six times to keep up with the number of people, which was not possible using any method other than the massive importation of bees or of packages, which Beth did not want. While it's true that those producing fruit, milk, wool, and cotton, among others, were also overstretched, that fact did not help us at all. Besides the need for more honey, there was an even more pressing need for more pollinators.

To deal with this crisis, a more efficient method of producing colonies had to begin. First, I got rid of all the supers and super equipment from our home yard. From now on, we would produce nothing but full-sized frames of honey, queens, and nucs. Second, we accelerated the growth of the home apiary, wanting as many new hives each year as we could possibly produce. By supering hives with full-depth hive bodies, I found I could use the extra frames of honey to split the strongest hives in the fall without harming their ability to survive the winter. Indeed, the colonies were actually stronger in the spring as a result of the fall equilization and expansion. Third, we no longer broke up our strongest hives in the spring to produce queens. Instead, we put a queen excluder and a hive body full of combs over a strong hive, and then placed brood and bees above that, where we raised our queens. Fourth, we now started the new nucs with just two frames, one full of capped brood and one full of honey, in one of our nuc boxes. Only after the queen started laying did we add another frame of capped brood and a frame of honey, and then sent the nuc off to a new yard where it would be placed in a full hive and given five pounds of sugar. Fifth, the new yards were started with a dozen hives each. During the second year, they would be supered with full-depth hive bodies, and then split in half in the fall.

Because of these changes, I asked for and received two permanent helpers, Louis and Marie Steiner. No longer would we spin honey or saw beehive parts, except for the nuc boxes, which I made myself. We did still assemble frames, nuc boxes, and occasional hive bodies. However, we were extremely busy in the bee yards all during the honey flow and again in the fall. During the few warm months when not busy in the home yard, we visited the new colonies and new beekeepers, and during the winter I gave classes to new beekeepers and prospective beekeepers.

The number of new hives started by this method was about three per year per colony in the home yard, not counting any increase in the home yard during the fall. Due to the increase in the home yard, we produced a greater number of new hives every year.

After three years experience in the New World, Mary and I decided that we did not need to go back, and we had our house put up for sale. The Community bought it immediately.

Some Useful Facts about Bees

Honey bees were not introduced into the Americas until the 1600's.
They probably originated in India, the only place where all four species are found.
All the honey bees of Europe, Africa, and the Americas are of one species.
Mediterranean bees are light in color, and the others are all dark.
The Italian bee is described as yellow or gold but orange would be more accurate.
From egg to queen takes sixteen (a dozen and four) days.
From egg to worker takes twenty-one (a dozen and nine) days.
Worker bees have an average lifespan of forty-two (three dozen and six) days.
A queen's laying rate varies considerably, from seven thousand (4 myriad) on down.
A large colony contains forty to eighty thousand (two to four grand myriad) bees.

Some Useful Comparisons: Langstroth vs. MD Hive

A comparison of two hives, each with supers containing 150. pounds of honey.
Using the old math and measurements only.
Board Feet Required for Construction: 54. bf Langstroth, 40. bf MD
Height: 52. inches Langstroth, 32. inches MD
Width: 16.25 Langstroth, 20. MD
Ratio Width to Height: 3.2 Langstroth, 1.6 MD
Pounds of Foundation Needed: 6 lbs. 10. oz. Langstroth, 4 lbs. 2 oz. MD
Frames Required: 65. Langstroth, 42. MD
Brood Space: 2,720. sq. inches Langstroth, 2,040. MD
Langstroth and MD Hives

NOTE: This as far as I have transcribed so far, but there's a large number of additional chapters.

Comments | SECTIONS: | Writing | Thoreau | Home | Bike Pages | New World |
CHAPTERS: | Introduction | Beginning | Community |Discovery | Founding | California | Trolleys | Plants | Recruits | Standards |
CHAPTERS: | Rolling | Bees | | Copyright © 2003 Ken Kifer | April 25, 2003