June 3, 2021

Questions from 1910 (024)

Questions from 1910  (024)

Today, Kim & Jim review questions and answers asked in an ancient A. I. Root Co. publication, published in 1910. What’s changed, and what hasn’t? Kim and Jim tackle questions asked 121 years ago. You’ll be surprised at what they find. Do...

The Book of QuestionsToday, Kim & Jim review questions and answers asked in an ancient A. I. Root Co. publication, published in 1910. What’s changed, and what hasn’t? Kim and Jim tackle questions asked 121 years ago. You’ll be surprised at what they find.

Do gentle bees make as much honey as mean bees? A question you still hear because sometimes it seems mean bees are more productive, right? Maybe, maybe not.

What’s the best smoker fuel? Oily rags? You’re kidding, right? Pine needles, sawdust and the like too, but a petroleum-based product? Will it blow up in your smoker?

What can you do when another beekeeper brings in a truckload of colonies and sets them down next door? Will everybody starve? Can you make them move? Can you stop them in the first place?I paid HOW MUCH for this?!!

And how much does a painted 10-frame hive with wired foundation full of bees cost? Then adjust that for inflation. Be sitting down when you read the answer to this one.


We welcome Betterbee as sponsor of today's episode. BetterBee’s mission is to support every beekeeper with excellent customer BetterBeeservice, continued education and quality equipment. From their colorful and informative catalog to their support of beekeeper educational activities, including this podcast series, BetterBee truly is Beekeepers Serving Beekeepers. See for yourself at www.betterbee.com


Honey Bee Obscura is brought to you by Growing Planet Media, LLC, the home of Beekeeping Today Podcast.

Music: Heart & Soul by Gyom, Walking in Paris by Studio Le Bus, original guitar music by Jeffrey Ott

Copyright © 2021 by Growing Planet Media, LLC


Honey Bee Obscura

Episode 24 – Questions from 1910




Kim: Jim, how are you doing? I got something new today. I found an old book. I want to talk to you about it.

Jim: Okay.

Kim: It's about what was going on in the beekeeping community about 1900, 1910 right in there.

Jim: That is an old book - Kim - that is old, should fit very well right here, with you and me.  Since we're about that age, go ahead.  (Chuckles)

Kim: Hello, I'm Kim Flottum.

Jim: I'm Jim Tew.

Kim: I want to welcome you today to Honey Bee Obscura with Kim and Jim and we're going to talk today about what was going on in the beekeeping industry about 1905 or so.

Jim: How many years ago must have passed, Kim? Forever and a day?

Kim: Forever and a day, exactly.

Introduction: You are listening to Honey Bee Obscura brought to you by Growing Planet Media, the folks behind Beekeeping Today podcast. Each week on Honey Bee Obscura, hosts Kim Flottum and Jim Tew explore the complexities, the beauty, the fun, and the challenges of managing honeybees in today's world and engaging and informative discussion meant for all beekeepers, long-timers, and those just starting their journey with bees. Sit back and enjoy the next several minutes as Kim and Jim explore all things honeybees.

Kim: It's a book called Answers To 150 Questions of Beekeepers Commonly Asked on Bees.  A.I. Root was answering the same question to everybody 10 times a day, so he said, "Rather than answer – and I don't have the time -  I'll just write down the answers, and when I get the question I'll just send in the book." Which was—this little booklet. 

Jim: It's the, “if you want to know the answer, then buy my book,” routine.

Kim: You got it. Let me give you one of them.

Jim: Oh, no….(chuckle)

Kim: Let's just start off with one of them. Here's one, it says, "Do gentle bees gather as much honey as angry ones under the same conditions?" Let me read you the answer and tell me what you think. The answer was, "Gentle bees may gather as much honey as irritable ones although there is a danger in brooding for gentleness alone to secure bees that are not worth as much so far as honey collection is concerned. There's no reason however, why the best workers in the apiary may not also be gentle." I think that's still pretty true, isn’t it?

Jim: I want to tell the listening audience that this is unrehearsed, I've never heard these questions before. I'm having to think on my feet, like this is some kind of oral exam, but having said that, with today's selectivity and today's breeding and the sophisticated genetics that we've had now and the 100 or so years that have passed, I think you can have it both ways.

See, they were looking primarily for honey productivity, and I think we're looking now for hygienic behavior as much as honey productivity because you can't make honey from dead bees. Yes, I think that the answer is accurate and is still about is correct as you can be.

Kim: All things considered, with urban beekeeping, gentle is certainly high on the list, not so much for the beekeeper, but for the beekeeper's neighbors. I think that's right. Things haven't changed much. Here's one, "What's the best fuel for smokers?" You want to know what the answer is?

Jim: I don't know from 100 years ago, do I?

Kim: In the book, unquestionably is used to say, "Greasy waste is best such as can be obtained at any ordinary machine shop for the asker. Rotten wood, planer shavings, old rags and et cetera, do very well also."Can you imagine burning greasy waste from a machine shop?

Jim: No, I can't imagine that. That was what? A petroleum byproduct or who knows what?

Kim: I can imagine it blowing up in my smoker.

Jim: You know anybody that'd be alive 100 years later?   That fuel would have killed them. No, I have never heard of using spent grease as smoker fuel.

Kim: Rotten wood, planer shavings, old rags still high on the list, but--

Jim: Those things are okay. They're still just regularly obnoxious, but the spent grease and whatever, I don't know how you would-- How would you do that? Literally, how would you fuel all grease into the smoker? Would you spoon it in to a hot-coal bed?

Kim: Well, I have to cheat it a little on this one only because I've got access to a lot of old ABCs and part of the answer was getting the rags the machines used to wipe up oil spills with.

Jim: Well, that is a cheat. I don't have access to that.

Kim: [laughs] That's how they did it, but they were still pouring oil into, like you said, a petroleum product into a smoker. I can't imagine going home smelling like..like - I don't know what.

Jim: When you went home, how did you clean up, 100 years ago, did you stop by the creek?

Kim: Good question.

Jim: Did you wait till Saturday, and this was Tuesday? I got a lot of questions about what you did with that stink until you got a proper bath?

Kim: Did you sleep in the barn?

Jim: A long night’s sleep in a barn. All right, I'm glad that's changed. I don't like smokers to this day, but that's terrible fuel.

Kim: And dangerous.

Jim: And dangerous!

Kim: Let me just add that….

I got another one here. "What can I do about a stranger bringing in colleagues to my location and overstocking my forage range? I have established that the number we have now is the maximum this area will support. More will mean decreased production and even starvation for all of the colonies."

Jim: This was all those years ago? That guy is saying that the area is overstocked? It's a good thing he's not trying to keep bees in my backyard right now with everybody out with their lawnmowers and weed killers going on because there's nothing left there. First of all, Kim, that issue is still alive and well. We've got some issues here in Ohio, and it's still common for people not to want beekeepers to move in - especially migratory guys. That issue is alive and well, but I'm just amazed that that guy said that his area was overstocked 100 years ago.

Kim: There's some states now – that either still have or had -  a regulation a while back  that was the two-mile law.   You couldn't put your bees down within two miles of another beekeeper. I don't know if that's still in place, but here's the answer that they put in back in 1910, and they said, "There seems to be almost no remedy. We are not aware of any law anywhere that controls this approach to beekeeping and shows data on population issues, that setting bees here would be unprofitable.

Generally, after time, those who are the least profitable sell out or move but it can be an expensive wait. If the colonies that move in are diseased, they can be stopped. Shipping disease bees is unlawful. If you know this is going to happen, you can have the inspector stepped in before they come into the state. Even back then there was a couple of things you could do if the interloper was not healthy.

Jim: Kim, while you were talking, I was wondering if I'm being too presumptuous that I understand what was going on in 1910. I don't know how many wild bees there were then. I don't know how many feral colonies… and there's no Varroa… so there's more of a feral population load, and I don't know how many beekeepers there were. That bee population load may have been more than I expect. I'm still thinking….. we've got varroa cleaning out all our foraging area for us and then there's not much to forage on anyway. Maybe all those years ago things were different.  I wouldn't understand that because I don't know that life now.

Kim: I know from other reading other events, some of this had to do with some of the pollination contracts or like alfalfa out West, they would just load up bees and nobody would make any honey at all. That's one of the things we're trying to do but it also had to do…..-- I got four colonies in my backyard and I'm in on the edge of town and there ain't much out here and somebody comes in and puts a truckload down half a mile away I'm in trouble.

Jim: That really hasn't changed a bit, has it?

Kim: No, it hasn't.

Jim: It's still a neighbor issue, a neighboring beekeeper issue, it's still exactly what it was all those years ago.

Sponsor: Betterbee is pleased to sponsor today's episode of Honey Bee Obscura podcast. For over 40 years, Betterbee has supplied beekeepers across the country with the tools, equipment and knowledge needed to succeed. Because many Betterbee employees are beekeepers themselves, they understand your needs and challenges and are better prepared to answer your beekeeping questions. From their colorful catalog to their supportive beekeeper educational activities including this podcast, Betterbee truly lives up to their tagline of beekeepers serving beekeepers. See for yourself at betterbee.com. [music]

Kim: We got one more here and let's see what you think? It's a pretty simple question and I'm sure everybody's asked.

Jim: Good.

Kim: What's the price of a painted 10 frame hive in early spring having wired worker combs?

Jim: What's the price of a painted…..?

Kim: Yes. 1910.

Jim: I don't want to hear this number. Do I?


What was the price of a painted wired colony assembled in 1910?

Kim: Well, let me tell you. It depends on the bees. If you had black bees, those German nasty bees, it was only $5, but if you had the Italians, those nice, productive, gentle Italians, it was between $10 and $12.

Jim: The whole hive?

Kim: Yes.

Jim: The box, the frames, the foundation?

Kim: Everything.

Jim: With five pounds of angry black bees, German bees, was $5?

Kim: Yes. Now let me tell you, adjust that for inflation to 2021, are you ready?

Jim: I'm sitting.

Kim: Those black bees would now go for $134, but those Italians $268 for a 10 -frame deep with Italian bees top and bottom, $268. I got some hives for sale. Are you interested?

Jim: Yes, that is a dramatic difference. Your questions beget questions. Where were these Italian queens produced in the US that weren't contaminated with Apis mellifera mellifera, the more common black bee? How did they breed clean, pure ligustica, the Italian bees? Where?

Kim: Well, the Root company was a big queen breeder at the time, right here in Medina.

Jim: Didn't know that.

Kim: If you ever get to Medina and you get to- I'll show you where the queen breeding yard was, there was an interesting story about the queen breeding yard. I'll get off on a tangent here for a moment. It was where the Giant Eagle store is in Medina. At the time they set up this queen breeding yard that they planted the whole thing in basswood. Basswood, if you go back to 1910, when they were young, they were providing shade almost immediately. As they got older, they began to produce an excellent honey crop and shade, which they wanted for the queen yard. Then when they got really old and they started thinning them out, they used the basswood for section boxes for comb honey.

Jim: That worked out well.


Kim: They got their money's worth out of that queen yard, but they were producing Italian Queens here in Medina. I don't know how many, I don't think they probably were able to provide the whole US with Queens, but at least some were produced here.

Jim: Well, what a story!  Hey, I enjoyed doing this. I'm sensing that you're running down. I want to come up with my own questions. A few episodes from now let me quiz you because I think I can find some old stuff too in our spectacular beekeeping archives that exist for all of us.


That's good fun though. Good fun.

Kim: You got to remember, I'm a little bit older than you, so I probably already know the answer.

Jim: Yes, I know. You've been out there longer. I understand. I understand. I'm glad someone's older than I am. I had a good time. I had a good time. Thank you.

Kim: All right, well take it easy.

Jim: All right.

Kim: Summer's almost here.

Jim: I'm looking forward to that. Bye-bye.

[00:13:44] [END OF AUDIO]