When you think about it, beekeeping—a primate's collaboration with a social insect—is an extraordinary relationship. We can feel kinship with most of the beasts we've domesticated (if only by misreading their behavior because we like other species to seem "human") but even the most rabid sentimentalist can hardly make that mistake about honeybees. The gentlest of colonies isn't "tame" in the same way as a horse or a duck . . . the little creatures just go single-mindedly about their business using the facilities the apiarist provides. There's no taking Apis mellifera for anything but an advanced form of life totally different from man.
No wonder, then, that bee culture requires a good deal of diplomacy. Those amazing insects are resourceful but highly conservative, and—after hundreds of years of practice—people who keep them still find new ways of bending the unbreakable laws of the hive to suit human needs. The apiarist's art and science isn't a closed subject by any means. Thus any beekeeper, novice or expert, depends on the experience of others in the business . . . and that's where the American Bee Journal comes in.
This monthly magazine (now in its 113th volume!) is meant to be useful to the commercial breeder and offers a wealth of information about large-scale apiary management and marketing. Accordingly, some of the Journal's articles—often prepared by USDA agricultural engineers—are highly technical presentations of the latest research on disease control or modern colony maintenance. Even these detailed scientific reports, however, can be useful to the small-scale beekeeper and interesting to anyone with a taste for natural history.
For example, you may have seen some of the recent publicity on the menace of fierce Brazilian bees which are expected eventually to infiltrate northward . . . and if you did, you'll appreciate the more sober comments of professional handlers. ABJ's writers wish the popular press hadn't exaggerated the viciousness of the South American insects—it's hard enough to give bees in general a good image without that sort of setback—but they are genuinely concerned about the possible invasion.
The creatures in question (originally of African origin) were accidentally released in Brazil by an experimenter in 1957 and have now almost entirely displaced that country's domestic breeds. The newcomers are hardworking and super-productive but difficult to manage because of their aggressiveness and readiness to attack in large numbers . . . and North American breeders certainly don't look forward to them as competitors with the better-tempered strains they've taken pains to develop.
If the future problem of Brazilian infiltrators doesn't put you off the idea of setting up a couple of colonies—and we hope it doesn't—you can hardly do better than join the many hobbyists and backlot beekeepers who read American Bee Journal. The ad section alone will help you get started by telling you where to buy queens and workers of various breeds, what firms in your area supply apiary equipment, who is willing to hire an apprentice beekeeper and which other publications you can look to for advice. And, after your stock arrives, you'll find ABJ a valuable source of practical hints on its care.
If you have questions that aren't covered in the magazine's regular articles, the ABJ staff may be able to give you some special aid in their question-and-answer column, "The Classroom" . . . a good solution for the novice who has no "old hand" nearby to take his problems to.
Finally, even if you haven't succumbed to the fascination of beekeeping you'll still enjoy another regular feature of this apiarist's monthly: a page of honey recipes developed, tested, and contributed by readers. Cooking with natural sweetening can be tricky, and—if you're trying to wean your family from refined sugar—you'll find it much easier to work with original recipes than to convert the measurements of a standard cookbook.
The homesteader who wants a healthful answer to his sweet tooth—and maybe some extra cash as well—will find the money he laid out on a year of the American Bee Journal is well spent. Tell 'em MOTHER EARTH NEWS sent you.