Aristotle and Beekeeping
Aristotle was a Greek scientist and philosopher who lived from 384-322 B.C. His thirst for knowledge was unquenchable, and his extensive writings cover many subjects including the sciences, the arts, logic and language, philosophy, and government and politics. Written between 344 and 342 B.C., his ten volume work Historia Animalium (The History of Animals) is an amazing collection of descriptions and observations of animals and insects. His section on bees and beekeeping is a fun read for modern beekeepers, as some portions are spot-on correct and others "not so much." Here are his final thoughts on bees, as found in Volume IX:
The hive is known to be in good condition if the noise heard within it is loud, and if the bees make a flutter as they go out and in; for at this time they are constructing brood-cells. They suffer most from hunger when they recommence work after winter. They become somewhat lazy if the bee-keeper, in robbing the hive, leaves behind too much honey; still one should leave cells numerous in proportion to the population, for the bees work in a spiritless way if too few combs are left. They become idle also, as being dispirited, if the hive be too big. A hive yields to the bee-keeper six or nine pints of honey; a prosperous hive will yield twelve or fifteen pints, exceptionally good hives eighteen. Sheep and, as has been said, wasps are enemies to the bees. Bee-keepers entrap the latter, by putting a flat dish on the ground with pieces of meat on it; when a number of the wasps settle on it, they cover them with a lid and put the dish and its contents on the fire. It is a good thing to have a few drones in a hive, as their presence increases the industry of the workers. Bees can tell the approach of rough weather or of rain; and the proof is that they will not fly away, but even while it is as yet fine they go fluttering about within a restricted space, and the bee-keeper knows from this that they are expecting bad weather. When the bees inside the hive hang clustering to one another, it is a sign that the swarm is intending to quit; consequently, occasion, when a bee-keepers, on seeing this, besprinkle the hive with sweet wine. It is advisable to plant about the hives pear-trees, beans, Median-grass, Syrian-grass, yellow pulse, myrtle, poppies, creeping-thyme, and almond-trees. Some bee-keepers sprinkle their bees with flour, and can distinguish them from others when they are at work out of doors. If the spring be late, or if there be drought or blight, then grubs are all the fewer in the hives. So much for the habits of bees.