Selecting for the wrong traits

The BeeHolder, April 2010

Up until the beginning of the last century bees were kept in what were called straw skeps. The design of these skeps made it difficult to know how the bees were progressing with the making of honey. When the beekeeper wanted to obtain honey from one of the skeps it invariably meant the destruction of the bees within. To ascertain which skep that he would empty the beekeeper would "heft" the individual skeps to estimate the quantity of honey in each. He would then select the heaviest skeps and remove the bees by placing the skep over a pit of burning sulphur.

Robert Bums wrote of the method in his poem "The Brigs of Ayr": "The bees rejoicing o'er their summer toils, Unnumbered buds an flowers' delicious spoils, Sealed up with frugal care in massive waxen piles, Are doomed by man, that tyrant o'er the weak, The death o' devils smoored wi' brimstone reek.”

Read this article with the report on Will Messenger's March Stewarton Hive meeting