Unformatted text preview: Abbé Warré Beekeeping For All 1 Translated from the original French version of L'Apiculture Pour Tous (12th edition)1 by Patricia and
David Heaf. Eighth electronic English edition with a minor correction and improved images, October
2015. Patricia Heaf and David Heaf, July 2007
Patricia and David Heaf reserve all rights to their translation subject to the terms of the Creative
Commons license shown on page 155.
For permissions please contact: David Heaf, Hafan, Cae Llwyd, Llanystumdwy, Gwynedd, LL52 0SG,
UK. Email: david (at) dheaf.plus.com. Note by Guillaume Fontaine in the electronic version of the French 12th edition2: "Abbé Warré died in
1951. According to intellectual property law3, his heirs should give permission for use of his writings.
Having not been able to contact his heirs, I am permitted to distribute this document to anyone for
access by anyone. And to let people know about this kind of beekeeping."
1. Reproduction of the 1948 edition; Legal Deposit: 4th term, 1948.
Distributed at .
Art. L. 123-1: "The author enjoys during his life the exclusive right to use his work in any form whatever and
to obtain financial gain from it. At the death of the author, this right remains for the enjoyment of his
beneficiaries during the current civil year and the following seventy years."
The translators thank Mandy Fritzsche, translator of the German edition, for making available her
digitally enhanced images scanned from the original printed edition of L'Apiculture Pour Tous. 2 Ainsi le voyageur qui, dans son court passage,
Se repose un moment l’abri du vallon,
Sur l’arbre hospitalier, dont il goûta l’ombrage,
Avant que de partir, aime graver son nom.
So the traveller who, in his short journey,
Rests a while in the shelter of the vale
On the hospitable tree, whose shade he enjoys,
Before leaving, likes to carve his name.
Lamartine Before leaving, I would like, dear bees, to carve my name on these leaves, blessed shrub that
has taken all its sap from around your dwelling place.
In its shade, I have rested from my weariness, have healed my wounds. Its horizon satisfies my
desires for there I can see the heavens.
Its solitude is more gentle than deep. Your friends are visiting it. You enliven it with your
And because you do not die, dear bees, you will sing again and for ever, in the surrounding
foliage, where my spirit will rest.
E. Warré 3 BEEKEEPING FOR ALL
__________________________________________________________________________________ The purpose of beekeeping
Apiculture or beekeeping is the art of managing bees with the intention of getting the maximum
return from this work with the minimum of expenditure.
Bees produce swarms, queens, wax and honey.
The production of swarms and queens should be left to specialists.
The production of wax has some value, but this value is diminished by the cost of rendering.
The production of honey is the main purpose of beekeeping, one that the beekeeper pursues
before everything else, because this product is valuable and because it can be weighed and priced.
Honey is an excellent food, a good remedy, the best of all sweeteners. We shall go into this in
more detail. And we can sell honey in many forms just as we can consume it in many forms: as it is, in
confectionery, in cakes and biscuits, in healthy and pleasant drinks – mead, apple-less cider, grape-less
It is also worth noting that beekeeping is a fascinating activity and consequently rests both mind
Furthermore, beekeeping is a moral activity, as far as it keeps one away from cafés and low places
and puts before the beekeeper an example of work, order and devotion to the common cause.
Moreover, beekeeping is a pre-eminently healthy and beneficial activity, because it is most often
done in the fresh air, in fine, sunny weather. For sunshine is the enemy of illness just as it is the master
of vitality and vigour. Dr Paul Carton wrote: 'What is needed is to educate a generation in disliking
alcohol, in despising meat, in distrusting sugar, in the joy and the great benefit of movement'.
For the human being is a composite being. The body needs exercise without which it atrophies.
The mind needs exercising too, otherwise it deteriorates. Intellectuals deteriorate physically. Manual
workers, behind their machines, suffer intellectual deterioration.
Working on the land is best suited to the needs of human beings. There, both mind and body play
But society needs its thinkers, its office workers and its machine operatives. Clearly these people
cannot run farms at the same time. But in their leisure time (they must have some of it) they can be
gardeners and beekeepers and at the same time satisfy their human needs.
This work is better than all modern sports with their excesses, their promiscuity, their nudity.
Thus if the French were to return to the land they would be more robust, more intelligent. And as
the wise Engerand said, France would again become the land of balance where there would be neither
the agitations, nor the collective follies that are so harmful to people; it would become again a land of
restraint and clarity, of reason and wisdom, a country where it is good to live.
And let us not forget the advice of Edmond About: 'The only eternal, everlasting and
inexhaustible capital is the earth'.
Finally, one more important thing: the bees fertilise the flowers of the fruit trees. Apiculture thus
contributes greatly to filling our fruit baskets. This reason alone should suffice to urge all those who
have the smallest corner of orchard to take up beekeeping.
According to Darwin, self-fertilisation of flowers is not the general rule. Cross-fertilisation, which
takes place most commonly, is necessitated becaus of the separation of sexes in flowers or even on
1 different plants; or because of the non-coincidence of maturity of pollen and stigma or by the different
morphological arrangements which prevent self-fertilisation in a flower. It happens very often that if
an outside agent does not intervene, our plants do not fruit or they yield far less; many experiments
As Hommell put it so well: the bee, attracted by the nectar secreted at the base of the petals,
penetrates to the bottom of the floral envelope to drink the juices produced by the nectaries, and covers
itself with the fertilising dust that the stamens let fall. Having exhausted the first flower, a second
presents a new crop to the tireless worker; the pollen it is carrying falls on the stigma and the
fertilisation which, without it, would be left at the mercy of the winds, takes place in a way that is
guaranteed. Thus the bee, following its course without relaxation, visits thousands of corollae, and
deserves the poetic name that Michelet gave it: the winged priest at the marriage of the flowers.
Hommell even attempted to put a figure on the benefit that resulted from the presence of bees. A
colony, he said, which has only 10,000 foragers should be considered as reaching barely average, and
a large stock housed in a big hive often has 80,000. Suppose 10,000 foragers go out four times a day,
then in 100 days this will make four million sorties. And if each bee before returning home enters only
twenty-five flowers, the bees of this hive will have visited 100 million flowers in the course of one
year. It is no exaggeration to suppose that on ten of these flowers, at least one is fertilised by the action
of the foragers and that the resulting gain would be only 1 centime for every 1,000 fertilisations. Yet in
spite of these minimal estimates, it is evident that there is a benefit of 100 francs a year produced by
the presence of just one hive. This mathematical conclusion is irrefutable.
Certain fruit producers, above all viticulturists, set themselves up in opposition to bees because
bees come and drink the sweet juices of fruit and grapes. But if we investigate the bee closely we soon
notice that they ignore the intact fruits and only empty those with pellicles that are already perforated
by birds or by the strong mandibles of wasps. The bee only gathers juice which, without it, would dry
up and be wasted. It is totally impossible for bees to commit the theft they are accused of, because the
masticatory parts of its mouth are not strong enough to enable it to perforate the fruit pellicle that
protects the pulp. The benefits of beekeeping
I pity those who keep bees only to earn money. They deprive themselves of a very sweet
However, money is necessary to live. Money is useful to those who like to spread happiness
Consequently it is justifiable to imagine that this could result from beekeeping.
But reading certain books and certain periodicals may lead to error on this point. The lies
To encourage a return to the land or to deceive those who return there, beekeeper committees or
some anti-French people published some staggering things in the newspapers. Perhaps there were also
selfish beekeepers among them professing poor results so as not to create competition.
Thus a prominent beekeeper claims that a harvest of only 10 kg is a rare maximum. At the other
extreme, a professor asserts that honey harvests should average 100 kg per hive if rational beekeeping
methods are adopted.
2 A doctor declares that in America a single hive can yield an average annual harvest of 190 kg of
honey, and that it is up to us to make it as much. Doubtless this would be by giving each hive 200 kg
of sugar. But would not the fraud be exposed?
No type of hive, no method of beekeeping turns stones into honey. Neither do they make the
beekeeper any wiser, or increase queen fertility or improve the ambient temperature. As a result the
yield of a hive varies from one region to another, from one hive to another and from one year to
another, just as does the nectar wealth of the region, queen fertility, temperature and the skill of the
When I lived in the Somme, I had an average annual harvest of 25 kg per hive. In a region with a
high nectar yield one can harvest more. Here at Saint-Symphorien, in a region which is poor for
nectar, I average only 15 kg. To be exact: in 1940 I had hives that cost me 300 francs each. Each gave
me a harvest of 15 kg. Now the price of honey was fixed at 18 francs wholesale, 22 francs retail.
Furthermore, each hive required one and a half hours of my time in the course of the year.
One can see with this how work and capital are rewarded in beekeeping, even in a region poorer
in nectar. Beekeeping is a good school
Coppée said that good fortune is giving it to others. Good fortune accrues to the souls of the elite.
Now good fortune is not always possible, but you can find a considerable fortune in nature.
With flowers it is the beauty that endlessly rejuvenates itself. With dogs it is the boundless
faithfulness, even in misfortune – unfailing recognition. The bee is a mistress and a delightful teacher.
She provides an example of a wise and reasoned lifestyle, which gives solace from life's annoyances.
The bee contents herself with the nourishment provided in the surroundings of the hive, without
adding anything to it and without taking anything away from it. No ready-made meals; no imported
early fruit or vegetables.
The bee, however well provided she is, does not consume more than is absolutely necessary. No
The bee makes use of her terrible sting and dies in doing so in order to defend her family and her
provisions. Otherwise, even when she is foraging, she gives way peacefully to people and to animals.
without recrimination, without a fight. She is a pacifist, but not weak.
Each bee has its task according to its age and abilities. It fulfils its task without desire, rebellion or
anger. For the bee there is no humiliating work.
The queen lays tirelessly, thus assuring the perpetuation of the stock. The workers lovingly share
their activity between the tender larvae, the hopes of the colony's future, and the fragrant fields where
the honey is harvested from dawn to dusk. No place in a buzzing colony for the useless. No
parliaments; for this quiet populace has neither a taste for new laws nor the leisure for futile
We call the laying bee the queen. This is incorrect. There is neither king nor queen nor dictator in
the hive. Nobody is in charge, yet all work in the common interest. No egoism.
The bee observes the law that is as healthy as it is imperative, a law often overlooked by humans:
'you earn your bread by the sweat of your brow'. And I observe that the sweat of the bee, just in
3 cleansing her body, is useful to her in another way. Her sweat, in changing into scales of wax,
provides the bee with the materials that she uses to make her wonderful cells, a clean storehouse for
her provisions, a soft cradle for her young. It is so true that the observance of natural laws is always
Bees work day and night without respite. They only take a rest when there is no work to do. Not
even a rest at the weekends. In the home of the bees there are neither pensioners nor retirees.
And here is the song of the bees that Théodore Botrel sang:
I said one day to the bee
Rest a little now,
Your striving to be like
This pretty blue butterfly
On the rose or the pansy,
See, it swoons in day-dreaming
Yes... but, me, I'm in a hurry,
Said the bee to me, in passing.
Showing her the dragonfly,
I said to her, another day
Come, from dawn to dusk,
Dance like her, when it's your turn
Don't you admire it, subtle,
Waltzing over there on the lake?
Yes... but me, I am useful
Said the bee to me, leaving.
Yesterday, before the door
Of its little temple of gold
I caught sight of it, half dead,
Heavy with its pollen again
Rest yourself, poor creature
I said to her while helping her
Yes... when my task is done,
The bee said to me as she died. 4 Henry Bordeaux said "What I admire most in the bee colony is the bee's total disregard for itself;
she gives her self wholly to a job she will not enjoy – joy in the effort and giving of herself".
And for me bees are what birds were for André Theuret:
"When I hear the bees buzzing in the foliage, I dream with the slight feeling that they are singing
in the same way as those I used to hear in my childhood, in my parents' garden".
One good thing about bees is they always seem to be the same. Some years pass; we age, we see
our friends disappear, revolutionary changes take their effect, illusions fall one after the other, and yet,
amongst the flowers, the bees that we have known from childhood modulate the same musical phrases,
with the same freshness of voice. Time seems not to have taken its toll on them, and, as they hide
themselves to die, as we never help them in their agony, we can imagine that we always have before
our eyes those that enchanted our early childhood, those too who, during our long existence, have
provided for us the happiest hours and the rarest of friends.
As a lover of nature once said: happy he who, resting in the grass in the evening close to an
apiary, in the company of his dog, heard the song of the bees blending itself with the chirping of the
crickets, with the sound of the wind in the trees, the twinkling of the stars and the slow march of the
clouds! The bee
The place of bees in nature
Animals, which are distinguished from plants through being able to move, are divided into two
main categories: vertebrates and invertebrates.
The vertebrates, characterised by their vertebral column, comprising fish, batrachians, reptiles,
birds and mammals, are of no interest here.
The invertebrates, those not having a vertebral column, have several branches: protozoa
(infusoria), sponges, coelenterates (medusae, corals), echinoderms (sea urchins), worms (leeches,
lumbricus), bryozoa, rotifers, molluscs (oysters, slugs, octopuses), arthropods and finally the chordata,
which with their dorsal chord, form the transition between the invertebrates and the vertebrates.
It is the arthropods that interest us here.
The arthropods (from the Greek 'arthron', articulation, and 'ports, podos', foot) are also called
Articulata. Their bodies show three distinct regions, head, thorax and abdomen. These are equipped
with appendages: on the head the antennae and organs of mastication; on the thorax, the limbs.
Arthropods are divided into several classes: crustacea (lobsters), arachnids (spiders), myriapods
(centipedes), insects or hexapods.
The insects (from Latin 'in', in, 'secare', cut), or hexapods (from Greek: 'hex', six, and 'pous, podos'
foot) are characterised by always having six limbs. Insects breathe air. 5 An insect A: Bumble-bee, B: Bumble-bee nest, C: Osmia Top to bottom: A mother – a worker – a male (life size)
6 Their heads have two compound eyes. The thorax is divided into three parts, the prothorax which
carries a pair of legs, the mesothorax which carries a pair of legs and a pair of wings, the metathorax
which carries a pair of legs and sometimes a pair of wings. Insects always have the sexes separate. The
larva after hatching from the egg undergoes a series of metamorphoses until it comes to resemble its
parents. Because of their intelligence and organisation, insects are superior to other invertebrates. The
600,000 known species of insect are divided into eight orders: orthoptera (grasshoppers), neuroptera
(ant-lions), odonata (dragonflies), hemiptera (bugs), diptera (fleas), lepidoptera (butterflies),
coleoptera (cockchafers) and hymenoptera.
The hymenoptera (from the Greek 'humen', membrane, and 'pteron', wing) are characterised by
four membranous wings,
Hymenoptera denotes the class of insects that is most highly organised from the point of view of
intelligence, to such an extent that their manifestations overwhelm ours. And yet we still only have
partial knowledge of their qualities, such as how many there are of them; for the 25,000 known species
indicate that there may be as many as 250,000.
The hymenoptera comprise two groups: the sawflies and sting-bearers. The sawflies have an
abdominal terebra for sawing or perforating plants. In this group is the class Cephus, in which is found
the larva in the haulm which bears the ear of corn, and Lydia piri, whose larvae spin a kind of silk net
enveloping several pear leaves.
The sting-bearers have a sting at the end of their abdomen. Some are parasites whose mission is
often to destroy harmful insects, or carnivores like the common wasp or the hornet whose larvae need
a supply of insects or meat, and the beewolf (Philanthus triangulum) which constantly rummages
around on the ground to find larvae to feed on and which eats many bees.
The others are Formicoidea or ants, which, after the bees, are insects best endowed from the point
of view of intelligence, and finally the Apides.
The Apides or honey-bearers are the bees. They feed their larvae on honey. There are about 1,500
species. Some are solitary, like Osmia, in holes in walls or in cavities of decaying timber. Others form
social groups, such as the social bees including bumble-bees, stingless bees (Melipona) and the
common bee or Apis mellifera.
The bumble-bees, large, very hairy insects, live only in small groups and make their nests below
The Melipona, very small, live in large colonies, because they have several queens, and only in
The honey bee, Apis mellifera, is the one that we will be concerned with in greater detail. Composition of the bee family
Bee families are called colonies. Each colony comprises three kinds of individuals:
1. A single, fully developed female capable of laying enough eggs to assure the maintenance and
growth of the family. This is the mother, inappropriately called the 'queen';
2. The workers, or atrophied females, incompletely developed, a large number, 100,000 and
3. Some males, who only normally appear in the swarming season and disappear at the time when
the nectar flow [also often referred to as 'honey flow', Tr....
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