A brief preview of the best locations for beekeeping in the different states, and an enumeration of the more important honey plants, will prove helpful as an introduction to the more extended descriptions which follow.
New England to-day offers very moderate inducements to the specialist; but if alsike clover were more commonly planted instead of red clover the bee pasturage of this section would be greatly improved. Beekeeping is successfully pursued, however, in Aroostook County in Maine, the Champlain Valley in Vermont, and in the Berkshire Valley in Massachusetts. In no part of this area have better results been obtained than in the Champlain Valley, where the surplus comes from white clover and alsike clover, and the soils are of limestone origin.
Of the eastern states, New York stands foremost in the number of beekeepers and in the production of honey. According to the location, large crops are secured from white clover or buckwheat. On the glacial till soils of St. Lawrence and Jefferson Counties white clover yields an immense amount of white honey. A second white-clover belt extends from Buffalo to the Hudson River, in which are located a great number of apiaries among the Finger Lakes and around Syracuse. The southern portion of the state, especially the southwest corner, is the great buckwheat country, where this plant is usually a reliable source of honey. Another important center for beekeeping is in the eastern part of the state in Schenectady County, where the clovers, buckwheat, and basswood are abundant.
Southeastern Pennsylvania is in a very high state of cultivation and few follow beekeeping as a vocation. Along the north-central border and in the northwest corner thousands of acres of buckwheat are grown. Within the mountains there are many fertile valleys with limestone floors, where the clovers flourish and yield well. Southwestern Pennsylvania, the region of the great steel mills and oil fields, affords little pasturage for bees. New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland are not considered beekeeping states from a commercial point of view and the average surplus per colony is low.
“In all the southern states,” writes E. F. Phillips, “the box hive is far more abundant than the movable-frame hive. It would probably be a fair and conservative estimate to state that 75 per cent, of all the colonies are in ‘gums.’ The number of colonies per square mile is higher here by far than anywhere else in the country, which indicates good beekeeping conditions. With the continuation of the educational work now being done in North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Louisiana, the number of ‘gums’ is decreasing. In North Carolina probably 50 per cent, of the bees are now in ‘patent gums.’ At present the South is relatively free from brood diseases — due, probably, to the small amount of movement of bees under the backward methods employed. However, both European and American foul brood are making their appearance, and beekeepers should be ready to combat them. The solution of the problem in the South lies in the development of relatively few extensive beekeepers who will practice migratory beekeeping. If the difficulties of transportation can be overcome, the South can produce enormous crops of honey.”
In the southeastern states the crop of honey comes chiefly from the swamps or from the mountains; and in both locations the honey plants are mostly shrubs and trees. Much of the soil in the southern states is acid, and white clover is found only to a limited extent. The higher average annual temperature, the greater rainfall, and several consecutive honey flows make it necessary to modify the methods of beekeeping in use in the North.
Around Norfolk, Virginia, near the swamp land, a surplus is gathered nearly every year from gallberry, aster, and gum trees. The best part of the Piedmont Plateau is directly east of the Blue Ridge. West of this mountain range is the