L. L. Langstroth on Preventing Birds from Eating Your Bees

In the chapter on Requisites, I have spoken of the ravages of the mouse, and have there described the way in which my hives are guarded against its intrusion. That some kinds of birds are fond of bees, every Apiarian knows, to his cost; still, I cannot advise that any should, on this account, be destroyed. It has been stated to me, by an intelligent observer, that the King-bird, which devours them by scores, confines himself always, in the season of drones, to those fat and lazy gentlemen of leisure. I fear however, that this, as the children say, “is too good news to be true,” and that not only the industrious portion of the busy community fall a prey to his fatal snap, but that the luxurious gourmand can distinguish perfectly well, between an empty bee in search of food, and one which is returning full laden to its fragrant home, and whose honey-bag sweetens the delicious tit-bit, as the crushed unfortunate, all ready sugared, glides daintily down his voracious maw!

Still, I have never yet been willing to destroy a bird, because of its fondness for bees; and I advise all lovers of bees to have nothing to do with such foolish practices. Unless we can check among our people, the stupid, as well as inhuman custom of destroying so wantonly, on any pretence, and often on none at all, the insectivorous birds, we shall soon, not only be deprived of their aerial melody, among the leafy branches, but shall lament over the ever increasing horde of destructive insects, which ravage our fields and desolate our orchards, and from whose successful inroads, nothing but the birds can ever protect us. Think of it, ye who can enjoy no music made by these winged choristers of the skies, except that of their agonizing screams, as they fall before your well-aimed weapons, and flutter out their innocent lives before your heartless gaze! Drive away as fast and as far as you please, from your cruel premises, all the little birds that you cannot destroy, and then find, if you can, those who will sympathize with you, when the caterpillars weave their destroying webs over your leafless trees, and insects of all kinds riot in glee, upon your blasted harvests! I hope that such a healthy public opinion will soon prevail, that the man or boy who is armed with a gun to shoot the little birds, will be scouted from all humane and civilized society, and if he should be caught about such contemptible business, will be too much ashamed even to look an honest man in the face. I shall close what I have to say about the birds, with the following beautiful translation of an old Greek poets address to the swallow.

“Attic maiden, honey fed,
Chirping warbler, bear’st away,
Thou the busy buzzing bee,
To thy callow brood a prey?
Warbler, thou a warbler seize?
Winged, one with lovely wings?
Guest thyself, by Summer brought,
Yellow guest whom Summer brings?
Wilt not quickly let it drop?
‘Tis not fair, indeed ’tis wrong,
That the ceaseless warbler should
Die by mouth of ceaseless song.”
(Merivale’s Translation.)

Lorenzo L. Langstroth, “On The Hive and The Honey-Bee: A Bee Keepers Manual” 1853 (p269-270)

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