"The Allurements of Theorists" is an article from a simpler time, written in language that reflects the era.
Bee culture is a very profitable as well as fascinating pursuit, yet in choosing it as a profession a person must be very sure he likes it above all other trades, or he will not be very sure to make a success of it. The trade a person engages in is never to blame for the failure of the person who has adopted it. If you like your team you will take good care of it ; just so with your trade, no matter what it may be. After having made sure you like bee keeping as a trade, make up your mind to drive it well, and never let it drive you.
You may, and it is likely you will, meet with reverses the first few years, but the time to consider is before you commence, not after. If you mean only to try bee-keeping to see if there is anything in it, then don't touch it, for there is nothing in it for a man of that make-up. If you mean to let bee-keeping try you to see if there is anything in you, then go ahead, and if you have grit you will succeed.
Having settled the matter thus far, buy two or three colonies of Italian bees from some reliable man. Don't believe all you read or hear about the many kinds of bees now being talked so much about. The people that are praising these new varieties know better what purpose they have in view than you do.
It is next to impossible to mate queens with drones of a certain breed with any degree of certainty. Many years of experience have taught me that Italian bees, allowed to mix as they please with the black bees of your vicinity, produce bees that "can’t be beat." There may be good points about some of these new varieties, but taking all things together the Italian is far the superior of anything yet dis covered. Buy your bees of some bee keeper who has already made a success of the business, then you will be apt to get good hives.
A beginner is very liable at this point to make the mistake of following the man of theories. His anxiety to push the matter, the novelty of being a "bee-keeper," the desire to at once get to the bottom of matters, heedless of the proverb, "the more haste the less speed," makes him very apt to become the victim of sharpers and theorists, and very likely he will soon give up the business in disgust, not omitting in his fit of anger at his losses, to give bee-keeping a bad name. The fact that theories too often outshine the practical, especially when on paper, has been a great source of trouble and expense to the beginner. Even older heads have been made unsteady at times by the allurements of theorists.
When a man embarks in the bee business Mr. Theory, like the gossiping neighbor who visits you first, is ready and willing to throw light on any and every point connected with your pursuit. Don't take or follow any advice thus gratuitously given. You had better pay some good man a high price for the truth, than follow cheap advice which will be sure in the end to cost you many times more than the truth would in the first place. No bee-keeper of any worth will tell you very much for nothing. His knowledge has cost him too much, and is a part of his stock in trade, the same as in other professions.
One of my early lessons was buying too many bees to commence with. I paid a man $176.00 for 25 colonies of bees and eight empty hives. I asked him some questions about taking care of them, which he answered properly as I look at it now, yet he had no inducement to tell me more than I asked, and the truth half told sometimes leaves things in bad shape. The result was I worked my bees that season in such a way that I did not make $20.00 out of them, and increased them to 40 colonies of which all died but four the following winter.
The man I bought them of was not to blame, for he told me that some had paid him as high as $2 for information, which at the time I thought ought to come for nothing, but I would have done well to have paid him much more than to have done as I did. I did not subscribe for a bee journal, for I thought I could find out how to keep bees alone. After I had lost a great deal of money I commenced studying bee journals and books, and here theories captivated me to such an extent that I was not much better off.
Some bee writers, like patent medicine venders, seem to think the more wonderful and complicated they make things appear the sooner they are swallowed by most people. The mysterious is generally thought to be the proper thing, especially by the beginner, hence the "humbug", is nourished, and, becomes a thrifty insect.
The very best way to learn the trade of bee-keeping is to work one season with a practical bee-keeper. If you can't do that, then buy standard works on bee-keeping, and subscribe for a bee-journal or two, and study them well, but don't try to follow all you read in them. Let your eyes and common sense guide you. Visit some practical bee-keeper often, consult him, and don't be afraid to pay him for his time and trouble in setting you to rights. Don't occupy his time in telling him what you know. Tell him what you don't know, but want to find out.
from: The White Mountain Apiarist. March, 1891