Bob Hamilton - in the beginning

Garelochead, Scotland

In 1924 at Neudorf

Notice the Rocks on top covers.  The high winds  (gusts to 120 kph)

on the southern prairies is very hard on bee survival.  

In Aylsham 1945

In a paper, Bob was asked what he thought was the Greatest invention to improve beekeeping. He said it was the Rubber Tire. The interviewer was quite surprised.  Bob explained that in his early days; hives were moved on wagons, pulled by horses.  When the wagon hit a bump, the bees would sting the horse; the horse would run; and the hive would fall off the wagon.

When Bob was asked what he thought was the worst thing that has happened to the Bee industry he said it was the same – the Rubber Tire. Now diseases, pests, & genetics are spread around the world in days.





Hauling Bees from California in 1960 





Family Herald Jan.12, 1960 p.7 article with Bob's history

the right amounts and time. Naturally in those days of male superiority they called her a king. "Later," explains Mr. Hamilton, "it was found that the queen wasn’t boss of the hive and that apparently there was no individual boss. Then men couldn’t figure out how orders were given, especially after some early researchers decided that bees can’t hear." Other research workers began to wonder if bees might get their messages by smell. Then a few years ago, a German scientist, Von Frisch publicized the theory that bees perform dances which spell out certain information, to their watching sisters. Mr. Hamilton doesn’t agree.  "When a bee comes in with a load of honey from a new clover patch," he says, "he certainly does a lot. of wig-wagging but that could just be joy. It makes a lot more sense to say he unloads his honey and makes a special sound that leads the other bees to the honey patch. If he did a dance how would all the bees in the other hives out of sight get his message? The whole yard learns, not just one hive.    "I don’t think bees have human intelligence but they can express themselves in a language they can put to immediate use. If you believed they got their information through watching a pattern they’d have to be able to store up information and follow it like a man whose wife tells hint to go downtown for a certain brand of tea.             "Bees can use their language in many ways to order the work of the hives Let’s suppose that the nurse bees need water to mix with the pollen they’re feeding the larvae. They could make a special noise and the bees nearby would fetch water until the noise changed."        On the other hand, a hive that is about to swarm has a different sound, from one that has nothing on its mind but honey production, Mr. Hamilton points out. And a hive that is robbing honey from another has still a different sound from one that is being robbed. If one hive is robbing it isn’t long until all the hives in the area catch on that there is easy honey to be got and will join in. The bees in the other hives get the news by sound, Mr. Hamilton believes. A hive that is being robbed is probably one without a queen. Here, says Mr. Hamilton, the bees make a sad sound reflecting their dispirited status.   Even in a hive equipped with a queen, there may be signs of strife. The queen is jealous of her role as the sole propagator of the race and will kill all rivals. However, the workers boss her around, and realizing that old queens die, they go ahead feeding a special royal jelly to certain grubs, turning them into new queens. Normally, the old queen leaves home or is pushed out by a swarm of workers seven days before the new queen’s hatch. If she is still there, however, she soon begins to hear the young queens imprisoned in their cells.

            Note of Anger

"Then the workers have to force the queen to stay away from the cells or she’ll kill the young queens," Bob Hamilton explains. "if you listen you’ll hear the queen making an angry piping noise. I think she’s challenging them to fight. Before they come out of the cells you can hear the little queens piping back in a muffled way. They pipe only after the queen does. That means they’re ready to fight too." Bob Hamilton doesn’t know how bees make the sounds which he believes governs their lives. He knows that entomologists say bees have no vocal cords and therefore cannot speak the way humans do, but he points out that the cricket makes his song by rubbing his legs together. He thinks there are many ways a bee can make a noise, which means something to its hive-mates. Again, while the bee has no ears like humans she has nerves on various parts of her body, which might be sensitive to sound.      Bob Hamilton has been within the sound of bees ever since he was a baby. There were bees humming on the farm where he was baby at Garelochhead in Scotland’s Highlands. When, as a lad of 16 he came to Canada in 1910, he wasted little time starting a hive on the farm where he worked near Neudorf, Sask.    After four years with the Canadian army in the first World War Bob Hamilton came back to Neudorf, bought a farm under the Soldier’s Settlement Act and settled down to raising grain and honey.      "I kept increasing my bees and during the thirties when we were dried out I was a part-time bee inspector," Bob says.         It was while he was an inspector that he visited the Aylsham district in northeast Saskatchewan where the rain and trees made the country seem like paradise. Bob bought four and a half acres at the edge of Aylsham, moved his bees in during the spring of 1939 and has been there ever since.   He went out of grain farming completely and at one time had 1,200 hives scattered about on farms.        Bob, now 66, has dropped down to 800 hives the last three years. But it’s only since a heart attack that he has been forced to turn over most of the work to hired staff and has time to work on his theory about the language of bees. That, of course, is years away, but if serious research could carry Bob’s work further, it is possible that future scientists will be able to reproduce the sounds which attract grasshoppers, codling moths and potato bugs. Then, just like the Pied Piper of old who led the rats from Hamelin, the farmer may be able to charm the bugs right out of his fields.

page 7 FAMILY HERALD. Jan. 12, 1961