Who Was Dr. Charles C. Miller? Beekeeper, Writer, Inventor

Charles C. Miller Beekeeper

Dr. Charles C. Miller, or C.C. Miller, was an American commercial beekeeper. His beekeeping operation was the largest comb honey producer in the United States at its peak.

Miller was also an inventor, songwriter and authored the books Fifty Years Among Bees and A Thousand Answers to Beekeeping Questions. His peers widely respected him, and he was a popular American Bee Journal columnist.

Did you know? Other influential authors who wrote for American Bee Journal include Moses Quinby, Adam Grimm, Charles Dadant, L. Langstroth, and Johann Dzierzon.

Quick facts

NameDr. Charles C. Miller
BornJune 10, 1831
Place of BirthLigonier, PA
DiedSeptember 4, 1920
OccupationBeekeeper, author, inventor
Notable Beekeeping AchievementsWrote Fifty Years Among the Bees and A Thousand Answers to Beekeeping Questions. Inventor of the Miller queen rearing method. North America’s biggest comb honey producer.

The early life of C.C. Miller

Miller was born in 1831 in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, to parents Johnson and Phoebe. He was part of a large family with four other siblings.

When Miller was ten, his father died, so money was scarce for the remaining family. C.C. took several years off school to help support his mother.

Miller attended the University of Michigan and had to undertake various jobs to make ends meet. His knowledge of German, coupled with excellent ornamental penmanship, landed him a job filling in the names on diplomas for two commencements.

He also worked as a gardener, peddled maps, clerked at a local town election, and taught singing.

This last undertaking was a bit reckless, for when I arrived at Schenectady, I had only about thirty dollars, with nothing to rely on except what I might pick up by the way to help me in college. I had a horror of being in debt, and so was on the alert for any work, no matter what its nature, so it was honest, by which I could earn something to help carry me through.

Dr. C.C. Miller.

Miller received his M.D. at the age of 24 and practiced medicine in Earlville, Illinois, for around two years. He decided to stop practicing medicine for health reasons and fear of providing the wrong advice. Instead, he took up teaching.

It did not take more than a year for me to find out that I had not a sufficient stock of health myself to take care of that of others, especially as I was morbidly anxious lest some lack of judgment on my part should prove a serious matter with someone under my care. So, with much regret I gave up my chosen profession.

Dr. C.C. Miller.

How did C.C. Miller start beekeeping?

Miller built a successful career teaching and was soon promoted to public school principal. However, he needed greater mental stimulation, so when his wife caught a swarm of honey bees on their porch, he jumped at the opportunity to learn more about keeping them.

As his hive numbers increased, he transitioned from his teaching career to focus solely on bees.

Note: This article is part of our series dedicated to influential beekeepers that made a difference.

C.C. Miller’s achievements in beekeeping

  • Honey production: built a successful business selling comb honey, owning four apiaries with up to 400 hives. At its peak in 1897, his colonies produced 17,150 pounds of honey.
  • Beekeeping journals: was a popular contributor and later became an associate editor at the American Bee Journal. He also wrote for Gleaning in Bee Culture and was promoted to department head.
  • Book publications: wrote various books including A Year Among Bees (1886), Forty Years Among the Bees (1903), Fifty Years Among the Bees (1911), and A Thousand Answers to Beekeeping Questions (1917).
  • Inventions: inventor of the Miller Tent Escape, Miller Feeder, and Miller’s Introducing Cage.
  • Queen rearing: introduced the Miller queen rearing method, which is still used by some beekeepers today.
  • Leadership: was twice elected president of the National Bee Keepers Union.
  • Composer: wrote the music for many bee-related songs, including The Bee March, The Hum of the Bees in the Apple Tree Tops, Beekeepers’ Convention Song, and The Beekeepers’ Reunion Song.

More people who influenced modern beekeeping

Fifty Years Among Bees Summary

Don’t have time to read the classic Fifty Years Among Bees? We’ve summarized the whole book below. Click below to reveal the summary of his writings.

This book starts by revealing the author’s early life, education, and introduction to beekeeping. He studied medicine but later realized it wasn’t his calling.

Miller taught music and worked for a music company before becoming interested in bees. His wife captured a swarm of bees, which sparked his curiosity and led him to start beekeeping.

Miller decided to leave city life and a lucrative job offer to work with bees full-time. Wintering the bees at home proved advantageous, as the average loss decreased significantly.

In 1877, C.C switched from extracting honey to producing comb honey using sections. The sections at that time were less refined than modern ones. He faced challenges in fastening the foundation in the sections and sought advice from A. I. Root.

Miller used wide frames that held eight sections. He employed brood combs as baits to prompt bees to work in the sections.

In 1878, Miller made beekeeping his sole business and started experimenting with out-apiaries. However, the winter of 1880-1881 resulted in a significant loss of colonies.

Miller experienced fluctuations in honey yields, attributing them to the season and number of colonies. He expressed the importance of having multiple sources of surplus honey.

In 1882, Miller harvested 16,549 pounds of honey from 174 colonies. He tested the Heddon super, which divided the super into four compartments. However, the sections were often bulged or hollowed out, making them unsuitable for packing.

Hive tools like the Muench and Root tools are used for various tasks. A hatchet with a shortened handle is used for hive cleaning. Green sticks from a live tree in a smoker can produce strong and continuous smoke. However, dry wood works better as fuel.

Miller explains his method for getting combs built down to the bottom bars of frames using splints and hot beeswax. Timing and minimal interruptions are vital for successful comb-building.

Dummies are useful in hives for filling up vacant spaces and facilitating the removal of frames. He describes his dummy design and its purpose.

Miller briefly mentions his search for a suitable hive cover. Various designs were tested, with a preference for a lightweight, durable double-board cover.

Feeding bees outdoors has drawbacks, such as uncertainty about how much food each colony will receive and dependence on weather conditions.

C.C advises that bees need abundant stores for spring building. Feeding with Miller feeders or providing surplus combs of honey are recommended methods.

Wholesale feeding may be necessary in emergencies when colonies are on the verge of starvation. Consider using a crock-and-plate feeder or the cork-chips watering method.

The text discusses various topics related to beekeeping and honey production. It mentions the discovery of a new honey plant called Colossal Ladino, a giant white clover.

Miller experimented with growing this crop and compared its characteristics to red clover and common white clover. He also mentions other plants, such as linden, catnip, goldenrod, asters, and heartsease, which are either abundant or have become important honey plants in some areas.

The average weight of 146 pounds per colony equals about 160 sections. However, there is a shortage of 8 sections per colony, so it is recommended to have seven supers ready in advance for each colony.

Extra brood builds up nuclei or new colonies. A correct bee space of a quarter inch is necessary to prevent the building of burr combs between top bars and supers.

  • Queen excluders are unnecessary as the queen rarely goes up into the supers.
  • Using full foundation in sections can help prevent queens from laying in them.
  • Preparation of supers of sections involves cleaning them from propolis.

There is some uncertainty in determining the number of supers required, and they can be placed either under or over existing supers. The goal is to prevent overcrowding and swarming.

Miller discusses various methods for managing swarming colonies of bees. He describes different plans, such as caging the queen, cutting out queen cells, and creating nucleus colonies.

Miller also shares his personal experiences and preferences regarding swarming. It is important to provide enough space and ventilation to prevent swarming.

C.C. Miller mentions various methods of managing bee colonies to prevent swarming.

  1. He tested keeping queens caged in the hive during the harvest, but it was unsuccessful.
  2. He also attempted to let young queens fight it out without returning swarms, resulting in multiple swarms and unpredictable behavior.
  3. Another method involved transferring brood frames to a separate hive and introducing a new queen. This approach proved satisfactory.
  4. Miller also tried using queen excluders and empty frames to control swarming.

C.C mentions the importance of monitoring colonies for queen cells and describes the process of destroying cells and treating colonies.

When honey supers are removed from beehives, smoke is blown down into the super to encourage the bees to leave.

If the honey flow is strong and there is little risk of robbing, the supers can be left open and unattended for some time. Supers may be stacked on each other, and the bees can exit through the top.

The supers are then taken to a honey room for further processing. The honeycomb sections are pushed out using a push-board, and the unfinished sections are separated from the finished ones.

Miller describes his method of stopping beehive robbing by closing the entrances of nearby hives and throwing wet hay at the besieged hive. He found that this method prevented further trouble, although some bees may have tried to join other colonies after being robbed.

Miller also mentions the vulnerability of piled hives to robbing and shares a technique they used to protect themselves from stings, such as wearing a bee veil and sometimes gloves.

C.C describes their process for breeding queen bees. They wait 12-14 days after forming the nuclei to check if the queens are laying eggs. If no eggs are found, they provide a frame of young brood to encourage the queen to start laying.

Bees from a strong colony that have already started queen cells are chosen to start the cells and take care of them. Miller trims the breeding comb by removing the oldest brood and keeping the younger brood at the edge of the comb. The trimmed comb is then placed in the queenless colony.

Multiple nuclei can be housed in a single hive with divided compartments. The author plugs the entrances of the nuclei with green leaves to prevent the bees from leaving, which are removed after 24 hours. Queenless bees are preferred for forming nuclei.

Miller also suggests a method for “Italianizing” colonies using natural swarming. By strategically managing swarms and requeening, it is possible to gradually replace the stock with Italian bees.

In 1902, Miller faced a coal shortage and decided to install a furnace in their cellar to heat the house and burn various fuel types. However, the furnace made maintaining the bee room at a cool temperature challenging, causing some colonies to starve to death.

In subsequent years, Miller learned from his mistakes and ensured the colonies had enough stores for winter. He also dealt with European foulbrood in his apiary, using treatments such as the AlcEvoy and Alexander methods.

In 1910, they detected some cases of the disease and developed a theory on its transmission between cells.

The legacy of C.C. Miller

Dr. C.C. Miller died on September 4th, 1921. As a memorial, a group of the top beekeeping journals raised funds to purchase beekeeping literature. The collection, including Miller’s works, was donated to the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Wisconsin.

Over time, additional collections were bequeathed to the library, resulting in the world’s most extensive collection of beekeeping literature.

Miller was an exceptional beekeeper whose ideas and methods are still used by modern beekeepers. Read more about the Miller Method of queen rearing here.

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