40,000 bees invaded the Akron club meeting in 1921

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What was in the box? The businessmen looked curiously at the large wooden container as they took their seats for the Akron Lions Club meeting.

Soon they were buzzing with excitement.

100 years ago, more than 75 members attended the YWCA luncheon at 22 S. High St., a site now occupied by the downtown parking lot of the Akron-Summit County Public Library. Founded a year earlier under the principle of “selfless service to others,” the Akron club hosted guest speakers every week.

They would not soon forget the conference of November 15, 1921.

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Inventor, author and chemist Huber H. Root, 38, was general manager of the AI ​​Root Co., which his father, Amos, had founded in Medina in 1869. National expert on bees, HH Root had been editor and contributor to publications such as “Gleanings in Bee Culture”, “Alexander’s Writings on Practical Bee Culture” and “The ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture”.

He has lectured across the country and has spoken with great fervor about bees.

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“Bees were not created to make honey,” he told the audience. “They were created to pollinate flowers by crossing. The making of honey is only a useful secondary industry.

“Bees don’t get honey from flowers. What they get from the flower is cane syrup. Thanks to their body, it is transformed into grape sugar in a mysterious little laboratory that no one understands.

“When a bee is hungry, it opens a little valve from this lab in its stomach. When his stomach is full, he closes the valve.

Hubert H. Root examines church candles in 1954 at the AI ​​Root Co. in Medina.  He was the son of the founder of the company.

The Akron Lions listened to Root’s presentation with interest. They almost forgot about the wooden container until Root waved to them.

“Now in this box I have a beehive and a full swarm of bees,” Root said. “They won’t sting me, of course. But I can’t say what they could do to you.

The club members laughed.

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“You’re kidding. There can’t be bees in this box,” said Dow Harter, founding president, US commissioner and future US congressman.

“We’ll see if I’m kidding,” Root said, opening the latch and lifting the lid.

An undulating mass of yellow and black swarmed inside. As Root pointed out to the combs laden with insects and honey, about 40,000 bees were released into the small meeting room. Pandemonium swept the room as the Lions ducked under the tables and covered their heads with tablecloths and napkins.

“Consternation arose among club members as thousands of bees scurried around them, resting in their hair, faces, hands and clothes,” Akron Evening reported. Times.

“Some, who forgot Mr. Root’s warning not to slap the bees, and tried to chase them away, were heard screaming loudly. A few timid, who attempted to make their way to the door when the bugs were released, were disheartened by the cries of their fellow members. “

The sound of Root’s muffled laughter cut the buzz off. When the Lions finally dared to look up, they were amazed to see that Root was covered in bees.

He shook the insects carefully, put them back in the hive and closed the lid.

“A bee can’t sting unless it sits down,” Root said. “And my bees are all trained to stand.”

The Lions chuckle as they return to their seats, marveling at the startling display.

While the Beacon Journal reported that no club member was stung, the Evening Times mentioned “a few casualties” but noted that there would not be “many businessmen in the center. -City that would go home tonight to heal their swollen jaw, eyes, or whatever. “

According to Huber H. Root, director of AI Root Co.: This unretouched photo of the head of an Italian bee was taken to show the pollen particles in the hair, dramatizing the contribution of bees to horticulture.

Explaining the inner workings of a beehive, Root said the bee colony “is the only true social colony in the world.”

“No one gives orders in a bee community,” said Root. “There is no division of labor. If a bee sees that there is work to be done, it goes and does it.

Contrary to popular belief, he said, the queen is not the ruler of the colony but is subject to the wishes of the workers who exercise full control.

Workers are not neutrals but immature females, he said, and queens are mature females. The queen’s job is to lay eggs. If the workers want more eggs, they feed the queen more, said Root. If the workers want fewer eggs, they feed her less.

A queen will lay 2.5 times her egg weight every 24 hours, Root noted. She eats two and a half times her weight per day. And there can only be one. Two queens will fight to the death.

“Drones have been criticized a lot for their laziness,” he said. ” It is unfair. Nature has not equipped drones with tongues and stings for them to work. When there is a lot of honey, drones are tolerated. When food supplies are low, drones are thrown in to starve. “

Lions probably learned more about bees that day than they expected. The incident made national headlines.

Bee allergies were not to be a common concern 100 years ago, as Root made the same move at conferences across Ohio. Several months later, he lectured at West High School in Akron.

“What sort of institution do you think it would be if each individual only thought about improving high school?” Racine told the students. “Suppose no one is thinking about personal advancement. Suppose a school where the spirit of community was 100 percent.

The students screamed and screamed as Root opened the hive and released 40,000 bees. He told the children not to panic.

“Bees don’t like nervous people, but it’s hard to get them to sting in defense,” Root said. “They reserve their stings for the defense of the hive.”

The bees returned to the box. No bites were reported.

Root repeated the coup that week at Central, North and South High Schools.

We live in a different world from a century ago. Try to imagine the school officials allowing such a demonstration today.

HH Root then served as chairman and chairman of the board of AI Root Co. He introduced rolled beeswax candles, which were more heat resistant, and invented a glass sanctuary light that kept wax from flowing in churches.

He also wrote the 1951 manual “Beeswax, Its Properties, Tests, Production and Applications”.

Root was 88 when he died in 1972.

AI Root Co. celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2019. The fifth generation family business, which continues to settle in Medina, produces around 20 million candles per year and advertises its products as “America’s best candles” .

The company has been creating a buzz since 1869.

But don’t worry: he no longer lets go of 40,000 bees at public meetings.

Mark J. Price can be contacted at [email protected]


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