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stincts and formations as they were, when the first observations on their habits, with which we are acquainted, were made.
We have, for seven years, had a little colony under our immediate inspection, and we began our personal observation with the knowledge of all that ancient and modern theorists have advanced, in relation to the habits, customs, and manners, of this wonderful insect. We came to their superintendence with a mind tinctured with all that was marvellous and fanciful, and with an ardor that seven years have not subdued; although theory after theory has now melted away,
and most of the wonders and enigmas have been solved, and reduced to the clearest and most simple particulars. Our wonder and admiration, although deprived of the charms of the fanciful legends in which the history of the bee was embodied, are still undiminished, nay, increased; for an elevation of thought and feeling has been produced by the study.
Notwithstanding the astonishing sagacity to be traced in the economy of bees, and the diversity of habits which might be expected, nature in reality is less variable in this instance than in most others; for although climate and a contracted habitation may reduce their size, and scantiness of food reduce their numbers, yet as long as there are flowers, the bee will abstract the honey, and as long as there are forests, the bee will construct a cell. With other insects and animals, and even with man himself, the case is different. Insects will imbibe nourishment from the exudations of both animal and vegetable substances. Man can accommodate himself to every variety of diet, and thrive on all. The bee alone never changes its food. The sweet sap that exudes from vegetable pores, and which is accumulated in the nectary of flowers, serves alike to sustain the bee, and to render the seeds of plants fit for germination. As no flower can arrive at maturity without the assistance of this fluid, it is ever present; and as the bee has a twofold duty to perform, that of preserving its own being by such means as nature has pointed out, and that of assisting the winds in carrying the pollen from flower to flower, creative wisdom has so arranged it, that the peculiar food of the bee is in abundance. And as this nutritive fluid is to support inanimate life, which requires an unvaried and uniform food, the bee for ever partakes of the same nourishment, and is enabled to preserve its peculiarities of form and instinct unaltered from generation to generation.
For both the operations, therefore, of sustaining life and of dispersing pollen, which require uniformity of instinct and organization, the bee is the same in all situations and in all ages. The working bees have the instinctive faculties of building different shaped cells; of choosing and preparing the food, both for the larvæ and for themselves; of taking care of the young brood; of carrying off noxious and extraneous matter, of defending themselves from enemies of their own species; and of expelling the drones when they are no longer of use in the hive. They have the instinctive knowledge that they cannot, as other insects do, exist individually; they are constructed, therefore, in so admirable a manner as to make everything subservient to the safety and comfort of the mother of the brood. She is, in their estimation, as much a part of themselves, as an eye or a limb. Their care of her is a kind of self-preservation, a law implanted in every living thing.
After rejecting all the fanciful and marvellous speculations of the theorists, there are still several material points unsettled, on three of which we propose to make a few remarks at the
1st. The most modern and the most rational theorists differ in their opinions respecting the accuracy of the facts, that are stated in relation to the queen bee's leaving the hive at any other time, than when she goes forth with a new swarm.
2d. They dispute likewise on the possibility of the bees' making a queen bee, from a neuter, when circumstances require it.
3d. They are still ignorant, whether the drone perform the office of nurse to the larvæ when deposited in the different cells.
On the first point we venture to state unhesitatingly, that the queen bee never leaves the hive, but when she accompanies a
For ten weeks, we fixed our attention on the entrance of two hives that stood close to each other on a bench. Our watch, either in person, or entrusted to another as interested and vigilant as ourselves, commenced at grey dawn, and continued till sunset; and never within that period did the queen bee of either hive leave them, but at the time of swarming, which occurred once in each hive during our inspection. With an eye to this single circumstance, we have, for six successive years subsequent to the careful observation just stated, been in the constant habit of noting every peculiar movement at the VOL. XXVII.NO. 61.
entrance of hives, but we never saw the queen. Independently of the reliance that can be placed on observations of this kind, we have confirmation derived from strong probabilities.
The average number of a hive or swarm is from fifteen to twenty thousand bees. Nineteen thousand four hundred and ninety-nine are neuters or working bees, five hundred are drones, and the remaining one is the queen or mother ! Every living thing, from man down to an ephemeral insect, pursues the bee to its destruction for the sake of the honey that is deposited in its cell, or secreted in its honey-bag. To obtain that which the bee is carrying to its hive, numerous birds and insects are on the watch, and an incredible number of bees fall victims, in consequence, to their enemies.
Independently of this, there are the changes in the weather, such as high winds, sudden showers, hot sunshine ; and then there is the liability to fall into rivers, besides a hundred other dangers to which bees are exposed.
Can any one, who considers all these casualties, suppose, that the instinct in bees is so defective, as to allow so important a member of the community, and the only one of the kind too, to leave the hive and run the immense risk that would attend an excursion in the air ? It is a well established fact, that one queen lays all the eggs of the hive; that part of the daily duties of the working bees is to nourish the young brood, which, if there were no queen, they could not do, as there would be no eggs. If the bees are disturbed in their regular routine of business, they become uneasy and incapable of proceeding. When they return from the nectary of flowers, with the usual quantity of sweet fluid, they hasten to bestow the first or uppermost part of honey on the larvæ and young bees, and when this simple, undigested liquid is disposed of, they deposit that, which has gone through a certain chymical process, in the cells.
If, therefore, on entering the hive, they find no queen, they run about anxious and distressed, drop the little pellets of pollen that are attached to their legs, strike their antennæ against one another, and are in great agitation during the day. Sometimes two days are passed in this restless state, before they make an effort to repair their loss.
If the queen bee were to leave the hive, as Huber and others fancy, she would run great risk of never being able to return to it. Even around the apiary, before she had made the usual evolutions in the air, common to all bees on leaving the hive, she might become the prey of one of the many birds, that are hovering over head, or on the watch. The blue-bird, the kingbird, and the cat-bird swallow bees by dozens while on the wing; and the queen bee would have less chance of escape, as she is larger, and therefore more conspicuous, and is besides very slow and heavy in her motions, her wings being smaller in proportion to her body than those of the working bee and the drone.
From our own observations, therefore, as well as from the above inferences, we must believe that the queen bee never leaves the hive, but for the establishment of a new colony.
The next material point of dispute is, whether it be in the power of the working bees to convert the larva of a working bee into that of a queen, when by accident the hive is deprived of one. According to the most accurate naturalists, the organization of the queen, or mother bee, is different from that of either the drone or the neuters. It appears to us quite as rational and philosophical to suppose, that a queen bee could be converted into a neuter, and therefore that all bees at first were of the shape and organic structure of the queen, as to suppose that a neuter or working bee could have new organs added, new curves given to its limbs, and new instincts to its nature.
If we could see the interior of a hive whenever it suited our convenience, we should not be so lost in conjecture; but the irritability of these little insects, prevents a constant and minute internal inspection. It is a part of their instinct to know that light, heat, cold, and moisture, in an undue and unaccustomed degree, are prejudicial to the formation of wax, to the consistence of the honey, and to the health of the brood. They therefore use all the little arts and advantages they possess, to prevent any one from exposing them to the injurious influence of these active powers.
When a queen bee ceases to animate the hive, the bees are conscious of her loss; after searching for her through the hive, for a day or more, they examine the royal cells, which are of a peculiar construction and reversed in position, hanging vertically, with the mouth underneath. If no eggs or larvæ are to be found in these cells, they then enlarge several of those cells, which are appropriated to the eggs of neuters, and in which queen eggs have been deposited. They soon attach a royal cell to the enlarged surface, and the queen bee, enabled now to grow, protrudes itself by degrees into the royal cell, and comes out perfectly formed, to the great pleasure of the bees.
Now this in itself is curious and wonderful. There is no need of adding superhuman powers to an insect, when the simple facts show such singular sagacity. The truth is, that the queen or mother bee lays the neuter eggs in certain cells of a particular construction ; in fact, the eggs are laid, at least many of them, as soon as the foundations are begun, before the cells are built. The bees know, from the peculiar shape of the egg, that it is to have a cell of certain dimensions. When the neuter and drone eggs are deposited, the royal cells are then filled, for abundant observations prove that the queen eggs are laid last. If the royal cells are not sufficient to hold all the queen eggs, they are laid in the common cells, and in the course of the regular business of the hive, these cells are attended to with the rest. When the larva is of a size to fill the cell, a covering of wax is put on, and here ends the life, or rather the embryo of the queen ; for no longer having room to expand, it perishes and is dragged out in the nymph form, as soon as the bees discover that animation is extinct. If, during the progress of the egg from the larva to the nymph state, the mother queen dies, and there are no eggs in the royal cells, then the bees have recourse to the queen eggs that are laid in the common cells. By enlarging the entrance, and by attaching to it a cell, which hangs vertically, they continue the life of the larva, and a queen bee is fornied.
Here is no work of transformation. The insect is already formed, and nothing remains to be done, but the mere mechanical operation of building a habitation, which shall be adequate to its wants. The peculiar organic construction of the queen bee perhaps requires a difference of food, as we perceive it does of dwelling. No doubt it is necessary to supply it more abundantly, and with greater care. The very position it is compelled to take, shows that it requires a different kind of nurture from either the common bee or the drone. It is wonderful that instinct is so competent to direct these changes; but it would be more than wonderful, if, in addition to this instinct, the bee had the power to construct new organs, as it does different cells, and thus to endow the insect with a different nature.
The third point unsettled, and which is likely to remain for ever a secret, is, whether the eggs of the queen are hatched after the manner of the eggs of fishes, whether they simply