Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

difficult for those who have a respect for our opinions, to cull out and methodize the different matter as it occurs, and we can then ramble on with our few remaining observations to the close.

In the hive of a new swarm, during the months of July and August, there are fewer small bees, than in one that has been tenanted for four or five years. The bee, like all other insects, spins itself a covering before it becomes a fly. When it emerges with wings, from its cell, several older bees approach it, feed it with the contents of their stomachs, and then clean out the cell and deposit in it fresh honey. This is their constant practice; and the bee that is just born, as soon as it has been fed and has stretched its wings, flies off to a flower, and commences its labors. But although the bees clean out the cell the moment a young bee is born, yet they either find no inconvenience from that part of the film, which the young bee leaves at the bottom of the cell, and which is of a silky nature, or they are unable to detach it. In consequence of this, the cell is not so deep, and as the same circumstances occur perpetually, brood alternating with honey, the cells become every year visibly smaller; and, consequently, those bees that are bred in these small cells, of which there is a great number, are never of the full size of those that have had more room. Even the queen eggs, which we say are often deposited in the cells of neuters, and have afterwards larger cells attached to the first, never produce so large a queen bee, as if the cell had been of proper

dimensions at first. Thus we see that the contraction of the cell may diminish the size of a bee, even to the extinction of life, just as the contraction of a Chinese shoe reduces the foot even to uselessness; but in neither case will a single new organ be taken from or added to the bee, or a single toe be taken from or added to the foot, whether the cell or shoe be larger or smaller.

A young bee can be readily distinguished from an old one, by the greyish colored down that covers it, and which it loses by the wear and tear of hard labor; and if the bee be not destroyed before the season is over, this down entirely disappears, and the groundwork of the insect is seen, white or black. On a close examination, very few of these black or aged bees, will be seen at the opening of the spring, as, not having the stamina of those that are younger, they perish from inability to encounter the vicissitudes of winter.

Our seasons are very variable. The scorching droughts of

summer deny to plants their accustomed moisture ; no honey therefore can be made by the bees at such times, and they are compelled to eat of their winter food. They cluster about the hive, or, deprived of their accustomed labor, they are very restless, and often intrude into a neighboring hive, apparently for the want of employment. In the summer of 1825, during the latter part of July, the heat was so distressing to the bees, the thermometer standing at 92° in the shade, that they seemed to have lost their usual instinct. A number of hives of the old-fashioned patterns, that stood on a bench, were well filled with bees. At two o'clock, for three days in succession, the whole swarm of each hive rushed out, and ran into the adjoining hive, where they remained for a few seconds without apparent offence to the invaded bees, who in their turn flew madly out, and paid the same unceremonious visit to their neighbors. No quarrel ensued, not a bee was killed by these irruptive movements. They seemed maddened by the heat; and yet the queen was left in the hive, for with all our attention to the sallying parties, we did not see a single queen among them.

The same frenzy did not occur in those hives that were suspended upon joists, thus proving that the bees did not suffer so much from heat in those suspended hives, as they did in the flat-bottomed ones, that rested on a bench.

Our winters are equally disastrous to the poor bees. Of late years, there have been so many mild days during the cold season, that a great deal of honey has been consumed. These alternations of torpor and animation cause greater exhaustion and loss of physical powers, than would be occasioned by a continuance of uniform torpor. This we infer from the fact, that in Russia, where the winters are uniformly cold, bees do not perish; and in the West Indies where there is perpetual verdure, they are never exhausted.

But although a bee may remain torpid, to a certain extent, for six months in the year without injury, in those climates to which the insect has long been accustomed, yet it could not exist for the same space of time in lower latitudes, where such a period of continued cold rarely occurs. Nature has not constructed them for every emergency.

She has done no more for them in this particular, than she has for man. They are compelled to get accustomed to a change of climate by degrees; not by an alteration of the structure of their organs,

for that can never occur under any circumstances, but by some change that

cess.

takes place in the circulation of the fluids of the body, by which the system is accommodated to a higher or lower temperature. But we leave this part of the question to the naturalists learned in the science.

If we are correct in this our opinion, the suggestion of Dr Anderson would not be available in our climate. If, according to his proposal, bees were to be kept all winter in an icehouse, more causes than one would operate to the injury of their health, and consequently to the decrease of their number. The temperature of an ice-house, unless we are to suppose the hive to be buried in the ice itself, is much higher than that which is without the house. The torpor, therefore, would not be so complete, as to put a stop to the digestive pro

The bees would be compelled to eat; and as their food is constantly in contact with the impure, stagnant air of the icehouse, it would soon become vitiated and engender diseases.

We know of but two diseases to which the bees are subject in this country, and they have to our knowledge never occurred at any other season, than the early part of the spring,-dysentery and dyspepsia. The latter arises from the indolent, inactive life that they are compelled to lead, in our variable winters. The rule holds good with the most diminutive, as well as the greatest, in animal life, that if we eat and wish to preserve health, we must work.'

During the last winter (1828), the bees suffered more and lost more of their numbers, than has often been known before. There was scarcely a day, that they did not sally out to search for employment and food ; but not being properly stimulated, they seldom returned to the hive. We frequently saw them crawling on the ground, weak and spiritless ; and those that did return soon perished. On examining the hives, we observed that nearly all the honey was consumed ; and many of the brood, that, in ordinary seasons, are not hatched until the first part of April, assumed the fly form at an earlier period and died.

The cure for this disorder the bees take into their own hands. As soon as the flowers appear, they go to work; and then it is, that they resort to aperients and tonics, which they abstract from the floors of the piggeries.

The other disease proceeds from long confinement in bad air and from unwholesome food, and is invariably fatal

į nor can the bees avert it by any instinct of their own. We know of no cure for the dysentery, when the bee is seized with it.

VOL. XXVII.NO. 61. 46

Those that have it badly must die. We can restore those that are least affected, by frequently washing the hives, as far as we can reach, with weak lie, and by ventilating them and removing the dead bees.

Much has been said of the danger to be apprehended from placing an apiary too near our own dwelling. There is indeed no positive advantage in having it very near; but as the person usually engaged in hiving the bees is occupied with farming affairs, and is not always present when the bees swarm, it is proper that the apiary should be within sight of the family. A bee certainly has frequently attacked a horse, and we have once or twice heard of one being stung to death. Considering the great number of hives of bees, it is really wonderful, that more accidents of this kind have not occurred. But they are exceedingly rare ; and when we know how many hundred horses annually die from the disease called the botts, which proceeds from the maggots of the egg, laid by the horse-bee on the hair of the animal, the very few that suffer from the sting of the honey-bеe do not deserve to be taken into consideration.

In every point of view, therefore, it appears that bees should be cultivated. The wax that is consumed in this country, in various ways, is enormous, and most of it is imported. If we may credit Huish, Great Britain imports from Germany and Italy upwards of eighty thousand pounds sterling worth of wax annually. We are unable to say, with any precision, to what amount it is imported by us; but judging from the quantity that each family uses in a year, and the amount employed in various arts, it must be worthy of notice.

It is really disgraceful to such a country as ours to import wax or honey. We ought ourselves to export tons of it

every year; and we trust that, in the course of a few years, this improvement will take place. Massachusetts and Connecticut are well situated, and abundantly supplied with proper food for bees; and their climate, being less variable, is better adapted to their nature.

We spoke of hills of twenty or thirty feet in height; this only applies to the site of an apiary near a dwelling. The dwelling itself may be on a hill. We have heard of convents situated on mountains, that have been well stocked with hives. In short, nothing is wanting but good pasture, good hives, cleanliness, and attention, to insure a rich reward to those who engage in the pursuit.

Children are naturally very fond of watching the proceedings

are

of bees, and they would soon learn to take care of them, if they were not taught to fear ther. All danger can be guarded against, by making them wear woollen gloves that long enough to draw over their sleeves at the wrist, and a wire cap to cover their head. They could thus be trained to manage bees; and training is quite as necessary to the full comprehension of the occupation, as it is in the trade of a carpenter or a shoe-maker.

It would be unjust not to refer again to Mr Butler's little book, after making it the occasion of expressing our own thoughts. We shall rejoice if our slender notice of his work should encourage him to put forth a new edition; and we shall now take leave of the subject, although it be almost inexhaustible, by an anecdote, that we have reserved for the conclusion, that it may make the deeper impression.

A good old French bishop, in paying his annual visit to his clergy, was very much afflicted by the representations they made of their extreme poverty, and which the appearance of their houses and families corroborated. Whilst he was deploring the state of things which had reduced them to this sad condition, he arrived at the house of a curate, who, living amongst a poorer set of parishioners than any he had yet visited, would, he feared, be in a still more woful plight than the others. Contrary, however, to his expectations, he found appearances very much improved. Everything about the house wore the aspect comfort and plenty. The good bishop was amazed. “How is this, my friend ?' said he; ‘you are the first man that I have met with a cheerful face and a plentiful board. Have you any income independent of your cure?' 'Yes, sir,' said the clergyman, “I have; my family would starve on the pittance I receive from the poor people that I instruct. Come with me into the garden, and I will show you the stock that yields me an excellent interest.' On going to the garden, he showed the bishop a large range of bee-hives. There is the bank from which I draw an annual dividend. It never stops payment.' Ever after that memorable visit, when any of his clergy complained to the bishop of poverty, he would say to them, "Keep bees, keep bees ;' and we shall bid our readers adieu with the same advice.

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »