« ПредишнаНапред »
In the “ History of Insects,'* we are furnished with a full account of the hive bee. To this work we are indebted for the following facts and observations, as well as for the history of the ant tribe, contained in our last number. We must however refer the reader to the work itself—it is replete with interest, and will amply compensate by way of amusement and instruction, the time devoted to its examination.
The scene presented by the interior of a bee-hive has seldom failed to interest even the most incurious observer; while it fills with astonishment the mind of the enlightened and profound philosopher. When the day is fine, and the sun shining brightly, the habitation of these marvellous little creatures exhibit the aspect of a populous and busy city. The gates are crowded with hundreds of industrious workers--some on the wing in search of sustenance; others returning from the fields laden with food-some earnestly engaged in buildingsome in tending the young—others employed in cleansing their habitation—while four or five may be seen dragging out the corpse of a companion, and, as it would appear, scrupulously paying the last honors to the dead. At one moment the entrances of the litttle city are comparatively free ; at another, crowds of its inhabitants may be seen struggling at the gates, making the best of their way to escape from the rain, which, by some peculiar sensation, they have discovered to be at hand.
A community or swarm of bees consists, first, of workers (fig. 2); these are of no sex; amount generally to many thousands in number, and are easily recognized by their industry, and by the smallness of their size : 2ndly, of males (fig. 3); of which several hundreds belong to each community; these are larger than the working bee, and live idly; over all presides a queen, the most important member of the whole of this little commonwealth fig. 1.) A person may keep hives for
* Natural History of Insects, 1 vol. 18 mo. pp. 292, embellished with numerous wood cuts. This work is an interesting and entertaining number of Harpers' valuable Family Library.
years, and never see this insect, about which more extraordinary things have been seen and written, than the reader would be disposed to believe.
Like every other animal living in society, bees have a medium of communication. The effects produced upon them by the loss of their queen will furnish proof of this fact. In a well-peopled and thriving hive, each bee is employed in its appropriate avocation, some in attending the young, some in making cells. At first, when the queen has been abstracted, every thing goes on well for about an hour; after this space of time, some few of the workers appear in a state of great agitation; they forsake the young, relinquish their labor, and begin to traverse the hive in a furious manner. In their progress, wherever they meet a companion, they mutually cross their antennæ,* and the one which seems to have first discovered the national loss, conmunicates the sad news to its neighbor, by giving it a gentle tap with these organs. This one in its turn becomes agitated, runs over the cells, crossing and striking others. Thus in a short time the whole hive is
thrown into confusion, every thing is neglected, and the humming may be heard at a distance. This agitation lasts from four to five hours, after which the bees are calmed, and begin to adopt the measures which are necessary to repair their loss. That the agitation of the bees arises from the loss of the queen scarcely admits of a doubt. “I cannot doubt,” says Huber, “ that the agitation arises from the workers having lost their queen; for on restoring her, tranquillity is instantly reestablished among them, and, what is very singular, they recognise her. This expression must be interpreted literally—for the substitution of another queen is not attended with the same effect, if she be introduced into the hive within the first twenty-four hours after removal of the reigning one. Here the agitation continues, and the bees treat the stranger just as they do when the presence of their own queen leaves them nothing to desire. But if twenty-four hours have elapsed before substituting the stranger queen, she will be well received, and reign from the moment of her introduction into the hive."
In order to observe the habits of this insect world, the best plan is either to have several glass hives, or overturn some common ones, that a comparative view may be taken of the works carrying on in the interior.
" It is absolutely necessary,” says Reaumur, “that more than one hive should be thus exposed; for then we shall see the disposition of the combs to be various in the different ones. They are not restricted to a uniform mode of constructing their cells, but accommodate the structure to circumstances.”
The combs do not touch each other, but are separated by intervals sufficiently wide to permit the bees to work at the surface of each contiguous comb, and approach any cell without quite touching each other besides these highways, the little city contains also narrower passages by which the communication between one cake and and another is materially shortened. The honey-comb is placed vertically in the hive. Each comb is composed of two layers of six-sided cells, united by their bases.
There are three sorts of cells; the first are for the larvæ of workers; the second for those of the males or drones, which are larger than the former, and are usually situated in the middle of the comb; the third are the royal cells. An inattentive observer might perhaps be led to infer, that the various cells composing a cake are little habitations in which the workers might repose themselves after the labors of the day, each in its own house. This, however, is not the fact: for some of these are filled with honey, and others closed up.' On a more careful inspection, it will be seen that most of the cells contain a little worm; the young of the beean object evidently of the most anxious care and attention to those appointed to watch and feed them. But although indefatigably industrious, even these insects, when tired with labor, require repose, and cease to work when the ordinary motive for exertion; is withdrawn. It is curious to observe their mode of rest; four or five cling to a part of the hive, and extend their hind legs, whence others suspend themselves by their fore feet. These do the same neighborly turn for another line, and thus at all times either bunches (fig. 1) or festoons (fig. 2) of bees may be seen reposing, Huber, however, has seen the workers retiring sometimes to a cell, and remaining motionless for twenty minutes.
The sting by which this little animal defends itself and its property from its natural enemies, is composed
of three parts; the sheath and two darts, which are ex'tremely small and penetrating. Both the darts are furinished with small points or barbs, like that of a fishhook, which, by causing the wound inflicted by the sting to rankle, renders it more painful. Still the effect of the sting itself would be but slight, if the insect were not provided with a supply of poisonous matter, which it injects into the wound. The sheath, which has a sharp point, makes the first impression ; this is followed by that of the darts, and then the venomous liquor is poured in. The sheath sometimes sticks so fast to the wound, that the insect is obliged to leave it behind : this considerably augments the inflammation of the wound, and to the bee itself the mutilation proves fatal. Were it not for the protection of its sting, the bee would have too many rivals in sharing the produce of its labors. A hundred lazy animals, fond of honey and hating labor, would intrude upon the sweets of the hive, and for want of armed guardians to protect it, this treasure would become the prey of worthless depredators.
In Mungo Park's last mission to Africa, some of his people, having disturbed a colony of these animals, were so furiously attacked, that both man and beast were put to instant flight. The list of the killed and missing amounted to one horse and six assesma serious loss to a white man in the midst of inhospitable deserts.
Lesser tells us, that in 1525, during the confusion occasioned by a time of war, a mob of peasants, assembling in Hoherstein, attempted to pillage the house of the minister of Elende, who having in vain employed all his eloquence to dissuade them from their design, ordered his domestics to fetch his bee-hives, and throw them into the middle of the infuriated inultitude. The effect answered his expectations : they were immediately put to flight, and happy were those who escaped unstung.
It sometimes happens that a young swarm choose to enter a hive already occupied; when a most desperate conflict ensues, which will last for hours, and even for