Bees. Most of you know that honeybees live together in a social community called a hive. In their original condition, these communities had their dwellings in hollow trees, or cavities of rocks; but they are rarely to be found now, except in a domesticated condition - as, the property of men who have supplied them with more convenient houses, and who claim the honey as the rent of these habitations. In each community there are three kinds of bees.
First, the Queen, or female bee (fig. 1). This lady can rarely be seen, for she leaves the hive only twice in her lifetime, and then only for a short period. At other times she is so assiduously attended, that the observer has but rare opportunities of viewing her. She is of a dark brown colour ; the head is covered with yellow hairs, except where a plume of black ones has grown upon the forehead. The thorax is covered with pale brown hairs, and the abdomen is nearly twice as long as that of the common working bee (fig. 2), and the wings are smaller in proportion. The Worker is rather darker in colour - indeed, its body is nearly black. The abdomen is composed of six segments, overlying each other like the greaves of old armour. The third kind of bee is the Drone, or male (fig. 3), whose name has become a reproach to all idlers, from the circumstance
The thorax and abdomen (that is, the chest and belly) are of nearly equal size, and the eyes are very large.
The scene presented by a community of bees is the more astonishing the more we become acquainted with its details. Each hive is a commonwealth, of which the queen is nominally the head, receiving the greatest honour and care from her industrious subjects. With a greater wisdom than can be claimed by men, these creatures allow no disputes about the succession to the throne to induce them to injure each other; but they require the parties themselves individually to settle the quarrel between each other, without prolonged interference with the duties of the hive. Indeed, they may be said with truth to have adopted the advice of Jeannot "Let those who make the quarrels, Be the only ones to fight."
Only one queen is permitted to hold office in the community at a time; but while her claims are undisputed, she is treated with singular respect and affection. Indeed, her presence, and the prospect of a future generation, appear the chief motives of the insects to exert themselves.
Reaumur shut up a queen taken from one hive with some workers taken from another, and was curious to see how those strangers to each other would conduct themselves. Bees to the number of more than a dozen surrounded her, and paid her every attention. Owing to an accident, the lady bee had become covered with dust; to remove this became the anxious care of her polite attendants, who licked her on all sides with the greatest assiduity. No sooner was one attendant weary, than a fresh insect took its place, and this "dressing" continued for more than two hours. In the end, the bees forgot their old habitation, and became the servants of the new queen. Even when a dead queen is placed among the bees, they treat her body with honour and respect. On one occasion, a queen, benumbed with cold, was placed among bees who had been deprived of a sovereign. With their trunks they licked her breast, head, and body; and, by crowding beneath, upon, and around her, appeared to be anxious to communicate that warmth which had caused her temporary death. All this while there was a dead silence in the colony, no hum or buzz was to be heard; but presently one of the royal limbs quivered, and there was instantly a short sound or cry among the attendants, who became even more diligent in their attentions. Anon, the motion of the limb was repeated; the attendants appeared now that this insect does not take any part in those diligent labours of the hive in which the workers are constantly employed. The drone is much larger than the worker, but has not so long a body as the queen bee.
convinced that there could be no mistake, find a song of rejoicing was loud, general, and continuous.
Having spoken of the attention of the bees to their queen, we will now proceed to describe the bead of the Humble bee- The parts called maxillae, or jaws, look very like the tusks, and the tongue closely resembles the trunk of the elephant. The head of the working bee has much of the same character. We have here (fig. 4) his proboscis, very highly magnified. To the common observer, this appears to be a single tube, through which the honey is conveyed by suction; but, if we examine it (fig. 5), we find it consists of five distinct parts, four of which form a sheath, and the fifth is a narrow strap covered with fine bristles, and this is used as a tongue in lapping, or sweeping up the honey. The parts around the tongue (c) are furnished with numerous muscles, as is also the tongue itself; so that the tongue can be withdrawn and shut up, or its case opened, and the instrument darted into the bosom of a flower instantaneously. The nectar, or honey, is thus swept up into the honey-bag, which lies at the base of the tongue, from which it can be disgorged at pleasure, as the food of young birds can be disgorged by the mother from her crop, or craw
• Head of the humble-bee: a, antennae; b, mandib es: c. labrum; d, axillary palpi; e, maxillae; f, lateral lobes of the tongue; g. labial palpi; h, tongue.
It has commonly been supposed, from the earliest times, that the oval lumps of yellow substance on the thighs of bees are composed of wax; but this is an error. The little pellets consist of the yellow pollen of flowers, which, when brought into the hive, is banded over to the bakers, who mix it with honey, and knead it into bee-bread, or food for the young larvae. The gathering of the pollen is a curious operation, which, however, you may find a hundred opportunities of observing during the summer mouths. It is gathered from the anthers of flowers, or those email yellow knobs at the tops of the stamens. The dust upon the anthers is called pollen, and is necessary to fertilize the flower. In gathering this yellow dust, therefore, the bee performs an important duty to the flower, as well as to the young bees at home; for he becomes the agent by which this pollen is conveyed from the stamen to the pistil, and the flower is thus rendered capable of producing seed.
But let us turn to the microscope, and look at the wonderful provision made in the formation of the bee's leg for the conveyance of the pollen homewards. The hinder leg of the bee (fig. 6) is thickly covered with fine hairs on the upper part (b); but, upon the lower, you will see a number of stiff bristles curved inwards, and ranged around a bare surface ; thus is constructed a kind of basket, and in this the pollen, as collected, is packed and carried. How wonderful it is, that thus, in every portion of nature, however small, we find the same complete adaptation of parts to their particular purposes!
The wax is secreted from glands which lie beneath the segments of the abdomen or belly, but is only provided when required. It is not gathered from flowers, as was formerly supposed. A certain portion of the population of the hive are appointed war manufacturers, and these are forthwith sup plied with food by other labourers. The wax-workers hang themselves in festoons from the top of the hive, taking hold of each other's legs, and thus remain for some time in perfect repose. Before the building of a new comb, festoons of bees may be seen hanging in the roof of their dwelling in all directions. After a while, the wax makes its appearance as scales, which exude from between the segments of the abdomen, eight scales appearing on each insect. The bee then detaches itself from its fellows, and makes its way tc the roof of the hive, where it commences to build the comb. For this purpose it detaches, with its hind-leg, one of the scales of wax from its abdomen, and conveys it to its mouth, where it is masti-cated, and mixed with saliva, so as to be quite soft, and whiter than before. Each scale of wax is thus removed in turn, and is then kneaded, and stuck in a mass to the roof; and the bee continues labouring till all the scales are removed, when it is followed by another, who adds his quota of wax to that already accumulated, so as to make a little wall. The wax manufacturers and builders each retire as they conclude their work, and give way to the smaller insects called sculptor bees, who forthwith commence excavating hollows in the wall, which has been erected, with all the regularity and precision of a troop of sappers and miners. The cells are horizontal, and are made exactly hexagonal, or with six equal sides. An insect has thus solved the problem, of "how the greatest strength may be combined with the least quantity of material."