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The Production Of So Many Drones Necessary In A State Of Nature To Prevent Degeneracy From In And In Breeding

I have often been able, by the reasons previously assigned, to account
for the necessity of such a large number of drones in a state of nature,
to the satisfaction of others, but never fully to my own. I have
repeatedly queried, why impregnation might not just as well have been
effected _in the hive_, as on the wing, in the open air. Two very
obvious and highly important advantages would have resulted from such an
arrangement. 1st. A few dozen drones would have amply sufficed for the
wants of any colony, even if, (as in tropical climates,) it swarmed half
a dozen times or oftener, in the same season. 2d. The young queens would
have been exposed to none of those risks which they now incur, in
leaving the hive for fecundation.

I was unable to show how the existing arrangement is best; although I
never doubted that there must be a satisfactory reason for this seeming
imperfection. To suppose otherwise, would be highly unphilosophical,
since we constantly see, as the circle of our knowledge is enlarged,
many mysteries in nature hitherto inexplicable, fully cleared up.

Let me here ask if the disposition which too many students of nature
cherish, to reject some of the doctrines of revealed religion, is not
equally unphilosophical. Neither our ignorance of all the facts
necessary to their full elucidation, nor our inability to harmonize
these facts in their mutual relations and dependencies, will justify us
in rejecting any truth which God has seen fit to reveal, either in the
book of nature, or in His holy word. The man who would substitute his
own speculations for the divine teachings, has embarked, without rudder
or chart, pilot or compass, upon the uncertain ocean of theory and
conjecture; unless he turns his prow from its fatal course, no Sun of
Righteousness will ever brighten for him the dreary expanse of waters;
storms and whirlwinds will thicken in gloom, on his "voyage of life,"
and no favoring gales will ever waft his shattered bark to a peaceful

The thoughtful reader will require no apology for the moralizing strain
of many of my remarks, nor blame a clergyman, if forgetting sometimes to
speak as the mere naturalist, he endeavors to find,

"Tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
_Sermons_ in '_bees_,' and 'GOD' in every thing."

To return to the point from which I have digressed; a new attempt to
account for the existence of so many drones. If a farmer persists in
what is called "breeding in and in," that is, from the same stock
without changing the blood, it is well known that a rapid degeneracy is
the inevitable consequence. This law extends, as far as we know, to all
animal life, and even man is not exempt from its influence. Have we any
reason to suppose that the bee is an exception? or that ultimate
degeneracy would not ensue, unless some provision was made to counteract
the tendency to in and in breeding? If fecundation had taken place in
the hive, the queen bee must of necessity, have been impregnated by
drones from a common parent, and the same result must have taken place
in each successive generation, until the whole species would eventually
have "run out." By the present arrangement, the young females, when they
leave the hive, often find the air swarming with drones, many of which
belong to other colonies, and thus by crossing the breed, a provision is
constantly made to prevent deterioration.

Experience has proved not only that it is unnecessary to impregnation
that there should be drones in the colony of the young queen, but that
this may be effected even when there are no drones in the Apiary, and
none except at some considerable distance. Intercourse takes place very
high in the air, (perhaps that less risk may be incurred from birds,)
and this is the more favorable to the continual crossing of stocks.

I am strongly persuaded that the decay of many flourishing stocks, even
when managed with great care, is to be attributed to the fact that they
have become enfeebled by "close breeding," and are thus unable to resist
the injurious influences which were comparatively harmless when the bees
were in a state of high physical vigor. I shall, in the chapter on
Artificial Swarming, explain in what way, by the use of my hives, the
stock of bees may be easily crossed, when a cultivator is too remote
from other Apiaries, to depend upon its being naturally effected.

Next: The Workers Or Common Bees

Previous: The Drones Or Male Bees

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