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The Queen Or Mother-bee The Drones And The Workers; With Various Highly Important Facts In Their Natural History

Bees can flourish only when associated in large numbers, as a colony. In
a solitary state, a single bee is almost as helpless as a new-born
child; it is unable to endure even the ordinary chill of a cool summer

If a strong colony of bees is examined, a short time before it swarms,
three different kinds of bees will be found in the hive.

1st. A bee of peculiar shape, commonly called the _Queen Bee_.

2d. Some hundreds, more or less, of large bees called _Drones_.

3d. Many thousands of a smaller kind, called _Workers_ or common bees,
and similar to those which are seen on the blossoms. A large number of
the cells will be found filled with honey and bee-bread; while vast
numbers contain eggs, and immature workers and drones. A few cells of
unusual size, are devoted to the rearing of young queens, and are
ordinarily to be found in a perfect condition, only in the swarming

The _Queen-Bee_ is the only _perfect female_ in the hive, and all the
eggs are laid by her. The _Drones_ are the _males_, and the _Workers_
are _females_, whose ovaries or "egg-bags" are so _imperfectly
developed_ that they are incapable of breeding, and which retain the
instinct of females, only so far as to give the most devoted attention
to feeding and rearing the brood.

These facts have all been demonstrated repeatedly, and are as well
established as the most common facts in the breeding of our domestic
animals. The knowledge of them in their most important bearings, is
absolutely essential to all who expect to realize large profits from an
improved method of rearing bees. Those who will not acquire the
necessary information, if they keep bees at all, should manage them in
the old-fashioned way, which requires the smallest amount either of
knowledge or skill.

I am perfectly aware how difficult it is to reason with a large class of
bee-keepers, some of whom have been so often imposed upon, that they
have lost all faith in the truth of any statements which may be made by
any one interested in a patent hive, while others stigmatize all
knowledge which does not square with their own, as "book-knowledge," and
unworthy the attention of practical men.

If any such read this book, let me remind them again, that all my
assertions may be put to the test. So long as the interior of a hive,
was to common observers, a profound mystery, ignorant and designing men
might assert what they pleased, about what passed in its dark recesses;
but now, when all that takes place in it, can, _in a few moments_, be
exposed to the _full light of day_, and every one who keeps bees, can
_see and examine_ for himself, the man who attempts to palm upon the
community, his own conceits for facts, will speedily earn for himself,
the character both of a fool and an impostor.

THE QUEEN BEE, or as she may more properly be called THE MOTHER BEE, is
the common mother of the whole colony. She reigns therefore, most
unquestionably, by a divine right, as every mother is, or ought to be, a
queen in her own family. Her shape is entirely different from that of
the other bees. While she is not near so bulky as a drone, her body is
longer, and of a more _tapering_, or sugar-loaf form than that of a
worker, so that she has somewhat of a wasp-like appearance. Her wings
are much shorter, in proportion, than those of the drone, or worker; the
under part of her body is of a golden color, and the upper part darker
than that of the other bees. Her motions are usually slow and matronly,
although she can, when she pleases, move with astonishing quickness.

No colony can long exist without the presence of this all-important
insect. She is just as necessary to its welfare, as the soul is to the
body, for a colony without a queen must as certainly perish, as a body
without the spirit hasten to inevitable decay.

She is treated by the bees, as every mother ought to be, by her
children, with the most unbounded respect and affection. A circle of her
loving offspring constantly surround her, testifying, in various ways,
their dutiful regard; offering her honey, from time to time, and always,
most politely getting out of her way, to give her a clear path when she
wishes to move over the combs. If she is taken from them, as soon as
they have ascertained their loss, the whole colony is thrown into a
state of the most intense agitation; all the labors of the hive are at
once abandoned; the bees run wildly over the combs, and frequently, the
whole of them rush forth from the hive, and exhibit all the appearance
of anxious search for their beloved mother. Not being able anywhere to
find her, they return to their desolate home, and by their mournful
tones, reveal their deep sense of so deplorable a calamity. Their note,
at such times, more especially when they first realize her loss, is of
a peculiarly mournful character; it sounds something like _a succession
of wails on the minor key_, and can no more be mistaken by the
experienced bee-keeper, for their ordinary, happy hum, than the piteous
moanings of a sick child can be confounded, by an anxious mother, with
its joyous crowings, when overflowing with health and happiness.

I am perfectly aware that all this will sound to many, much more like
romance than sober reality; but I have determined, in writing this book,
to state facts, however wonderful, just as they are; confident that they
will, before long, be universally received, and hoping that the many
wonders in the economy of the honey bee will not only excite a wider
interest in its culture, but will lead those who observe them, to adore
the wisdom of Him who gave them such admirable instincts. I cannot
refrain from quoting here, the forcible remarks of an English clergyman,
who appears to be a very great enthusiast in bee-culture.

"Every bee-keeper, if he have only a soul to appreciate the works of
God, and an intelligence of an inquisitive order, cannot fail to become
deeply interested in observing the wonderful instincts, (instincts akin
to reason,) of these admirable creatures; at the same time that he will
learn many lessons of practical wisdom from their example. Having
acquired a knowledge of their habits, not a bee will buzz in his ear,
without recalling to him some of these lessons, and helping to make him
a wiser and a better man. It is certain that in all my experience, I
never yet met with a keeper of bees, who was not a respectable,
well-conducted member of society, and a moral, if not a religious
man.[1] It is evident, on reflection, that this pursuit, if well
attended to, must occupy some considerable share of a man's time and
thoughts. He must be often about his bees, which will help to counteract
the baneful effect of the village inn. "_Whoever is fond of his bees is
fond of his home_," is an axiom of irrefragable truth, and one which
ought to kindle in every one's breast, a favorable regard for a pursuit
which has the power to produce so happy an influence. The love of home
is the companion of many other virtues, which, if not yet developed into
actual exercise, are still only dormant, and may be roused into wakeful
energy at any moment."

The fertility of the queen bee has been much under-estimated by most
writers. It is truly astonishing. During the height of the breeding
season, she will often, under favorable circumstances, lay from two to
three thousand eggs, a day! In my observing hives, I have seen her lay,
at the rate of six eggs a minute! The fecundity of the female of the
white ant, is much greater than this, as she will lay as many as sixty
eggs a minute! but then her eggs are simply extruded from her body, to
be carried by the workers into suitable nurseries, while the queen bee
herself deposits her eggs in their appropriate cells.

Next: On The Way In Which The Eggs Of The Queen Bee Are Fecundated

Previous: Bees Cannot Under Any Circumstances Resist The Temptation To Fill Themselves With Liquid Sweets

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