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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 th
_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.