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WE will now, so as to draw more closely to nature, consider the

different episodes of the swarm as they come to pass in an ordinary

hive, which is ten or twenty times more populous than an observation

one, and leaves the bees entirely free and untrammelled.

Here, then, they have shaken off the torpor of winter. The queen

started laying again in the very first days of February, and the

workers have flocked
to the willows and nut-trees, gorse and

violets, anemones and lungworts. Then spring invades the earth, and

cellar and stream with honey and pollen, while each day beholds the

birth of thousands of bees. The overgrown males now all sally forth

from their cells, and disport themselves on the combs; and so

crowded does the too prosperous city become that hundreds of belated

workers, coming back from the flowers towards evening, will vainly

seek shelter within, and will be forced to spend the night on the

threshold, where they will be decimated by the cold. Restlessness

seizes the people, and the old queen begins to stir. She feels that

a new destiny is being prepared. She has religiously fulfilled her

duty as a good creatress; and from this duty done there result only

tribulation and sorrow. An invincible power menaces her

tranquillity; she will soon be forced to quit this city of hers,

where she has reigned. But this city is her work, it is she,

herself. She is not its queen in the sense in which men use the

word. She issues no orders; she obeys, as meekly as the humblest of

her subjects, the masked power, sovereignly wise, that for the

present, and till we attempt to locate it, we will term the "spirit

of the hive." But she is the unique organ of love; she is the mother

of the city. She founded it amid uncertainty and poverty. She has

peopled it with her own substance; and all who move within its

walls--workers, males, larvae, nymphs, and the young princesses

whose approaching birth will hasten her own departure, one of them

being already designed as her successor by the "spirit of the

hive"--all these have issued from her flanks.

What is this "spirit of the hive"--where does it reside? It is not

like the special instinct that teaches the bird to construct its

well planned nest, and then seek other skies when the day for

migration returns. Nor is it a kind of mechanical habit of the race,

or blind craving for life, that will fling the bees upon any wild

hazard the moment an unforeseen event shall derange the accustomed

order of phenomena. On the contrary, be the event never so

masterful, the "spirit of the hive" still will follow it, step by

step, like an alert and quickwitted slave, who is able to derive

advantage even from his master's most dangerous orders.

It disposes pitilessly of the wealth and the happiness, the liberty

and life, of all this winged people; and yet with discretion, as

though governed itself by some great duty. It regulates day by day

the number of births, and contrives that these shall strictly accord

with the number of flowers that brighten the country-side. It

decrees the queen's deposition or warns her that she must depart; it

compels her to bring her own rivals into the world, and rears them

royally, protecting them from their mother's political hatred. So,

too, in accordance with the generosity of the flowers, the age of

the spring, and the probable dangers of the nuptial flight, will it

permit or forbid the first-born of the virgin princesses to slay in

their cradles her younger sisters, who are singing the song of the

queens. At other times, when the season wanes, and flowery hours

grow shorter, it will command the workers themselves to slaughter

the whole imperial brood, that the era of revolutions may close, and

work become the sole object of all. The "spirit of the hive "is

prudent and thrifty, but by no means parsimonious. And thus, aware,

it would seem, that nature's laws are somewhat wild and extravagant

in all that pertains to love, it tolerates, during summer days of

abundance, the embarrassing presence in the hive of three or four

hundred males, from whose ranks the queen about to be born shall

select her lover; three or four hundred foolish, clumsy, useless,

noisy creatures, who are pretentious, gluttonous, dirty, coarse,

totally and scandalously idle, insatiable, and enormous.

But after the queen's impregnation, when flowers begin to close

sooner, and open later, the spirit one morning will coldly decree

the simultaneous and general massacre of every male. It regulates

the workers' labours, with due regard to their age; it allots their

task to the nurses who tend the nymphs and the larvae, the ladies of

honour who wait on the queen and never allow her out of their sight;

the house-bees who air, refresh, or heat the hive by fanning their

wings, and hasten the evaporation of the honey that may be too

highly charged with water; the architects, masons, wax-workers, and

sculptors who form the chain and construct the combs; the foragers

who sally forth to the flowers in search of the nectar that turns

into honey, of the pollen that feeds the nymphs and the larvae, the

propolis that welds and strengthens the buildings of the city, or

the water and salt required by the youth of the nation. Its orders

have gone to the chemists who ensure the preservation of the honey

by letting a drop of formic acid fall in from the end of their

sting; to the capsule-makers who seal down the cells when the

treasure is ripe, to the sweepers who maintain public places and

streets most irreproachably clean, to the bearers whose duty it is

to remove the corpses; and to the amazons of the guard who keep

watch on the threshold by night and by day, question comers and

goers, recognise the novices who return from their very first

flight, scare away vagabonds, marauders and loiterers, expel all

intruders, attack redoubtable foes in a body, and, if need be,

barricade the entrance.

Finally, it is the spirit of the hive that fixes the hour of the

great annual sacrifice to the genius of the race: the hour, that is,

of the swarm; when we find a whole people, who have attained the

topmost pinnacle of prosperity and power, suddenly abandoning to the

generation to come their wealth and their palaces, their homes and

the fruits of their labour; themselves content to encounter the

hardships and perils of a new and distant country. This act, be it

conscious or not, undoubtedly passes the limits of human morality.

Its result will sometimes be ruin, but poverty always; and the

thrice-happy city is scattered abroad in obedience to a law superior

to its own happiness. Where has this law been decreed, which, as we

soon shall find, is by no means as blind and inevitable as one might

believe? Where, in what assembly, what council, what intellectual

and moral sphere, does this spirit reside to whom all must submit,

itself being vassal to an heroic duty, to an intelligence whose eyes

are persistently fixed on the future?

It comes to pass with the bees as with most of the things in this

world; we remark some few of their habits; we say they do this, they

work in such and such fashion, their queens are born thus, their

workers are virgin, they swarm at a certain time. And then we

imagine we know them, and ask nothing more. We watch them hasten

from flower to flower, we see the constant agitation within the

hive; their life seems very simple to us, and bounded, like every

life, by the instinctive cares of reproduction and nourishment. But

let the eye draw near, and endeavour to see; and at once the least

phenomenon of all becomes overpoweringly complex; we are confronted

by the enigma of intellect, of destiny, will, aim, means, causes;

the incomprehensible organisation of the most insignificant act of


Our hive, then, is preparing to swarm; making ready for the great

immolation to the exacting gods of the race. In obedience to the

order of the spirit--an order that to us may well seem

incomprehensible, for it is entirely opposed to all our own

instincts and feelings--60,000 or 70,000 bees out of the 80,000 or

90,000 that form the whole population, will abandon the maternal

city at the prescribed hour. They will not leave at a moment of

despair; or desert, with sudden and wild resolve, a home laid waste

by famine, disease, or war. No, the exile has long been planned, and

the favourable hour patiently awaited. Were the hive poor, had it

suffered from pillage or storm, had misfortune befallen the royal

family, the bees would not forsake it. They leave it only when it

has attained the apogee of its prosperity; at a time when, after the

arduous labours of the spring, the immense palace of wax has its

120,000 well-arranged cells overflowing with new honey, and with the

many-coloured flour, known as "bees' bread," on which nymphs and

larvae are fed.

Never is the hive more beautiful than on the eve of its heroic

renouncement, in its unrivalled hour of fullest abundance and joy;

serene for all its apparent excitement and feverishness.

Let us endeavour to picture it to ourselves, not as it appears to

the bees,--for we cannot tell in what magical, formidable fashion

things may be reflected in the 6,000 or 7,000 facets of their

lateral eyes and the triple cyclopean eye on their brow,--but as it

would seem to us, were we of their stature. From the height of a

dome more colossal than that of St. Peter's at Rome waxen walls

descend to the ground, balanced in the void and the darkness;

gigantic and manifold, vertical and parallel geometric

constructions, to which, for relative precision, audacity, and

vastness, no human structure is comparable. Each of these walls,

whose substance still is immaculate and fragrant, of virginal,

silvery freshness, contains thousands of cells, that are stored with

provisions sufficient to feed the whole people for several weeks.

Here, lodged in transparent cells, are the pollens, love-ferment of

every flower of spring, making brilliant splashes of red and yellow,

of black and mauve. Close by, in twenty thousand reservoirs, sealed

with a seal that shall only be broken on days of supreme distress,

the honey of April is stored, most limpid and perfumed of all,

wrapped round with long and magnificent embroidery of gold, whose

borders hang stiff and rigid. Still lower the honey of May matures,

in great open vats, by whose side watchful cohorts maintain an

incessant current of air. In the centre, and far from the light

whose diamond rays steal in through the only opening, in the warmest

part of the hive, there stands the abode of the future; here does it

sleep, and wake. For this is the royal domain of the brood-cells,

set apart for the queen and her acolytes; about 10,000 cells wherein

the eggs repose, 15,000 or 16,000 chambers tenanted by larvae,

40,000 dwellings inhabited by white nymphs to whom thousands of

nurses minister.* And finally, in the holy of holies of these partss

are the three, four, six, or twelve sealed palaces, vast in size

compared with the others, where the adolescent princesses lie who

await their hour, wrapped in a kind of shroud, all of them

motionless and pale, and fed in the darkness.

*The figures given here are scrupulously exact. They are those of a

well-filled hive in full prosperity.

On the day, then, that the Spirit of the Hive has ordained, a

certain part of the population will go forth, selected in accordance

with sure and immovable laws, and make way for hopes that as yet are

formless. In the sleeping city there remain the males, from whose

ranks the royal lover shall come, the very young bees that tend the

brood-cells, and some thousands of workers who continue to forage

abroad, to guard the accumulated treasure, and preserve the moral

traditions of the hive. For each hive has its own code of morals.

There are some that are very virtuous and some that are very

perverse; and a careless bee-keeper will often corrupt his people,

destroy their respect for the property of others, incite them to

pillage, and induce in them habits of conquest and idleness which

will render them sources of danger to all the little republics

around. These things result from the bee's discovery that work among

distant flowers, whereof many hundreds must be visited to form one

drop of honey, is not the only or promptest method of acquiring

wealth, but that it is easier to enter ill-guarded cities by

stratagem, or force her way into others too weak for self-defence.

Nor is it easy to restore to the paths of duty a hive that has

become thus depraved.

All things go to prove that it is not the queen, but the spirit of

the hive, that decides on the swarm. With this queen of ours it

happens as with many a chief among men, who though he appear to give

orders, is himself obliged to obey commands far more mysterious, far

more inexplicable, than those he issues to his subordinates. The

hour once fixed, the spirit will probably let it be known at break

of dawn, or the previous night, if indeed not two nights before; for

scarcely has the sun drunk in the first drops of dew when a most

unaccustomed stir, whose meaning the bee-keeper rarely will fail to

grasp, is to be noticed within and around the buzzing city. At times

one would almost appear to detect a sign of dispute, hesitation,

recoil. It will happen even that for day after day a strange

emotion, apparently without cause, will appear and vanish in this

transparent, golden throng. Has a cloud that we cannot see crept

across the sky that the bees are watching; or is their intellect

battling with a new regret? Does a winged council debate the

necessity of the departure? Of this we know nothing; as we know

nothing of the manner in which the spirit conveys its resolution to

the crowd. Certain as it may seem that the bees communicate with

each other, we know not whether this be done in human fashion. It is

possible even that their own refrain may be inaudible to them: the

murmur that comes to us heavily laden with perfume of honey, the

ecstatic whisper of fairest summer days that the bee-keeper loves so

well, the festival song of labour that rises and falls around the

hive in the crystal of the hour, and might almost be the chant of

the eager flowers, hymn of their gladness and echo of their soft

fragrance, the voice of the white carnations, the marjoram, and the

thyme. They have, however, a whole gamut of sounds that we can

distinguish, ranging from profound delight to menace, distress, and

anger; they have the ode of the queen, the song of abundance, the

psalms of grief, and, lastly, the long and mysterious war-cries the

adolescent princesses send forth during the combats and massacres

that precede the nuptial flight. May this be a fortuitous music that

fails to attain their inward silence? In any event they seem not the

least disturbed at the noises we make near the hive; but they regard

these perhaps as not of their world, and possessed of no interest

for them. It is possible that we on our side hear only a fractional

part of the sounds that the bees produce, and that they have many

harmonies to which our ears are not attuned. We soon shall see with

what startling rapidity they are able to understand each other, and

adopt concerted measures, when, for instance, the great honey thief,

the huge sphinx atropos, the sinister butterfly that bears a death's

head on its back, penetrates into the hive, humming its own strange

note, which acts as a kind of irresistible incantation; the news

spreads quickly from group to group, and from the guards at the

threshold to the workers on the furthest combs, the whole population


It was for a long time believed that when these wise bees, generally

so prudent, so far-sighted and economical, abandoned the treasures

of their kingdom and flung themselves upon the uncertainties of

life, they were yielding to a kind of irresistible folly, a

mechanical impulse, a law of the species, a decree of nature, or to

the force that for all creatures lies hidden in the revolution of

time. It is our habit, in the case of the bees no less than our own,

to regard as fatality all that we do not as yet understand. But now

that the hive has surrendered two or three of its material secrets,

we have discovered that this exodus is neither instinctive nor

inevitable. It is not a blind emigration, but apparently the

well-considered sacrifice of the present generation in favour of the

generation to come. The bee-keeper has only to destroy in their

cells the young queens that still are inert, and, at the same time,

if nymphs and larvae abound, to enlarge the store-houses and

dormitories of the nation, for this unprofitable tumult

instantaneously to subside, for work to be at once resumed, and the

flowers revisited; while the old queen, who now is essential again,

with no successor to hope for, or perhaps to fear, will renounce for

this year her desire for the light of the sun. Reassured as to the

future of the activity that will soon spring into life, she will

tranquilly resume her maternal labours, which consist in the laying

of two or three thousand eggs a day, as she passes, in a methodical

spiral, from cell to cell, omitting none, and never pausing to rest.

Where is the fatality here, save in the love of the race of to-day

for the race of to-morrow? This fatality exists in the human species

also, but its extent and power seem infinitely less. Among men it

never gives rise to sacrifices as great, as unanimous, or as

complete. What far-seeing fatality, taking the place of this one, do

we ourselves obey? We know not; as we know not the being who watches

us as we watch the bees.

But the hive that we have selected is disturbed in its history by no

interference of man; and as the beautiful day advances with radiant

and tranquil steps beneath the trees, its ardour, still bathed in

dew, makes the appointed hour seem laggard. Over the whole surface

of the golden corridors that divide the parallel walls the workers

are busily making preparation for the journey. And each one will

first of all burden herself with provision of honey sufficient for

five or six days. From this honey that they bear within them they

will distil, by a chemical process still unexplained, the wax

required for the immediate construction of buildings. They will

provide themselves also with a certain amount of propolis, a kind of

resin with which they will seal all the crevices in the new

dwelling, strengthen weak places, varnish the walls, and exclude the

light; for the bees love to work in almost total obscurity, guiding

themselves with their many-faceted eyes, or with their antennae

perhaps, the seat, it would seem, of an unknown sense that fathoms

and measures the darkness.

They are not without prescience, therefore, of what is to befall

them on this the most dangerous day of all their existence. Absorbed

by the cares, the prodigious perils of this mighty adventure, they

will have no time now to visit the gardens and meadows; and

to-morrow, and after tomorrow, it may happen that rain may fall, or

there may be wind; that their wings may be frozen or the flowers

refuse to open. Famine and death would await them were it not for

this foresight of theirs. None would come to their help, nor would

they seek help of any. For one city knows not the other, and

assistance never is given. And even though the bee-keeper deposit

the hive, in which he has gathered the old queen and her attendant

cluster of bees, by the side of the abode they have but this moment

quitted, they would seem, be the disaster never so great that shall

now have befallen them, to have wholly forgotten the peace and the

happy activity that once they had known there, the abundant wealth

and the safety that had then been their portion; and all, one by

one, and down to the last of them, will perish of hunger and cold

around their unfortunate queen rather than return to the home of

their birth, whose sweet odour of plenty, the fragrance, indeed, of

their own past assiduous labour, reaches them even in their


That is a thing, some will say, that men would not do,--a proof that

the bee, notwithstanding the marvels of its organisation, still is

lacking in intellect and veritable consciousness. Is this so

certain? Other beings, surely, may possess an intellect that differs

from ours, and produces different results, without therefore being

inferior. And besides, are we, even in this little human parish of

ours, such infallible judges of matters that pertain to the spirit?

Can we so readily divine the thoughts that may govern the two or

three people we may chance to see moving and talking behind a closed

window, when their words do not reach us? Or let us suppose that an

inhabitant of Venus or Mars were to contemplate us from the height

of a mountain, and watch the little black specks that we form in

space, as we come and go in the streets and squares of our towns.

Would the mere sight of our movements, our buildings, machines, and

canals, convey to him any precise idea of our morality, intellect,

our manner of thinking, and loving, and hoping,--in a word, of our

real and intimate self? All he could do, like ourselves when we gaze

at the hive, would be to take note of some facts that seem very

surprising; and from these facts to deduce conclusions probably no

less erroneous, no less uncertain, than those that we choose to form

concerning the bee.

This much at least is certain; our "little black specks "would not

reveal the vast moral direction, the wonderful unity, that are so

apparent in the hive. "Whither do they tend, and what is it they do?

"he would ask, after years and centuries of patient watching. "What

is the aim of their life, or its pivot? Do they obey some God? I can

see nothing that governs their actions. The little things that one

day they appear to collect and build up, the next they destroy and

scatter. They come and they go, they meet and disperse, but one

knows not what it is they seek. In numberless cases the spectacle

they present is altogether inexplicable. There are some, for

instance, who, as it were, seem scarcely to stir from their place.

They are to be distinguished by their glossier coat, and often too

by their more considerable bulk. They occupy buildings ten or twenty

times larger than ordinary dwellings, and richer, and more

ingeniously fashioned. Every day they spend many hours at their

meals, which sometimes indeed are prolonged far into the night. They

appear to be held in extraordinary honour by those who approach

them; men come from the neighbouring houses, bringing provisions,

and even from the depths of the country, laden with presents. One

can only assume that these persons must be indispensable to the

race, to which they render essential service, although our means of

investigation have not yet enabled us to discover what the precise

nature of this service may be. There are others, again, who are

incessantly engaged in the most wearisome labour, whether it be in

great sheds full of wheels that forever turn round and round, or

close by the shipping, or in obscure hovels, or on small plots of

earth that from sunrise to sunset they are constantly delving and

digging. We are led to believe that this labour must be an offence,

and punishable. For the persons guilty of it are housed in filthy,

ruinous, squalid cabins. They are clothed in some colourless hide.

So great does their ardour appear for this noxious, or at any rate

useless activity, that they scarcely allow themselves time to eat or

to sleep. In numbers they are to the others as a thousand to one. It

is remarkable that the species should have been able to survive to

this day under conditions so unfavourable to its development. It

should be mentioned, however, that apart from this characteristic

devotion to their wearisome toil, they appear inoffensive and

docile; and satisfied with the leavings of those who evidently are

the guardians, if not the saviours, of the race."

Is it not strange that the hive, which we vaguely survey from the

height of another world, should provide our first questioning glance

with so sure and profound a reply? Must we not admire the manner in

which the thought or the god that the bees obey is at once revealed

by their edifices, wrought with such striking conviction, by their

customs and laws, their political and economical organisation, their

virtues, and even their cruelties? Nor is this god, though it be

perhaps the only one to which man has as yet never offered serious

worship, by any means the least reasonable or the least legitimate

that we can conceive. The god of the bees is the future. When we, in

our study of human history, endeavour to gauge the moral force or

greatness of a people or race, we have but one standard of

measurement--the dignity and permanence of their ideal, and the

abnegation wherewith they pursue it. Have we often encountered an

ideal more conformable to the desires of the universe, more widely

manifest, more disinterested or sublime; have we often discovered an

abnegation more complete and heroic?

Strange little republic, that, for all its logic and gravity, its

matured conviction and prudence, still falls victim to so vast and

precarious a dream! Who shall tell us, O little people that are so

profoundly in earnest, that have fed on the warmth and the light and

on nature's purest, the soul of the flowers, wherein matter for once

seems to smile, and put forth it? most wistful effort towards beauty

and happiness,--who shall tell us what problems you have resolved,

but we not yet, what certitudes you have acquired that we still have

to conquer? And if you have truly resolved these problems, and

acquired these certitudes, by the aid of some blind and primitive

impulse and not through the intellect, then to what enigma, more

insoluble still, are you not urging us on? Little city abounding in

faith and mystery and hope, why do your myriad virgins consent to a

task that no human slave has ever accepted? Another spring might be

theirs, another summer, were they only a little less wasteful of

strength, a little less self-forgetful in their ardour for toil; but

at the magnificent moment when the flowers all cry to them, they

seem to be stricken with the fatal ecstasy of work; and in less than

five weeks they almost all perish, their wings broken, their bodies

shrivelled and covered with wounds.

"Tantus amor florum, et generandi gloria mellis!"

cries Virgil in the fourth book of the Georgics, wherein he devotes

himself to the bees, and hands down to us the charming errors of the

ancients, who looked on nature with eyes still dazzled by the

presence of imaginary gods.

Why do they thus renounce sleep, the delights of honey and. love,

and the exquisite leisure enjoyed, for instance, by their winged

brother, the butterfly? Why will they not live as he lives? It is

not hunger that urges them on. Two or three flowers suffice for

their nourishment, and in one hour they will visit two or three

hundred, to collect a treasure whose sweetness they never will

taste. Why all this toil and distress, and whence comes this mighty

assurance? Is it so certain, then, that the new generation whereunto

you offer your lives will merit the sacrifice; will be more

beautiful, happier, will do something you have not done? Your aim is

clear to us, clearer far than our own; you desire to live, as long

as the world itself, in those that come after; but what can the aim

be of this great aim; what the mission of this existence eternally


And yet may it not be that these questions are idle, and we who are

putting them to you mere childish dreamers, hedged round with error

and doubt? And, indeed, had successive evolutions installed you

all-powerful and supremely happy; had you gained the last heights,

whence at length you ruled over nature's laws; nay, were you

immortal goddesses, we still should be asking you what your desires

might be, your ideas of progress; still wondering where you imagined

that at last you would rest and declare your wishes fulfilled. We

are so made that nothing contents us; that we can regard no single

thing as having its aim self-contained, as simply existing, with no

thought beyond existence. Has there been, to this day, one god out

of all the multitude man has conceived, from the vulgarest to the

most thoughtful, of whom it has not been required that he shall be

active and stirring, that he shall create countless beings and

things, and have myriad aims outside himself? And will the time ever

come when we shall be resigned for a few hours tranquilly to

represent in this world an interesting form of material activity;

and then, our few hours over, to assume, without surprise and

without regret, that other form which is the unconscious, the

unknown, the slumbering, and the eternal?

But we are forgetting the hive wherein the swarming bees have begun

to lose patience, the hive whose black and vibrating waves are

bubbling and overflowing, like a brazen cup beneath an ardent sun.

It is noon; and the heat so great that the assembled trees would

seem almost to hold back their leaves, as a man holds his breath

before something very tender but very grave. The bees give their

honey and sweet-smelling wax to the man who attends them; but more

precious gift still is their summoning him to the gladness of June,

to the joy of the beautiful months; for events in which bees take

part happen only when skies are pure, at the winsome hours of the

year when flowers keep holiday. They are the soul of the summer, the

clock whose dial records the moments of plenty; they are the

untiring wing on which delicate perfumes float; the guide of the

quivering light-ray, the song of the slumberous, languid air; and

their flight is the token, the sure and melodious note, of all the

myriad fragile joys that are born in the heat and dwell in the

sunshine. They teach us to tune our ear to the softest, most

intimate whisper of these good, natural hours. To him who has known

them and loved them, a summer where there are no bees becomes as sad

and as empty as one without flowers or birds.

The man who never before has beheld the swarm of a populous hive

must regard this riotous, bewildering spectacle with some

apprehension and diffidence. He will be almost afraid to draw near;

he will wonder can these be the earnest, the peace-loving,

hard-working bees whose movements he has hitherto followed? It was

but a few moments before he had seen them troop in from all parts of

the country, as pre-occupied, seemingly, as little housewives might

be, with no thoughts beyond household cares. He had watched them

stream into the hive, imperceptibly almost, out of breath, eager,

exhausted, full of discreet agitation; and had seen the young

amazons stationed at the gate salute them, as they passed by, with

the slightest wave of antennae. And then, the inner court reached,

they had hurriedly given their harvest of honey to the adolescent

portresses always stationed within, exchanging with these at most

the three or four probably indispensable words; or perhaps they

would hasten themselves to the vast magazines that encircle the

brood-cells, and deposit the two heavy baskets of pollen that depend

from their thighs, thereupon at once going forth once more, without

giving a thought to what might be passing in the royal palace, the

work-rooms, or the dormitory where the nymphs lie asleep; without

for one instant joining in the babel of the public place in front of

the gate, where it is the wont of the cleaners, at time of great

heat, to congregate and to gossip.

To-day this is all changed. A certain number of workers, it is true,

will peacefully go to the fields, as though nothing were happening;

will come back, clean the hive, attend to the brood-cells, and hold

altogether aloof from the general ecstasy. These are the ones that

will not accompany the queen; they will remain to guard the old

home, feed the nine or ten thousand eggs, the eighteen thousand

larvae, the thirty-six thousand nymphs and seven or eight royal

princesses, that to-day shall all be abandoned. Why they have been

singled out for this austere duty, by what law, or by whom, it is

not in our power to divine. To this mission of theirs they remain

inflexibly, tranquilly faithful; and though I have many times tried

the experiment of sprinkling a colouring matter over one of these

resigned Cinderellas, that are moreover easily to be distinguished

in the midst of the rejoicing crowds by their serious and somewhat

ponderous gait, it is rarely indeed that I have found one of them in

the delirious throng of the swarm.

And yet, the attraction must seem irresistible. It is the ecstasy of

the perhaps unconscious sacrifice the god has ordained; it is the

festival of honey, the triumph of the race, the victory of the

future: the one day of joy, of forgetfulness and folly; the only

Sunday known to the bees. It would appear to be also the solitary

day upon which all eat their fill, and revel, to heart's content, in

the delights of the treasure themselves have amassed. It is as

though they were prisoners to whom freedom at last had been given,

who had suddenly been led to a land of refreshment and plenty. They

exult, they cannot contain the joy that is in them. They come and go

aimlessly,--they whose every movement has always its precise and

useful purpose--they depart and return, sally forth once again to

see if the queen be ready, to excite their sisters, to beguile the

tedium of waiting. They fly much higher than is their wont, and the

leaves of the mighty trees round about all quiver responsive. They

have left trouble behind, and care. They no longer are meddling and

fierce, aggressive, suspicious, untamable, angry. Man--the unknown

master whose sway they never acknowledge, who can subdue them only

by conforming to their every law, to their habits of labour, and

following step by step the path that is traced in their life by an

intellect nothing can thwart or turn from its purpose, by a spirit

whose aim is always the good of the morrow--on this day man can

approach them, can divide the glittering curtain they form as they

fly round and round in songful circles; he can take them up in his

hand, and gather them as he would a bunch of grapes; for to-day, in

their gladness, possessing nothing, but full of faith in the future,

they will submit to everything and injure no one, provided only they

be not separated from the queen who bears that future within her.

But the veritable signal has not yet been given. In the hive there

is indescribable confusion; and a disorder whose meaning escapes us.

At ordinary times each bee, once returned to her home, would appear

to forget her possession of wings; and will pursue her active

labours, making scarcely a movement, on that particular spot in the

hive that her special duties assign. But to-day they all seem

bewitched; they fly in dense circles round and round the polished

walls like a living jelly stirred by an invisible hand. The

temperature within rises rapidly,--to such a degree, at times, that

the wax of the buildings will soften, and twist out of shape. The

queen, who ordinarily never will stir from the centre of the comb,

now rushes wildly, in breathless excitement, over the surface of the

vehement crowd that turn and turn on themselves. Is she hastening

their departure, or trying to delay it? Does she command, or haply

implore? Does this prodigious emotion issue from her, or is she its

victim? Such knowledge as we possess of the general psychology of

the bee warrants the belief that the swarming always takes place

against the old sovereign's will. For indeed the ascetic workers,

her daughters, regard the queen above all as the organ of love,

indispensable, certainly, and sacred, but in herself somewhat

unconscious, and often of feeble mind. They treat her like a mother

in her dotage. Their respect for her, their tenderness, is heroic

and boundless. The purest honey, specially distilled and almost

entirely assimilable, is reserved for her use alone. She has an

escort that watches over her by day and by night, that facilitates

her maternal duties and gets ready the cells wherein the eggs shall

be laid; she has loving attendants who pet and caress her, feed her

and clean her, and even absorb her excrement. Should the least

accident befall her the news will spread quickly from group to

group, and the whole population will rush to and fro in loud

lamentation. Seize her, imprison her, take her away from the hive at

a time when the bees shall have no hope of filling her place, owing,

it may be, to her having left no predestined descendants, or to

there being no larvae less than three days old (for a special

nourishment is capable of transforming these into royal nymphs, such

being the grand democratic principle of the hive, and a counterpoise

to the prerogatives of maternal predestination), and then, her loss

once known, after two or three hours, perhaps, for the city is vast;

work will cease in almost every direction. The young will no longer

be cared for; part of the inhabitants will wander in every

direction, seeking their mother, in quest of whom others will sally

forth from the hive; the workers engaged in constructing the comb

will fall asunder and scatter, the foragers no longer will visit the

flowers, the guard at the entrance will abandon their post; and

foreign marauders, all the parasites of honey, forever on the watch

for opportunities of plunder, will freely enter and leave without

any one giving a thought to the defence of the treasure that has

been so laboriously gathered. And poverty, little by little, will

steal into the city; the population will dwindle; and the wretched

inhabitants soon will perish of distress and despair, though every

flower of summer burst into bloom before them.

But let the queen be restored before her loss has become an

accomplished, irremediable fact, before the bees have grown too

profoundly demoralised,--for in this they resemble men: a prolonged

regret, or misfortune, will impair their intellect and degrade their

character,--let her be restored but a few hours later, and they will

receive her with extraordinary, pathetic welcome. They will flock

eagerly round her; excited groups will climb over each other in

their anxiety to draw near; as she passes among them they will

caress her with the long antennae that contain so many organs as yet

unexplained; they will present her with honey, and escort her

tumultuously back to the royal chamber. And order at once is

restored, work resumed, from the central comb of the brood-cells to

the furthest annex where the surplus honey is stored; the foragers

go forth, in long black files, to return, in less than three minutes

sometimes, laden with nectar and pollen; streets are swept,

parasites and marauders killed or expelled; and the hive soon

resounds with the gentle, monotonous cadence of the strange hymn of

rejoicing, which is, it would seem, the hymn of the royal presence.

There are numberless instances of the absolute attachment and

devotion that the workers display towards their queen. Should

disaster befall the little republic; should the hive or the comb

collapse, should man prove ignorant, or brutal; should they suffer

from famine, from cold or disease, and perish by thousands, it will

still be almost invariably found that the queen will be safe and

alive, beneath the corpses of her faithful daughters. For they will

protect her, help her to escape; their bodies will provide both

rampart and shelter; for her will be the last drop of honey, the

wholesomest food. And be the disaster never so great, the city of

virgins will not lose heart so long as the queen be alive. Break

their comb twenty times in succession, take twenty times from them

their young and their food, you still shall never succeed in making

them doubt of the future; and though they be starving, and their

number so small that it scarcely suffices to shield their mother

from the enemy's gaze, they will set about to reorganize the laws of

the colony, and to provide for what is most pressing; they will

distribute the work in accordance with the new necessities of this

disastrous moment, and thereupon will immediately re-assume their

labours with an ardour, a patience, a tenacity and intelligence not

often to be found existing to such a degree in nature, true though

it be that most of its creatures display more confidence and courage

than man.

But the presence of the queen is not even essential for their

discouragement to vanish and their love to endure. It is enough that

she should have left, at the moment of her death or departure, the

very slenderest hope of descendants. "We have seen a colony," says

Langstroth, one of the fathers of modern apiculture, "that had not

bees sufficient to cover a comb of three inches square, and yet

endeavoured to rear a queen. For two whole weeks did they cherish

this hope; finally, when their number was reduced by one-half, their

queen was born, but her wings were imperfect, and she was unable to

fly. Impotent as she was, her bees did not treat her with the less

respect. A week more, and there remained hardly a dozen bees; yet a

few days, and the queen had vanished, leaving a few wretched,

inconsolable insects upon the combs."

There is another instance, and one that reveals most palpably the

ultimate gesture of filial love and devotion. It arises from one of

the extraordinary ordeals that our recent and tyrannical

intervention inflicts on these hapless, unflinching heroines. I, in

common with all amateur bee-keepers, have more than once had

impregnated queens sent me from Italy; for the Italian species is

more prolific, stronger, more active, and gentler than our own. It

is the custom to forward them in small, perforated boxes. In these

some food is placed, and the queen enclosed, together with a certain

number of workers, selected as far as possible from among the oldest

bees in the hive. (The age of the bee can be readily told by its

body, which gradually becomes more polished, thinner, and almost

bald; and more particularly by the wings, which hard work uses and

tears.) It is their mission to feed the queen during the journey, to

tend her and guard her. I would frequently find, when the box

arrived, that nearly every one of the workers was dead. On one

occasion, indeed, they had all perished of hunger; but in this

instance as in all others the queen was alive, unharmed, and full of

vigour; and the last of her companions had probably passed away in

the act of presenting the last drop of honey she held in her sac to

the queen, who was symbol of a life more precious, more vast than

her own.

This unwavering affection having come under the notice of man, he

was able to turn to his own advantage the qualities to which it

gives rise, or that it perhaps contains: the admirable political

sense, the passion for work, the perseverance, magnanimity, and

devotion to the future. It has allowed him, in the course of the

last few years, to a certain extent to domesticate these intractable

insects, though without their knowledge; for they yield to no

foreign strength, and in their unconscious servitude obey only the

laws of their own adoption. Man may believe, if he choose, that,

possessing the queen, he holds in his hand the destiny and soul of

the hive. In accordance with the manner in which he deals with

her--as it were, plays with her--he can increase and hasten the

swarm or restrict and retard it; he can unite or divide colonies,

and direct the emigration of kingdoms. And yet it is none the less

true that the queen is essentially merely a sort of living symbol,

standing, as all symbols must, for a vaster although less

perceptible principle; and this principle the apiarist will do well

to take into account, if he would not expose himself to more than

one unexpected reverse. For the bees are by no means deluded. The

presence of the queen does not blind them to the existence of their

veritable sovereign, immaterial and everlasting, which is no other

than their fixed idea. Why inquire as to whether this idea be

conscious or not? Such speculation can have value only if our

anxiety be to determine whether we should more rightly admire the

bees that have the idea, or nature that has planted it in them.

Wherever it lodge, in the vast unknowable body or in the tiny ones

that we see, it merits our deepest attention; nor may it be out of

place here to observe that it is the habit we have of subordinating

our wonder to accidents of origin or place, that so often causes us

to lose the chance of deep admiration; which of all things in the

world is the most helpful to us.

These conjectures may perhaps be regarded as exceedingly

venturesome, and possibly also as unduly human. It may be urged that

the bees, in all probability, have no idea of the kind; that their

care for the future, love of the race, and many other feelings we

choose to ascribe to them, are truly no more than forms assumed by

the necessities of life, the fear of suffering or death, and the

attraction of pleasure. Let it be so; look on it all as a figure of

speech; it is a matter to which I attach no importance. The one

thing certain here, as it is the one thing certain in all other

cases, is that, under special circumstances, the bees will treat

their queen in a special manner. The rest is all mystery, around

which we only can weave more or less ingenious and pleasant

conjecture. And yet, were we speaking of man in the manner wherein

it were wise perhaps to speak of the bee, is there very much more we

could say? He too yields only to necessity, the attraction of

pleasure, and the fear of suffering; and what we call our intellect

has the same origin and mission as what in animals we choose to term

instinct. We do certain things, whose results we conceive to be

known to us; other things happen, and we flatter ourselves that we

are better equipped than animals can be to divine their cause; but,

apart from the fact that this supposition rests on no very solid

foundation, events of this nature are rare and infinitesimal,

compared with the vast mass of others that elude comprehension; and

all, the pettiest and the most sublime, the best known and the most

inexplicable, the nearest and the most distant, come to pass in a

night so profound that our blindness may well be almost as great as

that we suppose in the bee.

"All must agree," remarks Buffon, who has a somewhat amusing

prejudice against the bee,--" all must agree that these flies,

individually considered, possess far less genius than the dog, the

monkey, or the majority of animals; that they display far less

docility, attachment, or sentiment; that they have, in a word, less

qualities that relate to our own; and from that we may conclude that

their apparent intelligence derives only from their assembled

multitude; nor does this union even argue intelligence, for it is

governed by no moral considerations, it being without their consent

that they find themselves gathered together. This society,

therefore, is no more than a physical assemblage ordained by nature,

and independent either of knowledge, or reason, or aim. The

mother-bee produces ten thousand individuals at a time, and in the

same place; these ten thousand individuals, were they a thousand

times stupider than I suppose them to be, would be compelled, for

the mere purpose of existence, to contrive some form of arrangement;

and, assuming that they had begun by injuring each other, they

would, as each one possesses the same strength as its fellow, soon

have ended by doing each other the least possible harm, or, in other

words, by rendering assistance. They have the appearance of

understanding each other, and of working for a common aim; and the

observer, therefore, is apt to endow them with reasons and intellect

that they truly are far from possessing. He will pretend to account

for each action, show a reason behind every movement; and from

thence the gradation is easy to proclaiming them marvels, or

monsters, of innumerable ideas. Whereas the truth is that these ten

thousand individuals, that have been produced simultaneously, that

have lived together, and undergone metamorphosis at more or less the

same time, cannot fail all to do the same thing, and are compelled,

however slight the sentiment within them, to adopt common habits, to

live in accord and union, to busy themselves with their dwelling, to

return to it after their journeys, etc., etc. And on this foundation

arise the architecture, the geometry, the order, the foresight, love

of country,--in a word, the republic; all springing, as we have

seen, from the admiration of the observer." There we have our bees

explained in a very different fashion. And if it seem more natural

at first, is it not for the very simple reason that it really

explains almost nothing? I will not allude to the material errors

this chapter contains; I will only ask whether the mere fact of the

bees accepting a common existence, while doing each other the least

possible harm, does not in itself argue a certain intelligence. And

does not this intelligence appear the more remarkable to us as we

more closely examine the fashion in which these "ten thousand

individuals" avoid hurting each other, and end by giving assistance?

And further, is this not the history of ourselves; and does not all

that the angry old naturalist says apply equally to every one of our

human societies? And yet once again: if the bee is indeed to be

credited with none of the feelings or ideas that we have ascribed to

it, shall we not very willingly shift the ground of our wonder? If

we must not admire the bee, we will then admire nature; the moment

must always come when admiration can be no longer denied us, nor

shall there be loss to us through our having retreated, or waited.

However these things may be, and without abandoning this conjecture

of ours, that at least has the advantage of connecting in our mind

certain actions that have evident connection in fact, it is certain

that the bees have far less adoration for the queen herself than for

the infinite future of the race that she represents. They are not

sentimental; and should one of their number return from work so

severely wounded as to be held incapable of further service, they

will ruthlessly expel her from the hive. And yet it cannot be said

that they are altogether incapable of a kind of personal attachment

towards their mother. They will recognise her from among all. Even

when she is old, crippled, and wretched, the sentinels at the door

will never allow another queen to enter the hive, though she be

young and fruitful. It is true that this is one of the fundamental

principles of their polity, and never relaxed except at times of

abundant honey, in favour of some foreign worker who shall be well

laden with food.

When the queen has become completely sterile, the bees will rear a

certain number of royal princesses to fill her place. But what

becomes of the old sovereign? As to this we have no precise

knowledge; but it has happened, at times, that apiarists have found

a magnificent queen, in the flower of her age, on the central comb

of the hive; and in some obscure corner, right at the back, the

gaunt, decrepit "old mistress," as they call her in Normandy. In

such cases it would seem that the bees have to exercise the greatest

care to protect her from the hatred of the vigorous rival who longs

for her death; for queen hates queen so fiercely that two who might

happen to be under the same roof would immediately fly at each

other. It would be pleasant to believe that the bees are thus

providing their ancient sovereign with a humble shelter in a remote

corner of the city, where she may end her days in peace. Here again

we touch one of the thousand enigmas of the waxen city; and it is

once more proved to us that the habits and the policy of the bees

are by no means narrow, or rigidly predetermined; and that their

actions have motives far more complex than we are inclined to


But we are constantly tampering with what they must regard as

immovable laws of nature; constantly placing the bees in a position

that may be compared to that in which we should ourselves be placed

were the laws of space and gravity, of light and heat, to be

suddenly suppressed around us. What are the bees to do when we, by

force or by fraud, introduce a second queen into the city? It is

probable that, in a state of nature, thanks to the sentinels at the

gate, such an event has never occurred since they first came into

the world. But this prodigious conjuncture does not scatter their

wits; they still contrive to reconcile the two principles that they

appear to regard in the light of divine commands. The first is that

of unique maternity, never infringed except in the case of sterility

in the reigning queen, and even then only very exceptionally; the

second is more curious still, and, although never transgressed,

susceptible of what may almost be termed a Judaic evasion. It is the

law that invests the person of a queen, whoever she be, with a sort

of inviolability. It would be a simple matter for the bees to pierce

the intruder with their myriad envenomed stings; she would die on

the spot, and they would merely have to remove the corpse from the

hive. But though this sting is always held ready to strike, though

they make constant use of it in their fights among themselves,_ they

will never draw it against a queen;_ nor will a queen ever draw hers

on a man, an animal, or an ordinary bee. She will never unsheath her

royal weapon--curved, in scimeter fashion, instead of being

straight, like that of the ordinary bee--save only in the case of

her doing battle with an equal: in other words, with a sister queen.

No bee, it would seem, dare take on herself the horror of direct and

bloody regicide. Whenever, therefore, the good order and prosperity

of the republic appear to demand that a queen shall die, they

endeavour to give to her death some semblance of natural decease,

and by infinite subdivision of the crime, to render it almost


They will, therefore, to use the picturesque expression of the

apiarist, "ball "the queenly intruder; in other words, they will

entirely surround her with their innumerable interlaced bodies. They

will thus form a sort of living prison wherein the captive is unable

to move; and in this prison they will keep her for twenty-four

hours, if need be, till the victim die of suffocation or hunger.

But if, at this moment, the legitimate queen draw near, and,

scenting a rival, appear disposed to attack her, the living walls of

the prison will at once fly open; and the bees, forming a circle

around the two enemies, will eagerly watch the strange duel that

will ensue, though remaining strictly impartial, and taking no share

in it. For it is written that against a mother the sting may be

drawn by a mother alone; only she who bears in her flanks close on

two million lives appears to possess the right with one blow to

inflict close on two million deaths.

But if the combat last too long, without any result, if the circular

weapons glide harmlessly over the heavy cuirasses, if one of the

queens appear anxious to make her escape, then, be she the

legitimate sovereign or be she the stranger, she will at once be

seized and lodged in the living prison until such time as she

manifest once more the desire to attack her foe. It is right to add,

however, that the numerous experiments that have been made on this

subject have almost invariably resulted in the victory of the

reigning queen, owing perhaps to the extra courage and ardour she

derives from the knowledge that she is at home, with her subjects

around her, or to the fact that the bees, however impartial while

the fight is in progress, may possibly display some favouritism in

their manner of imprisoning the rivals; for their mother would seem

scarcely to suffer from the confinement, whereas the stranger almost

always emerges in an appreciably bruised and enfeebled condition.

There is one simple experiment which proves the readiness with which

the bees will recognise their queen, and the depth of the attachment

they bear her. Remove her from the hive, and there will soon be

manifest all the phenomena of anguish and distress that I have

described in a preceding chapter. Replace her, a few hours later,

and all her daughters will hasten towards her, offering honey. One

section will form a lane, for her to pass through; others, with head

bent low and abdomen high in the air, will describe before her great

semicircles throbbing with sound; hymning, doubtless, the chant of

welcome their rites dictate for moments of supreme happiness or

solemn respect.

But let it not be imagined that a foreign queen may with impunity be

substituted for the legitimate mother. The bees will at once detect

the imposture; the intruder will be seized, and immediately enclosed

in the terrible, tumultuous prison, whose obstinate walls will be

relieved, as it were, till she dies; for in this particular instance

it hardly ever occurs that the stranger emerges alive.

And here it is curious to note to what diplomacy and elaborate

stratagem man is compelled to resort in order to delude these little

sagacious insects, and bend them to his will. In their unswerving

loyalty, they will accept the most unexpected events with touching

courage, regarding them probably as some new and inevitable fatal

caprice of nature. And, indeed, all this diplomacy notwithstanding,

in the desperate confusion that may follow one of these hazardous

expedients, it is on the admirable good sense of the bee that man

always, and almost empirically, relies; on the inexhaustible

treasure of their marvellous laws and customs, on their love of

peace and order, their devotion to the public weal, and fidelity to

the future; on the adroit strength, the earnest disinterestedness,

of their character, and, above all, on the untiring devotion with

which they fulfil their duty. But the enumeration of such procedures

belongs rather to technical treatises on apiculture, and would take

us too far.*

*The stranger queen is usually brought into the hive enclosed in a

little cage, with iron wires, which is hung between two combs. The

cage has a door made of wax and honey, which the workers, their

anger over, proceed to gnaw, thus freeing the prisoner, whom they

will often receive without any ill-will. Mr. Simmins, manager of the

great apiary at Rottingdean, has recently discovered another method

of introducing a queen, which, being extremely simple and almost

invariably successful, bids fair to be generally adopted by

apiarists who value their art. It is the behaviour of the queen that

usually makes her introduction a matter of so great difficulty. She

is almost distracted, flies to and fro, hides, and generally

comports herself as an intruder, thus arousing the suspicions of the

bees, which are soon confirmed by the workers' examination. Mr.

Simmins at first completely isolates the queen he intends to

introduce, and lets her fast for half an hour. He then lifts a

corner of the inner cover of the orphaned hive, and places the

strange queen on the top of one of the combs. Her former isolation

having terrified her, she is delighted to find herself in the midst

of the bees; and being famished she eagerly accepts the food they

offer her. The workers, deceived by her assurance, do not examine

her, but probably imagine that their old queen has returned, and

welcome her joyfully. It would seem, therefore, that, contrary to

the opinion of Huber and all other investigators, the bees are not

capable of recognising their queen. In any event, the two

explanations, which are both equally plausible--though the truth may

lurk, perhaps, in a third, that is not yet known to us--only prove

once again how complex and obscure is the psychology of the bee. And

from this, as from all questions that deal with life, we can draw

one conclusion only: that, till better obtain, curiosity still must

rule in our heart.

As regards this personal affection of which we have spoken, there is

one word more to be said. That such affection exists is certain, but

it is certain also that its memory is exceedingly short-lived. Dare

to replace in her kingdom a mother whose exile has lasted some days,

and her indignant daughters will receive her in such a fashion as to

compel you hastily to snatch her from the deadly imprisonment

reserved for unknown queens. For the bees have had time to transform

a dozen workers' habitations into royal cells, and the future of the

race is no longer in danger. Their affection will increase, or

dwindle, in the degree that the queen represents the future. Thus we

often find, when a virgin queen is performing the perilous ceremony

known as the "nuptial flight," of which I will speak later, that her

subjects are so fearful of losing her that they will all accompany

her on this tragic and distant quest of love. This they will never

do, however, if they be provided with a fragment of comb containing

brood-cells, whence they shall be able to rear other queens. Indeed,

their affection even may turn into fury and hatred should their

sovereign fail in her duty to that sort of abstract divinity that we

should call future society, which the bees would appear to regard

far more seriously than we. It happens, for instance, at times, that

apiarists for various reasons will prevent the queen from joining a

swarm by inserting a trellis into the hive; the nimble and slender

workers will flit through it, unperceiving, but to the poor slave of

love, heavier and more corpulent than her daughters, it offers an

impassable barrier. The bees, when they find that the queen has not

followed, will return to the hive, and scold the unfortunate

prisoner, hustle and ill-treat her, accusing her of laziness,

probably, or suspecting her of feeble mind. On their second

departure, when they find that she still has not followed, her

ill-faith becomes evident to them, and their attacks grow more

serious. And finally, when they shall have gone forth once more, and

still with the same result, they will almost always condemn her, as

being irremediably faithless to her destiny and to the future of the

race, and put her to death in the royal prison.

It is to the future, therefore, that the bees subordinate all

things; and with a foresight, a harmonious co-operation, a skill in

interpreting events and turning them to the best advantage, that

must compel our heartiest admiration, particularly when we remember

in how startling and supernatural a light our recent intervention

must present itself to them. It may be said, perhaps, that in the

last instance we have given, they place a very false construction

upon the queen's inability to follow them. But would our powers of

discernment be so very much subtler, if an intelligence of an order

entirely different from our own, and served by a body so colossal

that its movements were almost as imperceptible as those of a

natural phenomenon, were to divert itself by laying traps of this

kind for us? Has it not taken us thousands of years to invent a

sufficiently plausible explanation for the thunderbolt? There is a

certain feebleness that overwhelms every intellect the moment it

emerges from its own sphere, and is brought face to face with events

not of its own initiation. And, besides, it is quite possible that

if this ordeal of the trellis were to obtain more regularly and

generally among the bees, they would end by detecting the pitfall,

and by taking steps to elude it. They have mastered the intricacies

of the movable comb, of the sections that compel them to store their

surplus honey in little boxes symmetrically piled; and in the case

of the still more extraordinary innovation of foundation wax, where

the cells are indicated only by a slender circumference of wax, they

are able at once to grasp the advantages this new system presents;

they most carefully extend the wax, and thus, without loss of time

or labour, construct perfect cells. So long as the event that

confronts them appear not a snare devised by some cunning and

malicious god, the bees may be trusted always to discover the best,

nay, the only human, solution. Let me cite an instance; an event,

that, though occurring in nature, is still in itself wholly

abnormal. I refe