« PreviousContinue »
insect has been furnished. Take for example the eyes that guide it in its flight to the distant pasturage in search of honey, and which enable it to seek out the appropriate cell in which to store the liquid treasure on its return to the dark recesses of the hive.
The South American Condor soars up as high again as the highest peak of the Andes—ten miles above the level of the sea, until it assumes in the eyes of the beholder the appearance of a mere speck. This feathered denizen of the air possesses only one pair of eyes, and yet, we are told, its vision is so powerful, that, when it is elevated to this height, it embraces an area equal to that of the whole of Germany, and can detect, and launch itself directly upon, any mass of carrion in the plains below. What wonder then that the little Bee, provided as it is with some thousands of perfect organs of vision, varying in power and range, should rise up high in
, the air, and then fly off in a direct line to distant flower-beds, or with equal precision return to its habitation laden with pollen and honey!
Again, you will not be surprised to hear that the creature whose whole life is spent in collecting these last-named materials, should be furnished with internal as well as external receptacles wherein to store and convey home its precious treasures; but when you come to investigate their structure, and see how perfectly they are adapted to their respective uses, you will certainly be astonished to find how amply even this humble little insect has been provided with contrivances necessary for the fulfilment of its task in creation. The same observation applies also to those instruments situated at the mouth, that aid it in the construction of its honeycomb. There you will discover powerful toothed shears (Pl. V. fig. 1,66) for clipping and sawing, as well as trowel-shaped blades (Pl. V. fig. 1, cc) for plastering and moulding the wax and propolis; and in these operations it is also assisted by the long delicate tongue (Pl. V. fig. 1, dd), wherewith it rolls the thin riband-like hands of wax that serve it in the construction of its cell-walls : nor must we forget those remarkable claw-shaped pincers (Pl. VI. figs. 1,e,& 3), situated upon the extremity of
, 3 its feet, with which it manipulates the various materials needed in its industrial occupations. Thus you see that the experienced little artisan is provided with every implement requisite for the prosecution of its calling, and for the performance of what we shall hereafter find to be no easy task.
Having thus drawn your attention to a few points of interest connected with the habits and structure of the Bee, we shall conclude these brief introductory remarks by referring to a phenomenon in its history to which we find no parallel in nature; and this time, reader, you may arm yourself with an ample stock of scepticism.
Suppose we were to place in your hand the newlylaid egg of a fowl, and to put the question, “Will the chick that is to be hatched from this egg be a cock or a hen?” would you not laugh at the absurd inquiry, supposing that you believed it to be serious ? Yet, if we are to credit the testimony of Professor Siebold—one of the first physiologists of the day,accepted and endorsed by the opinion of our own great anatomist Professor Owen, and others, such an inquiry would be perfectly rational, were we to substitute the egg of a Bee for that of a hen.
For we are told that by the aid of the microscope it is possible to distinguish in a fresh-laid Bee's egg such phenomena as will easily enable the observer to determine whether the larva that would have been produced would be a drone or a worker (we say would have been, because the experiment necessitates that the yolk should be expressed),—in other words, to determine whether it would have been a male or a female.
Now this is only one of a series of recent discoveries that have invested the history of the Bee with great additional interest, and these various phenomena we shall endeavour in the succeeding Chapters to render as clear and explicit as possible. Meanwhile, as there is, no doubt, somewhere within your reach a peopled hive, whatever may be the locality in which you reside, we would advise you to provide yourself with a few specimens of the insect, so that you may be able to examine the various parts as we describe them, and thus derive additional pleasure from the investigation.
THE INSECT RACES AND THEIR CHARACTERISTIC ATTRIBUTES.
-THE BEE'S PLACE IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM.-GENERAL APPEARANCE AND PECULIARITIES OF THE WORKER, DRONE, AND QUEEN.-HEAD OF THE BEE.-WONDERFUL STRUCTURE OF ITS EYES.—THE OCELLI, OR COMPOUND EYES. --STEMMATA, OR SIMPLE EYES.--LESSONS CONVEYED BY THEIR
It is now so well understood what an insect is, as well as what it is not (for a great number of those forms that were popularly termed insects really belong to other divisions of the Animal Kingdom), that it would hardly appear necessary to refer at any length to the various attributes that characterize the class. We shall, however, glance cursorily at its typical features, leaving those who desire a more particular account of it, to consult one of the numerous zoological works that treat upon the subject.
An insect is an articulated animal; that is, an animal not possessing an internal skeleton, but enveloped in a thick integument or case composed of a number of articulations or rings connected together by a thinner membrane. When fully developed, it invariably possesses six annulated legs, whereby it is distinguishable from all other articulated animals;
for the Arachnidæ, or spider tribes, are furnished with eight; the Crustacea, or crab-like races, usually with ten; and the Myriapoda, or millipedes, with an indefinite number of these members.
With its six legs, constructed for progression on terra firma or in the water, there are coupled, as a general rule, one or two pairs of wings for flight in the air : and we may here observe, that in order that the body may be rendered lighter whilst moving in this element, the insect races do not breathe, as we do, by means of lungs, but are provided internally with numerous tubes and receptacles, of various dimensions, termed tracheæ, in which the air freely circulates, diminishing the specific gravity of the trunk.
Insects are furthermore rendered conspicuous by their antennæ or feelers, of which they possess a single pair, situated in front of the head, and composed of a series of rings or joints, in conformity with the structure of the rest of the body. These feelers serve to aid them in their numerous instinctive actions.
Lastly, the insect races usually undergo a more or less complete metamorphosis before arriving at the perfect state. In some cases they pass from one stage to the other without any marked change in their external appearance; in others, however, as in the Bee, they are subjected to a complete transition from the vermiform or worm-shaped grub or larva to the winged insect or imago, and spend a portion of their lives intermediate between these two stages in a quiescent, and apparently a lifeless state, enclosed