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tain and told that there is a town somewhere a few miles distant, in which, if you can succeed in finding, you will be able to procure a meal, but that you must be sure to return by a certain hour, else the steamer will proceed on her course without you.
Picture to yourself the perplexity you would experience when you set foot upon the strange land, not knowing in which direction to turn in search of the locality that would have to be reached before your appetite could be appeased. In the absence of positive information you would probably seek some eminence from whence to survey the surrounding landscape, in order to trace, if possible, a road, or any other guide, to the desired goal.
If even you were so far successful, you would regard your position as a very awkward one, and would be apt to look upon the accomplishment of your journey within the prescribed period as little short of a miracle. But wonderful as it might appear in your case, in the Bee such a feat would be nothing unusual, and it is one that its instincts enable it to perform without the slightest difficulty. You have but to change the scene from the Mississippi to the Nile, and the society of human beings for a collection of inhabited bee-hives, and an opportunity will at once be presented for the consideration of one of the remarkable incidents in Bee-life. In Egypt, as well as in many other countries, including France, it is a common practice for Bee-owners, in whose vicinity there is not a sufficiently rich pasturage for their
winged flock, to entrust their hives to the care of boatmen who make a trade of transporting great numbers from place to place down the rivers, resting by day in order that the Bees may sally forth in search of honey, and continuing their course at night. The Bee accomplishes its object by means somewhat similar to those we suggested to yourself under the like circumstances, but with far greater accuracy and precision. No sooner does it quit the hive in the strange locality, than it mounts in the air, and having attained a sufficient eminence, flies off at once in the right direction, guided by its unerring instinct. This instinct also serves it on its return to the hive; and although it may not be permitted to sojourn in the same locality for two days together, yet it goes and comes apparently without any more difficulty or hesitation than we ourselves feel in departing from or returning to our homes during the performance of our daily duties. In this operation it is no doubt aided by its wonderful eyes, the beautiful structure of which we shall presently have an opportunity to examine, and then indeed you will no longer be surprised at the end that their possessor is thereby enabled to attain.
Remarkable as is this instinct in the Bee, which renders it capable of discovering its food at a distance, there is another phase in its history that is quite beyond our comprehension, and which appears almost supernatural when considered in relation to so insignificant and diminutive a creature.
that the young
You are of course well aware that in various stages of infancy the human being requires and receives a modification of his food, which becomes more solid as he advances in years; first he is provided with milk, then with farinaceous compounds, and finally with the ordinary food of an adult.
Smile not, reader, when we tell you that the Bees (that is to say, the larvæ) are treated by their
much after the same fashion. In order to render this comprehensible, we shall have to enter into some of the details of the Bee's natural history; but as we shall, in so doing, touch upon two or three of its most interesting traits, we trust that no apology is necessary for dwelling on this part of the subject.
As you doubtless know, there are three varieties of Bees composing a hive; namely, a single queen, the mother of the hive; numerous workers, or unfruitful females; and the males, or drones. In speaking of the queen as the “mother” of the hive, we are borrowing a German expression, and a most appropriate one; for she deposits the eggs from which proceed all the inhabitants of the hive-workers, drones, and future queens, laying the ova in three distinct kinds of cells: those of the workers and drones are the ordinary hexagonal cells, varying a little in size; whilst the queen-eggs are placed in large oval ones, called royal cells, specially prepared by the workerbees for their reception. (Pl. VIII. figs. 5 & 6.)
Here already, as a little reflection will show, we
have presented to us a number of strange phenomena. How do the workers know that the drone-cells must be constructed as they are) of larger dimensions than the worker-cells, and that those intended for the reception of the young queens must be still larger and of a different shape? The eggs deposited by the queen, from which the three varieties proceed, are all alike in appearance; nay, those which produce queens and workers are precisely the same in every respect : that can therefore be no guide to the workers in the construction of the cells. Again, how does the queen know when and where to deposit each particular kind of egg? “ Instinct” will doubtless be your answer.
Precisely so; and although we know but little in this respect, still we may be able to give you, farther on, some information on the subject that you will find new and interesting.
However, let us suppose the cells made, and the eggs deposited therein and hatched. The larvæ, or grubs, do not leave the cells, but are fed by a class of the worker community called by naturalists “Nursebees;" and how do you think they are nourished ? First, in their earliest infancy, with honey, which we shall find hereafter to be a kind of food that has undergone a partial digestive process in the organs of the worker; then, as the days of the young ones increase in number, the sagacious nurses mix, and administer to them along with the honey, a quantity of bee-bread, consisting of the pollen of flowers, a
substance that afterwards serves as the food of the fully-developed Bee!
Thus you see that this “instinct” answers the same purpose, and leads to the same results in the Bee, as does reason in man.
But this is the least wonderful part of the story. The change of nourishment to which we have just referred also alters the very nature of the insects; for it is in consequence of their being thus fed, first on honey and then on a coarser food, that certain of the Bees (the greater proportion indeed) remain workers, their growth being stunted and the reproductive organs remaining undeveloped; whilst the queen is fed throughout her larvahood upon honey, or, as it is called by apiarists, royal paste. And, reader, the Bees know this : else, how is it, that, when they accidentally run short of a queen, they instantly seize upon a worker-larva and transfer it to a royal cell, hastily constructed for the purpose ? This they actually do, and feed it upon royal paste during the remainder of its larval existence, until, instead of a worker-bee, they metamorphose the larva into a queen!
Instinct (a power or quality that we are unable clearly to define) is their guide in these and many other interesting operations; and if the psychical or mental endowments of the Bee are thus remarkable and perfect, equally so, both as regards their beauty and fitness for the end to be attained, shall we find the various organs and members with which the little