« PreviousContinue »
they are open within and elevated above the surface, and not, as in the antennæ, depressed or indented. In like manner they can only be carefully investigated when the colouring matter has been removed through the agency of chlorine, and then a high microscopic power reveals similar bundles of fine nerves leading to the vesicles, and connected by a trunk to the central ganglion or nervous mass. These nerves prove the vesicles, as in the former case, to be organs of sense, and Dr. Hicks has attributed to them the function of smell. This inquiry must, however, still be considered an open one; and here again (not only in the Bee, but in all other insects) an excellent field is presented for the investigations of young naturalists. Beyond these vesicles and the hooks, the wings do not possess any other feature of interest whereon we feel tempted to dwell (the tracheæ or respiratory vessels will be described hereafter); and as the thorax, which has furnished us with its fair share of instruction, has no other appendages than those already described, we shall now proceed to examine the only organ that is visible upon the third or abdominal segment of the body, that is, the sting, and therewith conclude our survey
of the external
and members of the Hive-Bee.
If you were ever stung by a Bee, and, after extracting the sting, had the curiosity to examine the weapon that caused you so much pain, you would probably have been puzzled to conjecture how an object apparently so insignificant could produce such a serious
effect. But the fact is, that the sting of a Bee is not simply, as it might appear at first sight, a little splinter, resembling those fragments of thorn that we occasionally find to have penetrated our skin during a country ramble; but it is a highly organized apparatus, upon which the penetrating power of the lens must be brought to bear in order to reveal its formidable character.
The little instrument known as the sting, is found, when magnified, to be the sheath in which the true sting lies concealed, although the whole enters the wound when an attack is made. The piercing apparatus itself is, however, double (Pl. VI. fig. 5,66), being composed of two long darts, which, in the illustration, are removed from the sheath and separated in order to exhibit their shape, but in their natural position are placed side by side, so as to form a lance; and being furnished with suitable muscles, they are forcibly protruded from the sheath (Pl. VI. fig. 5, a) when required for the purposes of attack or defence. But our investigation must not stop here; for if we employ a tolerably high microscopic power to examine the points of these darts, we shall find them to be barbed (Pl. VI. fig. 6), each piercer being furnished on one side with eight teeth ; and as they are so placed when in use that the smooth edges are in juxtaposition, you will perceive that they then constitute a single formidable barbed spear, similar to one of those primitive weapons of warfare employed by the savage inhabitants of various countries, that you will no doubt often have
met with in museums or collections of ethnological curiosities.
You will now perceive what a formidable weapon the sting must be when directed by the Bee against an insect of its own size; and, after examining its barbed points, you will easily understand, too, how it happens, that, when the little belligerent manages to penetrate your own skin, it should be compelled to leave its sting behind.
But there is another and still more dangerous feature connected with the instrument than even these barbs, namely that it is poisoned; for, situated at the root of the sting, there is a little sac, containing an acrid fluid, supposed by some naturalists to be pure formic acid, and secreted by a pair of tubes appended to the receptacle*. At the moment when the sting enters the object attacked, the same muscles by which it is worked express a drop of the fluid from the sac, and this, passing through the hollow sheath into the wound, causes the instantaneous death of the animal attacked, should it be another insect; whilst even man suffers considerable pain from the inflammation resulting from the poison. The best mode of extracting the sting, as well as the drop of fluid, is by pressing the open end of the barrel of a key upon the puncture; this forces out both sting and poison, and affords instantaneous relief.
In the queen, the sting, which is curved, is also a modified ovipositor (Pl. II. fig. 20), serving to aid her
* Want of space has prevented us from presenting an illus