« PreviousContinue »
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
in the deposition of eggs, as well as to attack her enemies; and with what terrible effect she employs the instrument for the latter purpose, we shall see hereafter.
And now, reader, having concluded our review of these various organs and members, we would ask you to reflect for an instant upon what we have together examined.
Can you imagine that all these wonderful contrivances, the superficial account of which has occupied two chapters ;-that the mysterious antennæ, studded over with innumerable organs of sense; the eyes, composed of 4000 lesser organs of vision, as perfect in their construction as our most highly prized philosophical instruments; the oral apparatus, consisting of shears, and saws, and cutting blades; the curious legs, provided with baskets for the conveyance of food to the hive, and pliers to aid in the construction of that dwelling; the wings, formed not only as members of locomotion, but also to fulfil the important process of ventilation; and, lastly, the sting, with its poisoned barbed lance ;-can you conceive, we say, that all these remarkable mechanisms exist upon the common Honey-Bee, which you have many a time brushed from your window-pane when it dared to venture inside your dwelling?
So, however, it is; and you have perhaps thought no more of these various wonders in the little tration of the poison-sac, which is situated within the abdomen, about c, fig. 5, Pl. VI. Pl. VIII. fig. 2, p represents one of the secreting tubes.
honey-maker than of the insect itself when you sat down at your breakfast-table to enjoy the sweet fruits of its labours, in which these very instruments were employed!
But rest assured that the consideration of the various appliances wherewith the Bee is furnished (the greater portion of which can be easily distinguished even with a pocket lens) would in no way detract from the enjoyment of the sweets that they help to produce; and let us therefore recommend them, when the opportunity next presents itself, to your careful study and investigation.