Langstroth on the Hive and the Honey-Bee - A Bee Keeper's Manual
by L. L. Langstroth
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On examining this same colony a few days later, I obtained the most satisfactory evidence that these drone eggs were laid by the Queen which had been removed. No fresh eggs had been deposited in the cells, and the bees, on missing her, had commenced the construction of royal cells, to rear if possible, another Queen, a thing which they would not have done, if a fertile worker had been present, by which the drone eggs had been laid.

Another very interesting fact proves that all the eggs laid by this Queen, were drone eggs. Two of the royal cells were, in a short time, discontinued, and were found to be empty, while a third contained a worm, which was sealed over the usual way, to undergo its changes from a worm to a perfect Queen.

I was completely at a loss to account for this, as the bees having an unimpregnated drone-laying Queen, ought not to have had a single female egg from which they could rear a Queen.

At first I imagined that they might have stolen it from another hive, but when I opened this cell, it contained, instead of a queen, a dead drone!

I then remembered that Huber has described the same mistake on the part of some of his bees. At the base of this cell, was an extraordinary quantity of the peculiar jelly or paste, which is fed to the young that are to be transformed into queens. The poor bees in their desperation, appear to have dosed the unfortunate drone to death: as though they expected by such liberal feeding, to produce some hopeful change in his sexual organization!

It appears to me that these facts constitute all the links in a perfect chain, and demonstrate beyond the possibility of doubt, that unfecundated queens are not only capable of laying eggs, (this would be no more remarkable than the same occurrence in a hen,) but that these eggs are possessed of sufficient vitality to produce drones. Aristotle, who flourished before the Christian era, had noticed that there was no difference in appearance, between the eggs producing drones and those producing workers; and he states that drones only are produced in hives which have no queen; of course the eggs producing them, were laid by fertile workers. Having now the aid of powerful microscopes, we are still unable to detect the slightest difference in size or appearance in the eggs, and this is precisely what we should expect if the same egg will produce either a worker or a drone, according as it is or is not impregnated. The theory which I propose, will, I think, perfectly harmonize with all the observed facts on this subject.

I believe that after fecundation has been delayed for about three weeks, the mouth of the spermatheca becomes permanently closed, so that impregnation can no longer be effected; just as the parts of a flower, after a certain time, wither and shut up, and the plant is incapable of fructification. The fertile drone-laying workers, are in my opinion, physically incapable of being impregnated. However strange it may appear, or even improbable, that an unimpregnated egg can give birth to a living being, or that the sex can be dependent on impregnation, we are not at liberty to reject facts, because we cannot comprehend the reasons of them. He who allows himself to be guilty of such folly, if he seeks to maintain his consistency, will be plunged, sooner or later, into the dreary gulf of atheism. Common sense, philosophy and religion alike teach us to receive all undoubted facts in the natural and the spiritual world, with becoming reverence; assured that however mysterious to us, they are all most beautifully harmonious and consistent in the sight of Him whose "understanding is infinite."

There is something analogous to these wonders in the bee, in what takes place in the aphides or green lice which infest our rose bushes and other plants. We have the most undoubted evidence that a fecundated female gives birth to other females, and they in turn to others still, all of which, without impregnation, are able to bring forth young, until at length, after a number of generations, perfect males and females are produced, and the series starts anew!

The unequaled facilities, furnished by my hives, have seemed to render it peculiarly incumbent on me, to do all in my power to clear up the difficulties in this intricate and yet highly important branch of Apiarian knowledge. All the leading facts in the breeding of bees ought to be as well known to the bee keeper, as the same class of facts in the rearing of his domestic animals. A few crude and hasty notions, but half understood and half digested, will answer only for the old fashioned bee keeper, who deals in the brimstone matches. He who expects to conduct bee keeping on a safe and profitable system, must learn that on this, as on all other subjects, "knowledge is power."

The extraordinary fertility of the queen bee has already been noticed. The process of laying has been well described by the Rev. W. Dunbar, a Scotch Apiarian.

"When the queen is about to lay, she puts her head into a cell, and remains in that position for a second or two, to ascertain its fitness for the deposit which she is about to make. She then withdraws her head, and curving her body downwards,[2] inserts the lower part of it into the cell: in a few seconds she turns half round upon herself and withdraws, leaving an egg behind her. When she lays a considerable number, she does it equally on each side of the comb, those on the one side being as exactly opposite to those on the other as the relative position of the cells will admit. The effect of this is to produce the utmost possible concentration and economy of heat for developing the various changes of the brood!"

Here as at every step in the economy of the bee our minds are filled with admiration as we witness the perfect adaptation of means to ends. Who can blame the warmest enthusiasm of the Apiarian in view of a sagacity which seems scarcely inferior to that of man.

"The eggs of bees," I quote from the admirable treatise of Bevan, "are of a lengthened oval shape, with a slight curvature, and of a bluish white color: being besmeared at the time of laying, with a glutinous substance,[3] they adhere to the bases of the cells, and remain unchanged in figure or situation for three or four days; they are then hatched, the bottom of each cell presenting to view a small white worm. On its growing so as to touch the opposite angle of the cell, it coils itself up, to use the language of Swammerdam, like a dog when going to sleep; and floats in a whitish transparent fluid, which is deposited in the cells by the nursing-bees, and by which it is probably nourished; it becomes gradually enlarged in its dimensions, till the two extremities touch one another and form a ring. In this state it is called a larva or worm. So nicely do the bees calculate the quantity of food which will be required, that none remains in the cell when it is transformed to a nymph. It is the opinion of many eminent naturalists that farina does not constitute the sole food of the larva, but that it consists of a mixture of farina, honey and water, partly digested in the stomachs of the nursing-bees."

"The larva having derived its support, in the manner above described, for four, five or six days, according to the season," (the development being retarded in cool weather, and badly protected hives,) "continues to increase during that period, till it occupies the whole breadth and nearly the length of the cell. The nursing bees now seal over the cell, with a light brown cover, externally more or less convex, (the cap of a drone cell is more convex than that of a worker,) and thus differing from that of a honey cell which is paler and somewhat concave." The cap of the brood cell appears to be made of a mixture of bee-bread and wax; it is not air tight as it would be if made of wax alone; but when examined with a microscope it appears to be reticulated, or full of fine holes through which the enclosed insect can have air for all necessary purposes. From its texture and shape it is easily thrust off by the bee when mature, whereas, if it consisted wholly of wax, the young bee would either perish for lack of air, or be unable to force its way into the world! Both the material and shape of the lids which seal up the honey cells are different, because an entirely different object was aimed at; they are of pure wax to make them air tight and thus to prevent the honey from souring or candying in the cells! They are concave or hollowed inwards to give them greater strength to resist the pressure of their contents!

To return to Bevan. "The larva is no sooner perfectly inclosed than it begins to line the cell by spinning round itself, after the manner of the silk worm, a whitish silky film or cocoon, by which it is encased, as it were, in a pod. When it has undergone this change, it has usually borne the name of nymph or pupa. The insect has now attained its full growth, and the large amount of nutriment which it has taken serves as a store for developing the perfect insect."

"The working bee nymph spins its cocoon in thirty-six hours. After passing about three days in this state of preparation for a new existence, it gradually undergoes so great a change as not to wear a vestige of its previous form, but becomes armed with a firmer mail, and with scales of a dark brown hue. On its belly six rings become distinguishable, which by slipping one over another enables the bee to shorten its body whenever it has occasion to do so.

"When it has reached the twenty-first day of its existence, counting from the moment the egg is laid, it comes forth a perfect winged insect. The cocoon is left behind, and forms a closely attached and exact lining to the cell in which it was spun; by this means the breeding cells become smaller and their partitions stronger, the oftener they change their tenants; and may become so much diminished in size as not to admit of the perfect development of full sized bees."

"Such are the respective stages of the working bee: those of the royal bee are as follows: she passes three days in the egg and is five a worm; the workers then close her cell, and she immediately begins spinning her cocoon, which occupies her twenty four hours. On the tenth and eleventh days and a part of the twelfth, as if exhausted by her labor, she remains in complete repose. Then she passes four days and a part of the fifth as a nymph. It is on the sixteenth day therefore that the perfect state of queen is attained."

"The drone passes three days in the egg, six and a half as a worm, and changes into a perfect insect on the twenty-fourth or twenty-fifth day after the egg is laid."

"The development of each species likewise proceeds more slowly when the colonies are weak or the air cool, and when the weather is very cold it is entirely suspended. Dr. Hunter has observed that the eggs, worms and nymphs all require a heat above 70 deg. of Fahrenheit for their evolution."

In the chapter on protection against extremes of heat and cold, I have dwelt, at some length, upon the importance of constructing the hives in such a manner as to enable the bees to preserve, as far as possible, a uniform temperature in their tenement. In thin hives exposed to the sun, the heat is sometimes so great as to destroy the eggs and the larvae, even when the combs escape from being melted; and the cold is often so severe as to check the development of the brood, and sometimes to kill it outright.

In such hives, when the temperature out of doors falls suddenly and severely, the bees at once feel the unfavorable change; they are obliged in self defence to huddle together to keep warm, and thus large portions of the brood comb are often abandoned, and the brood either destroyed at once by the cold, or so enfeebled that they never recover from the shock. Let every bee keeper, in all his operations, remember that brood comb must never be exposed to a low temperature so as to become chilled: the disastrous effects are almost as certain, as when the eggs of a setting hen are left, for too long a time, by the careless mother. The brood combs are never safe when taken for any considerable time from the bees, unless the temperature is fully up to summer heat.

"[4]The young bees break their envelope with their teeth, and assisted, as soon as they come forth, by the older ones, proceed to cleanse themselves from the moisture and exuviae with which they were surrounded. Both drones and workers on emerging from the cell are, at first grey, soft and comparatively helpless so that some time elapses before they take wing.

"With respect to the cocoons spun by the different larvae, both workers and drones spin complete cocoons, or inclose themselves on every side; royal larvae construct only imperfect cocoons, open behind, and enveloping only the head, thorax, and first ring of the abdomen; and Huber concludes, without any hesitation, that the final cause of their forming only incomplete cocoons is, that they may thus be exposed to the mortal sting of the first hatched queen, whose instinct leads her instantly to seek the destruction of those who would soon become her rivals.

"If the royal larvae spun complete cocoons, the stings of the queens seeking to destroy their rivals might be so entangled in their meshes that they could not be disengaged. 'Such,' says Huber, 'is the instinctive enmity of young queens to each other, that I have seen one of them, immediately on its emergence from the cell, rush to those of its sisters, and tear to pieces even the imperfect larvae. Hitherto philosophers have claimed our admiration of nature for her care in preserving and multiplying the species. But from these facts we must now admire her precautions in exposing certain individuals to a mortal hazard.'"

The cocoon of the royal larva is very much stronger and coarser than that spun by the drone or worker, its texture considerably resembling that of the silk worm's. The young queen does not come forth from her cell until she is quite mature; and as its great size gives her abundant room to exercise her wings she is capable of flying as soon as she quits it. While still in her cell she makes the fluttering and piping noises with which every observant bee keeper is so well acquainted.

Some Apiarians have supposed that the queen bee has the power to regulate the development of eggs in her ovaries, so that few or many are produced, according to the necessities of the colony. This is evidently a mistake. Her eggs, like those of the domestic hen, are formed without any volition of her own, and when fully developed, must be extruded. If the weather is unfavorable, or if the colony is too feeble to maintain sufficient heat, a smaller number of eggs are developed in her ovaries, just as unfavorable circumstances diminish the number of eggs laid by the hen; if the weather is very cold, egg-laying usually ceases altogether. In the latitude of Philadelphia, I opened one of my hives on the 5th day of February, and found an abundance of eggs and brood, although the winter had been an unusually cold one, and the temperature of the preceding month very low. The fall of 1852 was a warm one, and eggs and brood were found in a hive which I examined on the 21st of October. Powerful stocks in well protected hives contain some brood, at least ten months in the year; in warm countries, bees probably breed, every month in the year.

It is highly interesting to see in what way the supernumerary eggs of the queen are disposed of. When the number of workers is too small to take charge of all her eggs, or when there is a deficiency of bee bread to nourish the young, (See chapter on Pollen,) or when, for any reason, she judges it not best to deposit them in cells, she stands upon a comb, and simply extrudes them from her oviduct, and the workers devour them as fast as they are laid! This I have repeatedly witnessed in my observing hives, and admired the sagacity of the queen in economizing her necessary work after this fashion, instead of laboriously depositing the eggs in cells where they are not wanted. What a difference between her wise management and the stupidity of a hen obstinately persisting to set upon addled eggs, or pieces of chalk, and often upon nothing at all.

The workers eat up also all the eggs which are dropped, or deposited out of place by the queen; in this way, nothing goes to waste, and even a tiny egg is turned to some account. Was there ever a better comment upon the maxim? "Take care of the pence, and the pounds will take care of themselves."

Do the workers who appear to be so fond of a tit-bit in the shape of a new laid egg, ever experience a struggle between their appetites and the claims of duty, and does it cost them some self denial to refrain from making a breakfast on a fresh laid egg? It is really very difficult for one who has carefully watched the habits of bees, to speak of his little favorites in any other way than as though they possessed an intelligence almost, if not quite, akin to reason.

It is well known to every breeder of poultry, that the fertility of a hen decreases with age, until at length, she becomes entirely barren; it is equally certain that the fertility of the queen bee ordinarily diminishes after she has entered upon her third year. She sometimes ceases to lay Worker eggs, a considerable time before she dies of old age; the contents of the spermatheca are exhausted; the eggs can no longer be impregnated and must therefore produce drones.

The queen bee usually dies of old age, some time in her fourth year, although instances are on record of some having survived a year longer. It is highly important to the bee keeper who would receive the largest returns from his bees, to be able, as in my hives, to catch the queen and remove her, when she has passed the period of her greatest fertility. In the sequel, full directions will be given, as to the proper time and mode of effecting it.

Before proceeding farther in the natural history of the queen bee, I shall describe more particularly, the other inmates of the hive.


The drones are, unquestionably, the male bees. Dissection proves that they have the appropriate organs of generation. They are much larger and stouter than either the queen or workers; although their bodies are not quite so long as that of the queen. They have no sting with which to defend themselves; no proboscis which is suitable for gathering honey from the flowers, and no baskets on their thighs for holding the bee-bread. They are thus physically disqualified for work, even if they were ever so well disposed to it. Their proper office is to impregnate the young queens, and they are usually destroyed by the bees, soon after this is completed.

Dr. Evans the author of a beautiful poem on bees thus appropriately describes them:—

"Their short proboscis sips No luscious nectar from the wild thyme's lips, From the lime's leaf no amber drops they steal, Nor bear their grooveless thighs the foodful meal: On other's toils in pamper'd leisure thrive The lazy fathers of the industrious hive."

The drones begin to make their appearance in April or May; earlier or later, according to climate and the forwardness of the season, and strength of the stock. They require about twenty-four days for their full development from the egg. In colonies which are too weak to swarm, none, as a general rule, are reared: they are not needed, for in such hives, as no young queens are raised, they would be only useless consumers.

The number of drones in a hive is often very great, amounting, not merely to hundreds, but sometimes to thousands. It seems, at first, very difficult to understand why there should be so many, especially since it has been ascertained that a single one will impregnate a queen for life. But as intercourse always takes place high in the air, the young queens are obliged to leave the hive for this purpose; and it is exceedingly important to their safety, that they should be sure of finding one, without being compelled to make frequent excursions. Being larger than a worker, and less quick on the wing, they are more exposed to be caught by birds, or blown down and destroyed by sudden gusts of wind.

In a large Apiary, a few drones in each hive, or the number usually found in one, might be amply sufficient. But it must be borne in mind, that under these circumstances, bees are not in a state of nature. Before they were domesticated, a colony living in a forest, often had no neighbors for miles. Now a good stock in our climate, sometimes sends out three or more swarms, and in the tropical climates, of which the bee is a native, they increase with astonishing rapidity. At Sydney, in Australia, a single colony is stated to have multiplied to 300 in three years. All the new swarms except the first, are led off by a young queen, and as she is never impregnated until after she has been established as the head of a separate family, it is important that they should all be accompanied by a goodly number of drones; and this renders it necessary that a large number should be produced in the parent hive.

As this necessity no longer exists, when the bee is domesticated, the production of so many drones should be discouraged. Traps have been invented to destroy them, but it is much better to save the bees the labor and expense of rearing such a host of useless consumers. This can readily be done by the use of my hives. The cells in which the drones are reared, are much larger than those appropriated to the raising of workers. The combs containing them may be taken out, to have their places supplied with worker's cells, and thus the over production of drones may easily be prevented. Some colonies contain so much drone comb as to be nearly worthless.

I have no doubt that some of my readers will object to this mode of management as interfering with nature: but let them remember that the bee is not in a state of nature, and that the same objection might be urged against killing off the super-numerary males of our domestic animals.

In July or August, soon after the swarming season is over, the bees expel the drones from the hive. They sometimes sting them, and sometimes gnaw the roots of their wings, so that when driven from the hive, they cannot return. If not treated in either of these summary ways, they are so persecuted and starved, that they soon perish. The hatred of the bees extends even to the young which are still unhatched: they are mercilessly pulled from the cells, and destroyed with the rest. How wonderful that instinct which teaches the bees that there is no longer any occasion for the services of the drones, and which impels them to destroy those members of the colony, which, a short time before, they reared with such devoted attention!

A colony which neglects to expel its drones at the usual season, ought always to be examined. The queen is probably either diseased or dead. In my hives, such an examination may be easily made, the true state of the case ascertained, and the proper remedies at once applied. (See Chapter on the Loss of the Queen.)


I have often been able, by the reasons previously assigned, to account for the necessity of such a large number of drones in a state of nature, to the satisfaction of others, but never fully to my own. I have repeatedly queried, why impregnation might not just as well have been effected in the hive, as on the wing, in the open air. Two very obvious and highly important advantages would have resulted from such an arrangement. 1st. A few dozen drones would have amply sufficed for the wants of any colony, even if, (as in tropical climates,) it swarmed half a dozen times or oftener, in the same season. 2d. The young queens would have been exposed to none of those risks which they now incur, in leaving the hive for fecundation.

I was unable to show how the existing arrangement is best; although I never doubted that there must be a satisfactory reason for this seeming imperfection. To suppose otherwise, would be highly unphilosophical, since we constantly see, as the circle of our knowledge is enlarged, many mysteries in nature hitherto inexplicable, fully cleared up.

Let me here ask if the disposition which too many students of nature cherish, to reject some of the doctrines of revealed religion, is not equally unphilosophical. Neither our ignorance of all the facts necessary to their full elucidation, nor our inability to harmonize these facts in their mutual relations and dependencies, will justify us in rejecting any truth which God has seen fit to reveal, either in the book of nature, or in His holy word. The man who would substitute his own speculations for the divine teachings, has embarked, without rudder or chart, pilot or compass, upon the uncertain ocean of theory and conjecture; unless he turns his prow from its fatal course, no Sun of Righteousness will ever brighten for him the dreary expanse of waters; storms and whirlwinds will thicken in gloom, on his "voyage of life," and no favoring gales will ever waft his shattered bark to a peaceful haven.

The thoughtful reader will require no apology for the moralizing strain of many of my remarks, nor blame a clergyman, if forgetting sometimes to speak as the mere naturalist, he endeavors to find,

"Tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, Sermons in 'bees,' and 'GOD' in every thing."

To return to the point from which I have digressed; a new attempt to account for the existence of so many drones. If a farmer persists in what is called "breeding in and in," that is, from the same stock without changing the blood, it is well known that a rapid degeneracy is the inevitable consequence. This law extends, as far as we know, to all animal life, and even man is not exempt from its influence. Have we any reason to suppose that the bee is an exception? or that ultimate degeneracy would not ensue, unless some provision was made to counteract the tendency to in and in breeding? If fecundation had taken place in the hive, the queen bee must of necessity, have been impregnated by drones from a common parent, and the same result must have taken place in each successive generation, until the whole species would eventually have "run out." By the present arrangement, the young females, when they leave the hive, often find the air swarming with drones, many of which belong to other colonies, and thus by crossing the breed, a provision is constantly made to prevent deterioration.

Experience has proved not only that it is unnecessary to impregnation that there should be drones in the colony of the young queen, but that this may be effected even when there are no drones in the Apiary, and none except at some considerable distance. Intercourse takes place very high in the air, (perhaps that less risk may be incurred from birds,) and this is the more favorable to the continual crossing of stocks.

I am strongly persuaded that the decay of many flourishing stocks, even when managed with great care, is to be attributed to the fact that they have become enfeebled by "close breeding," and are thus unable to resist the injurious influences which were comparatively harmless when the bees were in a state of high physical vigor. I shall, in the chapter on Artificial Swarming, explain in what way, by the use of my hives, the stock of bees may be easily crossed, when a cultivator is too remote from other Apiaries, to depend upon its being naturally effected.


The number of workers in a hive varies very much. A good swarm ought to contain 15,000 or 20,000; and in large hives, strong colonies which are not reduced by swarming, frequently number two or three times as many, during the height of the breeding season. We have well-authenticated instances of stocks much more populous than this. The Polish hives will hold several bushels, and yet we are informed by Mr. Dohiogost, that they swarm regularly, and that the swarms are so powerful that "they resemble a little cloud in the air." I shall hereafter consider how the size of the hive affects the number of bees that it may be expected to produce.

The workers, (as has been already stated,) are all females whose ovaries are too imperfectly developed to admit of their laying eggs. For a long time, they were regarded as neither males nor females, and were called Neuters; but more careful microscopic examinations have enabled us to detect the rudiments of their ovaries, and thus to determine their sex. The accuracy of these examinations has been verified by the well-known facts respecting fertile workers.

Riem, a German Apiarian, first discovered that workers sometimes lay eggs. Huber, in the course of his investigations on this subject, ascertained that such workers were raised in hives that had lost their queen, and in the vicinity of the royal cells in which young queens were being reared. He conjectured that they received accidentally, a small portion of the peculiar food of these infant queens, and in this way, he accounted for their reproductive organs being more developed than those of other workers. Workers reared in such hives, are in close proximity to the young queens, and there is certainly much probability that some of the royal jelly may be accidentally dropped into their cells; as, in these hives, the queen cells when first commenced are parallel to the horizon, instead of being perpendicular to it, as they are in other hives. I do not feel confident, however, that they are not sometimes bred in hives which have not lost their queen. The kind of eggs laid by these fertile workers, has already been noticed. Such workers are seldom tolerated in hives containing a fertile, healthy queen, though instances of this kind have been known to occur. The worker is much smaller than either the queen or the drone.[5] It is furnished with a tongue or proboscis, of the most curious and complicated structure, which, when not in use, is nicely folded under its abdomen; with this, it licks or brushes up the honey, which is thence conveyed to its honey-bag. This receptacle is not larger than a very small pea, and is so perfectly transparent, as to appear when filled, of the same color with its contents; it is properly the first stomach of the bee, and is surrounded by muscles which enable the bee to compress it, and empty its contents through her proboscis into the cells. (See Chapter on Honey.)

The hinder legs of the worker are furnished with a spoon-shaped hollow or basket, to receive the pollen or bee bread which she gathers from the flowers. (See Chapter on Pollen.)

Every worker is armed with a formidable sting, and when provoked, makes instant and effectual use of her natural weapon. The sting, when subjected to microscopic examination, exhibits a very curious and complicated mechanism. "It is moved[6] by muscles which, though invisible to the eye, are yet strong enough to force the sting, to the depth of one twelfth of an inch, through the thick skin of a man's hand. At its root are situated two glands by which the poison is secreted: these glands uniting in one duct, eject the venemous liquid along the groove, formed by the junction of the two piercers. There are four barbs on the outside of each piercer: when the insect is prepared to sting, one of these piercers, having its point a little longer than the other, first darts into the flesh, and being fixed by its foremost beard, the other strikes in also, and they alternately penetrate deeper and deeper, till they acquire a firm hold of the flesh with their barbed hooks, and then follows the sheath, conveying the poison into the wound. The action of the sting, says Paley, affords an example of the union of chemistry and mechanism; of chemistry in respect to the venom, which can produce such powerful effects; of mechanism as the sting is a compound instrument. The machinery would have been comparatively useless had it not been for the chemical process, by which in the insect's body honey is converted into poison; and on the other hand, the poison would have been ineffectual, without an instrument to wound, and a syringe to inject it."

"Upon examining the edge of a very keen razor by the microscope, it appears as broad as the back of a pretty thick knife, rough, uneven, and full of notches and furrows, and so far from anything like sharpness, that an instrument, as blunt as this seemed to be, would not serve even to cleave wood. An exceedingly small needle being also examined, it resembled a rough iron bar out of a smith's forge. The sting of a bee viewed through the same instrument, showed everywhere a polish amazingly beautiful, without the least flaw, blemish, or inequality, and ended in a point too fine to be discerned."

The extremity of the sting being barbed like an arrow, the bee can seldom withdraw it, if the substance into which she darts it is at all tenacious. In losing her sting she parts with a portion of her intestines, and of necessity, soon perishes.

As the loss of the sting is always fatal to the bees, they pay a dear penalty for the exercise of their patriotic instincts; but they always seem ready, (except when they have taken "a drop too much," and are gorged with honey,) to die in defence of their home and treasures; or as the poet has expressed it, they

"Deem life itself to vengeance well resign'd, Die on the wound, and leave their sting behind."

Hornets, wasps and other stinging insects are able to withdraw their stings from the wound. I have never seen any attempt to account for the exception in the case of the honey bee. But if the Creator intended the bee for the use of man, as He most certainly did, has He not given it this peculiarity, to make it less formidable, and therefore more completely subject to human control? Without a sting, it would have stood no chance of defending its tempting sweets against a host of greedy depredators; but if it could sting a number of times, it would be much more difficult to bring it into a state of thorough domestication. A quiver full of arrows in the hand of a skilful marksman, is far more to be dreaded than a single shaft.

The defence of the colony against enemies, the construction of the cells, the storing of them with honey and bee-bread, the rearing of the young, in short, the whole work of the hive, the laying of eggs excepted, is carried on by the industrious little workers.

There may be gentlemen of leisure in the commonwealth of bees, but most assuredly there are no such ladies, whether of high or low degree. The queen herself, has her full share of duties, for it must be admitted that the royal office is no sinecure, when the mother who fills it, must superintend daily the proper deposition of several thousand eggs!


The queen bee, (as has been already stated,) will live four, and sometimes, though very rarely, five years. As the life of the drones is usually cut short by violence, it is not easy to ascertain its precise limit. Bevan, in some interesting statements on the longevity of bees, estimates it not to exceed four months. The workers are supposed by him, to live six or seven months. Their age depends, however, very much upon their greater or less exposure to injurious influences and severe labors. Those reared in the spring and early part of summer, and on whom the heaviest labors of the hive must necessarily devolve, do not appear to live more than two or three months, while those which are bred at the close of summer, and early in autumn, being able to spend a large part of their time in repose, attain a much greater age. It is very evident that "the bee," (to use the words of a quaint old writer,) "is a summer bird," and that with the exception of the queen, none live to be a year old.

Notched and ragged wings, instead of gray hairs and wrinkled faces, are the signs of old age in the bee, and indicate that its season of toil will soon be over. They appear to die rather suddenly, and often spend their last days, and sometimes even their last hours, in useful labors. Place yourself before a hive, and see the indefatigable energy of these aged veterans, toiling along with their heavy burdens, side by side with their more youthful compeers, and then say if you can, that you have done work enough, and that you will give yourself up to slothful indulgence, while the ability for useful labor still remains. Let the cheerful hum of their industrious old age inspire you with better resolutions, and teach you how much nobler it is to meet death in the path of duty, striving still, as you "have opportunity," to "do good unto all men."

The age which individual members of the community may attain, must not be confounded with that of the colony. Bees have been known to occupy the same domicile for a great number of years. I have seen flourishing colonies which were twenty years old, and the Abbe Della Rocca speaks of some over forty years old! Such cases have led to the erroneous opinion that bees are a long-lived race. But this, as Dr. Evans has observed, is just as wise as if a stranger, contemplating a populous city, and personally unacquainted with its inhabitants, should on paying it a second visit, many years afterwards, and finding it equally populous, imagine that it was peopled by the same individuals, not one of whom might then be living.

"Like leaves on trees, the race of bees is found, Now green in youth, now withering on the ground; Another race the Spring or Fall supplies, They droop successive, and successive rise."

The cocoons spun by the larvae, are never removed by the bees; they stick so closely to the sides of the cells, that the knowing bee well understands that the labor of removal would cost more than it would be worth. In process of time, the breeding cells become too small for the proper development of the young. In some cases, the bees must take down and reconstruct the old combs, for if they did not, the young issuing from them would always be dwarfs; whereas I once compared with other bees, those of a colony more than fifteen years old, and found no perceptible difference. That they do not always renew the old combs, must be admitted, as the young from some old hives are often considerably below the average size. On this account, it is very desirable to be able to remove the old combs occasionally, that their place may be supplied with new ones.

It is a great mistake to imagine that the brood combs ought to be changed every year. In my hives, they might, if it were desirable, be easily changed several times in a year: but once in five or six years is often enough; oftener than this requires a needless consumption of honey to replace them, besides being for other reasons undesirable, as the bees are always in winter, colder in new comb than in old. Inventors of hives have too often been, most emphatically "men of one idea:" and that one, instead of being a well established and important fact in the physiology of the bee, has frequently, (like the necessity for a yearly change of the brood combs,) been merely a conceit, existing nowhere but in the brain of a visionary projector. This is all harmless enough, until an effort is made to impose such miserable crudities upon an ignorant public, either in the shape of a patented hive, or worse still, of an UNPATENTED hive, the pretended RIGHT to use which, is FRAUDULENTLY sold to the cheated purchaser!!

For want of proper knowledge with regard to the age of bees, huge "bee palaces," and large closets in garrets or attics, have been constructed, and their proprietors have vainly imagined that the bees would fill them, however roomy; for they can see no reason why a colony should not continue to increase indefinitely, until at length it numbers its inhabitants by millions or billions! As the bees can never at one time equal, still less exceed the number which the queen is capable of producing in one season, these spacious dwellings have always an abundance of "spare rooms." It seems strange that men can be thus deceived, when often in their own Apiary, they have healthy stocks which have not swarmed for a year or more, and which yet in the spring are not a whit more populous than those which have regularly parted with vigorous swarms.

It is certain that the Creator, has for some wise reason, set a limit to the increase of numbers in a single colony; and I shall venture to assign what appears to me to have been one reason for His so doing. Suppose that He had given to the bee, a length of life as great as that of the horse or the cow, or had made each queen capable of laying daily, some hundreds of thousands of eggs, or had given several hundred queens to each hive, then from the Very nature of the case, a colony must have gone on increasing, until it became a scourge rather than a benefit to man. In the warm climates of which the bee is a native, they would have established themselves in some cavern or capacious cleft in the rocks, and would there have quickly become so powerful as to bid defiance to all attempts to appropriate the avails of their labors.

It has already been stated, that none, except the mother wasps and hornets, survive the winter. If these insects had been able, like the bee, to commence the season with the accumulated strength of a large colony, long before its close, they would have proved a most intolerable nuisance. If, on the contrary, the queen bee had been compelled, solitary and alone, to lay the foundations of a new commonwealth, the honey-harvest would have disappeared before she could have become the parent of a numerous family.

In the laws which regulate the increase of bees as well as in all other parts of their economy, we have the plainest proofs that the insect was formed for the special service of the human race.


If in the early part of the season, the population of a hive becomes uncomfortably crowded, the bees usually make preparations for swarming. A number of royal cells are commenced, and they are placed almost always upon those edges of the combs which are not attached to the sides of the hive. These cells somewhat resemble a small ground-nut or pea-nut, and are about an inch deep, and one-third of an inch in diameter: they are very thick, and require a large quantity of material for their construction. They are seldom seen in a perfect state, as the bees nibble them away after the queen has hatched, leaving only their remains, in the shape of a very small acorn-cup. While the other cells open sideways, these always hang with their mouth downwards. Much speculation has arisen as to the reason for this deviation: some have conjectured that their peculiar position exerted an influence upon the development of the royal larvae; while others, having ascertained that no injurious effect was produced by turning them upwards, or placing them in any other position, have considered this deviation as among the inscrutable mysteries of the bee-hive. So it always seemed to me, until more careful reflection enabled me to solve the problem. The queen cells open downwards, simply to save room! The distance between the parallel ranges of comb being usually less than half an inch, the bees could not have made the royal cells to open sideways, without sacrificing the cells opposite to them. In order to economize space, to the very utmost, they put them upon the unoccupied edges of the comb, as the only place where there is always plenty of room for such very large cells.

The number of royal cells varies greatly; sometimes there are only two or three, ordinarily there are five or six, and I have occasionally seen more than a dozen. They are not all commenced at once, for the bees do not intend that the young queens shall all arrive at maturity, at the same time. I do not consider it as fully settled, how the eggs are deposited in these cells. In some few instances, I have known the bees to transfer the eggs from common to queen cells, and this may be their general method of procedure. I shall hazard the conjecture that the queen deposits her eggs in cells on the edges of the comb, in a crowded state of the hive, and that some of these are afterwards enlarged and changed into royal cells by the workers. Such is the instinctive hatred of the queen to her own kind, that it does not seem to me probable, that she is intrusted with even the initiatory steps for securing a race of successors. That the eggs from which the young queens are produced, are of the same kind with those producing workers, has been repeatedly demonstrated. On examining the queen cells while they are in progress, one of the first things which excites our notice, is the very unusual amount of attention bestowed upon them by the workers. There is scarcely a second in which a bee is not peeping into them, and just as fast as one is satisfied, another pops its head in, to examine if not to report, progress. The importance of their inmates to the bee-community, might easily be inferred from their being the center of so much attraction.


The young queens are supplied with a much larger quantity of food than is allotted to the other larvae, so that they seem almost to float in a thick bed of jelly, and there is usually a portion of it left unconsumed at the base of the cells, after the insects have arrived at maturity. It is different from the food of either drones or workers, and in appearance, resembles a light quince jelly, having a slightly acid taste.

I submitted a portion of the royal jelly for analysis, to Dr. Charles M. Wetherill, of Philadelphia; a very interesting account of his examination may be found in the proceedings of the Phila. Academy of Nat. Sciences for July, 1852. He speaks of the substance as "truly a bread-containing, albuminous compound." I hope in the course of the coming summer to obtain from this able analytical chemist, an analysis of the food of the young drones and workers. A comparison of its elements with those of the royal jelly, may throw some light on subjects as yet involved in obscurity.

The effects produced upon the larvae by this peculiar food and method of treatment, are very remarkable. For one, I have never considered it strange that such effects should be rejected as idle whims, by nearly all except those who have either been eye-witnesses to them, or have been well acquainted with the character and opportunities for accurate observation, of those on whose testimony they have received them. They are not only in themselves most marvelously strange, but on the face of them so entirely opposed to all common analogies, and so very improbable, that many men when asked to believe them, feel almost as though an insult were offered to their common sense. The most important of these effects, I shall now proceed to enumerate.

1st. The peculiar mode in which the worm designed to be reared as a queen, is treated, causes it to arrive at maturity, about one-third earlier than if it had been bred a worker. And yet it is to be much more fully developed, and according to ordinary analogy, ought to have had a slower growth!

2d. Its organs of reproduction are completely developed, so that it is capable of fulfilling the office of a mother.

3d. Its size, shape and color are all greatly changed. (See p. 32.) Its lower jaws are shorter, its head rounder, and its legs have neither brushes nor baskets, while its sting is more curved, and one-third longer than that of a worker.

4th. Its instincts are entirely changed. Reared as a worker, it would have been ready to thrust out its sting, upon the least provocation; whereas now, it may be pulled limb from limb, without attempting to sting. As a worker it would have treated a queen with the greatest consideration; whereas now, if placed under a glass with another queen, it rushes forthwith to mortal combat with its rival. As a worker, it would frequently have left the hive, either for labor or exercise: as a queen, after impregnation, it never leaves the hive except to accompany a new swarm.

5th. The term of its life is remarkably lengthened. As a worker, it would have lived not more than six or seven months at farthest; as a queen it may live seven or eight times as long! All these wonders rest on the impregnable basis of complete demonstration, and instead of being witnessed by only a select few, may now, by the use of my hive, be familiar sights to any bee keeper, who prefers to acquaint himself with facts, rather than to cavil and sneer at the labors of others.[7]

When provision has been made, in the manner described, for a new race of queens, the old mother always departs with the first swarm, before her successors have arrived at maturity.[8]


The distress of the bees when they lose their queen, has already been described. If they have the means of supplying her loss, they soon calm down, and commence forthwith, the necessary steps for rearing another. The process of rearing queens artificially, to meet some special emergency, is even more wonderful than the natural one, which has already been described. Its success depends on the bees having worker-eggs or worms not more than three days old; (if older, the larva has been too far developed as a worker to admit of any change:) the bees nibble away the partitions of two cells adjoining a third, so as to make one large cell out of the three. They destroy the eggs or worms in two of these cells, while they place before the occupant of the third, the usual food of the young queens, and build out its cell, so as to give it ample space for development. They do not confine themselves to the attempt to rear a single queen, but to guard against failure, start a considerable number, although the work on all except a few, is usually soon discontinued.

In twelve or fourteen days, they are in possession of a new queen, precisely similar to one reared in the natural way, while the eggs which were laid at the same time in the adjoining cells, and which have been developed in the usual way, are nearly a week longer in coming to maturity.

I will give in this connection a description of an interesting experiment:

A large hive which stood at a distance from any other colony, was removed in the morning of a very pleasant day, to a new place, and another hive containing only empty comb, was put upon its stand. Thousands of workers which were out in the fields, or which left the old hive after its removal, returned to the familiar spot. It was affecting to witness their grief and despair: they flew in restless circles about the place which once contained their happy home, entered and left the new hive continually, expressing, in various ways, their lamentations over their cruel bereavement. Towards evening, they ceased to take wing, and roamed in restless platoons, in and out of the hive, and over its surface, acting all the time, as though in search of some lost treasure. I now gave them a piece of brood comb, containing worker eggs and worms, taken from a second swarm which being just established with its young queen, in a new hive, could have no intention of rearing young queens that season; therefore, it cannot be contended that this piece of comb contained what some are pleased to call "royal eggs." What followed the introduction of this brood comb, took place much quicker than it can be described. The bees which first touched it, raised a peculiar note, and in a moment, the comb was covered with a dense mass; their restless motions and mournful noises ceased, and a cheerful hum at once attested their delight! Despair gave place to hope, as they recognized in this small piece of comb, the means of deliverance. Suppose a large building filled with thousands of persons, tearing their hair, beating their breasts, and by piteous cries, as well as frantic gestures, giving vent to their despair; if now some one should enter this house of mourning, and by a single word, cause all these demonstrations of agony to give place to smiles and congratulations, the change could not be more wonderful and instantaneous, than that produced when the bees received the brood comb!

The Orientals call the honey bee, Deburrah, "She that speaketh." Would that this little insect might speak, and in words more eloquent than those of man's device, to the multitudes who allow themselves to reject the doctrines of revealed religion, because, as they assert, they are, on their face so utterly improbable, that they labor under an a priori objection strong enough to be fatal to their credibility. Do not nearly all the steps in the development of a queen from a worker-egg, labor under precisely the same objection? and have they not, for this very reason, always been regarded by great numbers of bee keepers, as unworthy of credence? If the favorite argument of infidels and errorists will not stand the test when applied to the wonders of the bee-hive, can it be regarded as entitled to any serious weight, when employed in framing objections against religious truths, and arrogantly taking to task the infinite Jehovah, for what He has been pleased to do or to teach? Give me the same latitude claimed by such objectors, and I can easily prove that a man is under no obligation to receive any of the wonders in the economy of the bee-hive, although he is himself an intelligent eye-witness that they are all substantial verities.

I shall quote, in this connection, from Huish, an English Apiarian of whom I have already spoken, because his objections to the discoveries of Huber, remind me so forcibly of both the spirit and principles of the great majority of those who object to the doctrines of revealed religion.

"If an individual, with the view of acquiring some knowledge of the natural history of the bee, or of its management, consult the works of Bagster, Bevan, or any of the periodicals which casually treat upon the subject, will he not rise from the study of them with his mind surcharged with falsities and mystification? Will he not discover through the whole of them a servile acquiescence in the opinions and discoveries of one man, however at variance they may be with truth or probability; and if he enter upon the discussion with his mind free from prejudice, will he not experience that an outrage has been committed upon his reason, in calling upon him to give assent to positions and principles which at best are merely assumed, but to which he is called upon dogmatically to subscribe his acquiescence as the indubitable results of experience, skill and ability? The editors of the works above alluded to, should boldly and indignantly have declared, that from their own experience in the natural economy of the insect, they were able to pronounce the circumstances as related by Huber to be directly impossible, and the whole of them based on fiction and imposition."

Let the reader change only a few words in this extract: for "the natural history of the bee or its management," let him write, "the subject of religion;" for, "the works of Bagster, Bevan," &c., let him put, "the works of Moses, Paul," &c.; for, "their own experience in the natural economy of the insect," let him substitute, "their own experience in the nature of man;" and for, "circumstances as related by Huber," let him insert, "as related by Luke or John," and it will sound almost precisely like a passage from some infidel author.

I resume the quotation from Huish; "If we examine the account which Huber gives of his invention (!) of the royal jelly, the existence and efficacy of which are fully acquiesced in by the aforesaid editors, to what other conclusions are we necessarily driven, than that they are the dupes of a visionary enthusiast, whose greatest merit consists in his inventive powers, no matter how destitute those powers may be of all affinity with truth or probability? Before, however, these editors bestowed their unqualified assent on the existence of this royal jelly, did they stop to put to themselves the following questions? By what kind of bee is it made?[9] Whence is it procured? Is it a natural or an elaborated substance? If natural, from what source is it derived? If elaborated, in what stomach of the bee is it to be found? How is it administered? What are its constituent principles? Is its existence optional or definite? Whence does it derive its miraculous power of converting a common egg into a royal one? Will any of the aforesaid editors publicly answer these questions? and ought they not to have been able to answer them, before they so unequivocally expressed their belief in its existence, its powers and administration?"

How puerile does all this sound to one who has seen and tasted the royal jelly! And permit me to add, how equally unmeaning do the objections of infidels seem, to those who have an experimental acquaintance with the divine hopes and consolations of the Gospel of Christ.


[1] The author of this work regrets that his experience does not enable him to speak with such absolute confidence as to the character of all the bee keepers whom he has known.

[2] In this way she is sure to deposit the egg in the cell she has selected.

[3] If ever there lived a genuine naturalist, Swammerdam was the man. In his History of Insects, published in 1737, he has given a most beautiful drawing of the ovaries of the queen bee. The sac which he supposed secreted a fluid for sticking the eggs to the base of the cells is the seminal reservoir or spermatheca.

[4] Bevan.

[5] This work being intended chiefly for practical purposes, I have thought best to use, as little as possible, the technical terms and minute anatomical descriptions of the scientific entomologist.

[6] Bevan.

[7] Having already spoken of Swammerdam, I shall give a brief extract from the celebrated Dr. Boerhaave's memoir of this wonderful naturalist, which should put to the blush, if any thing can, the arrogance of those superficial observers who are too wise in their own conceit, to avail themselves of the knowledge of others.

"This treatise on Bees proved so fatiguing a performance, that Swammerdam never afterwards recovered even the appearance of his former health and vigor. He was almost continually engaged by day in making observations, and as constantly engaged by night in recording them by drawings and suitable explanations."

"This being summer work, his daily labor began at six in the morning, when the sun afforded him light enough to survey such minute objects; and from that hour till twelve, he continued without interruption, all the while exposed in the open air to the scorching heat of the sun, bareheaded for fear of intercepting his sight, and his head in a manner dissolving into sweat under the irresistible ardors of that powerful luminary. And if he desisted at noon, it was only because the strength of his eyes was too much weakened, by the extraordinary afflux of light and the use of microscopes, to continue any longer upon such small objects, though as discernible in the afternoon, as they had been in the forenoon."

"Our author, the better to accomplish his vast, unlimited views, often wished for a year of perpetual heat and light to perfect his inquiries, with a polar night to reap all the advantages of them by proper drawings and descriptions."

[8] The formation of swarms will be particularly described in another chapter.

[9] Suppose that we are unable to give a satisfactory answer to any of these questions, does our ignorance on these points disprove the fact of the existence of such a jelly?



Wax is a natural secretion of the bees; it may be called their oil or fat. If they are gorged with honey, or any liquid sweet, and remain quietly clustered together, it is formed in small wax pouches on their abdomen, and comes out in the shape of very delicate scales. Soon after a swarm is hived, the bottom board will be covered with these scales.

"Thus, filtered through yon flutterer's folded mail, Clings the cooled wax, and hardens to a scale. Swift, at the well known call, the ready train, (For not a buz boon Nature breathes in vain,) Spring to each falling flake, and bear along Their glossy burdens to the builder throng. These with sharp sickle or with sharper tooth, Pare each excrescence, and each angle smooth, Till now, in finish'd pride, two radiant rows Of snow white cells one mutual base disclose. Six shining panels gird each polish'd round, The door's fine rim, with waxen fillet bound, While walls so thin, with sister walls combined, Weak in themselves, a sure dependence find." Evans.

Huber was the first to demonstrate that wax is a natural secretion of the bee, when fed on honey or any saccharine substance. Most Apiarians before his time, supposed that it was made from pollen or bee-bread, either in a crude or digested state. He confined a new swarm of bees in a hive placed in a dark and cool room, and on examining them, at the end of five days, found several beautiful white combs in their tenement: these were taken from them, and they were again confined and supplied with honey and water, and a second time new combs were constructed. Five times in succession their combs were removed, and were in each instance replaced, the bees being all the time prevented from ranging the fields, to supply themselves with bee-bread. By subsequent experiments he proved that sugar answered the same end with honey.

He then confined a swarm, giving them no honey, but an abundance of fruit and pollen. They subsisted on the fruit, but refused to touch the pollen; and no combs were constructed, nor any wax scales formed in their pouches. These experiments are conclusive; and are interesting, not merely as proving that wax is secreted from honey or saccharine substances, but because they show in what a thorough manner the experiments of Huber were conducted. Confident assertions are easily made, requiring only a little breath or a drop of ink; and the men who deal most in them, have often a profound contempt for observation and experiment. To establish even a simple truth, on the solid foundation of demonstrated facts, often requires the most patient and protracted toil.

A high temperature is necessary for comb-building, in order that the wax may be soft enough to be moulded into shape. The very process of its secretion helps to furnish the amount of heat which is required to work it. This is a very interesting fact which seems never before to have been noticed.

Honey or sugar is found to contain by weight, about eight pounds of oxygen to one of carbon and hydrogen. When changed into wax, the proportions are entirely reversed: the wax contains only one pound of oxygen to more than sixteen pounds of hydrogen and carbon. Now as oxygen is the grand supporter of animal heat, the consumption of so large a quantity of it, aids in producing the extraordinary heat which always accompanies comb-building, and which is necessary to keep the wax in the soft and plastic state requisite to enable the bees to mould it into such exquisitely delicate and beautiful shapes! Who can fail to admire the wisdom of the Creator in this beautiful instance of adaptation?

The most careful experiments have clearly established the fact, that at least twenty pounds of honey are consumed in making a single pound of wax. If any think that this is incredible, let them bear in mind that wax is an animal oil secreted from honey, and let them consider how many pounds of corn or hay they must feed to their stock, in order to have them gain a single pound of fat.

Many Apiarians are entirely ignorant of the great value of empty comb. Suppose the honey to be worth only 15 cts. per lb., and the comb when rendered into wax, to be worth 30 cts. per lb., the bee-master who melts a pound of comb, loses nearly three dollars by the operation, and this, without estimating the time which the bees have consumed in building the comb. Unfortunately, in the ordinary hives, but little use can be made of empty comb, unless it is new, and can be put into the surplus honey-boxes: but by the use of my movable frames, every piece of good worker-comb may be used to the best advantage, as it can be given to the bees, to aid them in their labors.

It has been found very difficult to preserve comb from the bee-moth, when it is taken from the bees. If it contains only a few of the eggs of this destroyer, these, in due time, will produce a progeny sufficient to devour it. The comb, if it is attached to my frames, may be suspended in a box or empty hive, and thoroughly smoked with sulphur; this will kill any worms which it may contain. When the weather is warm enough to hatch the eggs of the moth, this process must be repeated a few times, at intervals of about a week, so as to insure the destruction of the worms as they hatch, for the sulphur does not seem always to destroy the vitality of the eggs. The combs may now be kept in a tight box or hive, with perfect safety.

Combs containing bee-bread, are of great value, and if given to young colonies, which in spring are frequently destitute of this article, they will materially assist them in early breeding.

Honey may be taken from my hives in the frames, and the covers of the cells sliced off with a sharp knife; the honey can then be drained out, and the empty combs returned to be filled again. A strong stock of bees, in the height of the honey harvest, will fill empty combs with wonderful rapidity. I lay it down, as one of my first principles in bee culture, that no good comb should ever be melted; it should all be carefully preserved and given to the bees. If it is new, it may be easily attached to the frames, or the honey-receptacles, by dipping the edge into melted wax, pressing it gently until it stiffens, and then allowing it to cool. If the comb is old, or the pieces large and full of bee-bread, it will be best to dip them into melted rosin, which, besides costing much less than wax, will secure a much firmer adhesion. When comb is put into tumblers or other small vessels, the bees will begin to work upon it the sooner, if it is simply crowded in, so as to be held in place by being supported against the sides. It would seem as though they were disgusted with such unworkmanlike proceedings, and that they cannot rest until they have taken it into hand, and endeavored to "make a job of it."

If the bee-keeper in using his choicest honey will be satisfied to dispense with looks, and will carefully drain it from the beautiful comb, he may use all such comb again to great advantage; not only saving its intrinsic value, but greatly encouraging his bees to occupy and fill all receptacles in which a portion of it is put. Bees seem to fancy a good start in life, about as well as their more intelligent owners. To this use all suitable drone comb should be put, as soon as it is removed from the main hive. (See remarks on Drones.)

Ingenious efforts have been made, of late years, to construct artificial honey combs of porcelain, to be used for feeding bees. No one, to my knowledge, has ever attempted to imitate the delicate mechanism of the bee so closely, as to construct artificial combs for the ordinary uses of the hive; although for a long time I have entertained the idea as very desirable, and yet as barely possible. I am at present engaged in a course of experiments on this subject, the results of which, in due time, I shall communicate to the public.

While writing this treatise, it has occurred to me that bees might be induced to use old wax for the construction of their combs. Very fine parings may be shaved off with glass, and if given to the bees, under favorable circumstances, it seems to me very probable that they would use them, just as they do the scales which are formed in their wax pouches. Let strong colonies be deprived of some of their combs, after the honey harvest is over, and supplied abundantly with these parings of wax. Whether "nature abhors a vacuum," or not, bees certainly do, when it occurs among the combs of their main hive. They will not use the honey stored up for winter use to replace the combs taken from them; they can gather none from the flowers; and I have strong hopes that necessity will with bees as well as men, prove the mother of invention, and lead them to use the wax, as readily as they do the substitutes offered them for pollen. (See Chapter on Pollen.)

If this conjecture should be verified by actual results, it would exert a most powerful influence in the cheap and rapid multiplication of colonies, and would enable the bees to store up most prodigious quantities of honey. A pound of bees wax might then be made to store up twenty pounds of honey, and the gain to the bee keeper would be the difference in price between the pound of wax, and the twenty pounds of honey, which the bees would have consumed in making the same amount of comb. Strong stocks might thus during the dull season, when no honey can be procured, be most profitably employed in building spare comb, to be used in strengthening feeble stocks, and for a great variety of purposes. Give me the means of cheaply obtaining large amounts of comb, and I have almost found the philosopher's stone in bee keeping.

The building of comb is carried on with the greatest activity in the night, while the honey is gathered by day. Thus no time is lost. If the weather is too forbidding to allow the bees to go abroad, the combs are very rapidly constructed, as the labor is carried on both by day and by night. On the return of a fair day, the bees gather unusual quantities of honey, as they have plenty of room for its storage. Thus it often happens, that by their wise economy of time, they actually lose nothing, even if confined, for several days, to their hive.

"How doth the little busy bee, improve each shining hour!"

The poet might with equal truth have described her, as improving the gloomy days, and the dark nights, in her useful labors.

It is an interesting fact, which I do not remember ever to have seen particularly noticed by any writer, that honey gathering, and comb building, go on simultaneously; so that when one stops, the other ceases also. I have repeatedly observed, that as soon as the honey harvest fails, the bees intermit their labors in building new comb, even when large portions of their hive are unfilled. They might enlarge their combs by using some of their stores; but then they would incur the risk of perishing in the winter, by starvation. When honey no longer abounds in the fields, it is wisely ordered, that they should not consume their hoarded treasures, in expectation of further supplies, which may never come. I do not believe, that any other safe rule could have been given them; and if honey gathering was our business, with all our boasted reason, we should be obliged to adopt the very same course.

Wax is one of the best non-conductors of heat, so that when it is warmed by the animal heat of the bees, it can more easily be worked, than if it parted with its heat too readily. By this property, the combs serve also to keep the bees warm, and there is not so much risk of the honey candying in the cells, or the combs cracking with frost. If wax was a good conductor of heat, the combs would often be icy cold, moisture would condense and freeze upon them, and they would fail to answer the ends for which they are intended.

The size of the cells, in which workers are reared, never varies: the same may substantially be said of the drone cells which are very considerably larger; the cells in which honey is stored, often vary exceedingly in depth, while in diameter, they are of all sizes from that of the worker cells to that of the drones.

The cells of the bees are found perfectly to answer all the most refined conditions of a very intricate mathematical problem! Let it be required to find what shape a given quantity of matter must take, in order to have the greatest capacity, and the greatest strength, requiring at the same time, the least space, and the least labor in its construction. This problem has been solved by the most refined processes of the higher mathematics, and the result is the hexagonal or six-sided cell of the honey bee, with its three four-sided figures at the base!

The shape of these figures cannot be altered, ever so little, except for the worse. Besides possessing the desirable qualities already described, they answer as nurseries for the rearing of the young, and as small air-tight vessels in which the honey is preserved from souring or candying. Every prudent housewife who puts up her preserves in tumblers, or small glass jars, and carefully pastes them over, to keep out the air, will understand the value of such an arrangement.

"There are only three possible figures of the cells," says Dr. Reid, "which can make them all equal and similar, without any useless spaces between them. These are the equilateral triangle, the square and the regular hexagon. It is well known to mathematicians that there is not a fourth way possible, in which a plane may be cut into little spaces that shall be equal, similar and regular, without leaving any interstices."

An equilateral triangle would have made an uncomfortable tenement for an insect with a round body; and a square would not have been much better. At first sight a circle would seem to be the best shape for the development of the larvae: but such a figure would have caused a needless sacrifice of space, materials and strength; while the honey which now adheres so admirably to the many angles or corners of the six-sided cell, would have been much more liable to run out! I will venture to assign a new reason for the hexagonal form. The body of the immature insect as it undergoes its changes, is charged with a super-abundance of moisture which passes off through the reticulated cover which the bees build over its cell: a hexagon while it approaches so nearly the shape of a circle as not to incommode the young bee, furnishes in its six corners the necessary vacancies for its more thorough ventilation!

So invariably uniform in size, as well as perfect in other respects, are the cells in which the workers are bred, that some mathematicians have proposed their adoption, as the best unit for measures of capacity to serve for universal use.

Can we believe that these little insects unite so many requisites in the construction of their cells, either by chance, or because they are profoundly versed in the most intricate mathematics? Are we not compelled to acknowledge that the mathematics must be referred to the Creator, and not to His puny creature? To an intelligent, candid mind, a piece of honey comb is a complete demonstration that there is a "GREAT FIRST CAUSE:" for on no other supposition can we account for so complicated a shape, and yet the only one which can possibly unite so many desirable requisites.

"On books deep poring, ye pale sons of toil, Who waste in studious trance the midnight oil, Say, can ye emulate with all your rules, Drawn or from Grecian or from Gothic schools, This artless frame? Instinct her simple guide, A heaven-taught Insect baffles all your pride. Not all yon marshall'd orbs, that ride so high, Proclaim more loud a present Deity, Than the nice symmetry of these small cells, Where on each angle genuine science dwells." Evans.



This substance is obtained by the bees from the resinous buds and limbs of trees; and when first gathered, it is usually of a bright golden color, and is exceedingly sticky. The different kinds of poplars furnish a rich supply. The bees bring it on their thighs just as they do bee bread; and I have caught them as they were entering with a load, and taken it from them. It adheres so firmly that it is difficult to remove it.

"Huber planted in Spring some branches of the wild poplar, before the leaves were developed, and placed them in pots near his Apiary; the bees alighting on them, separated the folds of the largest buds with their forceps, extracted the varnish in threads, and loaded with it, first one thigh and then the other; for they convey it like pollen, transferring it by the first pair of legs to the second, by which it is lodged in the hollow of the third." The smell of the propolis is often precisely similar to that of the resin from the poplar, and chemical analysis proves the identity of the two substances. It is frequently gathered from the alder, horse-chestnut, birch, and willow; and as some think, from pines and other trees of the fir kind. I have often known bees to enter the shops where varnishing was being carried on, attracted evidently by the smell: and Bevan mentions the fact of their carrying off a composition of wax and turpentine, from trees to which it had been applied. Dr. Evans says that he has seen them collect the balsamic varnish which coats the young blossom buds of the hollyhock, and has known them to rest at least ten minutes on the same bud, moulding the balsam with their fore feet, and transferring it to the hinder legs, as described by Huber.

"With merry hum the Willow's copse they scale, The Fir's dark pyramid, or Poplar pale, Scoop from the Aider's leaf its oozy flood, Or strip the Chestnut's resin-coated bud, Skim the light tear that tips Narcissus' ray, Or round the Hollyhock's hoar fragrance play. Soon temper'd to their will through eve's low beam, And link'd in airy bands the viscous stream, They waft their nut-brown loads exulting home, That form a fret-work for the future comb; Caulk every chink where rushing winds may roar, And seal their circling ramparts to the floor." Evans.

A mixture of wax and propolis is used by the bees to strengthen the attachments of the combs to the top and sides of the hive, and serves most admirably for this purpose, as it is much more adhesive than wax alone. If the combs, as soon as they are built, are not filled with honey or brood, they are beautifully varnished with a most delicate coating of this material, which adds exceedingly to their strength: but as this natural varnish impairs their delicate whiteness, they ought not to be allowed to remain in the surplus honey receptacles, accessible to the bees, unless when they are actively engaged in storing them with honey.

The bees make a very liberal use of this substance to fill up all the crevices about their premises: and as the natural summer heat of the hive keeps it soft, the bee moth selects it as a proper place of deposit for her eggs. For this reason, the hive should be made of sound lumber, entirely free from cracks, and thoroughly painted on the inside as well as outside. When glass is used, there is no risk that the bed moth will find a place in which she can insert her ovi-positor and lay her eggs. The corners of the hive, which the bees always fill with propolis, should have a melted mixture of three parts rosin, and one part bees-wax run into them, which remains hard during the hottest weather, and bids defiance to the moth. The inside of the hive may be coated with the same mixture, put on hot with a brush.

The bees find it difficult to gather the propolis, and equally so to remove from their thighs, and to work so sticky a material. For this reason, it is doubly important to save them all unnecessary labor in amassing it. To men, time is money; to bees, it is honey; and all the arrangements of the hive should be such as to economize it to the very utmost.

Propolis is sometimes put to a very curious use by the bees. "A snail[10] having crept into one of M. Reaumur's hives early in the morning, after crawling about for some time, adhered by means of its own slime to one of the glass panes. The bees having discovered the snail, surrounded it and formed a border of propolis round the verge of its shell, and fastened it so securely to the glass that it became immovable."

"Forever closed the impenetrable door, It naught avails that in his torpid veins Year after year, life's loitering spark remains."[11] Evans.

"Maraldi, another eminent Apiarian, has related a somewhat similar instance. He states that a snail without a shell, or slug, as it is called, had entered one of his hives; and that the bees, as soon as they observed it, stung it to death: after which being unable to dislodge it, they covered it all over with an impervious coat of propolis."

"For soon in fearless ire, their wonder lost, Spring fiercely from the comb the indignant host, Lay the pierced monster breathless on the ground, And clap in joy their victor pinions round: While all in vain concurrent numbers strive, To heave the slime-girt giant from the hive— Sure not alone by force Instinctive swayed, But blest with reason's soul directing aid, Alike in man or bee, they haste to pour, Thick hard'ning as it falls, the flaky shower; Embalmed in shroud of glue the mummy lies, No worms invade, no foul miasmas rise." Evans.

"In these cases who can withhold his admiration of the ingenuity and judgment of the bees? In the first case a troublesome creature gained admission to the hive, which, from its unwieldiness, they could not remove, and which, from the impenetrability of its shell, they could not destroy: here then their only resource was to deprive it of locomotion, and to obviate putrefaction; both which objects they accomplished most skilfully and securely—and as is usual with these sagacious creatures, at the least possible expense of labor and materials. They applied their cement where alone it was required, round the verge of the shell. In the latter case, to obviate the evil of decay, by the total exclusion of air, they were obliged to be more lavish in the use of their embalming material, and to case over the "slime girt giant" so as to guard themselves from his noisome smell. What means more effectual could human wisdom have devised under similar circumstances?"

"If in the insect, Season's twilight ray Sheds on the darkling mind a doubtful day, Plain is the steady light her Instincts yield, To point the road o'er life's unvaried field; If few these instincts, to the destined goal, With surer coarse, their straiten'd currents roll." Evans.


[10] Bevan.

[11] Some very extraordinary instances are related of the protraction of life in snails. After they had lain in a cabinet above fifteen years, immersing them in water caused them to revive and crawl out of their shells.



This substance is gathered by the bees from the flowers, or blossoms, and is used for the nourishment of their young. Repeated experiments have proved that no brood can be raised in a hive, unless the bees are supplied with it. It contains none of the elements of wax, but is rich in what chemists call nitrogenous substances, which are not contained in honey, and which furnish ample nourishment for the development of the growing bee. Dr. Hunter dissected some immature bees, and found their stomachs to contain farina, but not a particle of honey.

We are indebted to Huber for the discovery of the use made by the bees of pollen. That it did not serve as food for the mature bees, was evident from the fact that large supplies are often found in hives whose inmates have starved to death. It was this fact which led the old observers to conclude that it was gathered for the purpose of building comb. After Huber had demonstrated that wax is secreted from an entirely different substance, he was soon led to conjecture that the bee-bread must be used for the nourishment of the embryo bees. By rigid experiments he proved the truth of this supposition. Bees were confined to their hive without any pollen, after being supplied with honey, eggs and larvae. In a short time the young all perished. A fresh supply of brood was given to them, with an ample allowance of pollen, and the development of the larvae then proceeded in the natural way.

When a colony is actively engaged in carrying in this article, it may be taken for granted that they have a fertile queen, and are busy in breeding. On the contrary, if any colony is not gathering pollen when others are, the queen is either dead, or diseased, and the hive should at once be examined.

In the backward spring of 1852, I had an excellent opportunity of testing the value of this substance. In one of my hives, was an artificial swarm of the previous year. The hive was well protected, being double, and the situation was warm. I opened it on the 5th of February, and although the weather, until within a week of that time, had been unusually cold, I found many of the cells filled with brood. On the 23d, the combs were again examined, and found to contain, neither eggs, brood, nor bee bread. The bees were then supplied with bee bread taken from another hive: the next day, this was found to have been used by them, and a large number of eggs had been deposited in the cells. When this supply was exhausted, egg-laying ceased, and was again renewed when more was furnished them.

During all the time of these experiments, the weather was unpromising, and as the bees were unable to go out for water, they were supplied at home with this important article.

Dzierzon is of opinion that the bees are able to furnish food for the young, without the presence of pollen in the hive; although he admits that they can do this only for a short time, and at a great expense of vital energy; just as the strength of an animal nursing its young is rapidly reduced, when for want of proper food, the very substance of its own body as it were, is converted into milk. My experiments do not corroborate this theory, but tend to confirm the views of Huber, and to show the absolute necessity of pollen to the development of brood. The same able contributor to Apiarian science, thinks that pollen is used by the bees when they are engaged in comb-building; and that unless they are well supplied with it, they cannot rapidly secrete wax, without very severely taxing their strength. But as all the elements of wax are found in honey, and none of them in pollen, this opinion does not seem to me, to be entitled to much weight. That bees cannot live upon pollen without any honey, is proved by the fact, that large stores of it are often found, in hives whose occupants have died of starvation; that they can live without it, is equally well known; but that the full grown bees make some use of it in connection with honey, for their own nourishment, I believe to be highly probable.

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