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ON BEES Many celebrated authors of antiquity have observed, “ with curious eye,” the peculiarities
“mores et studia et populos et prælia,” of these interesting insects; but we do not stand in so great need of their assistance as our ancestors did, and therefore bestow less pains upon their preservation-less attention to their extraordinary faculties. Since the importation of sugar from the West Indies, their importance has considerably decreased. Their honey was the sugar of our forefathers, and their wax was used in great quantities, not only for the purpose of making candles, but likewise for the images of saints*. « Images of wax” were also, it is well known, a part of the parapharnalia of a witch, by which she was supposed to torment her unfortunate victims. In Ben Jonson's Argument to the third act of his “ Sad Shepherd," we find the witch sitting in a dell “ with her spindle, threads, and images," which hint Waldron follows thus. The witch says,.
“ Now for my thred, pins, images of war,
To wark them torments wairs than whips or racks." The waxen image of the person intended to be tormented was stuck through with pins, and melted at a distance from the fire, and it was believed, that such was the power of the incantations and anathemas pronounced by the witch, that as the waxen image melted and decayed, so the person intended to be represented, was affected by pains and maladies until death closed his agonies, when the image was entirely dissolved. Steevens imagined that Shakspeare alluded to magical images in the following passage:
“For now my love is thaw'd, Which, like a waren image 'gainst a fire, Bears no impression of the thing it was.”
Two Gent. of Ver., Act 2, Scene 7. But Archdeacon Nares has justly observed t, that these words seem to allude to nothing but the vanishing of any waxen image exposed to heat; at any event, the passage is another proof of what, in fact, it was our only object to show, namely, that images were anciently made of wax.
The discovery of new worlds, and the consequent extension of our commerce, are not therefore the only circumstances that have contributed to render bees of less importance—the reformation in religion, and the increase of civilization, which have taught us to smile at gipsy threats and magical incantations, have also had the effect of depreciating the value of these emblems of industry. It is not our intention, at present, to go fully into their natural history,
but merely to point out certain particulars relating to them that are not generally known*.
The situation of bees in a hive must be acknowledged to be a very extraordinary one. They are confined in a habitation extremely small-the only entrance to which, is a small aperture in the lower part, the situation least calculated for the escape of heated air: the number of bees in a single hive, is sometimes between twenty and thirty thousand, all of them in a state of great activity; hurrying to and fro in all the bustle of continued occupation; sometimes nearly closing, and always very much obstructing, the only opening that exists in their thatched palace. Experiments have frequently shewn that a light, placed in a glass hive, goes out in a few minutes for want of a due circulation of air. How then do bees support life, if, as is universally imagined, life requires the uninterrupted continuance of respiration--a never-ending renewal of air? This question seems to admit of only two solutions; either bees do not respire, and therefore a free circulation of air is unnecessary, or they have some mode of producing a current of air, and by that means of keeping the temperature, within the hive, of sufficient purity to enable them to exist in it. The work of M. Huber details a variety of experiments upon this subject, and sufficiently shews that there can be no question that bees, like all other animals with which we are acquainted, clearly carry on the work of respiration. This fact was demonstrated by a variety of experiments upon the bee itself, and it was even discovered that the passage for the breath was formed by the means of certain stigmata opening upon the corselet, and that respiration may be maintained perfectly well if only one of these be left open. The question then remains, how can a being, to the maintenance of whose life respiration is necessary, and which several of the experiments prove cannot exist in foul air-how can it exist in the confinement of a hive? In order to solve this question, the air of the hive was first analyzed, when it was found, by the eudiometer, to differ very little from atmospheric air in purity. The next experiment was to shut up the entrance to the hive altogether, and by that means ascertain whether the renewal of air was from without, or whether there existed in any part of the hive a power of giving out oxygen. The hive with which the experiment was tried, was of course a glass one. We shall translate M. Huber's account of the result. “ We chose a rainy day for the execution of our project, in order that all the bees might be collected together in their habitation. The experiment began at three o'clock; we shut the door with exactness, and observed, not without a sort of anguish, the effects of this rigorous confinement. It was not until a quarter of an hour had elapsed, that the bees began to display any uneasiness; hitherto they appeared ignorant of their imprisonment, but then all their labours were suspended, and the appearance of the hive was entirely changed. We speedily heard an extraordinary noise within; all the bees, those who covered the surface of the honey
• Our remarks are chiefly gleaned from a most intelligent work, by M. François Huber, called “ Nouvelles Observations sur les Abeilles," published at Paris, in 1814.
combs, as well as those who were collected together in clusters, beat the air with their wings with extraordinary restlessness. This commotion lasted nearly ten minutes. The movement of the wings, by degrees, became less continual and less rapid. At twenty-seven minutes past three, the working bees had entirely lost their strength; they could support themselves no longer, and began to fall to the ground. The number of the bees who thus swooned, went on increasing—the table was strewed with them; thousands of working bees and drones fell to the bottom of the hive, until, at length, there did not remain a single one upon the combs; three minutes more, and the whole colony was in a state of asphixia. The hive became suddenly cool, and from twenty-eight degrees, the temperature descended to a level with the external air. We trusted to restore life and warmth to the bees, in a state of asphixia, by letting in pure air to them; we opened the door of the hive in the same way as the cock of a recipient. The effect of the current of air, which was thus let in, was very plain-in a few moments the bees began to set themselves simultaneously to beat their wings; a remarkable circumstance, and which, as we have before observed, had before taken place as soon as the want of external air had begun to be discovered in the hive. The bees quickly remounted their combs, the temperature rose to its usual height, and, at four o'clock, order was re-established in their dwelling.” This experiment proved clearly, that the bees had no means of supplying themselves with air, except from without; and, after a variety of conjectures, it occurred to M. Huber, that the flapping of the wings, which had been observed in the experiment, might operate so as to ventilate the hive. Subsequent experiments and reflections have all confirmed this notion, and it may now be regarded as an established fact. The motion of the wings is so rapid as to be scarcely perceptible, but the current of air thus created may be felt by the hand on placing it near a bee thus employed. In summer, one party is engaged without the hive, with their heads from the door, whilst another party within, are at work with their heads to the door, so that both co-operate in rendering the current of air stronger. In a glass hive the process may be clearly discerned, and, whether in summer or winter, is continually going on. The working bees alone take part in it—the drones, although equally affected by heat, leave the management entirely to their more active partners.
The fact, thus established, is certainly of a most extraordinary character, and shews the watchful care of a superior Providence in a striking point of view; but it is not the only, or the most remarkable, fact brought to light by the experiments of M. Huber. The attachment of bees to their queen, and the mode in which they supply her loss, is well known; but the following account of their conduct, upon first discovering that the queen is absent, will be regarded as novel and striking. “ When a queen is taken away from her native hive, the bees do not, at first, perceive it; the work of all classes is continued; order and tranquillity are not affected; it is not until an hour after the loss of the queen that uneasiness begins to manifest itself amongst the working bees; the care of their young ones then seems to occupy them uo longer, they pass quickly to and fro; but these symptoms of incipient agitation are not noticed all at once in every part of the hive. . At first, it is upon a single portion of a comb that it may be perceived; the bees, who are disturbed, quickly leave the little circle to which they usually confine themselves, and when they meet their friends, mutually cross their antennæ, and strike them lightly. They who receive the impression of these strokes immediately become agitated; in their turn, they disseminate trouble and confusion, and the disorder increases in rapid progression, until it spreads through the whole colony." This confusion lasts about two or three hours, sometimes four or five, but never more. They then gradually regain their state of quiet, and select a few of the young larve, for whom they construct royal cells, and, by peculiar nourishment and education, convert into so many new queens. .
But the most extraordinary part of the economy of bees, is their mode of defence against enemies. Virgil has rendered scholars familiar with this fact; but different enemies occur in different climates, and the ingenuity of the bee varies his defence according to the nature and exigency of the attack. Snails, or moths, or whatever else assails them, meet with determined opposition-sometimes walls are raised within the entrance, in which holes are made, large enough to allow a bee to pass through, but not of sufficient size to admit the moths, which are their great enemies. A watch is constantly kept at the entrance, and the most vigilant exertions are used to prevent an enemy from passing in. If, in consequence of the imperfection of sight, which is observable in the bee, the enemy succeeds in forcing an entrance, he is received with great warmth within, and, although very likely to do mischief, he seldom escapes with life. Instances bave occurred of snails succeeding in forcing an entrance, and one is related in the “ Spectacle de la Nature,” in which, no sooner had he advanced into the hive, than a whole troop of bees fastened upon him at once, and he immediately expired under their strokes. To have a carcass of such extent in their hive, was a matter of great perplexity; unable to remove it, and yet, as if aware that it would breed corruption and worms, and thus endanger the whole colony, they embalmed it with a sort of glue, which was cemented so firmly all round, that the external air was entirely excluded.
One fact, like this, is surely sufficient to overturn all the theories of those who contend, that the lower animals have no guide of conduct but undefined and undefinable instinct. By what argument (except from our own sensations) can reflection, forethought, judgment, memory, and some other operations of the mind, be shown to exist in man, that does not also apply, and with equal force, to the case of some other animals. That the mind of man, and that of brutes, is the same, we do not assert--we know that it is not-but if we attend to the lessons which observation and experiment teach us, we can have little doubt there is, in all things which have life, something beyond mere animal impulse.
WRITTEN ON THE COAST OF SCOTLAND.
Behind thy blue and misty mountain tops,