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examine the reality of what Cecilia has told me. I shall depend upon her assistance to teach me how to manage them.
CECILIA. The little knowledge I have, you will be welcome to: and it will give me great pleasure to be your associate in this scheme, the plan of which we will arrange hereafter. A hive of bees may, with propriety, be compared to a well-peopled city, in which are commonly found from fifteen to eighteen thousand inhabitants, subsisting under the most perfect discipline of wise laws. The regulation of labour among them is very exact. They are divided into four companies, one of which roves in the fields, in search of materials for building; another is employed in laying out the bases and partitions of their cells; a third is occupied in polishing and simoothing the sides of them; and the fourth company brings food for the rest, or relieves those which return oppressed with their burdens. But the same bees are not confined constantly to the same labour. Their tasks are frequently changed. Those which have been engaged in the hive, are indulged in
making excursions abroad; whilst those which have enjoyed the wholesome freshness of the air, submit, without reluctance, to confinement within. They appear either to have a language of their own, or to understand one another by signs. When one of them is in want of food, it bends down its trunk to the bee from which it expects assistance, whilst this last opens its honey-bag, and suffers some drops to fall for the needy one, which stands ready to receive it. So admirably is the work distributed, and so great is their diligence, that, in the course of a day, they are able to build apartments, sufficiently numerous to contain three thousand inhabitants.
SOPHIA. The advantage of order and regular arrangement, is shown in the policy of this small insect. Were the bees guided by no rule, instead of providing for the accommodation of such numerous inhabitants, confusion must perplex their designs, and they would interrupt one another in the progress of their work, like the builders of the tower of Babel.
MRS. HARCOURT. Their sagacity in con
structing and distributing their cells is equally admirable. In their manner of building, the bees have attained three essential points, aimed at by all good architects: the two first of which are, the greatest possible economy of room and materials; and the last is to procure all the accommodation that can be obtained in the space allowed for the edifice. The form of their cells is a hexagon, or figure of six equal sides. If you examine it, you will see that the circumference of one cell makes part of the circumference of those adjoining to it; which is a saving of the wax as well as the space, none of which can be lost where there is no void between the apartments. The third advantage will be more difficult to your comprehension, as it depends upon mathematical knowledge; but those who are skilled in that science tell us, that the hexagon affords more space than any other figure that can be joined together. Their frugality induces them to make their partitions very thin; but they strengthen the entrance of the cells, which are most liable to be injured, by a fillet of wax quite round them, which makes
them three or four times thicker than the sides; and the bottom is supported by the junction of three cells exactly beneath the middle of it; for they are careful to place them in such a manner, that the middle of the bases of one row, is directly opposite to the angles of the next to it. The combs lie parallel to each other, and there is left between every one of them a space which serves as a street, broad enough for two bees to pass by each other. There are also holes which go quite through the combs, and may be compared to lanes, for them to pass from one comb to another, without being obliged to go a great way about.
HENRY. I should like to watch a hive of bees, from the laying their foundation to the completion of the comb.
CECILIA. That would not be easy to accomplish, for, notwithstanding glass hives and other contrivances have been used with that design, there are such numbers in continual motion, and they change their places so quickly, that it appears only a scene of confusion. Some of them, however, have been
observed to carry pieces of wax in their talons, to the place where the others are at work upon the combs, which they fasten to the work with their feet. Others have been seen running about, and beating the work with their wings and their tails, perhaps for the purpose of hardening it, and making it stronger. Whilst some of the bees are busied in building and forming the cells, others are employed in polishing those already made: the smallest roughness is taken off with their talons. They continue patiently at this task till they have completed it, never leaving off, except to carry away the particles of wax they scrape off, which others receive from them, and employ in raising other parts of the edifice.
HENRY. Since I have heard so many curious things about the bees, I have spent all my play-time near Cecilia's hives; and yesterday I saw several bees loaded with little balls of yellow wax sticking to the hollow place in their thighs.
CECILIA. The balls which you observed are not wax, but a powder collected from the stamina of flowers, many of which abound