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with it in the lily it is very visible, as you must have often experienced, if ever you have pulled any of them to pieces.
HENRY. O yes, I know what you mean: my fingers have been covered with it sometimes.
CECILIA. This powder, or pollen, as it is properly called, does not become wax till it has undergone a process in the stomach of the bee. In collecting this substance, which is the material that composes the comb, the bee enters into the cups of flowers, particularly such as afford the greatest quantity of it. As the insect's body is covered with hair, it presently gathers a good deal of this dust, by rolling itself within the flower; this it brushes off with its hind legs, and kneads into balls, which it pushes into those two hollow places I mentioned before. In this pursuit the bee flies from flower to flower, till it has accumulated as much as it can carry, and then returns home with its treasure. Upon its arrival at the hive, it frequently happens that three or four other bees assist in relieving it of
its burden, by each eating a share of the cargo. It is not a desire of food that urges them to swallow this substance, but an earnestness to provide a supply of real wax for making the combs. At other times, when there is no immediate want of wax, they lay it up in repositories, to serve for the supply of future occasions. After having swallowed it for some time, they have a method of returning it, when they want it for use; and it is only when in this soft and pliant state, that they can apply it properly in the making of combs. It is supposed, by the quantities that they collect, that a great deal of it is laid up for food. In this state it is known by the name of bee-bread.
MRS. HARCOURT. The crude wax, by which I mean the material which they swallow to make wax, is not always yellow, but varies, according to the flowers from which it is gathered. The combs are at first white, but are changed to yellow, by the steam and impurities arising from so many insects confined in one place. Honey, which is their principal treasure, is originally a juice digested in
plants, which exudes through their pores, and exists chiefly in their flowers, or in reservoirs called honey-cups, of various forms, and differently situated in different flowers. The bees obtain the honey, either by penetrating into these recesses, or they collect it when exposed upon the surface of the flower. This precious spoil is carried home in their stomachs; so that, though heavily laden, they appear, to a superficial observer, as if they had procured nothing by their excursion. Bees are equally fond of another substance, called honey-dew, of which there are two kinds, both being produced upon vegetables, though arising from different causes. The first kind, which is commonly supposed to be a dew that falls upon trees, is nothing but a mild, sweet juice, which, having circulated through the vessels of vegetables, is separated in reservoirs in the flowers, or on the leaves, where it is properly called the honey-dew, Sometimes it resides in the pith, as in the sugar-cane; and at others in the juice of pulpy summer-fruits, when ripe. Manna, which is found on the ash and maple trees of Calabria,
issuing from their leaves and trunks, is a species of honey-dew. The second kind is produced by a small insect, and supplies the bees with a resource, when the spring flowers are gone, and the dew which transpires from the plants is no longer to be obtained.
CECILIA. There is yet another substance collected and used by bees; but I cannot say, with any certainty, where they procure it. Some suppose that they meet with it on the birch, the willow, and the poplar. It is a resinous gum, of a more gluey quality than wax, and different from it in many respects. The use to which they apply it, is to plaster the inside of their hives, and to fill up the most minute crannies that may chance to be in them. It was called by the ancients propolis. When they begin to work with it, it is soft; but in length of time it acquires a brown colour, and becomes much harder than
AUGUSTA. Do not the bees lay up a store of honey against the winter season?
CECILIA. As soon as they reach the hive with a load of honey, they deposit it in an
empty cell. They have two sorts of storehouses; one is filled only with honey that is intended for the supply of accidental wants; the other contains their winter store, which they are careful to preserve, by several sagacious precautions. There is, in each cell, a thicker substance, something like a cream, which is placed over the honey, to prevent it from running out; this gradually rises as the cell is filled: when it reaches the top, the bees close up the cell with a covering of wax, and it remains untouched, till necessity compels them to have recourse to it.
CHARLES. It is wonderful to see them hang by one another, in a heap or cluster, when they settle in a swarm. I cannot think how the bees, from which the others suspend themselves, can bear so great a weight.
CECILIA. When a swarm divides into two clusters, it is a sure proof that there are two queens among them, one of which must be destroyed, before they will unite and settle quietly. Their instinct is as admirable in providing for their own safety and well-being