Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

He mentions another experiment, by which it appears that larvæ only a few hours old, as already hinted, are sometimes destined to replace a lost queen.

In his fifth letter M. Huber relates some experiments which confirm the singular discovery of M. Riems, concerning the existence, occasionally, of common working bees that are capable of laying eggs—which, we may remark, is certainly a most convincing proof of their being of the female sex. Eggs were observed to increase in number daily in a hive in which there were no queens of the usual appearance ; but small queens considerably resemble workers, and to discriminate them required minute inspection.

My assistant, says M. Huber, then offered to perform an operation that required both courage and patience, and which I could not resolve to suggest, though the same expedient had occurred to myself. He proposed to examine each bee in the hive separately, to discover whether some small queen had not insinuated herself among them, and escaped our first researches.-It was necessary, therefore, to seize the whole bees, notwithstanding their irritation, and to examine their specifick character with the utmost care. This my assistant undertook, and executed with great address. Eleven days were employed in it; and, during all that time, he scarcely allowed himself any relaxation, but what the relief of his eyes required. He took every bee in his hand; he attentively examined the trunk, the hind limbs, and the sting; and he found that there was not one without the characteristicks of the common bee, that is, the little basket on the hind legs, the long trunk, and the straight sting p. 91-92.

They afterwards seized a fertile worker in the very act of laying; and they thus describe her appearance, p. 94. “She presented all the external characteristicks of common bees; the only difference we could recog: nise, and that was a very slight one, consisted in the belly seeming less, and more slender than that of workers. On dissection, her ovaries were found more fragile, smaller, and composed of fewer oviducts than the ovaries of queens. We counted eleven eggs of sensible size, some of which appeared ripe for laying. This ovary was double, like that of queens.” How or when these fertile workers are impregnated is quite unknown.

Fertile workers resemble queers whose impregnation has been retarded, in this, that they lay the eggs of drones only, never those of workers; and also in this, that they sometimes, place their eggs in royal cells. It is remarkable, however, that in the case of queens, whose impregnation has been retarded, laying their eggs in royal cells, the bees build them up, and brood over them until the last metamorphosis of the included drones; but that when eggs are deposited in royal cells by fertile workers, the bees, although at first they pay due attention to the larvæ, never fail to destroy them in the course of a few days.

Schirach's discoveries certainly proved, that common working bees are radically of the female sex. Huber, we have seen, detected and described their ovaries; and the notion, long entertained, of their being of the neuter gender, is now justly exploded as a solecism in animated nature. Here, we cannot help observing, that the doctrine of workers being of the female sex, has accidentally, and most unintentionally, received a very striking collateral confirmation from one of its most eminent opposers. Linnæus had asserted* that there are ten joints in the antennæ of queens; eleven in those of drones; and fifteen in those of workers : and his assertion on this point naturally passed current as authentick fact. Taking it for granted, therefore, that there existed such a discrepancy in the structure of the antennæ of queens and of workers, naturalists were startled at the new doctrine, that both were

* Systema Naturz, art. Apis mellifica. Regina (fæmina) antennis articulis 10. &c. Fuci (mares) antennis 11-articulatis, &c. perariæ (spadones) antennis 15-arti. culatis, &c.”

females, and that the larvæ of workers could be converted into queens. Mr. Kirby (the acute and laborious author of the Monographia Anum Anglia, in wbich he has described above 220 species, natives of England) has corrected the Swedish knight, and informs us, that there are positively the same number of articulations in the antennæ of queens, as in those of workers. This testimony is not the less deserving of credit, that it militates against Mr. Kirby's own notions, who continues to argue for workers being proper neuters.

M. Huber imagines he has discovered the cause of the partial expansion of the sexual organs in those workers that prove fertile. He observes, that fertile workers appear in those hives only that have lost the queen, and where, of course, a quantity of royal jelly is prepared for feeding the larvæ intended to replace her. He suspects that the bees, either by accident, or by a particular instinct, the principle of which is unknown, drop some par. ticles of royal jelly into cells, contiguous to those containing the worms destined for queens. The larvæ of workers that thus casually receive portions of this active aliment, are affected by it, and their ovaries acquire a certain degree of expansion. From the want of full feeding, and owing to the smallness of their cells, this expansion is only partial, and such fertile workers remain of the ordinary size of working bees, and lay only a few eggs. The royal jelly, when pure, may be known by its pungent taste ;* but when mixed with other substances, it is not easily distinguished. M. Huber repeatedly tried to feed some of the larvæ of workers in other parts of the hive, with the royal jelly, in order to observe the consequences; but he found this to be a vain attempt, the bees immediately destroying such worms, and themselves devouring the food. It has not, therefore, been directly ascertained, that all fertile workers proceed from larvæ that have received portions of the royal food; but M. Huber observed, that they were uniformly such as had passed the vermicular state, in cells contiguous to the royal ones. “ The bees," he remarks, “in their course thither, will pass in numbers over them, stop, and drop some portion of the jelly destined for the royal larvæ.” This reasoning, though not conclusive, is plausible. The result is so uniform, that M. Huber says he can, whenever he pleases, produce fertile workers in his hives. They are, probably, he adds, always produced, in greater or less numbers, whenever the bees have to create to themselves a new queen. And the reason that they are so seldom seen, probably is, that the queen bees attack and destroy them without mercy whenever they perceive them.

Letters sixth and seventh, treat of the combats of queens; the massacre of the males; and of the reception a stranger queen meets with in a hive. When a supernumerary queen is produced in a hive, or is introduced into it in the course of experiment, either she or the rightful owner soon perishes. The German naturalists, Schirach and Riems, imagined that the working bees assailed the stranger, and stung her to death. Réaumeur considered it as more probable, that the sceptre was made to depend on the issue of a single combat between the claimants; and this conjecture is verified by the observations of Huber. The same hostility towards rivals, and destructive vengeance against royal cells, animates all queens, whether they be vir

Mr. Bonner puzzles much about this royal jelly, whether it be of a generative or a nutritive nature. He inclines to the former opinion, while he at the same time admits, that in this case we must take it for granted that the working bees are males ! But this difficulty he pleasantly enough considers as counterbalanced by one on the other side ; for if the jelly be merely of a nutritive nature, then, says he, the queen is selfprolifick, or a hermophrodite!

VOL. I.

х

gins, or in a state of impregnation, or the mothers of numerous broods. The working bees, it may here be remarked, remain quiet spectators of the destruction, by the first hatched queen, of the remaining royal cells. They approach only to share in the plunder presented by their havock. making mistress, greedily devouring any food found at the bottom of the cells, and even sucking the fluid from the abdomen of the nymphs before they toss out the carcases.

The following fact, connected with this subject, is one of the most curious, perhaps, in the whole history of this wonderful insect. Whenever the workers perceive that there are two rival queens in the hive, numbers of them crowd around each. They seem to be perfectly aware of the approaching deadly conflict, and willing to prompt their amazonian chieftains to the battle; for, as often as the queens show a disinclination to fight, or seem inclined to recede from each other, or to fly off, the bees immediately surround and detain them ; but when either combatant shows a disposition to approach her antagonist, all the bees forming the clusters instantly give way to allow her full liberty for the attack. p. 117. It seems strange that those bees who in general show so much anxiety about the safety of their queen, should, in particular circumstances, oppose her preparations to avoid impending danger,--should seem to promote the battle, and to excite the fury of the combatants.

When a queen is removed from a hive, the bees do not immediately perceive it. They continue their labours ; “watch over the young; and perform all their ordinary occupations. But, in a few hours, agitation ensues; all appears a scene of tumult in the hive. A singular humming is heard ; the bees desert their young; and rush over the surface of the combs with a delirious impetriosity.” They have now evidently discovered that their sove. reign is gone ; and the rapidity with which the bad news now spreads through the hive, to the opposite side of the combs, is very remarkable. On replacing the queen in the hive, tranquillity is almost instantly restored. The bees, it is worthy of notice, recognise the individual person of their own queen. If another be palmed upon them, they seize and surround her, so that she is either suffocated or perishes by hunger; for it is very remarkable, that the workers are never known to attack a queen bee with their stings. If, however, more than eighteen hours have elapsed before the stranger queen be introduced, she has some chance to escape. The bees do al first seize and confine her ; but less rigidly; and they soon begin to disperse, and at length leave her to reign over a hive in which she was at first treated as a prisoner. If twenty-four hours have elapsed, the stranger will be well received from the first, and at once admitted to the sovereignty of the hive. In short, it appears that the bees, when deprived of their queen, are thrown into great agitation ; that they wait about twenty hours, apparently in hopes of her return; but that after this interregnum, the agitation ceases ; and they set about supplying their loss by beginning to construct royal cells. It is when they are in this temper, and not sooner, that a stranger queen will be graciously received: and upon her being presented to them, the royal cells, in whatever state of forwardness they may happen to be, are instantly abandoned, and the larvæ destroyed. Réaumeur must, therefore, have mistaken the result of his own experiments, when he asserts, that a stranger queen is instantly well received, though presented at the moment when the other is withdrawn. He had seen the bees crowding around her at the entrance of the hive, and laying their antenne over her ; and this he seems to have taken for caressing.' The structure of the hives he employed, prevented him from seeing further. Had he used the leaf-hive,

or one of similar construction, he would have perceived that the apparent caresses of the guards were only the prelude of actual imprisonment.

It is well known that after the season of swarming, a general massacre of the drones is commenced. Several authors assert in their writings, that the workers do not sting the drones to death, but merely harass them till they be banished from the hive and perish. M. Huber contrived a glass table, on which he placed several hives, and he was thus able to see distinctly what passed in the bottom of the hive, which is generally dark and concealed. He witnessed a real and furious massacre of the males, the workers thrusting their stings so deep into the bodies of the defenceless drones, that they were obliged to turn on themselves as on a pivot, before they could extricate them. The work of death commenced in all the hives much about the same time. It is not, however, by a blind or indiscriminating instinct that the workers are impelled thus to sacrifice the males; for if a hive be deprived of its queen, no massacre of the males takes place in it, while the hottest persecution rages in all the surrounding hives. In this case, the males are allowed to survive over winter. Mr. Bonner had observed this fact. He supposed, however, that the workers thus tolerated the drones for the sake of the additional heat they generated in the hive; but we now see the true reason to be, that their aid is needed to impregnate a new queen. The drones are also suffered to exist in hives that possess fertile workers, but no proper queen; and, what is remarkable, they are likewise spared in hives governed by a queen whose impregnation has been retarded. Here, then, we perceive a counter instinct opposed to that which would have impelled them to the usual massacre.

Letter eighth is occupied with miscellaneous topicks. The author first investigates whether the queen be really oviparous; and this point he clearly ascertains in the affirmative.

He next states the different periods at which the transformations occur, in the case of the different orders of queen, worker, and drone; and his information being minute, and no doubt correctly accurate, we shall extract it.

The worm of workers passes three days in the egg; five in the vermicular state ; and then the bees close up its cell with a wax covering. The worm now begins spinning its coccoon, in which operation thirty-six hours are consumed. In three days it changes to a nymph, and it passes six days in this form. It is only on the twentieth day of its existence, counting from the moment the egg is laid, that it attains the fly state.The royal worm also passes three days in the egg, and is five a worm. The bees then close its cell, and it immediately begins spinning the coccoon, which occupies twentyfour hours. The tenth and eleventh day it remains in complete repose, and even sixteen hours of the twelfth. Then the transformation to a nymph takes place, in which state four and one-third days are passed. Thus, it is not before the sixteenth day that the perfect state of queen is attained.—The male worm passes three days in the egg, six and a half as a worm, and metamorphoses into a fly on the twenty-fourth day after the egg is laid. p. 151–152.

The author then examines the effects of position on the growth of the larvz. The bodies of the larvæ, in the cells of workers and drones, are placed perpendicular to the horizon. Those in royal cells lie horizontally. It was suspected that the horizontal posture somehow promoted the increment of the royal grub; but M. Huber found, that a complete reversal of the position was followed by no perceptible consequence to the larvæ.

We have, in the next place, some remarks on the coccoons spun by the different larvæ. Workers and drones both spin complete coccoons, or enclose themselves on every side. Royal larvæ, however, construct only imperfect coccoons, open behind, and enveloping only the head, thorax, and first ring of the abdomen. M Huber concludes, without any hesitation, that the final cause of the royal larvæ forming only incomplete coccoons, is,

1

ness.

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 that would soon become her rivals ; and he calls upon us to admire the providence of Nature, in thus exposing the royal larvæ to fatal danger. p. 159.

In the close of the letter, we have an account of an experiment instituted to determine the influence which the size of the cells might have on the size of the bees produced in them. All the larvæ were removed from a comb of drones' cells, and the larvæ of workers substituted in their place. The bees, it may be remarked, immediately showed that they were aware of the change which had been effected; for they did not close the cells with the convex covering always placed over the males, but gave them quite a flat top. The result proved that the size of the cells does not materially influence the size of the bees; or, at least, that although a small cell may cramp the size of a worker, yet, that workers bred in large cells do not exceed the ordinary bulk.

In letters ninth, tenth, and eleventh, the author treats of the formation of swarms. But in the first place, he gives an interesting account of the hatching of the queen bee. When the pupa is about to change into the perfect insect, the bees render the cover of the cell thinner by gnawing away part of the wax; and with so much nicety do they perform this operation, that the cover at last becomes pellucid, owing to its extreme thin

This must not only facilitate the exit of the fly, but, M. Huber remarks, it may possibly be useful in permitting the evaporation of the superabundant Huids of the nymph. After the transformation is complete, the young queens would, in common course, immediately emerge from their cells, as workers and drones do; but the bees always keep them prisoners for some days in their cells, supplying them in the mean time with honey for food; a small hole being made in the door of each cell, through which the confined bee extends its proboscis to receive it. The royal pri. soners continually utter a kind of song, the modulations of which are said to vary. The final cause of this temporary imprisonment, it is suggested, may possibly be, that they may be able to take flight, at the instant they are liberated. When a young queen does at last get out, she meets with rather an awkward reception. She is pulled, bit, and chased, as often as she happens to approach the other royal cells in the hive. The purpose of nature here seems to be, that she should be impelled to go off with a swarm as soon as possible. A curious fact was observed on these occasions. When the queen found herself much harassed, she had only to utter a peculiar noise (the commanding voice, we may presume, of sovereignty) and all the bees were instantaneously constrained to submission and obedience. This is, indeed, one of the most marked instances in which the queen exerts her sovereign power. It seems entirely to have escaped the notice of Mr. Bonner, who declares that he never could observe in the queen any thing like an exertion of sovereignty.*

The conclusions at which M. Huber arrives on the subject of swarms, are the following:

1st, “ A swarm is always led off by a single queen, either the sovereign of the parent hive, or one recently brought into existence. If, at the return of spring, we examine a hive well peopled, and governed by a fertile queen, we shall see her lay a prodigious number of male eggs in the course of May, and the workers will choose that moment for constructing several royal cells.” p. 202. This laying of male eggs in May, M. Huber calls the great

Bonner on Bees, p. 52:

« VorigeDoorgaan »