NATURE affords but few more striking evidences of then wisdom and the goodness of the Creator, than may be observed in the labors of bees. The observer is at a loss which to admire most, the wonderful manner in which these insects are adapted to their circumstances, or the unity, industry, loyalty, and sagacity which prevail among them.
When they begin to work in their hives, they divide themselves into four companies ; one of which roves the fields in search of materials ; another employs itself in laying out the bottom and partitions of then: cells ; a third is employed in smoothing the walls ; and the fourth company brings food for the rest, or relieves those who return with their respective burdens.
But they are not kept constantly at one employment; they often change the tasks assigned them; those that have been at work, being permitted to go abroad, and those that have been in the fields take their places.
They seem even to have signs by which they understand each other ; for when any of them wants food, he holds out his trunk towards the bee from which he expects it. The latter, understanding the desire of his companion, immediately deposits for his use a small quantity of honey. Their diligence and labor are so great that in a few days they are enabled to make cells sufficient for several thousand bees. In the plan and formation of these cells they display a wonderful sagacity.
The danger of being stung by bees, may be in a great measure prevented by remaining quiet. A thousand bees will fly and buzz about a person without hurting him, if he stands' perfectly still and does not disturb them even if they are near his face. It is said that a person is in perfect safety in the midst of a swarm of bees, if he is careful to shut his mouth, and breathe gently through his nostrils.
Many amusing stories are told about the effect produced by the sting of bees. In 1825, a mob attacke'd the house of a gentleman in Germany. He endeavored in vain to dissuade them from their designs ; at length when every thing else had failed, he ordered his servants to bring a large bee-hive which he threw into the midst of the enraged multitude. The result answered his expectations. The mobites, stung by the bees, immediately fled in all directions, and thus gave the gentleman time to escape from their fury.
Bees have one fault common to bad boys, they are inclined to fight among themselves. Quarrels and combats are frequent among them. Sometimes it seems that their contests are commenced in the hive, as the combatants may often be seen coming out in the greatest fury, and joining in the deadly strife the moment they reach the door of the hive. In some cases a bee peaceably settled on the outside of the hive is rudely jostled by another, and then a fierce struggle is commenced, each endeavoring to obtain the advantage of the position.
They turn, dance about, throttle each other, and such is their bitter eagerness, that a person can approach near to them without their perceiving it.
Other times, the combat takes place in the hive, and in those cases the contest usually continues until one kills the other ; then the victor takes up the dead body of his antagonist and carries it outside the hive. Bees are remarkable for their industry, and those among them that will not, or cannot work, are driven from the hive and not permitted to return.
The Metropolitan Third Reader
By A Member of the Order of the Holy Cross 1872
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