Apicultura Wiki



Each family of bees is composed, (Curing a portion of the year, of three classes viz: queen, drones, and workers. During the remainder there are only two the queen and workers, or developed and undeveloped females. (See plate 1.)


Plate I Fig. 1 represents the queen life size, and 2, magnified. 3. Drone life size, and 4, magnified. 5. Worker life size, and 6, magnified.7. Anatomical view of the worker ; a, thorax or pipe through which the honey passes from the mouth into the honey sack 5, and c the intestines. 8. Worker magnified, showing the scales of wax as they exude from the rings of the belly ; a, scales of wax separated from the bee. 9. The legs of a worker loaded with pollen. 10. Section of brood comb ; in the center is seen a queen cell, from which a queen has emerged ; on the right, drone comb, with drone brood emerging ; on the left, (where the queen cell is attached) worker comb, with worker brood emerging.


The queen, or mother, is the only perfectly developed female in the hive. Her form is symmetrical and .graceful ; her color, on the back and sides, is usually of a dark brown, but occasionally of a slightly yellow or variegated appearance ; while the belly and legs are of a bright copper color. Strictly, speaking, the queen is a working mother, rather than a ruling sovereign. Her main office is to deposit eggs in the cells ; which is proved by the fact that a queenless colony continue labor with nearly the same alacrity as though they possessed one, till finally terminated by the death of the generation.


Bees, if left to themselves to swarm in the natural way, only breed queens at a period preparatory to swarming, or to supply the place of old ones about to die.* When a hive is sufficiently full, and pasture abundant at the season when instinct prompts them to swarm, from five to eight days prior to the first

  1. 1 have, in two instances, found sealed queens (in one there

were three, in the other, one) in a hive not half full of comb, with the old queen still laying eggs, although so decrepid from age, or other causes, that it was impossible for her to fly, and consequently could not accompany a swarm. After the young queen emerged, there were no more eggs deposited for about ten days, the required time for the young queen to become fruitful. During this time, the old queen had either died or was slain by her successor. From these facts, we are led to conclude that the bees were aware of the approaching death of the queen, and thus wisely provided a successor while it was in their power to do so. one leaving, they form a number of queen cells, usually from three to eight, in which the queen deposits eggs. This is done at intervals up to the time when the first swarm departs, at which time one or more of the cells are sealed ; the remaining ones are sealed afterwards, in the order of their respective ages, all being finished by the sixth day after the swarm has left, (the old queen invariably accompanying the first swarm) at which time, or within twenty-four hours thereafter, (being seven days from the departure of the first swarm) the first sealed queen. emerges, and usually in three days from her birth she accompanies the second swarm.

The second queen accompanies a third swarm on the second or third day from the second ; a fourth, and even a fifth swarm sometimes follow, at intervals of every other day. All the swarms from the same hive must depart within nineteen days from the time the first one left; after which time no more can depart for a period of from forty to sixty days : instances of a hive swarming at a second period during the same season are rare. Bees also rear queens from worker larvae, when deprived of their queen.*

  • " The fact is said to have been known long before Schirach

wrote : M. Vogel and Signer Monticelli, a Neapolitan professor, have both asserted this ; the former states it to have been known upwards of fifty years, the latter a much longer period ; he says that the Greeks and Turks in the Ionian Islands are well acquainted with it, and that in the little Sicilian Island of Faviguana, the art of producing queens has been known from very remote antiquity ; he even thinks that it was no secret to the Greeks and Romans." Bevan. 3

It is on this fact that artificial division or formation of colonies, is founded. When a number of queen cells remain in a hive that does not intend to swarm any more, the first queen out destroys all her embryo sister queens, by gnawing into the cells, and either biting or stinging them. The workers then carry out the dead and demolish the mutilated cells ; this is usually done the first day of the existence of the queen. If it is intended that other swarms shall issue, the royal cells are not destroyed. But after the swarms have all departed, the remaining royal pupa is destroyed. It has been asserted that the bees guard the royal cells from the attacks of the queen. This statement I consider mere assertion, not founded on fact. My reasons for this belief are, first, that the instinct of the bees (the queen included) is perfect in every particular relating to their increase. Then why guard the cells ? Second, I have in two instances seen a young queen running over and around the royal cells, stopping every two or three minutes, and with her wings making the piping noise.[1]

The bees neither seemed to notice her, or the royal cells. Whether the workers had previously given her to understand that she must not molest them, or that they ever prevent a queen from doing so, is more than I can tell, notwithstanding Huber,

Langstroth, and other authors assure us that such is the fact. Mr. Quinby expresses his views as follows : " It is stated that when the bees decide an after swarm shall issue, the first queen matured is not allowed to leave her cell, but is kept a prisoner there, and fed until wanted to go forth with the swarm. This may be true in some cases, (though not satisfactorily proved) but I am quite sure it is not in all. " When she is confined to her cell, how does she ascertain the presence of others ? By leaving the cell this knowledge is easily obtained. Huber says she does, and is 'enraged at the existence of others, and endeavors to destroy them while yet in the cell, which the workers will not allow ; this is so irritating to her majesty that she utters this peculiar sound.' Also, second and third swarms may contain several queens, frequently two, three and four ; even six[2] at one time came out. If these had to bite their way out, after the workers had decided it was time to start, (for it must be they decide it when the queens are shut up) they would hardly be in season."


A young queen having succeeded to the vacancy occasioned by the emigration or death of the parent queen, as the future mother of the hive, (or as such in any swarm or colony) flies out for the purpose of being impregnated. This takes place from the seventh to the tenth day after she emerges from her cell ; and from two to four days more elapse before she commences to deposit eggs, which will be on the ninth to the fourteenth day of her existence. Sometimes impregnation is retarded, or fails to take place ; the result in either case is that she becomes a drone layer. Exclusive drone laying (in my opinion) frequently results from the imperfect development of the ovaries of the queen. " Impregnation," (according to Dr. Fleming) " in insects, appears to take place while the eggs pass a reservoir containing the sperm, situated near the termination of the oviduct in the vulva." "In dissecting the female parts in the silk-moth, says Mr. Hunter, I discovered a bag, lying on what may be called vagina, or common oviduct, whose mouth or opening was external, but it had a canal of communication betwixt it and the common oviduct. "In dissecting these parts before copulation, I found this bag empty ; and when I dissected* them afterwards, I found it full." (Phil. Trans. 1792, p. 186.) Dr. Leidy, who made dissections and microscopic examinations of queen bees for Mr. Langstroth, in the winter of 1851-2, " found, on making his dissections, a small globular sac, about one thirty-third of an inch in diameter, communicating with the oviduct, and filled with a whitish fluid ; * this fluid when examined under the microscope, abounded in the spermatozoa which characterizes seminal fluid. " A comparison of this substance later in the season with the semen of a drone, proved them to be exactly alike."

" These examinations have settled, on the impregnable basis of demonstration, the mode in which the eggs of the queen are vivified. In descending the oviduct to be deposited in the cells, they pass by the mouth of this seminal sac, or ' spermathecaj and receive a portion of its fertilizing contents. Small as it is, it contains sufficient to impregnate hundreds of thousands of eggs."

" Dzierzon asserts that all impregnated eggs produce females, either workers or queens ; and all unimpregnated ones males or drones ; and concluded that the eggs laid by the queen bee and fertile worker had, from the previous impregnation of the eggs from which they sprung, sufficient vitality to produce the drone, which is a less highly organized insect than the queen or worker." " It had long been known that the queen deposits

  • " Posel describes the oviduct of the queen, the sperraatheca

and its contents, and the use of the latter in impregnating the passing egg. This work was published at Munich, in 1784. It seems also from his work that before the investigations of Huber, Jansha, the bee-keeper royal of Maria Theresa, had discovered the fact that the young queens leave their hive in search of the drones. " Langstroth .

drone-eggs in the large or drone cells, and workereggs in the small or worker cells, and that she makes no mistakes. " Dzierzon inferred therefore, that there was some way in which she was able to decide the sex of the egg before it was laid, and that she must have such control over the mouth of the seminal sac as to be able to extrude her eggs, allowing them at will to receive or not a portion of its fertilizing contents. In this way, he thought she determined their sex, according to the size of the cells in which she laid them." Bonner (who wrote a work on bees in 1795) was of the opinion that a queen would lay eggs capable of producing both males and females, although they never saw a drone. From circumstances that have come 'under my own observation, I believe that Bonner is nearer the truth than Dzierzon, yet there are doubts in my mind as to the entire correctness" of either. The following theory was advanced by Mr. Wagner (p. 38, " Hive and Honey Bee ") viz: " that the queen in depositing eggs in-worker cells has her body slightly compressed by their size, thus causing the eggs as they pass the spermatheca to receive its vivifying influence. On the contrary, when she is laying in drone-cells, as this compression cannot take place, the mouth of the spermatheca is kept closed, and the eggs are necessarily unfecundated." This theory needs no other refutation than the fact that the queen frequently, as in the case of young swarms, lays her eggs in cells not an eighth of an inch deep ; this she does both in worker and drone cells, yet they always produce workers and drones respectively, with the same regularity as if the cells had been built the usual length at the time the eggs were deposited.


That the sex of the eggs is determined at, or previous to the time of deposit in the cells by the queen, there can be no doubt, as all the eggs laid in drone cells produce drones only, while those laid in worker cells can be developed perfect queens or workers at the pleasure of the nursing bees. To prove this I give the following experience. In practicing the dividing system I have frequently found the bees to build a portion of the queen cells on drone comb containing drone larvae, and in three instances all built being the same. In two of the cases I supplied comb the second time, containing eggs and larvae, both in the worker and drone cells, and in both cases the queen cells were all built on the drorte comb, and in one instance this was repeated three successive times. I have given these apparent queen cells repeatedly to queenless colonies, but in no instance have either queen or drone emerged from them. I have opened nearly one hundred of these cells, and at various times, and have found them to contain larvae of considerable size, but none had ever become a pupa, but had died on reaching that age. These cells are larger than the proper cells built from worker brood, and should be destroyed whenever found. Many of the failures to produce queens have resulted from using such cells, not knowing their true character. By using the queen nursery, as directed in Chap, xvn, it will prevent, in a great measure, such cells being built.


The following quotations from Bevan, give a very full and correct description of the manner in which the egg is laid, and the appearence and treatment of the insect in all stages to the fully developed bee. " It is the office of the queen bee to multiply the species by laying eggs, which she deposits in cells constructed for their reception by the working bees. These cells vary from one another in size (and in the instances of the royal cells they also vary in form and direction) according as they are intended to be the depositories of eggs that are to become drones, or of those that are to become workers. When the queen is about to lay, she puts her head into a cell and remains in that position for a second or two, probably to ascertain its fitness for the deposit which she is about to make. She then withdraws her head, and curving her body downwards, inserts her tail into the cell ; in a few seconds she turns half round upon herself and withdraws, leaving an egg behind her. When she lays a considerable number, she does it equally on each side of the comb, those on the one side being as exactly opposite to those on the other as the relative position of the cells will admit. The effect of this is to produce a concentration and economy of heat for developing the various changes of the brood.

" The eggs of bees are of a lengthened oval shape, with a slight curvature, and of a bluish white color ; are composed of a thin membrane filled with a whitish liquor, and being besmeared at the time of laying with a glutinous substance, they adhere to the basis of the cell and remain unchanged in figure or situation for four days ; then they are hatched, the bottom of each cell presenting to view a small white worm or maggot, with several ventral rings. On its growing so as to touch the opposite angle of the cell, it coils itself up in the shape of a semicircle ; to use the language of Swarmnerdam, ' it coils itself up like a dog when he is going to sleep ;' and floats in a whitish transparent fluid which is deposited in the cells by the nursing bees, and by which it is probably nourished ; it becomes gradually enlarged in its dimensions till the two extremities touch one another and form a ring. In this state it obtains indifferently the name of worm, larva, maggot, or grub, and is fed with farina or bee-bread. The slightest movement on the part of the nursing bees suffices to attract it to its food, to receive the welcome morsels of which it eagerly opens its two lateral pincers, and a most liberal supply is afforded to it, though by no means trenching on the bounds of prodigality.

" So nicely do the bees calculate the quantity which will be required, that none remains in the cell when the larva is transformed to a nymph. It was the opinion of Reaumur, and is still that of many eminent naturalists, that farina does not constitute the sole food of the bee-larva, but that it consists of a mixture of farina with a certain proportion of honey and water, partly digested in the stomachs of the nursing bees, the relative proportions of honey and farina varying according to the age of the young. The compound at first is nearly insipid, but gradually receives an accession of sweetness and acescency which increase as the insects approach maturity.

" The larva having derived support in the manner above described, for four, five, or six days, according to the season, continues to increase during that period, till it occupies the whole breadth and nearly the length of the cell. The nursing bees now seal up the cell, with a light brown cover, externally, more or less convex, (the cap of a drone cell is more convex than that of a worker) and thus differing from that of a honey-cell, which is paler and somewhat concave. The larva is no sooner perfectly inclosed than it begins to labor, alternately extending and shortening its body, whilst it lines the cell by spinning round itself, after the manner of the silk worm, a whitish silky fiber or cocoon, by which it is encased as it were in a pod or pellicle.

' The silken thread employed in forming this covering proceeds from the middle part of the under lip, and is in fact composed of two threads gummed together as they issue from the two adjoining orifices of the spinner.' When it has undergone this change, it has usually born the name of nymph or pupa.

" It may appear somewhat extraordinary, that a creature which takes its food so voraciously prior to its assuming the pupa state should live so long without food after that assumption ; but a little consideration will perhaps abate our wonder ; for when the insect has attained the state of pupa, it has arrived at its full growth, and probably the nutriment taken so greedily is to serve as a store for developing the perfect insect.

" The bee when in its pupa state has been denominated, but improperly, chrysalis and aurelia; for these, as the words import, are of a golden yellow color, and they are crustaceous, whilst the bee nymphs are of a pale dull color, and readily yield to the touch. The golden splendor to which the above names owe their origin is peculiar to a certain species only of the papilio or butterfly tribe. The term pupa, which is employed by the higher class of entomologists, after the example of Linnaeus, signifies that the insect is enveloped in swaddling clothes like an infant ; a very apt comparison. Kirby and Spence have remarked that it exhibits no unapt representation of an Egyptian mummy. When in this state, it presents no appearance of external members, and retains no very marked indications of life ; but within this outward case its organs are gradually and fully developed, its integuments hardened and consolidated, and as soon as it is qualified it bursts its fetters, and is introduced to a new career of existence ; from having been a mere worm, it becomes a sportive inhabitant of the air and enters upon new scenes and new enjoyments.

" The working bee-nymph spins its cocoon in thirty-six hours. After passing about three days in this state of preparation for a new existence, it gradually undergoes so great a change as not to wear a vestige of its previous form, but becomes armed with a firmer mail and with scales of a dark brown hue fringed with light hairs. On its belly six rings become distinguishable, which, by slipping one over another, enable the bee to shorten its body whenever it has occasion to do so ; its breast becomes entirely covered with gray feather-like hairs, which, as the insect advances in age, assume a reddish hue.

" When it has reached the twenty-first day of its existence, counting from the moment the egg is laid, it quits the exuviae of the pupa state, comes forth a perfect winged insect, and is termed an imago. The cocoon or pellicle is left behind, and forms a closely attached and exact lining to the cell in which it was spun ; by this means the breeding cells become smaller and their partitions stronger the oftener they change their tenants ; and when they have become so much diminished in size by this succession of pellicles or linings as not to admit of the perfect development of full-sized bees, they are converted into receptacles for honey.

" Such are the respective stages of the working bee ; those, of the royal bee are as follows. She passes three days in the egg and is five a worm ; the workers then close her cell, and she immediately begins spinning the cocoon, which occupies her twentyfour hours. On the tenth and eleventh days, as if exhausted by her labor, she remains in complete repose, and even sixteen hours of the twelfth. Then she passes four days and one-third as a nymph. It is on the sixteenth day, therefore, that the perfect state of queen is attained.

" The male passes three days in the egg, six and a half as a worm, and metamorphoses into a fly on the twenty-fourth or twenty-fifth day after the egg is laid. The great epoch of laying the eggs of males may be accelerated or retarded by the state of the atmosphere*, promoting or impeding the collection of the bees. The development of each species likewise proceeds more slowly when the colonies are weak or the air cool, and when the weather is very cold it is entirely suspended. Mr. Hunter has observed that the eggs, maggots and nymphs all require a heat above 70 of Fahrenheit for their evolution. The influence of temperature in the development of embryo insects is very strongly illustrated in the case of the Papilio Machaon. According to Messrs. Kirby and Spence, ' if the caterpillar of the Papilio Machaon becomes a pupa in July, the butterfly will appear in thirteen days ; if it do not become a pupa till September, the butterfly will not make its appearance until the following June.' And this is the case, say they, with a vast number of other insects. Reaumur proved the influence of temperature by effecting the regular change in a hot-house during the month of January. He also proved it conversely by having recourse to an ice-house in summer, which enabled him to retard the development for a whole year. " The larvae of bees, though without feet, are not always without motion. They advance from their first station at the bottom of the cell in a spiral direction

this movement for the first three days is so

slow as to be scarcely perceptible, but after that it is more easily discerned. The animal now makes two entire revolutions in about an hour and three-quarters, and when the period of its metamorphosis arrives, it is scarcely more than two lines from the mouth xof the cell. Its attitude, which is always the same, is a strong curve. This occasions the inhabitant of a horizontal cell to be always perpendicular to the horizon, and that of a vertical one to be parallel with it."

The young bees break their envelopes " from the inside ; they immediately come forth and commence cleansing themselves. They seldom leave the hive till four or five days old and probably commence their labors soon after this event.


Playing is a peculiarity in the habits of the bee not generally understood, and as it sometimes causes perplexity to new beginners, I deem it worthy of notice.

On the first warm day that succeeds cold or gloomy weather, the bees hold a jubilee ; not usually all at once, but a separate hive or a limited number at a time, usually in regular succession. This is for the purpose of purification and exercise. As soon as the day has become warm enough to excite them to go forth, large numbers will be seen to suddenly issue from the hive and mount on the wing with songs of rejoicing, circle round, play a short time, and then return. Others are constantly sallying out and returning in like manner. Then may be heard the bee-hive's happy hum. The excitement occasioned by the departure and arrival of the bees is kept up for about thirty minutes, more or less, according to the number of bees composing the swarm, and the temperature of the atmosphere. This playing occurs at intervals during the whole season. During the active breeding season, the young bees flying for the first time constitute the great body of players ; the drones also go forth in considerable numbers. At this period it bears so close a resemblance to that of a swarm commencing to depart, that it requires a practiced eye to detect the difference. Hence, young apiarians not unfrequently mistake the amusement for the process of swarming, and prepare to hive them.

By observing closely, however, numbers will be seen returning, as well as departing, which is not the case in swarming. This playing indicates a healthy and prosperous condition, and frequently precedes the issuance of a swarm.


It sometimes happens that the young queen is unable to fly out, on account of bad weather or defective wings ; consequently she fails to become impregnated, (at the only time probably that' it can take place, viz : within twenty-one days of her birth) which usually takes place on the wing. She, however, lays eggs, which only produce drones ;* which being laid in worker cells, their character is not easily determined until sealed up. The only indication from the eggs is, that a portion of them appear deficient in size, being only the covering without the substance. After they are sealed up, or nearly so, it is easily detected ; there being but a part of the cells occupied, the comb presents an unusual appearance, being in irregular rows and clumps. These cells are raised and oval, being lengthened out and enlarged, to accommodate this unnatural production. (See plate n, fig. 21.)

Drones so raised are dwarfs, being but little more than half the size of the drones proper, and are short lived. A hive possessing a drone-laying queen is soon depopulated, and falls a prey to robbers.

  • Bee-keepers, even from the time of Aristotle, had observed

that all the brood in a hive were occasionally drones. Langstroth.


PLATE II, p. 64, fig. 11. Section of Comb containing Broodof Dronelaying Queen.

When a hive is found to have such a queen, search her out and destroy her ; then cut out all the comb occupied with her brood, as it is entirely useless. The balance of the combs should then be exchanged for perfect brood, and a queen or royal cell supplied. But if few bees are found, then break it up, and give the remaining bees and comb to other hives. Occasionally young queens lay only drone eggs (but in worker comb) for the first few days after becoming fertile, and afterwards produce workers and drones perfectly developed in their proper order. When the raised oval cells are found, search for the queen ; if her wings are defective, destroy her, but if they are all right, it is best to wait a few days longer, when her character is fully determined. If she changes for the better, it is known by the last brood sealed being smooth and regular. The abdomen of a drone-laying queen usually appears more slender than that of a perfect one.


The loss of the queen creates much disturbance during the first day, after which the bees continue their labors as usual. As soon as their loss is discovered, numbers of them may be seen running out of the hive and roaming about in an inquiring manner, evidently searching for their lost mother. Though 'other causes frequently produce similar excitement, the agitation will be brief; whereas, the loss of the very sensitive, and will attack and sting their keeper or other persons disturbing them, more readily than those having a prolific queen.

Cells resembling acorn cups with the mouth downwards, (called false queen cells) are always built by queenless swarms. Such are also found in hives fully organized, and it requires a practiced eye to detect the difference. If queenless, they are found usually in clusters on the ends of the combs ; while if having a queen, there is but an occasional one, and they are to be found on the sides or edge of the comb.

Retaining drones late in the season, after other hives have destroyed them, is an indication, though not a positive one, of queenlessness ; for good hives are occasionally known to retain a few through the winter, but they are always killed during the first days of flying, in the spring. It is stated by different authors that the bees of a queenless hive will not carry in pollen. (They say the bees have no use for it, that it is used for the one purpose only of feeding the young.) The assertion however, is not well founded, for I have invariably found them carrying in and storing it as long as a small cluster of bees remained, or till the last stages of its existence. When they fail to do so, it is because there is no pasturage from which to gather it. Mr. Quinby is of the same opinion.


Drones are males, and without stings, and are about one-fourth larger than the workers, making their appearance in the month of March, and continuing during the season of breeding, serving no other useful purpose* than to impregnate the young queens ; for shape, see plate No. 1. They leave the hive for excursions from 10 o'clock A. M., to 3 P. M. When on the wing, they make a loud and quick buzzing sound, easily distinguished from that made by the workers. The number found in each hive varies from less than one hundred to several thousand. When very numerous, they consume a large proportion of the honey, rendering the hive unprofitable. As only a small number is necessary to each hive, it will be well to prevent useless hoards being reared. This can be done by removing most of the drone or largecelled comb from the hive in the early spring, or at any period during the season. A portion however should remain and be allowed to mature, for if all is destroyed, the bees will persist in rebuilding. By placing the frame from which the drone comb was cut between two combs already built, they are more likely to rebuild with worker comb.

  • Various opinions formerly prevailed as to the use of the

drone. The following one, given to me many years ago by an aged bee-keeping friend of the name of Brown, is, I believe, original. "The drones (said he) are for the purpose of tramping the mortar for the worker bees to build combs of."


As a matter of animal economy, or to save the expense of useless boarders, the workers destroy the drones at irregular periods during the spring, summer and fall. The immediate moving cause of the slaughter is a scarcity of honey and pollen secreted in the flowers. They seldom kill all at these periods in the spring or summer, but when flowers fail at autumn, and no more honey can be gathered, they are all killed, or driven forth to perish from hunger and cold.

When this killing occurs about the time that swarms should be expected, it is a sure indication that this intention is abandoned or deferred. When a hive retains its drones after all others have killed them, it indicates that such a hive is queenless ; and it should be seen to immediately. If sufficient bees remain, they can be supplied with a queen from some small colony, or what is far better, the two combined in one. ( See directions for supplying queens.) In rare instances the bees will retain a limited number of drones through the winter, which I account for as follows. In some localities a supply of very late pasturage is afforded, giving employment to the bees until the propensity to rid themselves of these useless consumers is passed for the season. They are, however, killed as soon as the spring opens.


In the summer of 1856 I discovered in one of my hives a number of drones, with heads nearly white, some of which continued through the season up to the usual time of killing drones. The same phenomenon has reappeared in the same hive each year since that time, and during the past year they have been more numerous than any of the preceding. I have counted as many as thirty-six of these in sight at once, by looking through the glass in the rear of the hive. In the spring of 1859 a young queen superseded the old one in this hive ; still the drones reared afterwards were the same, there being about one-half thus marked. I have examined a large number of stocks in the middle and western States, and have made inquiries of various bee-keepers, but have failed to learn of another instance of like character.

The above hive of bees is owned by W. C. & J. S. Harbison, and is in their apiary at the residence of the former in Chenango, Lawrence county, Pennsylvania. A. Harbison.


The workers are undeveloped females, in size, considerably less than either the queen or drones ; in numbers, comprising the great majority, and being practically the sovereigns of the hive. All as members of the same family work together in the greatest harmony. Nature has provided all animals, birds and insects, with means to protect and guard themselves, so as to insure their proper increase ; hence we find the honey bee armed and equipped, in accordance with the above laws.

No less formidable weapon, or less courage than that which they possess, would suffice to guard their young and their treasures, affording as they do, temptations to so many hungry creatures. Their means of defense consist of a sting to pierce, and poison to inject into the wound by means of the sting. As a means of protection, nature provides them with a habitation inaccessible to most of their enemies.

The sting is situated within and at the termination of the abdomen; it is about an eighth of an inch long, and is thrust out in the act of being used ; it is composed of three parts, (which to the unassisted eye appear as one) the piercer and two laminae. The piercer is a little longer than the lamina, and is furnished with a number of barbs, barely perceptible under the microscope, which when once entered into any yielding substance, not only hold the sting so firmly that the bee leaves it sticking in the wound, but cause it, assisted by the momentary nervous vitality, to sink its entire length into the flesh. The poison is contained in a reservoir at the base of the sting, and flows into the wound through the channel formed by the lamina in combination with the piercer : this is shown by the drop of poison not appearing at the end of the piercer, but at the termination of the lamina.

This poison is the cause of the pain and swelling usually experienced by persons when stung. It is supposed that the loss of the sting proves fatal to the bee ; such a theory appears reasonable, yet I am not aware of any experiments being tried to prove its correctness.

When a bee stings another it does not usually lose its sting, as in the case of stinging other objects. They are natural mechanics, and appear to do their work as perfectly the first day of their labors as the old artizans that have plied their trade for nearly a life-time.

Their sight and smell are very keen, enabling them to discover objects and detect the presence of honey when at a considerable distance ; hence, to select the choicest pasturaga and make the most rapid accumulations possible. Their peculiar formation combining strength and activity with their baskets for carrying bread or pollen on their thighs, and an internal sac (separate from their main stomachs) for receiving and carrying honey eminently fits them for their laborious and provident habits.

  • Each department of labor has its special workmen,

such as field laborers, wax producers, builders and nurses, the latter being also the guards. The field laborers collect honey and pollen, and store it in the combs, and also collect propolis with which to coat the interior surface of their habitation. It is probable that the field laborers are the principal comb builders.


The wax of which the comb is composed, is an animal secretion, emitted from the folds of the abdomen in a manner similar to the emission of silk from the silk worm.

The wax producers remain in the hive inactive, while elaborating the wax. This consumes several days from the time they commence feeding for the purpose. Their food during this time is mostly honey ; pollen as food is not essential to the elaboration of wax.

The wax appears in two rows of scales of four each, in sacklets on the under side of the abdomen, as represented in plate I fig. 8. These are taken away by the builders and converted into combs. When about to lay the foundations of a new comb, the bees cluster in ranks formed into festoons, so that the builders can pass freely at their work ; this arrangement seems designed to create and maintain a sufficiently warm and uniform temperature to enable them to mold the wax into a perfect structure, whieh, when first built, is white, semi-transparent and fragile ; it afterwards changes to a darker color and becomes stronger. These effects are produced by the thickening of the partition walls of the cells, and also by the cocoons left by each emerging young bee. The bees that remain inactive, forming these clusters, are mainly wax producers, and are thus constantly at hand with a supply of mortar ready for the use of the builders, who by means of relays continue their labors day and night during the time of their harvests. But when this is ended, and no farther accumulations of stores can be expected, no more garners are built.

It is probable that the wax producers continue their emissions for some time, and then die. Or it may be they produce wax at different periods ; yet they are certainly short-lived. (This subject will be farther investigated at some future time.) This class of bees are non-resistant, and never volunteer an attack.

The nurses attend to the wants of the young from the egg until they emerge from the comb, protecting the brood with great constancy. They are also the water carriers and guards. Their care and attention to the wants of the queen are of the most devoted kind. Sometimes when swarming she falls to the ground near the hive, when she is soon surrounded with her faithful attendants, who remain till death parts them.

Their ability to determine the course and locality of their hives, after passing from flower to flower in all directions, and for a long time, is truly wonderful. On the approach of a storm, they take the alarm and seek their homes for safety. If overtaken and blown down, they usually crawl under leaves and other places of shelter, where they remain in safety till the storm has passed over. Yet numbers are frequently caught out and perish from cold and wet. Their disposition is mild and peaceful, while rapidly acquiring riches ; but as soon as pasturage fails they become irritable, and will not permit intrusion without resisting it sharply.

Industry belongs to their nature. When the flowers yield honey, and the weather is fine, they need no impulse from manw to perform their part. When their tenement is supplied with all things necessary to reach another spring, or their store-house full, and no necessity or room for an addition, and we supply them with more space, they assiduously toil to fill it up. Rather than to waste time in idleness during a bounteous yield of honey, they have been known to deposit their surplus in combs outside the hive, or under the stand. This naturally industrious habit lies at the foundation of all the advantages in bee-keeping; consequently, our hives must be constructed with this end in view, and at the same time, not interfere with other points of their nature." Quinby.

a fertile worker. I lifted out the comb in which all the eggs were deposited ; there was a thin cluster of bees on it. I soon discovered a bee inserting her abdomen in a cell, and then withdrawing it, in the same manner as done by a queen when laying eggs. This was repeated four times. I then, with a pair of scissors, clipped a small point off each wing, in order to be able to again identify her. I examined this hive daily for some time, but only detected her in the act of laying an egg on one other occasion. She remained in the hive for five weeks after I first discovered her, by which time the bees had nearly all disappeared. This fertile worker was apparently a young bee, and was of small size and starved appearance, the very opposite of what would have been expected. This fact is good evidence that there are different orders of development (or at least a division of labor, probably according to age) amongst the workers, viz: the nursing bees, field laborers, wax producers, and comb builders.

The same bee is doubtless capable of performing either of those duties, at different periods of its life, but not indiscriminately at any one time. Since the above was written, other fertile workers have been seen in the act of depositing eggs, as follows: Previous to the first of September, 1860, a small colony had become queenless, and remained so for some time ; on examination, it was found to have one or more fertile workers ; the colony was on the above.


  1. This discovery is due to A. Harbison.
  2. About the 1st of June, 1860, I hived an after swarm which had seven queens with them. I removed all but one and supplied them to artificial colonies. I examined the hive from whence the swarm had issued within an hour thereafter, and found two more queens, which had probably emerged after the departure of the swarm. A. Harbison.