The Fairy-Land of Science eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 211 pages of information about The Fairy-Land of Science.

But if you watch bees carefully, especially in the spring-time, you will find that they carry off something else besides honey.  Early in the morning, when the dew is on the ground, or later in the day, in moist shady places, you may see a bee rubbing itself against a flower, or biting those bags of yellow dust or pollen which we mentioned in Lecture VII.  When she has covered herself with pollen, she will brush it off with her feet, and, bringing it to her mouth, she will moisten and roll it into a little ball, and then pass it back from the first pair of legs to the second and so to the third or hinder pair.  Here she will pack it into a little hairy groove called a “basket” in the joint of one of the hind legs, where you may see it, looking like a swelled joint, as she hovers among the flowers.  She often fills both hind legs in this way, and when she arrives back at the hive the nursing bees take the lumps form her, and eat it themselves, or mix it with honey to feed the young bees; or, when they have any to spare, store it away in old honey-cells to be used by-and-by.  This is the dark, bitter stuff called “bee- bread” which you often find in a honeycomb, especially in a comb which has been filled late in the summer.

When the bee has been relieved of the bee-bread she goes off to one of the clean cells in the new comb, and, standing on the edge, throws up the honey from the honey-bag into the cell.  One cell will hold the contents of many honey-bags, and so the busy little workers have to work all day filling cell after cell, in which the honey lies uncovered, being too thick and sticky to flow out, and is used for daily food — unless there is any to spare, and then they close up the cells with wax to keep for the winter.

Meanwhile, a day or two after the bees have settled in the hive, the queen-bee begins to get very restless.  She goes outside the hive and hovers about a little while, and then comes in again, and though generally the bees all look very closely after her to keep her indoors, yet now they let her do as she likes.  Again she goes out, and again back, and then, at last, she soars up into the air and flies away.  But she is not allowed to go alone.  All the drones of the hive rise up after her, forming a guard of honour to follow her wherever she goes.

In about half-an-hour she comes back again, and then the working bees all gather round her, knowing that now she will remain quietly in the hive and spend all her time in laying eggs; for it is the queen-bee who lays all the eggs in the hive.  This she begins to do about two days after her flight.  There are now many cells ready besides those filled with honey; and, escorted by several bees, the queen-bee goes to one of these, and, putting her head into it remains there a second as if she were examining whether it would make a good home for the young bee.  Then, coming out, she turns round and lays a small, oval, bluish-white egg in the cell.  After this she takes no more notice of it, but goes on to the next cell and the next, doing the same thing, and laying eggs in all the empty cells equally on both sides of the comb.  She goes on so quickly that she sometimes lays as many as 200 eggs in one day.

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The Fairy-Land of Science from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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