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The Fairy-Land of Science eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 185 pages of information about The Fairy-Land of Science.
that they can open to let in fresh air, so they are obliged to fan it in from the one opening of the hive.  The way in which they do this is very interesting.  Some of the bees stand close to the entrance, with their faces towards it, and opening their wings, so as to make them into fans, they wave them to and fro, producing a current of air.  Behind these bees, and all over the floor of the hive, there stand others, this time with their backs towards the entrance, and fan in the same manner, and in this way air is sent into all the passages.

Another set of bees clean out the cells after the young bees are born, and make them fit to receive honey, while others guard the entrance of the hive to keep away the destructive wax-moth, which tries to lay its eggs in the comb so that its young ones may feed on the honey.  All industrious people have to guard their property against thieves and vagabonds, and the bees have many intruders, such as wasps and snails and slugs, which creep in whenever they get a chance.  If they succeed in escaping the sentinel bees, then a fight takes place within the hive, and the invader is stung to death.

Sometimes, however, after they have killed the enemy, the bees cannot get rid of his body, for a snail or slug is too heavy to be easily moved, and yet it would make the hive very unhealthy to allow it to remain.  In this dilemma the ingenious little bees fetch the gummy “propolis” from the plant-buds and cement the intruder all over, thus embalming his body and preventing it from decaying.

And so the life of this wonderful city goes on.  Building, harvesting, storing, nursing, ventilating and cleaning from morn till night, the little worker-bee lives for about eight months, and in that time has done quite her share of work in the world.  Only the young bees, born late in the season, live on till the next year to work in the spring.  The queen-bee lives longer, probably about two years, and then she too dies, after having had a family of many thousands of children.

We have already pointed out that in our fairy-land of nature all things work together so as to bring order out of apparent confusion.  But though we should naturally expect winds and currents, rivers and clouds, and even plants to follow fixed laws, we should scarcely have looked for such regularity in the life of the active, independent busy bee.  Yet we see that she, too, has her own appointed work to do, and does it regularly and in an orderly manner.  In this lecture we have been speaking entirely of the bee within the hive, and noticing how marvellously her instincts guide her in her daily life.  But within the last few years we have learnt that she performs a most curious and wonderful work in the world outside her home and that we owe to her not only the sweet honey to eat, but even in a great degree the beauty and gay colours of the flowers which she visits when collecting it.  This work will form the subject of our next lecture, and while we love the little bee for her constant industry, patience, and order within the hive, we shall, I think, marvel at the wonderful law of nature which guides her in her unconscious mission of love among the flowers which grow around it.

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