bees and flowers
Whatever thoughts each one of you may have brought to the lecture to-day, I want you to throw them all aside and fancy yourself to be in a pretty country garden on a hot summer’s morning. Perhaps you have been walking, or reading, or playing, but it is getting too hot now to do anything; and so you have chosen the shadiest nook under the old walnut-tree, close to the flower-bed on the lawn, and would almost like to go to sleep if it were not too early in the day.
As you lie there thinking of nothing in particular, except how pleasant it is to be idle now and then, you notice a gentle buzzing close to you, and you see that on the flower-bed close by, several bees are working busily among the flowers. They do not seem to mind the heat, nor to wish to rest; and they fly so lightly and look so happy over their work that it does not tire you to look at them.
That great humble-bee takes it leisurely enough as she goes lumbering along, poking her head into the larkspurs, and remaining so long in each you might almost think she had fallen asleep. The brown hive-bee on the other hand, moves busily and quickly among the stocks, sweet peas, and mignonette. She is evidently out on active duty, and means to get all she can from each flower, so as to carry a good load back to the hive. In some blossoms she does not stay a moment, but draws her head back directly she has popped it in, as if to say “No honey there.” But over the full blossoms she lingers a little, and then scrambles out again with her drop of honey, and goes off to seek more in the next flower.
Let us watch her a little more closely. There are plenty of different plants growing in the flower-bed, but, curiously enough, she does not go first to one kind and then to another; but keeps to one, perhaps the mignonette, the whole time till she flies away. Rouse yourself up to follow her, and you will see she takes her way back to the hive. She may perhaps stop to visit a stray plant of mignonette on her way, but no other flower will tempt her till she has taken her load home.
Then when she comes back again she may perhaps go to another kind of flower, such as the sweet peas, for instance, and keep to them during the next journey, but it is more likely that she will be true to her old friend the mignonette for the whole day.
We all know why she makes so many journeys between the garden and the hive, and that she is collecting drops of honey from each flower, and carrying it to be stored up in the honeycomb for winter’s food. How she stores it, and how she also gathers pollen-dust for her bee-bread, we saw in the last lecture; to-day we will follow her in her work among the flowers, and see, while they are so useful to her, what she is doing for them in return.