A DIVIDED HOUSEHOLD
So the little wax worker was right. There will be a good deal of new comb to be made; but she will have thousands of helpers all around her.
And there will be thousands of others, carrying baskets of pollen for beebread, on which the larval babies are reared.
Between the joints of each hind leg there is a small space, hidden by short, stiff hairs; and these are the little baskets that hold the pollen.
When a busy worker comes out of a deep flower, she looks like a dusty miller, only the dust that
clings to her body is often quite yellow; but she has a little tuft of hairs on one of her legs, and with this she brushes the pollen from her body and stores it in her baskets, where it belongs.
Oh, she starts out for her days work well prepared, as you can see, and she never loses her baskets on the way, either.
Now in every hive or colony of bees there are more worker cells than any other kind. For it is the busy workers that make up the colony; and among these there are a great many that act as nurses in the hive; and it is these nurse bees that take charge of the larval babies, and feed them when they are hungry.
As these baby bees lie curled up in their cells, they look like little white worms; and when they are in need of food the nurses chew some beebread very fine and soft, and feed it to them from their own jaws.
But when they have eaten all they want, they no longer lie curled up in the cell; so when the nurses see that these larval babies have straightened out their small bodies, they put a thin cap of wax over each cell, and then each baby spins a silken cocoon about itself, and goes to sleep, in its pretty waxen cradle.
It takes about twenty-one days for a worker bee to hatch from the egg; and then it casts aside its silken wrap, gnaws open the waxen cover, and comes out with four thin wings.
It takes only sixteen days for the young queens to hatch out; but the drone bees are about twenty-four days in hatching.
Sometimes the worker babies have to struggle very hard to come forth; but the nurse bees always help the royal infants out.
When a young bee first comes out of its cell, both its body and its wings are of a very pale-brown shade, and it seems to be rather weak in its legs; but it begins at once to creep about over the comb, and when it comes to a cell that contains honey, it stops and takes its first meal of the sweet food.
Many of the honey cells are left open a week or more after they are filled; for the bees will not cap them over with wax until they know that the honey in them is ripe, or ready to be sealed up. So it is always easy for the young bee to find an open cell where it can eat all it wants.
But it does not feed upon the stored honey very long; for in a day or two it has the full use of its wings, and then away it goes to gather sweets from the flowers, just like the older bees.
And it is well that it begins its work at once; for the length of a workers life is but a few months at most, and some of them live only a few weeks. But a queen bee has been known to live four or five years.
As for the drones, the greater number of them are driven out of the hive by the workers; and as they can not gather honey, they are left to starve; and if they attempt to return to the hive, the workers often fall upon them, and sting them to death.
Do you not pity these poor father bees? I do. But the busy workers are very eager to store up a good supply of honey for their winter use; and they will not share this precious store with the drones.
A great many bees in the hive die during the winter; but the queen bee begins to lay her eggs very early in the spring, and these eggs hatch out so fast that the number in the hive is soon as large as ever.
She wanders about over the comb in search of cells that the workers have prepared for her eggs; for she does not lay eggs in every empty cell that comes in her way.
She knows at once which are the egg cells, and when she comes to one of them, she lowers the tip
of her abdomen into it, and drops an egg; and she goes from cell to cell, laying about three thousand eggs a day.
And so the hive is always full; for a large number of young bees come out of the cells every day during the hatching season, which lasts through the warm summer months.
But as soon as a young queen is hatched out, the old queen leaves the hive, and a large number of subjects follow her, as we find them doing now; and should a number of young queens be hatched out at the same time, only one would be permitted to remain with the colony.
The others would be taken out, and put into other hives that had lost their queen, or into a newly-formed colony made from a swarm that was too large for one hive.
For new swarms may be hived very easily, if they can have a queen among them to lay the eggs.
But we have already learned that one queen is enough; and if the new queens are not removed as soon as they come out of their cells, the ruling
queen will seek them out, and sting them to death. And on this account, the owner of a beehive keeps a very close watch over the royal cells, in the hatching season, and examines them every few hours of the day.
But see! our queen has gathered her subjects around her in a black, buzzing mass, on the limb of an old apple tree.
They are planning now which way they will go. And perhaps they will fly away to the woods, and make their home in a hollow tree or stump; then they will become wild bees.
So we will spread a white cloth under the apple trees. Bees have a very keen sense of sight, and they will notice the cloth at once; then we will put some honeycomb in an empty hive, and set the hive down on two small blocks upon the white cloth.
This will give the bees a chance to go in at the bottom of the box; they will be glad enough to move in a new house where there is some nice honeycomb to begin with.
But if they are too long about it, we will saw off the limb on which they rest, and let it go to the ground, very gently; then they can peep in at the open door of the new hive.
But these insects have such a strong sense of
smell that they do not need to see the honeycomb, for they can smell it afar off.
So the old queen and the new one will be neighbors, after all; but each one will control her own household, and there will be no more cause for war.
BORN IN A DITCH
Do you see that elegant dragon fly winging her way through the air? How she loves the light of the sun!
Her head is very large, and she has two enormous compound eyes, as you can plainly see.
But she does not move them; for insects are not able to roll their eyes about as you do.
Her beautiful wings are so finely veined that they look as if they were made of clear, thin gauze; while all four of them are barred across the center with a rich, golden brown.
Now she stops and lights on the top of a tall reed that grows by the border of the ditch.
See, she pushes the end of her body down into the water, and glues a bunch of little, yellow eggs to
the root of the reed. Now her work is done, and away she flies.
A few weeks later, these eggs will hatch out. What will her infants be like? They will not look like her, I can assure you; for the larval babies of the dragon fly are ugly things to behold.
It is true, each baby has a very large head, two large compound eyes, and a pair of single eyes, besides; but it has six, sprawling, spiderlike legs, and no wings at all.
Moreover, the lower part of the face is covered with a mask; under this mask is hidden a fierce pair of jaws that resemble two sharp hooks.
These greedy creatures creep about the pond or the ditch in which they live, and feed upon other larval babies.
They look so innocent and so harmless under this mask, that their poor victims seem to have no fear of them whatever.
But woe betide the young tadpole, or the tiny baby fish that crosses their path; for it will be snatched up in an instant.
So they eat and eat, and become so stout that they have to shed their coats many times.1 Neu-rop´te-ra, nerve wing.
At last, some small wing pads appear; then the larvæ change to the pupal form; and after a time, they crawl up to the top of a reed, or of a stem, and burst open the pupa skin.
Then they are all ready for a life in the sunshine and in the open air; and, oh, how swiftly and gracefully they go sailing about on their rainbow-tinted wings!
The dragon fly has some cousins whose small wings are still more beautiful than her own. These insects belong to the same great family.1
They are called lacewings; but they give out such a disagreeable odor, when disturbed, that no one cares to go very near them. They are not fond of the sunshine; they like better to dart about in the twilight or even in the light of the moon.
The dragon fly is sometimes called the devils darning needle; and some foolish people are really afraid of her, lest she may sew up their ears.
But you need not fear to take her in your hand. She has no sting at the end of her body; and if she should chance to give you a sharp nip with her jaws, it would not harm you in the least.
It will be only a quick, little pinch, that you will
hardly feel at all; but you must handle her very carefully, or she may bite off the end of her own body in trying to escape.
It is generally better to place such an insect as this under a glass dish, and look at it carefully from the outside. Then no harm can come to it; for you may regard it as your friend; and when you see it flying about in the hot sunshine, you may know that it is in search of other insects that destroy your plants and flowers.
Therefore we will all look upon this handsome creature with a feeling of real friendship, even if she was born in the bottom of a slimy ditch.