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ever, happens that there are more than two from the same hive, except in such a year as the present, which has been a glorious bee-year. Such also was
and there are on an average two good years in every ten. 1838 and 1839 were particularly disastrous to the bees.
It is time to say something of Her Majesty of the Hive. She is the mother as well as queen of her people, laying from 10,000 to 30,000 eggs a year, and it is not till she gives symptoms of continuing the race that the full tide of her subjects' affection is poured forth towards her. They prefer a Victoria to an Elizabeth. There are different cells formed for the queen, the worker, and the drone, and she deposits eggs in each accordingly. The bees, like a wise and loyal people as they are, do not stint their sovereign to the same narrow mansions as content themselves ; they build their royal cells much thicker and stronger, and of more than twice the size: nay, unlike the surly blacksmith at Brighton, who hesitated to give up his house for the convenience of his sovereign, they think nothing of pulling to pieces and converting several of their common cells when royalty requires it, and vote with alacrity in their committee of supply every demand made for the extension and improvement of their sovereign's palace. When finished, their miniature Windsors resemble the inverted cup of an acorn somewhat elongated. We said that each has its
peculiar cells, and that the queen lays only drone eggs in drone cells, and so on.
But it has happened,
either in her flurry or from some unaccountable accident, that a drone egg has fallen into a royal cell. Time goes on, and the egg swells, and becomes a larva, and then a pupa, and the bees feed it with royal food, watch its progress with anxious care, and hover in the antechamber in nervous expectation of the royal birth-judge then their surprise when, instead of a princess royal, out walks the awkward and mystified changeling of a drone. Their innate and extreme sense of loyalty does not at first allow them to discover their mistake; they crowd round about him, backing with reverence, as they always do in the presence of their real queen : meanwhile the foolish fellow, addled by their homage, and yet chuckling at his unexpected dignity, turns himself about with the incredulous stare of Hassan the sleeper when he awoke in the palace and robes of the khalif, and, with the strut of dear old Liston in the Illustrious Stranger,' so soon commits himself by his ungainly actions, that they quickly find out their error, and turn from him in unmitigated disgust. This scene has been actually observed. It would be an endless work to recount the
many stories told of the devoted attachment of these good people to their queen. Her presence among them is their life and glory. She is the mainspring upon which all their work, their order, their union, their happiness seems to turn. Deprive them of her, and all is confusion, disorder, and dismay. They seem to mourn for her when dead, and can with difficulty be withdrawn from her corpse. The following ex
tract from a private letter describes such a scene as all bee-books are full of :
“ Last year I was sent for by a lady, who, when she wants my assistance, sends all over the parish for me with a little note with the picture of three bees in it, and this calls me at once to her aid. One of her bee-hives—a glass one—I found when I arrived in a state of the greatest confusion, the inmates running up and down, and making a fearful noise. We soon discovered the reason of this. On looking about the bee-house, we observed her majesty quietly taking an airing abroad unknown to her subjects,—she had got through a hole which had been left for air. We thought it was time for her majesty to return home, so we quietly put her back to her subjects. Where all had been confusion perfect peace instantly prevailed—the news was communicated in a moment—the pleasure of the little loyalists was manifested by a gentle placid motion of their wings, and they returned forthwith to their former labours."
In this case the queen had slipped out by a back door, wishing no doubt to enjoy that privacy and quiet which royalty so often sighs after: at other times, when she walks out in public, she meets with that respectful homage and freedom from interruption which
may read a good lesson to the British public.
“ There I saw the old Queen bee walking round the stone at the mouth of the hive as if she was taking an airing, and of all the sights I ever saw in my life nothing ever pleased me better. I would not have lost seeing it on any account -to witness them pay homage to her as she walked round in the open air pleased me exceedingly.”—Smith, p. 94.
“ Whenever the Queen goes forth to take the air, as she often does, many of the small bees attend upon her, guarding her before and behind. By their sound I have known
when her majesty has been coming forth, and have had time to call persons who have been desirous of seeing her.”Sydserff, ch. iii.
With the alteration of a few words, who would not think this the description of the Terrace at Windsor, or the Chain-pier at Brighton, and of the English people when on their best behaviour? All the wonderful tricks with which Wildman the beeconjurer astonished the last generation were effected by taking advantage of their instinctive loyalty. He made the bees follow him where he would, hang first on this hand, then on that, or settle wherever his spectators chose. His secret consisted in having possession of the queen, whom they clustered round wherever he might move her. Nor are they merely summer friends; the workers will defend their queen in the utmost strait, and lay down their lives for her. For they sting but once, and that sting is death to them; “ Animasque in vulnere ponunt.” How many a human sovereign has been left in his last hours by those who had basked in the sunshine of his power! The bees teach us a better lesson. Dr. Evans, whose poem of The Bees,' though sometimes rather Darwinian, is extremely interesting and true to nature, gives in his notes this affecting anecdote :
“ A queen in a thinly-peopled hive lay on a honeycomb apparently dying; six workers surrounded her, seemingly in intent regard ; quivering their wings as if to fan her, and with extended stings, as if to keep off intruders or assailants. On presenting them honey, though it was eagerly devoured by the other bees, the guards were so completely absorbed in their mournful duty, as entirely to disregard the proffered banquet. The following day the queen, though lifeless, was still surrounded by her guard; and this faithful band of attendants, as well as the other members of the family, remained at their post till death came kindly to extinguish both their affection and their grief; for though constantly supplied with honey, not a bee remained alive at the end of four days."
We must not, however, invariably expect the same conduct; perhaps, indeed, if it were so, it would lower the quality of the feeling, and reduce it to too mechanical an instinct. Bees, like men, have their different dispositions, so that even their loyalty will sometimes fail them. An instance not long ago came to our knowledge, which probably few bee-keepers will credit. It was that of a hive, which, having early exhausted its store, was found, on being examined one morning, to be utterly deserted :-the comb was empty, and the only symptom of life was the poor queen herself, “ unfriended, melancholy, slow," crawling over the honeyless cells, a sad spectacle of the fall of bee greatness. Marius among the ruins of Carthage-Napoleon at Fontainebleau—was nothing to this. That the mother of so large a family and
queen so rich a store passes her honeymoon somewhere may be reasonably supposed, but such is her innate modesty that the time and scene of her matrimonial trip are still involved in the utmost mystery. Whether she loves the pale moonlight, or whether, as we are