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How bees generate their young has been a subject of great and subtle research among the learned; seeing that no one has ever witnessed1 any sexual intercourse among these insects. Many persons have expressed an opinion that they must be produced from flowers, aptly and artistically arranged by Nature; while others, again, suppose that they are produced from an intercourse with the one which is to be found in every swarm, and is usually called the king. This one, they say, is the only male2 in the hive, and is endowed with such extraordinary proportions, that it may not become exhausted in the performance of its duties. Hence it is, that no offspring can be produced without it, all the other bees being females,3 and attending it in its capacity of a male, and not as their leader. This opinion, however, which is otherwise not improbable, is sufficiently refuted by the generation of the drones. For on what grounds could it possibly happen that the same intercourse should produce an offspring part of which is perfect, and part in an imperfect state? The first surmise which I have mentioned would appear, indeed, to be much nearer the truth, were it not the case that here another difficulty meets us—the circumstance that sometimes, at the extremity of the combs, there are produced bees of a larger size, which put the others to flight. This noxious bee bears the name of æstrus,4 and how is it possible that it should ever be produced, if it is the fact that the bees themselves form their progeny?5

A fact, however, that is well ascertained, is, that bees sit,6 like the domestic fowl, that which is hatched by them at first having the appearance of a white maggot, and lying across and adhering so tenaciously to the wax as to seem to be part of it. The king, however, from the earliest moment, is of the colour of honey, just as though he were made of the choicest flowers, nor has he at any time the form of a grub, but from the very first is provided with wings.7 The rest of the bees, as soon as they begin to assume a shape, have the name of nymphæ,8 while the drones are called sirenes, or cephenes. If a person takes off the head of either kind before the wings are formed, the rest of the body is considered a most choice morsel by the parents. In process of time the parent bees instil nutriment into them, and sit upon them, making on this occasion a loud humming noise, for the purpose, it is generally supposed, of generating that warmth which is so requisite for hatching the young. At length the membrane in which each of them is enveloped, as though it lay in an egg, bursts asunder, and the whole swarm comes to light.

This circumstance was witnessed at the suburban retreat of a man of consular dignity near Rome, whose hives were made of transparent lantern horn: the young were found to be developed in the space of forty-five days. In some combs, there is found what is known by the name of " nail" wax;9 it is bitter and hard, and is only met with when the bees have failed to hatch their young, either from disease or a natural sterility, it is the abortion, in fact, of the bees. The young ones, the moment they are hatched, commence working with their parents, as though in a course of training, and the newly-born king is accompanied by a multitude of his own age.

That the supply may not run short, each swarm rears several kings; but afterwards, when this progeny begins to arrive at a mature age, with one accord10 they put to death the inferior ones, lest they should create discord in the swarm.11 There are two sorts of king bees; those of a reddish colour are better than the black and mottled ones. The kings have always a peculiar form of their own, and are double the size of any of the rest; their wings are shorter12 than those of the others, their legs are straight, their walk more upright, and they have a white spot on the forehead, which bears some resemblance to a diadem: they differ, too, very much from the rest of the community, in their bright and shining appearance.

1 It takes place while they are on the wing.

2 The only prolific female, in reality.

3 Some unprolific females and some males, in reality.

4 Cuvier thinks that either hornets, or else the drones, must be alluded to. Virgil, Georg. B. iv. 1. 197, et seq., is one of those who think that bees are produced from flowers.

5 I. e. from flowers.

6 They arrange the eggs in the cells, but they cannot be said to sit.

7 This is not the fact. The queen bee commences as a larva, and that larva of a working bee, Cuvier says, which, placed in a larger cell, and nurtured in a different manner, developes its sex and becomes the queen of the new swarm.

8 They are then in the chrysalis state.

9 "Clavus."

10 It is the first hatched queen that puts the others to death.

11 In consequence, really, of their pregnancy.

12 The greater size of the abdomen makes the wings look shorter.

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