« PreviousContinue »
they continue barren, though amidst a seraglio of males. To receive the approaches of the male, the queen soars high in the air, choosing that time of day when the heat has induced the drones to issue from the hive; and love is now ascertained to be the motive of the only distant journey which a young queen ever makes. From this excursion she returns in the space of about half an hour, with the most evident marks of fecundation; for, far from being satisfied with the prolific aura of Swammerdam, she actually carries away with her the ipsa verenda of the poor drone, who never lives to see his offspring, but falls a sacrifice to the momentary bliss of his aërial amour. The most complete proof of these facts is afforded by the detail of a number of concurring experiments. It is curious that our countryman Bonner should have remarked those aërial excursions of the young queens, without ever suspecting their real object, or observing the marks of fecundation upon their return to the hive. The worthy beemaster thought they were merely taking an airing. I have often (says he) seen young queens take an airing on the second-or third day of their age. '* M. Huber also assigns a satisfactory cause for the existence of such a great number of males. the queen is obliged to traverse the expanse of the atmosphere (he obssrves) it is requisite the males should be numerous, that she may have the chance of meeting some one of them.' But the reason why impregnation cannot be accomplished within the hive, has not yet been ascertained.
In Letter third, M. Huber states the accidental discovery of the very singular and unexpected consequences which follow from retarding the impregnation of the queen bee beyond the twentieth or twenty-first day of her life. In the natural order of things, or when impregnation is not retarded, the queen begins to lay the eggs of workers forty-six hours after her intercourse with the male, and she continues for the subsequent eleven months to lay these alone (only); and it is only after this period, that a considerable and uninterrupted laying of the eggs of drones commences. When, on the contrary, impregnation is retarded after the twentieth day, the queen begins, from the forty-sixth hour, to lay the eggs of drones; and she lays no other kind during her whole life." It would be tedious to detail the experiments; they were numerous, and the results uniform. I occupied myself,' (says M. Huber), the remainder of 1787, and the two subsequent years, with experiments on retarded fecundation, and had constantly the same results. It is undoubted, therefore, that when the copulation of queens is retarded beyond the twentieth day, only an imperfect impregnation
Bonner on Bees, 8vo edit. p. 165.
impregnation is operated; instead of laying the eggs of workers and of males equally, she will lay those of males only.' (p. 52.)
This discovery is entirely M. Huber's own; and so dificult is it to offer any plausible explanation of the fact, that he himself has scarcely attempted it. The difficulty is much increased when we consider, that a single interview with the male is sufficient for fecundifying the whole eggs that a queen will lay in the course of at least two years, (p. 54.); and that therefore it would be in vain to say, that an early impregnation may be necessary for the eggs of workers, and a later for those of drones. It will be recollected, that, in the natural state, the queen lays the eggs of workers for the first eleven months, to the amount of many thousands, before she lays a single drone egg; but that when her impregnation has been for a few days retarded, she begins at once to lay the eggs of drones. The generally admitted principle of the successive expansion of eggs, renders this very puzzling; for how comes it that the eggs of drones, which naturally require eleven months to come to perfection in the ovaria of the queen, are, in this case, perfected in forty-eight hours? What has become of the vast multitude of workers' eggs that the queen ought first to have deposited? It is certain that, during the first twenty days of her life, the eggs of workers ought to be laid; but it would, seem that, intercourse with the male being denied, the first set of eggs become effete; they waste away, and perhaps drop from the animal. A fact mentioned by M. Huber, in a subsequent page, (p. 65.), seems to support this notion. The body of those queens whose impregnation has been retarded, is shorter than common: the extremity remains slender, while the first two rings next the thorax are uncommonly swoln.' On dissecting the double ovary, both branches were found to be equally expanded and equally sound; but the eggs were apparently not placed so closely together as in common queens. queen, in ordinary circumstances, lays about 3000 eggs in the space of two months, which is at the rate of 50 a day. It was not correctly ascertained, whether the queens whose impregnation was retarded laid a number of drone eggs corresponding to the whole number of eggs both of workers and drones which they ought to have deposited; but it is certain that they laid a greater number of drone eggs than they ought naturally to have done. The hives in which only drones were produced, always failed, and, indeed, generally broke up before the queens had done laying; for, after the lapse of some time, the workers finding themselves overwhelmed with drones, fruges consumere nati, and receiving no increase of their own number, abandoned the hive, and at the same time despatched their unfortunate sove
reign. In order to throw some light on this curious subject, M. Huber suggests the propriety of instituting analogous experiments on other insects; by retarding, for example, the impregnation of the females of other species of bees, of wasps, and of butterflies.
In the course of a number of experiments made on this subject, some other curious points in the natural history of the bee were accidentally illustrated. Thus, a queen, twenty-seven days old, having been impregnated on the 31st of October, did not begin to lay at the expiration of forty-six hours, apparently on account of the weather having, in the mean time, become extremely cold. She was confined in a hive all winter; and on the 4th of April ensuing, prodigious numbers both of larvæ and pups were found; and all of them produced drones.
Here, as in the other experiments, retardation had rendered the queen incapable of laying the eggs of workers: but this refult is the more remarkable, as fhe did not commence laying until four months and a half after fecundation. It is not rigorously true, therefore, that the term of forty-fix hours elapfes between the copulation of the female and her laying; the interval may be much longer if the weather grows cold. Laftly, it follows, that although cold will retard the laying of a queen impregnated in autumn, fhe will begin to lay in fpring without requir ing new copulation. '-p. 63.
Again, M. Huber had an opportunity of correcting those naturalists who maintain, that the working bees are charged with the task of conveying into proper cells such eggs as may be misplaced by the queen. He put a queen, who was ready to lay workers' eggs, into a prepared hive which contained only the cells. of drones, but which communicated, by a narrow tube (sufficient to permit workers to pass, but too small for the queen), with another hive which contained plenty of the cells of workers. The queen, taught by nature the kind of eggs she was about to lay, searched about for suitable cells; but finding none, she chose rather to drop her eggs at random, than place those of workers in the cells of drones. The eggs thus dropped, soon disappeared; and careless observers might have concluded that they were carried off by the workers to the proper cells; but none were to be seen there; and the author soon ascertained that they were really eaten up by the workers. Thus it was proved that the care of depositing properly the respective kinds of eggs, is left entirely to the instinct of the queen, and that the workers running off with misplaced eggs in order to devour them, has been mistaken for their tenderly conveying them to the right cells.-When the impregnation of the queen-bee is retarded, her instinct seems to suffer; for she then lays her eggs indiscriminately in large and in small cells; those laid in large cells producing large drones; those in
small cells, small drones; and she has been known to lay the eggs of drones even in royal cells, some of which kind of cells the bees always take care to construct whenever the queen begins to lay male eggs. It is remarkable that the workers were, on those last occasions deceived, and treated the embryo drones as if they had been truly of the royal brood.'
The working-bees had for ages been confidered as entirely deftitute of fex; and hence, in the writings of many authors they are denominated neuters. From the experiments of Schirach and of Huber, it seems now to be clearly afcertained that the workers are really of the female fex ; but that the organs of generation are fmall and imperfect, being capable, however, of development, if the larvæ be fed with royal jelly.
Letter fourth accordingly treats of Schirach's curious discovery, which is amply confirmed by Huber. The discovery was this; That when bees are by any accident deprived of their queen, they have the power of felecting one or two grubs of workers, and of converting them into queens; and that they accomplish this, by greatly enlarging the cells of thofe felected larvæ, by fupplying them more copioufly with food, and with food of a more pungent fort than is given to the common larvæ. All my researches (fays our author, p. 77.) establish the reality of the discovery. During ten years that I have ftudied bees, I have repeated M. Schirach's experiment so often, and with fuch uniform fuccefs, that I can no longer have the leaft doubt on the fubject.' The fame teftimony is given by Mr Bonner, who declares, that having repeated the experiment again and again, he can affirm it with the utmost confidence and certainty.' M. Schirach's discovery may now therefore be confidered as eftablished beyond controver fy; and the late Mr John Hunter's farcaftic ftrictures, in the Philofophical Tranfactions for 1792, must confequently fall to the ground. Mr Key's violent fcepticism muft at length alfo be overruled. That gentleman has declared that he made experiments for eight years on the fubject, without obtaining a fingle favourable refult; but this ill luck can now, we think, be afcribed only to fome unaccountable awkwardnefs, or fome unhappy blunder in performing the experiments.
M. Huber gives the following curious account of the manner in which bees proceed in forming capacious cells for the workers' grubs deftined to royalty.
Bees foon become fenfible of having loft their queen, and in a few hours commence the labour neceffary to repair their lofs. First, they
* Bonner on bees, p. 60.
+ Bath Society's Papers, vol. V.
felect the young common worms, which the requifite treatment is to convert into queens, and immediately begin with enlarging the cells where they are depofited. Their mode of proceeding is curious; and the better to illuftrate it, I fhall describe the labour bestowed on a fingle cell, which will apply to all the reft containing worms deftined for queens. Having chefen a worm, they facrifice three of the contiguous cells; next they fupply it with food, and raife a cylindrical enclosure around, by which the cell becomes a perfect tube, with a rhomboidal bottom; for the parts forming the bottom are left untouched. If the bees damaged it, they would lay open three correfponding cells on the oppofite furface of the comb, and confequently deftroy their worms, which would be an unneceffary facrifice, and nature has oppofed it. Therefore, leaving the bottom rhomboidal, they are fatisfied with rais ing a cylindrical tube around the worm, which, like the other cells in the comb, is horizontal. But this habitation remains fuitable to the worm called to the royal ftate, only during the first three days of its exiftence: another fituation is requifite for the other two days it is a worm. Then, which is fo small a portion of its life, it must inhabit a cell nearly of a pyramidal figure, and hanging perpendicularly. The workers therefore gnaw away the cells furrounding the cylindrical tube, mercilessly facrifice their worms, and use the wax in conftructing a new pyramidal tube, which they folder at right angles to the firft, and work it downwards. The diameter of this pyramid decreafes infenfibly from the base, which is very wide, to the point. In proportion as the worm grows, the bees labour in extending the cell, and bring food, which they place before its mouth, and around its body, forming a kind of cord around it. The worm, which can move only in a spiral direction, turns inceffantly to take the food before its head it infenfibly descends, and at length arrives at the orifice of the cell. Now is the time of transformation to a nymph. As any further care is unnecessary, the bees close the cell with a peculiar fubftance appropriated for it, and there the worm undergoes both its metamorphofes. p. 78,-80.
Our author states several points, however, in which his experience leads him to differ from M. Schirach. The latter observer having remarked, that larvæ three days old were generally selected for the royal treatment, concluded that this age of three days was an essential requisite; but M. Huber found, that those two days old, or only a few hours old, were sometimes chosen to the throne, and became perfect queens. We shall extract one experiment at length, as it both demonstrates the reality of common larvæ being converted into queens, and shows the little influence which their age has on the effects of the operation.
• I put fome pieces of comb, with fome workers' eggs, in the cells, and of the fame kind as thofe already hatched, into a hive deprived of the queen. The fame day feveral cells were enlarged by the bees, and converted into royal cells, and the worms fupplied with a thick bed of jelly. Five were then removed from those cells, and five common