Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Works by Aristotle
Pages of History of Animals

Previous | Next

History of Animals   

then there is the drone, the largest of all, but devoid of sting,
and lazy. There is a difference between the progeny of bees that
inhabit cultivated land and of those from the mountains: the
forest-bees are more shaggy, smaller, more industrious and more
fierce. Working-bees make their combs all even, with the superficial
covering quite smooth. Each comb is of one kind only: that is, it
contains either bees only, or grubs only, or drones only; if it
happen, however, that they make in one and the same comb all these
kinds of cells, each separate kind will be built in a continuous row
right through. The long bees build uneven combs, with the lids of
the cells protuberant, like those of the anthrene; grubs and
everything else have no fixed places, but are put anywhere; from these
bees come inferior kings, a large quantity of drones, and the
so-called robber-bee; they produce either no honey at all, or honey in
very small quantities. Bees brood over the combs and so mature them;
if they fail to do so, the combs are said to go bad and to get covered
with a sort of spider's web. If they can keep brooding over the part
undamaged, the damaged part simply eats itself away; if they cannot so
brood, the entire comb perishes; in the damaged combs small worms
are engendered, which take on wings and fly away. When the combs
keep settling down, the bees restore the level surface, and put
props underneath the combs to give themselves free passage-room; for
if such free passage be lacking they cannot brood, and the cobwebs
come on. When the robber-bee and the drone appear, not only do they do
no work themselves, but they actually damage the work of the other
bees; if they are caught in the act, they are killed by the
working-bees. These bees also kill without mercy most of their
kings, and especially kings of the inferior sort; and this they do for
fear a multiplicity of kings should lead to a dismemberment of the
hive. They kill them especially when the hive is deficient in grubs,
and a swarm is not intended to take place; under these circumstances
they destroy the cells of the kings if they have been prepared, on the
ground that these kings are always ready to lead out swarms. They
destroy also the combs of the drones if a failure in the supply be
threatening and the hive runs short of provisions; under such
circumstances they fight desperately with all who try to take their
honey, and eject from the hive all the resident drones; and oftentimes
the drones are to be seen sitting apart in the hive. The little bees
fight vigorously with the long kind, and try to banish them from the
hives; if they succeed, the hive will be unusually productive, but
if the bigger bees get left mistresses of the field they pass the time
in idleness, and no good at all but die out before the autumn.
Whenever the working-bees kill an enemy they try to do so out of
doors; and whenever one of their own body dies, they carry the dead
bee out of doors also. The so-called robber-bees spoil their own
combs, and, if they can do so unnoticed, enter and spoil the combs
of other bees; if they are caught in the act they are put to death. It
is no easy task for them to escape detection, for there are
sentinels on guard at every entry; and, even if they do escape
detection on entering, afterwards from a surfeit of food they cannot
fly, but go rolling about in front of the hive, so that their
chances of escape are small indeed. The kings are never themselves
seen outside the hive except with a swarm in flight: during which time
all the other bees cluster around them. When the flight of a swarm
is imminent, a monotonous and quite peculiar sound made by all the
bees is heard for several days, and for two or three days in advance a
few bees are seen flying round the hive; it has never as yet been
ascertained, owing to the difficulty of the observation, whether or no
the king is among these. When they have swarmed, they fly away and
separate off to each of the kings; if a small swarm happens to
settle near to a large one, it will shift to join this large one,
and if the king whom they have abandoned follows them, they put him to
death. So much for the quitting of the hive and the swarmflight.
Separate detachments of bees are told off for diverse operations; that

Previous | Next
Site Search