Beekeeping History

Beekeeping History


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The following brief but comprehensive epitome of the principal facts in the natural history of the Honey Bee is from the pen of Mr. Woodbury, of Exeter, better known to the readers of The Journal of Horticulture as “A Devonshire Bee-keeper.”

“The Queen.—There is in every prosperous colony of Bees a queen, or mother Bee, whose peculiar office is to lay the eggs from which the future Bees proceed. Her fecundity is amazing, it being computed that she is capable of laying from 1500 to 2000 eggs a-day. She receives the greatest attention and respect from the other Bees; none of them appear willing to turn their backs upon her, but all are watchful to offer food and anticipate her every want. The cells in which queens are reared differ very considerably from those of the workers or drones, being much larger, and hanging in nearly a perpendicular position, generally from the edges of the combs. Queen Bees occupy about sixteen days from the laying of the egg to the evolution of the perfect insect, and take wing when a few days old, in order to pair with a male Bee or drone. When once fecundated, a queen Bee continues fertile during the remainder of her life. According to Huber, fecundation is imperfect when delayed beyond twenty days, and drone eggs only are laid ever afterwards; but the observations and experiments of Dzierzon and Berlepsch, which have been confirmed by Yon Siebold, the distinguished German naturalist, prove that this phenomenon is rather to be ascribed to parthenogenesis, and that a drone-breeding queen is in reality a virgin queen. I have myself succeeded in repeating and verifying the microscopical investigations of Von Siebold, which establish this remarkable fact beyond the possibility of a doubt. Queen Bees are readily distinguished by their larger size, being fully one-third longer than the common Bees, and are armed with a sting, which, however, they rarely use, except in combat with one another.

Queen Bees of the Ligurian species are stated to lay as many as 2000 to 3000 eggs per diem.

“The Workers are imperfect females. There is no doubt that every worker egg or grub not more than a few days old is capable, by appropriate treatment, of becoming developed into a perfect female or mother Bee. If the queen is removed from a hive the Bees avail themselves of this power by enlarging certain worker cells, and raising therefrom queens which differ in no respect from those bred in the usual manner.When this interruption of the ordinary course of things has taken place, it is occasionally found that the ovaries of some of the workers have become sufficiently developed to admit of their depositing drone eggs, although Yon Siebold declares them to be perfectly incapable of pairing with the male. The workers constitute the great majority in every healthy colony, and upon them devolves the labour of collecting honey for the subsistence of all, pollen for feeding the young, and propolis for stopping any crevice which might harbour an enemy. They are also occupied in secreting wax, building combs, feeding the young and the queen, as well as guarding and ventilating the hive. Huber noticed two kinds of working Bees, which he denominated respectively nurses and wax-workers. This division of the workers into two classes has evoked ridicule from some, and has been regarded with incredulity by many. My own observations prove, however, that there really is a division of labour among Bees, and that whilst the younger portion of the community devote themselves to the home duties of the hive, their elders are employed in ranging the woods and fields to provide sustenance for the entire family. Workers arrive at maturity in about twenty-one days from the laying of the egg.

Advantage is taken of this remarkable fact in the formation of artificial swarms, c.

Wax is a secretion from the body of the Bee, and not a material conveyed into the hive. In order to form wax Bees must have access hitherto honey or some other saccharine substance.

“The Drones are males which take no part in the duties of the hive, and whose use appears to be that of fecundation. They are allowed to exist only during summer, when they are very numerous, apparently out of all proportion to the perfect females. But this apparent disproportion is only a means to secure the important end, that when a queen takes her wedding flights she may have a good chance of attaining her object. Although the drones are much larger and stronger than the workers, they have no stings wherewith to defend themselves, and are thrust out of the hive to perish when their office is accomplished. They mature in about twenty-four days after the egg is laid and are bred in larger cells than the workers.”

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