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BEE, or Apis, in natural history, a genus of insects, of which the mellifica, or domestic honey-bee, is particularly worthy of attention.

I. Economy, Instincts, &c.

A hive of bees may be considered as a populous city, containing from fifteen to eighteen thousand inhabitants. This city is in itself a monarchy: composed of a queen; of males, which are the drones; and of working bees, called neuters. The combs are composed of pure wax, serving as a magazine for their stores, and a place to nourish their young. Between the combs there is a space sufficient for two bees to march abreast; and there are also transverse defiles, by which the bees can more easily pass from one comb to another.

The queen-bee is distinguishable from the rest, by the form of her body. She is unwieldy, and seldom leaves the parent-hive; but when she goes to settle a colony, all the bees attend her to the place she choses. A hive of bees cannot subsist without a queen, as she produces their numerous progeny; hence their attachment to her is unalterable. When a queen dies, the bees immediately cease working, consume their honey, fly about at unusual hours, and eventually pine away, if not supplied with another sovereign. The death of the queen is proclaimed by a clear and interrupted humming, which should be a warning to the owner to provide the bees with another queen, whose presence will restore vigour and exertion: of such importance is a sovereign to the existence and prosperity of this community.

It is computed that the ovaria of the queen-bee contain upwards of five thousand eggs at one time, hence it is probable that she may produce from ten to twelve thousand bees in the space of two months.

The dissection of the drone affords as great a proof of its being the male, as that of the queen does of her being a female. Drones are smaller than the queen, and larger than the working-bees; and when on the wing, they make a greater noise. Their office is to impregnate the eggs of the queen after they are deposited in the cells; but when this is effected, as they become useless to the hive, they are destroyed by the working-bees, without the power of resistance, as they have no sting. After the season of the increase of the bees is past, and when they attend to the collection of winter-stores, every vestige of the drones is destroyed, to make room for honey. Indeed, when the latter are observed in a hive late in atumn, it is a bad sign.

Several kinds of working-bees were distinguished by the ancients. Columella coincides with Virgil, in preferring those which are small, oblong, smooth, bright or shining, and of a gentle disposition: the superior utility of this species has been established by experience. Working-bees compose the most numerous body of the state. They have the care of the hive; collect the wax and honey; fabricate the wax into combs; feed the young; keep the hive clean; expel all strangers; and employ themselves in promoting general prosperity. The working-bee has two stomachs; one to contain the honey, and another for the crude wax.

II. Of the management of Bees, and the most approved methods of preserving them, on removing their honey and wax.

According to Columella, an Apiary should face the south, in a situation neither too hot nor too cold. It should stand in a valley, that the bees may with greater ease descend, on their return to the hive; and near the mansion-house, but situated at a distance from noise and offensive smells; surrounded with a wall three feet high, and in the vicinity of a brook or river. Where the bees cannot have the benefit of running water, they ought to be supplied with it in troughs provided with small stones, on which they may stand while they drink. They cannot produce either combs, honey, or food for their maggots, without water; but the neighbourhood of rivers or canals with high banks, ought to be avoided, lest the bees should be precipitated into the water by high winds, and consequently perish. The garden in which the apiary stands, should be supplied with melliferous plants, and branchy shrubs, that the swarms which settle on them may be the more easily hived.

Particular attention should be paid to the circumstance, that the bees be hived in a neighbourhood productive of such plants as supply them with food; such as thyme, the oak, the pine, fruit-trees, furze, broom, mustard, clover, heath, &c. Pliny recommends broom, as a plant particularly grateful and profitable to bees.