Editor Popular Science Monthly:
DEAR SIR: I have read Prof. E. P. Evans's article, on Progress in Lower Animals, in your December number, and it seems to me that some of the statements found therein call for the attention of a practical apiarist.
If all of them have no more foundation in fact than have those relating to bees, they furnish a very flimsy support upon which to found any kind of an argument.
I am well aware that there is a good deal of nonsense written in the name of science; but I do not remember having seen 60 many misrepresentations of facts, in the same length of space, in any article I ever read.
The professor says: "Beehives which suffer from overproduction rear a queen and send forth with her a swarm of emigrants to colonize, and the relations of the mother-hive to her colonies are known" (by whom?) "to be much closer and more cordial than those which she sustains to apian communities with which she has no genetic connection. Here the ties of kinship are as strongly and clearly recognized as they are between consanguineous tribes of men."
It is true that bees rear queens and swarm, but they do not rear a queen to send forth with a "swarm of emigrants"; for the young queen is not out of her cell until the old queen, her mother, is out of the hive and gone with the new colony. The "ties of kinship" are such that, should the young queen issue from her cell before the old one leaves the hive, she would usually receive a fatal sting from her mother, notwithstanding her "genetic connection," whatever that may mean. And the first young queen that gains her liberty is apt to treat her younger sisters in the same way, even before they have issued from their cells.
That the swarm after it has become settled in its new home recognizes in any way the relationship it bears to the old colony is utterly absurd, and, as every practical apiarist knows, has no foundation in fact.
The "ties of kinship" are not as "clearly recognized as they are between consanguineous tribes of men." Nay, the very opposite is true. They are not recognized at all after the swarm has become distinct and separate from the colony remaining in the hive, which is composed of the young bees with the young queen.
We are again told, "Bees readily substitute oatmeal for pollen, if they can get it." Bees can be taught to take rye-meal as a substitute for pollen when they can notpollen, but neither Prof. Evans nor any one else ever saw a colony of bees that would take oatmeal in preference to pollen. In fact, they will not take rye-meal at all, if they can get pollen.
However, the above quotations are not so bad as they might be, for they are harmless—that is, it will do no more injury for the people to receive them as true than it would for them to receive any other innocent absurdity in the name of science. Had it not been for the statement which follows, I should not have felt called upon to point out these mistakes of the professor. But, in further support of his argument, he tells his readers that "apiarists now provide their hives with artificial combs for the storage of honey, and the bees seem glad to be relieved from making cells, as their predecessors had done." Apiarists do not "provide their hives with artificial combs," but they do sometimes fill the frames of their hives with comb foundation; but this is the real stuff—beeswax—in thin sheets with an imprint corresponding to the cells. This is not "artificial comb," and the bees are not "relieved from making cells." They have the cells to build, the same as they do when they secrete the wax in their own bodies, out of which the combs are formed. The modern apiarist furnishes the wax, and saves the time and labor of the bees that would be required to secrete it; but nothing but wax will do, and some colony of bees had to secrete that wax. It can not be made by any "artificial" process.
I hardly think that there is any evidence that the bees are "glad" to get this wax. We only know that they will use it.
Some years ago Prof. Wiley wrote what he afterward called a "scientific pleasantry" for The Popular Science Monthly, if I am correct, in which he described how "artificial comb" was made and filled with imitation honey, and declared that an expert could not distinguish it from the genuine stuff. He thus gave currency to what has become known among apiarists as the "Wiley lie," of which Prof. Evans's statement seems to be an echo.
You have no idea, Mr. Editor, how much injury this little "pleasantry" has done the bee-keepers of this land. For, notwithstanding the fact that Prof. Wiley has explained, over his own signature, that this was only a joke, and A. I. Root, of Medina, Ohio, has offered one thousand dollars for a single pound of the comb, which has not been forthcoming, yet the papers and the people go on repeating this slander on an honest and reputable industry.