Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 89.djvu/712

This page needs to be proofread.


698

��Popular Science Monthly

���The bee's stinging apparatus as shown up by the microscope. It consists of a sheatli within which move two barbed lancets. These form a hollow tube for the poison

The Honeybee's Infernal Machine

��I\ proportion to its size, the sting of the honeybee is probably the most effective infernal machine in exist- ence. The stinging apparatus is smaller than that of a rattlesnake, yet a single sting has been known to kill a man. When we realize that it is almost in- visible, and consider what it can do, we cannot fail to be astounded. It seems the very quintessence of devilishness.

The honeybee's sting is complicated — so complicated that many words and much ink have been u.scd in discussing its construction and use. It is generally conceded that the sting consists of a shaft of three parts, the principal one being a sheath within which move two barbed lancets. Like the barbs of a fish- hook, the lancets are not easily extracted from the flesh into which they have been driven. The sheath and the lancets combined form a hollow tube through which the poison flows from the poison- sac. Two hairy, soft projections, evi- dently very sensitive, inform the bee when she is in contact with a stingable object.

A snake's fangs are harmless when re- moved from the snake. Not so the bee's sting. Man, with all his ingenuity, has not yet devised a machine or a thrower of poison gas that will continue to act after the soldier is dead, but nature has done something like it in the honeybee.

At one time it was suppo.sed that tin- poison that accompanies the sting is formic acirl. That is now doubted, al- though the material has an acid reaction. It is a curious fact that there ire other

��poison glands in the bee that are alka- line. A well-known investigator asserts that the secretion of both sets of glands must be mixed to be fully effective. The secretions enter the barbs. Here the two are mixed, later to be force<l out of the channel formed by the sheath and lan- cets and through certain openings in the lancets. Both the channel in question and the openings were formerly supposed to be merely passages for the poison. It has been shown by a skilful investigator that the channels in the lancets are not connected with the poison duct, and that they are smelling organs, used probably in gathering the nectar for the making of honey.

There is a long list of remedies for the honeybee's sting, all of them worthless. Rubbing or even touching the injured spot does positive harm, because the friction or the pressure forces the poison into the circulation and may intensify ]xiin which would otherwise be only trifling. A well-known authorit>- says, "There is no remedy in the world like letting an ordinary sting alone and going on with the work without even thinking about it."

At times, with no api)arent pro\oca- tion, honeybees will sting a horse or a cow to death within a few minutes; at others the\- ma>' be thrown around and handled roughh' with no more dan- ger than if they were flies. I ha\'e shaken the contents of a hive over the bare anns •ind necks of young ladies without the slightest injury to any one. Again, one may oul\' walk by a hix'e and be stung.

�� �