The Life of the Bee HTML version

The Young Queens
HERE let us close our hive, where we find that life is reassuming its circular movement,
is extending and multiplying, to be again divided as soon as it shall attain the fulness of
its happiness and strength; and let us for the last time reopen the mother-city, and see
what is happening there after the departure of the swarm.
The tumult having subsided, the hapless city, that two thirds of her children have
abandoned for ever, becomes feeble, empty, moribund; like a body from which the blood
has been drained. Some thousands of bees have remained, however; and these, though a
trifle languid perhaps, are still immovably faithful to the duty a precise destiny has laid
upon them, still conscious of the part that they have themselves to play; they resume their
labours, therefore, fill as best they can the place of those who have gone, remove all trace
of the orgy, carefully house the provisions that have escaped pillage, sally forth to the
flowers again, and keep scrupulous guard over the hostages of the future.
And for all that the moment may appear gloomy, hope abounds wherever the eye may
turn. We might be in one of the castles of German legend, whose walls are composed of
myriad phials containing the souls of men about to be born. For we are in the abode of
life that goes before life. On all sides, asleep in their closely sealed cradles, in this infinite
superposition of marvellous six-sided cells, lie thousands of nymphs, whiter than milk,
who with folded arms and head bent forward await the hour of awakening. In their
uniform tombs, that, isolated, become nearly transparent, they seem almost like hoary
gnomes, lost in deep thought, or legions of virgins whom the folds of the shroud have
contorted, who are buried in hexagonal prisms that some inflexible geometrician has
multiplied to the verge of delirium.
Over the entire area that the vertical walls enclose, and in the midst of this growing world
that so soon shall transform itself, that shall four or five times in succession assume fresh
vestments, and then spin its own winding-sheet in the shadow, hundreds of workers are
dancing and flapping their wings. They appear thus to generate the necessary heat, and
accomplish some other object besides that is still more obscure; for this dance of theirs
contains some extraordinary movements, so methodically conceived that they must
infallibly answer some purpose which no observer has as yet, I believe, been able to
A few days more, and the lids of these myriad urns--whereof a considerable hive will
contain from sixty to eighty thousand--will break, and two large and earnest black eyes
will appear, surmounted by antennae that already are groping at life, while active jaws are
busily engaged in enlarging the opening from within. The nurses at once come running;
they help the young bee to emerge from her prison, they clean her and brush her, and at
the tip of their tongue present the first honey of the new life. But the bee, that has come
from another world, is bewildered still, trembling and pale; she wears the feeble look of a