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A Disputed Question


We now approach another disputed point in natural history, relative to
the queen leaving at any time except when leading out a swarm. Most
writers say that the young queen leaves the hive, and meets her
paramour, the drone, on the wing. Others deny this _positively_, having
watched a whole summer without seeing her highness leave. Consequently
they have arrived at the very plausible and apparently consistent
conclusion, that nature never intended it to be so, since it must
happen at a time when the existence of the whole family depends
entirely on the life of the queen. The stock at such times contains no
eggs or larvae, from which to rear another, if she should be lost. "The
chances at such times of being devoured by birds, blown away by the
winds, and other casualties, are too many, and it is not probable the
Creator would have so arranged it." But facts are stubborn things; they
will not yield one jot to favor the most "finely-spun hypothesis;" they
are most provokingly obstinate, many times. When man, without the
necessary observation, takes a survey through animated nature, and
finds with scarcely an exception that male and female are about equal
in number, he is ready, and often does conclude that one bee among
thousands cannot be the only one capable of reproduction or depositing
eggs. Why, the idea is preposterous! And yet only a little observation
will upset this very consistent and analogous reasoning. So it appears
to be with the excursions of the young queens. I was compelled, though
reluctantly, to admit that they leave the hive. That their purpose is
to meet the drones, I cannot at present contradict. Also, that, when
the queen is once impregnated, it is operative for life, (yet it is
another anomaly), as I never detected her coming out again for that
purpose. What then is the use of the ten thousand drones that never
fulfil this important duty? It seems, indeed, like a useless waste of
labor and honey, for each stock to rear some twelve or fifteen hundred,
when perhaps but one, sometimes not any of the whole number is of any
use. If the risk is great in the queen's leaving, we find it arranged
admirably in its not being too frequent.

Next: A Multitude Of Drones Needed

Previous: Of Swarms That Lose Their Queen

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