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Huber's Account Of A Commencement Of Comb

Category: WAX.

Huber, it is said, "having provided a hive with honey and water, it was
resorted to in crowds by bees, who, having satisfied their appetite,
returned to the hive. They formed festoons, remained motionless for
twenty-four hours, and after a time scales of wax appeared. An adequate
supply of wax for the construction of a comb having been elaborated,
one of them disengaged itself from the centre of the group, and
clearing a space about an inch in diameter, at the top of the hive,
applied the pincers of one of its legs to its side, detached a scale of
wax, and immediately began to mince it with the tongue. During the
operation, this organ was made to assume every variety of shape;
sometimes it appeared like a trowel, then flattened like a spatula, and
at other times like a pencil, ending in a point. The scale, moistened
with a frothy liquid, became glutinous, and was drawn out like a
riband. This bee then attached all the wax it could concoct to the
vault of the hive, and went its way. A second now succeeded, and did
the like; a third followed, but owing to some blunder did not put the
wax in the same line with its predecessor; upon which another bee,
apparently sensible of the defect, removed the displaced wax, and
carrying it to the former heap, deposited it there, exactly in the
order and direction pointed out." Now I have some objections to make to
this account. First, in the usual course of swarming, it is unnecessary
to provide the honey and water, as they come laden with honey from the
parent stock. Next, to form festoons and remain motionless twenty-four
hours to concoct the wax, is not the way they generally manage affairs.
They either swallow the honey before leaving home long enough to have
the wax ready, or less time than twenty-four hours is needed to produce
it. I have frequently found lumps, half the size of a pin's head,
attached to the branch of a tree where they had clustered, when they
had not been there over twenty-five minutes. I have had occasion a few
times to change the swarm to another tenement, an hour or two after
being hived, and found places on the top nearly covered with wax. How
it was managed to see a bee quit the "group," is more than I can
comprehend; and then the tongue to be the only instrument used to mould
the scale of wax, is another difficulty; to witness the whole process
minutely in this stage of comb-making has never been my good fortune,
and I am sometimes inclined to doubt the success of others. I have had
glass hives, and put swarms in them, and always found the first
rudiments of comb so entirely covered with bees as to prevent my seeing

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Previous: How Is Wax Obtained?

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