Huber's Account Of A Commencement Of Comb

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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