Gateway to the Classics: Wild Life in Woods and Fields by Arabella B. Buckley
Wild Life in Woods and Fields by  Arabella B. Buckley

The Humble Bee's Nest

L AST March, when the days began to be warm, we saw a big Humble Bee, or Bumble Bee, as the little ones call it, buzzing along across the field.

"Look out, Peter," said Peggy; "that is a mother humble bee, who has been asleep all the winter. She must be making a nest." So Peter followed her. She flew to a bank, and went in among some tufts of grass. Peter put a large stick there and we went to see her every day.

We used to find her dragging in little pieces of moss. But we did not look in, for fear she should go away. After a fortnight Paul said we might look, and, hidden in the grass, we found a small round patch of moss lined with bees-wax. It was like a tiny saucer turned upside down. We lifted it up and found under it a few round flat pockets, some as big as a halfpenny, some not larger than a farthing. They were made of brown, sticky wax, and when we opened one we found inside seven tiny eggs, as small as poppy seeds, and some little brown balls. The balls, Paul said, were made of honey, and of the yellow dust from flowers. In another pocket we found grubs which had already been hatched from eggs. These were feeding on the brown balls near them.


A humble bee's nest.

The mother bee was very uneasy while we were looking at her nest. She sat down quite near. We could see how big and stout she was. She was so handsome. Her brown body was covered with soft yellow hairs, with stripes of black hairs between. Her wings were broad, and shone so brightly in the sun. She did not sting us. Paul says that humble bees are very gentle. But she was afraid we would hurt the grubs, which were going to grow up into working bees. We put the cover back and waited two months. Then it was June. We were afraid the horses might tread on the nest when the hay was cut. So we went to look at it.

Oh! How big it was now. There was a large round moss roof. It was lined with wax, and was so strong that we had to cut it with a knife. The only way for the bees to get into it was by a long tunnel just under the ground. Under the roof were a number of dirty yellow silk cocoons. In these were the grubs, growing into humble bees. The cocoons were stuck together with wax. Some of them were open, for the young bees had come out. These had honey in them.


Humble bees gathering honey from pea-flowers.

There were a great many humble bees going in and out. These had all come from eggs laid by the mother bee in two months. They were very busy bringing in honey and bee-bread for the grubs to eat. But Paul says they do not store honey, like our hive-bees. For when the cold damp weather comes, they all die, except a few mothers. These creep into holes in the trees or into a warm haystack, and sleep till the spring comes again.

About Christmas time we went to look at the nest. The roof was broken, and the cells all crushed. There was not one humble bee to be found.

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