The Bee People  by Margaret Warner Morley


How She Hears and Smells

M ISS APIS can hear and she can smell, though just how she hears, since she has no ears, and just how she smells, since she has no nose, puzzled people for a long time.

The truth is , she is able to do these things because of her antennæ, which you remember, are the two feelers that stand out from her face. These antennæ or feelers, are jointed, having one long joint next to the face, and a number of short joints forming a very movable tip. The long joint serves especially as an arm to move the many-jointed end about.


If Miss Apis's eyes seem to us wonderful, what shall we think of her antennæ? For though she has no ears, she has thousands of what we might call "hearing-spots" on the short joints of her antennæ. She also has thousands of "smell-hollows" on these remarkable antennæ joints. The hearing-spots and smell-hollows are very, very small, so that we can see them only by means of the microscope.

The antennæ are also covered with short, sensitive hairs which make them very good feelers, able to tell Miss Apis what kind of substance she is touching. They thus serve for eyes in the dark hive. You would not think Miss Apis needed any more eyes, but one cannot expect absolute perfection in this world, even in eyes, or even in Miss Apis, and the truth is that Miss Apis's many eyes are probably unable to help her in the dark.


End of Antenna showing hairs

Some creatures, like cats, can see in the dark, but Miss Apis is obliged to rely upon her antennæ for information when she goes into a dark place.

So you see these antennæ are very important and valuable. But you have not yet heard all. When bees have anything to say to each other they say it by means of their antennæ. Just how this is done I cannot say, as I do not know. But they manage it somehow.

When two bees meet they cross antennæ in a friendly way, instead of shaking hands and asking after each other's health; that is, if they are friends, they do. If they are not members of the same family, I am sorry to say they fight. Two sisters, however, never fight.


"How do you do?"

Miss Apis's very life depends upon her antennæ. By means of them she hears, smells, discovers the nature of objects about her, and communicates with her fellow-bees.

When she is awake her antennæ are almost always in motion, and she is constantly touching the flowers with them, or examining everything with which she comes in contact.

If anything happens to them, if they get broken off, or badly injured, poor little Miss Apis behaves very much like a rudderless boat at sea. She does not seem to know how to get anywhere, but moves about in an aimless sort of way. She does not eat or do her work, and in a short time she dies.

Naturally these priceless helpers need to be well taken care of. Dust and pollen must not be allowed to clog up the hearing and smelling organs, nor interfere with the sensitive hairs.

Since you have found Miss Apis provided with so many toilet articles, you will not be surprised that she has combs and brushes on purpose to keep her antennæ clean.

Yes, she has a comb and a brush on each front leg for that very purpose. You can see these curious little "antennæ cleaners," as they are called, with the naked eye on the bumble-bee, and you can see them very well indeed with an ordinary magnifying glass. They are on the inside of the leg at X and A.


There is a circular opening at A just large enough for the antennæ to fit into. It is bordered by a sort of round comb that reminds us of those combs little girls sometimes wear.

Only this comb is very small and the teeth point outward.

At the end of the joint above, at X, a stiff flap hangs down.


When the leg is bent the flap is brought down in front of the circular opening, as you see in the picture. When Miss Apis wishes to clean her antenna, which is very often, she raises her leg above her head, and draws it down over her antenna, which slips into the circular opening. Then she bends her leg, the flap holds the antenna in place and she draws that precious organ through the cleaner. The teeth in the round comb on one side and the sharp edges of the flap or brush on the other clean off every particle of dust.

You can see her almost any time drawing first one antenna, then the other, through the useful and remarkable little cleaners provided for the purpose. She will often stop in the middle of her honey-gathering to do it, for she seems to feel uncomfortable if her antennæ are not as clean as clean can be.


The brush at S is used to clean out the round comb on the opposite leg.

As you can imagine, it was a long time before people understood the uses of Miss Apis's antennæ; but about two hundred years ago Mr. Francis Huber, a Swiss gentleman who loved bees, found out a part of the secret. He discovered that the honey-bee smells and feels with her antennæ. All who love bees ought to know and love Huber, for he spent many, many years studying the bees and finding out wonderful things about them.

I think you will like to hear his story.

When only a boy he was very fond of nature, and very fond of study. He read so constantly that he ruined his eyes and when still a young man became blind. This did not stop his work, however, for he had two friends who were eyes for him. One was the young lady to whom he was engaged to be married. When he became blind, her friends tried to persuade her to leave him, but she would not.

She insisted upon marrying him and taking care of him. Huber and his wife lived in happiness for a great many years, and Huber said that he did not realize he was blind until his wife died.

Huber's other friend was a man named Francis Burnens. Huber would tell Burnens just how to perform an experiment and just what to look for, and Burnens would do exactly as he was told, and then tell Huber all about it. In this way, Burnens did the seeing and Huber the thinking. Burnens was very patient and careful, and once he spent eleven days, scarcely stopping to sleep, in examining every bee in two hives.

Think what a task that was! I believe he drenched the bees with water so they would not sting, and then examined them one by one. It was owing to the careful work of Burnens that Huber was able to make a number of important discoveries about bees.

A good many of the interesting facts we know to-day about bees we owe to blind Huber. He invented a hive which opened like the leaves of a book, so that he could at any time see what was going on inside, or—rather Burnens could see and tell him.

People to-day sometimes use narrow hives with glass sides, so that everything the bees do can be watched. Some schools have such a hive fastened in a window; this is very interesting for the children.

Bees do not willingly work in a light place, and they do not seem to enjoy being watched, so often they smear the sides of the glass hive all over with bee glue, which prevent curious eyes from looking in.

Where bees are handled a good deal, they become quite tame. They seem to recognize their keeper. Bee-keepers very often have little machines by which they can puff smoke upon the bees. This does not hurt them, but makes them quiet, so the honey can be taken out and the bees handled.


Bean Vine