L ADEN with pollen and nectar, Miss Apis starts homeward.
People used to think she flew in a straight line to the hive, and so they called the shortest distance from one place to another a "bee line."
But she does not fly in a straight line,—far from it.
Whoever has "made a bee line for home"—that is a true bee line—must have followed a very indirect course indeed.
When Miss Apis has filled her honey-sac, and is ready to go home, she first mounts up into the air, not straight up, but round and round in a spiral, and when high enough she starts toward home—but not in a straight line. She makes a long curve to the right, and then to the left, to the right again, then to the left, and so on.
I do not know why she does this, but no doubt there is a good reason for it. Perhaps it makes it harder for bee-eating birds to catch her. It certainly is not easy to follow her flight with the eyes, until one has practiced enough to become accustomed to it.
When Miss Apis reaches home, she finds a large family.
There are her sisters, to begin with. She generally has many thousands of sisters just like herself, and they are all named Apis Mellifica.
This might be confusing if they called each other by name, that is, by the name we have given them. But of course, they do not do that.
I do not know what they call each other, but I do know that they are as much alike as one pea is like another. They all have twelve thousand six hundred small eyes and three large ones, a folding tongue, a honey-sac, wings that lock together, extraordinary legs, and several other useful and curious things.
Having watched Miss Apis going from flower to flower in the sunshine, you may think that this pleasant duty is all there is in her life. But oh, how mistaken you are!
Wait until you see her at home! There is as much work to be done in her house as in anybody's and she does it too. She works very hard, and , in fact, with her sisters, does all the work. Nobody else in the family does any, and so she is called the worker bee.
For you must know that she and her thousands of sisters, who are as like her as one pea is like another, are not the only members of the family.