Gateway to the Classics: Will o' the Wasps by Margaret Warner Morley
Will o' the Wasps by  Margaret Warner Morley

Concerning Stings

"D O hornets sting the insects they capture, Uncle Will o' the Wasps?" asked Theodore, giving his uncle a loving little pat on the arm.

"No; you see it isn't necessary," was Uncle Will's ready answer. "They chew them right up with their hard jaws and carry them home to feed fresh to the larvae."

"The hornets sting the protect their young from enemies. Pelopaeus stings to feed her young ones," said Theodore.

"Very true," answered Uncle Will, "and some people think that long ago all the bees and wasps stung food for their young ones. They think that this was why they had their sharp stings with the poison bags attached."

"But bees don't need to sting, for they eat honey and feed that and bee-bread made out of flower-pollen to their children."

"That is true now, but maybe a long time ago it was different. You know the wasps and bees are closely related. They all belong to the great division of the Hymenoptera, or gauze-winged insects."

"Well," said Theodore, "if that is so, how did the bees learn to eat honey and give up stinging insects for food?"

"That is the question. I don't know just how it came about, but in the course of time it might have happened."

"If they hadn't learned better, people would never have had any honey. I like honey. Perhaps sometime the wasps will learn to make honey, and then perhaps in a long, long time all the insects will forget how to sting."

"Perhaps," said Uncle Will, "but that will be after our day, if it ever happens at all, and meantime they make poison enough every year to defeat an army."

"Perhaps they have defeated armies," said Theodore, "the way the bees once did when the people threw the hives down from the town walls among the soldiers. How they did run!"

"Yes," said Uncle Will, "hornets too have been known to scatter soldiers. And hornets can sting people to death."

"Are their stings like bee stings?" "Yes, they are about the same thing. Do you remember how to bee sting is made?"

"Yes! If you will draw me a picture like that one in the bee book, Uncle Will, I can explain it all out to you."

"Now we will see"; and Uncle Will drew the picture.

"That," said Theodore touching it with his finger, "is the poison sac. When the wasp wants to, it can squeeze the little sac—"

"How?" interrupted Uncle Will.

"Oh, just by contracting the little muscles that belong to it. And the poison, when it is squeezed out, runs down through the stinger, which is hollow. And the end of the stinger is barbed, like a fish-hook, only it has more barbs than a fish-hook. The bee does not like to sting, because the barbs stick fast, and sometimes it is hard to pull them out. Sometimes the bee cannot pull them out, but the sting pulls loose and then the bee dies."

"Well done," said Uncle Will, "You certainly know more about bees than they know about themselves."

"And wasps too, because wasps are like bees."

"Not altogether," said Uncle Will, "As far as the sting is concerned I grant they are all very much alike, except that the big hornets, like the bumble bees, are strong enough to pull out their stingers without losing them and I have never noticed that they object to using their poisoned daggers."

 Table of Contents  |  Index  |  Home  | Previous: The Nest Is Finished  |  Next: How the Nest Looks Inside
Copyright (c) 2005 - 2023   Yesterday's Classics, LLC. All Rights Reserved.