Gateway to the Classics: Buz: The Life and Adventures of a Honey Bee by Maurice Noel
 
Buz: The Life and Adventures of a Honey Bee by  Maurice Noel


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Coming Out

dropcap image HE first thing Buz remembered was having the cramp very badly in two of her left legs, and not being able to stretch them; for she was so carefully packed up in her cell that it was impossible to move.

But she found there was a chance of getting through the ceiling; so she bit and pushed, and pushed and bit, till she could put her head out.

This was satisfactory, as far as it went, but it had its inconveniences.

A bee immediately ran across her face, and she shrank back. She put it out again, and two bees, in a desperate hurry, trod all over it, and she shrank back again.

And so for some time she kept on trying to emerge and being driven back, till at last, becoming accustomed to the manners of the hive, and taking no notice of the pushes and shoves, she scrambled out, and stood on the comb—a very promising young bee.

Then up ran a couple of bees, one of whom straightened out her proboscis, or tongue, which was lying folded back, and offered her honey; while the other caressed her with her antennæ; and stroked her with her fore feet.

"Much obliged to you, I'm sure," said Buz, sucking away.

"Stretch your wings and legs, and never mind thanking us," answered one of the bees.

"We all do our duty here," said the other, "without wanting thanks. We attend to you because it's our place to do it."

"You didn't help me to scramble out of the cell," remarked Buz; "and what a scramble it was!"

"It's not our place to do that. A bee that couldn't get out of her cell would be no good here."

At this moment, a young bee, from the cell next to that which Buz had just left, came out, very crumpled, and received similar attentions.

Buz looked on with much interest, while the new arrival, who was named "Hum," was groomed and fed.

"Now," said one of the nurse bees, "you two had better go out on the board in front of the hive, and sun yourselves. You won't work to-day, of course, nor to-morrow either, unless it's very fine and don't forget," added she, touching first one and then the other with her antennæ, "that you are called 'Buz,' and you 'Hum.' Now be off with you."

"But which is the way to the board?" asked Buz. "Find out," replied the nurse who had last spoken, as she ran off. "Where's your instinct?" demanded the other, hurrying after her without waiting for an answer.

On being left to themselves, Buz and Hum began crawling down the comb, looking about them with great curiosity. The cells they had just left, were at the top of one of the center combs, and on their way down they did not meet with very many bees for as the day was warm and bright, most of them were away from the hive, gathering honey and pollen; but, as they approached the entrance, they found themselves surrounded by streams of busy workers, hurrying in every direction, some bringing in stores, and others, who had just deposited their last loads, bustling off to work again. But, however busy they might be, they all found time to touch Buz and Hum with their antennæ as they passed; and these last, instinctively put their own forward and returned the compliment; indeed, they felt as if it would not be comfortable to pass within touching distance of a single bee without that little recognition; it seemed like saying "All's well."

Arrived on the floor of the hive, they stood still and looked about them. After a little time they noticed that the two combs between which they had just descended, looked rather darker and dirtier than those on the outside, and that it was toward the latter that the honey-laden bees were hastening.

"I wonder why?" said Buz.

"Yes, I wonder," echoed Hum.

"What are you wondering about?" inquired a great drone, who chanced to be passing lazily along, and who overheard what Buz said.

"We were wondering why some combs looked so much blacker than others," replied Buz.

"Because they are used as nursery combs," said the drone. "Lots of young bees are born in them, and each cell is used over and over again."

"Are they never used for honey?" asked Hum.

"Only if there's no room for it elsewhere; they always like to put honey in a nice new comb, and then it's called 'Virgin honey.' But," he continued, "in an old hive, every comb gets used for young ones, or grubs as we call them, in time. This isn't an old hive."

"You say 'they'," remarked Buz, rather timidly; "don't you get honey yourself, then, and work like the others?"

"I should think not!" replied the drone, with great disdain. "Work, indeed!" And he moved slowly away.

Then the two young bees went on toward the entrance of the hive, and, after being well jostled, and ever so much pushed about and run over, all of which they didn't mind a bit, they reached the board outside, and looked upon the world for the first time.

But they soon had to change their position, for they were standing exactly in the stream of traffic.

"Now then," said a bee, who was waddling in with two great lumps of pollen on her thighs, and who bumped against Buz, "get out of the way, can't you!"

"Come, come," said another to Hum, "you mustn't stand there, you know; which is it to be now—in or out?"

"I'd rather go out, please," answered Hum.

"In fact, we've been sent out to sun," added Buz.

"Out with you then," said the bee, "and ask one of the fanners to show you where to stand."

"What's a fanner?" thought Buz. However, she didn't ask, for fear of being again told to find out; so she passed on with Hum through the entrance. Just outside, a bee was standing quite still, and as Buz passed she felt the ends of her antennæ very much whirred against and tickled, and on looking up found that this was occasioned by the wings of the bee in question, who was moving them so fast that they were almost invisible; In fact, she was nearly lifted by them off her hind legs—sometimes quite—and seemed to have hard work to keep herself down by clinging on to the board with the claws of her front feet.

"I shouldn't wonder if that was a fanner," remarked Buz to Hum.

"I'm a fanner, right enough," said the bee, who had overheard her. "What of that?"

"We were told to ask you where to stand," answered Buz.

"Get to the other side of me then, toward the edge of the board, and out of the way."

Buz and Hum did so, and were then able to look quietly about, without getting so tremendously knocked against. They soon noticed that, besides the fanner they had spoken to, there were half a dozen more, all busy in the same way.

"What do you keep on fanning for?" asked Buz, who was rather a bumptious young bee.

"What for?" replied the fanner. "Why, to give the queen and the nurses and all in the hive a little fresh air; they would be stifled this hot weather, if something wasn't done."

"Ah!" said Hum, "I noticed a current of air as we came out."

"I should hope you did," returned the fanner; "it would be a pretty thing for us all to be working away like this for nothing!"

At this moment a bee passed in with a splendid load of pollen on her thighs, the two great yellow balls she carried being almost enough to prevent her from staggering along.

"Well done!" said the fanner encouragingly as she passed. "Good again, old mate!" and then, turning to Buz and Hum, she added—

"That bee came out of the cell next to mine, and we were born almost at the same time, so we take an interest in each other."

"Only an interest?" inquired Buz. "I should have thought you were great friends, like Hum and I mean to be; eh, Hum?"

Hum touched Buz with her antennæ in a friendly way.

"There isn't much time to be great friends here," answered the fanner; "we are always so busy, except in the winter, and then we are too sleepy to be very affectionate. Besides, we give all our love to the queen; you haven't seen her yet, I suppose? Wait till you do—you'll find it's just as I tell you. Now then! Where are you  going? Look out, there! Help! Intruder! Intruder!"

As she spoke, the fanner made at a bee who had just alighted, and was passing in. She was joined by several others, and they were about to seize the intruder, who, however, discovered the mistake, and flew off just in time.

"What was all that about?" asked Buz, as the fanner returned.

"A bee from some other hive was trying to get into ours," replied the fanner; "but she found out where she was just in time. If we had caught her, we should perhaps have stung her to death."

"How did you know she was a strange bee?" inquired Hum.

"We can tell at once, by touching or smelling a bee, whether she belongs to our hive or not; I don't pretend to explain exactly how it is, but we can."

This quite satisfied the young bees, who now became much interested in watching the workers arriving from every direction and alighting on the board.

Some were laden with pollen, others had collected nothing but honey, and all, the instant they arrived, set off to run into the hive as fast as they could, without waiting to look round or gossip.

They certainly were very much in earnest; any one could see that at once. Some seemed very tired, and nearly fell back off the board when they pitched on the edge of it, and indeed could hardly crawl along with their booty.

"I know where that  bee comes from," remarked the fanner, as one with peculiar colored pollen on her thighs passed in. "I know quite well."

"Do you?" said Buz. "How?"

"By the look, and by the smell, and—in fact, I do  know she comes from Cothelestone Hill. It's a beautiful place for bees, but rather a long way off."

"How I should like to go there!" exclaimed Buz.

"Gently, gently," said the fanner; "don't be in such a hurry."

"Indeed," added Buz, "I should like to try a short fly, now, this moment."

"You had better not to-day; your wings will feel stiff and cramped. Wait till you have had a good feed, and a night's rest, and then you'll do very well. You see, the danger is, that if you get below the level of the board you may not be able to rise again and if you have to spend the night on the cold ground, I wouldn't give much for your chance of swarming, I can tell you."

"What's swarming?" asked Hum.

"Oh, I can't explain now it would take too long. You'll find out before the summer is over, I dare say."

At this moment a big rain-drop came splash down on the board, close to Buz, and astonished her immensely. It was followed by another and another, and soon a smart shower drove all the bees near at hand under shelter, and Buz and Hum entered the hive with them.

"What's happening?" asked Buz.

"They've upset the watering-pot somewhere," answered the fanner; "we never can  find out exactly where they do it."

"Then how do you know it's a watering-pot?" inquired Hum.

"Sometimes," answered the bee, "when we are gathering honey in a bed of mignonette or other flowers, the gardener comes along with his watering- pot and upsets it over us, and then it feels so exactly like what's going on now, that we think it must be the same sort of thing, you know."

When the storm first began, a great many bees arrived from different directions, and crowded into the hive; and as those within were prevented from starting afresh, and were standing near the entrance, impatiently waiting for the rain to stop, there was a great bustle, and some difficulty in moving. Buz, however, kept near her friend and the fanner, and said to the latter:

"No more bees are coming in now; have they all  returned?"

"Oh dear, no," answered the fanner; "those who were too far off to get back before the worst of the storm have found shelter somewhere; but," she added, "they'll soon stop watering now."

"How do you know?" asked Buz.

"I can feel it," said the fanner. "Any bee, after a little experience, can tell; and when they are going to water for a long time we do not go out in such numbers, or so far, as we do before a mere sprinkle like this. Look! It's just over."

This was quite true, and presently the sun shone brightly out, and the rain-drops flashed and sparkled, and a clean fresh smell came from the earth, and the flowers lifted up their heads and offered the sweets they contained to the busy, happy bees, who now left the hive in great numbers, and scattered themselves all over the kitchen garden in which their hive stood, and over the pleasant fields beyond.

"What fun!" exclaimed Hum, as they stood on the board again. "What fun to go out! Oh, how I long for to-morrow!"

Buz and the fanner looked at her with surprise. She seemed such a very quiet little bee, that they were hardly prepared to find she could become so enthusiastic.

"I can not bear to be idle," she continued; "I should like to fill a cell with honey, all by myself; to be of some use, you know, instead of standing and looking on while others work."

"A very proper feeling, my dear," said the fanner approvingly; "but you must remember that the great thing is to do your duty; and if your present duty is—as I tell you it is—to do nothing, why, you are working very well and profitably by just standing still and being nicely sunned, ready for to-morrow, don't you see?"

"Yes, I see," answered Hum, more contentedly.

"At the same time," continued the fanner, "there would be no harm in your trying to fan, if you would like to practice that; only stand well out of the way, and take care at first not to work too hard."

Hum, taking the permission without paying much attention to the caution, went to the side of the board and set to work, but so vigorously, that she turned herself completely over on her back, and would have lifted herself quite into the air if she had not clung very tightly to the board with her fore feet.

Buz was highly amused at this, and helped to set her right; and Hum, though exceedingly astonished, and a little mortified at what had happened, set to work again at once, and in a very short time was really able to fan.

"That will be a useful bee," remarked the fanner to Buz, as Hum continued practicing.

"I'm sure she will," said Buz; "but all bees work, don't they? I shall, I know."

"Oh, yes; a lazy bee wouldn't do here at all. But there are different dispositions in bees all the same; for instance, some will think only of how many cells they can fill with honey, and will consequently never go far from the hive, so as not to lose time; others are more adventurous, go further afield, and try to get curious sorts of honey."

"I shall be one of that sort," said Buz; "I know I shall."

"Then again," continued the fanner, "some bees are good-tempered, and others are cross; for instance, I know one who won't let any person but the gardener come near the hive; if any one else does, she goes straight at him, to sting or to pretend to sting him; and I must say it is very amusing to see a person run. I say, do you feel hungry?"

Buz was rather astonished at the sudden manner in which this question was asked, but replied, "Why, yes, I think I do."

"Because it is about time," continued the fanner, "for you and Hum to go back to your cells; young things ought never to be long without food. You will find the nurses somewhere about."

"Thank you," said Buz; and she went off to fetch Hum.

On their way into the hive Buz stopped, and said to the bee, who was still fanning away as hard as ever, "Will you tell us your name, please?"

"My name's 'Fan.' "

"What, because  you fan?"

"Oh dear, no; certainly not! I don't always  fan, you know; I only take my turn."

"I understand," said Buz; and away went the two young bees to find their nurses and get some food.


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