Discontented Whispers—A Stormy Dispute—The Massacre of the Drones
N the following morning, the hive seemed to Buz very inconveniently crowded; and not being in the best of tempers, she was disgusted to find the passage along which she was hurrying between the combs, nearly blocked by a lot of drones.
"Bother the lazy things," said she to herself, as she pushed past them; "I've no patience with them."
"No more have I," cried another bee, who happened to overhear her, "and I'm glad to find you're of the same opinion. But I can tell you what it is," she continued, when they had reached the entrance, "there is quite a strong feeling growing up against them, and they had better look out for themselves."
"Ah!" said Buz; "I'm not surprised at what you say; I heard only yesterday that they were likely to have a bad time of it soon."
It is getting to be the common talk of the hive," said the other; "and now that the swarm which left us yesterday has returned, we shall want more room and more honey than we expected."
"As for honey," said Buz, "that's very true. I had not intended to work much more; but now, I suppose we must fill every bit of comb we have made."
"And as for room," said the other bee, "I think I can tell you how we shall get that."
She spoke very slowly and deliberately, and tapped Buz's antennæ with her own in a very meaning way.
"I understand you," said Buz. "Down with the drones, say I."
"When the time comes," replied the other, mysteriously.
"Just so," assented Buz; "when the time comes."
With this understanding they parted, and Buz began work again in earnest, stowing the honey she collected in the glass super. All the other bees did the same, and were as busy as ever they had been before the swarm went off.
Every day, however, honey became more and more difficult to get, and the combs filled slowly.
This, again, was bad for the drones; for the scarcer honey was, the more valuable did the stores already collected appear to the bees, who at last could scarcely bear to see a drone go near a honey-cell.
The latter, however, appeared not to observe how unpopular they were becoming, and went about the hive as usual.
But the time expected came at last! One day, as Buz, who had just returned to the hive with some honey, was storing it away in the super, she overheard a dispute between a drone and a working bee.
"No, you shall not," cried the latter, "not while I am here."
"Get out of the way, can't you," answered the drone.
"I can, but I won't," replied the other.
"Do you suppose I care for you?" cried the drone. "I want some honey, and I mean to have it."
"Then take it from a cell already opened," answered the working bee, "and don't break into a new comb."
"I shall take it," said the drone deliberately, "from any comb and from any cell I choose."
"If you can," retorted the other.
"Who's to prevent me, I should like to know?"
"I, for one."
"You, indeed!" cried the drone angrily. "How dare you talk in that saucy way to one of the queen's husbands."
"Queen's fiddlesticks!" replied the other contemptuously. "The queen does not want a lot of idle, good-for-nothing fellows like you loitering about the hive, I can tell you. Go and ask her."
"No, I shall not," replied the drone sulkily.
"I knew you wouldn't; you dare not go near her; she never takes any notice of you now, and is tired of your idle habits, as indeed we all are." Here there was a hum of approval from a small crowd of workers, who had collected as the dispute went on.
"Well, I don't care," said the drone. "I'm tired of standing here, that's all I know; so 'out of the way,' I say again, for I mean to have the honey."
"Out of this cell, which I have just sealed up, you don't get it," returned the other firmly.
"For my part, I don't see why he should get it from any cell in the hive," remarked a bee who was standing near Buz.
"Hulloa!" cried the drone, turning angrily round on the last speaker; "and pray who may you be?"
"One who earns her honey before she eats it," was the reply.
"Well said, indeed!" cried the bee with whom the drone had been disputing.
As the drone turned indignantly round again, he bumped against Buz, who instantly ran at him, and gave him a good push, which sent him against another bee.
"Now then, where are you shoving to?" cried the latter, pushing him back. "Get out of the way."
"He's always in the way!" cried one.
"And always eating!" said another.
"Why don't you go out and get your own honey?" demanded a third.
"I don't choose to leave the hive, except in the very finest weather," replied the drone.
"Here's a pretty fellow for you," cried Buz; "he doesn't choose, indeed!" And she gave him another push.
"I vote we turn him out," cried another bee, pushing him back.
"Yes, and keep him out," said a third.
"Out with him!" cried several bees at once.
"Down with the drones! Out with them! Turn them all out!" was the general cry.
And the drone, now beginning to be really frightened, was pushed backward and forward in the midst of a crowd of workers. At last, in answer to the cries, Buz and another bee caught firmly hold of the drone, and began dragging him toward the entrance.
But he was strong and heavy, and did not want to go at all, and struggled hard. "Push behind there," cried the bee who was helping Buz.
"Not all of you, though," added Buz. "Are there no other drones in the hive?"
This produced new cries of "Out with them!" "Down with the drones!" "Turn them out!" and parties of bees, hastening in every direction through the hive, fastened on the drones, and dragged them toward the entrance.
As he was being pulled and pushed round a corner, the drone with whom Buz was occupied got such a firm hold, that he resisted for a long time all efforts to dislodge him.
"If nothing else will do," panted the bee who was helping Buz, "I'll just slip my sting into him: that will soon settle the fellow."
"Oh, give the poor wretch a chance," said Buz. "It seems a shame to sting him, as he has no sting himself."
"All right then," returned her friend; "but we shall be a long time clearing the hive at this rate."
"Now," cried Buz, "all together!" and, making a grand effort, they dislodged the drone, and got him on to the floor of the hive. Thence, by dint of pulling and pushing, and tumbling over and dragging him, they at last reached the footboard outside.
"Now," said they, "clear off!"
"Where?" said the drone. "Oh, dear me! Where?"
"Anywhere you like," was the reply. "You want honey, don't you? There's the whole world before you, and plenty of flowers in it; so be off."
"But at night," cried the drone, "when it gets dark and cold, what shall I do then?"
"Whatever you like," answered the bees. "We don't seem to care very much."
"But I shall die! I shall die; I know I shall!" cried the drone piteously.
"Very likely; but that isn't our business, so good-by. We really can't stand here arguing with you all day."
"Please let me in again; do let me in," pleaded the drone. "I would creep away into a corner, and do nobody any harm."
"Oh, yes, you would; for, without being of any use, you would take up a certain amount of room, and eat a certain amount of honey, and we have none of either to spare. Now go."
But the drone seemed too much overcome to move, and lay helplessly down, close to the edge of the footboard.
Buz and the other bees pushed him over, and, hardly making an effort to fly, he fell to the ground and remained there.
At this time the scene was most exciting: there were parties of bees in every direction. Some were carrying the dead bodies of drones who had made so much resistance, that, losing patience with them, their captors had stung them to death. Others dragged along unresisting victims; and others again were engaged with obstinate drones, who fought and tumbled the whole way. Some of the drones took wing of their own accord the moment they were released on the footboard; others behaved like the one that Buz had first taken out; and, allowing themselves to be pushed over the edge of the footboard, lay among the bodies of those that had been killed.
At last the hive was quite cleared of them.
"Double the sentries, and admit no drones," were the orders given.
But none dared to return; the night came on cold and wet, and before the sun rose next morning every drone was dead.