A Second Swarm—Idle Hours—Sent Back
NE day, when the heather was in bloom, Buz went off to Cothelestone Hill, and while she was at work a sudden shower came on.
This drove her for shelter under a rock, where she nearly ran against another bee, which had entered from the opposite direction.
"Hulloa!" cried Buz.
"Hulloa!" said the other; where do you come from? I don't know your smell."
"Very likely not," answered Buz, who did not admire the manner of the other bee; "what of that? I suppose I have as much right here as you?"
"Don't be waxy," replied the other; "I said very little."
"But you didn't say it nicely, I thought," retorted Buz.
"Well, you are particular!" exclaimed the other. "How I should like to know where you come from."
"Oh, a long way from here," said Buz: "from the valley at the foot of the hill. We live in a garden, where there are several other swarms."
"How very odd!"
"Why odd?" asked Buz.
"Well, I suppose you're always fighting and that's an odd state of things, isn't it?"
"It would be, if it were the case; but then you see it isn't."
"That's odder still. Now we should fight tremendously if another swarm came near us."
"Should you really?" asked Buz.
"There's a hollow tree not far from ours," answered the other bee significantly; "take it and try."
"A hollow tree!" echoed Buz contemptuously;
"I should be sorry to live in one."
"What do you live in, then?"
"A hive, to be sure."
"And what may that be?"
"Why, the house in which we were taken when we swarmed."
"Taken!" cried the wild bee. "Ah! I begin to understand: I've heard of that sort of thing before; then you're a slave bee, I suppose?"
"You're a rude bee, I'm sure," retorted Buz.
"Am I? I only mean, that the honey you make is not for yourselves, but for whoever shook you into the hive you seem so proud of."
"I should just like to see any one taking our honey," said Buz. "Whoever came to do it, would have to be very fond of honey, or care very little about stings."
"That sounds fine," replied the wild bee; "but I have heard some curious stories. Let me advise you to make a few inquiries when you return. I may be wrong, of course; but then, you know, I may be right."
"I don't mind asking about it," returned Buz; "but you must be wrong."
"Why so?" asked the wild bee.
"Because, if what you say is true, it is ridiculous to suppose that any bees would live as we do now. We should fly right away, of course, and even put up with a hollow tree, perhaps."
"That's all very well," answered the wild bee; "but when people once get into a groove, they are slow to get out of it: to make up one's mind to a thorough change, requires a deal of energy."
"Don't you call swarming a thorough change?" demanded Buz. "I found no difficulty in making up my mind about that."
"There you only followed an old custom, and did not strike out a new line. However, as the storm is over, suppose we go on with our work; mine being to gather honey for myself, and yours to gather it—for some one else."
"Put it as you please," replied Buz; "always remembering that I don't want your opinion."
"In the same way," answered the wild bee, "gather for whom you please; always remembering that I don't want your honey. Good-by." And away she flew.
As Buz followed her example, and went to work again, she could not help admitting to herself that there was something in what had been said. "When I get back to the hive," she thought, "I'll just talk the matter over."
In the evening, therefore, she asked one of the older bees whether what she had heard was true."
"No doubt it is," was the answer. "This very spring, a fine super of honey was taken from the hive next to ours, and a lot of excitement it caused; surely you remember?"
"No, I don't," said Buz.
"It must have been just before you were hatched then."
"But what were they all about?" cried Buz, excitedly; "why did they let their honey go? Couldn't they sting?"
"I heard one of them say that they tried at first, and that something prevented them from getting near the robbers—something soft; and besides, there was so much honey running about, that they were busy sucking it up; and, what with the excitement and what with being glutted with honey, very few of them felt like fighting."
"Then my rude acquaintance at the top of the hill was not very far from right after all," said Buz thoughtfully.
"She was right to a certain extent, but there's another side to the question."
"Indeed," cried Buz; "I should like to know it."
"The tradition is, that those who rob us look after us in the winter, and supply us with food if our honey runs short; so we need never starve. Now, I have heard, that after a bad honey season whole swarms of wild bees are starved to death. Then again, our hive is much more convenient than a hollow tree: dryer and warmer, and with a better entrance. I've seen some pretty good hollow trees in my time, certainly; but there's nothing like a hive after all."
Buz was somewhat consoled by this, but still felt indignant at the idea of being liable to lose any of the beautiful honey she had worked so hard for.
"Wait till some one tries it on with us," said she to herself. "Not sting, indeed! We'll see about that."
Soon after this, Buz began to find her present hive almost as inconveniently crowded as the one she had left; the super was nearly filled with comb, and that was half full of honey; the queen had laid a great many eggs in the hive below, and the young bees were daily emerging from their cells.
Some of the grubs, also, in the royal cells were nearly ready to come out.
A feverish excitement, similar to that which she remembered on a former occasion, began to set in, and the queen frequently squeaked.
This time, however, Buz made up her mind to remain where she was.
"I'm getting too old," she told herself, "for knocking about; let the youngsters do the swarming."
But although she was inclined to be patronizing toward the "youngsters," she could not help feeling surprised at her disinclination for change and excitement; she was even a little sorry for herself.
The fact is, she had become a middle-aged bee, and was beginning to go down the hill—a fact which it is not always pleasant to look in the face.
And now the queen became more excited than ever, and sometimes attempted to tear open the royal cells and kill the poor little princesses. She was prevented from doing so by the royal nurses, who were respectful, but very firm.
"Though it's a tremendous thing, mind you," said one nurse to the other, "to find oneself tackling the queen herself, and preventing her from doing what she likes."
"It certainly is," said the other; "but she knows it is only our duty."
Opinions in the hive began to differ as to whether it would be better to let the queen kill the young ones, or to send off a swarm. Some thought it was too late in the year; others declared that any thing would be better than being so crowded.
A particularly hot day settled the question, and those who were in favor of a swarm "had it." Then began the same sort of orderly confusion described before, and away flew the queen, with many of her loving subjects, but without Buz.
After the swarm had left, the latter felt disinclined to work: she was a little upset, and wanted a gossip.
There was no difficulty in finding a bee similarly disposed, for work in the hive was slack that afternoon.
"Bother the pollen," grumbled a bee, as she was passing Buz; "how it does stick to one, to be sure; but this is the last lot I bring in this blessed day. My name is 'easy' for the rest of the afternoon."
"And so is mine," cried Buz; "let us go to the garden, and sit in the sun."
"All right," said the other; "just wait till I unload; I won't be a minute."
As soon as she returned, the two bees flew off together.
"We are not the only ones who are taking it easy," observed her friend to Buz, as they settled comfortably on a cucumber frame in a corner; "I heard several bees say they intended to knock off work."
"After all," she continued, "why should we take any more trouble. We had nearly made honey enough to carry us through the winter, and now we shall not want so much, in consequence of that swarm having gone off."
"Exactly so," replied Buz; "we have enough, and to spare. I don't mean to say," she continued, after a pause, "that I intend to do nothing at all—that wouldn't suit me; but I do not mean to hurry up. I've worked pretty well all through the summer, though I say it myself, and made honey enough to support half a dozen drones. By the by, talking of drones, why should I make honey for those lazy fellows?"
"Can't say," replied her friend; "I don't see the fun of it myself. But, do you know," she continued, sinking her voice, "I hear they are not likely to eat much more honey in our hive."
"What do you mean?" asked Buz. "The stupid great things are always hungry. 'The less I do, the more I want,' seems, in fact, to be their motto."
"Well, what I tell you is quite between ourselves, of course," said her friend; "but, mark my words we shall get rid of them, and that before long."
"Oh, my queen!" cried Buz. "You astonish me! How shall we manage it?"
"The working bees will rise against them, and turn them out of the hive; see if they don't. Why should we keep them all through the winter? That's what I want to know."
"Why indeed?" said Buz hastily; and then continued after a pause: "If we do get rid of them, there is all the more reason for our taking a little holiday now; for we shall have plenty of honey."
"My sentiments exactly," returned her friend; "but as I feel inclined for a little on my own account, I shall have a turn at the flower-beds. What do you say?"
"Come on," said Buz, and away they flew.
Later on, when they returned to the hive, they were surprised to see a great commotion, and crowds of bees pouring in.
"What is all this bustle about?" asked Buz of the first bee she encountered. "Is any thing the matter?"
"Ever so much," was the answer. "There has been an accident, and the swarm that left so lately is returning."
"Indeed!" cried Buz; "but what accident could possibly induce the old queen to come back?"
"Nothing would ever have induced her to do such a thing," replied the other; "but"—and here she spoke very impressively—"she has disappeared!"
"Disappeared!" echoed Buz. "Oh, how? Do tell me more about it."
"If you want to know the particulars, ask one of those who joined the swarm: I didn't."
Buz lost no time in following her advice.
"I'll tell you all I know," said the bee she questioned, "but I can't quite understand it myself. Our poor queen settled on a branch of a small apple tree, and we all clung round her of course; and there we hung in a big bunch—in such a big bunch, that I really thought the branch we were on would come off. After a short time, something gave such a jerk that we all fell off into something, and it was very uncomfortable. Most of us kept crawling about, not liking to leave the queen; but some flew up, to see what was the matter."
"I should have been one of those," put in Buz.
"Well, so was I, my dear; and I found that the thing that had done it was the man we always see about the garden, and the thing he had shaken us into was a kind of box like this."
"I know," said Buz; "that's just what happened to me. Well?"
"Well, the man carried us off to where something large and white was lying on the ground, and upset us on to it, and we all began to run about."
"Hulloa!" interrupted Buz: "that didn't happen to me."
"I had joined the others in the box," continued the bee, "just in time to be upset; and found myself close to the queen, who did not attempt to fly, but kept on crawling in underneath us, wherever we were thickest. Presently the man began to paddle among us with his hands, and he rolled us about a good deal, I can tell you; but he was not rough enough to hurt us, and we really were too much astonished to be angry. This went on for some time, when all of a sudden I missed the queen. I ran about, asking every one, 'Have you seen the queen? Have you seen the queen?' And presently I came across others asking the same question. We didn't know what to do, or what to think, and there we were, hunting round and round. At last, a bee who had been near the queen at the moment, told us that she had seen her caught up between two great things, and that she had disappeared all in a moment that was all she could tell us."
"But what was that bee about?" cried Buz. "Surely she did something?"
"She said it was all so sudden and unexpected, that she didn't know what to do. She thought it must be the man; but he was walking quietly away, and by the time she had recovered herself, and made sure that the queen was gone, it was too late to do any thing."
"Oh dear! but this is all very bad," said Buz. "What next?"
"Why, the next thing we did was to come back here. You see," added the bee apologetically, "we had no queen, no honey, and no hive; so what were we to do?"
"I, don't know," answered Buz; "but I should have felt ashamed to return."
"So did we; we felt very much ashamed, and have had to listen to all sorts of disagreeable remarks since; but what were we to do, you know—no queen, no honey, and no hive! What on earth were we to do?"
The bee moved off as she said these words, and went away grumbling to herself: "It's all very well; but what were we to do, I should like to know?"
Buz, having no answer ready, let her go, but felt a good deal put out by what had happened, and very much inclined to do something to somebody.