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


[Illustration]

Swarming

dropcap image NE morning early, Buz was on the point of starting for the top of Cothelestone Hill. She had been there several times already; indeed it was a favorite place of hers. She so thoroughly enjoyed the long flight to it through the air: it was so glorious to mount high up above the fields, and to see the dewdrops sparkling like diamonds in the morning sun—to listen to the lark as he took his first upward flight, and poured out his song for joy that another day had come—to inhale the fragrance of dawn, knowing that all the flowers which made it so sweet, were waiting for her, and would be glad when they saw her coming. This was delightful indeed.

Then again, Buz always looked forward to interesting conversations with the flowers she visited, and the insects and creatures she met; and she had a sort of idea that the further she strayed from the hive, the more curious would be her adventures, and the more charming the stories she was told. But this did not follow at all; and many of the prettiest tales she heard, were repeated to her by flowers which grew in the old garden near the hive, though it was some time before she would admit this, even to herself.

On her way to the entrance on this particular morning, she perceived that a most unusual bustle was going on all through the hive; and, directly the first bee touched her, she felt quite excited and disinclined to work, though she didn't exactly understand why. At this moment she saw a drone—"What's up now?" she cried, running to him in a great hurry.

"Don't fuss," said the drone snappishly.

"Well, I only want to know what all this stir and confusion means?"

"I'll tell you fast enough if you won't fuss. I hate a bustle; and there's enough of that, I'm sure, without your helping to make it worse."

"I'll be quiet as a grub," said Buz, speaking in a low voice and standing quite still, though she felt that she was becoming more restless every moment.

The drone looked at her for some time without saying a word; and at last, in a provokingly indifferent manner, asked if she had been fanning lately.

"Yes," said Buz, "it was my turn yesterday, and it was a very hot day, and so I fanned a great deal; and stupid work it was."

"Did you observe that there were often great clusters of bees hanging together, just by the board outside the hive?"

"Of course I did," replied Buz; "they were there till the evening."

"Did you wonder why?"

"No; I heard lots of them say that it was dreadfully hot inside, so I suppose they hung out to cool."

"Exactly; do you know why it was so hot in the hive? I can tell you: partly because the day was so warm, and partly because there are such a lot of bees—too many bees, that's the fact. Well, the weather can't be made cooler, but some of the bees can go, and they will go too."

"Dear me!" said Buz, "will they? What! leave the hive?—really leave this hive?"

"How can they go without leaving the hive, stupid?" answered the drone.

"Of course they can't; but what will they do without a queen?"

"Our present queen will go with them; she knows it's too hot in the hive, so she will leave with a party of volunteers."

"Volunteers!" cried Buz; "what fun! I'll be one! I'll go! I may, mayn't I? Oh, I hope I may go!"

"Now, for honey's sake, don't fuss," said the drone.

"Certainly not," replied Buz.

But she was trembling with excitement. Any thing for a change, any thing for novelty. She never wished to be idle, and she liked all sorts of work; but put her to a different job every day—then she was happy! She cared little for danger, and explored all kinds of places that many bees—Hum, for instance—wouldn't think of going near; and now the thought of volunteering, and flying off with the dear old queen, and beginning life again, as it were, was charming. It suited Buz exactly; but, as she had still plenty of questions to ask the drone, she kept as quiet as possible; and he was much too lazy and indifferent to notice what an effort this was to her.

"By the row that's going on," remarked the drone, "I should say this would be a big swarm."

"A swarm!" exclaimed Buz; "then that's what swarming is!"

"A horrid noise, a hopeless confusion, a dreadful fuss, and an intolerable bustle—that's what swarming is," repeated the drone disdainfully. "I shall certainly be glad to have the hive more empty," he went on to himself; "but why can't they go away quietly, and swarm one by one, I should like to know?"

"Do none of the drones intend to join the swarm?"

"Hundreds will, no doubt; I shan't."

"Will you tell me, please," asked Buz, "how you will get on here without a queen?"

"You ask such stupid questions," said the drone. "You don't think; you're in such a hurry—that's it."

"How is mine a stupid question?"

"Do you mean to tell me that you have never passed the royal nurseries? Do you mean to say that you have never heard of royal food? Do you wish me to understand that you have never been told about the royal grubs?" demanded the drone.

"Of course I've heard of them." Buz said this a little impatiently—the drone spoke so very contemptuously.

"Oh, you have, have you? Then you will not be astonished when I tell you that royal grubs become queens, and that one of those in this hive is just ready to leave her cell; but she won't come out before the old queen has left. Oh, no! she'll take care of that—or rather the royal nurses will."

"Indeed; why?"

"Because the old queen would try to get at her, and sting her to death. You females are so jealous and spiteful!" answered the drone.

"I ain't a female!" cried Buz.

"Yes, you are, though; all you working bees are undeveloped females. Suppose now we had been in want of a queen, and we had picked you out as a grub, and enlarged your cell and fed you on royal bread: why, you would have become a queen! Actually you!"

"Really?"

"Yes, really; but it's too late now;  no chance for you now,  my dear; so you needn't be proud."

"I'm not a bit proud," cried Buz.

"No, I see you're not; on the contrary, you are condescending enough to come and speak to poor me! I feel the honor deeply, I assure you."

He said these last words in such a nasty, sarcastic manner that Buz determined to leave him. "Poor fellow!" she thought, "this noise and excitement must have made him cross." And indeed the confusion and hurrying about increased every minute.

"Good-by, Mr. Drone," said Buz. "I really am much obliged to you for what you have told me."

"I'm quite overwhelmed," said the drone, getting more disagreeable than ever. "Your politeness is something imperial. Are you sure  you didn't get hold of any royal bread? Are you sure  you ain't a queen? Just make certain of it—do! Fly out of the hive and see if the other bees won't swarm round you. They may.  And what shall I do," he went on, "to show my respect? Shall I stick here waxed to the floor all the rest of my life in case you want to come back and ask any more questions? Only say the word. What! going off in a huff, are you? That's right, follow your temper—and make haste, or you'll never recover it!"

These last words were thrown after Buz, as she hurried away without trusting herself to speak. To tell the truth, she was getting a little afraid of the drone, who seemed to have lost all command over himself; and she was so excited about the swarming that his words affected her less than they would otherwise have done; at the same time, it was exceedingly disagreeable to be so misjudged. "Though I brought it on myself," she thought; "and it shows what a mistake it is to keep on asking questions when you see a person's out of temper. I'll never do it again, I'll be stung if I do!"

Saying this, she ran round the corner of a comb in a great hurry, to see where the queen was, and what might be going on, and knocked up against a bee coming just as hastily in the other direction. It was Hum!—positively Hum! Only imagine her  being excited about any thing but work! Buz was quite amused.

"Then you mean to swarm too, I suppose," she said.

"Well, no," answered Hum; "I think not. I couldn't very well, you know."

"I'm sure I don't  know," said Buz.

"I've got into such a groove here, don't you see, that I'm almost afraid I couldn't bear to leave it. I know where every thing is now, and exactly where to go; and besides, I've got a——" Here Hum stopped short, as if she had said rather more than she meant to.

"Got a what?" asked Buz.

"Well, dear, I'm afraid you'll think it foolish of me—I know you wouldn't consider it a reason yourself, and I dare say you're right; but the fact is——" and here Hum fidgeted about nervously, as if she was a little ashamed, "the fact is, I've got a cell that I am filling with honey all by myself; it's up in a corner, out of the way, and I couldn't bear to go before it was full. You understand, don't you?" concluded she, almost pleadingly.

"I think I understand what you  feel, though I don't fancy I should mind leaving it myself. Well, I shall be very sorry to part from you, for you're the best bee in the world. I really have half a mind to stay," continued Buz suddenly; "I feel as if you would keep me out of scrapes."

"Oh, please don't let me prevent you from going!" cried Hum; "it would never do. I'm sure you are just the sort of person to join the swarm; you are so bold and active. I shall often think of you, dear Buz, and long to know how you are getting on; but we should seldom meet here you know, even if you were to remain."

"That's true," said Buz, thoughtfully; "and after all, something tells me I ought to join the swarm. But, I say," added she briskly, "what is the state of the case exactly, for I hardly know?"

"I do," answered Hum. "I came straight from the queen when we met."

"Tell me all about it then."

"It seems that even yesterday the queen became restless, and said something about changing her house. I have it on good authority, for one of the royal attendants told me as much."

"Told you she said that?"

"Well, hardly; in fact, it's difficult to say exactly what she did tell me. She kept on hinting: she said, 'there might be changes before long, and what should I think of that?'—and 'the queen might use her wings before long, and what should I think of that?'—and 'because a certain royal person chose to live a certain time in a certain house, did it follow that that royal person was never to change her residence?'—and so on, you know."

"I hate that!" cried Buz. "Why couldn't she tell you outright, or leave it alone altogether?"

"It does appear foolish, when one comes to think of it," said Hum; "especially when one recollects all the nods and whispers; but at the time,  I suppose, it makes a person seem important; and I caught myself nodding mysteriously, and whispering too: very silly of me, to be sure!"

"Why, yes," said Buz. "I wish you had laughed at her, or, at any rate, pretended not to understand; but it can't be helped. What's the news this morning?"

"Nothing has actually happened yet, but the queen gets more restless every moment, and an old bee—one who has been in a swarm already—told me that she quite expected she would leave the hive today. I know I can't settle down to any thing. It's wretched work!"

"Come along," said Buz; "I want to be near the queen, and watch her."

The two friends were separated before they reached the royal presence, for great numbers of bees were crowding round. Buz soon pushed her way into a good place, and, just as she got there she heard the queen say to herself, "I've a very good mind to do it. Is it fine?" she asked, turning to her attendants.

"It is, your majesty," answered several.

"A very good mind," continued the queen to herself; "my family is becoming inconveniently large, and this house doesn't do: it gets hot, much too hot. That's one reason, and there are two or three others."

"She means by that," said a bee very softly to Buz, "that there are two or three royal grubs just ready to come out; but she doesn't like alluding to them, even to herself."

"Too proud?" asked Buz, in a whisper.

"Too proud," answered the bee, with a confidential nod.

The queen was now close to them.

"I declare, I think I'll do it to-day," she repeated. "Did you say it was fine?" she added aloud, turning to her attendants.

"Very fine, your majesty," said they.

"Fine enough,  eh?" asked the queen.

"Fine enough for any thing,  your majesty," said the attendants, who were prevented by court etiquette from seeming to know what orders the queen was about to give, though every one knew perfectly well that every bee in the hive knew all about it. Curious, perhaps; but the laws of etiquette are  curious—very.

"I hear a great noise," said the queen. "What is it?"

It was no wonder she did. Thousands of bees were darting backward and forward just at the mouth of the hive, and the air was filled with a roaring sound. But the attendants appeared to be quite astonished.

"We'll go and inquire, your majesty," they replied.

They did so, and, returning immediately, said, "A few of your majesty's subjects are loitering about near the entrance, your majesty; would your majesty wish them to disperse?"

"No matter," said the queen. "A few, did you say?"

"Well, more than a few,  perhaps, your majesty," replied the attendants, looking one at another; "more than a few."

"Are there enough, do you think?" asked the queen carelessly. "Are there as many as there ought to be?"

"There are enough for any thing,  your majesty."

"And the day, you say, is fine enough?"

"For any thing,  your majesty."

The excitement was becoming quite intense.

The queen, after showing great restlessness and indecision for several moments, suddenly grew calm, and, standing in the center of the circle drawn respectfully round her, gave a few shrill squeaks, and said, "I have made up my mind to go. Let all who wish to join me wait outside, and be ready to SWARM! ! !"

Directly she spoke the last word, there was an end to all restraint. It was the word so anxiously expected all the morning, and was now the signal for a general rush. It was passed round the hive in no time, and Buz took it up, and found herself repeating, like every one else, "A swarm! a swarm! ! a swarm! ! !" Meantime she pressed forward to the entrance. It seemed to her as if she would never reach it; but then, she was in such a desperate hurry. At last her struggles were rewarded, and, with dozens of other bees, she tumbled out of the hive—head over heels! any how!—and joined the excited mob in front.

There she dashed backward and forward as madly as any one, but always watching the entrance; always ready to follow the queen the moment she should appear.

She had not long to wait, for her majesty soon presented herself, and, after looking about her, spread her wings and flew slowly and steadily away.

By this time the noise was tremendous; such an angry noise too! But Buz hardly heard it, she was so excited, so bent on keeping the queen in sight. Her majesty, after taking a short flight round the garden, just to pick out a good place, alighted on the under side of one of the branches of a small standard pear tree, and was immediately hidden by a cloud of about twenty thousand bees, which settled on and round her.

Buz was one of the first to take up her position, but, hardly liking to pitch on the queen, attached herself to the branch close to her, and was at once used by several other bees as a convenient thing to cling to; these in their turn were treated in the same way, till a lump of bees was formed as big as a good-sized cabbage, and Buz found it rather hard work to hold on.

"It must be uncommonly hot in the middle, though," she thought: "better be here than there."

At this moment the gardener approached. His coat was off, and his shirt-sleeves were rolled up. He knew the bees would not sting him for shaking them into the new hive he carried, but he had to roll up his sleeves for fear of one crawling up and being hurt.

He now held the hive upside down under the swarm, took hold of the end of the bough on which it hung, and gave a sharp, strong jerk, which dislodged it and sent it right into the hive. There was no hesitation, no indecision about him; it was all the work of a moment. Instantly, a cloud of bees ascended all round him, and many alighted on his arms, and some even on his face. Of these he took no notice whatever; but, seeing that a great cluster remained in the hive, he was satisfied that the queen was among them; he then turned it over in its right position and stood it on four bricks placed on the ground, so that the bees outside could easily join their friends within. Having protected the hive from the sun with a few freshly cut boughs, he left the swarm alone till the evening. Buz was right in the middle this time, holding on like any thing to the bee just above her.

When it grew dusk, the gardener came back; and finding that every bee had entered the hive, he placed it on a flat board, and carried it off to a stand which had been prepared for it, close to the old hive from which the swarm had come.


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