Once, when our children were getting ready for Sunday school, I called, “Hey,
kids, come see what’s going on in the glass beehive.” Nancy and Walt stood on
stools to see two “feelers” coming out of a tiny hole in the center of one
cell. The rest of the bees went on with their work, unconcerned. We craned our
necks to see a bee trying to get out of a six-sided wax cell.
The queen had backed into the cell and deposited an egg there, the egg had
hatched and a larva emerged. Worker bees fed it just the right amount of royal
jelly to arrest its development before maturity. Then they changed its diet to
a mixture of “bee bread” and honey. The larva spun a cocoon around itself
and, with its head turned toward the cell cap, rested till hatching time. This
was happening hundreds of times in our kitchen.
Having a glass-sided hive in the kitchen cabinet was another one of my wild
ideas. This hive has only one frame; production hives have ten each. I bored a
hole in the window frame and made a viewing runway by using a large glass tube
to join the hive to the hole leading outdoors. Annealed copper secured by duct
tape gave the bees access to outdoors and prevented them from getting loose in
the house. A wooden block tacked to the outside of the window frame provided a
landing board for their comings and goings. There was no danger that these
bees would sting us.
We kept the hive closed for the first day and opened the exit hole the second
morning. Soon a few bees were walking in a spiral around in the tube, seeking
a way out. Some took their places as guards, flying around to protect the
The sink was full of dishes to be washed, but I watched until I saw bees going
straight out of the tube and bees retuning, laden with pollen in their leg
baskets. My crazy idea was working.
The “feelers” that were in sight that morning would extend out and then
disappear again and again. Progress was slow, but the bee inside was chewing
to make the hole larger.
“Let’s close their exit and set this where we can see it without standing on
a stool,” Walt said. Good idea. We put it on the dining table, and about an
hour later the little head was coming through the hole but the shoulders were
much too big.
We wiped out plans for Sunday school. Chub joined the vigil, and the bee kept
chewing. Finally the bee forced its way through the hole, stretched and walked
on other workers making a “bee line” to a particular cell. There it began
housekeeping chores as hundreds of its fellow bees had done on their first
days after hatching. We soon lost it in the mob.
Our show was over.
The bee will go about its later duties the same way. It will receive supplies
in its mouth parts from the field bees, store them, fan the excess water from
nectar, and feed the queen and groom her. It will take its turn at guarding;
gathering; and carrying in nectar, pollen and water. And the bee and a helper
will carry out old workers with worn-out wings. The old bees will be too far
away to make it back to the hive. We saw a lot in that glass hive.
According to the author of “The World of Bees,” Murray Hoyt, “There is no
head to the organization for order-giving. There are no subordinates or
foremen. Bees out-Communist the Communists.’*”
Enjoy more honey!