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The Life of the Bee   By: (1862-1949)

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Created by: Steve Solomon ssolomon@soilandhealth.org

The Life of the Bee

BY

MAURICE MAETERLINCK

Translated by

ALFRED SUTRO

NEW YORK

1914

Published May, 1901

Contents

I. ON THE THRESHOLD OF THE HIVE

II. THE SWARM

III. THE FOUNDATION OF THE CITY

IV. THE LIFE OF THE BEE

V. THE YOUNG QUEENS

VI. THE NUPTIAL FLIGHT

VII. THE MASSACRE OF THE MALES

VIII. THE PROGRESS OF THE RACE

APPENDIX

I

ON THE THRESHOLD OF THE HIVE

[1]

IT is not my intention to write a treatise on apiculture, or on practical bee keeping. Excellent works of the kind abound in all civilised countries, and it were useless to attempt another. France has those of Dadant, Georges de Layens and Bonnier, Bertrand, Hamet, Weber, Clement, the Abbe Collin, etc. English speaking countries have Langstroth, Bevan, Cook, Cheshire, Cowan, Root, etc. Germany has Dzierzon, Van Berlespoch, Pollmann, Vogel, and many others.

Nor is this book to be a scientific monograph on Apis Mellifica, Ligustica, Fasciata, Dorsata, etc., or a collection of new observations and studies. I shall say scarcely anything that those will not know who are somewhat familiar with bees. The notes and experiments I have made during my twenty years of beekeeping I shall reserve for a more technical work; for their interest is necessarily of a special and limited nature, and I am anxious not to over burden this essay. I wish to speak of the bees very simply, as one speaks of a subject one knows and loves to those who know it not. I do not intend to adorn the truth, or merit the just reproach Reaumur addressed to his predecessors in the study of our honey flies, whom he accused of substituting for the marvellous reality marvels that were imaginary and merely plausible. The fact that the hive contains so much that is wonderful does not warrant our seeking to add to its wonders. Besides, I myself have now for a long time ceased to look for anything more beautiful in this world, or more interesting, than the truth; or at least than the effort one is able to make towards the truth. I shall state nothing, therefore, that I have not verified myself, or that is not so fully accepted in the text books as to render further verification superfluous. My facts shall be as accurate as though they appeared in a practical manual or scientific monograph, but I shall relate them in a somewhat livelier fashion than such works would allow, shall group them more harmoniously together, and blend them with freer and more mature reflections. The reader of this book will not learn therefrom how to manage a hive; but he will know more or less all that can with any certainty be known of the curious, profound, and intimate side of its inhabitants. Nor will this be at the cost of what still remains to be learned. I shall pass over in silence the hoary traditions that, in the country and many a book, still constitute the legend of the hive. Whenever there be doubt, disagreement, hypothesis, when I arrive at the unknown, I shall declare it loyally; you will find that we often shall halt before the unknown. Beyond the appreciable facts of their life we know but little of the bees. And the closer our acquaintance becomes, the nearer is our ignorance brought to us of the depths of their real existence; but such ignorance is better than the other kind, which is unconscious, and satisfied.

Does an analogous work on the bee exist? I believe I have read almost all that has been written on bees; but of kindred matter I know only Michelet's chapter at the end of his book "The Insect," and Ludwig Buchner's essay in his "Mind in Animals." Michelet merely hovers on the fringe of his subject; Buchner's treatise is comprehensive enough, but contains so many hazardous statements, so much long discarded gossip and hearsay, that I suspect him of never having left his library, never having set forth himself to question his heroines, or opened one of the many hundreds of rustling, wing lit hives which we must profane before our instinct can be attuned to their secret, before we can perceive the spirit and atmosphere, perfume and mystery, of these virgin daughters of toil... Continue reading book >>




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