Volltext: The Cyclopaedia of Anatomy and Physiology, vol. 3: Ins-Pla (3)

but not to leave room for objection, 1 shall 
regard them as the result of one only: yet 
the operations of polishing the interior of the 
cells, and soldering their angles and orifices 
with propolis, which are sometimes not under¬ 
taken for weeks after the cells are built; and 
the obscure but still more curious one of var¬ 
nishing them with the yellow tinge observable 
in old combs, seem clearly referable to at 
least two distinct instincts. 
“ In their out-of-door operations several dis¬ 
tinct instincts are concerned. By one they are 
led to extract honey from the nectaries of 
flowers ; by another to collect pollen after a 
process involving very complicated manipu¬ 
lations, and requiring a singular apparatus of 
brushes and baskets ; and that must surely be 
considered a third which so remarkably and 
beneficially restricts each gathering to the same 
plant. It is clearly a distinct instinct which 
inspires bees with such dread of rain, that 
even if a cloud pass before the sun, they return 
to the hive in the greatest haste. 
“ Several distinct instincts, again, are called 
into action in the important business of feeding 
the young brood. One teaches them to swal¬ 
low pollen, not to satisfy the calls of hunger, 
but that it may undergo in their stomach an 
elaboration fitting it for the food of the grubs ; 
and another to regurgitate it when duly con¬ 
cocted, and to administer it to their charge, 
proportioning the supply to the age and con¬ 
dition of the recipients. A third informs them 
when the young grubs have attained their full 
growth, and directs them to cover their cells 
with a waxen lid, convex in the male cells, but 
nearly flat in those of workers, and by a fourth, 
as soon as the young bees have burst into day, 
they are impelled to clean out the deserted 
tenements and make them ready for new oc¬ 
“ Numerous as are the instincts already 
mentioned, the list must yet include those 
connected with that mysterious principle which 
binds the working bees of a hive to their 
queen :—the singular imprisonment in which 
they retain the young queens that are to lead 
off a swarm, until their wings be sufficiently 
expanded to enable them to fly the moment 
they are at liberty, gradually paring away the 
waxen wall that confines them to an extreme 
thinness, and only suffering it to be broken 
down at the precise moment required;—the 
attention with which in these circumstances 
they feed the imprisoned queen by frequently 
putting honey on her proboscis, protruded from 
a small orifice in the lid of her cell;—the 
watchfulness with which, when at the period 
of swarming more queens than one are re¬ 
quired, they place a guard over the cells of 
those undisclosed, to preserve them from the 
jealous fury of their excluded rivals ;—the 
exquisite calculation with which they inva¬ 
riably release the oldest queens the first from 
their confinement ;—the singular love of mo¬ 
narchical dominion, by which, when two queens 
in other circumstances are produced, they are 
led to impel them to combat until one is de¬ 
stroyed ;—the ardent devotion which binds 
them to the fate and fortune of the survivor;— 
the distraction which they manifest at her 
loss, and their resolute determination not to 
accept of any stranger until an interval has 
elapsed sufficiently long to allow of no chance 
of the return of their rightful sovereign ;—and 
(to omit a further enumeration) the obedience 
which in the utmost noise and confusion they 
shew to her well-known hum. 
« I have now instanced at least thirty dis¬ 
tinct instincts with which every individual of 
the nurses amongst the working-bees is en¬ 
dowed ; and if to the account be added their 
care to carry from the hive the dead bodies of 
any of the community; their pertinacity in 
their battles, in directing their sting at those 
parts only of the bodies of their adversaries 
which are penetrable by it; their annual autum¬ 
nal murder of the drones, &c. &c.—it is cer¬ 
tain that this number might be very consider¬ 
ably increased, perhaps doubled.”* 
To these instincts, in the case of some species 
of ants we shall certainly have to add those by 
which they are guided in carrying on a regular 
system of warfare, either with other hives of the 
same species or with other species, in subjuga¬ 
ting and bringing up as workers or slaves those 
that they have subdued, and likewise in sub¬ 
jecting to their dominion tribes of Aphides.-! 
But all this becomes still more surprising, 
because more at variance with the usual in¬ 
stincts of animals, when we consider the power 
of adapting their operations to changes in their 
circumstances, which such associations of in¬ 
sects possess. 
“ It is,” says Mr. Spence, “ in the deviations 
of the instincts of insects and their accommoda¬ 
tion to circumstances, that the exquisiteness of 
these faculties is most decidedly manifested. 
The instincts of the larger animals seem capable 
of but slight modification. They are either ex¬ 
ercised in their full extent or not at all. A 
bird, when its nest is pulled out of a bush, 
though it should be laid uninjured close by, 
never attempts to replace it in its situation ; it 
contents itself with building another. But in¬ 
sects in similar contingencies often exhibit the 
most ingenious resources, their instincts surpri¬ 
singly accommodating themselves to the new 
circumstances in which they are placed, in a 
manner more wonderful and incomprehensible 
than the existence of the faculties themselves.” 
This observation we support by various in¬ 
stances taken from the history of different in¬ 
sects ; but the most extraordinary are from the 
societies of insects of which we now speak ; 
and of these the following are only a specimen. 
“ The combs of bees are always at an uniform 
distance from each other, namely, about one- 
third of an inch, which is just wide enough to 
allow them to pass easily, and have access to 
the young brood. On the approach of winter, 
when their honey-cells are not sufficient in 
number to contain all the stock, they elongate 
them considerably, and thus increase their capa- 
* Introduction to Entomology, vol. ii. p. 498 
et seq. 
t Introd. to Entomology, letter xvii. 
c 2


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