§ 17. These are undeveloped females, and they do all the work that is done in
the hive. They secrete the wax, build the comb, ventilate the hive, gather the
pollen for the young, and honey for all, feed and rear the brood, and fight all
the battles necessary to defend the colony.
Of the three kinds of bees these are the smallest, but constitute the great mass
of the population. They possess the whole ruling power of the colony and
regulate its economy.
§ 18. The details of the head of a bee are very interesting. We have already
mentioned, when speaking of the drone, the compound eyes, which are larger and
contain a greater number of facets in the male than in either the queen or the
§ 19. The bees have short, thick, smooth, mandibles, working sidewise instead of
up and down as in higher animals. These mandibles have no teeth like those of
wasps and hornets, and yet enable them to tear the soft corolla of flowers and
to build their combs out of wax. They are therefore incapable of cutting the
smooth skin of sound fruits of any kind.
§ 20. The tongue of the honeybee is made of several parts, ligula, palpi and
maxillae (Fig. 12). The central part of the ligula is grooved like a tongue.
When at rest it is folded below the mentum or chin.
§ 21. In the head and thorax are three pairs of salivary glands, two of which at
least are evidently used to produce the saliva which changes the chemical
condition of the nectar of blossoms into that of honey. The largest pair of
glands is supposed to be used in the production of the pap for the larvae, as
will be seen further (33).
§ 22. The antennae or feelers are the two long horns which protrude from the
head of the bee. These exist in all insects. The popular name of “feelers” is
very proper, for it is with these antennae that the bee examines every body or
thing with which it comes in contact. They appear to serve the purpose of smell,
touch and hearing. It is however claimed by a modern scientist, Mr. McIndoo, of
the Bureau of Entomology at Washington, that the bees do not smell through the
antennae and that there are organs of smell, located in other parts of the body,
at the joints of wings, legs, etc. It is true also that the organs of breathing
are not in the head, but in the abdomen, between the rings or segments of the
third section of the body. However, until further proof is adduced, we must
continue, with all entomological students, to ascribe the detection of the most
minute odors to the antennae, since it is with these organs that they examine
the blossoms, the combs, their friends and their enemies. As there are usually
tens of thousands of bees in a colony and they very readily recognize their own
members, it must be with the antennae that this recognition is achieved.
§ 23. The honey-sac (Fig. 13), or first stomach, is located in the abdomen or
third segment of the body of the bee. From this stomach, the bee may at will
digest a part of the honey, by forcing it to the second stomach for the
nourishment of its body, or it may be discharged back through the mouth into the
cells for future use (49). Another use of the honey is to make comb, as will be
explained further (38).
§ 24. The honeybee has four wings and six legs, all fastened to the corslet or
second segment of the body. The wings, in pairs, fold upon each other to enable
them to enter within the cells where the brood is reared and where the honey is
stored. In flight the two sections of these wings are braced together by the use
of very fine hooks, which enable them to present a greater surface in contact
with the air.
§ 25. We will not go into the details of the different segments of the legs of
the honey bee. But it is well to say that each leg is supplied at its extremity
with claws which permit the bees to hang to each other in clusters. They also
have near the claw a small “rubber-like pocket” which secretes a sticky
substance. This enables the bee, like the fly and many other insects, to fasten
itself and walk with ease upon any smooth surface, such as a pane of glass or a
§ 26. The anterior legs (Fig. 14.) are provided with a notch and a thumb-like
spine or “velum” A, B. C. which is used by the insect to cleanse the antenna.
The motion made for this purpose is often noticed in house flies as well as in
§ 27. The third pair of legs of the workerbee have a hollow cavity (Fig. 15 A
A), called the pollen basket, which enables it to carry home the pollen of
flowers, which some people, when they see them so loaded, imagine to be wax, but
which is used to make the pap or jelly for the young. This pollen (55) is
popularly called bee-bread and is the fertilizing dust of flowers.
It is peculiar and wonderful that neither the queen nor the drones are supplied
with these pollen baskets (Fig. 16). They would have no use for them since they
never work in the field.
§ 28. The ovaries, or egg pouches, which are very large in the queen, are almost
absent in the workers, who are therefore incomplete females (121) and unfit for
mating, although they may occasionally be able to lay a few eggs which hatch as
On the other hand, the sting, which is curved in the queen and used only to
fight other queens, is straight in the worker and accompanied by a much better
developed poison sac, which deposits venom in the wound made.
§ 29. The sting, which is barbed, is used for self-defense and for the
protection of their home. It is composed of three distinct parts, of which the
sheath or awl forms one. These three parts join near the edges, and form a tube,
which viewed sectionally, ABB, has the shape of a triangle, the angles being
rounded off (Fig. 17, 18).
The other two parts or lancets BB constitute the sting proper and in the
sectional view are semi-circular, the upper edges being thicker than the lower
ones, and squared to each other, one of the edges having a projection extending
along the under or inner portion of it, thereby forming a rabbet along which the
opposite part freely moves. The under or inner portion of these parts tapers
down to extreme thinness, while near the termination of the edge there runs a
minute groove which corresponds with a ridge T T in the sheath of awl H and
along which the parts move freely. Each of these parts properly tapers down to a
fine point. In the cut, the right hand lancet is removed from the other parts to
show its adjustment B, in sectional view.
Near the point begin the barbs, which in some stings may number as many as ten
(Fig. 17), extending along the sting nearly one half of its length and are
well-defined. Each of the lancets, when the sting is in action, has an
independent motion, so they are thrust out alternately and when working their
way into a wound, the valves E E by their action force out poison which is
received from the poison sack C through the reservoir S. When the bee stings, it
may happen that one or both of the chief parts of the sting are left in the
wound when the sheath is withdrawn, but are rarely perceived on account of their
minuteness, the person stung at the same time congratulating himself that the
sting has been extracted.
§ 30. The worker may live as long as six months or more in the winter, when she
is not flying about, but in summer her life is very short, averaging less than
forty days. She literally wears herself out. For that reason, a queenless
colony, in which the number of bees is no longer replenished by daily hatchings
soon dies. A colony which has failed to raise a queen after swarming or whose
queen has been lost on her wedding flight will be entirely depopulated by fall.
A workerbee never lives to see her anniversary. Those reared in the fall, having
little outdoor work to perform, will live till spring. None of them die of old
age but the majority work themselves to death and many die from accident.