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The Workers

§ 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 worker.

§ 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 ceiling.

§ 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 bees.

§ 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 drones.

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.

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