Published by
Hydrogen Jukebox Press


gifmilesbanneracopy.jpg (82930 bytes)

      An Online Edition

 edited and annotated, with an introduction by Dr. Luke A. Powers

Copy of birdbuttona.gif (2810 bytes)





Saturday, May 16, 1914

[Bees]


     All over the world the fountain is a symbol of the inexhaustible reservoirs of Nature. Up from the mystery of source it leaps into the sun, laughing into ecstasies of foam or stilling and darkening into cool and limpid essences of everlasting freshness to satisfy the thirst of all the world. They who rest on the rim of the Fireman's basin are not only birds: each day comes representatives of the oldest social order, the first and faithfulest of laborers, the thriftiest of tiny housekeepers--the bees. They circle round the Fireman's helmet, sing in his ear the song of the worker--that fine vibrant whir of honey-heavy wings--and perch upon his shoulders to drink from the clear trickle that constantly cools them. They pay no attention to the birds, no[r] to anything outside the work in hand; but the birds regard them with curiosity, not to say wonder.

     "What strange instinct can it be," mused the White Pigeon, "that drives these little creatures to toil so constantly when they have no real need to do so--only making surplus honey for others' use?"

     "Bees don't make honey," the Sparrow corrected her. "They gather it. If they didn't, who would? There's plenty of honey in this country--lots of it right in this city for that matter--and tons of it go to waste every year for lack of enough bees to put it to use."

     "It is strange," commented the Gray Pigeon, "that more of the local fruit-growers do not take advantage of the fact that bees and fruit go so well together. Time was when every farmer's wife in this country kept a row of 'bee gums' along the orchard fence, each one a section of a hollow log, whose cover was a square of board, weighted with a stone, full of the lean and vicious black wild bees now rarely seen. Over them was generally a pole with two or four gourds for the martins, those guardians of the hive, to nest in. It was then believed by the country people that the queen was the kingbee; the workers were supposed to be males and the drones were supposed to lay eggs. The value of the fruitbloom to the bees and their keeper was of course understood, but it was not known that the bees are almost indispensable to the owner of the orchard, and, in fact, this is hardly considered by fruit growers of the present day."

     "The wind helps to pollenize the flowers," said the White Pigeon. "Sometimes no wind blows while the trees are in full bloom. Bees are more thorough. Fruit trees are often planted in such a way that those prolific in pollen will be mingled with others that are to be fertilized; but the bees' work is to 'make distant flowers bride and groom,' and nothing else can take their place. Yet the only profit people see in keeping bees is the honey obtained for family use or for the market."

     "By the way," asked the White Pigeon, "where are these bees going?"

     "Toward the city, as I'm a living aeroplane," declared the Gray Pigeon, watching the direct line of flight. "Who keeps bees there?"

     "I know," said the Sparrow. "That is, I have seen the folks. A wild swarm was captured by two lads on an outing last summer and housed in their spacious yard. A few saucers of dampened sugar were supplied to the hive on the warm days that came in January, and this spring they throve splendidly on the flowers of neighboring dooryards. They became so prosperous that a week ago a new swarm was undertaken by the now well-established colony.

     "While its members were hurling themselves through the air, to and fro and in mad circles, and afterward marching and countermarching without settled abiding place, a new home was hastily constructed by the boys, for in this month a swarm is 'worth a load of hay.' The inside of the box they rubbed with peachtree leaves, for these strange little people are very sensitive to smells, and enjoy the odor of peach leaves as they detest that of garlic.

     "At last the restless battalions settled high in one of the oaks on the lawn. The boys climbed up and sawed off the bough as gently as a dentist working on an aching tooth, and with a clothesline let it down by inches into a sheet their mother spread on the grass for them. Gently and patiently they worked to bring the new home to the notice of the bees. At last their perseverence was rewarded, and the swarm turned all at once and marched in by companies in the most wonderful way. The boys were so happy they danced about the hive shouting, and began to calculate what they would buy with the money realized from the sale of surplus honey.

     "And, after all, next morning, the swarm became discontented and took flight!"

     "There is no sound on earthlike that made by a runaway swarm. It is a wonderful sustained vibration, a note of ecstasy and freedom, fine as the tone of a violin. I heard it pass overheard, and then heard the boys shouting and beating a tin pan while their mother rang a bell. Some tears were shed over the downfall of their hopes. I heard their mother explaining to them that it is one of the many mysteries of bee nature that you can never tell why they may leave a well-prepared and comfortable home for some odd corner of their own choosing."

     "The great mystery," said the White Pigeon, "is that of the worker-nature. A creature sexless, though born in an egg!--there is one of the Good Gray Mother's enigmas."

     "Something like the same enigma," said the Fireman, "is man propounding to himself today. The riddle of the working woman is vexing the whole social order. Her type in partial development is seen in every store[,] factory, school and office in the city; in fulfillment it produces such altruists as Clara Barton, Frances Willard, Jane Addams--childless mothers whose children are so many; workers of whose labor our queens enjoy every day the precious fruit.

     "But there is the tragedy of the misplaced queen--the ultrafeminine type that can never fit into the working world, the girl who must marry or else go down to destruction. She has no place in the modern labor market."

     "That is an interesting theory," reflected the White Pigeon. "It accounts for the fact that many capable girls are never chosen in marriage, while their pretty, pleasure-loving, emotional sisters are."





Copyright 2000 Hydrogen Jukebox Press All rights reserved