A Swarm Of Bees Judges 14:8

A swarm of bees.—Judges 14:8.

Have you ever wondered what animals think about? Perhaps it never struck you that they thought at all—except possibly about their food and drink. But if you have a pet at home you will know that this is not the case. What is your dog dreaming of as he lies blinking in front of the fire? Is he going over again that grand chase after a rabbit that he had in the days of his energetic youth? Is he wondering where you will take him for tomorrow’s walk? What is he thinking of when he puts his two paws on your knees and looks up into your face with his beautiful brown eyes and gives a little whine? He is trying to tell you something, only it is your ears that are deaf and cannot understand his doggy language. What is your kitten thinking of as she chases a paper ball? She is never still one moment and always seems to be inventing some new way to use her toy.

We human beings are so very conceited and stupid that we sometimes talk and act as if we were the only creatures who had brains worth mentioning; and we forget that the great God who made us has created many other creatures very wise and very wonderful, and that He loves and cares for them all.
Today I want to tell you about one of the most marvelous creatures God has made. It is very tiny— less than an inch in length—and yet it has a very wonderful brain. You have seen it hundreds of times buzzing about the gardens in the sunny summer days, and if it has come too near, you have perhaps run away. Of course that is a mistake, because it won’t interfere with you unless you interfere with it. Now I wonder if you can guess who this wonderful creature is? Yes, it is just the little common hive-bee; and when you grow older I hope you will all read a book by Maurice Maeterlinck called “The Life of the Bee”; for it reads just like a fairy tale, and yet it is all true. I shall try to tell you some of the strange things he tells us.

There are three kinds of hive-bees. First there is the queen-bee who reigns over the hive and lays the eggs that will one day turn into grubs and later into new bees. Then there are the worker-bees who do all the hard work of the hive. Lastly there are the drones who are lazy good-for-nothings and of whom we shall have more to say later.

At present I want to talk to you about the worker-bees. They are very clever little creatures and teach human beings many useful lessons.

1. Of course the first thing you think of in connection with a bee is its industry. Somehow you can’t think of bees without at the same time thinking of “busyness.” We speak of “busy bees,” and “hives of industry,” and so on. And when you remember that a single bee visits two or three hundred flowers in an hour, and that it must visit several hundreds in order to gather enough nectar to make one drop of honey, I think you will agree that it deserves its title.

But did you know that there are a great many trades among the bees, and that each one sticks to its own trade? First there are the mason bees who make the wax for the comb and fasten it to the roof of the hive. Then there are the sculptor bees who follow the masons and chisel and mold the wax into the correct shape. There are the engineer bees who look after the ventilation of the hive. When the summer days are hot, and the wax is likely to melt and become soft, they take up a position near the door of the hive and flap their wings to create a draught. Besides these there are the maids of honor who follow the queen wherever she goes and attend on her, and the nurse bees whose business it is to look after the young grubs and feed them. Most important of all are the sentinel bees who guard the door of the hive night and day, and who keep off all enemies and would-be intruders. So you see a hive is just like a town, buzzing with industry from morning till night.

2. Then another thing the bees teach us is cleanliness. They keep a spotless house. There is another class of bee I did not mention when going over the different bees. Some people call them scavenger bees, but I think a much nicer name for them is housewife bees. When the bees, after swarming, are busy building their new city in the new hive these housewife bees have their own task to perform. While the masons are making the wax and the sculptors are molding it, the housewives are attending to the floor of the hive. They sweep the floor, and turn out every little bit of trash such as sand or dead leaves. And not only when the new home is being built, but all through the summer, they keep it beautifully clean. Sometimes in spite of the care of the sentinels a snail or a mouse gets into the hive. Should this happen the bees will sting it to death. But after they have killed it what are they to do with its body? If they cannot turn it out they will build a tomb of wax over it and seal it up carefully so that the dead body may not poison the hive.

3. Once more, the worker-bees can teach us a lesson in unselfishness. They work, not for themselves, but for the good of the hive. A very small quantity of honey serves for their own food, the rest goes to feed the queen, the grubs, and the drones, to make wax, or to be stored up for the winter. In the summer, two-thirds of the bees leave the hive to make room for the younger generation. They leave behind them a beautiful city of wax filled with treasures of honey and pollen, and they go out to face poverty, for they have nothing until they build themselves a new city and fill it with provisions of honey and pollen. They will willingly die to save the queen’s life. They keep their best food for her and should food be scarce they will give up their last drop of honey to her. If there should be an accident and the hive should collapse, the queen will almost always be found alive underneath the bodies of her dead daughters.

But there are bees who are in every respect the opposite of the busy worker-bees. These are the drones or male bees. The drone is a very handsome fellow. He is much bigger than the worker-bee and wears a beautiful velvet suit. In front of his head he carries two feelers or antennae that look like small plumes, and he has twenty-six thousand eyes.

Now this drone thinks himself a very important fellow, and he goes about the hive knocking down any one who gets in his path and looking scornfully on the busy little workers. But he is really a very contemptible sort of fellow. He is lazy, untidy, greedy and selfish. He does no work himself and he hinders other people in their work. He eats far more than a worker-bee—in fact it takes five or six workers to keep him supplied. He looks out for the nicest corners in the hive and eats the sweetest honey. In the hottest part of the summer days he saunters out for a visit to the flowers, but not that he may gather honey or pollen from them. Oh, dear no, he wants a sun-bath! When the day grows cooler he saunters back again to gorge himself on honey and go to sleep.

But when the autumn days come the prudent little worker-bees know that they have no food to spare to keep useless people alive during the long, cold winter. So one day the signal goes round, and the workers either fall upon the drones and sting them to death, or turn them out-of-doors to die of starvation.

Now I think there are some boys and girls who are rather like the drones.

There are the lazy boys and girls who seem to think that other people are here to serve them, and who forget that we are really in this world to help and serve one another. They cannot put away their own slippers, or books, or toys. They cannot fasten their own buttons, untie their own knots, or learn their own lessons. They must always have someone running to tidy up after them or help them out of their difficulties. There are the greedy boys and girls who always look out for the sweetest cake or the biggest plum. And there are the selfish boys and girls who look out for the nicest seat or the coziest corner, no matter how uncomfortable other people may feel.

When you are tempted to be lazy, or greedy, or selfish, remember that there is no room for drone boys and girls, that they are just a hindrance and a trouble to others. And remember, too, that one of the reasons why Jesus came into the world was to show people that the noblest work on earth is just serving one another.