7 Our Dumb Animals 1 (1874-1875)

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                                        I   would   not  enter  on  my   list of friends,
                                          Though graced with polished manners and fine sense,
                                          'Yet wanting sensibility, the man
                                          Who   needlessly   sets foot  upon   a worm.   -  Cowpes.

Vol. 7.                                            BOSTON, JUNE, 1874.                                                                .No.   1.

     Our Dumb Animals.

     Published on the first Tuesday of each Month by the

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              [For Our Dumb Animals.]
         Whims  of the Fartm-house Bees.
   The females are called queens, not more than
one of which can live in the same hive, says an
observant  writer upon  this singular and most
suggestive community.   Nothing can  exceed the
neatness and order of their dwellings-from cellar
to attic, all is sweet as a rose-not an atom of
dust, not a trace of bug or fly, not a sound of com-
plaint, not a sound of discord. Diligent, thrifty,
decorous, the little people go on like clock-work,
and naturally suggest  the question whether all
this be not in consequence of there being but one
representative of femininity in any one hive! * * *
  Some  years ago we kept bees, and I found them
very pleasant and companionable. I used to visit
them frequently, and talk to them, and they evi-
dently liked my  conversation, for sometimes a
busy  bee would  stay his head-long flight to
listen, and would   alight upon my   arm,  and
walk with me.  One  of my children would be with
me  and I have seen many a bee, odorous of thyme,
and wild clover, and honeysuckle, dotting the lit-

tle boy's shoulders. We used to call them little
friends, and had no fear of them, Indeed, people
have little to fear from workers of any kind!
  We  have not half learned about the  Go to the
ant thou sluggard, and the little busy bee that
improves  each  shining hour. I  like bees for
many   rea-ionq a pociavly for their eelecti4'em.
They  are good lovers and good haters-they take
almost  absurd likings to one  person, and ap-
parently  equally absurd   dislikes to another,
although in my secret mind I can see a reason for
the dislike, it being to persons I should dislike
also, if I were a bee. I found they liked blond
people better than dark; plump people better than
the thin and scragged, and I think old broadcloth
and old black silk were distasteful to them.
  It has been doubted if bees have a keen sense of
smell!  This is a foul aspersion, as all fine organ-
izations have excellent noses, and the bee in par-
ticular. If, as is sometimes the case, a demoralized
community  feed upon  poison-ash, deadly laurel,
nightshade or hellebore, the reason is to be found
in some painful experience, which has turned them
aside from the wholesome  herbs native to their
    And as the dove to fair Palmyra flying,
       From where her native founts of Antioch beam,
     Weary, exhausted, longing, panting, sighini,
       Lights sadly at the desert's bitter stream,
so these unhappy bees must have been overcome
by some fatal necessity, and absorbed that which
is foreign to their natures.
  It was pleasant to have these dainty adventurers
alight upon  my head  or hand,  bringing  their
nectarine aromas with them, and so proud of their
thighs loaded with pollen, or their breasts in their
cuirass of aromatic wax. They liked to have me
examine their little baskets, so deftly filled, upon
either thigh, and condole with them when  they
moved  heavily under the burden.
  There is one thing, which I have  never seen
stated, and which is an important point in their
history. The  bee is strictly temperate. I have
found my vagrant doves cured of their propensity
to stray by giving them crumbs of bread and sugar
mixed with brandy, but I believe alcohol in any
shape would have driven my bees away.
  Any  high liver, carrying about him a  latent
suspicion of wine, brandy  or whiskey, each  of

which were  evidently repugnant to my friends the
bees, no  sooner made   his appearance  in  the
garden, then whiz!-buz!   darted a bee at him,
who  gave the alarm to his neighbors, as much as
to say-  Here is something not nice, let us at
him!   And  they did at him, and we always had
to hurry him  out, greatly to his annoyance, and
loath to believe the cause. The  experiment  of
walkino- near the hives was tried several times,
with a like result. An old gardener and his crony
were  obliged to give the hives a wide berth, for
both of them exhaled  alcohol, as the bees would
none of it, and drove them out furiously. I do not
think they like cologne, by their sharp movements
when  we carried this artificial perfume amid the
sweet  odors of clover, buttercup and daisy. I
would not have it thought that my bees were rude
or discourteous, by what I have said, but has not
good old Bishop  Taylor said, that  he that hath
not anger, lacketh sinews  to the soul, and I
contend that my bees were only angry in a praise-
worthy sense.
  At swarming   time, which occurs at the advent
of a young  queen, she and her coadjutors hasten
to beat a retreat. My   neighbors made  a wild
demonstration upon  tin kettles, pans and other
resonant articles, in order to drown the clamors
of the queen, who was supposed to be intent upon
the utmost freedom, and might go with her young
colony, and hide themselves in parts unknown;
hence the object was to so confuse the new comers,
as that they would settle down near at home, and
be safely housed.
  One  lovely summer day, one of those tranquil
Sabbath days that seem a foretaste of the heavenly
rest, my family were all gone to church, and I,
with my baby, was left at home quite alone, when
in rushed a bare-footed, bare-headed urchin, crying
out,  Oh! mum, your bees is swarming; I'll help
you to ding the pans. I explained to him  that
such a noise could not be made  on Sunday, and
that I could get along without any noise at all, if
he would hold the baby. I then  fastened a fresh
towel  over my   head  and  shoulders, lest they
might  lodge in my hair, and taking a new hive,
went outv My  ambrosia-loving family were hover-
ing over the pea-vines:  no sooner  did I place
myself near them  then they settled down in one
great, black, rotating ball. I  then, with  my
ungloved hands, swept them all into the hive, and
carried them  to the shelf. I did not receive a


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