Bee Messengers




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By Dan Beard

ohb234.gif (9261 bytes)
Fig. 234
Enlarged View of Honey Bee with Message.
Drawn From a Photograph

Honeybee Messengers

Monsieur Taynac, the celebrated French bee expert at Versailles, had a hive of several thousand bees trained like carrier pigeons, which he offered for the French military service.

This is an idea for boys to follow-not to be used in any such old-fashioned, barbarous practice as the wholesale murder called war, but in healthy, modern, up-to-date, intelligent play. If one of my readers or one of his friends, anywhere within ten or fifteen miles of his home, owns a hive of bees, the two can use the little insect to carry messages between their respective homes.

With your butterfly net catch some honey-bees, or, better still, trap them with a box set in front of the doorway of the hive. Make a hole in the box like the hive door, and the insects will enter the box under the impression that by that means they can reach their home. The boy who lives at a distance takes

The Box of Bees

home with him, and liberates them in a closed room, where he has placed a saucer of honey or syrup. After the bees have fed on the syrup, he opens the windows and they, of course, will go directly home. Bees have been known to travel fifteen or twenty miles, but these are long distances. Monsieur Taynac's bees traversed ten miles with messages on their backs; they traveled at the rate of twelve and one- half miles per hour. Boys at school used to catch blue-bottle flies, and with fine thread fastened bits of paper to their legs and let them loose in the schoolroom, to the delight of the other pupils, and the annoyance of the patient and long-suffering teacher; but the paper message is glued on the bee's thorax between the wings and the head.

How to Make the Message

ohb230.gif (5361 bytes)
Fig. 230.-- Sticking the Messages on the Bee
Fig. 231.-- The Tweezers.
Fig. 232.-- Bottle of Fish Glue.
Fig. 233-- Paper for Message.

With a little pair of scissors cut some small slips of paper in the form of Fig. 233. Make a slit at the bottom, and bend the divided parts in opposite directions. Monsieur Taynac used isinglass with which to glue the paper to his bees, but there are other glues that will answer. Mucilage can be made to serve the purpose; but great care must be taken to prevent daubing the sticky stuff on the poor insect's wings or legs.

How to Handle the Bees

The best manner of handling bees, and the safest way to prevent being stung, is to use a small pair of tweezers to pick them up with and to hold them (Figs. 230 and 231). Monsieur Taynac uses a little gauze cage to transport his bees.

When a bee with a letter on his back reaches the home hive, the message standing upright on his back prevents him from entering the doorway, and the owner on watch finds the messenger bee crawling around and captures him.

How to Write the Message

The bit of paper is so small that it would be difficult to write even a sentence on it, but any boy with a hard, sharp pencil can make a few figures on the slip, and if his friend has a key he can read the message. Each figure may stand for a sentence, and with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 0, you will have ten sentences. If you add the alphabet to this and allow each letter from A to Z to stand for a sentence, you will have twenty-six more, or thirty six sentences in all; and, with thirty-six well-chosen sentences a great deal can be said. You may add thirty-six more by adding a dot over each letter and number, and thirty-six more by a dash over each character.

With the aid of a magnifying glass and a finely pointed pencil several sentences may be put on one bit of paper. Suppose A to stand for some such sentence as this: "If tomorrow is pleasant," and B to stand for "Meet me after school at the old chestnut-tree," and nine with a dot over it (9) to mean "We will go a-fishing," A (9) B will be read by your friend: " If tomorrow is pleasant we will go a-fishing. Meet me after school at the old chestnut tree."

How to Make Your Key

Write the numbers, beginning with 1 and ending with 0, in a column, 2 below 1, 3 below 2, etc. Opposite each number write the sentence you wish it to represent, below the first column of figures place a second column, in every way similar to the first, except that each figure has a dot over it; then a third, each figure with a dash over it; then three alphabets, one plain, one with a dot, and the third with a dash above each letter. Opposite each character write the sentence you desire it to stand for in your code.

Of this key make a duplicate, which is to be given to your correspondent.

Bee Stings and How to Avoid Them

Some cousins of mine and myself had been gathering nuts on the shores of Lake Erie and were sitting on an old log to rest and crack a few walnuts. We had not hammered long on the old log before we were aware of a peculiar buzzing noise inside, and the next thing that claimed our attention was a stream of very angry yellow- jackets pouring out of a hole in the log, all intent upon wreaking vengeance upon the disturbers of their peace. I fled in dismay, wildly swinging my hat, but my two country cousins stood stock still and were passed unnoticed by the angry insects, all of whom devoted their entire attention to me with a persistency that baffled my most energetic efforts to fight them off. They stung me in the back of the neck, in the edge of my hair, behind the ears, and even climbed down inside my collar and left their stings in my back until I howled with pain.

Experience is a Good School

I have seldom been stung since, and the few times I have suffered have been what might be called accidents. Once I put on a hat that had a lot of bumble bees in it; once I took up a pail and a wasp at the same time, but I never since have been attacked by a swarm, although it has happened that bees, wasps, and yellow-jackets have rushed out of their homes with murder in their hearts, and finding only a perfectly motionless figure, have either passed me by or alighted on me, crawled around for awhile, and then flown away without once unsheathing their sharp little swords.

A Bee's Stinger

Under a powerful microscope the point of a needle looks like the blunt end a crowbar, and the point of a pin is no point at all; but the sting of a bee is sharp even under the powerful magnifying glasses of the microscope, and when magnified a thousand times it still looks as a fine needle-point does to the naked eye.

I have always found almost immediate relief when the sting left by a bee or wasp has been removed. This may be done with a needle or with the pointed blade of a pocketknife. But the best plan is to use care and then you will not be stung.







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Last modified: October 15, 2016.