The bee's place in the animal kingdom The branch of the honey-bee
The Honey-bee belongs to the great branch of animals known as Articulates, a very appropriate name given by the great French naturalist Cuvier, as it refers to the ring or jointed structure which characterizes all animals of the group, whether worms, curstacea- which include the lobsters, sow-bugs, and barnacles- or true insects. These rings from a skeleton, which, unlike that of the higher vertebrate branch, is external, and this serves to protect the softer inner parts, as well as to give strength and solidity. An examination of a bee will quickly reveal these rings, while in our beautiful Italians coloration makes them show even more plainly.
Our subject belongs to the class Insecta, which is characterized by breathing air usually through a very complicated system of air tubes. These tubes are very peculiar in their structure, as they are formed of a spiral thread, and thus resemble a hollow cylinder which might be formed by closely winding a fine wire about the finger, and then withdrawing the latter, the wire remaining unmoved. These tubes are constantly branching and are almost infinite in number. Nothing is more surprising and interesting than this labyrinth of beautiful tubes as seen in dissecting a bee under the microscope. I have frequently detected myself taking long pauses in making dissections of the honey-bee, as my attention would be fixed in admiration of this beautiful breathing apparatus, Doubtless all of my readers have associated the quick movements and surprising activity of birds and most mammals with their well developed lungs. So, too, in such animals as the bee we see the relation between this intricate system of air-tubes - their lungs -and the quick, busy life which has been proverbial of them since the earliest times.
Our bees belong to the order Hexapods, or true Insects. The first term is appropriate, as all have in the imago or last stage, six legs. Nor is the second term less applicable, as the word insect comes from the Latin and means to cut in, and in no other articulates does the ring structure appear so marked upon merely a superficial examination. More than this, the true insects when fully developed, have unlike all other insects; eyes and mouth organs; the thorax, which bears the legs, and wings, when they are present; and lastly, the abdomen, which, though usually memberless, contains the ovipositor, and when present, the sting. Insects, too, undergo a more striking metamorphosis than do most animals. When first hatched they are worm-like and called larvæ, which means masked; afterward they are frequently quiescent, and would hardly be supposed to be animals at all. They are known as pupaæ. At last there comes forth the imago with compound eyes, antennæ, and wings. In some insects the transformations are said to be incomplete, that is the larva, pupa, and imago differ little except in size, and that the latter possesses wings.
The honey bee belongs to the sub-order Hymenoptera, which also includes the wasps, ants, ichneumon-flies and saw-flies. This group contains insects which possess a tongue by which they may suck (see Fig. 12 a), and strong jaws (See Fig. 12 c) for biting. Thus the bees can sip the honeyed sweets of flowers, and also gnaw away mutilated comb. They have, besides, four wings, and undergo complete transformations.
The honey bee belongs to the family Apidaæ. Insects of this family have robust bodies, usually very hairy, large heads, prominent eyes, -which in the male meet above, -elbowed antennæ, and very long tongues. many of these are social, and besides the true females, every colony possesses those with abortive ovaries, which are called neuters or workers. This group includes the wax-secreting bees, and the humble-bees, which do not build wax cells, but simply lay their eggs in the pollen masses, and the larvæ, by feeding on the pollen, hollow out egg-shaped cavities, which become the honey cells. Thus some larvæ feed only on pollen. Others of this family are solitary, like the carpenter bee, which bores in wood; the sand-bee, which digs in the earth; and the tailor bee, which cuts those regular pieces, circular or oblong, from our rose-leaves or rose-petals, and from which it forms its wonderful thimble-shaped cells. Thus we see that all the insects of this family possess strange instincts, and habits so curious that few subjects of study yield more real pleasure and gratification.
The genus Apis is characterized by the peculiar structure of the mouthparts and the venation of the wings. But to particularize would lead me too deeply into the details of structure.
The scientific name of the honey-bee is Apis mellifica, and the species will be fully described as we proceed to explain its natural history and habits. The races of the honey-bee will also be more appropriately considered in the sequel.