12 JUNE 1875, Page 11


rp HE Vice-Chancellor of the University of London has just 1 printed another paper in the Journal of the Linnean Society on "Bees, Wasps, and Ante," which contains some further and very interesting experiments on the powers of communication and co-operation displayed by these insects. These new experiments of Sir John Lubbock's confirm in general the former experiments, of which we communicated the results to our readers,—namely, that bees, on the whole, however delicately adapted their instincts may be to their needs, have either very little power now-a-days of communicating with each other, or else are very little inclined to use it,—while some ants, at least, have a great deal of power of com- municating with each other, and appear to use it freely. Sir John Lubbock experimented in this fashion. On October 9, he took a bee out of a particular hive, putting a mark on the bee, and put it to a good stock of honey. This bee worked away at this stock of honey during the six days, October 9-14, visiting it continually, usually at intervals of six or seven minutes, during many hours of each day. But she brought no comrades with her to work at the honey, and most likely sent none. The first visit of the bee each morning was apparently one of inspection only. She did not alight on her first visit, but returned (probably to the hive) for some purpose of her own,—was it perhaps as a matter of business, to give notice of her engagements for the day, and to communi- cate the intervals at which she might be expected to be entering With loads of honey ?—but on every other visit during the day she carried back honey with her. Yet during these six days she appears to have brought no friends, and though one or two strange bees found the honey out, during the six days it seems pretty certain, both by their fewness and from there being no sign of any connection between these arrivals and hers, that they came on the stock of honey by accident, and not through her means. Another bee behaved in the same way during the two days, July 19 and 20, and during those two days not a single other bee visited the honey at which she was sedulously working. So

that if any inference be warranted from the procedure of these two individual bees, it is that they either wished to keep their knowledge to themselves, or that they did not possess the means of communicating it to their companions. Now, as the bees gather honey for the hive, and not for their own individual benefit, it seems more likely than not that if they had the intelligence to secure help for their operations, they would do so. But though this is the inference which Sir John Lubbock evidently draws from their proceedure, he gives us the means of showing how very insecure it is. First of all, he exhibits, we must say, some little prejudice against bees and in favour of ants, for while he killed the strange bees which found the honey out by accident, in order to test the better whether or not his marked bee would really bring or send comrades, he only imprisoned for the afternoon the strange ants which surprised the stock of honey by which he was testing the communicative faculties of his marked ant. This little fact alone betrays, we think, more consideration for the ants than for the bees. Besides, Sir John Lubbock gave the ants a great deal more patient investigation than the bees, making many more experiments, and observing them much more carefully. However, the result of this careful investigation was no doubt to suggest that if the bees had been tested as elaborately, there might have been, as there certainly was with the ants, a good deal of variety of result. The experiments with the ants were made in this wise. Sir John Lubbock took a piece of cork about eight inches long by four wide, and stuck seventeen pins into it, and on three of these pins he put pieces of card with a little honey. He then put an ant to one of the cards with honey ; and he argued that if after its visit many more ants came to the pin which this ant had visited, than to the others, it might be argued that the ant possessed the power of communicating where she had found the honey. And this experiment seemed to show decisively that either she had this power, or that in climbing down the pin she left a trace of honey on the pin itself which was not to be found on the other unvisited pins. For during two hours, while twenty-seven ants visited the pins, not counting those brought by the first ant, nineteen went at once up the right pin, and only eight went up other pins. Other experiments of the same kind gave still more decisive results of the same nature ; but then, again, certain others gave much less decisive results ; and on one occasion, on the 19th August, an ant worked at some honey for more than three hours, going and returning to it regularly, without either bringing or sending a single comrade. Still more remarkable were some experiments made with some ants' larvm ; every individual ant to which Sir John Lubbock showed a supply of larvm worked very hard at removing them to the nest, worked all day, and sometimes for more than one day, but not in any case did any ant thus shown laws-in invoke the assistance of any other ant, as was done in all but one of the cases of experiments with the honey. This behaviour of the ants in one case with the honey, and in all the cases with the larvm, suggests that the bees may not have had a fair trial. Either from the difference of their individual tastes, or perhaps from differences in the circumstances of the ant-hill and external circumstances, the ants behaved in one way at one time, and in another at another. It may be that the ant which kept the honey to itself was of a reserved and reticent disposition. It may be, again, that it is thought much more honourable to increase the number of larvm in the ant-hill than to add to the stock of honey, and that this was the reason why the ants told no comrade of the larvm, and yet generally told many of the stock of honey. And it may be .true, of course, that modern bees have much less power of communicating with each other than modern ants. But unquestionably an arbitrary element is shown to have affected the Conduct of the ants, which may very well contain also a sufficient explanation of the two observations made upon the bees.

But supposing the inference which Sir John Lubbock probably draws as to the inferior intelligence of the modern bee, and of the superior intelligence of the modern ant, be true, it would be interesting to know to what unfortunate circumstance in the evolution of apiue civilisation, which has not as yet occurred among the ants, this arrested type of life among the former may be due. It is certain that as regards architecture, the apine civilisation has been the more subtle and scientific of the two, and that Mr. Darwin's Melipona bees (with circular cells) are as far behind the modern hive bees (with hexagonal cells) as, amongst men, the eighteenth century was in mechanism behind the early part of the nineteenth. Why with such absolutely highly-developed instincts have the bees allowed their power of communicating with each other to drop so much behind their architonic skill? Can it be that the bee has suffered by

the beneficent despotism of man's artificial selection ? Sir John quotes from F. Miller a curious instance of the inability of the bees to invent for themselves a natural language

The following fact is mentioned by F. Muller as seeming also to show a limited power of communicating facts on the part of bees :— 'Once,' he says, '1 assisted at a curious contest, which took place be- tween the queen and the worker bees in one of my hives, and which throws some light on the intellectual faculties of these animals. A set of forty-seven cells had been filled, eight on a nearly completed comb, thirty-five on the following, and four around the first cell of anew comb. When the queen had laid eggs in all the cells of the two older combs she went several times round their circumference (as she always does, in order to ascertain whether she has not forgotten any cell), and then prepared to retreat into the lower part of the breeding-room. But as she had overlooked the four cells of the new comb, the workers run im- patiently from this part to the queen, pushing her, in an odd manner, with their heads, as they did also other workers they met with In con- sequence the queen began again to go around on the two older combs, but as she did not find any cell wanting an egg she tried to descend, but everywhere she was pushed back by the workers. This contest lasted for a rather long while, till the queen escaped without having completed her work. Thus the workers knew how to advise the queen that some- thing was as yet to be done, but they knew not how to show her where it had to be done:" Now if it be true that one of the ants who had been gathering honey at the top of a pin met two other ants, crossed antennze with them, whereupon the two advancing ants ran straight to the top of the right pin, as if they had been told where to go, without being personally guided, it would be almost'. clear that the ants' have advanced much farther in the -sit of speech, or what is equivalent to speech, than the bees: Ilday not the reason of this be the greater pressure on the rem:44;ms of the ants due to the wild state in which they live ? We may have provided the bees with too safe a type of industrial civilisa- tion,—one that is too well organised, that depends too much on' our provision for their habits, and that does not develope in sufficient degree the principle of individualism. What with their industry, economy, and formidable defensive weapon,—the sting,—the com- paratively small number of the dangerous enemies of their species, and man's care for their outward habitation, it would seem not im- probable that bees have too little stir and interest in their lives to keep up the development of their sagacity. The various tribes of ants go to war with each other, plunder each other system- atically, and have altogether a great deal of excitement and active competition to develope them. Some tribes of ants keep cows, and others slaves. Others have blind beetles resident with them,—blind bards perhaps to sing to them. Altogether, the conditions of life amongst the ants are probably much more various than amongst the bees, and hence, though their instincts are not nearly as com- plete, and there is no beneficent despot like man to watch over them, they are more wide awake than bees and more alive to the mean- ing of individual emergencies. The bees are perhaps the Chinese of the insect world. They preserve the arts of a very high type of industrial civilisation, but have lost the key to those arts. The consequence is that they are as indifferent to death in the pursuit of honey, as the Chinese are in the pursuit of wealth. Does not this, for instance, read rather like the description of the way in which the Chinese will cast away their lives for wealth ?— " Sineo their extreme eagerness for honey may be attributed rather to their anxiety for the commonweal than to their desire for personal gratification, it cannot fairly be imputed as greediness; still the follow- ing scene, one which most of us have witnessed, is incompatible surely with much intelligence. 'The sad fate of their unfortunate companions does not in the least deter others who approach the tempting hire from madly alighting on the bodies of the dying and the dead, to share the same miserable end. No one can understand the extent of their infatu- ation until he has seen a confectioner's shop assailed by myriads of hungry bees. I have seen thousands strained out from the syrup in which they had perished ; thousands more alighting even upon the boiling sweets ; the floors covered and windows darkened with bees, some crawling, others flying, and others still, so completely besmeared as to be able neither to crawl nor fly—not one in ten able to carry home its ill-gotten spoils, and yet the air filled with new hosts of thoughtless corners.'"

And the evidence as to the way in which bees go to the bad alto- gether, when they once take to thievish courses, illustrates again the inelastic character of their intelligence, their complete want of power to recover themselves, when once they take a step in the wrong direction :—

"If, however, beos are to be credited with any moral feelings at all, I fear the experience of all bee-keepers shows that they have no con- scientious scruples about robbing their weaker brethren. 'If the bees of a strong stock,' says Langstroth, 'once get a taste of forbidden sweets, they will seldom stop until they have tested the strength of emery hive.' And again, Some bee-keepers question whether a bee that once learns to steal over returns to honest courses.'"

Evidently the "dangerous classes" among the bees, though small in number,—for they are the most respectable of insects,— are moral incurables. The predatory wasps would probably say of predatory bees, as the Yankee said of that heathen Chinee,' —"We are ruined by Chinese [apine] cheap labour." Indeed, if Sir John Lubbock has really done justice to the bee in his experiments, which we somewhat doubt, it seems not improbable that the bee has been prejudiced by human patronage, and by habitual instincts of too perfect a kind, till the stimulus which developes advance was exhausted. 'Better fifty years of ant-hill than a cycle of the hive,' the ant might say, and prove the mischief of a conven- tional civilisation out of the stationary character of the bee. While the ant runs swiftly down the ringing grooves of change,' the bee, conservative of its hexagons and its honey, makes no fresh advance in the telegraphic communications it has esta- blished, and so is possibly in danger of sinking into the hinder- most ranks of the insect world.