Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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Nature Bulletin No. 13  May 5, 1945
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
Clayton F. Smith, President
Roberts Mann, Superintendent of Conservation

Last week, in a big hollow tree that had been blown down, we found a squirrel's den, a screech owl's nest, and the comb of a hive of honey- bees. There are many such bee-trees in the forest preserves. They may be located by following the flight of the bees because once it has taken on its load of pollen and honey, a bee returns to the hive in a straight "bee-line. "Dr. David H. Thompson tells of a big elm in Indiana that yielded 350 pounds of honey.

Honey-bees are the original communists. Like the bumblebee, the wasp and the ant, they live in large colonies (sometimes 50,000 individuals), and are called social insects. They live in a commune where the citizens govern, where the many kings (drones) are powerless, and where the one queen works as hard as any of her subjects and longer. They have an elaborate caste system, with specific tasks for certain classes of workers.

The honey-bee is an architect surpassed only by man. The structure of a honeycomb is perfection of symmetry, precision, arrangement and strength. Maurice Maeterlinck, the famous Belgian poet, describes it beautifully in his "The Life of the Bee", the finest of many books about this socialist - aristocrat of the insect world.

There were no honey-bees native to America north of Mexico, although Lewis and Clark found them along the Missouri River in 1805. Our bees are of several species brought over from Germany, Italy, Syria, Egypt and other countries. Our wild bees are colonies that have escaped into the woodlands.

They are fascinating to watch. Yesterday I lay for an hour besides a tiny pool of water beneath a dripping faucet. Bees came and went in a steady procession, to drink from this pool. But there were five bees that stayed there and, as each bee arrived, one of them would barber and groom it thoroughly, like a Pullman porter. They were still at it when I left.

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