Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
THE FUSSY QUEEN BEE
N a sheltered corner of the farmyard, where the hedge
kept off the cold winds and the trees shaded from hot
summer sunshine, there were many hives of Bees. One
could not say much for the Drones, but the others were
the busiest of all the farmyard people, and they had so
much to do that they did not often stop to visit with
In each hive, or home, there were many thousand Bees,
and each had his own work. First of all, there was the
Queen. You might think that being a Queen meant
playing all the time, but that is not so, for to be a
really good Queen, even in a Beehive, one must know a
great deal and keep at work all the time. The
 Queen Bee is the mother of all the Bee Babies, and she
spends her days in laying eggs. She is so very
precious and important a person that the first duty of
the rest is to take care of her.
The Drones are the stoutest and finest looking of all
the Bees, but they are lazy, very, very lazy. There
are never many of them in a hive, and like most lazy
people, they spend much of their time in telling the
others how to work. They do not make wax or store
honey, and as the Worker Bees do not wish them to eat
what has been put away for winter, they do not live
Most of the Bees are Workers. They are smaller than
either the Queen Mother or the Drones, and they gather
all the honey, make all the wax, build the comb, and
feed the babies. They keep the hive clean, and when
the weather is very warm, some of them fan the air with
their wings to cool it. They guard the doorway of
 the hive, too, and turn away the robbers who sometimes
come to steal their honey.
In these busy homes, nobody can live long just for
himself. Everybody helps somebody else, and that makes
life pleasant. The Queen Mother often lays as many as
two thousand eggs in a day. Most of these are Worker
eggs, and are laid in the small cells of the brood
comb, which is the nursery of the hive. A few are
Drone eggs and are laid in large cells. She never lays
any Queen eggs, for she does not want more Queens
growing up. It is a law among the Bees that there can
be only one grown Queen living in each home.
The Workers, however, know that something might happen
to their old Queen Mother, so, after she has gone away,
they sometimes go into a cell where she has laid a
worker egg, and take down the waxen walls between it
and the ones on either side to make a very large royal
 They bite away the wax with their strong
jaws and press the rough edges into shape with their
feet. When this egg hatches, they do not feed the
baby, or Larva, with tasteless bread made of
flower-dust, honey, and water, as they would if they
intended it to grow up a Worker or a Drone. Instead,
they make what is called royal jelly, which is quite
sour, and tuck this all around the Larva, who now looks
like a little white worm.
The royal jelly makes her grow fast, and in five days
she is so large as to nearly fill the cell. Then she
stops eating, spins a cocoon, and lines in it for
about two and a half days more. When she comes out of
this, she is call a Pupa. Sixteen days after the
laying of the egg, the young Queen is ready to come out
of her cell. It takes twenty-one days for a Worker to
become fully grown and twenty-five for the Drone.
In the hive by the cedar tree, the Queen
was growing restless and fussy. She knew that the
Workers were raising some young Queens, and she tried
to get to the royal cells. She knew that if she could
only do that, the young Queens would never live to come
out. The Workers knew this, too, and whenever she came
near there, they made her go away.
The Queen Larvæ and Pupæ were of different ages, and
one of them was now ready to leave her cell. They
could hear her crying to be let out, but they knew that
if she and the Queen Mother should meet now, one of
them would die. So instead of letting her out, they
built a thick wall of wax over the door and left only
an opening through which they could feed her. When she
was hungry she ran her tongue out and they put honey on
She wondered why the Workers did not let her out, when
she wanted so much to be free. She did not yet know
 Queen Mothers do not get along well with
The Workers talked it over by themselves. One of the
was very tender-hearted. "It does seem too bad," said
she, "to keep the poor young Queen shut up in her cell.
I don't see how you can stand it to hear her piping so
pitifully all the time. I am sure she must be
beautiful. I never saw a finer tongue than the one
she runs out for honey."
"Humph!" said a sensible old Worker, who had seen many
Queens hatched and many swarms fly away, "you'd be a
good deal more sorry if we did let her out now. It
would not do at all."
The tender-hearted Worker did not answer this, but she
talked it over with the Drones. "I declare," said she,
wiping her eyes with her forefeet, "I can hardly gather
a mouthful of honey for thinking of her."
"Suppose you hang yourself up and
 make wax then,"
said one Drone. "It is a rather sunshiny day, but you
ought to be doing something, and if you cannot gather
honey you might do that." This was just like a Drone.
He never gathered honey or made wax, yet he could not
bear to see a Worker lose any time.
The Worker did not hang herself up and make wax,
however. She never did that except on cloudy days, and
she was one of those Bees who seem to think that
nothing will come out right unless they stop working to
see about it. There was plenty waiting to be done, but
she was too sad and anxious to do it. She might have
known that since her friends were only minding the law,
it was right to keep the new Queen in her cell.
The Queen Mother was restless and fussy. She could not
think of her work, and half the time she did not know
whether she was laying a Drone egg or a Worker egg. In
spite of that, she did not make
 any mistake, or
put one into the wrong kind of cell. "I cannot stay
here with the young Queen," said she. "I will not stay
here. I will take my friends with me and fly away."
Whenever she met a Worker, she struck her feelers on
those of her friend, and then this friend knew exactly
how she felt about it. In this way the news was passed
around, and soon many of the Workers were as restless
as their Queen Mother. They were so excited over it at
times that they air of the hive grew very hot. After a
while they would become quiet and gather honey once
more. They whispered often to each other. "Do you
know where we are going?" one said.
"Sh!" was the answer. "The guides are looking for a
good place now."
"I wish the Queen Mother knew where we are going," said
"How could she?" replied the second. "You know very
well that she has not
 left the hive since she
began to lay eggs. Here she comes now."
"Oh dear!" Exclaimed the Queen Mother. "I can never
stand this. I certainly cannot. To think I am not
allowed to rule in my own hive! The Workers who are
guarding the royal cells drive me away whenever I go
near them. I will not stay any longer."
"Then," said a Drone, as though he had thought of it
for the first time, "why don't you go away?"
"I shall," said she. "Will you go with me?"
"No," said the Drone. "I hate moving and furnishing a
new house. Besides, somebody must stay here to take
care of the workers and the young Queen."
The Queen Mother walked away. "When we were both
young," she said to herself," he would have gone
anywhere with me."
And the Drone said to himself, "Now,
 isn't that
just like a Queen Mother! She has known all the time
that there would be young Queens coming on, yet here
she is making the biggest kind of fuss about it. She
ought to remember that it is the law."
Indeed she should have remembered that it was the law,
for everything is done by law in the hive, and no one
person should find fault. The law looks after them
all, and will not let any one have more than his
That same afternoon there was a sudden quiet in the
home. The Workers who had been outside returned and
visited with the rest. While they were waiting, a few
who were to be their guides came to the door of the
hive, struck their wings together, and gave the signal
for starting. Then all who were going with the Queen
Mother hurried out of the door and flew with her in
circles overhead. "Good-bye!" they called. "Raise all
the young Queens
 you wish. We shall never come
back. We are going far, far away and we shall not tell
you where. It is a lovely place, a very lovely place."
"Let them go," said the Drones who stayed behind.
"Now, isn't it time to let out the young Queen?"
"Not yet," answered a Worker, who stood near the door.
"Not one feeler shall be put outside her cell until
that swarm is out of sight."
The tender-hearted Worker came up wiping her eyes.
"Oh, that poor Queen Mother!" said she. "I am so
sorry for her. I positively cannot gather honey
to-day, I feel so badly about her going."
"Better keep on working," said her friend. "It's the
best thing in the world for that sad feeling. Besides,
you should try to keep strong."
"Oh, I will try to eat something from the comb," was
the answer, "but I don't feel like working."
 "Zzzt!" said the other Worker. "I think if you
can eat, you can hunt your food outside, and not take
honey we have laid up for the winter or food that will
be needed for the children."
The Drones chuckled. It was all right for them to be
lazy, they thought, but they never could bear to see a
Worker waste time. "Ah," cried one of them suddenly,
"what is the new swarm doing now?"
The words were hardly out of his mouth when the Queen
Mother crawled into the hive again. "Such dreadful
luck!" said she. "A cloud passed over the sun just as
we were alighting on a tree to rest."
"I wouldn't have come back for that," said a Drone.
"No," said she, in her airiest way, "I dare say you
wouldn't, but I would. I dare not go to a new home
after a cloud has passed over the sun. I think it is a
sign of bad luck. I should never expect
 a single
egg to hatch if I went on. We shall try it again
All the others came back with her, and the hive was
once more crowded and hot. "Oh dear!" said the
tender-hearted Worker, "isn't it too bad to think they
The next morning they started again and were quite
as excited over it as before. The Queen Mother had fussed
and fidgeted all the time, although she had laid nine
hundred and seventy-three eggs while waiting, and that
in spite of interruptions. "Being busy keeps me from
thinking," said she, "and I must do something." This
time the Queen Mother lighted on an apple-tree branch,
and the others clung to her until all who had left the
hive were in a great mass on the branch,—a mass as
larger as a small cabbage. They meant to rest a little
while and then fly away to the new home chosen by their
While they were hanging here, the
 farmer came under
the tree, carrying a long pole with a wire basket
fastened to the upper end. He shook the clustered Bees
gently into it, and then changed them into an empty hive that
stood beside their old home.
"Now," said the Workers who had stayed in the old
hive, "we will let out the new Queen, for the Queen
Mother will never return."
It did not take long to bite away the waxen wall and
let her out. Then they gathered around and caressed
her, and touched their feelers to her and waited upon
her, and explained why they could not let her out
sooner. She was still a soft gray color, like all
young Bees when they first come from the cell, but this
soon changed to the black worn by her people.
The Workers flew in and out, and brought news from the
hive next door. They could not go there, for the law
does not allow a Bee who lives in one home to
 visit in another, but they met their old friends in the
air or when they were sipping honey. They found that
the Queen Mother had quite given up the idea of living
elsewhere and was as busy as ever. The farmer had put
a piece of comb into the new hive so that she could
begin housekeeping at once.
The new Queen was petted and kept at home until she was
strong and used to moving about. That was not long.
Then she said she wanted to see the world outside. "We
will go with you," said the Drones, who were always
glad of an excuse for flying away in pleasant weather.
They said there was so much noise and hurrying around
in the hive that they could never get any real rest
there during the daytime.
So the young Queen flew far away and saw the beautiful
world for the first time. Such a blue sky! Such green
grass! Such fine trees covered with
sweet-smell-  ing blossoms! She loved it all as soon as she saw it.
"Ah," she cried, "what a wonderful thing it is to live and
see all this! I am so glad that I was hatched. But
now I must hurry home, for there is so much to be
She was a fine young Queen, and the Bees were all proud
of her. They let her do anything she wished as long as
she kept away from the royal cells. She soon began to
work as the old Queen Mother had done, and was very
happy in her own way. She would have liked to open the
royal cells and prevent more Queens from hatching, and
when they told her it was the law which made them keep
her away, she still wanted to bite into them.
"That poor young Queen Mother!" sighed the
tender-hearted Worker. "I am so sorry for her when she
is kept away from the royal cells. This is a sad, sad
world!" But this isn't a sad world by any means. It
is a beautiful, sunshiny,
 happy world, and neither
Queen Bees nor anybody else should think it hard if
they cannot do every single thing they wish. The law
looks after great and small, and there is no use in
pouting because we cannot do one certain thing, when
there is any amount of delightful work and play
awaiting us. And the young Queen Mother knew this.