| Among the Forest People|
|by Clara Dillingham Pierson|
| A charming series of nature stories for young children, including tales of red squirrels, great horned owls, rattlesnakes, and bats. No one can read these realistic conversations of the little creatures of the wood without being most tenderly drawn toward them. Within the context of each story children learn many entertaining facts about the lives and habits of these little people of the forest. Ages 5-7 |
 THERE was in the forest a great hollow tree where for
years a swarm of Bees had made their home. To look at
it in winter, one would never guess what a store of
honey was sealed up within, but in summer the Bees were
always passing in and out, and it was indeed a busy
place. Then the workers had to gather honey and build
the cells and look
 out for the Queen-Mother's many
babies. The Queen-Mother had so much care of her eggs
that she could really do nothing but attend to them.
After they were ready in their cells, the Workers took
care of them, and tucked in a lot of bread for the
babies to eat when they were hatched. Then there was
the bread-making to be done also, and all the Workers
helped bring the pollen, or flower-dust, out of which
it was made.
The Drones didn't do anything, not a thing, not a
single thing, unless it were taking care of the Queen
when she flew away from the tree. They had done that
once, but it was long ago, before she had laid an egg
and while she was still quite young. They were
handsome great fellows, strong and well-formed, and if
you didn't know about them, you might have thought
them the pleasantest Bees in the tree. Of course you
would not care for them after finding how lazy they
 people are never liked just because they
The Drones always found some excuse for being idle, and
like many other lazy people they wanted the busy ones
to stop and visit with them. "What is the hurry?"
they would say. "There will be more honey that you
can get to-morrow. Stop a while now."
But the Workers would shake their brown heads and buzz
impatiently as they answered, "We can get to-morrow's
honey when to-morrow comes, but to-day's honey must be
Then the Drones would grumble and say that they didn't see
the sense of storing up so much honey anyway. That
also was like lazy people the world over, for however
much they scold about getting the food, they are sure
to eat just as much as anybody else. Sometimes lazy
people eat even more than others, and pick for the best
 On cloudy days, the Workers did stay at home in
the tree, but not to play. They clung to the walls and
to each other and made wax. It took much patience to
make wax. When they were gathering honey there was so
much that was interesting to be seen, and so many
friends to meet, that it was really quite exciting;
but when they made wax they had to hang for a long,
long time, until the wax gathered in flakes over their
bodies. Then it was ready to scrape off and shape into
six-sided cells to hold honey or to be homes for the
One sunshiny morning the Queen-Mother stopped laying
her eggs and cried: "Listen! did you hear that?"
"What?" asked the Workers, crowding around her.
"Why, that noise," she said. "It sounded like a bird
calling 'Kyrie! K-y-rie!' and I thought I heard a
Worker buzzing outside a minute ago, but no one
 has come in. I am afraid—" and here she stopped.
"Of what are you afraid!" asked the Drones, who,
having nothing to do but eat and sleep, were always
ready to talk about anything and everything. The great
trouble with them was that if you once began to talk
they did not like to have you leave and go to work.
"Why," said the Queen-Mother, "I don't want to alarm
you, but I thought it was a Kingbird."
"Well, what if it was?" said a big Drone. "There is
only one of him and there are a great many of us."
"Yes," said the Queen-Mother, "but there may not be
so many of us very long if he begins to watch the tree.
I have lived much longer than you and I know how
This was true, for Queens live to be very old, and
Drones never live long because they are so lazy.
 "Well," said the big Drone, "we must find out
about this. Just fly around and see if it is a
Kingbird," he said to a Worker. "We must know about
things before we act."
"Suppose you should go," she replied. "I have my
leg-pockets full of pollen, and it ought to be made
into bread at once. I never saw Larvæ so hungry as
these last ones are."
"I only wish that I could go," said the big Drone,
limping as he got out of her way; "but my fifth foot
just stepped on my third foot, and I can hardly move."
When he said this, all the Workers smiled, and even the
Queen-Mother had to turn away her head. The Drones
looked as solemn as possible. It would not do for them
to laugh at their brother. They did not want him to
laugh at them when they made excuses for staying at
home. They even pretended not to hear one of the
Workers when she said that it
 was funny how some
people couldn't use their wings
if one of their feet hurt them.
"Yes," said another Worker, "and it is funny, too,
how some people can get along very well on three legs
when they have to, while others are too helpless to do
anything unless they can use the whole six."
The Drones began to talk together. "I think that the
whole swarm should fly at the Kingbird and sting him
and drive him away," said one. "There is no sense in
allowing him to perch outside our home and catch us as
we pass in and out. I say that we should make war upon
him!" He looked very fierce as he spoke, buzzing and
twitching his feelers at every step.
"Exactly!" cried another Drone. "If I had a sting,
I would lead the attack. As it is, I may be useful in
guarding the comb. It is a great pity that Drones have
no stings." You would have thought, to hear him speak,
that if he had been given a sting like those of the
 not all the Bees in the tree could keep
him from fighting.
While the Drones were talking about war, some of the
Workers sent to their Queen for advice. "Tell us,"
they said, "how to drive away the Kingbird. Should we
try to sting him? You know it kills a Bee to sting
anybody, and we don't want to if we can help it, yet we
will if you say so."
The Queen-Mother shook her head. "You must not bother
me about such things," she said. "I have all that I
can do to get the eggs ready, and you must look after
the swarm. Nobody else can do my work, and I have no
time to do yours." As she spoke, she finished the one
hundred and seventeenth egg of that day's lot, and
before night came she would probably have laid more
than a thousand, so you can see she was quite right
when she said she had no time for other things.
 This left the Workers to plan for themselves, and
they agreed that a number of them should fly out
together and see where the Kingbird was. Then they
could decide about attacking him later. When one gave
the signal, they dashed out as nearly together as
After the Workers returned with honey and pollen, the
Drones crowded around them, asking questions. "Where
is he? What does he look like? Did he try to catch
you?" The Workers would not answer them, and said:
"Go and find out for yourself. We all came back alive."
Then they went about their work as usual.
"I don't see how they dared to go," said a very young
Bee who was just out of her cocoon and was still too
weak to fly.
"Pooh!" said the big Drone. "You wouldn't see me
hanging around this tree if I were not lame."
 "There is no use in stopping work even if you are
scared," said one of the Workers. She smiled as she
spoke, and whispered something to the Queen-Mother as
she passed her. The Queen-Mother smiled also.
"Why don't you Drones go for honey?" she said. "You
must be getting very hungry."
"We don't feel very well," they answered. "Perhaps
it would be better for our health if we were to keep
quiet for a while and save our strength. We will lunch
off some of the honey in the comb if we need food."
"Not a bit of it!" exclaimed the Workers. "Stay in
the tree if you want to for your health, but don't you
dare touch the honey we have gathered for winter, when
the day is clear and bright like this." And whenever a
Drone tried to get food from the comb they drove him
The poor Drones had a hard day of it,
 and at night
they were so hungry they could hardly sleep. The next
morning they peeped out, and then rushed away to the
flowers for their breakfast. They stayed out all day,
and when they returned at night they rushed swiftly
into the tree again.
"There!" they said; "we escaped the Kingbird."
"What Kingbird?" asked a Worker.
"The one who was there yesterday," answered the
Drones. "Has he been back to-day?"
"There was no Kingbird near the tree yesterday," said
"What!" cried the Drones.
"No," said the Queen-Mother, "I was mistaken when I
thought I heard him. The Workers told me after they
had been out for honey. Perhaps they forgot to tell
But her eyes twinkled as she spoke, and all the Workers
smiled, and for some reason the Drones did not know
what to say.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics