The Bee Colony

  • Karl von Frisch


There are two ways by which the amateur naturalist may easily get acquainted with honey-bees. He can either walk through an orchard or a field full of flowers on a warm spring or summer’s day and watch the bees busy foraging at the blossoms; or, passing a bee-keeper’s apiary, he may see them flying in and out of the entrances of their hives. A prosperous bee-keeper may keep a few dozen or even more than a hundred beehives in one apiary. If he is a beginner, or if the district is unsuitable for apiculture, he may have just a few beehives, possibly only one. But what he cannot do is to own less than one “beehive”, or one “colony of bees”, made up of many thousands of individuals; because there is no smaller unit. A farmer may keep a single cow, a single dog, or even a single hen if he so chooses, but one single bee, kept all by itself, would soon perish. This is not as obvious as it sounds, indeed it is very remarkable. If we study the more distant relatives of our bees, we find that they are not in the habit of living together in such large communities. In the case of butterflies, beetles, and dragonflies, we may observe that the male and the female meet at mating time only, soon to separate again, after which each goes his or her own way. The female deposits her eggs in a place where the young larvae after hatching will be able to find their own food. But she does not rear her young, or even recognize them for that matter. Once the eggs are laid, she pays no more attention to them, and usually she dies before the young are hatched. Why then do the honey bees, of all insects, depend upon one another to such an extent that a single bee cannot live by itself, and what exactly is a “colony of bees” ?


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 1954

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karl von Frisch
    • 1
  1. 1.MunichGermany

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