Prosperity has its dangers: it may arouse the envy of the have-nots. Not a single colony would have survived if bees had not poisoned weapons to defend their sweet winter stores. In the virgin forest of bygone times, the original home of the honey-bee, it was mainly the sweet-toothed bear who stripped many a colony of its honey stores. As bears became scarce, man himself followed suit, with even greater success. We must remember that sugar was once a rare and expensive substance. Even today we may occasionally admire, in someone’s house, an antique silver sugar-box which has a lock, though its key may long since have been lost, reminding us of the great value that was set on its contents by our great-grandfathers. Naturally at that time honey was very much more sought after as a sweetening agent than it is now, while a few centuries earlier there was no other sugar available in Europe than the nectar collected from flowers by the honeybee. Small wonder, then, that it was man himself who became the bee’s worst enemy. Only in recent times relations between man and bee have changed for the better. Nowadays man, having become attached to his bees in the course of time, bestows his loving care on them in exchange only for that amount of honey that exceeds their own needs. Gone, too, are the romantic days when our forests were populated by bears. As for the smaller fry hankering for honey—the ants, wasps, death’s-head moth, and the like, or an occasional mouse or two—these may at times become very tiresome but they will hardly ever do any serious harm to a colony.
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