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Amazing facts about a honey bee's life


A honey bee collecting nectar from a flower.

Although chemists worked unsuccessfully for centuries to convert common metals into gold, the tiny honey bee for thousands of years has been effecting a far more remarkable transformation.

You have undoubtedly seen bees in the process of working this miracle.

From flower to flower they hurry, sucking up the sweet liquid called nectar.

Even on their flight home the amazing transformation begins within their bodies, but it cannot be completed without the help of fellow workers back at the hive.

There, in a matter of hours, industrious bees cooperate together to convert the nectar into one of the tastiest and most nutritious of foods - Honey!

But honeybees excel in other things besides the production of honey.

They are marvelously equipped for pollinating plants.

They maintain an immaculately clean, air-conditioned hive.

They are remarkable engineers, and can communicate involved instructions that other bees are able to follow.

Little wonder that the honeybee has been called the most important insect in the world.


The bee family facts


A swarm of bees.

Honeybees live in large families or colonies that may number 75,000 bees or more.

More than 99 percent of these family members are unfertile females known as worker bees.

The colony also has one queen bee, the, mother of the entire family, and, in the summer, several hundred male drones.

Since the males apparently serve no useful purpose in the winter, they are all killed before winter sets in.

Therefore, when the weather warms in the spring, preparations are made to produce more males.

The drone brood cells are cleaned, and the queen bee deposits an unfertilized egg in each of them.

In about twenty-four days the drones mature to nearly full size and cut their way out of their cells, just as a chicken leaves its shell.

They possess no stinger, have no glands for producing wax or royal jelly, nor are they equipped for gathering nectar or pollen from flowers.

But they do the all-important work of fertilizing the queen bee.

Remarkably, males are produced from unfertilized eggs, but themselves fertilize the queen so that she can produce worker bees.

The passing of winter leaves the worker bee population greatly diminished.

So the surviving workers swing into action.

They feed their queen huge quantities of food.

By varying the amount of food she is fed, the bees control the number of eggs the queen lays, and thus control the population.

Now. they may increase her production to the astounding rate of some 2,000 eggs a day-totaling four times her own body, weight!

The queen fertilizes each of these eggs with sperm that she received from a drone bee.

In twenty-one days the young bees begin popping out of their cells-almost full grown and ready for work.

Should the queen bee lose her productivity because of age (she usually lives several years), or should the colony decide to divide because of overcrowding, another queen is produced.

To make a queen, several regular cells are enlarged and the larvae are fed abundant supplies of royal jelly.

This special milky substance is secreted from modified salivary glands of young workers.

By feeding it to the larvae throughout the entire period of their development, instead of just the first two or three days, the larvae develop into queens, rather than ordinary worker bees.

So, in a very literal sense, queens are made, not born.

When the colony decides to divide, the old queen takes off with part of the colony to find a new home.

This is called swarming.

Back in the original hive, the first queen to emerge from her cell seeks out and stings to death the other developing queens.

If two emerge at the same time, they battle to the death so that only one queen remains in the family.

After a few days the virgin queen leaves the hive and takes off on her mating flight.

All the drones follow in hot pursuit.

Up, up they soar.

Finally, all but one pursuer is left behind.

There, in midair, the two unite, but the, drone is mortally wounded when the queen wrenches free, ripping out his generative organs.

The mated queen then returns to her colony, impregnated with enough sperm to fertilize hundreds of thousands of eggs.


Communal life facts


Honey bees making honey.

Honeybees, like humans, are social animals, and even though they do not have the intelligence of men, their hives are a model of orderliness.

From their first day of life worker bees always seem to know just what to do and how to do it, even without being told.

They handle the problems of communal living with such efficiency that men are forced to sit up and take notice.

For example, any city must be kept clean, otherwise the inhabitants run the risk of disease and epidemic.

So in the hive sanitation squads are constantly on the job.

Soon after emerging from their cells, young bees busy themselves with disposing of every scrap of foreign material.

Without being urged or nagged by their elders, they lick the thousands of cells thoroughly clean, preparing them again to receive the queen’s eggs.

The result of this constant vigil is a hive that is spotlessly clean.

After a few days the milk glands of the young bees mature, and they assume the duty of caring for the young larvae.

Any mother will acknowledge that there is a lot of work to raising young ones.

But the attention children demand can never compare with the care baby larvae must receive.

After the egg hatches, the nurse bees must make some 10,000 feeding visits to each cell a visit about every minute!

Think of it, 10,000 feedings to raise just one bee!

And yet there may be thousands of larvae developing at the same time, all of whom need this same precision feeding.

What a relief to be able to cap the cell after about six days of feeding and let the larva develop into a full-grown bee!

Bees also have the problem, long faced by humans, of heating and cooling their city.

It is vital to the life of the young larvae that the temperature in the brood area should not fall below 90° or exceed 97° F.

So the bees react immediately when the temperature changes.

Should the temperature rise, as it often does in summer, the older foraging bees bring in supplies of water.

These are strategically placed in the hive, and the bees station themselves around and fan vigorously.

This evaporates the water and the hive is cooled.

But in addition to using air conditioning long before man developed it, bees are also experts at warming their city.


Should the temperature of the hive fall, the bees stoke their bodies with honey, which, due to their body’s high metabolism, is quickly converted to heat.

Thus, the temperature of the hive is raised.

In the brood area, bees maintain a temperature that is constant within one and a half degrees, even though the outside temperature may vary thirty to forty degrees.

A more serious problem arises in the winter.

How do bees survive when the temperature falls many degrees below zero?

They are unable to hibernate or migrate, so ingeniously they stoke up a furnace by which to keep warm.

But such a furnace you have never seen before!

Many bees form a closely packed shell to confine the heat within.

Bees at the center of this insulating shell keep in constant motion, generating heat.

When the temperature falls, the insulating shell shrinks and the dancers within move faster; but when the temperature rises, the shell of bees expands and the movements of those at the center slows down.

By this means the temperature is regulated.

But how do those bees clinging on the outside avoid succumbing to the cold?

Careful observation reveals the answer.

Those bees composing the insulating shell are noted to be continually changing places with the dancers on the inside.

There is a persistent flow from the center to the outer edges and back again.

In this way the bees alternately become heated by activity, and cooled during rest periods.

Honey, of course, is the fuel that runs this amazing furnace.

Yes, the foresighted bees have stocked up sufficient supplies to last the winter.


Engineering wonders facts


A honey bee's hexagonal honeycombs.

Humans take pride in their engineering feats, and, indeed, some of them are wonderful, but even in this field humans have learned from the lowly bee.

Although possessing no college degree in structural engineering, two-week-old worker bees construct honeycombs that are masterpieces of structural design.

For centuries humans have been intrigued by them, but it is only in recent years that close scientific observation has shown how truly marvelous they are.

The construction material is of the bees own making.

Young workers gorge themselves on honey, and, after several hours, wax begins to appear as thin flakes on their abdomen.

Transferring it to the mouth, the bees chew the wax thoroughly, mixing it with a frothy liquid and microscopic bubbles of air.

Then a miracle of engineering takes place.

The bees, working in cooperation with one another, shape this plastic material into perfect six-sided honeycomb cells.

Amazingly, the. cells are formed with such unvarying accuracy that at one time French scientist Rene de RĂ©aumur proposed making them a standard of measure.

Equally amazing, however, is the choice of the six-sided design.

It provides the maximum strength, the greatest storage space and, at the same time, fits the shape of the bee.

It is the one and only ideal shape for the honeycomb!

In order to obtain maximum strength for the least weight men have also employed this hexagonal design in their engineering projects.


Bee field work facts


A honey bee out in the field collecting nectar.

After about three weeks of inside chores the worker bees graduate to gathering pollen and nectar from the fields.

Although they literally work themselves to death in about a month, this industriousness during the summer assures survival of the bee colony in the winter.

When it is considered that they will fly some 50,000 miles. the equivalent of two circuits of the globe, to gather nectar, sufficient for just one pound of honey, one begins to appreciate how busy bees really are.

Yet to accomplish this amazing work bees are wonderfully equipped.

Their long tongues and mouth parts are perfectly designed for extracting the sweet nectar from the inward parts of flowers, and their hind legs have baskets that can be stuffed, with large masses of pollen.

On arriving home, young workers receive and store away this pollen, which, combined with honey, forms the diet of the young larvae.

The nectar is transferred to the crops of other workers, who force it in and out of their bodies several times before depositing it into open cells.

After being fanned to evaporate excess moisture, the honey is soon ready to eat.

However, if it were not for the bees’ highly developed communication system, this entire production program would be slowed to a snail’s pace.

Yes, fantastic as it seems, bees actually tell one another when they locate a rich nectar supply.

A scout bee will reveal the quality of her find by passing out minute samples.

Then, by means of a dance upon the vertical honeycomb and by sounds, she communicates the direction and distance to the food source.

When the scout bee dances straight up on the comb, she means that the food can be found by flying directly toward the sun straight down means it is directly away from the sun.

By varying the angle of the dance, the scout can indicate a food source in any direction.

The distance to the food, it is currently believed, is indicated by the length of the train of sound emitted by the dancing scout.

Although bees need the plants in order to live, the reverse is equally true.

It is estimated that if it were not for the bees, 100,000 species of plants, including many upon which mankind directly depends, would disappear from the earth.

Why so?

Because plants need to be fertilized to produce seed, and the bodies of bees, with hair all over them, are especially designed for doing this.

As they travel from flower to flower bees fertilize the plants by transferring pollen from one blossom to the stigma of another.

However, the effectiveness of this transfer is dependent upon a unique behavior pattern of the bee.

This pattern is called flower constancy.

It is vital that pollen from one species of plant be transferred to the stigma of a plant of the same kind.

This is because pollen varies from plant to plant.

Pollen from a poppy, for example, would be of no value to a rose.

But, remarkably, bees take this into consideration.

When they start working a particular flower they remain faithful to just that one kind, even though there may be other kinds of blossoms all around.

How do ants make anthills?


Picture of an anthill in the forest.

A new home begins 


How are “anthills” built?

This is a very thrilling story.

It all begins with the coming of the rains.

All the queen ants are preparing themselves to leave home.

They feverishly get ready for the nuptial flight.

Never have they seen light before.

Neither have they had any experience in the outside world.

Yet, as if aware of the future before them, they await the falling of dusk so as to avoid some enemies.

Only after the rains have come and soaked the earth do they venture forth.

They seem to know that before the rains come the earth will be too hard, after its six-month drought, for them to begin work on a new home.

The foes of the “ant” also seem to realize instinctively that their annual meal of delicacies is about to be served.

In some parts of the world people trap them by using a light as an attraction.

Raw or roasted, they are a delicacy.

Containing about 44 percent fat and 36 percent protein, they have a caloric value of 560 to 100 grams.

The signal is given and the flight begins.

Thousands upon thousands upon thousands excitedly get their first.

View of the world outside.

It is estimated that only one in ten thousand of all of these will eventually build a new home.

Thousands become the stimulants for gastric juices and few, in comparison, succeed in escaping the hungry mouths.

After a few minutes’ flight the queens land, and as if their wings were now worn-out garments, they are discarded.

The female of the species takes the lead in attracting the mate, and he responds to her mating call.

Sure enough, here he comes!

His flight looks awkward as if he were tumbling but he steers himself right on course.

After landing and flicking off his wings he makes an ant-line for his partner-to-be.

He follows her closely as she leads him to their new home.

On finding some soft wet ground they begin to dig and this is the beginning of a new home, an “anthill.”

They have returned to finish their days in a world of inky darkness.

Strangely, though, these male and female ants had lived together before the exodus for as much as two years and yet there was no evidence of any sexual life.

In their life cycle they must experience flight, even if only momentarily, in order to be initiated into this new field of activity reproducing their kind.


Naturalists report that they have captured some of these “ ants” as they leave home and have cut off their wings so that they cannot fly, and these little insects seem to have no interest in life but just die off.

A few minutes’ flight sparks off their parenthood.


Anthill Architecture


Ants making an anthill.

The king and queen now build a hollow and start their own little fungus garden.

Soon the workers are milling around as the eggs continue to hatch.

These newcomers are the builders of the new home.

Their building material is a particle of sand mixed with saliva.

Some species use their waste matter mixed with a soil particle.

This becomes very hard, and with this material as building blocks the insects construct a labyrinth of tunnels and cells.

You may wonder how they are able to do this if no light enters their home.

We could illustrate it this way:

Imagine that you want to build an extension to your house but you cannot go outside to do it.

What could you do?

Well, perhaps you could knock out just a brick or two and then begin building by putting your arms out through the hole.

Once daylight is completely blocked out by the new walls, then you could crawl through into your new extension, there to begin the same procedure over again.

This is how the “ ant” builds.

Sometimes they tunnel hundreds of feet to obtain food and water, even boring their way right up through the trunk of a tree so that their aims can be accomplished in the dark.

In case of accident where part of the home caves in allowing the light to enter, there is an all out effort to restore darkness by filling in the gaps with their little building blocks.

They build two pillars of soil particles near each other.

Then one of them climbs a pillar with a piece of grass in his mouth.

With a wet piece of clay he secures the end of the grass to the top of the pillar.

Then as the grass stalk gradually bends over, a fellow builder on the other pillar catches it and fixes it to his side of the project.

They then build their little bricks around the stalk of grass, and so we have a reinforced arch.

The home is made and the “anthill” continues to grow.

Queen ant is tucked away cosily in her little cell.

She never works but her duty is to lay an endless stream of eggs.

All her children are busy about her.

They fetch water and food for the queen and carry her thousands of eggs to the breeding chambers.

The big fat body of the queen remains motionless, with her tiny head moving at one end.

The king?

He stays loyally with his not-too beautiful wife.

And so the endless night goes on.

Strange, isn’t it?

Yet that is the life of the “ant.”

Interesting facts about a rock badger


Picture of a rock badger (procavia capensis)

The rock badger (procavia capensis) is a hyrax, found only in parts of Africa and extreme southwestern Asia.

In southern Africa, where he is found in great numbers, he is known as rock dassie, a name derived from the Dutch word for “badger.”

Although dassies look somewhat like rodents, they have certain features that are actually “a mixture of everything,” according to scientist Gerrie de Graaff.

“Their incisors resemble those of rodents, their molars those of rhinos, their vascular system that of whales and their feet those of elephants!”

No wonder they have the zoologists puzzled!

As they are not very fast-moving animals, nor able to defend themselves very well, dassies wisely live in the crags and crevices of rocky outcrops or cliffs.

These provide shelter from wind and rain, as well as protection from predators.

Understandably, then, they seldom venture far afield except for their two main meals a day.

And what meals!

For such small creatures, they eat an astonishing amount of plant material.

Even more astonishing is the speed with which it is all gobbled up.

Why, they spend less than an hour a day at it! And their digestive system, which copes marvelously with this habit, is described by zoologist J. J. C. Sauer as being “unique in the animal kingdom.” 


No easy meal 


Picture of rock dassies sleeping on a table mountain.


A common sight in rocky areas is dassies, looking very much like rocks themselves, basking in the brilliant sunshine.

Very tempting that is for the black eagle, who has a special fondness for dassies.

But the little fellow is not so easily taken.

His eyesight is so keen that he can detect movement more than half a mile [a kilometer] away! And even if the eagle is right against the sun, the dassie will spot him.

How is that possible?

His eyes are equipped with a special membrane that filters the sun’s rays, enabling him to look directly into the sun without harm.

No sooner is the enemy spotted than the alarm is given—a sharp bark by the sentry dassie—and immediately the rocks are cleared, all dassies having dropped down into the crevices between and under the rocks.

The eagle will have to try again for his meal.


Highly sociable



Community living—what an advantage it is at night when dassies feel the cold!

It is so helpful to have fellow dassies to lie with, pressed tightly together, all facing outward.

Some may even pile on top of the huddled group until there are three or four layers of dassies—up to 25 at a time—sharing warmth with one another!

It could have its drawbacks, though, as they are aggressive little animals.

But their instinctive wisdom comes to the rescue.

Dr. P. B. Fourie explains:

“They normally lie with their heads away from one another, do not feed in close proximity to one another and utter a variety of appeasement calls when they are forced to move closely past one another.”

And because their calls are usually low-pitched and can be heard only a few yards [meters] away, they can communicate with one another without attracting predators.


Agile and lovable pets


Picture of rock hyrax pets.

Many an observer has marveled at the way dassies can dash up a smooth rock-face that is almost perpendicular.

How do they do it?

By forming their feet, which have thick, soft soles, into friction pads.

And because their feet are always damp, being the only parts of their bodies that perspire, the traction is that much stronger.

These endearing creatures are easily tamed.

And there is no need to worry about their cleanliness—they constantly groom themselves with a hind foot, which has a handy little claw specially for that purpose.

In her book Born Free, Joy Adamson confesses to being puzzled at first that her pet dassie habitually scratched herself.

Later she realized that with this claw, the dassie kept her fur sleek, so that neither flea nor tick was ever found on her.

How would one go about housebreaking a pet dassie?

No need to.

In the wild, they set aside a specific location to be used as a toilet by the whole colony.

Why you should never touch a blue-ringed octopus?


Picture  of a blue-ringed octopus.


More deadly than a snake


If you see a small octopus (arm spread of only three or four inches) with bluish patterns on its yellowish-brown body in the waters off coast of Australia and some pacific islands, DO NOT TOUCH IT.

It is probably a blue-ringed octopus and is more deadly than the most venomous snake.

A soldier who was exploring rock pools near Sydney found one and placed it on his arm.

He died ninety minutes after being bitten

How strong is a crocodile's skin?


A man touching a crocodile skin.

The toughness of the crocodile’s armor is indeed amazing.

Naturalist R. L. Ditmars observes:

“Against javelins and arrows the hide is undoubtedly invulnerable.” (Reptiles of the World)

Just what is the makeup of the crocodile’s hide?

Tough horny scales embedded in bony plates cover the upper parts of the back and the tail.

The horny scales are arranged in rows.

Most of them have a ridge or keel.

The underside consists of smooth horny scales.

These usually have no bony plates beneath them.

Especially toward the throat, however, there may be some small bony platelets.

The sides of the crocodile’s body are covered with small knobby scales.

On account of these scales the sides can stretch or expand—a vital requirement for breathing and, in the case of the female, an essential for accommodating the expansion resulting from pregnancy.

Because of its valuable hide, the crocodile has been slaughtered ruthlessly by those seeking quick profits.

For leather goods, only the under surfaces are used.

Whenever small bony platelets are present in the underside, the commercial value of the hide may be reduced.

Amazing facts about a chameleon's body appearance


Picture of a green chameleon.

The chameleon is a member of the lizard family.

Although certain American lizards, named “anoles,” are popularly called “chameleons,” true members of the chameleon family live mainly in Africa and Madagascar.

Some species of the family may also be found in Europe and Asia.

Chameleons range greatly in size.

Some of them are as small as 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters) long, while others grow to a length of some two feet (.6 meter).


Body appearance


It's body gives the appearance of being rather compressed and tapers into a pointed ridge along my back.

What about it's head?

Well, it rests on a short neck so it is unable to turn.

To compensate for this, it's eyes are able to move independently of each other.

It can look straight ahead with one eye, while the other can observe what is happening behind.

Many people who see this for the first time find this feature rather disconcerting.

It's eyeballs are large, but it's eyelids are fused so that there is only a small opening through which it looks for it's prey, mainly insects.

It's eyelids are so constructed so as to shield the glint of its eyes from my prey.

Otherwise many of it's prey would soon become aware of it and move out of reach.

Chameleon have a variety of “headdresses,” varying from one species to another.

Some chameleons possess helmet-like crests or movable scaly flaps, while others have bony horns or wart-like growths on our snouts.

Many people like to believe that chameleons use these in fighting, but there is no evidence of that.

It is true, though, that male chameleons like to establish territories and frighten off rival males.

How?

By inflating their bodies with air and puffing out their throats while opening their mouths.

Such a male turns broadside to the rival, who thus gets an exaggerated idea of his opponent’s size and may move away.


Master at Camouflage


Chameleons have the ability to change color in response to emotions such as anger or alarm, or to various stimuli, including heat and light.

They may change color from gray to green and brown, and sometimes even yellow.

This is an aid to it in camouflaging.

Life Nature Library—The Reptiles  explains:

“Most chameleons are able to assume colors and patterns that blend into their surroundings.”

A housefly defends itself against accusations of being unhygienic


A macro picture of a housefly.

Contact between us often calls for your grabbing a swatter or a can of insecticide.

But there are things you should consider before deciding that we are without virtue.

It is true, many writers like to paint us as real menaces.

This view was expressed because of the common belief that we are lovers of filth and pollution, and provide transportation for a whole army of germs.

Germ-laden flies were blamed for a typhoid epidemic that killed ten times as many soldiers during the Spanish-American War in 1898 as did bullets.

I cannot deny that bad incidents have occurred.

But as a housefly, I would like to present the other side of the story and explain how we might get involved in sordid affairs like that typhoid epidemic.

It is because of the kind of life we lead.


Earth’s custodians


Picture of housefly outdoors.


Our place is outdoors where we act as custodians of the earth.

We go about the daily job of consuming tons of decaying matter, swarming around an accumulation of debris.

The big appetite we houseflies have fits right in with the custodian role for which we have been made for.

True, problems have cropped up over the years, but the main reason for this is the way humans live or how they have changed the environment.

People have polluted the earth and created unsanitary conditions in big cities.

People throw garbage along highways or onto picnic grounds, and cities use large, open landfill sites for dumping tons of refuse.

While flitting about on our custodian duties, we pick up germs festering in this decaying matter.

Under such polluted conditions created by humans, it is a fact that we houseflies can become enemies of your health.

Since the germs we carry can harm you, it would be wise for you to store garbage where we cannot get at it.

Cans with lids are excellent receptacles for garbage.

Also, use screens over windows if possible.

If you do not have them, shut your windows before the sun rises and we start stirring.

Just as important, do not leave food lying in the open, which can be viewed by us as an invitation to lunch.


Do we spread germs?


Picture of a housefly feeding.

We have no jaws for chewing, so we take in all our food in liquid form.

We simply dissolve our food in fluid that we expel and then suck up again.

This fluid is either our own saliva or previously swallowed liquid that we regurgitate.

However, there may be germs in the residue of fluid that we leave behind.

We can also leave germs behind wherever we walk.

At the bottom of our six legs are sticky pads, fine for walking up the side of walls, or upside down on ceilings.

But when we put down a foot, germs on our feet may be deposited.

Yet having our feet on the ground is vital to us, since it is by means of taste organs on the tip of our feet that we tell what food meets our fancy.


Unlikely start to life


Picture of a housefly up-close.

Some of you people may think we have few virtues simply due to the way we spend our childhood—in a pile of cow droppings or horse manure.

Mrs. Housefly chooses this unlikely birthplace for us by laying her minute eggs in the warm manure.

Since the eggs are small, you can find hundreds of housefly larvae, called maggots, sharing the same accommodations.

Maggots are legless, footless, and almost headless.

They are hungry from the start of life.

After hatching, they immediately begin devouring their home.

After only six days of life, when their growth is complete, they have become 800 times their weight at birth!

The carnivorous habits of maggots have attracted your medical doctors, who have deliberately placed them in wounds so the little creatures could clean wounds by eating the dead or dying tissue.

The maggot, or larva, period of a housefly may last only about a week.

During this period it sheds its skin in several molts, reaching a length of half an inch.

It then migrates to the surface of the pile, where it is transformed into a pupa.

After another three days, the pupa slits, and out crawls a new housefly, complete with all the equipment for flying and eating.


Remarkably well equipped


Picture of a housefly body and eyes.

From head to tail our bodies measure a quarter of an inch.

You can recognize Mr. Housefly by a brownish yellow tint on the body.

Mrs. Housefly, in contrast, has a reddish tint.

The most remarkable organs of our bodies are our eyes, which cover most of our heads.

Marvelously constructed, they are like small telescopes packed closely together.

They allow us to look in every direction at the same time, and this, by the way, explains why humans have such a hard time catching us.

Within our bodies are motor muscles that drive our wings to give us aerial maneuverability ranking with the best of insectdom’s fliers.

My kinfolk can fly backward and forward, hover in one spot, or zoom along upside down.

Our strong wings, beating at a rate of over 300 times a second, enable us to fly long distances in a single flight.


Great progenitors


Picture of a housefly mating.

Besides being good fliers, Mr. and Mrs. Housefly can lay claim to being among insectdom’s greatest progenitors.

Mrs. Housefly is less than sixty hours old when she deposits her first eggs.

According to scientific estimates, under ideal conditions one housefly couple beginning to reproduce in April could, by August, if all the flies lived, cover the earth with a layer of their offspring more than three stories high!

But this, of course, could never happen.

For one thing, in summer houseflies live only about thirty days. Furthermore, enemies kill off huge numbers of us.

Nevertheless, many of us survive to the autumn, or later in temperate zones.

We may continue to breed right through the winter, though less rapidly.

Our being able to weather severe climates assures that from year to year there will be new generations of us.

This means that you need constantly to be aware to protect your home and food to prevent us from spreading disease to you.

Of course, if there were no environmental pollution and slum-ridden cities, you probably would not have to worry about our presence.

Then we could more fully work for your benefit as custodians of the earth.

What happens when there is no more room in a beehive?


Picture of a beehive.


Solving a honeybees “housing crisis”


What happens when there is no more room in a beehive?

“Scouts” are sent out to find a new home.

They may find an empty box, a hollow tree or a hole in a wall.

Then the queen bee and many of the “worker” bees leave the hive in a swarm—a sort of flying colony.

But some workers are left behind to care for the family that will continue to hatch from eggs already laid in the old home, including a new queen.

So instead of sending a few bees away from the colony, most of the family moves from the old home!

This can really frustrate a beekeeper, and so one keeper in Florida decided to study the problem.

He writes:

“Finally I realized that the moment of ‘blast off’ was not important. It was too late to stop them then. Rather, I had to make them follow my plan. Bees swarm when they run out of room; so I reasoned, Why restrict the queen, the very life of the hive, to just one room? I decided to give every queen another room, a two-room apartment. So I provided a second story to each queen’s apartment. “It worked; they stayed! And now, I simply become the ‘midwife’ to the birth of each new colony. At the proper time, I divide the hive. There are always plenty of queen cells and drone cells in both ‘rooms’ of the queen’s apartment. Selecting the best of these, I arrange for the next hive.”

How a tokey gecko can eliminate the need to use insecticides at your home?


Holding a tokey gecko.

Roach Ruin


When chemical sprays failed to stay the advances of cockroaches in their apartment, three New Yorkers called in a professional exterminator from Southeast Asia.

“They bought a Tokay Gecko, a foot-long lizard with beady chartreuse eyes, garish orange polka dots and a voracious appetite for insects,” reports the New York Times.

From its home under the refrigerator, the lizard came out to feed nightly on the teeming insects.

“We used to hear him crunching on them at night,” said one of the apartment dwellers.

“It woke us up at first, but after a few nights we got used to it.”

In a few months the gecko brought the roach numbers down to “manageable proportions.”

Why some orphaned young elephants have become rogue elephants?


Young orphaned young elephants.


Elephant delinquents


“Like children, young elephants need discipline if they are to grow up as responsible members of society,” notes New Scientist.

“Wildlife biologists say that orphan bull elephants in South Africa’s Pilanesberg Game Reserve have turned delinquent because they have never been taken in hand by their elders.”

The rogue elephants have attacked humans, have gored to death 19 white rhinoceroses in the past three years, and have even tried to mate with rhinos.

Two humans were killed, including a professional hunter sent out to shoot an offending elephant after it had charged a group of tourists.

In each instance, the delinquent animal was from a group of young male elephants brought into the reserve from Kruger National Park after the rest of their herd was culled to control the size of the elephant population.

While a number of factors have placed stress on the elephants, scientists feel that the lack of discipline and nurturing from older animals, a dominant feature of the normal life of elephant families, is at least partly responsible for their wayward behavior.

Now, only whole elephant families will be moved so that the young bulls “will continue to receive the strict parental discipline they need,” says the article.

How the abalone snail amazingly engineers it's shell?


Abalone snail shell.


Abalone shell


Have you ever noticed how easy it is to snap a piece of chalk crayon in two?

But now, try to snap the shell of the red abalone in two.

Chances are you would need a hammer to break it.

Yet the abalone shell is made of the same stuff as the chalk—calcium carbonate.

The shell is just put together differently.

So differently, in fact, that it is some 40 times more resistant to fracturing than chalk crayon is.

How does the abalone manage this engineering feat?

Scientists at the University of Washington in Seattle, U.S.A., have unlocked some of this marine snail’s secrets.

The abalone uses its single dish-like shell as a protective wall against the world outside.

For the sake of strength, the shell grows in layers.

The outer layer is rough and coarse.

But the inner layer, called the nacre, glistens in translucent beauty, and herein lies the shell’s strength.

The Washington scientists have learned that this inner layer “has a laminated, brick-and-mortar structure,” notes Science News.

Only about a micron wide (one millionth of a meter), these tiny bricks are held together with a mortar made by the abalone itself, a powerful adhesive that scientists are still trying to figure out.

Scientists say that the layers of microscopic “bricks” absorb impacts by sliding against adjacent layers.

Meanwhile, the organic layers of mortar somehow bridge developing cracks with special “ligaments.” In all, the shell may have as many as five mechanisms for resisting breakage!

Scientists are so impressed with the abalone’s remarkably strong shell that they are trying to develop similar techniques in making strong ceramics.

If they succeed, they will no doubt be showered with applause.

Why the DMZ (demilitarized zone) between North And South Korea is a safe haven for migratory birds?


Migratory birds flocking to the DMZ (demilitarized zone) between North and South Korea.


Best Refuge


One unexpected outcome of dividing Korea into two has been the creating of a wildlife sanctuary in the DMZ (demilitarized zone).

Although soldiers sometimes go into this two-and-a-half-mile-wide [4 km] ribbon of land that stretches across the country, hunting is strictly forbidden.

“So tense is the atmosphere,” observes columnist S. Chang in Japan’s Daily Yomiuri, “that even a single shot fired at a stray animal or bird could touch off an eruption of gunfire from tens of thousands of troops deployed on both sides.”

The result is a quiet no-man’s land where nature flourishes.

In particular, wild boars, roe deer, badgers, and scores of varieties of birds and freshwater fish are increasing.

Migratory birds flock here, and even endangered species have found a haven.

With two strong armies keeping people out, these clever creatures have located to what must at present be one of the safest homes in the world for wildlife