Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/26

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16
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

for the above facts, has by an ingenious study of the cells of bees shown, first, that, a cell of this perfection is rarely if ever attained. Furthermore, that, while the honey-cells "are built unequivocally in accordance with the hexagonal type, they exhibit a range of variation which almost defies description;" that the worker-bees, from incorrect alignment and other causes, build cells, the measurement of which shows the widest limit of variation; that the drone-cells are liable to substantially the same variations, while the transition-cells, namely, those in which drones and worker-cells are combined in the same piece of comb, are extremely irregular. As the drone-cells are one-fifth larger than worker-cells, "a transition cannot be made without some disturbance in the regularity of the structure." And Prof. Wyman states distinctly that the bees do not have any systematic method of making the change, adding that "the cell of the bee has not that strict conformity to geometrical accuracy claimed for it," and the assertion, like that of Lord Brougham, that there is in the cell of the bee "perfect agreement between theory and observation, in view of the analogies of Nature, is far more likely to be wrong than right, and his assertion in the case before us is certainly wrong." Prof. Wyman closes his essay by saying that "much error would have been avoided if those who have discussed the structure of the bee's cell had adopted the plan followed by Mr. Darwin, and studied the habits of the cell-making insects comparatively, beginning with the cells of the humble-bee, following with those of the wasps and hornets, then with those of the Mexican bees, and finally with those of the common hive-bee; in this way they would have found that, while there is a constant approach to the perfect form, they would at the same time have been prepared for the fact that even in the cell of the hive-bee perfection is not reached. The isolated study of anything in Nature is a fruitful source of error."

The remarkable ingenuity, so characteristic of Prof. Wyman's experiments, is fully shown in this memoir. He made plaster-casts of the comb, and then sawed transverse sections, and by slightly heating the plaster the wax was melted and absorbed, leaving the delicate interspaces representing the partitions. From these sections electrotypes were taken, and thus the veritable figures were used to illustrate the absolute structure of the comb. The results of these brilliant researches were published in the "Proceedings of the American Academy of Sciences."

 

[To be continued.]