Littell's Living Age/Volume 138/Issue 1779/Miscellany

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Bee-Stings. — Mr. J. D. Hyatt, president of the New York Microscopic Society, has given an account of his investigations on the subject of stings. These studies have extended over a period of eight years, but only recently have some obscure points been made out. The general form of the stinging organs of the honey-bee is well known by microscopists. It consists of a horny sheath, within which there are two stings, and these, when in use, are thrust out. There is a poison-bag which discharges its contents into the sheath. This is a point well known, but it appears that the precise method by which the fluid makes its way from the sheath into the wound has not heretofore been properly explained. According to the generally accepted explanation the poison is supposed to flow in a channel formed between the two piercers or stings, and in this way makes its way into the wound. Mr. Hyatt advances another hypothesis, and believes he has positive proof that he is right, having dissected and examined upwards of a thousand stings. On examining a properly prepared sting from a honey-bee we notice first that the piercers are very sharp, and barbed for some distance from the end, there being nine barbs pointing upward on each one. These barbs are gracefully curved, and it can easily be seen that when once they find their way into the flesh it would be difficult to withdraw them. This explains why the honeybee sting remains in the flesh, while the stings of other insects, with finer barbs, are withdrawn. A more careful observation indicates that the stings are tubes. There appears to be a channel running through the length of each one, having branches which terminate in the notches just above the barbs. After careful study of these channels, many of which were found to contain air or water after mounting, and were thus proved to be veritable channels, the question arose as to their use. The natural inference would be that they were ducts for the poison, but there could be found no possible connection between the poison-gland and these channels, for, as already stated, the poison flows into the sheath. After long and patient investigation the explanation offered is as follows: At the back part of the sting these channels open into the sheath, and just in front of that opening, attached to the stings, is a sort of valve which projects into the sheath. When, in the operation of stinging, the piercers are thrust out, they carry forward this valve so as to close the front of the sheath, for which purpose they are admirably adapted, and the poison thus confined within the sheath makes its way out through these openings in the stings. When once understood the operation seems very simple. There are also some objections to the common explanation. Cross sections of the stings show that the walls are quite thin, but strengthened in certain places by internal deposits. The form of the stings is such that no channels can be formed between them to conduct the poison. Scientific American.

A Mercury Telephone. — A French inventor, M. Brégnet, has recently completed a so-called mercury telephone, which is quite a variation on the systems already in use. It is composed of two instruments for transmission and reception, connected by means of wires. Each of these consists of a glass vessel, containing acidulated water and mercury, into which is inserted a capillary tube filled with mercury. One wire connects the mercury in the tubes, and the other that in the vessels. When a person speaks before the transmitter, the vibrations of the air are communicated to the mercury, and cause variations in the electromotive force, which are transmitted to the receiver, and there give rise to vibrations of the air appreciable by the ear. A later simplification of the apparatus consists in using a tube with alternate drops of mercury and acidulated water, forming thus a series of electrocapillary elements.