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A New Note In The Woods
by [?]

But to return to the solitary bee. When you go a-hunting of the honey-bee, and are in quest of a specimen among the asters or goldenrod in some remote field to start a line with, you shall see how much this little native bee resembles her cousin of the social hive. There appear to be several varieties, but the one I have in mind is just the size of the honey-bee, and of the same general form and color, and its manner among the flowers is nearly the same. On close inspection, its color proves to be lighter, while the under side of its abdomen is of a rich bronze. The body is also flatter and less tapering, and the curve inclines upward, rather than downward. You perceive it would be the easiest thing in the world for the bee to sting an enemy perched upon its back. One variety, with a bright buff abdomen, is called “sweat-bee” by the laborers in the field, because it alights upon their hands and bare arms when they are sweaty,–doubtless in quest of salt. It builds its nest in little cavities in rails and posts. But the one with the bronze or copper bottom builds under a stone. I discovered its nest one day in this wise: I was lying on the ground in a field, watching a line of honey-bees to the woods, when my attention was arrested by one of these native bees flying about me in a curious, inquiring way. When it returned the third time, I said, “That bee wants something of me,” which proved to be the case, for I was lying upon the entrance to its nest. On my getting up, it alighted and crawled quickly home. I turned over the stone, which was less than a foot across, when the nest was partially exposed. It consisted of four cells, built in succession in a little tunnel that had been excavated in the ground. The cells, which were about three quarters of an inch long and half as far through, were made of sections cut from the leaf of the maple,– cut with the mandibles of the bee, which work precisely like shears. I have seen the bee at work cutting out these pieces. She moves through the leaf like the hand of the tailor through a piece of cloth. When the pattern is detached, she rolls it up, and, embracing it with her legs, flies home with it, often appearing to have a bundle disproportionately large. Each cell is made up of a dozen or more pieces: the larger ones, those that form its walls, like the walls of a paper bag, are oblong, and are turned down at one end, so as to form the bottom; not one thickness of leaf merely, but three or four thicknesses, each fragment of leaf lapping over another. When the cell is completed, it is filled about two thirds full of bee-bread,–the color of that in the comb in the hive, but not so dry, and having a sourish smell. Upon this the egg is laid, and upon this the young feed when hatched. Is the paper bag now tied up? No, it is headed up; circular bits of leaves are nicely fitted into it to the number of six or seven. They are cut without pattern or compass, and yet they are all alike, and all exactly fit. Indeed, the construction of this cell or receptacle shows great ingenuity and skill. The bee is, of course, unable to manage a single section of a leaf large enough, when rolled up, to form it, and so is obliged to construct it of smaller pieces, such as she can carry, lapping them one over another.

A few days later I saw a smaller species carrying fragments of a yellow autumn leaf under a stone in a cornfield. On examining the place about sundown to see if the bee lodged there, I found her snugly ensconced in a little rude cell that adhered to the under side of the stone. There was no pollen in it, and I half suspected it was merely a berth in which to pass the night.