APIS, in natural history, a genus of insects of the order of Hymenoptera. Gen. char. mouth furnished with jaws, and an inflected proboscis, with two bi valve sheaths: feelers 4, unequal, filiform : antenna short, filiform, those of the female subclavate ; wings flat or without plaits ; sting in the female and neutral insects concealed.
This genus is distributed by Linnzeus into two assortments, viz. those in which the body of the animal is but slightly co vered with fine hair or down, and those in which it is remarkably villose or hairy : the insects of the latter division are com monly distinguished by the title of hum ble-bees. In the first division, the princi pal or must important species is the apis mellifica, or common honey-hee, so long and justly celebrated for its wonderful polity, the neatness and precision with which it constructs its cells, and the dili gence with which it provides, during the warmth of summer, a supply of food, for the support of the hive during the rigours of the succeeding winter. The general history of this interesting insect has been amply detailed by various authors, as Swammerdam, Reaumur, &c. &c. Among the most elaborate accounts of later times may be mentioned that of Mr. John Hun ter, which made its appearance in the Philosophical Transactions for the year 1792, of which the followingis an abstract. There are three periods at which the his tory of the bee may commence : first, in the spring, when the queen begins to lay her eggs ; in the slimmer, at the com mencement of a new colony ; or in the autumn, when they go into winter quar ters. We shall begin the particular his tory of the bee with the new colony. when nothing is formed. When a hive sends oft' a colony, it is commonly in the month ofJune ; but that will vary according to the season, for in a mild spring bees some times swarm in the middle of May, and very often at the latter end of it. Before they come off; they commonly hang about the mouth of the hole or door of the hive, for some days, as if they had not sufficient room within fur such hot weather, which we believe is very much the case ; for if cold or wet weather come on, they stow themselves very well, and wait for fine weather. But swarming appears to be rather an operation arising from necessity, for they would seem not naturally to swarm, because if they have an empty space to fill they do not swarm ; there fore by increasing the site of the hive the swarming is prevented. This period is
much longer in sonic than in others. For some evenings before they come off is often heard a singular noise, a kind of ring, or sound of a small trumpet; by comparing it with the notes of a piano forte, it seemed to he the same sound with the lower A of the treble. The swarm commonly consists of three classes ; a fe male, or females, males, and those corn. monly called mules, which are supposed to be of no sex, and are the labourers ; the whole, about two quarts in hulk, making about six or seven thousand. it is a question that cannot easily he deter mined, whether this old stock sends off entirely young of the same season, and whether the whole of their young ones, or only part. As the males are entirely bred in the same season, part go off; but part must stay, probably it is so with the others. They commonly come off in the heat of the day, often immediately after a shower. When one goes off; they all immediately follow, and fly about seemingly in great confusion, although there is oue principle actuating the whole. They soon appear to be directed to some fixed place ; such as the branch of a tree or bush, the cavities of old trees, holes of houses leading- into some hollow place ; and whenever the stand is made, they im mediately repair to it till they are all col lected. But it would seem, in some cases, that they had not fixed upon any resting place before they come off, or, it' they had, that they were either disturbed, if it was near, or that it was at a great distance ; for, after hovering some time, as if undetermined, they fly away, mount up into the air, and go off with great ve locity. When they have fixed upon their future habitation, they immediately begin to make their combs, for they have the materials within themselves. " I have reason," sat s Mr. Hunter " to believe that they fill their crops wi;11 honey when they come away, probably from the stock in the hive. I killc-d several of those that came away, and found their crops full, while those that remained in the hive had their crops not near so full : some of them came away with farina on their legs, which I conceive to be rather accidental. I may just observe here, that a hive commonly sends off two, sometimes three, swarms in a summer, but that the second is common ly less than the first, and the third less than the second ; and this last has seldom time to provide for the winter.