THE QUEEN BEE
By Carl Ewald
The farmer opened his hive. "Off with you!" he said to the Bees.
"The sun is shining, and everywhere the flowers are coming out, so
that it is a joy to see them. Get to work, and gather a good lot of
honey for me to sell to the shopkeeper in the autumn. 'Many a
streamlet makes a river,' and you know these are bad times for
"What does that matter to us?" said the Bees. But all the same they
flew out; for they had been sitting all the winter in the hive, and
they longed for a breath of fresh air. They hummed and buzzed, they
stretched their legs, they tried their wings. They swarmed out in
all directions; they crawled up and down the hive; they flew off to
the flowers and bushes, or wandered all around on the ground. There
were hundreds and hundreds of them.
Last of all came the Queen. She was bigger than the others, and it
was she who ruled the hive. "Stop your nonsense, little children,"
she said, "and set to work and do something. A good Bee does not
idle, but turns to with a will and makes good use of its time."
So she divided them into parties and set them to work. "You over
there, fly out and see if there is any honey in the flowers. The
others can collect flower-dust, and when you come home give it in
smartly to the old Bees in the hive."
Away they flew at once. But all the very young ones stayed behind.
They made the last party, for they had never been out with the
others. "What are we to do?" they asked.
"You! you must perspire," said the Queen. "One, two, three! Then we
can begin our work." And they perspired as well as they had learned
to, and the prettiest yellow wax came out of their bodies.
"Good!" said the Queen. "Now we will begin to build." The old Bees
took the wax, and began to build a number of little six-sided
cells, all alike and close up to one another. All the time they
were building, the others came flying in with flower-dust and
honey, which they laid at the Queen's feet.
"We can now knead the dough," she said. "But first put a little
honey in—that makes it taste so much better." They kneaded and
kneaded, and before very long they had made some pretty little
loaves of Bee bread, which they carried into the cells. "Now let us
go on with the building," commanded the Queen Bee, and they
perspired wax and built for all they were worth.
"And now my work begins," said the Queen, and she heaved a
deep sigh; for her work was the hardest work of all. She sat down
in the middle of the hive and began to lay her eggs. She laid great
heaps of them, and the Bees were kept very busy running with the
little eggs in their mouths and carrying them into the new cells.
Each egg had a little cell to itself; and when they had all been
put in their places, the Queen gave orders to fix doors to all the
cells and shut them fast.
"Good!" she said, when this was done. "I want you now to build me
ten fine big rooms in the out-of-the-way parts of the hive."
The Bees had them ready in no time, and then the Queen laid ten
pretty eggs, one in each of the big rooms, and the doors were fixed
as before. Every day the Bees flew in and out, gathering great
heaps of honey and flower-dust; but in the evening, when their work
was done, they would open the doors just a crack and have a peep at
"Take care," the Queen said one day. "They are coming!" And all the
eggs burst at once, and in every cell lay a pretty little Bee Baby.
"What funny creatures!" said the young Bees. "They have no eyes,
and where are their legs and wings?"
"They are Grubs," said the Queen. "You simpletons looked just like
that yourselves once upon a time. One must be a Grub before one can
become a Bee. Be quick now, and give them something to eat." The
Bees bestirred themselves to feed the little ones, but they were
not equally kind to them all. The ten, however, that lay in the
large cells got as much to eat as ever they wanted, and every day a
great quantity of honey was carried in to them.
"They are Princesses," said the Queen, "so you must treat them
well. The others you can stint; they are only working people, and
they must accustom themselves to be content with what they can
get." And every morning the poor little wretches got a little piece
of Bee bread and nothing more, and with that they had to be
satisfied, though they were ever so hungry.
In one of the little six-sided cells close by the Princesses'
chambers lay a little tiny Grub. She was the youngest of them all,
and only just come out of the egg. She could not see, but she could
plainly hear the grown-up Bees talking outside, and for a while she
lay quite still and kept her thoughts to herself. All at once she
said out loud, "I could eat a little more," and she knocked at her
"You have had enough for to-day," answered the old Bee who was
appointed to be head Bee Nurse, creeping up and down in the passage
"Maybe, but I am hungry!" shouted the little Grub. "I will go into
one of the Princesses' chambers; I have not room to stir here."
"Just listen to her!" said the old Bee mockingly. "One would think
by the demands she makes that she was a fine little Princess. You
are born to toil and drudge, my little friend. You are a mere
working Bee, and you will never be anything else all your days."
"But I want to be Queen!" cried the Grub, and thumped on the door.
Of course the old Bee did not answer such nonsense, but went on to
the others. From every side they were calling out for more food,
and the little Grub could hear it all.
"It is hard, though," she thought, "that we should have to be so
hungry." And then she knocked on the Princess' wall and called to
her, "Give me a little of your honey. Let me come into your
chamber. I am lying here so hungry, and I am just as good as you."
"Are you? Just you wait till I am a reigning Queen," said the
Princess. "You may be sure that when that time comes I shall not
forget your impertinence." But she had scarcely said this before
the other Princesses began to cry out in the most dreadful manner.
"You're not going to be Queen! I shall be Queen!
I shall be Queen!" they shrieked all together, and they
began to knock on the walls and make a frightful disturbance.
The head Bee Nurse came running up in an instant and opened the
doors. "What are your graces' orders?" she asked, dropping a curtsy
and scraping the ground with her feet.
"More honey!" they shouted, all in one voice. "But me first—me
first. I am the one who is to be queen."
"In a moment, in a moment, your graces," she answered, and ran off
as fast as her six legs could carry her. She soon came back with
many other Bees. They were dragging ever so much honey, which they
crammed down the cross little Princesses' throats. And then they
got them to hold their tongues and lie still and rest.
But the little Grub lay awake, thinking over what had happened. She
longed so much for some honey that she began to shake the door
again. "Give me some honey! I can't stand it any longer. I am just
as good as the others."
The old Bee tried to hush her. "Hold your tongue, little bawler!
The Queen's coming." And at the same moment the Queen Bee came.
"Go your ways," she said to the Bees; "I wish to be alone."
For a long time she stood in silence before the Princesses'
chambers. "Now they are lying there asleep," she said at last.
"From morning till evening they do nothing but eat and sleep, and
they grow bigger and fatter every day. In a few days they will be
full grown, and will creep out of their cells. Then my turn will be
over. I know that too well. I have heard the Bees saying to one
another that they would like to have a younger and more beautiful
Queen, and they will chase me away in disgrace. But I will not
submit to it. To-morrow I will kill them all; then I can remain
Queen till I die."
Then she went away. But the little Grub had heard all she said.
"Dear me!" she thought; "it is really a pity about the little
Princesses. They are certainly very uppish, and they have not been
nice to me, but still it would be sad if the wicked Queen killed
them. I think I will tell the old growler outside in the passage
all about it."
She began once more knocking at the door, and the head Bee Nurse
came running up, but this time she was fearfully angry. "You must
mind what you are doing, my good Grub," she said. "You are the
youngest of them all, and you are the worst for making a noise.
Next time I shall tell the Queen."
"First listen to me," said the Grub, and she told her about the
Queen's wicked design.
"Good gracious! is that true?" cried the old Nurse, and beat her
wings in horror. And without hearing a word more, she hurried off
to tell the other Bees.
"I think I deserve a little honey for what I have done," said the
little Grub. "But I can now lie down and sleep with a good
Next evening, when the Queen thought that all the Bees were in bed,
she came to kill the Princesses. The Grub could hear her talking
aloud to herself. But she was quite afraid of the wicked Queen, and
dared not stir. "I hope she won't kill the Princesses," she
thought, and squeezed herself nearer to the door to hear what
The Queen looked cautiously round on all sides, and then opened the
first of the doors. But at the same moment the Bees swarmed out
from all directions, seized her by the legs and wings, and dragged
her out. "What is the matter?" she cried. "Are you raising a
"No, your majesty," answered the Bees, with great reverence; "but
we know that you are intending to kill the Princesses, and
that you shall not be allowed to do. What would become of us
in the autumn after your majesty's death?"
"Let me go!" cried the Queen, and tried to get away. "I am Queen
now anyway, and have the power to do what I like. How do you know
that I shall die in the autumn?" But the Bees held her fast, and
dragged her outside the hive. There they set her free, but she
shook her wings in a passion and said to them,—
"You are disloyal subjects, who are not worth ruling over. I
won't stay here an hour longer, but I will go out into the world and
build a new nest. Are there any of you who will come with me?"
Some of the old Bees, who had been Grubs at the same time as the
Queen, declared that they would follow her. And soon after they
"Now we have no Queen," said the others, "we must take good care of
the Princesses." And so they crammed them with honey from morning
till night; and they grew, and grabbed, and squabbled, and made
more noise each day than the day before.
As for the little Grub, no one gave a single thought to her.
One morning the doors of the Princesses' chambers flew open, and
all ten of them stepped out, beautiful full-grown Queen Bees. The
other Bees ran up and gazed at them in admiration. "How pretty they
are!" they said. "It is hard to say which is the most beautiful."
"I am!" one cried.
"You make a mistake," said another, and stabbed her with her sting.
"You are rather conceited," shrieked a third. "I imagine that
I am rather prettier than you are." And immediately they all
began calling out at once, and soon after began to fight with one
another as hard as ever they could.
The Bees would have liked to separate them, but the old head Bee
Nurse said to them,—"Let them go on fighting; then we shall see
which of them is the strongest, and we will choose her to be our
Queen. We can't do with more than one."
At this the Bees formed round in a ring and looked on at the
battle. It lasted a long time, and it was fiercely fought. Wings
and legs which had been bitten off were flying about in the air,
and after some time eight of the Princesses lay dead upon the
ground. The two last were still fighting. One of them had lost all
her wings, and the other had only four legs left.
"She will be a poor sort of Queen whichever of the two we get,"
said one of the Bees. "We should have done better to have kept the
old one." But she might have spared herself the remark, for in the
same moment the Princesses gave each other such a stab with their
stings that they both fell dead as a door-nail.
"That is a pretty business!" called the Bees, and ran about among
each other in dismay. "Now we have no Queen! What shall we do? What
shall we do?"
In despair they crawled about the hive, and did not know which way
to turn. But the oldest and cleverest sat in a corner and held a
council. For a long time they talked this way and that as to what
they should decide on doing in their unhappy circumstances. But at
last the head Bee Nurse got a hearing, and said,—"I can tell you
how you can get out of the difficulty, if you will but follow my
advice. I remember that the same misfortune happened to us in this
hive a long time ago. I was then a Grub myself. I lay in my cell,
and distinctly heard what took place. All the Princesses had killed
one another, and the old Queen had gone out into the world: it was
just as it is now. But the Bees took one of us Grubs and laid her
in one of the Princesses' cells. They fed her every day with the
finest and best honey in the whole hive; and when she was
full-grown, she was a charming and good Queen. I can clearly
remember the whole affair, for I thought at the time that they
might just as well have taken me. But we may do the same thing
again. I propose that we act in the same way."
The Bees were delighted, and cried that they would willingly do so,
and they ran off at once to fetch a Grub.
"Wait a moment," cried the head Bee Nurse, "and take me with you.
At any rate, I will come and help you. Consider now. It must be one
of the youngest Grubs, for she must have time to think over her new
position. When one has been brought up to be a mere drudge, it is
not easy to accustom oneself to wear a crown."
That also seemed to the Bees to be wise, and the old one went on,
—"Close by the side of the Princesses' cells lies a little Grub.
She is the youngest of them all. She must have learnt a good deal
by hearing the Princesses' refined conversation, and I have noticed
that she has some character. Besides, it was she who was honourable
enough to tell me about the wicked intentions of the old Queen. Let
us take her."
At once they went in a solemn procession to the six-sided cell
where the little Grub lay. The head Bee Nurse politely knocked at
the door, opened it cautiously, and told the Grub what the Bees had
decided. At first she could hardly believe her own ears; but when
they had carried her carefully into one of the large, delightful
chambers, and brought her as much honey as she could eat, she
perceived that it was all in earnest.
"So I am to be Queen after all," she said to the head Bee Nurse.
"You would not believe it, you old growler!"
"I hope that your majesty will forget the rude remarks that I made
at the time you lay in the six-sided cell," said the old Bee, with
a respectful bow.
"I forgive you," said the new-baked Princess. "Fetch me some more
A little time after the Grub was full grown, and stepped out of her
cell as big and as beautiful as the Bees could wish. And besides,
she knew how to commando "Away with you!" she said. "We must have
more honey for our use in the winter, and you others must perspire
more wax. I am thinking of building a new wing to the hive. The new
Princesses shall live there next year; it is very unsuitable for
them to be so near common Grubs."
"Heyday!" said the Bees to one another. "One would think she had
been a Queen ever since she lay in the egg."
"No," said the head Bee Nurse; "that is not so. But she has had
queenly thoughts, and that is the great thing."