The lines ended in a maze of sticky webbing on the face of the comb.
That was your mother's pet comb once," whispered Melissa to the Princess.
There was black comb so old that they had forgotten where it hung; orange, buff, and ochre-varnished store-comb, built as bees were used to build before the days of artificial foundations; and there was a little, white, frail new work.
A cascade of Oddities, chips of broken comb, scale, fluff, and grubs slid out, crackled, sizzled, popped a little, and then the flames roared up and consumed all that fuel.
In one well-marked instance, I put the comb back into the hive, and allowed the bees to go on working for a short time, and again examined the cell, and I found that the rhombic plate had been completed, and had become perfectly flat: it was absolutely impossible, from the extreme thinness of the little rhombic plate, that they could have effected this by gnawing away the convex side; and I suspect that the bees in such cases stand in the opposed cells and push and bend the ductile and warm wax (which as I have tried is easily done) into its proper intermediate plane, and thus flatten it.
Now bees, as may be clearly seen by examining the edge of a growing comb, do make a rough, circumferential wall or rim all round the comb; and they gnaw into this from the opposite sides, always working circularly as they deepen each cell.
From all the cells, both those just commenced and those completed, being thus crowned by a strong coping of wax, the bees can cluster and crawl over the comb without injuring the delicate hexagonal walls, which are only about one four-hundredth of an inch in thickness; the plates of the pyramidal basis being about twice as thick.
It was really curious to note in cases of difficulty, as when two pieces of comb met at an angle, how often the bees would entirely pull down and rebuild in different ways the same cell, sometimes recurring to a shape which they had at first rejected.
When bees have a place on which they can stand in their proper positions for working,--for instance, on a slip of wood, placed directly under the middle of a comb growing downwards so that the comb has to be built over one face of the slip--in this case the bees can lay the foundations of one wall of a new hexagon, in its strictly proper place, projecting beyond the other completed cells.
Again, from the same cause, it would be advantageous to the Melipona, if she were to make her cells closer together, and more regular in every way than at present; for then, as we have seen, the spherical surfaces would wholly disappear, and would all be replaced by plane surfaces; and the Melipona would make a comb as perfect as that of the hive-bee.
Tegetmeier, I separated two combs, and put between them a long, thick, square strip of wax: the bees instantly began to excavate minute circular pits in it; and as they deepened these little pits, they made them wider and wider until they were converted into shallow basins, appearing to the eye perfectly true or parts of a sphere, and of about the diameter of a cell.