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The Mason-Bees
written by "Fabre, Jean-Henri, 1823-1915"
...n exchange a cell not only finished as a structure, but also filled nearly to the top with honey. I have just stolen it from its owner, who would not have been long before laying her egg in it. What will the Mason do in the presence of this munificent gift, which saves her the trouble of building and harvesting? She will leave the mortar no doubt, finish storing the Bee-bread, lay her egg and seal up. A mistake, an utter mistake: our logic is not the logic of the insect, which obeys an inevitable, unconscious prompting. It has no choice as to what it shall do; it cannot discriminate between what is and what is not advisable; it glides, as it were, down an irresistible slope prepared beforehand to bring it to a definite end. This is what the facts that still remain to be stated proclaim with no uncertain voice. The Bee who was building and to whom I offer a cell ready-built and full of honey does not lay aside her mortar for that. She was doing mason's work; and, once on that tack, guided by the unconscious impulse, she has to keep masoning, even though her labour be useless, superfluous and opposed to her interests. The cell which I give her is certainly perfect, looked upon as a building, in the opinion of the master-builder herself, since the Bee from whom I took it was completing the provision of honey. To touch it up, especially to add to it, is useless and, what is more, absurd. No matter: the Bee who was masoning will mason. On the aperture of the honey-store she lays a first course of mortar, followed by another and yet another, until at last the cell is a third taller then the regulation height. The masonry-task is now done, not as perfectly, it is true, as if the Bee had gone on with the cell whose foundations she was laying at the moment when I exchanged the nests, but still to an extent which is more than enough to prove the overpowering impulse which the builder obeys. Next comes the victualling, which is also cut short, ...

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