Bibliographic data

Rotermund, Wilhelm: Dr. Wilh. Rotermunds Lesebuch für Schule und Haus. W. Rotermunds Buchhandlung, 1914, 93–95.

"German Bees in Australia"

[p. 93]


112. German Bees in Australia

1. Once upon a time, in the north of Germany, close to a harbour, the population of a farmer’s beehive doubled. One of the swarms moved out. It looked around for a new home; each neighbour holds out an empty, well-crafted hive to receive the new tribe. But sometimes even animals have strange destinies. The swarm of bees flew out of the mother hive and over the bushes, over the blooming meadow, over the small pine woods towards the beach, the harbour, where the noise and bustle of the sailors beckoned to them, where the forest of ship masts reached up into the sky – upon the tallest of which it settled. Like a handsome bunch, they hung on the highest yard and gloated over the iridescent, glittering scene below, the likes of which they had never before seen or heard. It was even more fun when the whole thing lifted up and began to move and to swing, when the tall tree on which the swarm sat gradually wound its way through the fantastical trunks until it finally glided with the giant ship across the mirror of water! The bees rode along for hours. But now that they saw no trees and no ground around them anymore, it began to feel quite eerie. Deciding quickly, they flew off and strayed for a while at sea, and since they found no place to settle down, they had to return to the ship, which now seemed quite desolate because there was not a single leave or blossom growing at all. The bees gathered around their young queen and took counsel.

2. Before this point, a cabin boy had already noticed

[p. 94]

the swarm of bees upon the mast. When the captain became aware of this, he clapped his hands together, as captains rarely tend to do, and said: ‘A swarm of bees! How felicitous. For a long time I have been toying with the idea of introducing European bees to Australia; now these animals came with us all on their own; hence we will never again suffer from a lack of honey in our settlement in Australia. The swarm shall immediately be caught and taken care of!’ This ensued, and the poor creatures were now prisoners on the steamship. One day through bitter storms, the other day in blazing sun, the ship barged on. Nothing but sea and more sea, for weeks. Here and there a hot, yellow, barren, rocky coast, then swaths of land like Eden, where milk and honey flows. The bees could only look out as they passed by. In such frightful boredom the workers had just about grown sick, when the ship finally arrived in Australia. The bees were immediately shown to their hive near an acacia forest. The population was happy as they whirred off through the mild, sweet air and over the tropical land. The workers set out right away to start collecting, in order to fill the stores of their new home with stocks for the winter. But some of the flora that grew so boastfully and promising yielded nothing at all. The bees struggled in vain to glean wax for their honey from the leather-skinned gumtrees. Some of the diligent workers flew away and never returned; some whirred dishevelled and bewildered back to their comrades; a fight had erupted against the gadflies. Others, busy with their gathering, were even harassed by swarms of locusts. It seemed like such a fertile land, but it was a dangerous one, and the bees yearned for short days and winter calm. The hive had long been filled with the finest wax, the most exquisite honey, their home with everything they could want for a cosy winter. But: the winter refused to come. The days did not get shorter; the sun stayed hot; next to fruit hanging on trees, new buds began to grow; next to fallen leaves, new plants began to sprout.

3. One day, the beehive was robbed. But it was not the surplus that was taken away, as one indeed experienced and overcame in the dreary, far-off homeland; rather the entire stock of honey and wax was gone, and the hive stood empty, awaiting new fruit. ‘It’s a good thing after all that the warm season is still here’, the bees thought, and set to work gathering with new courage and diligence. The storeroom gradually filled up again while the creatures scrimped and saved, but still the winter refused to

[p. 95]

come. One evening, a worker bee stood up, called the population out of their cells, and began to say the following: ‘It seems to me, comrades, that things in this land have a different rhythm. For many weeks I have researched and calculated and I have come to a conclusion that I can no longer keep to myself. Above all I ask you, my brothers: For what are we actually working, collecting, and saving?’ – “For the winter”, you answer. But I say to you: In this country there is no winter!’ Great commotion in the assembly. ‘So what are we gathering for?’ the speaker continued ; so that others can empty our stores? No longer!’ An uncanny buzz went through the crowd. An envoy from the queen appeared. They agreed to continue taking care of the queen’s needs. ‘Stop working?’ cried the delegate. ‘You bees stopping work! Are you trying to overthrow the world order?’ A member of the population replied: ‘Sir, our queen be praised! We do not live in order to work; to the contrary, we work in order to live. We and our forefathers were forced and accustomed to spending the summer preparing for winter. But now that our good fortune has taken winter away from us, and the fruits of our work would fall wholly and completely into the hands of people, I see nothing harmful in the desire to stop working. We can fly off without a care, for the day yields what we require for the day. Here is the region where God, who nourishes the birds of the sky and adorns the flowers of the fields, does not forget the bees either’. The queen’s envoy had nothing to reply any more. From that point onward, the bees buzzed carefree through the endless flower gardens of this rediscovered glorious paradise. But they no longer wished to reproduce, a and fewer and fewer bees returned more and more seldom to the hive. By giving up the collective endeavour, the individual lost all desire to work; relying only on himself, he whirred off into the far expanse, enjoyed the fruit wherever it was growing, spent the night wherever he happened to be. The sense of togetherness and belonging was gone. The queen sent call after call out into the land, but very few bees could be found; they had spread out, gotten lost, or, through excess or in fights with unknown enemies, had perished. Such was the miserable end of the good German swarm of bees.

Peter Rosegger

[a] Translator’s note: Another interpretation would be: But nothing increased any more , meaning But the bees did not want to produce anything anymore .


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