Reference > The Library > Helen Rex Keller > Reader’s Digest of Books

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
H. R. Keller.  The Reader’s Digest of Books.
The Mason-Bees
Jean-Henri Fabre (1823–1915)
Mason-Bees, The, a collection of essays on the chalicodomæ or mason-bees proper by Jean Henri Casimir Fabre, translated from the author’s great work ‘Souvenirs entomologiques’ (1879–1905) by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos (1914). With another volume, ‘Bramble-Bees and Others’ (1915) by the same translator, this book constitutes a complete treatise on wild bees. The mason-bees were first observed by the author when he was teaching surveying to a class of boys on the open plains or “harmas” near Carpentras. Noticing that the boys would pause in their work to lick straws he discovered that they were eating honey from the clay nest of a large black bee. With these bees, the chalicodomæ, he performed a number of experiments, attempting to determine, by means of marking them with chalk, the limits and nature of their power to find their way to their hives. He found that a large percentage made their way back through any obstacles and in spite of being swung about in boxes and confused; but he could not explain their instinct of direction. Fabre is conservative as to the reasoning power of bees, as distinguished from instinct, and is extremely sceptical with regard to the Darwinian hypothesis of protective mimesis. The book consists largely of records of experiments, which must be carefully followed but well repay the effort by the fascinating pictures and truths which they reveal. Fabre’s graphic style and absolute sincerity render his scientific observations more attractive than the picturesque fancies of humanizing naturalists. He unveils the romance and mystery of the actual insect world.  1

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