Bees [apes] are so named either because they cling to one another with their feet [a (by) + pes], or because they are born without feet [a (without) + pes], for they develop both feet and wings afterwards. These are diligent in the task of creating honey. They live in assigned dwellings; they build their homes with indescribable skill; they compose their honeycombs from different flowers; and they fill up their beehives with innumerable offspring in wax cells. They have armies and kings, and they wage battles. They flee from smoke and are provoked by a disturbance.
Many people know from observation that bees are born from the corpses of cattle. For to create these bees, the flesh of slaughtered calves is beaten; worms are created from the rotten gore. Afterwards, the worms become bees. Strictly speaking, however, the ones called ‘bees’ come from oxen, just as hornets are from horses, drones from mules, and wasps from asses.
The Greeks call the larger bees created in the honeycomb’s outer cells ‘castros’. Some people think they are called kings, because they lead their beehives [castra].
Among all the kinds of animals, only bees have shared offspring. They all live in one house; they enclose the borders of a single country; all their work is shared; their food is shared; their tasks are shared; their custom and produce is shared; their flight is shared.
They ordain a king for themselves, they appoint people, and though placed under a king they are free. For they also maintain his privilege of judgement, and have affection for him by the fidelity of their devotion, since they choose him as king in the same way as a deputy for themselves, and they honour him with the entire swarm. But the king is not selected by lot, because a lot involves chance rather than judgement, and often the worse candidate is preferred to the better one by the irrational falling of the lot.
None of the bees dare to leave their homes, nor go out into any pastures, unless the king has gone out first and has claimed authority for himself with his flight. They go forth through fragrant fields where they inhale the odours of the flowers of the garden, where streams flow among fragrant grasses, where the banks are pleasant. There, lively youth play their games, there men take their athletic persuits, there they find release of cares. The first foundations of the hives are laid as a delightful labour among the flowers and sweet herbs.