The queen less hive


Reading Leo Tolstoy’s novel “War and Peace”, his comparing of empty Moscow pending its being taken over by Napoleon, to a queen less hive, I could not help think of its remarkable similarity to a life without Christ or even worse, one that has Christ but has lost its lustre or fervour and the painful purging that must come in the end.
“In a queen less hive no life is left though to a superficial glance it seems as much alive as other hives. 
The bees circle about a queen less hive in the heat of the midday sun as gaily as about other living hives; from a distance it smells of honey like the others, and the bees fly in and out just the same. But one has to only give a careful look to realize that there is no longer any life in the hive. The bees do not fly in and out in the same way; the smell and sound that meet the bee-keeper are different. A tap on the wall of the sick hive and, instead of the instant, unanimous response, the buzzing of tens of thousands of bees threateningly lifting their stings and by the swift fanning of wings producing that whirring, living hum, the bee-keeper is greeted by an incoherent buzzing from odd corners of the deserted hive. 
From the alighting board instead of the former winy fragrance of honey and venom, and the breath of warmth from the multitudes within, comes an odour of emptiness and decay mingling with the scent of honey. No sentinels watch there, curling up their stings and trumpeting the alarm, ready to die in defense of the community. Gone is the low, even hum, the throb of activity, like the singing of boiling water, and in its place is the fitful, discordant uproar of disorder. Black oblong robber-bees smeared with honey fly timidly, furtively, in and out of the hive: they do not sting but crawl away at the sign of danger. Before, only bees laden with honey flew into the hive, and flew away empty; now, they fly out laden. 
The bee-keeper opens the lower chamber and peers into the bottom of the hive. Instead of black glossy bees tamed by toil that used to hang down, clinging to each other’s legs, in long clusters to the floor of the hive, drawing out the wax with a ceaseless murmur of labour- now drowsy shriveled bees wander listlessly about the floor and the walls of the hive. Instead of a neatly glued floor, swept by winnowing wings, the bee-keeper sees a floor littered with bits of wax, excrement, dying bees feebly kicking their legs and dead bees that have not been cleared away.
The bee-keeper opens the upper compartment and examines the top super of the hive. Instead of serried rows of insects sealing up every gap in the combs and keeping the hive warm, he sees the skillful, complex edifice of combs, but even here the virginal purity of old is gone. All is neglected and befouled. Black robber-bees prowl swiftly and stealthily about the combs in search of plunder; while the short-bodied, dried up home-bees, looking withered and old, languidly creep about, doing nothing to hinder the robber, having lost all desire and all sense of life. Drones, hornets, wasps and butterflies flutter about, knocking awkwardly against the walls of the hive. From here and there among the cells containing dead brood and honey, comes an occasional angry buzz; here and there a couple of workers, faithful to old habits, are cleaning out the brood cells, a task beyond their strength, labouriously dragging away dead bees or drones, without knowing why they do it. In another corner, two old bees indolently fight, or clean themselves, or feed one another, themselves unaware whether with friendly or hostile intent. Elsewhere a crowd of bees squashing one another fall on some victim, attack and smother it. And the debilitated or dead bee drops slowly, light as a feather, among the heap of corpses. 
 The keeper parts the two centre frames to look at the brood-cells. In place of the close dark circles bees in their thousands sitting back to back and guarding the lofty mysteries of the work of generation he sees dejected, half-dead and drowsy shells of bees in hundreds only. They have almost all of them died unawares, sitting in the sanctuary they had guarded and which is no more. They reek of decay and corruption. Only a few of them stir, rise up and idly fly to settle on the enemy’s hand, lacking the spirit to die stinging him: the rest are dead and spill down as light as fish-scales. The bee-keeper closes the hive, chalks a mark on it and presently, when he has time, breaks it open and burns it clean.”

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