26 December 2014

Antigonus 50–52: Some habits and characteristics of octopi and bees

Mosaic from Roman house in Rimini
50(55) [1] The octopus [polypous] puts food into chambers and whenever the useful bits are used up, expels the unusable and preys on those little fish [ichthydion] which come to [feed on] the cast-offs by changing its colour close to that of the stones it happens to be nearby. [2] It does the same thing whenever it is frightened.

51(56) Now the nautilus octopus [nautilos polypous] is also unusual in what it does, for it has a shell which it turns downward on ascending so that it might more easily be propelled with it empty, but when it descends from above, it reverses it. It has webbing like a membrane between its tentacles up to a certain point and this, whenever there is a breeze, it uses as a sail, and instead of steering-oars lets down <two> of its tentacles alongside.

Bees returning to their hive
52(a)(57)[1] When bees have been fumigated and are badly affected by the smoke, it is then most of all that they eat <honey>, but for the rest of the time they use it sparingly as if storing it by as food.
[2] They smear the hive with drops from the trees as a protection against other animals. [3] When the worker bees kill [other bees], they try to do it outside: if they kill within the hive, they carry out the body. [4] The so-called ‘robber’ bees do damage if they come in unnoticed. But they seldom enter—for they are watched out for and guards are placed everywhere. [5] There are bees appointed to each of the tasks: some gather flowers, others level the combs. [6] They are disgusted both by the bad smell of food and by perfume, and go away [from the hive] to discharge their excrement. [7] And the elders work inside < . . . . . >
(b)(57) If one takes a wasp [sphex] by the legs and lets its wings buzz, he [i.e. Aristotle] says that the stingless ones fly towards it but none of those with stings do so.

Cross-references: available

© R. Hardiman 2009–2014

Image Credits
Octopus: Photograph by JoJan, via Wikimedia Commons.

Bees: Detail from a ms in the British Library (Royal 12 C XIX f45)

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