Whether the bee can produce honey.

Further one asks about bees, whether the bee can produce honey.

1. And it seems not. For something whose complexion resists sweetness does not produce honey. The bee is such an animal, since it is cold and dry; therefore, etc.

2. Moreover, nothing produces something that corrupts it. But every oily thing corrupts the bee, since it dies in oil. Thus, since honey is somewhat oily, it is not produced by the bee naturally.

The opposite is clear.

One must reply that the bee produces honey, since everything is naturally nourished by what is suitable to it. But the bee is an animal with a cold and dry complexion, and this is why it naturally has a short life span. Now life is conserved by warmth and moisture, and these [two] are present in sweet things. For this reason the bee naturally desires the sweet. But although sweetness is in flowers and fruits, nevertheless these are not a suitable nutriment for bees until they are digested better and converted into honey. This is the reason why the bee naturally makes honey as its nourishment from such redolent things.

1. To the first argument one must reply that precisely because the bee has a cold and dry complexion, it needs something that can conserve its life better, and honey is such a thing.

2. To the second argument one must reply that oil and honey are different, since honey is not oily the way oil is, which is clear because oil floats on water and honey sinks to the bottom. And therefore, etc.

Whether honey is made in the bee's body or outside it.

Next one asks whether honey is made in the bee's body or outside it.

1. And it seems that it is inside. For that which occurs from a natural heat is to be found near it. But honey is produced from the natural heat of the bee itself, and the natural heat does not exist outside that bee. Therefore, neither is honey made outside the bee.

2. Moreover, honey is made for the sake of the immediate nourishment of the bee. But nothing nourishes until it has entered the body. Therefore, etc.

To the contrary. Nourishment is something that first has the power of nourishing externally, but honey is the bee's nourishment. Therefore, it is made outside of it.

It must be said that just as a physician grinds up various things so that from them and through them he will make potions, so too the bee extracts something from flowers and leaves and then grinds and mixes that outside itself and converts it into honey, and later it is nourished by the honey made outside itself, because honey will be its nourishment only if it is made outside the bee.

1. To the first argument one must reply that although honey is digested by the power of the natural heat, nevertheless it is unnecessary for that digestion to occur in the body. For just as the content of a vase can be cooked[1] by a fire outside of it even though it is not immediately and physically close to the fire, so too in this case.

2. To the second argument one should say that in the end nourishment is internal, but in the beginning it is external.

Whether wax and honey are produced from the same material.

Further one asks whether wax and honey are produced from the same material.

1. And it seems not. Because where the matter and the efficient cause are the same, the effect will be the same, according to Aristotle's eighth book of the Metaphysics. But honey and wax have different natures, because honey sinks to the bottom of water and wax floats on the top, if they are poured onto water. Therefore, although their efficient cause is the same, it is necessary that they will have different matter.

2. Moreover, nature does nothing in vain or without purpose. But the honey suffices for the bee's nourishment. It therefore does not need the wax, and consequently it does not form the wax from honey's matter.

The opposite is shown to be the case.

One must say that some animals make a little dwelling for themselves, much as the bird makes a nest. And this is necessary for animals that conceal themselves. The bee is an animal that conceals itself in winter, and for this reason it needs a home in which it may hide. This is the reason it makes wax and honey: wax for the house and its chambers, and honey as nourishment. Thus just as a nest serves a bird, thus does the wax serve the bees, and this is why the bees that generate, which are the smaller ones, have larger houses than the kings, because the kings do not make young as the others do, and this is why they have smaller homes.

1. On to the arguments. To the first, one must say that just as four humors are produced in the body from the same nutriment, in which diverse elements are dominant (because air dominates in blood, fire in choler, and so on for the others), so too can the bee produce either honey or wax from the same matter. Nevertheless, that which is more earthy is converted into honey, because, although honey is effectively warm, as its color attests, nevertheless earth is predominant in honey, and this is why it sinks to the bottom in water. But air predominates in wax, and this is why it floats on the top, just as air does.

2. To the second argument one must reply (rather, it has already been said) that honey and wax are not produced for the same reason, but honey is produced for nourishment and wax for a house, and this is why, etc.

  • [1] A. uses the verb digero here, which commonly means simply "digest" as it does in lines just before and after this one. The alimentary sense is surely not appropriate here. The verb can mean "decoct" in an alchemical sense and probably simply implies "cook."
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