The Nest of Bees consisted of hexagonal tubes filled with dozens of rocket-tipped arrows (32). The tubes broaden towards the top to aid the dispersal of the arrows. It may not be the most accurate black powder weapon ever used but the fact that it is capable of firing off more than a dozen of arrows at the same time in all directions in front makes it an effective weapon. Another drawback would be that, it is a 2 handed weapon which made it awkward to move around. The arrows were often tipped with poison or flammable materials such as pitch, bitumen or resin which increases the chances of kills. The kinds of fire arrow devices the Ming employed: heavy and light batteries (on land and on water), poison tipped, metal "armour busters", explosive, massive, and handheld. These deadly arrows can penetrate flesh to bone and they could travel quite far - up to 5 football fields away, and were built with consistent formulas that allowed fairly predictable flight patterns. The arrow batteries could also have been fitted with shoulder straps and worn like a backpack into battle. When worn like this, the nest of bees can actually protect the warrior from flying debris.
- Range: 600 yards
- Weight: 6.5 lbs
- 32 arrow battery
- Wood, paper, bamboo and gunpowder
The Nest of Bees was one of the more widely used rocket batteries of the Ming Dynasty. Thousands of these weapons could have been deployed simultaneously, raining death on the enemy's ranks.
The weapon was most likely invented in or before the 11th century. During this time the Chinese were experimenting with early gunpowder rocket technology. Rockets similar in design to firework rockets were used in warfare, though were too inaccurate to do significant damage compared to cannons. Many rockets would fly completely off course and randomly, while even the better designed ones would easily sway while in-flight. However they were effective as weapons of psychological warfare do to the noise and smoke.