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Title: An Introduction to Entomology: Vol. II (of 4) - or Elements of the Natural History of the Insects
Author: Spence, William, Kirby, William, 1817-1906
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "An Introduction to Entomology: Vol. II (of 4) - or Elements of the Natural History of the Insects" ***

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[Illustration: _Plate IV_]






                                 OF THE

                     _NATURAL HISTORY OF INSECTS_:

                              WITH PLATES.

                  By WILLIAM KIRBY, M.A. F.R. and L.S.

                           RECTOR OF BARHAM,


                      WILLIAM SPENCE, ESQ. F.L.S.

                            IN FOUR VOLUMES.

                                VOL. II.

                            _FIFTH EDITION._


                              PRINTED FOR


                            PATERNOSTER ROW.


                       PRINTED BY RICHARD TAYLOR,
                     RED LION COURT, FLEET STREET.

                          CONTENTS OF VOL. II.


  XVI.   Societies of Insects.                          Page
           1. Imperfect Societies                       1-25

  XVII.  Societies of Insects continued.
           2. Perfect Societies.
                _White Ants. Ants_                    26-106

  XVIII. Perfect Societies of Insects continued.
                _Wasps. Humble-bees_                 107-118

  XIX.   Perfect Societies of Insects continued.
                _Hive-bee_                           119-167

  XX.    Perfect Societies of Insects concluded.
                _Hive-bee_                           168-214

  XXI.   Means by which Insects defend themselves    215-266

  XXII.  Motions of Insects.
                _Larva and Pupa_                     267-299

  XXIII. Motions of Insects continued.
                _Imago_                              300-370

  XXIV.  Noises produced by Insects                  371-403

  XXV.   Luminous Insects                            404-424

  XXVI.  Hybernation and Torpidity of Insects        425-459

  XXVII. Instinct of Insects                         460-523


                              LETTER XVI.

                        _SOCIETIES OF INSECTS._

                          IMPERFECT SOCIETIES.

I see already, and I see it with pleasure, that you will not content
yourself with being a mere collector of insects. To possess a cabinet
well stored, and to know by what name each described individual which
it contains should be distinguished, will not satisfy the love that
is already grown strong in you for my favourite pursuit; and you now
anticipate with a laudable eagerness, the discoveries that you may
make respecting the history and economy of this most interesting
department of the works of our Creator. I hail with joy this
intention to emulate the bright example, and to tread in the hallowed
steps of Swammerdam, Leeuwenhoek, Redi, Malpighi, Vallisnieri, Ray,
Lister, Reaumur, De Geer, Lyonnet, Bonnet, the Hubers, &c.; and I am
confident that a man of your abilities, discernment, and observation
will contribute, in no small degree, to the treasures already poured
into the general fund by these your illustrious predecessors.

I feel not a little flattered when you inform me that the details
contained in my late letters relative to this subject, have
stimulated you to this noble resolution.--Assure yourself, I shall
think no labour lost, that has been the means of winning over to the
science I love, the exertions of a mind like yours.

But if the facts already related, however extraordinary, have had
power to produce such an effect upon you, what will be the momentum,
when I lay before you more at large, as I next purpose, the most
striking particulars of the proceedings of insects in society,
and show the almost incredibly wonderful results of the combined
instincts and labours of these minute beings? In comparison with
these, all that is the fruit of solitary efforts, though some of
them sufficiently marvellous, appear trifling and insignificant: as
the works of man himself, when they are the produce of the industry
and genius of only one, or a few individuals, though they might be
regarded with admiration by a being who had seen nothing similar
before, yet when contrasted with those to which the union of these
qualities in large bodies has given birth, sink into nothing, and
seem unworthy of attention. Who would think a hut extraordinary by
the side of a stately palace, or a small village when in the vicinity
of a populous and magnificent city?

Insects in society may be viewed under several lights, and their
associations are for various purposes and of different durations.

There are societies the object of which is mutual defence; while that
of others is the propagation of the species. Some form marauding
parties, and associate for prey and plunder;--others meet, as it
should seem, under certain circumstances, merely for the sake of
company;--again, others are brought together by accidental causes,
and disperse when these cease to operate;--and finally, others, which
may be said to form proper societies, are associated for the nurture
of their young, and, by the union of their labours and instincts, for
mutual society, help, and comfort, in erecting or repairing their
common habitation, in collecting provisions, and in defending their
fortress when attacked.

With respect to the _duration_ of the societies of insects, some
last only during their first or larva state; and are occasionally
even restricted to its earliest period;--some again only associate
in their perfect or imago state; while with others, the _proper_
societies for instance, the association is for life. But if I divide
societies of insects into perfect and imperfect, it will, I think,
enable me to give you a clearer and better view of the subject. By
_perfect_ societies I mean those that are associated in all their
states, live in a common habitation, and unite their labours to
promote a common object;--and by _imperfect_ societies, those that
are either associated during part of their existence only, or else do
not dwell in a common habitation, nor unite their labours to promote
a common object. In the present letter I shall confine myself to
giving you some account of _imperfect_ societies.

Imperfect societies may be considered as of five
descriptions:--associations for the sake of company
only--associations of males during the season for
pairing--associations formed for the purpose of travelling or
emigrating together--associations for feeding together--and
associations that undertake some common work.

The first of these associations consists chiefly of insects in their
perfect state. The little beetles called whirlwigs (_Gyrinus_),--which
may be seen clustering in groups under warm banks in every river and
every pool, and wheeling round and round with great velocity; at your
approach dispersing and diving under water, but as soon as you retire
resuming their accustomed movements,--seem to be under the influence of
the social principle, and to form their assemblies for no other purpose
than to enjoy together, in the sunbeam, the mazy dance. Impelled by
the same feeling, in the very depth of winter, even when the earth is
covered with snow, the tribes of _Tipulariæ_ (usually, but improperly,
called gnats) assemble in sheltered situations at midday, when the sun
shines, and form themselves into choirs, that alternately rise and fall
with rapid evolutions[1]. To see these little aëry beings apparently
so full of joy and life, and feeling the entire force of the social
principle in that dreary season, when the whole animal creation appears
to suffer, and the rest of the insect tribes are torpid, always conveys
to my mind the most agreeable sensations. These little creatures may
always be seen at all seasons amusing themselves with these choral
dances; which Mr. Wordsworth, in one of his poems[2], has alluded to in
the following beautiful lines:

          "Nor wanting here to entertain the thought,
           Creatures that in communities exist,
           Less, as might seem, for general guardianship
           Or through dependance upon mutual aid,
           Than by participation of delight,
           And a strict love of fellowship combined.
           What other spirit can it be that prompts
           The gilded summer flies to mix and weave
           Their sports together in the solar beam,
           Or in the gloom and twilight hum their joy?"

Another association is that of males during the season of pairing.
Of this nature seems to be that of the cockchafer and fernchafer
(_Melolontha vulgaris_ and _Amphimalla solstitialis_), which, at
certain periods of the year and hours of the day, hover over the
summits of the trees and hedges like swarms of bees, affording,
when they alight on the ground, a grateful food to cats, pigs,
and poultry. The males of another root-devouring beetle (_Hoplia
argentea_) assemble by myriads before noon in the meadows, when in
these infinite hosts you will not find even one female[3]. After
noon the congregation is dissolved, and not a single individual
is to be seen in the air[4]: while those of _M. vulgaris_ and _A.
solstitialis_ are on the wing only in the evening.

At the same time of the day some of the short-lived Ephemeræ assemble
in numerous troops, and keep rising and falling alternately in the
air, so as to exhibit a very amusing scene. Many of these also are
males. They continue this dance from about an hour before sun-set,
till the dew becomes too heavy or too cold for them. In the beginning
of September, for two successive years, I was so fortunate as to
witness a spectacle of this kind, which afforded me a more sublime
gratification than any work or exhibition of art has power to
communicate.--The first was in 1811:--taking an evening walk near
my house, when the sun declining fast towards the horizon shone
forth without a cloud, the whole atmosphere over and near the stream
swarmed with infinite myriads of Ephemeræ and little gnats of the
genus _Chironomus_, which in the sun-beam appeared as numerous and
more lucid than the drops of rain, as if the heavens were showering
down brilliant gems.--Afterwards, in the following year, one Sunday,
a little before sun-set, I was enjoying a stroll with a friend at a
greater distance from the river, when in a field by the road-side
the same pleasing scene was renewed, but in a style of still greater
magnificence; for, from some cause in the atmosphere, the insects
at a distance looked much larger than they really were. The choral
dances consisted principally of _Ephemeræ_, but there were also
some of _Chironomi_; the former, however, being most conspicuous,
attracted our chief attention--alternately rising and falling, in
the full beam they appeared so transparent and glorious, that they
scarcely resembled any thing material--they reminded us of angels
and glorified spirits drinking life and joy in the effulgence of the
Divine favour[5]. The bard of Twickenham, from the terms in which his
beautiful description of his sylphs is conceived in _The Rape of the
Lock_, seems to have witnessed the pleasing scene here described:

          "Some to the sun their insect wings unfold,
           Waft on the breeze, or sink in clouds of gold;
           Transparent forms, too fine for mortal sight,
           Their fluid bodies half dissolv'd in light;
           Loose to the wind their airy garments flew,
           Thin glittering textures of the filmy dew,
           Dipt in the richest tincture of the skies,
           Where light disports in ever mingling dyes,
           While every beam new transient colours flings,
           Colours that change whene'er they wave their wings."

I wish you may have the good fortune next year to be a spectator of
this all but celestial dance. In the mean time, in May and June,
their season of love, you may often receive much gratification from
observing the motions of a countless host of little black flies of
the genus _Hilara_, (_H. maura_,) which at this period of the year
assemble to wheel in aëry circles over stagnant waters, with a rush
resembling that of a hasty shower driven by the wind.

The next description of insect associations is of those that
congregate for the purpose of travelling or emigrating together. De
Geer has given an account of the larvæ of certain gnats (_Tipulariæ_)
which assemble in considerable numbers for this purpose, so as to
form a band of a finger's breadth, and of from one to two yards
in length. And, what is remarkable, while upon their march, which
is very slow, they adhere to each other by a kind of glutinous
secretion; but when disturbed they separate without difficulty[6].
Kuhn mentions another of the same tribe (from the antennæ in his
figure, which is very indifferent, it should seem a species of
agaric-gnat (_Mycetophila_)), the larvæ of which live in society
and emigrate in files, like the caterpillar of the procession-moth.
First goes one, next follow two, then three, &c., so as to exhibit a
serpentine appearance, probably from their simultaneous undulating
motion and the continuity of the files; whence the common people in
Germany call them (or rather the file when on march) _heerwurm_, and
view them with great dread, regarding them as ominous of war. These
larvæ are apodes, white, subtransparent, with black heads[7].--But of
insect emigrants none are more celebrated than the locusts, which,
when arrived at their perfect state, assemble as before related,
in such numbers, as in their flight to intercept the sunbeams, and
to darken whole countries; passing from one region to another, and
laying waste kingdom after kingdom:--but upon these I have already
said much, and shall have occasion again to enlarge.--The same
tendency to shift their quarters has been observed in our little
indigenous devourers, the Aphides. Mr. White tells us, that about
three o'clock in the afternoon of the first of August 1785, the
people of the village of Selborne were surprised by a shower of
Aphides or smother-flies, which fell in those parts. Those that
walked in the street at that juncture found themselves covered with
these insects, which settled also upon the hedges and in the gardens,
blackening all the vegetables where they alighted. His annuals were
discoloured by them, and the stalks of a bed of onions quite coated
over for six days after. These armies, he observes, were then, no
doubt, in a state of emigration, and shifting their quarters; and
might have come from the great hop-plantations of Kent or Sussex,
the wind being all that day in the east. They were observed at the
same time in great clouds about Farnham, and all along the vale from
Farnham to Alton[8]. A similar emigration of these flies I once
witnessed, to my great annoyance, when travelling later in the year,
in the Isle of Ely. The air was so full of them, that they were
incessantly flying into my eyes, nostrils, &c.; and my clothes were
covered by them. And in 1814, in the autumn, the Aphides were so
abundant for a few days in the vicinity of Ipswich, as to be noticed
with surprise by the most incurious observers.

As the locust-eating thrush (_Turdus gryllivorus_) accompanies
the locusts, so the lady-birds (_Coccinellæ_) seem to pursue the
Aphides; for I know no other reason to assign for the vast number
that are sometimes, especially in the autumn, to be met with on the
sea-coast or the banks of large rivers. Many years ago, those of
the Humber were so thickly strewed with the common Lady-bird (_C.
septempunctata_), that it was difficult to avoid treading upon them.
Some years afterwards I noticed a mixture of species, collected in
vast numbers, on the sand-hills on the sea-shore, at the north-west
extremity of Norfolk. My friend the Rev. Peter Lathbury made long
since a similar observation at Orford, on the Suffolk coast; and
about five or six years ago they covered the cliffs, as I have
before remarked[9], of all the watering-places on the Kentish and
Sussex coasts, to the no small alarm of the superstitious, who
thought them forerunners of some direful evil. These last probably
emigrated with the Aphides from the hop-grounds. Whether the latter
and their devourers cross the sea has not been ascertained; that the
Coccinellæ attempt it, is evident from their alighting upon ships at
sea, as I have witnessed myself.--This appears clearly to have been
the case with another emigrating insect, the saw-fly (_Athalia?_) of
the turnip (which, though so mischievous, appears never to have been
described; it is nearly related to _A. Centifoliæ_)[10]. It is the
general opinion in Norfolk, Mr. Marshall informs us[11], that these
insects come from over sea. A farmer declared he saw them arrive in
clouds so as to darken the air; the fishermen asserted that they had
repeatedly seen flights of them pass over their heads when they were
at a distance from land; and on the beach and cliffs they were in
such quantities, that they might have been taken up by shovels-full.
Three miles in-land they were described as resembling swarms of
bees. This was in August 1782. Unentomological observers, such as
farmers and fishermen, might easily mistake one kind of insect for
another; but supposing them correct, the swarms in question might
perhaps have passed from Lincolnshire to Norfolk.--Meinecken tells
us, that he once saw in a village in Anhalt, on a clear day, about
four in the afternoon, such a cloud of dragon-flies (_Libellulina_)
as almost concealed the sun, and not a little alarmed the villagers,
under the idea that they were locusts[12]: several instances are
given by Rösel of similar clouds of these insects having been seen in
Silesia and other districts[13]; and Mr. Woolnough of Hollesley in
Suffolk, a most attentive observer of nature, once witnessed such an
army of the smaller dragon-flies (_Agrion_) flying in-land from the
sea, as to cast a slight shadow over a field of four acres as they
passed.--Professor Walch states, that one night about eleven o'clock,
sitting in his study, his attention was attracted by what seemed the
pelting of hail against his window, which surprising him by its long
continuance, he opened the window, and found the noise was occasioned
by a flight of the froth frog-hopper (_Cercopis spumaria_), which
entered the room in such numbers as to cover the table. From this
circumstance and the continuance of the pelting, which lasted at
least half an hour, an idea may be formed of the vast host of this
insect passing over. It passed from east to west; and as his window
faced the south, they only glanced against it obliquely[14]. He
afterwards witnessed, in August, a similar emigration of myriads of
a kind of ground-beetle (_Amara vulgaris_,)[15].--Another writer in
the same work, H. Kapp, observed on a calm sunny day a prodigious
flight of the noxious cabbage-butterfly (_Pontia Brassicæ_), which
passed from north-east to south-west, and lasted two hours[16]. Kalm
saw these last insects midway in the British Channel[17]. Lindley, a
writer in the _Royal Military Chronicle_, tells us, that in Brazil,
in the beginning of March 1803, for many days successively there
was an immense flight of white and yellow butterflies, probably
of the same tribe as the cabbage-butterfly. They were observed
never to settle, but proceeded in a direction from north-west to
south-east. No buildings seemed to stop them from steadily pursuing
their course; which being to the ocean, at only a small distance,
they must consequently perish. It is remarked that at this time no
other kind of butterfly is to be seen, though the country usually
abounds in such a variety[18].--Major Moor, while stationed at
Bombay, as he was playing at chess one evening with a friend in Old
Woman's Island, near that place, witnessed an immense flight of bugs
(_Geocorisæ_), which were going westward. They were so numerous as
to cover every thing in the apartment in which he was sitting.--When
staying at Aldeburgh, on the eastern coast, I have, at certain times,
seen innumerable insects upon the beach close to the waves, and
apparently washed up by them. Though wetted, they were quite alive.
It is remarkable, that of the emigrating insects here enumerated,
the majority--for instance the lady-birds, saw-flies, dragon-flies,
ground-beetles, frog-hoppers, &c.--are not usually social insects,
but seem to congregate, like swallows, merely for the purpose of
emigration. What incites them to this is one of those mysteries
of nature, which at present we cannot penetrate. A scarcity of
food urges the locusts to shift their quarters; and too confined a
space to accommodate their numbers occasions the bees to swarm: but
neither of these motives can operate in causing unsocial insects to
congregate. It is still more difficult to account for the impulse
that urges these creatures, with their filmy wings and fragile form,
to attempt to cross the ocean, and expose themselves, one would
think, to inevitable destruction. Yet, though we are unable to assign
the cause of this singular instinct, some of the reasons which
induced the Creator to endow them with it may be conjectured. This is
clearly one of the modes by which their numbers are kept within due
limits, as, doubtless, the great majority of these adventurers perish
in the waters. Thus, also, a great supply of food is furnished to
those fish in the sea itself, which at other seasons ascend the
rivers in search of them; and this probably is one of the means, if
not the only one, to which the numerous islands of this globe are
indebted for their insect population. Whether the insects I observed
upon the beach wetted by the waves, had flown from our own shores,
and falling into the water had been brought back by the tide; or
whether they had succeeded in the attempt to pass from the continent
to us, by flying as far as they could, and then falling had been
brought by the waves, cannot certainly be ascertained; but Kalm's
observation inclines me to the latter opinion.

The next order of imperfect associations is that of those insects
which feed together:--these are of two descriptions--those that
associate in their _first_ or _last_ state only, and those that
associate in _all_ their states. The first of these associations is
often very short-lived: a patch of eggs is glued to a leaf; when
hatched, the little larvæ feed side by side very amicably, and a
pleasant sight it is to see the regularity with which this work is
often done, as if by word of command; but when the leaf that served
for their cradle is consumed, their society is dissolved, and each
goes where he can to seek his own fortune, regardless of the fate or
lot of his brethren. Of this kind are the larvæ of the saw-fly of
the gooseberry, whose ravages I have recorded before[19], and that
of the cabbage-butterfly; the latter, however, keep longer together,
and seldom wholly separate. In their final state, I have noticed
that the individuals of _Thrips Physapus_, the fly that causes us
in hot weather such intolerable titillation, are very fond of each
other's company when they feed. Towards the latter end of last July,
walking through a wheat-field, I observed that all the blossoms of
_Convolvulus arvensis_, though very numerous, were interiorly turned
quite black by the infinite number of these insects, which were
coursing about within them.

But the most interesting insects of this order are those which
associate in _all_ their states.--Two populous tribes, the great
devastators of the vegetable world, the one in warm and the other
in cold climates, to which I have already alluded under the head
of emigrations--you perceive I am speaking of _Aphides_ and
_Locusts_--are the best examples of this order: although, concerning
the societies of the first, at present we can only say that they are
merely the result of a common origin and station: but those of the
latter, the locusts, wear more the appearance of design, and of being
produced by the social principle.

So much as the world has suffered from these animals[20], it is
extraordinary that so few observations have been made upon their
history, economy, and mode of proceeding. One of the best accounts
seems to be that of Professor Pallas, in his _Travels into the
Southern Provinces of the Russian Empire_. The species to which
his principal attention was paid appears to have been the _Locusta
italica_, in its larva and pupa state. "In serene warm weather,"
says he, "the locusts are in full motion in the morning immediately
after the evaporation of the dew; and if no dew has fallen, they
appear as soon as the sun imparts his genial warmth. At first some
are seen running about like messengers among the reposing swarms,
which are lying partly compressed upon the ground, at the side of
small eminences, and partly attached to tall plants and shrubs.
Shortly after the whole body begins to move forward in one direction
and with little deviation. They resemble a swarm of ants, all taking
the same course, at small distances, but without touching each other:
they uniformly travel towards a certain region as fast as a fly can
run, and without leaping, unless pursued; in which case, indeed, they
disperse, but soon collect again and follow their former route. In
this manner they advance from morning to evening without halting,
frequently at the rate of a hundred fathoms and upwards in the course
of a day. Although they prefer marching along high roads, footpaths,
or open tracts; yet when their progress is opposed by bushes, hedges,
and ditches, they penetrate through them: their way can only be
impeded by the waters of brooks or canals, as they are apparently
terrified at every kind of moisture. Often, however, they endeavour
to gain the opposite bank with the aid of overhanging boughs; and if
the stalks of plants or shrubs be laid across the water, they pass
in close columns over these temporary bridges; on which they even
seem to rest and enjoy the refreshing coolness. Towards sunset the
whole swarm gradually collect in parties, and creep up the plants,
or encamp on slight eminences. On cold, cloudy, or rainy days they
do not travel.--As soon as they acquire wings they progressively
disperse, but still fly about in large swarms[21]."

"In the month of May, when the ovaries of these insects were
ripe and turgid," says Dr. Shaw[22], "each of these swarms began
gradually to disappear, and retired into the Mettijiah, and other
adjacent plains, where they deposited their eggs. These were no
sooner hatched in June, than each of the broods collected itself
into a compact body, of a furlong or more in square; and marching
afterwards directly forwards toward the sea, they let nothing
escape them----_they kept their ranks, like men of war_; climbing
over, as they advanced, every tree or wall that was in their way;
nay, they entered into our very houses and bed-chambers, like
_so many thieves_.----A day or two after one of these hordes was
in motion, others were already hatched to march and glean after
them.----Having lived near a month in this manner----they arrived
at their full growth, and threw off their _nympha-state_ by casting
their outward skin. To prepare themselves for this change, they
clung by their hinder feet to some bush, twig, or corner of a
stone; and immediately, by using an undulating motion, their heads
would first break out, and then the rest of their bodies. The whole
transformation was performed in seven or eight minutes; after which
they lay for a small time in a torpid and seemingly in a languishing
condition; but as soon as the sun and the air had hardened their
wings, by drying up the moisture that remained upon them after
casting their sloughs, they reassumed their former voracity, with an
addition of strength and agility. Yet they continued not long in this
state before they were entirely dispersed." The species Dr. Shaw here
speaks of is probably not the _Locusta migratoria_.

The old Arabian fable, that they are directed in their flights
by a leader or king[23], has been adopted: but I think without
sufficient reason, by several travellers. Thus Benjamin Bullivant,
in his observations on the Natural History of New England[24], says
that "the locusts have a kind of regimental discipline, and as it
were some commanders, which show greater and more splendid wings
than the common ones, and arise first when pursued by the fowls or
the feet of the traveller, as I have often seriously remarked."
And in like terms Jackson observes, that "they have a government
amongst themselves similar to that of the bees and ants; and when the
(_Sultan Jerraad_) king of the locusts rises, the whole body follow
him, not one solitary straggler being left behind[25]." But that
locusts have leaders, like the bees or ants, distinguished from the
rest by the size and splendour of their wings, is a circumstance that
has not yet been established by any satisfactory evidence; indeed,
very strong reasons may be urged against it. The nations of bees and
ants, it must be observed, are housed together in one nest or hive,
the whole population of which is originally derived from one common
mother, and the leaders of the swarms in each are the females. But
the armies of locusts, though they herd together, travel together,
and feed together, consist of an infinity of separate families, all
derived from different mothers, who have laid their eggs in separate
cells or houses in the earth; so that there is little or no analogy
between the societies of locusts and those of bees and ants; and this
pretended sultan is something quite different from the queen-bee or
the female ants. It follows, therefore, that as the locusts have no
common mother, like the bees, to lead their swarms, there is no one
that nature, by a different organization and ampler dimensions,
and a more august form, has destined to this high office. The only
question remaining is, whether one be elected from the rest by common
consent as their leader, or whether their instinct impels them to
follow the first that takes flight or alights. This last is the
learned Bochart's opinion, and seems much the most reasonable[26].
The absurdity of the other supposition, that an election is made,
will appear from such queries as these, at which you may smile.--Who
are the electors? Are the myriads of millions all consulted, or is
the elective franchise confined to a few? Who holds the courts and
takes the votes? Who casts them up and declares the result? When is
the election made?--The larvæ appear to be as much under government
as the perfect insect.--Is the monarch then chosen by his peers
when they first leave the egg and emerge from their subterranean
caverns? or have larva, pupa, and imago each their separate king? The
account given us in Scripture is certainly much the most probable,
that the locusts have no king, though they observe as much order
and regularity in their movements as if they were under military
discipline, and had a ruler over them[27]. Some species of ants, as
we learn from the admirable history of them by M. P. Huber, though
they go forth by common consent upon their military expeditions, yet
the order of their columns keeps perpetually changing; so that those
who lead the van at the first setting out, soon fall into the rear,
and others take their place: their successors do the same; and such
is the constant order of their march. It seems probable, as these
columns are extended to a considerable length, that the object of
this successive change of leaders is to convey constant intelligence
to those in the rear, of what is going forward in the van. Whether
any thing like this takes place for the regulation of their motions
in the innumerable locust-armies, which are sometimes co-extensive
with vast kingdoms; or whether their instinct simply directs them
to follow the first that moves or flies, and to keep their measured
distance, so that, as the prophet speaks, "one does not thrust
another, and they walk every one in his path[28]," must be left to
future naturalists to ascertain. And I think that you will join with
me in the wish that travellers, who have a taste for Natural History,
and some knowledge of insects, would devote a share of attention to
the proceedings of these celebrated animals, so that we might have
facts instead of fables.

The last order of imperfect associations approaches nearer to perfect
societies, and is that of those insects which the social principle
urges to unite in some common work for the benefit of the community.

Amongst the _Coleoptera_, _Ateuchus pilularius_, a beetle before
mentioned, acts under the influence of this principle. "I have
attentively admired their industry and mutual assisting of each
other," says Catesby, "in rolling those globular balls from the
place where they made them, to that of their interment, which is
usually the distance of some yards, more or less. This they perform
breech foremost, by raising their hind parts, forcing along the ball
with their hind feet. Two or three of them are sometimes engaged
in trundling one ball, which, from meeting with impediments from
the unevenness of the ground, is sometimes deserted by them: it is
however attempted by others with success, unless it happens to roll
into some deep hollow chink, where they are constrained to leave it;
but they continue their work by rolling off the next ball that comes
in their way. None of them seem to know their own balls, but an equal
care for the whole appears to affect all the community[29]."

Many larvæ also of _Lepidoptera_ associate with this view, some of
which are social only during part of their existence, and others
during the whole of it. The first of these continue together while
their united labours are beneficial to them; but when they reach a
certain period of their life, they disperse and become solitary.
Of this kind are the caterpillars of a little butterfly (_Melitæa
Cinxia_) which devour the narrow-leaved plantain. The families
of these, usually amounting to about a hundred, unite to form a
pyramidal silken tent, containing several apartments, which is
pitched over some of the plants that constitute their food, and
shelters them both from the sun and the rain. When they have consumed
the provision which it covers, they construct a new one over other
roots of this plant; and sometimes four or five of these encampments
may be seen within a foot or two of each other. Against winter they
weave and erect a stronger habitation of a rounder form, not divided
by any partitions, in which they lie heaped one upon another, each
being rolled up. About April they separate, and continue solitary
till they assume the pupa.

Reaumur, to whom I am indebted for this account, has also given
us an interesting history of another insect, the gold-tail-moth
(_Arctia chrysorhœa_) before mentioned, whose caterpillars are of
this description. They belong to that family of _Bombycidæ_, which
envelop their eggs in hair plucked from their own body. As soon
as one of these young caterpillars is disclosed from the egg, it
begins to feed; another quickly joins it, placing itself by its
side; thus they proceed in succession till a file is formed across
the leaf:--a second is then begun; and after this is completed, a
third--and so they proceed till the whole upper surface of the leaf
is covered:--but as a single leaf will not contain the whole family,
the remainder take their station upon the adjoining ones. No sooner
have they satisfied the cravings of hunger, than they begin to think
of erecting a common habitation, which at first is only a vaulted
web, that covers the leaf they inhabit, but by their united labours
in due time grows into a magnificent tent of silk, containing various
apartments sufficient to defend and shelter them all from the attack
of enemies and the inclemency of the seasons. As our caterpillars,
like eastern monarchs, are too delicate to adventure their feet
upon the rough bark of the tree upon which they feed, they lay a
silken carpet over every road and pathway leading to their palace,
which extends as far as they have occasion to go for food. To the
habitation just described they retreat during heavy rains, and
when the sun is too hot:--they likewise pass part of the night in
them;--and, indeed, at all times some may usually be found at home.
Upon any sudden alarm they retreat to them for safety, and also when
they cast their skins:--in the winter they are wholly confined to
them, emerging again in the spring: but in May and June they entirely
desert them; and, losing all their love for society, live in
solitude till they become pupæ, which takes place in about a month.
When they desert their nests, the spiders take possession of them;
which has given rise to a prevalent though most absurd opinion, that
they are the parents of these caterpillars[30].

With other caterpillars the association continues during the whole of
the larva state. De Geer mentions one of the saw-flies (_Serrifera_)
of this description which form a common nidus by connecting leaves
together with silken threads, each larva moreover spinning a tube of
the same material for its own private apartment, in which it glides
backwards and forwards upon its back[31]. I have observed similar
nidi in this country; the insects that form them belong to the
Fabrician genus _Lyda_.

The most remarkable insects, however, that arrange under this class
of imperfect associates, are those that observe a particular order
of march. Though they move without beat of drum, they maintain as
much regularity in their step as a file of soldiers. It is a most
agreeable sight, says one of Nature's most favoured admirers, Bonnet,
to see several hundreds of the larvæ of _Trichoda Neustria_ marching
after each other, some in straight lines, others in curves of various
inflection, resembling, from their fiery colour, a moving cord of
gold stretched upon a silken ribband of the purest white; this
ribband is the carpeted causeway that leads to their leafy pasture
from their nest. Equally amusing is the progress of another moth,
the _Pityocampa_, before noticed; they march together from their
common citadel, consisting of pine leaves united and inwoven with
the silk which they spin, in a single line: in following each other
they describe a multitude of graceful curves of varying figure, thus
forming a series of living wreaths, which change their shape every
moment:--all move with a uniform pace, no one pressing too forward or
loitering behind; when the first stops, all stop, each defiling in
exact military order[32].

A still more singular and pleasing spectacle, when their regiments
march out to forage, is exhibited by the caterpillars of the
_Processionary_ moth _Lasiocampa processionea_. This moth,
which is a native of France, and has not yet been found in this
country, inhabits the oak. Each family consists of from 600 to 800
individuals. When young, they have no fixed habitation, but encamp
sometimes in one place and sometimes in another, under the shelter of
their web: but when they have attained two-thirds of their growth,
they weave for themselves a common tent, before described[33].
About sun-set the regiment leaves its quarters; or, to make the
metaphor harmonize with the trivial name of the animal, the monks
their cœnobium. At their head is a chief, by whose movements their
procession is regulated. When he stops, all stop, and proceed when
he proceeds; three or four of his immediate followers succeed in the
same line, the head of the second touching the tail of the first:
then comes an equal series of pairs, next of threes, and so on as
far as fifteen or twenty. The whole procession moves regularly on
with an even pace, each file treading upon the steps of those that
precede it. If the leader, arriving at a particular point, pursues
a different direction, all march to that point before they turn.
Probably in this they are guided by some scent imparted to the tracks
by those that pass over them. Sometimes the order of procession
is different; the leader, who moves singly, is followed by two,
these are succeeded by three, then come four, and so on. When the
leader,--who in nothing differs from the rest, and is probably the
caterpillar nearest the entrance to the nest, followed, as I have
described,--has proceeded to the distance of about two feet, more
or less, he makes a halt; during which those which remain come
forth, take their places, the company forms into files, the march is
resumed, and all follow as regularly as if they kept time to music.
These larvæ may be occasionally found at mid-day out of their nests,
packed close one to another without making any movement; so that,
although they occupy a space sufficiently ample, it is not easy to
discover them. At other times, instead of being simply laid side by
side, they are formed into singular masses, in which they are heaped
one upon another, and as it were interwoven together. Thus also they
are disposed in their nests. Sometimes their families divide into two
bands, which never afterwards unite[34].

I have nothing further of importance to communicate to you on
imperfect societies: in my next I shall begin the most interesting
subject that Entomology offers; a subject, to say the least,
including as great a portion both of instruction and amusement as
any branch of Natural History affords;--I mean those _perfect_
associations which have for their great object the multiplication of
the species, and the education, if such a term may be here employed,
of the young. This is too fertile a theme to be confined to a single
letter, but must occupy several.

                                                  I am, &c.


[1] See also Markwick in White's _Nat. Hist._ ii. 256.

[2] _The Excursion._

[3] The females (_Scarabæus argenteus_, Marsh.) have red legs, and
the males (_Scarabæus pulverulentus_, Marsh.) black.

[4] Kirby in _Linn. Trans._ v. 256.

[5] The authors of this work were the witnesses of the magnificent
scene here described. It was on the second of September. The first
was on the ninth of that month.

[6] De Geer, vi. 338.

[7] _Naturforsch._ xvii. 226.

[8] _Nat. Hist._ ii. 101.

[9] VOL. I. 265--.

[10] _Fn. Germ. Init._ xlix. 18.

[11] _Philos. Trans._ lxxiii. 217.

[12] _Naturforsch._ vi. 110.

[13] ii. 135.

[14] _Naturforsch._ vi. 111.

[15] Ibid. xi. 95.

[16] Ibid. 94.

[17] _Travels_, i. 13.

[18] _R. Milit. Chron._ for March 1815, p. 452.

[19] VOL. I. 197.

[20] See VOL. I. 215.

[21] Pallas, ii. 422-6.

[22] _Travels_, 187.

[23] Bochart, _Hierozoic._ ii. l. 4. c. 2. 460.

[24] In _Philos. Trans._ for 1698.

[25] Jackson's _Marocco_, 51.

[26] Bochart, _Hierozoic._ ubi supra.

[27] Proverbs xxx. 27.

[28] Joel ii. 8.

[29] Catesby's _Carolina_, ii. 111. See above, VOL. I. 51.

[30] Vol. I. 473. Reaumur, ii. 125.

[31] De Geer, ii. 1029.

[32] Bonnet, ii. 57.

[33] VOL. I. 475.

[34] Reaumur, ii. 180.

                              LETTER XVII.


              PERFECT SOCIETIES. (_White Ants and Ants._)

The associations of insects of which my last letter gave you a
detail, were of a very imperfect kind, both as to their object and
duration: but those which I am now to lay before you exhibit the
semblance of a nearer approach, both in their principle and its
results, to the societies of man himself. There are two kindred
sentiments, that in these last act with most powerful energy--desire
and affection.--From the first proceed many wants that cannot
be satisfied without the intercourse, aid, and co-operation of
others; and by the last we are impelled to seek the good of certain
objects, and to delight in their society. Thus self-love combines
with philanthropy to produce the social principle, both desire and
love alternately urging us to an intercourse with each other; and
from these in union originate the multiplication and preservation
of the species. These two passions are the master-movers in this
business; but there is a third subsidiary to them, which, though it
trenches upon the social principle, considered abstractedly, is often
a powerful bond of union in separate societies--you will readily
perceive that I am speaking of fear;--under the influence of this
passion these are drawn closer together, and unite more intimately
for defence against some common enemy, and to raise works of munition
that may resist his attack.

The main instrument of association is language, and no association
can be perfect where there is not a common tongue. The origin of
nationality was difference of speech: at Babel, when tongues were
divided, nations separated. Language may be understood in a larger
sense than to signify inflections of the voice,--it may well include
all the means of making yourself understood by another, whether by
gestures, sounds, signs, or words: the two first of these kinds may
be called natural language, and the two last arbitrary or artificial.

I have said that perfect societies of insects exhibit the _semblance_
of a nearer approach, both in their principle and its results, to
the societies of man himself, because, unless we could perfectly
understand what instinct is, and how it acts, we cannot, without
exposing ourselves to the charge of temerity, assert that these are
precisely the same.

But when we consider the object of these societies, the preservation
and multiplication of the species; and the means by which that object
is attained, the united labours and co-operation of perhaps millions
of individuals, it seems as if they were impelled by passions very
similar to those main-springs of human associations, which I have just
enumerated. Desire appears to stimulate them--love to allure them--fear
to alarm them. They want a habitation to reside in, and food for their
subsistence. Does not this look as if desire were the operating cause,
which induces them to unite their labours to construct the one and
provide the other? Their nests contain a numerous family of helpless
brood. Does not love here seem to urge them to that exemplary and fond
attention, and those unremitted and indefatigable exertions manifested
by the whole community for the benefit of these dear objects? Is it
not also evidenced by their general and singular attachment to their
females, by their mutual caresses, by their feeding each other, by
their apparent sympathy with suffering individuals and endeavours to
relieve them, by their readiness to help those that are in difficulty,
and finally by their sports and assemblies for relaxation? That fear
produces its influence upon them seems no less evident, when we see
them, agitated by the approach of enemies, endeavour to remove what
is most dear to them beyond their reach, unite their efforts to
repel their attacks, and to construct works of defence. They appear
to have besides a common language; for they possess the faculty, by
significative gestures and sounds, of communicating their wants and
ideas to each other[35].

There are, however, the following great differences between human
societies and those of insects. Man is susceptible of individual
attachment, which forms the basis of his happiness, and the source
of his purest and dearest enjoyments:--whereas the love of insects
seems to be a kind of instinctive patriotism that is extended to the
whole community, never distinguishing individuals, unless, as in the
instance of the female bee, connected with that great object.

Man also, endowed with reason, forms a judgement from circumstances,
and by a variety of means can attain the same end. Besides
the language of nature, gestures, and exclamations, which the
passions produce, he is gifted with the divine faculty of speech,
and can express his thoughts by articulate sounds or artificial
language.--Not so our social insects. Every species has its peculiar
mode of proceeding, to which it adheres as to the law of its nature,
never deviating but under the control of imperious circumstances;
for in particular instances, as you will see when I come to treat of
their instincts, they know how to vary, though not very materially,
from the usual mode[36]. But they never depart, like man, from the
general system; and, in common with the rest of the animal kingdom,
they have no articulate language.

Human associations, under the direction of reason and revelation,
are also formed with higher views,--I mean as to government, morals,
and religion:--with respect to the last of these, the social insects
of course can have nothing to do, except that by their wonderful
proceedings they give man an occasion of glorifying his great
Creator; but in their instincts, extraordinary as it may seem, they
exhibit a semblance of the two former, as will abundantly appear in
the course of our correspondence.

I shall not detain you longer by prefatory remarks from the amusing
scene to which I am eager to introduce you; but the following
observations of M. P. Huber on this subject are so just and striking,
that I cannot refrain from copying them.

"The history of insects that live in solitude consists of their
generation, their peculiar habits, the metamorphoses they undergo;
their manner of life under each successive form; the stratagems for
the attack of their enemies, and the skill with which they construct
their habitation: but that of insects which form numerous societies,
is not confined to some remarkable proceedings, to some peculiar
talent: it offers new relations, which arise from common interest;
from the equality or superiority of rank; from the part which each
member supports in the society;--and all these relations suppose a
connexion between the different individuals of which it consists,
that can scarcely exist but by the intervention of language: for such
may be called every mode of expressing their wishes, their wants,
and even their ideas, if that name may be given to the impulses of
instinct. It would be difficult to explain in any other way that
concurrence of all wills to one end, and that species of harmony
which the whole of their institution exhibits."

The great end of the societies of insects being the rapid
multiplication of the species, Providence has employed extraordinary
means to secure the fulfilment of this object, by creating a
particular order of individuals in each society, which, freed from
sexual pursuits, may give themselves wholly to labour, and thus
absolve the females from every employment but that of furnishing
the society from time to time with a sufficient supply of eggs to
keep up the population to its proper standard. In the case of the
_Termites_, the office of working for the society, as these insects
belong to an order whose metamorphosis is _semi-complete_, devolves
upon the larvæ; the neuters, unless these should prove to be the
larvæ of males, being the soldiers of the community.

From this circumstance perfect societies may be divided into two
classes; the first including those whose workers are _larvæ_, and the
second those whose workers are _neuters_[37]. The white ants belong to
the former of these classes, and the social _Hymenoptera_ to the latter.

Before I begin with the history of the societies of white ants, I
must notice a remark that has been made applying to societies in
general--that numbers are essential to the full development of the
instinct of social animals. This has been observed by Bonnet with
respect to the beaver[38]; by Reaumur of the hive-bee; and by M. P.
Huber of the humble-bee[39]. Amongst hymenopterous social insects,
however, the observation seems not universally applicable, but only
under particular circumstances; for in incipient societies of ants,
humble-bees, and wasps, one female lays the foundations of them at
first by herself; and the first brood of neuters that is hatched is
very small.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have on a former occasion given you some account of the
devastation produced by the white ants, or _Termites_, the species of
which constitute the first class of perfect societies[40]; I shall
now relate to you some further particulars of their history, which
will, I hope, give you a better opinion of them.

The majority of these animals are natives of tropical countries,
though two species are indigenous to Europe; one of which, thought to
have been imported, is come so near to us as Bourdeaux. The fullest
account hitherto given of their history is that of Mr. Smeathman, in
the _Philosophical Transactions_ for 1781; which, since it has in
many particulars been confirmed by the observations of succeeding
naturalists, though in some things he was evidently mistaken, I shall
abridge for you, correcting him where he appears to be in error, and
adding from Latreille, and the MS. of a French naturalist resident
on the spot, kindly furnished by Professor Hooker, what they have
observed with respect to those of Bourdeaux and Ceylon. The white
ants, though they belong to the _Neuroptera_ order, borrow their
instinct from the hymenopterous social tribes, and in conjunction
with the ants (_Formica_) connect the two orders. Their societies
consist of five different descriptions of individuals--workers or
larvæ--nymphs or pupæ--neuters or soldiers--males and females.

1. The _workers_ or larvæ, answering to the hymenopterous neuters,
are the most numerous and at the same time most active part of the
community; upon whom devolves the office of erecting and repairing
the buildings, collecting provisions, attending upon the female,
conveying the eggs when laid to what Smeathman calls the nurseries,
and feeding the young larvæ till they are old enough to take care
of themselves. They are distinguished from the soldiers by their
diminutive size, by their round heads and shorter mandibles.

2. The _nymphs_ or pupæ. These were not noticed by Smeathman, who
mistook the neuters for them:--they differ in nothing from the larvæ,
and probably are equally active, except that they have rudiments of
wings, or rather the wings folded up in cases (_Pterothecæ_). They were
first observed by Latreille; nor did they escape the author of the MS.
above alluded to, who mistook them for a different kind of larvæ.

3. The _neuters_, erroneously called by Smeathman pupæ. These are
much less numerous than the workers, bearing the proportion of one
to one hundred, and exceeding them greatly in bulk. They are also
distinguishable by their long and large head, armed with very long
subulate mandibles. Their office is that of sentinels; and when the
nest is attacked, to them is committed the task of defending it.
These neuters are quite unlike those in the _Hymenoptera_ perfect
societies, which seem to be a kind of abortive females, and there is
nothing analogous to them in any other department of Entomology.

4. and 5. _Males_ and _females_, or the insects arrived at their state
of perfection, and capable of continuing the species. There is only
one of each in every separate society; they are exempted from all
participation in the labours and employments occupying the rest of
the community, that they may be wholly devoted to the furnishing of
constant accessions to the population of the colony. Though at their
first disclosure from the pupa they have four wings, like the female
ants they soon cast them; but they may then be distinguished from the
blind larvæ, pupæ, and neuters, by their large and prominent eyes[41].

The first establishment of a colony of Termites takes place in the
following manner. In the evening, soon after the first tornado, which
at the latter end of the dry season proclaims the approach of the
ensuing rains, these animals, having attained to their perfect state,
in which they are furnished and adorned with two pair of wings, emerge
from their clay-built citadels by myriads and myriads to seek their
fortune. Borne on these ample wings, and carried by the wind, they
fill the air, entering the houses, extinguishing the lights, and even
sometimes being driven on board the ships that are not far from the
shore. The next morning they are discovered covering the surface of the
earth and waters: deprived of the wings which before enabled them to
avoid their numerous enemies, and which are only calculated to carry
them a few hours, and looking like large maggots; from the most active,
industrious, and rapacious, they are now become the most helpless and
cowardly beings in nature, and the prey of innumerable enemies, to
the smallest of which they make not the least resistance. Insects,
especially ants, which are always on the hunt for them, leaving no
place unexplored; birds, reptiles, beasts, and even man himself, look
upon this event as their harvest, and, as you have been told before,
make them their food; so that scarcely a single pair in many millions
get into a place of safety, fulfill the first law of nature, and lay
the foundation of a new community. At this time they are seen running
upon the ground, the male after the female, and sometimes two chasing
one, and contending with great eagerness, regardless of the innumerable
dangers that surround them, who shall win the prize.

The workers, who are continually prowling about in their covered ways,
occasionally meet with one of these pairs, and, being impelled by their
instinct, pay them homage, and they are elected as it were to be king
and queen, or rather father and mother, of a new colony[42]: all that
are not so fortunate, inevitably perish; and, considering the infinite
host of their enemies, probably in the course of the following day.
The workers, as soon as this election takes place, begin to inclose
their new rulers in a small chamber of clay, before described[43],
suited to their size, the entrances to which are only large enough to
admit themselves and the neuters, but much too small for the royal
pair to pass through;--so that their state of royalty is a state of
confinement, and so continues during the remainder of their existence.
The impregnation of the female is supposed to take place after this
confinement, and she soon begins to furnish the infant colony with new
inhabitants. The care of feeding her and her male companion devolves
upon the industrious larvæ, who supply them both with every thing
that they want. As she increases in dimensions, they keep enlarging
the cell in which she is detained. When the business of oviposition
commences, they take the eggs from the female, and deposit them in the
nurseries[44]. Her abdomen now begins gradually to extend, till in
process of time it is enlarged to 1500 or 2000 times the size of the
rest of her body, and her bulk equals that of 20,000 or 30,000 workers.
This part, often more than three inches in length, is now a vast matrix
of eggs, which make long circumvolutions through numberless slender
serpentine vessels:--it is also remarkable for its peristaltic motion,
(in this resembling the female ant[45],) which, like the undulations of
water, produces a perpetual and successive rise and fall over the whole
surface of the abdomen, and occasions a constant extrusion of the eggs,
amounting sometimes in old females to sixty in a minute, or eighty
thousand and upwards in twenty-four hours[46]. As these females live
two years in their perfect state, how astonishing must be the number
produced in that time!

This incessant extrusion of eggs must call for the attention of a
large number of the workers in the royal chamber (and indeed it is
always full of them), to take them as they come forth and carry them
to the nurseries; in which, when hatched, they are provided with
food, and receive every necessary attention till they are able to
shift for themselves.--One remarkable circumstance attends these
nurseries--they are always covered with a kind of mould, amongst
which arise numerous globules about the size of a small pin's head.
This is probably a species of _Mucor_; and by Mr. König, who
found them also in nests of an East-Indian species of Termes, is
conjectured to be the food of the larvæ.

The royal cell has besides some soldiers in it, a kind of body guard
to the royal pair that inhabit it; and the surrounding apartments
contain always many both labourers and soldiers in waiting, that they
may successively attend upon and defend the common father and mother,
on whose safety depend the happiness and even existence of the whole
community; and whom these faithful subjects never abandon even in the
last distress.

The manner in which the Termites feed the young brood, before they
commence their active life and are admitted to share in the labours of
the nest, has not, as far as I know, been recorded by any writer: I
shall therefore leave them in their nurseries, and introduce you to the
bustling scene which these creatures exhibit in their first state after
they are become useful. To do this, in vain should I carry you to one
of their nests--you would scarcely see a single one stirring--though,
perhaps, under your feet there would be millions going and returning
by a thousand different ways. Unless I possessed the power of Asmodeus
in _Le Diable Boiteux_, of showing you their houses and covered ways
with their roofs removed, you would return home as wise as you came;
for these little busy creatures are taught by Providence always to work
under cover. If they have to travel over a rock or up a tree, they
vault with a coping of earth the route they mean to pursue, and they
form subterranean paths and tunnels, some of a diameter wider than the
bore of a large cannon, on all sides from their habitation to their
various objects of attack; or which sloping down (for they cannot well
mount a surface quite perpendicular) penetrate to the depth of three
or four feet under their nests into the earth, till they arrive at a
soil proper to be used in the erection of their buildings. Were they,
indeed, to expose themselves, the race would soon be annihilated by
their innumerable enemies. This circumstance has deceived the author
of the MS. account of those in Ceylon, who, speaking of the nests of
these insects in that island, which he describes as twelve feet high,
observes, that "they may be considered as a large city, which contains
a great number of houses, and these houses an infinite number of
cells or apartments:----these cells appear to me to communicate with
each other, but not the houses. I have convinced myself, by bringing
together the broken walls of one of the cavities of the nest or cone,
that it does not communicate with any other, nor _with the exterior_ of
the cone--a very curious circumstance, which I will not undertake to
explain. Other cavities communicate by a very narrow tunnel." By not
looking for subterranean communications, he was probably led into this

You have before heard of their diligence in building. Does any accident
happen to their various structures, or are they dislodged from any
of their covered ways, they are still more active and expeditious in
repairing. Getting out of sight as soon as possible,--and they run as
fast or faster than any insect of their size,--in a single night they
will restore a gallery of three or four yards in length. If, attacking
the nest, you divide it in halves, leaving the royal chamber, and thus
lay open thousands of apartments, all will be shut up with their sheets
of clay by the next morning;--nay, even if the whole be demolished,
provided the king and the queen be left, every interstice between the
ruins, at which either cold or wet can possibly enter, will be covered,
and in a year the building will be raised nearly to its pristine size
and grandeur.

Besides building and repairing, a great deal of their time is
occupied in making necessary alterations in their mansion and its
approaches. The royal presence-chamber, as the female increases in
size, must be gradually enlarged, the nurseries must be removed to a
greater distance, the chambers and exterior of the nest receive daily
accessions to provide for a daily increasing population--and the
direction of their covered ways must often be varied, when the old
stock of provision is exhausted and new discovered.

The collection of provisions for the use of the colony is another
employment, which necessarily calls for incessant attention: these
to the naked eye appear like raspings of wood;--and they are, as
you have seen, great destroyers of timber, whether wrought or
unwrought:--but when examined by the microscope, they are found to
consist chiefly of gums and the inspissated juices of plants, which,
formed into little masses, are stored up in magazines made of clay.

When any one is bold enough to attack their nest and make a breach
in its walls, the labourers, who are incapable of fighting, retire
within, and give place to another description of its inhabitants, whose
office it is to defend the fortress when assailed by enemies:--these,
as observed before, are the neuters or soldiers. If the breach be
made in a slight part of the building, one of these comes out to
reconnoitre; he then retires and gives the alarm. Two or three others
next appear, scrambling as fast as they can one after the other;--to
these succeed a large body, who rush forth with as much speed as the
breach will permit, their numbers continually increasing during the
attack. It is not easy to describe the rage and fury by which these
diminutive heroes seem actuated. In their haste they frequently miss
their hold, and tumble down the sides of their hill: they soon,
however, recover themselves, and, being blind, bite every thing they
run against. If the attack proceeds, the bustle and agitation increase
to a ten-fold degree, and their fury is raised to its highest pitch.
Wo to him whose hands or legs they can come at! for they will make
their fanged jaws meet at the very first stroke, drawing as much blood
as will counterpoise their whole body, and never quitting their hold,
even though they are pulled limb from limb. The naked legs of the
Negroes expose them frequently to this injury; and the stockings of the
European are not sufficient to defend him.

On the other hand, if, after the first attack, you get a little
out of the way, giving them no further interruption, supposing the
assailant of their citadel is gone beyond their reach, in less than
half an hour they will retire into the nest; and before they have all
entered, you will see the labourers in motion, hastening in various
directions towards the breach, every one carrying in his mouth a mass
of mortar half as big as his body[47], ready tempered:--this mortar
is made of the finer parts of the gravel, which they probably select
in the subterranean pits or passages before described, which, worked
up to a proper consistence, hardens to the solid substance resembling
stone, of which their nests are constructed. As fast as they come up,
each sticks its burthen upon the breach; and this is done with so
much regularity and dispatch, that although thousands, nay millions,
are employed, they never appear to embarrass or interrupt one
another. By the united labours of such an infinite host of creatures
the wall soon rises and the breach is repaired.

While the labourers are thus employed, almost all the soldiers
have retired quite out of sight, except here and there one, who
saunters about amongst them, but never assists in the work. One in
particular places himself close to the wall which they are building;
and turning himself leisurely on all sides, as if to survey the
proceedings, appears to act the part of an overseer of the works.
Every now and then, at the interval of a minute or two, by lifting
up his head and striking with his forceps upon the wall of the nest,
he makes a particular noise, which is answered by a loud hiss from
all the labourers, and appears to be a signal for dispatch; for,
every time it is heard, they may be seen to redouble their pace, and
apply to their work with increased diligence. Renew the attack, and
this amusing scene will be repeated:--in rush the labourers, all
disappearing in a few seconds, and out march the military as numerous
and vindictive as before.--When all is once more quiet, the busy
labourers reappear, and resume their work, and the soldiers vanish.
Repeat the experiment a hundred times, and the same will always be
the result;--you will never find, be the peril or emergency ever so
great, that one order attempts to fight, or the other to work.

You have seen how solicitous the Termites are to move and work under
cover and concealed from observation; this, however, is not always
the case;--there is a species larger than _T. bellicosus_, whose
proceedings I have been principally describing, which Mr. Smeathman
calls the marching Termes (_Termes Viarum_). He was once passing
through a thick forest, when on a sudden a loud hiss, like that of
serpents, struck him with alarm. The next step produced a repetition
of the sound, which he then recognised to be that of white ants;
yet he was surprised at seeing none of their hills or covered ways.
Following the noise, to his great astonishment and delight he saw an
army of these creatures emerging from a hole in the ground; their
number was prodigious, and they marched with the utmost celerity.
When they had proceeded about a yard they divided into two columns,
chiefly composed of labourers, about fifteen abreast, following each
other in close order, and going straight forward. Here and there was
seen a soldier, carrying his vast head with apparent difficulty,
and looking like an ox in a flock of sheep, who marched on in the
same manner. At the distance of a foot or two from the columns many
other soldiers were to be seen, standing still or pacing about as if
upon the look-out, lest some enemy should suddenly surprise their
unwarlike comrades;--other soldiers, which was the most extraordinary
and amusing part of the scene, having mounted some plants and placed
themselves on the points of their leaves, elevated from ten to
fifteen inches from the ground, hung over the army marching below,
and by striking their forceps upon the leaf, produced at intervals
the noise before mentioned. To this signal the whole army returned a
hiss, and obeyed it by increasing their pace. The soldiers at these
signal-stations sat quite still during the intervals of silence,
except now and then making a slight turn of the head, and seemed
as solicitous to keep their posts as regular sentinels. The two
columns of this army united after continuing separate for twelve or
fifteen paces, having in no part been above three yards asunder, and
then descended into the earth by two or three holes. Mr. Smeathman
continued watching them for above an hour, during which time their
numbers appeared neither to increase nor diminish:--the soldiers,
however, who quitted the line of march and acted as sentinels, became
much more numerous before he quitted the spot. The larvæ and neuters
of this species are furnished with eyes.

The societies of _Termes lucifugus_, discovered by Latreille at
Bourdeaux, are very numerous; but instead of erecting artificial
nests, they make their lodgement in the trunks of pines and oaks,
where the branches diverge from the tree. They eat the wood the
nearest the bark, or the alburnum, without attacking the interior,
and bore a vast number of holes and irregular galleries. That part
of the wood appears moist, and is covered with little gelatinous
particles, not unlike gum-arabic. These insects seem to be furnished
with an acid of a very penetrating odour, which perhaps is useful
to them for softening the wood[48]. The soldiers in these societies
are as about one to twenty-five of the labourers[49]. The anonymous
author of the observations on the Termites of Ceylon seems to have
discovered a sentry-box in his nests. "I found," says he, "in a very
small cell in the middle of the solid mass, (a cell about half an
inch in height, and very narrow,) a larva with an enormous head.--Two
of these individuals were in the same cell:--one of the two seemed
placed as sentinel at the entrance of the cell. I amused myself
by forcing the door two or three times;--the sentinel immediately
appeared, and only retreated when the door was on the point to be
stopped up, which was done in three minutes by the labourers."

       *       *       *       *       *

I hope this account has reconciled you in some degree to the
destructive Termites:--I shall next introduce you to social insects,
concerning most of which you have probably conceived a more
favourable opinion;--I mean those which constitute the second class
of perfect societies, whose workers are not larvæ, but neuters.
These all belong to the _Hymenoptera_ order of Linné:--there are
four kinds of insects in this order, (which you will find as fertile
in the instructors of mankind, as you have seen it to be in our
benefactors,) that, varying considerably from each other in their
proceedings as social animals, separately merit your attention:
namely, ants, wasps and hornets, humble-bees, and the hive-bee. I
begin with the first.

Full of interesting traits as are the history and economy of the
white-ants, and however earnestly they may induce you to wish you
could be a spectator of them, yet they scarcely exceed those of an
industrious tribe of insects, which are constantly passing under our
eye. The _ant_ has attracted universal notice, and been celebrated
from the earliest ages, both by sacred and profane writers, as a
pattern of prudence, foresight, wisdom, and diligence. Upon Solomon's
testimony in their favour I have enlarged before; and for those of
other ancient writers, I must refer you to the learned Bochart, who
has collected them in his _Hierozoicon_.

In reading what the ancients say on this subject, we must be careful,
however, to separate truth from error, or we shall attribute much
more to ants than of right belongs to them. Who does not smile when
he reads of ants that emulate the wolf in size, the dog in shape, the
lion in its feet, and the leopard in its skin; ants, whose employment
is to mine for gold, and from whose vengeance the furtive Indian is
constrained to fly on the swift camel's back[50]? But when we find
the writers of all nations and ages unite in affirming, that, having
deprived it of the power of vegetating, ants store up grain in their
nests, we feel disposed to give larger credit to an assertion, which,
at first sight, seems to savour more of fact than of fable, and does
not attribute more sagacity and foresight to these insects than
in other instances they are found to possess. Writers in general,
therefore, who have considered this subject, and some even of very
late date, have taken it for granted that the ancients were correct
in this notion. But when observers of nature began to examine the
manners and economy of these creatures more narrowly, it was found,
at least with respect to the European species of ants, that no such
hoards of grain were made by them, and, in fact, that they had no
magazines in their nests in which provisions of any kind were stored
up. It was therefore surmised that the ancients, observing them
carry about their _pupæ_, which in shape, size, and colour, not a
little resemble a grain of corn, and the ends of which they sometimes
pull open to let out the inclosed insect, mistook the one for the
other, and this action for depriving the grain of the corculum. Mr.
Gould, our countryman, was one of the first historians of the ant,
who discovered that they did not store up corn; and since his time
naturalists have generally subscribed to that opinion.

Till the manners of exotic ants are more accurately explored, it
would, however, be rash to affirm that no ants have magazines of
provisions; for although, during the cold of our winters in this
country, they remain in a state of torpidity, and have no need of
food, yet in warmer regions, during the rainy seasons, when they
are probably confined to their nests, a store of provisions may be
necessary for them. Even in northern climates, against wet seasons,
they may provide in this way for their sustenance and that of the
young brood, which, as Mr. Smeathman observes, are very voracious,
and cannot bear to be long deprived of their food; else why do ants
carry worms, living insects, and many other such things into their
nests? Solomon's lesson to the sluggard has been generally adduced
as a strong confirmation of the ancient opinion: it can, however,
only relate to the species of a warm climate, the habits of which,
as I have just observed, are probably different from those of a cold
one;--so that his words, as commonly interpreted, may be perfectly
correct and consistent with nature, and yet be not at all applicable
to the species that are indigenous to Europe. But I think, if
Solomon's words are properly considered, it will be found that this
interpretation has been fathered upon them, rather than fairly
deduced from them. He does not affirm that the ant which he proposes
to his sluggard as an example, laid up in her magazines stores of
grain: "Go to the ant thou sluggard, consider her ways and be wise;
which, having neither captain, overseer, nor ruler, prepares her
bread in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest." These
words may very well be interpreted simply to mean, that the ant, with
commendable prudence and foresight, makes use of the proper seasons
to collect a supply of provision sufficient for her purposes. There
is not a word in them implying that she stores up grain or other
provision. She prepares her bread, and gathers her food,--namely,
such food as is suited to her,--in summer and harvest,--that is,
when it is most plentiful,--and thus shows her wisdom and prudence
by using the advantages offered to her. The words thus interpreted,
which they may be without any violence, will apply to our European
species as well as to those that are not indigenous.

I shall now bid farewell to the ancients, and proceed to lay before
you what the observations of modern authors have enabled me to add
to the history of ants:--the principal of these are Leeuwenhoek,
Swammerdam (who was the first that had recourse to artificial means
for observing their proceedings), Linné, Bonnet, and especially the
illustrious Swedish entomologist De Geer. Gould also, who, though
no systematical naturalist, was a man of sense and observation, has
thrown great light upon the history of ants, and anticipated several
of what are accounted the discoveries of more modern writers on
this subject[51]. Latreille's _Natural History of Ants_ is likewise
extremely valuable, not only as giving a systematic arrangement and
descriptions of the species, but as concentrating the accounts of
preceding authors, and adding several interesting facts _ex proprio
penu_. The great historiographer of ants, however, is M. P. Huber;
who has lately published a most admirable and interesting work upon
them, in which he has far outstripped all his predecessors.--Such are
the sources from which the following account of ants is principally
drawn, intermixed with which you will find some occasional
observations,--which your partiality to your friend may, perhaps,
induce you to think not wholly devoid of interest,--that it has been
my fortune to make.

The societies of ants, as also of other _Hymenoptera_, differ
from those of the Termites in having inactive larvæ and pupæ, the
neuters or workers combining in themselves both the military and
civil functions. Besides the helpless larvæ and pupæ, which have
no locomotive powers, these societies consist of females, males,
and workers. The office of the _females_, at their first exclusion
distinguished by a pair of ample wings, (which however, as you have
heard, they soon cast,) is the foundation of new colonies, and
the furnishing of a constant supply of eggs for the maintenance
of the population in the old nests as well as in the new. These
are usually the least numerous part of the community[52]. The
office of the _males_, which are also winged, and at the time of
swarming are extremely numerous, is merely the impregnation of the
females: after the season for this is passed, they die. Upon the
_workers_[53] devolves, except in nascent colonies, all the work,
as well as the defence of the community, of which they are the most
numerous portion. In some societies of ants the workers are of two
dimensions.--In the nests of _F. rufa_ and _flava_ such were observed
by Gould, the size of one exceeding that of the other about one
third[54]. (In my specimens, the large workers of _F. rufa_ are
nearly three times, and of _F. flava_ twice, the size of the small
ones.) All were equally engaged in the labours of the colony. Large
workers were also noticed by M. P. Huber in the nests of _Polyergus
rufescens_[55], but he could not ascertain their office.

Having introduced you to the individuals of which the associations
of ants consist, I shall now advert to the principal events of their
history, relating first the fates of the _males_ and _females_. In
the warm days that occur from the end of July to the beginning of
September, and sometimes later, the habitations of the various species
of ants may be seen to swarm with winged insects, which are the males
and females, preparing to quit for ever the scene of their nativity and
education. Every thing is in motion--and the silver wings contrasted
with the jet bodies which compose the animated mass, add a degree of
splendour to the interesting scene. The bustle increases, till at
length the males rise, as it were by a general impulse, into the air,
and the females accompany them. The whole swarm alternately rises and
falls with a slow movement to the height of about ten feet, the males
flying obliquely with a rapid zigzag motion, and the females, though
they follow the general movement of the column, appearing suspended in
the air, like balloons, seemingly with no individual motion, and having
their heads turned towards the wind.

Sometimes the swarms of a whole district unite their infinite myriads,
and, seen at a distance, produce an effect resembling the flashing
of an aurora borealis. Rising with incredible velocity in distinct
columns, they soar above the clouds. Each column looks like a kind
of slender net-work, and has a tremulous undulating motion, which
has been observed to be produced by the regular alternate rising and
falling just alluded to. The noise emitted by myriads and myriads of
these creatures does not exceed the hum of a single wasp. The slightest
zephyr disperses them; and if in their progress they chance to be over
your head, if you walk slowly on, they will accompany you, and regulate
their motions by yours. The females continue sailing majestically
in the centre of these numberless males, who are all candidates for
their favour, each till some fortunate lover darts upon her, and,
as the Roman youth did the Sabine virgins, drags his bride from the
sportive crowd, and the nuptials are consummated in mid-air; though
sometimes the union takes place on the summit of plants, but rarely in
the nests[56]. After this _danse de l'amour_ is celebrated, the males
disappear, probably dying, or becoming, with many of the females, the
prey of birds or fish[57]; for, since they do not return to the nest,
they cannot be destroyed, as some have supposed, like the drone bees,
by the neuters. That many, both males and females, become the prey of
fish, I am enabled to assert from my own observation.--In the beginning
of August 1812, I was going up the Orford river in Suffolk, in a
row-boat, in the evening, when my attention was caught by an infinite
number of winged ants, both males and females, at which the fish were
every where darting, floating alive upon the surface of the water.
While passing the river, these had probably been precipitated into it,
either by the wind, or by a heavy shower which had just fallen. And M.
Huber after the same event observed the earth strewed with females that
had lost their wings, all of which could not form colonies[58].

Captain Haverfield, R. N. gave me an account of an extraordinary
appearance of ants observed by him in the Medway, in the autumn
of 1814, when he was first-lieutenant of the Clorinde--which is
confirmed by the following letter addressed by the surgeon of that
ship, now Dr. Bromley, to Mr. MacLeay:

"In September 1814, being on the deck of the hulk to the Clorinde, my
attention was drawn to the water by the first-lieutenant (Haverfield)
observing there was something black floating down with the tide.
On looking with a glass, I discovered they were insects.--The boat
was sent, and brought a bucket full of them on board;--they proved
to be a large species of ant, and extended from the upper part of
Salt-pan reach out towards the Great Nore, a distance of five or six
miles. The column appeared to be in breadth eight or ten feet, and in
height about six inches, which I suppose must have been from their
resting one upon another." Purchas seems to have witnessed a similar
phenomenon on shore. "Other sorts (of ants)," says he, "there are
many, of which some become winged and fill the air with swarms, which
sometimes happens in England. On Bartholomew 1613 I was in the island
of Foulness on our Essex shore, where were such clouds of these
flying pismires, that we could no where fly from them, but they
filled our clothes; yea the floors of some houses where they fell
were in a manner covered with a black carpet of creeping ants; which
they say drown themselves about that time of the year in the sea[59]."

These ants were winged:--whence, in the first instance here related,
this immense column came was not ascertained. From the numbers here
agglomerated, one would think that all the ant-hills of the counties
of Kent and Surrey could scarcely have furnished a sufficient number
of males and females to form it.

When Colonel Sir Augustus Frazer, of the Horse Artillery, was
surveying on the 6th of October 1813 the scene of the battle of the
Pyrenees from the summit of the mountain called Pena de Aya, or Les
Quatre Couronnes, he and his friends were enveloped by a swarm of
ants, so numerous as entirely to intercept their view, so that they
were glad to remove to another station, in order to get rid of them.

The females that escape from the injury of the elements and their
various enemies, become the founders of new colonies, doing all the
work, as I have related in a former letter, that is usually done by
the neuters[60]. M. P. Huber has found incipient colonies, in which
were only a few workers engaged with their mother in the care of a
small number of larvæ; and M. Perrot, his friend, once discovered a
small nest, occupied by a solitary female, who was attending upon
four pupæ only. Such is the foundation and first establishment of
those populous nations of ants with which we every where meet.

But though the majority of females produced in a nest probably thus
desert it, all are not allowed this liberty. The prudent workers are
taught by their instinct that the existence of their community depends
upon the presence of a sufficient number of females. Some therefore
that are fecundated in or near the spot they forcibly detain, pulling
off their wings, and keeping them prisoners till they are ready to
lay their eggs, or are reconciled to their fate. De Geer in a nest
of _F. rufa_ observed that the workers compelled some females that
were come out of the nest, to re-enter it[61]; and from M. P. Huber
we learn that, being seized at the moment of fecundation, they are
conducted into the interior of the formicary, when they become entirely
dependent upon the neuters, who hanging pertinaciously to each leg
prevent their going out, but at the same time attend upon them with
the greatest care, feeding them regularly, and conducting them where
the temperature is suitable to them, but never quitting them a single
moment. By degrees these females become reconciled to their fate, and
lose all desire of making their escape;--their abdomen enlarges, and
they are no longer detained as prisoners, yet each is still attended
by a body-guard--a single ant, which always accompanies her, and
prevents her wants.--Its station is remarkable, it being mounted upon
her abdomen, with its posterior legs upon the ground. These sentinels
are constantly relieved: and to watch the moment when the female begins
the important work of oviposition, and carry off the eggs, of which she
lays four or five thousand or more in the course of the year, seems to
be their principal office.

When the female is acknowledged as a mother, the workers begin to pay
her a homage very similar to that which the bees render to their queen.
All press round her, offer her food, conduct her by her mandibles
through the difficult or steep passages of the formicary; nay, they
sometimes even carry her about their city;--she is then suspended upon
their jaws, the ends of which are crossed; and, being coiled up like
the tongue of a butterfly, she is packed so close as to incommode the
carrier but little. When she sets her down, others surround and caress
her, one after another tapping her on the head with their antennæ. "In
whatever apartment," says Gould, "a queen condescends to be present,
she commands obedience and respect. An universal gladness spreads
itself through the whole cell, which is expressed by particular acts of
joy and exultation. They have a particular way of skipping, leaping,
and standing upon their hind-legs, and prancing with the others. These
frolics they make use of, both to congratulate each other when they
meet, and to show their regard for the queen; some of them gently walk
over her, others dance round her; she is generally encircled with a
cluster of attendants, who, if you separate them from her, soon collect
themselves into a body, and inclose her in the midst[62]." Nay, even
if she dies, as if they were unwilling to believe it, they continue
sometimes for months the same attentions to her, and treat her with the
same courtly formality as if she were alive, and they will brush her
and lick her incessantly[63].

This homage paid by the workers to their queens, according to Gould,
is temporary and local;--when she has laid eggs in any cell, their
attentions, he observed, seemed to relax, and she became unsettled
and uneasy. In the summer months she is to be met with in various
apartments in the colony; and eggs also are to be seen in several
places, which induced him to believe that, having deposited a parcel
in one, she retires to another for the same purpose, thus frequently
changing her situation and attendants. As there are always a number
of lodgements void of eggs but full of ants, she is never at a loss
for an agreeable station and submissive retinue: and by the time she
has gone her rounds in this manner, the eggs first laid are brought
to perfection, and her old attendants are glad to receive her again.
Yet this inattention after oviposition is not invariable; the female
and neuters sometimes unite together in the same cell after the eggs
are laid. On this occasion the workers divide their attention; and
if you disturb them, some will run to the defence of their queen, as
well as of the eggs, which last, however, are the great objects of
their solicitude. This statement differs somewhat from M. Huber's; but
different species vary in their instincts, which will account for this
and similar dissonances in authors who have observed their proceedings.
Mr. Gould also noticed but very few females in ant-nests, sometimes
only one; but M. Huber, who had better opportunities, found several,
which he says live very peaceably together, showing none of that spirit
of rivalry so remarkable in the queen bee.

And here I must close my narrative of the life and adventures of male
and female ants; but, as it will be followed by a history of the
still more interesting proceedings of the _workers_, I think you will
not regret the exchange. I shall show these to you in many different
views, under each of which you will find fresh reason to admire
them and their wonderful instincts. My only fear will be lest you
should think the picture too highly coloured, and deem it incredible
that creatures so minute should so far exceed the larger animals in
wisdom, foresight, and sagacity, and make so near an approach in
these respects to man himself.--My facts, however, are derived from
authorities so respectable, that I think they will do away any bias
of this kind that you may feel in your mind[64].

I need not here repeat what I have said in a former letter concerning
the exemplary attention paid by these kind foster-mothers to
the young brood of their colonies; nor shall I enlarge upon the
building and nature of their habitations, which have been already
noticed[65]:--but, without either of these, I have matter enough
to fill the rest of this letter with interesting traits, while I
endeavour to teach you their language, to develop their affections
and passions, and to delineate their virtues;--while I show them
to you when engaged in war, and enable you to accompany them both
in their military expeditions and in their emigrations,--while I
make you a witness of their indefatigable industry and incessant
labours,--or invite you to be present, during their hours of
relaxation, at their sports and amusements.

That ants, though they are mute animals, have the means of
communicating to each other information of various occurrences, and
use a kind of language which is mutually understood, will appear
evident from the following facts.

If those at the surface of a nest are alarmed, it is wonderful in
how short a time the alarm spreads through the whole nest. It runs
from quarter to quarter; the greatest inquietude seems to possess
the community; and they carry with all possible dispatch their
treasures, the larvæ and pupæ, down to the lowest apartments. Amongst
those species of ants that do not go much from home, sentinels seem
to be stationed at the avenues of their city. Disturbing once the
little heaps of earth thrown up at the entrances into the nest of
_F. flava_, which is of this description, I was struck by observing
a single ant immediately come out, as if to see what was the matter,
and this three separate times.

The _F. herculanea_ inhabits the trunks of hollow trees on the
continent, for it has not yet been found in England, upon which
they are often passing to and fro. M. Huber observed, that when he
disturbed those that were at the greatest distance from the rest,
they ran towards them, and, striking their head against them,
communicated their cause of fear or anger,--that these, in their
turn, conveyed in the same way the intelligence to others, till the
whole colony was in a ferment, those neuters which were within the
tree running out in crowds to join their companions in the defence of
their habitation. The same signals that excited the courage of the
neuters produced fear in the males and females, which, as soon as the
news of the danger was thus communicated to them, retreated into the
tree as to an asylum.

The legs of one of this gentleman's artificial formicaries were plunged
into pans of water, to prevent the escape of the ants;--this proved a
source of great enjoyment to these little beings, for they are a very
thirsty race, and lap water like dogs[66]. One day, when he observed
many of them tippling very merrily, he was so cruel as to disturb them,
which sent most of the ants in a fright to the nest; but some more
thirsty than the rest continued their potations. Upon this, one of
those that had retreated returns to inform his thoughtless companions
of their danger; one he pushes with his jaws; another he strikes first
upon the belly, and then upon the breast; and so obliges three of them
to leave off their carousing, and march homewards; but the fourth, more
resolute to drink it out, is not to be discomfited, and pays not the
least regard to the kind blows with which his compeer, solicitous for
his safety, repeatedly belabours him:--at length, determined to have
his way, he seizes him by one of his hind-legs, and gives him a violent
pull:--upon this, leaving his liquor, the loiterer turns round, and
opening his threatening jaws with every appearance of anger, goes very
coolly to drinking again; but his monitor, without further ceremony,
rushing before him, seizes him by his jaws, and at last drags him off
in triumph to the formicary[67].

The language of ants, however, is not confined merely to giving
intelligence of the approach or presence of danger; it is also
co-extensive with all their other occasions for communicating their
ideas to each other.

Some, whose extraordinary history I shall soon relate to you, engage
in military expeditions, and often previously send out spies to
collect information. These, as soon as they return from exploring the
vicinity, enter the nest; upon which, as if they had communicated
their intelligence, the army immediately assembles in the suburbs
of their city, and begins its march towards that quarter whence the
spies had arrived. Upon the march, communications are perpetually
making between the van and the rear; and when arrived at the camp
of the enemy, and the battle begins, if necessary, couriers are
dispatched to the formicary for reinforcements[68].

If you scatter the ruins of an ant's nest in your apartment, you will
be furnished with another proof of their language. The ants will take a
thousand different paths, each going by itself, to increase the chance
of discovery; they will meet and cross each other in all directions,
and perhaps will wander long before they can find a spot convenient
for their reunion. No sooner does any one discover a little chink in
the floor, through which it can pass below, than it returns to its
companions, and, by means of certain motions of its antennæ, makes some
of them comprehend what route they are to pursue to find it, sometimes
even accompanying them to the spot; these, in their turn, become the
guides of others, till all know which way to direct their steps[69].

It is well known also, that ants give each other information when
they have discovered any store of provision. Bradley relates a
striking instance of this. A nest of ants in a nobleman's garden
discovered a closet, many yards within the house, in which conserves
were kept, which they constantly attended till the nest was
destroyed. Some in their rambles must have first discovered this
depôt of sweets, and informed the rest of it. It is remarkable that
they always went to it by the same track, scarcely varying an inch
from it, though they had to pass through two apartments; nor could
the sweeping and cleaning of the rooms discomfit them, or cause them
to pursue a different route[70].

Here may be related a very amusing experiment of Gould's. Having
deposited several colonies of ants (_F. fusca_) in flower-pots, he
placed them in some earthen pans full of water, which prevented then
from making excursions from their nest. When they had been accustomed
some days to this imprisonment, he fastened small threads to the
upper part of the pots, and extending them over the water pans fixed
them in the ground. The sagacious ants soon found out that by these
bridges they could escape from their moated castle. The discovery was
communicated to the whole society, and in a short time the threads
were filled with trains of busy workers passing to and fro[71].

Ligon's account of the ants in Barbadoes affords another most
convincing proof of this:--as he has told his tale in a very lively
and interesting manner, I shall give it nearly in his own words.

"The next of these moving little animals are ants or pismires; and
these are but of a small size, but great in industry; and that which
gives them means to attain to this end is, they have all one soul.
If I should say they are here or there, I should do them wrong,
for they are every where; under ground, where any hollow or loose
earth is; amongst the roots of trees; upon the bodies, branches,
leaves and fruit of all trees; in all places without the houses and
within; upon the sides, walls, windows, and roofs without; and on the
floors, side walls, ceilings, and windows within; tables, cupboards,
beds, stools, all are covered with them, so that they are a kind of
ubiquitaries.----We sometimes kill a cockroach, and throw him on the
ground; and mark what they will do with him: his body is bigger than
a hundred of them, and yet they will find the means to take hold of
him, and lift him up; and having him above ground, away they carry
him, and some go by as ready assistants, if any be weary; and some
are the officers that lead and show the way to the hole into which
he must pass; and if the vancouriers perceive that the body of the
cockroach lies across, and will not pass through the hole or arch
through which they mean to carry him, order is given, and the body
turned endwise, and this is done a foot before they come to the hole,
and that without any stop or stay; and this is observable, that they
never pull contrary ways.--A table being cleared with great care, by
way of experiment, of all the ants that were upon it, and some sugar
being put upon it, some, after a circuitous route, were observed to
arrive at it, when again departing without tasting the treasure, they
hastened away to inform their friends of their discovery, who upon
this came by myriads;--and when they are thickest upon the table,"
says he, "clap a large book (or any thing fit for that purpose) upon
them, so hard as to kill all that are under it; and when you have
done so, take away the book, and leave them to themselves but a
quarter of an hour, and when you come again, you shall find all those
bodies carried away. Other trials we make of their ingenuity, as
this:--Take a pewter dish, and fill it half full of water, into which
put a little gally-pot filled with sugar, and the ants will presently
find it and come upon the table; but when they perceive it environed
with water, they try about the brims of the dish where the gally-pot
is nearest; and there the most venturous amongst them commits himself
to the water, though he be conscious how ill a swimmer he is, and is
drowned in the adventure: the next is not warned by his example, but
ventures too, and is alike drowned; and many more, so that there is
a small foundation of their bodies to venture; and then they come
faster than ever, and so make a bridge of their own bodies[72]."

The fact being certain, that ants impart their ideas to each other,
we are next led to inquire by what means this is accomplished. It
does not appear that, like the bees, they emit any significative
sounds; their language, therefore, must consist of signs or gestures,
some of which I shall now detail. In communicating their fear or
expressing their anger, they run from one to another in a semicircle,
and strike with their head or jaws the trunk or abdomen of the ant
to which they mean to give information of any subject of alarm. But
those remarkable organs, their antennæ, are the principal instruments
of their speech, if I may so call it, supplying the place both of
voice and words. When the military ants before alluded to go upon
their expeditions, and are out of the formicary, previously to
setting off, they touch each other on the trunk with their antennæ
and forehead;--this is the signal for marching; for, as soon as any
one has received it, he is immediately in motion. When they have any
discovery to communicate, they strike with them those that they meet
in a particularly impressive manner.--If a hungry ant wants to be
fed, it touches with its two antennæ, moving them very rapidly, those
of the individual from which it expects its meal:--and not only ants
understand this language, but even Aphides and Cocci, which are the
milch kine of our little pismires, do the same, and will yield them
their saccharine fluid at the touch of these imperative organs. The
helpless larvæ also of the ants are informed by the same means when
they may open their mouths to receive their food.

Next to their language, and scarcely different from it, are the
modes by which they express their affections and aversions. Whether
ants, with man and some of the larger animals, experience any thing
like attachment to individuals, is not easily ascertained; but that
they feel the full force of the sentiment which we term patriotism,
or the love of the community to which they belong, is evident from
the whole series of their proceedings, which all tend to promote
the general good. Distress or difficulty falling upon any member of
their society, generally excites their sympathy, and they do their
utmost to relieve it. M. Latreille once cut off the antennæ of an
ant; and its companions, evidently pitying its sufferings, anointed
the wounded part with a drop of transparent fluid from their mouth:
and whoever attends to what is going forward in the neighbourhood of
one of their nests, will be pleased to observe the readiness with
which they seem disposed to assist each other in difficulties. When
a burthen is too heavy for one, another will soon come to ease it
of part of the weight; and if one is threatened with an attack, all
hasten to the spot, to join in repelling it.

The satisfaction they express at meeting after absence is very
striking, and gives some degree of individuality to their attachment.
M. Huber witnessed the gesticulations of some ants, originally
belonging to the same nest, that, having been entirely separated from
each other four months, were afterwards brought together. Though
this was equal to one-fourth of their existence as perfect insects,
they immediately recognised each other, saluted mutually with their
antennæ, and united once more to form one family.

They are also ever intent to promote each other's welfare, and ready
to share with their absent companions any good thing they may meet
with. Those that go abroad feed those which remain in the nest; and
if they discover any stock of favourite food, they inform the whole
community, as we have seen above, and teach them the way to it. M.
Huber, for a particular reason, having produced heat, by means of
a flambeau in a certain part of an artificial formicary, the ants
that happened to be in that quarter, after enjoying it for a time,
hastened to convey the welcome intelligence to their compatriots,
whom they even carried suspended upon their jaws (their usual mode
of transporting each other) to the spot, till hundreds might be seen
thus laden with their friends.

If ants feel the force of love, they are equally susceptible of the
emotions of anger; and when they are menaced or attacked, no insects
show a greater degree of it. Providence, moreover, has furnished
them with weapons and faculties which render it extremely formidable
to their insect enemies, and sometimes, as I have related on a
former occasion, a great annoyance to man himself[73]. Two strong
mandibles arm their mouth, with which they sometimes fix themselves
so obstinately to the object of their attack, that they will sooner
be torn limb from limb than let go their hold;--and after their
battles, the head of a conquered enemy may often be seen suspended
to the antennæ or legs of the victor,--a trophy of his valour,
which, however troublesome, he will be compelled to carry about
with him to the day of his death. Their abdomen is also furnished
with a poison-bag (_Ioterium_), in which is secreted a powerful and
venomous fluid, long celebrated in chemical researches, and once
called _formic acid_, though now considered a modification of the
_acetic_ and _malic_[74]; which, when their enemy is beyond the reach
of their mandibles (I speak here particularly of the hill-ant, or
_F. rufa_), standing erect on their hind-legs, they ejaculate from
their anus with considerable force, so that from the surface of the
nest ascends a shower of poison, exhaling a strong sulphureous odour,
sufficient to overpower or repel any insect or small animal. Such is
the fury of some species, that with the acid, according to Gould[75],
they sometimes partly eject, drawing it back however directly, the
poison-bag itself. If a stick be stuck into one of the nests of the
hill-ant, it is so saturated with the acid as to retain the scent for
many hours. A more formidable weapon arms the species of the genus
_Myrmica_, Latr.; for, besides the poison-bag, they are furnished
with a sting; and their aspect is also often rendered peculiarly
revolting, by the extraordinary length of their jaws, and by the
spines which defend their head and trunk.

But weapons without valour are of but little use; and this is
one distinguishing feature of our pygmy race. Their courage and
pertinacity are unconquerable, and often sublimed into the most
inconceivable rage and fury. It makes no difference to them whether
they attack a mite or an elephant; and man himself instills no terror
into their warlike breasts. Point your finger towards any individual
of _F. rufa_,--instead of running away, it instantly faces about,
and, that it may make the most of itself, stiffening its legs into a
nearly straight line, it gives its body the utmost elevation it is
capable of; and thus

          "Collecting all its might dilated stands"

prepared to repel your attack. Put your finger a little nearer,
it immediately opens its jaws to bite you, and rearing upon its
hind-legs bends its abdomen between them, to ejaculate its venom into
the wound[76].

This angry people, so well armed and so courageous, we may readily
imagine are not always at peace with their neighbours; causes of
dissension may arise to light the flame of war between the inhabitants
of nests not far distant from each other. To these little bustling
creatures a square foot of earth is a territory worth contending
for;--their droves of Aphides equally valuable with the flocks and
herds that cover our plains; and the body of a fly or a beetle, or a
cargo of straws and bits of stick, an acquisition as important as the
treasures of a Lima fleet to our seamen. Their wars are usually between
nests of different species; sometimes, however, those of the same,
when so near as to interfere with and incommode each other, have their
battles; and with respect to ants of one species, _Myrmica rubra_,
combats occasionally take place, contrary to the general habits of the
tribe of ants, between those of the same nest. I shall give you some
account of all these conflicts, beginning with the last. But I must
first observe, that the only warriors amongst our ants are the neuters
or workers; the males and females being very peaceable creatures, and
always glad to get out of harm's way.

The wars of the red ant (_M. rubra_) are usually between a small number
of the citizens; and the object, according to Gould, is to get rid of
a useless member of the community (it does not argue much in favour
of the humanity of this species if it be by sickness that this member
is disabled), rather than any real civil contest. "The red colonies,"
says this author, "are the only ones I could ever observe to feed upon
their own species. You may frequently discern a party of from five or
six to twenty surrounding one of their own kind, or even fraternity,
and pulling it to pieces. The ant they attack is generally feeble, and
of a languid complexion, occasioned perhaps by some disorder or other
accident[77]." I once saw one of these ants dragged out of the nest
by another, without its head; it was still alive, and could crawl
about. A lively imagination might have fancied that this poor ant was
a criminal, condemned by a court of justice to suffer the extreme
sentence of the law. It was more probably, however, a champion that had
been decapitated in an unequal combat, unless we admit Gould's idea,
and suppose it to have suffered because it was an unprofitable member
of the community[78]. At another time I found three individuals that
were fighting with great fury, chained together by their mandibles; one
of these had lost two of the legs of one side, yet it appeared to walk
well, and was as eager to attack and seize its opponents, as if it was
unhurt. This did not look like languor or sickness.

The wars of ants that are not of the same species take place usually
between those that differ in size; and the great endeavouring to
oppress the small are nevertheless often outnumbered by them, and
defeated. Their battles have long been celebrated, and the date
of them, as if it were an event of the first importance, has been
formally recorded. Æneas Sylvius, after giving a very circumstantial
account of one contested with great obstinacy by a great and small
species on the trunk of a pear-tree, gravely states, "This action was
fought in the pontificate of Eugenius the Fourth, in the presence
of Nicholas Pistoriensis, an eminent lawyer, who related the
whole history of the battle with the greatest fidelity!" A similar
engagement between great and small ants is recorded by Olaus Magnus,
in which the small ones being victorious are said to have buried the
bodies of their own soldiers, but left those of their giant enemies a
prey to the birds. This event happened previous to the expulsion of
the tyrant Christiern the Second from Sweden[79].

M. P. Huber is the only modern author that appears to have been
witness to these combats. He tells us that, when the great attack the
small, they seek to take them by surprise, (probably to avoid their
fastening themselves to their legs,) and, seizing them by the upper
part of the body, they strangle them with their mandibles; but when
the small have time to foresee the attack, they give notice to their
companions, who rush in crowds to their succour. Sometimes, however,
after suffering a signal defeat, the smaller species are obliged to
shift their quarters, and to seek an establishment more out of the
way of danger. In order to cover their march, many small bodies are
then posted at a little distance from the nest. As soon as the large
ants approach the camp, the foremost sentinels instantly fly at
them with the greatest rage, a violent struggle ensues, multitudes
of their friends come to their assistance, and, though no match for
their enemies singly, by dint of numbers they prevail, and the giant
is either slain or led captive to the hostile camp. The species
whose proceedings M. Huber observed, were _F. herculanea_ and _F.
sanguinea_, neither of which have yet been discovered in Britain[80].

But if you would see more numerous armies engaged, and survey war
in all its forms, you must witness the combats of ants of the same
species, you must go into the woods where the hill-ant of Gould
(_F. rufa_) erects its habitations. There you will sometimes behold
populous and rival cities, like Rome and Carthage, as if they had
vowed each other's destruction, pouring forth their myriads by the
various roads that, like rays, diverge on all sides from their
respective metropolises, to decide by an appeal to arms the fate of
their little world. As the exploits of frogs and mice were the theme
of Homer's muse, so, were I gifted like him, might I celebrate on
this occasion the exhibition of Myrmidonian valour; but, alas! I am
Davus, not Œdipus; you must therefore rest contented, if I do my best
in plain prose; and I trust you will not complain if, being unable to
ascertain the name of any one of my heroes, my _Myrmidonomachia_ be
perfectly anonymous.

Figure to yourself two of these cities equal in size and population,
and situated about a hundred paces from each other; observe their
countless numbers, equal to the population of two mighty empires.
The whole space which separates them for the breadth of twenty-four
inches appears alive with prodigious crowds of their inhabitants. The
armies meet midway between their respective habitations, and there
join battle. Thousands of champions, mounted on more elevated spots,
engage in single combat, and seize each other with their powerful
jaws; a still greater number are engaged on both sides in taking
prisoners, which make vain efforts to escape, conscious of the cruel
fate which awaits them when arrived at the hostile formicary. The
spot where the battle most rages is about two or three square feet
in dimensions: a penetrating odour exhales on all sides,--numbers
of ants are here lying dead covered with venom,--others, composing
groups and chains, are hooked together by their legs or jaws, and
drag each other alternately in contrary directions. These groups are
formed gradually. At first a pair of combatants seize each other,
and rearing upon their hind-legs mutually spirt their acid, then
closing they fall and wrestle in the dust. Again recovering their
feet, each endeavours to drag off his antagonist. If their strength
be equal, they remain immoveable, till the arrival of a third gives
one the advantage. Both, however, are often succoured at the same
time, and the battle still continues undecided--others take part on
each side, till chains are formed of six, eight, or sometimes ten,
all hooked together and struggling pertinaciously for the mastery:
the equilibrium remains unbroken, till a number of champions from the
same nest arriving at once, compel them to let go their hold, and
the single combats recommence. At the approach of night, each party
gradually retreats to its own city: but before the following dawn the
combat is renewed with redoubled fury, and occupies a greater extent
of ground. These daily fights continue till, violent rains separating
the combatants, they forget their quarrel, and peace is restored.

Such is the account given by M. Huber of a battle he witnessed. In
these engagements, he observes, their fury is so wrought up, that
nothing can divert them from their purpose. Though he was close to
them examining their proceedings, they paid not the least attention
to him, being absorbed by one sole object, that of finding an enemy
to attack. What is most wonderful in this history, though all are of
the same make, colour, and scent, every ant seemed to know those of
his own party; and if by mistake one was attacked, it was immediately
discovered by the assailant, and caresses succeeded to blows. Though
all was fury and carnage in the space between the two nests, on
the other side the paths were full of ants going to and fro on the
ordinary business of the society, as in a time of peace; and the
whole formicary exhibited an appearance of order and tranquillity,
except that on the quarter leading to the field of battle crowds
might always be seen, either marching to reinforce the army of their
compatriots, or returning home with the prisoners they had taken[81],
which it is to be feared are the devoted victims of a cannibal feast.

Having, I apprehend, satiated you with the fury and carnage of
Myrmidonian wars, I shall next bring forward a scene still more
astonishing, which at first, perhaps, you will be disposed to regard
as the mere illusion of a lively imagination. What will you say when
I tell you that certain ants are affirmed to sally forth from their
nests on predatory expeditions, for the singular purpose of procuring
_slaves_ to employ in their domestic business; and that these ants
are usually a ruddy race, while their slaves themselves are black? I
think I see you here throw down my letter and exclaim--"What! ants
turned slave-dealers! This is a fact so extraordinary and improbable,
and so out of the usual course of nature, that nothing but the most
powerful and convincing evidence shall induce me to believe it." In
this I perfectly approve your caution; such a solecism in nature
ought not to be believed till it has undergone the ordeal of a most
thorough investigation. Unfortunately in this country we have not the
means of satisfying ourselves by ocular demonstration, since none of
the slave-dealing ants appear to be natives of Britain. We must be
satisfied, therefore, with weighing the evidence of others. Hear what
M. P. Huber, the discoverer of this almost incredible deviation of
nature from her general laws, has advanced to convince the world of
the accuracy of his statement, and you will, I am sure, allow that he
has thrown over his history a colouring of verisimilitude, and that
his appeal to testimony is in a very high degree satisfactory.

"My readers," says he, "will perhaps be tempted to believe that I have
suffered myself to be carried away by the love of the marvellous,
and that, in order to impart greater interest to my narration, I
have given way to an inclination to embellish the facts that I have
observed. But the more the wonders of nature have attractions for me,
the less do I feel inclined to alter them by a mixture of the reveries
of imagination. I have sought to divest myself of every illusion and
prejudice, of the ambition of saying new things, of the prepossessions
often attached to perceptions too rapid, the love of system, and the
like. And I have endeavoured to keep myself, if I may so say, in a
disposition of mind perfectly neuter, and ready to admit all facts, of
whatever nature they might be, that patient observation should confirm.
Amongst the persons whom I have taken as witnesses to the discovery of
mixed ant-hills, I can cite a distinguished philosopher (Prof. Jurine),
who was desirous of verifying their existence by examining himself the
two species united[82]."

He afterwards appeals to nature, and calls upon all who doubt to
repeat his experiments, which he is sure will soon satisfy them:--a
satisfaction which, as I have just observed, in this country we
cannot receive, for want of the slave-making species.--And now to
begin my history.

There are two species of ants which engage in these excursions,
_Polyergus rufescens_ and _Formica sanguinea_: but they do not, like
the African kings, make slaves of adults, their sole object being
to carry off the helpless infants of the colony which they attack,
the larvæ and pupæ; these they educate in their own nests, till they
arrive at their perfect state, when they undertake all the business
of the society[83]. In the following account I shall chiefly confine
myself to what Huber relates of the first of these species, and
conclude my extracts with his history of an expedition of the latter
to procure slaves.

The rufescent ants[84] do not leave their nests to go upon these
expeditions, which last about ten weeks, till the males are ready to
emerge into the perfect state: and it is very remarkable, that if
any individuals attempt to stray abroad earlier, they are detained
by their slaves, who will not suffer them to proceed. A wonderful
provision of the Creator to prevent the black colonies from being
pillaged when they contain only male and female brood, which would
be their total destruction, without being any benefit to their
assailants, to whom neuters alone are useful.

Their time of sallying forth is from two in the afternoon till five,
but more generally a little before five: the weather, however, must
be fine, and the thermometer must stand at above 36° in the shade.
Previously to marching there is reason to think that they send out
scouts to explore the vicinity; upon whose return they emerge from
their subterranean city, directing their course to the quarter from
which the scouts came. They have various preparatory signals, such
as pushing each other with the mandibles or forehead, or playing
with the antennæ, the object of which is probably to excite their
martial ardour, to give the word for marching, or to indicate the
route they are to take. The advanced guard usually consists of eight
or ten ants; but no sooner do these get beyond the rest, than they
move back, wheeling round in a semicircle, and mixing with the main
body, while others succeed to their station. They have "_no captain_,
_overseer_, _or ruler_," as Solomon observes, their army being
composed entirely of neuters, without a single female: thus all in
their turns take their place at the head, and then retreating towards
the rear, make room for others. This is the usual order of their
march; and the object of it may be to communicate intelligence more
readily from one part of the column to another.

When winding through the grass of a meadow they have proceeded to
thirty feet or more from their own habitation, they disperse; and,
like dogs with their noses, explore the ground with their antennæ
to detect the traces of the game they are pursuing. The negro
formicary, the object of their search, is soon discovered; some of
the inhabitants are usually keeping guard at the avenues, which
dart upon the foremost of their assailants with inconceivable fury.
The alarm increasing, crowds of its swarthy inhabitants rush forth
from every apartment; but their valour is exerted in vain; for the
besiegers, precipitating themselves upon them, by the ardour of their
attack compel them to retreat within, and seek shelter in the lowest
story; great numbers entering with them at the gates, while others
with their mandibles make a breach in the walls, through which the
victorious army marches into the besieged city. In a few minutes, by
the same passages, they as hastily evacuate it, each carrying off in
its mouth a larva or pupa which it has seized in spite of its unhappy
guardians. On their return home with their spoil, they pursue exactly
the route by which they went to the attack. Their success on these
expeditions is rather the result of their impetuosity, by which they
damp the courage of the negroes, than of their superior strength,
though they are a larger animal; for sometimes a very small body of
them, not more than 150, has been known to succeed in their attack
and to carry off their booty[85].

When from their proximity they are more readily to be come at than
those of the negroes, they sometimes assault with the same view the
nest of another species of ant, which I shall call the miners (_F.
cunicularia_). This species being more courageous than the other, on
this account the rufescent host marches to the attack in closer order
than usual, moving with astonishing rapidity. As soon as they begin
to enter their habitation, myriads of the miners rushing out fall
upon them with great fury; while others, well aware of their purpose,
making a passage through the midst of them, carry off in their mouth
the larvæ and pupæ. The surface of the nest thus becomes the scene
of an obstinate conflict, and the assailants are often deprived of
the prey which they had seized. The miners dart upon them, fight them
foot to foot, dispute every inch of their territory, and defend their
progeny with unexampled courage and rage. When the rufescents, laden
with pillage, retire, they do it in close order--a precaution highly
necessary, since their valiant enemies, pursuing them, impede their
progress for a considerable distance from their residence.

During these combats the pillaged ant-hill presents in miniature the
spectacle of a besieged city; hundreds of its inhabitants may be seen
making their escape, and carrying off in different directions, to a
place of security, some the young brood, and others their females
that are newly excluded: but when the danger is wholly passed, they
bring them back to their city, the gates of which they barricade, and
remain in great numbers near them to guard the entrance.

_Formica sanguinea_, as I observed above, is another of the
slave-making ants; and its proceedings merit separate notice, since
they differ considerably from those of the rufescents. They construct
their nests under hedges of a southern aspect, and likewise attack
the hills both of the negroes and miners. On the 15th of July, at ten
in the morning, Huber observed a small band of these ants sallying
forth from their formicary, and marching rapidly to a neighbouring
nest of negroes, around which it dispersed. The inhabitants, rushing
out in crowds, attacked them and took several prisoners: those that
escaped advanced no further, but appeared to wait for succours; small
brigades kept frequently arriving to reinforce them, which emboldened
them to approach nearer to the city they had blockaded; upon this
their anxiety to send couriers to their own nest seemed to increase:
these spreading a general alarm, a large reinforcement immediately
set out to join the besieging army; yet even then they did not begin
the battle. Almost all the negroes, coming out of their fortress,
formed themselves in a body about two feet square in front of it, and
there expected the enemy. Frequent skirmishes were the prelude to the
main conflict, which was begun by the negroes. Long before success
appeared dubious they carried off their pupæ, and heaped them up at
the entrance to their nest, on the side opposite to that on which the
enemy approached. The young females also fled to the same quarter.
The sanguine ants at length rush upon the negroes, and attacking them
on all sides, after a stout resistance the latter, renouncing all
defence, endeavour to make off to a distance with the pupæ they have
heaped up:--the host of assailants pursues, and strives to force from
them these objects of their care. Many also enter the formicary, and
begin to carry off the young brood that are left in it. A continued
chain of ants engaged in this employment extends from nest to nest,
and the day and part of the night pass before all is finished. A
garrison being left in the captured city, on the following morning
the business of transporting the brood is renewed. It often happens
(for this species of ant loves to change its habitation) that the
conquerors emigrate with all their family to the acquisition which
their valour has gained. All the incursions of _F. sanguinea_ take
place in the space of a month, and they make only five or six in the
year. They will sometimes travel 150 paces to attack a negro colony.

After reading this account of expeditions undertaken by ants for
so extraordinary a purpose, you will be curious to know how the
slaves are treated in the nests of these marauders--whether they
live happily, or labour under an oppressive yoke. You must recollect
that they are not carried off, like our negroes, at an age when the
_amor patriæ_ and all the charities of life which bind them to their
country, kindred and friends, are in their full strength, but in
what may be called the helpless days of infancy, or in their state
of repose, before they can have formed any associations or imbibed
any notions that render one place and society more dear to them than
another. Preconceived ideas, therefore, do not exist to influence
their happiness, which must altogether depend upon the treatment
which they experience at the hands of their new masters. Here the
goodness of Providence is conspicuous; which, although it has gifted
these creatures with an instinct so extraordinary, and seemingly so
unnatural, has not made it a source of misery to the objects of it.

You will here, perhaps, imagine that I have not sufficiently taken
into consideration the anxiety and privations undergone by the poor
neuters, in beholding those foster-children, for which they have all
along manifested such tender solicitude, thus violently snatched
from them: but when you reflect that they are the common property
of the whole colony, and that, consequently, there can scarcely be
any separate attachment to particular individuals, you will admit
that, after the fright and horror of the conflict are over, and
their enemies have retreated, they are not likely to experience
the poignant affliction felt by parents when deprived of their
children; especially when you further consider, that most probably
some of their brood are rescued from the general pillage; or at any
rate their females are left uninjured, to restore the diminished
population of their colonies, and to supply them with those objects
of attention, the larvæ, &c. so necessary to that development of
their instincts in which consists their happiness.

But to return to the point from which I digressed.--The negro and
miner ants suffer no diminution of happiness, and are exposed
to no unusual hardships and oppression in consequence of being
transplanted into a foreign nest. Their life is passed in much the
same employments as would have occupied it in their native residence.
They build or repair the common dwelling; they make excursions to
collect food; they attend upon the females; they feed them and the
larvæ; and they pay the necessary attention to the daily sunning of
the eggs, larvæ, and pupæ. Besides this, they have also to feed their
masters and to carry them about the nest. This you will say is a
serious addition to the ordinary occupations of their own colonies:
but when you consider the greater division of labour in these mixed
societies, which sometimes unite both negroes and miners in the same
dwelling, so that three distinct races live together, from their vast
numbers so far exceeding those of the native nest, you will not think
this too severe employment for so industrious an animal.

But you will here ask, perhaps--"Do the masters take no part in these
domestic employments? At least, surely, they direct their slaves, and
see that they keep to their work?"--No such thing, I assure you--the
sole motive for their predatory excursions seems to be mere laziness
and hatred of labour. Active and intrepid as they are in the field,
at all other times they are the most helpless animals that can be
imagined;--unwilling to feed themselves, or even to walk, their
indolence exceeds that of the sloth itself. So entirely dependent,
indeed, are they upon their negroes for every thing, that upon some
occasions the latter seem to be the masters, and exercise a kind of
authority over them. They will not suffer them, for instance, to
go out before the proper season, or alone; and if they return from
their excursions without their usual booty, they give them a very
indifferent reception, showing their displeasure, which however soon
ceases, by attacking them; and when they attempt to enter the nest,
dragging them out. To ascertain what they would do when obliged to
trust to their own exertions, Huber shut up thirty of the rufescent
ants in a glazed box, supplying them with larvæ and pupæ of their
own kind, with the addition of several negro pupæ, excluding very
carefully all their slaves, and placing some honey in a corner of
their prison. Incredible as it may seem, they made no attempt to
feed themselves: and though at first they paid some attention to
their larvæ, carrying them here and there, as if too great a charge
they soon laid them down again; most of them died of hunger in less
than two days; and the few that remained alive appeared extremely
weak and languid. At length, commiserating their condition, he
admitted a single negro; and this little active creature by itself
re-established order--made a cell in the earth; collected the larvæ
and placed them in it; assisted the pupæ that were ready to be
developed; and preserved the life of the neuter rufescents that still
survived. What a picture of beneficent industry, contrasted with the
baleful effects of sloth, does this interesting anecdote afford!
Another experiment which he tried made the contrast equally striking.
He put a large portion of one of these mixed colonies into a woollen
bag, in the mouth of which he fixed a small tube of wood, glazed at
the top, which at the other end was fitted to the entrance of a kind
of hive. The second day the tube was crowded with negroes going and
returning:--the indefatigable diligence and activity manifested by
them in transporting the young brood and their rufescent masters,
whose bodies were suspended upon their mandibles, was astonishing.
These last took no active part in the busy scene, while their slaves
showed the greatest anxiety about them, generally carrying them into
the hive; and if they sometimes contented themselves with depositing
them at the entrance of the tube, it was that they might use greater
dispatch in fetching the rest. The rufescent when thus set down
remained for a moment coiled up without motion, and then leisurely
unrolling itself, looked all around, as if it was quite at a loss
what direction to take;--it next went up to the negroes, and by the
play of its antennæ seemed to implore their succour, till one of them
attending to it conducted it into the hive.

Beings so entirely dependent, as these masters are upon their slaves,
for every necessary, comfort and enjoyment of their life, can
scarcely be supposed to treat them with rigour or unkindness:--so far
from this, it is evident from the preceding details, that they rather
look up to them, and are in some degree under their control.

The above observations, with respect to the indolence of our
slave-dealers, relate principally to the _rufescent_ species; for
the _sanguine_ ants are not altogether so listless and helpless;
they assist their negroes in the construction of their nests, they
collect their sweet fluid from the Aphides; and one of their most
usual occupations is to lie in wait for a small species of ant, on
which they feed; and when their nest is menaced by an enemy, they
show their value for these faithful servants by carrying them down
into the lowest apartments, as to a place of the greatest security.
Sometimes even the rufescents rouse themselves from the torpor that
usually benumbs them. In one instance, when they wished to emigrate
from their own to a deserted nest, they reversed what usually takes
place on such occasions, and carried all their negroes themselves
to the spot they had chosen. At the first foundation also of their
societies by impregnated females, there is good reason for thinking,
that, like those of other species[86], they take upon themselves
the whole charge of the nascent colony. I must not here omit a most
extraordinary anecdote related by M. Huber. He put into one of his
artificial formicaries pupæ of both species of the slave-collecting
ants, which, under the care of some negroes introduced with them,
arrived at their imago state, and lived together under the same roof
in the most perfect amity.

These facts show what effects education will produce even upon
insects; that it will impart to them a new bias, and modify in
some respects their usual instincts, rendering them familiar with
objects which, had they been educated at home, they would have
feared, and causing them to love those whom in that case they would
have abhorred.--It occasions, however, no further change in their
character, since the master and slave, brought up with the same care
and under the same superintendence, are associated in the mixed
formicary under laws entirely opposite[87].

Unparalleled and unique in the animal kingdom as this history may
appear, you will scarcely deem the next I have to relate less
singular and less worthy of admiration. That ants should have
their _milch cattle_ is as extraordinary as that they should have
slaves. Here, perhaps, you may again feel a fit of incredulity shake
you;--but the evidence for the fact I am now stating being abundant
and satisfactory, I flatter myself it will not shake you long.

The loves of the ants and the aphides (for these last are the kine in
question) have long been celebrated; and that there is a connexion
between them you may at any time, in the proper season, convince
yourself; for you will always find the former very busy on those
trees and plants on which the latter abound: and if you examine more
closely, you will discover that their object in thus attending upon
them is to obtain the saccharine fluid, which may well be denominated
their milk[88], that they secrete.

This fluid, which is scarcely inferior to honey in sweetness, issues
in limpid drops from the abdomen of these insects, not only by the
ordinary passage, but also by two setiform tubes placed, one on each
side, just above it. Their sucker being inserted in the tender bark,
is without intermission employed in absorbing the sap, which, after
it has passed through the system, they keep continually discharging
by these organs. When no ants attend them, by a certain jerk of the
body, which takes place at regular intervals, they ejaculate it to a
distance: but when the ants are at hand, watching the moment when the
aphides emit their fluid, they seize and suck it down immediately.
This, however, is the least of their talents; for they absolutely
possess the art of making them yield it at their pleasure; or, in
other words, of milking them. On this occasion their antennæ are
their fingers; with these they pat the abdomen of the aphis on each
side alternately, moving them very briskly; a little drop of fluid
immediately appears, which the ant takes into its mouth, one species
(_Myrmica rubra_) conducting it with its antennæ, which are somewhat
swelled at the end. When it has thus milked one, it proceeds to
another, and so on, till being satiated it returns to the nest.

Not only the aphides yield this repast to the ants, but also the
_Cocci_, with whom they have recourse to similar manœuvres, and with
equal success; only in this case the movement of the antennæ over
their body may be compared to the thrill of the finger over the keys
of a piano-forte.

But you are not arrived at the most singular part of this
history,--that ants make a _property_ of these cows, for the possession
of which they contend with great earnestness, and use every means to
keep them to themselves. Sometimes they seem to claim a right to the
aphides that inhabit the branches of a tree or the stalks of a plant;
and if stranger-ants attempt to share their treasure with them, they
endeavour to drive them away, and may be seen running about in a
great bustle, and exhibiting every symptom of inquietude and anger.
Sometimes, to rescue them from their rivals, they take their aphides in
their mouth, they generally keep guard round them, and when the branch
is conveniently situated, they have recourse to an expedient still more
effectual to keep off interlopers,--they inclose it in a tube of earth
or other materials, and thus confine them in a kind of paddock near
their nest, and often communicating with it.

The greatest cow-keeper of all the ants, is one to be met with in most
of our pastures, residing in hemispherical formicaries, which are
sometimes of considerable diameter. I mean the yellow ant of Gould (_F.
flava_). This species, which is not fond of roaming from home, and
likes to have all its conveniences within reach, usually collects in
its nest a large herd of a kind of Aphis, that derives its nutriment
from the roots of grass and other plants (_Aphis radicum_); these
it transports from the neighbouring roots, probably by subterranean
galleries, excavated for the purpose, leading from the nest in all
directions[89]; and thus, without going out, it has always at hand a
copious supply of food. These creatures share its care and solicitude
equally with its own offspring. To the eggs it pays particular
attention, moistening them with its tongue, carrying them in its mouth
with the utmost tenderness, and giving them the advantage of the sun.
This last fact I state from my own observation; for once upon opening
one of these ant-hills early in the spring, on a sunny day, I observed
a parcel of these eggs, which I knew by their black colour, very near
the surface of the nest. My attack put the ants into a great ferment,
and they immediately began to carry these interesting objects down into
the interior of the nest. It is of great consequence to them to forward
the hatching of these eggs as much as possible, in order to ensure an
early source of food for their colony; and they had doubtless in this
instance brought them up to the warmest part of their dwelling with
this view. M. Huber, in a nest of the same ant, at the foot of an oak,
once found the eggs of _Aphis Quercûs_.

Our yellow ants are equally careful of their Aphides after they
are hatched, when their nest is disturbed conveying them into
the interior, fighting fiercely for them if the inhabitants of
neighbouring formicaries, as is sometimes the case, attempt to make
them their prey; and carrying them about in their mouths to change
their pasture, or for some other purpose. When you consider that from
them they receive almost the whole nutriment both of themselves and
larvæ, you will not wonder at their anxiety about them, since the
wealth and prosperity of the community is in proportion to the number
of their cattle. Several other species keep Aphides in their nests,
but none in such numbers as those of which I am speaking[90].

When the population exceeds the produce of a country, or its
inhabitants suffer oppression, or are not comfortable in it,
emigrations frequently take place, and colonies issue forth to settle
in other parts of the globe; and sometimes whole nations leave
their own country, either driven to this step by their enemies, or
excited by cupidity to take possession of what appears to them a
more desirable residence. These motives operate strongly on some
insects of the social tribes.--Bees and ants are particularly
influenced by them. The former, confined in a narrow hive, when their
society becomes too numerous to be contained conveniently in it,
must necessarily send forth the redundant part of their population
to seek for new quarters; and the latter--though they usually can
enlarge their dwelling to any dimensions which their numbers may
require, and therefore do not send forth colonies, unless we may
distinguish by that name the departure of the males and females from
the nest--are often disgusted with their present habitation, and seek
to establish themselves in a new one:--either the near neighbourhood
of enemies of their own species; annoyance from frequent attacks of
man or other animals; their exposure to cold or wet from the removal
of some species of shelter; or the discovery of a station better
circumstanced or more abundant in aphides;--all these may operate as
inducements to them to change their residence. That this is the case
might be inferred from the circumstance noticed by Gould[91], which
I have also partly witnessed myself, that they sometimes transport
their young brood to a considerable distance from their home. But M.
Huber, by his interesting observations, has placed this fact beyond
all controversy; and his history of their emigrations is enlivened by
some traits so singular, that I am impatient to relate them to you.
They concern chiefly the great hill-ant (_F. rufa_), though several
other species occasionally emigrate.

Some of the neuters having found a spot which they judge convenient
for a new habitation, apparently without consulting the rest of the
society, determine upon an emigration, and thus they compass their
intention: The first step is to raise recruits:--with this view they
eagerly accost several fellow citizens of their own order, caress
them with their antennæ, lead them by their mandibles, and evidently
appear to propose the journey to them. If they seem disposed to
accompany them, the recruiting officer, for so he may be called,
prepares to carry off his recruit, who, suspending himself upon his
mandibles, hangs coiled up spirally under his neck;--all this passes
in an amicable manner after mutual salutations. Sometimes, however,
the recruiter takes the other by surprise, and drags him from the
ant-hill without giving him time to consider or resist. When arrived
at the proposed habitation, the suspended ant uncoils itself, and,
quitting its conductor, becomes a recruiter in its turn. The pair
return to the old nest, and each carries off a fresh recruit, which
being arrived at the spot joins in the undertaking:--thus the number
of recruiters keeps progressively increasing, till the path between
the new and the old city is full of goers and comers, each of the
former laden with a recruit. What a singular and amusing scene is
then exhibited of the little people thus employed! When an emigration
of a rufescent colony is going forward, the negroes are seen carrying
their masters: and the contrast of the red with the black renders
it peculiarly striking. The little turf-ants (_Myrmica? cæspitum_)
upon these occasions carry their recruits uncoiled, with their head
downwards and their body in the air.

This extraordinary scene continues several days; but when all the
neuters are acquainted with the road to the new city, the recruiting
ceases. As soon as a sufficient number of apartments to contain
them are prepared, the young brood, with the males and females,
are conveyed thither, and the whole business is concluded. When
the spot thus selected for their residence is at a considerable
distance from the old nest, the ants construct some intermediate
receptacles, resembling small ant-hills, consisting of a cavity
filled with fragments of straw and other materials, in which they
form several cells; and here at first they deposit their recruits,
males, females, and brood, which they afterwards conduct to the final
settlement. These intermediate stations sometimes become permanent
nests, which however maintain a connexion with the capital city[92].

While the recruiting is proceeding it appears to occasion no sensation
in the original nest; all goes on in it as usual, and the ants that
are not yet recruited pursue their ordinary occupations: whence it is
evident that the change of station is not an enterprise undertaken by
the whole community. Sometimes many neuters set about this business at
the same time, which gives a short existence (for in the end they all
reunite into one) to many separate formicaries. If the ants dislike
their new city, they quit it for a third, and even for a fourth: and
what is remarkable, they will sometimes return to their original
one before they are entirely settled in the new station; when the
recruiting goes in opposite directions, and the pairs pass each other
on the road. You may stop the emigration for the present, if you can
arrest the first recruiter, and take away his recruit[93].

I shall now relate to you some other portions of Myrmidonian History,
which, though perhaps not so striking and wonderful as the preceding
details, are not devoid of interest, and will serve to exemplify
their incredible diligence, labour, and ingenuity.

In this country it is commonly in March, earlier or later according
to the season, that ants first make their appearance, and they
continue their labours till the middle or latter end of October. They
emerge usually from their subterranean winter-quarters on some sunny
day; when, assembling in crowds on the surface of the formicary,
they may be observed in continual motion, walking incessantly over
it and one another, without departing from home; as if their object,
before they resumed their employments, was to habituate themselves
to the action of the air and sun[94]. This preparation requires a
few days, and then the business of the year commences. The earliest
employment of ants is most probably to repair the injuries which
their habitation has received during their state of inactivity: this
observation more particularly applies to the hill-ant (_F. rufa_),
all the upper stories of whose dwellings are generally laid flat
by the winter rains and snow; but every species, it may well be
supposed, has at this season some deranged apartments to restore to
order, or some demolished ones to rebuild.

After their annual labours are begun, few are ignorant how
incessantly ants are engaged in building or repairing their
habitations, in collecting provisions, and in the care of their
young brood; but scarcely any are aware of the extent to which their
activity is carried, and that their labours are going on even in the
night.--Yet this is a certain fact.--Long ago Aristotle affirmed
that ants worked in the night when the moon was at the full[95]; and
their historian Gould observes, "that they even exceed the painful
industrious bees. For the ants employ each moment, by day and night,
almost without intermission, unless hindered by excessive rains[96]."
M. Huber also, speaking of a mason-ant, not found with us, tells us
that they work after sun-set, and in the night[97]. To these I can
add some observations of my own, which fully confirm these accounts.
My first were made at nine o'clock at night, when I found the
inhabitants of a nest of the red ant (_Myrmica rubra_) very busily
employed; I repeated the observation, which I could conveniently do,
the nest being in my garden, at various times from that hour till
twelve, and always found some going and coming, even while a heavy
rain was falling. Having in the day noticed some Aphides upon a
thistle, I examined it again in the night, at about eleven o'clock,
and found my ants busy milking their cows, which did not for the
sake of repose intermit their suction. At the same hour, another
night, I observed the little negro ant (_F. fusca_) engaged in the
same employment upon an elder. About two miles from my residence
was a nest of Gould's hill-ant (_F. rufa_), which, according to M.
Huber, shut their gates, or rather barricade them, every night, and
remain at home[98]. Being desirous of ascertaining the accuracy of
his statement, early in October, about two o'clock one morning, I
visited this nest in company with an intelligent friend; and to our
surprise and admiration we found our ants at work, some being engaged
in carrying their usual burthen, sticks and straws, into their
habitation, others going out from it, and several were climbing the
neighbouring oaks, doubtless to milk their Aphides. The number of
comers and goers at that hour, however, was nothing compared with
the myriads that may always be seen on these nests during the day.
It so happened that our visit was paid while the moon was near the
full; so that whether this species is equally vigilant and active
in the absence of that luminary yet remains uncertain. Perhaps this
circumstance might reconcile Huber's observation with ours, and
confirm the accuracy of Aristotle's statement before quoted. To the
_red ant_, indeed, it is perfectly indifferent whether the moon shine
or not; they are always busy, though not in such numbers as during
the day. It is probable that these creatures take their repose at all
hours indifferently; for it cannot be supposed that they are employed
day and night without rest.

I have related to you in this and former letters most of the works
and employments of ants, but as yet I have given you no account of
their roads and track-ways.--Don't be alarmed, and imagine I am
going to repeat to you the fable of the ancients, that they wear a
path in the stones[99]; for I suppose you will scarcely be brought
to believe that, as Hannibal cut a way for the passage of his army
over the Alps by means of vinegar, so the ants may with equal effect
employ the formic acid: but more species than one do really form
roads which lead from their formicaries into the adjoining country.
Gould, speaking of his jet-ant (_F. fuliginosa_), says that they
make several main track-ways, (streets he calls them,) with smaller
paths striking off from them, extending sometimes to the distance of
forty feet from their nest, and leading to those spots in which they
collect their provisions; that upon these roads they always travel,
and are very careful to remove from them bits of sticks, straw, or
anything that may impede their progress; nay, that they even keep low
the herbs and grass which grow in them, by constantly biting them
off[100], so that they may be said to mow their walks. But the best
constructors of roads are the hill-ants (_F. rufa_). Of these De Geer
says, "When you keep yourself still, without making any noise, in
the woods peopled with these ants, you may hear them very distinctly
walking over the dry leaves which are dispersed upon the soil, the
claws of their feet producing a slight sound when they lay hold of
them. They make in the ground broad paths, well beaten, which may be
readily distinguished, and which are formed by the going and coming
of innumerable ants, whose custom it is always to travel in the same
route[101]." From Huber we further learn, that these roads of the
hill-ants are sometimes a hundred feet in length, and several inches
wide; and that they are not formed merely by the tread of these
creatures, but hollowed out by their labour[102]. Virgil alludes
to their tracks in the following animated lines, which, though not
altogether correct, are very beautiful:

          "So when the pismires, an industrious train,
           Embodied rob some golden heap of grain,
           Studious ere stormy winter frowns to lay
           Safe in their darksome cells the treasured prey;
           _In one long track_ the dusky legions lead
           Their prize in triumph through the verdant mead;
           Here bending with the load, a panting throng
           With force conjoin'd heave some huge grain along;
           Some lash the stragglers to the task assign'd,
           Some to their ranks the bands that lag behind:
           They crowd _the peopled path_ in thick array,
           Glow at the work, and darken all the way."

Bonnet, observing that ants always keep the same track both in going
from and returning to their nest, imagines that their paths are
imbued with the strong scent of the formic acid, which serves to
direct them; but, as Huber remarks, though this may be of some use
to them, their other senses must be equally employed, since it is
evident, when they have made any discovery of agreeable food, that
they possess the means of directing their companions to it, though
it is scarcely possible that the path can have been sufficiently
impregnated with the acid for them to trace their way to it by scent.
Indeed the recruiting system described above, proves that it requires
some pains to instruct ants in the way from an old to a new nest;
whereas, were they directed by scent, after a sufficient number had
passed to and fro to imbue the path with the acid, there would be no
occasion for further deportations[103].

Though ants have no mechanical inventions to diminish the quantum of
labour, yet by numbers, strength, and perseverance they effect what
at first sight seems quite beyond their powers. Their strength is
wonderful: I once, as I formerly observed, saw two or three of them
haling along a young snake not dead, which was of the thickness of
a goose-quill[104]. St. Pierre relates, that he was highly amused
with seeing a number of ants carrying off a Patagonian centipede.
They had seized it by all its legs, and bore it along as workmen
do a large piece of timber[105]. The Mahometans hold, as Thevenot
relates, that one of the animals in Paradise is Solomon's ant, which,
when all creatures in obedience to him brought him presents, dragged
before him a locust, and was therefore preferred before all others,
because it had brought a creature so much bigger than itself. They
sometimes, indeed, aim at things beyond their strength; but if they
make their attack, they pertinaciously persist in it though at the
expense of their lives. I have in my cabinet a specimen of _Colliuris
longicollis_, Latr., to one of the legs of which a small ant,
scarcely a thirtieth part of its bulk, is fixed by its jaws. It had
probably the audacity to attack this giant, compared with itself, and
obstinately refusing to let go its hold was starved to death[106].
Professor Afzelius once related to me some particulars with respect
to a species of ant in Sierra Leone, which proves the same point. He
says that they march in columns that exceed all powers of numeration,
and always pursue a straight course, from which nothing can cause
them to deviate: if they come to a house or other building, they
storm or undermine it; if a river comes across them, though millions
perish in the attempt, they endeavour to swim over it.

This quality of perseverance in ants on one occasion led to very
important results, which affected a large portion of this habitable
globe; for the celebrated conqueror Timour, being once forced to take
shelter from his enemies in a ruined building, where he sat alone many
hours, desirous of diverting his mind from his hopeless condition, he
fixed his observation upon an ant that was carrying a grain of corn
(probably a pupa) larger than itself up a high wall. Numbering the
efforts that it made to accomplish this object, he found that the grain
fell sixty-nine times to the ground, but the seventieth time it reached
the top of the wall. "This sight (said Timour) gave me courage at the
moment; and I have never forgotten the lesson it conveyed[107]."

Madame Merian, in her _Surinam Insects_, speaking of the large-headed
ant (_Œcodoma cephalotes_), affirms that, if they wish to emigrate,
they will construct a living bridge in this manner:--One individual
first fixes itself to a piece of wood by means of its jaws, and
remains stationary; with this a second connects itself; a third
takes hold of the second, and a fourth of the third, and so on, till
a long connected line is formed fastened at one extremity, which
floats exposed to the wind, till the other end is blown over so as to
fix itself to the opposite side of the stream, when the rest of the
colony pass over upon it, as a bridge[108]. This is the process, as
far as I can collect it from her imperfect account:--as she is not
always very correct in her statements, I regarded this as altogether
fabulous, till I met with the following history of a similar
proceeding in De Azara, which induces me to give more credit to it.

He tells us, that in low districts in South America, that are exposed
to inundations, conical hills of earth may be observed, about three
feet high, and very near to each other, which are inhabited by a
little black ant. When an inundation takes place, they are heaped
together out of the nest into a circular mass, about a foot in
diameter and four fingers in depth. Thus they remain floating upon
the water while the inundation continues. One of the sides of the
mass which they form is attached to some sprig of grass, or piece
of wood; and when the waters are retired, they return to their
habitation. When they wish to pass from one plant to another, they
may often be seen formed into a bridge, of two palms length, and of
the breadth of a finger, which has no other support than that of its
two extremities. One would suppose that their own weight would sink
them; but it is certain that the masses remain floating during the
inundation, which lasts some days[109].

You must now be fully satiated with this account of the constant
fatigue and labour to which our little pismires are doomed by the law
of their nature; I shall therefore endeavour to relieve your mind by
introducing you to a more quiet scene, and exhibit them to you during
their intervals of repose and relaxation.

Gould tells us that the hill-ant is very fond of basking in the sun,
and that on a fine serene morning you may see them conglomerated
like bees on the surface of their nest, from whence, on the least
disturbance, they will disappear in an instant[110]. M. Huber also
observes, after their labours are finished, that they stretch
themselves in the sun, where they lie heaped one upon another, and
seem to enjoy a short interval of repose: and in the interior of an
artificial nest, in which he had confined some of this species,
where he saw many employed in various ways, he noticed some reposing
which appeared to be asleep[111].

But they have not only their time for repose; they also devote
some to relaxation, during which they amuse themselves with sports
and games. "You may frequently perceive one of these ants (_F.
rufa_) (says our Gould) run to and fro with a fellow-labourer in
his forceps, of the same species and colony. It appeared first in
the light of provisions; but I was soon undeceived by observing,
that after being carried for some time, it was let go in a friendly
manner, and received no personal injury. This amusement, or whatever
title you please to give it, is often repeated, particularly amongst
the hill-ants, who are very fond of this sportive exercise[112]."
A nest of ants which Bonnet found in the head of a teazle, when
enjoying the full sun, which seems the acme of formic felicity,
amused themselves with carrying each other on their backs, the rider
holding with his mandibles the neck of his horse, and embracing it
closely with his legs[113]. But the most circumstantial account of
their sports is given by Huber. "I approached one day," says he, "one
of their formicaries (he is speaking of _F. rufa_) exposed to the sun
and sheltered from the north. The ants were heaped together in great
numbers, and seemed to enjoy the temperature which they experienced
at the surface of the nest. None of them were working: this multitude
of accumulated insects exhibited the appearance of a boiling
fluid, upon which at first the eye could scarce fix itself without
difficulty. But when I set myself to follow each ant separately, I
saw them approach each other, moving their antennæ with astonishing
rapidity; with their fore-feet they patted lightly the cheeks of
other ants: after these first gestures, which resembled caresses,
they reared upon their hind-legs by pairs, they wrestled together,
they seized one another by a mandible, by a leg or an antenna, they
then let go their hold to renew the attack; they fixed themselves to
each other's trunk or abdomen, they embraced, they turned each other
over, or lifted each other up by turns--they soon quitted the ants
they had seized, and endeavoured to catch others: I have seen some
who engaged in these exercises with such eagerness, as to pursue
successively several workers; and the combat did not terminate till
the least animated, having thrown his antagonist, accomplished his
escape by concealing himself in some gallery[114]." He compares these
sports to the gambols of two puppies, and tells us that he not only
often observed them in this nest, but also in his artificial one.

I shall here copy for you a memorandum I formerly made. "On the ninth
of May, at half-past two, as I was walking on the Plumstead road near
Norwich, on a sunny bank I observed a large number of ants (_Formica
fusca_) agglomerated in crowds near the entrances of their nest.
They seemed to make no long excursions, as if intent upon enjoying
the sun-shine at home; but all the while they were coursing about,
and appeared to accost each other with their antennæ. Examining them
very attentively, I at length saw one dragging another, which it
absolutely lifted up by its antennæ, and carrying it in the air. I
followed it with my eye, till it concealed itself and its antagonist
in the nest. I soon noticed another that had recourse to the same
manœuvres; but in this instance the ant that was attacked resisted
manfully, a third sometimes appearing inclined to interfere: the
result was, that this also was dragged in. A third was haled in
by its legs, and a fourth by its mandibles. What was the precise
object of these proceedings, whether sport or violence, I could not
ascertain. I walked the same way on the following morning, but at an
earlier hour, when only a few comers and goers were to be seen near
the nest:" And soon leaving the place, I had no further opportunity
to attend to them.

And now having conducted you through every apartment of the
formicary, and shown you its inhabitants in every light, I shall
leave you to meditate on the extraordinary instincts with which their
Creator has gifted them, reserving what I have to say on the other
social insects for a future occasion.

                                                  I am, &c.


[35] It is not here meant to be asserted that insects are actuated by
these passions in the same way that man is, but only that in their
various instincts they exhibit the semblance of them, and as it were
_symbolize_ them.

[36] Plusieurs d'entre eux (_Insectes_) savent user de ressources
ingénieuses dans les circonstances difficiles: ils sortent alors de
leur routine accoutumée et semblent agir d'après la position dans
laquelle ils se trouvent; c'est là sans doute l'un des phénomènes les
plus curieux de l'histoire naturelle. Huber, _Nouvelles Observations
sur les Abeilles_, ii. 198.--Compare also ibid. 250, note N. B.

[37] I employ occasionally the term _neuters_, though it is not
perfectly proper, for the sake of convenience;--strictly speaking,
they may rather be regarded as imperfect or sterile females. Yet
certainly, as the imperfection of their organization unfits them for
sexual purposes, the term _neuter_ is not absolutely improper.

[38] _Œuv._ ix. 163.

[39] M. P. Huber in _Linn. Trans._ vi. 256. Reaum. v.

[40] VOL. I. 244.

[41] The neuters in all respects bear a stronger analogy to the larvæ
than to the perfect insects; and, after all, may possibly turn out
to be larvæ, perhaps of the males. Huber seems to doubt their being
neuters. _Nouv. Obs._ ii. 444, note *.

[42] In this these animals vary from the usual instinct of the social
_Hymenoptera_, the ants, the wasps, and the humble-bees--with whom
the females lay the first foundations of the colonies, unassisted
by any neuters;--but in the swarms of the hive-bee an election may
perhaps in some instances be said to take place.

[43] VOL. I. Ed. 508.

[44] See VOL. I. 509.

[45] Gould's _Account of English Ants_, 22.

[46] The late John Hunter dissected two young queens. In the abdomen
he found two ovaries, consisting of many hundred oviducts, each
containing innumerable eggs.

[47] The anonymous author before alluded to, who observed the Ceylon
white ants, says, that such was the size of the masses, which were
tempered with a strong gluten, that they adhered though laid on the
upper part of the breach.

[48] Latr. _Hist. Nat._ xiii. 64.

[49] _N. Dict. D'Hist. Nat._ xxii. 57, 58.

[50] Bochart, _Hierozoic._ ii. 1. iv. c. 22.

[51] M. P. Huber, in the account which, in imitation of De Geer,
he has given of the discoveries made by his predecessors in the
history of ants, having passed without notice, probably ignorant of
the existence of such a writer, those of our intelligent countryman
Gould, I shall here give a short analysis of them; from which it will
appear, that he was one of their best, or rather their very best
historian, till M. Huber's work came out. His _Account of English
Ants_ was published in 1747, long before either Linné or De Geer had
written upon the subject.

I. _Species._ He describes five species of English ants; viz. 1.
The hill ant (_Formica rufa_, L.). 2. The jet ant (_F. fuliginosa_,
Latr.). 3. The red ant (_Myrmica rubra_, Latr. _Formica_, Lin.): He
observes, that this species alone is armed with a sting; whereas, the
others make a wound with their mandibles, and inject the formic acid
into it. 4. The common yellow ant (_F. flava_, Latr.): and 5. The
small black ant (_F. fusca_, L.).

II. _Egg._ He observes that the eggs producing males and females are
laid the earliest, and are the largest:--he seems, however, to have
confounded the black and brown eggs of _Aphides_ with those of ants.

III. _Larva._ These, when first hatched, he observes, are hairy, and
continue in the larva state twelve months or more. He, as well as De
Geer, was aware that the larvæ of _Myrmica rubra_ do not, as other
ants do, spin a cocoon when they assume the pupa.

IV. _Pupa._ He found that female ants continue in this state about
six weeks, and males and neuters only a month.

V. _Imago._ He knew perfectly the sexes, and was aware that females
cast their wings previous to their becoming mothers; that, at the
time of their swarms, large numbers of both sexes become the prey of
birds and fishes: that the surviving females, sometimes in numbers,
go under ground, particularly in mole-hills, and lay eggs; but he had
not discovered that they then act the part of neuters in the care of
their progeny. He knew also, that when there was more than one queen
in a nest, the rivals lived in perfect harmony.

With respect to the neuters, he had witnessed the homage they pay their
queens or fertile females, continued even after their death;--this
homage, he however observes, which is noticed by no other author,
appears often to be temporary and local--ceasing at certain times,
and being renewed upon a change of residence. He enlarges upon their
exemplary care of the eggs, larvæ, and pupæ. He tells us that the eggs,
as soon as laid, are taken by the neuters and deposited in heaps, and
that the neuters brood them. He particularly notices their carrying
them, with the larvæ and pupæ, daily from the interior to the surface
of the nest and back again, according to the temperature; and that
they feed the larvæ by disgorging the food from their own stomach.
He speaks also of their opening the cocoons when the pupæ are ready
to assume the imago, and disengaging them from them. With regard
to their labours, he found that they work all night, except during
violent rains:--that their instinct varies as to the station of their
nest:--that their masonry is consolidated by no cement, but consists
merely of mould;--that they form roads and trackways to and from
their nests;--that they carry each other in sport, and sometimes lie
heaped one on another in the sun.--He suspects that they occasionally
emigrate;--he proves by a variety of experiments that they do not hoard
up provisions. He found they were often infested by a particular kind
of _Gordius_:--he had noticed also that the neuters of _F. rufa_ and
_flava_ (which escaped M. Huber, though he observed it in _Polyergus
rufescens_, Latr.) are of two sizes, which the writer of this note can
confirm by producing specimens:--and lastly, with Swammerdam, he had
recourse to artificial colonies, the better to enable him to examine
their proceedings, but not comparable to the ingenious apparatus of M.

[52] Gould says that the males and females are nearly equal in
number, p. 62; but from Huber's observations it seems to follow that
the former are most numerous, p. 96.

[53] That the neuter ants, like those of the hive-bee, are imperfectly
organized females, appears from the following observation of M. Huber
(_Nouv. Observ. &c._ ii. 443.)--"Les fourmis nous ont encore offert
à cet égard une analogie très frappante; à la vérité, nous n'avons
jamais vu pondre les ouvrières, mais nous avons été témoins de leur
accouplement. Ce fait pourroit être attesté par plusieurs membres de la
Société d'Histoire Naturelle de Génève, à qui nous l'avons fait voir;
l'approche du mâle étoit toujours suivie de la mort de l'ouvrière;
leur conformation ne permet donc pas qu'elles deviennent mères, mais
l'instinct du mâle prouve du moins que ce sont des femelles."

[54] Gould, 103.

[55] M. Huber calls this an apterous female; yet he could not
discover that they laid eggs; and he owns that they more nearly
resembled the workers than the females; and that he should have
considered them as such, had he seen them mix with them in their
excursions. _Huber_, p. 251.

[56] De Geer ii. 1104.

[57] Gould, 99.

[58] Huber, 105.

[59] _Pilgrimage_, 1090.

[60] M. Huber observes that fecundated females, after they have lost
their wings, make themselves a subterranean cell, some singly, others
_in common_. From which it appears that some colonies have more than
one female, from their first establishment.

[61] ii. 1071.

[62] Gould, p. 24--.

[63] Compare Gould p. 25, with Huber 125, note (1).

[64] It may be thought that many of the anecdotes related in the
following history of the proceedings of neuter ants could not have
been observed by any one, unless he had been admitted into an
ant-hill; but it must be recollected that M. P. Huber, from whose
work the most extraordinary facts are copied, invented a kind of ant
hive; so constructed as to enable him to observe their proceedings
without disturbing them.

[65] Vol. I. 476.

[66] Gould, 92. De Geer ii. 1067. Huber, 5, 132.

[67] Huber, 133.

[68] Huber, 237, 217, 167.

[69] Ibid. 137.

[70] Bradley, 134.

[71] Gould, 85.

[72] _Hist. of Barbadoes_, p. 63.

[73] VOL. I. p. 122.

[74] See Fourcroy, _Annales du Muséum_, no. 5. p. 338, 342. Some,
however, still regard it as a distinct acid.

[75] p. 34.

[76] See Fourcroy, _Annales du Muséum_, no. 5. 343.

[77] Gould, 101.

[78] One would think the writer of the account of ants in Mouffet
had been witness to something similar. "If they see any one idle,"
says he, "they not only drive him as spurious, without food, from
the nest; but likewise, a circle of all ranks being assembled, cut
off his head before the gates, that he may be a warning to their
children not to give themselves up for the future to idleness and
effeminacy."--_Theatr. Ins._ 241.

[79] Mouffet, _Theatr. Ins._ 242.

[80] Huber, 160.

[81] See Huber, chap. v.

[82] Huber, 287. Jurine, _Hyménoptères_, 273.

[83] It is not clear that our Willughby had not some knowledge of
this extraordinary fact; for in his description of ants, speaking
of their care of their pupæ, he says, "_that they also carry the
aureliæ of others into their nests, as if they were their own_."
Rai. _Hist. Ins._ 69.--Gould remarks concerning the hill-ant, "This
species is very rapacious after the _vermicles_ and _nymphs_ of other
ants. If you place a parcel before or near their colonies, they will,
with remarkable greediness, seize and carry them off." 91, note *.
Query--Do they this to devour them, or educate them? White made the
same observation, _Nat. Hist._ ii. 278.

[84] This species forms a kind of link which connects Latreille's two
genera _Formica_ and _Myrmica_, borrowing the abdominal squama from
the former, and the sting from the latter.

[85] Since the publication of the first edition of this volume I have
met with fresh confirmation of the extraordinary history here related.
Having been induced to visit Paris, and calling upon M. Latreille (so
justly celebrated as one of the first entomologists of the age, and to
whom I feel infinitely indebted for the friendly attentions which he
paid to me during my too short stay in that metropolis), he assured
me, that he had verified all the principal facts advanced by Huber. He
has also said the same in his _Considérations nouvelles et générales
sur les insectes vivant en Société_. (Mém. du Mus. iii. 407.) At the
same time he informed me that there was a nest of the rufescent ants
in the Bois de Boulogne, to which place he afterwards was so good
as to accompany me. We went on the 25th of June, 1817. The day was
excessively hot and sultry. A little before five in the afternoon we
began our search. At first we could not discern a single ant in motion.
In a minute or two, however, my friend directed my attention to one
individual--two or three more next appeared--and soon a numerous army
was to be seen winding through the long grass of a low ridge in which
was their formicary. Just at the entrance of the wood from Paris, on
the right-hand and near the road, is a bare place paled in for the
Sunday amusement of the lower orders--to this the ants directed their
march, and upon entering it divided into two columns, which traversed
it rapidly and with great apparent eagerness; all the while exploring
the ground with their antennæ as beagles with their noses, evidently
as if in pursuit of game. Those in the van, as Huber also observed,
kept perpetually falling back into the main body. When they had passed
this inclosure, they appeared for some time to be at a loss, making no
progress but only coursing about: but after a few minutes delay, as if
they had received some intelligence, they resumed their march and soon
arrived at a negro nest, which they entered by one or two apertures. We
could not observe that any negroes were expecting their attack outside
the nest, but in a short time a few came out at another opening, and
seemed to be making their escape. Perhaps some conflict might have
taken place within the nest, in the interval between the appearance of
these negroes and the entry of their assailants. However this might be,
in a few minutes one of the latter made its appearance with a pupa in
its mouth; it was followed by three or four more; and soon the whole
army began to emerge as fast as it could, almost every individual
carrying its burthen. Most that I observed seemed to have pupæ. I
then traced the expedition back to the spot from which I first saw
them set out, which according to my steps was about 156 feet from the
negro formicary. The whole business was transacted in little more than
an hour. Though I could trace the ants back to a certain spot in the
ridge before mentioned, where they first appeared in the long grass, I
did not succeed in finding the entrance to their nest, so that I was
deprived of the pleasure of seeing the mixed society. As we dined at an
_auberge_ close to the spot, I proposed renewing my researches after
dinner; but a violent tempest of thunder and rain, though I attempted
it, prevented my succeeding; and afterwards I had no opportunity of
revisiting the place.

M. Latreille very justly observes that it is physically impossible
for the _rufescent_ ants (_Polyergus rufescens_), on account of the
form of their jaws and the accessory parts of the mouth, either to
prepare habitations for their family, to procure food, or to feed
them.--_Considérations nouvelles, &c._ p. 408.

[86] VOL. I. 370.

[87] See Huber, chap, vii-xi.

[88] The ant ascends the tree, says Linné, _that it may milk its
cows, the Aphides_, not kill them. _Syst. Nat._ 962. 3.

[89] Huber, 195. I have more than once found these Aphides in the
nests of this species of ant.

[90] See Huber, chap. vi. I have found Aphides in the nest of _Myrmica
rubra_. Boisier de Sauvages speaks of ants keeping their own Aphides,
and gives an interesting account of them. _Journ. de Physique_, i. 195.

[91] Gould, 42.

[92] Walking one day early in July in a spot where I used to notice a
single nest of _Formica rufa_, I observed that a new colony had been
formed of considerable magnitude; and between it and the original
nest were six or seven smaller settlements.

[93] See Huber, chap. iv. § 3.

[94] Gould, 67. De Geer, ii. 1054.

[95] _Hist. Animal._ l. ix. c. 38.

[96] Gould, 68.

[97] Huber, 35, 42.

[98] Ibid. 23.

[99] Plin. _Hist. Nat._ lxi. c. 29.

[100] Gould, 87.

[101] De Geer, ii. 1067.

[102] Huber, 146.

[103] _Œuv. de_ Bonnet, i. 535. Huber, 197.

[104] VOL. I. 258.

[105] _Voy. to Maurit._ 71.

[106] I was much amused, when dining in the forest of Fontainebleau,
by the pertinacity with which the hill-ant (_F. rufa_) attacked our
food, haling from our very plates, while we were eating, long strips
of meat many times their own size.

[107] Related in the _Quarterly Review_ for August 1816, p. 259.

[108] _Insect. Surinam._ p. 18. In her plate the ants are represented
so connected.

[109] _Voyages dans l'Amérique Mérid._ i. 187.

[110] Gould, 69.

[111] Huber, 73.

[112] Gould, 103--.

[113] Bonnet, ii. 407.

[114] Huber, 170--.

                             LETTER XVIII.

                        _SOCIETIES OF INSECTS._

        PERFECT SOCIETIES CONTINUED. (_Wasps and Humble-Bees._)

I shall now call your attention to such parts of the history of
two other descriptions of social insects, _wasps_, namely, and
_humble-bees_, as have not been related to you in my letters on the
affection of insects for their young, and on their habitations. What
I have to communicate, though not devoid of interest, is not to be
compared with the preceding account of the ants, nor with that which
will follow of the hive-bee. This, however, may arise more from the
deficiency of observations than the barrenness of the subject.

The first of these animals, _wasps_, (_Vespa_)--with whose proceedings
I shall begin,--we are apt to regard in a very unfavourable light.
They are the most impertinent of intruders. If a door or window be
open at the season of the year in which they appear, they are sure
to enter. When they visit us, they stand upon no ceremony, but make
free with every thing that they can come at. Sugar, meat, fruit, wine,
are equally to their taste; and if we attempt to drive them away, and
are not very cautious, they will often make us sensible that they are
not to be provoked with impunity. Compared with the bees, they may
be considered as a horde of thieves and brigands; and the latter as
peaceful, honest, and industrious subjects, whose persons are attacked
and property plundered by them. Yet, with all this love of pillage
and other bad propensities, they are not altogether disagreeable or
unamiable; they are brisk and lively; they do not usually attack
unprovoked; and their object in plundering us is not purely selfish,
but is principally to provide for the support of the young brood of
their colonies.

The societies of wasps, like those of ants and other social
_Hymenoptera_, consist of females, males, and workers. The _females_
may be considered as of two sorts: first, the females by way of
eminence, much larger than any other individuals of the community,
equalling six of the workers (from which in other respects they do
not materially differ) in weight, and laying both male and female
eggs. Then the small females, not bigger than the workers, and
laying only male eggs. This last description of females, which are
found also both amongst the humble-bees and hive-bees, were first
observed amongst the wasps by M. Perrot, a friend of Huber's[115].
The large females are produced later than the workers, and make
their appearance in the following spring; and whoever destroys one
of them at that time, destroys an intire colony, of which she would
be the founder. They are more worthy of praise than the queen-bee;
since upon the latter, from her very first appearance in the perfect
state no labour devolves,--all her wants being prevented by a host of
workers, some of which are constantly attending upon her, feeding
her, and permitting her to suffer no fatigue; while others take
every step that is necessary for the safety and subsistence of the
colony. Not so our female wasp;--she is at first an insulated being
that has had the fortune to survive the rigours of winter. When in
the spring she lays the foundation of her future empire, she has not
a single worker at her disposal: with her own hands and teeth she
often hollows out a cave wherein she may lay the first foundations
of her paper metropolis; she must herself build the first houses,
and produce from her own womb their first inhabitants; which in
their infant state she must feed and educate, before they can assist
her in her great design. At length she receives the reward of her
perseverance and labour; and from being a solitary unconnected
individual, in the autumn is enabled to rival the queen of the hive
in the number of her children and subjects; and in the edifices which
they inhabit--the number of cells in a vespiary sometimes amounting
to more than 16,000, almost all of which contain either an egg, a
grub, or a pupa; and each cell serving for three generations in a
year; which, after making every allowance for failures and other
casualties, will give a population of at least 30,000. Even at this
time, when she has so numerous an army of coadjutors, the industry of
this creature does not cease, but she continues to set an example of
diligence to the rest of the community.--If by any accident, before
the other females are hatched, the queen mother perishes, the neuters
cease their labours, lose their instincts, and die.

The number of females in a populous vespiary is considerable, amounting
to several hundred; they emerge from the pupa about the latter end of
August, at the same time with the males, and fly in September and
October, when they pair. Of this large number of females, very few
survive the winter. Those that are so fortunate remain torpid till
the vernal sun recalls them to life and action. They then fly forth,
collect provision for their young brood, and are engaged in the other
labours necessary for laying the foundation of their empire: but in the
summer months they are never seen out of the nest.

The _male_ wasps are much smaller than the female, but they weigh as
much as two workers. Their antennæ are longer than those of either,
not, like theirs, thicker at the end, but perfectly filiform; and
their abdomen is distinguished by an additional segment. Their
numbers about equal those of the females, and they are produced at
the same time. They are not so wholly given to pleasure and idleness
as the drones of the hive. They do not, indeed, assist in building
the nest, and in the care of the young brood; but they are the
scavengers of the community; for they sweep the passages and streets,
and carry off all the filth. They also remove the bodies of the
dead, which are sometimes heavy burthens for them; in which case two
unite their strength to accomplish the work; or, if a partner be not
at hand, the wasp thus employed cuts off the head of the defunct,
and so effects its purpose. As they make themselves so useful, they
are not, like the male bees, devoted by the workers to an universal
massacre when the impregnation of the females, the great end of
their creation, is answered; but they share the general lot of the
community, and are suffered to survive till the cold cuts off them
and the workers together.

The _workers_ are the most numerous, and to us the only troublesome
part of the community; upon whom devolves the main business of the
nest. In the summer and autumnal months, they go forth by myriads into
the neighbouring country to collect provisions; and on their return to
the common den, after reserving a sufficiency for the nutriment of the
young brood, they divide the spoil with great impartiality;--part being
given to the females, part to the males, and part to those workers
that have been engaged in extending and fortifying the vespiary.
This division is voluntarily made, without the slightest symptom of
compulsion. Several wasps assemble round each of the returning workers,
and receive their respective portions. It is curious and interesting to
observe their motions upon this occasion. As soon as a wasp, that has
been filling itself with the juice of fruits, arrives at the nest, it
perches upon the top, and disgorging a drop of its saccharine fluid, is
attended sometimes by two at once, who share the treasure: this being
thus distributed, a second and sometimes a third drop is produced,
which falls to the lot of others.

Another principal employment of the workers is the enlarging and
repairing of the nest. It is extremely amusing to see them engaged
upon this foliaceous covering. They work with great celerity; and
though a large number are occupied at the same time, there is not the
least confusion. Each individual has its portion of work assigned to
it, extending from an inch to an inch and a half, and is furnished
with a ball of ligneous fibre, scraped or rather plucked by its
powerful jaws from posts, rails, and the like. This is carried in its
mouth, and is thus ready for immediate use:--but upon this subject
I have enlarged in a former letter[116]. The workers also clean the
cells and prepare them to receive another egg, after the imago is
disclosed and has left it.

There is good reason for thinking, and the opinion has the
sanction of Sir Joseph Banks, that wasps have sentinels placed
at the entrances of their nests, which if you can once seize and
destroy, the remainder will not attack you. This is confirmed by an
observation of Mr. Knight's in the _Philosophical Transactions_[117],
that if a nest of wasps be approached without alarming the
inhabitants, and all communication be suddenly cut off between those
out of the nest and those within it, no provocation will induce the
former to defend it and themselves. But if one escapes from within,
it comes with a very different temper, and appears commissioned to
avenge public wrongs, and prepared to sacrifice its life in the
execution of its orders. He discovered this when quite a boy.

It sometimes happens, that when a large number of female wasps have
been observed in the spring, and an abundance of workers has in
consequence been expected to make their attack upon us in the summer
and autumn, but few have appeared. Mr. Knight observed this in 1806,
and supposes it to be caused by a failure of males[118]. I have since
more than once made the same observation, and Major Moor, as well
as myself, noticed in the year 1815. What took place here in the
following year may in some degree account for it. Though the summer
had been very wet, and one may almost say winterly, there were in
the neighbourhood in which I reside abundance of wasps at the usual
time; but, except on some few warm days, in which they were very
active, benumbed by the cold they were crawling about upon the floors
of my house and seemed unable to fly. In this vicinity numbers make
their nests in the banks of the river. In the beginning of the month
of October there was a very considerable inundation, after which not
a single wasp was to be seen. The continued wet that produces an
inundation may also destroy those nests that are out of the reach
of the waters;--and perhaps this cause may have operated in those
years above alluded to, in which the appearance of the workers in
the summer and autumn did not correspond with the large numbers of
females observed in the spring.

In ordinary seasons, in the month lately mentioned, October, wasps
seem to become less savage and sanguinary; for even flies, of which
earlier in the summer they are the pitiless destroyers, may be seen
to enter their nests with impunity. It is then, probably, that they
begin to be first affected by the approach of the cold season, when
nature teaches them it is useless longer to attend to their young.
They themselves all perish, except a few of the females, upon the
first attack of frost.

Reaumur, from whom (see the sixth Memoir of his last volume) most
of these observations are taken, put the nests of wasps under glass
hives, and succeeded so effectually in reconciling these little
restless creatures to them, that they carried on their various works
under his eye: and if you feel disposed to follow his example, I
have no doubt you will throw light upon many parts of their history,
concerning which we are now in darkness.

       *       *       *       *       *

Having given you some idea, imperfect indeed from the want of
materials, of the societies of wasps, I must next draw up for you the
best account I can of those of the _humble-bees_[119]. These form
a kind of intermediate link between the wasps and the hive-bees,
collecting honey indeed and making wax, but constructing their
combs and cells without the geometric precision of the latter, and
of a more rude and rustic kind of architecture; and distinguished
from both, though they approach nearer to the bees, by the extreme
hairiness of their bodies.

The population of a humble-bees nest may be divided into four orders
of individuals: the large females; the small females; the males; and
the workers.

The large _females_, like the female wasps, are the original founders
of their republics. They are often so large, that by the side of the
small ones or the workers, which in every other respect they exactly
resemble, they look like giants opposed to pygmies. They are excluded
from the pupa in the autumn; and pair in that season, with males
produced from the eggs of the small females. They pass the winter
under ground, and, as appears from an observation of M. P. Huber, in
a particular apartment, separate from the nest, and rendered warm
by a carpeting of moss and grass, but without any supply of food.
Early in the spring, (for they make their first appearance as soon
as the catkins of the sallows and willows are in flower,) like the
female wasps, they lay the foundations of a new colony without the
assistance of any neuters, which all perish before the winter. In
some instances however, if a conjecture of M. de la Billardière
be correct, these creatures have an assistant assigned to them.
He says, at this season (the approach of winter) he found in the
nest of _Bombus Sylvarum_ some old females and workers, whose wings
were fastened together to retain them in the nest by hindering them
from flying; these wings in each individual were fastened together
at the extremity, by means of some very brown wax applied above
and below[120]. This he conceives to be a precaution taken by the
other bees to oblige these individuals to remain in the nest and
take care of the brood that was next year to renew the population
of the colony. I feel, however, great hesitation in admitting this
conjecture, founded upon an insulated and perhaps an accidental fact.
For, in the first place, the young females that come forth in the
autumn, and not the old ones, are the founders of new colonies; and
their instinct directs them to fulfill the great laws of their nature
without such compulsion; and in the next, the workers are never known
to survive the cold of winter.

The employment of a large female, besides the care of the young
brood before described, and the collecting of honey and pollen, is
principally the construction of the cells in which her eggs are to be
laid; which M. P. Huber seems to think, though they often assist in
it, the workers are not able to complete by themselves. So rapid is
the female in this work, that to make a cell, fill it with pollen,
commit one or two eggs to it, and cover them in, requires only the
short space of half an hour. Her family at first consists only of
workers, which are necessary to assist her in her labours; these
appear in May and June: but the males and females are later, and
sometimes are not produced before August and September[121]. As in
the case of the hive-bee, the food of these several individuals
differs; for the grubs that will turn to workers are fed with honey
and pollen mixed, while those that are destined to be males and
females are supplied with pure honey.

The instinct of these larger females does not develop itself all at
once: for it is a remarkable fact, that when they are first hatched
in the autumn, not being in a condition to become mothers, they are
no object of jealousy to the small queens, (as we shall soon see they
are when engaged in oviposition,) and are employed in the ordinary
labours of the parent nest--that is, they collect honey and pollen,
and make wax; but they do not construct cells. The building instinct
seems as it were in suspense, and does not manifest itself till the
spring; when the maternal sentiment impels them at the same time to
lay eggs and to construct the cells in which they are to be deposited.

I have told you above, that amongst the wasps a _small_ kind of
_female_ has been discovered: this is the case also amongst the
humble-bees, in whose societies they are more readily detected: not
indeed by any observable difference between them and the workers,
but chiefly by the diversity of their instincts:--from the other
females they are distinguished solely by their diminutive size. Like
those of the wasps and hive-bees, these minor queens produce only
male eggs, which come out in time to fertilize the young females
that found the vernal colonies. M. P. Huber suspects that, as in the
case of the female bee, it is a different kind of food that develops
their ovaries, and so distinguishes them from the workers. They are
generally attended by a small number of males, who form their court.

M. Huber, watching at midnight the proceedings of a nest which he
kept under a glass, observed the inhabitants to be in a state of
great agitation: many of these bees were engaged in making a cell;
the queen-mother of the colony, as she may be called, who is always
extremely jealous of her pygmy rivals, came and drove them away
from the cell;--she in her turn was driven away by the others,
which pursued her, beating their wings with the utmost fury, to the
bottom of the nest. The cell was then constructed, and two of them
at the same time oviposited in it. The queen returned to the charge,
exhibiting similar signs of anger; and, chasing them away again, put
her head into the cell, when seizing the eggs that had been laid, she
was observed to eat them with great avidity. The same scene was again
renewed, with the same issue. After this, one of the small females
returned and covered the empty cells with wax. When the mother-queen
was removed, several of the small females contended for the cell with
indescribable rage, all endeavouring to lay their eggs in it at the
same time. These small females perish in the autumn.

The _males_ are usually smaller than the large females, and larger
than the small ones and workers. They may be known by their longer,
more filiform, and slenderer antennæ; by the different shape and by
the beard of their mandibles. Their posterior tibiæ also want the
_corbicula_ and _pecten_ that distinguish the individuals of the
other sex, and their posterior plantæ have no auricle. We learn from
Reaumur that the male humble-bees are not an idle race, but work in
concert with the rest to repair any damage or derangement that may
befall the common habitation.

The _workers_, which are the first fruits of the queen-mother's
vernal parturition, assist her, as soon as they are excluded from
the pupa, in her various labours. To them also is committed the
construction of the waxen vault that covers and defends the nest.
When any individual larva has spun its cocoon and assumed the pupa,
the workers remove all the wax from it; and as soon as it has
attained to its perfect state, which takes place in about five days,
the cocoons are used to hold honey or pollen. When the bees discharge
the honey into them upon their return from their excursions, they
open their mouths and contract their bodies, which occasions the
honey to fall into the reservoir. Sixty of these honey-pots are
occasionally found in a single nest, and more than forty are
sometimes filled in a day. In collecting honey, humble-bees, if
they cannot get at that contained in any flower by its natural
opening, will often make an aperture at the base of the corolla, or
even in the calyx, that they may insert their proboscis in the very
place where nature has stored up her nectar[122]. M. Huber relates
a singular anecdote of some hive-bees paying a visit to a nest of
humble-bees placed under a box not far from their hive, in order
to steal or beg their honey; which places in a strong light the
good temper of the latter. This happened in a time of scarcity. The
hive-bees, after pillaging, had taken almost entire possession of
the nest. Some humble-bees which remained in spite of this disaster,
went out to collect provisions; and bringing home the surplus after
they had supplied their own immediate wants, the hive-bees followed
them, and did not quit them till they had obtained the fruit of
their labours. They licked them, presented to them their proboscis,
surrounded them, and thus at last persuaded them to part with the
contents of their honey-bags. The humble-bees after this flew away
to collect a fresh supply. The hive-bees did them no harm, and
never once showed their stings;--so that it seems to have been
persuasion rather than force that produced this singular instance of
self-denial. This remarkable manœuvre was practised for more than
three weeks; when the wasps being attracted by the same cause, the
humble-bees entirely forsook the nest[123].

The workers are the most numerous part of the community, but are
nothing when compared with the numbers to be found in a vespiary
or a beehive:--two or three hundred is a large population for a
humble-bees nest; in some species it not being more than fifty
or sixty.--They may more easily be studied than either wasps or
hive-bees, as they seem not to be disturbed or interrupted in their
works by the eye of an observer[124].

                                                  I am, &c.


[115] Huber, _Nouv. Observ._ ii. 443.

[116] VOL. I. p. 501.

[117] For 1807, 242--.

[118] Ibid. 243.

[119] _Bombus. Apis_ * *. e. 2. K.

[120] _Mémoires du Muséum_, &c. i. 55.

[121] P. Huber, in _Linn. Trans._ vi. 264.--This author says however
in another place (_ibid._ 285), that the male eggs are laid in the
spring, at the same time with those that are to produce workers.
Perhaps by the former he means the male offspring of the small
females, and by the latter those of the large?

[122] Hub. _Nouv. Observ._ ii. 375.

[123] Ibid. 373--.

[124] This account of the proceedings of humble-bees is chiefly taken
from Reaumur, vi. _Mém._ l.; and M. P. Huber in _Linn. Trans._ vi. 214--.

                              LETTER XIX.

                        _SOCIETIES OF INSECTS._

           PERFECT SOCIETIES CONTINUED. (_The Hive-bee_[125].)

The glory of an all-wise and omnipotent Creator, you will
acknowledge, is wonderfully manifested by the varied proceedings of
those social tribes of which I have lately treated: but it shines
forth with a brightness still more intense in the instincts that
actuate the common _hive-bee_ (_Apis mellifica_), and which I am next
to lay before you. Indeed, of all the insect associations, there are
none that have more excited the attention and admiration of mankind
in every age, or been more universally interesting, than the colonies
of these little useful creatures. Both Greek and Roman writers are
loud in their praise; nay, some philosophers were so enamoured of
them, that, as I observed before[126], they devoted a large portion
of their time to the study of their history. Whether the knowledge
they acquired was at all equivalent to the years that were spent in
the attainment of it, may be doubted: for, were it so, it is probable
that Aristotle and Pliny would have given a clearer and more
consistent account of the inhabitants of the hive than they have
done. Indeed had their discoveries borne any proportion to the long
tract of time asserted to have been employed by some in the study of
these insects, they ought to have rivalled, and even exceeded, those
of the Reaumurs and Hubers of our own age.

Numerous, and wonderful for their absurdity, were the errors and
fables which many of the ancients adopted and circulated with
respect to the generation and propagation of these busy insects. For
instance,--that they were sometimes produced from the putrid bodies
of oxen and lions; the kings and leaders from the brain, and the
vulgar herd from the flesh--a fable derived probably from swarms of
bees having been observed, as in the case of Samson[127], to take
possession of the dried carcases of these animals, or perhaps from
the myriads of flies (for the vulgar do not readily distinguish flies
from bees) often generated in their putrescent flesh. They adopted
another notion equally absurd; that these insects collect their young
progeny from the blossoms and foliage of certain plants. Amongst
others, the Cerinthus, the reed, and the olive-tree, had this virtue
of generating infant bees attributed to them[128]. These specimens of
ancient credulity will suffice.

But do not think that all the ancients imbibed such monstrous
opinions. Aristotle's sentiments seem to have been much more
correct, and not very wide of what some of our best modern apiarists
have advanced. According to him, the kings (so he denominates the
queen-bee) generate both kings and workers; and the latter the
drones. This he seems to have learned from keepers of bees. The
kings, says he in another place, are the parents of the bees, and
the drones their children. It is right, he observes again, that
the kings (which by some were called mothers) should remain within
the hive unfettered by any employment, because they are made for
the multiplication of the species[129]. To the same purpose Riem
of Lauten of the _Palatinate Apiarian Society_, and Wilhelmi of
the _Lusatian_, affirm that the queen lays the eggs which produce
the queens and workers; and the workers those that produce the
drones or males[130]. Aristotle also tells us, that some in his
time affirmed that the bees (the workers) were the females, and the
drones the males: an opinion which he combats from an analogy pushed
rather too far, that nature would never give offensive armour to
females[131]. In another place he appears to think that the workers
are hermaphrodites:--his words are remarkable, and seem to indicate
that he was aware of the sexes of plants: "having in themselves,"
says he, "_like plants_, the male and the female[132]."

Fables and absurdities, however, are not confined to the ancients, nor
even to those moderns who lived before Swammerdam, Maraldi, Reaumur,
Bonnet, Schirach, John Hunter, Huber, and their followers, by their
observations and discoveries had thrown so much light upon this
interesting subject. Even in our own times, a Neapolitan professor,
Monticelli, asserts, on the authority of a certain father Tanoya,
that in every hive there are three sorts of bees independent of each
other; viz. male and female drones--male and female, I must not say
_queens_--call them what you will: and male and female workers; and
that each construct their own cells!!! Enough, however, upon this
subject. I shall now endeavour to lay before you the best authenticated
facts in the history of these animals; but you must not expect an
account of them complete in all its parts; for, much as we know,
Bonnet's observation will still hold good: "The more I am engaged
in making fresh observations upon bees, the more steadfast is my
conviction, that the time is not yet arrived in which we can draw
satisfactory conclusions with respect to their policy. It is only by
varying and combining experiments in a thousand ways, and by placing
these industrious flies in circumstances more or less removed from
their ordinary state, that we can hope to ascertain the right direction
of their instinct, and the true principles of their government[133]."

What I have further to say concerning these admirable creatures, will
be principally taken from the two authors who have given the clearest
and most satisfactory account of them, Reaumur and the elder Huber;
though I shall add from other sources such additional observations as
may serve better to elucidate their history.

The society of a hive of bees, besides the young brood, consists of
one female or queen; several hundreds of males or drones; and many
thousand workers.

The _female_, or queen, first demands our attention. Two sorts
of females have been observed amongst the bees, a large one and
a small. Mr. Needham was the first that observed the latter; and
their existence, M. P. Huber tells us, has been confirmed by several
observations of his father. They are bred in cells as large as those
of the common queens, from which they differ only in size. Though
they have ovaries, they have never been observed to lay eggs[134].
Having never seen one of these, for they are of very rare occurrence,
my description must be confined to the common female, the genuine
monarch of the hive[135].

There are two descriptions of males--one not bigger than the workers,
supposed to be produced from a male egg laid in a worker's cell. The
common males are much larger, and will counterpoise two workers.

I have before observed to you that there are two sorts of workers,
the wax-makers and nurses[138]. They may also be further divided into
fertile and sterile[139]: for some of them, which in their infancy
are supposed to have partaken of some portion of the royal jelly,
lay male eggs. There is found in some hives, according to Huber, a
kind of bees, which from having less down upon the head and thorax
appear blacker than the others, by whom they are always expelled
from the hive, and often killed. Perfect ovaries, upon dissection,
were discovered in these bees, though not furnished with eggs. This
discovery induced M^{lle} Jurine, the lady who dissected them, to
examine the common workers in the same way; and she found in all that
she examined, what had escaped Swammerdam, perfect though sterile
ovaries[140]. It is worth inquiry, though M. Huber gives no hint
of this kind, whether these were not in fact superannuated bees,
that could no longer take part in the labours of the hive. Thorley
remarks, which confirms this idea, that if you closely observe a hive
of bees in July, you may perceive many amongst them of a dark colour,
with wings rent and torn; but that in September not one of them is
to be seen[141]. Huber does not say whether the wings of the bees in
question were lacerated; but in superannuated insects the hair is
often rubbed off the body, which gives them a darker hue than that of
more recent individuals of the same species. Should this conjecture
turn out true, their banishment and destruction of the seniors of the
hive would certainly not show our little creatures in a very amiable
point of view. Yet it seems the law of their nature to rid their
community of all supernumerary and useless members, as is evident
from their destruction of the drones after their work is done.

It is not often that insects have been weighed; but Reaumur's
curiosity was excited to know the weight of bees; and he found that
336 weighed an ounce, and 5376 a pound. According to John Hunter, an
ale-house pint contains 2160 workers.

I have described to you the persons of the different individuals that
compose the society of the bee-hive more in detail than I should
otherwise have done, in order that you may be the better able to form
a judgement upon a most extraordinary circumstance in their history,
which is supported by evidence that seems almost incontrovertible.
The fact to which I allude is this--that if the bees are deprived
of their queen, and are supplied with comb containing young worker
brood only, they will select one or more to be educated as queens;
which, by having a royal cell erected for their habitation, and being
fed with royal jelly for not more than two days, when they emerge
from the pupa state (though, if they had remained in the cells which
they originally inhabited, they would have turned out workers) will
come forth complete queens, with their form, instincts, and powers
of generation entirely different. In order to produce this effect,
the grub must not be more than three days old; and this is the age
at which, according to Schirach, (the first apiarist who called the
public attention to this miracle of nature,) the bees usually elect
the larvæ to be royally educated; though it appears from Huber's
observations, that a larva two days or even twenty-four hours old
will do[142].--Having chosen a grub, they remove the inhabitants and
their food from two of the cells which join that in which it resides;
they next take down the partitions which separate these three cells;
and, leaving the bottoms untouched, raise round the selected worm
a cylindrical tube, which follows the horizontal direction of the
other cells: but since at the close of the third day of its life its
habitation must assume a different form and direction, they gnaw
away the cells below it, and sacrifice without pity the grubs they
contain, using the wax of which they were formed to construct a new
pyramidal tube, which they join at right angles to the horizontal
one, the diameter of the former diminishing insensibly from its base
to its mouth. During the two days which the grub inhabits this cell,
like the common royal cells now become vertical[143], a bee may
always be observed with its head plunged into it; and when one quits
it another takes its place. These bees keep lengthening the cell as
the worm grows older, and duly supply it with food, which they place
before its mouth, and round its body. The animal, which can only
move in a spiral direction, keeps incessantly turning to take the
jelly deposited before it; and thus slowly working downwards, arrives
insensibly near the orifice of the cell, just at the time that it is
ready to assume the pupa; when, as before described, the workers shut
up its cradle with an appropriate covering[144].

When you have read this account, I fear, with the celebrated John
Hunter, you will not be very ready to believe it, at least you will
call upon me to bring forth my "strong reasons" in support of it.
What!--you will exclaim--can a larger and warmer house (for the
royal cells are affirmed to enjoy a higher temperature than those
of the other bees[145]), a different and more pungent kind of food,
and a vertical instead of a horizontal posture, in the first place,
give a bee a differently shaped tongue and mandibles; render the
surface of its posterior tibiæ flat instead of concave; deprive
them of the fringe of hairs that forms the basket for carrying the
masses of pollen; of the auricle and pecten which enable the workers
to use these tibiæ as pincers[146]; of the brush that lines the
inside of their plantæ? Can they lengthen its abdomen; alter its
colour and clothing; give a curve to its sting; deprive it of its
wax-pockets, and of the vessels for secreting that substance; and
render its ovaries more conspicuous, and capable of yielding female
as well as male eggs? Can, in the next place, the seemingly trivial
circumstances just enumerated altogether alter the instinct of these
creatures? Can they give to one description of animals address and
industry; and to the other astonishing fecundity? Can we conceive
them to change the very passions, tempers, and manners? That the very
same fœtus if fed with more pungent food, in a higher temperature
and in a vertical position, shall become a female destined to enjoy
love, to burn with jealousy and anger, to be incited to vengeance,
and to pass her time without labour--that this very same fœtus,
if fed with more simple food, in a lower temperature, in a more
confined and horizontal habitation, shall come forth a worker
zealous for the good of the community, a defender of the public
rights, enjoying an immunity from the stimulus of sexual appetite
and the pains of parturition--laborious, industrious, patient,
ingenious, skilful--incessantly engaged in the nurture of the young;
in collecting honey and pollen; in elaborating wax; in constructing
cells, and the like!--paying the most respectful and assiduous
attention to objects which, had its ovaries been developed, it would
have hated and pursued with the most vindictive fury till it had
destroyed them! Further, that these factitious queens (I mean those
that the bees elect from amongst worker brood, and educate to supply
the place of a lost one in the manner just described) shall differ
remarkably from the natural queens, (or those that have been wholly
educated in a royal cell,) in being altogether mute[147]--. All this,
you will think at first sight, so improbable, and next to impossible,
that you will require the strongest and most irrefragable evidence
before you will believe it.

In spite of all these powerful probabilities to the contrary,
this astonishing and seemingly incredible fact rests upon strong
foundations, and is established by experiments made at different
times, by different persons of the highest credit, in different parts
of Europe. The first who brought it before the public (as I lately
observed) was M. Schirach, secretary of an Apiarian Society established
at Little Bautzen in Upper Lusatia. He observed, that bees when shut up
with a portion of comb, containing only worker brood, would soon erect
royal cells, and thus obtain queens:--the experiment was frequently
repeated, and the result was almost uniformly the same. In one
instance he tried it with a single cell, and it succeeded[148]. This
curious fact was communicated to the celebrated Bonnet, who, though he
hesitated long before he admitted it, was at length fully convinced. M.
Wilhelmi (Schirach's brother-in-law), though at first he accounted for
the fact upon other principles, and objected strongly to the doctrine
in question, induced by the powerful evidence in favour of it, at
last gave up his former opinion, and embraced it. And, to mention no
more, the great Aristomachus of modern times, M. Huber, by experiments
repeated for ten years, was fully convinced of the truth of Schirach's

The fact in question, though the public attention was first called
to it by the latter gentleman, had indeed been practically known
long before he wrote. M. Vogel, in a letter to Wilhelmi, asserts
that numerous experiments confirming this extraordinary fact had
been made by more than a hundred different persons, in the course
of more than a hundred years; and that he himself had known old
cultivators of bees who had unanimously declared to him, that, when
proper precautions were taken, in a practice of more than fifty
years, the experiment had never failed[150]. Signor Monticelli, the
Neapolitan professor before mentioned, informs us that the Greeks and
Turks of the Ionian Islands know how to make artificial swarms; and
that the art of producing queens at will has been practised by the
inhabitants of a little Sicilian island called Favignana, from very
remote antiquity; and he even brings arguments to prove that it was
no secret to the Greeks and Romans[151], though had the practice been
common it would surely have been noticed by Aristotle and Pliny.

Bonner, a British apiarist, asserts that he has had successful
recourse to the Lusatian experiment[152]; and Mr. Payne of Shipdam
in Norfolk (who for many years has been engaged in the culture of
bees, and has paid particular attention to their proceedings) relates
that he well remembers that the bees of one of his hives, which he
discovered had lost their queen, were engaged in erecting some royal
cells upon the ruins of some of the common ones. He also informs
me that he has found Huber's statements, as far as he has had an
opportunity of verifying them, perfectly accurate[153].

As I think you will allow that the evidence just detailed to you is
abundantly sufficient to establish the fact in question, we will
now see whether any satisfactory account can be given for such
changes being produced by such causes. "It does not appear to me
improbable," says Bonnet, "that a certain kind of nutriment, and in
more than usual abundance, may cause a development in the grubs of
bees, of organs which would never be developed without it. I can
readily conceive also, that a habitation considerably more spacious,
and differently placed, is absolutely necessary to the complete
development of organs which the new nutriment may cause to grow in
all directions[154]." And again, with respect to the wings of the
queen bee, which do not exceed those of the workers in length, he
thinks that this may arise from their being of a substance too stiff
to admit of their extension. Those parts and points that were in a
state to yield most easily to the action which this kind of nutriment
produced, would be most prominent; and the vertical position of the
grub and pupa, since nature does nothing in vain, may probably assist
this action, and render the parts of the animal more capable of such
extension than if it continued in a horizontal position.

We know, with respect to the human species and the larger animals,
that numerous differences, both as to the form and relative
proportion of parts, occur continually. The cause of these
differences we cannot always ascertain; yet in many instances they
may either be derived from the nutriment which the embryo receives
in the womb, or from the greater or less dimensions or higher or
lower temperature of that organ--a case that analogically would not
be very wide of that of the grub or embryo of a bee inclosed in a
cell. Some of the differences in man I now allude to, may often be
caused by a particular diet in childhood; a warmer or a colder, a
looser or a tighter dress, or the like. Thus, for instance, the
Egyptians, who went bare-headed, had their skulls remarkably thick;
while the Persians, who covered the head with a turban or mitre,
were distinguished by the tenuity of theirs. Again, the inhabitants
of certain districts are often remarkable for peculiarities of form,
which are evidently produced by local circumstances.

The following reasoning may not be inapplicable to the development
or non-development, according to their food and habitation, of the
ovaries of these insects. An infant tightly swathed, as was formerly
the custom, in swaddling bands, without being allowed the free
play of its little limbs, fed with unwholesome food, or uncherished
by genial warmth, may from these circumstances have so imperfect
a development of its organs as to be in consequence devoted to
sterility. When a cow brings forth two calves, and one of them is a
female, it is always barren, and partakes in part of the characters
of the other sex[155]. In this instance, the space and food that in
ordinary cases are appropriated to one, are divided between two; so
that a more contracted dwelling and a smaller share of nutriment seem
to prevent the development of the ovaries.

The following observations, mostly taken from an essay of
the celebrated anatomist John Hunter, in the _Philosophical
Transactions_, since they are intimately connected with the subject
that we are now considering, will not be here misplaced. In animals
just born, or very young, there are no peculiarities of shape,
exclusive of the primary distinctions, by which one sex may be known
from the other. Thus secondary distinctive characters, such as the
beard in men, and the breasts in women, are produced at a certain
period of life; and these secondary characters, in some instances,
are changed for those of the other sex; which does not arise from
any action at the first formation, but takes place when the great
command "Increase and multiply" ceases to operate. Thus women in
advanced life are sometimes distinguished by beards; and after they
have done laying, hen-birds occasionally assume the plumage of the
cock; this has been observed more than once by ornithologists, more
particularly with respect to the pheasant and the pea-hen[156].--For
females to assume the secondary characters of males, seems certainly
a more violent change, than for a worker bee, which may be regarded
as a sterile female, in consequence of a certain process, to assume
the secondary characters of a fertile female.

With respect to the variations of instinct and character which result
from the different modes of rearing the young bees that we are now
considering; it would not, I think, be difficult to prove, that
causes at first sight equally inadequate have produced effects full
as important on the habits, tempers, and characters of men and other
animals: but as these will readily occur to you, I shall not now
enlarge upon them.

Did we know the causes of the various deviations, as to form and
the like, observable in the three kingdoms of nature, and could
apply them, we should be able to produce these deviations at our
pleasure. This is exactly what the bees do. Their instinct teaches
them that a certain kind of food, supplied to a grub inhabiting a
certain dwelling, in a certain position, will produce certain effects
upon it, rendering it different from what it would have been under
ordinary circumstances, and fitted to answer their peculiar wants.

I trust that these arguments and probabilities will in some degree
reconcile you to what at first sight seems so extraordinary and
extravagant a doctrine. If not yet fully satisfied, I can only
recommend your having recourse to experiments yourself. Leaving you
therefore to this best mode of proof, I shall proceed to another
part of my history:--but first I must mention an experiment of
Reaumur's, which seems to come well in here. To ascertain whether
the expectation of a queen was sufficient to keep alive the instinct
and industry of the worker-bees, he placed in a glazed hive some
royal cells containing both grubs and pupæ, and then introduced about
1000 or 1500 workers and some drones. These workers, which had been
deprived of their queen, at first destroyed some of the grubs in
these cells; but they clustered around two that were covered in, as
if to impart warmth to the pupæ they contained; and on the following
day they began to work upon the portions of comb with which he had
supplied them, in order to fix and lengthen them. For two or three
days the work went on very leisurely, but afterwards their labours
assumed their usual character of indefatigable industry[157]. There
is no difficulty, therefore, when a hive loses its sovereign, to
supply the bees with an object that will interest them, and keep
their works in progress.

There are a few other facts with respect to the larvæ and pupæ of
the bees, which, before I enter upon the history of them in their
perfect form, I shall now detail to you. Sixteen days is the time
assigned to a _queen_ for her existence in her preparatory states,
before she is ready to emerge from her cell. Three she remains in
the egg; when hatched she continues feeding five more; when covered
in she begins to spin her cocoon, which occupies another day: as if
exhausted by this labour, she now remains perfectly still for two
days and sixteen hours; and then assumes the pupa, in which state
she remains exactly four days and eight hours--making in all the
period I have just named. A longer time, by four days, is required to
bring the _workers_ to perfection; their preparatory states occupying
twenty days, and those of the _male_ even twenty-four. The former
consumes half a day more than the queen in spinning its cocoon,--a
circumstance most probably occasioned by a singular difference in
the structure and dimensions of this envelope, which I shall explain
to you presently. Thus you see that the peculiar circumstances which
change the form and functions of a bee, accelerate its appearance as
a perfect insect; and that by choosing a grub three days old, when
the bees want a queen, they actually gain six days; for in this case
she is ready to come forth in ten days, instead of sixteen, which
would be required, was a recently laid egg fixed upon[158].

The larvæ of bees, though without feet, are not altogether without
motion. They advance from their first station at the bottom of the
cell, as I before hinted, in a spiral direction. This movement, for
the first three days, is so slow as to be scarcely perceptible; but
after this it is more easily discerned. The animal now makes two
entire revolutions in about an hour and three quarters; and when the
period of its metamorphosis arrives, it is scarcely more than two
lines from the mouth of the cell. Its attitude, which is always the
same, is a strong curve[159]. This occasions the inhabitant of a
horizontal cell to be always perpendicular to the horizon, and that
of a vertical one to be parallel with it.

A most remarkable difference, as I lately observed, takes place in
spinning their cocoons,--the grubs of workers and drones spinning
complete cocoons, while those that are spun by the females are
incomplete, or open at the lower end, and covering only the head
and trunk and the first segment of the abdomen. This variation is
probably occasioned by the different forms of the cells; for, if a
female larva be placed in a worker's cell, it will spin a complete
cocoon; and, _vice versâ_, if a worker larva be placed in a royal
cell, its cocoon will be incomplete[160]. No provision of the Great
Author of nature is in vain. In the present instance, the fact which
we are considering is of great importance to the bees; for, were
the females wholly covered by the thick texture of a cocoon, their
destruction by their rival competitors for the throne could not so
readily be accomplished; they either would not be able to reach them
with their stings, or the stings might be detained by their barbs in
the meshes of the cocoon, so that they would not be able to disengage
them. On the use of this instinctive and murderous hatred of their
rivals I shall soon enlarge.

When our young prisoners are ready to emerge, they do not, like
the ants, require the assistance of the workers, but themselves
eat through the cocoon and the cell that incloses it. By a wise
provision, which prevents the injury or destruction of a cell, they
generally make their way through the cover or lid with which the
workers had shut it up; though sometimes, but not often, a female
will break through the side of her prison.

Having thus shown you our little chemists in their preparatory states,
and carried you from the egg to the cocoon, both of which may be
deemed a kind of cradle, in which they are nursed to fit them for two
very different conditions of existence, I must now introduce you to a
scene more interesting and diversified; in which all their wonderful
instincts are displayed in full action, and we see them exceed some of
the most vaunted products of human wisdom, art, and skill.

       *       *       *       *       *

The _queen-mother_ here demands our first attention, as the personage
upon whom, when established in her regal dignity, the welfare and
happiness of the apiarian community altogether depend. I shall begin
my history with the events that befall her on her quitting the
royal cradle and appearing in the perfect state. And here you will
find that the first moments of her life, prior to her election to
lead a swarm or fill a vacant throne, are moments of the greatest
uneasiness and vexation, if not of extreme peril and vindictive and
mortal warfare. The Homeric maxim, that "the government of many
is not good[161]," is fully adopted and rigorously adhered to in
these societies. The jealous Semiramis of the hive will bear no
rival near her throne. There are usually not less than sixteen, and
sometimes not less than twenty, royal cells in the same nest; you
may therefore conceive what a sacrifice is made when one only is
suffered to live and to reign. But here a distinction obtains which
should not be overlooked: in some instances a single queen only is
wanted to govern her native hive; in others several are necessary to
lead the swarms. In the first case, inevitable death is the lot of
all but one; in the other, as many as are wanted are preserved from
destruction by the precautions taken on that occasion, under the
direction of an all-wise Providence, by the workers.

I shall enlarge a little on each of these cases. In the formicary, as
we have seen, rival queens live together very harmoniously without
molesting each other: but there is that instinctive jealousy in a
queen bee, that no sooner does she discover the existence of another
in the hive, than she is put into a state of the most extreme
agitation, and is not easy until she has attacked and destroyed her.

Naturalists had observed, that when there were two queens in the
same hive, one of them soon perished; but some supposed (this was
the opinion of Schirach and Riem) that the workers destroyed the
supernumeraries. Reaumur, however, conjectured that these queens
attacked each other; and his conjecture has been since confirmed
by the actual observation of other naturalists. Blassiere, the
translator of Schirach, tells us, as what he had himself witnessed,
that the strongest queen kills her rival with her sting; and the same
is asserted by Huber, whose opportunities of observation were greater
than those of any of his precursors[162].

The queen that is first liberated from her confinement, and has assumed
the perfect or imago state (it is to be supposed that the author is
here speaking of a hive which has lost the old queen), soon after this
event goes to visit the royal cells that are still inhabited. She darts
with fury upon the first with which she meets; by means of her jaws
she gnaws a hole large enough to introduce the end of her abdomen,
and with her sting, before the included female is in a condition to
defend herself or resist her attack, she gives her a mortal wound. The
workers, who remain passive spectators of this assassination, after
she quits the victim of her jealousy, enlarge the breach that she has
made, and drag forth the carcase of a queen just emerged from the
thin membrane that envelopes the pupa. If the object of her attack be
still in the pupa state, she is stimulated by a less violent degree of
rage, and contents herself with making a breach in the cell: when this
happens, the death of the inclosed insect is equally certain, for the
workers enlarge the breach, pull it out, and it perishes[163]. If it
happens, as it sometimes does, that two queens are disclosed at the
same time, the care of Providence to prevent the hive from being wholly
despoiled of a governor is singularly manifested by a remarkable trait
in their instinct, which, when mutual destruction seems inevitable,
makes them separate from each other as if panic-struck. "Two young
queens," says M. Huber, "left their cells one day, almost at the same
moment;--as soon as they came within sight, they darted upon each
other, as if inflamed by the most ungovernable anger, and placed
themselves in such an attitude, that the antennæ of each were held by
the jaws of its antagonist; head was opposed to head, trunk to trunk,
abdomen to abdomen; and they had only to bend the extremity of the
latter, and they would have fallen reciprocal victims to each other's
sting." But nature having decreed that these duels should not be fatal
to both combatants, as soon as they were thus circumstanced a panic
fear seemed to strike them, and they disengaged themselves, and each
fled away. After a few minutes were expired, the attack was renewed
in a similar manner with the same issue; till at last one suddenly
seizing the other by her wing, mounted upon her and inflicted a mortal

The combats I have here described to you took place between virgin
queens; but M. Huber found that those which had been impregnated
were actuated by the same animosity, and attacked royal cells with
a fury equally destructive. When another fertile queen had been
introduced into this hive, a singular scene ensued, which proves
how well aware the workers are that they cannot prosper with two
sovereigns. Soon after she was introduced, a circle of bees was
formed round the stranger, not to compliment her on her arrival, or
pay her the usual homage, but to confine her, and prevent her escape;
for they insensibly agglomerated themselves in such numbers round
her, and hemmed her in so closely, that in about a minute she was
completely a prisoner. While this was transacting, what was equally
remarkable, other workers assembled in clusters round the legitimate
queen, and impeded all her motions; so that soon she was not more
at liberty than the intruder. It seemed as if the bees foresaw the
combat that was to ensue between the two rivals, and were impatient
for the event; for they only confined them when they appeared to
avoid each other. To witness the homage, respect and love that they
usually manifest to their lawful ruler; the anxiety concerning her
which they often exhibit: and the distrust which for a time (as we
shall see hereafter) they usually show towards strange ones even when
deprived of their own; one would expect that, rather than permit
such a perilous combat, they would unite in the defence of their
sovereign, and cause the interloper to perish under the stroke of
their fatal stings. But no; the contest for empire must be between
the rival candidates: no worker must interfere in any other way than
that which I have described; no contending armies must fight the
battles of their sovereigns, for the law of succession seems to be
"_detur fortiori_." But to return to my narrative. The legitimate
queen appearing inclined to move towards that part of the comb on
which her rival was stationed, the bees immediately began to retire
from the space that intervened between them, so that there was soon
a clear arena for the combat. When they could discern each other,
the rightful queen rushing furiously upon the pretender, seized her
with her jaws near the root of the wings, and, after fixing her
without power of motion against the comb, with one stroke of her
sting dispatched her. If ever-so-many queens are introduced into a
hive, all but one will perish, and that one will have won the throne
by her own unassisted valour and strength. Sometimes a strange queen
attempts of herself to enter a hive: in this case the workers, who
are upon the watch and who examine every thing that presents itself,
immediately seize her with their jaws by the legs or wings, and hem
her in so straitly with a clustered circle of guards, turning their
heads on all sides towards her, that it is impossible for her to
penetrate within. If they retain her prisoner too long, she dies
either from the want of food or air, but never from their stings[165].

Here you may perhaps feel curious to know, supposing the reigning
queen to die or be killed, and the bees to have discovered their
loss, whether they would then receive a foreigner that offers herself
to them or is introduced amongst them. Reaumur says they would do
this immediately[166]; but Huber, who had better means of observing
them, and studied them with more undivided attention, affirms that
this will not be the case, unless twenty-four hours have elapsed
since the death of the old queen. Previously to this period, as if
they were absorbed by grief at their calamity, or indulged a fond
hope of her revival, an intruder would be treated exactly as I have
described. But when the period just mentioned is passed, they will
receive any queen that is presented to them with the customary
homage, and she may occupy the vacant throne[167].

I must now beg you to attend to what takes place in the second case
that I mentioned, where queens are wanted to lead forth swarms.
Here you will, with reason, suppose that nature has instilled some
instinct into the bees, by which these necessary individuals are
rescued from the fury of the reigning sovereign.

Did the old queen of the hive remain in it till the young ones were
ready to come forth, her instinctive jealousy would lead her to
attack them all as successively produced; and being so much older and
stronger, the probability is that she would destroy them; in which case
there could be no swarms, and the race would perish. But this is wisely
prevented by a circumstance which invariably takes place--that the
first swarm is conducted by this queen, and not by a newly disclosed
one, as Reaumur and others have supposed. Previously to her departure,
after her great laying of male eggs in the month of May, she oviposits
in the royal cells when about three or four lines in length, which the
workers have in the mean time constructed. These however are not all
furnished in one day,--a most essential provision, in consequence of
which the queens come forth successively, in order to lead successive
swarms. There is something singular in the manner in which the workers
treat the young queens that are to lead the swarms. After the cells are
covered in, one of their first employments is to remove here and there
a portion of the wax from their surface, so as to render it unequal;
and immediately before the last metamorphosis takes place, the walls
are so thin that all the motions of the inclosed pupa are perceptible
through them. On the seventh day the part covering the head and trunk
of the young female, if I may so speak, is almost entirely unwaxed.
This operation of the bees facilitates her exit, and probably renders
the evaporation of the superabundant fluids of the body of the pupa
more easy.

You will conclude, perhaps, when all things are thus prepared for the
coming forth of the inclosed female, that she will quit her cell at the
regular period, which is seven days:--but you would be mistaken. Were
she indeed permitted to pursue her own inclinations, this would be the
case: but here the bees show how much they are guided in their instinct
by circumstances and the wants of their society; for did the new queen
leave her cell, she would immediately attack and destroy those in the
other cells; a proceeding which they permit, as I have before stated,
when they only want a successor to a defunct or a lost sovereign. As
soon therefore as the workers perceive--which the transparency of
the cell permits them to do--that the young queen has cut circularly
through her cocoon, they immediately solder the cleft up with some
particles of wax, and so keep her a prisoner against her will. Upon
this, as if to complain of such treatment, she emits a distinct sound,
which excites no pity in the breasts of her subjects, who detain her a
prisoner two days longer than nature has assigned for her confinement.
In the interim, she sometimes thrusts her tongue through the cleft she
has made, drawing it in and out till she is noticed by the workers,
to make them understand that she is in want of food. Upon perceiving
this they give her honey, till her hunger being satisfied she draws her
tongue back--upon which they stop the orifice with wax[168].

You may think it perhaps extraordinary that the workers should thus
endeavour to retard the appearance of their young females beyond its
natural limit; but when I explain to you the reason for this seeming
incongruity of instinct, you will adore the wisdom that implanted it.
Were a queen permitted to leave her cell as soon as the natural term
for it arrived, it would require some time to fit her for flight,
and to lead forth a swarm; during which interval a troublesome task
would be imposed upon the workers, who must constantly detain her
a prisoner to prevent her from destroying her rivals, which would
require the labours and attention of a much larger number than are
necessary to keep her confined to her cell. On this account they
never suffer her to come forth till she is perfectly fit to take her
flight. When at length she is permitted to do this, if she approaches
the other royal cells, the workers on guard seem greatly irritated
against her, and pull and bite and chase her away; and she enjoys
tranquillity only while she keeps at a distance from them. As her
instinct is constantly urging her to attack them, this proceeding
is frequently repeated. Sometimes standing in a particular and
commanding attitude, she utters that authoritative sound which so
much affects the bees; they then all hang down their heads and remain
motionless; but as soon as it ceases, they resume their opposition.
At last she becomes violently agitated, and communicating her
agitation to others, the confusion more and more increases, till
a swarm leaves the hive, which she either precedes or follows. In
the same manner the other young queens are treated while there are
swarms to go forth; but when the hive is sufficiently thinned, and it
becomes troublesome to guard them in the manner here described, they
come forth unnoticed, and fight unimpeded till one alone remains to
fill the deserted throne of the parent hive.--You see here the reason
why the eggs that produce these queens are not laid at the same time,
but after some interval, that they may come forth successively. For
did they all make their appearance together, it would be a much more
laborious and difficult task to keep them from destroying each other.

When the bees thus delay the entrance of the young queens into their
world, they invariably let out the oldest first; and they probably
know their progress to maturity by the emission of the sound lately
mentioned. The accurate Huber took the trouble to mark all the royal
cells in a hive as soon as the workers had covered them in, and he
found that they were all liberated according to seniority. Those
first covered first emit the sound, and so on successively; whence
he conjectures that this is the sign by which the workers discover
their age. As their captivity, however, is sometimes prolonged to
eight or ten days, this circumstance in that time may be forgotten.
In this case he supposes that their tones grow stronger as they grow
older, by which the workers may be enabled to distinguish them. It
is remarkable that no guard is placed round the mute queens bred
according to the Lusatian method, which, when the time for their
appearance is come, are not detained in captivity a single moment;
but, as you have heard, are left to fight, conquer, or die[169].

You must not think, however, from what I have been saying, that the old
queen never destroys the young ones previously to her leading forth
the earliest swarm. She is allowed the most uncontrolled liberty of
action; and if she chooses to approach and destroy the royal cells, her
subjects do not oppose her. It sometimes happens, when unfavourable
weather retards the first swarm, that all the royal progeny perishes
by the sting of their mother, and then no swarm takes place. It is to
be observed that she never attacks a royal cell till its inhabitant is
ready to assume the pupa, therefore much will depend upon their age.
When they arrive at this state, her horror of these cells, and aversion
to them, are extreme: she attacks, perhaps, and destroys several; but
finding it too laborious, for they are often numerous, to destroy the
whole, the same agitation is caused in her as if she were forcibly
prevented, and she becomes disposed to depart, rather than remain in
the midst of her rivals, though her own offspring.

But though the bees, in one of these cases, appear such unconcerned
spectators of the destruction of royal personages, or rather, the
applauders and inciters of the bloody fact; and in the other show
little respect to them, put such a restraint upon their persons,
and manifest such disregard to their wishes; yet when they are once
acknowledged as governors of the hive, and leaders of the colony, their
instinct assumes a new and wonderful direction. From this moment they
become the "_publica cura_," the objects of constant and universal
attention; and wherever they go, are greeted by a homage which evinces
the entire devotion of their subjects. You seemed amused and interested
in no slight degree by what I related in a former letter of the marked
respect paid by the ants to their females[170]: but this will bear no
comparison with that shown by the inhabitants of the hive to their
queen. She appears to be the very soul of all their actions, and the
centre of their instincts. When they are deprived of her, or of the
means of replacing her, they lose all their activity, and pursue no
longer their daily labours. In vain the flowers tempt them with their
nectar and ambrosial dust: they collect neither; they elaborate no wax,
and build no cells; they scarcely seem to exist; and, indeed, would
soon perish, were not the means of restoring their monarch put within
their reach. But, if a small piece of comb containing the brood grubs
of workers be given to them, all seem endued with new life: their
instincts revive; they immediately set about building royal cells; they
feed with their appropriate food the grubs they have selected, and
every thing proceeds in the usual routine. Virgil has described this
attachment of the bees to their sovereign with great truth and spirit
in the following lines:

          "Lydian nor Mede so much his king adores,
           Nor those on Nilus' or Hydaspes' shores:
           The state united stands while he remains,
           But should he fall, what dire confusion reigns!
           Their waxen combs and honey, late their joy,
           With grief and rage distracted, they destroy:
           He guards the works, with awe they him surround,
           And crowd about him with triumphant sound;
           Him frequent on their duteous shoulders bear,
           Bleed, fall, and die for him in glorious war."

M. Huber thus describes the consequences of the loss of a
queen.--When the queen is removed from a hive, at first the bees
seem not to perceive it, their order and tranquillity not being
disturbed, and their labours proceeding as usual. About an hour after
her departure, inquietude begins to manifest itself amongst them;
the care of the young brood no longer engages their attention, and
they run here and there, as if in great agitation. This agitation,
however, is at first confined to a small portion of the community.
The bees that are first sensible of their loss meet with others, they
mutually cross their antennæ, and strike them lightly. By this action
they appear to communicate the sad intelligence to those who receive
the blow, who in their turn impart it in the same way to others.
Disorder and confusion increase rapidly, till the whole population is
in a tumult. Then the workers may be seen running over the combs,
and against each other; impetuously rushing to the entrance and
quitting the hive; from thence they spread themselves all around,
they re-enter, and go out again and again. The hum in the hive
becomes very loud, and increases the tumult, which lasts two or three
hours, rarely four or five: they then return and resume their wonted
care of the young; and if the hive be visited twenty-four hours after
the departure of the queen, it will be seen that they have taken
steps to repair their loss by filling some of the cells with a larger
quantity of jelly than is the usual portion of common larvæ; which
however is intended, it seems, not for the food of the inhabitant,
but for a cushion to elevate it, since it is found unconsumed in
the cell when the grub has descended into the pyramidal habitation
afterwards prepared for it[171].

If, after being removed, their old queen is restored to the hive, they
instantly recognise her, and pay her the usual attentions; but if a
strange one be introduced within the first twelve hours after the
old one is lost, she is kept a close prisoner till she perishes: if
twenty-four hours, as I have before hinted, have expired since they
lost their queen, and you introduce a new one, at the moment you set
this stranger upon a comb, the workers that are near her first touch
her with their antennæ, and then pass their proboscis over all parts
of her body: place is next given to others, who salute her in the
same manner:--all then beat their wings at the same time, and range
themselves in a circle round their new sovereign. A kind of agitation
is now communicated to the whole surface of the comb, which brings all
the bees upon it to see what is going forward. This may be called the
first shout of the applauding multitude to welcome the arrival of their
new sovereign. The circle of courtiers increases, they vibrate their
wings and bodies, but without tumult, as if their sensations were very
agreeable. When she begins to move, the circle opens to let her pass,
and all follow her steps. She is received with similar demonstrations
of loyalty in the other parts of the hive, is soon acknowledged queen
by all, and begins to lay eggs.--Reaumur put some bees into a hive
without their queen, and then introduced to them one that he had taken
when half perished with cold, and kept in a box, in which she had
covered herself with powder. The bees immediately owned her for their
queen, employed themselves very anxiously in cleaning her and warming
her, sometimes turning her upon her back for this purpose--and then
began to construct cells in their new habitation[172]. Even when the
bees have got young brood, have built or are building royal cells, and
are engaged in feeding these hopes of their hive, knowing that their
great aim is already accomplished, they cease all these employments
when this intruder comes amongst them.

With regard to the ordinary attention and homage that they pay
to their sovereigns--the bees do more than respect their queen,
says Reaumur, they are constantly on the watch to make themselves
useful to her, and to render her every kind office; they are for
ever offering her honey; they lick her with their proboscis, and
whereever she goes she has a court to attend upon her[173]. It may
here be observed, that the stimulant which excites the bees to
these acts of homage is the pregnant state of their queen, and her
fitness to maintain the population of the hive; all they do being
with a view to the public good: for while she remains a virgin she is
treated with the utmost indifference, which is exchanged, as soon as
impregnation has taken place, for the above marks of attachment[174].

The instinct of the bees, however, does not always enable them to
distinguish a partially fertile queen from one that is universally so.
What I mean is this--A queen, whose impregnation is retarded beyond the
twenty-eighth day of her whole existence, lays only male eggs, which
are of no use whatever to the community, unless they are at the same
time provided with a sufficient supply of workers. Yet even a queen
of this description, and sometimes one that is entirely sterile, is
treated by them with the same respect and homage as a fertile one.
This seems to evince an amiable feeling in these creatures, attachment
to the person as well as to the functions of the sovereign; which is
further manifested by their unwillingness at first to receive a new
sovereign upon the loss or death of their old one. Nay, this respect is
sometimes shown to the carcase of a defunct queen, which Huber assures
us he has seen bees treat with the same attention that they had shown
her when alive; for a long time preferring her inanimate corpse to
the fertile queens that he offered to them[175]. He attributes this
to some agreeable sensation which they experience from their queens,
independent of their fecundity. But since virgin queens, as we have
seen, do not excite it, more probably it is a remnant of their former
attachment, first excited by her fecundity, and afterwards strengthened
and continued by habit.

I may here introduce an interesting anecdote related by Reaumur, which
strongly marks the attachment of bees to their queen when apparently
lifeless. He took one out of the water quite motionless, and seemingly
dead, which had lost part of one of its legs. Bringing it home, he
placed it amongst some workers that he had found in the same situation,
most of which he had revived by means of warmth; some however still
being in as bad a state as the poor queen. No sooner did these revived
workers perceive the latter in this wretched condition, than they
appeared to compassionate her case, and did not cease to lick her with
their tongues till she showed signs of returning animation; which the
bees no sooner perceived, than they set up a general hum, as if for joy
at the happy event. All this time they paid no attention to the workers
who were in the same miserable state[176].

On a former occasion I have mentioned the laying of the eggs by the
queen[177]; but as I did not then at all enlarge upon it, I shall now
explain the process more in detail. In a subsequent letter I shall
notice, what has so much puzzled learned apiarists--her fecundation:
which is now ascertained beyond contradiction, from the observations
of M. Huber, to take place in the open air, and to be followed by the
death of the unfortunate male[178]. It is to be recollected that,
from September to April, generally speaking, there are no males in
the hives; yet during this period the queen often oviposits: a former
fecundation, therefore, must fertilize all the eggs laid in this
interval. The impregnation, in order to ensure complete fertility,
must not be too long retarded: for, as I before observed, if this be
delayed beyond the twenty-eighth day of her existence, her ovaries
become so vitiated, that she can no longer lay eggs that will produce
workers, but can only furnish the hive with a male population; which,
however high a privilege it may be accounted amongst men, is the
reverse of it amongst the bees. When this is the case, the abdomen of
the queen becomes so enlarged that she is no longer able to fly[179];
and, what is remarkable, she loses that instinctive animosity which
stimulates the fertile ones to attack their rivals[180]. Thus she
seems to own that she is not equal to the duties of her station, and
can tolerate another to discharge them in her room. When we consider
how much virgin queens are slighted by their subjects, we may suppose
that nature urges them to take the opportunity of the first warm day,
when the males fly forth, to pair with one of them.

When fecundation has not been retarded, forty-six hours after it has
taken place, the queen begins to lay eggs that will produce workers,
and continues for the subsequent eleven months, more or less, to lay
them solely; and it is only after this period that an uninterrupted
laying of male eggs commences.--But when it has been retarded, after
the same number of hours she begins laying male eggs, and continues to
produce these alone during her whole life. From hence it should seem
to follow, that the former kind of eggs are first in the oviducts,
and, if impregnation be not effected within a given time, that all
the worker embryos perish. Yet how this can take place with respect
to those that in a fertile queen should succeed the laying of male
eggs, or be produced in the second year of her life, seems difficult
to conceive;--or how the male embryos escape this fate, which destroys
all the female, both those that are to precede them and those that are
to follow them. Is it impossible that the sex of the embryo may be
determined by the period at which the _aura seminalis_ vivifies it, and
by the state of the ovary at that time? In one state of the ovary this
principle may cause the embryos to become workers, in another males.
And something of this kind perhaps may be the cause of hermaphrodites
in other animals. But this I give merely as conjecture[181]: the truth
seems enveloped in mystery that we cannot yet penetrate. Huber is of
opinion that a single impregnation fertilizes all the eggs that a queen
will produce during her whole life, which is sometimes more than two
years[182]. But of this enough.

I said that forty-six hours after impregnation the queen begins
laying worker eggs;--this is not, however, invariable. When her
impregnation takes place late in the year, she does not begin laying
till the following spring. Schirach asserts, that in one season a
single female will lay from 70,000 to 100,000 eggs[183]. Reaumur
says, that upon an average she lays about two hundred in a day, a
moderate swarm consisting of 12,000, which are laid in two months;
and Huber, that she lays above a hundred. All these statements, the
observations being made in different climates, and perhaps under
different circumstances, may be true. The laying of worker eggs
begins in February, sometimes so early as January[184]. After this,
in the spring, the great laying of male eggs commences, lasting
thirty days; in which time about 2000 of these eggs are laid. Another
laying of them, but less considerable, takes place in autumn. In
the season of oviposition, the queen may be discerned traversing
the combs in all directions with a slow step, and seeking for cells
proper to receive her eggs. As she walks she keeps her head inclined,
and seems to examine, one by one, all the cells she meets with. When
she finds one to her purpose, she immediately gives to her abdomen
the curve necessary to enable it to reach the orifice of the cell,
and to introduce it within it. The eggs are set in the angle of the
pyramidal bottom of the cell, or in one of the hollows formed by the
conflux of the sides of the rhombs, and, being besmeared with a kind
of gluten, stand upright. If, however, it be a female that lays only
male eggs, they are deposited upon the lowest of the sides of the
cell, as she is unable to reach the bottom[185].

While our prolific lady is engaged in this employment, her court
consists of from four to twelve attendants, which are disposed
nearly in a circle, with their heads turned towards her. After
laying from two to six eggs, she remains still, reposing for eight
or nine minutes. During this interval the bees in her train redouble
their attentions, licking her fondly with their tongues. Generally
speaking, she lays only one egg in a cell; but when she is pressed,
and there are not cells enough, from two to four have been found in
one. In this case, as if they were aware of the consequences, the
provident workers remove all but one. From an experiment of Huber's,
it appears that the instinct of the queen invariably directs her to
deposit worker eggs in worker cells; for when he confined one, during
her course of laying worker eggs, where she could only come at male
cells, she refused to oviposit in them; and trying in vain to make
her escape, they at length dropped from her; upon which the workers
devoured them. Retarded queens, however, lose this instinct, and
often, though they lay only male eggs, oviposit in worker cells and
even in royal ones. In this latter case the workers themselves act as
if they suffered in their instinct from the imperfect state of their
queen; for they feed these male larvæ with royal jelly, and treat
them as they would a real queen. Though male eggs deposited in worker
cells produce small males, their education in a royal cell with
"royal dainties" adds nothing to their ordinary dimensions[186].

The _swarming_ of bees is a very curious and interesting subject, to
which, since a female is the _sine quâ non_ on this occasion, I may
very properly call your attention here. You will recollect that I
said something upon the principle of emigrations, when I was amusing
you with the history of ants[187]; but the object with them seems to
be merely a change of station for one more convenient or less exposed
to injury, and not to diminish a superabundant population. Whereas
in the societies of the hive-bee, the latter is the general cause of
emigrations, which invariably take place every year, if their numbers
require it; if not, when the male eggs are laid, no royal cells are
constructed, and no swarm is led forth. What might be the case with
ants, were they confined to hives, we cannot say. Formicaries in
general are capable of indefinite enlargement, therefore want of
room does not cause emigration;--but bees being confined to a given
space, which they possess not the means of enlarging,--to avoid
the ill effects resulting from being too much crowded, when their
population exceeds a certain limit, they must necessarily emigrate.
Sometimes--for instance, when wasps have got into a hive--the bees
will leave it, in order to fly from an inconvenience or enemy which
they cannot otherwise avoid; but it does not very often happen that
they wholly desert a hive.

Apiarists tell us that, in this country, the best season for swarming
is from the middle of May to the middle of June; but swarms sometimes
occur so early as the beginning of April, and as late as the middle
of August[188]. The first swarm, as I before observed, is led by the
reigning queen, and takes place when she is so much reduced in size,
in consequence of the number of eggs she has laid, (for previously to
oviposition her gravid body is so heavy that she can scarcely drag
it along,) as to enable her to fly with ease. The most indubitable
sign that a hive is preparing to swarm,--so says Reaumur,--is when
on a sunny morning, the weather being favourable to their labours,
few bees go out of a hive, from which on the preceding day they
had issued in great numbers, and little pollen is collected. This
circumstance, he observes, must be very embarrassing to one who
attempts to explain all their proceedings upon principles purely
mechanical. Does it not prove, he asks, that all the inhabitants of
a hive, or almost all, are aware of a project that will not be put
in execution before noon, or some hours later? For why should bees,
who worked the day before with so much activity, cease their labours
in a habitation which they are to quit at noon, were they not aware
that they should soon abandon it[189]? The appearance of the males,
and the clustering of the population at the mouth of the hive,
(though this last is less to be relied upon, being often occasioned
by extreme heat,) are also indications of the approach of this event.
A good deal depends, however, on the warmth of the atmosphere and
the state of the weather either to accelerate or retard it. Another
sign is a general hum in the evening, which is continued even during
the night,--all seems to be in a bustle, the greatest restlessness
agitates the bees. Sometimes to hear this hum the ear must be placed
close to the hive, when clear and sharp sounds may be distinguished,
which appear to be produced by the vibration of the wings of a single
bee. This hum by some has been gravely construed into an harangue of
the queen to animate her subjects to the great undertaking which she
now meditates--the founding of a new empire. There sometimes seem to
happen suddenly amongst them, says Reaumur, events which put all the
bees in motion, for which no account can be given. If you observe a
hive with attention, you may often remain a long time and hear only
a slight murmur, and then, all in a moment, a sonorous hum will be
excited, and the workers, as if seized with a panic terror, may be
seen quitting their various labours, and running off in different
directions. At these moments if a young queen goes out, she will be
followed by a numerous troop.

Huber has given a very lively and interesting account of the interior
proceedings of the hive on this occasion. The queen, as soon as she
began to exhibit signs of agitation, no longer laid her eggs with
order as before, but irregularly, as if she did not know what she was
about. She ran over the bees in her way; they in their turn struck
her with their antennæ, and mounted upon her back; none offered her
honey, but she helped herself to it from the cells in her path. The
usual homage of a court attending round her was no longer paid. Those
however that were excited by her motions followed her, rousing such
as were still tranquil upon the combs. She soon had traversed the
whole hive, when the agitation became general. The workers, now no
longer attentive to the young brood, ran about in all directions;
even those that returned from foraging, before the agitation was at
its height, no sooner entered the hive than they participated in
these tumultuous movements, and, neglecting to free themselves from
the masses of pollen on their hind legs, ran wildly about. At length
there was a general rush to the outlets of the hive, which the queen
accompanied, and the swarm took place[190].

It is to be observed that this agitation, excited by the queen,
increases the customary heat of the hive to a very high temperature,
which the action of the sun augments till it becomes intolerable, and
which often causes the bees accumulated near the mouth of the hive to
perspire so copiously, that those near the bottom, who support the
weight of the rest, appear drenched with the moisture. This intolerable
heat determines the most irresolute to leave the hive. Immediately
before the swarming, a louder hum than usual is heard, many bees take
flight, and, if the queen be at their head, or soon follows them,
in a moment the rest rise in crowds after her into the air, and the
element is filled with bees as thick as the falling snow. The queen at
first does not alight upon the branch on which the swarm fixes; but
as soon as a group is formed and clustered, she joins it: after this
it thickens more and more, all the bees that are in the air hastening
to their companions and their queen, so as to form a living mass of
animals supporting themselves upon each by the claws of their feet.
Thus they sometimes are so concatenated, each bee suspending its legs
to those of another, as to form living chaplets[191]. After this they
soon become tranquil, and none are seen in the air. Before they are
housed they often begin to construct a little comb on the branch on
which they alight[192]. Sometimes it happens that two queens go out
with the same swarm; and the result is, that the swarm at first divides
into two bodies, one under each leader; but as one of these groups
is generally much less numerous than the other, the smallest at last
joins the largest, accompanied by the queen to whom they had attached
themselves; and, when they are hived, this unfortunate candidate for
empire falls sooner or later a victim to the jealousy of her rival.
Till this great question is decided, the bees do not settle to their
usual labours.[192] If no queen goes out with a swarm, they return to
the hive from whence they came.

As in regular monarchies, so in this of the bees, the first-born is
probably the fortunate candidate for the throne. She is usually the
most active and vigorous; the most able to take flight; and in the
best condition to lay eggs. Though the queen that is victorious, and
mounts the throne, is not, as Virgil asserts, resplendent with gold
and purple, and her rival hideous, slothful and unwieldy[193], yet
some differences are observable; the successful candidate is usually
redder and larger than the others; these last, upon dissection,
appear to have no eggs ready for laying, while the former, which is a
powerful recommendation, is usually full of them. Eggs are commonly
found in the cells twenty-four hours after swarming, or at the latest
two or three days.

You may think, perhaps, that the bees which emigrate from the parent
hive are the youth of the colony; but this is not the case, for
bees of all ages unite to form the swarms. The numbers of which
they consist vary much. Reaumur calls 12,000 a moderate swarm; and
he mentions one which amounted to more than three times that number
(40,000). A swarm seldom or never takes place except when the sun
shines and the air is calm. Sometimes, when every thing seems to
prognosticate swarming, a cloud passing over the sun calms the
agitation; and afterwards, upon his shining forth again, the tumult
is renewed, keeps augmenting, and the swarm departs[194]. On this
account the confinement of the queens, before related, is observed to
be more protracted in bad weather.

The longest interval between the swarms is from seven to nine days,
which usually is the space that intervenes between the first and the
second. The next flies sooner, and the last sometimes departs the day
after that which preceded it. Fifteen or eighteen days, in favourable
weather, are usually sufficient for throwing the four swarms. The old
queen, when she takes flight with the first swarm, leaves plenty of
brood in the cells, which soon renew the population[195].

It is not without example, though it rarely happens, that a swarm
conducted by the old queen increases so much in the space of three
weeks as to send forth a new colony. Being already impregnated,
she is in a condition to oviposit as soon as there are cells ready
to receive her eggs: and an all-wise Providence has so ordered it,
that at this time she lays only such as produce workers. And it is
the first employment of her subjects to construct cells for this
purpose[196]. The young queens that conduct the secondary swarms
usually pair the day after they are settled in their new abode; when
the indifference with which their subjects have hitherto treated them
is exchanged for the usual respect and homage.

We may suppose that one motive with the bees for following the old
queen, is their respect for her; but the reasons that induce them to
follow the virgin queens, to whom they not only appear to manifest no
attachment, but rather the reverse, seem less easy to be assigned.
Probably the high temperature of the hive during these times of
tumultuous agitation may be the principal cause that operates upon
them. In a populous hive the thermometer commonly stands between 92°
and 97°; but during the tumult that precedes swarming it rises above
104°, a heat intolerable to these animals[197]. This is M. Huber's
opinion. Yet still, though a high temperature will well account for
the departure of the swarm from the hive with a virgin queen, if
there were really no attachment, (as he appears to think,) is it not
extraordinary, that when this cause no longer operates upon them,
they should agglomerate about her, as they always do, be unsettled
and agitated without her, and quiet when she is with them? Is it not
reasonable to suppose that the instinct which teaches them what
is necessary for the preservation of their society,--at the same
time that it shows them that without a queen that society cannot be
preserved,--impells them in every case to the mode of treating her
which will most effectually influence her conduct, and give it that
direction which is most beneficial to the community?

Yet, with respect to the treatment of queens, instinct does not
invariably direct the bees to this end. There are certain exceptions,
produced perhaps by artificial or casual occurrences, in which it
seems to deviate, yet as we should call it amiably, from the rule of
the public advantage. Retarded queens, which, as I have observed,
lay male eggs only, deposit them in all cells indifferently, even in
royal ones. These last are treated by the workers as if they were
actually to become queens. Here their instinct seems defective:--it
appears unaccountable that they should know these eggs, as they do,
when deposited in workers cells, and give them a convex covering when
about to assume the pupa; unless, perhaps, the size of the larva
directs them in this case.

The amputation of one of the antennæ of a queen bee appears not to
affect her perceptibly; but cutting off both these important organs
produces a very striking derangement of all her proceedings--She seems
in a species of delirium, and deprived of all her instincts; every
thing is done at random; yet the respect and homage of the workers
towards her, though they are received by her with indifference,
continue undiminished. If another in the same condition be put in the
hive, the bees do not appear to discover the difference, and treat
them both alike: but if a perfect one be introduced, even though
fertile, they seize her, keep her in confinement, and treat her very
unhandsomely. One may conjecture from this circumstance, that it is
by those wonderful organs, the antennæ, that the bees know their own
queen. If two mutilated queens meet, they show not the slightest
symptom of resentment. While one of these continues in the hive, the
workers never think of choosing another; but if she leaves it, they do
not accompany her, probably because the heat is not increased by her
putting them into the preparatory agitation[198].

                                                  I am, &c.


[125] _Apis_ **. e. l. K. Dr. Bevan has lately published a very
interesting work on the _Honey Bee_, which the reader will do well to

[126] VOL. I. 481.

[127] Judges xiv. 8, 9.

[128] See Aristot. _Hist. Animal._ l. v. c. 22. Virgil. _Georgic._ l.
iv.; and Mouffet, 12--.

[129] Aristot. _ubi supr._ c. 21. _De Generat. Animal._ l. iii. c.
10, where there is some curious reasoning upon this subject.

[130] Bonnet, x. 199-- 236--.

[131] _Hist. Animal._ l. v. c. 22.

[132] _De Generat. Animal._ l. iii. c. 10.

[133] _Œuvr._ x. 194--.

[134] Bonnet, x. P. Huber in _Linn. Trans._ vi. 283. Reaumur (v.
373) observes that some queens are much larger than others; but he
attributes this difference of their size to the state of the eggs in
their body.

[135] As every reader is not aware of the differences of form, &c. that
distinguish the females, males, and workers from each other (I have
seen the male mistaken for a distinct species, and placed in a cabinet
as _Apis lagopoda_, L.), I shall here subjoin a description of each.--

i. The _body_ of the _Female_ bee is considerably longer than that of
either the drone or the worker. The prevailing colour in all three is
the same, black or black-brown; but with respect to the female this
does not appear to be invariably the case; for--not to insist upon
Virgil's royal bees glittering with ruddy or golden spots and scales,
where allowance must be made for poetic licence--Reaumur affirms,
after describing some differences of colour in different individuals
of this sex, that a queen may always be distinguished, both from
the workers and males, by the colour of her body[136]. If this
observation be restricted to the colour of some parts of her body,
it is correct; but it will not apply to all generally (unless, as I
suspect may be the case, by the term body he means the abdomen), for,
in all that I have had an opportunity of examining, the prevailing
colour, as I have stated it, is the same.

The _head_ is not larger than that of the workers; but the _tongue_
is shorter and more slender, with straighter _maxillæ_. The
_mandibles_ are forficate, and do not jut out like theirs into a
prominent angle; they are of the colour of pitch with a red tinge,
and terminate in two teeth, the exterior being acute, and the
interior blunt or truncated. The _labrum_ or upper-lip is fulvous;
and the _antennæ_ are piceous.

In the _trunk_, the _tegulæ_ or scales that defend the base of the
wings are rufo-piceous. The _wings_ reach only to the tip of the
third abdominal segment. The _tarsi_ and the apex of the _tibiæ_ are
rufo-fulvous. The posterior _tibiæ_ are plane above and covered with
short adpressed hairs, having neither the _corbicula_ (or marginal
fringe of hairs for carrying the masses of pollen) nor the _pecten_;
and the posterior _plantæ_ have neither the brush formed of hairs set
in striæ, nor the auricle at the base.

The _abdomen_ is considerably longer than the head and trunk taken
together, receding from the trunk, elongato-conical, and rather sharp
at the anus. The _dorsal_ segments are fulvous at the tip; covered
with very short, pallid, and, in certain lights, shining adpressed
hairs; the first segment being very short, and covered with longer
hairs. The ventral segments, except the _anal_, which is black, are
fulvescent or rufo-fulvous, and covered with soft longer hairs. The
_vagina_ of the _spicula_ (commonly called the sting) is curved.

ii. The _Male_ bee, or drone, is quite the reverse of his royal
paramour; his body being thick, short, and clumsy, and very obtuse
at each extremity[137]. It is covered also, as to the _head_ and
_trunk_, with dense hairs.

The _head_ is depressed and orbicular. The _tongue_ is shorter and
more slender than that of the female; and the _mandibles_, though
nearly of the same shape, are smaller. The _eyes_ are very large,
meeting at the back part of the head. In the space between them are
placed the _antennæ_ and _stemmata_. The former consist of fourteen
joints, including the _radicle_, the fourth and fifth being very
short and not easily distinguished.

The _trunk_ is large. The _wings_ are longer than the body. The
_legs_ are short and slender. The _posterior tibiæ_ are long,
club-shaped, and covered with inconspicuous hairs. The _posterior
plantæ_ are furnished underneath with thick-set _scopulæ_, which they
use to brush their bodies.

The _claw-joints_ are fulvescent.

The _abdomen_ is cordate, very short, being scarcely so long as the
head and trunk together, consisting of seven segments, which are
fulvous at their apex. The first segment is longer than any of the
succeeding ones, and covered above with rather long hairs. The second
and third dorsal segments are apparently naked; but under a triple
lens, in a certain light, some adpressed hairs may be perceived;--the
remaining ones are hairy, the three last being inflexed. The ventral
segments are very narrow, hairy, and fulvous.

iii. The _body_ of the _Workers_ is oblong.

The _head_ triangular. The _mandibles_ are prominent, so as to
terminate the head in an angle, toothless and forcipate. The _tongue_
and _maxillæ_ are long and incurved: the _labrum_ and _antennæ_ black.

In the _trunk_ the _tegulæ_ are black. The _wings_ extend only to
the apex of the fourth segment of the abdomen. The _legs_ are all
black, with the _digits_ only rather piceous. The posterior _tibiæ_
are naked above, exteriorly longitudinally concave, and interiorly
longitudinally convex; furnished with lateral and recumbent hairs
to form the _corbicula_, and armed at the end with the _pecten_.
The upper surface of the _posterior plantæ_ resembles that of the
_tibiæ_; underneath they are furnished with a _scopula_ or brush
of stiff hairs set in rows: at the base they are armed with stiff
bristles, and exteriorly with an acute appendage or _auricle_.

The _abdomen_ is a little longer than the head and trunk together;
oblong, and rather heart-shaped--a transverse section of it is
triangular. It is covered with longish flavo-pallid hairs: the
first segment is short with longer hairs; the base of the three
intermediate segments is covered, and as it were banded, with pale
hairs. The apex of the three intermediate ventral segments is rather
fulvescent, and their base is distinguished on each side by a
trapeziform _wax-pocket_ covered by a thin membrane. The sting, or
rather _vagina_ of the _spicula_, is straight.

[136] Reaumur, v. 375.

[137] Virgil seems to have regarded the drone as one of the sorts of
kings or leaders of the bees, when he says, speaking of the latter,

             "... Ille horridus alter
          Desidiâ, latamque trahens inglorius alvum."
                                             _Georgic_, iv. l. 93.

[138] See VOL. I. p. 486.

[139] In hives where a queen laying male eggs has been killed, the
workers continue to make only male cells, though supplied with a
fertile queen, and the fertile workers lay eggs in them. _Schirach_,

[140] Huber, ii. 425--.

[141] Thorley, _On Bees_, 179.

[142] Huber, i. 137.

[143] Reaumur, who was however unacquainted with this extraordinary
fact, has figured one of these cells, v. _t._ 32. _f._ 3. _h._

[144] Compare Bonnet, x. 156, with Huber, i. 134--.

[145] Schirach, 69.

[146] Huber, _t._ 4. _f._ 4-6.

[147] Huber, i. 292.

[148] Bonnet, x.

[149] Huber, i. 132.

[150] Schirach, 121.

[151] Huber, ii. 453.

[152] Bonner _On Bees_, 56.

[153] The same gentleman subsequently sent me the following memoranda.

July 10, 1820. A late second swarm was hived into a box constructed
so that each comb could be taken out and examined separately. On the
7th of August the queen was removed, and each comb taken out and
closely examined: there was not the least appearance of any royal
cells, but much brood and eggs in the common ones. On the 14th,
three royal cells were observed nearly finished, with a large grub
in each. On the 16th, the three cells were sealed. On the 18th and
21st, they remained in the same state. On the 22d, two queens were
found hatched, one was removed and the other left with the stock, the
remaining royal cell being still closed. On the morning of the 23d, a
dead queen was thrown out of the hive, upon which examination being
made, the royal cell left closed on the 22d was found open, and a
living queen in the stock which was allowed to remain.

[154] Huber, ii. 445.

[155] See J. Hunter's _Treatise on certain Parts of the Animal

[156] _Philos. Trans._ 1792. viii. 167. Hunter _Treatise on certain
Parts of the Animal Œconomy_, p. 65. Latham, _Synops._ ii. 672. _t._ 60.

[157] Reaum. v. 271--.

[158] Huber, i. 215--. Schirach asserts, that in cold weather the
disclosure of the imago takes place two days later than in warm: and
Riem, that in a bad season the eggs will remain in the cells many
months without hatching. Schirach, 79. 241.

[159] Schirach, _t._ 3. _f._ 10.

[160] Huber, i. 224.

[161] Ουκ αγαθη ἡ πολυκοιρανιη, είς κοιρανος εςω.

[162] Schirach, 209, note *. Huber, i. 170--.

[163] Huber, i. 171--.

[164] Huber, i. 174.

[165] Huber, i. 186.

[166] Reaum. v. 268.

[167] Huber, i. 190.

[168] Huber, i. 256.

[169] Huber, i. 286.

[170] See above, p. 56.

[171] Huber, ii. 396--.

[172] Reaum. v. 262.

[173] Reaum. v. Pref. xv.

[174] Huber, i. 269.

[175] Huber, i. 322.

[176] Reaum. v. 265.

[177] VOL. I. 376--.

[178] Huber, i. 63--.

[179] Schirach, 257.

[180] Huber, i. 319--.

[181] This conjecture receives strong confirmation from the following
observations of Sir E. Home, which I met with since it came into my
mind. From the nipples present in man, which sometimes even afford
milk, and from the general analogy between the male and female organs
of generation, he supposes the germ is originally fitted to become
either sex; and that which it shall be is determined at the time of
impregnation by some unknown cause. _Philos. Trans._ 1799. 157.

[182] i. 106--.

[183] Schirach, 7. 13.

[184] Ibid. 13. Thorley, 105.

[185] Bonnet, x. 258, 8vo. ed.

[186] Huber, i. 122--.

[187] See above, p. 57.

[188] Keys _On Bees_, 76.

[189] Reaum. v. 611.

[190] Huber, i. 251.

[191] Some critics have found fault with Mr. Southey for ascribing,
in his _Curse of Kehama_, to Camdeo, the Cupid of Indian mythology,
a bow strung with bees. The idea is not so absurd as they imagine;
and the poet doubtless was led to it by his knowledge of the natural
history of these animals, and that they form themselves into strings
or chaplets.--See Reaum. v. _t._ xxii. _f._ 3.

[192] Reaumur, 615-644.


          "Alter erit maculis auro squalentibus ardens,
           (Nam duo sunt genera) hic melior, insignis et ore,
           Et rutilis clarus squamis: ille horridus alter
           Desidiâ, latamque trahens inglorius alvum."
                                               _Georg._ iv. 91--.

[194] Bees are generally thought to foresee the state of the weather:
but they are not always right in their prognostics; for Reaumur
witnessed a swarm, which after leaving the hive at half-past one
o'clock were overtaken by a very heavy shower at three.

[195] Huber, i. 271.

[196] Huber, i. 305.

[197] Ibid. 280.

[198] Huber, i. 316.

                               LETTER XX.

                        _SOCIETIES OF INSECTS._

                      PERFECT SOCIETIES CONCLUDED.

Having given you a history sufficiently ample of the queen or
female bee, I shall next add some account of the _drone_ or _male
bee_; but this will not detain you long, since, "to be born and
die" is nearly the sum total of their story. Much abuse, from the
earliest times, has been lavished upon this description of the
inhabitants of the hive, and their indolence and gluttony have become
proverbial.--Indeed, at first sight, it seems extraordinary that
seven or eight hundred individuals should be supported at the public
expense, and to common appearance do nothing all the while that may
be thought to earn their living. But the more we look into nature,
the more we discover the truth of that common axiom,--that nothing is
made in vain.--Creative Wisdom cannot be caught at fault. Therefore,
where we do not at present perceive the reasons of things, instead of
cavilling at what we do not understand, we ought to adore in silence,
and wait patiently till the veil is removed which, in any particular
instance, conceals its final cause from our sight. The mysteries
of nature are gradually opened to us, one truth making way for the
discovery of another: but still there will always be in nature, as
well as in revelation, even in those things that fall under our daily
observation, mysteries to exercise our faith and humility: so that we
may always reply to the caviller,--"Thine own things and those that
are grown up with thee hast thou not known; how then shall thy vessel
comprehend the way of the Highest?"

Various have been the conjectures of naturalists, even in very recent
times, with respect to the fertilization of the eggs of the bee. Some
have supposed,--and the number of males seemed to countenance the
supposition,--that this was effected after they were deposited in the
cells. Of this opinion Maraldi seems to have been the author, and
it was adopted by Mr. Debraw of Cambridge, who asserts that he has
seen the smaller males (those that are occasionally produced in cells
usually appropriated to workers) introduce their abdomen into cells
containing eggs, and fertilize them; and that the eggs so treated
proved fertile, while others that were not remained sterile. The
common or large drones, which form the bulk of the male population of
the hive, could not be generally destined to this office, since their
abdomen, on account of its size, could only be introduced into male
and royal cells. Bonnet, however, saw some motions of one of these
drones, which, while it passed by those that were empty, appeared to
strike with its abdomen the mouth of the cells containing eggs[199].
Swammerdam thought that the female was impregnated by effluvia which
issued from the male[200]. Reaumur, from some proceedings that he
witnessed, was convinced that impregnation took place according to
the usual law of nature, and, as he supposed, within the hive[201].
This opinion Huber has confirmed by indubitable proofs; but he
further discovered that these animals pair abroad, in the air, during
the flight of the queen: a fact which renders a large number of males
necessary, to ensure her impregnation in due time to lay eggs that
will produce workers[202]. Huber also observed those appearances
which induced Debraw to adopt the opinion I mentioned just now, and
was at first disposed to think them real; but afterwards, upon a
nearer inspection, he discovered that it was an illusion caused by
the reflection of the rays of light[203].

In fine weather the drones, during the warmest part of the day, take
their flights; and it is then that they pair with the queen in mid air,
the result being invariably the death of the drone. No one has yet
discovered, unless the proceedings observed by Debraw and Bonnet may
be so interpreted, that when in the hive they take any share in the
business of it, their great employment within doors being to eat. Their
life however is of very short duration, the eggs that produce drones
being laid in the course of April and May, and their destruction being
usually accomplished in the months of July and August. The bees then,
as M. Huber observes, chase them about, and pursue them to the bottom
of the hives, where they assemble in crowds. At the same time numerous
carcases of drones may be seen on the ground before the hives. Hence
he conjectured, though he never could detect them engaged in this
work upon the combs, that they were stung to death by the workers.
To ascertain how their death was occasioned, he caused a table to be
glazed, on which he placed six hives, and under this table he employed
the patient and indefatigable Burnens, who was to him instead of
eyes, to watch their proceedings. On the fourth of July this accurate
observer saw the massacre going on in all the hives at the same time,
and attended by the same circumstances. The table was crowded with
workers, who, apparently in great rage, darted upon the drones as
soon as they arrived at the bottom of the hive seizing them by their
antennæ, their legs, and their wings; and killing them by violent
strokes of their sting, which they generally inserted between the
segments of the abdomen. The moment this fearful weapon entered their
body, the poor helpless creatures expanded their wings and expired.
After this, as if fearful that they were not sufficiently dispatched,
the bees repeated their strokes, so that they often found it difficult
to extricate their sting. On the following day they were equally busy
in the work of slaughter; but their fury, their own having perished,
was chiefly vented upon those drones, which, after having escaped from
the neighbouring hives, had sought refuge with them. Not content with
destroying those that were in the perfect state, they attacked also
such male pupæ as were left in their cells; and then dragging them
forth, sucked the fluid from their bodies and cast them out of the

But though in hives containing a queen perfectly fertile (that is,
which lays both worker and male eggs,) this is the unhappy fate of
the drones; yet in those where the queen only lays male eggs, they
are suffered to remain unmolested; and in hives deprived of their
queen, they also find a secure asylum[205].

What it is that, in the former instance, excites the fury of the bees
against the males, is not easy to discover; but some conjecture may
perhaps be formed from the circumstances last related. When only males
are produced by the queen, the bees seem aware that something more is
wanted, and retain the males; the same is the case when they have no
queen; and when one is procured, they appear to know that she would not
profit them without the males. Their fury then is connected with their
utility: when the queen is impregnated, which lasts for her whole life,
as if they knew that the drones could be of no further use, and would
only consume their winter stores of provision, they destroy them; which
surely is more merciful than expelling them, in which case they must
inevitably perish from hunger. But when the queen only produces males,
their numbers are not sufficient to cause alarm; and the same reasoning
applies to the case when there is no queen.

       *       *       *       *       *

Having brought the males from their cradle to their untimely grave,
and amused you with the little that is known of their uneventful
history, I shall now, at last, call you to attend to the proceedings
of the _workers_ themselves; and here I am afraid, long as I have
detained you, I must still press you to expatiate with me in a more
ample field; but the spectacles you will behold during our excursion
will repay, I promise you, any delay or trouble it may occasion.

When I consider the proceedings of these little creatures, both in
the hive and out of it, they are so numerous and multifarious, that
I scarcely know where to begin. You have already, however, heard
much of their internal labours, in the care and nurture of the
young; the construction of their combs[206]; and their proceedings
with respect to their queens and their paramours. It will therefore
change the scene a little, if we accompany them in their excursions
to collect the various substances of which they have need[207].
On these occasions the principal object of the bees is to furnish
themselves with three different materials:--the nectar of flowers,
from which they elaborate honey and wax; the pollen or fertilizing
dust of the anthers, of which they make what is called bee-bread,
serving as food both to old and young; and the resinous substance
called by the ancients _Propolis_, _Pissoceros_, &c. used in various
ways in rendering the hive secure and giving the finish to the combs.
The first of these substances is the pure fluid secreted in the
nectaries of flowers, which the length of their tongue enables them
to reach in most blossoms. The tongue of a bee, you are to observe,
though so long and sometimes so inflated[208], is not a tube through
which the honey passes, nor a pump acting by suction, but a real
tongue which laps or licks the honey, and passes it down on its upper
surface, as we do, to the mouth, which is at its base concealed
by the mandibles[209]. It is conveyed by this orifice through the
œsophagus into the first stomach, which we call the honey-bag,
and which, from being very small, is swelled when full of it to a
considerable size. Honey is never found in the second stomach, (which
is surrounded with muscular rings, and resembles a cask covered with
hoops from one end to the other,) but only in the first: in the
latter and the intestines the bee-bread only is discovered. How the
wax is secreted, or what vessels are appropriated to that purpose,
is not yet ascertained. Huber suspects that a cellular substance,
consisting of hexagons, which lines the membrane of the wax-pockets,
may be concerned in this operation. This substance he also discovered
in humble-bees (which though they make wax have no wax-pockets),
occupying all the anterior part or base of the segments[210]. If
you wish to see the wax-pockets in the hive-bee, you must press the
abdomen so as to cause it to extend itself; you will then find on
each of the four intermediate ventral segments, separated by the
carina or elevated central part, two trapeziform whitish pockets, of
a soft membranaceous texture: on these the laminæ of wax are formed,
and they are found upon them in different states, so as to be more
or less perceptible. I must here observe that, besides Thorley, who
seems to have been the first apiarist that observed these laminæ,
Wildman was not ignorant of them, nor of the wax being formed from
honey[211]: we must not therefore permit foreigners to appropriate to
themselves the whole credit of discoveries that have been made, or at
least partially made, by our own countrymen.

Long before Linné had discovered the nectary of flowers, our
industrious creatures had made themselves intimate with every form
and variety of them; and no botanist, even in this enlightened era
of botanical science, can compare with a bee in this respect. The
station of these reservoirs, even where the armed sight of science
cannot discover it, is in a moment detected by the microscopic eye of
this animal.

She has to attend to a double task--to collect materials for
bee-bread as well as for honey and wax. Observe a bee that has
alighted upon an open flower. The hum produced by the motion of her
wings ceases, and her employment begins. In an instant she unfolds
her tongue, which before was rolled up under her head. With what
rapidity does she dart this organ between the petals and the stamina!
At one time she extends it to its full length, then she contracts it;
she moves it about in all directions, so that it may be applied both
to the concave and convex surface of a petal, and wipe them both; and
thus by a virtuous theft robs it of all its nectar. All the while
this is going on, she keeps herself in a constant vibratory motion.
The object of the industrious animal is not, like the more selfish
butterfly, to appropriate this treasure to herself. It goes into the
honey-bag as into a laboratory, where it is transformed into pure
honey; and when she returns to the hive, she regurgitates it in this
form into one of the cells appropriated to that purpose; in order
that, after tribute is paid from it to the queen, it may constitute a
supply of food for the rest of the community.

In collecting honey, bees do not solely confine themselves to flowers,
they will sometimes very greedily absorb the sweet juices of fruits:
this I have frequently observed with respect to the raspberries in
my garden, and have noticed it, as you may recollect, in a former
letter[212]. They will also eat sugar, and produce wax from it; but
from Huber's observations, it appears not calculated to supply the
place of honey in the jelly with which the larvæ are fed[213]. Though
the great mass of the food of bees is collected from flowers, they
do not wholly confine themselves to a vegetable diet; for, besides
the honeyed secretion of the Aphides, the possession of which they
will sometimes dispute with the ants[214], upon particular occasions
they will eat the eggs of the queen. They are very fond also of the
fluid that oozes from the cells of the pupæ, and will suck eagerly
all that is fluid in their abdomen after they are destroyed by their
rivals[215].--Several flowers that produce much honey they pass by;
in some instances, from inability to get at it. Thus, for this reason
probably, they do not attempt those of the trumpet-honey-suckle,
(_Lonicera sempervirens_,) which, if separated from the germen after
they are open, will yield two or three drops of the purest nectar.
So that were this shrub cultivated with that view, much honey in its
original state might be obtained from a small number of plants. In
other cases, it appears to be the poisonous quality of their honey that
induces bees to neglect certain flowers. You have doubtless observed
the conspicuous white nectaries of the crown imperial, (_Fritillaria
imperialis_,) and that they secrete abundance of this fluid. It tempts
in vain the passing bee, probably aware of some noxious quality that
it possesses. The oleander (_Nerium Oleander_,) yields a honey that
proves fatal to thousands of imprudent flies; but our bees, more wise
and cautious, avoid it. Occasionally, perhaps, in particular seasons,
when flowers are less numerous than common, this instinct of the bees
appears to fail them, or to be overpowered by their desire to collect
a sufficient store of honey for their purposes, and they suffer for
their want of self-denial. Sometimes whole swarms have been destroyed
by merely alighting upon poisonous trees. This happened to one in
the county of West Chester in the province of New York, which settled
upon the branches of the poison-ash (_Rhus Vernix_). In the following
morning the imprudent animals were all found dead, and swelled to more
than double their usual size[216]. Whether the honey extracted from
the species of the genus _Kalmia_, _Andromeda_, _Rhododendrum_, &c. be
hurtful to the bees themselves, is not ascertained; but, as has been
before observed, it is often poisonous to man[217]. The Greeks, as you
probably recollect, in their celebrated retreat after the death of
the younger Cyrus, found a kind of honey at Trebisond on the Euxine
coast, which, though it produced no fatal effects upon them, rendered
those who ate but little, like men very drunk, and those who ate much,
like mad men or dying persons; and numbers lay upon the ground as if
there had been a defeat. Pliny, who mentions this honey, calls it
_Mænomenon_, and observes that it is said to be collected from a kind
of _Rhododendrum_, of which Tournefort noticed two species there[218].

When the stomach of a bee is filled with nectar, it next, by means
of the feathered hairs[219] with which its body is covered, pilfers
from the flowers the fertilizing dust of the anthers, the _pollen_;
which is equally necessary to the society with the honey, and may be
named the ambrosia of the hive, since from it the bee-bread is made.
Sometimes a bee is so discoloured with this powder as to look like
a different insect, becoming white, yellow, or orange, according to
the flowers in which it has been busy. Reaumur was urged to visit
the hives of a gentleman, who on this account thought his bees were
different from the common kind[220]. He suspected, and it proved,
that the circumstance just mentioned occasioned the mistaken notion.
When the body of the bee is covered with farina, with the brushes of
its legs, especially of the hind ones, it wipes it off: not, as we
do with our dusty clothes, to dissipate and disperse it in the air,
but to collect every particle of it, and then to knead it and form it
into two little masses, which she places, one in each, in the baskets
formed by hairs[221] on her hind legs.

Aristotle says that in each journey from the hive, bees attend
only one species of flower[222]; Reaumur, however, seems to think
that they fly indiscriminately from one to another: but Mr. Dobbs
in the _Philosophical Transactions_[223], and Butler before him,
asserts that he has frequently followed a bee engaged in collecting
pollen, &c. and invariably observed that it continued collecting
from the same kind of flowers with which it first began: passing
over other species, however numerous, even though the flower it
first selected was scarcer than others. His observations, he thinks,
are confirmed--and the idea seems not unreasonable--by the uniform
colour of the pellets of pollen, and their different size. Reaumur
himself tells us that the bees enter the hive, some with yellow
pellets, others with red ones, others again with whitish ones, and
that sometimes they are even green: upon which he observes, that
this arises from their being collected from particular flowers, the
pollen of whose anthers is of those colours[224]. Sprengel, as
before intimated[225], has made an observation similar to that of
Dobbs. It seems not improbable that the reason why the bee visits
the same species of plants during one excursion may be this:--Her
instinct teaches her that the grains of pollen which enter into the
same mass should be homogeneous, in order perhaps for their more
effectual cohesion; and thus Providence also secures two important
ends,--the impregnation of those flowers that require such aid, by
the bees passing from one to another; and the avoiding the production
of hybrid plants, from the application of the pollen of one kind of
plant to the stigma of another. When the anthers are not yet burst,
the bee opens them with her mandibles, takes a parcel of pollen,
which one of the first pair of legs receives and delivers to the
middle pair, from which it passes to one of the hind legs.

If the contents of one of the little pellets be examined under a
lens, it will be found that the grains have all retained their
original shape. A botanist practised in the figure of the pollen of
the different species of common plants might easily ascertain, by
such an examination, whether a bee had collected its ambrosia from
one or more, and also from what species of flowers.

In the months of April and May, as Reaumur tells us, the bees collect
pollen from morning to evening; but in the warmer months the great
gathering of it is from the time of their first leaving the hive
(which is sometimes so early as four in the morning) to about 10
o'clock A.M. About that hour all that enter the hive may be seen
with their pellets in their baskets; but during the rest of the day
the number of those so furnished is small in comparison of those
that are not. In a hive, however, in which a swarm is recently
established, it is generally brought in at all parts of the day.
He supposes, in order for its being formed into pellets, that it
requires some moisture, which the heat evaporates after the above
hour; but in the case of recently colonized hives, that the bees go a
great way to seek it in moist and shady places[226].

When a bee has completed her lading, she returns to the hive to
dispose of it. The honey is disgorged into the honey-pots or cells
destined to receive it, and is discharged from the honey-bag by
its alternate contraction and dilatation. A cell will contain the
contents of many honey-bags. When a bee comes to disgorge the honey,
with its fore legs it breaks the thick cream that is always on the
top, and the honey which it yields passes under it. This cream is
honey of a thicker consistence than the rest, which rises to the
top in the cells like cream on milk: it is not level, but forms an
oblique surface over the honey. The cells, as you know, are usually
horizontal, yet the honey does not run out. The cream, aided probably
by the general thickness of the honey and the attraction of the sides
of the cell, prevents this. Bees, when they bring home the honey,
do not always disgorge it; they sometimes give it to such of their
companions as have been at work within the hive[227]. Some of the
cells are filled with honey for daily use, and some with what is
intended for a reserve, and stored up against bad weather or a bad
season: these are covered with a waxen lid[228].

The pollen is employed as circumstances direct. When the bee laden with
it arrives at the hive, she sometimes stops at the entrance, and very
leisurely detaching it by piecemeal, devours one or both the pellets on
her legs, chewing them with her jaws, and passing them then down the
little orifice before noticed. Sometimes she enters the hive, and walks
upon the combs; and whether she walks or stands, still keeps beating
her wings. By the noise thus produced, which seems a call to some of
her fellow-citizens, three or four go to her, and placing themselves
around her, begin to lighten her of her load, each taking and devouring
a small portion of her ambrosia: this they repeat, if more do not
arrive to assist them, three or four times, till the whole is disposed
of[229]. Wildman observed them on this occasion supporting themselves
upon their two fore feet; and making several motions with their wings
and body to the right and left, which produced the sound that summoned
their assistants[230]. This bee-bread, as I said before, is generally
found in the second stomach and intestines, but the honey never; which
induced Reaumur to think (but he was mistaken) that the bees elaborated
wax from it: and he observes, that the bees devour this when they
are busily engaged in constructing combs[231]. When more pollen is
collected than the bees have immediate occasion for, they store it up
in some of the empty cells. The laden bee puts her two hind legs into
the cell, and with the intermediate pair pushes off the pellets. When
this is done, she, or another bee if she is too much fatigued with
her day's labour, enters the cell with her head first, and remains
there some time: she is engaged in diluting the pellets, kneading
them, and packing them close; and so they proceed till the cell is
filled[232]. A large portion of the cells of some combs are filled with
this bread, which one while is found in insulated cells, at another in
cells amongst those that are filled with honey or brood.--Thus it is
everywhere at hand for use.

You have seen how the bees collect and employ two of the materials that
I mentioned; I must now advert to the third--the _Propolis_. Huber was
a long time uncertain from whence the bees procured this gummy resin;
but it at last occurred to him to plant some cuttings of a species of
poplar (before their leaves were developed, when their leaf-buds were
swelling, and besmeared and filled with a viscid juice,) in some pots,
which he placed in the way of the bees that went from his hives. Almost
immediately a bee alighted upon a twig, and soon with its mandibles
opened a bud, and drew from it a thread of the viscid matter which it
contained; with one of its second pair of legs it took it from the
mouth, and placed it in the basket: thus it proceeded till it had given
them both their load[233]. I have myself seen bees very busy collecting
it from the Tacamahaca (_Populus balsamifera_). But this is an old
discovery, confirmed by recent observation; for Mouffet tells us from
Cordus, that it is collected from the gems of trees, instancing the
poplar and the birch[234]. Riem observes that it is also collected from
the pine and fir. The propolis is soft, red, will pull out in a thread,
is aromatic, and imparts a gold colour to white polished metals. It
is employed in the hive not only in finishing the combs, as I related
in my letter on Habitations[235]; but also in stopping every chink
or orifice by which cold, wet, or any enemy, can enter. They cover
likewise with it the sticks which support the combs, and often spread
it over a considerable portion of the interior of the hive. Like the
pellets of pollen, it is carried on the posterior tibiæ, but the masses
are lenticular[236].

Mr. Knight mentions an instance of bees using an artificial kind of
propolis. He had caused the decorticated part of some tree to be
covered with a cement composed of bees-wax and turpentine: finding
this to their purpose, they attacked it, detaching it from the tree
by their mandibles, and then, as usual, passing it from the first leg
to the second, and so to the third. When one bee had thus collected
its load, another often came behind and despoiled it of all it had
collected; a second and third load were frequently lost in the same
manner; and yet the patient animal pursued its labours without
showing any signs of anger[237].

Bees in their excursions do not confine themselves to the spot
immediately contiguous to their dwelling, but, when led by the scent
of honey, will go a mile from it. Huber even assigns to them a radius
of half a league round their hive for their ordinary excursions; yet
from this distance they will discover honey with as much certainty as
if it was within their sight. To prove that it is by their scent that
bees find it out, he put some behind a window-shutter, in a place
where it could not be seen, leaving the shutter just open enough for
insects, if they liked, to get at it. In less than a quarter of an
hour four bees, a butterfly, and some house-flies had discovered it.
At another time he put some into boxes, with little apertures in the
lid, into which pieces of card were fitted, which he placed about
two hundred paces from his hives. In about half an hour the bees
discovered them, and traversing them very industriously, soon found
the apertures, when, pushing in the pieces of card, they got to the
honey. That contained in the blossom of many plants is quite as much
concealed, yet the acuteness of their scent enables them to detect it.

These insects, especially when laden and returning to their nest,
fly in a direct line, which saves both time and labour. How they are
enabled to do this with such certainty as to make for their own abode
without deviation, I must leave to others to explain. Connected with
this circumstance, and the acuteness of their smell, is the following
curious account, given in the _Philosophical Transactions_ for 1721,
of the method practised in New England for discovering where the
wild hive-bees live in the woods, in order to get their honey. The
honey-hunters set a plate containing honey or sugar upon the ground in
a clear day. The bees soon discover and attack it: having secured two
or three that have filled themselves, the hunter lets one go, which
rising into the air, flies straight to the nest: he then strikes off at
right angles with its course a few hundred yards, and letting a second
fly, observes its course by his pocket-compass, and the point where the
two courses intersect is that where the nest is situated[238].

The natural station of bees is in the cavities of decayed trees;
such trees, Mr. Knight tells us, they will discover in the closest
recesses, and at an extraordinary distance from the hive; in one
instance it was a mile: and at swarming, they sometimes are inclined
to settle in such cavities. After the discovery of one, from twenty
to fifty, who are a kind of scouts, may be found examining and
keeping possession of it. They seem to explore every part of it and
of the tree with the greatest attention, even surveying the dead
knots and the like[239]. When a hive stands unemployed, a swarm will
also sometimes send scouts to take possession of it.

How long our little active creatures repose before they take a second
excursion I cannot precisely say. In a hive the greatest part of the
inhabitants generally appear in repose, lying together, says Reaumur,
but this probably for a short time. Huber tells us, that bees may
always be observed in a hive with the head and thorax inserted into
cells that contain eggs, and sometimes into empty ones: and that they
remain in this situation fifteen or twenty minutes so motionless,
that did not the dilatation of the segments of the abdomen prove the
contrary, they might be mistaken for dead. He supposes their object is
repose from their labours[240]. The queen, for this purpose, enters
the large cells of the males, and continues in them without motion a
very long time. Even then the workers form a circle round her, and
brush the uncovered part of her abdomen. The drones while reposing do
not enter the cells, but cluster in the combs, and sometimes remain
without stirring a limb for eighteen or twenty hours[241].

Reaumur observes, that in a hive the population of which amounts to
18,000, the number that enter the hive in a minute is a hundred;
which, allowing fourteen hours in the day for their labour, makes
84,000: thus every individual must make four excursions daily, and
some five. In hives where the population was smaller, the numbers
that entered were comparatively greater, so as to give six excursions
or more to each bee[242]. But in this calculation Reaumur does not
seem to take into the account those that are employed within the
hive in building or feeding the young brood; which must render the
excursions of each bee still more numerous. He proceeds further to
ground upon this statement a calculation of the quantity of bee-bread
that may be collected in one day by such a hive; and he found,
supposing only half the number to collect it, that it would amount
to more than a pound; so that in one season, one such hive might
collect a hundred pounds[243]. What a wonderful idea does this give
of the industry and activity of these little useful creatures! And
what a lesson do they read to the members of societies that have both
reason and religion to guide their exertions for the common good!
Adorable is that Great Being who has gifted them with instincts,
which render them as instructive to us, if we will condescend to
listen to them, as they are profitable.

While I am upon this part of the story of bees, I cannot pass over
the account Reaumur has given from Maillet of the transportation of
hives in Egypt from one place to another, before alluded to[244],
to enable them to make in greater abundance their collections of
honey, &c. Towards the end of October, when the inundations of the
Nile have ceased, and the husbandmen can sow their land, saintfoin is
one of the first things that is sown; and as Upper Egypt is warmer
than the Lower, the saintfoin gets there first into blossom. At this
time, bee-hives are transported in boats from all parts of Egypt into
the upper district, and are there heaped in pyramids upon the boats
prepared to receive them; each being numbered by the individual to
whom it belongs. In this station they remain some days; and when they
are judged to have got in the harvest of honey and pollen that is to
be collected there, they are removed two or three leagues lower down,
where they remain the same time; and so they proceed till towards the
middle of February, when having traversed Egypt, they arrive at the
sea, from whence they are dispersed to their several owners.

John Hunter observes, that when the season for laying is over,
that for collecting honey comes on (he means, probably, for making
the principal collection of it); and that when the last pupa is
disclosed, the cell it deserts, after being cleaned, is immediately
filled with it; and as soon as full is covered with pure wax: but
this only holds with respect to the cells containing honey for
winter use, those destined to receive that which forms their food
when bad weather prevents them from going out, being left open[245].
Sometimes, when the year is remarkably favourable for collecting
honey, the bees will destroy many of the larvæ to make room for it;
but they never meddle with the pupæ. When no more honey is to be
collected, they remain quiet in the hive for the winter. Mr. Hunter
found that a hive grew lighter in a cold than in a warm week; he
found also, that in three months (from November 10th to February 9th)
a single hive lost 72 oz. 1-1/2 dram[246].

Water is a thing of the first necessity to these insects; but they
are not very delicate as to its quality, but rather the reverse;
often preferring what is stagnant and putrescent, to that of a
running stream[247]. I have frequently observed them busy in corners
moist with urine; perhaps this is for the sake of the saline
particles to be there collected.

A new-born bee, as soon as it is able to use its wings, seems perfectly
aware, without any previous instruction, what are to be its duties
and employments for the rest of its life. It appears to know that
it is born for society, and not for selfish pursuits; and therefore
it invariably devotes itself and its labours to the benefit of the
community to which it belongs. Walking upon the combs, it seeks for the
door of the hive, that it may sally forth and be useful. Full of life
and activity, it then takes its first flight; and, unconducted but by
its instinct, visits like the rest the subjects of Flora, absorbs their
nectar, covers itself with their ambrosial dust, which it kneads into
a mass and packs upon its hind legs; and if need be, gathers propolis,
and returns unembarrassed to its own hive[248].

Instances of the expedition with which our little favourites
accomplish their various objects you have had several; but this is
never more remarkable than when they settle in a new hive. At this
time, in twenty-four hours they will sometimes construct a comb
twenty inches long by seven or eight wide; and the hive will be half
filled in five or six days; so that in the first fifteen days as much
wax is made as in the whole year besides[249].

In treating of the various employments of the bees, I must not omit
one of the greatest importance to them--the _ventilation_ of their
abode. When you consider the numbers contained in so confined a
space; the high temperature to which its atmosphere is raised; and
the small aperture at which the air principally enters, you will
readily conceive how soon it must be rendered unfit for respiration,
and be convinced that there must be some means of constantly
renewing it. If you feel disposed to think that the ventilation
takes place, as in our apartments, by natural means, resulting
from the rarefaction of the air by the heat of the hive, and the
consequent establishment of an interior and exterior current--a
simple experiment will satisfy you that this cannot be. Take a vessel
of the size of a bee-hive, with a similar or even somewhat larger
aperture--introduce a lighted taper, and if the temperature be raised
to more than 140°, it will go out in a short time. We must therefore
admit, as Huber observes[250], that the bees possess the astonishing
faculty of attracting the external air, and at the same time of
expelling that which has become corrupted by their respiration.

What would you say, should I tell you that the bees upon this
occasion have recourse to the same instrument which ladies use to
cool themselves when an apartment is overheated? Yet it is strictly
the case. By means of their marginal hooks, they unite each pair of
wings into one plane slightly concave, thus acting upon the air by
a surface nearly as large as possible, and forming for them a pair
of very ample fans, which in their vibrations describe an arch of
90°. These vibrations are so rapid as to render the wings almost
invisible. When they are engaged in ventilation, the bees by means
of their feet and claws fix themselves as firmly as possible to
the place they stand upon. The first pair of legs is stretched out
before; the second extended to the right and left; whilst the third,
placed very near each other, are perpendicular to the abdomen, so as
to give that part considerable elevation.

Maraldi, and after him Reaumur, long ago noticed this action of the
bees; but they attributed to it an effect the reverse of that which
it really produces; the former imagining it to occasion directly the
high temperature of the hive, and the latter indirectly[251]. It was
reserved for Huber to discover the true cause of it; and from him the
chief of what I have to say upon the subject will be derived[252].

During the summer a certain number of workers--for it is to the
workers solely that this office is committed--may always be observed
vibrating their wings before the entrance of their hive; and the
observant apiarist will find upon examination, that a still greater
number are engaged within it in the same employment. All those thus
circumstanced that stand without, turn their head to the entrance;
while those that stand within, turn their back to it. The station of
these ventilators is upon the floor of the hive. They are usually
ranged in files, that terminate at the entrance; and sometimes, but
not constantly, form so many diverging rays, probably to give room
for comers and goers to pass. The number of ventilators in action at
the same time varies: it seldom much exceeds twenty, and is often
more circumscribed. The time also that they devote to this function
is longer or shorter according to circumstances: some have been
observed to continue their vibrations for nearly half an hour without
resting, suspending the action for not more than an instant, as it
should seem to take breath. When one retires, another occupies its
place; so that in a hive well peopled there is never any interruption
of the sound or humming occasioned by this action; by which it may
always be known whether it be going on or not.

This humming is observable not only during the heats of summer, but
at all seasons of the year. It sometimes seems even more forcible in
the depth of winter than when the temperature of the atmosphere is
higher. An employment so constant, which always occupies a certain
number of bees, must produce as constant an effect. The column of air
once disturbed within, must give place to that without the hive; thus
a current being established, the ventilation will be perpetual and

To be convinced that such an effect is produced, approach your hand
to a ventilating bee, and you will find that she causes a very
perceptible motion in the air. Huber tried an experiment still more
satisfactory. On a calm day, at the time when the bees had returned
to their habitation--having fixed a screen before the mouth of the
hive to prevent his being misled by any sudden motion of the external
air--he placed within the screen little anemometers or wind-gauges,
made of bits of paper, feather, or cotton, suspended by a thread to
a crotch. No sooner did they enter the atmosphere of the bees than
they were put in motion, being alternately attracted and repelled
to and from the aperture of the hive with considerable rapidity.
These attractions and repulsions were proportioned to the number of
bees engaged in ventilation, and, though sometimes less perceptible,
were never intirely suspended. Burnens tried a similar experiment in
the winter, when the thermometer stood in the shade at 33°. Having
selected a well-peopled hive, the inhabitants of which appeared
full of life and sufficiently active in the interior, and luted it
all around, except the aperture to the platform on which it stood,
he stuck in the top a piece of iron wire which terminated in a
hook, to which he fastened a hair with a small square of very thin
paper at the other end; this was exactly opposite to the aperture,
at the distance of about an inch from it. As soon as the apparatus
was fixed, the hair with its paper pendulum began to oscillate more
or less, the greatest oscillations on both sides being an inch, by
admeasurement, from the perpendicular: if the paper was moved by
force to a greater distance, the vibrations did not take place, and
the apparatus remained at rest. He then made an opening in the top
of the hive, and poured in some liquid honey: soon after there arose
a hum, the movement in the interior increased, and some bees came
out. The oscillations of the pendulum upon this became more frequent
and intense, and extended to fifteen lines or an inch and a quarter
from the perpendicular; but when the paper was removed to a greater
distance from the aperture, it remained at rest.

Huber, at the proposal of M. de Saussure, in order to ascertain
whether artificial ventilators would produce an analogous effect,
got a mechanical friend to construct for him a little mill with
eighteen sails of tin. He also prepared a large cylindrical vase,
into which he could, at an aperture in the box upon which it was
fixed, introduce a lighted taper. In one side of this box was another
aperture to represent that of a hive, but larger. The ventilator was
placed below, and luted at the points of contact, and anemometers
were suspended before the aperture. The first experiment was the
introduction of the taper, without putting the ventilator in motion.
Though the capacity of the vessel was about 3228 cubic inches, the
flame soon diminished, and went out in about eight minutes, and
the anemometers continued motionless. The same experiment was
next repeated with the door shut, with precisely the same result.
After the air of the vessel had been renewed, the taper was again
introduced, and the ventilator set in motion: immediately, as
appeared by the oscillations of the anemometers, two currents of air
were established, and the brilliancy of the flame was not diminished
during the whole course of the experiment, which might have been
prolonged for an indefinite time. A thermometer placed in the lower
part of the apparatus rose to 112°; and the temperature was evidently
still more elevated at the top of the receiver.

The Creator often has one end in view in the actions of animals,
(and nothing more conspicuously displays the invisible hand that
governs the universe,) while the agents themselves have another.
This probably is the case in the present instance, since we can
scarcely suppose that the bees beat the air with their wings in
order to ventilate the hive, but rather to relieve themselves from
some disagreeable sensation which oppresses them. The following
experiments prove that one of their objects in this action, as it is
with ladies when they use their fans, is to cool themselves when they
suffer from too great heat. When Huber once opened the shutter of a
glazed hive, so that the solar rays darted upon the combs covered
with bees, a humming, the sign of ventilation, soon was heard amongst
them, while those which were in the shade remained tranquil. The
bees composing the clusters which often are suspended from the hives
in summer, when they are incommoded by the heat of the sun, fan
themselves with great energy. But if by any means a shadow is cast
over any portion of the group, the ventilation ceases there, while
it continues in the part which feels the heat of the sun. The same
cause produces a similar effect upon humble-bees, wasps, and hornets.

Amongst the bees, however, it is remarkable that ventilation goes on
even in the depth of winter, when it cannot be occasioned by excess
of heat.--This therefore can only be regarded as a secondary cause
of the phenomenon. From other experiments, which, having already
detained you too long, I shall not here detail, it appears that
penetrating and disagreeable odours produce the same effect[253].
Perhaps, though Huber does not say this, the odour produced by the
congregated myriads of the hive may be amongst the principal motives
that impel its inhabitants to this necessary action.

Whatever be the proximate cause, it is I trust now evident to you,
that the Author of nature, having assigned to these insects a
habitation into which the air cannot easily penetrate, has gifted
them with the means of preventing the fatal effects which would
result from corrupted air. An indirect effect of ventilation is
the elevated temperature which these animals maintain, without any
effort, in their hive:--but upon this I shall enlarge hereafter.

Bees are extremely neat in their persons and habitations, and remove
all nuisances with great assiduity, at least as far as their powers
enable them. Sometimes slugs or snails will creep into a hive, which
with all their address they cannot readily expel or carry out. But
here their instinct is at no loss; for they kill them, and afterwards
embalm them with propolis, so as to prevent any offensive odours
from incommoding them. An unhappy snail, that had travelled up the
sides of a glazed hive, and which they could not come at with their
stings, they fixed, a monument of their vengeance and dexterity, by
laying this substance all around the mouth of its shell[254]. When
they expel their excrements, they go apart that they may not defile
their companions: and in winter, when prevented by extreme cold, or
the injudicious practice of wholly closing the door of the hive, from
going out for this purpose, their bodies sometimes become so swelled
from the accumulation of feces in the intestines, that when at last
able to get out they can no longer fly, so that falling to the ground
in the attempt, they perish with cold, the sacrifice of personal
neatness[255]. When a bee is disclosed from the pupa and has left its
cell, a worker comes, and taking out its envelope carries it from the
hive; another removes the exuviæ of the larva, and a third any filth
or ordure that may remain, or any pieces of wax that may have fallen
in when the nascent imago broke from its confinement. But they never
attempt to remove the internal lining of silk that covers the walls,
spun by the larva previous to its metamorphosis, because, instead of
being a nuisance, it renders the cell more solid[256].

Having now described to you the usual employments of my little
favourites both within doors and without, I shall next enlarge a
little upon their language, memory, tempers, manners, and some other
parts of their history.

"Brutes" (it is the remark of Mr. Knight) "have language to express
sentiments of love, of fear, of anger; but they seem unable to
transmit any impression they have received from external objects.
But the language of bees is more extensive; if not a language of
ideas, it is something very similar[257]." You have seen above that
the organ of the language of ants is their antennæ. Huber has proved
satisfactorily, that these parts have the same use with the bees. He
wished to ascertain whether, when they had lost a queen (intelligence
which traverses a whole hive in about an hour) they discovered the
sad event by their smell, their touch, or any unknown cause. He first
divided a hive by a grate, which kept the two portions about three or
four lines apart; so that they could not come at each other, though
scent would pass. In that part in which there was no queen, the bees
were soon in great agitation; and as they did not discover her where
she was confined, in a short time they began to construct royal
cells, which quieted them. He next separated them by a partition
through which they could pass their antennæ, but not their heads. In
this case the bees all remained tranquil, neither intermitting the
care of the brood, nor abandoning their other employments; nor did
they begin any royal cell. The means they used to assure themselves
that their queen was in their vicinity and to communicate with her,
was to pass their antennæ through the openings of the grate. An
infinite number of these organs might be seen at once, as it were,
inquiring in all directions; and the queen was observed answering
these anxious inquiries of her subjects in the most marked manner;
for she was always fastened by her feet to the grate, crossing her
antennæ with those of the inquirers. Various other experiments,
which are too long to relate, prove the importance of these organs as
the instrument of communicating with each other, as well as to direct
the bee in all its proceedings[258]. Besides their antennæ, the bees
also cause themselves to be understood by certain sounds, not indeed
produced by the mouth, but by other parts of their body:--but upon
this subject I shall have occasion to enlarge hereafter.

That bees can remember agreeable sensations at least, is evident from
the following anecdote related by Huber.--One autumn some honey was
placed upon a window--the bees attended it in crowds. The honey was
taken away, and the window closed with a shutter all the winter. In
the spring, when it was re-opened, the bees returned, though no fresh
honey had been placed there[259].

From the earliest times our little citizens of the hive have had
the character of being an irritable race. Their anger is without
bounds, says Virgil; and if they are molested, this character is no
exaggeration. Some individuals, however, they will suffer to go near
their hives, and to do almost any thing: and there are others to
whom they seem to take such an antipathy, that they will attack them
unprovoked. A great deal will probably depend upon this--whether any
thing has happened to put them out of humour. The bees usually do not
attack me; but I remember one day last year, when the asparagus was in
blossom, which a large number were attending, I happened to go between
my asparagus beds; which discomposed them so much, that I was obliged
to retreat with hasty steps, and some of them flew after me; I escaped
however unstung. Thorley relates an anecdote of a gentleman, who,
desirous of securing a swarm of bees that had settled in a hollow tree,
rashly undertook to dislodge them. He succeeded; but though he had
used the precaution of securing his head and hands, he was so stung by
the furious animals, that a violent fever was the consequence, and his
recovery was for some time doubtful. The strength of his constitution
at length prevailed; and the hole of the tree being stopped, the
survivors of the battle settled upon a branch, were hived, and became
the dear-bought property of their conqueror[260].

In Mungo Park's last mission to Africa, he was much annoyed by
the attack of bees, probably of the same tribe with our hive-bee.
His people, in search of honey, disturbed a large colony of them.
The bees sallied forth by myriads, and attacking men and beasts
indiscriminately, put them all to the rout. One horse and six asses
were either killed or missing in consequence of their attack; and for
half an hour the bees seemed to have completely put an end to their
journey. Isaaco upon another occasion lost one of his asses, and one
of his men was almost killed by them[261].

Bees, however, if they are not molested, are not usually
ill-tempered: if you make a captive of their queen, they will cluster
upon your head, or any other part of your body, and never attempt to
sting you. I remember, when a boy, seeing the celebrated Wildman
exhibit many feats of this kind, to the great astonishment and
apprehension of the uninformed spectators. The writer lately quoted
(Thorley) was assisted once by his maidservant to hive a swarm. Being
rather afraid, she put a linen cloth as a defence over her head and
shoulders. When the bees were shaken from the tree on which they had
alighted, the queen probably settled upon this cloth; for the whole
swarm covered it, and then getting under it, spread themselves over
her face, neck, and bosom, so that when the cloth was removed she was
quite a spectacle. She was with great difficulty kept from running
off with all the bees upon her; but at length her master quieted her
fears, and began to search for the queen. He succeeded; and hoped
when he put her into the hive that the bees would follow; but they
only seemed to cluster more closely. Upon a second search he found
another queen, (unless the same had escaped and returned,) whom
seizing, he placed in the hive. The bees soon missed her, and crowded
after her into it: so that in the space of two or three minutes
not one was left upon the poor terrified girl. After this escape,
she became quite a heroine, and would undertake the most hazardous
employments about the hives[262].

Many means have been had recourse to for the dispersion of mobs and the
allaying of popular tumults. In St. Petersburgh (so travellers say)
a fire-engine playing upon them does not always cool their choler;
but were a few hives of bees thus employed, their discomfiture would
be certain. The experiment has been tried. Lesser tells us, that
in 1525, during the confusion occasioned by a time of war, a mob of
peasants assembling in Hohnstein (in Thuringia) attempted to pillage
the house of the minister of Elende; who having in vain employed all
his eloquence to dissuade them from their design, ordered his domestics
to fetch his bee-hives, and throw them in the middle of this furious
mob. The effect was what might be expected; they were immediately put
to flight, and happy if they escaped unstung[263].

The anger of bees is not confined to man; it is not seldom excited
against their own species. From what I have said above respecting the
black bees[264] and their fate, it seems not improbable that, when
the workers become too old to be useful to the community, they are
either killed, or expelled from the society. Reaumur, who observed
that the inhabitants of the same hive had often mortal combats, was
of opinion that this was their object in these battles[265], which
take place, he observes, in fine or warm weather. On these occasions
the bees are sometimes so eager, that examining them with a lens does
not part them:--their whole object is to pierce each other with their
sting, the stroke of which, if once it penetrates to the muscles,
is mortal. In these engagements the conqueror is not always able to
extricate this weapon, and then both perish. The duration of the
conflict is uncertain; sometimes it lasts an hour, and at others is
very soon determined: and occasionally it happens that both parties,
fatigued and despairing of victory, give up the contest and fly away.

But the wars of bees are not confined to single combats; general
actions now and then take place between two swarms. This happens when
one takes a fancy to a hive that another has pre-occupied. In fine warm
weather, strangers, that wish to be received amongst them, meet with
but an indifferent welcome, and a bloody battle is the consequence.
Reaumur witnessed one that lasted a whole afternoon, in which many
victims fell. In this case the battle is still between individuals, who
at one time decide the business within the hive, and at another at some
distance without. In the former case the victorious bee flies away,
bearing her victim under her body between her legs, sometimes taking a
longer and sometimes a shorter flight before she deposits it upon the
ground.--She then takes her repose near the dead body, standing upon
her four anterior legs, and rubbing the two hinder ones against each
other. If the battle is not concluded within the hive, the enemy is
carried to a little distance, and then dispatched.

This strange fury however does not always show itself on this
occasion; for now and then some friendly intercourse seems to take
place. Bees, from a hive in Mr. Knight's garden, visited those in
that of a cottager, a hundred yards distant, considerably later
than their usual time of labour, every bee as it arrived appearing
to be questioned. On the tenth morning, however, the intercourse
ceased, ending in a furious battle. On another occasion, an intimacy
took place between two hives of his own, at twice the distance,
which ceased on the fifth day. Sometimes he observed that this
communication terminated in the union of two swarms; as in one
instance, where a swarm had taken possession of a hollow tree[266],
it is probable that the reception of one swarm by another may depend
upon their numbers, and the fitness of their station to accommodate
them. Thorley witnessed a battle of more than two days continuance,
occasioned by a strange swarm forcing their way into a hive[267]. Two
swarms that rise at the same time sometimes fight till great numbers
have been destroyed, or one of the queens slain, when both sides
cease all their enmity and unite under the survivor[268].

These apiarian battles are often fought in defence of the property of
the hive. Bees that are ill managed, and not properly fed, instead
of collecting for themselves, will now and then get a habit of
pillaging from their more industrious neighbours: these are called by
Schirach _corsair_ bees, and by English writers, _robbers_. They make
their attack chiefly in the latter end of July, and during the month
of August. At first they act with caution, endeavouring to enter by
stealth; and then, emboldened by success, come in a body. If one of
the queens be killed, the attacked bees unite with the assailants,
take up their abode with them, and assist in plundering their late
habitation[269]. Schirach very gravely recommends it to apiarists
whose hives are attacked by these depredators, to give the bees
some honey mixed with brandy or wine, to increase and inflame their
courage, that they may more resolutely defend their property against
their piratical assailants[270]. It is however to be apprehended that
this method of making them pot-valiant might induce them to attack
their neighbours, as well as to defend themselves.

Sometimes combats take place in which three or four bees attack a
single individual, not with a design to kill, but merely to rob: one
seizes it by one leg, another by another; till perhaps there are
two on each side, each having hold of a leg, or they bite its head
or thorax. But as soon as the poor animal that is thus haled about
and maltreated unfolds its tongue, one of the assailants goes and
sucks it with its own, and is followed by the rest, who then let
it go. These insects, however, in their ordinary labours are very
kind and helpful to each other; I have often seen two, at the same
moment, visit the same flower, and very peaceably despoil it of its
treasures, without any contention for the best share.

As the poison of bees exhales a penetrating odour, M. Huber was
curious to observe the effect it might produce upon them. Having
extracted with pincers the sting of a bee and its appendages
impregnated with poison, he presented it to some workers, which
were settled very tranquilly before the gate of their mansion.
Instantaneously the little party was alarmed; none however took
flight, but two or three darted upon the poisoned instrument, and
one angrily attacked the observer. When however the poison was
coagulated, they were not in the least affected by it--A tube
impregnated with the odour of poison recently ejected being presented
to them, affected them in the same manner[271]. This circumstance may
sometimes occasion battles amongst them, that are not otherwise easy
to be accounted for.

Anger is no useless or hurtful passion in bees: it is necessary to
them for the preservation of themselves and their property, which,
besides those of their own species, are exposed to the ravages of
numerous enemies. Of these I have already enumerated several of the
class of insects, and also some beasts and birds that have a taste
for bees and their produce[272]. The _Merops Apiaster_ (which has
been taken in England), the lark and other birds catch them as they
fly. Even the frog and the toad are said to kill great numbers of
bees; and many that fall into the water probably become the prey of
fish. The mouse also, especially the field-mouse, in winter often
commits great ravages in a hive, if the base and orifices are not
well secured and stopped[273]. Thorley once lost a stock by mice,
which made a nest and produced young amongst the combs[274]. The
titmouse, according to the same author, will make a noise at the door
of the hive, and when a bee comes out to see what is the matter, will
seize and devour it. He has known them eat a dozen at a time. The
swallows will assemble round the hives and devour them like grains of
corn[275]. I need only mention spiders, in whose webs they sometimes
meet with their end, and earwigs and ants, which creep into the hive
and steal the honey[276].

Upon this subject of the enemies of bees, I cannot persuade myself
to omit the account Mr. White has given of an idiot-boy, who from a
child showed a strong propensity to bees. They were his food, his
amusement, his sole object. In the winter he dozed away his time
in his father's house, by the fire-side, in a torpid state, seldom
leaving the chimney-corner: but in summer he was all alert and in
quest of his game. Hive-bees, humble-bees, and wasps were his prey
wherever he found them. He had no apprehension from their stings, but
would seize them with naked hands, and at once disarm them of their
weapons, and suck their bodies for the sake of their honey-bags.
Sometimes he would fill his bosom between his shirt and skin with
these animals; and sometimes he endeavoured to confine them in
bottles. He was very injurious to men that kept bees; for he would
glide into their bee-gardens, and sitting down before the stools,
would rap with his fingers, and so take the bees as they came out. He
has even been known to overturn the hives for the sake of the honey,
of which he was passionately fond. Where metheglin was making, he
would linger round the tubs and vessels, begging a draught of what he
called _bee-wine_. As he ran about, he used to make a humming noise
with his lips resembling the buzzing of bees. This lad was lean and
sallow, and of a cadaverous complexion; and except in his favourite
pursuit, in which he was wonderfully adroit, discovered no manner of
understanding. Had his capacity been better, and directed to the same
object, he had perhaps abated much of our wonder at the feats of a
more modern exhibiter of bees; and we may justly say of him now,

                "... Thou,
          Had thy presiding star propitious shone,
          Should'st Wildman be[277]."

The worker bees are annual insects, though the queen will sometimes
live more than two years; but, as every swarm consists of old and
young, this is no argument for burning them. It is a saying of
bee-keepers in Holland, that the first swallow and the first bee
foretell each other[278]. This perhaps may be correct there; but with
us the appearance of bees considerably precedes that of the swallow;
for when the early crocuses open, if the weather be warm, they may
always be found busy in the blossom.

The time that bees will inhabit the same stations is wonderful.
Reaumur mentions a countryman who preserved bees in the same hive for
thirty years[279]. Thorley tells us that a swarm took possession of a
spot under the leads of the study of Ludovicus Vives in Oxford, where
they continued a hundred and ten years, from 1520 to 1630[280]. These
circumstances have led authors to ascribe to bees a greater age
than they can claim. Thus Mouffet, because he knew a bees-nest which
had remained thirty years in the same quarters, concludes that they
are very long-lived, and very sapiently doubts whether they even die
of old age at all[281]!!! Which is just as wise as if a man should
contend, because London had existed from before the time of Julius
Cæsar, that therefore its inhabitants must be immortal.

Bees are subject to many accidents, particularly, as I have said
above, they often fall or are precipitated by the wind into water;
and though like the cat a bee has not nine lives, nor

          "Nine times emerging from the crystal flood,
           She mews to every watery god,"

yet she will bear submersion nine hours; and, if exposed to
sufficient heat, be reanimated. In this case their proboscis is
generally unfolded, and stretched to its full length. At the
extremity of this, motion is first perceived, and then at the ends of
the legs. After these symptoms appear they soon recover, fold up the
tongue, and plume themselves for flight[282]. Experimentalists may
therefore, without danger, submerge a hive of bees, when they want to
examine them particularly, for they will all revive upon being set to
the fire. Reaumur says that in winter, during frosts, the bees remain
in a torpid state. He must mean severe frosts; for Huber relates an
instance, when upon a sudden emergency, the bees of one of his hives
set themselves to work in the middle of January; and he observes that
they are so little torpid in winter, that even when the thermometer
abroad is below the freezing point, it stands high in populous
hives. Swammerdam, and after him the two authors last quoted, found
that sometimes, even in the middle of winter, hives have young brood
in them, which the bees feed and attend to[283]. In an instance of
this kind, which fell under the eye of Huber, the thermometer stood
in the hive at about 92°. In colder climates, however, the bees
will probably be less active in the winter. They are then generally
situated between the combs towards their lower part. But when the
air grows milder, especially if the rays of the sun fall upon the
hive and warm it, they awake from their lethargy, shake their wings,
and begin to move and recover their activity; with which their wants
returning, they then feed upon the stock of honey and bee-bread which
they have in reserve. The lowest cells are first uncovered, and their
contents consumed; the highest are reserved to the last. The honey
in the lowest cells being collected in the autumn, probably will not
keep so well as the vernal.

The degree of heat in a hive in winter, as I have just hinted, is
great. A thermometer near one, in the open air, that stood in January
at 6-3/4° below the freezing point, upon the insertion of the bulb
a little way into the hive, rose to 22-1/2° above it; and could it
have been placed between the combs, where the bees themselves were
agglomerated, the mercury, Reaumur conjectures, would have risen as
high as it does abroad in the warm days in summer[284]. Huber says
that it stands in frost at 86° and 88° in populous hives[285]. In
May, the former author found, in a hive in which he had lodged a small
swarm, that the thermometer indicated a degree of heat above that
of the hottest days of summer[286]. He observes that their motion,
and even the agitation of their wings, increases the heat of their
atmosphere. Often, when the squares of glass in a hive appeared cold
to the touch, if either by design or chance he happened to disturb the
bees, and the agglomerated mass in a tumult began to move different
ways, sending forth a great hum, in a very short time so considerable
an accession of heat was produced, that when he touched the same
squares of glass, he felt them as hot as if they had been held near a
fierce fire. By teasing the bees, the heat generated was sometimes so
great as to soften very much the wax of the combs, and even to cause
them to fall[287]. This generation of heat in bee-hives seems to be
one of those mysteries of nature that has not yet been satisfactorily
accounted for. Generally speaking, insects appear to have no animal
heat; the temperature of their bodies being usually that of the
atmosphere in which they happen to be. But bees are an exception to
this rule, and produce heat in themselves. Whether they are the only
insect that can do this, as John Hunter affirms, or whether others that
are gregarious, such as humble-bees, wasps, and ants, may not possess
the same faculty, seems not yet clearly ascertained. The heat in the
hive in the above instance was evidently occasioned by the tumult into
which the bees were put; and the hum, and motions that followed it,
were probably the result of their anger. But how these act physically,
in an animal that has no circulation, I am unable to say; and must
leave the question, like my predecessors, undecided.

       *       *       *       *       *

And now having detailed to you thus amply the wonderful history
and proceedings of the social tribes of the insect world, you will
allow, I think, that I have redeemed my pledge, when I taught you
to expect that this history would exceed in interest and variety
and marvellous results every thing that I had before related to
you. I trust, moreover, that you will scarcely feel disposed to
subscribe to that opinion, though it has the sanction of some great
names, which attributes these almost miraculous instincts to mere
sensation; which tells us, that the sensorium of these insects is
so modelled with respect to the different operations that are given
them in charge, that it is by the attraction of pleasure alone that
they are determined to the execution of them; and that, as every
circumstance relative to the succession of their different labours
is pre-ordained, to each of them an agreeable sensation is affixed
by the Creator: and that thus, when the bees build their cells;
when they sedulously attend to the young brood, when they collect
provisions; this is the result of no plans, of no affection, of no
foresight; but that the sole determining motive is the enjoyment of
an agreeable sensation attached to each of these operations[288].
Surely it would be better to resolve all their proceedings at once
into a direct impulse from the Creator, than to maintain a theory so
contrary to fact; and which militates against the whole history which
M. Huber, who adopts this theory from Bonnet, has so ably given of
these creatures. That they may experience agreeable sensations from
their various employments, nobody will deny; but that such sensations
instruct them how to perform their several operations, without any
plan previously impressed upon their sensorium, is contrary both to
reason and experience. They have a plan, it is evident; and that
plan, which proves that it is not mere sensation, they vary according
to circumstances. As to affection--that bees are irritable, and
feel the passion of anger, no one will deny; that they are also
susceptible of fear, is equally evident: and if they feel anger
and fear, why may they not also feel _love_? Further, if they have
recourse to precautions for the prevention of any evil that seems to
threaten them, how can we refuse them a degree of _foresight_? Must
we also resolve all their patriotism, and the singular regard for
the welfare of their community, which seems constantly to actuate
them, and the sacrifices, even sometimes of themselves, that they
make to promote and ensure it, into individual self-love? We would
not set them up as rivals to man in intelligence, foresight, and the
affections; but they have that degree of each that is necessary for
their purposes. On account of the difficulties attending all theories
that give them some degree of these qualities, to resolve all into
mere sensation, is removing one difficulty by a greater.

That these creatures from mere selfishness build their combs,
replenish them with the fruit of their unwearied labours, attend
so assiduously to the nurture of the young brood, lavish their
caresses upon their queen, prevent all her wants, give a portion of
the honey they have collected to those that remain in the hives,
assist each other, defend their common dwelling, and are ready to
sacrifice themselves for the public good--is an anomaly _in rerum
natura_ that ought never to be admitted, unless established by
the most irrefragable demonstration;--and I think you will not be
disposed without full proof to yield yourself to a mere theory, so
contradictory of all the facts we know relative to this subject.

After all, there are mysteries, as to the _primum mobile_, amongst
these social tribes, that with all our boasted reason we cannot
fathom; nor develop satisfactorily the motives that urge them to
fulfill in so remarkable though diversified a way their different
destinies. One thing is clear to demonstration, that by these
creatures and their instincts, the power, wisdom and goodness of
the GREAT FATHER of the universe are loudly proclaimed; the atheist
and infidel confuted; the believer confirmed in his faith and trust
in Providence, which he thus beholds watching, with incessant care,
over the welfare of the meanest of his creatures; and from which
he may conclude that he, the prince of the creation, will never be
overlooked or forsaken: and from them what lessons may be learned
of patriotism and self-devotion to the public good; of loyalty; of
prudence, temperance, diligence, and self-denial.--But it is time at
length to put an end to this long disquisition.

                                                  I am, &c.


[199] Bonnet, x. 259.

[200] _Bibl. Nat._ i. 221. _b._ ed. Hill.

[201] Reaum. v. 503--.

[202] Huber, i. 24--.

[203] Ibid. 37--.

[204] Huber, i. 195.

[205] Huber, i. 199.

[206] VOL. I. 376-- and 487--.

[207] The following beautiful lines by Professor Smyth are extremely
applicable to this part of a bee's labours:

          "Thou cheerful Bee! come, freely come,
             And travel round my woodbine bower!
           Delight me with thy wandering hum,
             And rouse me from my musing hour;
           Oh! try no more those tedious fields,
           Come taste the sweets my garden yields:
           The treasures of each blooming mine,
           The bud, the blossom,--all are thine.

          "And careless of this noon-tide heat,
             I'll follow as thy ramble guides;
           To watch thee pause and chafe thy feet,
             And sweep them o'er thy downy sides:
           Then in a flower's bell nestling lie,
           And all thy envied ardor ply!
           Then o'er the stem, tho' fair it grow,
           With touch rejecting, glance, and go.

          "O Nature kind! O labourer wise!
             That roam'st along the summer's ray,
           Glean'st every bliss thy life supplies,
             And meet'st prepared thy wintry day!
           Go, envied go--with crowded gates
           The hive thy rich return awaits;
           Bear home thy store, in triumph gay,
           And shame each idler of the day."

[208] Reaum. v. _t._ xxviii. _f._ 1. 2.

[209] Ibid. _f._ 7. _o._

[210] Huber, ii. 5. _t._ ii. _f._ 8.

[211] Wildman, 43.

[212] VOL. I. 196.

[213] Huber, ii. 82.

[214] Abbé Boisier, quoted in Mills _On Bees_, 24.

[215] Schirach, 45. Huber, i. 179.

[216] Nicholson's _Journal_, xxiii. 287.

[217] VOL. I. 142.

[218] Xenoph. _Anabas_. l. iv. Plin. _Hist. Nat._ l. xxi. c. 13.

[219] Reaum. v. _t._ xxvi. _f._ 1.

[220] Reaum. 295.

[221] Kirby, _Monogr. Ap. Angl._ i. _t._ 12. * *. e. 1. _neut._ f.
19. _a. b._

[222] _Hist. Anim._ l. ix. c. 40.

[223] xlvi. 536.

[224] _ubi supra_, 301.

[225] VOL. I. 299.

[226] Reaum. v. 302.--comp. 433. I have seen bees out before it was

[227] Huber observes that the honey for store is collected by the
wax-making bees only (_abeilles cirières_), and that the nurses
(_abeilles nourrices_) gather no more than what is wanted for
themselves and companions at work in the hive. ii. 66.

[228] Reaum. v. 448.

[229] Ibid. v. 418--.

[230] p. 38.

[231] _ubi supr._ 419.

[232] Compare Reaum. 420, and Huber, ii. 24, with Wildman, 40.

[233] Huber, ii. 260.

[234] _Insect. Theatr._ 36. Schirach, 241.

[235] VOL. I. 496.

[236] Reaum. _ubi supr._ 437--.

[237] _Philos. Trans._ 1807, 242.

[238] xxxi. 148.

[239] Knight in _Philos. Trans._ for 1807, 237. Marshall, _Agricult.
of Norfolk_.

[240] It has been supposed, and the supposition was adopted
originally in this work (VOL. I. 1st Ed. p. 371), that the object in
this case is brooding the eggs; but upon further consideration we
incline to Huber's opinion, that it has no connexion with it, the
ordinary temperature of the hive being sufficient for this purpose;
and the circumstance of their entering unoccupied cells proves that
this attitude has no particular connexion with the eggs. _Huber_, i.
212.--"When large pieces of comb," says Wildman (p. 45), "were broken
off and left at the bottom of the hive, a great number of bees have
gone and placed themselves upon them." This looks like incubation.
Reaumur however affirms (p. 591) that if part of a comb falls and
loses its perpendicular direction, the bees, as if conscious that
they would come to nothing, pull out and destroy all the larvæ. They
might perhaps remain perpendicular in the case observed by Wildman.

[241] Reaum. v. 431. Huber, ii. 212.

[242] Reaum. v. 432--.

[243] Reaum. v. 434--.

[244] VOL. I. 331, Reaum. v. 698--.

[245] _Philos. Trans._ 1792, 160. Comp. Reaum. v. 450.

[246] Reaum. _ibid._ 591-- Hunter, _ibid._ 161--.

[247] Reaum. _ibid._ 697.

[248] Reaum. v. 602.

[249] Ibid. 656.

[250] ii. 339.

[251] Reaum. v. 672.

[252] Huber, ii. 338-362.

[253] Huber, ii. 359--.

[254] Reaum. v. 442.

[255] Bonner _On Bees_, 102.

[256] Reaum. _ubi supr._ 580-600.

[257] In _Philos. Trans._ 1807, 239.

[258] Huber, ii. 407--.

[259] Ibid. 375.

[260] Thorley, 16-- The Psalmist alludes to the fury of these
creatures, when he says of his enemies, "They compassed me about like
bees." _Ps._ cxviii. 12.

[261] Park's _Last Mission_, 153. 297, Comp. _Journal_, 331.

[262] Thorley 150--.

[263] Lesser, _L._ ii. 171.

[264] See above, p. 126.

[265] Reaum. v. 360-365.

[266] _Philos. Trans._ 1807, 234--.

[267] 166.

[268] Thorley, _ibid._ Comp. Mills _On Bees_, 63.--The following
account of an apiarian battle was copied from the _Carlisle Patriot_
Newspaper:--On Saturday last, in the village of Cargo, a combat of a
truly novel description was witnessed. A hive of bees belonging to a
professional gentleman of this city, swarmed on Thursday last, after
which they were hived in the regular way, and appeared to be doing
well. On the Saturday after, a swarm of bees, from some neighbouring
hive, appeared to be flying over the garden in which the hive
above-mentioned was placed, when they instantly darted down upon the
hive of the new settlers, and completely covered it: in a little time
they began to enter the hive, and poured into it in such numbers that
it soon became completely filled. A loud humming noise was heard, and
the work of destruction immediately ensued; the winged combatants
sallied forth from the hive, until it became entirely empty; and a
furious battle commenced in "upper air," between the besiegers and
the besieged. A spectator informs us, that these intrepid little
warriors were so numerous, that they literally darkened the sky
overhead like a cloud; meanwhile the destructive battle raged with
fury on both sides, and the ground beneath was covered with the
wounded and the slain, hundreds of them were lying dead, or crawling
about, disabled from re-ascending to the scene of action. To one
party, however, the palm of victory was at last awarded, and they
settled upon the branch of an adjoining apple-tree, from which they
were safely placed in the empty hive, which had been the object of
their valiant contention, and where they now continue peacefully and
industriously employed in adding to the stores of their commonwealth.

[269] Comp. Schirach, 49. Mills, 62-- Thorley, 163--.

[270] 51.

[271] ii. 380--.

[272] VOL. I. 163, and 281, 289.

[273] Schirach, 52.

[274] 170.

[275] Reaum. v. 710.

[276] Thorley, 171.

[277] White's _Nat. Hist._ 8vo. i. 339--.

[278] Swamm. _Bib. Nat._ Ed. Hill. i. 160.

[279] _ubi supr._ 665.

[280] 178--.

[281] _Theatr. Ins._ 21.

[282] Reaum. v. 540--.

[283] January 11, 1818. My bees were out, and very alert this day.
The thermometer stood abroad in the shade at 51-1/2°. When the sun
shone there was quite a cluster of them at the mouth of the hives,
and great numbers were buzzing about in the air before them.

[284] v. 671.

[285] i. 354. Note *.

[286] _ubi supr._

[287] Reaum. v. 672.

[288] Huber, i. 313.

                              LETTER XXI.

                     _MEANS BY WHICH INSECTS DEFEND

When a country is particularly open to attack, or surrounded by
numerous enemies, who from cupidity or hostile feelings are disposed
to annoy it, we are usually led to inquire what are its means of
_defence?_ whether natural, or arising from the number, courage, or
skill of its inhabitants. The insect tribes constitute such a nation:
with them infinite hosts of enemies wage continual war, many of whom
derive the whole of their subsistence from them: and amongst their
own tribes there are numerous civil broils, the strong often preying
upon the weak, and the cunning upon the simple: so that unless a
watchful Providence (which cares for all its creatures, even the
most insignificant,) had supplied them with some mode of resistance
or escape, this innumerable race must soon be extirpated. That such
is the case, it shall be my endeavour in this letter to prove; in
which I shall detail to you some of the most remarkable means of
defence with which they are provided. For the sake of distinctness
I shall consider these under two separate heads, into which indeed
they naturally divide themselves:--_Passive_ means of defence, such
as are independent of any efforts of the insect; and _active_ means
of defence, such as result from certain efforts of the insect in the
employment of those instincts and instruments with which Providence
has furnished it for this purpose.

I. The principal _passive_ means of defence with which insects are
provided, are derived from their colour and form, by which they
either deceive, dazzle, alarm, or annoy their enemies; or from their
substance, involuntary secretions, vitality, and numbers.

They often _deceive_ them by imitating various substances. Sometimes
they so exactly resemble the soil which they inhabit, that it must be
a practised eye which can distinguish them from it. Thus, one of our
scarcest British weevils (_Curculio nebulosus_), by its gray colour
spotted with black, so closely imitates the soil consisting of white
sand mixed with black earth, on which I have always found it, that
its chance of escape, even though it be hunted for by the lyncean eye
of an entomologist, is not small. Another insect of the same tribe
(_Thylacites scabriculus_), of which I have observed several species
of ground-beetles, (_Harpalus_, &c.) make great havoc, abounds in
pits of a loamy soil of the same colour precisely with itself; a
circumstance that doubtless occasions many to escape from their
pitiless foes.--Several other weevils, for instance _Chlorima nivea_
and _cretacea_, resemble chalk, and perhaps inhabit a chalky or white

Many insects also are like pebbles and stones, both rough and
polished, and of various colours; but since this resemblance
sometimes results from their attitudes, I shall enlarge upon it under
my second head: whether, however, it be merely passive, or combined
with action, we may safely regard it as given to enable them to elude
the vigilance of their enemies.

A numerous host of our little animals escape from birds and other
assailants by imitating the colour of the plants, or parts of them,
which they inhabit; or the twigs of shrubs and trees; their foliage,
flowers, and fruit. Many of the mottled moths, which take their
station of diurnal repose on the north side of the trunks of trees,
are with difficulty distinguished from the gray and green lichens
that cover them. Of this kind are _Miselia aprilina_ and _Acronycta
Psi_. The caterpillar of _Pœcilia? Algæ_, when it feeds on the
yellow _Lichen juniperinus_, is always yellow; but when upon the
gray _Lichen saxatilis_ its hue becomes gray[289]. This change is
probably produced by the colour of its food. _Leptocerus atratus_,
a kind of may-fly, frequents the black flower-spikes of the common
sedge (_Carex riparia_), which fringes the banks of our rivers. I
have often been unable to distinguish it from them, and the birds
probably often make the same mistake and pass it by.--A jumping bug,
very similar to one figured by Schellenberg[290], also much resembles
the lichens of the oak on which I took it.

The Spectre tribe (_Phasma_) go still further in this mimicry,
representing a small branch with its spray. I have one from Brazil
eight inches long, that, unless it was seen to move, could scarcely
be conceived to be any thing else; the legs as well as the head,
having their little snags and knobs, so that no imitation can be more
accurate. Perhaps this may be the species mentioned by Molina[291],
which the natives of Chili call "The Devil's Horse[292]."

Other insects, of various tribes, represent the leaves of plants,
living, decaying, and dead; some in their colour, and some both in
their colour and shape. The caterpillar of a moth (_Hadena Ligustri_)
that feeds upon the privet, is so exactly of the colour of the
underside of the leaf, upon which it usually sits in the day-time,
that you may have the leaf in your hand and yet not discover
it[293].--The tribe of grasshoppers, called _Locustæ_ by Fabricius,
though the true _Locust_ does not belong to it, in the veining,
colour, and texture of their elytra, resemble green leaves[294].--The
tribe of _Phasmina_--named praying-insects and spectres--also of
the _Orthoptera_ order, often exhibit the same peculiarity.--Others
of them, by the spots and mixtures of colour observable in these
organs, represent leaves that are decaying in various degrees.--Those
of several species of _Mantidæ_ likewise imitate dry leaves, and so
exactly, by their opacity, colour, rigidity, and veins, that, were
no other part of the animal visible, even after a close examination,
it would be generally affirmed to be nothing but a dry leaf. Of this
nature is the _Phyllium siccifolium_, and two or three Brazilian
species in my cabinet, that seem undescribed, which I will show
you when you give me an opportunity. But these imitations of dry
leaves are not confined to the _Orthoptera_ order solely. Amongst
the _Hemiptera_, the _Acanthia paradoxa_, a kind of bug, surprised
Sparrman not a little. He was sheltering himself from the mid-day
sun, when the air was so still and calm as scarcely to shake an aspen
leaf, and saw with wonder what he mistook for a little withered,
pale, crumpled leaf, eaten as it were by caterpillars, fluttering
from the tree. The sight appeared to him so very extraordinary, that
he left his place of shelter to contemplate it more nearly; and could
scarcely believe his eyes, when he beheld a living insect, in shape
and colour resembling a fragment of a withered leaf with the edges
turned up and eaten away as it were by caterpillars, and at the same
time all over beset with prickles[295].--A British insect, one of
our largest moths (_Gastropacha quercifolia_), called by collectors
the _Lappet-moth_, affords an example from the _Lepidoptera_ order
of the imitation in question, its wings representing, both in shape
and colour, an arid brown leaf. Some bugs, belonging to the genus
_Dictyonota_ of Mr. Curtis[296], simulate portions of leaves in a
still further state of decay, when the veins only are left. For, the
thorax and elytra of these insects being reticulated, with the little
areas or meshes of the net-work transparent, this circumstance gives
them exactly the appearance of small fragments of skeletons of leaves.

But you have probably heard of most of these species of imitation: I
hope, therefore, you will give credit to the two instances to which
I shall next call your attention, of insects that even mimic flowers
and fruit. With respect to the former, I recollect to have seen in
a collection made by Mr. Masson at the Cape of Good Hope, a species
of the orthopterous genus _Pneumora_, the elytra of which were of a
rose- or pink-colour, which shrowding its vesiculose abdomen, gave it
much the appearance of a fine flower--A most beautiful and brilliant
beetle, of the genus _Chlamys_, (_Ch. Bacca_,) found by Captain
Hancock in Brazil, by the inequalities of its ruby-coloured surface,
strikingly resembles some kinds of fruit.--And to make the series
of imitations complete, a minute black beetle, with ridges upon its
elytra, (_Onthophilus sulcatus_[297],) when lying without motion, is
very like the seed of an umbelliferous plant. The dog-tick is not
unlike a small bean; which resemblance has caused a bean, commonly
cultivated as food for horses, to be called the _tick-bean_. The
Palma Christi, also, had probably the name of _Ricinus_ given to it
from the similitude of its seed to a tick.

Another tribe of these little animals, before alluded to, is secured
from harm by a different kind of imitation, and affords a beautiful
instance of the wisdom of Providence in adapting means to their end.
Some singular larvæ, with a radiated anus[298], live in the nests of
humble-bees, and are the offspring of a particular genus of flies,
(_Volucella_,) many of the species of which strikingly resemble
those bees in shape, clothing, and colour. Thus has the Author of
nature provided that they may enter these nests and deposit their
eggs undiscovered. Did these intruders venture themselves amongst
the humble-bees in a less kindred form, their lives would probably
pay the forfeit of their presumption. Mr. Sheppard once found one of
these larvæ in the nest of _Bombus_[299] _Raiellus_, but we could not
ascertain what the fly was. Perhaps it might be _Volucella bombylans_,
which resembles those humble-bees that have a red anus[300].

The brilliant colours in which many insects are arrayed, may decorate
them with some other view than that of mere ornament. They may _dazzle_
their enemies. The radiant blue of the upper surface of the wings of
a giant butterfly, abundant in Brazil (_Morpho Menelaus_), which from
its size would be a ready prey for any insectivorous birds, by its
splendour (which I am told, when the insect is flying in the sunshine,
is inconceivably bright,) may produce an effect upon the sight of such
birds, that may give it no small chance of escape. Latreille has a
similar conjecture with respect to the golden wasps (_Chrysis_, L.).
These animals lay their eggs in the nests of such _Hymenoptera_, wasps,
bee-wasps (_Bembex_), and bees,--as are redoubtable for their stings;
and therefore have the utmost occasion for protection against these
murderous weapons. Amongst other defences the golden wasps are adorned
with the most brilliant colours, which by their radiance, especially
in the sunny situations frequented by these insects, may dazzle the
eyes of their enemies, and enable them to effect unhurt the purpose for
which they were created[301].

The frightful aspect of certain insects is another passive mean
of defence by which they sometimes strike beholders, especially
children, often great insect tormentors, with _alarm_, and so
escape. The terrific and protended jaws of the stag-beetle (_Lucanus
Cervus_) in Europe, and of the stag-horn capricorn beetle (_Prionus
cervicornis_) in America, may save them from the cruel fate of the
poor cockchafer[302], whose gyrations and motions, when transfixed
by a pin, too often form the amusement of ill-disciplined children.
The threatening horns also, prominent eyes, or black and dismal hue
of many other _Coleoptera_ belonging to Linné's genera _Scarabæus_,
_Cicindela_, and _Carabus_, may produce the same effect.

But the most striking instances of armour are to be found amongst the
homopterous _Hemiptera_. In some of these, the horns that rise from
the thorax are so singular and monstrous, that nothing parallel to
them can be found in nature. Of this kind is the _Cicada spinosa_,
Stoll[303], the _Centrotus clavatus_[304], and more particularly the
_Centrotus globularis_[305], so remarkable for the extraordinary
apparatus of balls and spines, which it appears to carry erect,
like a standard, over its head. What is the precise use of all the
varieties of armour with which these little creatures are furnished
it is not easy to say, but they may probably defend them from the
attack of some enemies.

Under this head I may mention the long hairs, stiff bristles, sharp
spines, and hard tubercular prominences with which many caterpillars
are clothed, bristled, and studded. That these are means of defence
is rendered more probable by the fact that, in several instances,
the animals so distinguished, at their last moult, previous to their
assuming the pupa, (in which state they are protected by other
contrivances,) appear with a smooth skin, without any of the tubercles,
hairs, or spines for which they were before remarkable[306]. Wonderful
are the varieties of this kind which insects exhibit:--but upon these
I shall treat more at large on a future occasion. I shall only here
select a few facts more particularly connected with my present subject.
The caterpillar of the great tiger-moth (_Euprepia Caja_), which is
beset with long dense hairs, when rolled up--an attitude it usually
assumes if alarmed--cannot then be taken without great difficulty,
slipping repeatedly from the pressure of the fingers. If its hairs do
not render it distasteful, this may often be the mean of its escape
from the birds.--That little destructive beetle, _Anthrenus Musorum_,
which so annoys the entomologist, if it gets into his cabinets, when
in the larva state being covered with bunches of diverging hairs,
glides from between your fingers as if it were lubricated with oil.
The two tufts of hairs near the tail of this are most curious in their
structure, being jointed through their whole length, and terminating
in a sharp halberd-shaped point[307].--I have a small lepidopterous
caterpillar from Brazil, the upper side of which is thickly beset with
strong, sharp, branching spines, which would enter into the finger, and
would probably render it a painful morsel to any minor enemy.

The powers of _annoyance_, by means of their hairs, with which the
moth of the fir, and the procession-moth, before noticed[308], are
gifted, are doubtless a defensive armour to them.--Madame Merian has
figured an enormous caterpillar of this kind,--which unfortunately
she could not trace to the perfect insect,--by the very touch of
which her hands, she says, were inflamed, and that the inflammation
was succeeded by the most excruciating pain[309]. The vesicatory
beetles, likewise, (_Cantharis vesicatoria_, &c.) are not improbably
defended from their assailants by the remarkable quality, so useful
to suffering mortals, that distinguishes them.

Your own observation must have proved to you, that insects often
escape great perils, from the crush of the foot, or of superincumbent
weights, by the hardness of the _substance_ that covers great numbers
of them. The elytra of many beetles of the genus _Hister_ are so
nearly impenetrable, that it is very difficult to make a pin pass
through them; and the smaller stag-beetle (_Dorcus parallelopipedus_)
will bear almost any weight--the head and trunk forming a slight
angle with the abdomen--which passes over it upon the ground. Other
insects are protected by the toughness of their skin. A remarkable
instance of this is afforded by the common forest-fly (_Hippobosca
equina_), which, as was before observed[310], can scarcely be killed
by the utmost pressure of the finger and thumb.

The _involuntary secretions_ of these little beings may also be
regarded as means of defence, which either conceal them from their
enemies, make them more difficult to be attacked, or render them less
palatable. Thus, the white froth often observable upon rose-bushes,
and other shrubs and plants, called by the vulgar frog-spittle,--but
which, if examined, will be found to envelop the larva of a small
hemipterous insect (_Cercopis spumaria_), from whose anus it exudes,
although it is sometimes discovered even in this concealment by the
indefatigable wasps, and becomes their prey,--serves to protect the
insect, which soon dies when exposed, not only from the heat of the
sun and from violent rains, but also to hide it from the birds and
its other foes.--The cottony secretion that transpires through the
skin of _Myzoxyla_[311], and some species of _Coccus_, and in which
the eggs of the latter are often involved, may perhaps be of use to
them in this view; either concealing them--for they look rather like
little locks of cotton, or feathers, than any thing animated--or
rendering them distasteful to creatures that would otherwise prey
upon them.--The same remark may apply to the slimy caterpillars of
some of the saw-flies (_Tenthredo Cerasi_, _Allantus Scrophulariæ_
&c.) The coat of slime of these animals, as Professor Peck
observes[312], retains its humidity though exposed to the fiercest
sun.--Under this head I shall also mention the phosphoric insects:
the glow-worm (_Lampyris_); the lantern-fly (_Fulgora_); the fire-fly
(_Elater_); and the electric centipede (_Geophilus electricus_);
since the light emitted by these animals may defend them from the
attack of some enemies. Mr. Sheppard once noticed a Carabus running
round the last-mentioned insect, when shining, as if wishing but
afraid to attack it.

Various insects, doubtless, find the wonderful _vitality_[313] with
which they are endowed another mean of defence; at least of obviating
the effects of an attack. So that, when to all appearance they are
mortally wounded, they recover, and fulfil the end of their creation.
Indeed female _Lepidoptera_, especially of the larger kinds, will
scarcely die, do what you will, till they have laid their eggs.--Dr.
Arnold, a most acute observer, relates to Mr. MacLeay, that having
pinned _Scolia quadrimaculata_, a hymenopterous insect, down in
the same box with many others, amongst which was the humming-bird
hawk-moth (_Macroglossa stellatarum_), its proper food; it freed
itself from the pin that transfixed it, and, neglecting all the other
insects in the box, attacked the Sphinx, and pulling it to pieces
devoured a large portion of its abdomen.

We often wonder how the cheese-mite (_Acarus Siro_) is at hand to
attack a cheese wherever deposited; but when we learn from Leeuwenhoek,
that one lived eleven weeks gummed on its back to the point of a needle
without food, our wonder will be diminished[314]. Another species
of mite (_Uropoda vegetans_) was observed by De Geer to live some
time in spirits of wine[315]. This last circumstance reminds me of an
event which befel myself, that I cannot refrain from relating to you,
since it was the cause of my taking up the pursuit I am recommending
to you. One morning I observed on my study window a little lady-bird
yellow with black dots (_Coccinella_ 22-_punctata_)--"You are very
pretty," said I to myself, "and I should like to have a collection
of such creatures." Immediately I seized my prey, and not knowing
how to destroy it, I immersed it in geneva. After leaving it in this
situation a day and a night, and seeing it without motion, I concluded
it was dead, and laid it in the sun to dry. It no sooner, however, felt
the warmth than it began to move, and afterward flew away. From this
time I began to attend to insects.--The chamæleon-fly (_Stratyomis
Chamæleon_) was observed by Swammerdam to retain its vital powers
after an immersion equally long in spirits of wine. Gœdart affirms
that this fly, on which account it was called chamæleon, will live
nine months without food; a circumstance, if true, more wonderful than
what I formerly related to you with respect to one of the aphidivorous
flies[316].--If insects will escape unhurt from a bath of alcohol, it
may be supposed that one of water will be less to be dreaded by them.
To this they are often exposed in rainy weather, when ruts and hollows
are filled with water: but when the water is dried up, it is seldom
that any dead carcases of insects are to be seen in them. Mr. Curtis
submerged the fragile aphides for sixteen hours; when taken out of the
water they immediately showed signs of life, and out of four, three
survived the experiment:--an immersion of twenty-four hours, however,
proved fatal to them[317].

The late ingenious, learned, and lamented Dr. Reeve of Norwich
once related to me that he found in a hot fountain on the top of
a mountain, near Leuk in the Valais in Switzerland, in which the
thermometer stood at 205°, transparent larvæ, probably of gnats, or
some such insect.--Lord Bute also, in a letter to my late revered
friend, the Rev. William Jones of Nayland, imparts a similar
observation made by His Lordship at the baths of Abano, near the
Euganian mountains, on the borders of the Paduan states. They are
strong, sulphureous, boiling springs, oozing out of a rocky eminence
in great numbers, and spreading over an acre of the top of a gentle
hill. In the midst of these boiling springs, within three feet
of five or six of them, rises a tepid one about blood warm. But
the most extraordinary circumstance which he relates is, that not
only confervas were found in the _boiling_ springs, but numbers of
small black beetles, that died upon being taken out and plunged
into cold water[318].--And once, having taken in the hot dung of my
cucumber-bed a small beetle (_Synchita Juglandis_), I immersed it
in boiling water; and after keeping it submerged a sufficient time,
as I thought, to destroy it, upon taking it out, and laying it to
dry, it soon began to move and walk. Its native station being of
so high a temperature, Providence has fitted it for it, by giving
it extraordinary powers of sustaining heat. Other insects are as
remarkable for bearing any degree of cold. Some gnats that De Geer
observed, survived after the water in which they were was frozen into
a mass of ice: and Reaumur relates many similar instances[319].

The last passive means of defence that I mentioned, was the
_multiplication_ of insects. Some species, the Aphides for instance,
and the Grasshoppers and Locusts, have such an infinite host of
enemies, that were it not for their numbers the race would soon
be annihilated.--But as passive means of defence have detained us
sufficiently long, it is enough to have touched upon this head. Let
us then now proceed to such as may be called active; in which the
volition of the animal bears some part.

II. The _active_ means of defence, which tend to secure insects from
injury or attack, are much more numerous and diversified than the
passive; and also more interesting, since they depend, more or less,
upon the efforts and industry of these creatures themselves. When
urged by danger, they endeavour to repel it either by having recourse
to certain attitudes or motions; producing particular noises;
emitting disagreeable scents or fluids; employing their limbs; or
weapons, and valour; concealing themselves in various ways; or by
counteracting the designs and attack of their enemies by contrivances
that require ingenuity and skill.

The _attitudes_ which insects assume for this purpose are various.
Some are purely imitative, as in many instances detailed above. I
possess a diminutive rove-beetle (_Aleochara complicans_, K. Ms.) to
which my attention was attracted as a very minute, shining, round,
black pebble. This successful imitation was produced by folding its
head under its breast, and turning up its abdomen over its elytra;
so that the most piercing and discriminating eye would never have
discovered it to be an insect.--I have observed that a carrion beetle
(_Silpha thoracica_) when alarmed has recourse to a similar manœuvre.
Its orange-coloured thorax, the rest of the body being black,
renders it particularly conspicuous. To obviate this inconvenience,
it turns its head and tail inwards till they are parallel with the
trunk and abdomen, and gives its thorax a vertical direction, when
it resembles a rough stone.--The species of another genus of beetles
(_Agathidium_) will also bend both head and thorax under the elytra,
and so assume the appearance of shining globular pebbles.

Related to the defensive attitude of the two last-mentioned insects,
and precisely the same with that of the Armadillo (_Dasypus_) amongst
quadrupeds, is that of one of the species of woodlouse (_Armadillo
vulgaris_). This insect when alarmed rolls itself up into a little
ball. In this attitude its legs and the underside of the body, which
are soft, are entirely covered and defended by the hard crust that
forms the upper surface of the animal. These balls are perfectly
spherical, black, and shining, and belted with narrow white bands, so
as to resemble beautiful beads; and could they be preserved in this
form and strung, would make very ornamental necklaces and bracelets.
At least so thought Swammerdam's maid, who, finding a number of these
insects thus rolled up in her master's garden, mistaking them for
beads, employed herself in stringing them on a thread; when to her
great surprise, the poor animals beginning to move and struggle for
their liberty, crying out and running away in the utmost alarm she
threw down her prize[320].--The golden-wasp tribe also, (_Chrysis_
and _Parnopes_,) all of which I suspect to be parasitic insects, roll
themselves up, as I have often observed, into a little ball when
alarmed, and can thus secure themselves--the upper surface of the
body being remarkably hard, and impenetrable to their weapons--from
the stings of those _Hymenoptera_ whose nests they enter with the
view of depositing their eggs in their offspring. Latreille noticed
this attitude in _Parnopes carnea_, which, he tells us, _Bembex
rostrata_ pursues, though it attacks no other similar insect, with
great fury; and, seizing it with its feet, attempts to dispatch it
with its sting, from which it thus secures itself[321].

Other insects endeavour to protect themselves from danger by
simulating death. The common dung-chafer (_Geotrupes stercorarius_)
when touched, or in fear, sets out its legs as stiff as if they were
made of iron-wire--which is their posture when dead--and remaining
perfectly motionless, thus deceives the rooks which prey upon them,
and like the ant-lion before celebrated[322] will eat them only when
alive. A different attitude is assumed by one of the tree-chafers
(_Hoplia pulverulenta_) probably with the same view. It sometimes
elevates its posterior legs into the air, so as to form a straight
vertical line, at right angles with the upper surface of its
body.--Another genus of insects of the same order, the pill-beetles
(_Byrrhus_), have recourse to a method the reverse of this. They
pack their legs, which are short and flat, so close to their body,
and lie so entirely without motion when alarmed, that they look like
a dead body, or rather the dung of some small animal.--Amongst the
weevil tribe, most of the species of Germar's genus _Cryptorynchus_,
including several modern genera or subgenera, when an entomological
finger approaches them, as I have often experienced to my great
disappointment, applying their rostrum and legs to the underside of
their trunk, fall from the station on which you hope to entrap them,
to the ground or amongst the grass; where, lying without stirring
a limb, they are scarcely to be distinguished from the soil around
them. Thus also, doubtless, they often disappoint the birds as
well as the entomologist.--A little timber-boring beetle (_Anobium
pertinax_), (and others of the genus have the same faculty,)
which, when the head is withdrawn somewhat within the thorax, much
resembles a monk with his hood, has long been famous for a most
pertinacious simulation of death. All that has been related of the
heroic constancy of American savages, when taken and tortured by
their enemies, scarcely comes up to that which these little creatures
exhibit. You may maim them, pull them limb from limb, roast them
alive over a slow-fire[323], but you will not gain your end; not a
joint will they move, nor show by the least symptom that they suffer
pain. Do not think, however, that I ever tried these experiments upon
them myself, or that I recommend you to do the same. I am content
to believe the facts that I have here stated upon the concurrent
testimony of respectable witnesses, without feeling any temptation
to put the constancy of the poor insect again to the test.--A similar
apathy is shown by some species of saw-flies (_Serrifera_), which
when alarmed conceal their antennæ under their body, place their
legs close to it, and remain without motion even when transfixed
by a pin.--Spiders also simulate death by folding up their legs,
falling from their station, and remaining motionless; and when in
this situation, they may be pierced and torn to pieces without their
exhibiting the slightest symptom of pain[324].

There is a certain tribe of caterpillars called surveyors (_Geometræ_),
that will sometimes support themselves for whole hours, by means of
their posterior legs, solely upon their anal extremity, forming an
angle of various degrees with the branch on which they are standing,
and looking like one of its twigs. Many concurring circumstances
promote this deception. The body is kept stiff and immoveable with
the separations of the segments scarcely visible; it terminates in a
knob, the legs being applied close, so as to resemble the gem at the
end of a twig; besides which, it often exhibits intermediate tubercles
which increase the resemblance. Its colour too is usually obscure,
and similar to that of the bark of a tree. So that, doubtless, the
sparrows and other birds are frequently deceived by this manœuvre, and
thus balked of their prey. Rösel's gardener, mistaking one of these
caterpillars for a dead twig, started back in great alarm when upon
attempting to break it off he found it was a living animal[325].

But insects do not always confine themselves to attitudes by which
they meditate escape or concealment; they sometimes, to show their
courage, put themselves in a posture of defence, and even have in
view the annoyance as well as the repelling of their foes. The
great rove-beetle (_Goerius olens_) presents an object sufficiently
terrific, when with its large jaws expanded, and its abdomen turned
over its head, like a scorpion, it menaces its enemies, some of which
this ferocious attitude may deter from attacking it. Mr. Bingley
informs us that the giant earwig (_Labidura gigantea_), a rare
species that his researches have added to the catalogue of British
insects, turns up over its head, in a similar manner, its abdomen,
which being armed at the end with a large forceps must give it an
appearance still more alarming[326].

The caterpillars of some hawk-moths (_Sphinx_), particularly that which
feeds upon the privet, when they repose, holding strongly with their
prolegs the branch on which they are standing, rear the anterior part
of their body so as to form nearly a right angle with the posterior;
and in this position it will remain perfectly tranquil,--thus eluding
the notice of its enemies, or alarming them,--perhaps for hours.
Reaumur relates that a gardener in the employment of the celebrated
Jussieu used to be quite disconcerted by the self-sufficient air
of these animals, saying they must be very proud, for he had never
seen any other caterpillars hold their head so high[327]. From this
attitude, which precisely resembles that which sculptors have assigned
to the fabulous monster called by that name, the term _Sphinx_ has been
used to designate this genus of insects.--The caterpillar of a moth
(_Lophopteryx camelina_) noticed by the author just quoted, whenever
it rests from feeding, turns its head over its back, then become
concave, at the same time elevating its tail, the extremity of which
remains in a horizontal position, with two short horns like ears behind
it. Thus the six anterior legs are in the air, and the whole animal
looks like a quadruped in miniature; the tail being its head--the horns
its ears--and the reflexed head simulating a tail curled over its
back[328]. In this seemingly unnatural attitude it will remain without
motion for a very long time.

Some lepidopterous larvæ, that fix the one half of the body and
elevate the other, agitate the elevated part, whether it be the head
or the tail, as if to strike what disturbs them[329]. The giant
caterpillar of a large North American moth (_Ceracampa regalis_) is
armed behind the head and at the back of the anterior segments with
seven or eight strong curved spines from half to three-fourths of an
inch in length. Mr. Abbot tells us that this caterpillar is called
in Virginia the hickory-horned devil, and that when disturbed it
draws up its head, shaking or striking it from side to side; which
attitude gives it so formidable an aspect, that no one, he affirms,
will venture to handle it, people in general dreading it as much as
a rattle-snake. When, to convince the Negroes that it was harmless,
he himself took hold of this animal in their presence, they used
to reply that it could not sting him, but would them[330]. The
species of a genus of beetles named _Malachius_, endeavour to alarm
their enemies and show their rage by puffing out and inflating four
vesicles from the sides of their body, which are of a bright red,
soft, and of an irregular shape. When the cause of alarm is removed,
they are retracted, so that only a small portion of them appears[331].

Insects often endeavour to repel or escape from assailants by their
_motions_. Mr. White, mentioning a wild bee that makes its nest on
the summit of a remarkable hill near Lewes in Sussex, in the chalky
soil, says: "When people approach the place these insects begin to
be alarmed, and with a sharp and hostile sound dash and strike round
the heads and faces of intruders. I have often been interrupted
myself while contemplating the grandeur of the scenery around me, and
have thought myself in danger of being stung[332]."--The hive-bee
will sometimes have recourse to the same expedient, when her hive is
approached too near, and thus give you notice what you may expect if
you do not take her warning and retire.--Humble-bees when disturbed,
whether out of the nest or in it, assume some very grotesque and at
the same time threatening attitudes. If you put your finger to them,
they will either successively or simultaneously lift up the three
legs of one side; turn themselves upon their back; bend up their anus
and show their sting accompanied by a drop of poison. Sometimes they
will even spirt out that liquor. When in the nest, if it be attacked,
they also beat their wings violently and emit a great hum[333].

These motions menace vengeance; those of some other insects are
merely to effect their escape. Thus I have observed that the species
of the May-fly tribe (_Trichoptera_[334]), when I have attempted to
take them, have often glided away from under my hand--without moving
their limbs that I could discover--in a remarkable manner. I once
observed a short-snouted weevil (_Brachyrhynchus_, Schön.) upon a
rail, which, when it saw me, slided sideways, and then rolled off.
To notice the ordinary motions of insects, which are often means by
which they escape from danger, would here be premature, since they
will be fully considered in a subsequent letter. I shall therefore
only mention the zigzag flight of butterflies and the traverse
sailing of humble-bees, which certainly render it more difficult for
the birds to catch them while on the wing.

_Noises_ are another mean of defence to which insects have occasional
recourse. I have heard the lunar dung-beetle (_Copris lunaris_) when
disturbed utter a shrill sound. _Dynastes Oromedon_, another of
the lamellicorn insects, was observed by Dr. Arnold to make, when
alarmed, a kind of creaking noise, which it produced by rubbing
its abdomen against its elytra. A third of the same tribe, (_Trox
sabulosus_) emits a small sibilant or chirping noise, as I once
observed when I found several feeding in a ram's horn. The "drowsy
hum" of beetles, humble-bees, and other insects, in their flight,
may tend to preserve them from some of their aërial assailants.
And the angry chidings of the inhabitants of the hive, which are
very distinguishable from their ordinary sounds, may be regarded as
warning voices to those from whom they apprehend evil or an attack.
I have before observed that the death's-head hawk-moth (_Acherontia
Atropos_), when menaced by the stings of ten thousand bees enraged
at her depredations upon their property, possesses the secret to
disarm them of their fury[335]. This insect, when in fear or danger,
is known to produce a sharp, shrill, mournful cry, which with the
superstitious has added to the alarm produced by the symbol of death
which signalizes its thorax[336]. This cry, there is reason to
believe, affects and disarms the bees, so as to enable her to proceed
in her spoliations with impunity[337]. One of these insects being
once brought to a learned divine, who was also an entomologist, when
he was unwell, he was so much moved by its plaintive noise, that,
instead of devoting it to destruction, he gave the animal its life
and liberty. I might say more upon this subject of defensive noises:
but I shall reserve what I have further to communicate, to a letter
which I purpose devoting to the sounds produced or emitted by insects.

You are acquainted with the singular property of the skunk (_Viverra
putorius_, L.), which repels its assailants by the fetid vapour that
it explodes; but perhaps are not aware that the Creator has endowed
many insects with the same property and for the same purpose--some of
which exhale powerful or disagreeable _odours_ at all times, and from
the general surface of their body; while they issue from others only
through particular organs, and when they are attacked.

Of the former description of defensive scents there are numerous
examples in almost every order; for, next to plants and vegetable
substances, insects, of any part of the creation, afford the
greatest diversity of odours. In the _Coleoptera_ order a very
common beetle, the whirlwig (_Gyrinus Natator_), will infect your
finger for a long time with a disagreeable rancid smell; while two
other species, _G. minutus_ and _villosus_, are scentless.--Those
unclean feeders, the carrion beetles (_Silpha_, L.), as might be
expected from the nature of their food, are at the same time very
fetid.--Pliny tells us of a Blatta,--which, from his description,
is evidently the darkling-beetle (_Blaps mortisaga_), and which he
recommends as an infallible nostrum, when applied with oil extracted
from the cedar, in otherwise incurable ulcers,--that was an object
of general disgust on account of its ill scent, a character which it
still maintains[338].--Numbers of the ground-beetles (_Eutrechina_)
that are found under stones, and in places that have not a free
circulation of air, exhale a most disagreeable and penetrating odour,
which De Geer observes resembles that of rancid butter, and is not
soon got rid of. It is produced, he says, from an unctuous matter
that transpires through the body[339]; but I am rather inclined to
think it proceeds from the extremity.--I have noticed that some
small beetles of the _Omalium_ genus--for instance _O. rivulare_,
and another species that I once found in abundance on the primrose
(_O. Primulæ_, K. Ms.), especially the latter--are abominably fetid
when taken, and that it requires more than one washing to free
the fingers from it. Every one knows that the cock-roach (_Blatta
orientalis_), belonging to the _Orthoptera_ order, is not remarkable
for a pleasant scent;--but none are more notorious for their bad
character in this respect than the bug tribe (_Geocorisæ_), which
almost universally exhale an odour that mixes with the scent of
cucumbers another extremely unpleasant and annoying. Some however
are less disgusting, particularly _Lygæus Hyoscyami_, which
yields, De Geer found, an agreeable odour of thyme[340].--Several
lepidopterous larvæ are defended by their ill smell; but I shall
only particularize the silk-worms, which on that account are said
to be unwholesome.--_Phryganea grandis_, a kind of May-fly, is a
_trichopterous_ insect that offends the nostrils in this way; but
a worse is _Chrysopa Perla_, a golden-eyed and lace-winged fly, of
the next order, whose beauty is counterbalanced by a strong scent of
human ordure that proceeds from it.--Numberless _Hymenoptera_ act
upon the olfactory nerves by their ill or powerful effluvia. One of
them, an ant _(Formica fœtida_ De Geer, _fœtens_ Oliv.), has the same
smell with the insect last mentioned[341]. Our common black ant (_F.
fuliginosa_), whose curious nests in trees have been before described
to you[342], is an insect of a powerful and penetrating scent,
which it imparts to every thing with which it comes in contact;
and Fabricius distinguishes another (_F. analis_, Latr., _fœtens_,
F.) by an epithet (_fœtidissima_) which sufficiently declares its
properties. Many wild bees (_Andrena_) are distinguished by their
pungent alliaceous smell. _Crabro U. flavum_, a wasp-like insect, is
remarkable for the penetrating and spirituous effluvia of ether that
it exhales[343]. Indeed there is scarcely any species in this order
that has not a peculiar scent.--Some dipterous insects--though these
in general neither offend nor delight us by it--are distinguished by
their smell. Thus _Mesembrina mystacea_, a fly that in its grub state
lives in cow-dung, savours in this respect, when a denizen of the
air, of the substance in which it first drew breath[344]. And another
(_Sepsis cynipsea_,) emits a fragrant odour of baum[345].--I have not
much to tell you with respect to apterous insects, except that _Iulus
terrestris_, a common millepede, leaves a strong and disagreeable
scent upon the fingers when handled[346]. Most of the insects I have
here enumerated, probably, are defended from some enemy or injury by
the strong vapours that exhale from them; and perhaps some in the
list produce it from particular organs not yet noticed.

I shall next beg your attention to those insects that emit their smell
from particular organs. Of these, some are furnished with a kind of
scent-vessels, which I shall call _osmateria_; while in others it
issues from the intestines at the ordinary passage. In the former
instance the organ is usually retractile within the body, being only
exerted when it is used: it is generally a bifid vessel, something
in the shape of the letter Y. Linné, in his generic character of the
rove-beetles (_Staphylinidæ_), mentions two oblong vesicles as proper
to this genus. These organs,--which are by no means common to the
whole genus, even as restricted by late writers,--are its _osmateria_,
and give forth the scent for which some species, particularly
_Ocypus brunnipes_, are remarkable. If you press the abdomen hard,
you will find that these vesicles are only branches from a common
stem; and you may easily ascertain that the smell of this insect,
which mixes something extremely fetid with a spicy odour, proceeds
from their extremity.--A similar organ, half an inch in length, and
of the same shape, issues from the neck of the caterpillar of the
swallow-tail-butterfly (_Papilio Machaon_)[347]. When I pressed this
caterpillar, says Bonnet, near its anterior part, it darted forth
its horn as if it meant to prick me with it, directing it towards
my fingers; but it withdrew it as soon as I left off pressing it.
This horn smells strongly of fennel, and probably is employed by the
insect, by means of its powerful scent, to drive away the flies and
ichneumons that annoy it. A similar horn is protruded by the slimy
larva of _P. Anchises_, as also _Parnassius Apollo_ and many other
_Equites_[348].--Another insect, the larva of a species of saw-fly
described by De Geer, is furnished with osmateria, or scent-organs,
of a different kind. They are situated between the five first pair of
intermediate legs, which they exceed in size, and are perforated at
the end like the rose of a watering-pot. If you touch the insect, they
shoot out like the horns of a snail, and emit a most nauseous odour,
which remains long upon the finger; but when the pressure is removed
they are withdrawn within the body[349].--The grub of the poplar-beetle
(_Chrysomela Populi_) also is remarkable for similar organs. On each
of the nine intermediate dorsal segments of its body is a pair of
black, elevated, conical tubercles, of a hard substance; from all of
these when touched the animal emits a small drop of a white milky
fluid, the smell of which, De Geer observes, is almost insupportable,
being inexpressibly strong and penetrating. These drops proceed at
the same instant from all the eighteen scent-organs; which forms a
curious spectacle. The insect, however, does not waste this precious
fluid: each drop instead of falling, after appearing for a moment and
dispensing its perfume, is withdrawn again within its receptacle, till
the pressure is repeated, when it reappears[350].

I shall now introduce you to the true counterparts of the skunk,
which explode a most fetid vapour from the ordinary passage. I have
lately hinted that the scent of many _Eutrechina_ is thus emitted.
_Anchomenus prasinus_, a beetle of this tribe, combats its enemies
with repeated discharges of smoke and noise: but the most famous
for their exploits in this way are those, which on this account
are distinguished by the name of bombardiers (_Brachinus_). The
most common species (_B. crepitans_), which is found occasionally
in many parts of Britain, when pursued by its great enemy,
_Calosoma Inquisitor_, seems at first to have no mode of escape:
when suddenly a loud explosion is heard, and a blue smoke attended
by a very disagreeable scent, is seen to proceed from its anus,
which immediately stops the progress of its assailant: when it has
recovered from the effect of it, and the pursuit is renewed, a
second discharge again arrests its course. The bombardier can fire
its artillery twenty times in succession if necessary, and so gain
time to effect its escape.--Another species (_B. Displosor_) makes
explosions similar to those of _B. crepitans_: when irritated it
can give ten or twelve good discharges; but afterwards, instead of
smoke it emits a yellow or brown fluid. By bending the joints of its
abdomen it can direct its smoke to any particular point. M. Leon
Dufour observes that this smoke has a strong and pungent odour,
which has a striking analogy with that exhaled by the Nitric Acid.
It is caustic, reddening white paper, and producing on the skin the
sensation of burning, and forming red spots, which pass into brown,
and though washed remain several days[351].

Another expedient to which insects have recourse to rid themselves
of their enemies, is the emission of disagreeable _fluids_. These
some discharge from the mouth; others from the anus; others again
from the joints of the limbs and segments of the body; and a few from
appropriate organs.

You have doubtless often observed a black beetle crossing pathways
with a slow pace, which feeds upon the different species of bedstraw
(_Galium_), called by some the bloody-nose beetle (_Timarcha
tenebricosa_). This insect, when taken, usually ejects from its mouth
a clear drop or two of red fluid, which will stain paper of an orange
colour. The carrion-beetles (_Silpha_ and _Necrophorus_), as also
the larger _Carabi_, defile us, if handled roughly, with brown fetid
saliva. Mr. Sheppard having taken one of the latter (_C. violaceus_),
applied it in joke to his son's face, and was surprised to hear him
immediately cry out as if hurt: repeating the experiment with another
of his boys, he complained of its making him smart: upon this he
touched himself with it, and it caused as much pain as if, after
shaving, he had rubbed his face with spirits of wine. This he observed
was not invariably the case with this beetle, its saliva at other times
being harmless. Hence he conjectures that its caustic nature, in the
instance here recorded, might arise from its food; which he had reason
to think had at that time been the electric centipede (_Geophilus
electricus_).--Lesser having once touched the anal horn of the
caterpillar of some sphinx, suddenly turning its head round it vomited
upon his hand a quantity of green viscous and very fetid fluid, which,
though he washed it frequently with soap and fumed it with sulphur,
infected it for two days[352].--Lister relates that he saw a spider,
when upon being provoked it attempted to bite, emit several times small
drops of very clear fluid[353].--Mr. Briggs observed a caterpillar
caught in the web of one of our largest spiders, by means of a fluid
which it sent forth entirely dissolve the great breadth of threads with
which the latter endeavoured to envelop it, as fast as produced, till
the spider appeared quite exhausted[354].--The caterpillars also of a
particular tribe of saw-flies, remarkable for the beautiful pennated
antennæ of the males (_Pteronus_)[355], when disturbed eject a drop of
fluid from their mouth. Those of one species inhabiting the fir-tree
(_Pt. Pini_) are ordinarily stationed on the narrow leaves of that
tree--which they devour most voraciously in the manner that we eat
radishes--with their head towards the point. Sometimes two are engaged
opposite to each other on the same leaf. They collect in groups often
of more than a hundred, and keep as close to each other as they can.
When a branch is stripped they all move together to another. If one of
these caterpillars be touched or disturbed, it immediately with a twist
lifts the anterior part of its body, and emits from its mouth a drop of
clear resin, perfectly similar both in odour and consistence to that of
the fir[356]. What is still more remarkable, no sooner does a single
individual of the group give itself this motion, than all the rest, as
if they were moved by a spring, instantaneously do the same[357]. Thus
these animals fire a volley as it were at their annoyers, the scent of
which is probably sufficient to discomfit any ichneumons, flies, or
predaceous beetles that may be desirous of attacking them.

Amongst those which annoy their enemies by the emission of fluids
from their anus are the larger Carabi. These, if roughly handled,
will spirt to a considerable distance an acrid, caustic, stinking
liquor, which if it touch the eyes or the lips occasions considerable
pain[358].--The rose-scented capricorn (_Cerambyx moschatus_)
produced a similar effect upon Mr. Sheppard by similar means. The
fluid in this had a powerful odour of musk.--The acid of ants has
long been celebrated, and is one of their most powerful means of
defence. When the species that have no sting make a wound with their
jaws, they insinuate into it some of this acid, the effluvia produced
by which are so subtile and penetrating, that it is impossible to
hold your head near the nest of the hill-ant (_Formica rufa_), when
the ants are much disturbed, without being almost suffocated. This
odour thus proceeding from myriads of ants, is powerful enough, it is
said, to kill a frog, and is probably the means of securing the nest
from the attack of many enemies.--Dr. Arnold observed a species of
bug (_Scutellera_) abundant upon some polygamous plant which he could
not determine, and in all their different states. They were attended
closely by hosts of ants, and when disturbed emitted a very strong
smell. One of these insects ejected a minute drop of fluid into one
of his eyes, which occasioned for some hours considerable pain and
inflammation. In the evening, however, they appeared to subside;--but
on the following morning the inflammation was renewed, became worse
than ever, and lasted for three days.

Other insects, when under alarm, discharge a fluid from the joints
and segments of their body. You have often seen what has been called
the unctuous or oil beetle (_Meloe Proscarabæus_), and I dare say,
when you took it, have observed orange-coloured or deep-yellow drops
appear at its joints. As these insects feed upon acrid plants, the
species of crowfoot or _Ranunculus_, it is probable that this fluid
partakes of the nature of their food and is very acrimonious--and
thus may put to flight its insect assailants or the birds, from
neither of which it could otherwise escape, being a very slow and
sluggish and at the same time very conspicuous animal. Another beetle
(_Ellenophorus collaris_) has likewise this faculty.--The lady-bird,
we know, has been recommended as a cure for the tooth-ache. This
idea may have taken its rise from a secretion of this kind being
noticed upon it. I have observed that one species (_Coccinella
bipunctata_) when taken ejects from its joints a yellow fluid
which yields a powerful but not agreeable scent of opium.--_Asilus
crabroniformis_, a dipterous insect, once when I took it, emitted
a white milky fluid from its proboscis, the joints of the legs and
abdomen, and the anus.--The common scorpion-fly, likewise, upon the
same occasion ejects from its proboscis a brown and fetid drop[359].
Some insects have peculiar organs from which their fluids issue, or
are ejaculated. Thus the larvæ of saw-flies when taken into the hand
cover themselves with drops, exuding from all parts of their body,
of an unpleasant penetrating scent[360]. That of _Cimbex lutea_, of
the same tribe, from a small hole just above each spiracle, syringes
a similar fluid in horizontal jets of the diameter of a thread,
sometimes to the distance of more than a foot[361].--The caterpillar
of the great emperor moth (_Saturnia Pyri_,) also spirts out, when
the spines that cover them are touched, clear lymph from its pierced
tubercles[362].--Willughby has remarked a curious circumstance with
respect to a water-beetle (_Acilius sulcatus_), which ought not to be
overlooked. A transverse line of a pale colour is observable upon the
elytra of the male; where this line terminates certain oblong pores
are visible, from which he affirms he has often seen a milky fluid
exuding[363]; and what may confirm his statement, I have more than
once observed such a fluid issue from the male of this genus.--The
caterpillar of the puss-moth (_Cerura vinula_), as well as those of
several other species, has a cleft in the neck between the head and
the first pair of legs. From this issues, at the will of the animal,
a singular syringe, laterally bifid; the branches of which are
terminated by a nipple perforated like the rose of a watering-pot.
By means of this organ, when touched, it will syringe a fluid to a
considerable distance, which, if it enters the eyes, gives them acute
but not lasting pain. The animal when taken from the tree on which
it feeds, though supplied with its leaves, loses this faculty, with
which it is probably endowed to drive off the ichneumons that infest
it[364].--And, to name no more, the great tiger-moth (_Euprepia
Caja_), when in its last or perfect state, has near its head a
remarkable tuft of the most brilliant carmine, from amongst the hairs
of which, if the thorax be touched, some minute drops of transparent
water issue, doubtless for some similar purpose[365].

The next active means of defence with which Creative Wisdom has
endowed these busy tribes, are those _limbs_ or _weapons_ with which
they are furnished. The insect lately mentioned, the puss-moth,
besides the syringes just described, is remarkable for its singular
forked tail, entirely dissimilar to the anal termination of the
abdomen of most other caterpillars. This tail is composed of two
long cylindrical tubes moveable at their base, and beset with a
great number of short stiff spines. When the animal walks, the two
branches of the tail are separated from each other, and at every
step are lowered so as to touch the plane of position; hence we may
conclude that they assist it in this motion and supply the place of
hind legs. If you touch or otherwise incommode it, from each of the
above branches there issues a long, cylindrical, slender, fleshy, and
very flexible organ of a rose colour, to which the caterpillar can
give every imaginable curve or inflection, causing it sometimes to
assume even a spiral form. It enters the tube, or issues from it, in
the same manner as the horns of snails or slugs. These tails form a
kind of double whip, the tubes representing the handle, and the horns
the thong or lash with which the animal drives away the ichneumons
and flies that attempt to settle upon it. Touch any part of the body,
and immediately one or both the horns will appear and be extended;
and the animal will, as it were, lash the spot where it feels that
you incommode it. De Geer, from whom this account is taken, says
that this caterpillar will bite very sharply[366].--Several larvæ
of butterflies, distinguished at their head by a semicoronet of
strong spines, figured by Madame Merian, are armed with singular
anal organs[367], which may have a similar use. Rösel when he first
saw the caterpillar of the puss-moth, stretched out his hand with
great eagerness, so he tells us, to take the prize; but when in
addition to its grim attitude he beheld it dart forth these menacing
catapults, apprehending they might be poisonous organs, his courage
failed him. At length, without touching the monster, he ventured to
cut off the twig on which it was, and let it drop into a box[368]!
The caterpillar of the gold-tail moth (_Arctia chrysorhœa_) has a
remarkable aperture, which it can open and shut, surrounded by a rim
on the upper part of each segment. This aperture includes a little
cavity, from which it has the power of darting forth small flocks
of a cottony matter that fills it[369]. This manœuvre is probably
connected with our present subject, and employed to defend it from
its enemies. It also ejects a fluid from its anus.

There is a moth in New Holland, the larva of which annoys its foes
in a different way: from eight tubercles in its back it darts forth,
when alarmed, as many bunches of little stings, by which it inflicts
very painful and venomous wounds[370].

The caterpillar of the moth of the beech (_Stauropus Fagi_),
called the lobster, is distinguished by the uncommon length of its
anterior legs. Mr. Stephens, an acute entomologist, relates to me
that he once saw this animal use them to rid itself of a mite that
incommoded it. They are probably equally useful in delivering it from
the ichneumon and its other insect enemies.--Dr. Arnold has made
a curious observation (confirmed by Dr. Forsström with respect to
others of the genus) on the use of the long processes or tails that
distinguish the secondary wings of _Thecla Iarbas_. These processes,
he remarks, resemble antennæ, and when the butterfly is sitting it
keeps them in constant motion; so that at first sight it appears to
have a head at each extremity; which deception is much increased by a
spot resembling an eye at the base of the processes. These insects,
perhaps, thus perplex or alarm their assailants.--Goedart pretended
that the anal horn with which the caterpillars of so many hawk-moths
(_Sphingidæ_) are armed, answers the end of a sting instilling a
dangerous venom: but the observations of modern entomologists have
proved that this is altogether fabulous, since the animal has not
the power of moving them[371]. Their use is still unknown.

Whether the long and often threatening horns on the head, thorax,
and even elytra, with which many insects are armed, are beneficial
to them in the view under consideration, is very uncertain. They are
frequently sexual distinctions, and have a reference probably rather
to sexual purposes and the economy of the animal, than to any thing
else. They may, however, in some instances deter enemies from attacking
them, and therefore it was right not to omit them wholly, though I
shall not further enlarge upon them.--Their mandibles or upper jaws,
though principally intended for mastication,--and in the case of the
_Hymenoptera_, as instruments for various economical and mechanical
uses,--are often employed to annoy their enemies or assailants. I once
suffered considerable pain from the bite of the common water-beetle
(_Dytiscus marginalis_), as well as from that of the great rove-beetle
(_Goerius olens_); but the most tremendous and effectual weapon with
which insects are armed--though this, except in the case of the
scorpion, is also a sexual instrument, and useful to the females in
oviposition--is their sting. With this they keep not only the larger
animals, but even man himself, in awe and at a distance. But on these I
enlarged sufficiently in a former letter[372].

These weapons, fearful as they are, would be of but little use to
insects if they had not courage to employ them: in this quality,
however, they are by no means deficient; for, their diminutive size
considered, they are, many of them, the most valiant animals in
nature. The giant bulk of an elephant would not deter a hornet, a
bee, or even an ant, from attacking it, if it was provoked. I once
observed a small spider walking in my path. On putting my stick
to it, it immediately turned round as if to defend itself. On the
approach of my finger, it lifted itself up and stretched out its legs
to meet it.--In Ray's Letters mention is made of a singular combat
between a spider and a toad fought at Hetcorne near Sittinghurst[373]
in Kent; but as the particulars and issue of this famous duel are
not given, I can only mention the circumstance, and conjecture that
the spider was victorious[374]! Terrible as is the dragon-fly to the
insect world in general, putting to flight and devouring whole hosts
of butterflies, may-flies, and others of its tribes, it instills no
terror into the stout heart of the scorpion-fly (_Panorpa communis_),
though much its inferior in size and strength. Lyonnet saw one attack
a dragon-fly of ten times its own bigness, bring it to the ground,
pierce it repeatedly with its proboscis; and had he not by his
eagerness parted them, he doubts not it would have destroyed this
tyrant of the insect creation[375].

When the death's-head-hawk-moth was introduced by Huber into a nest
of humble-bees, they were not affected by it, like the hive-bees,
but attacked it and drove it out of their nest, and in one instance
their stings proved fatal to it[376].--A black ground-beetle devours
the eggs of the mole cricket, or _Gryllotalpa_. To defend them, the
female places herself at the entrance of the nest--which is a neatly
smoothed and rounded chamber protected by labyrinths, ditches, and
ramparts--and whenever the beetle attempts to seize its prey, she
catches it and bites it asunder[377].

I know nothing more astonishing than the wonderful muscular strength
of insects, which in proportion to their size exceeds that of any
other class of animals, and is likewise to be reckoned amongst their
means of defence. Take one of the common chafers or dung-beetles
(_Geotrupes stercorarius_, or _Copris lunaris_), into your hand,
and observe how he makes his way in spite of your utmost pressure;
and read the accounts which authors have left us of the very great
weights that a flea will easily move, as if a single man should draw
a waggon with forty or fifty hundred weight of hay:--but upon this I
shall touch hereafter, and therefore only hint at it now.

We are next to consider the modes of _concealment_ to which insects
have recourse in order to escape the observation of their enemies.
One is by covering themselves with various substances. Of this
description is a little water-beetle (_Elophorus aquaticus_), which
is always found covered with mud, and so when feeding at the bottom
of a pool or pond can scarcely be distinguished, by the predaceous
aquatic insects, from the soil on which it rests. Another very minute
insect of the same order (_Limnius æneus_) that is found in rivulets
under stones and the like, sometimes conceals its elytra with a
thick coating of sand, that becomes nearly as hard as stone. I never
met with these animals so circumstanced but once; then, however,
there were several which had thus defended themselves, and I can
now show you a specimen.--A species of a minute coleopterous genus
(_Georyssus areniferus_[378]), which lives in wet spots where the
toad-rush (_Juncus bufonius_) grows, covers itself with sand; and
another nearly related to it (_Chætophorus cretiferus_, K.) which
frequents chalk, whitens itself all over with that substance. As this
animal, when clean, is very black, were it not for this manœuvre, it
would be too conspicuous upon its white territory to have any chance
of escape from the birds and its other assailants.--No insect is
more celebrated for rendering itself hideous by a coat of dirt than
the _Reduvius personatus_, a kind of bug sometimes found in houses.
When in its two preparatory states, every part of its body, even
its legs and antennæ, is so covered with the dust of apartments,
consisting of a mixture of particles of sand, fragments of wool or
silk, and similar matters, that the animal at first would be taken
for one of the ugliest spiders. This grotesque appearance is aided
and increased by motions equally awkward and grotesque, upon which
I shall enlarge hereafter. If you touch it with a hair-pencil or a
feather, this clothing will soon be removed, and you may behold the
creature unmasked, and in its proper form. It is an insect of prey;
and amongst other victims will devour its more hateful congener the
bed-bug[379]. Its slow movements, combined with its covering, seem to
indicate that the object of these manœuvres is to conceal itself from
observation, probably, both of its enemies and of its prey. It is
therefore properly noticed under my present head.

As Hercules, after he had slain the Nemean lion, made a doublet of
its skin, so the larva of another insect (_Hemerobius Chrysops_, a
lace-winged fly with golden eyes,) covers itself with the skins of
the luckless Aphides that it has slain and devoured. From the head to
the tail, this pygmy destroyer of the helpless is defended by a thick
coat, or rather mountain composed of the skins, limbs, and down of
these creatures. Reaumur, in order to ascertain how far this covering
was necessary, removed it, and put the animal into a glass, at one
time with a silk cocoon, and at another with raspings of paper. In
the first instance, in the space of an hour it had clothed itself
with particles of the silk: and in the second, being again laid bare,
it found the paper so convenient a material, that it made of it a
coat of unusual thickness[380].

Insects in general are remarkable for their cleanliness;--however
filthy the substances which they inhabit, yet they so manage as
to keep themselves personally neat. Several, however, by no means
deserve this character; and I fear you will scarcely credit me when
I tell you that some shelter themselves under an umbrella formed of
their own excrement! You will exclaim, perhaps, that there is no
parallel case in all nature;--it may be so;--yet as I am bound to
confess the faults of insects as well as to extol their virtues, I
must not conceal from you this opprobrium. Beetles of three different
genera are given to this Hottentot habit. The first to which I shall
introduce you is one that has long been celebrated under the name
of the beetle of the lily (_Lema merdigera_, _Cantaride de' Gigli_,
Vallisn.) The larvæ of this insect have a very tender skin, which
appears to require some covering from the impressions of the external
air and from the rays of the sun; and it finds nothing so well
adapted to answer these purposes, and probably also to conceal itself
from the birds, as its own excrement, with which it covers itself
in the following manner. Its anus is remarkably situated, being on
the back of the last segment of the body, and not at or under its
extremity, as obtains in most insects. By means of such a position,
the excrement when it issues from the body, instead of being pushed
away and falling, is lifted up above the back in the direction of the
head. When entirely clear of the passage, it falls, and is retained,
though slightly, by its viscosity. The grub next, by a movement
of its segments, conducts it from the place where it fell to the
vicinity of the head. It effects this by swelling the segment on
which the excrement is deposited, and contracting the following one,
so that it necessarily moves that way. Although, when discharged, it
has a longitudinal direction, by the same action of the segments the
animal contrives to place every grain transversely. Thus, when laid
quite bare, it will cover itself in about two hours. There are often
many layers of these grains upon the back of the insect, so as to
form a coat of greater diameter than its body. When it becomes too
heavy and stiff, it is thrown off, and a new one begun[381].--The
larvæ of the various species of the tortoise-beetles (_Cassida_,
L.) have all of them, as far as they are known, similar habits, and
are furnished besides with a singular apparatus, by means of which
they can elevate or drop their stercorarious parasol so as most
effectually to shelter or shade them. The instrument by which they
effect this is an anal fork, upon which they deposit their excrement,
and which in some is turned up and lies flat upon their backs; and in
others forms different angles, from very acute to very obtuse, with
their body; and occasionally is unbent and in the same direction with
it[382]. In some species the excrement is not so disgusting as you
may suppose, being formed into fine branching filaments. This is the
case with _C. maculata_, L.[383].--In the cognate genus _Imatidium_,
the larvæ also are merdigerous; and that of _I. Leayanum_, Latr.,
taken by Major-General Hardwicke in the East Indies, also produces an
assemblage of very long filaments, that resemble a dried fucus or a
filamentous lichen.--The clothing of the _Tineæ_, clothes-moths and
others, and also of the case-worms, having enlarged upon in a former
letter[384], I need not describe here.

Some insects, that they may not be discovered and become the prey of
their enemies when they are reposing, conceal themselves in flowers.
The male of a little bee (_Heriades_[385] _Campanularum_), a true
Sybarite, dozes voluptuously in the bells of the different species of
_Campanula_--in which, indeed, I have often found other kinds asleep.
Linné named another species _florisomnis_ on account of a similar
propensity. A third, a most curious and rare species (_Andrena_[386]
_spinigera_), shelters itself when sleeping, at least I once found it
there so circumstanced, in the nest-like umbel of the wild carrot.
You would think it a most extraordinary freak of Nature, should any
quadruped sleep suspended by its jaws, (some birds however are said,
I think, to have such a habit, and _Sus Babyroussa_ one something
like it,)--yet insects do this occasionally. Linné informs us that
a little bee (_Epeolus_[387] _variegatus_) passes the night thus
suspended to the beak of the flowers of _Geranium phæum_: and I once
found one of the vespiform bees (_Nomada_[388] _Goodeniana_) hanging
by its mandibles from the edge of a hazel-leaf, apparently asleep,
with its limbs relaxed and folded. On being disengaged from its
situation it became perfectly lively.

There is no period of their existence in which insects usually are
less able to help themselves, than during that intermediate state of
repose which precedes their coming forth in their perfect forms. I
formerly explained to you how large a portion of them during this
state cease to be locomotive, and assume an appearance of death[389].
In this helpless condition, unless Providence had furnished them
with some means of security, they must fall an easy prey to the most
insignificant of their assailants. But even here they are taught
to conceal themselves from their enemies by various and singular
contrivances. Some seek for safety by burying themselves, previously
to the assumption of the pupa, at a considerable depth under the
earth; others bore into the heart of trees, or into pieces of timber;
some take their residence in the hollow stalks of plants; and many
are concealed under leaves, or suspend themselves in dark places,
where they cannot readily be seen. But in this state they are not
only defended from harm by the situation they select, but also by
the covering in which numbers envelop themselves; for, besides the
leathery case that defends the yet tender and unformed imago, many of
these animals know how to weave for it a costly shroud of the finest
materials, through which few of its enemies can make their way;--and to
this curious instinct, as I long since observed, we owe one of the most
valuable articles of commerce, the silk that gives lustre to the beauty
of our females. These shrouds are sometimes double. Thus the larvæ of
certain saw-flies spin for themselves a cocoon of a soft, flexible, and
close texture, which they surround with an exterior one composed of a
strong kind of net-work, which withstands pressure like a racket[390].
Here nature has provided that the inclosed animal shall be protected
by the interior cocoon from the injury it might be exposed to from
the harshness of the exterior, while the latter by its strength and
tension prevents it from being hurt by any external pressure.

But of all the contrivances by which insects in this state are secured
from their enemies, there is none more ingenious than that to which
the may-flies (_Trichoptera_) have recourse for this purpose. You have
heard before that these insects are at first aquatic, and inhabit
curious cases made of a variety of materials, which are usually open
at each end[391]. Since they must reside in these cases, when they are
become pupæ, till the time of their final change approaches, if they
are left open, how are the animals, now become torpid, to keep out
their enemies? Or, if they are wholly closed, how is the water, which
is necessary to their respiration and life, to be introduced? These
sagacious creatures know how to compass both these ends at once. They
fix a grate or portcullis to each extremity of their fortress, which at
the same time keeps out intruders and admits the water. These grates
they weave with silk spun from their anus into strong threads, which
cross each other, and are not soluble in water. One of them, described
by De Geer, is very remarkable. It consists of a small, thickish,
circular lamina of brown silk, becoming as hard as gum, which exactly
fits the aperture of the case, and is fixed a little within the margin.
It is pierced all over with holes disposed in concentric circles, and
separated by ridges which go from the centre to the circumference, but
often not quite so regularly as the radii of a circle or the spokes of
a wheel. These radii are traversed again by other ridges, which follow
the direction of the circles of holes; so that the two kinds of ridges
crossing each other form compartments, in the centre of each of which
is a hole[392].

Under this head I shall call your attention to another circumstance
that saves from their enemies innumerable insects:--I mean their coming
forth for flight or for food only in the night, and taking their
repose in various places of concealment during the day. The infinite
hosts of moths (_Phalæna_, L.),--amounting in this country to more
than a thousand species,--with few exceptions, are all night-fliers.
And a considerable proportion of the other orders,--exclusive of the
_Hymenoptera_ and _Diptera_, which are mostly day-fliers,--are of the
same description. Many _larvæ_ of moths also come out only in the night
after their food, lying hid all day in subterraneous or other retreats.
Of this kind is that of _Fumea pulla_ and _Nycterobius_, whose
proceedings have been before described[393]. The caterpillar of another
moth (_Noctua subterranea_, F.) never ascends the stems of plants, but
remains, a true Troglodyte, always in its cell under ground, biting the
stems at their base, which falling, bring thus their foliage within its

The habitations of insects are also usually places of retreat,
which secure them from many of their enemies:--but I have so fully
enlarged upon this subject on a former occasion[395], that it would
be superfluous to do more than mention it here.

I am now to lay before you some examples of the contrivances, requiring
skill and ingenuity, by which our busy animals occasionally defend
themselves from the designs and attack of their foes. Of these I
have already detailed to you many instances, which I shall not here
repeat; my history therefore will not be very prolix.--I observed
in my account of the societies of wasps, that they place sentinels
at the mouth of their nests. The same precaution is taken by the
hive-bees, particularly in the night, when they may expect that
the great destroyers of their combs, _Galleria mellonella_ and its
associates[396], will endeavour to make their way into the hive.
Observe them by moonlight, and you will see the sentinels pacing about
with their antennæ extended, and alternately directed to the right
and left. In the mean time the moths flutter round the entrance; and
it is curious to see with what art they know how to profit of the
disadvantage that the bees, which cannot discern objects but in a
strong light, labour under at that time. But should they touch a moth
with these organs of nice sensation, it falls an immediate victim
to their just anger. The moth, however, seeks to glide between the
sentinels, avoiding with the utmost caution, as if she were sensible
that her safety depended upon it, all contact with their antennæ. These
bees upon guard in the night, are frequently heard to utter a very
short low hum; but no sooner does any strange insect or enemy touch
their antennæ, than the guard is put into a commotion, and the hum
becomes louder, resembling that of bees when they fly, and the enemy is
assailed by workers from the interior of the hive[397].

To defend themselves from the death's-head hawk-moth, they have
recourse to a different proceeding. In seasons in which they are
annoyed by this animal, they often barricade the entrance of their
hive by a thick wall made of wax and propolis. This wall is built
immediately behind and sometimes in the gateway, which it entirely
stops up; but it is itself pierced with an opening or two sufficient
for the passage of one or two workers. These fortifications are
occasionally varied: sometimes there is only one wall, as just
described, the apertures of which are in arcades, and placed in
the upper part of the masonry. At others many little bastions, one
behind the other, are erected. Gateways masked by the anterior
walls, and not corresponding with those in them, are made in the
second line of building. These casemated gates are not constructed
by the bees without the most urgent necessity. When their danger
is present and pressing, and they are as it were compelled to seek
some preservative, they have recourse to this mode of defence[398],
which places the instinct of these animals in a wonderful light,
and shows how well they know how to adapt their proceedings to
circumstances. Can this be merely sensitive? When attacked by strange
bees, they have recourse to a similar manœuvre; only in this case
they make but narrow apertures, sufficient for a single bee to pass
through.--Pliny affirms that a sick bear will provoke a hive of bees
to attack him in order to let him blood[399]. What will you say, if
humble-bees have recourse to a similar manœuvre? It is related to
me by Dr. Leach, from the communications of Mr. Daniel Bydder--an
indefatigable and well-informed collector of insects, and observer of
their proceedings--that _Bombus_[400] _terrestris_, when labouring
under _Acariasis_[401] from the numbers of a small mite (_Gamasus
Gymnopterorum_) that infest it, will take its station in an ant-hill;
where beginning to scratch, and kick, and make a disturbance, the
ants immediately come out to attack it, and falling foul of the
mites, they destroy or carry them all off; when the bee, thus
delivered from its enemies, takes its flight.

In this long detail, the first idea that will, I should hope, strike
the mind of every thinking being, is the truth of the Psalmist's
observation--that the tender mercies of God are over all his works.
Not the least and most insignificant of his creatures is, we see,
deprived of his paternal care and attention; none are exiled from his
all-directing providence. Why then should man, the head of the visible
creation, for whom all the inferior animals were created and endowed;
for whose well-being, in some sense, all these wonderful creatures with
their miraculous instincts, whose history I am giving you, were put in
action,--why should he ever doubt, if he uses his powers and faculties
rightly, that his Creator will provide him with what is necessary for
his present state?--Why should he imagine that a Being, whose very
essence is LOVE, unless he compels him by his own wilful and obdurate
wickedness, will ever cut him off from his care and providence?

Another idea that upon this occasion must force itself into our mind
is, that nothing is made in vain. When we find that so many seemingly
trivial variations in the colour, clothing, form, structure, motions,
habits, and economy of insects are of very great importance to them,
we may safely conclude that the peculiarities in all these respects,
of which we do not yet know the use, are equally necessary: and we
may almost say, reversing the words of our Saviour, that not a _hair_
is given to them without our Heavenly Father.

                                                  I am, &c.


[289] Fabr. _Vorlesungen_, 321.

[290] _Cimic. Helvet._ _t._ iii. _f._ 3.

[291] _Hist. of Chili_, i. 172.

[292] Since the first edition of this volume was printed, a lady from
the West Indies looking at my cabinet, upon being shown this insect,
exclaimed "Oh, that is _The Devil's Horse_!"

[293] Brahm _Insekten Kalender_, ii. 383.

[294] Hence we have _Locusta citrifolia_, _laurifolia_,
_camellifolia_, _myrtifolia_, _salvifolia_, &c. which, I believe, all
belong to a genus I have named _Pterophylla_.

[295] _Voyage_, &c. ii. 16.

[296] _Brit. Ent._ _t._ 154.

[297] Oliv. _Entomolog._ i. no. 8. 17.

[298] PLATE XIX. Fig. 11. VOL. I. 267. Latreille _Gen. Crust. et
Ins._ iv. 322.

[299] _Apis._ * * e. 2. K.

[300] Dr. Fleming however, _in Literis_, doubts whether the reason
here assigned is the cause of the resemblance between the _Bombus_
and _Volucella_; he thinks if a bee knows a stranger of its own
species, it could not be deceived by a fly in the disguise of a bee.
But the fact that these insects lay their eggs in their nests, and
that they resemble humble-bees, seems to justify the conclusion drawn
in the text. They must get in often undiscovered.

[301] Latreille, _Annal. du Mus._ 1810. 5.

[302] One would almost wish that the same superstition prevailed here
which Sparrman observes is common in Sweden, with respect to these
animals. "Simple people," says he, "believe that their sins will be
forgiven if they set a cockchafer on its legs." _Voyage_, i. 28.

[303] _Cigales_, _f._ 85.

[304] Ibid. _f._ 115. Coquebert, _Illustr. Ic._ ii. _t._ xxviii. _f._ 5.

[305] Stoll, _Cigales_, _f._ 163. Comp. Pallas, _Spicil. Zool._ _t._
i. _f._ 12.

[306] Reaum. v. 94.

[307] This was first pointed out to me by Mr. Briggs of the
Post-office, who sent me an accurate drawing of the animal and of
one of its hairs. I did not at that time discover that it had been
figured by De Geer, iv. _t._ viii. _f._ 1-7.

[308] VOL. I. p. 130.

[309] _Insect. Surinam._ _t._ 57. Two different species of
caterpillars apparently related to this of Madame Merian were in the
late Mr. Francillon's cabinet, and are now in my possession.

[310] VOL. I. p. 149.

[311] To this genus belongs the apple Aphis, called _A. lanigera_.

[312] _Nat. Hist. of the Slug-worm_, 7.

[313] The penetrating genius of Lord Verulam discovered in a great
degree the cause of this vitality. "They stirre," says he, speaking
of insects, "a good while after their heads are off, or that they be
cut in pieces; which is caused also for that their vital spirits are
more diffused thorowout all their parts, and lesse confined to organs
than in perfect creatures." _Sylv. Sylvar. cent._. vii. § 697.

[314] Leeuw. _Epist._ 77, 1694.

[315] De Geer, vii. 127.

[316] _Bib. Nat._ ii. c. 3. VOL. I. p. 399.

[317] _Linn. Trans._ vi. 84.

[318] J. Mason Good's _Anniversary Oration, delivered March_ 8, 1808,
_before the Medical Society of London_, p. 31.

[319] De Geer, vi. 355; comp. 320, and Reaum. ii. 141-147.

[320] Hill's _Swamm._ i. 174.

[321] _Ann. du Mus._ 1810. 5.

[322] VOL. I. p. 426.

[323] De Geer, iv. 229.

[324] Smellic, _Phil. of Nat. Hist._ i. 150.

[325] Rös. I. v. 27.

[326] PLATE I. FIG. 7. _Linn. Trans._ x. 404--.

[327] Reaum. ii. 253.

[328] Reaum. ii. 260. _t._ 20. _f._ 10. 11. Compare Sepp. IV. _t._ i.
_f._ 3-7.

[329] Ibid. i. 100.

[330] Smith's _Abbot's Ins. of Georgia_, ii. 121.

[331] De Geer, iv. 74.

[332] _Nat. Hist._ ii. 268.

[333] P. Huber in _Linn. Trans._ vi. 219. Kirby, _Mon. Ap. Angl._ i.

[334] Kirby in _Linn. Trans._ xi. 87, note *.

[335] VOL. I. p. 164.

[336] Ibid. 34.

[337] Huber appears to be of this opinion; he does not, however, lay
great stress upon it. Yet there seems no other way of accounting for
the impunity with which this animal commits its depredations. Huber,
ii. 299--.

[338] _Hist. Nat._ l. xxix. c. 6.

[339] iv. 86.

[340] De Geer, iii. 249. 374.

[341] Ibid. 611.

[342] VOL. I. 480.

[343] Kirby, _Mon. Ap. Angl._ i. 136. note _a._

[344] De Geer, vi. 134. Meigen _Dipt._ v. 12.

[345] De Geer, vi. 135. 33.

[346] Ibid. vii. 581.

[347] PLATE XIX. FIG. 1. a.

[348] Merian _Surinam._ 17. Jones in _Linn. Trans._ ii. 64.

[349] De Geer, ii. 989-- _t._ xxxvii. _f._ 6.

[350] De Geer, v. 291. Compare Ray's _Letters_, 43. See PLATE XVIII.
FIG. 1.

[351] _Ann. du Mus._ xviii. 70.

[352] Lesser _L._ i. 284, note 6.

[353] _De Araneis_ 27.

[354] This gentleman is of opinion that spiders possess the means of
re-dissolving their webs. He observed one, when its net was broken
run up its thread, and gathering a considerable mass of the web into
a ball, suddenly dissolve it with fluid. He also observes, that when
winding up a powerful prey, a spider can form its threads into a
broad sheet.

[355] Jurine _Hymenopt._ _t._ vi. _f._ 8.

[356] De Geer, ii. 971.

[357] I owe the knowledge of this circumstance to Mr. MacLeay.

[358] De Geer, iv. 86. Geoffr. i. 141.

[359] De Geer, ii. 734.

[360] Reaumur. v. 96.

[361] De Geer, ii. 937--.

[362] Rösel, iv. 162. De Geer, i. 273.

[363] Rai. _Hist. Ins._ 94. _n._ 3.

[364] De Geer, i. 324--.

[365] Ibid. i. 208.

[366] De Geer, i. 322--.

[367] _Ins. Surinam._ t. viii. xxiii. xxxii.

[368] I. iv. 122.

[369] Reaum. ii. 155. _t._ vii. _f._ 4-7.

[370] Lewin's _Prodromus_.

[371] De Geer, i. 149--.

[372] Mr. MacLeay relates to me, from the communications of Mr. E.
Forster, the following particulars respecting the history of _Mutilla
coccinea_, which from this account appears to be one of the most
redoubtable of stinging insects. The females are most plentiful in
Maryland in the months of July and August, but are never very numerous.
They are very active, and have been observed to take flies by surprise.
A person stung by one of them lost his senses in five minutes, and was
so ill for several days that his life was despaired of.

[373] Hedcorne near Sittingbourne.

[374] Dr. Long in Ray's _Letters_, 370.

[375] Lesser _L._ i. 263. Note ‡.

[376] Huber, _Nouv. Obs._ ii. 301--.

[377] Bingley, _Animal Biogr._ iii. 1st Ed. 247--. White, _Nat. Hist._
ii. 82.

[378] In the former Editions of this work this insect was stated to
be synonymous with _Trox dubius_ of Panzer, which it much resembles,
except in the sculpture of the prothorax, (_Fn. Ins. Germ. Init._
lxii. _t._ 5.); but as Schönherr and Gyllenhal, who had better
means of ascertaining the point, regard _Georyssus pygmæus_, Latr.,
as Panzer's insect, the reference is now omitted. _G. areniferus_
differs considerably from _G. pygmæus_, as described by Gyllenhal
(_Insect. Suec._ I. iii. 675.) The front is not rugulose, the vertex
is channeled, the antennæ shorter than the head; the prothorax is
rather shining, marked anteriorly with several excavations, in
the middle of which is a channel forming a reversed cross with a
transverse impression.

[379] De Geer, iii. 283-- Geoffr. _Hist. Ins._ i. 437.

[380] Reaum. iii. 391.

[381] Reaum. iii. 220-- Compare Vallisnieri _Esperienz. ed Osservaz._
195. Ed. 1726.

[382] Reaum. 233--.

[383] Kirby in _Linn. Trans._ iii. 10.

[384] VOL. I. 457-67.

[385] _Apis._ **. c. 2. γ. K.

[386] _Melitta._ **. c. K.

[387] _Apis._ **. b. K.

[388] _Apis._ b. *. K.

[389] VOL. I. 64--.

[390] Reaum. v. 100.

[391] VOL. I. 464--.

[392] Reaum. iii. 170. De Geer, ii. 519. 545. PLATE XVII. FIG. 11.

[393] VOL. I. 453.

[394] Fab. _Ent. Syst. Em._ iii. 70. 200.

[395] VOL. I. 432--.

[396] VOL. I. 165.

[397] Huber, _Nouv. Obs._ ii. 412.

[398] Huber, _Nouv. Obs._ ii. 294--.

[399] _Hist. Nat._ l. viii. c. 36.

[400] _Apis._ * *. e. 2. K.

[401] VOL. I. 97--.

                              LETTER XXII.

               _MOTIONS OF INSECTS._ (_Larva and Pupa._)

Amongst the means of defence to which insects have recourse, I have
noticed their _motions_. These shall be the subject of the present
letter. I shall not, however, confine myself to those by which
they seek to escape from their enemies; but take a larger and more
comprehensive survey of them, including not only every species of
locomotion, but also the movements they give to different parts of
their body when in a state of repose: and in order to render this
survey more complete, I shall add to it some account of the various
organs and instruments by which they move.

Whenever you go abroad in summer, wherever you turn your eyes and
attention, you will see insects in motion. They are flying or sailing
every where in the air; dancing in the sun or in the shade; creeping
slowly, or marching soberly, or running swiftly, or jumping upon the
ground; traversing your path in all directions; coursing over the
surface of the waters, or swimming at every depth beneath; emerging
from a subterranean habitation, or going into one; climbing up the
trees, or descending from them; glancing from flower to flower; now
alighting upon the earth and waters, and now leaving them to follow
the impulse of their various instincts; sometimes travelling singly;
at other times in countless swarms: these the busy children of the
day, and those of the night. If you return to your apartment--there
are these ubiquitaries--some flying about--others pacing against
gravity up the walls or upon the ceiling--others walking with ease
upon the glass of your windows, and some even venturing to take their
station on your own sacred person, and asserting their right to the
lord of the creation.

This universal movement and action of these restless little animals
gives life to every part and portion of our globe, rendering even
the most arid desert interesting. From their visitations every leaf
and flower becomes animated; the very dust seems to quicken into
life, and the stones, like those thrown by Deucalion and Pyrrha, to
be metamorphosed into locomotive beings. In the variety of motions
which they exhibit, we see, as Cuvier remarks[402], those of every
other description of animals. They walk, run, and jump with the
quadrupeds; they fly with the birds; they glide with the serpents;
and they swim with the fish. And the provision made for these motions
in the structure of their bodies is most wonderful and various. "If
I was minded to expatiate," says the excellent Derham, "I might
take notice of the admirable mechanism in those that creep; the
curious oars in those amphibious insects that swim and walk; the
incomparable provision made in the feet of such as walk or hang upon
smooth surfaces; the great strength and spring in the legs of such
as leap; the strong-made feet and talons of such as dig; and, to
name no more, the admirable faculty of such as cannot fly, to convey
themselves with speed and safety, by the help of their webs, or some
other artifice, to make their bodies lighter than the air[403]."

Since the motions, and instruments of motion, of insects are usually
very different in their preparatory states, from what they are in the
imago or perfect state, I shall therefore consider them separately,
and divide my subject into--motions of larvæ,--motions of pupæ,--and
motions of perfect insects.

I. Amongst _larvæ_ there are two classes of movers--_Apodous_ larvæ,
or those that move without legs,--and _Pedate_ larvæ, or those that
move by means of legs. I must here observe, that by the term _legs_,
which I use strictly, I mean only jointed organs, that have free
motion, and can walk or step alternately; not those spurious legs
without joints, that have no free motion, and cannot walk or take
alternate steps; such as support the middle and anus of the larvæ of
most _Lepidoptera_ and saw-flies (_Serrifera_).

_Apodous_ larvæ seldom have occasion to take long journeys; and many
of them, except when about to assume the pupa, only want to change
their place or posture, and to follow their food in the substance,
whether animal or vegetable, to which, when included in the egg, the
parent insect committed them. Legs therefore would be of no great
use to them, and to these last a considerable impediment. They are
capable of three kinds of motion;--they either walk, or jump, or
swim. I use _walking_ in an improper sense, for want of a better term
equally comprehensive: for some may be said to move by gliding; and
others (I mean those that, fixing the head to any point, bring the
tail up to it, and so proceed) by stepping.

The motion of serpents was ascribed by some of the ancients (who were
unable to conceive that it could be effected naturally, unless by
the aid of legs, wings, or fins,) to a preternatural cause. It was
supposed to resemble the "_incessus deorum_," and procured to these
animals, amongst other causes, one of the highest and most honourable
ranks in the emblematical class of their false divinities[404]. Had
they known Sir Joseph Banks's late discovery,--that some serpents
push themselves along by the points of their ribs, which Sir E. Home
has found to be curiously constructed for this purpose,--their wonder
would have been diminished, and their serpent-gods undeified. But
though serpents can no longer make good their claim to motion _more
deorum_, some insects may take their places; for there are numbers of
larvæ, that having neither legs, nor ribs, nor any other points by
which they can push themselves forward on a plane, _glide_ along by the
alternate contraction and extension of the segments of their body. Had
the ancient Egyptians been aware of this, their catalogue of insect
divinities would have been wofully crowded. In this annular motion, the
animal alternately supports each segment of the body upon the plane of
position, which it is enabled to do by the little bundles of muscles
attached to the skin, that take their origin within the body[405].

I shall begin the list of _walkers_, the movements of which are
aided by various instruments, with one which is well known to most
people,--the grub of the nut-weevil (_Balaninus Nucum_). When placed
upon a table, after lying some time, perhaps, bent in a bow, with its
head touching its tail, at last it begins to move, which, though in
no certain direction, it does with more speed than might be expected.
Rösel fancied that this animal had feet furnished with claws; but
in this, as De Geer justly observes, he was altogether mistaken,
since it has not the least rudiment of them, its motion being
produced solely by the alternate contraction and extension of the
segments of the body, assisted, perhaps, by the fleshy prominences
of its sides.--Other larvæ have this annular motion aided by a slimy
secretion, which gives them further hold upon the plane on which they
are moving, and supplies in some degree the place of legs or claws.
That of the weevil of the common figwort (_Cionus Scrophulariæ_)
is always covered with slime, which enables it,--though it renders
its appearance disgusting,--to walk with steadiness, by the mere
lengthening and shortening of its segments, upon the leaves of that
plant[406].--Of this kind also are those larvæ, mentioned above[407],
received by De Geer from M. Ziervogel, which, adhering to each other
by a slimy secretion, glide along so slowly upon the ground as to be
a quarter of an hour in going the breadth of the hand, whence the
natives call their bands _Gårds-drag_[408].

As a further help, others again call in the assistance of their
unguiform mandibles. These, which are peculiar to grubs with a variable
membranaceous, or rather retractile, head[409], especially those of the
fly tribe (_Muscidæ_), when the animal does not use them, are retracted
not only within the head, but even within the segments behind it[410];
but when it is moving they are protruded, and lay hold of the surface
on which it is placed. They were long ago noticed by the accurate
Ray. "This blackness in the head," says he, speaking of the maggot of
the common flesh-fly, "is caused by two black spines or hooks, which
when in motion it puts forth, and fixing them in the ground, so drags
along its body[411]."--The larvæ of the aphidivorous flies (_Syrphus_,
&c.), the ravages of which amongst the Aphides I have before described
to you[412], transport themselves from place to place in the same
way, walking by means of their teeth. Fixing their hind part to the
substances on which they are moving, they give their body its greatest
possible tension; and, if I may so speak, thus take as long a step as
they can: next, laying hold of it with their mandibles, by setting free
the tail and relaxing the tension, the former is brought near the head.
Thus the animal proceeds, and thus will even walk upon glass[413]. Some
grubs, as the lesser house-fly (_Anthomyia canicularis_), have only
one of these claw-teeth; and in some they have the form as well as the
office of legs[414]. Bonnet mentions an apodous larva, that, before
it can use its mandibles, is obliged to spin, at certain intervals,
little hillocks or steps of silk; of which it then lays hold by them,
and so drags itself along.

Besides their mandibular hooks, some of these grubs supply the want
of legs by means of claws at their anus. Thus that of the flesh-fly,
Ray tells us in the place just quoted, pushes itself by the protruded
spines of its tail. The larva also of a long-legged gnat (_Limnobia
replicata_), which in that state lives in the water, is furnished
with these anal claws, which, in conjunction with its annular tension
and relaxation, and the hooks of its mouth, assist it in walking over
the aquatic plants[415].

A remarkable difference, according to their station, obtains in
the bots of gad-flies (_Œstridæ_); those that are subcutaneous
(_Cuticolæ_, Clark) having no unguiform mandibles; while those
that are gastric (_Gastricolæ_, Clark), and those that inhabit the
maxillary sinuses of animals (_Cavicolæ_, Clark), are furnished with
them. In this we evidently see Creative Wisdom adapting means to
their end. For the cuticular bots having no plane surface to move
upon, and imbibing a liquid food, in them the mandibular hooks would
be superfluous. But they are furnished with other means by which
they can accomplish such motions, and in contrary directions, as are
necessary to them; the anterior part of each segment being beset with
numbers of very minute spines, not visible except under a strong
magnifier, sometimes arranged in bundles, which all look towards the
anus; and the posterior part is as it were paved with similar hooks,
but smaller, which point to the head. Thus we may conceive, when the
animal wants to move forward, that it pushes itself by the first
set of hooks, keeping the rest, which would otherwise impede motion
in that direction, pressed close to its skin--or it may depress that
part of the segment; and when it would move backwards that it employs
the second[416]. The other descriptions of bots, not being embedded
in the flesh but fixed to a plane, are armed with the mandibles in
question, by which they can not only suspend themselves in their
several stations, but likewise, with the aid of the spines with which
their segments also are furnished, move at their pleasure[417]. Other
larvæ of flies, as well as the bots, are furnished with spines or
hooks--by which they take stronger hold--to assist them in their
motions. Those mentioned in my last letter as inhabiting the nests
of humble-bees[418], besides the six radii that arm their anus, and
which perhaps may assist them in locomotion, have the margin of their
body fringed with a double row of short spines[419], which are,
doubtless, useful in the same way.

The next order of walkers amongst apodous larvæ are those that move
by means of fleshy tuberculiform or pediform prominences,--which last
resemble the spurious legs of the caterpillars of most _Lepidoptera_.
Some, a kind of monopods, have only one of such prominences, which
being always fixed almost under the head, may serve, in some degree,
the purpose of an unguiform mandible. The grub of a kind of gnat
(_Chironomus stercorarius_), and also another, probably of the
Tipularian tribe (found by De Geer in a subputrescent stalk of
Angelica which he was unable to trace to the fly), have each a fleshy
leg on the underside of the first segment, which points towards
the head and assists them in their motions[420].--Others again go
a little further, and are supported at their anterior extremity by
a pair of spurious legs. An aquatic larva of a most singular form,
and of the same tribe, figured by Reaumur, is thus circumstanced. In
this case the processes in question proceed from the head, and are
armed with claws[421]. Would you think it--another Tipularian grub
is distinguished by _three_ legs of this kind? It was first noticed
by De Geer under the name of _Tipula maculata_ (_Tanypus monilis_,
Meig.), who gives the following account of its motions and their
organs:--It is found, he observes, in the water of swampy places and
in ditches, is not bigger than a horse-hair, and about a quarter of
an inch in length. Its mode of swimming is like that of a serpent,
with an undulating motion of the body, and it sometimes walks at the
bottom of the water and upon aquatic plants. The most remarkable
part of it are its legs, called by Latreille, but it should seem
improperly, tentacula. They resemble, by their length and rigidity,
wooden legs. The anterior leg is attached to the underside, but
towards the head, of the first segment of the body. It is long and
cylindrical, placed perpendicularly or obliquely, according to the
different movements the animal gives it, and terminates in two feet,
armed at their extremity by a coronet of long moveable hooks. These
feet, like the tentacula of snails, are retractile within the leg,
and even within the body, so that only a little stump, as it were,
remains without. The insect moves them both together, as a lame man
does his crutches, either backwards or forwards. The two posterior
legs are placed at the anal end of the body. They are similar to
the one just described, but larger, and entirely separate from each
other, being not, like them, retractile within the body, but always
stiff and extended. These also are armed with hooks. In walking, this
larva uses these two legs much as the caterpillars of the moths,
called _Geometræ_, do theirs. By the inflection of the anus it can
give them any kind of lateral movement, except that it can neither
bend nor shorten them, since like a wooden leg, as I have before
observed, they always remain stiff and extended[422]. Lyonet had
observed this larva, or a species nearly related to it; but he speaks
of it as having four legs, two before and two behind. Probably, when
he examined them, the common base, from which the feet are branches,
was retracted within the body[423].

Generally speaking, however, in these apodous walkers the place of
legs is supplied by fleshy and often retractile mamillæ or tubercles.
By means of these and a slimy secretion, unaided by mandibular hooks,
the caterpillar of a little moth (_Apoda Testudo_,) moves from place
to place[424].--A subcutaneous larva belonging to the same order, that
mines the leaves of the rose, moves also by tubercular legs assisted
by slime. It has eighteen homogeneous legs, with which, when removed
from its house of concealment, it will walk well upon any surface,
whether horizontal, inclined, or even vertical[425]. But the greatest
number of legs of this kind that distinguish any known larva, is to
be observed in that of a two-winged fly (_Syrphus Pyrastri_) that
devours the Aphides of the rose. This animal has six rows of tubercular
feet, with which it moves, each row consisting of seven, making in all
forty-two[426].--The grub of the weevil of the dock (_Hypera Rumicis_)
has twenty-four tubercular legs; but, what is remarkable, the six
anterior ones, being longer than the rest, seem to represent the real
legs, while the others represent the spurious ones, of lepidopterous
larvæ. These legs, however, are all fleshy tubercles, and have no
claws, the place of which is supplied by slime which covers all the
underside of the body, and hinders the animal from falling[427].
Another weevil (_Lixus paraplecticus_,) produces a grub inhabiting the
water-hemlock, which has only six tubercles that occupy the place and
are representatives of the legs of the perfect insect[428].

Some larvæ have these tubercles armed with claws. The maggot of a fly
described by De Geer (_Volucella plumata_,) has six pair of them, each
of which has three long claws. This animal has a radiated anus, and
seems related to those flies that live in the nests of humble-bees[429].

Insects in the peculiarities of their structure, as we have seen
in many instances, sometimes realize the wildest fictions of the
imagination. Should a traveller tell you that he had seen a quadruped
whose legs were on its back, you would immediately conclude that
he was playing upon your credulity, and had lost that regard to
truth which ought to distinguish the narratives of persons of his
description. What then will you say to me, when I affirm, upon
the evidence of two most unexceptionable witnesses, Reaumur and
De Geer, that there are insects which exhibit this extraordinary
structure? The grub of a little gall-fly, appearing to be _Cynips
Quercus inferus_ of Linné--which inhabits a ligneous gall resembling
a berry to be met with on the underside of oak-leaves--was found
by the former to have on its back, on the middle of each segment,
a retractile fleshy protuberance that resembled strikingly the
spurious legs of some caterpillars. A little attention will convince
any one, argues Reaumur, that the legs of insects circumstanced
like the one under consideration, if it has any, should be on its
back. For this grub--inhabiting a spherical cavity, in which it
lies rolled up as it were in a ring--when it wants to move, will be
enabled to do so, in this hollow sphere, with much more facility, by
means of legs on the middle of its back, than if they were in their
ordinary situation[430]. So wisely has Providence ordered every
thing.--Another similar instance is recorded by De Geer, which indeed
had previously been noticed, though cursorily, by the illustrious
Frenchman[431]. There is a little larva, he observes, to be found at
all seasons of the year, the depth of winter excepted, in stagnant
waters, which keeps its body always doubled as it were in two,
against the sides of ditches or the stalks of aquatic plants. If it
is placed in a glass half full of water, it so fixes itself against
the sides of it, that its head and tail are in the water while the
remainder of the body is out of it; thus assuming the form of a
siphon, the tail end being the longest. When this animal is disposed
to feed, it lifts its head and places it horizontally on the surface
of the water, so that it forms a right angle with the rest of the
body, which always remains in a situation perpendicular to the
surface. It then agitates, with vivacity, a couple of brushes, formed
of hairs and fixed in the anterior part of the head, which producing
a current towards the mouth, it makes its meal of the various species
of animalcula, abounding in stagnant waters, that come within the
vortex thus produced. As these animals require to be firmly fixed to
the substance on which they take their station, and their back is the
only part, when they are doubled as just described, that can apply to
it,--they are furnished with minute legs armed with black claws, by
which they are enabled to adhere to it. They have ten of these legs:
the four anterior ones, which point towards the head and are distant
from each other, are placed upon the fourth and fifth dorsal segments
of the body; and the six posterior ones, which point to the anus
and are so near to each other as at first to look like one leg, are
placed on the eighth, ninth, and tenth. When the animal moves, the
body continues bent, and the sixth segment, which is without feet and
forms the summit of the curve, goes first[432]. De Geer named the fly
it produces _Tipula amphibia_: it seems not clear, from his figure,
to which of the modern genera of the _Tipulariæ_ it belongs, nor is
it referred to by Meigen.

I come now to the jumping apodes, and one of this description will
immediately occur to your recollection,--that I mean which revels
in our richest cheeses, and produces a little black shining fly
(_Tyrophaga Casei_). These maggots have long been celebrated for
their saltatorious powers. They effect their tremendous leaps--laugh
not at the term, for they are truly so when compared with what
human force and agility can accomplish--in nearly the same manner
as salmon are stated to do when they wish to pass over a cataract,
by taking their tail in their mouth, and letting it go suddenly.
When it prepares to leap, our larva first erects itself upon its
anus, and then bending itself into a circle by bringing its head to
its tail, it pushes forth its unguiform mandibles, and fixes them
in two cavities in its anal tubercles. All being thus prepared,
it next contracts its body into an oblong, so that the two halves
are parallel to each other. This done, it lets go its hold with
so violent a jerk that the sound produced by its mandibles may be
readily heard, and the leap takes place. Swammerdam saw one, whose
length did not exceed the fourth part of an inch, jump in this
manner out of a box six inches deep; which is as if a man six feet
high should raise himself in the air by jumping 144 feet! He had
seen others leap a great deal higher[433]. The grub of a little gnat
lately noticed (_Chironomus stercorarius_) has a similar faculty,
though executed in a manner rather different. These larvæ, which
inhabit horse-dung, though deprived of feet, cannot move by annular
contraction and dilatation; but are able, by various serpentine
contortions, aided by their mandibles, to move in the substance which
constitutes their food. Should any accident remove them from it,
Providence has enabled them to recover their natural station by the
power I am speaking of. When about to leap, they do not, like the
cheese-fly, erect themselves so as to form an angle with the plane
of position; but lying horizontally, they bring the anus near the
head, regulating the distance by the length of the leap they mean to
take; when fixing it firmly, and then suddenly resuming a rectilinear
position, they are carried through the air sometimes to the distance
of two or three inches. They appear to have the power of flattening
their anal extremity, and even of rendering it concave: by means
of which it may probably act as a sucker, and so be more firmly
fixable[434].--The grub of a fly whose proceedings in that state I
have before noticed[435] (_Leptis Vermileo_), will, when removed from
its habitation, endeavour to recover it by leaping. Indeed this mode
of motion seems often to be given to this description of larvæ by
Providence, to enable them to return to their natural station, when
by any accident they have wandered away from it.

Many apodous larvæ inhabit the water, and therefore must be
furnished with means of locomotion proper to that element. To this
class belongs the common gnat (_Culex pipiens_), which being one
of our greatest torments, compels us to feel some curiosity about
its history. Its larva is a very singular creature, furnished with
a remarkable anal apparatus for respiration, by which it usually
remains suspended at the surface of the water. If disposed to
descend, it seems to sink by the weight of its body; but when it
would move upwards again, it effects its purpose by alternate
contortions of the upper and lower halves of it, and thus it moves
with much celerity. The laminæ or swimmers, which terminate its
anus[436], are doubtless of use to it in promoting this purpose.
It does not, that I ever observed, move in a lateral direction,
but only from the surface downwards, and _vice versa_.--Another
dipterous larva (_Corethra culiciformis_), which much resembles that
of the gnat in form, differs from it in its motions and station of
repose. For, instead of being suspended at the surface with its head
downwards, it usually, like fishes, remains in a horizontal position
in the middle of the water. When it ascends to the surface, it is
always by means of a few strokes of its tail, so that its motion is
not equable, _sed per saltus_. It descends again gradually by its
own weight, and regains its equilibrium by a single stroke of the
tail[437].--A well known fly (_Stratyomis Chamæleon_), in its first
state an aquatic animal, often remains suspended, by its radiated
anus, at the surface of the water, with its head downwards. But when
it is disposed to seek the bottom or to descend, by bending the radii
of its tail so as to form a concavity, it includes in them a bubble
of air, in brilliancy resembling silver or pearl; and then sinks with
it by its own weight. When it would return to the surface it is by
means of this bubble, which is, as it were, its air-balloon. If it
moves upon the surface or horizontally, it bends its body alternately
to the right and left, contracting itself into the form of the letter
S; and then extending itself again into a straight line, by these
alternate movements it makes its way slowly in the water[438].

I have dwelt longer upon the apodous larvæ, or those that are
without what may be called proper legs, analogous to those of
perfect insects, because the absence of these ordinary instruments
of motion is in numbers of them supplied in a way so remarkable
and so worthy to be known; and because in them the wisdom of the
Creator is so conspicuously, or, I should rather say, so strikingly
manifested--since it is doubtless equally conspicuous in the ordinary
routine of nature. But aberrations from her general laws, and modes,
and instruments of action, often of rare occurrence, impress us more
forcibly than any thing that falls under our daily observation.

       *       *       *       *       *

I come now to _pedate_ larvæ, or those that move by means of proper
or articulate legs. These legs (generally six in number, and attached
to the underside of the three first segments of the body) vary in
larvæ of the different orders: but they seem in most to have joints
answering to the hip (_coxa_); trochanter; thigh (_femur_); shank
(_tibia_); foot (_tarsus_), of perfect insects, the legs of which
they include. Cuvier, speaking of _Coleoptera_ and some _Neuroptera_,
mentions only three joints. But many in these orders (amongst which
he included the _Trichoptera_) have the joints I have enumerated. To
name no more, the _Lamellicornia_, _Dytisci_, _Silphæ_, _Staphylini_,
_Cicindelæ_, and _Gyrini_, &c. amongst coleopterous larvæ; and
the _Trichoptera_, as well as the _Libellulina_ and _Ephemerina_,
amongst Cuvier's _Neuroptera_,--have these joints, and in many the
last terminates in a double claw[439]. In some coleopterous genera
the tarsus seems absent or obsolete. The larva of the lady-bird
(_Coccinella_) affords an example of the former kind, and that of
_Chrysomela_ of the latter[440]. These joints are very visible in the
legs of caterpillars of _Lepidoptera_, and their tarsus is armed with
a single claw[441]. The larvæ that have these legs walk with them
sometimes very swiftly. In stepping they set forward at the same time
the anterior and posterior legs of one side, and the intermediate one
of the other; and so alternately on each side.

Pedate larvæ are of two descriptions: those that to perfect legs add
spurious ones with or without claws, and those that have only perfect
legs. I begin with the former--those that have both kinds of legs. But
first I must make a few remarks upon _spurious_ legs. Because their
muscles, instead of the horny substance that protects them in perfect
legs, are covered only by a soft membrane, they have been usually
denominated _membranaceous legs_: since, however, they are temporary,
vanishing altogether when the insect arrives at its perfect state,--are
merely used, for they do not otherwise assist in this motion, as props
to hinder its long body, when it walks, from trailing on the ground;
to push against the plane of position; and, by means of their hooks or
claws, to fix itself firmly to its station when it feeds or reposes,--I
shall therefore call them prolegs (_propedes_[442]). These organs
consist of three or four folds, and are commonly terminated, though
not always, by a coronet or semicoronet of very minute crooked claws
or hooks. These claws, which sometimes amount to nearly a hundred on
one proleg, are alternately longer and shorter. They are crooked at
both ends, and are attached to the proleg by the back by means of a
membrane, which covers about two-thirds of their length, leaving their
two extremities naked. Of these the upper one is sharp, and the lower
blunt. The sole, or part of the prolegs within the claws, is capable of
opening and shutting. When the animal walks, that they may not impede
its motion, it is shut, and the claws are laid flat with their points
inwards; but when it wishes to fix itself, the sole is opened, becoming
of greater diameter than before, and the claws stand erect with their
points outwards. Thus they can lay stronger hold of the plane of

The number of these prolegs varies in different species and families.
In the numerous tribes of saw-flies (_Serrifera_), the larvæ of
which resemble those of _Lepidoptera_, and are called by Reaumur
spurious caterpillars (_fausses chenilles_), one family (_Lophyrus_)
has sixteen prolegs; a second (_Hylotoma_, &c.) fourteen; another
(_Tenthredo_, F.) twelve; and a fourth (_Lyda_) none at all, having
only the six perfect legs. The majority of larvæ of _Lepidoptera_
have ten prolegs, eight being attached, a pair on each, to the
sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth segments of the body, and two to
the twelfth or anal segment[444]. The caterpillar of the puss-moth
(_Cerura Vinula_) and some others, instead of the anal prolegs, have
two tails or horns. A hemigeometer, described by De Geer, has only
six intermediate prolegs, the posterior pair of which are longer
than the rest, to assist the anal pair in supporting the body in
a posture more or less erect[445]. Other hemigeometers, of which
kind is the larva of _Plusia Gamma_[446], have only six prolegs,
four intermediate and two anal. The true geometers or surveyors
(_Geometræ_) have only two intermediate and two anal prolegs.
Many grubs of _Coleoptera_, especially those of _Staphylinidæ_,
_Silphidæ_, &c. which are long and narrow, are furnished with a stiff
joint at the anus, which they bend downwards and use as a prop to
prevent their body from trailing. This joint, though without claws,
may be regarded as a kind of proleg, which supports them when they
walk[447]; and probably may assist their motion by pushing against
the plane of position.

With respect to the larvæ that have only perfect legs, having just
given you an account of these organs, I have nothing more to state
relating to their structure. I shall therefore now consider the
motions of pedate larvæ, under the several heads of walking or
running, jumping, climbing, and swimming.

Amongst those that _walk_, some are remarkable for the slowness of
their motion, while others are extremely swift. The caterpillar of
the hawk-moth of the Filipendula (_Zygæna Filipendulæ_) is of the
former description, moving in the most leisurely manner; while that
of _Apatela leporina_, a moth unknown in Britain, is named after the
hare, from its great speed. The caterpillar of another moth, the
species of which seems not to be ascertained, is celebrated by De
Geer for the wonderful celerity of its motions. When touched it darts
away backwards as well as forwards, giving its body an undulating
motion with such force and rapidity, that it seems to fly from side
to side[448].--Cuvier observes, that the grubs of some coleopterous
and neuropterous insects, which have only the six perfect legs,
by means of them lay hold of any surrounding object, and, fixing
themselves to it, drag the rest of their body to that point; and that
those of many capricorn beetles and their affinities (but that of
_Callidium violaceum_ is an apode[449]) have these legs excessively
minute and almost nothing; that they move in the sinuosities which
they bore by the assistance of their mandibles, with which they fix
themselves, and also of several dorsal and ventral tubercles, by
which they are supported against the sides of their cavity, and push
themselves along, in the same manner as a chimney-sweeper--by the
pressure of his knees, elbows, shoulder-blades, and other prominent
parts--pushes himself up a chimney[450]. The larva of the ant-lion
(_Myrmeleon_)--with the exception of one species, which moves in the
common way--always walks backwards, even when its legs are cut off.

The _jumpers_ amongst pedate larvæ, as far as they are known, are not
very numerous, and will not detain you long. When the caterpillar of
_Lithosia Quadra_, a moth not uncommon, would descend from one branch
or leap to another, it approaches to the edge of the leaf on which
it is stationed, bends its body together, and retiring a little
backwards, as if to take a good situation, leaps through the air,
and, however high the jump, alights on its legs like a cat. That of
another moth (_Herminia rostralis_) will also leap to a considerable

Another species of motion, which is peculiar to larvæ,--their mode I
mean of _climbing_,--as it merits particular attention, will occupy
more time. I have already related so many extraordinary facts in their
history, that I promise myself you will not disbelieve me if I assert
that insects either use ladders for this purpose, or a single rope. You
may often have seen the caterpillar of the common cabbage-butterfly
climbing up the walls of your house, and even over the glass of your
windows. When next you witness this last circumstance, if you observe
closely the square upon which the animal is travelling, you will find
that, like a snail, it leaves a visible track behind it. Examine this
with your microscope, and you will see that it consists of little
silken threads, which it has spun in a zigzag direction, forming a
rope-ladder, by which it ascends a surface it could not otherwise
adhere to. The silk as it comes from the spinners is a gummy fluid,
which hardens in the air; so that it has no difficulty in making
it stick to the glass.--Many caterpillars that feed upon trees,
particularly the geometers, have often occasion to descend from branch
to branch, and sometimes, especially previously to assuming the pupa,
to the ground. Had they to descend by the trunk, supposing them able
to traverse with ease its rugged bark, what a circuitous route must
they take before they could accomplish their purpose! Providence, ever
watchful over the welfare of the most insignificant of its creatures,
has gifted them with the means of attaining these ends, without all
this labour and loss of time. From their own internal stores they can
let down a rope, and prolong it indefinitely, which will enable them to
travel where they please. Shake the branches of an oak or other tree
in summer, and its inhabitants of this description, whether they were
reposing, moving, or feeding, will immediately cast themselves from the
leaves on which they were stationed; and however sudden your attack,
they are nevertheless still provided for it, and will all descend
by means of the silken cord just alluded to, and hang suspended in
the air. Their name of geometer was given them, because they seem to
measure the surface they pass over, as they walk, with a chain. If you
place one upon your hand, you will find that they draw a thread as they
go; when they move, their head is extended as far as they can reach
with it; then fastening their thread there, and bringing up the rest of
their body, they take another step; never moving without leaving this
clue behind them; the object of which, however, is neither to measure,
nor to mark its path that it may find it again; but thus, whenever the
caterpillar falls or would descend from a leaf, it has a cord always
ready to support it in the air, by lengthening which it can with ease
reach the ground. Thus it can drop itself without danger from the
summit of the most lofty trees, and ascend again by the same road. As
the silky matter is fluid when it issues from the spinners, it should
seem as if the weight of the insect would be too great, and its descent
too rapid, so as to cause it to fall with violence upon the earth. The
little animal knows how to prevent such an accident, by descending
gradually. It drops itself a foot or half a foot, or even less, at
a time; then making a longer or shorter pause, as best suits it, it
reaches the ground at last without a shock. From hence it appears that
these larvæ have power to contract the orifice of the spinners, so as
that no more of the silky gum shall issue from it; and to relax it
again when they intend to resume their motion downwards: consequently
there must be a muscular apparatus to enable them to effect this, or at
least a kind of sphincter, which, pressing the silk, can prevent its
exit. From hence also it appears that the gummy fluid which forms the
thread must have gained a degree of consistence even before it leaves
the spinner, since as soon as it emerges it can support the weight of
the caterpillar.--In ascending, the animal seizes the thread with its
jaws as high as it can reach it; and then elevating that part of the
back that corresponds with the six perfect legs, till these legs become
higher than the head, with one of the last pair it catches the thread;
from this the other receives it, and so a step is gained: and thus
it proceeds till it has ascended to the point it wishes to reach. At
this time if taken it will be found to have a packet of thread, from
which, however, it soon disengages itself; between the two last pairs
of perfect legs[452]. To see hundreds of these little animals pendent
at the same time from the boughs of a tree, suspended at different
heights, some working their way downwards and some upwards, affords
a very amusing spectacle. Sometimes, when the wind is high, they are
blown to the distance of several yards from the tree, and yet maintain
their threads unbroken. I witnessed an instance of this last summer,
when numbers were driven far from the most extended branches, and
looked as if they were floating in the air.

Having related to you what is peculiar in the motions of pedate
larvæ upon the earth and in the air, I must next say something
with respect to their locomotive powers in the _water_. Numbers of
this description inhabit that element.--Amongst the beetles, the
genera _Dytiscus_, _Hydrophilus_, _Gyrinus_, _Limnius_, _Parnus_,
_Heterocerus_, _Elophorus_, _Hydræna_, &c. amongst the bug tribes,
_Gerris_, _Velia_, _Hydrometra_, _Notonecta_, _Sigara_, _Nepa_,
_Ranatra_, _Naucoris_; a few _Lepidoptera_; the majority of
_Trichoptera_; _Libellula_, _Aeshna_, _Agrion_, _Sialis_, _Ephemera_,
&c. amongst the _Neuroptera_; _Culex_ and many of the _Tipulariæ_,
Latr. from the dipterous insects; and from the _Aptera_, _Atax_, some
_Poduræ_, and many of the _Oniscidæ_, &c.--All these, in their larva
state, are aquatic animals.

The motions of these creatures in this state are various. Some walk
on the ground under water; some move in midwater, either by the
same motion of the legs as they use in walking, or by strokes, as
in swimming; others for this purpose employ certain laminæ, which
terminate their tails, as oars; others again swim like fish, with an
equable motion; some move by the force of the water which they spirt
from their anus; others again swim about in cases, or crawl over the
submerged bottom; and others walk even on the surface of the water. I
shall not now enlarge on all these kinds of water-motion, since many
will come under consideration hereafter.

There are two descriptions of larvæ of _Hydrophili_, one furnished
with swimmers or anal appendages, by means of which they are enabled
to swim; the other have them not, and hence are not able to rise from
the bottom[453]. The larvæ of _Dytisci_, by means of these natatory
organs, will swim, though slowly, and every now and then rise to the
surface for the sake of respiration. Those of _Ephemeræ_, when they
swim, apply their legs to the body, and swim with the swiftness and
motions of fish[454]. Those of the true may-fly (_Sialis lutaria_),
on the contrary, use their legs in swimming, and at the same time,
by alternate inflexions, give to their bodies the undulations of
serpents[455]. But the larvæ of certain dragon-flies (_Aeshna_ and
_Libellula_,) will afford you the most amusement by their motions.
These larvæ commonly swim very little, being generally found walking
at the bottom on aquatic plants: when necessary, however, they can
swim well, though in a singular manner. If you see one swimming, you
will find that the body is pushed forward by strokes, between which
an interval takes place. The legs are not employed in producing this
progressive motion, for they are then applied close to the sides of
the trunk, in a state of perfect inaction. But it is effected by a
strong ejaculation of water from the anus. When I treat upon the
respiration of insects, I shall explain to you the apparatus by which
these animals separate the air from the water for that purpose; in
the present case it is subsidiary to their motions, since it is by
drawing in and then expelling the water that they are enabled to
swim. To see this, you have only to put one of these larvæ into a
plate with a little water. You will find that, while the animal
moves forward, a current of water is produced by this pumping, in
a contrary direction. As the larva, between every stroke of its
internal piston, has to draw in a fresh supply of water, an interval
must of course take place between the strokes. Sometimes it will lift
its anus out of the water, when a long thread of water, if I may so
speak, issues from it[456].

II. I am next to say something upon the motions of insects in their
_pupa_ state. This is usually to our little favourites a state of
perfect repose; but, as I long since observed[457], there are several
that, even when become pupæ, are as active and feed as rapaciously
as they do when they are either larvæ or perfect insects. The
_Dermaptera_, _Orthoptera_, _Hemiptera_, many of the _Neuroptera_,
and the majority of the _Aptera_, are of this description. With
respect to their motions, we may therefore consider pupæ as of two
kinds--_active_ pupæ, and _quiescent_ pupæ.

The motions of most insects whose pupæ are _active_, are so similar
in all their states, except where the wings are concerned, as not
to need any separate account. I shall therefore request you to wait
for what I have to say upon them, till I enter upon those of the
imago. One insect, however, of this kind, moving differently in its
preparatory states, is entitled to notice under the present head.--In
a late letter, I mentioned to you a bug (_Reduvius personatus_) which
usually covers itself with a mask of dust, and fragments of various
kinds, cutting a very grotesque figure[458]. Its awkward motions add
not a little to the effect of its appearance. When so disposed, it can
move as well and as fast as its congeners; yet this does not usually
answer its purpose, which is to assume the appearance of an inanimate
substance. It therefore hitches along in the most leisurely manner
possible, as if it was counting its steps. Having set one foot forward
(for it moves only one leg at a time), it stops a little before it
brings up its fellow, and so on with the second and third legs. It
moves its antennæ in a similar way, striking, as it were, first with
one, and then, after an interval of repose, with the other[459].--The
pupæ of gnats also, as well as those of many other aquatic _Diptera_,
retain their locomotive powers, not however the free motion of their
limbs. When not engaged in action, they ascend to the surface by the
natural levity of their bodies, and are there suspended by two auriform
respiratory organs in the anterior part of the trunk, their abdomen
being then folded under the breast; when disposed to descend the animal
unfolds it, and by sudden strokes which she gives with it and her anal
swimmers to the water, she swims, to the right and left as well as
downwards, with as much ease as the larva[460].

Bonnet mentions a pupa which climbs up and down in its cocoon,--and
that of the common glow-worm (_Lampyris noctiluca_) will sometimes
push itself along by the alternate extension and contraction of the
segments of its body[461].--Others turn round when disturbed. That
of a weevil (_Hypera Arator_) which spins itself a beautiful cocoon
like fine gauze, and which it fixes to the stalks of the common
spurrey (_Sagina arvensis_), upon my touching this stalk, whirled
round several times with astonishing rapidity.--The chrysalis of a
scarce moth (_Hypogymna dispar_) when touched turns round with great
quickness; but, as if fearful of breaking the thread by which it is
suspended by constantly twisting it in one direction, it performs
its gyrations alternately from left to right, and from right to
left[462]. Generally speaking, quiescent pupæ when disturbed show
that they have life, by giving their abdomen violent contortions.

But the most extraordinary motion of pupæ is jumping. In the year
1810 I received an account from a very intelligent young lady, who
collected and studied insects with more than common ardour and ability,
that a friend had brought her a chrysalis endued with this faculty.
It was scarcely a quarter of an inch in length; of an oval form; its
colour was a semitransparent brown, with a white opake band round the
middle. It was found attached, by one end, to the leaf of a bramble. It
repeatedly jumped out of an open pill-box that was an inch in height.
When put into a drawer in which some other insects were impaled, it
skipped from side to side, passing over their backs for nearly a
quarter of an hour with surprising agility. Its mode of springing
seemed to be by balancing itself upon one extremity of its case. About
the end of October one end of the case grew black, and from that time
the motion ceased; and about the middle of April, in the following
year, a very minute ichneumon made its appearance by a hole it had made
at the opposite end.--Some time after I had received this history, I
happened to have occasion to look at Reaumur's Memoir upon the enemies
of caterpillars, where I met with an account of a similar jumping
chrysalis, if not the same. Round the nests of the caterpillar of the
processionary moth, before noticed[463], he found numerous little
cocoons suspended by a thread three or four inches long to a twig or a
leaf, of a shortened oval form, and close texture, but so as the meshes
might be distinguished. These cocoons were rather transparent, of a
coffee-brown colour, and surrounded in the middle by a whitish band.
When put into boxes or glasses, or laid on the hand, they surprised
him by leaping. Sometimes their leaps were not more than ten lines, at
others they were extended to three or four inches, both in height and
length. When the animal leaps, it suddenly changes its ordinary posture
(in which the back is convex and touches the upper part of the cocoon,
and the head and anus rest upon the lower), and strikes the upper part
with the head and tail, before its belly, which then becomes the convex
part, touches the bottom. This occasions the cocoon to rise in the air
to a height proportioned to the force of the blow. At first sight this
faculty seems of no great use to an animal that is suspended in the
air; but the winds may probably sometimes place it in a different and
unsuitable position, and lodge it upon a leaf or twig: in this case
it has it in its power to recover its natural station. Reaumur could
not ascertain the fly that should legitimately come from this cocoon,
for different cocoons gave different flies: whence it was evident that
these ichneumons were infested by their own parasite[464]. This might
be the case with that of the lady just mentioned. Perhaps, properly
speaking, in this last instance the motions ought rather to be regarded
as belonging to a larva; but as it had ceased feeding, and had inclosed
itself in its cocoon, I consider it as belonging to the present head.

You may probably here feel some curiosity to be informed how the
numerous larvæ that are buried in their pupa state, either in the
heart of trees, under the earth, or in the waters, effect their
escape from their various prisons and become denizens of the air,
especially as you are aware that each is shrouded in a winding-sheet
and cased in a coffin. In most, however, if you examine this coffin
closely, you will see RESURGAM written upon it. What I mean is this.
The _puparium_ or case of the animal is furnished with certain
acute points (_adminicula_) generally single, but in some instances
forked, looking towards the anus, and usually placed upon transverse
ridges on the back of the abdomen, but sometimes arming the sides or
the margins of the segments. By this simple contrivance, aided by
new-born vigour, when the time for its great change is arrived, the
included prisoner of hope, if under ground, pushes itself gradually
upwards, till reaching the surface its head and trunk emerge, when
an opening in the latter being effected by its efforts, it escapes
from its confinement, and once more tastes the sweets of liberty
and the joys of life. Those that are inclosed in trees and spin a
cocoon, are furnished with points on the head, with which they make
an opening in the former. The pupa of the great goat-moth (_Cossus
ligniperda_) thus, by divers movements, keeps disengaging itself from
this envelope, till it arrives at a hole in the tree which it had
made when a caterpillar; when its anterior part having emerged, it
stops short, and so escapes a fall that might destroy it. After some
repose, in consequence of very violent efforts, the puparium opens,
and it escapes from its prison[465].

The insects of the _Trichoptera_ order, or case-worm flies are
_quiescent_ when they first assume the pupa, but become locomotive
towards the close of their existence in that state. Since they
inhabit the water when they become pupæ, Providence has furnished
them with the means of quitting that fluid without injury, when they
are to exchange it for the air; which in their winged state is their
proper sphere of action. I have before described to you the grates
which shut up their cases when they became quiescent[466]; if they
had no means of piercing these grates, they would perish in the
waters. The head of these pupæ is provided at first with a particular
instrument, which enables them to effect this purpose; its anterior
part is armed with a pair of hooks in form resembling the beak of a
bird; and with this, previously to their last change, they make an
opening in the grate which, though it once defended, now confines
them. But at this moment, perhaps, the insect has a considerable
space of water to rise through before she can reach the surface. This
is all wisely provided for; before she leaves the envelope which
covers her body, she emerges from the water, and fixes herself upon
some plant or other object, the summit of which is not overflowed.
But you will here, perhaps, ask--How can a pupa in her envelope,
with all her limbs set fast, do this? This affords another instance
of the wise provision of the beneficent Father of the universe for
the welfare of his creatures. The antennæ and legs of this tribe of
insects, when they are pupæ, are not included, as is the case with
most that are quiescent in that state, in the general envelope; but
each in a separate one, so as to allow it free motion. Thus the
insect when the time is come for its last change can use them (except
the hind-legs, which being partly covered by the wing-cases remain
without motion) with ease. It then stretches out its antennæ, and
steering with its legs makes for the surface. De Geer saw one just
escaped from its case run and swim with surprising agility over the
bottom of a saucer, in which he had put some cases of these flies;
and at last when he held a piece of stick to it, it got upon it, and
having emerged from the water, prepared to cast its envelope. It is
remarkable, that the envelope of the intermediate tarsi, like the
posterior ones of Dytisci, is fringed on one side with hairs, to
enable the insects to use them as swimming feet[467], while those
neither of the larva nor imago are so circumstanced.

                                                  I am, &c.


[402] _Anatom. Compar._ i. 144.

[403] _Physico-Theol._ Ed. 13. 363.

[404] _Encycl. Brit._, art. _Physiology_, 709.

[405] Cuvier, _Anat. Comp._ i. 430.

[406] De Geer, v. 210.

[407] See above, p. 7.

[408] De Geer, vi. 338.

[409] See MacLeay in _Philos. Mag. &c._ N. Ser. No. 9. 178.

[410] De Geer, vi. 65.

[411] _Hist. Ins._ 270.

[412] Vol. I. 265.

[413] Reaumur, iii. 369.

[414] Vol. I. 137. De Geer, vi. 76. Reaumur, iv. 376. Swamm. _Bibl.
Nat._ Ed. Hill, ii. 46. a. _t._ xxxix. _f._ 3, _h. h._

[415] De Geer, vi. 355.

[416] Reaum. iv. 416. _t._ xxxvi. _f._ 5. Comp. Clark _On the Bots_,
&c. 48.

[417] Mr. Clark (ibid. 62) observed only rough points on the bots of
the sheep, but these also have spines or hooks looking towards the
anus. Reaum. iv. 556. _t._ xxxv. _f._ 11, 13, 15. I also observed
them myself in the same grub.

[418] See above, p. 220.

[419] PLATE XIX. FIG. 11.

[420] De Geer, vi. _t._ xxii. f. 15, _i._ _t._ xviii. f. 8, _p._

[421] Reaum. v. _t._ vi. f. 5, _mm._

[422] De Geer, vi. 395--. PLATE XXIII. FIG. 7. Foreleg, _a._
Hind-legs, _bb._ Mr. W. S. MacLeay is of opinion that these legs are
pedunculated spiracles, (_Philos. Mag._ N. Series, No. 9. 178.) but
it is evident from De Geer's account that the animal uses them as
legs, and like legs they are armed with hooks or claws.

[423] Lesser _L._ i. 96. note †.

[424] Klemann, _Beitrage_, 324.

[425] De Geer, i. 447-- _t._ xxxi. _f._ 17.

[426] De Geer, vi. 111.

[427] Ibid. v. 233.

[428] Ibid. 228.

[429] De Geer, vi. 137. _t._ viii. _f._ 8, 9.

[430] Reaum. iii. 496. _t._ xlv. _f._ 3.

[431] Ibid. _Mem. de l'Acad. Roy. des Sciences de Paris_, An. 1714.
p. 203.

[432] De Geer, vi. 380-- _t._ xxiv. _f._ 1-9.

[433] Swamm. _Bibl. Nat._ Ed. Hill, ii. 64. b.

[434] De Geer, vi. 389--.

[435] VOL. I. 431.

[436] Reaum. iv. _t._ 43. _f._ 3. _nn._

[437] De Geer, vi. 375. _t._ xxiii. _f._ 4, 5.

[438] Swamm. _Bibl. Nat._ Ed. Hill, ii. 44. b. 47. a.

[439] For examples of larvæ having these joints, see De Geer, iv.
289. _t._ xiii. _f._ 20. _t._ xv. _f._ 14. ii. _t._ xii. _f._ 3. _t._
xvi. _f._ 5, 6. _t._ xix. _f._ 4, &c.

[440] Ibid. v. _t._ xi. _f._ 11. _t._ ix. _f._ 9. o.

[441] Lyonet, _Tr. Anat._ _t._ iii. _f._ 8.

[442] Mr. W. S. MacLeay, where quoted above, objects to this term;
but as the organs in question are generally given to the animal to
assist in its motions, and have been universally regarded as a kind
of legs, it was judged best for the sake of distinction to give them
a different name from perfect legs, and at the same time one that
showed some affinity to them.

[443] Lyonet, 82-- _t._ iii. _f._ 10-16.

[444] Ibid. _t._ i. _f._ 4.

[445] De Geer, i. 379. _t._ xxv. _f._ 1. 3.

[446] VOL. I. 192--.

[447] De Geer, i. 12. 40. _t._ i. _f._ 27. _q. t._ vi. _f._ 11. _e._

[448] De Geer, i. 424.

[449] Kirby in _Linn. Trans._ v. 258.

[450] _Anatom. Comp._ i. 430.

[451] Rösel, I. iv. 112. vi. 14.

[452] Reaum. ii. 375--.

[453] Miger, _Ann. du Mus._ xiv. 441.

[454] De Geer, ii. 621.

[455] Ibid. 725--.

[456] De Geer, ii. 675-- Compare Reaum. vi. 393.

[457] VOL. I. 66.

[458] See above, p. 255.

[459] De Geer, iii. 284.

[460] Ibid. vi. 308.

[461] Ibid. iv. 43.

[462] Dumeril, _Trait. Element._ ii. 49. n. 603.

[463] VOL. I. 475; and above, p. 23.

[464] Reaum. ii. 450.

[465] Lyonet. _Trait. Anat._ 15--.

[466] See above, p. 264.

[467] De Geer, ii. 518--.

                             LETTER XXIII.

                    _MOTIONS OF INSECTS._ (_Imago._)

III. The motions of insects in their perfect or _imago_ state are
various, and for various purposes; and the provision of organs
by which they are enabled to effect them is equally diversified
and wonderful. It will be convenient to divide this multifarious
subject; I shall therefore consider their motions under two principal
heads:--motions of insects _reposing_--and motions of insects _in
action_;--and this last head I shall further subdivide into motions
whose object is change of place, and sportive motions.

       *       *       *       *       *

The first of these, motions of insects _reposing_, will not detain
us long. The most remarkable is that of the long-legged gnats or
crane-flies (_Tipulæ_).--When at rest upon any wall or ceiling,
sometimes standing upon four legs, and sometimes upon five, you
may observe them elevate and depress their body alternately. This
oscillating movement is produced by the weight of their body and the
elasticity of their legs, and is constant and uninterrupted during
their repose. Unless it be connected with the respiration of the
animal, it is not easy to say what is the object of it. Moths, when
feeling the stimulus of desire, or under alarm, set their whole
body into a tremor[468]. A living specimen of the hawk-moth of the
willow being once brought me, upon placing it upon my hand, after
ejecting a milky fluid from its anus, it put its wings and body into
a most rapid vibration, which continued more than a minute, when it
flew away. A butterfly, called by Aurelians "The large skipper,"
(_Hesperia Sylvanus_,) when it alights, which it does very often,
for they are never long on the wing, always turns half-way round; so
that, if it settles with its head from you, it turns it towards you.

Others of the motions in question are merely those of parts.
Butterflies, when standing still in the sun, as you have doubtless
often observed,

          "Their golden pinions ope and close;"

thus, it should seem, unless this motion be connected with their
respiration, alternately warming and cooling their bodies. You have
probably noticed a very common little fly, of a shining black, with
a black spot at the end of its wings (_Seioptera vibrans_[469]).
It has received its trivial name (_vibrans_) from the constant
vibration which, when reposing, it imparts to its wings. This
motion also, I have reason to think, assists its respiration.--Some
insects when awake are very active with their antennæ, though their
bodies are at rest. I remember one evening attending for some time
to the proceedings of one of those caseworm-flies (_Leptocerus_),
that are remarkable, like certain moths, for their long antennæ. It
was perched upon a blade of grass, and kept moving these organs,
which were twice as long as itself, in all directions, as if by
means of them it was exploring every thing that occurred in its
vicinity.--Many Tipulæ, and likewise some mites (_Acarus vibrans_
and _Gamasus motatorius_), distinguished by long anterior legs, from
this circumstance denominated _pedes motatorii_ by Linné, holding
them up in the air impart to them a vibratory motion, resembling that
of the antennæ of some insects[470].--I scarcely need mention, what
must often have attracted your attention, the actions of flies when
they clean themselves; how busily they rub and wipe their head and
thorax with their fore legs, and their wings and abdomen with their
hind ones.--Perhaps you are not equally aware of the use to which the
rove-beetles (_Staphylinus_, L.) put their long abdomen. They turn it
over their back not only to put themselves in a threatening attitude,
as I lately related[471], but also to fold up their wings with it,
and pack them under their short elytra.

       *       *       *       *       *

With respect to the motions of insects in _action_, they may be
subdivided, as was just observed, into motions whose object is change
of place--and sportive motions.

The _locomotions_ of these animals are walking, running, jumping,
climbing, flying, swimming, and burrowing. I begin with the _walkers_.

The mode of their _walking_ depends upon the number and kind of their
legs. With regard to these, insects may be divided into four natural
classes; viz. _Hexapods_, or those that have only _six_ legs: such
are those of every order except the _Aptera_ of Linné, of which only
three or four genera belong to this class.--_Octopods_, or those
that have _eight_ legs, including the tribes of mites (_Acarina_);
spiders (_Araneidæ_); long-legged spiders (_Phalangidæ_); and
scorpions (_Scorpionidæ_):--_Polypods_, or those that have _fourteen_
legs, consisting of the woodlouse tribe (_Oniscidæ_);--and
_Myriapods_, or those that have more than fourteen legs--often
more than a hundred--composed of the two tribes of centipedes
(_Scolopendridæ_) and millepedes (_Julidæ_). The first of these
classes may be denominated _proper_, and the rest _improper_ insects.
The legs of all seem to consist of the same general parts; the hip,
trochanter, thigh, shank, and foot; the four first being usually
without joints (though in the _Araneidæ_, &c. the shank has two), and
the foot having from one to above forty[472].

In _walking_ and _running_, the hexapods, like the larvæ that have
perfect legs, move the anterior and posterior leg of one side and the
intermediate of the other alternately, as I have often witnessed.
De Geer, however, affirms that they advance each pair of legs at
the same time[473]; but this is contrary to fact, and indeed would
make their ordinary motions, instead of walking and running, a kind
of canter and gallop. Whether those that have more than six feet
move in this way--which is not improbable--from the difficulty of
attending at the same time to the movements of so many members, is
not easily ascertained.

The dog-tick (_Ixodes Ricinus_), if when young and active it moves in
the same way that it does when swoln to an enormous size with blood,
seems to afford an exception to the mode of walking just described.
It first uses, says Ray, its two anterior legs as antennæ to feel
out its way, and then fixing them, brings the next pair beyond them,
which being also fixed, it takes a second step with the anterior,
and so drags its bloated carcase along[474]. Redi observes, that
when scorpions walk they use those remarkable comb-like processes at
the base of their posterior legs to assist them in their motions,
extending them and setting them out from the body, as if they were
wings: and his observation is confirmed by Amoreux, who calls them
ventral swimmers[475]. I have often noticed a millepede (_Julus
terrestris_), frequently found under the bark of trees, and where
there is not a free circulation of air, the motions of which are
worthy of attention. Observed at a little distance, it seems to
glide over the surface, like a serpent, without legs; but a nearer
inspection shows how its movement is accomplished. Alternate portions
of its numerous legs are extended beyond the line of the body, so
as to form an obtuse angle with it, while those in the intervals
preserve a vertical direction. So that, as long as it keeps moving,
little bunches of the legs are alternately in and out from one end
to the other of its long body; and an amusing sight it is to see
the undulating line of motion successively beginning at the head and
passing off at the tail.--The motion of centipedes (_Scolopendra_),
as well as that of this insect and its congeners, is retrogressive as
well as progressive. Put your finger to the common one (_Lithobius
forficatus_), and it will immediately retrograde, and with the same
facility as if it was going forwards. This difference, however, is
then observable--it uses its four hind legs, which, when it moves in
the usual way, are dragged after it. Almost all the other apterous
insects, as well as many of those in the other orders, can move
in all directions; backwards, and towards both sides, as well as
forwards. Bonnet mentions a spider (not a spinner) that always walked
backwards when it attacked a large insect of its own tribe; but when
it had succeeded in driving it from a captive fly, which however it
did not eat, it walked forwards in the ordinary way[476].

Insects vary much in their walking paces: some crawling along; others
walking slowly; and others moving with a very quick step. The field
cricket (_Gryllus campestris_) creeps very slowly--the bloody-nose
beetle (_Timarcha tenebricosa_) and the oil-beetle (_Meloe
Proscarabæus_) march very leisurely; the spider-wasps (_Pompilus_)
walk by starts, as it were, vibrating their wings, at the same time,
without expanding them; while flies, ichneumons, wasps, &c., and many
beetles, walk as fast as they can. One insect, a kind of snake-fly
(_Mantispa pagana_), is said to walk upon its knees. The crane-flies
(_Tipula oleracea_) and shepherd-spiders (_Phalangium_) have legs so
disproportionately long, that they seem to walk upon stilts; but
when we consider that they have to walk over and amongst grass,--the
former laying its eggs in meadows,--we shall see the reason of this
conformation. Insects do not always walk in a right line; for I have
often observed the little midges (_Psychoda_, Latr.), when walking up
glass, moving alternately from right to left and from left to right,
as humble-bees fly, so as to describe small zigzags.

Numerous are the insects that _run_. Almost all the predaceous
tribes, the black dors, clocks, or ground-beetles (_Eutrechina_), and
their fellow destroyers the _Cicindelæ_, and other _Eupterina_--which
Linné, with much propriety, has denominated the tigers of the
insect world,--are gifted with uncommon powers of motion, and run
with great rapidity. The velocity, in this respect, of ants is also
very great.--Mr. Delisle observed a fly--so minute as to be almost
invisible--which ran nearly three inches in a demi-second, and in
that space made 540 steps. Consequently it could take a thousand
steps during one pulsation of the blood of a man in health[477].
Which is as if a man, whose steps measured two feet, should run
at the incredible rate of more than twenty miles in a minute! How
astonishing then are the powers with which these little beings
are gifted!--The forest-fly (_Hippobosca_), and its kindred genus
_Ornithomyia_ parasitic upon birds, are extremely difficult to take,
as I have more than once experienced, from their extreme agility.
I lost one from this circumstance two years ago that I found upon
the sea-lark (_Charadrius Hiaticula_) and which appeared to be
non-descript. Another most singular insect, which though apterous is
nearly related to these--I mean the louse of the bat (_Nycteribia
Vespertilionis_), is still more remarkable for its swiftness. Its
legs, as appears from the observations of Colonel Montague, are fixed
in an unusual position on the upper side of the trunk. "It transports
itself," to use the words of the gentleman just mentioned, "with such
celerity, from one part of the animal it inhabits to the opposite
and most distant, although obstructed by the extreme thickness of
the fur, that it is not readily taken."----"When two or three were
put into a small phial, their agility appeared inconceivably great;
for, as their feet are incapable of fixing upon so smooth a body,
their whole exertion was employed in laying hold of each other;
and in this most curious struggle they appeared actually flying in
circles: and when the bottle was reclined, they would frequently pass
from one end to the other with astonishing velocity, accompanied by
the same gyrations: if by accident they escaped each other, they
very soon became motionless: and as quickly were the whole put in
motion again by the least touch of the bottle, or the movement of an
individual[478]."--Incredibly great also is the rapidity with which
a little reddish mite, with two black dots on the anterior part of
its back (_Gamasus Baccarum_), common upon strawberries, moves along.
Such is the velocity with which it runs, that it appears rather to
glide or fly than to use its legs.

When insects walk or run, their legs are not the only members that
are put in motion. They will not, or rather cannot, stir a step till
their antennæ are removed from their station of repose and set in
action. When the chafers or petalocerous beetles are about to move,
these organs, before concealed, instantly appear, and the laminæ which
terminate them being separated from each other as widely as possible,
they begin their march. They employ their antennæ, however, not as
feelers to explore surrounding objects,--their palpi being rather used
for that purpose,--but, it should seem, merely to receive vibrations,
or impressions from the atmosphere, to which these laminæ, especially
in the male cockchafers, or rather tree-chafers (_Melolonthæ_) present
a considerable surface. Yet insects that have filiform or setaceous
antennæ appear often to use them for exploring. When the turnip-flea
(_Haltica oleracea_) walks, its antennæ are alternately elevated and
depressed.--The same thing takes place with some woodlice (_Oniscidæ_),
which use them as tactors, touching the surface on each side with them,
as they go along. This is not however constantly the use of this kind
of antennæ; for I have observed that _Telephorus lividus_,--a narrow
beetle with soft elytra, common in flowers,--when it walks vibrates
its setaceous antennæ very briskly, but does not explore the surface
with them. The parasitic tribes of _Hymenoptera_, especially the minute
ones, when they move vibrate these organs most intensely, and probably
by them discover the insect to which the law of their nature ordains
that they should commit their eggs; some even using them to explore
the deep holes in which a grub, the appropriate food of their larva,
lurks[479]. But upon this subject I shall have occasion to enlarge when
I treat of the senses of insects.--Antennæ are sometimes used as legs.
A gnat-like kind of bug (_Ploiera vagabunda_) has very short anterior
legs, or rather arms; while the two posterior pair are very long. Its
antennæ also are long. When it walks, which it does very slowly, with
a solemn measured step, its fore legs, which perhaps are useful only
in climbing, or to seize its prey, are applied to the body, and the
antennæ being bent, their extremity, which is rather thick, is made
to rest upon the surface on which the animal moves, and so supply the
place of fore-legs[480].--Mr. Curtis suspects that _Xyela pusilla_, a
hymenopterous insect related to _Xiphydria_, uses its maxillary palpi
as legs[481]. I have observed that mites often use the long hairs with
which the tail of some species is furnished, to assist them in walking.

Another mode of motion with which many insects are endowed is
_jumping_. This is generally the result of the sudden unbending of the
articulations of the posterior legs and other organs, which before
had received more than their natural bend. This unbending impresses a
violent rotatory motion upon these parts, the impulse of which being
communicated to the centre of gravity, causes the animal to spring
into the air with a determinate velocity, opposed to its weight more
or less directly[482]. Various are the organs by which these creatures
are enabled to effect this motion. The majority do it by a peculiar
conformation of the hind legs; others, by a pectoral process; and
others, again, by means of certain elastic appendages to the abdomen.

The _hind legs_ of many beetles are furnished with remarkably large
and thick thighs. Of this description are several species of weevils;
for instance, _Orchestes_ and _Ramphus_; the whole tribe of skippers
(_Haltica_), and the splendid Asiatic tribe of _Sagra_[483], &c. The
object of these disproportioned and clumsy thighs is to allow space
for more powerful muscles, by which the tibiæ, when the legs are
unbent, are impelled with greater force. In the _Orthoptera_ order
all the grasshoppers, including the genera _Gryllotalpa_; _Gryllus_;
_Tridactylus_; _Locusta_; _Acrida_; _Pterophylla_; _Pneumora_;
_Truxalis_; _Acrydium_; _Tetrix_, &c.--are distinguished by incrassated
posterior thighs; which however are much longer, more tapering and
shapely, (they are indeed somewhat clumsy in the two first genera, the
crickets,) than those of most of the _Coleoptera_ that are furnished
with them. When disposed to leap, these insects bend their hind leg
so as to bring the shank into close contact with the thigh--which has
often a longitudinal furrow armed with a row of spines on each side
to receive it. The leg being thus bent, they suddenly unbend it with
a jerk, when pushing against the plane of position, they spring into
the air often to a considerable height and distance. A locust, which
however is aided by its wings, it is said will leap two hundred times
its own length[484].--Aristophanes, in order to make the great and
good Athenian philosopher, Socrates, appear ridiculous, represents
him as having measured the leap of a flea[485]. In our better times
scientific men have done this without being laughed at for it, and
have ascertained that, comparatively, it equalled that of the locust,
being also two hundred times its length. Being effected by muscular
force, without the aid of wings, this is an astonishing leap.--There
are several insects, however, which, although they are furnished
with incrassated posterior thighs, do not jump. Of this description
are some beetles belonging to the genus _Necydalis_, (_Oedemera_,
Oliv.) in which this seems a peculiarity of the male: and amongst the
_Hymenoptera_, not to mention others, several species of _Chalcis_, and
all that are known of that singular genus _Leucospis_.

Many insects, that jump by means of their posterior legs, have not
these thighs. This is said to be the case with _Scaphidium_, a little
tribe of beetles[486]: and one of the same order, that seems to come
between _Anobium_ and _Ptilinus_, found by our friend the Rev. R.
Sheppard, and which I have named after him _Choragus Sheppardi_,
is similarly circumstanced.--In the various tribes of frog-hoppers
(_Cercopidæ_, &c.) the posterior tibiæ appear to be principally
concerned in their leaping. These are often very long, and furnished,
on their exterior margin, with a fringe of stiff hairs, or a series
of strong spines, by pressing which against the plane of position
they are supposed to be aided in effecting this motion. On this
occasion they bend their legs like the grasshoppers, and then
unbending kick them out with violence[487]. Many of them, amongst
the rest _Cercopis spumaria_, have the extremity of the above tibiæ
armed with a coronet of spines; these are of great use in pushing
them off when the legs are unbended. This insect, when about to leap,
places its posterior thighs in a direction perpendicular to the plane
of position, keeping them close to the body; it next with great
violence pushes them out backwards, so as to stretch the leg in a
right line. These spines then lay hold of the surface, and by their
pressure enable the body to spring forwards, when, being assisted
by its wings, it will make astonishing leaps, sometimes as much as
five or six feet, which is more than 250 times its own length; or
as if a man of ordinary stature should be able at once to vault
through the air to the distance of a quarter of a mile. Upon glass,
where the spines are of no use, the insect cannot leap more than
six inches[488].--The species of another genus of the homopterous
_Hemiptera_ (_Chermes_), that jump very nimbly by pushing out their
shanks, are perhaps assisted in this motion by a remarkable horn
looking towards the anus, which arms their posterior hip.--Some bugs
that leap well, _Acanthia saltatoria_, &c. seem to have no particular
apparatus to assist them, except that their posterior tibiæ are very
long.--Several of the minute ichneumons also jump with great agility,
but by what means I am unable to say.--There is a tribe of spiders,
not spinners, that leap even sideways upon their prey. One of these
(_Salticus scenicus_), when about to do this, elevates itself upon
its legs, and lifting its head seems to survey the spot before it
jumps. When these insects spy a small gnat or fly upon a wall, they
creep very gently towards it with short steps, till they come within
a convenient distance, when they spring upon it suddenly like a
tiger.--Bartram observed one of these spiders that jumped two feet
upon a humble-bee. The most amusing account, however, of the motions
of these animals is given by the celebrated Evelyn in his Travels.
When at Rome, he often observed a spider of this kind hunting the
flies which alighted upon a rail on which was its station. It kept
crawling under the rail till it arrived at the part opposite to
the fly, when stealing up it would attempt to leap upon it. If it
discovered that it was not perfectly opposite, it would immediately
slide down again unobserved, and at the next attempt would come
directly upon the fly's back. Did the fly happen not to be within a
leap, it would move towards it so softly, that its motion seemed not
more perceptible than that of the shadow of the gnomon of a dial.
If the intended prey moved, the spider would keep pace with it as
exactly as if they were actuated by one spirit, moving backwards,
forwards, or on each side without turning. When the fly took wing,
and pitched itself behind the huntress, she turned round with the
swiftness of thought, and always kept her head towards it, though
to all appearance as immovable as one of the nails driven into the
wood on which was her station: till at last, being arrived within
due distance, swift as lightning she made the fatal leap and secured
her prey[489]. I have had an opportunity of observing very similar
proceedings in _Salticus scenicus_.

But the legs of insects are not the only organs by which they leap.
The numerous species of the elastic beetles (_Elater_), skip-jacks as
some call them, perform this motion by means of a _pectoral process_
or mucro. These animals having very short legs, when laid upon their
backs, cannot by their means recover a prone position. To supply this
seeming defect in their structure, Providence has furnished them with
an instrument which, when they are so circumstanced, enables them
to spring into the air and recover their standing. If you examine
the breast (_pectus_) of one of these insects, you will observe
between the base of the anterior pair of legs a short and rather
blunt process, the point of which is towards the anus. Opposite to
this point, and a little before the base of the intermediate legs,
you will discover in the after-breast (_postpectus_) a rather deep
cavity, in which the point is often sheathed. This simple apparatus
is all that the insect wants to effect the above purpose. When
laid upon its back, in your hand if you please, it will first bend
back, so as to form a very obtuse angle with each other, the head
and trunk, and abdomen and metathorax, by which motion the mucro is
quite liberated from its sheath; and then bending them in a contrary
direction, the mucro enters it again, and the former attitude being
briskly and suddenly resumed, the mucro flies out with a spring, and
the insect rising, sometimes an inch or two into the air, regains
its legs and moves off. The upper part of the body, by its pressure
against the plane of position, assists this motion, during which the
legs are kept close to its underside. Cuvier, when he says that man
and birds are the only animals that can leap vertically[490], seems
to have forgotten this leap of Elaters, which is generally vertical,
the trunk being vertically above the organ that produces the leap.

Other insects again leap by means of the _abdomen_ or some organs
attached to it. An apterous species--belonging to the _Ichneumonidæ_,
and to the genus _Cryptus_--takes long leaps by first bending its
abdomen inwards, as De Geer thinks, and then pushing it with force
along the plane of position[491]. There is a tribe of minute insects
amongst the _Aptera_, found often under bark, sometimes on the water,
and in various other situations, which Linné has named _Podura_, a
term implying that they have a leg in their tail. This is literally
the fact. For the tail, or anal extremity, of these insects is
furnished with an inflexed fork[492], which, though usually bent
under the body, they have the power of unbending; during which
action, the forked spring, pushing powerfully against the plane of
position, enables the animal to leap sometimes two or three inches.
What is more remarkable, these little animals are by this organ
even empowered to leap upon water. There is a minute black species
(_P. aquatica_), which in the spring is often seen floating on that
contained in ruts, hollows, or even ditches, and in such infinite
numbers as to resemble gunpowder strewed upon the surface. When
disturbed, these black grains are seen to skip about as if ignited,
jumping with as much ease as if the fluid were a solid plane, that
resists their pressure. The insects of another genus--separated from
_Podura_ by Latreille under the name of _Sminthurus_--have also
an anal spring, which when bent under the body nearly reaches the
head. These, which are of a more globose form than _Podura_, are so
excessively agile that it is almost impossible to take them. Pressing
their spring against the surface on which they stand, and unbending
it with force, they are out of your reach before your finger can come
near them. One of them, _S. fuscus_, besides the caudal fork, has a
very singular organ, the use of which is to prevent it from falling
from a perpendicular surface, on which they are often found at a
great height from the ground. Between the ends of the fork there is
an elevated cylinder or tube, from which the animal, when necessary,
can protrude two long, filiform, flexible transparent threads covered
with a slimy secretion. By these, when it has lost its hold, it
adheres to the surface on which it is stationed[493]. Another insect
related to the common sugar-louse, and called by Latreille _Machilis
polypoda_, in some places common under stones[494], has eight pair
of springs, one on each ventral segment of the abdomen, by means of
which it leaps to a wonderful distance, and with the greatest agility.

_Climbing_ is another motion of insects that merits particular
consideration: since, as this includes their power of moving against
gravity--as we see flies and spiders do upon our ceilings, and up
perpendicular surfaces even when of glass--it affords room for much
interesting and curious inquiry. Climbing insects may be divided
into four classes.--Those that climb by means of their claws;--those
that climb by a soft cushion of dense hairs, that, more or less,
lines the underside of the joints of their tarsi, the claw-joint
excepted;--those that climb by the aid of suckers, which adhere (a
vacuum being produced between them and the plane of position) by the
pressure of the atmosphere;--and those that are enabled to climb by
means of some substance which they have the power of secreting.

The first order of climbers--those that climb by means of their
_claws_--includes a large proportion of insects, especially in the
_Coleoptera_ order--the majority of those that have five joints
in their tarsi being of this description. The predaceous tribes,
particularly the numerous and prowling ground-beetles (_Eutrechina_),
often thus ascend the plants and trees after their prey. Thus one of
them, the beautiful but ferocious _Calosoma Sycophanta_, mounts the
trunk and branches of the oak to commit fearful ravages amongst the
hordes of caterpillars that inhabit it[495]. By these the less savage
but equally destructive tree-chafers (_Melolonthæ_), and those enemies
of vegetable beauty the rose-chafers (_Cetonia aurata_), are enabled
to maintain their station on the trees and shrubs that they lay waste.
And by these also the water-beetles (_Dytiscus_, _Hydrophilus_, &c.)
climb the aquatic plants.--But it is unnecessary further to enlarge
upon this head; I shall only observe, that in most of the insects here
enumerated, the claws appear to be aided by stiff hairs or bristles.

Other climbers ascend by means of _foot-cushions_ (_pulvilli_)
composed of hairs, as thickly set as in plush or velvet, with which
the underside of the joints of their tarsi--the claw-joint, which is
always naked, excepted--are covered. These cushions are particularly
conspicuous in the beautiful tribe of plant-beetles (_Chrysomelidæ_).
A common insect of this kind, before mentioned, called the bloody-nose
beetle (_Timarcha tenebricosa_), by the aid of these is enabled
to adhere to the trailing plants, the various species of bedstraw
(_Galium_), on which it feeds; and by these will support itself against
gravity; for both this and _Chrysomela goettingensis_ will walk upon
the hand with their back downwards, and it then requires a rather
strong pull to disengage them from their station.--The whole tribe of
weevils (_Rhynchophora_, Latr.) are also furnished with these cushions,
but not always upon all their joints, some having them only at their
apex; and the palm-weevil (_Cordylia Palmarum_) at the extremity solely
of the last joint but one.--Those brilliant beetles the _Buprestes_
have also these cushions, as have likewise the numerous tribes of
capricorn-beetles (_Longicornes_, Latr.). The larvæ of these being
timber-borers, the parent insect is probably thus enabled to adhere to
this substance whilst it deposits its eggs. Indeed in some species of
the former genus the cushions wear the appearance of suckers.--While
the linear species of _Helops_ are without them, they clothe all the
tarsi of _H. æneus_ (_Chalcites_ K. Ms.)[496]. In two other genera of
the same order, _Silpha_ and _Cicindela_, the anterior tarsi of the
males are furnished with them; in these therefore they may be regarded,
like the suckers of the larger water-beetles (_Dytisci_), as given
for sexual purposes. The three first joints of the anterior tarsi of
many of the larger rove-beetles (_Staphylinus_, L.) are dilated so as
to form, as in the last-mentioned insects, an orbicular patella, but
covered by cushions. Since in them this is not peculiar to the males,
it is probably given that they may be able to support their long bodies
when climbing.

But the most remarkable class of climbers consists of those that are
furnished with an apparatus by which they can form a _vacuum_, so as to
adhere to the plane on which they are moving by atmospheric pressure.
That flies can walk upon glass placed vertically, and in general
against gravity, has long been a source of wonder and inquiry; and
various have been the opinions of scientific men upon the subject. Some
imagined that the suckers on the feet of these animals were spunges
filled with a kind of gluten, by which they were enabled to adhere to
such surfaces. This idea, though incorrect, was not so absurd as at
first it may seem; since we have seen above in many instances, and
very lately in that of the _Sminthurus fuscus_, that insects are often
aided in their motions by a secretion of this kind. Hooke appears to
have been one of the first who remarked that the suspension of these
animals was produced by some mechanical contrivance in their feet.
Observing that the claws alone could not effect this purpose, he justly
concluded that it must be principally owing to the mechanism of the two
palms, pattens, or soles as he calls the suckers; these he describes as
beset underneath with small bristles or tenters, like the wire teeth
of a card for working wool, which having a contrary direction to the
claws, and both pulling different ways, if there be any irregularity
or yielding in the surface of a body, enable the fly to suspend itself
very firmly. That they walk upon glass, he ascribes to some ruggedness
in the surface; and principally to a smoky tarnish which adheres to
it, by means of which the fly gets footing upon it[497]. But these
tenterhooks in the suckers of flies, and this smoky tarnish upon glass,
are mere fancies, since they can walk as well upon the cleanest glass
as upon the most tarnished. Reaumur also attributes this faculty of
these animals to the hairs upon their suckers[498]. That learned and
pious naturalist, Dr. Derham, seems to have been one of the first who
gave the true solution of this enigma. "Flies," says he, "besides their
sharp hooked nails, have also skinny palms to their feet, to enable
them to stick on glass and other smooth bodies, by the _pressure of
the atmosphere_[499]." He compares these palms to the curious suckers
of male _Dytisci_, before alluded to, and illustrates their action by
a common practice of boys, who carry stones by a wet piece of leather
applied to their top. Another eminent and excellent naturalist, the
late Mr. White, adopted this solution. He observes that in the decline
of the year, when the mornings and evenings become chilly, many species
of flies retire into houses and swarm in the windows: that at first
they are very brisk and alert; but, as they grow more torpid, that they
move with difficulty, and are scarcely able to lift their legs, which
seem as if glued to the glass; and that by degrees many do actually
stick till they die in the place. Then noticing Dr. Derham's opinion
as just stated, he further remarks, that they easily overcome the
atmospheric pressure when they are brisk and alert. But, he proceeds,
in the decline of the year this resistance becomes too mighty for their
diminished strength; and we see flies labouring along, and lugging
their feet in windows as if they stuck fast to the glass[500].

Sir Joseph Banks, to whom every branch of Natural History becomes
daily more indebted, has lately excited an inquiry, the results
of which have confirmed Derham's system concerning this motion of
animals against gravity. When abroad, he had noticed that a lizard,
on account of the sound that it emits before rain, named the
Gecko[501] (_Lacerta Gecko_) could walk against gravity up the walls
of houses; and comparing this with the parallel motions of flies, he
was desirous of having the subject more scientifically illustrated
than it had been. This inquiry was put into the able hands of Sir
Everard Home, so justly celebrated as a comparative anatomist, who
was assisted in it by the incomparable pencil of Mr. Bauer: and
it has been proved most satisfactorily, that it is by producing a
vacuum between certain organs destined for that purpose and the plane
of position, sufficient to cause atmospheric pressure upon their
exterior surface, that the animals in question are enabled to walk
up a polished perpendicular, like the glass in our windows and the
chunam walls in India, or with their backs downward on a ceiling,
without being brought to the ground by the weight of their bodies.

The instruments by which a fly effects this purpose are two suckers
connected with the last joint of the tarsus by a narrow infundibular
neck, which has power of motion in all directions, immediately under
the root of each claw. These suckers consist of a membrane capable
of extension and contraction: they are concavo-convex with serrated
edges, the concave surface being downy, and the convex granulated.
When in action they are separated from each other, and the membrane
expanded so as to increase the surface: by applying this closely to
the plane of position, the air is sufficiently expelled to produce the
pressure necessary to keep the animal from falling. When the suckers
are disengaged, they are brought together again so as to be confined
within the space between the two claws. This may be seen by looking at
the movements of a fly in the inside of a glass tumbler with a common
microscope[502]. Thus the fly you see does no more than the leech has
been long known to do, when moving in a glass vessel. Furnished with a
sucker at each extremity, by means of these organs it marches up and
down at its pleasure, or as the state of the atmosphere inclines it.

Dipterous insects, which in general have these organs, and some three
on each foot[503], are not exclusively gifted with them; for various
others in different orders have them, and some in greater numbers. As
I lately observed, the foot-cushions of the Buprestes are something
very like them, particularly those of _B. fascicularis_.--A Brazilian
beetle in my cabinet, belonging to the family of the _Cleridæ_,
but not arranging well under any of Latreille's genera, which I
have named _Priocera variegata_, has curious involuted suckers on
its feet.--The strepsipterous genera _Stylops_ and _Xenos_, are
remarkable for the vesicles of membrane that cover the underside of
their tarsi, which, though flaccid in old specimens, appear to be
inflated in the living animal or those that are recent[504]. It is
not improbable that these vesicles, which are large and hairy, may
act in some degree as suckers, and assist it in climbing.

The insects of the _Orthoptera_ order are, many of them, remarkable
for two kinds of appendages connected with my present subject,
being furnished both with suckers and cushions. The former
are concavo-convex processes, varying in shape in different
species--being sometimes orbicular, sometimes ovate or oblong, and
often wedge-shaped--which terminate the tarsus between the claw,
one on each foot. They are of a hard substance, and seem capable
of free motion. In some instances[505], another minute cavity is
discoverable at the base of the concave part, similar to that in
_Cimbex lutea_[506]. The latter, the foot-cushions, are usually
convex appendages, of an oblong form, and often, though not always,
divided in the middle by a very deep longitudinal furrow, attached
to the underside of the tarsal joints. Sir E. Home is of opinion
that the object of these foot-cushions is to take off the jar, when
the body of the animal is suddenly brought from a state of motion
to a state of rest[507]. This may very likely be one of their uses,
but there are several circumstances which militate against its being
the only one. By their elasticity they probably assist the insects
that have them in their leaps; and when they climb they may in some
degree act as suckers, and prevent them from falling. But their use
will be best ascertained by a review of the principal genera of the
order. Of these the cock-roaches (_Blatta_), the spectres (_Phasma_),
and the praying insects (_Mantis_), are distinguished by tarsi of
five joints[508]. The grasshoppers with setaceous antennæ (_Acrida_)
have four tarsal joints. Those with filiform antennæ (_Locusta_ and
_Acrydium_), those with ensiform (_Truxalis_[509]), and the crickets
(_Gryllus_), have only three. In _Blatta_, the variations with
respect to the suckers and cushions (for many species are furnished
with both) are remarkable. The former in some (_Blatta gigantea_)
are altogether wanting; in others (_B. Petiveriana_) they are mere
rudiments; and in others (_B. Maderæ_) they are more conspicuous,
and resemble those of the _Gryllidæ_. The foot-cushions also in some
are nearly obsolete, and occupy the mere extremity of the four first
tarsal joints (_B. orientalis_, _americana_, _capensis_, &c.). In
_B. Petiveriana_ there is none upon the first joint; but upon the
extremity of the four last, not excepting the claw-joint, there is
a minute orbicular concave one, resembling a sucker. In others (_B.
gigantea_, &c.) they extend the length of the four first joints, and
are very conspicuous. In some (_B. Mouffeti_, K.[510]), which have
no claw-sucker, there appears to be a cavity in the extremity of the
claw-joint, which may serve the purpose of one. These foot-cushions
are usually of a pale colour; but in one specimen of a hairy female
which I have, from Brazil, they are black. The spectre genus
(_Phasma_) exhibits no particular varieties in this respect. The
tarsal joints of the legs have cushions at their apex, which appear
to be bifid. They have a large orbicular sucker between the claws.
In _Mantis_ the fore feet have neither of the parts in question, and
the others have no suckers. They have cushions on the four first
tarsal joints of the two last pair of legs, which, though smaller,
are shaped much like those in _Phasma_. In _Acrida_ the feet have no
suckers between the claws, but they are distinguished by two oval,
soft, concave, and moveable processes attached to the base of the
first joint of the tarsus, which probably act as suckers[511]. In
this genus there are two foot-cushions on the first joint of the
tarsi, and one on each of the two following ones[512].--The species
of the genus _Locusta_ come next. This genus is called _Acrydium_ by
Latreille after Geoffroy; but, since it includes the true _locust_,
it ought to retain the name _Locusta_ given by Linné to the tribe
to which it belongs[513]. All these insects have the terminal
sucker between the claws, three foot-cushions on the first joint of
the tarsus, and one on the second[514]; and the same conformation
also distinguishes the feet of _Truxalis_[515]. In the species of
_Acrydium_, F. (_Tetrix_, Latr.), the foot-cushions, I believe--for
in the dead insect they are the reverse of conspicuous--are arranged
nearly as in the two preceding genera, but these insects are without
the claw-sucker. And lastly, _Gryllus_ has neither suckers nor
cushions. From this statement it seems to follow--since _Blatta_,
_Phasma_, and _Mantis_, that do not leap, are provided with cushions;
and _Gryllus_, a heavy tribe of insects that does, are without
them--that their object cannot be exclusively to break the fall of
the insects that have them. And for the same reason we may conclude,
that they must have some further use than augmenting their elasticity
when they jump. When we consider that the _Blattæ_--many of which
have no suckers, or very small ones--are climbing insects (I have
seen _B. Germanica_ run up and down the walls of an apartment with
great agility), and that the long and gigantic apterous spectres, &c.
(_Phasma_) require considerable means to enable them to climb the
trees in which they feed, and to maintain their station upon them,
we may conclude that these cushions, by acting in some degree as
suckers, may promote these ends.

Amongst the homopterous _Hemiptera_, _Chermes_ and many of the
_Cercopidæ_[516] are furnished with the claw-suckers; but the noisy
_Cicadæ_, as well as the heteropterous section, at least as far as
my examination of them has gone, have them not. De Geer has observed,
speaking of a small fly of this order (_Thrips Physapus_), that the
extremity of its feet is furnished with a transparent membranaceous
flexible process, like a bladder. He further says that, when the animal
fixes and presses this vesicle on the surface on which it walks, its
diameter is increased, and it sometimes appears concave, the concavity
being in proportion to the pressure; which made him suspect that it
acted like a cupping-glass, and so produced the adhesion[517]. This
circumstance affords another proof that the foot-cushions in the
_Orthoptera_ may act the same part; they appear to be vesicular; and
in numbers of specimens, after death, I have observed that they become
concave, particularly in _Acrida viridissima_.

In _Cimbex_, and others amongst the saw-fly tribes, the claw-sucker
is distinguished by this remarkable peculiarity, that its upper
surface is concave[518], so that before it is used it must be bent
inwards. Besides these, at the extremity of each tarsal joint these
animals are furnished with a spoon-shaped sucker, which seems
analogous to the cushions in the _Gryllina_, _Locustina_, &c.: and,
what is more remarkable, the two spurs (_calcaria_) at the apex of
the shanks have likewise each a minute one[519].--Various other
insects of this order have the claw-suckers. Amongst others the
common wasp (_Vespa vulgaris_) is by these enabled to walk up and
down our glass windows.

We learn from De Geer that several mites, to finish with the
_Aptera_, have something of this kind. Among these is the cheese-mite
(_Acarus Siro_): its four fore feet being terminated by a vesicle
with a long neck, to which it can give every kind of inflexion.
When it sets its foot down, it enlarges and inflates it; and when
it lifts it up, it contracts it so that the vesicle almost entirely
disappears. This vesicle is between two claws[520].--The itch
Acarus (_A. Scabiei_) is similarly circumstanced.--_Ixodes Ricinus_
and _Reduvius_ have also these vesicles--which are armed with two
claws--on all their feet[521].

I am next to consider those climbers that ascend and descend, and
probably maintain themselves in their station, by the assistance
of a _secretion_ which they have the power of producing. You will
immediately perceive that I am speaking of the numerous tribes of
spiders (_Araneidæ_), which, most of them, are endowed with this
faculty. Every body knows that these insects ascend and descend
by means of a thread that issues from them; but perhaps every one
has not remarked--when they wish to avoid a hand held out to catch
them, or any other obstacle--that they can sway this thread from the
perpendicular. When they move up or down, their legs are extended,
sometimes gathering in and sometimes guiding their thread[522]; but
when their motion is suspended, they are bent inwards. These animals,
although they have no suckers or other apparatus--except the hairs
of their legs and the three claws of their biarticulate tarsi, to
enable them to do it--can also walk against gravity, both in a
perpendicular and a prone position. Dr. Hulse, in Ray's _Letters_,
seems to have furnished a clue that will very well explain this. I
give it you in his own homely phrase. "They," spiders, "will often
fasten their threads in several places to the things they creep up;
the manner is by beating their bums or tails against them as they
creep along[523]." Fixing their anus by means of a web, the anterior
part of their body, when they are resting, we can readily conceive,
would be supported by the claws and hairs of their legs; and their
motion may be accomplished by alternately fixing one and then the
other. But you will remember I give you this merely as conjecture,
having never verified it by observation.

It may not be amiss to mention here another apterous insect that
reposes on perpendicular or prone surfaces, without either suckers
or any viscous secretion by which it can adhere to them. I mean the
long-legged or shepherd spiders (_Phalangium_). The tarsi of these
insects are setaceous and nearly as fine as a hair, consisting
sometimes of more than forty joints, those toward the extremity
being very minute, and scarcely discernible, and terminating in a
single claw. These tarsi, which resemble antennæ rather than feet,
are capable of every kind of inflexion, sometimes even of a spiral
one. These circumstances enable them to apply their feet to the
inequalities of the surface on which they repose, so that every joint
may in some measure become a point of support. Their eight legs
also, which diverge from their body like the spokes from the nave of
a wheel, give them equal hold of eight almost equidistant spaces,
which, doubtless, is a great stay to them.

The next species of locomotion exhibited by perfect insects is
_flying_. I am not certain whether under this head I ought to
introduce the sailing of spiders in the air; but as there is no other
under which it can be more properly arranged, I shall treat of it
here. I shall therefore divide flying insects into those that fly
without wings, and those that fly with them.

I dare say you are anxious to be told how any animals can fly
_without wings_, and wish me to begin with them. As an observer of
nature, you have often, without doubt, been astonished by that sight
occasionally noticed in fine days in the autumn, of webs--commonly
called gossamer webs--covering the earth and floating in the air; and
have frequently asked yourself--What are these gossamer webs? Your
question has from old times much excited the attention of learned
naturalists. It was an old and strange notion that these webs were
composed of dew burned by the sun.

          "...... The fine nets which oft we woven see
           Of scorched dew,"

says Spenser. Another, fellow to it, and equally absurd, was that
adopted by a learned man and good natural philosopher, and one of
the first fellows of the Royal Society, Robert Hooke, the author of
_Micrographia_. "Much resembling a cobweb," says he, "or a confused
lock of these cylinders, is a certain white substance which, after a
fogg, may be observed to fly up and down the air: catching several
of these, and examining them with my microscope, I found them to
be much of the same form, looking most like to a flake of worsted
prepared to be spun; though by what means they should be generated
or produced is not easily imagined: they were of the same weight, or
very little heavier than the air; _and 'tis not unlikely, but that
those great white clouds, that appear all the summer time, may be
of the same substance_[524]." So liable are even the wisest men to
error when, leaving fact and experiment, they follow the guidance of
fancy. Some French naturalists have supposed that these _fils de la
Vierge_, as they are called in France, are composed of the cottony
matter in which the eggs of the Coccus of the vine (_C. Vitis_) are
enveloped[525]. In a country abounding in vineyards this supposition
would not be absurd; but in one like Britain, in which the vine is
confined to the fruit-garden, and the Coccus seldom seen out of the
conservatory, it will not at all account for the phænomenon. What
will you say, if I tell you that these webs (at least many of them)
are air-balloons--and that the aëronauts are not

          "Lovers who may bestride the gossamer
           That idles in the wanton summer air,
           And yet not fall"--

but _spiders_, who long before Montgolfier, nay, ever since the
creation, have been in the habit of sailing through the fields of
ether in these air-light chariots! This seems to have been suspected
long ago by Henry Moore, who says,

          "As light and thin as cobwebs that do fly
           In the blew air, caus'd by the autumnal sun,
           That boils the dew that on the earth doth lie,
           May seem this whitish rag then is the scum;
          _Unless that wiser men make't the field-spider's loom_[526]."

Where he also alludes to the old opinion of scorched dew. But the
first naturalists who made this discovery appear to have been
Dr. Hulse and Dr. Martin Lister--the former first observing that
spiders shoot their webs into the air; and the latter, besides this,
that they were carried upon them in that element[527]. This last
gentleman, in fine serene weather in September, had noticed these
webs falling from the heavens, and in them discovered more than once
a spider, which he named the _bird_. On another occasion, whilst he
was watching the proceedings of a common spider, the animal suddenly
turning upon its back and elevating its anus, darted forth a long
thread, and vaulting from the place on which it stood, was carried
upwards to a considerable height. Numerous observations afterwards
confirmed this extraordinary fact; and he further discovered, that
while they fly in this manner, they pull in their long thread with
their fore feet, so as to form it into a ball--or, as we may call it,
air-balloon--of flake. The height to which spiders will thus ascend
he affirms is prodigious. One day in the autumn, when the air was
full of webs, he mounted to the top of the highest steeple of York
minster, from whence he could discern the floating webs still very
high above him. Some spiders that fell and were entangled upon the
pinnacles he took. They were of a kind that never enter houses, and
therefore could not be supposed to have taken their flight from the
steeple[528]. It appears from his observations, that this faculty
is not confined to one species of spider, but is common to several,
though only in their young or half-grown state[529]; whence we may
infer, that when full-grown their bodies are too heavy to be thus
conveyed. One spider he noticed that at one time contented itself
with ejaculating a single thread, while at others it darted out
several, like so many shining rays at the tail of a comet. Of these,
in Cambridgeshire in October, he once saw an incredible number
sailing in the air[530]. Speaking of his _Ar. subfuscus minutissimis
oculis_, &c. he says, "Certainly this is an excellent rope-dancer,
and is wonderfully delighted with darting its threads: nor is it
only carried in the air, like the preceding ones; but it effects
itself its ascent and sailing: for, by means of its legs closely
applied to each other, it as it were balances itself, and promotes
and directs its course no otherwise than as if nature had furnished
it with wings or oars[531]." A later but equally gifted observer of
nature, Mr. White, confirms Dr. Lister's account. "Every day in fine
weather in autumn," says he, "do I see these spiders shooting out
their webs, and mounting aloft: they will go off from the finger,
if you will take them into your hand. Last summer one alighted on
my book as I was reading in the parlour; and running to the top of
the page and shooting out a web, took its departure from thence.
But what I most wondered at was, that it went off with considerable
velocity in a place where no air was stirring; and I am sure that
I did not assist it with my breath. So that these little crawlers
seem to have while mounting some locomotive power without the use
of wings, and move faster than the air in the air itself[532]." A
writer in the last number of Thomson's _Annals of Philosophy_[533],
under the signature of Carolan, has given some curious observations
on the mode in which some geometric spiders shoot and direct their
threads, and fly upon them; by which it appears, that as they dart
them out they guide them as if by magic, emitting at the same time
a stream of air, as he supposes, or possibly some subtile electric
fluid. One which was running upon his hand, dropped by its thread
about six inches from the point of his finger, when it immediately
emitted a pretty long line at a right angle with that by which it
was suspended. This thread, though at first horizontal, quickly rose
upwards, carrying the spider along with it. When it had ascended as
far above his finger as it had dropped before below it, it let out
the thread by which it had been attached to it, and continued flying
smoothly upwards till it nearly reached the roof of the room, when it
veered on one side and alighted on the wall. In flying, its motion
was smoother and quicker than when a spider runs along its thread.
He observes, that as the line lengthens behind them, the tendency of
spiders to rise increases.--I have myself more than once observed
these creatures take their flight, and find the following memorandum
with respect to their mode of proceeding. "The spider first extends
its thighs, shanks, and feet, into a right line, and then elevating
its abdomen till it becomes vertical, shoots its thread into the
air, and flies off from its station." It is not often, however, that
an observer can be gratified with this interesting sight, since
these animals are soon alarmed. I have frequently noticed them--for
at the times when these webs are floating in the air they are very
numerous--on the vertical angle of a post, or pale, or one of the
uprights of a gate, with the end of their abdomen pointing upwards,
as if to shoot their thread previously to flying off; when, upon
my approaching to take a nearer view, they have lowered it again,
and persisted in disappointing my wish to see them mount aloft. The
rapidity with which the spider vanishes from the sight upon this
occasion and darts into the air, is a problem of no easy solution.
Can the length of web that they dart forth counterpoise the weight
of their bodies; or have they any organ analogous to the natatory
vesicles of fishes[534], which contributes at their will to render
them buoyant in the air? Or do they rapidly ascend their threads
in their usual way, and gather them up, till having collected them
into a mass of sufficient magnitude, they give themselves to the
air, and are carried here and there in these chariots? I must here
give you Mr. White's very curious account of a shower of these webs
that he witnessed. On the 21st of September 1741, intent upon field
diversions, he rose before day-break; but on going out, he found
the whole face of the country covered with a thick coat of cobweb,
drenched with dew, as if two or three setting-nets had been drawn one
over the other. When his dogs attempted to hunt, their eyes were so
blinded and hoodwinked that they were obliged to lie down and scrape
themselves. This appearance was followed by a most lovely day. About
nine A. M. a shower of these webs (formed not of single floating
threads, but of perfect flakes, some near an inch broad, and five or
six long,) was observed falling from very elevated regions, which
continued without interruption during the whole of the day;--and
they fell with a velocity which showed that they were considerably
heavier than the atmosphere. When the most elevated station in the
country where this was observed was ascended, the webs were still to
be seen descending from above, and twinkling like stars in the sun,
so as to draw the attention of the most incurious. The flakes of the
web on this occasion hung so thick upon the hedges and trees, that
baskets-full might have been collected. No one doubts, he observes,
but that these webs are the production of small spiders, which swarm
in the fields in fine weather in autumn, and have a power of shooting
out webs from their tails, so as to render themselves buoyant and
lighter than the air[535]. In Germany these flights of gossamer
appear so constantly in autumn, that they are there metaphorically
called "_Der fliegender Sommer_" (the flying or departing summer);
and authors speak of the web as often hanging in flakes like wool on
every hedge and bush throughout extensive districts.

Here we may inquire--Why is the ground in these serene days covered
so thickly by these webs, and what becomes of them? What occasions
the spiders to mount into the air, and do the same species form
both the terrestrial and aërial gossamer?--And what causes the
webs at last to fall to the earth? I fear I cannot to all these
queries return a fully satisfactory answer; but I will do the best
I can. At first one would conclude from analogy, that the object
of the gossamer which early in the morning is spread over stubbles
and fallows--and sometimes so thickly as to make them appear as
if covered with a carpet, or rather overflown by a sea, of gauze,
presenting, when studded with dew-drops, as I have often witnessed, a
most enchanting spectacle--is to entrap the flies and other insects
as they rise into the air from their nocturnal station of repose, to
take their diurnal flights. But Dr. Strack's observations render this
very doubtful; for he kept many of the spiders that produce these
webs in a large glass upon turf, where they spun as when at liberty,
and he could never observe them attempt to catch or eat--even when
entangled in their webs--the flies and gnats with which he supplied
them; though they greedily sucked water when sprinkled upon the
turf, and remained lively for two months without other food[536]. As
the single threads shot by other spiders are usually their bridges,
this perhaps may be the object of the webs in question: and thus
the animals may be conveyed from furrow to furrow or straw to straw
less circuitously, and with less labour, than if they had travelled
over the ground. As these creatures seem so thirsty, may we not
conjecture that the drops of dew, with which they are always as it
were strung, are a secondary object with them? So prodigious are
their numbers, that sometimes every stalk of straw in the stubbles,
and every clod and stone in the fallows, swarms with them. Dr. Strack
assures us that twenty or thirty often sit upon a single straw, and
that he collected about 2000 in half an hour, and could have easily
doubled the number had he wished it: he remarks, that the cause of
their escaping the notice of other observers, is their falling to the
ground upon the least alarm.

As to what becomes of this immense carpeting of web there are
different opinions. Mr. White conjectures that these threads, when
first shot, might be entangled in the rising dew, and so drawn up,
spiders and all, by a brisk evaporation, into the region where the
clouds are formed[537]. But this seems almost as inadmissible as
that of Hooke, before related. An ingenious and observant friend,
thinking the numbers of the flying spiders not sufficient to produce
the whole of the phenomenon in question, is of opinion that an
equinoctial gale, sweeping along the fallows and stubbles coated with
the gossamer, must bring many single threads into contact, which,
adhering together, may gradually collect into flakes; and that being
at length detached by the violence of the wind, they are carried
along with it: and as it is known that such winds often convey even
sand and earth to great heights, he deems it highly probable that so
light a substance may be transported to so great an elevation, as not
to fall to the earth for some days after, when the weather has become
serene, or to descend upon ships at sea, as has sometimes happened.
This, which is in part adopted from the German authors, is certainly
a much more reasonable supposition than the other; but some facts
seem to militate against it: for, in the first place, though gossamer
often occurs upon the ground when there is none in the air, yet the
reverse of this has never been observed; for gossamer in the air, as
in the instance recorded by Mr. White, is always preceded by gossamer
on the ground. Now, since the weather is constantly calm and serene
when these showers appear, it cannot be the wind that carries the web
from the ground into the air. Again, it is stated that these showers
take place after _several_ calm days[538]: now, if the web was raised
by the wind into the air, it would begin to fall as soon as the wind
ceased. Whence I am inclined to think that the cause assigned by Dr.
Lister is the real source of the whole phenomenon. Though ordinary
observers have overlooked them, he noticed these spiders in the air
in such prodigious numbers, that he deemed them sufficient to produce
the effect. I shall not, however, decide positively; but, having
stated the different opinions, leave you to your own judgement.

The next query is, What occasions the spiders to mount their chariots
and seek the clouds? Is it in pursuit of their food? Insects, in the
fine warm days in which this phenomenon occurs, probably take higher
flights than usual, and seek the upper regions of the atmosphere; and
that the spiders catch them there, appears by the exuviæ of gnats and
flies, which are often found in the falling webs[539]. Yet one would
suppose that insects would fly high at all times in the summer in
serene warm weather. Perhaps the flight of some particular species
constituting a favourite food of our little charioteers--the gnats,
for instance, which we have seen sometimes rise in clouds into the
air[540]--may at these times take place; or the species of spiders
that are most given to these excursions, may not abound in their
young state--when only they can fly--at other seasons of the year.

Whether the same species that cover the earth with their webs produce
those that fill the air, is to be our next inquiry. Did the appearance
of the one always succeed that of the other, this might be reasonably
concluded:--but the former, as I lately observed to you, often occurs
without being followed by the latter. Yet, since it should seem that
the aërial gossamer, though it does not always follow it, is always
preceded by the terrestrial, this warrants a conjecture that they may
be synonymous. Two German authors, Bechstein[541] and Strack[542],
have described the spider that produces gossamer in Germany under the
name of _Aranea obtextrix_[542]. But it is not clear, unless they have
described it at different ages, when spiders often greatly change their
appearance, that they mean the same species. The former describes his
as of the size of a small pin's head, with its eight eyes disposed in
a circle, having a black-brown body and light-yellow legs: while Dr.
Strack represents his _A. obtextrix_ as more than two lines in length;
eyes four in a square, and two on each side touching each other;
thorax deep brown with paler streaks; abdomen below dull white, above
dark copper brown, with a dentated white spot running longitudinally
down the middle. The first of these, if distinct, as I suspect they
are, agrees very well with the young of one which Lister observed
as remarkable for taking aërial flights[543]; and which I have most
usually seen so engaged. The other may possibly be that before noticed,
which he found in such infinite numbers in Cambridgeshire[544]. If
this conjecture be correct, it will prove that the same species first
produce the gossamer that covers the ground, and then, shooting other
threads, mount upon them into the air.

My last query was, What causes these webs ultimately to fall to the
earth? Mr. White's observation will I think furnish the best answer.
"If the spiders have the power of coiling up their webs in the air,
as Dr. Lister affirms, then when they become heavier than the air
they will fall[545]." The more expanded the web, the lighter and more
buoyant, and the more condensed, the heavier it must be.

I trust you will allow from this mass of evidence, that the English
_Arachnologists_--may I coin this term?--were correct in their account
of this singular phenomenon; and think, with me, that Swammerdam (who
however admits that spiders sail on their webs), and after him De
Geer, were rather hasty when they stigmatized the discovery that these
animals shoot their webs into the air, and so take flight, as a strange
and unfounded opinion[546]. The fact, though so well authenticated,
is indeed strange and wonderful, and affords another proof of the
extraordinary powers, unparalleled in the higher orders of animals,
with which the Creator has gifted the insect world. Were indeed man and
the larger animals, with their present propensities, similarly endowed,
the whole creation would soon go to ruin. But these almost miraculous
powers in the hands of these little beings only tend to keep it in
order and beauty. Adorable is that Wisdom, Power, and Goodness, that
has distinguished these next to nothings by such peculiar endowments
for our preservation as if given to the strong and mighty would work
our destruction.

After the foregoing marvellous detail of the aërial excursions of
our insect air-balloonists, I fear you will think the motions of
those which fly by means of _wings_ less interesting. You will
find, however, that they are not altogether barren of amusement.
Though the wings are the principal instruments of the flight of
insects, yet there are others subsidiary to them, which I shall here
enumerate, considering them more at large under the orders to which
they severally belong. These are wing-cases (_Elytra_, _Tegmina_,
and _Hemelytra_); winglets (_Alulæ_); poisers (_Halteres_); tailets
(_Caudulæ_); hooklets (_Hamuli_); base-covers (_Tegulæ_), &c.
Besides, their _tails_, _legs_, and even _antennæ_, assist them in
some instances, in this motion.

As _wings_ are common to almost the whole class, I shall consider
their structure here. Every wing consists of two membranes, more
or less transparent, applied to each other: the upper membrane
being very strongly attached to the nervures (_Neuræ_), and the
lower adhering more loosely, so as to be separable from them. The
nervures[547] are a kind of hollow tube,--above elastic, horny,
and convex; and flat and nearly membranaceous below,--which take
their origin in the trunk, and keep diminishing gradually, the
marginal ones excepted, to their termination. The vessels contained
in the nervures consist of a spiral thread, whence they appear to
be air-vessels communicating with the tracheæ in the trunk.--The
expansion of the wing at the will of the insect, is a problem that
can only be solved by supposing that a subtile fluid is introduced
into these vessels, which seem perfectly analogous to those in the
wings of birds; and that thus an impulse is communicated to every
part of the organ, sufficient to keep it in proper tension. We see
by this, that a wing is supported in its flight like a sail by its
cordage[548]. It is remarkable that those insects which keep the
longest on the wing, the dragon-flies (_Libellulina_) for instance,
have their wings most covered with nervures. The wings of insects in
flying, like those of other flying animals, you are to observe, move
vertically, or up and down.

In considering the flight of insects, I shall treat of that of each
order separately, beginning with the _Coleoptera_ or beetles. Their
subsidiary instruments of flight are their wing-cases (_Elytra_),
and in one instance, winglets (_Alulæ_). The former[549], which in
some are of a hard horny substance, and in others are softer and
more like leather, though they are kept immoveable in flight, are
probably, by their resistance to the air, not without their use
on this occasion. The winglets are small concavo-convex scales,
of a stiff membranaceous substance, generally fringed at their
extremity[550]. I know at present of only one coleopterous insect
that has them (_Dytiscus marginalis_). They are placed under the
elytra at their base. Their use is unknown; but it may probably be
connected with their flight. The wings of beetles[551] are usually
very ample, often of a substance between parchment and membrane. The
nervures that traverse and extend them, though not numerous, are
stronger and larger than those in the wings of insects of the other
orders, and are so dispersed as to give perfect tension to the organ.
When at rest--except in _Molorchus_, _Atractocerus_, _Necydalis_,
and some other genera--they are folded transversely under the
elytra, generally near the middle, with a lateral longitudinal fold,
but occasionally near the extremity[552]. When they prepare for
flight, their antennæ being set out, the elytra are opened so as to
form an angle with the body and admit the free play of the wings,
and they then fly off, striking the air by the vertical motion of
these organs, the elytra all the while remaining immoveable. During
their flight the bodies of insects of this order, as far as I have
observed them, are always in a position nearly vertical, which gives
to the larger sorts, the stag-beetle for instance, a very singular
appearance. Olivier, probably having some of the larger and heavier
beetles in his eye, affirms that the wings of insects of this order
are not usually proportioned to the weight of their bodies, and that
the muscular apparatus that moves them is deficient in force. In
consequence of which, he observes, they take flight with difficulty,
and fly very badly. The strokes of their wings being frequent, and
their flight short, uncertain, heavy, and laborious, they can use
their wings only in very calm weather, the least wind beating them
down. Yet he allows that others, whose body is lighter, rise into
the air and fly with a little more ease; especially when the weather
is warm and dry, their flights however being short, though frequent.
He asserts also, that no coleopterous insect can fly against the
wind[553]. These observations may hold perhaps with respect to many
species; but they will by no means apply generally. The cockchafer
(_Melolontha vulgaris_), if thrown into the air in the evening, its
time of flight, will take wing before it falls to the ground. The
common dung-chafer (_Geotrupes stercorarius_)--wheeling from side to
side like the humble-bee--flies with great rapidity and force, and,
with all its dung-devouring confederates, directs its flight with
the utmost certainty, and probably often against the wind, to its
food. The root-devourers or tree-chafers (_Melolontha_, _Hoplia_,
&c.) support themselves, like swarming bees, in the air and over
the trees, flying round in all directions. The _Brachyptera_ and
_Donaciæ_, in warm weather, fly off from their station with the
utmost ease;--their wings are unfolded, and they are in the air in
an instant, especially the latter, as I have often found when I have
attempted to take them. None are more remarkable for this than the
_Cicindelæ_, which, however, taking very short flights, are as easily
marked down as a partridge, and affords as much amusement to the
entomologist, as the latter to the sportsman.--It is to be observed
that many insects in this order have no wings, and the female
glow-worms neither wings nor elytra.

Many persons are not aware that the insects of the next order,
the _Dermaptera_, can fly: but earwigs (_Forficula_), their size
considered, are furnished with very ample and curious wings, the
principal nervures of which are so many radii, diverging from a
common point near the anterior margin. Between these are others
which, proceeding from the opposite margin, terminate in the middle
of the wing[554]. These organs, when at rest, are more than once
folded both transversely and longitudinally.

Wings equally ample, forming the quadrant of a circle, and with
five or six nervures diverging from their base, distinguish
the _strepsipterous_ tribe. When unemployed, these are folded

Probably in the next order (_Orthoptera_), the _Tegmina_, or
wing-covers--since they are usually of a much thinner substance
than elytra--assist them in flying. They are however quite covered
by irregular reticulations, produced by various nervures sent forth
by the longitudinal ones, and running in all directions. When at
rest, the inner part of one laps over that of the other[556]: but in
different genera there is a singular variation in this circumstance.
Thus in _Blatta_, _Phasma_, and male _Acridæ_, and generally
speaking, but not invariably, in _Locusta_ and _Truxalis_,--the left
elytrum laps over the right: but in _Mantis_; _Mantispa_; some
female _Acridæ_; _Gryllus_; and _Gryllotalpa_; the right is laid over
the left. The wings in this order, though always ample and larger
than the tegmina, do not invariably form a quadrant of a circle,
falling often short of it. They are extended by means of nervures,
which, like so many rays, diverge from the base of the wing, and
are intersected alternately by transverse ones, which thus form
quadrangular areas, arranged like bricks in a wall. When at rest,
they are longitudinally folded. The flight of these insects, as far
as it has been observed, much resembles, it is said, that of certain
birds. Ray tells us that both sexes of the house-cricket (_Gryllus
domesticus_) fly with an undulating motion, like a woodpecker,
alternately ascending with expanded wings, and descending with folded
ones[557]. The field- and mole-crickets (_Gryllus campestris_ and
_Gryllotalpa vulgaris_), as we learn from Mr. White[558],--and,
since the structure of their wings is similar, probably the other
_Orthoptera_,--fly in the same way.

_Hemipterous_ insects, with respect to their _Hemelytra_, may
be divided into two classes. Those in which they are all of the
same substance--varying from membrane to a leathery or horny
crust[559]--and those in which the base and the apex are of different
substances; the first being generally corneous, and the latter
membranaceous[560]. The former or homopterous division includes the
_Cicadariæ_, Latr.; _Aphis_; _Chermes_; _Thrips_; and _Coccus_;--and
the latter the heteropterous division, comprehending besides the
_Geocorisæ_, Latr., _Notonecta_; _Sigara_; _Nepa_; _Ranatra_; and
_Naucoris_ of Fabricius. The posterior tibiæ of some of this last
division (_Lygæus phyllopus_, _foliaceus_, &c. F.) are furnished
on each side with a foliaceous process--which may act the part of
outriggers, and assist them in their flight[561]. I can give you no
particular information with respect to the aërial movements of the
insects of this order: the British species that belong to it are
generally so minute that it is not easy to trace them with the naked
eye; and unless some kind optician, which is much to be wished, would
invent a telescope by which the proceedings of insects could be
examined at a distance, there is no other way of studying them.

The four wings of the next order, the _Trichoptera_ or case-worm
flies, both in their shape and nervures resemble those of many
moths[562]; only instead of scales they are usually covered with
hairs, and the under wings, which are larger than the upper, fold
longitudinally. Some of these flies, I have observed, move in a
direct line, with their legs set out, which makes them look as if
they were walking in the air. In flying they often apply their
antennæ to each other, stretching them out straight, and thus
probably are assisted in their motion.

The _Lepidoptera_ vary so infinitely in the shape, comparative
magnitude, and appendages of their wings, that I should detain you
too long did I enlarge upon so multifarious a subject. I shall
therefore only observe, that one species is described, both by Lyonet
and De Geer[563] (_Lobophora hexaptera_), as having six wings; for
besides the four ordinary ones, it has a winglet (_Alula_) attached
to the base of the lower one, and placed, when the wings are folded,
between it and the upper. These organs in this order you know are
covered with scales of various shapes[564]. Their nervures are
diverging rays, which issue either from a basal area or from the
base itself, and terminate in the exterior margin[565]. The wings of
many male butterflies, hawk-moths, and moths, are distinguished by
a remarkable apparatus, noticed by De Geer, and since by many other
naturalists[566] for keeping them steady and underanged in their
flight. The upper wings, on their underside near their base, have a
minute process, bent into a hook (_Hamus_), and covered with hairs
and scales. In this hook one or more bristles (_Tendo_), attached to
the base of the under wing, have their play. When the fly unfolds its
wings, the hook does not quit its hold of the bristle, which moves to
and fro in it as they expand or close. The females, which seldom fly
far, often have the bristles but never the hook. The hairy tails of
some insects, _Sesia_, belonging to the hawk-moth tribe, are expanded
when they fly, so as to form a kind of rudder, which enables them to
steer their course with more certainty.

The insects of this, and of every other order, except the
_Coleoptera_, fly with their bodies in a horizontal position,
or nearly so. As their wings are usually so ample, we need not
wonder that the _Lepidoptera_ are excellent fliers. Indeed they
seem to flit untired from flower to flower, and from field to
field; impelled at one while by hunger, and at another by love or
maternal solicitude.--The distance to which some males will fly is
astonishing. That of one of the silk-worm moths (_Attacus Paphia_)
is stated to travel sometimes more than a hundred miles in this
way[567].--Our most beautiful butterfly, the purple emperor (_Apatura
Iris_), when he makes his first appearance fixes his throne on the
summit of some lofty oak, from whence in sunny days, unattended by
his empress, who does not fly, he takes his excursions. Launching
into the air from one of the highest twigs, he mounts often to
so great a height as to become invisible. When the sun is at the
meridian his loftiest flights take place; and about four in the
afternoon he resumes his station of repose[568].--The large bodies of
hawk-moths (_Sphinx_, F.) are carried by wings remarkably strong both
as to nervures and texture, and their flight is proportionably rapid
and direct. That of butterflies is by dipping and rising alternately,
so as to form a zigzag line with vertical angles, which the animal
often describes with a skipping motion, so that each zigzag consists
of smaller ones. This doubtless renders it more difficult for the
birds to take them as they fly; and thus the male, when paired, often
flits away with the female.

Amongst the _Neuropterous_ tribes the most conspicuous insects are
the dragon-flies (_Libellulina_), which--their metamorphosis, habits,
mode of life, and characters considered--form a distinct natural order
of themselves. Their four wings, which are nearly equal in size, are
a complete and beautiful piece of net-work, resembling the finest
lace, the meshes of which are usually filled by a pure, transparent,
glassy membrane. In two of the genera belonging to this tribe, the
wings, when the animal is at rest, are always expanded, so that they
can take flight in an instant, no previous unfolding of these organs
being necessary. In _Agrion_, the other genus of the tribe, the wings
when they repose are not expanded. I have observed of these insects,
and also of several others in different orders, that without turning
they can fly in all directions--backwards, and to the right and left,
as well as forwards. This ability to fly all ways, without having to
turn, must be very useful to them when pursued by a bird. Leeuwenhoek
once saw a swallow chasing an insect of this tribe, which he calls
a _Mordella_, in a menagerie about a hundred feet long. The little
creature flew with such astonishing velocity--to the right--to the
left--and in all directions--that this bird of rapid wing and ready
evolution was unable to overtake and entrap it; the insect eluding
every attempt, and being generally six feet before it[569]. Indeed,
such is the power of the long wings by which the dragon-flies are
distinguished, particularly in _Æshna_ and _Libellula_, and such the
force of the muscles that move them, that they seem never to be wearied
with flying. I have observed one of the former genus (_Anax Imperator_,
Leach) sailing for hours over a piece of water--sometimes to and fro,
and sometimes wheeling from side to side; and all the while chasing,
capturing, and devouring the various insects that came athwart its
course, or driving away its competitors--without ever seeming tired, or
inclined to alight. Another species (_Æshna variegata_), very common
in lanes and along hedges, which flies, like the _Orthoptera_, in a
waving line, is equally alert and active after its prey. This however
often alights for a moment, and then resumes its gay excursive flights.
The species of the genus _Agrion_ cut the air with less velocity;
but so rapid is the motion of their wings, that they become quite
invisible. Hawking always about for prey, the Agrions, from the variety
of the colours of different individuals, form no uninteresting object
during a summer stroll. With respect to the mode of flight of the
other neuropterous tribes I have nothing to remark; for that of the
_Ephemeræ_, which has been most noticed, I shall consider under another

The next order of insects, the _Hymenoptera_, attract also general
attention as fliers, and from our earliest years. The ferocious hornet,
with its trumpet of terror; the intrusive and indomitable wasp;
the booming and pacific humble-bee, the frequent prey of merciless
schoolboys; and that universal favourite, the industrious inhabitant
of the hive,--all belonging to it,--are familiar to every one. And in
summer-time there is scarcely a flower or leaf in field or garden,
which is not visited by some of its numerous tribes. The four wings
of these insects, the upper pair of which are larger than the under,
vary much in their nervures. From the saw-flies (_Serrifera_), whose
wings are nearly as much reticulated as those of some _Neuroptera_, to
the minute _Chalcis_ and _Psilus_, in which these organs are without
nervures, there is every intermediate variety of reticulation that
can be imagined[570]. It has been observed that the nervures of the
wings are usually proportioned to the weight of the insect. Thus the
saw-flies have generally bodies thicker than those of most other
_Hymenoptera_, while those that have fewer nervures are more slender.
This, however, does not hold good in all cases--so that the dimensions
and cut of the wings, the strength of their nervures, and the force
of their muscles, must also be taken into consideration. The wings of
many of these insects when expanded, are kept in the same plane by
means of small hooks (_Hamuli_) in the anterior margin of the under
wing, which lay hold of the posterior margin of the upper[571]. Another
peculiarity also distinguishes them. Base covers (_Tegulæ_), or small
concavo-convex shields, protect the base of the wings from injury[572],
or displacement.

The most powerful fliers in this order are the humble-bees, which,
like the dung-chafers (_Geotrupes_), traverse the air in segments
of a circle, the arc of which is alternately to right and left. The
rapidity of their flight is so great, that could it be calculated,
it would be found, the size of the creature considered, far to
exceed that of any bird.--The aërial movements of the hive-bee are
more direct and leisurely. When leaving the hive for an excursion,
I have observed that as soon as they come out they turn about as
if to survey the entrance, and then wheeling round in a circle,
fly off. When they return to the hive, they often fly from side to
side, as if to examine before they alight. When swarming, the heads
of all are turned towards the group at the mouth of their dwelling;
and upon rising into the air these little creatures fly so thick in
every direction, as to appear like a kind of net-work with meshes of
every angle. The queen also, upon going forth, when her object is to
pair, after returning to reconnoitre, begins her flight by describing
circles of considerable diameter, thus rising spirally with a rapid
motion[573]. The object of these gyrations is probably to increase
her chance of meeting with a drone.--I have not much to tell you
with respect to the flight of other insects of this order, except
that a spider-wasp (_Pompilus viaticus_) whose sting is redoubtable,
and which often, when we are in the vicinity of sandy sunny banks,
accompanies our steps, has a kind of jumping movement when it flies.

The next order, the _Diptera_, consists altogether of two-winged
flies:--but to replace the under wings of the tetrapterous insects,
they are furnished with poisers, and numbers of them also with
winglets. The poisers (_Halteres_) are little membranaceous threads
placed one under the origin of each wing, near a spiracle, and
terminated by an oval, round, or triangular button, which seems
capable of dilatation and contraction. The animal moves these organs
with great vivacity, often when at rest, and probably when flying.
Their winglets (_Alulæ_) are different from those of _Dytiscus
marginalis_, and the moth before noticed. Like them, they are of
rigid membrane, and fringed; but they consist generally of two
concavo-convex pieces (sometimes surrounded by a nervure), situated
between the wing and the poisers, which, when the insect reposes,
fold over each other like the valves of a bivalve shell; but when it
flies they are extended. The use of neither of these organs seems
to have been satisfactorily ascertained. Dr. Derham thinks they are
for keeping the body steady in flight; and asserts, that if either
a poiser or winglet be cut off, the insect will fly as if one side
overbalanced the other, till it falls to the ground; and that if
both be cut off, they will fly awkwardly and unsteadily, as if they
had lost some very necessary part[574]. Shelver cut off the winglets
of a fly, leaving both wings and poisers, but it could no longer
fly. He next cut off the poisers of another, leaving the wings and
winglets, and the same result followed. He found, upon removing one
of these organs, that they were not properly compared to balancers.
Observing that a common crane-fly (_Tipula crocata_) moved the knee
of the hinder tibia in connexion with the wing and poiser, he cut
it off, and it could no longer fly: this last experiment, however,
seems contradicted by the fact, which has been often observed, that
the insects of this genus will fly when half their legs are gone. He
afterwards cut off both its poisers, when it could neither fly nor
walk. Hence he conjectures that the poisers are connected with the
feet, and are air-holders[575]. I have often seen flies move their
poisers very briskly when at rest, particularly _Seioptera vibrans_,
before mentioned. This renders Shelver's conjecture--that they are
connected with respiration--not improbable. Perhaps by their action
some effect may be produced upon the spiracle in their vicinity,
either as to the opening or closing of it.

There are three classes of fliers in this order, the form of whose
bodies, as well as the shape and circumstances of their wings, is
different. First are the slender flies--the gnats, gnat-like flies,
and crane-flies (_Tipulariæ_). The bodies of these are light,
their wings narrow, and their legs long, and they have no winglets.
Next are those whose bodies, though slender, are more weighty--the
_Asilidæ_, _Conopsidæ_, &c.; these have larger wings, shorter legs,
and very minute and sometimes even obsolete winglets. Lastly come
the flies, the _Muscidæ_, &c., and their affinities, whose bodies
being short, thick, and often very heavy, are furnished not only
with proportionate wings and shorter legs, but also with conspicuous
winglets. From these comparative differences and distinctions,
we may conjecture in the first place--since the lightest bodies
are furnished with the longest legs, and the heaviest with the
shortest--that the legs act as poisers and rudders, that keep
them steady while they fly, and assist them in directing their
course[576]; and in the next--since the winglets are largest in the
heaviest bodies, and altogether wanting in the lightest--that one of
their principal uses is to assist the wings when the insect is flying.

The flight of the Tipularian genera is very various. Sometimes, as I
have observed, they fly up and down with a zigzag course; at others
in vertical curves of small diameter, like some birds; at others,
again, in horizontal curves:--all these lines they describe with a
kind of skipping motion. Sometimes they would seem to flit in every
possible way--upwards, downwards, athwart, obliquely, and sometimes
almost in circles. The common gnat (_Culex pipiens_) seems to sail
along also in various directions. The motion of its wings, if it does
not fly like a hawk, is so rapid as not to be perceptible. When
the crane-fly (_Tipula oleracea_) is upon the wing, its fore-legs
are placed horizontally, pointing forwards, and the four hind ones
stretched out in an opposite direction, the one forming the prow and
the other the stern of the vessel, in its voyage through the ocean of
air. The legs of another insect of this tribe (_Hirtæa Marci_) all
point towards the anus in flight, the long anterior pair forming an
acute angle with the body:--thus, perhaps, it can better cut the air.

I have often been amused in my walks with the motions of the
hornet-fly (_Asilus crabroniformis_), belonging to the second
division just mentioned. This insect is carnivorous, living upon
small flies. When you are taking your rambles, you may often observe
it alight just before you;--as soon as you come up, it flies a little
further, and will thus be your avant-courier for the whole length
of a long field. This usually takes place, I seem to have observed,
when a path lies under a hedge; and perhaps the object of this
manœuvre may be the capture of prey. Your motions may drive a number
of insects before you, and so be instrumental in supplying it with a
meal. Other species of the genus have the same habit.

The aërial progress of the fly tribes, including the gad-flies
(_Œstridæ_); horse-flies (_Tabanidæ_); carrion-flies (_Muscidæ_),
and many other genera--which constitute the heavy horse amongst
our two-winged fliers--is wonderfully rapid, and usually in a
direct line. An anonymous observer in Nicholson's _Journal_[577]
calculates that, in its ordinary flight, the common house-fly (_Musca
domestica_) makes with its wings about 600 strokes, which carry it
five feet, every second. But if alarmed, he states their velocity
can be increased six- or seven-fold, or to thirty or thirty-five
feet, in the same period. In this space of time a race-horse could
clear only ninety feet, which is at the rate of more than a mile in
a minute. Our little fly, in her swiftest flight, will in the same
space of time go more than the third of a mile. Now compare the
infinite difference of the size of the two animals (ten millions of
the fly would hardly counterpoise one racer), and how wonderful will
the velocity of this minute creature appear! Did the fly equal the
race-horse in size, and retain its present powers in the ratio of its
magnitude, it would traverse the globe with the rapidity of lightning.

It seems to me, that it is not by muscular strength alone that many
insects are enabled to keep so long upon the wing. Every one who
attends to them must have noticed, that the velocity and duration
of their flights depend much upon the heat or coolness of the
atmosphere: especially the appearance of the sun. The warmer and
more unclouded his beam, the more insects are there upon the wing,
and every diurnal species seems fitted for longer or more frequent
excursions. As these animals have no circulating fluid except the
air in their tracheæ and bronchiæ, their locomotive powers, with few
exceptions, must depend altogether upon the state of that element.
When the thermometer descends below a certain point they become
torpid, and when it reaches a certain height they revive; so that
the air must be regarded, in some sense, as their blood, or rather
the caloric that it contains; which when conveyed by the air, it
circulates quickly in them, invigorates all their motions, enters
into the muscles and nervures of their wings, maintaining their
tension, and by the greater or less rapidity of its pulsations
accelerating or diminishing their action.

Having given you all the information that I can collect with respect
to the motions of perfect insects in the _air_, I must next say
something concerning their modes of locomotion in or upon the
_water_. These are of two kinds, _swimming_ and _walking_. Observe--I
call that movement swimming, in which the animal pushes itself along
by strokes--while in walking, the motion of the legs is not different
from what it would be if they were on land. Most insects that _swim_
have their posterior legs peculiarly fitted for it, either by a
dense fringe of hairs on the shank and foot, as in the water-beetles
(_Dytiscus_)[578], or the water-boatmen (_Notonecta_); or by
having their terminal joints very much dilated--as in the whirlwig
(_Gyrinus_)--so as to resemble the paddle of an oar[579]. When the
Dytisci rise to the surface to take in fresh air--a silver bubble
of which may often be seen suspended at their anus--they ascend, as
it should seem, merely in consequence of their being specifically
lighter than the water; but when they descend or move horizontally,
which they do with considerable rapidity, it is by regular and
successive strokes of their swimming legs. While they remain
suspended at the surface, these legs are extended so as to form a
right angle with their body. The water-boatmen swim upon their back,
which enables them to see readily and seize the insects that fall
upon the water, which are their prey. _Sigara_, however, a cognate
genus separated from _Notonecta_ by Fabricius, swims in the ordinary
way. As the Gyrini are usually in motion at the surface, whirling
round and round in circles, it is probable that their legs are best
adapted to this movement. They dive down, however, with great ease
and velocity when alarmed. The common water-bug (_Gerris lacustris_),
though it never goes under water, will sometimes swim upon the
surface, which it does by strokes of the intermediate and posterior
legs[580]. These, however, are neither fringed nor dilated, but very
long and slender, with claws, not easily detected, situated under
the apex of the last joint of the foot, which covers and conceals
them. The underside of their body--as is the case with _Elophorus_,
and many other aquatic insects--is clothed with a thick coat of gray
hairs like satin, which in certain lights have no small degree of
lustre, and protect its body from the effects of the water. Some
insects, that are not naturally aquatic, if they fall into the water
will swim very well. I once saw a kind of grasshopper (_Acrydium_),
which by the powerful strokes of its hind legs pushed itself across a
stream with great rapidity.

Other insects _walk_, as it were, in the water, moving their legs
much in the same way as they would do on the land. Many smaller
species of water-beetles, belonging to the genera _Hydrophilus_,
_Elophorus_, _Hydræna_, _Parnus_, _Limnius_, &c. thus win their way
in the waves.--Thus also the water-scorpion (_Nepa_) pursues its
prey; and the little water-mites (_Hydrachna_) may be seen in every
pool thus working their little legs with great rapidity, and moving
about in all directions.--Some spiders also will not only traverse
the surface of the waters, but, as you have heard with respect to
one[581], descend into their bosom. There are other insects moving
in this way that are not divers. Of this kind are the aquatic bugs
(_Gerris lacustris_, _Hydrometra Stagnorum_, _Velia Rivulorum_, &c.
Latr.). The first can walk, run, and even leap, which it does upon
its prey, as well as swim upon the surface. The second, remarkable
for its extreme slenderness, and for its prominent hemispherical
eyes--which, though they are really in the head, appear to be in
the middle of the body--rambles about in chase of other insects, in
considerable numbers, in most stagnant waters. The _Velia_ is to be
met with chiefly in running streams and rivers, coursing very rapidly
over their waves[582]. The two last species neither jump nor swim.

I am next to say a few words upon the motions of insects that
_burrow_, either to conceal themselves or their young. Though
burrowing is not always a locomotion, I shall consider it under this
head, to preserve the unity of the subject. Many enter the earth by
means of fore-legs particularly formed for the purpose. The flat
dentated anterior shanks, with slender feet, that distinguish the
chafers (_Petalocera_)--most of which in their first states live
under ground, and many occasionally in their last--enable them to
make their way either into the earth or out of it. Two other genera
of beetles (_Scarites_ and _Clivina_, Latr.)[583] have these shanks
palmated, or armed with longer teeth at their extremity, for the
same purpose. But the most remarkable burrower amongst perfect
insects is that singular animal the mole-cricket (_Gryllotalpa
vulgaris_)[584]. This creature is endowed with wonderful strength,
particularly in its thorax and fore legs. The former is a very hard
and solid shell or crust, covering like a shield the trunk of the
animal; and the latter are remarkably fitted for burrowing, both
by their strength and construction. The shanks are very broad, and
terminate obliquely in four enormous sharp teeth[585], like so many
fingers: the foot consists of three joints--the two first being
broad and tooth-shaped, and pointing in an opposite direction to the
teeth of the shank; and the last small, and armed at the extremity
with two short claws. This foot is placed inside the shank, so as to
resemble a thumb and perform the office of one[586]. The direction
and motion of these hands, as in moles, is outwards; thus enabling
the animal most effectually to remove the earth when it burrows.
By the help of these powerful instruments, it is astonishing how
instantaneously it buries itself. This creature works under ground
like a field-mouse, raising a ridge as it goes; but it does not
throw up heaps like its name-sake the mole. They will in this manner
undermine whole gardens; and thus in wet and swampy situations, in
which they delight, they excavate their curious apartments, before
described. The field-cricket (_Gryllus campestris_) is also a
burrower, but by means of different instruments; for with its strong
jaws, toothed like the claws of a lobster, but sharper, in heaths and
other dry situations it perforates and rounds its curious and regular
cells. The house-cricket (_G. domesticus_), which, on account of the
softness of the mortar, delights in new-built houses, with the same
organs, to make herself a covered-way from room to room, burrows and
mines between the joints of the bricks and stones[587].

But of all the burrowing tribes, none are so numerous as those
of the order _Hymenoptera_. Wherever you see a bare bank, of a
sunny exposure, you always find it full of the habitations of
insects belonging to it;--and besides this, every rail and old
piece of timber is with the same view perforated by them. Bees;
wasps; bee-wasps (_Bembex_); spider-wasps (_Pompilus_); fly-wasps
(_Mellinus_, _Cerceris_, _Crabro_), with many others, excavate
subterranean or ligneous habitations for their young. None is more
remarkable in this respect than the sand-wasp (_Ammophila_), or
as it might be better named--since it always commits its eggs to
caterpillars which it inhumes--the caterpillar-wasp. It digs its
burrows, by scratching with its fore legs like a dog or a rabbit,
dispersing with its hind ones, which are particularly constructed for
that purpose, the sand so collected[588].

Since most of these burrows are designed for the reception of the eggs
of the burrowers, I shall next describe to you the manner in which
one of the long-legged gnats, or crane-flies (_Tipula variegata_,)--a
proceeding to which I was myself a witness--oviposits. Choosing a south
bank bare of grass, she stood with her legs stretched out on each side,
and kept turning herself half round backwards and forwards alternately.
Thus the ovipositor, which terminates her long cylindrical pointed
abdomen, made its way into the hard soil, and deposited her eggs in a
secure situation. All, however, were not committed to the same burrow;
for she every now and then shifted her station, but not more than an
inch from where she bored last. While she was thus engaged, I observed
her male companion suspended by one of his legs on a twig, not far from
her. The common turf-boring crane-fly (_T. oleracea_), when engaged in
laying eggs, moves over the grass with her body in a vertical position,
by the help--her four anterior legs being in the air--of her two
posterior ones, and the end of her abdomen, which performs the office
of another. Whether in boring, like _T. variegata_, she turns half
round and back, does not appear from Reaumur's account[589].

I now come to motions whose object seems to be _sport_ and amusement
rather than locomotion. They may be considered as of three
kinds--hovering--gyrations--and dancing.

You have often in the woods and other places seen flies suspended
as it were in the air, their wings all the while moving so rapidly
as to be almost invisible. This _hovering_, which seems peculiar to
the aphidivorous flies, has been also noticed by De Geer[590]. I
have frequently amused myself with watching them; but when I have
endeavoured to entrap them with my forceps, they have immediately
shifted their quarters, and resumed their amusement elsewhere. The
most remarkable insects in this respect are the sphinxes, and from
this they doubtless took their name of _hawk-moths_. When they unfold
their long tongue, and wipe its sweets from any nectariferous flower,
they always keep upon the wing, suspending themselves over it till
they have exhausted them, when they fly away to another. The species
called by collectors the humming-bird (_Macroglossa Stellatarum_),
and by some persons mistaken for a real one, is remarkable for this,
and the motion of its wings is inconceivably rapid[591].

The _gyrations_ of insects take place either when they are reposing,
or when they are flying or swimming.--I was once much diverted by
observing the actions of a minute moth upon a leaf on which it was
stationed. Making its head the centre of its revolutions, it turned
round and round with considerable rapidity, as if it had the vertigo,
for some time. I did not, however, succeed in my attempts to take
it.--Scaliger noticed a similar motion in the book-crab (_Chelifer

Reaumur describes in a very interesting and lively way the gyrations
of the Ephemeræ before noticed[593], round a lighted flambeau. It is
singular, says he, that moths which fly only in the night, and shun
the day, should be precisely those that come to seek the light in our
apartments. It is still more extraordinary that these Ephemeræ--which
appearing after sunset, and dying before sun-rise, are destined never
to behold the light of that orb--should have so strong an inclination
for any luminous object. To hold a flambeau when they appeared was no
very pleasant office; for he who filled it, in a few seconds had his
dress covered with the insects, which rushed from all quarters to him.
The light of the flambeau exhibited a spectacle which enchanted every
one that beheld it. All that were present, even the most ignorant
and stupid of his domestics, were never satisfied with looking at
it. Never had any armillary sphere so many zones, as there were here
circles, which had the light for their centre. There was an infinity of
them--crossing each other in all directions, and of every imaginable
inclination--all of which were more or less eccentric. Each zone was
composed of an unbroken string of Ephemeræ, resembling a piece of
silver lace formed into a circle deeply notched, and consisting of
equal triangles placed end to end (so that one of the angles of that
which followed touched the middle of the base of that which preceded),
and moving with astonishing rapidity. The wings of the flies, which was
all of them that could then be distinguished, formed this appearance.
Each of these creatures, after having described one or two orbits,
fell upon the earth or into the water, but not in consequence of being
burned[594]. Reaumur was one of the most accurate of observers; and
yet I suspect that the appearance he describes was a visual deception,
and for the following reason. I was once walking in the day-time with
a friend[595], when our attention was caught by myriads of small
flies, which were dancing under every tree;--viewed in a certain light
they appeared a concatenated series of insects (as Reaumur has here
described his Ephemeræ) moving in a spiral direction upwards;--but
each series upon close examination, we found was produced by the
astonishingly rapid movement of a single fly. Indeed, when we consider
the space that a fly will pass through in a second, it is not wonderful
that the eye should be unable to trace its gradual progress, or that it
should appear present in the whole space at the same instant. The fly
we saw was a small male Ichneumon.

Other circular motions of sportive insects take place in the waters.
Linné, in his Lapland tour, noticed a black Tipula which ran over the
water, and turned round like a whirlwig, or _Gyrinus_[596]. This last
insect I have often mentioned;--it seems the merriest and most agile of
all the inhabitants of the waves. Wonderful is the velocity with which
they turn round and round, as it were pursuing each other in incessant
circles, sometimes moving in oblique, and indeed in every other
direction. Now and then they repose on the surface, as if fatigued with
their dances, and desirous of enjoying the full effect of the sun-beam:
if you approach they are instantaneously in motion again. Attempt to
entrap them with your net, and they are under the water and dispersed
in a moment. When the danger ceases they reappear, and resume their
vagaries. Covered with lucid armour, when the sun shines they look like
little dancing masses of silver or brilliant pearls[597].

But the motions of this kind to which I particularly wish to call
your attention, are the choral dances of males in the air; for the
dancing sex amongst insects is the masculine, the ladies generally
keeping themselves quiet at home. These dances occur at all seasons
of the year, both in winter and summer, though in the former
season they are confined to the hardy Tipulariæ. In the morning
before twelve, the _Hopliæ_, root-beetles before mentioned, have
their dances in the air, and the solstitial and common cockchafer
appear in the evening--the former generally coming forth at the
summer solstice--and fill the air over the trees and hedges with
their myriads and their hum. Other dancing insects resemble moving
columns--each individual rising and falling in a vertical line a
certain space, and which will follow the passing traveller--often
intent upon other business, and all unconscious of his aërial
companions--for a considerable distance.

Towards sun-set the common Ephemeræ (_E. vulgata_), distinguished
by their spotted wings and three long tails (_Caudulæ_), commence
their dances in the meadows near the rivers. They assemble in
troops, consisting sometimes of several hundreds, and keep rising
and falling continually, usually over some high tree. They rise
beating the air rapidly with their wings, till they have ascended
five or six feet above the tree; then they descend to it with their
wings extended and motionless, sailing like hawks, and having their
three tails elevated, and the lateral ones so separated as to form
nearly a right angle with the central one. These tails seem given
them to balance their bodies when they descend, which they do in a
horizontal position. This motion continues two or three hours without
ceasing, and commences in fine clear weather about an hour before
sun-set, lasting till the copious falling of the dew compels them to
retire to their nocturnal station[598]. Our most common species,
which I have usually taken for the _E. vulgata_, varies from that of
De Geer in its proceedings. I found them at the end of May dancing
over the meadows, not over the trees, at a much earlier hour--at
half-past three--rising in the way just described, about a foot, and
then descending, at the distance of about four or five feet from the
ground. Another species, common here, rises seven or eight feet.
I have also seen Ephemeræ flying over the water in a horizontal
direction. The females are sometimes in the air, when the males seize
them, and they fly paired. These insects seem to use their fore-legs
to break the air; they are applied together before the head, and look
like antennæ.--_Hilara maura_, a little beaked fly, I have observed
rushing in infinite numbers like a shower of rain driven by the wind,
as before observed[599], over waters, and then returning back.

It is remarkable that the smaller _Tipulariæ_ will fly unwetted in
a heavy shower of rain, as I have often observed. How keen must be
their sight, and how rapid their motions, to enable them to steer
between drops bigger than their own bodies, which, if they fell upon
them, must dash them to the ground!

Amidst this infinite variety of motions, for purposes so numerous and
diversified, and performed by such a multiplicity of instruments and
organs, who does not discern and adore the Great FIRST MOVER? From
him all proceed, by him all are endowed, in him all move: and it is
to accomplish his ends, and to go on his errands, that these little
but not insignificant beings are thus gifted; since it is by them
that he maintains this terraqueous globe in order and beauty, thus
rendering it fit for the residence of his creature man.

                                                  I am, &c.


[468] Peck in _Linn. Trans._ xi. 92.

[469] Meigen considers this as an _Ortalis_; but its peculiar habit
of constantly vibrating its wings indicates a distinct genus:
especially as the habit is not confined to a single species.

[470] De Geer, vi. 335.

[471] See above, p. 234.

[472] The most common number of joints in the tarsus is from two to
five; but the Phalangidæ have sometimes more than forty. In these,
under a lens, this part looks like a jointed antenna.

Geoffroy, and after him most modern entomologists, has taken the
_primary_ divisions of the _Coleoptera_ order from the number of
joints in the tarsus; but this, although perhaps in the majority
of cases it may afford a natural division, will not universally.
For--not to mention the instance of _Pselaphus_, clearly belonging to
the _Brachyptera_--both _Oxytelus_, Grav., and another genus that I
have separated from it (_Carpalimus_, K. Ms.), have only two joints
in their tarsi. In this tribe, therefore, it can only be used for
secondary divisions.--K.

[473] iii. 284.

[474] _Hist. Ins._ 10.

[475] Redi _Opusc._ i. 80. Amoreux, 44--.

[476] _Œuvr._ ii. 426.

[477] Lesser, _L._ i. 248, note 24.

[478] _Linn. Trans._ xi. 13.

[479] Marsham in _Linn. Trans._ iii. 26--.

[480] De Geer, iii. 324--.

[481] _Brit. Ent._ i. _t._ xxx. _f._ 4.

[482] Cuvier, _Anat. Comp._ i. 496--.

[483] Oliv. _Entom._ n. 90. _t._ i.

[484] Swamm. _Bibl. Nat._ Ed. Hill, i. 123. b.

[485] Aristoph. _Nubes_, Act. i. Sc. 2.

[486] Trost, _Beiträge_, 40.

[487] De Geer, iii. 161.

[488] De Geer, iii. 178.

[489] Evelyn, quoted in Hooke's _Microgr._ 200--.

[490] _Anat. Comp._ i. 498.

[491] ii. 910.

[492] PLATE XV. FIG. 14.

[493] De Geer, vii. 38-- _t._ iii. _f._ 10. _rr._

[494] This insect abounds at East Farleigh, near Maidstone.

[495] Reaum ii. 457.

[496] The insect here alluded to is figured by Olivier under the name
of _Tenebrio nitens_ (No. 57. _t._ i. _f._ 4.): his _Helops æneus_
(No. 58. _t._ i. _f._ 7.) is a different insect.

[497] _Microgr._ 170.

[498] iv. 259.

[499] _Physico-Theol._ Ed. 13. 363, note _b._

[500] _Nat. Hist._ ii. 274.

[501] _Amœn. Acad._ i. 549. The Gecko, probably, is not the only
lizard that walks against gravity. St. Pierre mentions one not longer
than a finger, that, in the Isle of France, climbs along the walls,
and even up the glass after the flies and other insects, for which
it watches with great patience. These lizards are sometimes so tame
that they will feed out of the hand.--_Voyage_, &c. 73. Major Moor
and Captain Green observed similar lizards in India, that ran up the
walls and over the ceilings after the mosquitos. Hasselquist says
that the Gecko is very frequent at Cairo, both in the houses and
without them, and that it exhales a very deleterious poison from the
lobuli between the toes. He saw two women and a girl at the point
of death, merely from eating a cheese on which it had dropped its
venom. One ran over the hand of a man, who endeavoured to catch
it; and immediately little pustules, resembling those occasioned
by the stinging-nettle, rose all over the parts the creature had
touched.--_Voyage_, 220. M. Savigny, however, who examined this
animal in Egypt, assures me that this account of Hasselquist's, as
far as it relates to the venom of the Gecko, is not correct.

[502] _Philos. Trans._ 1816. 325. _t._ xviii. _f._ 1-7.

[503] Ibid. _f._ 8-11.

[504] Kirby in _Linn. Trans._ xi. 106. _t._ viii. _f._ 13. _a._

[505] I observed this in the hind legs of a variety of _Locusta

[506] _Philos. Trans._ 1816. _t._ xix. _f._ 5.

[507] Ibid. p. 325.

[508] In a specimen in my cabinet of _Blatta gigantea_, the posterior
and anterior tarsi of one side have only four joints, while the
intermediate one has five. On the other side the hind leg is broken
off, but the anterior and intermediate tarsi have both five joints.
In another specimen one posterior tarsus has four and the other five

[509] The name of this genus properly spelled is _Troxallis_, from
the Greek Τρωξαλλις, _Gryllus_.

[510] This insect, which is remarkable for having the margin of its
thorax reflexed, was long since well figured in Mouffet's work (130.
_fig. infima_). It has not, however, been described by any other
author I have met with. It is common in Brazil. Some specimens are
pallid, while others are of a dark brown. It is to be observed that
the _Blattina_ are resolvable into several genera.

[511] De Geer, iii. 421. _t._ xxi. _f._ 13. _h._ This author has also
noticed the cushions in this genus and _Locusta_, and the claw-sucker
in the latter, which he thinks are analogous to those of the fly.
_Ibid._ 462-- _t._ xxii. _f._ 7-8.

[512] _Philos. Trans._ 1816. _t._ xxi. _f._ 8-13.

[513] See _Zoolog. Jour._ for 1825. No. iv. 431.

[514] _Philos. Trans._ 1816. _t._ xxi. _f._ 1-9.

[515] The orthography of this name is _Troxallis_, from the Greek
Τρωξαλλις, _Gryllus_.

[516] De Geer, iii. 132. 173.

[517] De Geer, iii. 7.

[518] _Philos. Trans._ 1816. _t._ xix. _f._ 3, 4.

[519] Ibid. _t._ xix. _f._ 1-9.

[520] De Geer, vii. 91. _t._ v. _f._ 6, 7.

[521] Ibid. 96-- _t._ v. _f._ 13, 14, 17, 19. _t._ vi. _f._ 2. 5.

[522] VOL. I. 405--.

[523] 65.

[524] _Microgr._ 202. It has been objected to an excellent primitive
writer (_Clemens Romanus_), that he believed the absurd fable of
the phœnix. But surely this may be allowed for in him, who was no
naturalist, when a scientific natural philosopher could believe that
the clouds are made of spiders web!

[525] Latreille, _Hist. Nat._ xii. 388.

[526] Quoted in the _Athenæum_, v. 126.

[527] Ray's _Letters_, 69. 36--.

[528] Ray's _Letters_, 37. 87. Lister _De Aran._ 80. Lister
illustrates the force with which these creatures shoot their thread,
by a homely though very forcible simile: "Resupinata (says he) anum
in ventum dedit, filumque ejaculata est quo plane modo robustissimus
juvenise distentissima vesicâ urinam."

[529] _De Araneis_, 8. 27. 64. 75-- 79--.

[530] Ibid. 79--.

[531] Ibid. 85.

[532] _Nat. Hist._ i. 327.

[533] No. lii. 306--.

[534] Cuvier, _Anat. Comp._ i. 504.

[535] _Nat. Hist._ i. 325--.

[536] _Neue Schriften der Naturforschenden Gessellschaft zu Halle_
1810. v. _Heft_.

[537] _Nat. Hist._ i. 326.

[538] Ray's _Letters_, 36.

[539] Ibid. 42. Lister _De Araneis_, 8.

[540] VOL. I. 113--.

[541] Lichtenberg und Voight _Magazin_, 1789. vi. 53--.

[542] _Neue Schriften der Naturforsch_. &c. 1810. v. _Heft_, 41-56.

[543] _De Araneis_, 66.

[544] Ibid. 79.

[545] _Nat. Hist._ i. 326.

[546] Swamm. _Bibl. Nat._ Ed. Hill, i. 24. De Geer, vii. 190.

[547] French naturalists use this term (_nervure_) for the veins of
wings, leaves, &c. restricting _nerve_ (_nerf_) to the ramifications
from the brain and spinal marrow. We have adopted the term, which we
express in Latin by _neura_, from the Greek νευρα.

[548] Jurine _Hymenopt._ 19.

[549] PLATE X. FIG. 1.

[550] PLATE XXIII. FIG. 6. _e´´´._

[551] PLATE X. FIG. 4.

[552] In PLATE XXIII. FIG. 5. the wings of _Dytiscus marginalis_ are
represented as they appear when folded.

[553] _Entomol._ i. 1.

[554] PLATE X. FIG. 5.

[555] PLATE II. FIG. 1. It has been ascertained that the spurious
elytra of these insects are serviceable in their flight. As M.
Latreille now allows this, he ought to have restored its original
name, which he had altered, to this order.

[556] PLATE X. FIG. 2.

[557] _Hist. Ins._ 63.

[558] _Nat. Hist._ ii. 82.

[559] PLATE II. FIG. 4.

[560] PLATE X. FIG. 3. II. FIG. 5.

[561] PLATE XV. FIG. 2. I have separated this tribe from the rest
under the name of _Petalopus_, K. Ms.

[562] PLATE III. FIG. 4.

[563] Lesser, _L._ i. 109, note *. De Geer, ii. 460-- _t._ ix. _f._ 9.

[564] PLATE XXII. FIG. 16--.

[565] PLATE X. FIG. 6.

[566] De Geer, i. 173. _t._ x. _f._ 4. _Linn. Trans._ i. 135--.

[567] _Linn. Trans._ vii. 40.

[568] Haworth _Lepidopt. Brit._ i. 19.

[569] Leeuw. _Epist._ 6. Mart. 1717.

[570] Jurine _Hymenopt._ t. 2-5.

[571] Kirby _Mon. Ap. Angl._ i. 96. 108. _t._ xiii. _f._ 19.

[572] Ibid. 96. 107. _t._ v. _f._ 8. _dd._

[573] Huber, i. 38.

[574] _Phys. Theol._ 13th Ed. 366, note (_i._)

[575] Wiedemann's _Archiv._ ii. 210.

[576] To those that frequent meadows and pastures (_Tipula oleracea_,
L. &c.) they are also useful as I have before observed, as stilts, to
enable them to walk over the grass. Reaum. v. _Pref._ i. _t._ iii.
_f._ 10.

[577] 4to. iii. 36.

[578] PLATE XIV. FIG. 6.

[579] Mr. Briggs observes that this insect appears to move all its
legs at once, with wonderful rapidity, by which motion it produces a
radiating vibration on the surface of the water.

[580] De Geer, iii. 314.

[581] VOL. I. 470--.

[582] Curtis _Brit. Ent._ _t._ ii.

[583] PLATE XV. FIG. 5.

[584] PLATE II. FIG. 2.

[585] PLATE XV. FIG. 6. _s´´._, _v´´´._

[586] Ibid. _t´´._

[587] White, _Nat. Hist._ ii. 80. 72. 76.

[588] _Linn. Trans._ iv. 200--.

[589] v. 20--.

[590] vi. 104.

[591] Rai. _Hist. Ins._ 133. l.

[592] Lesser, _L._ i. 248, note 22.

[593] VOL. I. 282--.

[594] Reaum. vi. 484. _t._ xlv. _f._ 7.

[595] The persons observing the appearance here related were the
authors of this work.

[596] _Lach. Lapp._ i. 194.

[597] Compare Oliv. _Entomol._ iii. _Gyrinus_ 4.

[598] De Geer, ii. 638--.

[599] See above, p. 7.

                              LETTER XXIV.

                       _ON THE NOISES PRODUCED BY

That insects, though they fill the air with a variety of sounds, have
no _voice_, may seem to you a paradox, and you may be tempted to
exclaim with the Roman naturalist, What, amidst this incessant diurnal
hum of bees; this evening boom of beetles; this nocturnal buz of gnats;
this merry chirp of crickets and grasshoppers; this deafening drum
of Cicadæ, have insects no voice! If by voice we understand sounds
produced by the air expelled from the lungs, which, passing through
the larynx, is modified by the tongue, and emitted from the mouth,--it
is even so. For no insect, like the larger animals, uses its mouth for
utterance of any kind: in this respect they are all perfectly mute; and
though incessantly noisy, are everlastingly silent. Of this fact the
Stagyrite was not ignorant, since, denying them a voice, he attributes
the sounds emitted by insects to another cause. But if we feel disposed
to give a larger extent to this word; if we are of opinion that all
sounds, however produced, by means of which animals determine those of
their own species to certain actions, merit the name of voice; then I
will grant that insects have a voice. But, decide this question as we
will, we all know that by some means or other, at certain seasons and
on various occasions, these little creatures make a great din in the
world. I must therefore now bespeak your attention to this department
of their history.

In discussing this subject, I shall consider the noises insects
emit--during their motions--when they are feeding, or otherwise
employed--when they are calling or commanding--or when they are under
the influence of the passions; of fear, of anger, of sorrow, joy, or

The only kind of _locomotion_ during which these animals produce
sounds, is flying: for though the hill-ants (_Formica rufa_), as I
formerly observed[600], make a rustling noise with their feet when
walking over dry leaves, I know of no other insect the tread of which
is accompanied by sound--except indeed the flea, whose steps, a
lady assures me, she always hears when it paces over her night-cap,
and that it clicks as if it was walking in pattens! That the flight
of numbers of insects is attended by a humming or booming is known
to almost every one; but that the great majority move through the
air in silence, has not perhaps been so often observed. Generally
speaking, those that fly with the most force and rapidity, and with
wings seemingly motionless, make the most noise; while those that fly
gently and leisurely, and visibly fan the air with their wings, yield
little or no sound.

Amongst the beetle tribes (_Coleoptera_), none is more noticed, or
more celebrated for "wheeling its droning flight," than the common
dung-chafer (_Geotrupes stercorarius_) and its affinities. Linné
affirms--but the prognostic sometimes fails--that when these insects
fly in numbers, it indicates a subsequent fine day[601]. The truth
is, they only fly in fine weather. Mr. White has remarked, that in
the dusk of the evening beetles begin to buz, and that partridges
begin to call exactly at the same time[602]. The common cock chafer,
and that which appears at the summer solstice (_Melolontha vulgaris_
and _Amphimalla solstitialis_), when they hover over the summits of
trees in numbers, produce a hum somewhat resembling that of bees
swarming. Perhaps some insect of this kind may occasion the humming
in the air mentioned by Mr. White, and which you and I have often
heard in other places. "There is," says he, "a natural occurrence to
be met with in the highest part of our down on the hot summer days,
which always amuses me much, without giving me any satisfaction with
respect to the cause of it;--and that is a loud audible humming of
bees in the air, though not one insect is to be seen.--Any person
would suppose that a large swarm of bees was in motion, and playing
about over his head[603]."

          "Resounds the living surface of the ground--
           Nor undelightful is the ceaseless hum
           To him who muses through the woods at noon,
           Or drowsy shepherd as he lies reclined."

The hotter the weather, the higher insects will soar; and it is
not improbable that the sound produced by numbers may be heard,
when those that produce it are out of sight.--The burying-beetle
(_Necrophorus Vespillo_), whose singular history[604] so much amused
you, as well as _Cicindela sylvatica_ of the same order, flies
likewise, as I have more than once witnessed, with a considerable hum.

Whether the innumerable locust armies, to which I have so often called
your attention, make any noise in their flight, I have not been able
to ascertain; the mere impulse of the wings of myriads and myriads
of these creatures upon the air, must, one would think, produce some
sound. In the symbolical locusts mentioned in the Apocalypse[605], this
is compared to the sound of chariots rushing to battle: an illustration
which the inspired author of that book would scarcely have had recourse
to, if the real locusts winged their way in silence.

Amongst the _Hemiptera_, I know only a single species that is of noisy
flight; though doubtless, were the attention of entomologists directed
to that object, others would be found exhibiting the same peculiarity.
The insect I allude to (_Coreus marginatus_) is one of the numerous
tribe of bugs; when flying, especially when hovering together in a
sunny sheltered spot, they emit a hum as loud as that of the hive-bee.

From the magnitude and strength of their wings, it might be supposed
that many _lepidopterous_ insects would not be silent in their
flight;--and indeed many of the hawk-moths (_Sphinx_, F.), and some
of the larger moths (_Bombyx_, F.), are not so; _Cossus ligniperda_,
for instance, is said to emulate the booming of beetles by means
of its large stiff wings; whence in Germany it is called the
humming-bird (_Brumm-Vogel_).--But the great body of these numerous
tribes, even those that fan the air with "sail-broad vans," produce
little or no sound by their motion. I must therefore leave them,
as well as the _Trichoptera_ and _Neuroptera_, which are equally
barren of insects of sounding wing--and proceed to an order, the
_Hymenoptera_, in which the insects that compose it are, many of
them, of more fame for this property.

The indefatigable hive-bee, as she flies from flower to flower,
amuses the observer with her hum, which, though monotonous, pleases
by exciting the idea of happy industry, that wiles the toils of
labour with a song. When she alights upon a flower, and is engaged in
collecting its sweets, her hum ceases; but it is resumed again the
moment that she leaves it.--The wasp and hornet also are strenuous
hummers; and when they enter our apartments, their hum often brings
terror with it. But the most sonorous fliers of this order are the
larger humble-bees, whose _bombination_, _booming_, or _bombing_, may
be heard from a considerable distance, gradually increasing as the
animal approaches you, and when, in its wheeling flight, it rudely
passes close to your ear, almost stunning you by its sharp, shrill,
and deafening sound. Many genera, however, of this order fly silently.

But the noisiest wings belong to insects of the _dipterous_ order,
a majority of which, probably, give notice of their approach by
the sound of their trumpets. Most of those, however, that have a
slender body,--the gnat genus (_Culex_) excepted,--explore the air
in silence. Of this description are the _Tipulariæ_, the _Asilidæ_,
the genus _Empis_, and their affinities. The rest are more or less
insects of a humming flight; and with respect to many of them, their
hum is a sound of terror and dismay to those who hear it. To man, the
trumpet of the gnat or mosquito; and to beasts, that of the gad-fly;
of various kinds of horse-flies; and of the Ethiopian zimb, as I have
before related at large[606], is the signal of intolerable annoyance.
Homer, in his _Batrachomyomachia_, long ago celebrated the first of
these as a trumpeter--

          "For their sonorous trumpets far renown'd,
           Of battle the dire charge mosquitos sound."

Mr. Pope, in his translation, with his usual inaccuracy, thinking no
doubt to improve upon his author, has turned the old bard's gnats
into hornets. In Guiana these animals are distinguished by a name
still more tremendous, being called the devil's trumpeters[607]. I
have observed that early in the spring, before their thirst for blood
seizes them, gnats when flying emit no sound. At this moment (Feb.
18) two females are flying about my windows in perfect silence.

After this short account of insects that give notice when they are
upon the wing by the sounds that precede them, I must inquire by
what means these sounds are produced. Ordinarily, except perhaps in
the case of the gnat, they seem perfectly independent of the will of
the animal; and in almost every instance, the sole instruments that
cause the noise of flying insects are their wings, or some parts
near to them, which, by their friction against the trunk, occasion
a vibration--as the fingers upon the strings of a guitar--yielding
a sound more or less acute in proportion to the rapidity of their
flight--the action of the air perhaps upon these organs giving it
some modifications. Whether, in the beetles that fly with noise,
the elytra contribute more or less to produce it, seems not to have
been clearly ascertained: yet, since they fly with force as well as
velocity, the action of the air may cause some motion in them, enough
to occasion friction. With respect to _Diptera_, Latreille contends
that the noise of flies on the wing cannot be the result of friction,
because their wings are then expanded; but though to us flies seem
to sail through the air without moving these organs, yet they are
doubtless all the while in motion, though too rapid for the eye to
perceive it. When the aphidivorous flies are hovering, the vertical
play of their wings, though very rapid, is easily seen; but when they
fly off it is no longer visible. Repeated experiments have been tried
to ascertain the cause of sound in this tribe, but it should seem
with different results. De Geer, whose observations were made upon
one of the flies just mentioned, appears to have proved that, in the
insect he examined, the sounds were produced by the friction of the
root or base of the wings against the sides of the cavity in which
they are inserted. To be convinced of this, he affirms, the observer
has nothing to do but to hold each wing with the finger and thumb,
and stretching them out, taking care not to hurt the animal, in
opposite directions, thus to prevent their motion,--and immediately
all sound will cease. For further satisfaction he made the following
experiment. He first cut off the wings of one of these flies very
near the base; but finding that it still continued to buz as before,
he thought that the winglets and poisers, which he remarked were in
a constant vibration, might occasion the sound. Upon this, cutting
both off, he examined the mutilated fly with a microscope, and found
that the remaining fragments of the wings were in constant motion all
the time that the buzzing continued; but that upon pulling them up
by the roots all sound ceased[608]. Shelver's experiments, noticed
in my last letter, go to prove, with respect to the insects that he
examined, that the winglets are more particularly concerned with the
buzzing. Upon cutting off the wings of a fly--but he does not state
that he pulled them up by the roots--he found the sound continued.
He next cut off the poisers--the buzzing went on. This experiment
was repeated eighteen times with the same result. Lastly, when he
took off the winglets, either wholly or partially, the buzzing
ceased. This, however, if correct, can only be a cause of this noise
in the insects that have winglets. Numbers have them not. He next,
therefore, cut off the poisers of a crane-fly (_Tipula crocata_),
and found that it buzzed when it moved the wing. He cut off half the
latter, yet still the sound continued; but when he had cut off the
whole of these organs the sound entirely ceased[609].

Aristophanes in his _Clouds_, deriding Socrates, introduces Chærephon
as asking that philosopher whether gnats made their buz with their
mouth or their tail[610]. Upon which Mouffet very gravely observes,
that the sound of one of these insects approaching is much more acute
than that of one retiring; from whence he very sapiently concludes,
that not the tail but the mouth must be their organ of sound[611].
But after all, the friction of the base of the wings against the
thorax seems to be the sole cause of the alarming buz of the gnat as
well as that of other _Diptera_. The warmer the weather, the greater
is their thirst for blood, the more forcible their flight, the motion
of their wings more rapid, and the sound produced by that motion more
intense. In the night--but perhaps this may arise from the universal
stillness that then reigns--their hum appears louder than in the day:
whence its tones may seem to be modified by the will of the animal.

Sounds also are sometimes emitted by insects when they are _feeding_
or otherwise _employed_. The action of the jaws of a large number of
cockchafers produces a noise resembling the sawing of timber; that
of the locusts has been compared to the crackling of a flame of fire
driven by the wind; indeed the collision at the same instant of myriads
of millions of their powerful jaws must be attended by a considerable
sound. The timber-borers also--the _Buprestes_; the stag-horn beetles;
and particularly the capricorn-beetles--the mandibles of whose larvæ
resemble a pair of mill-stones[612]--most probably do not feed in
silence. A little wood-louse (_Atropos pulsatoria_)--which on that
account has been confounded with the death-watch--is said also, when
so engaged, to emit a ticking noise.--Certain two-winged flies seen
in spring, distinguished by a very long proboscis (_Bombylius_), hum
all the time that they suck the honey from the flowers; as do also
many hawk-moths, particularly that called from this circumstance the
humming-bird (_Macroglossa Stellatarum_), which, while it hovers
over them, unfolding its long tongue, pilfers their sweets without
interrupting its song.--The giant cock-roach (_Blatta gigantea_), which
abounds in old timber houses in the warmer parts of the world, makes a
noise when the family are asleep like a pretty smart rapping with the
knuckles--three or four sometimes appearing to answer each other.--On
this account in the West Indies it is called the _Drummer_; and they
sometimes beat such a reveille, that only good sleepers can rest for
them[613]. As the animals of this genus generally come forth in the
night for the purpose of feeding, this noise is probably connected with
that subject.

Insects also, at least many of the social ones, emit peculiar noises
while engaged in their various _employments_. If an ear be applied to
a wasps or humble-bees nest, or a bee-hive, a hum more or less intense
may always be perceived. Were I disposed to play upon your credulity,
I might tell you, with Gœdart, that in every humble-bees nest there
is a trumpeter, who early in the morning, ascending to its summit,
vibrates his wings, and sounding his trumpet for the space of a quarter
of an hour, rouses the inhabitants to work! But since Reaumur could
never witness this, I shall not insist upon your believing it, though
the relater declares that he had heard it with his ears, and seen
it with his eyes, and had called many to witness the vibrating and
strepent wings of this trumpeter humble-bee[614].--The blue sand-wasp
(_Ammophila? cyanea_), which at all other times is silent, when engaged
in building its cells emits a singular but pleasing sound, which may be
heard at ten or twelve yards distance[615].

Some insects also are remarkable for a peculiar mode of _calling_,
_commanding_, or giving an _alarm_. I have before mentioned the noise
made by the neuters or soldiers amongst the white ants, by which
they keep the labourers, who answer it by a hiss, upon the alert
and to their work[616]. This noise, which is produced by striking
any substance with their mandibles, Smeathman describes as a small
vibrating sound, rather shriller and quicker than the ticking of
a watch. It could be distinguished, he says, at the distance of
three or four feet, and continued for a minute at a time with very
short intervals. When any one walks in a solitary grove, where the
covered ways of these insects abound, they give the alarm by a loud
hissing, which is heard at every step[617].--"When house-crickets
are out," says Mr. White, "and running about in a room in the night,
if surprised by a candle they give two or three shrill notes, as it
were for a signal to their followers, that they may escape to their
crannies and lurking-holes to avoid danger[618]."

Under this head I shall consider a noise before alluded to[619],
which has been a cause of alarm and terror to the superstitious in
all ages. You will perceive that I am speaking of the death-watch--so
called, because it emits a sound resembling the ticking of a watch,
supposed to predict the death of some one of the family in the house
in which it is heard. Thus sings the muse of the witty Dean of St.
Patrick on this subject:

                    "..................A wood-worm
          That lies in old wood, like a hare in her form:
          With teeth or with claws it will bite or will scratch,
          And chambermaids christen this worm a death-watch;
          Because like a watch it always cries click;
          Then woe be to those in the house who are sick!
          For, sure as a gun, they will give up the ghost,
          If the maggot cries click, when it scratches the post;
          But a kettle of scalding hot water injected,
          Infallibly cures the timber affected:
          The omen is broken, the danger is over,
          The maggot will die, and the sick will recover."

To add to the effect of this noise, it is said to be made only when
there is a profound silence in an apartment, and every one is still.

Authors were formerly not agreed concerning the insect from which
this sound of terror proceeded, some attributing it to a kind of
wood-louse, as I lately observed, and others to a spider; but it is
a received opinion now, adopted upon satisfactory evidence, that it
is produced by some little beetles belonging to the timber-boring
genus _Anobium_. Swammerdam observes, that a small beetle, which
he had in his collection, having firmly fixed its fore legs, and
put its inflexed head between them, makes a continual noise in old
pieces of wood, walls, and ceilings, which is sometimes so loud,
that upon hearing it, people have fancied that hobgoblins, ghosts,
or fairies were wandering around them[620]. Evidently this was one
of the death-watches. Latreille observed _Anobium striatum_ produce
the sound in question by a stroke of its mandibles upon the wood,
which was answered by a similar noise from within it. But the species
whose proceedings have been most noticed by British observers is _A.
tessellatum_. When spring is far advanced, these insects are said to
commence their ticking, which is only a call to each other, to which
if no answer be returned, the animal repeats it in another place. It
is thus produced. Raising itself upon its hind legs, with the body
somewhat inclined, it beats its head with great force and agility
upon the plane of position; and its strokes are so powerful as to
make a considerable impression if they fall upon any substance softer
than wood. The general number of distinct strokes in succession is
from seven to nine or eleven. They follow each other quickly, and are
repeated at uncertain intervals. In old houses, where these insects
abound, they may be heard in warm weather during the whole day. The
noise exactly resembles that produced by tapping moderately with the
nail upon the table; and when familiarized, the insect will answer
very readily the tap of the nail[621].

The queen bee has long been celebrated for a peculiar sound, producing
the most extraordinary effects upon her subjects. Sometimes, just
before bees swarm,--instead of the great hum usually heard, and
even in the night,--if the ear be placed close to the mouth of the
hive, a sharp clear sound may be distinguished, which appears to be
produced by the vibration of the wings of a single bee. This, it has
been pretended, is the harangue of the new queen to her subjects, to
inspire them with courage to achieve the foundation of a new empire.
But Butler gives to it a different interpretation. He asserts, that
the candidate for the new throne is then with earnest entreaties,
lamentations, and groans, supplicating the queen-mother of the hive
to grant her permission to lead the intended colony;--that this is
continued, before she can obtain her consent, for two days; when the
old queen relenting gives her fiat in a fuller and stronger tone. That
should the former presume to imitate the tones of the sovereign, this
being the signal of revolt, she would be executed on the spot, with
all whom she had seduced from their loyalty[622].--But it is time to
leave fables: I shall therefore next relate to you what really takes
place. You have heard how the bees detain their young queens till they
are fit to lead a swarm.--I then mentioned the attitude and sound that
strike the former motionless[623]. When she emits this authoritative
sound, reclining her thorax against a comb, the queen stands with her
wings crossed upon her back, which, without being uncrossed or further
expanded, are kept in constant vibration. The tone thus produced is a
very distinct kind of clicking, composed of many notes in the same key,
which follow each other rapidly. This sound the queens emit before they
are permitted to leave their cells; but it does not then seem to affect
the bees. But when once they are liberated from confinement and assume
the above attitude, its effects upon them are very remarkable. As soon
as the sound was heard, Huber tells us, bees that had been employed
in plucking, biting, and chasing a queen about, hung down their heads
and remained altogether motionless; and whenever she had recourse to
this attitude and sound, they operated upon them in the same manner.
The writer just mentioned observed differences both with regard to the
succession and intensity of the notes and tones of this royal song;
and, as he justly remarks, there may be still finer shades which,
escaping our organs, may be distinctly perceived by the bees[624]. He
seems however to doubt by what means this sound is produced. Reasoning
analogically, the motion of the wings should occasion it. We have
seen that they are in constant motion when it is uttered. Probably
the intensity of the tones and their succession are regulated by the
intensity of the vibrations of the wings. Reaumur remarks, that the
different tones of the bees, whether more or less grave or acute, are
produced by the strokes, more or less rapid, of their wings against
the air, and that perhaps their different angles of inclination may
vary the sound. The friction of their bases likewise against the sides
of the cavity in which they are inserted, as in the case of the fly
lately mentioned, or against the base-covers (_Tegulæ_), may produce
or modulate their sounds, a bee whose wings are eradicated being
perfectly mute[625]. This last assertion, however, is contradicted by
John Hunter, who affirms that bees produce a noise independent of their
wings, emitting a shrill and peevish sound though they are cut off, and
the legs held fast[626]. Yet it does not appear from his experiment
that the wings were eradicated. And if they were only cut off, the
friction of their base might cause the sound. I have before noticed the
remarkable fact, that the queens educated according to M. Schirach's
method are absolutely mute; on which account the bees keep no guard
around their cells, nor retain them an instant in them after their

The _passions_, also, which urge us to various exclamations, elicit
from insects occasionally certain sounds. Fear, anger, sorrow,
joy, or love and desire, they express in particular instances by
particular noises. I shall begin with those which they emit when
under any _alarm_. One _larva_ only is recorded as uttering a cry
of alarm, and it produces a perfect insect remarkable for the
same faculty: I allude to _Acherontia Atropos_. Its caterpillar,
if disturbed at all, draws back rapidly, making at the same time
a rather loud noise, which has been compared to the crack of an
electric spark[628].--You would scarcely think that any _quiescent
pupæ_ could show their fears by a sound,--yet in one instance this
appears to be the case. De Geer having made a small incision in the
cocoon of a moth, which included that of its parasite Ichneumon (_I.
Cantator_, De G.), the insect concealed within the latter uttered
a little cry, similar to the chirping of a small grasshopper,
continuing it for a long time together. The sound was produced by the
friction of its body against the elastic substance of its own cocoon,
and was easily imitated by rubbing a knife against its surface[629].

But to come to _perfect_ insects. Many beetles when taken show their
alarm by the emission of a shrill, sibilant, or creaking sound--which
some compare to the chirping of young birds--produced by rubbing
their elytra with the extremity of their abdomen. This is the case
with the dung-chafers (_Geotrupes vernalis_, _stercorarius_, and
_Copris lunaris_); with the carrion-chafer (_Trox sabulosus_); and
others of the lamellicorn beetles. The burying-beetle (_Necrophorus
Vespillo_), _Lema melanopa_ and _merdigera_, and _Hygrobia Hermanni_,
and many other _Coleoptera_, produce a similar noise by the same
means. When this noise is made, the movement of the abdomen may be
perceived; and if a pin is introduced under the elytra it ceases.
Long after many of these insects are dead the noise may be caused by
pressure. Rösel found this with respect to the _Scarabæidæ_[630],
and I have repeated the experiment with success upon _Necrophorus
Vespillo_. The capricorn tribes (_Prionus_, _Lamia_, _Cerambyx_,
&c.) emit under alarm an acute or creaking sound--which Lister calls
querulous, and Dumeril compares to the braying of an ass[631]--by the
friction of the thorax, which they alternately elevate and depress,
against the neck, and sometimes against the base of the elytra[632].
On account of this, _Prionus coriarius_, is called _the fiddler_ in
Germany[633]. Two other coleopterous genera, _Cychrus_ and _Clytus_,
make their cry of _Noli me tangere_ by rubbing their thorax against
the base of the elytra. _Pimelia_, another beetle, does the same by
the friction of its legs against each other[634]. And, doubtless,
many more _Coleoptera_, if observed, would be found to express their
fears by similar means.

In the other orders the examples of cries of terror are much less
numerous. A bug (_Cimex subapterus_, De G.) when taken emits a
sharp sound, probably with its rostrum, by moving its head up and
down[635]. Ray makes a similar remark with respect to another bug
(_Reduvius personatus_), the cry of which he compares to the chirping
of a grasshopper[636]. _Mutilla europæa_, a hymenopterous insect,
makes a sibilant chirping, as I once observed at Southwold, where it
abounds; but how produced I cannot say. The most remarkable noise,
however, proceeding from insects under alarm, is that emitted by the
death's-head hawk-moth, and for which it has long been celebrated.
The _Lepidoptera_, though some of them, as we have seen, produce a
sound when they fly, at other times are usually mute insects: but
this alarmist--for so it may be called, from the terrors which it
has occasioned to the superstitious[637]--when it walks, and more
particularly when it is confined, or taken into the hand, sends forth a
strong and sharp cry, resembling that of a mouse, but more plaintive,
and even lamentable, which it continues as long as it is held. This cry
does not appear to be produced by the wings; for when they, as well as
the thorax and abdomen, are held down, the cries of the insect become
still louder. Schrœter says that the animal, when it utters its cry,
rubs its tongue against its head[638]; and Rösel, that it produces it
by the friction of the thorax and abdomen[639]. But Reaumur found,
after the most attentive examination, that the cry came from the mouth,
or rather from the tongue; and he thought that it was produced by the
friction of the palpi against that organ. When, by means of a pin,
he unfolded the spiral tongue, the cry ceased; but as soon as it was
rolled up again between the palpi it was renewed. He next prevented the
palpi from touching it, and the sound also ceased; and upon removing
only one of them, though it continued, it became much more feeble[640].
Huber, however, denies that it is produced by the friction of the
tongue and palpi[641]: but as he has not stated his reasons for this
opinion, I think his assertion that he has ascertained this cannot be
allowed to countervail Reaumur's experiments.

I must next say a few words upon the angry chidings of our little
creatures; for their _anger_ sometimes vents itself in sounds. I have
often been amused with hearing the indignant tones of a humble-bee
while lying upon its back. When I held my finger to it, it kicked and
scolded with all its might. Hive-bees when irritated emit a shrill
and peevish sound, continuing even when they are held under water,
which John Hunter says vibrates at the point of contact with the
air-holes at the root of their wings[642]. This sound is particularly
sharp and angry when they fly at an intruder. The same sounds, or
very similar ones, tell us when a wasp is offended, and we may expect
to be stung;--but this passion of anger in insects is so nearly
connected with their fear, that I need not enlarge further upon it.

Concerning their shouts of _joy_ and cries of _sorrow_ I have little
to record: that pleasure or pain makes a difference in the tones of
vocal insects is not improbable; but our auditory organs are not
fine enough to catch all their different modulations. When Schirach
had once smoked a hive to oblige the bees to retire to the top of
it, the queen with some of the rest flew away. Upon this, those that
remained in the hive sent forth a most plaintive sound, as if they
were all deploring their loss; when their sovereign was restored
to them, these lugubrious sounds were succeeded by an agreeable
humming, which announced their joy at the event[643]. Huber relates,
that once when all the worker-brood was removed from a hive, and only
male brood left, the bees appeared in a state of extreme despondency.
Assembled in clusters upon the combs, they lost all their activity.
The queen dropped her eggs at random; and instead of the usual active
hum, a dead silence reigned in the hive[644].

But _love_ is the soul of song with those that may be esteemed
the most musical insects, the grasshopper tribes (_Gryllina_ and
_Locustina_), and the long celebrated Cicada. You would suppose,
perhaps, that the ladies would bear their share in these amatory
strains. But here you would be mistaken--female insects are too
intent upon their business, too coy and reserved to tell their love
even to the winds.--The males alone

          "Formosam resonare docent Amaryllida sylvas."

With respect to the _Cicadæ_, this was observed by Aristotle; and
Pliny, as usual, has retailed it after him[645]. The observation also
holds good with respect to the _Gryllina_, &c., and other insects,
probably, whose love is musical. Olivier however has noticed an
exception to this doctrine; for he relates, that in a species of beetle
(_Moluris striata_), the female has a round granulated spot in the
middle of the second segment of the abdomen, by striking which against
any hard substance, she produces a rather loud sound, and that the
male, obedient to this call, soon attends her, and they pair[646].

As I have nothing to communicate to you with respect to the love-songs
of other insects, my further observations will be confined to the
tribes lately mentioned, the _Gryllina_, &c. and the _Cicadæ_.

No sound is to me more agreeable than the chirping of most of the
_Gryllina_, _Locustina_, &c.; it gives life to solitude, and always
conveys to my mind the idea of a perfectly happy being. As these
creatures are now very properly divided into several genera, I shall
say a few words upon the song of such as are known to be vocal,

The remarkable genus _Pneumora_--whose pellucid abdomen is blown up
like a bladder, on which account they are called _Blaazops_ by the
Dutch colonists at the Cape--in the evening, for they are silent
in the day, make a tremulous and tolerably loud noise, which is
sometimes heard on every side[647]. The species of this genus have a
much greater claim to the name of _Fiddlers_, than the insect lately
mentioned, since their sound is produced by passing the hind-legs
over a number of short transverse elevated ridges on the abdomen,
which may be called their _fiddle-strings_[648].

The _cricket_ tribe are a very noisy race, and their chirping
is caused by the friction of the bases of their elytra against
each other. For this purpose there is something peculiar in their
structure, which I shall describe to you. The elytra of both sexes
are divided longitudinally into two portions; a vertical or lateral
one, which covers the sides; and a horizontal or dorsal one, which
covers the back. In the female both these portions resemble each
other in their nervures; which running obliquely in two directions,
by their intersection form numerous small lozenge-shaped or
rhomboidal meshes or areolets. The elytra also of these have no
elevation at their base. In the males the vertical portion does not
materially differ from that of the females; but in the horizontal the
base of each elytrum is elevated so as to form a cavity underneath.
The nervures also, which are stronger and more prominent, run here
and there very irregularly with various inflexions, describing
curves, spirals, and other figures difficult and tedious to
describe, and producing a variety of areolets of different size and
shape, but generally larger than those of the female: particularly
towards the extremity of the wing you may observe a space nearly
circular, surrounded by one nervure, and divided into two areolets
by another[649]. The friction of the nervures of the upper or
convex surface of the base of the left-hand elytrum--which is the
undermost--against those of the lower or concave surface of the base
of the right-hand--which is the uppermost one--will communicate
vibrations to the areas of membrane, more or less intense in
proportion to the rapidity of the friction, and thus produce the
sound for which these creatures are noted.

The merry inhabitant of our dwellings, the house-cricket (_Gryllus
domesticus_), though it is often heard by day, is most noisy in the
night. As soon as it grows dusk, its shrill note increases till it
becomes quite an annoyance, and interrupts conversation. When the
male sings, he elevates the elytra so as to form an acute angle with
the body, and then rubs them against each other by a horizontal and
very brisk motion[650]. The learned Scaliger is said to have been
particularly delighted with the chirping of these animals, and was
accustomed to keep them in a box for his amusement. We are told
that they have been sold in Africa at a high price, and employed to
procure sleep[651]. If they could be used to supply the place of
laudanum, and lull the restlessness of busy thought in this country,
the exchange would be beneficial. Like many other noisy persons,
crickets like to hear nobody louder than themselves. Ledelius relates
that a woman, who had tried in vain every method she could think of
to banish them from her house, at last got rid of them by the noise
made by drums and trumpets, which she had procured to entertain her
guests at a wedding. They instantly forsook the house, and she heard
of them no more[652].

The field-cricket (_Gryllus campestris_) makes a shrilling
noise--still more sonorous than that of the house-cricket--which
may be heard at a great distance. Mouffet tells us, that their
sound may be imitated by rubbing their elytra, after they are taken
off, against each other[653]. "Sounds," says Mr. White, "do not
always give us pleasure according to their sweetness and melody;
nor do harsh sounds always displease.--Thus the shrilling of the
field-cricket, though sharp and stridulous, yet marvellously delights
some hearers, filling their minds with a train of summer ideas of
every thing that is rural, verdurous, and joyous." One of these
crickets when confined in a paper cage and set in the sun, and
supplied with plants moistened with water--for if they are not wetted
it will die--will feed, and thrive, and become so merry and loud, as
to be irksome in the same room where a person is sitting[654].

Having never seen a female of that extraordinary animal the
mole-cricket (_Gryllotalpa vulgaris_), I cannot say what difference
obtains in the reticulation of the elytra of the two sexes. The male
varies in this respect from the other male crickets, for they have no
circular area, nor do the nervures run so irregularly; the areolets,
however, toward their base are large, with very tense membrane. The
base itself also is scarcely at all elevated. Circumstances these,
which demonstrate the propriety of considering them distinct from the
other crickets. This creature is not however mute. Where they abound
they may be heard about the middle of April singing their love-ditty
in a low, dull, jarring, uninterrupted note, not unlike that of
the goat-sucker (_Caprimulgus europæus_), but more inward[655]. I
remember once tracing one by its shrilling to the very hole, under a
stone, in the bank of my canal, in which it was concealed.

Another tribe of grasshoppers (_Acrida_, _Pterophylla_,
&c.[656])--the females of which are distinguished by their long
ensiform ovipositor--like the crickets, make their noise by the
friction of the base of their elytra. And the chirping they thus
produce is long, and seldom interrupted, which distinguishes it from
that of the common grasshoppers (_Locusta_). What is remarkable,
the grasshopper lark (_Sylvia locustella_), which preys upon them,
makes a similar noise. Professor Lichtenstein in the _Linnean
Transactions_ has called the attention of naturalists to the eye-like
area in the right wing of the males of this genus[657]; but he seems
not to have been aware that De Geer had noticed it before him as
a sexual character; who also, with good reason, supposes it to
assist these animals in the sounds they produce. Speaking of _Acrida
viridissima_--common with us--he says, "In our male grasshoppers,
in that part of the right elytrum which is folded horizontally over
the trunk, there is a round plate made of very fine transparent
membrane, resembling a little mirror or piece of talc, of the tension
of a drum. This membrane is surrounded by a strong and prominent
nervure, and is concealed under the fold of the left elytrum, which
has also several prominent nervures answering to the margin of the
membrane or ocellus. There is," he further remarks, "every reason to
believe that the brisk movement with which the grasshopper rubs these
nervures against each other, produces a vibration in the membrane
augmenting the sound. The males in question sing continually in the
hedges and trees during the months of July and August, especially
towards sun-set and part of the night. When any one approaches they
immediately cease their song[658]."

The last description of singers that I shall notice amongst the
_Locustina_, and which includes the migratory locust, are those that
are more commonly denominated grasshoppers. To this genus belong the
little chirpers that we hear in every sunny bank, and which make vocal
every heath. They begin their song--which is a short chirp regularly
interrupted, in which it differs from that of the _Acridæ_--long before
sun-rise. In the heat of the day it is intermitted, and resumed in the
evening. This sound is thus produced:--Applying its posterior shank
to the thigh, the animal rubs it briskly against the elytrum[659],
doing this alternately with the right and left legs, which causes the
regular breaks in the sound. But this is not their whole apparatus of
song--since, like the Tettigoniæ, they have also a tympanum or drum.
De Geer, who examined the insects he describes with the eye of an
anatomist, seems to be the only entomologist that has noticed this
organ. "On each side of the first segment of the abdomen," says he,
"immediately above the origin of the posterior thighs, there is a
considerable and deep aperture of rather an oval form, which is partly
closed by an irregular flat plate or operculum of a hard substance,
but covered by a wrinkled flexible membrane. The opening left by this
operculum is semi-lunar, and at the bottom of the cavity is a white
pellicle of considerable tension, and shining like a little mirror. On
that side of the aperture which is towards the head, there is a little
oval hole, into which the point of a pin may be introduced without
resistance. When the pellicle is removed, a large cavity appears. In my
opinion this aperture, cavity, and above all the membrane in tension,
contribute much to produce and augment the sound emitted by the
grasshopper[660]." This description, which was taken from the migratory
locust (_L. migratoria_), answers tolerably well to the tympanum of
our common grasshoppers, only in them the aperture seems to be rather
semicircular, and the wrinkled plate--which has no marginal hairs--is
clearly a continuation of the substance of the segment. This apparatus
so much resembles the drum of the Cicadæ, that there can be little
doubt as to its use. The vibrations caused by the friction of the
thighs and elytra striking upon this drum, are reverberated by it, and
so intenseness is given to the sound. In Spain, we are told that people
of fashion keep these animals--called there _Grillo_--in cages, which
they name _Grilleria_, for the sake of their song[661].

I shall conclude this diatribe upon the noises of insects, with a
tribe that have long been celebrated for their musical powers: I mean
the _Cicadiadæ_, including the genera _Fulgora_, _Cicada_, _Tettix_,
and _Tettigonia_[662]. The _Fulgoræ_ appear to be night-singers,
while the _Cicadæ_ sing usually in the day. The great lantern-fly
(_Fulgora laternaria_), from its noise in the evening--nearly
resembling the sound of a cymbal, or razor-grinder when at work--is
called _Scare-sleep_ by the Dutch in Guiana. It begins regularly at
sun-set[663]. Perhaps an insect mentioned by Ligon as making a great
noise in the night in Barbadoes, may belong to this tribe. "There is
a kind of animal in the woods," says he, "that I never saw, which lie
all day in holes and hollow trees, and as soon as the sun is down
begin their tunes, which are neither singing nor crying, but the
shrillest voices I ever heard: nothing can be so nearly resembled to
it as the mouths of a pack of small beagles at a distance; and so
lively and chirping the noise is, as nothing can be more delightful
to the ears, if there were not too much of it; for the music hath no
intermission till morning, and then all is husht[664]."

The species of the other genus, _Cicada_, called by the ancient
Greeks--by whom they were often kept in cages for the sake of their
song--_Tettix_, seem to have been the favourites of every Grecian
bard from Homer and Hesiod to Anacreon and Theocritus. Supposed
to be perfectly harmless, and to live only upon the dew, they
were addressed by the most endearing epithets, and were regarded
as all but divine. One bard entreats the shepherds to spare the
innoxious Tettix, that nightingale of the Nymphs, and to make those
mischievous birds the thrush and blackbird their prey. Sweet prophet
of the summer, says Anacreon, addressing this insect, the Muses
love thee, Phœbus himself loves thee, and has given thee a shrill
song; old age does not wear thee out; thou art wise, earth-born,
musical, impassive, without blood; thou art almost like a god[665].
So attached were the Athenians to these insects, that they were
accustomed to fasten golden images of them in their hair, implying at
the same time a boast that they themselves, as well as the Cicadæ,
were _Terræ filii_. They were regarded indeed by all as the happiest
as well as the most innocent of animals--not, we will suppose, for
the reason given by the saucy Rhodian Xenarchus, when he says,

          "Happy the Cicadas' lives,
           Since they all have voiceless wives."

If the Grecian _Tettix_ or _Cicada_ had been distinguished by a harsh
and deafening note, like those of some other countries, it would
hardly have been an object of such affection. That it was not, is
clearly proved by the connexion which was supposed to exist between
it and music. Thus the sound of this insect and of the harp were
called by one and the same name[666]. A Cicada sitting upon a harp
was a usual emblem of the science of music, which was thus accounted
for:--When two rival musicians, Eunomus and Ariston, were contending
upon that instrument, a Cicada flying to the former and sitting upon
his harp, supplied the place of a broken string, and so secured to
him the victory[667]. To excel this animal in singing seems to have
been the highest commendation of a singer; and even the eloquence
of Plato was not thought to suffer by a comparison with it[668]. At
Surinam the noise of the _Cicada Tibicen_ is still supposed so much
to resemble the sound of a harp or lyre, that they are called there
harpers (_Lierman_)[669]. Whether the Grecian Cicadæ maintain at
present their ancient character for music, travellers do not tell us.

Those of other countries, however, have been held in less estimation
for their powers of song; or rather have been execrated for the
deafening din that they produce. Virgil accuses those of Italy of
bursting the very shrubs with their noise[670]; and Sir J. E. Smith
observes that this species, which is very common, makes a most
disagreeable dull chirping[671]. Another, _Cicada septendecim_--which
fortunately, as its name imports, appears only once in seventeen
years--makes such a continual din from morning to evening that
people cannot hear each other speak. They appear in Pennsylvania
in incredible numbers in the middle of May[672].--"In the hotter
months of summer," says Dr. Shaw, "especially from midday to the
middle of the afternoon, the Cicada, τεττιξ, or grasshopper, as we
falsely translate it, is perpetually stunning our ears with its most
excessively shrill and ungrateful noise. It is in this respect
the most troublesome and impertinent of insects, perching upon a
twig and squalling sometimes two or three hours without ceasing;
thereby too often disturbing the studies, or short repose that is
frequently indulged, in these hot climates, at those hours. The
τεττιξ of the Greeks must have had a quite different voice, more soft
surely and melodious; otherwise the fine orators of Homer, who are
compared to it, can be looked upon no better than loud loquacious
scolds[673]."--An insect of this tribe, and I am told a very noisy
one, has been found by Mr. Daniel Bydder, before mentioned, in the
New Forest, Hampshire. Previously to this it was not thought that any
of these insect musicians were natives of the British Isles.--Captain
Hancock informs me that the Brazilian Cicadæ sing so loud as to be
heard at the distance of a mile. This is as if a man of ordinary
stature, supposing his powers of voice increased in the ratio of his
size, could be heard all over the world. So that Stentor himself
becomes a mute when compared with these insects.

You feel very curious, doubtless, to know by what means these little
animals are enabled to emit such prodigious sounds. I have lately
mentioned to you the drum of certain grasshoppers; this, however,
appears to be an organ of a very simple structure; but since it is
essential to the economy of the Cicadæ that their males should so
much exceed all other insects in the loudness of their tones, they
are furnished with a much more complex, and indeed most wonderful,
apparatus, which I shall now describe. If you look at the underside
of the body of a male, the first thing that will strike you is a pair
of large plates of an irregular form--in some semi-oval, in others
triangular, in others again a segment of a circle of greater or less
diameter--covering the anterior part of the belly, and fixed to the
trunk between the abdomen and the hind legs[674]. These are the
drum-covers or opercula, from beneath which the sound issues. At the
base of the posterior legs, just above each operculum, there is a small
pointed triangular process (_pessellum_)[675], the object of which,
as Reaumur supposes, is to prevent them from being too much elevated.
When an operculum is removed, beneath it you will find on the exterior
side a hollow cavity, with a mouth somewhat linear, which seems to
open into the interior of the abdomen[676]: next to this, on the inner
side, is another large cavity of an irregular shape, the bottom of
which is divided into three portions; of these the posterior is lined
obliquely with a beautiful membrane, which is very tense--in some
species semi-opake, and in others transparent--and reflects all the
colours of the rainbow. This mirror is not the real organ of sound, but
is supposed to modulate it[677]. The middle portion is occupied by a
plate of a horny substance, placed horizontally and forming the bottom
of the cavity. On its inner side this plate terminates in a carina or
elevated ridge, common to both drums[678]. Between the plate and the
after-breast (_postpectus_) another membrane, folded transversely,
fills an oblique, oblong, or semi-lunar cavity[679]. In some species I
have seen this membrane in tension--probably the insect can stretch or
relax it at its pleasure. But even all this apparatus is insufficient
to produce the sound of these animals;--one still more important and
curious yet remains to be described. This organ can only be discovered
by dissection. A portion of the first and second segments being removed
from that side of the back of the abdomen which answers to the drums,
two bundles of muscles meeting each other in an acute angle, attached
to a place opposite to the point of the mucro of the first ventral
segment of the abdomen, will appear[680]. In Reaumur's specimens
these bundles of muscles seem to have been cylindrical; but in one I
dissected (_Cicada capensis_) they were tubiform, the end to which
the true drum is attached being dilated[681]. These bundles consist
of a prodigious number of muscular fibres applied to each other, but
easily separable. Whilst Reaumur was examining one of these, pulling
it from its place with a pin, he let it go again, and immediately,
though the animal had been long dead, the usual sound was emitted. On
each side of the drum-cavities, when the opercula are removed, another
cavity of a lunulate shape, opening into the interior of the abdomen,
is observable[682]. In this is the true drum, the principal organ of
sound, and its aperture is to the Cicada what our larynx is to us. If
these creatures are unable themselves to modulate their sounds, here
are parts enough to do it for them: for the mirrors, the membranes,
and the central portions, with their cavities, all assist in it. In
the cavity last described, if you remove the lateral part of the first
dorsal segment of the abdomen, you will discover a semi-opaque and
nearly semicircular concavo-convex membrane with transverse folds--this
is the drum[683]. Each bundle of muscles, before mentioned, is
terminated by a tendinous plate nearly circular, from which issue
several little tendons that, forming a thread, pass through an aperture
in the horny piece that supports the drum, and are attached to its
under or concave surface. Thus the bundle of muscles being alternately
and briskly relaxed and contracted, will by its play draw in and let
out the drum: so that its convex surface being thus rendered concave
when pulled in, when let out a sound will be produced by the effort
to recover its convexity; which, striking upon the mirror and other
membranes before it escapes from under the operculum, will be modulated
and augmented by them[684]. I should imagine that the muscular bundles
are extended and contracted by the alternate approach and recession of
the trunk and abdomen to and from each other.

And now, my friend, what adorable wisdom, what consummate art
and skill are displayed in the admirable contrivance and complex
structure of this wonderful, this unparalleled apparatus! The GREAT
CREATOR has placed in these insects an organ for producing and
emitting sounds, which in the intricacy of its construction seems to
resemble that which he has given to man, and the larger animals, for
receiving them. Here is a _cochlea_; a _meatus_; and, as it should
seem, more than one _tympanum_.

                                                  I am, &c.


[600] See above, p. 98.

[601] _Syst. Nat._ 550. 42.

[602] _Nat. Hist._ ii. 254.

[603] White, _Nat. Hist._ ii. 256.

[604] VOL. I. 352--.

[605] Rev. ix. 9.

[606] VOL. I. 113. 146--.

[607] Stedman's _Surinam_, i. 24.

[608] De Geer, vi. 13.

[609] Wiedemann's _Archiv._ ii. 210. 217.

[610] _Act._ i. _Sc._ 2.

[611] Mouffet, 81.

[612] _Linn. Trans._ v. 255. _t._ xii. _f._ 7. b.

[613] Drury's _Insects_, iii. Preface.

[614] Lister's _Gœdart_, 244--. Compare Reaum. vi. 30.

[615] Bingley, _Animal Biogr._ iii. 1st Ed. 335.

[616] See above, p. 41.

[617] _Philos. Trans._ 1781. 48. 38.

[618] _Nat. Hist._ ii. 262.

[619] VOL. I. p. 36.

[620] _Bibl. Nat._ Ed. Hill, i. 125.

[621] Shaw's _Nat. Misc._ iii. 104. _Phil. Trans._ xxxiii. 159.
Compare Dumeril _Traité Element_. ii. 91. n. 694.

[622] Reaum. v. 615. Butler's _Female Monarchy_, c. v. § 4.

[623] See above, p. 147.

[624] Huber, i. 260. ii. 292--.

[625] Reaum. v. 617.

[626] _Philos. Trans._ 1792.

[627] Huber, i. 292--.

[628] Fuessl. _Archiv._ 8. 10.

[629] De Geer, vii. 594.

[630] Rösel, II. 208.

[631] Rai. _Hist. Ins._ 384. Dumeril, _Trait. Element._ ii. 100. n. 17.

[632] De Geer, v. 58. 69. Rösel, II. iii. 5.

[633] Rösel, ibid.

[634] Latr. _Hist. Nat._ x. 264.

[635] De Geer, iii. 289.

[636] _Hist. Ins._ 56.

[637] VOL. I. 34.

[638] _Naturforscher_ Stk. xxi. 77.

[639] III. 16.

[640] Reaum. ii. 290--.

[641] _Nouv. Obs._ ii. 300, note *.

[642] In _Philos. Trans._ 1792.

[643] Schirach, 73--.

[644] i. 226--.

[645] Aristot. _Hist. Anim._ l. v. c. 30. Plin. _Hist. Nat._ l. xi.
c. 26.

[646] Oliv. _Entomol._ i. Pref. ix.

[647] Sparrman, _Voy._ i. 312.

[648] PLATE XXIX. FIG. 13.

[649] Compare De Geer, iii. 512.

[650] De Geer, iii. 517. See also White, _Nat. Hist._ ii. 76;--and
Rai. _Hist. Ins._ 63.

[651] Mouffet, 136.

[652] Goldsmith's _Animat. Nat._ vi. 28.

[653] _Ins. Theatr._ 134.

[654] _Nat. Hist._ ii. 73.

[655] _Nat. Hist._ ii. 81.

[656] See Kirby in _Zool. Journ._ p. iv. 429--.

[657] _Linn. Trans._ iv. 51--.

[658] De Greer, iii. 429.

[659] Ibid. 470.

[660] De Geer, iii. 471. _t._ xxiii. _f._ 2. 3.

[661] Osbeck's _Voy._ i. 71.

[662] _Zoolog. Journ._ n. iv. 429--.

[663] Stedman's _Surinam_, ii. 37.

[664] _Hist. of Barbadoes_, 65.

[665] _Epigramm. Delect._ 45. 234.

[666] Gr. τερετισμα.

[667] Mouffet, _Theatr._ 130.

[668] Ἡδνεπους Πλατων, και τεττιξιν ισολαλος.

[669] Merian _Surinam_. 49.

[670] Et cantu querulæ rumpent arbusta cicadæ. _Georg._ iii. 328.

[671] Smith's _Tour_, iii. 95.

[672] Collinson in _Philos. Trans._ 1763. Stoll, _Cigales_, 26.

[673] _Travels_, 2d Ed. 186.

[674] PLATE VIII. FIG. 18. _c._ †. Reaum. v. _t._ xvi. _f._ 5. u u.

[675] PLATE VIII. FIG. 18. _q´´´_. Reaum. _ubi supra_, _t._ xvi. _f._
11. _b._

[676] Reaum. ibid. _f._ 3. _l l._

[677] Ibid. _ubi supra_, _f._ 3. m m.

[678] Ibid. _q. q. c._

[679] Ibid. _n. n._

[680] Reaum. _ubi supr._ _f._ 6. _f f._

[681] Ibid. _f._ 9. _f f._ PLATE VIII. FIG. 19. C´´.

[682] Reaum. _f._ 3. _l._

[683] Ibid. _f._ 6. _t t. f._ 9.

[684] PLATE VIII. FIG. 19. The figure given in this plate does not
show the drums clearly; but the principal object of it was to exhibit
the bundles of muscles, which are of a different form from those in
Reaumur's figures; they are represented at _C´´. C´´._ in connection
with the drums. The mirror is the part directly beneath these bundles.

                              LETTER XXV.

                         _ON LUMINOUS INSECTS._

We boast of our candles, our wax-lights, and our Argand lamps,
and pity our fellow-men who, ignorant of our methods of producing
artificial light, are condemned to pass their nights in darkness. We
regard these inventions as the results of a great exertion of human
intellect, and never conceive it possible that other animals are able
to avail themselves of modes of illumination equally efficient; and
are furnished with the means of guiding their nocturnal evolutions
by actual lights, similar in their effect to those which we make
use of. Yet many insects are thus provided. Some are forced to
content themselves with a single candle, not more vivid than the
rush-light which glimmers in the peasant's cottage; others exhibit
two or four, which cast a stronger radiance; and a few can display a
lamp little inferior in brilliancy to some of ours. Not that these
insects are actually possessed of candles and lamps. You are aware
that I am speaking figuratively. But Providence has supplied them
with an effectual substitute--a luminous preparation or secretion,
which has all the advantages of our lamps and candles without their
inconveniences; which gives light sufficient to direct their
motions, while it is incapable of burning; and whose lustre is
maintained without needing fresh supplies of oil or the application
of the snuffers.

Of the insects thus singularly provided, the common glow-worm
(_Lampyris noctiluca_) is the most familiar instance. Who that has
ever enjoyed the luxury of a summer evening's walk in the country,
in the southern parts of our island, but has viewed with admiration
these "stars of the earth and diamonds of the night?" And if, living
like me in a district where it is rarely met with, the first time
you saw this insect, chanced to be, as it was in my case, one of
those delightful evenings which an English summer seldom yields, when
not a breeze disturbs the balmy air, and "every sense is joy," and
hundreds of these radiant worms, studding their mossy couch with mild
effulgence, were presented to your wondering eye in the course of a
quarter of a mile,--you could not help associating with the name of
glow-worm the most pleasing recollections. No wonder that an insect,
which chiefly exhibits itself on occasions so interesting, and whose
economy is so remarkable, should have afforded exquisite images and
illustrations to those poets who have cultivated Natural History.

If you take one of these glow-worms home with you for examination,
you will find that in shape it somewhat resembles a caterpillar, only
that it is much more depressed; and you will observe that the light
proceeds from a pale-coloured patch that terminates the underside
of the abdomen. It is not, however, the larva of an insect, but the
perfect female of a winged beetle, from which it is altogether so
different, that nothing but actual observation could have inferred
the fact of their being the sexes of the same insect. In the course
of our inquiries you will find that sexual differences even more
extraordinary exist in the insect world.

It has been supposed by many that the males of the different species
of _Lampyris_ do not possess the property of giving out any light;
but it is now ascertained that this supposition is inaccurate,
though their light is much less vivid than that of the female. Ray
first pointed out this fact with respect to _L. noctiluca_[685].
Geoffroy also observed that the male of this species has four
small luminous points, two on each of the two last segments of the
belly[686]: and his observation has been recently confirmed by
Müller. This last entomologist, indeed, saw only two shining spots;
but from the insect's having the power of withdrawing them out of
sight so that not the smallest trace of light remains, he thinks
it is not improbable that at times two other points still smaller
may be exhibited, as Geoffroy has described. In the males of _L.
Splendidula_ and of _L. hemiptera_ the light is very distinct, and
may be seen in the former while flying[687].--The females have the
same faculty of extinguishing or concealing their light--a very
necessary provision to guard them from the attacks of nocturnal
birds: Mr. White even thinks that they regularly put it out between
eleven and twelve every night[688]: and they have also the power of
rendering it for a while more vivid than ordinary.

Authors who have noticed the luminous parts of the common female
glow-worm, having usually contented themselves with stating that the
light issues from the three last ventral segments of the abdomen[689];
I shall give you the result of some observations I once made upon
this subject. One evening, in the beginning of July, meeting with two
of these insects, I placed them on my hand. At first their light was
exceedingly brilliant, so as to appear even at the junctions of the
upper or dorsal segments of the abdomen. Soon after I had taken them,
one withdrew its light altogether, but the other continued to shine.
While it did this it was laid upon its back, the abdomen forming an
angle with the rest of its body, and the last or anal segment being
kept in constant motion. This segment was distinguished by two round
and very vivid spots of light; which, in the specimen that had ceased
to shine, were the last that disappeared, and they seem to be the first
parts that become luminous when the animal is disposed to yield its
light. The penultimate and antepenultimate segments each exhibited a
middle transverse band of yellow radiance, terminated towards the trunk
by an obtusely-dentated line; a greener and fainter light being emitted
by the rest of the segment.

Though many of the females of the _Lampyridæ_ are without wings
and even elytra, (in which circumstance they differ from all other
apterous _Coleoptera_,) this is not the case with all. The female of
_Pygolampis_[690] _italica_, a species common in Italy, and which,
if we may trust to the accuracy of the account given by Mr. Waller
in the _Philosophical Transactions_ for 1684, would seem to have
been taken by him in Hertfordshire, is winged: and when a number of
these moving stars are seen to dart through the air in a dark night,
nothing can have a more beautiful effect. Sir J. E. Smith tells us
that the beaus of Italy are accustomed in an evening to adorn the
heads of the ladies with these artificial diamonds, by sticking them
into their hair; and a similar custom, as I have before informed
you[691], prevails amongst the ladies of India.

Besides the different species of the genus _Lampyris_, all of which
are probably more or less luminous, another insect of the beetle
tribe, _Elater noctilucus_, is endowed with the same property,
and that in a much higher degree. This insect, which is called
the fire-fly, and is an inch long, and about one-third of an inch
broad, gives out its principal light from two transparent eye-like
tubercles placed upon the thorax; but there are also two luminous
patches concealed under the elytra, which are not visible except when
the insect is flying, at which time it appears adorned with four
brilliant gems of the most beautiful golden-blue lustre: in fact, the
whole body is full of light, which shines out between the abdominal
segments when stretched. The light emitted by the two thoracic
tubercles alone is so considerable, that the smallest print may be
read by moving one of these insects along the lines; and in the West
India islands, particularly in St. Domingo, where they are very
common, the natives were formerly accustomed to employ these living
lamps, which they called _Cucuij_, instead of candles in performing
their evening household occupations. In travelling at night they used
to tie one to each great toe; and in fishing and hunting required
no other flambeau[692].--Southey has happily introduced this insect
in his "_Madoc_" as furnishing the lamp by which Coatel rescued the
British hero from the hands of the Mexican priests.

          "She beckon'd and descended, and drew out
           From underneath her vest a cage, or net
           It rather might be call'd, so fine the twigs
           Which knit it, where, confined, two Fire-flies gave
           Their lustre. By that light did Madoc first
           Behold the features of his lovely guide."

Pietro Martire tells us that the Cucuij serve the natives of the
Spanish West India islands not only instead of candles, but as
extirpators of the gnats, which are a dreadful pest to the inhabitants
of the low grounds. They introduce a few fire-flies, to which the
gnats are a grateful food, into their houses, and by means of these
"commodious hunters" are soon rid of the intruders. "How they are a
remedy," says this author, "for so great a mischiefe it is a pleasant
thing to hear. Hee who understandeth he hath those troublesome guestes
(the gnattes) at home, diligently hunteth after the Cucuij. Whoso
wanteth Cucuij goeth out of the house in the first twilight of the
night, carrying a burning fire-brande in his hande, and ascendeth
the next hillock that the Cucuij may see it, and hee swingeth the
fire-brande about, calling Cucuius aloud, and beating the ayre with
often calling out _Cucuie, Cucuie_." He goes on to observe, that the
simple people believe the insect is attracted by their invitations;
but that, for his part he is rather inclined to think that the fire
is the magnet. Having obtained a sufficient number of Cucuij, the
beetle-hunter returns home and lets them fly loose in the house, where
they diligently seek the gnats about the beds and the faces of those
asleep, and devour them[693].--These insects are also applied to
purposes of decoration. On certain festival days in the month of June,
they are collected in great numbers, and tied all over the garments of
the young people, who gallop through the streets on horses similarly
ornamented, producing on a dark evening the effect of a large moving
body of light. On such occasions the lover displays his gallantry by
decking his mistress with these living gems[694]. And according to P.
Martire, "many wanton wilde fellowes" rub their faces with the flesh of
a killed Cucuius, as boys with us use phosphorus, "with purpose to meet
their neighbours with a flaming countenance," and derive amusement from
their fright.

Besides _Elater noctilucus_, _E. ignitus_ and several others of
the same genus are luminous. Not fewer than twelve species of this
family are described by Illiger in the _Berlin Naturalist Society's

The brilliant nocturnal spectacle presented by these insects to the
inhabitants of the countries where they abound cannot be better
described than in the language of the poet above referred to, who has
thus related its first effect upon the British visitors of the new

                  "..............Sorrowing we beheld
          The night come on; but soon did night display
          More wonders than it veil'd: innumerous tribes
          From the wood-cover swarm'd, and darkness made
          Their beauties visible: one while they stream'd
          A bright blue radiance upon flowers that closed
          Their gorgeous colours from the eye of day;
          Now motionless and dark, eluded search,
          Self-shrouded; and anon, starring the sky,
          Rose like a shower of fire."

The beautiful poetical imagery with which Mr. Southey has decorated
this and a few other entomological facts, will make you join in my
regret that a more extensive acquaintance with the science has not
enabled him to spread his embellishments over a greater number.
The gratification which the entomologist derives from seeing his
favourite study adorned with the graces of poetry is seldom unalloyed
with pain, arising from the inaccurate knowledge of the subject
in the poet. Dr. Darwin's description of the beetle to which the
nut-maggot is transformed may delight him (at least if he be an
admirer of the Darwinian style) as he reads for the first time,

          "So sleeps in silence the Curculio, shut
           In the dark chamber of the cavern'd nut;
           Erodes with ivory beak the vaulted shell,
           And quits on filmy wings its narrow cell."

But when the music of the lines has allowed him room for pause,
and he recollects that they are built wholly upon an incorrect
supposition, the Curculio never inhabiting the nut in its beetle
shape, nor employing its ivory or rather ebony beak upon it, but
undergoing its transformation under ground, he feels disappointed
that the passage has not truth as well as sound.--Mr. Southey, too,
has fallen into an error: he confounds the fire-fly of St. Domingo
(_Elater noctilucus_) with a quite different insect, the lantern-fly
(_Fulgora laternaria_) of Madame Merian; but happily this error does
not affect his poetry.

But to return from this digression.--If we are to believe Mouffet,
(and the story is not incredible,) the appearance of the tropical
fire-flies on one occasion led to a more important result than might
have been expected from such a cause. He tells us, that when Sir
Thomas Cavendish and Sir Robert Dudley first landed in the West
Indies, and saw in the evening an infinite number of moving lights in
the woods, which were merely these insects, they supposed that the
Spaniards were advancing upon them, and immediately betook themselves
to their ships[696]:--a result as well entitling the Elaters to
a commemoration feast, as a similar good office the land-crabs
of Hispaniola, which, as the Spaniards tell, (and the story is
confirmed by an anniversary _Fiesta de lôs Cangrejos_,) by their
clattering--mistaken by the enemy for the sound of Spanish cavalry
close upon their heels--in like manner scared away a body of English
invaders of the city of St. Domingo[697].

An anecdote less improbable, perhaps, and certainly more ludicrous,
is related by Sir J. E. Smith of the effect of the first sight of
the Italian glow-worms upon some Moorish ladies ignorant of such
appearances. These females had been taken prisoners at sea, and,
until they could be ransomed, lived in a house in the outskirts
of Genoa, where they were frequently visited by the respectable
inhabitants of the city; a party of whom, on going one evening,
were surprised to find the house closely shut up, and their Moorish
friends in the greatest grief and consternation. On inquiring into
the cause, they ascertained that some of the _Pygolampis italica_
had found their way into the dwelling, and that the ladies within
had taken it into their heads that these brilliant guests were no
other than the troubled spirits of their relations; of which idea it
was some time before they could be divested.--The common people in
Italy have a superstition respecting these insects somewhat similar,
believing that they are of a spiritual nature, and proceed out of the
graves, and hence carefully avoid them[698].

The insects hitherto adverted to have been beetles, or of the order
_Coleoptera_. But besides these, a genus in the order _Hemiptera_,
called _Fulgora_, includes several species which emit so powerful
a light as to have obtained in English the generic appellation of
_Lantern-flies_. Two of the most conspicuous of this tribe are the
_F. laternaria_ and _F. candelaria_; the former a native of South
America, the latter of China. Both, as indeed is the case with the
whole genus, have the material which diffuses their light included in
a hollow subtransparent projection of the head. In _F. candelaria_
this projection is of a subcylindrical shape, recurved at the apex,
above an inch in length, and the thickness of a small quill. We may
easily conceive, as travellers assure us, that a tree studded with
multitudes of these living sparks, some at rest and others in motion,
must at night have a superlatively splendid appearance.--In _F.
laternaria_, which is an insect two or three inches long, the snout
is much larger and broader, and more of an oval shape, and sheds a
light the brilliancy of which transcends that of any other luminous
insect. Madame Merian informs us, that the first discovery which
she made of this property caused her no small alarm. The Indians had
brought her several of these insects, which by day-light exhibited no
extraordinary appearance, and she inclosed them in a box until she
should have an opportunity of drawing them, placing it upon a table
in her lodging-room. In the middle of the night the confined insects
made such a noise as to awake her, and she opened the box, the inside
of which to her great astonishment appeared all in a blaze; and in
her fright letting it fall, she was not less surprised to see each
of the insects apparently on fire. She soon, however, divined the
cause of this unexpected phenomenon, and re-inclosed her brilliant
guests in their place of confinement. She adds, that the light of
one of these _Fulgoræ_ is sufficiently bright to read a newspaper
by: and though the tale of her having drawn one of these insects by
its own light is without foundation, she doubtless might have done
so if she had chosen[699].--Another species (_F. pyrrhorynchus_) is
figured by Mr. Donovan in his _Insects of India_, of which the light,
though from a smaller snout than that of _F. laternaria_, must assume
a more splendid and striking appearance, the projection being of a
rich deep purple from the base to near the apex, which is of a fine
transparent scarlet; and these tints will of course be imparted to
the transmitted light.

In addition to the insects already mentioned, some others have the
power of diffusing light, as two species of _Centipedes_ (_Geophilus
electricus_ and _phosphoreus_), and probably others of the same genus.
In these the light is not confined to one part, but proceeds from
the whole body. _G. electricus_ is a common insect in this country,
residing under clods of earth, and often visible at night in gardens.
_G_? _phosphoreus_, a native of Asia, is an obscure species, described
by Linné, on the authority of C. G. Ekeberg, the captain of a Swedish
East Indiaman, who asserted that it dropped from the air, shining like
a glow-worm, upon his ship, when sailing in the Indian ocean a hundred
miles (Swedish) from the continent. However singular this statement,
it is not incredible. The insect may either, as Linné suspects, have
been elevated into the atmosphere by wings with which, according to
him, one species of the genus is provided; or more probably, perhaps,
by a strong wind, such as that which raised into the air the shower of
insects mentioned by De Geer as occurring in Sweden in the winter of
1749, after a violent storm that had torn up trees by the roots, and
carried away to a great distance the surrounding earth, and insects
which had taken up their winter quarters amongst it[700]. That the
wind may convey the light body of an insect to the above-mentioned
distance from land, you will not dispute when you call to mind that our
friend Hooker, in his interesting _Tour in Iceland_, tells us that the
ashes from the eruption of one of the Icelandic volcanos in 1755 were
conveyed to Ferrol, a distance of upwards of 300 miles[701].--Lastly,
to conclude my list of luminous insects, Professor Afzelius observed "a
dim phosphoric light" to be emitted from the singular hollow antennæ
of _Pausus sphærocerus_[702]. A similar appearance has been noticed
in the eyes of _Acronycta Psi_, _Cossus ligniperda_, and other moths.
_Chiroscelis bifenestrata_ of Lamarck, a beetle, has two red oval spots
covered with a downy membrane on the second segment of the abdomen,
which he thinks indicate some particular organ perhaps luminous[703]:
and M. Latreille informs me that a friend of his, who saw one living
which was brought from China to the Isle of France in wood, found that
the _ocelli_ in the elytra of _Buprestis ocellata_ were luminous.

But besides the insects here enumerated, others may be luminous which
have not hitherto been suspected of being so. This seems proved by the
following fact. A learned friend[704] has informed me, that when he was
curate of Ickleton, Cambridgeshire, in 1780, a farmer of that place of
the name of Simpringham brought to him a mole-cricket (_Gryllotalpa
vulgaris_, Latr.), and told him that one of his people, seeing a
_Jack-o'lantern_, pursued it and knocked it down, when it proved to be
this insect, and the identical specimen shown to him.

This singular fact, while it renders it probable that some insects
are luminous which no one has imagined to be so, seems to afford
a clue to the, at least, partial explanation of the very obscure
subject of _ignes fatui_, and to show that there is considerable
ground for the opinion long ago maintained by Ray and Willughby,
that the majority of these supposed meteors are no other than
luminous insects. That the large varying lambent flames, mentioned by
Beccaria to be very common in some parts of Italy, and the luminous
globe seen by Dr. Shaw[705] cannot be thus explained, is obvious.
These were probably electrical phenomena: certainly not explosions
of phosphuretted hydrogene, as has been suggested by some, which
must necessarily have been momentary. But that the _ignis fatuus_
mentioned by Derham as having been seen by himself, and which he
describes as flitting about a thistle[706], was, though he seems of a
different opinion, no other than some luminous insect, I have little
doubt. Mr. Sheppard informs me that, travelling one night between
Stamford and Grantham on the top of the stage, he observed for more
than ten minutes a very large _ignis fatuus_ in the low marshy
grounds, which had every appearance of being an insect. The wind was
very high: consequently, had it been a vapour, it must have been
carried forward in a direct line; but this was not the case. It had
the same motions as a Tipula, flying upwards and downwards, backwards
and forwards, sometimes appearing as settled, and sometimes as
hovering in the air.--Whatever be the true nature of these meteors,
of which so much is said and so little known, it is singular how few
modern instances of their having been observed are on record. Dr.
Darwin declares, that though in the course of a long life he had been
out in the night, and in the places where they are said to appear,
times without number, he had never seen any thing of the kind: and
from the silence of other philosophers of our own times, it should
seem that their experience is similar.

       *       *       *       *       *

With regard to the immediate source of the luminous properties of
these insects, Mr. Macartney, to whom we are indebted for the most
recent investigation on the subject, has ascertained that in the
common glow-worm, and in _Elater noctilucus_ and _ignitus_, the light
proceeds from masses of a substance not generally differing, except in
its yellow colour, from the interstitial substance (_corps graisseux_)
of the rest of the body, closely applied underneath those transparent
parts of the insects' skin which afford the light. In the glow-worm,
besides the last-mentioned substance, which, when the season for giving
light is passed, is absorbed, and replaced by the common interstitial
substance, he observed on the inner side of the last abdominal segment
two minute oval sacs formed of an elastic spirally-wound fibre similar
to that of the tracheæ, containing a soft yellow substance of a closer
texture than that which lines the adjoining region, and affording a
more permanent and brilliant light. This light he found to be less
under the control of the insect than that from the adjoining luminous
substance, which it has the power of voluntarily extinguishing, not
by retracting it under a membrane, as Carradori imagined, but by
some inscrutable change dependent upon its will: and when the latter
substance was extracted from living glow-worms it afforded no light,
while the two sacs in like circumstances shone uninterruptedly for
several hours. Mr. Macartney conceives, from the radiated structure
of the interstitial substance surrounding the oval yellow masses
immediately under the transparent spots in the thorax of _Elater
noctilucus_, and the subtransparency of the adjoining crust, that the
interstitial substance in this situation has also the property of
shining--a supposition which, if De Geer and other authors be correct
in stating that this insect has two luminous patches under its elytra,
and that the incisures between the abdominal segments shine when
stretched, may probably be extended to the _whole_ of the interstitial
substance of its body.--What peculiar organization contributes to the
production of light in the hollow projections of _Fulgora laternaria_
and _candelaria_, the hollow antennæ of _Pausus sphærocerus_, and
under the whole integument of _Geophilus electricus_, Mr. Macartney
was unable to ascertain. Respecting this last he remarks, what I have
myself observed, that there is an apparent effusion of a luminous fluid
on its surface, that may be received upon the hand, which exhibits a
phosphoric light for a few seconds afterwards; and that it will not
shine unless it have been previously exposed for a short time to the
solar light[707].

With respect to the remote cause of the luminous property of insects,
philosophers are considerably divided in opinion. The disciples
of modern Chemistry have in general, with Dr. Darwin, referred it
to the slow combustion of some combination of phosphorus secreted
from their fluids by an appropriate organization, and entering into
combination with the oxygene supplied in respiration. This opinion
is very plausibly built upon the ascertained existence of phosphoric
acid as an animal secretion; the great resemblance between the light
of phosphorus in slow combustion and animal light; the remarkably
large spiracula in glow-worms; and upon the statement, that the light
of the glow-worm is rendered more brilliant by the application of
heat and oxygene gas, and is extinguished by cold and by hydrogene
and carbonic acid gases. From these last facts Spallanzani was led to
regard the luminous matter as a compound of hydrogene and carburetted
hydrogene gas. Carradori having found that the luminous portion of
the belly of the Italian glow-worm (_Pygolampis italica_) shone in
vacuo, in oil, in water, and when under other circumstances where
the presence of oxygene gas was precluded, with Brugnatelli ascribed
the property in question to the imbibition of light separated from
the food or air taken into the body, and afterwards secreted in
a sensible form[708]. Lastly, Mr. Macartney having ascertained
by experiment that the light of a glow-worm is not diminished by
immersion in water, or increased by the application of heat; that the
substance affording it, though poetically employed for lighting the
fairies' tapers[709], is incapable of inflammation if applied to
the flame of a candle or red-hot iron; and when separated from the
body exhibits no sensible heat on the thermometer's being applied to
it--rejects the preceding hypotheses as unsatisfactory, but without
substituting any other explanation; suggesting, however, that the
facts he observed are more favourable to the supposition of light
being a quality of matter than a substance[710].

Which of these opinions is the more correct I do not pretend to
decide. But though the experiments of Mr. Macartney seem fairly to
bear him out in denying the existence of any ordinary combination of
phosphorus in luminous insects, there exists a contradiction in many
of the statements, which requires reconciling before final decision
can be pronounced. The different results obtained by Forster and
Spallanzani, who assert that glow-worms shine more brilliantly in
oxygene gas, and by Beckerheim, Dr. Hulme, and Sir H. Davy, who
could perceive no such effect, may perhaps be accounted for by the
supposition that in the latter instances the insects having been
taken more recently, might be less sensible to the stimulus of the
gas than in the former, where possibly their irritability was, as
Brown would say, accumulated by a longer abstinence: but it is not
so easy to reconcile the experiment of Sir H. Davy, who found the
light of the glow-worm not to be sensibly diminished in hydrogene
gas[711], with those of Spallanzani and Dr. Hulme, who found it
to be extinguished by the same gas, as well as by carbonic acid,
nitrous and sulphuretted hydrogene gases[712]. Possibly some of
these contradictory results were occasioned by not adverting to the
faculty which the living insect possesses of extinguishing its lights
at pleasure; or different philosophers may have experimented on
different species of Lampyris.

The general use of this singular provision is not much more
satisfactorily ascertained than its nature. I have before
conjectured--and in an instance I then related it seemed to be so--that
it may be a means of defence against their enemies[713]. In different
kinds of insects, however, it may probably have a different object.
Thus in the lantern-flies (_Fulgora_), whose light precedes them, it
may act the part that their name imports, enabling them to discover
their prey, and to steer themselves safely in the night. In the
fire-flies (_Elater_), if we consider the infinite numbers that in
certain climates and situations present themselves every where in the
night, it may distract the attention of their enemies or alarm them.
And in the glow-worm--since their light is usually most brilliant in
the female; in some species, if not all, present only in the season
when the sexes are destined to meet; and strikingly more vivid at the
very moment when the meeting takes place[714]--besides the above uses,
it is most probably intended to conduct the sexes to each other. This
seems evidently the design in view in those species in which, as in the
common glow-worm (_L. noctiluca_), the females are apterous. The torch
which the wingless female, doomed to crawl upon the grass, lights up at
the approach of night, is a beacon which unerringly guides the vagrant
male to her "love-illumined form," however obscure the place of her
abode. It has been objected, however, to this explanation, that--since
both larva and pupa, as De Geer observed[715], and the males shine
as well as the females--the meeting of the sexes can scarcely be the
object of their luminous provision. But this difficulty appears to me
easily surmounted. As the light proceeds from a peculiarly organized
substance, which probably must in part be elaborated in the larva and
pupa states, there seems nothing inconsistent in the fact of _some_
light being then emitted with the supposition of its being destined
solely for use in the perfect state: and the circumstance of the male
having the same luminous property, no more proves that the superior
brilliancy of the female is not intended for conducting him to her,
than the existence of nipples and sometimes of milk in man proves that
the breast of woman is not meant for the support of her offspring. We
often see without being able to account for the fact, except on Sir E.
Home's idea, that the sex of the ovum is undetermined[716], traces of
an organization in one sex indisputably intended for the sole use of
the other.

                                                  I am, &c.


[685] _Hist. Ins._ 81.

[686] _Hist. abreg._ i. 168.

[687] Illiger _Mag._ iv. 195.

[688] _Nat. Hist._ ii. 279.

[689] Geoffr. i. 167. De Geer, iv. 35.

[690] I call by this name all those _Lampyridæ_ whose head is not at
all, or but little, concealed by the shield of the prothorax, and
both sexes of which are winged.

[691] VOL. I. 317.

[692] Pietro Martire, _The Decades of the New World_, quoted in
_Madoc_, p. 543.

[693] P. Martire, _ubi supr._

[694] Walton's _Present State of the Spanish Colonies_, i. 128.

[695] _Iahrgang_, i. 141.

[696] 112.

[697] Walton's _Hispaniola_, i. 39.

[698] _Tour on the Continent_, 2d Edit. iii. 85.

[699] _Ins. Sur._ 49.--The above account of the luminous properties
of _Fulgora laternaria_ is given, because negative evidence ought not
hastily to be allowed to set aside facts positively asserted by an
author whose veracity is unimpeached; but it is necessary to state,
that not only have several of the inhabitants of Cayenne, according
to the French _Dictionnaire d'Histoire Naturelle_, denied that this
insect shines, in which denial they are joined by M. Richard, who
reared the species (_Encyclopédie_, art. _Fulgora_); but the learned
and accurate Count Hoffmansegg informs us, that his insect collector
Sieber, a practised entomologist of thirty years standing, and who,
when in the Brazils for some years, took many specimens, affirms that
he never saw a single one in the least luminous. _Der Gesellschaft
Naturf. Fr. zu Berlin Mag._ i. 153.

[700] De Geer, iv. 63.--These insects, which were chiefly
_Brachyptera_ L., _Aphodii_, spiders, caterpillars, but particularly
the larvæ of _Telephorus fuscus_, fell in such abundance that they
might have been taken from the snow by handfuls.--Other showers of
insects which have been recorded, as that in Hungary, 20th November
1672 (_Ephem. Nat. Curios._ 1673. 80.), and one mentioned in the
newspapers of July 2d, 1810, to have fallen in France the January
preceding, accompanied by a shower of red snow, may evidently be
explained in the same manner.

[701] p. 407.

[702] _Linn. Trans._ iv. 261.

[703] Latr. _Hist. Nat._ x. 262.

[704] Rev. Dr. Sutton of Norwich.

[705] _Travels_, 2d Ed. 334.

[706] _Phil. Trans._ 1729. 204.

[707] _Phil. Trans._ 1810, p. 281.--Mr. Macartney's statement on this
point is not very clear. He probably means that the insect will not
shine in a dark place in the _day time_, unless previously exposed to
the solar light: for it is often seen to shine at night when it could
have had no _recent_ exposure to the sun.

[708] _Annal. di Chimica_, xiii. 1797. _Phil. Mag._ ii. 80.


          "And for night-tapers crop their waxen thighs,
           And light them at the fiery glow-worms' eyes."

[710] Some experiments made by my friend the Rev. R. Sheppard on
the glow-worm are worthy of being recorded.--One of the receptacles
being extracted with a penknife, continued luminous; but on being
immersed in camphorated spirit of wine, became immediately extinct.
The animal, with one of its receptacles uninjured, being plunged
into the same spirit, became apparently lifeless in less than a
minute; but the receptacle continued luminous for five minutes, the
light gradually disappearing.--Having extracted the luminous matter
from the receptacles, in two days they were healed, and filled with
luminous matter as before. He found this matter to lose its luminous
property, and become dry and glossy like gum, in about two minutes;
but it recovered it again on being moistened with saliva, and again
lost it when dried. When the matter was extracted from two or three
glow-worms, and covered with liquid gum-arabic, it continued luminous
for upwards of a quarter of an hour.

[711] _Phil. Trans._ 1810, p. 287.

[712] _Ibid._ 1801, p. 483.

[713] See above, p. 225.

[714] Müller in _Illig. Mag._ iv. 178.

[715] iv. 49.

[716] _Phil. Trans._ 1799. 157.

                              LETTER XXVI.

                              OF INSECTS._

If insects can boast of enjoying a greater variety of food than many
other tribes of animals, this advantage seems at first sight more than
counterbalanced in our climates, by the temporary nature of their
supply. The graminivorous quadrupeds, with few exceptions, however
scanty their bill of fare, and their carnivorous brethren, as well as
the whole race of birds and fishes, can at all seasons satisfy, in
greater or less abundance, their demand for food. But to the great
majority of insects, the earth for nearly one half of the year is a
barren desert, affording no appropriate nutriment. As soon as winter
has stripped the vegetable world of its foliage, the vast hosts of
insects that feed on the leaves of plants must necessarily fast until
the return of spring: and even the carnivorous tribes, such as the
predaceous beetles, parasitic _Hymenoptera_, _Sphecina_, &c. would at
that period of the year in vain look for their accustomed prey.

How is this difficulty provided for? In what mode has the Universal
Parent secured an uninterrupted succession of generations in a class
of animals for the most part doomed to a six months' deprivation
of the food which they ordinarily devour with such voracity? By a
beautiful series of provisions founded on the faculty, common also
to some of the larger animals, of passing the winter in a state of
torpor--by ordaining that the insect shall live through that period,
either in an incomplete state of its existence when its organs of
nutrition are undeveloped, or, if the active epoch of its life has
commenced, that it shall seek out appropriate _hybernacula_, or
winter quarters, and in them fall into a profound sleep, during which
a supply of food is equally unnecessary.

In two of the four states of existence common to insects, in which
different tribes pass the winter, namely, the egg and the pupa state,
the organs for taking food (except in some cases in the latter) are
not developed, and consequently the animal is incapable of eating. The
existence of insects in these states during the winter, differs from
their existence in the same form in summer only in the greater length
of its term. In both seasons food is alike unnecessary, so that their
hybernation in these circumstances has little or nothing analogous to
that of larger animals. With this, however, strictly accords their
hybernation in the larva and imago states, in which their abstinence
from food is solely owing to the torpor that pervades them, and the
consequent non-expenditure of the vital powers.--I shall attend to
the peculiarities of their hybernation in each of these states in the
order just laid down; premising that we have yet much to learn on this
subject, no observations having been instituted respecting the state in
which multitudes of insects pass the winter.

It is probable that some insects of almost every order hybernate
in the _egg_ state: though that these must be comparatively few
in number, seems proved from two considerations: first, That the
majority of insects assume the imago, and deposit their eggs in
the summer and early part of autumn, when the heat suffices to
hatch them in a short period: and secondly, That the eggs of a very
large proportion of insects require for their due exclusion and the
nutriment of the larvæ springing from them, conditions only to be
fulfilled in summer, as all those which are laid in young fruits and
seeds; in the interior and galls of leaves; in insects that exist
only in summer, &c. &c. The insects which pass the winter in the
egg state are chiefly such as have several broods in the course of
the year, the females of the last of which lay eggs that, requiring
more heat for their development than then exists, necessarily remain
dormant until the return of spring.

The situation in which the female insect places her eggs in order
to their remaining there through the winter, is always admirably
adapted to the degree of cold which they are capable of sustaining;
and to the ensuring a due supply of food for the nascent larvæ. Thus,
with the former view, _Acrida verrucivora_ and many other insects
whose eggs are of a tender consistence, deposit them deep in the
earth out of the reach of frost; and with the latter, _Trichoda
Neustria_, _Lasiocampa castrensis_, _Hypogymna dispar_, and some
other moths, departing from the ordinary instinct of their congeners,
which teaches them to place their eggs upon the _leaves_ of plants,
fix theirs to the stem and branches only. That this variation of
procedure has reference to the hybernation of the eggs of these
particular species, is abundantly obvious. Insects whose eggs are to
be hatched in summer, usually fix them slightly to the leaves upon
which the larvæ are to feed. But it is evident that, were this plan
to be adopted by those whose eggs remain through the winter, their
progeny might be blown away along with the leaf to which they are
attached, far from their destined food. These, therefore, choose a
more stable support, and carefully fasten them, as has just been
observed, either to the trunk or branches of the tree, whose young
leaves in spring are to be the food of the excluded larvæ. The
latter plan is followed by the female of _Trichoda Neustria_, which
curiously gums her eggs in bracelets round the twigs of the hawthorn,
&c. But another provision is demanded. Were these eggs of the usual
delicate consistence, and to be attached with the ordinary slight
gluten, they would have a poor chance of surviving the storms of rain
and snow and hail to which for six or eight months they are exposed.
They are therefore covered with a shell much more hard and thick
than common; packed as closely as possible to each other; and the
interstices are filled up with a tenacious gum, which soon hardens
the whole into a solid mass almost capable of resisting a penknife.
Thus secured, they defy the elements and brave the blasts of winter
uninjured.--The female of _Hypogymna dispar_, whose eggs have a
more tender shell, glues them in an oval mass to the stem of a tree
(whence the German gardeners call the larvæ _Stamm-raupe_), and then
covers them with a warm non-conducting coat of hairs plucked from her
own body, equally impervious to cold and wet.

Another of those beautiful relations between objects at first sight
apparently unconnected, which at every step reward the votaries of
Entomology, is afforded by the coincidence between the period of
the hatching in spring of eggs deposited before winter, and of the
leafing of the trees upon which they have been fixed, and on whose
foliage the larvæ are to feed: which two events, requiring exactly
the same temperature, are always simultaneous. Of this fact I have
had a striking exemplification the last spring (1816). On the 20th
of February, observing the twigs of the birches in the Hull Botanic
Garden to be thickly set, especially about the buds, with minute oval
black eggs of some insect with which I was unacquainted, I brought
home a small branch and set it in a jar of water in my study, in
which is a fire daily, to watch their exclusion. On the 28th of March
I observed that a numerous brood of Aphides (not _A. Betulæ_, as the
wings were without the dark bands of that species) had been hatched
from them, and that two or three of the lower buds had expanded into
leaves, upon the sap of which they were greedily feasting. This was
full a month before either a leaf of the birch appeared, or the egg
of an Aphis was disclosed in the open air.--To view the relation
of which I am speaking with due admiration, you must bear in mind
the extremely different periods at which many trees acquire their
leaves, and the consequent difference demanded in the constitution
of the eggs which hybernate upon dissimilar species, to ensure their
exclusion, though acted upon by the _same_ temperature, earlier or
later, according to the early or late foliation of these species.
There is no visible difference between the conformation of the
eggs of the Aphis of the birch and those of the Aphis of the ash;
yet in the _same_ exposure those of the former shall be hatched,
simultaneously with the expansion of the leaves, nearly a month
earlier than those of the latter: thus demonstrably proving that the
hybernation of these eggs is not accidental, but has been specially
ordained by the Author of nature, who has conferred on those of each
species a peculiar and appropriate organization.

A much greater number of insects pass the winter in the _pupa_
than in the egg state; probably nine-tenths of the extensive order
_Lepidoptera_, many in _Hymenoptera_, and several in other orders.
In placing these pupæ in security from the too great cold of winter
and the attacks of enemies, the larvæ from which they are to be
metamorphosed exhibit an anxiety and ingenuity evidently imparted
to them for this express design. A few are suspended without any
covering, though usually in a sheltered situation. But by far the
larger number are concealed under leaves, in the crevices or in
the trunk of trees, &c., or inclosed in cocoons of silk or other
materials which will be described to you in a subsequent letter,
and often buried deep under ground out of the reach of frost.--One
reason why so many lepidopterous insects pass the winter as pupæ,
has been plausibly assigned by Rösel, in remarking that this is the
case with all the numerous species which feed on annual plants. As
these have no local habitation, dying one year and springing up from
seed in another quarter the next, it is obvious that eggs deposited
upon them in autumn would have no chance of escaping destruction;
and that even if the larvæ were to be hatched before winter, and to
hybernate in that state, they would have no certainty of being in
the neighbourhood of their appropriate food the next spring. By
wintering in the pupa state, these accidents are effectually provided
against. The perfect insect is not ready to break forth until the
food of the young, which are to proceed from its eggs, is sprung up.

To the insects which hybernate in the _larva_ state, of course belong,
in the first place, all those which exist under that form more than one
year; as many _Melolonthæ_, _Elateres_, _Cerambyces_, _Buprestes_, and
several species of _Libellula_, _Ephemera_, &c. There are also many
larvæ which, though their term of life is not a year, being hatched
from the egg in autumn, necessarily pass the winter in that state, as
those of several _Anobia_ and other wood-boring insects; of _Semasia
Wœberana_ and others of the same family; of the second broods of
several butterflies, &c. Many of these residing in the ground or in the
interior of trees need no other hybernacula than the holes which they
constantly inhabit; some, as the aquatic larvæ, merely hide themselves
in the sides or muddy bottom of their native pools; while others
seek for a retreat under moss, dead leaves, stones, and the bark of
decaying trees. Most of these can boast of no better winter quarters
than a simple unfurnished hole or cavity; but a few, more provident of
comfort, prepare themselves an artificial habitation. With this view
the larva of _Cossus ligniperda_, as formerly observed in describing
the habitations of insects[717], forms a covering of pieces of wood
lined with fine silk; those of _Hepiolus Humuli_, _Xylina radicea_,
and some other moths, excavate under a stone a cavity exactly the size
of their bodies, to which they give all round a coating of silk[718],
and the larvæ of _Pieris Cratægi_ inclose themselves in autumn in cases
of the same material[719], and thus pass the cold season in small
societies of from two to twelve, under a common covering formed of
leaves. Bonnet mentions a trait of the cleanliness of these insects
which is almost ludicrous. He observed in one of these nests a sort of
sack containing nothing but grains of excrement; and a friend assured
him that he had seen one of these caterpillars partly protrude itself
out of its case, the hind feet first, to eject a similar grain; so that
it would seem the society have on their establishment a scavenger,
whose business it is to sweep the streets and convey the rejectamenta
to one grand repository[720]! This, however singular, is rendered not
improbable from the fact that beavers dig in their habitations holes
solely destined for a like purpose[721].

A very considerable number of insects hybernate in the _perfect_
state, chiefly of the orders _Coleoptera_, _Hemiptera_,
_Hymenoptera_, and _Diptera_, and especially of the first. _Vanessa
Urticæ_, _Io_, and a few other lepidopterous species, with a small
proportion of the other orders, occasionally survive the winter;
but the bulk of these are rarely found to hybernate as perfect
insects. Of coleopterous insects, Schmid, to whom we are indebted
for some valuable remarks on the present subject[722], says that
he never found or heard of any Entomologist finding a hybernating
individual of the common cockchafer (_Melolontha vulgaris_) or of the
stag-beetle (_Lucanus Cervus_); and suggests that it is only those
insects which exist but a short period as larvæ, as most of the tribe
of weevils, lady-birds, &c., that survive the winter in the perfect
state; while those which live more than one year in the larva state,
as the species just mentioned, are deprived of this privilege.

Towards the close of autumn the whole insect world, particularly the
tribe of beetles, is in motion. A general migration takes place:
the various species quit their usual haunts, and betake themselves
in search of secure hybernacula. Different species, however, do not
select precisely the same time for making this change of abode. Thus
many lady-birds, field-bugs, and flies, are found out of their winter
quarters even after the commencement of frost; while others, as Schmid
has remarked, make good their retreat long before any severe cold has
been felt: in fact, I am led to believe, from my own observations,
that this is the case with the majority of coleopterous insects; and
that the days which they select for retiring to their hybernacula,
are some of the warmest days of autumn, when they may be seen in
great numbers alighting on walls, rails, path-ways, &c. and running
into crevices and cracks, evidently in search of some object very
different from those which ordinarily guide their movements. I have
noticed this assemblage in different years, but more particularly in
the last autumn (1816). Walking on the banks of the Humber on the
14th of October about noon,--the day bright, calm, and deliciously
mild, Fahrenheit's thermometer 58° in the shade,--my attention was
first attracted by the path-ways swarming with numerous species of
rove-beetles (_Staphylinus_, _Oxytelus_, _Aleochara_, &c.), which
kept incessantly alighting, and hurrying about in every direction. On
further examination I found a similar assemblage, with the addition
of multitudes of other beetles, _Halticæ_, _Nitidulæ_, _Rhyncophora_,
_Cryptophagi_, &c. on every post and rail in my walk, as well as on
a wall in the neighbourhood; and on removing the decaying mortar and
bark, I found that some had already taken up their abode in holes, from
their situation with their antennæ folded, evidently meant for winter
quarters. I am not aware that any author has noticed this remarkable
congregation of coleopterous insects previously to hybernating, which
it is so difficult to explain on any of the received theories of
torpidity, except the pious Lesser, who so expressly alludes to it, and
without quoting any other authority, that he would seem to have derived
the fact from his own observation[723].

The site chosen by different perfect insects for their hybernacula
is very various. Some are content with insinuating themselves
under any large stone, a collection of dead leaves, or the moss
of the sheltered side of an old wall or bank. Others prefer for a
retreat the lichen or ivy-covered interstices of the bark of old
trees, the decayed bark itself, especially that near the roots, or
bury themselves deep in the rotten trunk; and a very great number
penetrate into the earth to the depth of several inches. The aquatic
tribes, such as _Dytisci_, _Hydrophili_, &c. burrow into the mud
of their pools; but some of these are occasionally met with under
stones, bark, &c. In every instance the selected dormitory is
admirably adapted to the constitution, mode of life, and wants of
the occupant. Those insects which can bear considerable cold without
injury, are careless of providing other than a slight covering; while
the more tender species either enter the earth beyond the reach of
frost, or prepare for themselves artificial cavities in substances
such as moss and rotten wood, which conduct heat with difficulty,
and defend them from an injuriously low temperature. It does not
appear that any perfect insect has the faculty of fabricating for
itself a winter abode similar to those formed of silk, &c. by some
larvæ. Schmid, indeed, has mentioned finding _Rhagium mordax_ and
_Inquisitor_ in such abodes, constructed, as he thought, of the
inner bark of trees; but these, as Illiger has suggested, were more
probably the deserted dwellings of lepidopterous larvæ, of which the
beetles in question had taken possession[724].--Most insects place
themselves in their hybernacula in the attitude which they ordinarily
assume when at rest; but others choose a position peculiar to their
winter abode. So most of the ground-beetles (_Eutrechina_) adhere by
their claws to the under side of the stone, which serves for their
retreat, their backs being next to the ground; in which posture,
probably, they are most effectually protected from wet. _Gyrohypnus
sanguinolentus_, and other rove-beetles of the same genus, coils
itself up like a snake, with the head in the centre.

The majority of insects pass the winter in perfect solitude.
Occasionally, however, several individuals of one species, not merely
of such insects as _Anchomenus prasinus_, a beetle, _Pyrrhocoris
apterus_, a bug, &c., which usually in summer also live in a sort of
society, but of others which are never seen thus to associate, as
_Haltica oleracea_, _Carabus intricatus_, and several _Coccinellæ_, &c.
are found crowded together. This is perhaps often more through accident
than design, as individuals of the same species are frequently met with
singly; yet that it is not wholly accidental, seems proved by the fact
that such assemblages are generally of the same genus and even species.
Sometimes, however, insects of dissimilar genera and even orders are
met with together. Schmid once in February found the rare _Lomechusa
strumosa_ torpid in an ant-hill in the midst of a conglomerated lump of
ants, with which it was closely intertwined[725].

By far the greater proportion of insects pass the winter only in one
or other of the several states of egg, pupa, larva, or imago, but are
never found to hybernate in _more_ than one. Some species, however,
depart from this rule. Thus _Aphis Rosæ_, _Cardui_, and probably many
others of the genus, hybernate both in the egg and perfect state[726];
_Cinthia Cardui_, _Gonepteryx Rhamni_, and some other species, usually
in the pupa, but often in the perfect state also; and _Vanessa Io_,
according to the accurate Brahm, in the three states of egg, pupa, and
imago[727]. It is probable that in these instances the perfect insects
are females, which, not having been impregnated, have their term of
life prolonged beyond the ordinary period.

The first cold weather, after insects have entered their winter
quarters, produces effects upon them similar to those which occur in
the dormouse, hedgehog, and others of the larger animals subject to
torpor. At first a partial benumbment takes place; but the insect
if touched is still capable of moving its organs. But as the cold
increases all the animal functions cease. The insect breathes no
longer, and has no need of a supply of air[728]; its nutritive
secretions cease, and no more food is required; the muscles lose
their irritability[729]; and it has all the external symptoms of
death. In this state it continues during the existence of great cold,
but the degree of its torpidity varies with the temperature of the
atmosphere. The recurrence of a mild day, such as we sometimes have
in winter, infuses a partial animation into the stiffened animal: if
disturbed, its limbs and antennæ resume their power of extension, and
even the faculty of spirting out their defensive fluid is re-acquired
by many beetles[730]. But however mild the atmosphere in winter, the
great bulk of hybernating insects, as if conscious of the deceptious
nature of their pleasurable feelings, and that no food could then be
procured, never quit their quarters, but quietly wait for a renewal
of their insensibility by a fresh accession of cold.

On this head I have had an opportunity of making some observations
which, in the paucity of recorded facts on the hybernation of insects,
you may not be sorry to have laid before you. The 2nd of December 1816
was even finer than many of the preceding days of the season, which so
happily falsified the predictions that the unprecedented dismal summer
would be followed by a severe winter. The thermometer was 46° in the
shade; not a breath of air was stirring; and a bright sun imparted
animation to troops of the winter gnat (_Trichocera hiemalis_), which
frisked under every bush; to numerous _Psychodæ_; and even to the
flesh-fly, of which two or three individuals buzzed past me while
digging in my garden. Yet though these insects, which I shall shortly
advert to as exceptions to the general rule, were thus active, the
heat was not sufficient to induce their hybernating brethren to quit
their retreats. Removing some of the dead bark of an old apple-tree,
I soon discovered several insects in their winter quarters. Of the
little beetle _Lebia quadrinotata_, Duftschmid _Faun. Austr._ (_Carabus
punctomaculatus_, Ent. Brit.), I found six or eight individuals, and
all so lively, that though remaining perfectly quiet in their abode
until disturbed, they ran about with their ordinary activity as soon
as the covering of bark was displaced. The same was the case with a
colony of earwigs. Two or three individuals of _Lebia quadrimaculata_
showed more torpidity. When first uncovered, their antennæ were
laid back; and it was only after the sun had shone some seconds upon
them that they exhibited symptoms of animation, and after stretching
out these organs began to walk. Close by them lay a single weevil
(_Anthonomus Pomorum_), but in so deep a sleep that at first I thought
it dead. It gave no sign of life when placed on my hand, quite hot with
the exercise of digging; and it was only after being kept there some
seconds, and breathed upon several times, that it first slowly unfolded
its rostrum, and then its limbs. It deserves remark, that all these
insects, thus differently affected, were on the same side of the tree,
under a similar covering of bark, and apparently equally exposed to the
sun, which shone full upon the covering of their retreat[731].

All insects, however, do not undergo this degree of torpidity. In
fact, there are some, though but few, which cannot, at least in our
climate, strictly be said to hybernate, understanding by that term
passing the winter in one selected situation in a greater or less
degree of torpor, without food. Not to mention _Cheimatobia brumata_,
and some other moths, which are disclosed from the pupæ in the middle
of winter, and can therefore be scarcely regarded as exceptions
to the rule, some insects are torpid only in very severe weather,
and on fine mild days in winter come out to eat. This is the case
with the larva of _Euprepia fuliginosa_[732]; and Lyonet asserts
that there are many other caterpillars which eat and grow even in
the midst of slight frost[733]. Amongst perfect insects, troops of
_Trichocera hiemalis_, the gnat whose choral dances have been before
described[734], may be constantly seen gamboling in the air in the
depth of winter when it is mild and calm, accompanied by the little
_Psychoda_, so common in windows, several _Muscidæ_, spiders, and
occasionally some _Aphodii_ and _Staphylinidæ_: and the societies of
ants, as well as their attendant Aphides, are in motion and take more
or less food during the whole of that season when the cold is not
intense. The younger Huber informs us that ants become torpid only at
2° Reaum. below freezing (27° Fahrenheit), and apparently endeavour
to preserve themselves from the cold, when its approach is gradual,
by clustering together. When the temperature is above this point
they follow their ordinary habits (he has seen them even walk upon
the snow), and can then obtain the little food which they require in
winter from their cows the Aphides, which, by an admirable provision,
become lethargic at precisely the same degree of cold as the ants,
and awake at the same period with them[735].

Lastly, there are some few insects which do not seem ever to be
torpid, as _Podura nivalis_, L., and the singular apterous insect
recently described by Dalman, _Chionea araneoïdes_[736], both of
which run with agility on the snow itself; and the common hive-bee;
though with regard to the precise state in which this last passes the
winter, this part of its economy has not been made the subject of
such accurate investigation as is desirable.

Many authors have conceived that it is the most natural state of bees
in winter to be perfectly torpid at a certain degree of cold, and
that their partial reviviscency, and consequent need of food in our
climate, are owing to its variableness and often comparative mildness
in winter; whence they have advised placing bees during this season
in an ice-house, or on the north side of a wall, where the degree
of cold being more uniform, and thus their torpidity undisturbed,
they imagine no food would be required. So far, however, do these
suppositions and conclusions seem from being warranted, that Huber
expressly affirms that, instead of being torpid in winter, the
heat in a well-peopled hive continues +24° or 25° of Reaumur (86°
Fahrenheit), when it is several degrees below zero in the open air;
that they then cluster together and keep themselves _in motion_ in
order to preserve their heat[737]; and that in the depth of winter
they do not cease to ventilate the hive by the singular process of
agitating their wings before described[738]. He asserts also that,
like Reaumur, he has in winter found in the combs brood of all ages;
which, too, the observant Bonnet says he has witnessed[739]; and
which is confirmed by Swammerdam, who expressly states that bees tend
and feed their young even in the midst of winter[740]. To all these
weighty authorities may be added that of John Hunter, who, as before
noticed, found a hive to grow lighter in a cold than in a warm week
of winter; and that a hive from November 10th to February 9th lost
more than four pounds in weight[741]; whence the conclusion seems
inevitable, that bees do eat in winter.

On the other hand, Reaumur adopts (or rather, perhaps, has in great
measure given birth to) the more commonly received notion, that
bees in a certain degree of cold are torpid and consume no food.
These are his words:--"It has been established with a wisdom which
we cannot but admire,--with that wisdom with which every thing in
nature has been made and ordained,--that during the greater part of
the time in which the country furnishes nothing to bees, they have no
longer need to eat. The cold which arrests the vegetation of plants,
which deprives our fields and meadows of their flowers, throws the
bees into a state in which nourishment ceases to be necessary to
them: it keeps them in a sort of torpidity (_engourdissement_), in
which no transpiration from them takes place; or, at least, during
which the quantity of that which transpires is so inconsiderable,
that it cannot be restored by aliment without their lives being
endangered. In winter, while it freezes, one may observe without fear
the interior of hives that are not of glass; for we may lay them on
their sides, and even turn them bottom upwards, without putting any
bee into motion. We see the bees crowded and closely pressed one
against the other: little space then suffices for them[742]." In
another place, speaking of the custom in some countries of putting
bee-hives during winter into out-houses and cellars, he says that
in such situations the air, though more temperate than out of doors
during the greater part of winter, "is yet sufficiently cold to keep
the bees in that species of torpidity which does away their need
of eating[743]." And lastly, he expressly says that the milder the
weather, the more risk there is of the bees consuming their honey
before the spring, and dying of hunger; and confirms his assertion
by an account of a striking experiment, in which a hive that he
transferred during winter into his study, where the temperature was
usually in the day 10° or 12° R. above freezing (59° F.), though
provided with a plentiful supply of honey, that if they had been in
a garden would have served them past the end of April, had consumed
nearly their whole stock before the end of February[744].

Now, how are we to reconcile this contradiction?--for, if Huber be
correct in asserting that in frosty weather bees agitate themselves
to keep off the cold, and ventilate their hive;--if, as both he
and Swammerdam state, they feed their young brood in the depth of
winter--it seems impossible to admit that they ever can be in the
torpid condition which Reaumur supposes, in which food, so far from
being necessary, is injurious to them. In fact, Reaumur himself in
another place informs us, that bees are so infinitely more sensible
of cold than the generality of insects, that they perish when in
numbers so small as to be unable to generate sufficient animal heat
to counteract the external cold, even at 11° R. above freezing[745]
(57° F.); which corresponds with what Huber has observed (as quoted
above) of the high temperature of well-peopled hives, even in very
severe weather. We are forced, then, to conclude that this usually
most accurate of observers has in the present instance been led into
error, chiefly, it is probable, from the clustering of bees in the
hives in cold weather; but which, instead of being, as he conceived,
an indication of torpidity, would seem to be intended, as Huber
asserts, as a preservative against the benumbing effects of cold.

Bees, then, do not appear to pass the winter in a state of torpidity
in our climates, and probably not in any others. Populous swarms
inhabiting hives formed of the hollow trunks of trees, used in many
northern regions, or of other materials that are bad conductors of
heat, seem able to generate and keep up a temperature sufficient to
counteract the intensest cold to which they are ordinarily exposed.
At the same time, however, I think we may infer, that though bees
are not strictly torpid at that lowest degree of heat which they
can sustain, yet that when exposed to _that_ degree they consume
considerably less food than at a higher temperature; and consequently
that the plan of placing hives in a north aspect in sunny and
mild winters may be adopted by the apiarist with advantage. John
Hunter's experiment, indeed, cited above, in which he found that a
hive grew lighter in a cold than in a warm week, seems opposed to
this conclusion; but an insulated observation of this kind, which
we do not know to have been instituted with a due regard to all
the circumstances that required attention, must not be allowed to
set aside the striking facts of a contrary description recorded by
Reaumur and corroborated by the almost universal sentiment of writers
on bees.--After all, however, on this point, as well as on many
others connected with the winter economy of these endlessly-wonderful
insects, there is evidently much yet to be observed, and many doubts
which can be satisfactorily dispelled only by new experiments.

       *       *       *       *       *

The degree of cold which most insects in their different states,
while torpid, are able to endure with impunity, is very various; and
the habits of the different species, as to the situation which they
select to pass the winter, are regulated by their greater or less
sensibility in this respect. Many insects, though able to sustain a
degree of cold sufficient to induce torpidity, would be destroyed
by the freezing temperature, to avoid which they penetrate into the
earth or hide themselves under non-conducting substances; and there
can be little doubt that it is with this view that so many species
while pupæ are thus secured from cold by cocoons of silk or other
materials. Yet a very great proportion of insects in all their states
are necessarily subjected to an extreme degree of cold. Many eggs
and pupæ are exposed to the air without any covering; and many,
both larvæ and perfect insects, are sheltered too slightly to be
secure from the frost. This they are either able to resist, remaining
unfrozen though exposed to the severest cold, or, which is still more
surprising, are uninjured by its intensest action, recovering their
vitality even after having been frozen into lumps of ice.

The eggs of insects are filled with a fluid matter, included in a
skin infinitely thinner than that of hens' eggs, which John Hunter
found to freeze at about 15° of Fahrenheit. Yet on exposing several
of the former, including those of the silk-worm, for five hours to
a freezing mixture which made Fahrenheit's thermometer fall to 38°
below zero, Spallanzani found that they were not frozen, nor their
fertility in the slightest degree impaired. Others were exposed even
to 56° below zero, without being injured[746].

A less degree of cold suffices to freeze many pupæ and larvæ, in both
which states the consistency of the animal is almost as fluid as in
that of the egg. Their vitality enables them to resist it to a certain
extent, and it must be considerably below the freezing point to affect
them. The winter of 1813-14 was one of the severest we have had for
many years, Fahrenheit's thermometer having been more than once as low
as 8° when the ground was wholly free from snow; yet almost the first
objects which I observed in my garden, in the commencement of spring,
were numbers of the caterpillars of the gooseberry-moth (_Abraxas
grossulariata_), which, though they had passed the winter with no other
shelter than the slightly projecting rim of some large garden-pots,
were alive and quite uninjured; and these and many other larvæ never
in my recollection were so numerous and destructive as in that spring:
whence, as well as from the corresponding fact recorded with surprise
by Boerhaave, that insects abounded as much after the intense winter
of 1709, during which Fahrenheit's thermometer fell to 0, as after the
mildest season, we may see the fallacy of the popular notion, that hard
winters are destructive to insects[747].

But though many larvæ and pupæ are able to resist a great degree
of cold, when it increases to a certain extent they yield to its
intensity and become solid masses of ice. In this state we should
think it impossible that they should ever revive. That an animal
whose juices, muscles, and whole body have been subjected to a
process which splits bombshells, and converted into an icy mass
that may be snapped asunder like a piece of glass, should ever
recover its vital powers, seems at first view little less than a
miracle; and, if the reviviscency of the wheel animal (_Vorticella
rotatoria_), and of snails, &c. after years of desiccation, had not
made us familiar with similar prodigies, might have been pronounced
impossible; and it is probable that many insects when thus frozen
never do revive. Of the fact, however, as to several species, there
is no doubt. It was first noticed by Lister, who relates that he
had found caterpillars so frozen, that when dropped into a glass
they chinked like stones, which nevertheless revived[748]. Reaumur,
indeed, repeated this experiment without success; and found that
when the larvæ of _Lasiocampa Pityocampa_ were frozen into ice by
a cold of 15° R. below zero (2° F. below zero), they could not be
made to revive[749]. But other trials have fully confirmed Lister's
observations. My friend Mr. Stickney, before mentioned as the author
of a valuable _Essay on the Grub_ (larva of _Tipula oleracea_)--to
ascertain the effect of cold in destroying this insect, exposed
some of them to a severe frost, which congealed them into perfect
masses of ice. When broken, their whole interior was found to be
frozen. Yet several of these resumed their active powers. Bonnet had
precisely the same result with the pupæ of _Pontia Brassicæ_, which,
by exposing to a frost of 14° R. below zero (0° F.), became lumps of
ice, and yet produced butterflies[750]. Indeed, the circumstance that
animals of a much more complex organization than insects, namely,
serpents and fishes, have been known to revive after being frozen,
is sufficient to dispel any doubts on this head. John Hunter, though
himself unsuccessful in his attempts to reanimate carp and other
animals that had been frozen, confesses that the fact itself is so
well authenticated as to admit of no question[751].

On what principle a faculty so extraordinary and so contrary to our
common conceptions of the nature of animal life depends, I shall not
attempt to explain. Nor can any thing very satisfactory be advanced
with regard to the source of the power which many insects in some
states, and almost all in the egg state, have of resisting intense
degrees of cold without becoming frozen. It is clear that the usual
explanation of the same faculty to a less degree in the warm-blooded
animals--the constant production of animal heat from the caloric set
free in the decomposition of the respired air--will not avail us
here. For, first, the hive-bee, which has the capacity of evolving
animal heat in a much greater degree than any other insect, is
killed by a cold considerably less than that of freezing. Secondly,
many large larvæ, as Reaumur has observed, are destroyed by a less
degree of cold than smaller species whose respiratory organization
is necessarily on a much less extensive scale. And thirdly, the eggs
of insects--in which, though they probably are in some degree acted
upon by the oxygen of the atmosphere, nothing like respiration takes
place--can endure a much greater intensity of cold than either the
larvæ or pupæ produced from them.

Nor can we refer the effect in question to the thinness or
thickness--the greater or less non-conducting power--of the skin of
the animal. Reaumur found that the subterranean pupæ of many moths
perished with a cold of 7° or 8° R. below zero (14° F.), while the
exposed pupæ of _Pontia Brassicæ_ and other species endured 15° or
16° without injury[752]; (a proof, by the way, that the different
economy of these insects, as to their choice of a situation in their
state of pupæ, is regulated by their power of resisting cold;) but
no difference in the substance of the exterior skin is perceptible.
And the eggs of insects have usually thinner skins than pupæ, and yet
they are unaffected by a degree of cold much superior.

In the present state, then, of our knowledge of animal physiology,
we must confess our ignorance of the cause of these phenomena,
which seem never to have been sufficiently adverted to by general
speculators on the nature of animal heat. We may conjecture, indeed,
either that they are owing to some peculiar and varying attraction
for caloric inherent in the fluids which compose the animal, and
which in the egg state, like spirit of wine, resist our utmost
producible artificial cold; or that, as John Hunter seems to infer
with respect to a similar faculty in a minor degree in the hen's egg,
the whole are to be referred to some unknown power of vitality. The
latter seems the most probable supposition; for Spallanzani found
that the blood of marmots, which remains fluid when they are exposed
to a cold several degrees below zero of Fahrenheit, freezes at a
much higher temperature when drawn from the animal[753]; and it is
reasonable to conjecture that the same result would follow if the
fluids filling the eggs of insects were collected separately, and
then exposed to severe cold.

       *       *       *       *       *

Spring is, of course, the period when insects shake off the four
or five months' sleep which has sweetly banished winter from their
calendar, quit their dormitories, and again enter the active scenes
of life. It is impossible to deny that the increased temperature
of this season is the immediate cause of their reappearance; for
they leave their retreats much earlier in forward than in backward
springs. Thus in the early spring of 1805 (to me a memorable one,
since in it I began my entomological career, and had anxiously
watched its first approaches in order to study practically the
science of which I had gained some theoretical knowledge in the
winter,) insects were generally out by the middle of March; and
before the 30th, I find, on referring to my entomological journal,
that I had taken and investigated (I scarcely need add, not always
with a correct result,) fifty-eight coleopterous species: while in
the last untoward spring (1816) I did not observe even a bee abroad
until the 20th of April; and the first butterfly that I saw did not
appear until the 26th.

There are, however, circumstances connected with this reappearance,
which seem to prove that something _more_ than the mere sensation
of warmth is concerned in causing it. I shall not insist upon the
remarkable fact which Spallanzani has noticed, that insects reappear
in spring at a temperature considerably lower than that at which
they retired in autumn; because it may be plausibly enough explained
by reference to their increased irritability in spring, the result
of so long an abstinence from food, and their consequent augmented
sensibility to the stimulus of heat. But if the mere perception of
warmth were the sole cause of insects ceasing to hybernate, then we
might fairly infer, that species of apparently similar organization,
and placed in similar circumstances, would leave their winter
quarters at the same time. This, however, is far from being the case.
Reaumur observed that the larvæ of _Melitæa Cinxia_ quitted their
nest a full month sooner than those of _Arctia chrysorrhea_[754].
The reason is obvious; but cannot be referred to mere sensation.
The former live on grass, and on the leaves of plantain, which
they can meet with at the beginning of March--the period of their
appearance: the latter eat only the leaves of trees which expand a
month later. It might, indeed, be still contended, that this fact
is susceptible of explanation by supposing that the organization
of these two species of larva, though apparently similar, is yet
in fact different, that of the one being constituted so as to be
acted upon by a less degree of heat than that of the other: and this
solution would be satisfactory if the torpidity of these larvæ were
uninterrupted up to the very period at which they quit their nest.
But facts do not warrant any such supposition. You have seen[755]
that the temperature of a mild day even in winter awakens many
insects from their torpidity, though without inducing them to leave
their hybernacula; and it is therefore highly improbable that the
larvæ of _A. chrysorrhea_ should not often have their torpid state
relaxed during the month of March, when we have almost constantly
occasional bright days elevating the thermometer to above 50°. Yet as
they still do not, like the larvæ of _M. Cinxia_, leave their nest,
it seems obvious that something more than the sensation of heat is
the regulator of the movements of each. Not, however, to detain you
here unnecessarily, I shall not enlarge at present on this point,
but shall pass on, in concluding this letter, to advert to the
causes which have been assigned for the hybernation and torpidity of
animals, and to state my own ideas on the subject, which will equally
apply to the termination of this condition in spring.

The authors who have treated on these phenomena have generally[756]
referred them to the operation of cold upon the animals in which
they are witnessed, but acting in a different manner. Some conceive
that cold combined with a degree of fatness arising from abundance
of food in autumn, produces in them an agreeable sensation of
drowsiness, such as we know, from the experience of Sir Joseph Banks
and Dr. Solander in Terra del Fuego, as well as from other facts,
is felt by man when exposed to a very low temperature; yielding to
which, torpidity ensues. Others, admitting that cold is the cause of
torpidity, maintain that the sensations which precede it are of a
painful nature; and that the retreats in which hybernating animals
pass the winter are selected in consequence of their endeavours to
escape from the disagreeable influence of cold.

I have before had occasion to remark[757] the inconclusiveness of
many of the physiological speculations of very eminent philosophers,
arising from their ignorance of Entomology, which observation
forcibly applies in the present instance. The reasoners upon
torpidity have almost all confined their view to the hybernating
quadrupeds, as the marmot, dormouse, &c. and have thus lost sight
of the far more extensive series of facts supplied by hybernating
insects, which would often at once have set aside their most
confidently-asserted hypotheses. If those who adopt the former of
the opinions above alluded to, had been aware that numerous insects
retire to their hybernacula (as has been before observed) on some
of the finest days at the close of autumn, they could never have
contended that this movement, in which insects display extraordinary
activity, is caused by the agreeable _drowsiness_ consequent on
severe cold; and the very same fact is equally conclusive against the
theory, that it is to escape the pain arising from a low temperature
that insects bury themselves in their winter quarters.

In fact, the great source of the confused and unsatisfactory
reasoning which has obtained on this subject, is, that no author, as
far as my knowledge extends, has kept steadily in view, or indeed
has distinctly perceived, the difference between torpidity and
hybernation; or, in other words, between the _state_ in which animals
pass the winter, and their _selection_ of a _situation_ in which they
may become subject to that state.

That the torpidity of insects, as well as of other hybernating animals,
is caused by cold, is unquestionable. However early the period at
which a beetle, for example, takes up its winter quarters, it does not
suffer that cessation of the powers of active life which we understand
by torpidity, until a certain degree of cold has been experienced; the
degree of its torpidity varies with the variations of temperature; and
there can be no doubt that, if it were kept during winter from the
influence of cold, it would not become torpid at all--at least this has
proved the fact with marmots and dormice thus treated; and the Aphis
of the rose (_A. Rosæ_), which becomes torpid in winter in the open
air[758], retains its activity and gives birth to a numerous progeny
upon rose trees preserved in greenhouses and warm apartments.

But, can we, in the same way, regard mere cold as the cause of the
_hybernation_ of insects? Is it wholly owing to this agent, as most
writers seem to think--to feelings either of a pleasurable or painful
nature produced by it--that _previously_ to becoming torpid they
select or fabricate commodious retreats precisely adapted to the
constitution and wants of different species, in which they quietly
wait the accession of torpidity and pass the winter? In my opinion,
certainly not.

In the first place, if sensations proceeding from cold lead insects to
select retreats for hybernating, how comes it that, as above shown, a
large proportion of them enter these retreats before any severe cold
has been felt, and on days considerably warmer than many that preceded
them? If this supposition have any meaning, it must imply that insects
are so constituted that, when a certain degree of cold has been felt by
them, the sensations which this feeling excites impel them to seek out
hybernacula. Now the thermometer in the shade on the 14th of October
1816, when I observed vast numbers thus employed, was at 58°:--this
then, on the theory in question, is a temperature sufficiently low to
induce the requisite sensations. But it so happens, as I learn from my
meteorological journal (which registers the greatest and least daily
temperature as indicated by a Six's thermometer), that on the 31st of
August 1816 the greatest heat was not more than 52°, or six degrees
lower than on the 14th of October: yet it was six weeks later that
insects retired for the winter!

But it may be objected, that it is perhaps not so much the precise
degree of cold prevailing on the day when insects select their
hybernacula, that regulates their movements, as the lower degree
which may have obtained for a few nights previously, and which may
act upon their delicate organization so as to influence their future
proceedings. Facts, however, are again in direct opposition to the
explanation; for I find that, for a week previously to the 14th of
October 1816, the thermometer was never lower at night than 48°,
while in the first week of August it was twice as low as 46°, and
never higher than 50°.[759]

As a last resource, the advocates of the doctrine I am opposing, may
urge, that possibly insects may even have their sensations affected
by the cold some days _before_ it comes on, in the same way as we
know that spiders and some other animals are influenced by changes of
weather previously to their actual occurrence. But once more I refer
to my meteorological journal; and I find that the average lowest
height of the thermometer, in the week comprising the latter end of
October and beginning of November 1816, was 43-1/7°; while in the
week comprising the same days of the month of the end of August and
beginning of September it was only 44-5/7°--a difference surely too
inconsiderable to build a theory upon.

I have entered into this tedious detail, because it is of importance
to the spirit of true philosophizing to show what little agreement
there often is between facts and many of the hypotheses, which
authors of the present day are, from their determination to explain
every thing, led to promulgate. But in truth there was no absolute
need for imposing this fatigue upon your attention; for the single
notorious consideration that in this climate, as well as in more
southern ones, we not unfrequently have sharp night-frosts in summer,
and colder weather at that season than in the latter end of autumn
and beginning of winter, and yet that insects _do_ hybernate at the
latter period, but do _not_ at the former, is an ample refutation
of the notion that mere cold is the cause of the phenomenon. If,
indeed, the hybernacula of insects were simply the underside of any
dead leaf, clod, or stone, that chanced to be in the neighbourhood of
their abode, it might still be contended, that such situations were
_always_ resorted to by them on the occurrence of a certain degree
of cold, but that they remained in them only when its continuance
had induced torpidity: and it seems to have been in this view that
most reasoners on this subject have regarded the hybernation of
the larger animals, to which they have exclusively directed their
attention. But had they been acquainted (as surely the investigators
of such a question ought to have been) with the economy of the class
of insects, in which not merely a few species, as among quadrupeds,
but ninety-nine hundredths of the whole, in our climates, hybernate,
they would have known that their hybernacula are in general totally
distinct from their ordinary retreats in casual cold weather; and
that many of them even fabricate habitations requiring considerable
time and labour, expressly for the purpose of their winter
residence--which last fact in particular, on their theory, admits
of no satisfactory explanation. We may say, and truly, that the
sensation of fatigue causes man to lie down and sleep; but we should
laugh at any one who contended that this sensation forced him first
to make a four-post bedstead to repose upon.

In the second place, if we grant for a moment that it is cold which
drives insects to their hybernacula, there are other phenomena
attending the state of hybernation which on this supposition are
inexplicable. If cold led insects to enter their winter quarters, then
they ought to be led by the cessation of cold to quit them. But, as has
been before observed, we have often days in winter milder than at the
period of hybernating, and in which insects are so roused from their
torpidity as to run about nimbly when molested in their retreats; yet
though their irritability must have been increased by a two or three
months inactivity and abstinence, they do not leave them, but quietly
remain until a fresh accession of cold again induces insensibility.

In short, to refer the hybernation of insects to the mere direct
influence of cold, is to suppose one of the most important acts of
their existence given up to the blind guidance of feelings which in
the variable climates of Europe would be leading them into perpetual
and fatal errors--which in spring would be inducing them to quit
their ordinary occupations, and prepare retreats and habitations for
winter to be quitted again as soon as a few fine days had dispelled
the frosty feel of a May week; and in a mild winter's day, when the
thermometer, as is often the case, rises to 50° or 55°, would lure
them to an exposure that must destroy them. It is not, we may rest
assured, to such a deceptious guide that the Creator has intrusted
the safety of so important a part of his creatures: their destinies
are regulated by feelings far less liable to err.

What, you will ask, is this regulator? I answer _Instinct_--that
faculty to which so many other of the equally surprising actions of
insects are to be referred; and which alone can adequately account
for the phenomena to be explained. Why, indeed, should we think
it necessary to go further? We are content to refer to instinct,
the retirement of insects into the earth previously to becoming
pupæ, and the cocoons which they then fabricate; and why should we
not attribute to the same energy, their retreat into appropriate
hybernacula, and the construction by many species of habitations
expressly destined for their winter residence! The cases are exactly
analogous; and the insect knows no more that its hybernaculum is
to protect it from too severe a degree of cold during winter, than
does the full-fed caterpillar when it enters the earth that it shall
emerge a glorious butterfly.

                                                  I am, &c.


[717] VOL. I. 452.

[718] Brahm, _Ins. Kal._ ii. 59. 118.

[719] I have reason to think that the larvæ of some species of
_Hemerobius_ thus protect themselves by a net-like case of silken
threads; at least I found one to-day (December 3d, 1816) inclosed
in a case of this description concealed under the bark of a tree:
and it is not very likely that it could be a cocoon, both because
the inhabitant was not a pupa, which state, according to Reaumur, is
assumed soon after the cocoon is fabricated (iii. 385); and because
the same author describes the cocoons of these insects as perfectly
spherical and of a very close texture (384); while this was oblong,
and the net-work with rather wide meshes.

[720] _Œuv._ ii. 72.

[721] _Ibid._ ix. 167.

[722] Illig. _Mag._ i. 209-228.

[723] Lesser, _L._ .256.--Lyonet inserts a note to explain that
Lesser's remark is to be understood only of such insects as live
in societies; and adds, that solitary species do not assemble to
pass the winter together. Lesser, however, says nothing about these
insects passing the winter _together_, as his translator erroneously
understands him; but merely that they assemble as if _preparing_ to
retire for the winter, which my own observations, as above, confirm.
His expression in the original German is, "gleichsam als wenn sie
sich zu ihrer winter-ruhe fertig machen wolten." Edit. Frankfurt und
Leipsig 1738, p. 152.

[724] Illig. _Mag._ i. 216.

[725] Illig. _Mag._ i. 491.

[726] Kyber in German _Magazin der Entomologie_, ii. 2.

[727] _Ins. Kal._ ii. 188.

[728] Spallanzani, _Rapports de l'Air, &c._ i. 30.

[729] Carlisle in _Phil. Trans._ 1805, p. 25.

[730] Schmid in Illig. _Mag._ i. 222.

[731] Since writing the above, I have had another opportunity of
confirming the observations here made. The last week of January 1817,
in the neighbourhood of Hull, was most delicious weather--calm, sunny,
dry, and genial--the wind south-west, the thermometer from 47° to 52°
every day, and at night rarely below 40°; in fact, a week much finer
than we can often boast of in May: the 27th of the month was the
most delightful day of the whole: the air swarmed with _Trichocera
hiemalis_, _Psychodæ_, and numerous other _Diptera_, and the bushes
were hung with the lines of the gossamer-spider as in autumn. Yet,
with the exception of _Aphodius contaminatus_, I did not observe
a single coleopterous insect on the wing, nor even an individual
tempted to crawl on the trunks of the trees, under the dead bark of
which I found many in a very lively state. Five or six individuals of
_Haltica Nemorum_ were still very lethargic; and two of _Geotrupes
stercorarius_, which I accidentally dug up from their hybernacula in
the earth at the depth of six or eight inches, though the _Acari_ upon
them were quite alert, exhibited every symptom of complete torpor.

[732] Brahm, _Ins. Kal._ ii. 31.

[733] Lesser, _L._ i. 255.

[734] See above, p. 4. 375.

[735] _Recherches_, 202.--In digging in my garden on the 26th of
January 1817, I turned up in three or four places colonies of
_Myrmica rubra_, Latr. in their winter retreats, each of which
comprised apparently one or two hundred ants, with several larvæ as
big as a grain of mustard, closely clustered together, occupying
a cavity the size of a hen's egg, in tenacious clay, at the depth
of six inches from the surface. They were very lively; but though
Fahrenheit's thermometer stood at 47° in the shade, I did not then,
nor at any other time during the very mild winter, see a single ant
out of its hybernaculum.

[736] Kongl. _Vet. Acad. Handling._ 1816. 104.

[737] Huber i. 134.

[738] Ibid. ii. 344. 358. See above, p. 192--.

[739] Bonnet _On Bees_, 104.

[740] Huber, i. 354.

[741] _Phil. Trans._ 1790. 161.

[742] Reaum. v. 667.

[743] Ibid. 682.

[744] Ibid. 668.

[745] Reaum. 678. Compare also 673.

[746] _Tracts_, 22.

[747] Vid. Spence in _Transactions of the Horticult. Soc. of London_,
ii. 148. Compare Reaum. ii. 141.

[748] Lister, Goedart. _de Insectis_, 76.

[749] Reaum. ii. 142.

[750] _Œuvres_, vi. 12.

[751] _Observations on the Animal Economy_, 99.

[752] Reaum. ii. 146-.

[753] _Rapports de l'Air, &c._ ii. 215.

[754] Reaum. ii. 170.

[755] See above, 438--.

[756] Here must be excepted my lamented friend the late Dr. Reeve of
Norwich, who, in his ingenious _Essay on the Torpidity of Animals_,
has come to nearly the same conclusion as is adopted in this letter;
but, by omitting to make a distinction between torpidity and
hybernation, he has not done justice to his own ideas.

[757] VOL. I. 32.

[758] Kyber in Germar's _Mag. der Ent._ ii. 3.

[759] Since the publication of the first edition of this volume, I
have had an opportunity of making some observations which strongly
corroborate the above reasoning. The month of October in the present
year (1817) set in extremely cold. From the 1st to the 6th, piercing
north and north-west winds blew; the thermometer at Hull, though the
sun shone brightly, in the day-time was never higher than from 52°
to 56°, nor at night than 38°; in fact, on the 1st and 3rd it sunk
as low as 34°, and on the 2nd to 31°: and on those days, at eight in
the morning, the grass was covered with a white hoar frost; in short,
to every one's feelings the weather indicated December rather than
October. Here then was every condition fulfilled that the theory I am
opposing can require; consequently, according to that theory, such a
state of the atmosphere should have driven every hybernating insect
to its winter quarters. But so far was this from being the case, that
on the 5th, when I made an excursion purposely to ascertain the fact,
I found all the insects still abroad which I had met with six weeks
before in similar situations.

                             LETTER XXVII.

                     _ON THE INSTINCT OF INSECTS._

The greater part of those surprising facts connected with the
manners and economy of insects, of which the relation has occupied
the preceding letters, is to be referred, I have told you, to their
instinct. But _what_, you will ask, is this instinct?--of what nature
is this faculty which produces effects so extraordinary?

To this query I do not pretend to give any satisfactory answer. As I
am quite of Bonnet's opinion, that philosophers will in vain torment
themselves to define instinct, until they have spent some time in the
head of an animal without actually _being_ that animal--a species
of metempsychosis through which I have never passed--I shall not
attempt to explain what this mysterious energy _is_. It will not,
however, I imagine, be very difficult to show what it is _not_; and
some observations with this view, followed by an enumeration of
peculiarities which distinguish the instincts of insects from those of
other tribes of animals, and a short inquiry whether their actions are
guided solely by instinct, will form the substance of this letter.

I. It is quite superfluous at this day to controvert the explanations
of instinct advanced by some of the philosophers of the old school,
such as that of Cudworth, who referred this faculty to a certain
_plastic nature_; or that of Des Cartes, who contended that animals
are mere _machines_. Nor, I fancy, would you thank me for entering
into an elaborate refutation of the doctrine of Mylius, that many of
the actions deemed instinctive are the effect of painful corporeal
feelings; the cocoon of a caterpillar, for instance, being the result
of a fit of the colic, produced by a superabundance of the gum which
fills its silk-bags, and which exuding, is twisted round it, by its
uneasy contortions, into a regular ball. Still less need I advert to
the notable discovery of some pupils of Professor Winckler, that the
brain, alias the soul, of a bee or spider, is impressed at the birth
of the insect with certain geometrical figures, according to which
models its works are constructed,--a position which these gentlemen
demonstrate very satisfactorily by a memorable experiment in which
they themselves were able to _hear triangles_.

It is as unnecessary to waste any words in refutation of the nonsense
(for it deserves no better name) of Buffon, who refers the instinct
of societies of insects to the circumstance of a great number of
individuals being brought into existence at the same time, all acting
with equal force, and obliged by the similarity of their internal and
external structure, and the conformity of their movements, to perform
each the same actions, in the same place, in the most convenient mode
for themselves, and least inconvenient for their companions; whence
results a regular, well-proportioned, and symmetrical structure:
and he gravely tells us that the boasted hexagonal cells of bees are
produced by the reciprocal pressure of the cylindrical bodies of
these insects against each other[760]!!

Nor is it requisite to advert at length to the explanations of
instinctive actions more recently given by Steffens, a German
author (one of the transcendentalists, I conclude, from the
incomprehensibility of his book to my ordinary intellect), who
says that the products of the vaunted instinct of insects are
nothing but "shootings out of inorganic animal masses" (_anorgische
anschüsse_)[761]; and by Lamarck[762], who attributes them to
certain inherent inclinations arising from habits impressed upon the
organs of the animals concerned in producing them, by the constant
efflux towards these organs of the nervous fluid, which during a
series of ages has been displaced in their endeavours to perform
certain actions which their necessities have given birth to. The
mere statement of an hypothesis of which the enunciation is nearly
unintelligible, and built upon the assumption of the presence of
an unseen fluid, and of the existence of the animal some millions
of years, is quite sufficient, and would even be unnecessary if it
were not of such late origin. Neither shall I detain you with any
formal consideration of the hypothesis advanced by Addison and some
other authors, that instinct is an immediate and constant impulse of
the Deity; which, to omit other obvious objections, is sufficiently
refuted by the fact, that animals in their instincts are sometimes at
fault, and commit mistakes, which on the above supposition could not
in any case happen.

The only doctrine on the subject of instinct requiring any thing
like a formal refutation, is that which, contending for the identity
of this faculty with reason in man, maintains that all the actions
of animals, however complicated, are, like those of the human race,
the result of observation, invention, and experience. This theory,
maintained by the sceptics, Pythagoras, Plato, and some other ancient
philosophers, and in modern times by Helvetius, Condillac, and
Smellie, has been by none more ingeniously supported than by Dr.
Darwin, who in the chapter treating on instinct, in the first volume
of his _Zoonomia_, has brought forward a collection of facts which
give it a great air of plausibility. This plausibility, however, is
merely superficial; and the result of a rigorous examination by any
competent judge is, that the greater part of Dr. Darwin's facts bear
more strongly in favour of the dissimilarity of instinct and reason
than of their identity: and that those few which seem to support the
latter position, are built upon the relations of persons ignorant
of natural history, who have confused together distinct species
of animals. Thus, because some anonymous informant told him that
hive-bees when transported to Barbadoes, where there is no winter,
ceased to lay up a store of honey, Dr. Darwin infers that all the
operations of these insects are guided by reason and the adaptation
of means to an end--a very just inference, if the statement from
which it is drawn were accurate; but that it is not so, is known to
every naturalist acquainted with the fact that many different species
of bees store up honey in the hottest climates; and that there is no
authentic instance on record of the hive-bees' altering in any age
or climate their peculiar operations, which are now in the coldest
and in the hottest regions precisely what they were in Greece in the
time of Aristotle, and in Italy in the days of Virgil. Indeed the
single fact, depending on the assertions of such accurate observers
as Reaumur and Swammerdam, that a bee as soon after it is disclosed
from the pupa as its body is dried and its wings expanded, and before
it is possible that it should have received any instruction, betakes
itself to the collecting of honey or the fabrication of a cell, which
operations it performs as adroitly as the most hoary inhabitant
of the hive, is alone sufficient to set aside all the hear-say
statements of Dr. Darwin, and should have led him, as it must every
logical reasoner, to the conclusion, that these and similar actions
of animals cannot be referred to any reasoning process, nor be deemed
the result of observation and experience.--It is true, it does not
follow that animals, besides instinct, have not, in a degree, the
faculty of reason also; and as I shall in the sequel endeavour to
show, many of the actions of insects can be adequately explained on
no other supposition. But to deny, as Dr. Darwin does, that the art
with which the caterpillar weaves its cocoon, or the unerring care
with which the moth places her eggs upon food that she herself can
never use, are the effects of instinct, is as unphilosophical and
contrary to fact, as to insist that the eagerness with which, though
it has never tasted milk, the infant seeks for its mother's breast,
is the effect of reason.

Instinct, then, is _not_ the result of a plastic nature; of a system
of machinery; of diseased bodily action; of models impressed on the
brain; nor of organic shootings-out:--it is not the effect of the
habitual determination for ages of the nervous fluid to certain
organs; nor is it either the impulse of the Deity, or reason. Without
pretending to give a logical definition of it, which while we are
ignorant of the essence of reason is impossible, we may call the
instincts of animals those unknown faculties implanted in their
constitution by the Creator, by which, independent of instruction,
observation, or experience, and without a knowledge of the end
in view, they are impelled to the performance of certain actions
tending to the well-being of the individual and the preservation
of the species: and with this description, which is in fact merely
a confession of ignorance, we must, in the present state of
metaphysical science, content ourselves.

I here say nothing of that supposed connexion of the instinct of
animals with their _sensations_, which has been introduced into many
definitions of this mysterious power, for two reasons. In the first
place, this definition merely sets the world upon the tortoise; for
what do we know more than before about the nature of instinct, when
we have called it, with Brown, a predisposition to certain actions
when certain sensations exist, or with Tucker have ascribed it to the
operation of the senses, or to that internal feeling called appetite?
But, secondly, this connexion of instinct with bodily sensation, though
probable enough in some instances, is by no means generally evident.
We may explain in this way the instincts connected with hunger and
the sexual passion, and some other particular facts, as the laying
of the eggs of the flesh-fly in the flowers of _Stapelia hirsuta_,
instead of in carrion their proper nidus, and of those of the common
house-fly in snuff[763] instead of dung; for in these instances the
smell seems so clearly the guide, that it even leads into error. But
what connexion between sensation and instinct do we see in the conduct
of the working-bees, which fabricate some of the cells in a comb larger
than others, expressly to contain the eggs and future grubs of drones,
though these eggs are not laid by themselves, and are still in the
ovaries of the queen? So we may plausibly enough conjecture that the
fury with which, in ordinary circumstances, at a certain period of the
year, the working-bees are inspired towards the drones, is the effect
of some disagreeable smell or emanation proceeding from them at that
particular time: but how can we explain, on similar grounds, the fact
that in a hive deprived of a queen, no massacre of the drones takes
place? Lastly, to omit here a hundred other instances, as many of them
will be subsequently adverted to, if we may with some show of reason
suppose that it is the sensation of heat which causes bees to swarm;
yet what possible conception can we form of its being bodily sensations
that lead bees to send out scouts in search of a hive suitable for the
new colony, several days _before_ swarming?

After these observations on the nature of instinct, generally, I
pass on to contrast in several particulars the instincts of insects
with those of other animals; and thus to bring together some
remarkable instances of the former which have not hitherto been laid
before you, as well as to deduce from some of those already related,
inferences to which it did not fall in with my design before to
direct your attention. This contrast may be conveniently made under
the three heads of--the exquisiteness of their instincts--their
number--and their extraordinary development.

The instincts of by far the majority of the superior animals are of
a very simple kind, only directing them to select suitable food; to
propagate their species; to defend themselves and their young from
harm; to express their sensations by various vocal modulations; and
to a few other actions which need not be particularized. Others
of the larger animals, in addition to these simpler instinctive
propensities, are gifted with more extensive powers; storing up food
for their winter consumption, and building nests or habitations for
their young, which they carefully feed and tend.

All these instincts are common to insects, a great proportion of
which are in like manner confined to these. But a very considerable
number of this class are endowed with instincts of an _exquisiteness_
to which the higher animals can lay no claim. What bird or fish, for
example, catches its prey by means of nets as artfully woven and
as admirably adapted to their purposes as any that ever fisherman
or fowler fabricated? Yet such nets are constructed by the race of
spiders. What beast of prey thinks of digging a pit-fall in the track
of the animals which serve it for food, and at the bottom of which
it conceals itself, patiently waiting until some unhappy victim
is precipitated down the sides of its cavern? Yet this is done by
the ant-lion and another insect. Or, to omit the endless instances
furnished by wasps, ants, the Termites, &c., what animals can be
adduced which, like the hive-bee associating in societies, build
regular cities composed of cells formed with geometrical precision,
divided into dwellings adapted in capacity to different orders of
the society, and storehouses for containing a supply of provision?
Even the erections of the beaver, and the pensile dwelling of the
tailor-bird, must be referred to a less elaborate instinct than that
which guides the procedures of these little insects--the complexness
and yet perfection of whose operations, when contrasted with the
insignificance of the architect, have at all times caused the
reflecting observer to be lost in astonishment.

It is, however, in the _deviations_ of the instincts of insects and
their _accommodation to circumstances_, that the exquisiteness of
these faculties is most decidedly manifested. The instincts of the
larger animals seem capable of but slight modification. They are
either exercised in their full extent or not at all. A bird, when
its nest is pulled out of a bush, though it should be laid uninjured
close by, never attempts to replace it in its situation; it contents
itself with building another. But insects in similar contingencies
often exhibit the most ingenious resources, their instincts
surprisingly accommodating themselves to the new circumstances
in which they are placed, in a manner more wonderful and
incomprehensible than the existence of the faculties themselves. Take
a honey-comb, for instance. If _every_ comb that bees fabricate were
_always_ made _precisely_ alike--with the same general form, placed
in the same position, the cells all exactly similar, or where varying
with the variations always alike;--this structure would perhaps
in reality be not more astonishing than many of a much simpler
conformation. But when we know that in nine instances out of ten the
combs in a bee-hive are thus similar in their properties, and yet
that in the tenth one shall be found of a form altogether peculiar;
placed in a different position; with cells of a different shape--and
all these variations evidently adapted to some new circumstance not
present when the other nine were constructed,--we are constrained to
admit that nothing in the instinct of other animals can be adduced,
exhibiting similar exquisiteness: just as we must confess an ordinary
loom, however ingeniously contrived, far excelled by one capable of
repairing its defects when out of order.

The examples of this variation and accommodation to circumstances among
insects are very numerous; and as presenting many interesting facts in
their history not before related, I shall not fear wearying you with a
pretty copious detail of them, beginning with the more simple.

It is the instinct of _Geotrupes vernalis_ to roll up pellets of
dung, in each of which it deposits one of its eggs; and in places
where it meets with cow- or horse-dung only, it is constantly under
the necessity of having recourse to this process. But in districts
where sheep are kept, this beetle wisely saves its labour, and
ingeniously avails itself of the pellet-shaped balls ready made to
its hands which the excrement of these animals supplies[764].

A caterpillar described by Bonnet, which from being confined in
a box was unable to obtain a supply of the bark with which its
ordinary instinct directs it to make its cocoon, substituted pieces
of paper that were given to it, tied them together with silk, and
constructed a very passable cocoon with them.--In another instance the
same naturalist having opened several cocoons of a moth (_Cucullia
Verbasci_), which are composed of a mixture of grains of earth and
silk, just after being finished; the larvæ did not repair the injury in
the same manner. Some employed both earth and silk; others contented
themselves with spinning a silken veil before the opening[765].

The larva of the cabbage-butterfly (_Pontia Brassicæ_) when about to
assume the pupa state, commonly fixes itself to the under-side of
the coping of a wall or some similar projection. But the ends of the
slender thread which serves for its girth would not adhere firmly
to stone or brick, or even wood. In such situations, therefore, it
previously covers a space of about an inch long and half an inch
broad with a web of silk, and to this extensive base its girth can be
securely fastened. That this proceeding, however, is not the result
of a blind unaccommodating instinct, seems proved by a fact which has
come under my own observation. Having fed some of these larvæ in a
box covered by a piece of muslin, they attached themselves to this
covering; but as its texture afforded a firm hold to their girth,
they span _no_ preparatory web.

_Bombus_[766] _Muscorum_ and some other species of humble-bees cover
their nests with a roof of moss. M. P. Huber having placed a nest
of the former under a bell glass, he stuffed the interstices between
its bottom and the irregular surface on which it rested, with a linen
cloth. This cloth, the bees, finding themselves in a situation where
no moss was to be had, tore thread from thread, carded it with their
feet into a felted mass, and applied it to the same purpose as moss,
for which it was nearly as well adapted.--Some other humble-bees tore
the cover of a book with which he had closed the top of the box that
contained them, and made use of the detached morsels in covering
their nest[767].

The larva of _Cossus ligniperda_, which feeds in the interior of trees,
previously to fabricating a cocoon and assuming the pupa state, forms
for the egress of the future moth a cylindrical orifice, except when it
finds a suitable hole ready made. When the moth is about to appear, the
chrysalis with its anterior end forces an opening in the cocoon. If the
orifice in the tree has been formed by itself, in which case it exactly
fits its body, it _entirely_ quits the cocoon, and pushes itself half
way out of the hole, where it remains secure from falling until the
moth is disclosed. But if the orifice, having been adopted, be larger
than it ought to have been, and thus not capable of supporting the
pupa in this position, the provident insect pushes itself only _half
way_ out of the cocoon, which thus serves for the support which in the
former case the wood itself afforded[768].

The variations in the procedures of the larva of a little
moth described by Reaumur, whose habitation has been before
noticed[769]--one of those which constantly reside in a
subcylindrical case--are still more remarkable. This little
caterpillar feeds upon the elm, the leaves of which serve it at
once for food and clothing. It eats the parenchyma or inner pulp,
burrowing between the upper and under membranes, of portions of which
cut out, and properly sewed together, it forms its case. Its usual
plan is, to insinuate itself between the epidermal membranes of the
leaf, close to one of the edges. Parallel with this it excavates a
cavity of suitable form and dimensions, gnawing the pulp even out
of every projection of the serratures, but carefully avoiding to
separate the membranes at the very edge, which with a wise saving of
labour it intends should form one of the seams of its coat; and as
the little miner is not embarrassed with the removal of the excavated
materials, which it swallows as it proceeds, a cavity sufficiently
large is but the work of a few hours. It then lines it with silk, at
the same time pushing it into a more cylindrical shape; and lastly,
cutting it off at the two ends and inner side, it sews up the latter
with such nicety that the suture is scarcely discoverable; and is
now provided with a case or coat exactly fitting its body, open at
the two ends, by one of which it feeds and by the other discharges
its excrement, having on one side a nicely-joined seam, and the
other--that which is commonly applied to its back--composed of the
natural marginal junction of the membranes of the leaf.

Such are the ordinary operations of this insect, which, when it is
considered that the case is rather fusiform than cylindrical; that
the end through which it eats is circular, and the other curiously
three-cornered like a cocked-hat; and that consequently its cloth
requires to be very irregularly and artfully cut, to be accommodated
to such a figure--it must be admitted, are the result of an instinct
of no very simple kind. Complicated, however, as these manœuvres
seem, our ingenious workman is not confined to them. By way of
putting its resources to the test, Reaumur cut off the serrated edge
from the nearly-finished coat of one of them, and exposed the little
occupant to the day. He expected that it would have quitted its
mutilated garment and commenced another; and so it certainly would,
had it been guided by an invariable instinct. But he calculated
erroneously. Like one of its brother tailors of the biped race, it
knew how "to cut its coat according to its cloth," and immediately
setting about repairing the injury sewed up the rent. Nor was this
all. The scissors having cut off one of the projections intended to
enter into the construction of the triangular end of its case, it
entirely changed the original plan, and made that end the head which
had been first designed for the tail.

On another occasion Reaumur observed one of these larvæ to cut out
its coat from the very centre of a leaf, where it is obvious a series
of operations wholly different must be adopted, the two membranes
composing it necessarily requiring to be cut and sewed on _two_
sides instead of on one only. But what was most striking in this new
procedure was the alteration which the caterpillar made in the period
of sewing up its garment. When these larvæ cut out their case from
the edge of a leaf, they seem aware that, if they were to detach it
entirely from the inner side before the process of sewing, lining,
&c., is completed, having no support on the exterior edge, it would
be liable to fall down; at the same time they could not sew together
the membranes composing it at the _inner_ side, without cutting them
in part from the leaf. While, therefore, they divide the major part
of their inner side from the leaf, they artfully leave them attached
to it by one of the large nerves at each end: and these supports they
do not cut asunder until the intermediate space has been sewed up,
and they are ready to step, with their house on their back, upon the
_terra firma_ of the disk of the leaf. In this instance, therefore,
the larvæ do not wholly separate their case from the leaf, until it is
sewed. But when the same larvæ cut out their materials from the middle
of the leaf, where, though completely cut round, they are retained in
their situation secure from all danger of falling by the serratures of
the incisions made by the jaws of the larvæ, these little tailors vary
their mode, and _entirely_ detach the pieces from the surrounding leaf,
before they proceed to set a stitch into them[770].

In the preceding instances the variation of instinct takes place
in the same individual, but Bonnet mentions a very curious fact in
which it occurs in different generations of the same species. There
are annually, he informs us, two generations of the Angoumois moth,
an insect which has been before mentioned[771], as destructive to
wheat: the first appear in May and June, and lay their eggs upon
the ears of wheat in the fields; the second appear at the end of
the summer or in autumn, and these lay their eggs upon wheat in the
granaries. These last pass the winter in the state of larvæ, from
which proceeds the first generation of moths. But what is extremely
singular as a variation of instinct, those moths which are disclosed
in _May_ and _June_ in the granaries, quit them with a rapid flight
at sun-set, and betake themselves to the yet unreaped fields, where
they lay their eggs; while the moths which are disclosed in the
granaries after harvest, stay there, and never attempt to go out, but
lay their eggs upon the stored wheat[772].--This is as extraordinary
and inexplicable as if a litter of rabbits produced in spring were
impelled by instinct to eat vegetables, while another produced in
autumn should be as irresistibly directed to choose flesh.

It is, however, into the history of the hive-bee that we must look
for the most striking examples of variation of instinct; and here, as
in every thing relating to this insect, the work of the elder Huber
is an unfailing source of the most novel and interesting facts.

It is the ordinary instinct of bees to lay the foundation of
their combs at the top of the hive, building them perpendicularly
_downwards_; and they pursue this plan so constantly, that you might
examine a thousand (probably ten thousand) hives, without finding any
material deviation from it. Yet Huber in the course of his experiments
forced them to build their combs perpendicularly upward[773]; and, what
seems even more remarkable, in an horizontal direction[774].

The combs of bees are always at an uniform distance from each
other, namely about one third of an inch, which is just wide
enough to allow them to pass easily and have access to the young
brood. On the approach of winter, when their honey-cells are not
sufficient in number to contain all the stock, they _elongate_ them
considerably, and thus increase their capacity. By this extension
the intervals between the combs are unavoidably contracted; but in
winter well-stored magazines are essential, while from their state of
comparative inactivity spacious communications are less necessary.
On the return of spring, however, when the cells are wanted for the
reception of eggs, the bees contract the elongated cells to their
former dimensions, and thus re-establish the just distances between
the combs which the care of their brood requires[775]. But this is
not all. Not only do they elongate the cells of the old combs when
there is an extraordinary harvest of honey, but they actually give to
the new cells which they construct on this emergency a much greater
_diameter_ as well as a greater depth[776].

The queen-bee in ordinary circumstances places each egg in the
centre of the pyramidal bottom of the cell, where it remains fixed
by its natural gluten: but in an experiment of Huber, one whose
fecundation had been retarded, had the first segments of her abdomen
so swelled that she was unable to reach the bottom of the cells. She
therefore attached her eggs (which were those of males) to their
lower side, two lines from the mouth. As the larvæ always pass that
state in the place where they are deposited, those hatched from the
eggs in question remained in the situation assigned them. But the
working-bees, as if aware that in these circumstances the cells would
be too short to contain the larvæ when fully grown, _added to their
length_, even before the eggs were hatched[777].

Bees close up the cells of the grubs, previously to their
transformation, with a cover or lid of wax: and in hanging its abode
with a silken tapestry before it assumes the pupa state, the grub
requires that the cell should not be too short for its movements.
Bonnet having placed a swarm in a very flat glass hive, the bees
constructed one of the combs parallel to one of the principal sides,
where it was so straight that they could not give to the cells their
ordinary depth. The queen, however, laid eggs in them, and the
workers daily nourished the grubs, and closed the cells at the period
of transformation. A few days afterwards he was surprised to perceive
in the lids, holes more or less large, out of which the grubs partly
projected, the cells having been too short to admit of their usual
movements. He was curious to know how the bees would proceed. He
expected that they would pull all the grubs out of the cells, as they
commonly do when great disorders in the combs take place. But he did
not sufficiently give credit to the resources of their instinct. They
did not displace a single grub--they left them in their cells: but
as they saw that these cells were not deep enough, they closed them
afresh with lids much more convex them ordinary, so as to give to
them a sufficient depth; and from that time no more holes were made
in the lids.

The working bees, in closing up the cells containing larvæ, invariably
give a convex lid to the large cells of drones, and one nearly flat
to the smaller cells of workers: but in an experiment instituted by
Huber to ascertain the influence of the size of the cells on that of
the included larvæ, he transferred the larvæ of workers to the cells
of drones. What was the result? Did the bees still continue blindly to
exercise their ordinary instinct? On the contrary, they now placed a
nearly _flat_ lid upon these large cells, as if well aware of their
being occupied by a different race of inhabitants[778].

On some occasions bees, in consequence of Huber's arrangements in
the interior of their habitations, have begun to build a comb nearer
to the adjoining one than the usual interval; but they soon appeared
to perceive their error, and corrected it by giving to the comb a
gradual curvature, so as to resume the ordinary distance[779].

In another instance, in which various irregularities had taken place
in the form of the combs, the bees, in prolonging one of them, had,
contrary to their usual custom, begun two separate and distant
continuations, which in approaching instead of joining would have
interfered with each other, had not the bees, apparently foreseeing the
difficulty, gradually bent their edges so as to make them join with
such exactness that they could afterwards continue them conjointly[780].

In constructing their combs, bees, as you have been before told, in
my letter on the habitations of insects, form the first range of
cells--that by which the comb is attached to the top of the hive--of
a different shape from the rest. Each cell instead of being hexagonal
is pentagonal, having the fifth broadest side fixed to the top of
the hive, whence the comb is much more securely cemented to that
part, than if the first range of cells had been of the ordinary
construction. For some time after their fabrication, the combs remain
in this state; but at a certain period the bees attack the first
range of cells as if in fury, gnaw away the sides without touching
the lozenge-shaped bottoms; and having mixed the wax with propolis,
they form a cement well known to the ancients under the names of
_Mitys_, _Commosis_ and _Pissoceros_, which they substitute in the
place of the removed sides of the cells, forming of it thick and
massive walls and heavy and shapeless pillars, which they introduce
between the comb and the top of the hive so as to agglutinate them
firmly together. Huber, who first in modern times witnessed this
remarkable modification of the architecture of bees, observed, that
not only are they careful not to touch the bottoms of the cells, but
that they do not remove at once the cells on both sides of the comb,
which in that case might fall down; but they work alternately, first
on one side and then on the other, replacing the demolished cells as
they proceed, with mitys, which firmly fixes the comb to its support.

The object of this substitution of mitys for wax seems clear. While
the combs are new and only partially filled with honey, the first
range of cells, originally established as the base and the guide for
the pyramidal bottoms of the subsequent ones, serves as a sufficient
support for them. But when they contain a store of several pounds,
the bees seem to foresee the danger of such a weight proving too
heavy for the thin waxen walls by which the combs are suspended, and
providently hasten to substitute for them thicker walls, and pillars
of a more compact and viscid material.

But their foresight does not stop here. When they have sufficient
wax, they make their combs of such a breadth as to extend to the
sides of the hive, to which they cement them by constructions
approaching more or less to the shape of cells. But when a scarcity
of wax happens before they have been able to give to their combs the
requisite diameter, a large vacant space is left between the edges
of these combs, which are only fixed by their upper part, and the
sides of the hive; and they might be pulled down by the weight of the
honey, did not the bees ensure their stability by introducing large
irregular masses of wax between their edges and the sides of the
hive.--A striking instance of this art of securing their magazines
occurred to Huber. A comb, not having been originally well fastened
to the top of his glass hive, fell down during the winter amongst
the other combs, preserving, however, its parallelism with them. The
bees could not fill up the space between its upper edge and the top
of the hive, because they never construct combs of old wax, and they
had not then an opportunity of procuring new: at a more favourable
season they would not have hesitated to build a new comb upon the
old one; but it being inexpedient at that period to expend their
provision of honey in the elaboration of wax, they provided for the
stability of the fallen comb by another process. They furnished
themselves with wax from the other combs, by gnawing away the rims of
the cells more elongated than the rest, and then betook themselves
in crowds, some upon the edges of the fallen comb, others between
its sides and those of the adjoining combs; and there securely fixed
it, by constructing several _ties_ of different shapes between it
and the glass of the hive; some were pillars, others buttresses, and
others beams artfully disposed and adapted to the localities of the
surfaces joined. Nor did they content themselves with repairing the
accidents which their masonry had experienced; they provided against
those which might happen, and appeared to profit by the warning
given by the fall of one of the combs to consolidate the others and
prevent a second accident of the same nature. These last had not been
displaced, and appeared solidly attached by their base; whence Huber
was not a little surprised to see the bees strengthen their principal
points of connexion by making them much thicker than before with old
wax, and forming numerous ties and braces to unite them more closely
to each other and to the walls of their habitation.--What was still
more extraordinary, all this happened in the middle of January, at a
period when the bees ordinarily cluster at the top of the hive, and
do not engage in labours of this kind[781].

You will admit, I think, that these proofs of the resources of the
architectural instinct of bees are truly admirable. If, in the case
of the substitution of mitys for the first range of waxen cells,
this procedure _invariably_ took place in _every_ bee-hive at a
_fixed_ period--when, for example, the combs are two-thirds filled
with honey--it would be less surprising: but there is nothing of
this invariable character about it. It does not, as Huber expressly
informs us[782], occur at any marked and regular period, but appears
to depend on several circumstances not always combined. Sometimes the
bees content themselves with bordering the sides of the upper cells
with propolis alone, without altering their form or giving them greater
thickness. And it is not less remarkable that, from the instances last
cited, it appears that they are not confined to one kind of cement for
strengthening and supporting their combs, but avail themselves of
propolis, wax, or a mixture of both, as circumstances direct.

Not to weary you with examples of the modifications of instinct we are
considering, I shall introduce but three more:--the first, of the mode
in which bees extend the dimensions of an old comb; the second, of that
which they adopt in constructing the male cells and connecting them
with the smaller cells of workers; and the last, of the plan pursued by
them when it becomes necessary to bend their combs.

You must have observed that a comb newly made becomes gradually thinner
at its edges, the cells there, on each side, progressively decreasing
in length: but in time these marginal cells, as they are wanted for
the purposes of the hive, are elongated to the depth of the rest. Now
suppose bees, from an augmentation of the size of their hive, to have
occasion to extend their combs either in length or breadth, the process
which they adopt is this: They gnaw away the tops of the marginal
cells until the combs have resumed their original lenticular form, and
then construct upon their edges the pyramidal lozenge-shaped bottoms
of cells, upon which the hexagonal sides are subsequently raised, as
in their operation of cell-building. This course of proceeding is
invariable: they never extend a comb in any direction whatever, without
having first made its edges thinner, diminishing its thickness in a
portion sufficiently large to leave no angular projection.--Huber
observes, and with reason, in relating this surprising law which
obliges bees partially to demolish the cells situated upon the edges
of the combs, that it deserves a more close examination than he found
himself competent to give it: for, if we may to a certain point form
a conception of the instinct which leads these animals to employ
their art of building cells, yet how can we conceive of that which in
particular circumstances forces them to act in an opposite direction,
and determines them to _demolish_ what they have so laboriously

Drones, or male bees, are more bulky than the workers; and you have
been told, in speaking of the habitations of insects, that the
cells which bees construct for rearing the larvæ of the former, are
larger than those destined for the education of the larvæ of the
latter. The diameter of the cells of drones is always 3-1/3 lines (or
twelfths of an inch); that of those of workers 2-2/5 lines: and these
dimensions are so constant in their ordinary cells, that some authors
have thought they might be adopted as an universal and invariable
scale of measure, which would have the great recommendation of
being every where at hand, and at all events would be preferable to
our _barley-corns_. Several ranges of male cells, sometimes from
thirty to forty, are usually found in each comb, generally situated
about the middle. Now as these cells are not isolated, but form a
part of the entire comb, corresponding on its two faces--by what
art is it that the bees unite hexagonal cells of a small, with
others of a larger diameter, without leaving any void spaces, and
without destroying the uniformity and regularity of the comb? This
problem would puzzle an ordinary artist, but is easily solved by the
resources of the instinct of our little workmen.

When they are desirous of constructing the cells of males below those
of workers, they form several ranges of intermediate or transition
cells, of which the diameter augments progressively, until they
have reached that range where the male cells commence; and in the
same manner, when they wish to revert to the modelling of the cells
of workers, they pass by a gradually decreasing gradation to the
ordinary diameter of the cells of this class.--We commonly meet with
three or four ranges of intermediate cells before coming to those of
males; the first ranges of which participate in some measure in the
irregularity of the former.

But it is upon the construction of the _bottoms_ of the intermediate
ranges of cells that this variation of their architecture chiefly
hinges. The bottoms of the regular cells of bees are, as you are
aware, composed of _three_ equal-sized rhomboidal pieces; and the
base of a cell on one side of the comb is composed of portions of
the bases of _three_ cells on the other; but the bottoms of the
intermediate cells in question (though their orifices are perfectly
hexagonal) are composed of _four_ pieces, of which two are hexagonal
and two rhomboidal; and each, instead of corresponding with three
cells on the opposite side, corresponds with _four_. The size and
the shape of the four pieces composing the bottom, vary; and these
intermediate cells, a little larger than the third part of the three
opposite cells, comprise in their contour a portion of the bottom
of the fourth cell. Just below the last range of cells with regular
pyramidal bottoms, are found cells with bottoms of four pieces, of
which three are very large, and one very small, and this last is a
rhomb. The two rhombs of the transition cells are separated by a
considerable interval; but the two hexagonal pieces are adjacent and
perfectly alike. A cell lower, we perceive that the two rhombs of
the bottom are not so unequal: the contour of the cell has included
a greater portion of the opposite fourth cell. Lastly, we find cells
in pretty considerable number, of which the bottom is composed of
four pieces perfectly regular--namely, two elongated hexagons and
two equal rhombs, but smaller than those of the pyramidal bottoms.
In proportion as we remove our view from the cells with regular
tetrahedral bottoms, whether in descending or from right to left, we
see that the subsequent cells resume their ordinary form; that is to
say, that one of their rhombs is gradually lessened until it finally
disappears entirely; and the pyramidal form re-exhibits itself, but
on a larger scale than in the cells at the top of the comb. This
regularity is maintained in a great number of ranges, namely, those
consisting of male cells; afterwards the cells diminish in size, and
we again remark the tetrahedral bottoms just described, until the
cells have once more resumed the proper diameter of those of workers.

It is, then, by encroaching in a small degree upon the cells of the
other face of the comb, that bees at length succeed in giving greater
dimensions to their cells; and the graduation of the transition cells
being reciprocal on the two faces of the comb, it follows that on
both sides each hexagonal contour corresponds with four cells.--When
the bees have arrived at any degree of this mode of operating, they
can stop there and continue to employ it in several consecutive
ranges of cells: but it is to the intermediate degree that they
appear to confine themselves for the longest period, and we then
find a great number of cells of which the bottoms of four pieces are
perfectly regular. They might, then, construct the whole comb on
this plan, if their object were not to revert to the pyramidal form
with which they set out.--In building the male cells, the bees begin
their foundation with a block or mass of wax thicker and higher than
that employed for the cells of workers, without which it would be
impracticable for them to preserve the same order and symmetry in
working on a larger scale.

Irregularities (to use the language of Huber, from whom the above
details are abstracted,) have often been observed in the cells of bees.
Reaumur, Bonnet and other naturalists cite them as so many examples of
imperfections. What would have been their astonishment if they had been
aware that part of these anomalies are _calculated_; that there exists
as it were a moveable harmony in the mechanism by which the cells
are composed! If, in consequence of the imperfection of their organs
or of their instruments, bees occasionally constructed some of their
cells unequal, or of parts badly put together, it would still manifest
some talent to be able to repair these defects, and to compensate one
irregularity by another: but it is far more astonishing that they know
how to quit their ordinary routine when circumstances require that they
should build male cells; that they should be instructed to vary the
dimensions and the shape of each piece so as to return to a regular
order; and that, after having constructed thirty or forty ranges of
male cells, they again leave the regular order on which these were
formed, and arrive by successive diminutions at the point from which
they set out. How should these insects be able to extricate themselves
from such a difficulty--from such a complicated structure? how pass
from the little to the great, from a regular plan to an irregular one,
and again resume the former? These are questions which no known system
can explain[784].

Here again, as observed in a former instance, the wonder would be
less, if _every_ comb contained a _certain_ number of transition
and of male cells, constantly situated in _one_ and the _same_ part
of it: but this is far from being the case. The event which alone,
at whatever period it may happen, seems to determine the bees to
construct male cells, is the oviposition of the queen. So long as
she continues to lay the eggs of workers not a male cell is founded;
but as soon as she is about to lay male eggs, the workers seem aware
of it, and you then see them form their cells irregularly, impart to
them by degrees a greater diameter, and at length prepare suitable
ranges of cradles for all the male race[785].--You must perceive how
absurd it would be to refer this astonishing variation of instinct
to any mere change in the _sensations_ of the bees; and to what
far-fetched and gratuitous suppositions we must be reduced, if we
adopt any such explanation. We can but refer it to an instinct of
which we know nothing; and so referring it, can we help exclaiming
with Huber, "Such is the grandeur of the views and of the means of
ordaining wisdom, that it is not by a minute exactness that she
marches to her end, but proceeds from irregularity to irregularity,
compensating one by another: the admeasurements are made on high,
the apparent errors appreciated by a divine geometry; and order
often results from partial diversity. This is not the first instance
which science has presented to us of preordained irregularities
which astonish our ignorance, and are the admiration of the most
enlightened minds: So true it is, that the more we investigate the
general as well as particular laws of this vast system, the more
perfection does it present[786]."

It is observed by M. P. Huber, in his appendix to the account of
his father's discoveries relative to the architecture of bees, that
in general the form of the prisms or tubes of the cells is more
essential than that of their bottoms, since the tetrahedral-bottomed
transition cells, and even those cells which being built immediately
upon wood or glass, were entirely without bottoms, still preserved
their usual shape of hexagonal prisms. But a remarkable experiment
of the elder Huber shows that bees can alter even the form of their
cells when circumstances require it, and that in a way which one
would not have expected.

Having placed in front of a comb which the bees were constructing,
a slip of glass, they seemed immediately aware that it would be
very difficult to attach it to so slippery a surface: and instead
of continuing the comb in a straight line, they _bent it at a right
angle_, so as to extend beyond the slip of glass, and ultimately fixed
it to an adjoining part of the wood-work of the hive which the glass
did not cover. This deviation, if the comb had been a mere simple and
uniform mass of wax, would have evinced no small ingenuity; but you
will bear in mind that a comb consists on each side, or face, of cells
having between them bottoms in common: and if you take a comb, and
having softened the wax by heat, endeavour to bend it in any part at
a right angle, you will then comprehend the difficulties which our
little architects had to encounter. The resources of their instinct,
however, were adequate to the emergency. They made the cells on the
_convex_ side of the bent part of the comb much _larger_, and those on
the _concave_ side much _smaller_ than usual; the former having three
or four times the diameter of the latter. But this was not all. As the
bottoms of the small and large cells were as usual common to both, the
cells were not regular prisms, but the small ones considerably wider
at the bottom than at the top, and conversely in the large ones!--What
conception can we form of so wonderful a flexibility of instinct? How,
as Huber asks, can we comprehend the mode in which such a crowd of
labourers, occupied at the same time on the edge of the comb, could
agree to give to it the same curvature from one extremity to the
other; or how they could arrange together to construct on one face
cells so small, while on the other they imparted to them such enlarged
dimensions?--And how can we feel adequate astonishment that they should
have the art of making cells of such different sizes correspond[787]?

       *       *       *       *       *

After this long but I flatter myself not wholly uninteresting
enumeration, you will scarcely hesitate to admit that insects,
and of these the bee pre-eminently, are endowed with a much more
exquisite and flexible instinct than the larger animals. But you may
be here led to ask, Can all this be referred to instinct? Is not this
pliability to circumstances--this surprising adaptation of means for
accomplishing an end--rather the result of _reason_?

You will not doubt my allowing the appositeness of this question,
when I frankly tell you, that so strikingly do many of the preceding
facts seem at first view the effect of reason, that in my original
sketch of the letter you are now reading, I had arranged them as
instances of this faculty. But mature consideration has convinced me
(though I confess the subject has great difficulties) that this view
was fallacious; and that though some circumstances connected with
these facts may, as I shall hereafter show, be referable to reason,
the facts themselves can only be consistently explained by regarding
them as I have here done, as examples of variations of particular
instincts:--and this on two accounts.

In the first place, these variations, however singular, are _limited_
in their extent: all bees are, and have always been, able to avail
themselves of a certain number, but not to increase that number. Bees
cemented their combs when becoming heavy, to the top of the hive,
with mitys, in the time of Aristotle and Pliny as they do now; and
there is every reason to believe that then, as now, they occasionally
varied their procedures, by securing them with wax or with propolis
only, either added to the upper range of cells, or disposed in braces
and ties to the adjoining combs. But if in thus proceeding they were
guided by reason, why not under certain circumstances adopt _other_
modes of strengthening their combs? Why not, when wax and propolis
are scarce, employ _mud_, which they might see the martin avail
herself of so successfully? Or why should it not come into the head
of some hoary denizen of the hive, that a little of the _mortar_ with
which his careful master plasters the crevices between his habitation
and its stand, might answer the end of mitys? "Si seulement ils
élevoient une fois des câbanes quarrées," (says Bonnet when, speaking
as to what faculty the works of the beaver are to be referred,) "mais
ce sont éternellement des câbanes rondes ou ovales[788]:"--and so we
might say of the phenomena in question:--Show us but _one_ instance
of bees having substituted mud or mortar for mitys, pissoceros, or
propolis, or wooden props for waxen ties, and there could be no doubt
of their being here guided by reason. But since no such instance is
on record; since they are still confined to the same limits--however
surprising the range of these limits--as they were two thousand years
ago; and since the bees emerged from their pupæ but a few hours
before, will set themselves as adroitly to work and pursue their
operations as scientifically as their brethren, who can boast the
experience of a long life of twelve months duration;--we must still
regard these actions as variations of instinct.

In the second place, no degree of reason that we can with any share of
probability attribute to bees, could be competent to the performance
of labours so complicated as those we have been considering, and
which if the result of reason, would involve the most extensive and
varied knowledge in the agents. Suppose a man to have attained by
long practice the art of modelling wax into a congeries of uniform
hexagonal cells, with pyramidal bottoms composed each of three rhombs,
resembling the cells of workers among bees. Let him now be set to make
a congeries of similar but larger cells (answering to the male cells),
and unite these with the former by other hexagonal cells, so that
there should be no disruption in the continuity or regularity of the
whole assemblage, and no vacant intervals or patching at the junctions
either of the tubes or the bottoms of the cells;--and you would have
set him no very easy task--a task, in short, which it may be doubted
if he would satisfactorily perform in a twelvemonth, though gifted
with a clear head and a competent store of geometrical knowledge, and
which, if destitute of these requisites, it may be safely asserted that
he would never perform at all. How then can we imagine it possible
that this difficult problem, and others of a similar kind, can be so
completely and exactly solved by animals of which some are not two days
old, others not a week, and probably none a year? The conclusion is
irresistible--it is not _reason_ but _instinct_ that is their guide.

The second head under which I proposed contrasting the instincts of
insects with those of the larger animals, was that of their _number_
in the same individual.--In the latter this is for the most part
very limited, not exceeding (if we omit those common to almost all
animated beings) eight or ten distinct instincts. Thus in the common
duck, one instinct leads it at its birth from the egg to rush to
the water; another to seek its proper food; a third to pair with
its mate; a fourth to form a nest; a fifth to sit upon its eggs
till hatched; a sixth to assist the young ducklings in extricating
themselves from the shell; and a seventh to defend them when in
danger until able to provide for themselves: and it would not be
easy, as far as my knowledge extends, to add many more distinct
instinctive actions to the enumeration, or to adduce many species of
the superior classes of animals, endowed with a greater number.

But how vastly more manifold are the instincts of the majority of
insects! It is not necessary to insist upon those differences which
take place in the same insect in its different states, leading it
to select one kind of food in the larva, and another in the perfect
state; to defend itself in one mode in the former, and in another in
the latter, &c.--because, however remarkable these variations, they
may be referred with great plausibility to those striking changes in
the organic structure of the animal, which occur at the two periods
of its existence. It is to the number of instincts observable in the
same individual of many insects in their perfect state that I now
confine myself; and as the most striking example of the whole I shall
select the hive-bee,--begging you to bear in mind that I do not mean
to include those exhibited by the queen, the drones, or even those
of the workers, termed by Huber _cirières_ (wax makers); but only
to enumerate those presented by that portion of the workers, termed
by Huber _nourrices_ or _petites abeilles_ (nurses), upon whom, as
you have been before told[789], with the exception of making wax,
laying the foundation of the cells, and collecting honey for being
stored, the principal labours of the hive devolve. It will be these
individuals alone that I shall understand by the term _bees_, under
the present head: and though the other inhabitants of the hive may
occasionally concur in some of their actions and labours, yet it is
obvious that so many as are those in which _they_ distinctly take
part, so many instincts must we regard them as endowed with.

To begin, then, with the formation of the colony:--By one instinct
bees are directed to send out scouts previously to their swarming,
in search of a suitable abode[790]; and by another, to rush out of
the hive after the queen that leads forth the swarm, and follow
wherever she bends her course. Having taken possession of their new
abode, whether of their own selection or prepared for them by the
hand of man, a third instinct teaches them to cleanse it from all
impurities[791]; a fourth to collect propolis, and with it to stop
up every crevice except the entrance; a fifth to ventilate the hive
for preserving the purity of the air; and a sixth to keep a constant
guard at the door[792].

In constructing the houses and streets of their new city, or the cells
and combs, there are probably several distinct instincts exercised;
but not to leave room for objection, I shall regard them as the result
of one only: yet the operations of polishing the interior of the
cells, and soldering their angles and orifices with propolis, which
are sometimes not undertaken for weeks after the cells are built[793];
and the obscure but still more curious one of varnishing them with
the yellow tinge observable in old combs;--seem clearly referable to
at least two distinct instincts. The varnishing process is so little
connected with that of building, that, though it takes place in
some combs in three or four days, it does not in others for several
months, though both are equally employed for the same uses[794]. Huber
ascertained by accurate experiment that this tinge is not owing to the
heat of the hives; to any vapours in the air which they include; to any
emanations from the wax or honey; nor to the deposition of this last
in the cells; but he inclines to think it is occasioned by a yellow
matter which the bees seem to detach from their mandibles, and to apply
to the surface which they are varnishing, by repeated strokes of these
organs and of the fore feet[795].

In their out-of-door operations several distinct instincts are
concerned. By one they are led to extract honey from the nectaries
of flowers; by another to collect pollen after a process involving
very complicated manipulations, and requiring a singular apparatus of
brushes and baskets; and that must surely be considered a third, which
so remarkably and beneficially restricts each gathering to the same
plant[796]. It is clearly a distinct instinct which inspires bees with
such dread of rain, that even if a cloud pass before the sun, they
return to the hive in the greatest haste[797]; and that seems to me
not less so, which teaches them to find their way back to their home
after the most distant and intricate wanderings. When bees have found
the direction in which their hive lies, Huber says they fly to it with
an extreme rapidity, and as straight as a ball from a musket[798]:
and if their hives were always in open situations, one might suppose,
as Huber seems inclined to think, that it is by their sight they are
conducted to them. But hives are frequently found in small gardens
embowered in wood; and in the midst of villages surrounded and
interspersed with trees and buildings, so as to make it impossible
that they can be seen from a distance. If you had been with me in
1815, in the famous Pays de Waes in Flanders--where the country is a
perfect flat, and the inhabitants so enamoured either of the beauty
or profit of trees, that their fields, which are rarely above three
acres in extent, are _constantly_ surrounded with a double row, making
the whole district one vast wood--you would have pitied the poor bees
if reduced to depend on their own eye-sight for retracing the road
homeward. In vain during my stay at St. Nicholas I sallied out at every
outlet to try to gain some idea of the extent and form of the town.
Trees--trees--trees--still met me, and intercepted the view in every
direction; and I defy any inhabitant bee of this rural metropolis,
after once quitting its hive, ever to gain a glimpse of it again until
nearly perpendicularly over it. The bees, therefore, of the Pays de
Waes, and consequently all other bees, must be led to their abodes by
instinct, as certainly as it is instinct that directs the migrations of
birds or of fishes, or domestic quadrupeds to find out their homes from
inconceivable distances[799].--When they have reached the hive, another
instinct leads them to regurgitate into the extended proboscis of their
hungry companions who have been occupied at home, a portion of the
honey collected in the fields; and another directs them to unload their
legs of the masses of pollen, and to store it in the cells for future

Several distinct instincts, again, are called into action in the
important business of feeding the young brood. One teaches them to
swallow pollen, not to satisfy the calls of hunger, but that it may
undergo in their stomach an elaboration fitting it for the food of
the grubs; and another to regurgitate it when duly concocted, and to
administer it to their charge, proportioning the supply to the age
and condition of the recipients. A third informs them when the young
grubs have attained their full growth, and directs them to cover
their cells with a waxen lid, convex in the male cells, but nearly
flat in those of workers; and by a fourth, as soon as the young bees
have burst into day, they are impelled to clean out the deserted
tenements and to make them ready for new occupants.

Numerous as are the instincts I have already enumerated, the list must
yet include those connected with that mysterious principle which binds
the working bees of a hive to their queen:--the singular imprisonment
in which they retain the young queens that are to lead off a swarm,
until their wings be sufficiently expanded to enable them to fly the
moment they are at liberty, gradually paring away the waxen wall that
confines them to their cell to an extreme thinness, and only suffering
it to be broken down at the precise moment required;--the attention
with which, in these circumstances, they feed the imprisoned queen by
frequently putting honey upon her proboscis, protruded from a small
orifice in the lid of her cell;--the watchfulness with which, when at
the period of swarming more queens than one are required, they place a
guard over the cells of those undisclosed, to preserve them from the
jealous fury of their excluded rivals;--the exquisite calculation with
which they invariably release the _oldest_ queens the first from their
confinement;--the singular love of monarchical dominion, by which, when
two queens in other circumstances are produced, they are led to impel
them to combat until one is destroyed;--the ardent devotion which binds
them to the fate and fortunes of the survivor;--the distraction which
they manifest at her loss, and their resolute determination not to
accept of any stranger until an interval has elapsed sufficiently long
to allow of no chance of the return of their rightful sovereign;--and
(to omit a further enumeration) the obedience which in the utmost noise
and confusion they show to her well-known hum.

I have now instanced at least thirty distinct instincts with which
every individual of the nurses amongst the working-bees is endowed:
and if to the account be added their care to carry from the hive
the dead bodies of any of the community; their pertinacity in their
battles, in directing their sting at those parts only of the bodies
of their adversaries which are penetrable by it; their annual
autumnal murder of the drones, &c. &c.--it is certain that this
number might be very considerably increased, perhaps doubled.

At the first view you will be inclined to suspect some fallacy in
this enumeration, and that this variety of actions ought to be
referred rather to some general principle, capable of accommodating
itself to different circumstances, than to so many different kinds of
instinct. But to what principle? Not to reason, the faculty to which
we assign this power of varying accommodation. All the actions above
adduced come strictly under the description of instinctive actions,
being all performed by every generation of bees since the creation of
the world, and as perfectly a day or two after their birth as at any
subsequent period. And as the very essence of instinct consists in
the determinate character of the actions to which it gives birth, it
is clear that every distinctly different action must be referred to a
distinct instinct. Few will dispute that the instinct which leads a
duck to resort to the water is a different instinct from that which
leads her to sit upon her eggs; for the hen though endowed with one
is not with the other. In fact, they are as distinct and unconnected
as the senses of sight and smell; and it appears to me that it would
be as contrary to philosophical accuracy of language, in the former
case to call the two instincts modifications of each other, as in the
latter so to designate the two senses; and as we say that a deaf and
blind man has fewer senses than other men, so (strictly) we ought not
to speak of instinct as one faculty (though to avoid circumlocution
I have myself often employed this common mode of expression), or
say that one insect has a greater or less share of instinct than
another, but more or fewer _instincts_.--That it is not always easy
to determine what actions are to be referred to a distinct instinct
and what to a modification of an instinct, I am very ready to
admit; but this is no solid ground for regarding all instincts as
modifications of some one principle. It is often equally difficult to
fix the limits between instinct and reason; but we are not on this
account justified in deeming them the same.

This multitude of instincts in the same individual, becomes more
wonderful when considered in another point of view. Were they
constantly to follow each other in regular sequence, so that each
bee necessarily first began to build cells, then to collect honey,
next pollen, and so on, we might plausibly enough refer them to some
change in the sensations of the animal, caused by alterations in the
structure and gradual development of its organs, in the same way as
on similar principles we explain the sexual instincts of the superior
tribes. But it is certain that no such consecutive series prevails.
The different instincts of the bee are called into action in an order
regulated solely by the needs of the society. If combs be wanted,
no bee collects honey for storing until they are provided[800]: and
if, when constructed, any accident injure or destroy them, every
labour is suspended until the mischief is repaired or new ones
substituted[801]. When the crevices round the hive are effectually
secured with propolis, the instinct directing the collection of this
substance lies dormant: but transfer the bees to a new hive which
shall require a new luting, and it is instantly re-excited. But these
instances are superfluous. Every one knows that at the same moment
of time the citizens of a hive are employed in the most varied and
opposite operations. Some are collecting pollen; others are in search
of honey; some busied at home in the first construction of the cells;
others in giving them their last polish; others in ventilating the
hive; others again in feeding the young brood and the like.

Now, how are we to account for this regularity of procedure--this
undeviating accuracy with which the precise instinct wanted is
excited--this total absence of all confusion in the employment by
each inhabitant of the hive, of that particular instinct out of so
many which the good of the community requires? No thinking man ever
witnesses the complexness and yet regularity and efficiency of a
great establishment, such as the Bank of England, or the Post-office,
without marvelling that even human reason can put together with so
little friction and such slight deviations from correctness, machines
whose wheels are composed not of wood and iron, but of fickle mortals
of a thousand different inclinations, powers, and capacities. But if
such establishments be surprising even with reason for their prime
mover, how much more so is a hive of bees whose proceedings are
guided by their instincts alone! We can conceive that the sensations
of hunger experienced on awaking in the morning should excite into
action their instinct of gathering honey. But all are hungry: yet all
do not rush out in search of flowers. What _sensation_ is it that
_detains_ a portion of the hive at home, unmindful of the gnawings
of an empty stomach, busied in domestic arrangements, until the
return of their roving companions? Of those that fly abroad, what
conception can we form of the cause which, while one set is gathering
honey or pollen, leads another company to load their legs with
pellets of propolis? Are we to say that the instinct of the former
is excited by one sensation, that of the latter by another? But why
should one sensation predominate in one set of bees, while another
takes the lead in a second?--or how is it that these different
instincts are called up precisely in the degree which the actual
and changing state of things in the hive requires?--Of those which
remain at home, what is it that determines in one party the instinct
of building cells to prevail; in another that of ventilating the
hive; in a third that of feeding the young brood? For my own part,
I confess that the more I reflect on this subject, and contrast the
diversity of the means with the regularity and uniformity of the
end, the more I am lost in astonishment. The effects of instinct
seem even more wonderful than those of reason, in the same manner
as the consentaneous movements of a mighty and divided army, which,
though under the command of twenty generals and from the most distant
quarters, should meet at the assigned spot at the very hour fixed
upon, would be more surprising than the steam-moved operations,
however complex, of one of Boulton's mints.

For the sake of distinctness and compression, I have confined myself
in considering the number of the instincts of individual insects to
a single species, the bee; but if the history of other societies
of these animals--wasps, ants, &c. detailed in my former letters,
be duly weighed, it will be seen that they furnish examples of the
variety in question fully as striking. These corroborating proofs I
shall leave to your own inference, and proceed to the third head,
under which I proposed to consider the instincts of insects--that of
their extraordinary development.

       *       *       *       *       *

The development of some of the instincts of the larger animals, such as
those of sex, is well known to depend upon their age and the peculiar
state of the bodily organs; and to this, as before observed, the
succession of different instincts in the same insect, in its larva and
perfect state, is closely analogous. But what I have now in view is
that _extraordinary development_ of instinct, which is dependent not
upon the age or any change in the organization of the animal, but upon
external events--which in individuals of the _same_ species, age, and
structure, in some circumstances slumbers unmoved, but may in others be
excited to the most singular and unlooked-for action. In illustrating
this property of instinct, which, as far as I am aware, is not known to
occur in any of the larger animals, I shall confine myself as before to
the hive-bee; the only insect, indeed, in which its existence has been
satisfactorily ascertained, though it is highly probable that other
species living in societies may exhibit the same phenomenon.

Several of the facts occurring in the history of bees might be
referred to this head; but I shall here advert only to the treatment
of the drones by the workers under different circumstances, and to
the operations of the latter consequent upon the irretrievable loss
of the queen--facts which have been before stated to you, but to the
principal features of which my present argument makes it necessary
that I should again direct your attention.

If a hive of bees be this year in possession of a queen duly
fertilized, and consequently sure the next season of a succession
of males, all the drones, as I have before stated[802], towards
the approach of winter are massacred by the workers with the most
unrelenting ferocity. To this seemingly cruel course they are
doubtless impelled by an imperious instinct; and as it is regularly
followed in every hive thus circumstanced, it would seem at the first
view to be an impulse as intimately connected with the organization
and very existence of the workers, and as incapable of change, as
that which leads them to build cells or to store up honey. But this
is far from being the case. However certain the doom of the drones
this autumn, if the hive be furnished with a duly-fertilized queen,
their undisturbed existence over the winter is equally sure if the
hive have lost its sovereign, or her impregnation have been so
retarded as to make a succession of males in the spring doubtful. In
such a hive the workers do not destroy a single drone, though the
hottest persecution rages in all the hives around them.

Now, how are we to explain this difference of conduct? Are we to
suppose that the bees know and reason upon this alteration in the
circumstances of their community--that they infer the possibility
of their entire extinction if the whole male stock were destroyed
when without a queen--and that thus influenced by a wise policy they
restrain the fury they would otherwise have exercised? This would be
at once to make them not only gifted with reason, but endowed with a
power of looking before and after, and a command over the strongest
natural propensities, superior to what could be expected in a similar
case even from a society of men; and is obviously unwarrantable. The
only probable supposition is, clearly, that a new instinct is developed
suited to the extraordinary situation in which the community stands,
leading them now to regard with kindness the drones, for whom otherwise
they would have felt the most violent aversion.

In this instance, indeed, it would perhaps be more strictly correct
to say (which, however, is equally wonderful) that the old instinct
was extinguished; but in the case of the loss of a queen, to which
I am next to advert, which is followed by positive operations,
the extraordinary development of a new and peculiar instinct is

In a hive which no untoward event has deprived of its queen,
the workers take no other active steps in the education of her
successors--those of which one is to occupy her place when she has
flown off at the head of a new swarm in spring--than to prepare a
certain number of cells of extraordinary capacity for their reception
while in the egg, and to feed them when become grubs with a peculiar
food until they have attained maturity. This, therefore, is their
ordinary instinct; and it may happen that the workers of a hive may
have no necessity for a long series of successive generations to
exercise any other. But suppose them to lose their queen. Far from
sinking into that inactive despair which was formerly attributed to
them, after the commotion which the rapidly-circulated news of their
calamity gave birth to has subsided, they betake themselves with an
alacrity from which man when under misfortune might deign to take
a lesson, to the active reparation of their loss. Several ordinary
cells, as was before related at large[803], are without delay pulled
down, and converted into a variable number of royal cells capacious
enough for the education of one or more queen-grubs selected out of
the unhoused working grubs--which in this pressing emergency are
mercilessly sacrificed--and fed with the appropriate royal food to
maturity. Thus sure of once more acquiring a head, the hive return to
their ordinary labours, and in about sixteen days one or more queens
are produced; one of which, after being indebted to fortune for an
elevation as singular as that of Catherine the First of Russia, steps
into day and assumes the reins of state.

To this remarkable deviation from the usual procedures of the
community, the observations above made in the case of the drones
must be applied. We cannot account for it by conceiving the working
bees to be acquainted with the end which their operations have in
view. If we suppose them to _know_ that the queen and working-grubs
are originally the same, and that to convert one of the latter into
the former it is only necessary to transfer it to an apartment
sufficiently spacious and to feed it with a peculiar food, we confer
upon them a depth of reason to which Prometheus, when he made his
clay man, had no pretensions--an original discovery, in short, to
which man has but just attained after some thousand years of painful
research, having escaped all the observers of bees from Aristomachus,
to Swammerdam and Reaumur of modern times. We have no other
alternative, then, but to refer this phenomenon to the extraordinary
development of a new instinct suited for the exigency, however
incomprehensible to us the manner of its excitement may appear.

II. Such, then, are the exquisiteness, the number, and the
extraordinary development of the instincts of insects. But is instinct
the _sole_ guide of their actions? Are they in every case the blind
agents of irresistible impulse? These queries, I have already hinted,
cannot in my opinion be replied to in the affirmative; and I now
proceed to show, that though instinct is the chief guide of insects,
they are endowed also with no inconsiderable portion of _reason_.

Some share of reason is denied by few philosophers of the present day
to the larger animals. But its existence has not generally (except
by those who reject instinct altogether) been recognised in insects:
probably on the ground that, as the proportions of reason and of
instinct seem to co-exist in an inverse ratio, the former might be
expected to be extinct in a class in which the latter is found in
such perfection. This rule, however, though it may hold good in man,
whose instincts are so few and imperfect, and whose reason is so
pre-eminent, is far from being confirmed by an extended survey of the
classes of animals generally. Many quadrupeds, birds, and fishes,
with instincts apparently not very acute, do not seem to have their
place supplied by a proportionably superior share of reason: and
insects, as I think the facts I have to adduce will prove, though
ranking so low in the scale of creation, seem to enjoy as great a
degree of reason as many animals of the superior classes, yet in
combination with instincts much more numerous and exquisite.

I must premise, however, that in so perplexed and intricate a field, I
am sensible how necessary it is to tread with caution. A far greater
collection of facts must be made, and the science of metaphysics
generally be placed on a more solid foundation than it now can boast,
before we can pretend to decide, in numerous cases, which of the
actions of insects are to be deemed purely instinctive, and which the
result of reason. What I advance, therefore, on this head, I wish to
be regarded rather as conjectures, that, after the best consideration
I am able to give to a subject so much beyond my depth, seem to me
plausible, than as certainties to which I require your implicit assent.

That reason has nothing to do with the major part of the actions of
insects is clear, as I have before observed, from the determinateness
and perfection of these actions, and from their being performed
independently of instruction and experience. A young bee (I must once
more repeat) betakes itself to the complex operation of building
cells, with as much skill as the oldest of its compatriots. We cannot
suppose that it has any _knowledge_ of the purposes for which the
cells are destined; or of the effects that will result from its
feeding the young larvæ, and the like. And if an individual bee be
thus destitute of the very materials of reasoning as to its main
operations, so must the society in general.

Nor in those remarkable deviations and accommodations to circumstances,
instanced under a former head, can we, for considerations there
assigned, suppose insects to be influenced by reason. These deviations
are still limited in number, and involve acts far too complex and
recondite to spring from any process of ratiocination in an animal
whose term of life does not exceed two years.

It does not follow, however, that reason may not have a part in
inducing some of these last-mentioned actions, though the actions
themselves are purely instinctive. I do not pretend to explain in
what way or degree they are combined; but certainly some of the facts
do not seem to admit of explanation, except on this supposition.
Thus, in the instance above cited from Huber, in which the bees
bent a comb at right angles in order to avoid a slip of glass, the
remarkable variations in the form of the cells can only, as I have
there said, be referred to instinct. Yet the original determination
to avoid the glass seems, as Huber himself observes, to indicate
something more than instinct, since glass is not a substance
against which Nature can be supposed to have forewarned bees, there
being nothing in hollow trees (their natural abodes) resembling it
either in polish or substance: and what was most striking in their
operations was, that they did not wait until they had reached the
surface of the glass before changing the direction of the comb,
but adopted this variation at a considerable distance, as though
they foresaw the inconveniences which might result from another
mode of construction[804].--However difficult it may be to form a
clear conception of this union of instinct and reason in the same
operation, or to define precisely the limits of each, instances of
these _mixed_ actions are sufficiently common among animals to leave
little doubt of the fact. It is instinct which leads a greyhound to
pursue a hare; but it must be reason that directs "an _old_ greyhound
to trust the more fatiguing part of the chase to the younger, and to
place himself so as to meet the hare in her doubles[805]."

As another instance of these mixed actions in which both reason
and instinct seem concerned, but the former more decidedly, may be
cited the account which Huber gives of the manner in which the bees
of some of his neighbours protected themselves against the attacks
of the death's-head-moth (_Acherontia Atropos_), laid before you in
a former letter[806], by so closing the entrance of the hive with
walls, arcades, casements, and bastions, built of a mixture of wax
and propolis, that these insidious marauders could no longer intrude

We can scarcely attribute these elaborate fortifications to reason
simply; for it appears that bees have recourse to a similar defensive
expedient when attacked even by other bees; and the means employed
seem too subtle and too well adapted to the end to be the result of
this faculty in a bee.

But on the other hand, if it be most probable that in this instance
instinct was chiefly concerned, if we impartially consider the
facts, it seems impossible to deny that reason had some share in
the operations. Pure instinct would have taught the bees to fortify
themselves on the _first_ attack. If the occupants of a hive had been
taken unawares by these gigantic aggressors one night, on the second,
at least, the entrance should have been barricadoed. But it appears
clear from the statement of Huber, that it was not until the hives
had been repeatedly attacked and robbed of nearly their whole stock
of honey, that the bees betook themselves to the plan so successfully
adopted for the security of their remaining treasures; so that
reason taught by experience, seems to have called into action their
dormant instinct[807].

If it be thus probable that reason has some influence upon the
actions of insects, which must be mainly regarded as instinctive, the
existence of this faculty is still more evident in numerous traits
of their history where instinct is little if at all concerned. An
insect is taught by its instincts the most unerring means to the
attainment of certain ends; but these ends, as I have already had
occasion more than once to remark, are limited in number, and such
only as are called for by its wants in a state of nature. We cannot
reasonably suppose insects to be gifted with instincts adapted for
occasions that are never likely to happen. If therefore we find them,
in these extraordinary and improbable emergencies, still availing
themselves of the means apparently best calculated for ensuring their
object;--and if in addition they seem in some cases to gain knowledge
by experience; if they can communicate information to each other; and
if they are endowed with memory;--it appears impossible to deny that
they are possessed of reason.--I shall now produce facts in proof of
each of these positions; not by any means all that might be adduced,
but a few of the most striking that occur to me.

       *       *       *       *       *

First, then, insects often in cases not likely to be provided for by
instinct, adopt means evidently designed for effecting their object.

A certain degree of warmth is necessary to hatch a hen's eggs, and
we give her little credit for reason in sitting upon them for this
purpose. But if any one had ever seen a hen make her nest in a heap
of fermenting dung, among the bark of a hot-bed, or in the vicinity
of a baker's oven, where, the heat being as well adapted as the
stoves of the Egyptians to bring her chickens into life, she left off
the habit of her race, and saved herself the trouble of sitting upon
them,--we should certainly pronounce her a _reasoning_ hen: and if
this hen had chanced to be that very one figured and so elaborately
described by Professor Fischer, with _the profile of an old
woman_[808], a Hindoo metaphysician at least could not doubt of her
body, however hen-like, being in truth directed in its operations by
the soul of some quondam amateur of poultry-breeding. Now societies
of ants have more than once exhibited a deviation from their usual
instinct, which to me seems quite as extraordinary and as indicative
of reason as would be that supposed in a hen. A certain degree of
warmth is required for the exclusion and rearing of their eggs, larvæ
and pupæ; and in their ordinary abodes, as you have been already
told[809], they undergo great daily labour in removing their charge
to different parts of the nest, as its temperature is affected by the
presence or absence of the sun. But Reaumur, in refuting the common
notion of ants being injurious to bees, tells us that societies of
the former often saved themselves all this trouble, by establishing
their colonies between the exterior wooden shutters and panes of his
glass hives, where, owing to the latter substance being a tolerably
good conductor of heat, their progeny was at _all times_, and
without any necessity of changing their situation, in a constant,
equable, and sufficient temperature[810]. Bonnet observed the same
fact. He found that a society of ants had piled up their young to the
height of several inches, between the flannel-lined case of his glass
hives and the glass. When disturbed they ran away with them, but
always replaced them[811].

I am persuaded that after duly considering these facts, you will
agree with me that it is impossible consistently to refer them to
instinct, or to account for them without supposing some stray ant,
that had insinuated herself into this tropical crevice, first to
have been struck with the _thought_ of what a prodigious saving of
labour and anxiety would occur to her compatriots by establishing
their society here;--that she had communicated her _ideas_ to
them;--and that they had resolved upon an emigration to this
new-discovered country--this Madeira of ants--whose genial clime
presented advantages which no other situation could offer. Neither
instinct, nor any conceivable modification of instinct, could have
taught the ants to avail themselves of a good fortune which but for
the invention of glass hives would never have offered itself to a
generation of these insects since the creation; for there is nothing
analogous in nature to the constant and equable warmth of such a
situation, the heat of any accidental mass of fermenting materials
soon ceasing, and no heat being given out from a society of bees when
lodged in a hollow tree, their natural residence. The conclusion,
then, seems irresistible, that reason must have been their guide,
inducing a departure from their natural instinct as extraordinary as
would be that of a hen which should lay her eggs in a hot-bed, and
cease to sit upon them.

The adaptation of means to an end not likely to have been provided
for by instinct, is equally obvious in the ingenious mode by which a
nest of humble-bees propped up their tottering comb, the particulars
of which having before mentioned to you[812], I need not here repeat.

There is perhaps no surer criterion of reason than, after having tried
one mode of accomplishing a purpose, adopting another more likely to
succeed. Insects are able to stand this test. A bee which Huber watched
while soldering the angles of a cell with propolis, detached a thread
of this material with which she entered the cell. Instinct would have
taught her to separate it of the exact length required; but after
applying it to the angle of the cell, she found it too long, and cut
off a portion so as to fit it to her purpose[813].

This is a very simple instance; but one such fact is as decisive in
proof of reason as a thousand more complex, and of such there is no
lack. Dr. Darwin (whose authority in the present case depending not
on hearsay, but his own observation, may be here taken,) informs
us, that walking one day in his garden he perceived a wasp upon
the gravel walk with a large fly nearly as big as itself which it
had caught. Kneeling down he distinctly saw it cut off the head
and abdomen, and then taking up with its feet the trunk or middle
portion of the body to which the wings remained attached, fly away.
But a breeze of wind acting upon the wings of the fly turned round
the wasp with its burthen, and impeded its progress. Upon this it
alighted again on the gravel walk, deliberately sawed off first one
wing and then the other; and having thus removed the cause of its
embarrassment, flew off with its booty[814]. Could any process of
ratiocination be more perfect? "Something acts upon the wings of this
fly and impedes my flight. If I wish to reach my nest quickly, I must
get rid of them--to effect which, the shortest way will be to alight
again and cut them off." These reflections, or others of similar
import, must be supposed to have passed through the mind of the wasp,
or its actions are altogether inexplicable. Instinct might have
taught it to cut off the wings of _all_ flies, previously to flying
away with them. But here it first attempted to fly with the wings
on,--was impeded by a certain cause,--discovered what this cause
was,--and alighted to remove it. The chain of evidence seems perfect
in proof that nothing but reason could have been its prompter.

An analogous though less striking fact is mentioned by Reaumur on
the authority of M. Cossigny, who witnessed it in the Isle of France
where the _Sphecina_ are accustomed to bury the bodies of cockroaches
along with their eggs for provision for their young. He sometimes saw
an insect of this tribe attempt to drag after it into its hole a dead
cockroach, which was too big to be made to enter by all its efforts.
After several ineffectual trials the animal came out, cut off its
elytra and some of its legs, and thus reduced in compass drew in its
prey without difficulty[815].

Under this head I shall mention but one fact more.--A friend of
Gleditsch the observer of the singular economy of the burying beetle
(_Necrophorus Vespillo_) related in a former letter[816], being
desirous of drying a dead toad, fixed it to the top of a piece of
wood which he stuck into the ground. But a short time afterwards,
he found that a body of these indefatigable little sextons had
circumvented him in spite of his precautions. Not being able to reach
the toad, they had undermined the base of the stick until it fell,
and then buried both stick and toad[817].

       *       *       *       *       *

In the second place, insects gain knowledge from _experience_, which
would be impossible if they were not gifted with some portion of
reason. In proof of their thus profiting, I shall select from the
numerous facts that might be brought forward, two only, one of which
has been already slightly adverted to[818].

M. P. Huber, in his valuable paper in the sixth volume of the
_Linnean Transactions_[819], states that he has seen large
humble-bees, when unable from the size of their head and thorax
to reach to the bottom of the long tubes of the flowers of beans,
go directly to the calyx, pierce it as well as the tube with the
exterior horny parts of their proboscis, and then insert their
proboscis itself into the orifice and abstract the honey. They
thus flew from flower to flower, piercing the tubes from without,
and sucking the nectar, while smaller humble-bees or those with a
longer proboscis entered in at the top of the corolla. Now from this
statement it seems evident, that the larger bees did not pierce the
bottoms of the flowers until they had ascertained by trial that
they could not reach the nectar from the top; but that having once
ascertained by experience that the flowers of beans are too strait
to admit them, they then, without further attempts in the ordinary
way, pierced the bottoms of _all_ the flowers which they wished to
rifle of their sweets.--M. Aubert du Petit-Thouars observed that
humble-bees and the carpenter-bee (_Xylocopa_[820] _violacea_) gained
access in a similar manner to the nectar of _Antirrhinum Linaria_ and
_majus_, and _Mirabilis Jalappa_; as do the common bees of the Isle
of France to that of _Canna indica_[821]; and I have myself more than
once noticed holes at the base of the long nectaries of _Aquilegia
vulgaris_, which I attribute to the same agency.

My second fact is supplied by the same ants, whose sagacious choice
of the vicinity of Reaumur's glass hives for their colony has been
just related to you. He tells us that of these ants, of which
there were such swarms on the outside of the hive, not a single
one was ever perceived within; and infers that, as they are such
lovers of honey, and there was no difficulty in finding crevices
to enter in at, they were kept without, solely from fear of the
consequences[822]. Whence arose this fear? We have no ground for
supposing ants endowed with any instinctive dread of bees; and
Reaumur tells us, that when he happened to leave in his garden, hives
of which the bees had died, the ants then never failed to enter them
and regale themselves with the honey. It seems reasonable, therefore,
to attribute it to experience. Some of the ants no doubt had tried to
enter the peopled as they did the empty hive, but had been punished
for their presumption, and the dear-bought lesson was not lost on
the rest of the community.

       *       *       *       *       *

Insects, in the third place, are able mutually to _communicate_ and
_receive information_, which, in whatever way effected, would be
impracticable if they were devoid of reason. Under this head it is
only necessary to refer you to the endless facts in proof, furnished
by almost every page of my letters on the history of ants and of
the hive-bee. I shall therefore but detain you for a moment with an
additional anecdote or two, especially with one respecting the former
tribe, which is valuable from the celebrity of the relater.

Dr. Franklin was of opinion that ants could communicate their ideas
to each other; in proof of which he related to Kalm, the Swedish
traveller, the following fact. Having placed a pot containing treacle
in a closet infested with ants, these insects found their way into
it, and were feasting very heartily when he discovered them. He then
shook them out and suspended the pot by a string from the ceiling.
By chance one ant remained, which, after eating its fill, with some
difficulty found its way up the string, and thence reaching the
ceiling, escaped by the wall to its nest. In less than half an hour a
great company of ants sallied out of their hole, climbed the ceiling,
crept along the string into the pot, and began to eat again. This
they continued until the treacle was all consumed, one swarm running
up the string while another passed down[823]. It seems indisputable
that the one ant had in this instance conveyed news of the booty to
his comrades, who would not otherwise have at once directed their
steps in a body to the only accessible route.

A German artist, a man of strict veracity, states that in his journey
through Italy he was an eye-witness to the following occurrence.
He observed a species of Scarabæus (_Ateuchis pilularius?_) busily
engaged in making, for the reception of its egg, a pellet of dung,
which when finished it rolled to the summit of a small hillock, and
repeatedly suffered to tumble down its side, apparently for the sake
of consolidating it by the earth which each time adhered to it. During
this process the pellet unluckily fell into an adjoining hole, out of
which all the efforts of the beetle to extricate it were in vain. After
several ineffectual trials, the insect repaired to an adjoining heap
of dung, and soon returned with three of his companions. All four now
applied their united strength to the pellet, and at length succeeded in
pushing it out; which being done, the three assistant beetles left the
spot and returned to their own quarters[824].

       *       *       *       *       *

Lastly, insects are endowed with _memory_, which (at least in
connexion with the purposes to which it is subservient) implies some
degree of reason also; and their historian may exclaim with the poet
who has so well sung the pleasures of this faculty,

          Hail, MEMORY, hail! thy universal reign
          Guards the least link of Being's glorious chain.

In the elegant lines in which this couplet occurs[825], which were
pointed out to me by my friend Dr. Alderson of Hull, Mr. Rogers
supposes the bee to be conducted to its hive by retracing the scents
of the various flowers which it has visited: but this idea is more
poetical than accurate, bees, as before observed[826], flying
straight to their hives from great distances. Here, as I have more
than once had occasion to remark in similar instances, we have to
regret the want of more correct entomological information in the
poet, who might have employed with as much effect, the real fact of
bees distinguishing their own hives out of numbers near them, when
conducted to the spot by instinct. This recognition of home seems
clearly the result of memory; and it is remarkable that bees appear
to recollect their own hive rather from its situation, than from any
observations on the hive itself[827]: just as a man is guided to his
house from his memory of its position relative to other buildings or
objects, without its being necessary for him even to cast a look at
it. If, after quitting my house in a morning, it were to be lifted
out of its site in the street by enchantment, and replaced by another
with a similar entrance, I should probably, even in the day time,
enter it, without being struck by the change; and bees, if during
their absence their old hive be taken away, and a similar one set in
its place, enter this last, and if it be provided with brood comb
contentedly take up their abode in it, never troubling themselves to
inquire what has become of the identical habitation which they left
in the morning, and with the inhabitants of which, if it be removed
to fifty paces distance, they never resume their connexion[828].

If, pursuing my illustration, you should object that no man would
thus contentedly sit down in a new house without searching after the
old one, you must bear in mind that I am not aiming to show that bees
have as precise a memory as ours, but only that they are endowed
with some portion of this faculty, which I think the above fact
proves. Should you view it in a different light, you will not deny
the force of others that have already been stated in the course of
our correspondence: such as the mutual greetings of ants of the same
society when brought together after a separation of four months[829];
and the return of a party of bees in spring to a window where in
the preceding autumn they had regaled on honey, though none of this
substance had been again placed there[830].

But the most striking fact evincing the memory of these last-mentioned
insects has been communicated to me by my intelligent friend Mr.
William Stickney, of Ridgemont, Holderness. About twenty years ago, a
swarm from one of this gentleman's hives took possession of an opening
beneath the tiles of his house, whence, after remaining a few hours,
they were dislodged and hived. For many subsequent years, when the
hives descended from this stock were about to swarm, a considerable
party of scouts were observed for a few days before to be reconnoitring
about the old hole under the tiles; and Mr. Stickney is persuaded,
that if suffered they would have established themselves there. He is
certain that for eight years successively the descendants of the very
stock that first took possession of the hole frequented it as above
stated, and _not_ those of any other swarms; having constantly noticed
them, and ascertained that they were bees from the original hive by
powdering them while about the tiles with yellow ochre, and watching
their return. And even at the present time there are still seen every
swarming season about the tiles, bees, which Mr. Stickney has no doubt
are descendants from the original stock.

Had Dr. Darwin been acquainted with this fact, he would have adduced
it as proving that insects can convey traditionary information from
one generation to another; and at the first glance the circumstance
of the descendants of the same stock retaining a knowledge of the
same fact for twenty years, during which period there must have been
as many generations of bees, would seem to warrant the inference.
But as it is more probable that the party of surveying scouts of
the first generation was the next year accompanied by others of a
second, who in like manner conducted their brethren of the third, and
these last again others of the fourth generation, and so on,--I draw
no other conclusion from it than that bees are endowed with memory,
which I think it proves most satisfactorily.

                                                  I am, &c.


[760] _Hist. Nat._ Edit. 1785, v. 277.

[761] _Beiträge zur innern Naturgeschichte der Erde_ 1801. p. 298.

[762] In his _Philosophie Zoologique_, Paris 1809 (ii. 325)--a work
which every zoologist will, I think, join with me in regretting
should be devoted to metaphysical disquisitions built on the
most gratuitous assumptions, instead of comprising that luminous
generalization of _facts_ relative to the animal world which is so
great a desideratum, and for performing which satisfactorily this
eminent naturalist is so well qualified.

[763] Dr. Zinken genannt Sommer says, that if in August and September a
snuff-box be left open, it will be seen to be frequented by the common
house-fly (_Musca domestica_), the eggs of which will be found to have
been deposited amongst the snuff. Germar _Mag. der Ent._ I. ii. 189.

[764] Sturm, _Deutschlands Fauna_, i. 27.

[765] _Œuvres_ ii. 238. See above, p. 256.

[766] _Apis._ * *. e. 2. K.

[767] _Linn. Trans._ vi. 254--.

[768] Lyonet, _Traité anatomique_ &c. 16--.

[769] VOL. I. 455--.

[770] Reaum. iii. 112-119.

[771] VOL. I. 172.

[772] _Œuvres_, ix. 370.

[773] Huber, ii. 134--.

[774] Ibid. ii. 216.

[775] Huber, i. 348.

[776] Ibid. ii. 227.

[777] Ibid. i. 119.

[778] Huber, i. 233.

[779] Ibid. ii. 239.

[780] Ibid. ii. 240.

[781] Huber, ii. 280.

[782] Ibid. ii. 284, note *.

[783] Huber, ii. 228.

[784] Huber, ii. 221-226. 244-247.

[785] Ibid. ii. 226.

[786] Huber, ii. 230.

[787] Huber, ii. 219--.

[788] _Œuvres_, ix. 159.

[789] VOL. I. 487--.

[790] See above, p. 186.

[791] Huber, ii. 102.

[792] Ibid. i. 186. ii. 412.

[793] Ibid. ii. 264--. VOL. I. 497.

[794] Huber, ii. 274.

[795] Huber, ii. 275--.

[796] See above, p. 179.

[797] Huber, i. 356.

[798] Ibid. ii. 367.

[799] The following striking anecdote of this last species of instinct
in an animal not famed for sagacity, was related to me by Lieutenant
Alderson, (royal engineers,) who was personally acquainted with the
facts.--In March 1816 an ass, the property of Captain Dundas, R.N.,
then at Malta, was shipped on board the Ister frigate, Captain Forrest,
bound from Gibraltar for that island. The vessel having struck on some
sands off the Point de Gat, at some distance from the shore, the ass
was thrown overboard to give it a chance of swimming to land--a poor
one, for the sea was running so high that a boat which left the ship
was lost. A few days afterwards, however, when the gates of Gibraltar
were opened in the morning, the ass presented himself for admittance,
and proceeded to the stable of Mr. Weeks, a merchant, which he had
formerly occupied, to the no small surprise of this gentleman, who
imagined that from some accident the animal had never been shipped on
board the Ister. On the return of this vessel to repair, the mystery
was explained; and it turned out that Valiante (so the ass was called)
had not only swam safely to shore, but, without guide, compass, or
travelling map, had found his way from Point de Gat to Gibraltar, a
distance of more than two hundred miles, which he had never traversed
before, through a mountainous and intricate country, intersected by
streams, and in so short a period that he could not have made one false
turn. His not having been stopped on the road was attributed to the
circumstance of his having been formerly used to whip criminals upon,
which was indicated to the peasants, who have a superstitious horror of
such asses, by the holes in his ears, to which the persons flogged were

[800] Huber, ii. 64.

[801] Ibid. ii. 138.

[802] See above, p. 171--.

[803] See above, p. 127--.

[804] Huber, ii. 219.

[805] Hume's _Essay on the Reason of Animals_.

[806] See above, p. 263--.

[807] Huber, ii. 289--.

[808] See Fischer's _Beschreibung eines Huhns mit menschenähnlichem
Profile_, 8vo, St. Petersburg 1816, and a translation in Thomson's
_Annals of Phil._ viii. 241.

[809] VOL. I. 366.

[810] Reaum. v. 709.

[811] _Œuvres_, ii. 416.

[812] VOL. I. 380.

[813] Huber, ii. 268.

[814] _Zoonomia_, i. 183.

[815] Reaum. vi. 283.

[816] VOL. I. 352.

[817] Gleditsch _Physic. Bot. Œcon. Abhandl._ iii. 220.

[818] See above, p. 117.

[819] p. 222.

[820] _Apis_ * *. d. 2. β. K.

[821] _Nouveau Bulletin des Sciences_, i. 45.

[822] Reaum. v. 709.

[823] Kalm's _Travels in North America_, i. 239.

[824] Illiger _Mag._ i. 488.


          "Hark! the bee winds her small but mellow horn,
           Blithe to salute the sunny smile of morn.
           O'er thymy downs she bends her busy course,
           And many a stream allures her to its source.
           'Tis noon, 'tis night. That eye so finely wrought,
           Beyond the search of sense, the soar of thought,
           Now vainly asks the scenes she left behind;
           Its orb so full, its vision so confined!
           Who guides the patient pilgrim to her cell?
           Who bids her soul with conscious triumph swell?
           With conscious truth retrace the mazy clue
           Of varied scents that charm'd her as she flew?
           Hail, MEMORY, hail! thy universal reign
           Guards the least link of Being's glorious chain."

[826] See above, p. 185 and 495--.

[827] If a hive be removed out of its ordinary position, the first
day after this removal, the bees do not fly to a distance without
having visited all the neighbouring objects. The queen does the same
thing when flying into the air for fecundation. Huber, _Recherches
sur les Fourmis_, 100.

[828] See the account of the mode in which the Favignanais increase
the number of their hives by thus dividing them. Huber, ii. 459.

[829] See above, p. 66.

[830] Ibid. p. 199.

                       END OF THE SECOND VOLUME.

[Illustration: _Plate V_]

                       EXPLANATION OF THE PLATES.

                               PLATE IV.


     Fig. 1. Sirex Gigas.

          2. Evania appendigaster magnified. 3. Nomada Marshamella.


          4. Pedicia rivosa. 5. Sericomyia Lapponum.

                                PLATE V.

     Fig. 1. Oxypterum Kirbyanum. _Leach._ magnified.


          2. Pulex irritans magnified.


          3. Ricinus Pavonis magnified. 4. Aranea marginata.
          _Donovan._ 5. Chelifer cancroides magnified. 6. Scolopendra

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