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Full text of "The glow-worm and other beetles. Translated by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos"

presented to 

Gbe library 

of tbe 

IHniverslts of Toronto 
Bertram 1R. Davia 

from tbe books of 

the late Xtonel Bavte, 1k.<L 




THE GLOW-WORM 
AND OTHER BEETLES 



BOOKS BY J. HENRI FABRE 



THE LIFE OF THE SPIDER 

THE LIFE OF THE FLY 

THE MASON-BEES 

BRAMBLE-BEES AND OTHERS 

THE HUNTING WASPS 

THE LIFE OF THE CATERPILLAR 

THE LIFE OF THE GRASSHOPPER 

THE SACRED BEETLE AND OTHERS 

THE MASON-WASPS 

THE GLOW-WORM AND OTHER 
BEETLES 



^^^^^^=^7^ 



THE GLOW-WORM 

AND OTHER BEETLES 



BY 

J. HENRI FABRE 




y^a 





sgggilfeg^ 



COPTEIGHT, 1919 

By DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY, Inc. 



at 



PRINTED IN THE U. S. A. 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

I THE GLOW-WORM .... I 

II THE SITARES 28 

III THE PRIMARY LARVA OF THE 

SITARES 46 

IV THE PRIMARY LARVA OF THE OIL- 

BEETLES 84 

V HYPERMETAMORPHOSIS . . . IO9 

VI CEROCOM^, MYLABRES AND ZO- 

NITES . ' I44 

VII THE CAPRICORN . . . . 1 85 

VIII THE PROBLEM OF THE SIREX . 207 

IX THE DUNG-BEETLES OF THE PAM- 
PAS 235 

X INSECT COLOURING . . . . 273 

XI THE BURYING-BEETLES : THE 

BURIAL 294 

XII THE BURYING-BEETLES : EXPERI- 
MENTS .... . . 319 



Contents 

PAGE 

XIII THE GIANT SCARITES . . -352 

XIV THE SIMULATION OF DEATH . 370 
XV SUICIDE OR HYPNOSIS? . . . 390 

XVI THE CRIOCERES 41 1 

xvil the crioceres (continued) . 428 

XVIII THE CLYTHR^ 446 

XIX THE CLYTHR^E: THE EGG . . 463 



TRANSLATOR'S NOTE 

This is the second volume on Beetles in 
the complete English edition of Henri Fa- 
bre's entomological works. The first is en- 
titled The Sacred Beetle and Others; the 
second and the third will be known as The 
Life of the Weevil and More Beetles respec- 
tively. 

The Glow-worm, which gives its name to 
the present book, did not form part of the 
Souvenirs entomologiques as originally pub- 
lished. It is one of two essays written spe- 
cially, at my request, for translation into 
English, towards the close of Henri Fabre's 
life; in fact, this and The Ant-lion, a short 
essay for children, were the last works that 
came from the veteran author's pen. The 
Glow-worm appeared first in the Century 
Magazine. Of the remaining chapters, sev- 
eral have appeared in various periodicals, 
notably the English Review and in Land and 
Water, the editor and proprietors of which 
admirable weekly have shown the most en- 
lightened interest in Fabre's work. 



Translator's Note 

A part of the chapter entitled The Dung- 
beetles of the Pampas figures in Messrs. 
Adam & Charles Black's volume, The Life 
and Love of the Insect (New York: the 
Macmillan Co.), translated by myself; and 
the chapters on the Capricorn and Burying- 
beetles will be found in Mr. T. Fisher Un- 
win's volume, The Wonders of Instinct 
(New York: the Century Co.), translated 
by myself and Mr. Bernard Miall, which also 
contains The Glow-worm. These chapters 
are included in the present edition by consent 
of and arrangement with the publishers 
named. 

Lastly, Mr. Bernard Miall has earned my 
gratitude by the valuable assistance which he 
has given me in preparing the translation of 
the greater part of this volume. 

Alexander Teixeira de Mattos. 
Chelsea, 5 September, 19 19. 



CHAPTER I 

THE GLOW-WORM 

T?EW insects in our climes vie in popular 
■*■ fame with the Glow-worm, that curious 
little animal which, to celebrate the little joys 
of life, kindles a beacon at its tail-end. Who 
does not know it, at least by name? Who 
has not seen it roam amid the grass, like a 
spark fallen from the moon at its full? 
The Greeks of old called it Aa/t7roupw, mean- 
ing, the bright-tailed. Science employs the 
same term: it calls the lantern-bearer, Lam- 
pyris noctiluca, LIN. In this case, the 
common name is inferior to the scientific 
phrase, which, when translated, becomes 
both expressive and accurate. 

In fact, we might easily cavil at the word 
" worm." The Lampyris is not a worm at 
all, not even in general appearance. He has 
six short legs, which he well knows how to 
use; he is a gad-about, a trot-about. In the 
adult state, the male is correctly garbed in 
wing-cases, like the true Beetle that he is. 
The female is an ill-favoured thing who 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

knows naught of the delights of flying: all 
her life long, she retains the larval shape, 
which, for the rest, is similar to that of the 
male, who himself is imperfect so long as he 
has not achieved the maturity that comes 
with pairing-time. Even in this initial stage, 
the word " worm " is out of place. We 
French have the expression " Naked as a 
worm," to point to the lack of any defensive 
covering. Now the Lampyris is clothed, 
that is to say, he wears an epidermis of some 
consistency; moreover, he is rather richly 
coloured: his body is dark brown all over, set 
off with pale pink on the thorax, especially 
on the lower surface. Finally, each segment 
is decked at the hinder edge with two spots 
of a fairly bright red. A costume like this 
was never worn by a worm. 

Let us leave this ill-chosen denomination 
and ask ourselves what the Lampyris feeds 
upon. That master of the art of gastro- 
nomy, Brillat-Savarin, 1 said : 

" Show me what you eat and I will tell 
you what you are." 

A similar question should be addressed, by 
way of a preliminary, to every insect whose 
habits we propose to study, for, from the 

^nselme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826), author of La 
Psychologic du gout. — Translator's Note. 
2 



The Glow-Worm 

least to the greatest in the zoological pro- 
gression, the stomach sways the world; the 
data supplied by food are the chief of all the 
documents of life. Well, in spite of his in- 
nocent appearance, the Lampyris is an eater 
of flesh, a hunter of game; and he follows his 
calling with rare villainy. His regular prey 
is the Snail. 

This detail has long been known to en- 
tomologists. What is not so well-known, 
what is not known at all yet, to judge by what 
I have read, is the curious method of attack, 
of which I have seen no other instance any- 
where. 

Before he begins to feast, the Glow-worm 
administers an anaesthetic: he chloroforms 
his victim, rivalling in the process the won- 
ders of our modern surgery, which renders 
the patient insensible before operating on 
him. The usual game is a small Snail 
hardly the size of a cherry, such as, for in- 
stance, Helix variabilis, DRAP., who, in the 
hot weather, collects in clusters on the stiff 
stubble and on other long, dry stalks, by the 
roadside, and there remains motionless, in 
profound meditation, throughout the scorch- 
ing summer days. It is in some such resting- 
place as this that I have often been privileged 
to light upon the Lampyris banqueting on the 

3 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

prey which he had just paralyzed on its 
shaky support by his surgical artifices. 

But he is familiar with other preserves. 
He frequents the edges of the irrigating- 
ditches, with their cool soil, their varied 
vegetation, a favourite haunt of the mol- 
lusc. Here, he treats the game on the 
ground; and, under these conditions, it is 
easy for me to rear him at home and to fol- 
low the operator's performance down to the 
smallest detail. 

I will try to make the reader a witness of 
the strange sight. I place a little grass in a 
wide glass jar. In this I install a few Glow- 
worms and a provision of Snails of a suit- 
able size, neither too large nor too small, 
chiefly Helix variabilis. We must be pa- 
tient and wait. Above all, we must keep 
an assiduous watch, for the desired events 
come unexpectedly and do not last long. 

Here we are at last. The Glow-worm 
for a moment invesigates the prey, which, 
according to its habit, is wholly withdrawn 
in the shell, except the edge of the mantle, 
which projects slightly. Then the hunter's 
weapon is drawn, a very simple weapon, but 
one that cannot be plainly perceived with- 
out the aid of a lens. It consists of two 
mandibles bent back powerfully into a hook, 
4 



The Glow- Worm 

very sharp and as thin as a hair. The micro- 
scope reveals the presence of a slender 
groove running throughout the length. And 
that is all. 

The insect repeatedly taps the Snail's 
mantle with its instrument. It all happens 
with such gentleness as to suggest kisses 
rather than bites. As children, teasing one 
another, we used to talk of " tweaksies " to 
express a slight squeeze of the finger-tips, 
something more like a tickling than a serious 
pinch. Let us use that word. In conver- 
sing with animals, language loses nothing by 
remaining juvenile. It is the right way for 
the simple to understand one another. 

The Lampyris doles out his tweaks. He 
distributes them methodically, without hurry- 
ing, and takes a brief rest after each of 
them, as though he wished to ascertain the 
effect produced. Their number is not great: 
half-a-dozen, at most, to subdue the prey and 
deprive it of all power of movement. That 
other pinches are administered later, at the 
time of eating, seems very likely, but I can- 
not say anything for certain, because the 
sequel escapes me. The first few, however 
— there are never many — are enough to 
impart inertia and loss of all feeling to the 
mollusc, thanks to the prompt, I might al- 
5 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

most say, lightning methods of the Lampyris, 
who, beyond a doubt, instils some poison or 
other by means of his grooved hooks. 

Here is the proof of the sudden efficacity 
of those twitches, so mild in appearance : 
I take the Snail from the Lampyris, who has 
operated on the edge of the mantle some four 
or five times. I prick him with a fine needle 
in the fore-part, which the animal, shrunk 
into its shell, still leaves exposed. There is 
no quiver of the wounded tissues, no reaction 
against the brutality of the needle. A 
corpse itself could not give fewer signs of 
life. 

Here is something even more conclusive: 
chance occasionally gives me Snails attacked 
by the Lampyris while they are creeping 
along, the foot slowly crawling, the ten- 
tacles swollen to their full extent. A few 
disordered movements betray a brief excite- 
ment on the part of the mollusc and then 
everything ceases: the foot no longer slugs; 
the front-part loses its graceful swan-neck 
curve; the tentacles become limp and give 
way under their weight, dangling feebly like 
a broken stick. This conditions persists. 

Is the Snail really dead? Not at all, for 
I am free to resuscitate the seeming corpse. 
After two or three days of that singular con- 
6 



The Glow-Worm 

dition which is no longer life and yet not 
death, I isolate the patient and, although this 
is not really necessary to success, I give him 
a douche which will represent the shower 
so dear to the able-bodied mollusc. In 
about a couple of days, my prisoner, but lately 
injured by the Glow-worm's treachery, is re- 
stored to his normal state. He revives, in 
a manner; he recovers movement and sensi- 
bility. He is affected by the stimulus of a 
needle ; he shifts his place, crawls, puts out 
his tentacles, as though nothing unusual had 
occurred. The general torpor, a sort of 
deep drunkenness, has vanished outright. 
The dead returns to life. What name shall 
we give to that form of existence which, for 
a time, abolishes the power of movement and 
the sense of pain? I can see but one that is 
approximately suitable : anaesthesia. The 
exploits of a host of Wasps whose flesh- 
eating grubs are provided with meat that is 
motionless though not dead * have taught us 
the skilful art of the paralyzing insect, which 
numbs the locomotory nerve-centres with its 
venom. We have now a humble little 
animal that first produces complete anaes- 

1 Cf. The Hunting Wasps, by J. Henri Fabre, translated 
by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos : passim. — Translator's 
Note. 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

thesia in its patient. Human science did not 
in reality invent this art, which is one of the 
wonders of our latter-day surgery. Much 
earlier, far back in the centuries, the Lampy- 
ris and, apparently, others knew it as well. 
The animal's knowledge had a long start of 
ours; the method alone has changed. Our 
operators proceed by making us inhale the 
fumes of ether or chloroform; the insect 
proceeds by injecting a special virus that 
comes from the mandibular fangs in in- 
finitesimal doses. Might we not one day be 
able to benefit by this hint? What glorious 
discoveries the future would have in store 
for us, if we understood the beastie's secrets 
better ! 

What does the Lampyris want with 
anaesthetical talent against a harmless and 
moreover eminently peaceful adversary, who 
would never begin the quarrel of his own 
accord ? I think I see. We find in Algeria 
a Beetle known as Drilus maroccanus, who, 
though non-luminous, approaches our Glow- 
worm in his organization and especially in 
his habits. He too feeds on land molluscs. 
His prey is a Cyclostome with a graceful 
spiral shell, tight-closed with a stony lid 
which is attached to the animal by a powerful 
muscle. The lid is a movable door which is 
8 



The Glow-Worm 

quickly shut by the inmate's mere withdrawal 
into his house and as easily opened when the 
hermit goes forth. With this system of 
closing, the abode becomes inviolable; and 
the Drilus knows it. 

Fixed to the surface of the shell by an 
adhesive apparatus whereof the Lampyris 
will presently show us the equivalent, he re- 
mains on the look-out, waiting, if necessary, 
for whole days at a time. At last, the need 
of air and food oblige the besieged non- 
combatant to show himself; at least, the door 
is set slightly ajar. That is enough. The 
Drilus is on the spot and strikes his blow. 
The door can no longer be closed and the 
assailant is henceforth master of the fortress. 
Our first impression is that the muscle moving 
the lid has been cut with a quick-acting pair 
of shears. This idea must be dismissed. 
The Drilus is not well enough equipped with 
jaws to gnaw through a fleshy mass so 
promptly. The operation has to succeed at 
once, at the first touch: if not, the animal 
attacked would retreat, still in full vigour, 
and the siege must be recommenced, as ardu- 
ous as ever, exposing the insect to fasts in- 
definitely prolonged. Although I have never 
come across the Drilus, who is a stranger to 
my district, I conjecture a method of attack 
9 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

very similar to that of the Glow-worm. 
Like our own Snail-eater, the Algerian in- 
sect does not cut its victim into small pieces : 
it renders it inert, chloroforms it by means 
of a few tweaks which are easily distributed, 
if the lid but half-opens for a second. That 
will do. The besieger thereupon enters and, 
in perfect quiet, consumes a prey incapable 
of the least muscular effort. That is how 
I see things by the unaided light of logic. 

Let us now return to the Glow-worm. 
When the Snail is on the ground, creeping, 
or even shrunk into his shell, the attack never 
presents any difficulty. The shell possesses 
no lid and leaves the hermit's fore-part to 
a great extent exposed. Here, on the edges 
of the mantle contracted by the fear of 
danger, the mollusc is vulnerable and in- 
capable of defence. But it also frequently 
happens that the Snail occupies a raised posi- 
tion, clinging to the tip of a grass-stalk or 
perhaps to the smooth surface of a stone. 
This support serves him as a temporary lid; 
it wards off the aggression of any churl who 
might try to molest the inhabitant of the 
cabin, always on the express condition that 
no slit show itself anywhere on the protecting 
circumference. If, on the other hand, in the 
frequent case when the shell does not fit its 

10 




The Glow-Worm 

support quite closely, some point, however 
tiny, be left uncovered, this is enough for 
the subtle tools of the Lampyris, who just 
nibbles at the mollusc and at once plunges 
him into that profound immobility which 
favours the tranquil proceedings of the con- 
sumer. 

These proceedings are marked by extreme 
prudence. The assailant has to handle his 
victim gingerly, without provoking contract- 
ions which would make the Snail let go his 
support and, at the very least, precipitate 
him from the tall stalk whereon he is bliss- 
fully slumbering. Now any game falling to 
the ground would seem to be so much sheer 
loss, for the Glow-worm has no great zeal 
for hunting-expeditions : he profits by the dis- 
coveries which good luck sends him, without 
undertaking assiduous searches. It is es- 
sential, therefore, that the equilibrium of a 
prize perched on the top of a stalk and only 
just held in position by a touch of glue should 
be disturbed as little as possible during the 
onslaught; it is necessary that the assailant 
should go to work with infinite circumspect- 
ion and without producing pain, lest any 
muscular reaction should provoke a fall and 
endanger the prize. As we see, sudden and 

profound anaesthesia is an excellent means of 
ii 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

enabling the Lampyris to attain his object, 
which is to consume his prey in perfect 
quiet. 

What is his manner of consuming it? 
Does he really eat, that is to say, does he 
divide his food piecemeal, does he carve it 
into minute particles, which are afterwards 
ground by a chewing-apparatus? I think 
not. I never see a trace of solid nourishment 
on my captives' mouths. The Glow-worm 
does not eat in the strict sense of the word: 
he drinks his fill; he feeds on a thin gruel 
into which he transforms his prey by a 
method recalling that of the maggot. Like 
the flesh-eating grub of the Fly, he too is able 
to digest before consuming; he liquefies his 
prey before feeding on it. 

This is how things happen: a Snail has 
been rendered insensible by the Glow-worm. 
The operator is nearly always alone, even 
when the prize is a large one, like the Com- 
mon Snail, Helix aspersa. Soon a number 
of guests hasten up — two, three or more — 
and, without any quarrel with real proprietor, 
all alike fall to. Let us leave them to them- 
selves for a couple of days and then turn 
the shell, with the opening downwards. The 
contents flow out as easily as would soup 
from an overturned saucepan. When the 
12 



The Glow-Worm 

sated diners retire from this gruel, only in- 
significant leavings remain. 

The matter is obvious: by repeated tiny 
bites, similar to the tweaks which we saw 
distributed at the outset, the flesh of the 
mollusc is converted into a gruel on which 
the various banqueters nourish themselves 
without distinction, each working at the broth 
by means of some special pepsine and each 
taking his own mouthfuls of it. In conse- 
quence of this method, which first converts 
the food into a liquid, the Glow-worm's 
mouth must be very feebly armed apart from 
the two fangs which sting the patient and 
inject the anaesthetic poison and, at the same 
time, no doubt, the serum capable of turn- 
ing the solid flesh into fluid. These two tiny 
implements, which can just be examined 
through the lens, must, it seems, have some 
other object. They are hollow and in this 
resemble those of the Ant-lion, which sucks 
and drains its capture without having to 
divide it; but there is this great difference, 
that the Ant-lion leaves copious remnants, 
which are afterwards flung outside the fun- 
nel-shaped trap dug in the sand, whereas 
the Glow-worm, that expert liquefier, leaves 
nothing, or next to nothing. With similar 
tools, the one simply sucks the blood of its 
13 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

prey and the other turns every morsel of his 
to account, thanks to a preliminary lique- 
faction. 

And this is done with exquisite precision, 
though the equilibrium is sometimes anything 
but steady. My rearing-glasses supply me 
with magnificent examples. Crawling up 
the sides, the Snails imprisoned in my appa- 
ratus sometimes reach the top, which is closed 
with a glass pane, and fix themselves to it 
by means of a speck of glair. This is a mere 
temporary halt, in which the mollusc is 
miserly with its adhesive product, and the 
merest shake is enough to loosen the shell and 
send it to the bottom of the jar. 

Now it is not unusual for the Glow-worm 
to hoist himself to the top, with the help of a 
certain climbing-organ that makes up for his 
weak legs. He selects his quarry, makes a 
minute inspection of it to find an entrance- 
slit, nibbles it a little, renders it insensible 
and, without delay, proceeds to prepare the 
gruel which he will consume for days on end. 

When he leaves the table, the shell is 
found to be absolutely empty; and yet this 
shell, which was fixed to the glass by a very 
faint stickiness, has not come loose, has not 
even shifted its position in the smallest 
degree : without any protest from the hermit 
14 



The Glow- Worm 

gradually converted into broth, it has been 
drained on the very spot at which the first 
attack was delivered. These small details 
tell us how promptly the anaesthetic bite takes 
effect; they teach us how dexterously the 
Glow-worm treats his Snail without causing 
him to fall from a very slippery vertical sup- 
port and without even shaking him on his 
slight line of adhesion. 

Under these conditions of equilibrium, the 
operator's short, clumsy legs are obviously 
not enough ; a special accessory apparatus is 
needed to defy the danger of slipping and to 
seize the unseizable. And this apparatus 
the Lampyris possesses. At the hinder end 
of the animal we see a white spot which the 
lens separates into some dozen short, fleshy 
appendages, sometimes gathered into a 
cluster, sometimes spread into a rosette. 
There is your organ of adhesion and locomo- 
tion. If he would fix himself somewhere, 
even on a very smooth surface, such as a 
grass-stalk, the Glow-worm opens his rosette 
and spreads it wide on the support, to which 
it adheres by its own stickiness. The same 
organ, rising and falling, opening and clo- 
sing, does much to assist the act of progress- 
ion. In short, the Glow-worm is a new sort 
of self-propelled cripple, who decks his hind- 
is 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

quarters with a dainty white rose, a kind of 
hand with twelve fingers, not jointed, but 
moving in every direction: tubular fingers 
which do not seize, but stick. 

The same organ serves another purpose: 
that of a toilet-sponge and brush. At a 
moment of rest, after a meal, the Glow-worm 
passes and repasses the said brush over his 
head, back, sides and hinder-parts, a per- 
formance made possible by the flexibility of 
his spine. This is done point by point, from 
one end of the body to the other, with a 
scrupulous persistency that proves the great 
interest which he takes in the operation. 
What is his object in thus sponging himself, 
in dusting and polishing himself so carefully? 
It is a question, apparently, of removing a 
few atoms of dust or else some traces of 
viscidity that remain from the evil contact 
with the snail. A wash and brush-up is not 
superfluous when one leaves the tub in which 
the mollusc has been treated. 

If the Glow-worm possessed no other 
talent than that of chloroforming his prey 
by means of a few tweaks resembling kisses, 
he would be unknown to the vulgar herd; 
but he also knows how to light himself like 
a beacon; he shines, which is an excellent 
manner of achieving fame. Let us consider 
16 



The Glow- Worm 

more particularly the female, who, while re- 
taining her larval shape, becomes marriage- 
able and glows at her best during the hottest 
part of summer. The lighting-apparatus 
occupies the last three segments of the ab- 
domen. On each of the first two, it takes 
the form, on the ventral surface, of a wide 
belt covering almost the whole of the arch; 
on the third, the luminous part is much less 
and consists simply of two small crescent- 
shaped markings, or rather two spots which 
shine through to the back and are visible both 
above and below the animal. Belts and 
spots emit a glorious white light, delicately 
tinged with blue. The general lighting of 
the Glow-worm thus comprises two groups: 
first, the wide belts of the two segments pre- 
ceding the last; secondly, the two spots of 
the final segments. The two belts, the ex- 
clusive attribute of the marriageable female, 
are the part richest in light: to glorify her 
wedding, the future mother dons her bright- 
est gauds; she lights her two resplendent 
scarves. But, before that, from the time of 
the hatching, she had only the modest rush- 
light of the stern. This efflorescence of light 
is the equivalent of the final metamorphosis, 
which is usually represented by the gift of 
wings and flight. Its brilliance heralds the 
17 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

pairing-time. Wings and flight there will 
be none : the female retains her humble larval 
form, but she kindles her blazing beacon. 

The male, on his side, is fully transformed, 
changes his shape, acquires wings and wing- 
cases; nevertheless, like the female, he pos- 
sesses, from the time when he is hatched, the 
pale lamp of the end segment. This lumin- 
ous aspect of the stern is characteristic of 
the entire Glow-worm tribe, independently 
of sex and season. It appears upon the bud- 
ding grub and continues throughout life un- 
changed. And we must not forget to add 
that it is visible on the dorsal as well as on 
the ventral surface, whereas the two large 
belts peculiar to the female shine only under 
the abdomen. 

My hand is not so steady nor my sight so 
good as once they were, but, as far as they 
allow me, I consult anatomy for the structure 
of the luminous organs. I take a scrap of 
the epidermis and manage to separate pretty 
neatly half of one of the shining belts. I 
place my preparation under the microscope. 
On the skin, a sort of white-wash lies spread, 
formed of a very fine, granular substance. 
This is certainly the light-producing matter. 
To examine this white layer more closely is 
beyond the power of my weary eyes. Just 
iS 



The Glow- Worm 

beside it is a curious air-tube, whose short 
and remarkably wide stem branches suddenly 
into a sort of bushy tuft of very delicate rami- 
fications. These creep over the luminous 
sheet, or even dip into it. That is all. 

The luminescence, therefore, is controlled 
by the respiratory organs and the work pro- 
duced is an oxidization. The white sheet 
supplies the oxidizable matter and the thick 
air-tube spreading into a tufty bush dis- 
tributes the flow of air over it. There re- 
mains the question of the substance whereof 
this sheet is formed. The first suggestion 
was phosphorus, in the chemist's sense of the 
word. The Glow-worm has been calcined 
and treated with the violent reagents that 
bring the simple substances to light; but no 
one, so far as I know, has obtained a satis- 
facory answer along these lines. Phos- 
phorus seems to play no part here, in spite of 
the name of phosphorescence which is some- 
times bestowed upon the Glow-worm's gleam. 
The answer lies elsewhere, no one knows 
where. 

We are better informed as regards an- 
other question. Has the Glow-worm a free 
control of the light which he emits? Can 
he turn it on or down or put it out as he 
pleases? Has he an opaque screen which 
19 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

is drawn over the flame at will, or is that 
flame always left exposed? There is no 
need for any such mechanism: the insect has 
something better for its revolving light. 

The thick tube supplying the light-pro- 
ducing sheet increases the flow of air and 
the light is intensified; the same air-tube, 
swayed by the animal's will, slackens or even 
suspends the passage of air and the light 
grows fainter or even goes out. It is, in 
short, the mechanism of a lamp which is 
regulated by the access of air to the wick. 

Excitement can set the attendant air-duct 
in motion. We must here distinguish be- 
tween two cases: that of the gorgeous 
scarves, the exclusive ornament of the female 
ripe for matrimony, and that of the modest 
fairy-lamp on the last segment, which both 
sexes kindle at any age. In the second case, 
the extinction caused by a flurry is sudden 
and complete, or nearly so. In my noc- 
turnal hunts for young Glow-worms, measur- 
ing about 5 millimetres long, 1 I can plainly 
see the glimmer on the blades of grass ; but, 
should the least false step disturb a neigh- 
bouring twig, the light goes out at once and 
the coveted insect becomes invisible. Upon 
the full-grown females, lit up with their 

1 .195 inch. — Translator's Note. 
20 



The Glow-Worm 

nuptial scarves, even a violent start has but 
a slight effect and often none at all. 

I fire a gun beside a wire-gauze cage in 
which I am rearing my menagerie of females 
in the open air. The explosion produces 
no result. The illumination continues, as 
bright and placid as before. I take a spray 
and rain down a slight shower of cold water 
upon the flock. Not one of my animals puts 
out its light; at the very most, there is a 
brief pause in the radiance; and then only 
in some cases. I send a puff of smoke from 
my pipe into the cage. This time, the pause 
is more marked. There are even some ex- 
tinctions, but these do not last long. Calm 
soon returns and the light is renewed as 
brightly as ever. I take some of the captives 
in my fingers, turn and return them, tease 
them a little. The illumination continues 
and is not much diminished, if I do not press 
too hard with my thumb. At this period, 
with the pairing close at hand, the insect is 
in all the fervour of its passionate splendour; 
and nothing short of very serious reasons 
would make it put out its signals altogether. 

All things considered, there is not a doubt 
but that the Glow-worm himself manages his 
lighting-apparatus, extinguishing and re- 
kindling it at will; but there is one point at 

21 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

which the voluntary agency of the insect is 
without effect. I detach a strip of the 
epidermis showing one of the luminescent 
sheets and place it in a glass tube, which I 
close with a plug of damp wadding, to avoid 
too rapid an evaporation. Well, this scrap 
of carcass shines away merrily, although not 
quite as brilliantly as on the living body. 

Life's aid is now superfluous. The oxi- 
dizable substance, the luminescent sheet, is 
in direct communication with the surrounding 
atmosphere; the flow of oxygen through an 
air-tube is not necessary; and the luminous 
emission continues to take place, in the same 
way as when it is produced by the contact of 
the air with the real phosphorus of the chem- 
ists. Let us add that, in aerated water, the 
luminousness continues as brilliant as in the 
free air, but that it is extinguished in water 
deprived of its air by boiling. No better 
proof could be found of what I have already 
propounded, namely, that the Glow-worm's 
light is the effect of a slow oxidization. 

The light is white, calm and soft to the 
eyes and suggests a spark dropped by the full 
moon. Despite its splendour, it is a very 
feeble illuminant. If we move a Glow-worm 
along a line of print, in perfect darkness, we 
can easily make out the letters, one by one, 

22 



The Glow-Worm 

and even words, when these are not too long; 
but nothing more is visible beyond a narrow 
zone. A lantern of this kind soon tires the 
reader's patience. 

Suppose a group of Glow-worms placed 
almost touching one another. Each of them 
sheds its glimmer, which ought, one would 
think, to light up its neighbours by reflexion 
and give us a clear view of each individual 
specimen. But not at all : the luminous party 
is a chaos in which our eyes are unable to 
distinguish any definite form at a medium 
distance. The collective lights confuse the 
link-bearers into one vague whole. 

Photography gives us a striking proof of 
this. I have a score of females, all at the 
height of their splendour, in a wire-gauze 
cage in the open air. A tuft of thyme forms 
a grove in the centre of their establishment. 
When night comes, my captives clamber to 
this pinnacle and strive to show off their 
luminous charms to the best advantage at 
every point of the horizon, thus forming 
along the twigs marvellous clusters from 
which I expected magnificent effects on the 
photographer's plates and paper. My hopes 
are disappointed. All that I obtain is white, 
shapeless patches, denser here and less dense 
there according to the numbers forming the 
23 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

group. There is no picture of the Glow- 
worms themselves; not a trace either of the 
tuft of thyme. For want of satisfactory 
light, the glorious firework is represented by 
a blurred splash of white on a black ground. 

The beacons of the female Glow-worms 
are evidently nuptial signals, invitations to 
the pairing; but observe that they are lighted 
on the lower surface of the abdomen and face 
the ground, whereas the summoned males, 
whose flights are sudden and uncertain, travel 
overhead, in the air, sometimes a great way 
up. In its normal position, therefore, the 
glittering lure is concealed from the eyes 
of those concerned ; it is covered by the thick 
bulk of the bride. The lantern ought really 
to gleam on the back and not under the belly; 
otherwise the light is hidden under a bushel. 

The anomaly is corrected in a very in- 
genious fashion, for every female has her 
little wiles of coquetry. At nightfall, every 
evening, my caged captives make for the 
tuft of thyme with which I have thoughtfully 
furnished the prison and climb to the top of 
the upper branches, those most in sight. 
Here, instead of keeping quiet, as they did 
at the foot of the bush just now, they indulge 
in violent exercises, twist the tip of their very 
24 



The Glow-Worm 

flexible abdomen, turn it to one side, turn it 
to the other, jerk it in every direction. In 
this way, the search-light cannot fail to 
gleam, at one moment or another, before the 
eyes of every male who goes a-wooing in 
the neighbourhood, whether on the ground 
or in the air. 

It is very like the working of the revolving 
mirror used in catching Larks. If station- 
ary, the little contrivance would leave the 
bird indifferent; turning and breaking up its 
light in rapid flashes, it excites it. 

While the female Glow-worm has her 
tricks for summoning her swains, the male, 
on his side, is provided with an optical ap- 
paratus suited to catch from afar the least 
reflection of the calling-signal. His corse- 
let expands into a shield and overlaps his 
head considerably in the form of a peaked 
cap or eye-shade, the object of which appears 
to be to limit the field of vision and concen- 
trate the view upon the luminous speck to be 
discerned. Under this arch are the two 
eyes, which are relatively enormous, exceed- 
ingly convex, shaped like a skull-cap and con- 
tiguous to the extent of leaving only a narrow 
groove for the insertion of the antennae. 
This double eye, occupying almost the whole 

25 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

face of the insect and contained in the ca- 
vern formed by the spreading peak of the 
corselet, is a regular Cyclop's eye. 

At the moment of the pairing, the illumina- 
tion becomes much fainter, is almost extin- 
guished; all that remains alight is the humble 
fairy-lamp of the last segment. This dis- 
creet night-light is enough for the wedding, 
while, all around, the host of nocturnal in- 
sects, lingering over their respective affairs, 
murmur the universal marriage-hymn. The 
laying follows very soon. The round, white 
eggs are laid, or rather strewn at random, 
without the least care on the mother's part, 
either on the more or less cool earth or on a 
blade of grass. These brilliant ones know 
nothing at all of family-affection. 

Here is a very singular thing: the Glow- 
worm's eggs are luminous even when still 
contained in the mother's womb. If I hap- 
pen by accident to crush a female big with 
germs that have reached maturity, a shiny 
streak runs along my fingers, as though I 
had broken some vessel filled with a phos- 
phorescent fluid. The lens shows me that I 
am wrong. The luminosity comes from the 
cluster of eggs forced out of the ovary. Be- 
sides, as laying-time approaches, the phos- 
phorescence of the eggs is already made mani- 
26 



The Glow-Worm 

fest without this clumsy midwifery. A soft 
opalescent light shines through the skin of 
the belly. 

The hatching follows soon after the lay- 
ing. The young of either sex have two lit- 
tle rush-lights on the last segment. At the 
approach of the severe weather, they go 
down into the ground, but not very far. In 
my rearing-jars, which are supplied with fine 
and very loose earth, they descend to a depth 
of three or four inches at most. I dig up a 
few in mid-winter. I always find them car- 
rying their faint stern-light. About the 
month of April, they come up again to the 
surface, there to continue and complete their 
evolution. 

From start to finish, the Glow-worm's life 
is one great orgy of light. The eggs are 
luminous; the grubs likewise. The full- 
grown females are magnificent light-houses, 
the adult males retain the glimmer which the 
grubs already possessed. We can under- 
stand the object of the feminine beacon; but 
of what use is all the rest of the pyrotechnic 
display? To my great regret, I cannot tell. 
It is and will be, for many a day to come, per- 
haps for all time, the secret of animal physics, 
which is deeper than the physics of the books. 



27 



CHAPTER II 

THE SITARES 

THE high banks of sandy clay in the 
country round about Carpentras are 
the favourite haunts of a host of Bees and 
Wasps, those lovers of a thoroughly sunny 
aspect and of soils that are easy to excavate. 
Here, in the month of May, two Antho- 
phorae * are especially abundant, gatherers 
of honey and, both of them, makers of sub- 
terranean cells. One, A. parietina, builds at 
the entrance of her dwelling an advanced 
fortification, an earthy cylinder, wrought in 
open work, like that of the Odynerus, 2 and 
curved like it, but of the width and length of 
a man's finger. When the community is a 
populous one, we stand amazed at the rustic 
ornamentation formed by all these stalactites 
of clay hanging from the facade. The other, 

1 Cf. The Mason-bees, by J. Henri Fabre, translated 
by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos: chap. viii. ; and Bram- 
ble-bees and Others, by J. Henri Fabre, translated by Alex- 
ander Teixeira de Mattos: passim. — Translator's Note. 

2 Cf. The Mason-iuasps, by J. Henri Fabre, translated 
by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos: chaps, vi. and x. — 
Translator's Note. 

28 



The Sitares 

A. pilipes, who is very much more frequent, 
leaves the opening of her corridor bare-. 
The chinks between the stones in old walls 
and abandoned hovels, the surfaces of ex- 
cavations in soft sandstone or marl, are 
found suitable for her labours; but the fa- 
vourite spots, those to which the greatest num- 
ber of swarms resort, are vertical stretches, 
exposed to the south, such as are afforded by 
the cuttings of deeply sunken roads. Here, 
over areas many yards in width, the wall is 
drilled with a multitude of holes, which im- 
part to the earthy mass the look of some 
enormous sponge. These round holes might 
be fashioned with an auger, so regular are 
they. Each is the entrance to a winding cor- 
ridor, which runs to a depth of four to six 
inches. The cells are distributed at the far 
end. If we would witness the labours of the 
industrious Bee, we must repair to her work- 
shop during the latter half of May. Then, 
but at a respectful distance, if, as novices, we 
are afraid of being stung, we may contem- 
plate, in all its bewildering activity, the 
tumultuous, buzzing swarm, busied with the 
building and the provisioning of the cells. 

It is most often during the months of 
August and September, those happy months 
of the summer holidays, that I have visited 
29 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

the banks inhabited by the Anthophora. At 
this period all is silent near the nests; the 
work has long been completed; and numbers 
of Spiders' webs line the crevices or plunge 
their silken tubes into the Bee's corridors. 
Let us not, however, hastily abandon the city 
once so populous, so full of life and bustle 
and no\7 deserted. A few inches below the 
surface, thousands of larvae and nymphs, im- 
prisoned in their cells of clay, are resting 
until the coming spring. Might not such a 
succulent prey as these larvae, paralysed and 
incapable of defence, tempt certain parasites 
who are industrious enough to attain them? 
Here indeed are some Flies clad in a dis- 
mal livery, half-black, half-white, a species 
of Anthrax {A. sinuata) / flying indolently 
from gallery to gallery, doubtless with the 
object of laying their eggs there; and here 
are others, more numerous, whose mission is 
fulfilled and who, having died in harness, are 
hanging dry and shrivelled in the Spiders' 
webs. Elsewhere the entire surface of a per- 
pendicular bank is hung with the dried 
corpses of a Beetle (Sitaris humeralis), 
slung, like the Flies, in the silken meshes of 

1 Cf. The Life of the Fly, by J. Henri Fabre, translated 
by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos: chaps, ii. and iv. — 
Translator's Note. 

30 



The Shares 

the Spiders. Among these corpses some 
male Sitares circle, busy, amorous, heedless 
of death, mating with the first female that 
passes within reach, while the fertilized 
females thrust their bulky abdomens into the 
opening of a gallery and disappear into it 
backwards. It is impossible to mistake the 
situation: some grave interest attracts to this 
spot these two insects, which, within a few 
days, make their appearance, mate, lay their 
eggs and die at the very doors of the 
Anthophora's dwellings. 

Let us now give a few blows of the pick 
to the surface beneath which the singular in- 
cidents already in our mind must be oc- 
curring, beneath which similar things oc- 
curred last year; perhaps we shall find some 
evidence of the parasitism which we sus- 
pected. If we search the dwellings of the 
Anthophorae during the early days of August, 
this is what we see : the cells forming the sup- 
erficial layer are not like those situated at a 
greater depth. This difference arises from 
the fact that the same establishment is ex- 
ploited simultaneously by the Anthophora 
and by an Osmia (O. tricornis) 1 as is proved 
by an observation made at the working- 

1 Cf. Bramble-bees and Others: passim. — Translator's 
Note. 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

period, in May. The Anthophorae are the 
actual pioneers, the work of boring the gal- 
leries is wholly theirs; and their cells are 
situated right at the end. The Osmia profits 
by the galleries which have been abandoned 
either because of their age, or because of the 
completion of the cells occupying the most 
distant part; she builds her cells by dividing 
these corridors into unequal and inartistic 
chambers by means of rude earthen parti- 
tions. The Osmia's sole achievement in the 
way of masonry is confined to these parti- 
tions. This, by the way, is the ordinary 
building-method adopted by the various Os- 
miae, who content themselves with a chink 
between two stones, an empty Snail-shell, or 
the dry and hollow stem of some plant, 
wherein to build their stacks of cells, at small 
expense, by means of light partitions of mor- 
tar. 

The cells of the Anthophora, with their 
faultless geometrical regularity and their per- 
fect finish, are works of art, excavated, at a 
suitable depth, in the very substance of the 
loamy bank, without any manufactured part 
save the thick lid that closes the orifice. 
Thus protected by the prudent industry of 
their mother, well out of reach in their dis- 
tant, solid retreats, the Anthophora's larvae 
32 



The Shares 

are devoid of the glandular apparatus de- 
signed for secreting silk. They therefore 
never spin a cocoon, but lie naked in their 
cells, whose inner surface has the polish of 
stucco. 

In the Osmia's cells, on the other hand, 
means of defence are required, for these are 
situated in the surface layer of the bank; 
they are irregular in form, rough inside and 
barely protected, by their thin earthen par- 
titions, against external enemies. The Os- 
mia's larvae, in fact, contrive to enclose them- 
selves in an egg-shaped cocoon, dark brown 
in colour and very strong, which preserves 
them both from the rough contact of their 
shapeless cells and from the mandibles of 
voracious parasites, Acari, 1 Cleri 2 and An- 
threni, 3 those manifold enemies whom we 
find prowling in the galleries, seeking whom 
they may devour. It is by means of this 
equipoise between the mother's talents and 
the larva's that the Osmia and the Antho- 
phora, in their early youth, escape some part 

1 Mites and Ticks. — Translator's Note. 

2 A genus of Beetles of which certain species (Clerus 
aplarius and C. alvearius) pass their preparatory state in 
the nests of Bees, where they feed on the grubs. — Trans- 
lator's Note. 

3 Another genus of Beetles. The grub of A. musa- 
orum, the Museum Beetle, is very destructive to insect- 
collections. — Translator's Note. 

33 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

of the dangers which threaten them. It is 
easy therefore, in the bank excavated by these 
two Bees, to recognize the property of either 
species by the situation and form of the cells 
and also by their contents, which consist, 
with the Anthophora, of a naked larva and, 
with the Osmia, of a larva enclosed in a 
cocoon. 

On opening a certain number of these co- 
coons, we end by discovering some which, 
in place of the Osmia's larva, contain each a 
curiously shaped nymph. These nymphs, at 
the least shock received by their dwelling, in- 
dulge in extravagant movements, lashing the 
walls with their abdomen till the whole house 
shakes and dances. And, even if we leave 
the cocoon intact, we are informed of their 
presence by a dull rustle heard inside the 
silken dwelling the moment after we move it. 

The fore-part of this nymph is fashioned 
like a sort of boar's-snout armed with six 
strong spikes, a multiple ploughshare, emi- 
nently adapted for burrowing in the soil. A 
double row of hooks surmounts the dorsal 
ring of the four front segments of the ab- 
domen. These are so many grappling-irons, 
with whose assistance the creature is en- 
abled to progress in the narrow gallery dug 
by the snout. Lastly, a sheaf of sharp points, 
34 



The Sitares 

forms the armour of the hinder-part. If we 
examine attentively the surface of the ver- 
tical wall which contains the various nests, it 
will not be long before we discover nymphs 
like those which we have been describing, 
with one extremity held in a gallery of their 
own diameter, while the fore-part projects 
freely into the air. But these nymphs are 
reduced to their cast skins, along the back 
and head of which runs a long slit through 
which the perfect insect has escaped. The 
purpose of the nymph's powerful weapons is 
thus made manifest: it is the nymph that has 
to rend the tough cocoon which imprisons it, 
to excavate the tightly-packed soil in which 
it is buried, to dig a gallery with its six- 
pointed snout and thus to bring to the light 
the perfect insect, which apparently is in- 
capable of performing these strenuous tasks 
for itself. 

And in fact these nymphs, taken in their 
cocoons, have in a few days' time given me a 
feeble Fly (Anthrax sinuata) who is quite in- 
capable of piercing the cocoon and still more 
of making her exit through a soil which I 
cannot easily break up with my pick. Al- 
though similar facts abound in insect history, 
we always notice them with a lively interest. 
They tell us of an incomprehensible power 

35 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

which suddenly, at a given moment, irre- 
sistibly commands an obscure grub to aban- 
don the retreat in which it enjoys security, in 
order to make its way through a thousand 
difficulties and to reach the light, which would 
be fatal to it on any other occasion, but which 
is necessary to the perfect insect, which could 
not reach it by its own efforts. 

But the layer of Osmia-cells has been re- 
moved; and the pick now reaches the Antho- 
phora's cells. Among these cells are some 
which contain larvae and which result from 
the labours of last May; others, though of 
the same date, are already occupied by the 
perfect insect. The precocity of metamor- 
phosis varies from one larva to another; 
however, a few days' difference of age is 
enough to explain these inequalities of de- 
velopment. Other cells, as numerous as the 
first, contain a parasitical Hymenopteron, a 
Melecta (M. armata), likewise in the per- 
fect state. Lastly, there are some, indeed 
many, which contain a singular egg-shaped 
shell, divided into segments with projecting 
breathing-pores. This shell is extremely thin 
and fragile; it is amber-coloured and so 
transparent that one can distinguish quite 
plainly, through its sides, an adult Sitaris 
(S. humeralis) , who occupies the interior and 
36 



The Shares 

is struggling as though to set herself at 
liberty. This explains the presence here, the 
pairing and the egg-laying of the Sitares 
whom we but now saw roaming, in the com- 
pany of the Anthrax-flies, at the entrance to 
the galleries of the Anthophoras. The Os- 
mia and the Anthophora, the joint owners of 
the premises, have each their parasite: the 
Anthrax attacks the Osmia and the Sitaris 
the Anthophora. 

But what is this curious shell in which the 
Sitaris is invariably enclosed, a shell unex- 
ampled in the Beetle order? Can this be a 
case of parasitism in the second degree, that 
is, can the Sitaris be living inside the chrysalis 
of a first parasite, which itself exists at the 
cost of the Anthophora's larva or of its pro- 
visions? And, even so, how can this para- 
site, or these parasites, obtain access to a cell 
which seems to be inviolable, because of the 
depth at which it lies, and which, moreover, 
does not reveal, to the most careful examina- 
tion under the magnifying-glass, any violent 
inroad on the enemy's part? These are the 
questions that presented themselves to my 
mind when for the first time, in 1855, I ob- 
served the facts which I have just related. 
Three years of assiduous observation enabled 
me to add one of its most astonishing chap- 
37 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

ters to the story of the formation of insects. 

After collecting a fairly large number of 
these enigmatical shells containing adult 
Sitares, I had the satisfaction of observing, 
at leisure, the emergence of the perfect insect 
from the shell, the act of pairing and the 
laying of the eggs. The shell is easily 
broken; a few strokes of the mandibles, dis- 
tributed at random, a few kicks are enough 
to deliver the perfect insect from its fragile 
prison. 

In the glass jars in which I kept my Sitares 
I saw the pairing follow very closely upon 
the first moments of freedom. I even wit- 
nessed a fact which shows emphatically how 
imperious, in the perfect insect, is the need 
to perform, without delay, the act intended 
to ensure the preservation of its race. A 
female, with her head already cut out of the 
shell, is anxiously struggling to release her- 
self entirely; a male, who has been free for 
a couple of hours, climbs on the shell and, 
tugging here and there, with his mandibles, 
at the fragile envelope, strives to deliver the 
female from her shackles. His efforts are 
soon crowned with success; and, though the 
female is still three parts swathed in her 
swaddling-bands, the coupling takes place 
immediately, lasting about a minute. During 
38 



The Shares 

the act, the male remains motionless on the 
top of the shell, or on the top of the female 
when the latter is entirely free. I do not 
know whether, in ordinary circumstances, the 
male occasionally thus helps the female to 
gain her liberty; to do so he would have to 
penetrate into a cell containing a female, 
which, after all, is not beyond his powers, 
seeing that he has been able to escape from 
his own. Still, on the actual site of the cells, 
the coupling is generally performed at the 
entrance to the galleries of the Anthophorae ; 
and then neither of the sexes drags about 
with it the least shred of the shell from which 
it has emerged. 

After mating, the two Sitares proceed to 
clean their legs and antennae by drawing 
them between their mandibles ; then each goes 
his own way. The male cowers in a crevice 
of the earthen bank, lingers for two or three 
days and perishes. The female also, after 
getting rid of her eggs, which she does with- 
out delay, dies at the entrance to the corridor 
in which the eggs are laid. This is the ori- 
gin of all those corpses swinging in the 
Spiders' web with which the neighbourhood 
of the Anthophora's dwellings is upholstered. 

Thus the Sitares in the perfect state live 
long enough only to mate and to lay their 

39 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

eggs. I have never seen one save upon 
the scene of their loves, which is also that 
of their death; I have never surprised 
one browsing on the plants near at hand, so 
that, though they are provided with a 
normal digestive apparatus, I have grave 
reasons to doubt whether they actually take 
any nourishment whatever. What a life is 
theirs! A fortnight's feasting in a store- 
house of honey; a year of slumber under- 
ground; a minute of love rn the sunlight; 
then death ! 

Once fertilized, restlessly the female at 
once proceeds to seek a favourable spot 
wherein to lay her eggs. It was important 
to note where this exact spot is. Does the 
female go from cell to cell, confiding an egg 
to the succulent flanks of each larva, whether 
this larva belong to the Anthophora or to a 
parasite of hers, as the mysterious shell 
whence the Sitaris emerges would incline one 
to believe ? This method of laying the eggs, 
one at a time in each cell, would appear to be 
essential, if we are to explain the facts al- 
ready ascertained. But then why do the cells 
usurped by the Sitares retain not the slightest 
trace of the forcible entry which is indis- 
pensable? And how is it that, in spite of 
lengthy investigations during which my per- 
40 



The Sitares 

severance has been kept up by the keenest de- 
sire to cast some light upon all these mys- 
teries, how is it, I say, that I have never come 
across a single specimen of the supposed 
parasites to which the shell might be at- 
tributed, since this shell appears not to be a 
Beetle's? The reader would hardly suspect 
how my slight acquaintance with entomology 
was unsettled by this inextricable maze of 
contradictory facts. But patience 1 We may 
yet obtain some light. 

Let us begin by observing precisely at 
what spot the eggs are laid. A female has 
just been fertilized before my eyes; she is 
forthwith placed in a large glass jar, into 
which I put, at the same time, some clods of 
earth containing Anthophora-cells. These 
cells are occupied partly by larvae and partly 
by nymphs that are still quite white; some 
are slightly open and afford a glimpse of 
their contents. Lastly, in the inner surface 
of the cork which closes the jar I sink a cylin- 
drical well, a blind alley, of the same diameter 
as the corridors of the Anthophora. In or- 
der that the insect, if it so desire, may enter 
this artificial corridor, I lay the bottle hori- 
zontally. 

The female, painfully dragging her big 
abdomen, perambulates all the nooks and 
41 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

corners of her makeshift dwelling, exploring 
them with her palpi, which she passes every- 
where. After half an hour of groping and 
careful investigation, she ends by selecting 
the horizontal gallery dug in the cork. She 
thrusts her abdomen into this cavity and, 
with her head hanging outside, begins her 
laying. Not until thirty-six hours later was 
the operation completed; and during this in- 
credible lapse of time the patient creature re- 
mained absolutely motionless. 

The eggs are white, oval and very small. 
They measure barely two-thirds of a milli- 
metre x in length. They stick together 
slightly and are piled in a shapeless heap 
which might be likened to a good-sized pinch 
of the unripe seeds of some orchid. As for 
their number, I will admit that it tried my 
patience to no purpose. I do not, however, 
believe that I am exaggerating when I esti- 
mate it as at least two thousand. Here are 
the data on which I base this figure : the lay- 
ing, as I have said, lasts thirty-six hours; and 
my frequent visits to the female working in 
the cavity in the cork convinced me that there 
was no perceptible interruption in the suc- 
cessive emission of the eggs. Now less than 
a minute elapses between the arrival of one 

1 .026 inch. — Translator's Note. 
42 



The Sitares 

egg and that of the next; and the number of 
these eggs cannot therefore be lower than 
the number of minutes contained in thirty- 
six hours, or 2160. But the exact number 
is of no importance : we need only note that 
it is very large, which implies, for the young 
larvae issuing from the eggs, very numerous 
chances of destruction, since so lavish a sup- 
ply of germs is necessary to maintain the 
species in the requisite proportions. 

Enlightened by these observations and in- 
formed of the shape, the number and the 
arrangement of the eggs, I searched the gal- 
leries of the Anthophorae for those which 
the Sitares had laid there and invariably 
found them gathered in a heap inside the 
galleries, at a distance of an inch or two from 
the orifice, which is always open to the outer 
world. Thus, contrary to what one was to 
some extent entitled to suppose, the eggs are 
not laid in the cells of the pioneer Bee ; they 
are simply dumped in a heap inside the en- 
trance to her dwelling. Nay more, the 
mother does not make any protective struc- 
ture for them; she takes no pains to shield 
them from the rigours of winter; she does not 
even attempt, by stopping for a short dis- 
tance, as best she can, the entrance-lobby in 
which she has laid them, to protect them 
43 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

from the thousand enemies that threaten 
them ; for, as long as the frosts of winter have 
not arrived, these open galleries are trodden 
by Spiders, by Acari, by Anthrenus-grubs and 
other plunderers, to whom these eggs, or the 
young larva? about to emerge from them, 
must be a dainty feast. In consequence of 
the mother's heedlessness, the number of 
those who escape all these voracious hunters 
and the inclemencies of the weather must be 
curiously small. This perhaps explains why 
she is compelled to make up by her fecundity 
for her deficient industry. 

The hatching occurs a month later, about 
the end of September or the beginning of 
October. The season being still propitious, 
I was led to suppose that the young larvae 
must at once make a start and disperse, in 
order that each might seek to gain access, 
through some imperceptible fissure, to an 
Anthophora-cell. This presumption turned 
out to be entirely at fault. In the boxes in 
which I had placed the eggs laid by my cap- 
tives, the young larvae, little black creatures 
at most a twenty-fifth of an inch long, did 
not move away, provided though they were 
with vigorous legs; they remained higgledy* 
piggledy with the white skins of the eggs 
whence they had emerged. 
44 



The Shares 

In vain I placed within their reach lumps 
of earth containing nests of the Anthophora, 
open cells, larvae and nymphs of the Bee : 
nothing was able to tempt them; they per- 
sisted in forming, with the egg-skins, a 
powdery heap of speckled black and white. 
It was only by drawing the point of a needle 
through this pinch of living dust that I was 
able to provoke an active wriggling. Apart 
from this, all was still. If I forcibly re- 
moved a few larvae from the common heap, 
they at once hurried back to it, in order to 
hide themselves among the rest. Perhaps 
they had less reason to fear the cold when 
thus collected and sheltered beneath the egg- 
skins. Whatever may be the motive that 
impels them to remain thus gathered in a 
heap, I recognized that none of the means 
suggested by my imagination succeeded in 
forcing them to abandon the little spongy 
mass formed by the skins of the eggs, which 
were slightly glued together. Lastly, to as- 
sure myself that the larvae, in the free state, 
do not disperse after they are hatched, I 
went during the winter to Carpentras and in- 
spected the banks inhabited by the Antho- 
phorae. There, as in my boxes, I found the 
larvae piled into heaps, all mixed up with 
the skins of the eggs. 
45 



CHAPTER III 

THE PRIMARY LARVA OF THE SITARES 

NOTHING new happens before the end 
of the following April. I shall profit 
by this long period of repose to tell you more 
about the young larva, of which I will begin 
by giving a description. Its length is a 
twenty-fifth of an inch, or a little less. It is 
hard as leather, a glossy greenish black, con- 
vex above and flat below, long and slender, 
with a diameter increasing gradually from 
the head to the hinder extremity of the meta- 
thorax, after which it rapidly diminishes. Its 
head is a trifle longer than it is wide and is 
slightly dilated at the base; it is pale-red 
near the mouth and darker about the ocelli. 
The labrum forms a segment of a circle ; 
it is reddish, edged with a small number of 
very short, stiff hairs. The mandibles are 
powerful, red-brown, curved and sharp; 
when at rest they meet without crossing. 
The maxillary palpi are rather long, consist- 
ing of two cylindrical sections of equal length, 
the outer ending in a very short bristle. The 
jaws and the lower lip are not sufficiently 
46 



The Primary Larva of the Sitares 

visible to lend themselves to accurate de- 
scription. 

The antennae consist of two cylindrical 
segments, equal in length, not very definitely 
divided; these segments are nearly as long as 
those of the palpi; the outer is surmounted 
by a cirrus whose length is as much as thrice 
that of the head and tapers off until it be- 
comes invisible under a powerful pocket-lens. 
Behind the base of either antennae are two 
ocelli, unequal in size and almost touching. 

The thoracic segments are of equal length 
and increase gradually in width from front 
to back. The prothorax is wider than the 
head, but is narrower in front than at the 
base and is slightly rounded at the sides. 
The legs are of medium length and fairly 
robust, ending in a long, powerful, sharp and 
very mobile claw. On the haunch and thigh 
of each leg is a long cirrus, like that of the 
antennae, almost as long as the whole limb 
and standing at right angles to the plane of 
locomotion when the creature moves. There 
are a few stiff bristles on the legs. 

The abdomen has nine segments, of prac- 
tically equal length, but shorter than those of 
the thorax and diminishing very rapidly in 
width toward the last. Fixed below the 
eighth segment, or rather below the strip of 
47 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

membrane separating this segment and the 
last, we see two spikes, slightly curved, short, 
but with strong, sharp, hard points, and 
placed one to the right and the other to the 
left of the median line. These two ap- 
pendages are able, by means of a mechanism 
recalling, on a smaller scale, that of the 
Snail's horns, to withdraw into themselves, 
as a result of the membranous character of 
their base. They can also retreat under the 
eighth segment, borne, as they are, by the 
anal segment, when this last, as it contracts, 
withdraws into the eighth. Lastly, the ninth 
or anal segment bears on its hinder edge two 
long cirri, like those of the legs and the an- 
tennae, curving backwards from tip to base. 
At the rear of this segment a fleshy nipple 
appears, more or less prominent; this is the 
anus. I do not know where the stigmata are 
placed; they have evaded my investigations, 
though these were undertaken with the aid 
of the microscope. 

When the larva is at rest, the various seg- 
ments overlap evenly; and the membranous 
intervals, corresponding with the articula- 
tions, do not show. But, when the larva 
walks, all the articulations, especially those 
of the abdominal segments, are distended 
and end by occupying almost as much 
48 



The Primary Larva of the Sitares 

space as the horny arches. At the same 
time the anal segment emerges from the 
sheath formed by the eighth; the anus, 
in turn, is stretched into a nipple; and 
the two points of the penultimate ring rise, 
at first slowly, and then suddenly stand up 
with an abrupt motion similar to that of a 
spring when released. In the end, these two 
points diverge like the horns of a crescent. 
Once this complex apparatus is unfolded, the 
tiny creature is ready to crawl upon the most 
slippery surface. 

The last segment and its anal button are 
curved at right angles to the axis of the 
body; and the anus comes and presses upon 
the surface of locomotion, where it ejects a 
tiny drop of transparent, treacly fluid, which 
glues and holds the little creature firmly in 
position, supported on a sort of tripod 
formed by the anal button and the two cirri 
of the last segment. If we are observing the 
animal's manner of locomotion on a strip of 
glass, we can hold the strip in a vertical 
position, or even turn it upside down, or 
shake it lightly, without causing the larva to 
become detached and fall, held fast as it is 
by the glutinous secretion of the anal button. 

If it has to proceed along a surface where 
there is no danger of a fall, the microscopic 
49 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

creature employs another method. It crooks 
its belly and, when the two spikes of the 
eighth segment, now fully outspread, have 
found a firm support by ploughing, so to 
speak, the surface of locomotion, it bears 
upon that base and pushes forward by ex- 
panding the various abdominal articulations. 
This forward movement is also assisted by 
the action of the legs, which are far from 
remaining inactive. This done, it casts an- 
chor with the powerful claws of its feet; the 
abdomen contracts; the various segments 
draw together; and the anus, pulled forward, 
obtains a fresh purchase, with the aid of the 
two spikes, before beginning the second of 
these curious strides. 

During these manoeuvres, the cirri of the 
flanks and thighs drag along the supporting 
surface and by their length and elasticity ap- 
pear fitted only to impede progress. But let 
us not be in a hurry to conclude that we have 
discovered an inconsistency: the least of 
creatures is adapted to the conditions amid 
which it has to live; there is reason to be- 
lieve that these filaments, far from hamper- 
ing the pigmy's progress, must, in normal 
circumstances, be of some assistance to it. 

Even the little that we have just learnt 
shows us that the young Sitaris-larva is not 
So 



The Primary Larva of the Shares 

called upon to move on an ordinary surface. 
The spot, whatever it may be like, where this 
larva is to live later exposes it to the risk of 
many dangerous falls, since, in order to pre- 
vent them, it is not only equipped with strong 
and extremely mobile talons and a steel-shod 
crescent, a sort of ploughshare capable of 
biting into the most highly polished substance, 
but is further provided with a viscous liquid, 
sufficiently tenacious and adhesive to hold it 
in position without the help of other appli- 
ances. In vain I racked my brains to guess 
what the substance might be, so shifting, so 
uncertain and so perilous, which the young 
Sitares are destined to inhabit; and I disco- 
vered nothing to explain the necessity for the 
structure which I have described. Convinced 
beforehand, by an attentive examination of 
this structure, that I should witness some 
peculiar habits, I waited with eager impa- 
tience for the return of the warm weather, 
never doubting that by dint of persevering 
observation the mystery would be disclosed 
to me next spring. At last this spring, so 
fervently desired, arrived ; I brought to bear 
all the patience, all the imagination, all the 
insight and discernment that I may possess; 
but, to my utter shame and still greater re- 
gret, the secret escaped me. Oh, how pain- 
5i 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

ful are those tortures of indecision, when one 
has to postpone till the following year an 
investigation which has led to no result! 

My observations made during the spring 
of 1856, although purely negative, neverthe- 
less have an interest of their own, because 
they prove the inaccuracy of certain supposi- 
tions to which the undeniable parasitism of 
the Sitares naturally inclines us. I will there- 
fore relate them in a few words. At the end 
of April, the young larvae, hitherto motion- 
less and concealed in the spongy heap of the 
egg-skins, emerge from their immobility, 
scatter and run about in all directions through 
the boxes and jars in which they have passed 
the winter. By their hurried gait and their 
indefatigable evolutions we readily guess that 
they are seeking something which they lack. 
What can this something be, unless it be 
food? For remember that these larvae were 
hatched at the end of September and that 
since then, that is to say, for seven long 
months, they have taken no nourishment, 
though they have spent this period in the full 
enjoyment of their vitality, as I was able to 
assure myself all through the winter by irri- 
tating them, and not in a state of torpor 
similar to that of the hibernating animals. 
52 



The Primary Larva of the Sitares 

From the moment of their hatching they are 
doomed, although full of life, to an absolute 
abstinence of seven months' duration; and it 
is natural to suppose, when we see their pre- 
sent excitement, that an imperious hunger sets 
them bustling in this fashion. 

The desired nourishment could only be the 
contents of the cells of the Anthophora, since 
we afterwards find the Sitares in these cells. 
Now these contents are limited to honey or 
larvae. It just happens that I have kept 
some Anthophora-cells occupied by larvae or 
nymphs. I place a few of these, some open, 
some closed, within reach of the young 
Sitares, as I had already done directly after 
the hatching. I even slip the Sitares into the 
cells : I place them on the sides of the larva, 
a succulent morsel to all appearances; I do 
all sorts of things to tempt their appetite; 
and, after exhausting my ingenuity, which 
continues fruitless, I remain convinced that 
my famished grubs are seeking neither the 
larvae nor nymphs of the Anthophora. 

Let us now try honey. We must obviously 
employ honey prepared by the same species 
of Anthophora as that at whose cost the 
Sitares live. But this Bee is not very com- 
mon in the neighbourhood of Avignon; and 
53 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

my engagements at the college * do not allow 
me to absent myself for the purpose of 
repairing to Carpentras, where she is so 
abundant. In hunting for cells provisioned 
with honey I thus lose a good part of the 
month of May; however, I end by finding 
some which are newly sealed and which be- 
long to the right Anthophora. I open these 
cells with the feverish impatience of a sorely- 
tried longing. All goes well: they are half- 
full of fluid, dark, nauseating honey, with 
the Bee's lately-hatched larva floating on the 
surface. This larva is removed ; and taking 
a thousand precautions, I lay one or more 
Sitares on the surface of the honey. In other 
cells I leave the Bee's larva and insert Sitares, 
placing them sometimes on the honey and 
sometimes on the inner wall of the cell or 
simply at the entrance. Lastly, all the cells 
thus prepared are put in glass tubes, which 
enable me to observe them readily, without 
fear of disturbing my famished guests at their 
meal. 

But what am I saying? Their meal? 
There is no meal! The Sitares, placed at 
the entrance to a cell, far from seeking to 

1 Fabre, as a young man, was a master at Avignon 
College. Cf. The Life of the Fly: chaps, xii., xiii., xix. 
and xx. — Translator's Note. 

54 



The Primary Larva of the Sitares 

make their way in, leave it and go roaming 
about the glass tube ; those which have been 
placed on the inner surface of the cells, near 
the honey, emerge precipitately, half-caught 
in the glue and tripping at every step ; lastly, 
those which I thought I had favoured the 
most, by placing them on the honey itself, 
struggle, become entangled in the sticky mass 
and perish in it, suffocated. Never did ex- 
periment break down so completely! Lar- 
vae, nymphs, cells, honey: I have offered you 
them all! Then what do you want, you 
fiendish little creatures? 

Tired of all these fruitless attempts, I 
ended where I ought to have begun: I went 
to Carpentras. But it was too late : the 
Anthophora had finished her work; and I 
did not succeed in seeing anything new. 
During the course of the year I learnt from 
Leon Dufour, 1 to whom I had spoken of the 
Sitares, that the tiny creature which he had 
found on the Andrenae 2 and described under 

ijean Marie Leon Dufour (1780-1865), an army surg- 
eon who served with distinction in several campaigns, 
and subsequently practised as a doctor in the Landes, 
where he attained great eminence as a naturalist. 
Fabre often refers to him as the Wizard of the Landes. 
Cf. The Life of the Spider, by J. Henri Fabre, translated 
by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos: chap. i. ; and The Life 
of the Fly: chap. i. — Translator's Note. 
- 2 A genus of Burrowing Bee, the most numerous in 
species among the British Bees. — Translator's Note. 
55. 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

the generic name of Triungulinus, was 
recognized later by Newport 1 as the larva 
of a Meloe, or Oil-beetle. Now it so hap- 
pened that I had found a few Oil-beetles in 
the cells of the same Anthophora that nour- 
ishes the Sitares. Could there be a similar- 
ity of habits between the two kinds of in- 
sects? This idea threw a sudden light for 
me upon the subject; but I had plenty of 
time in which to mature my plans: I had 
another year to wait. 

When April came, my Sitaris-larvae began, 
as usual, to bestir themselves. The first Bee 
to appear, an Osmia, is dropped alive into a 
glass jar containing a few of these larvae; 
and after a lapse of some fifteen minutes I 
inspect them through the pocket-lens. Five 
Sitares are embedded in the fleece of the 
thorax. It is done, the problem's solved! 
The larvae of the Sitares, like those of the 
Oil-beetles, cling like grim death to the fleece 
of their generous host and make him carry 
them into the cell. Ten times over I repeat 
the experiment with the various Bees that 
come to plunder the lilac flowering outside 
my window and in particular with male An- 

1 George Newport (i 803-1 854), an English surgeon and 
naturalist, president of the Entomological Society from 
1844 to 1845 a °d an expert in insect anatomy. — Trans- 
tutor's Note. 

56 



The Primary Larva of the Sitares 

thophoras; the result is still the same: the 
larvae embed themselves in the hair of the 
Bees' thorax. But after so many disappoint- 
ments one becomes distrustful and it is better 
to go and observe the facts upon the spot; 
besides, the Easter holidays fall very con- 
veniently and afford me the leisure for my 
observations. 

I will admit that my heart was beating a 
little faster than usual when I found myself 
once again standing in front of the perpend- 
icular bank in which the Anthophora 
nests. What will be the result of the experi- 
ment ? Will it once more cover me with con- 
fusion? The weather is cold and rainy; not 
a Bee shows herself on the few spring flowers 
that have come out. Numbers of Anthopho- 
rae cower, numbed and motionless, at the en- 
trance to the galleries. With the tweezers, 
I extract them one by one from their lurking- 
places, to examine them under the lens. The 
first has Sitaris-larvae on her thorax; so has 
the second; the third and fourth likewise; 
and so on, as far as I care to pursue the 
examination. I change galleries ten times, 
twenty times; the result is invariable. Then, 
for me, occurred one of the moments which 
come to those who, after considering and re- 
considering an idea for years and years from 
57 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

every point of view, are at last able to cry: 
" Eureka ! " 

On the days that followed, a serene and 
balmy sky enabled the Anthophorae to leave 
their retreats and scatter over the country- 
side and despoil the flowers. I renewed my 
examination on those Anthophorae flying 
incessantly from one flower to another, 
whether in the neighbourhood of the places 
where they were born or at great distances 
from these places. Some were without 
Sitaris-larvae; others, more numerous, had 
two, three, four, five or more among the 
hairs of their thorax. At Avignon, where 
I have not yet seen Sitaris humeralis, the same 
species of Anthophora, observed at almost 
the same season, while pillaging the lilac- 
blossom, was always free of young Sitaris- 
grubs; at Carpentras, on the contrary, where 
there is not a single Anthophora-colony with- 
out Sitares, nearly three-quarters of the 
specimens which I examined carried a few 
of these larvae in their fleece. 

But, on the other hand, if we look for 
these larvae in the entrance-lobbies where 
we found them, a few days ago, piled up in 
heaps, we no longer see them. Conse- 
quently, when the Anthophorae, having 
opened their cells, enter the galleries to 
58 



The Primary Larva of the Sitares 

reach the exit and fly away, or else when the 
bad weather and the darkness bring them 
back there for a time, the young Sitaris- 
larvae, kept on the alert in these same gal- 
leries by the stimulus of instinct, attach them- 
selves to the Bees, wriggling into their fur 
and clutching it so firmly that they need not 
fear a fall during the long journeys of the 
insect which carries them. By thus attaching 
themselves to the Anthophora? the young 
Sitares evidently intend to get themselves 
carried, at the opportune moment, into the 
victualled cells. 

One might even at first sight believe that 
they live for some time on the Anthophora's 
body, just as the ordinary parasites, the va- 
rious species of Lice, live on the body of the 
animal that feeds them. But not at all. 
The young Sitares, embedded in the fleece, 
at right angles to the Anthophora's body, 
head inwards, rump outwards, do not stir 
from the point which they have selected, a 
point near the Bee's shoulders. We do not 
see them wandering from spot to spot, ex- 
ploring the Anthophora's body, seeking the 
part where the skin is more delicate, as they 
would certainly do if they were really de- 
riving some nourishment from the juices of 
the Bee. On the contrary, they are nearly 
59 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

always established on the toughest and hard- 
est part of the Bee's body, on the thorax, a 
little below the insertion of the wings, or, 
more rarely, on the head; and they remain 
absolutely motionless, fixed to the same hair, 
by means of the mandibles, the feet, the 
closed crescent of the eighth segment and, 
lastly, the glue of the anal button. If they 
chance to be disturbed in this position, they 
reluctantly repair to another point of the 
thorax, pushing their way through the insect's 
fur and in the end fastening on to another 
hair, as before. 

To confirm my conviction that the young 
Sitaris-grubs do not feed on the Anthophora's 
body, I have sometimes placed within their 
reach, in a glass jar, some Bees that have 
long been dead and are completely dried up. 
On these dry corpses, fit at most for gnaw- 
ing, but certainly containing nothing to suck, 
the Sitaris-larvae took up their customary 
position and there remained motionless as 
on the living insect. They obtain nothing, 
therefore, from the Anthophora's body; but 
perhaps they nibble her fleece, even as the 
Bird-lice nibble the birds' feathers? 

To do this, they would require mouth- 
parts endowed with a certain strength and, in 
particular, horny and sturdy jaws, whereas 
60 



The Primary Larva of the Shares 

their jaws are so fine that a microscopic ex- 
amination failed to show them to me. The 
larvae, it is true, are provided with powerful 
mandibles; but these finely-pointed mandibles, 
with their backward curve, though excellent 
for tugging at food and tearing it to pieces, 
are useless for grinding it or gnawing it. 
Lastly, we have a final proof of the passive 
condition of the Sitaris-larvae on the body 
of the Anthophorae in the fact that the Bees 
do not appear to be in any way incommoded 
by their presence, since we do not see them 
trying to rid themselves of the grubs. Some 
Anthophorae which were free from these 
grubs and some others which were carrying 
five or six upon their bodies were placed 
separately in glass jars. When the first dis- 
turbance resulting from their captivity was 
appeased, I could see nothing peculiar about 
those occupied by the young Sitares. And, 
if all these arguments were not sufficient, I 
might add that a creature which has already 
been able to spend seven months without 
food and which in a few days' time will pro- 
ceed to drink a highly-flavoured fluid would 
be guilty of a singular inconsistency if it 
were to start nibbling the dry fleece of a Bee. 
It therefore seems to me undeniable that the 
young Sitares settle on the Anthophora's body 
61 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

merely to make her carry them into the cells 
which she will soon be building. 

But until then the future parasites must 
hold tight to the fleece of their hostess, 
despite her rapid evolutions among the 
flowers, despite her rubbing against the walls 
of the galleries when she enters to take shel- 
ter and, above all, despite the brushing which 
she must often give herself with her feet 
to dust herself and keep spick and span. 
Kence no doubt the need for that curious 
apparatus which no standing or moving upon 
ordinary surfaces could explain, as was said 
above, when we were wondering what the 
shifting, swaying, dangerous body might be 
on which the larva would have to establish 
itself later. This body is a hair of a Bee 
who makes a thousand rapid journeys, now 
diving into her narrow galleries, now forcing 
her way down the tight throat of a corolla, 
and who never rests except to brush herself 
with her feet and remove the specks of dust 
collected by the down which covers her. 

We can now easily understand the use 
of the projecting crescent whose two horns, 
by closing together, are able to take hold of 
a hair more easily than the most delicate 
tweezers; we perceive the full value of the 
tenacious adhesive provided by the anus to 
62 



The Primary Larva of the Sitares 

save the tiny creature, at the least sign of 
danger, from an imminent fall; we realize 
lastly the useful function that may be fulfilled 
by the elastic cirri of the flanks and legs, 
which are an absolute and most embarrassing 
superfluity when walking upon a smooth sur- 
face, but which, in the present case, penetrate 
like so many probes into the thickness of the 
Anthophora's down and serve as it were to 
anchor the Sitaris-larva in position. The 
more we consider this arrangement, which 
seems modelled by a blind caprice so long 
as the grub drags itself laboriously over a 
smooth surface, the more do we marvel at 
the means, as effective as they are varied, 
which are lavished upon this fragile creature 
to help it to preserve its unstable equi- 
librium. 

Before I describe what becomes of the 
Sitaris-grubs on leaving the body of the An- 
thophorae, I must not omit to mention one 
very remarkable peculiarity. All the Bees 
invaded by these grubs that have hitherto 
been observed have, without one exception, 
been male Anthophorae. Those whom I 
drew from their lurking-places were males; 
those whom I caught upon the flowers were 
males; and, in spite of the most active search, 
I failed to find a single female at liberty. 
63, 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

The cause of this total absence of females is 
easy to understand. 

If we remove a few clods from the area 
occupied by the nests, we see that, though all 
the males have already opened and aban- 
doned their cells, the females, on the con- 
trary, are still enclosed in theirs, but on the 
point of soon taking flight. This appearance 
of the males almost a month before the emer- 
gence of the females is not peculiar to the 
Anthophorae; I have observed it in many 
other Bees and particularly in the Three- 
horned Osmia (O. tricornis), who inhabits 
the same site as the Hairy-footed Antho- 
phora {A. pilipes). The males of the Os- 
mia make their appearance even before 
those of the Anthophora and at so early a 
season that the young Sitaris-larvae are per- 
haps not yet aroused by the instinctive im- 
pulse which urges them to activity. It is 
no doubt to their precocious awakening that 
the males of the Osmia owe their ability to 
traverse with impunity the corridors in 
which the young Sitaris-grubs are heaped to- 
gether, without having the latter fasten to 
their fleece; at least, I cannot otherwise ex- 
plain the absence of these larvae from the 
backs of the male Osmiae, since, when wc 
place them artificially in the presence of these 
64 



The Primary Larva of the Shares 

Bees, they fasten on them as readily as on 
the Anthophorae. 

The emergence from the common site be- 
gun by the male Osmiae is continued by the 
male Anthophorae and ends with the almost 
simultaneous emergence of the female Os- 
miae and Anthophorae. I was easily able 
to verify this sequence by observing at my 
own place, in the early spring, the dates at 
which the cells, collected during the previous 
autumn, were broken. 

At the moment of their emergence, the 
male Anthophorae, passing through the gal- 
leries in which the Sitaris-larvae are waiting 
on the alert, must pick up a certain number 
of them; and those among them who, by 
entering empty corridors, escape the enemy 
on this first occasion will not evade him for 
long, for the rain, the chilly air and the 
darkness bring them back to their former 
homes, where they take shelter now in one 
gallery, now in another, during a great part 
of April. This constant traffic of the males 
in the entrance-lobbies of their houses and 
the prolonged stay which the bad weather 
often compels them to make provide the 
Sitares with the most favourable opportunity 
for slipping into the Bees' fur and taking up 
their position. Moreover, when this state of 
65 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

affairs has lasted a month or so, there can 
be only very few if any larvae left wandering 
about without having attained their end. At 
that period I was unable to find them any- 
where save on the body of the male An- 
thophora. 

It is therefore extremely probable that, on 
their emergence, which takes place as May 
draws near, the female Anthophorae do not 
pick up Sitaris-larvae in the corridors, or 
pick up only a number which will not compare 
with that carried by the males. In fact, the 
first females that I was able to observe in 
April, in the actual neighbourhood of the 
nests, were free from these larvae. Never- 
theless it is upon the females that the Sitaris- 
larvae must finally establish themselves, for 
the males upon whom they now are cannot 
introduce them into the cells, since they take 
no part in the building or provisioning. 
There is therefore, at a given moment, a 
transfer of Sitaris-larvae from the male An- 
thophorae to the females; and this transfer 
is, beyond a doubt, effected during the union 
of the sexes. The female finds in the 
male's embraces both life and death for her 
offspring; at the moment when she surrenders 
herself to the male for the preservation of 
her. race, the vigilant parasites pass from the. 
66 



The Primary Larva of the Sitares 

male to the female, with the extermination 
of that same race in view. 

In support of these deductions, here is a 
fairly conclusive experiment, though it re- 
produces the natural circumstances but 
roughly. On a female taken in her cell and 
therefore free from Sitares, I place a male 
who is infested with them; and I keep the 
two sexes in contact, suppressing their unruly 
movements as far as I am able. After fifteen 
or twenty minutes of this enforced proximity, 
the female is invaded by one or more of the 
larvae which at first were on the male. 
True, experiment does not always succeed 
under these imperfect conditions. 

By watching at Avignon the few Antho- 
phorae that I succeeded in discovering, I 
was able to detect the precise moment of 
their work; and on the following Thursday, 1 
the 21st of May, I repaired in all haste to 
Carpentras, to witness, if possible, the en- 
trance of the Sitares into the Bee's cells. I 
was not mistaken: the works were in full 
swing. 

In front of a high expanse of earth, a 
swarm stimulated by the sun, which floods 
it with light and heat, is dancing a crazy 

1 Thursday is the weekly holiday in French schools. — 
Translator's Note. 

67 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

ballet. It is a hover of Anthophorae, a few 
feet thick and covering an area which matches 
the sort of house-front formed by the per- 
pendicular soil. From the tumultuous heart 
of the cloud rises a monotonous, threatening 
murmur, while the bewildered eye strays 
through the inextricable evolutions of the 
eager throng. With the rapidity of a light- 
ning-flash thousands of Anthophorae are in- 
cessantly flying off and scattering over the 
country-side in search of booty; thousands of 
others also are incessantly arriving, laden 
with honey or mortar, and keeping up the 
formidable proportions of the swarm. 

I was at that time something of a novice 
as regards the nature of these insects: 

" Woe," said I to myself, " woe to the 
reckless wight bold enough to enter the heart 
of this swarm and, above all, to lay a rash 
hand upon the dwellings under construction ! 
Forthwith surrounded by the furious host, 
he would expiate his rash attempt, stabbed by 
a thousand stings ! " 

At this thought, rendered still more alarm- 
ing by the recollection of certain misadven- 
tures of which I had been the victim when 
seeking to observe too closely the combs of 
the Hornet {Vespa crabro), I felt a shiver 
of apprehension pass through my body. 
68 



The Primary Larva of the Sitares 

Yet, to obtain light upon the question 
which brings me hither, I must needs pene- 
trate the fearsome swarm; I must stand for 
whole hours, perhaps all day, watching the 
works which I intend to upset; lens in hand, 
I must scrutinize, unmoved amid the whirl, 
the things that are happening in the cells. 
The use moreover of a mask, of gloves, of 
a covering of any kind is impracticable, for 
utter dexterity of the fingers and complete 
liberty of sight are essential to the investiga- 
tions which I have to make. No matter: 
even though I leave this wasps'-nest with a 
face swollen beyond recognition, I must to- 
day obtain a decisive solution of the problem 
which has preoccupied me too long. 

A few strokes of the net, aimed, beyond 
the limits of the swarm, at the Anthophorae 
on their way to the harvest or returning, 
soon informed me that the Sitaris-larvae are 
perched on the thorax, as I expected, occu- 
pying the same position as on the males. 
The circumstances therefore could not be 
more favourable. We will inspect the cells 
without further delay. 

My preparations are made at once: I but- 
ton my clothes tightly, so as to afford the 
Bees the least possible opportunity, and I en- 
ter the heart of the swarm. A few blows of 
69 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

the mattock, which arouse a far from reassur- 
ing crescendo in the humming of the Antho- 
phorae, soon place me in possession of a 
lump of earth; and I beat a hasty retreat, 
greatly astonished to find myself still safe 
and sound and unpursued. But the lump of 
earth which I have removed is from a part 
too near the surface; it contains nothing but 
Osmia-cells, which do not interest me for the 
moment. A second expedition is made, last- 
ing longer than the first; and, though my 
retreat is effected without great precipitation, 
not an Anthophora has touched me with her 
sting, nor even shown herself disposed to 
fall upon the aggressor. 

This success emboldens me. I remain 
permanently in front of the work in progress, 
continually removing lumps of earth filled 
with cells, spilling the liquid honey on the 
ground, eviscerating larvae and crushing the 
Bees busily occupied in their nests. All 
this devastation results merely in arousing 
a louder hum in the swarm and is not fol- 
lowed by any hostile demonstration. The 
Anthophorae whose cells are not hurt go 
about their labours as if nothing unusual 
were happening round about them; those 
whose dwellings are overturned try to repair 
them, or hover distractedly in front of the 
70 



The Primary Larva of the Sitares 

ruins; but none of them seems inclined to 
swoop down upon the author of the damage. 
At most, a few, more irritated than the rest, 
come at intervals and hover before my face, 
confronting me at a distance of a couple of 
inches, and then fly away, after a few mo- 
ments of this curious inspection. 

Despite the selection of a common site for 
their nests, which might suggest an attempt 
at communistic interests among the Antho- 
phorae, these Bees, therefore, obey the ego- 
tistical law of each one for himself and do 
not know how to band themselves together 
to repel an enemy who threatens one and all. 
Taken singly, the Anthophora does not even 
know how to dash at the enemy who is 
ravaging her cells and drive him awav with 
her stings; the pacific creature hastily leaves 
its dwelling when disturbed by undermining 
and escapes in a crippled state, sometimes 
even mortally wounded, without thinking of 
making use of its venomous sting, except 
when it is seized and handled. Manv other 
Hymenoptera, honey-gatherers or hunters, 
are quite as spiritless; and I can assert to-day, 
after a long experience, that only the Social 
Hymenoptera, the Hive-bees, the Common 
Wasps and the Bumble-bees, know how to 
devise a common defence; and only they dare 
71 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

fall singly upon the aggressor, to wreak an 
individual vengeance. 

Thanks to this unexpected lack of spirit 
in the Mason-bee, I was able for hours to 
pursue my investigations at my leisure, seated 
on a stone in the midst of the murmuring and 
distracted swarm, without receiving a single 
sting, though I took no precautions whatever. 
Country-folk, happening to pass and behold- 
ing me seated, unperturbed, in the midst of 
the whirl of Bees, stopped aghast to ask me 
whether I had bewitched them, whether I 
charmed them, since I appeared to have 
nothing to fear from them : 

" Me, moun bel ami, li-z-ave doun escoun- 
jurado que vous pougnioun pas, caneu de 
sort! " 

My miscellaneous impedimenta spread 
over the ground, boxes, glass jars and tubes, 
tweezers and magnifying-glasses, were cer- 
tainly regarded by these good people as the 
implements of my wizardry. 

We will now proceed to examine the cells. 
Some are still open and contain only a more 
or less complete store of honey. Others are 
hermetically sealed with an earthen lid. 
The contents of these latter vary greatly. 
Sometimes we find the larva of a Bee which 
has finished its mess or is on the point of 
7* 



The Primary Larva of the Shares 

finishing it; sometimes a larva, white like the 
first, but more corpulent and of a different 
shape; at other times honey with an egg 
floating on the surface. The honey is liquid 
and sticky, with a brownish colour and a 
very strong, repulsive smell. The egg is of 
a beautiful white, cylindrical in shape, slightly 
curved into an arc, a fifth or a sixth of an 
inch in length and not quite a twenty-fifth of 
an inch in thickness ; it is the egg of the An- 
thophora. 

In a few cells this egg is floating all alone 
on the surface of the honey; in others, very 
numerous these, we see, lying on the egg of 
the Anthophora, as on a sort of raft, a young 
Sitaris-grub with the shape and the dimen- 
sions which I have described above, that is 
to say, with the shape and the dimensions 
which the creature possesses on leaving the 
egg. This is the enemy within the gates. 

When and how did it get in? In none of 
the cells where I have observed it was I able 
to distinguish a fissure which could have al- 
lowed it to enter; they are all sealed in a 
quite irreproachable manner. The parasite 
therefore established itself in the honey- 
warehouse before the warehouse was closed; 
on the other hand, the open cells, full of 
honey, but as yet without the egg of the 
73 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

Anthophora, are always free from parasites. 
It is therefore during the laying, or after- 
wards, when the Anthophora is occupied in 
plastering the door of the cell, that the young 
larva gains admittance. It is impossible to 
decide by experiment to which of these two 
periods we must ascribe the introduction of 
the Sitares into the cell; for, however peace- 
able the Anthophora may be, it is evident 
that we cannot hope to witness what happens 
in the cell at the moment when she is laying 
an egg or at the moment when she is making 
the lid. But a few attempts will soon con- 
vince us that the only second which would 
allow the Sitaris to establish itself in the 
home of the Bee is the very second when the 
egg is laid on the surface of the honey. 

Let us take an Anthophora-cell full of 
honey and furnished with an egg and, after 
removing the lid, place it in a glass tube with 
a few Sitaris-grubs. The grubs do not ap- 
pear at all eager for this wealth of nectar 
placed within their reach; they wander at ran- 
dom about the tube, run about the outside 
of the cell, sometimes happen upon the edge 
of the orifice and very rarely venture inside. 
When they do, they do not go far in and 
they come out again at once. If one happens 
to reach the honey, which only half fills the 

74 



The Primary Larva of the Sitares 

cell, it tries to escape as soon as it has per- 
ceived the shifting nature of the sticky soil 
upon which it was about to enter; but, totter- 
ing at every step, because of the viscous 
matter clinging to its feet, it often ends by 
falling back into the honey, where it dies of 
suffocation. 

Again, we may experiment as follows: 
having prepared a cell as before, we place 
a larva most carefully on its inner wall, or 
else on the surface of the food itself. In 
the first case, the larva hastens to leave the 
cell; in the second case, it struggles awhile 
on the surface of the honey and ends by 
getting so completely caught that, after a 
thousand efforts to gain the shore, it is swal- 
lowed up in the viscous lake. 

In short, all attempts to establish the 
Sitaris-grub in an Anthophora-cell provi- 
sioned with honey and furnished with an egg 
are no more successful than those which I 
made with cells whose store of food had 
already been broached by the larva of the 
Bee, as described above. It is therefore cer- 
tain that the Sitaris-grub does not leave the 
fleece of the Mason-bee when the Bee is in 
her cell or at the entrance to it, in order 
itself to make a rush for the coveted honey ; 
for this honey would inevitably cause its 
75 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

death, if it happened by accident to touch 
the perilous surface merely with the tip of 
its tarsi. 

Since we cannot admit that the Sitaris-grub 
leaves the furry corselet of its hostess to slip 
unseen into the cell, whose orifice is not yet 
wholly walled up, at the moment when the 
Anthophora is building her door, all that 
remains to investigate is the second at which 
the egg is being laid. Remember in the first 
place that the young Sitaris which we find in 
a closed cell is always placed on the egg of 
the Bee. We shall see in a minute that this 
egg not merely serves as a raft for the tiny 
creature floating on a very treacherous lake, 
but also constitutes the first and indispensable 
part of its diet. To get at this egg, situated 
in the centre of the lake of honey, to reach, 
at all costs, this raft, which is also its first 
ration, the young larva evidently possesses 
some means of avoiding the fatal contact of 
the honey; and this means can be provided 
only by the actions of the Bee herself. 

In the second place, observations repeated 
ad nauseam have shown me that at no pe- 
riod do we find in each invaded cell more 
than a single Sitaris, in one or other of the 
forms which it successively assumes. Yet 
there are several young larvae established in 
76 



The Primary Larva of the Sitares 

the silky tangle of the Bee's thorax, all 
eagerly watching for the propitious moment 
at which to enter the dwelling in which they 
are to continue their development. How 
then does it happen that these larvae, goaded 
by such an appetite as one would expect after 
seven or eight months' complete abstinence, 
instead of all rushing together into the first 
cell within reach, on the contrary enter the 
various cells which the Bee is provisioning 
one at a time and in perfect order? Some 
action must take place here independent of 
the Sitares. 

To satisfy those two indispensable condi- 
tions, the arrival of the larva upon the egg 
without crossing the honey and the introduc- 
tion of a single larva among all those waiting 
in the fleece of the Bee, there can be only 
one explanation, which is to suppose that, at 
the moment when the Anthophora's egg is 
half out of the oviduct, one of the Sitares 
which have hastened from the thorax to the 
tip of the abdomen, one more highly fa- 
voured by its position, instantly settles upon 
the egg, a bridge too narrow for two, and 
with it reaches the surface of the honey. 
The impossibility of otherwise fulfilling the 
two conditions which I have stated gives to 
the explanation which I am offering a degree 
77 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

of certainty almost equivalent to that which 
would be furnished by direct observation, 
which is here, unfortunately, impracticable. 
This presupposes, it is true, in the microscopic 
little creature destined to live in a place 
where so many dangers threaten it from the 
first, an astonishingly rational inspiration, 
which adapts the means to the end with 
amazing logic. But is not this the invariable 
conclusion to which the study of instinct 
always leads us? 

When dropping her egg upon the honey, 
therefore, the Anthophora at the same time 
deposits in her cell the mortal enemy of her 
race; she carefully plasters the lid which 
closes the entrance to the cell; and all is 
done. A second cell is built beside it, pro- 
bably to suffer the same fatal doom; and so 
on until the more or less numerous parasites 
sheltered by her down are all accommodated. 
Let us leave the unhappy mother to continue 
her fruitless task and turn our attention to 
the young larva which has so adroitly se- 
cured itself board and lodging. 

In opening cells whose lid is still moist, we 
end by discovering one in which the egg, re- 
cently laid, supports a young Sitaris. This 
egg is intact and in irreproachable condition. 
But now the work of devastation begins : the 
78 



The Primary Larva of the Sitares 

larva, a tiny black speck which we see run- 
ning over the white surface of the egg, at 
last stops and balances itself firmly on its six 
legs; then, seizing the delicate skin of the 
egg with the sharp hooks of its mandibles, it 
tugs at it violently until it breaks, spilling its 
contents, which the larva eagerly drinks up. 
Thus the first stroke of the mandibles which 
the parasite delivers in the usurped cell is 
aimed at the destruction of the Bee's egg. A 
highly logical precaution! The Sitaris- 
larva, as we shall see, has to feed upon the 
honey in the cell; the Anthophora-larva 
which would proceed from that egg would 
require the same food; but the portion is too 
small for two; so, quick, a bite at the egg 
and the difficulty will be removed. The story 
of these facts calls for no comment. This 
destruction of the cumbersome egg is all the 
more inevitable inasmuch as special tastes 
compel the young Sitaris-grub to make its 
first meals of it. Indeed we see the tiny 
creature begin by greedily drinking the juices 
which the torn wrapper of the egg allows to 
escape; and for several days it may be ob- 
served, at one time motionless on this en- 
velope, in which it rummages at intervals 
with its head, at others running over it from 
end to end to rip it open still wider and to 
79 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

cause a little of the juices, which become daily 
less abundant, to trickle from it; but we 
never catch it imbibing the honey which sur- 
rounds it on every side. 

For that matter, it is easy to convince 
ourselves that the egg combines with the 
function of a life-buoy that of the first ration. 
I have laid on the surface of the honey in a 
cell a tiny strip of paper, of the same dimen- 
sions as the egg; and on this raft I have 
placed a Sitaris-larva. Despite every care, 
my attempts, many times repeated, always 
failed. The larva, placed in a paper boat 
in the centre of the mass of honey, behaves 
as in the earlier experiments. Not finding 
what suits it, it tries to escape and perishes 
in the sticky toils as soon as it leaves the 
strip of paper, which it soon does. 

On the other hand, we can easily rear 
Sitaris-grubs by taking Anthophora-cells not 
invaded by the parasites, cells in which the 
egg is not yet hatched. All that we have 
to do is to pick up one of these grubs with 
the moistened tip of a needle and to lay it 
delicately on the egg. There is then no 
longer the least attempt to escape. After 
exploring the egg to find its way about, the 
larva rips it open and for several days does 
80 



The Primary Larva of the Sitares 

not stir from the spot. Henceforth its de- 
velopment takes place unhindered, provided 
that the cell be protected from too rapid 
evaporation, which would dry up the honey 
and render it unfit for the grub's food. The 
Anthophora's egg therefore is absolutely ne- 
cessary to the Sitaris-larva, not merely as a 
boat, but also as its first nourishment. This 
is the whole secret, for lack of knowing which 
I had hitherto failed in my attempts to rear 
the larvae hatched in my glass jars. 

At the end of a week, the egg, drained by 
the parasite, is nothing but a dry skin. The 
first meal is finished. The Sitaris-larva, 
whose dimensions have almost doubled, now 
splits open along the back; and through a 
slit which comprises the head and the three 
thoracic segments a white corpusculum, the 
second form of this singular organism, es- 
capes to fall on the surface of the honey, 
while the abandoned slough remains clinging 
to the raft which has hitherto safeguarded 
and fed the larva. Presently both sloughs, 
those of the Sitaris and the egg, will dis- 
appear, submerged under the waves of honey 
which the new larva is about to raise. Here 
ends the history of the first form adopted by 

the Sitaris. 

81 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

In summing up the above, we see that the 
strange little creature awaits, without food, 
for seven months, the appearance of the 
Anthophorae and at last fastens on to the 
hairs on the corselet of the males, who are 
the first to emerge and who inevitably pass 
within its reach in going through their cor- 
ridors. From the fleece of the male the 
larva moves, three or four weeks later, to 
that of the female, at the moment of 
coupling; and then from the female to the 
egg leaving the oviduct. It is by this con- 
catenation of complex manoeuvres that the 
larva in the end finds itself perched upon an 
egg in the middle of a closed cell filled with 
honey. These perilous gymnastics on the 
hair of a Bee in movement all the day, this 
passing from one sex to the other, this ar- 
rival in the middle of the cell by way of the 
egg, a dangerous bridge thrown across the 
sticky abyss, all this necessitates the balancing- 
appliances with which it is provided and 
which I have described above. Lastly, the 
destruction of the egg calls, in its turn, for a 
sharp pair of scissors; and such is the object 
of the keen, curved mandibles. Thus the 
primary form of the Sitares has as its func- 
tion to get itself carried by the Anthophora 
into the cell and to rip up her egg. This 
82 



The Primary Larva of the Shares 

done, the organism becomes transformed to 
such a degree that repeated observations are 
required to make us believe the evidence of 
our eyes. 



83 



CHAPTER IV 

THE PRIMARY LARVA OF THE OIL-BEETLES 

1 INTERRUPT the history of the Sitares 
to speak of the Meloes, those uncouth 
Beetles, with their clumsy belly and their 
limp wing-cases yawning over their back like 
the tails of a fat man's coat that is far too 
tight for its wearer. The insect is ugly in 
colouring, which is black, with an occasional 
blue gleam, and uglier still in shape and gait; 
and its disgusting method of defence increases 
the repugnance with which it inspires us. If 
it judges itself to be in danger, the Meloe 
resorts to spontaneous bleeding. From its 
joints a yellowish, oily fluid oozes, which 
stains your fingers and makes them stink. 
This is the creature's blood. The English, 
because of its trick of discharging oily blood 
when on the defensive, call this insect the 
Oil-beetle. It would not be a particularly 
interesting Beetle save for its metamorphoses 
and the peregrinations of its larva, which are 
similar in every respect to those of the larva 
of the Sitares. In their first form, the Oil- 
beetles are parasites of the Anthophorae; 
84 



The Primary Larva of the Oil-Beetles 

their tiny grub, when it leaves the egg, has 
itself carried into the cell by the Bee whose 
victuals are to form its food. 

Observed in the down of various Bees, the 
queer little creature for a long time baffled 
the sagacity of the naturalists, who, mistaking 
its true origin, made it a species of a special 
family of wingless insects. It was the Bee- 
louse {Pediculis apis) of Linnaeus; ! the Tri- 
ungulin of the Andrenae {Triungulinus An- 
drenetarum) of Leon Dufour. They saw 
in it a parasite, a sort of Louse, living in the 
fleece of the honey-gatherers. It was re- 
served for the distinguished English na- 
turalist Newport to show that this supposed 
Louse was the first state of the Oil-beetles. 
Some observations of my own will fill a few 
lacunae in the English scientist's monograph. 
I will therefore sketch the evolution of the 
Oil-beetles, using Newport's work where my 
own observations are defective. In this way 
the Sitares and the Meloes, alike in habits 
and transformations, will be compared; and 
the comparison will throw a certain light 
upon the strange metamorphoses of these 
insects. 

1 Carolus Linnaeus (Karl von Linne, 1707-1778), the cel- 
ebrated Swedish botanist and naturalist, founder of the 
Linnxan system of classification. — Translator's Note. 

85 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

The same Mason-bee {Anthophora pili- 
pes) upon whom the Sitares live also feeds 
a few scarce Meloes (M. cicatricosus) in its 
cells. A second Anthophora of my district 
{A. parietina) is more subject to this para- 
site's invasions. It was also in the nests of 
an Anthophora, but of a different species 
{A. retusa), that Newport observed the 
same Oil-beetle. These three lodgings 
adopted by Meloe cicatricosus may be of 
some slight interest, as leading us to suspect 
that each species of Meloe is apparently the 
parasite of diverse Bees, a suspicion which 
will be confirmed when we examine the man- 
ner in which the larvae reach the cell full of 
honey. The Sitares, though less given to 
change of lodging, are likewise able to in- 
habit nests of different species. They are 
very common in the cells of Anthophora 
pilipes; but I have found them also, in very 
small numbers, it is true, in the cells of A. 
personata. 

Despite the presence of Meloe cicatricosus 
in the dwellings of the Mason-bee, which I 
so often ransacked in compiling the history 
of the Sitares, I never saw this insect, at any 
season of the year, wandering on the per- 
pendicular soil, at the entrance of the corri- 
dors, for the purpose of laying its eggs 
86 



The Primary Larva of the Oil-Beetles 

there, as the Sitares do; and I should know 
nothing of the details of the egg-laying if 
Godart, 1 de Geer 2 and, above all, Newport 
had not informed us that the Oil-beetles lay 
their eggs in the earth. According to the 
last-named author, the various Oil-beetles 
whom he had the opportunity of observing 
dig, among the roots of a clump of grass, in 
a dry soil exposed to the sun, a hole a couple 
of inches deep which they carefully fill up 
after laying their eggs there in a heap. This 
laying is repeated three or four times over, 
at intervals of a few days during the same 
season. For each batch of eggs the female 
digs a special hole, which she does not fail 
to fill up afterwards. This takes place in 
April and May. 

The number of eggs laid in a single batch 
is really prodigious. In the first batch, 
which, it is true, is the most prolific of all, 
Meloe proscarabaus, according to New- 
port's calculations, produces the astonishing 
number of 4,218 eggs, which is double the 
number of eggs laid by a Sitaris. And what 

1 Jean Baptiste Godart (1775-1823), the principal editor 
of L'Histoire naturelle des lepidopteres de France. — 
Translator's Note. 

2 Baron Karl de Geer (1720-1778), the Swedish ento- 
mologist, author of Memoires pour ser<vir a I'histoire des 
insectes (1752-1778). — Translator's Note. 

87 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

must the number be, when we allow for the 
two or three batches that follow the first! 
The Sitares, entrusting their eggs to the very 
corridors through which the Anthophora is 
bound to pass, spare their larvae a host of 
dangers which the larvae of the Meloe have 
to run, for these, born far from the dwell- 
ings of the Bees, are obliged to make their 
own way to their hymenopterous foster- 
parents. The Oil-beetles, therefore, lack- 
ing the instinct of the Sitares, are endowed 
with incomparably greater fecundity. The 
richness of their ovaries atones for the in- 
sufficiency of instinct by proportioning the 
number of germs in accordance with the risks 
of destruction. What transcendent harmony 
is this, which thus holds the scales between 
the fecundity of the ovaries and the perfect- 
ion of instinct! 

The hatching of the eggs takes place at the 
end of May or in June, about a month after 
they are laid. The eggs of the Sitares also 
are hatched after the same lapse of time. 
But the Meloe-larvae, more greatly fa- 
voured, are able to set off immediately in 
search of the Bees that are to feed them; 
while those of the Sitares, hatched in Sep- 
tember, have to wait motionless and in com- 
plete abstinence for the emergence of the An- 
88 



The Primary Larva of the Oil-Beetles 

thophorae the entrance to whose cells they 
guard. I will not describe the young Meloe- 
larva, which is sufficiently well known, in 
particular by the description and the diagram 
furnished by Newport. To enable the 
reader to understand what follows, I will 
confine myself to stating that this primary 
larva is a sort of little yellow louse, long 
and slender, found in the spring in the down 
of different Bees. 

How has this tiny creature made its way 
from the underground lodging where the eggs 
are hatched to the fleece of a Bee? New- 
port suspects that the young Oil-beetles, on 
emerging from their natal burrow, climb 
upon the neighbouring plants, especially upon 
the Cichoriceae, and wait, concealed among 
the petals, until a few Bees chance to plunder 
the flower, when they promptly fasten on to 
their fur and allow themselves to be borne 
away by them. I have more than Newport's 
suspicions upon this curious point; my per- 
sonal observations and experiments are ab- 
solutely convincing. I will relate them as 
the first phase of the history of the Bee- 
louse. They date back to the 23rd of May, 
1858. 

A vertical bank on the road from Car- 
pentras to Bedoin is this time the scene of 
89 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

my observations. This bank, baked by the 
sun, is exploited by numerous swarms of 
Anthophorae, who, more industrious than 
their congeners, are in the habit of building, 
at the entrance to their corridors, with serp- 
entine fillets of earth, a vestibule, a defensive 
bastion in the form of an arched cylinder. 
In a word, they are swarms of A. parietina. 
A sparse carpet of turf extends from the 
edge of the road to the foot of the bank. 
The more confortably to follow the work of 
the Bees, in the hope of wresting some secret 
from them, I had been lying for a few 
moments upon this turf, in the very heart of 
the inoffensive swarm, when my clothes were 
invaded by legions of little yellow lice, run- 
ning with desperate eagerness through the 
hairy thickets of the nap of the cloth. In 
these tiny creatures, with which I was pow- 
dered here and there as with yellow dust, I 
soon recognized an old acquaintance, the 
young Oil-beetles, whom I now saw for the 
first time elsewhere than in the Bees' fur or 
the interior of their cells. I could not lose so 
excellent an opportunity of learning how 
these larvae manage to establish themselves 
upon the bodies of their foster-parents. 

In the grass where, after lying down for 
a moment, I had caught these lice were a 
90 



The Primary Larva of the Oil-Beetles 

few plants in blossom, of which the most 
abundant were three composites: Hedypnois 
polymorpha, Senecio gallicus and Anthemis 
arvensis. Now it was on a composite, a 
dandelion, that Newport seemed to remem- 
ber seeing some young Oil-beetles; and my 
attention therefore was first of all directed 
to the plants which I have named. To my 
great satisfaction, nearly all the flowers of 
these three plants, especially those of the 
camomile {Anthemis) were occupied by 
young Oil-beetles in greater or lesser num- 
bers. On one head of camomile I counted 
forty of these tiny insects, cowering motion- 
less in the centre of the florets. On the other 
hand, I could not discover any on the flowers 
of the poppy or of a wild rocket (Diplotaxis 
muralts) which grew promiscuously among 
the plants aforesaid. It seems to me, there- 
fore, that it is only on the composite flowers 
that the Meloe-larvae await the Bees' ar- 
rival. 

In addition to this population encamped 
upon the heads of the composites and re- 
maining motionless, as though it had achieved 
its object for the moment, I soon discovered 
yet another, far more numerous, whose anx- 
ious activity betrayed a fruitless search. On 
the ground, in the grass, numberless little 
91 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

larvae were running in a great flutter, re- 
calling in some respects the tumultuous dis- 
order of an overturned Ant-hill; others were 
hurriedly climbing to the tip of a blade of 
grass and descending with the same haste; 
others again were plunging into the downy 
fluff of the withered everlastings, remaining 
there a moment and quickly reappearing to 
continue their search. Lastly, with a little 
attention, I was able to convince myself that 
within an area of a dozen square yards there 
was perhaps not a single blade of grass which 
was not explored by several of these larvae. 
I was evidently witnessing the recent 
emergence of the young Oil-beetles from their 
maternal lairs. Part of them had already 
settled on the groundsel- and camomile- 
flowers to await the -arrival of the Bees; but 
the majority were still wandering in search 
of this provisional refuge. It was by this 
wandering population that I had been in- 
vaded when I lay down at the foot of the 
bank. It was impossible that all these 
larvae, the tale of whose alarming thousands 
I would not venture to define, should form 
one family and recognize a common mother; 
despite what Newport has told us of the 
Oil-beetles' astonishing fecundity, I could not 
believe this, so great was their multitude. 
92 



The Primary Larva of the Oil-Beetles 

Though the green carpet was continued 
for a considerable distance along the side of 
the road, I could not detect a single Meloe- 
larva elsewhere than in the few square yards 
lying in front of the bank inhabited by the 
Mason-bee. These larvae therefore could 
not have come far; to find themselves near 
the Anthophorae they had had no long pil- 
grimage to make, for there was not a sign 
of the inevitable stragglers and laggards that 
follow in the wake of a travelling caravan. 
The burrows in which the eggs were hatched 
were therefore in that turf opposite the 
Bees' abode. Thus the Oil-beetles, far from 
laying their eggs at random, as their wander- 
ing life might lead one to suppose, and leav- 
ing their young to the task of approaching 
their future home, are able to recognize the 
spots haunted by the Anthophorae and lay 
their eggs in the near neighbourhood of those 
spots. 

With such a multitude of parasites occu- 
pying the composite flowers in close proximity 
to the Anthophora's nests, it is impossible 
that the majority of the swarm should not 
become infested sooner or later. At the 
time of my observations, a comparatively 
tiny proportion of the starving legion was 
waiting on the flowers; the others were still 

93 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

wandering on the ground, where the Antho- 
phorae very rarely alight; and yet I detected 
the presence of several Meloe-larvae in the 
thoracic down of nearly all the Anthophorae 
which I caught and examined. 

I have also found them on the bodies of 
the Melecta- and Coelioxys-bees, 1 who are 
parasitic on the Anthophorae. Suspending 
their audacious patrolling before the gal- 
leries under construction, these spoilers of 
the victualled cells alight for an instant on 
a camomile-flower and lo, the thief is 
robbed! A tiny, imperceptible louse has 
slipped into the thick of the downy fur and, 
at the moment when the parasite, after de- 
stroying the Anthophora's egg, is laying her 
own upon the stolen honey, will creep upon 
this egg, destroy it in its turn and remain 
sole mistress of the provisions. The mess 
of honey amassed by the Anthophora will 
thus pass through the hands of three owners 
and remain finally the property of the weak- 
est of the three. 

And who shall say whether the Meloe, in 
its turn, will not be dispossessed by a fresh 
thief; or even whether it will not, in the state 
of a drowsy, fat and flabby larva, fall a 

1 Cf. The Mason-bees: chaps, viii. and ix. — Trans- 
lator's Note. 

94 



The Primary Larva of the Oil-Beetles 

prey to some marauder who will munch its 
live entrails? As we meditate upon this 
deadly, implacable struggle which nature im- 
poses, for their preservation, on these differ- 
ent creatures, which are by turns possessors 
and dispossessed, devourers and devoured, a 
painful impression mingles with the wonder 
aroused by the means employed by each 
parasite to attain its end ; and, forgetting for 
a moment the tiny world in which these things 
happen, we are seized with terror at this 
concatenation of larceny, cunning and bri- 
gandage which forms part, alas, of the de- 
signs of alma parens rerum! 

The young Meloe-larvae established in the 
down of the Anthophorae or in that of the 
Melecta- and the Coelioxys-bees, their para- 
sites, had adopted an infallible means of 
sooner or later reaching the desired cell. 
Was it, so far as they were concerned, a 
choice dictated by the foresight of instinct, 
or just simply the result of a lucky chance? 
The question was soon decided. Various 
Flies — Drone-flies and Bluebottles (Eris- 
talis tenax and Calliphora vomit oria) — 
would settle from time to time on the ground- 
sel- or camomile-flowers occupied by the 
young Meloes and stop for a moment to suck 
the sweet secretions. On all these Flies, 
95 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

with very few exceptions, I found Meloe- 
larvae, motionless in the silky down of the 
thorax. I may also mention, as infested by 
these larvae, an Ammophila {A. hirsuta) , x 
who victuals her burrows with a caterpillar 
in early spring, while her kinswomen build 
their nests in autumn. This Wasp merely 
grazes, so to speak, the surface of a flower; 
I catch her; there are Meloes moving about 
her body. It is clear that neither the Drone- 
flies nor the Bluebottles, whose larva? live in 
putrefying matter, nor yet the Ammophilae 
who victual theirs with caterpillars, could 
ever have carried the larvae which invaded 
them into cells filled with honey. These 
larvae therefore had gone astray; and in- 
stinct, as does not often happen, was here at 
fault. 

Let us now turn our attention to the young 
Meloes waiting expectant upon the camomile- 
flowers. There they are, ten, fifteen or 
more, lodged half-way down the florets of a 
single blossom or in their interstices; it 
therefore needs a certain degree of scrutiny 
to perceive them, their hiding-place being the 

1 For the Wasp known as the Hairy Ammophila, who 
feeds her young on the Grey Worm, the caterpillar of 
the Turnip Moth, cf. The Hunting Wasps, chaps, xviii. to 
xx. — Translator's Note. 

96 



The Primary Larva of the Oil-Beetles 

more effectual in that the amber colour of 
their bodies merges in the yellow hue of the 
florets. So long as nothing unusual happens 
upon the flower, so long as no sudden shock 
announces the arrival of a strange visitor, the 
Meloes remain absolutely motionless and 
give no sign of life. To see them dipping 
vertically, head downwards, into the florets, 
one might suppose that they were seeking 
some sweet liquid, their food; but in that case 
they ought to pass more frequently from one 
floret to another, which they do not, except 
when, after a false alarm, they regain their 
hiding-places and choose the spot which seems 
to them the most favourable. This immo- 
bility means that the florets of the camomile 
serve them only as a place of ambush, even 
as later the Anthophora's body will serve 
them solely as a vehicle to convey them to 
the Bee's cell. They take no nourishment, 
either on the flowers or on the Bees; and, 
as with the Sitares, their first meal will con- 
sist of the Anthophora's egg, which the hooks 
of their mandibles are intended to rip open. 
Their immobility is, as we have said, com- 
plete; but nothing is easier than to arouse 
their suspended activity. Shake a camomile- 
blossom lightly with a bit of straw : instantly 
the Meloes leave their hiding-places, come 
97 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

up and scatter in all directions on the white 
petals of the circumference, running over 
them from one end to the other with all the 
speed which the smallness of their size per- 
mits. On reaching the extreme end of the 
petals, they fasten to it either with their 
caudal appendages, or perhaps with a sticky 
substance similar to that furnished by the 
anal button of the Sitares; and, with their 
bodies hanging outside and their six legs 
free, they bend about in every direction and 
stretch as far out as they can, as though 
striving to touch an object out of their reach. 
If nothing offers for them to seize upon, 
after a few vain attempts they regain the 
centre of the flower and soon resume their 
immobility. 

But, if we place near them any object 
whatever, they do not fail to catch on to it 
with surprising agility. A blade of grass, 
a bit of straw, the handle of my tweezers 
which I hold out to them: they accept any- 
thing in their eagerness to quit the provisional 
shelter of the flower. It is true that, after 
finding themselves on these inanimate ob- 
jects, they soon recognize that they have gone 
astray, as we see by their bustling move- 
ments to and fro and their tendency to go 
back to the flower if there still be time. 
98 



The Primary Larva of the Oil-Beetles 

Those which have thus giddily flung them- 
selves upon a bit of straw and are allowed 
to return to their flower do not readily fall 
a second time into the same trap. There 
is therefore, in these animated specks, a 
memory, an experience of things. 

After these experiments I tried others with 
hairy materials imitating more or less closely 
the down of the Bees, with little pieces of 
cloth or velvet cut from my clothes, with 
plugs of cotton wool, with pellets of flock 
gathered from the everlastings. Upon all 
these objects, offered with the tweezers, the 
Meloes flung themselves without any diffi- 
culty; but, instead of keeping quiet, as they 
do on the bodies of the Bees, they soon con- 
vinced me, by their restless behaviour, that 
they found themselves as much out of their 
element on these furry materials as on the 
smooth surface of a bit of straw. I ought to 
have expected this : had I not just seen them 
wandering without pause upon the everlast- 
ings enveloped with cottony flock? If 
reaching the shelter of a downy surface were 
enough to make them believe themselves safe 
in harbour, nearly all would perish, without 
further attempts, in the down of the plants. 

Let us now offer them live insects and, first 
of all, Anthophorae. If the Bee, after we 

99 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

have rid her of the parasites which she may 
be carrying, be taken by the wings and held 
for a moment in contact with the flower, we 
invariably find her, after this rapid contact, 
overrun by Meloes clinging to her hairs. 
The larvae nimbly take up their position on 
the thorax, usually on the shoulders or sides, 
and once there they remain motionless: the 
second stage of their strange journey is com- 
passed. 

After the Anthophorae, I tried the first 
live insects that I was able to procure at once : 
Drone-flies, Bluebottles, Hive-bees, small 
Butterflies. All were alike overrun by the 
Meloes, without hesitation. What is more, 
there was no attempt made to return to the 
flowers. As I could not find any Beetles at 
the moment, I was unable to experiment with 
them. Newport, experimenting, it is true, 
under conditions very different from mine, 
since his observations related to young 
Meloes held captive in a glass jar, while 
mine were made in the normal circumstances, 
Newport, I was saying, saw Meloes fasten 
to the body of a Malachius and stay there 
without moving, which inclines me to believe 
that with Beetles I should have obtained the 
same results as, for instance, with a Drone- 
fly. And I did, in fact, at a later date, find 

IOO 



The Primary Larva of the Oil-Beetles 

some Meloe-larvae on the body of a big 
Beetle, the Golden Rose-chafer (Cetonia 
auratd), an assiduous visitor of the flowers. 

After exhausting the insect class, I put 
within their reach my last resource, a large 
black Spider. Without hesitation they 
passed from the flower to the arachnid, 
made for places near the joints of the legs 
and settled there without moving. Every- 
thing therefore seems to suit their plans for 
leaving the provisional abode where they are 
waiting; without distinction of species, genus, 
or class, they fasten to the first living crea- 
ture that chance brings within their reach. 
We now understand how it is that these young 
larvae have been observed upon a host of 
different insects and especially upon the early 
Flies and Bees pillaging the flowers; we can 
also understand the need for that prodigious 
number of eggs laid by a single Oil-beetle, 
since the vast majority of the larvae which 
come out of them will infallibly go astray 
and will not succeed in reaching the cells of 
the Anthophorae. Instinct is at fault here; 
and fecundity makes up for it. 

But instinct recovers its infallibility in an- 
other case. The Meloes, as we have seen, 
pass without difficulty from the flower to the 
objects within their reach, whatever these 
iai 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

may be, smooth or hairy, living or inanimate. 
This done, they behave very differently, ac- 
cording as they have chanced to invade the 
body of an insect or some other object. In 
the first case, on a downy Fly or Butterfly, 
on a smooth-skinned Spider or Beetle, the 
larvae remain motionless after reaching the 
point which suits them. Their instinctive 
desire is therefore satisfied. In the second 
case, in the midst of the nap of cloth or vel- 
vet, or the filaments of cotton, or the flock of 
the everlasting, or, lastly, on the smooth 
surface of a leaf or a straw, they betray the 
knowledge of their mistake by their continual 
coming and going, by their efforts to return 
to the flower imprudently abandoned. 

How then do they recognize the nature of 
the object to which they have just moved? 
How is it that this object, whatever the qua- 
lity of its surface, will sometimes suit them 
and sometimes not? Do they judge their 
new lodging by sight? But then no mistake 
would be possible ; the sense of sight would 
tell them at the outset whether the object 
within reach was suitable or not; and emigra- 
tion would or would not take place accord- 
ing to its decision. And then how can we 
suppose that, buried in the dense thicket of 
a pellet of cotton-wool or in the fleece of an 

102 



The Primary Larva of the Oil-Beetles 

Anthophora, the imperceptible larva can 
recognize, by sight, the enormous mass 
which it is perambulating? 

Is it by touch, by some sensation due to 
the inner vibrations of living flesh? Not so, 
for the Meloes remain motionless on insect 
corpses that have dried up completely, on 
dead Anthophorae taken from cells at least 
a year old. I have seen them keep abso- 
lutely quiet on fragments of an Anthophora 
on a thorax long since nibbled and emptied 
by the Mites. By what sense then can they 
distinguish the thorax of an Anthophora 
from a velvety pellet, when sight and touch 
are out of the question? The sense of smell 
remains. But in that case what exquisite 
subtlety must we not take for granted? 
Moreover, what similarity of smell can we 
admit between all the insects which, dead or 
alive, whole or in pieces, fresh or dried, suit 
the Meloes, while anything else does not 
suit them? A wretched louse, a living 
speck, leaves us mightily perplexed as to the 
sensibility which directs it. Here is yet one 
more riddle added to all the others. 

After the observations which I have de- 
scribed, it remained for me to search the 
earthen surface inhabited by the Antho- 
phorae: I should then have followed the 
103 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

Meloe-larva in its transformations. It was 
certainly cicatricosus whose larvae I had 
been studying; it was certainly this insect 
which ravaged the cells of the Mason-bee, 
for I found it dead in the old galleries which 
it had been unable to leave. This oppor- 
tunity, which did not occur again, promised 
me an ample harvest. I had to give it all 
up. My Thursday was drawing to a close ; 
I had to return to Avignon, to resume my 
lessons on the electrophorus and the Tori- 
cellian tube. O happy Thursdays! What 
glorious opportunities I lost because you were 
too short! 

We will go back a year to continue this 
history. I collected, under far less favour- 
able conditions, it is true, enough notes to 
map out the biography of the tiny creature 
which we have just seen migrating from the 
camomile-flowers to the Anthophora's back. 
From what I have said of the Sitaris-larvae, 
it is plain that the Meloe-larvae perched, like 
the former, on the back of a Bee, have but 
one aim: to get themselves conveyed by this 
Bee to the victualled cells. Their object is 
not to live for a time on the body that carries 
them. 

Were it necessary to prove this, it would 
be enough to say that we never see these 
104 



The Primary Larva of the Oil-Beetles 

larvae attempt to pierce the skin of the Bee, 
or else to nibble at a hair or two, nor do we 
see them increase in size so long as they are 
on the Bee's body. To the Meloes, as to 
the Sitares, the Anthophora serves merely 
as a vehicle which conveys them to their goal, 
the victualled cell. 

It remains for us to learn how the Meloe 
leaves the down of the Bee which has carried 
it, in order to enter the cell. With larvae 
collected from the bodies of different Bees, 
before I was fully acquainted with the tactics 
of the Sitares, I undertook, as Newport 
had done before me, certain investigations in- 
tended to throw light on this leading point 
in the Oil-beetle's history. My attempts, 
based upon those which I had made with the 
Sitares, resulted in the same failure. The 
tiny creatures, when brought into contact 
with Anthophora-larvae or -nymphs, paid no 
attention whatever to their prey; others, 
placed near cells which were open and full of 
honey, did not enter them, or at most ven- 
tured to the edge of the orifice; others, lastly, 
put inside the cell, on the dry wall or on the 
surface of the honey, came out again im- 
mediately or else got stuck and died. The 
touch of the honey is as fatal to them as to 
the young Sitares. 

ios 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

Searches made at various periods in the 
nests of the Hairy-footed Anthophora had 
taught me some years earlier that Meloe 
cicatricosus, like the Sitares, is a parasite of 
that Bee; indeed I had at different times dis- 
covered adult Meloes, dead and shrivelled, 
in the Bee's cells. On the other hand, I 
knew from Leon Dufour that the little 
yellow animal, the Louse found in the 
Bee's down, had been recognized, thanks to 
Newport's investigations, as the larva of 
the Oil-beetle. With these data, rendered 
still more striking by what I was learning 
daily on the subject of the Sitares, I went 
to Carpentras, on the 21st of May, to 
inspect the nests of the Anthophorae, then 
building, as I have described. Though 
I was almost certain of succeeding, sooner 
or later, with the Sitares, who were ex- 
cessively abundant, I had very little hope 
of the Meloes, which on the contrary are 
very scarce in the same nests. Circum- 
stances, however, favoured me more than I 
dared hope and, after six hours' labour, in 
which the pick played a great part, I be- 
came the possessor, by the sweat of my brow, 
of a considerable number of cells occupied 
by Sitares and two other cells appropriated 

by Meloes. 

106 



The Primary Larva of the Oil-Beetles 

While my enthusiasm had not had time to 
cool at the sight, momentarily repeated, of 
a young Sitaris perched upon an Antho- 
phora's egg floating in the centre of the little 
pool of honey, it might well have burst all 
restraints on beholding the contents of one 
of these cells. On the black, liquid honey a 
wrinkled pellicle is floating; and on this pelli- 
cle, motionless, is a yellow louse. The pelli- 
cle is the empty envelope of the Anthophora's 
egg; the louse is a Meloe-larva. 

The story of this larva becomes self-evi- 
dent. The young Meloe leaves the down 
of the Bee at the moment when the egg is 
laid; and, since contact with the honey would 
be fatal to the grub, it must, in order to save 
itself, adopt the tactics followed by the 
Sitaris, that is to say, it must allow itself to 
drop on the surface of the honey with the 
egg which is in the act of being laid. There, 
its first task is to devour the egg which serves 
it for a raft, as is attested by the empty 
envelope on which it still remains; and it is 
after this 'meal, the only one that it takes so 
long as it retains its present form, that it 
must commence its long series of transfor- 
mations and feed upon the honey amassed 
by the Anthophora. This was the reason 
of the complete failure both of my attempts 
107 



The. Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

and of Newport's to rear the young Meloe- 
larvae. Instead of offering them honey, or 
larvae, or nymphs, we should have placed 
them on the eggs recently laid by the Antho- 
phora. 

On my return from Carpentras, I meant 
to try this method, together with that of the 
Sitares, with which I had been so successful; 
but, as I had no Meloe-larvae at my disposal 
and could not obtain any save by searching 
for them in the Bees' fleece, the Anthophora- 
eggs were all discovered to have hatched in 
the cells which I brought back from my ex- 
pedition, when I was at last able to find some. 
This lost experiment is little to be regretted, 
for, since the Meloes and the Sitares ex- 
hibiting the completest similarity not only in 
habits but also in their method of evolution, 
there is no doubt whatever that I should have 
succeeded. I even believe that this method 
may be attempted with the cells of various 
Bees, provided that the eggs and the honey 
do not differ too greatly from the Antho- 
phora's. I should not, for example, count 
on being successful with the cells of the 
three-horned Osmia, who shares the Antho- 
phora's quarters: her egg is short and thick; 
and her honey is yellow, odourless, solid, al- 
most a powder and very faintly flavoured. 
108 



CHAPTER V 

HYPERMETAMORPHOSIS 

DY a Machiavellian stratagem the pri- 
*■' mary larva of the Oil-beetle or the 
Sitaris has penetrated the Anthophora's cell; 
it has settled on the egg, which is its first 
food and its life-raft in one. What becomes 
of it once the egg is exhausted? 

Let us, to begin with, go back to the larva 
of the Sitaris. By the end of a week the 
Anthophora's egg has been drained dry by 
the parasite and is reduced to the envelope, 
a shallow skiff which preserves the tiny 
creature from the deadly contact of the 
honey. It is on this skiff that the first trans- 
formation takes place, whereafter the larva, 
which is now organized to live in a glutinous 
environment, drops off the raft into the pool 
of honey and leaves its empty skin, split 
along the back, clinging to the pellicle of the 
egg. At this stage we see floating motion- 
less on the honey a milk-white atom, oval, 
flat and a twelfth of an inch long. This is 
the larva of the Sitaris in its new form. 
With the aid of a lens we can distinguish the 
109 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

fluctuations of the digestive canal, which is 
gorging itself with honey; and along the cir- 
cumference of the flat, elliptical back we per- 
ceive a double row of breathing-pores which, 
thanks to their position, cannot be choked by 
the viscous liquid. Before describing the 
larva in detail we will wait for it to attain 
its full development, which cannot take long, 
for the provisions are rapidly diminishing. 
The rapidity however is not to be com- 
pared with that with which the gluttonous 
larva? of the Anthophora consume their 
food. Thus, on visiting the dwellings of the 
Anthophorae for the last time, on the 25th 
of June, I found that the Bee's larvae had 
all finished their rations and attained their 
full development, whereas those of the 
Sitares, still immersed in the honey, were, 
for the most part, only half the size which 
they must finally attain. This is yet another 
reason why the Sitares should destroy an 
egg which, were it to develop, would produce 
a voracious larva, capable of starving them 
in a very short time. When rearing the 
larvae myself in test-tubes, I have found that 
the Sitares take thirty-five to forty days to 
finish their mess of honey and that the larvae 
of the Anthophora spend less than a fort- 
night over the same meal, 
no 



Hypermetamorphosis 

It is in the first half of July that the Sitaris- 
grubs reach their full dimensions. At this 
period the cell usurped by the parasite con- 
tains nothing beyond a full-fed larva and, 
in a corner, a heap of reddish droppings. 
This larva is soft and white, about half an 
inch in length and a quarter of an inch wide 
at its broadest part. Seen from above as it 
floats on the honey, it is elliptical in form, 
tapering gradually towards the front and 
more suddenly towards the rear. Its ventral 
surface is highly convex; its dorsal surface, 
on the contrary, is almost flat. When the 
larva is floating on the liquid honey, it is as 
it were steadied by the excessive development 
of the ventral surface immersed in the honey, 
which enables it to acquire an equilibrium 
that is of the greatest importance to its wel- 
fare. In fact, the breathing-holes, arranged 
without means of protection on either edge 
of the almost flat back, are level with the 
viscous liquid and would be choked by that 
sticky glue at the least false movement, if a 
suitably ballasted hold did not prevent the 
larva from heeling over. Never was corpu- 
lent abdomen of greater use: thanks to this 
plumpness of the belly the larva is protected 
from asphyxia. 

Its segments number thirteen, including 
in 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

the head. This head is pale, soft, like the 
rest of the body, and very small compared 
with the rest of the creature. The antennae 
are excessively short and consist of two 
cylindrical joints. I have vainly looked for 
the eyes with a powerful magnifying-glass. 
In its former state, the larva, subject to 
strange migrations, obviously needs the sense 
of sight and is provided with four ocelli. In 
its present state, of what use would eyes be 
to it at the bottom of a clay cell, where the 
most absolute darkness prevails? 

The labrum is prominent, is not distinctly 
divided from the head, is curved in front and 
edged with pale and very fine bristles. The 
mandibles are small, reddish toward the tips, 
blunt and hollowed out spoonwise on the in- 
ner side. Below the mandibles is a fleshy 
part crowned with two very tiny nipples. 
This is the lower lip with its two palpi. It 
is flanked right and left by two other parts, 
likewise fleshy, adhering closely to the lip 
and bearing at the tip a rudimentary palp 
consisting of two or three very tiny joints. 
These two parts are the future jaws. All 
this apparatus of lips and jaws is completely 
immobile and in a rudimentary condition 
which is difficult to describe. They are bud- 
ding organs, still faint and embryonic. The 

112 



Hypermetamorphosis 

labrum and the complicated lamina formed 
by the lip and the jaws leave between them 
a narrow slit in which the mandibles 
work. 

The legs are merely vestiges, for, though 
they consist of three tiny cylindrical joints, 
they are barely a fiftieth of an inch in length. 
The creature is unable to make use of them, 
not only in the liquid honey upon which it 
lives, but even on a solid surface. If we 
take the larva from the cell and place it on 
a hard substance, to observe it more readily, 
we see that the inordinate protuberance of 
the abdomen, by lifting the thorax from the 
ground, prevents the legs 1 from finding a 
support. Lying on its side, the only possible 
position because of its conformation, the 
larva remains motionless or only makes a 
few lazy, wriggling movements of the ab- 
domen, without ever stirring its feeble limbs, 
which for that matter could not assist it in 
any way. In short, the tiny creature of the 
first stage, so active and alert, is succeeded 
by a ventripotent grub, deprived of move- 
ment by its very obesity. Who would recog- 
nize in this clumsy, flabby, blind, hideously 
pot-bellied creature, with nothing but a sort 
of stumps for legs, the elegant pigmy of but a 
little while back, armour-clad, slender and 
"3 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

provided with highly perfected organs for 
performing its perilous journeys? 

Lastly, we count nine pairs of stigmata : 
one pair on the mesothorax and the rest on 
the first eight segments of the abdomen. 
The last pair, that on the eighth abdominal 
segment, consists of stigmata so small that 
to detect them we have to gather their posi- 
tion by that in the succeeding states of the 
larva and to pass a very patient magnifying- 
glass along the direction of the other pairs. 
These are as yet but vestigial stigmata. The 
others are fairly large, with pale, round, flat 
edges. 

If in its first form the Sitaris-larva is or- 
ganized for action, to obtain possession of 
the coveted cell, in its second form it is or- 
ganized solely to digest the provisions ac- 
quired. Let us take a glance at its internal 
structure and in particular at its digestive 
apparatus. Here is a strange thing: this 
apparatus, in which the hoard of honey 
amassed by the Anthophora is to be engulfed, 
is similar in every respect to that of the adult 
Sitaris, who possibly never takes food. We 
find in both the same very short oesophagus, 
the same chylific ventricle, empty in the per- 
fect insect, distended in the larva with an 
abundant orange-coloured pulp; in both the 
114 



Hypermetamorphosis 

same gall-bladders, four in number, connected 
with the rectum by one of their extremities. 
Like the perfect insect, the larva is devoid 
of salivary glands or any other similar ap- 
paratus. Its nervous system comprises eleven 
ganglia, not counting the oesophageal collar, 
whereas in the perfect insect there are only 
seven: three for the thorax, of which the last 
two are contiguous, and four for the abdo- 
men. 

When its rations are finished the larva re- 
mains a few days in a motionless condition, 
ejecting from time to time a few reddish 
droppings until the digestive canal is com- 
pletely cleared of its orange-coloured pulp. 
Then the creature contracts itself, huddles it- 
self together; and before long* we see coming 
detached from its body a transparent, slightly 
crumpled and extremely fine pellicle, form- 
ing a closed bag, in which the successive trans- 
formations will take place henceforth. On 
this epidermal bag, this sort of trans- 
parent leather bottle, formed by the larva's 
skin detached all of a piece, without a slit 
of any kind, we can distinguish the several 
well-preserved external organs: the head, 
with its antennae, mandibles, paws and palpi; 
the thoracic segments, with their vestiges of 
legs; the abdomen, with its chain of breath- 
"5 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

ing-holes still connected one to another by 
tracheal threads. 

Then beneath this pellicle, which is so deli- 
cate that it can hardly bear the most cautious 
touch, we see a soft, white mass taking shape, 
a mass which in a few hours acquires a firm, 
horny consistency and a vivid yellow hue. 
The transformation is now complete. Let us 
tear the fine gauze bag enclosing the organ- 
ism which has just come into being and direct 
our investigation to this third form of the 
Sitaris-larva. 

It is an inert, segmented body, with an 
oval outline, a horny consistency, just like 
that of puae and chrysalids, and a bright- 
yellow colour, which we can best describe by 
likening it to that of a lemon-drop. Its up- 
per surface forms a double inclined plane 
with a very blunt ridge; its lower surface is 
at first flat, but, as the result of evaporation, 
becomes more concave daily, leaving a pro- 
jecting rim all around its oval outline. 
Lastly, its two extremities or poles are 
slightly flattened. The major axis of the 
lower surface averages half an inch in length 
and the minor axis a quarter of an inch. 

At the cephalic pole of this body is a sort 
of mask, modelled roughly on the head of 
the larva, and at the opposite pole a small 
116 



Hypermetamorphosis 

circular disk deeply wrinkled at the centre. 
The three segments that come after the head 
bear each a pair of very minute knobs, hardly 
visible without the lens : these are, to the legs 
of the larva in its previous form, what the 
cephalic mask is to the head of the same 
larva. They are not organs, but indications, 
landmarks placed at the points where these 
organs will appear later. On either side we 
count nine stigmata, set as before on the 
mesothorax and the first eight abdominal 
segments. The first eight breathing-holes 
are dark brown and stand out plainly against 
the yellow colour of the body. They consist 
of small, shiny, conical knobs, perforated at 
the top with a round hole. The ninth 
stigma, though fashioned like the others, is 
ever so much smaller; it cannot be distin- 
guished without the lens. 

The anomaly, already so manifest in the 
change from the first form to the second, 
becomes even more so here; and we do not 
know what name to give to an organism 
without a standard of comparison, not only 
in the order of Beetles, but in the whole class 
of insects. While, on the one hand, this 
organism offers many points of resemblance 
to the pupae of the Flies in its horny con- 
sistency, in the complete immobility of its 
117 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

various segments, in the all but absolute ab- 
sence of relief which would enable one to 
distinguish the parts of the perfect insect; 
while, on the other hand, it approximates to 
the chrysalids, because the creature, to attain 
this condition, has to shed its skin, as the 
caterpillars do, it differs from the pupa 
because it has for covering not the surface 
skin, which has become horny, but rather one 
of the inner skins of the larva ; and it differs 
from the chrysalids by the absence of mould- 
ings which in the latter betray the appendages 
of the perfect insect. Lastly, it differs yet 
more profoundly from the pupa and the chry- 
salis because from both these organisms the 
perfect insect springs straightway, whereas 
that which follows what we are considering is 
simply a larva like that which went before. 
I shall suggest, to denote this curious organ- 
ism, the term pseudochrysalis; and I shall 
reserve the names primary larva, secondary 
larva and tertiary larva to denote, in a couple 
of words, each of the three forms under 
which the Sitares possess all the character- 
istics of larvae. 

Although the Sitaris, on assuming the form 
of the pseudochrysalis, is transfigured out- 
wardly to the point of baffling the science of 
entomological phases, this is not so in- 
118 



Hypermetamorphosis 

wardly. I have at every season of the year 
examined the viscera of the pseudochrysa- 
lids, which generally remain stationary for 
a whole year, and I have never observed 
other forms among their organs than those 
which we find in the secondary larva. The 
nervous system has undergone no change. 
The digestive apparatus is absolutely void 
and, because of its emptiness, appears only 
as a thin cord, sunk, lost amid the adipose 
sacs. The stercoral intestine has more 
substance; its outlines are better defined. 
The four gall-bladders are always perfectly 
distinct. The adipose tissue is more abund- 
ant than ever: it forms by itself the whole 
contents of the pseudochrysalis, for in the 
matter of volume the insignificant threads of 
the nervous system and the digestive ap- 
paratus count for nothing. It is the reserve 
upon which life must draw for its future 
labours. 

A few Sitares remain hardly a month in 
the pseudochrysalis stage. The other 
phases are achieved in the course of August; 
and at the beginning of September the insect 
attains the perfect state. But as a rule the 
development is slower; the pseudochrysalis 
jroes through the winter; and it is not, at 
the earliest, until June in the second year that 
119 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

the final transformations take place. Let us 
pass in silence over this long period of repose, 
during which the Sitaris, in the form of a 
pseudochrysalis, slumbers at the bottom of 
its cell, in a sleep as lethargic as that of a 
germ in its egg, and come to the months of 
June and July in the following year, the 
period of what we might call a second hatch- 
ing. 

The pseudochrysalis is still enclosed in 
the delicate pouch formed of the skin of the 
secondary larva. Outside, nothing fresh has 
happened; but important changes have taken 
place inside. I have said that the pseudo- 
chrysalis displayed an upper surface arched 
like a hog's back and a lower surface at first 
flat and then more and more concave. The 
sides of the double inclined plane of the up- 
per or dorsal surface also share in this de- 
pression occasioned by the evaporation of 
the fluid constituents ; and a time comes when 
these sides are so depressed that a section 
of the pseudochrysalis through a plane per- 
pendicular to its axis would be represented 
by a curvilinear triangle with blunted corners 
and inwardly convex sides. This is the ap- 
pearance displayed by the pseudochrysalis 
during the winter and spring. 

But in June it has lost this withered ap- 

120 



Hypermetamorphosis 

pearance; it represents a perfect balloon, an 
ellipsoid of which the sections perpendicular 
to the major axis are circles. Something has 
also come to pass of greater importance than 
this expansion, which may be compared with 
that which we obtain by blowing into a 
wrinkled bladder. The horny integuments 
of the pseudochrysalis have become de- 
tached from their contents, all of a piece, 
without a break, just as happened the year 
before with the skin of the secondary larva; 
and they thus form a fresh vesicular enve- 
lope, free from any adhesion to the contents 
and itself enclosed in the pouch formed of the 
secondary larva's skin. Of these two bags 
without outlet, one of which is enclosed 
within the other, the outer is transparent, 
flexible, colourless and extremely delicate; 
the second is brittle, almost as delicate as the 
first, but much less translucent because of its 
yellow colouring, which makes it resemble 
a thin flake of amber. On this second sac 
are found the stigmatic warts, the thoracic 
studs and so forth, which we rroted on the 
pseudochrysalis. Lastly, within its cavity 
we catch a glimpse of something the shape 
of which at once recalls to mind the secondary 
larva. 

And indeed, if we tear the double envelope 

121 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

which protects this mystery, we recognize, 
not without astonishment, that we have be- 
fore our eyes a new larva similar to the 
secondary. After one of the strangest 
transformations, the creature has gone back 
to its second form. To describe the new 
larva is unnecessary, for it differs from the 
former in only a few slight details. In both 
there is the same head, wi-th its various ap- 
pendages barely outlined; the same vestiges 
of legs, the same stumps transparent as 
crystal. The tertiary larva differs from the 
secondary only by its abdomen, which is less 
fat, owing to the absolute emptiness of the 
digestive apparatus; by a double chain of 
fleshy cushions extending along each side; 
by the rim of the stigmata, crystalline and 
slightly projecting, but less so than in the 
pseudochrysalis; by the ninth pair of breath- 
ing-holes, hitherto rudimentary but now al- 
most as large as the rest; lastly by the man- 
dibles ending in a very sharp point. Evicted 
from its twofold sheath, the tertiary larva 
makes only very lazy movements of con- 
traction and dilation, without being able to 
advance, without even being able to main- 
tain its normal position, because of the weak- 
ness of its legs. It usually remains motion- 
less, lying on its side, or else displays its 

122 



Hypermetamorphosis 

drowsy activity merely by feeble, wormlike 
movements. 

By dint of these alternate contractions and 
dilations, indolent though they be, the larva 
nevertheless contrives to turn right round in 
the sort of shell with which the pseudo- 
chrysalidal integuments provide it, when by 
accident it finds itself placed head down- 
wards; and this operation is all the more dif- 
ficult inasmuch as the larva almost exactly 
fills the cavity of the shell. The creature 
contracts, bends its head under its belly and 
slides its front half over its hinder half by 
wormlike movements so slow that the lens 
can hardly detect them. In less than a 
quarter of an hour the larva, at first turned 
upside down, finds itself again head upper- 
most. I admire this gymnastic feat, but 
have some difficulty in understanding it, so 
small is the space which the larva, when at 
rest in its cell, leaves unoccupied, compared 
with that which we should be justified in ex- 
pecting from the possibility of such a re- 
versal. The larva does not long enjoy the 
privilege which enables it to resume inside 
its cell, when this is moved from its original 
position, the attitude which it prefers, that 
is to say, with its head up. 

Two days, at most, after its first appear- 
123 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

ance it relapses into an inertia as complete as 
that of the pseudochrysalis. On removing it 
from its amber shell, we see that its faculty 
of contracting or dilating at will is so com- 
pletely paralysed that the stimulus of a needle 
is unable to provoke it, though the integu- 
ments have retained all their flexibility and 
though no perceptible change has occurred 
in the organization. The irritability, there- 
fore, which in the pseudochrysalis is sus- 
pended for a whole year, reawakens for a 
moment, to relapse instantly into the deep- 
est torpor. This torpor will be partly dis- 
pelled only at the moment of the passing 
into the nymphal stage, to return immediately 
afterwards and last until the insect attains 
the perfect state. 

Further, on holding larvae of the third 
form, or nymphs enclosed in their cells, in 
an inverted position, in glass tubes, we never 
see them regain an erect position, however 
long we continue the experiment. The per- 
fect insect itself, during the time that it is 
enclosed in the shell, cannot regain it, for 
lack of the requisite flexibility. This total 
absence of movement in the tertiary larva, 
when a few days old, and also in the nymph, 
together with the smallness of the space left 
free in the shell, would necessarily lead to 
124 



Hypermetamorphosis 

the conviction, if we had not witnessed the 
first moments of the tertiary larva, that it is 
absolutely impossible for the creature to turn 
right round. 

And now see to what curious inferences 
this lack of observations made at the due 
moment may lead us. We collect some 
pseudochrysalids and heap them in a glass 
jar in all possible positions. The favour- 
able season arrives; and with very legitimate 
astonishment we find that, in a large num- 
ber of shells, the larva or nymph occupies 
an inverted position, that is to say, the 
head is turned towards the anal extremity 
of the shell. In vain we watch these re- 
versed bodies for any indications of move- 
ment; in vain we place the shells in every 
imaginable position, to see if the creature will 
turn round; in vain, once more, we ask our- 
selves where the free space is which this 
turning would demand. The illusion is 
complete: I have been taken in by it my- 
self; and for two years I indulged in the 
wildest conjectures to account for this lack 
of correspondence between the shell and its 
contents, to explain, in short, a fact which 
is inexplicable once the propitious moment 
has passed. 

On the natural site, in the cells of the 
125 



The Glow- Worm and) Other Beetles 

Anthophora, this apparent anomaly never 
occurs, because the secondary larva, when 
on the point of transformation into the 
pseudochrysalis, is always careful to place 
its head uppermost, according as the axis of 
the cell more or less nearly approaches the 
vertical. But, when the pseudochrysalids 
are placed higgledy-piggledy in a box or jar, 
all those which are upside down will later 
contain inverted larva? or nymphs. 

After four changes of form so profound 
as those which I have described, one might 
reasonably expect to find some modifications 
of the internal organization. Nevertheless, 
nothing is changed; the nervous system is the 
same in the tertiary larva as in the earlier 
phases; the reproductive organs do not yet 
show; and there is no need to mention the 
digestive apparatus, which remains invari- 
able even in the perfect insect. 

The duration of the tertiary larva is a 
bare four or five weeks, which is also about 
the duration of the second. In July, when 
the secondary larva passes into the pseudo- 
chrysalid stage, the tertiary larva passes into 
the nymphal stage, still inside the double 
vesicular envelope. Its skin splits along the 
back in front; and with the assistance of a 
few feeble contractions, which reappear at 
126 



Hypermetamorphosis 

this juncture, it is thrust behind in the shape 
of a little ball. There is therefore nothing 
here that differs from what happens in the 
other Beetles. 

Nor does the nymph which succeeds this 
tertiary larva present any peculiarity: it is 
the perfect insect in swaddling-bands, yellow- 
ish white, with its various external members, 
clear as crystal, displayed under the ab- 
domen. A few weeks elapse, during which 
the nymph partly dons the livery of the 
adult state ; and, in about a month, the insect 
moults for a last time, in the usual manner, 
in order to attain its final form. The wing- 
cases are now of a uniform yellowish white, 
as are the wings, the abdomen and the greater 
part of the legs; very nearly all the rest of 
the body is of a glossy black. In the space 
of twenty-four hours, the wing-cases assume 
their half-black, half-russet colouring; the 
wings grow darker; and the legs finish turn- 
ing black. This done, the adult organism 
is completed. However, the Sitaris remains 
still a fortnight in the intact shell, ejecting 
at intervals white droppings of uric acid, 
which it pushes back together with the shreds 
of its last two sloughs, those of the tertiary 
larva and of the nymph. Lastly, about the 
middle of August, it tears the double bag 
127 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

that contains it, pierces the lid of the Antho- 
phora's cell, enters a corridor and appears 
outside in quest of the other sex. 

I have told how, while digging in search 
of the Sitaris, I found two cells belonging to 
Meloe cicatricosus. One contained an An- 
thophora's egg; with this egg was a yellow 
Louse, the primary larva of the Meloe. The 
history of this tiny creature we know. The 
second cell also was full of honey. On the 
sticky liquid floated a little white larva, about 
a sixth of an inch in length and very differ- 
ent from the other little white larvae be- 
longing to Sitares. The rapid fluctuations 
of the abdomen showed that it was eagerly 
drinking the strong-scented nectar collected 
by the Bee. This larva was the young Meloe 
in the second period of its development. 

I was not able to preserve these two 
precious cells, which I had opened wide to 
examine the contents. On my return from 
Carpentras, I found that their honey had 
been spilt by the motion of the carriage and 
that their inhabitants were dead. On the 
25th of June, a fresh visit to the nests of the 
Anthophorae furnished me with two larvae 
like the foregoing, but much larger. One of 
them was on the point of finishing its store 
of honey, the other still had nearly half left. 
128 



Hypermetamorphosis 

The first was put in a place of safety with a 
thousand precautions, the second was at once 
immersed in alcohol. 

These larvae are blind, soft, fleshy, yel- 
lowish white, covered with a fine down visible 
only under the lens, curved into a fish-hook 
like the larvae of the Lamellicorns, to which 
they bear a certain resemblance in their ge- 
neral configuration. The segments, includ- 
ing the head, number thirteen, of which nine 
are provided with breathing-holes with a 
pale, oval rim. These are the mesothorax 
and the first eight abdominal segments. As 
in the Sitaris-larvae, the last pair of stigmata, 
that of the eighth segment of the abdomen, 
is less developed than the rest. 

The head is horny, of a light brown 
colour. The epistoma is edged with brown. 
The labrum is prominent, white and trape- 
zoidal. The mandibles are black, strong, 
short, obtuse, only slightly curved, sharp- 
edged and furnished each with a broad tooth 
on the inner side. The maxillary and labial 
palpi are brown and shaped like very small 
studs with two or three joints to them. The 
antennae, inserted just at the base of the 
mandibles, are brown, and consist of three 
sections: the first is thick and globular; the 
two others are much smaller in diameter and 
129 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

cylindrical. The legs are short, but fairly 
strong, able to serve the creature for craw- 
ling or digging; they end in a strong black 
claw. The length of the larva when fully 
developed is one inch. 

As far as I can judge from the dissection 
of the specimen preserved in alcohol, whose 
viscera were affected by being kept too long 
in that liquid, the nervous system consists of 
eleven ganglia, not counting the oesophageal 
collar; and the digestive apparatus does not 
differ perceptibly from that of an adult Oil- 
beetle. 

The larger of the two larvae of the 25th 
of June, placed in a test-tube with what re- 
mained of its provisions, assumed a new form- 
during the first week of the following month. 
Its skin split along the front dorsal half and, 
after being pushed half back, left partly un- 
covered a pseudochrysalis bearing the closest 
analogy with that *of the Sitares. Newport 
did not see the larva of the Oil-beetle in its 
second form, that which it displays when it 
is eating the mess of honey hoarded by the 
Bees, but he did see its moulted skin half- 
covering the pseudochrysalis which I have 
just mentioned. From the sturdy mandibles 
and the legs armed with a powerful claw 
which he observed on this moulted skin, New- 
130 



Hypermetamorphosis 

port assumed that, instead of remaining in 
the same Anthophora-cell, the larva, which 
is capable of burrowing, passes from one cell 
to another in search of additional nourish- 
ment. This suspicion seems to me to be 
well-founded, for the size which the larva 
finally attains exceeds the proportions which 
the small quantity of honey enclosed in a sin- 
gle cell would lead us to expect. 

Let us go back to the pseudochrysalis. 
It is, as in the Sitares, an inert body, of a 
horny consistency, amber-coloured and 
divided into thirteen segments, including the 
head. Its length is 20 millimetres. 1 It is 
slightly curved into an arc, highly convex on 
the dorsal surface, almost flat on the ventral 
surface and edged with a projecting fillet 
which marks the division between the two. 
The head is only a sort of mask on which 
certain features are vaguely carved in still 
relief, corresponding with the future parts of 
the head. On the thoracic segments are 
three pairs of tubercles, corresponding with 
the legs of the recent larva and the future 
insect. Lastly, there are nine pairs of stig- 
mata, one pair on the mesothorax and the 
eight following pairs on the first eight seg- 
ments of the abdomen. The last pair is 

1 .787 inch. — Translator's Note. 
l3l 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

rather smaller than the rest, a peculiarity 
which we have already noted in the larva 
which precedes the pseudochrysalis. 

On comparing the pseudochrysalids of 
the Oil-beetles and Sitares, we observe a 
most striking similarity between the two. 
The same structure occurs in both, down to 
the smallest details. We find on either side 
the same cephalic masks, the same tubercles 
occupying the place of the legs, the same dis- 
tribution and the same number of stigmata 
and, lastly, the same colour, the same rigidity 
of the integuments. The only points of dif- 
ference are in the general appearance, which 
is not the same in the two pseudochrysalids, 
and in the covering formed by the cast skin 
of the late larva. In the Sitares, in fact, 
this cast skin constitutes a closed bag, a pouch 
completely enveloping the pseudochrysalis; 
in the Oil-beetles, on the contrary, it is split 
down the back and pushed to the rear and, 
consequently, only half-covers the pseudo- 
chrysalis. 

The post-mortem examination of the only 
pseudochrysalis in my possession showed me 
that, similarly to that which happens in the 
Sitares, no change occurred in the organi- 
zation of the viscera, notwithstanding the 
profound transformations which take place 
132 



Hypermetamorphosis 

externally. In the midst of innumerable lit- 
tle sacs of adipose tissue is buried a thin 
thread in which we easily recognize the es- 
sential features of the digestive apparatus, 
both of the preceding larval form and of the 
perfect insect. As for the medullary cord 
of the abdomen, it consists, as in the larva, 
of eight ganglia. In the perfect insect it 
comprises only four. 

I could not say positively how long the 
Oil-beetle remains in the pseudochrysalid 
form; but, if we consider the very complete 
analogy between the evolution of the Oil- 
beetles and that of the Sitares, there is rea- 
son to believe that a few pseudochrysalids 
complete their transformation in the same 
year, while others, in greater numbers, re- 
main stationary for a whole year and do 
not attain the state of the perfect insect 
until the following spring. This is also 
the opinion expressed by Newport. 

Be this as it may, I found at the end of 
August one of these pseudochrysalids which 
had already attained the nymphal stage. It 
is with the help of this precious capture that 
I shall be able to finish the story of the Oil- 
beetle's development. The horny integu- 
ments of the pseudochrysalis are split along 
a fissure which includes the whole ventral 
133 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

surface and the whole of the head and runs 
up the back of the thorax. This cast skin, 
which is stiff and keeps its shape, is half- 
enclosed, as was the pseudochrysalis, in the 
skin shed by the secondary larva. Lastly, 
through the fissure, which divides it almost 
in two, a Meloe-nymph half-emerges; so 
that, to all appearances, the pseudochrysalis 
has been followed immediately by the nymph, 
which does not happen with the Sitares, which 
pass from the first of these two states to the 
second only by assuming an intermediary 
form closely resembling that of the larva 
which eats the store of honey. 

But these appearances are deceptive, for, 
on removing the nymph from the split sheath 
formed by the integuments of the pseudo- 
chrysalis, we find, at the bottom of this 
sheath, a third cast skin, the last of those 
which the creature has so far rejected. This 
skin is even now adhering to the nymph by 
a few tracheal filaments. If we soften it 
in water, we easily recognize that it possesses 
an organization almost identical with that 
which preceded the pseudochrysalis. In the 
latter case only, the mandibles and the legs 
are not so robust. Thus, after passing 
through the pseudochrysalid stage, the Oil- 
134 



Hypermetamorphosis 

beetles for some time resume the preceding 
form, almost without modification. 

The nymph comes next. It presents no 
peculiarities. The only nymph that I have 
reared attained the perfect insect state at the 
end of September. Under ordinary condi- 
tions would the adult Oil-beetle have emerged 
from her cell at this period? I do not think 
so, since the pairing and egg-laying do not 
take place until the beginning of spring. She 
would no doubt have spent the autumn and 
the winter in the Anthophora's dwelling, 
only leaving it in the spring following. It 
is even probable that, as a rule, the develop- 
ment is even slower and that the Oil-beetles, 
like the Sitares, for the most part spend the 
cold season in the pseudochrysalid state, a 
state well-adapted to the winter torpor, and 
do not achieve their numerous forms until 
the return of the warm weather. 

The Sitares and Meloes belong to the 
same family, that of the Meloidae. 1 Their 
strange transformations must probably ex- 
tend throughout the group ; indeed, I had the 
good fortune to discover a third example, 
which I have not hitherto been able to study 

1 Later classifiers place both in the family of the Can- 
tharidx. — Translator's Note. 
135 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

in all its details after twenty-five years of 
investigation. On six occasions, no oftener, 
during this long period I have set eyes on 
the pseudochrysalis which I am about to de- 
scribe. Thrice I obtained it from old 
Chalicodoma-nests built upon a stone, nests 
which I at first attributed to the Chalicodoma 
of the Walls and which I now refer with 
greater probability to the Chalicodoma of 
the Sheds. I once extracted it from the gal- 
leries bored by some wood-eating larva in 
the trunk of a dead wild pear-tree, galleries 
afterwards utilized for the cells of an Osmia, 
I do not know which. Lastly, I found a pair 
of them in between the row of cocoons of 
the Three-pronged Osmia (O. tridentata, 
DUF.), who provides a home for her larvae 
in a channel dug in the dry bramble stems. 
The insect in question therefore is a parasite 
of the Osmiae. When I extract it from the 
old Chalicodoma-nests, I have to attribute 
it not to this Bee but to one of the Osmia: 
(O. tricornis and O. latreillii) who, when 
making their nests, utilize the old galleries 
of the Mason-bee. 

The most nearly complete instances that I 
have seen furnishes me with the following 
data : the pseudochrysalis is very closely en- 
veloped in the skin of the secondary larva, a 
136 



Hypermetamorphosis 

skin consisting of fine transparent pellicle, 
without any rent whatever. This is the 
pouch of the Sitaris, save that it lies in imme- 
diate contact with the body enclosed. On 
this jacket we distinguish three pairs of tiny 
legs, reduced to short vestiges, to stumps. 
The head is in place, showing quite percep- 
tibly the fine mandibles and the other parts of 
the mouth. There is no trace of eyes. Each 
side has a white edging of shrivelled tracheae, 
running from one stigmatic orifice to an- 
other. 

Next comes the pseudochrysalis, horny, 
currant-red, cylindrical, cone-shaped at both 
ends, slightly convex on the dorsal surface 
and concave on the ventral surface. It is 
covered with delicate, prominent spots, 
sprinkled very close together; it takes a lens 
to show them. It is i centimetre long and 
4 millimetres wide. 1 We can distinguish a 
large knob of a head, on which the mouth is 
vaguely outlined; three pairs of little shiny 
brown specks, which are the hardly per- 
ceptible vestiges of the legs; and on each 
side a row of eight black specks, which are the 
stigmatic orifices. The first speck stands by 
itself, in front ; the seven others, divided from 
the first by an empty space, form a continu- 

1 .393 x .156 inch. — Translator's Note. 
137 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

ous row. Lastly, at the opposite end is a 
little pit, the sign of the anal pore. 

Of the six pseudochrysalids which a lucky 
accident placed at my disposal, four were 
dead; the other two were furnished by Zo- 
nitis mutica. This justified my forecast, 
which from the first, with analogy for my 
guide, made me attribute these curious or- 
ganizations to the genus Zonitis. The 
meloidal parasite of the Osmiae, therefore, 
is recognized. We have still to make the 
acquaintance of the primary larva, which 
gets itself carried by the Osmia into the cell 
full of honey, and the tertiary larva, the one 
which, at a given moment, must be found con- 
tained in the pseudochrysalis, a larva which 
will be succeeded by the nymph. 

Let us recapitulate the strange metamor- 
phoses which I have sketched. Every 
Beetle-larva, before attaining the nymphal 
stage, undergoes a greater or smaller num- 
ber of moults, of changes of skin; but these 
moults, which are intended to favour the de- 
velopment of the larva by ridding it of co- 
vering that has become too tight for it, in no 
way alter its external shape. After any 
moult that it may have undergone, the larva 
retains the same characteristics. If it begin 
by being tough, it will not become tender; if 
138 



Hypermetamorphosis 

it be equipped with legs, it will not be de- 
prived of them later; if it be provided with 
ocelli, it will not become blind. It is true 
that the diet of these non-variable larvae re- 
mains the same throughout their duration, 
as do the conditions under which they are 
destined to live. 

But suppose that this diet varies, that the 
environment in which they are called upon 
to live changes, that the circumstances ac- 
companying their development are liable to 
great changes: it then becomes evident that 
the moult may and even must adapt the or- 
ganization of the larva to these new con- 
ditions of existence. The primary larva of 
the Sitaris lives on the body of the Anthro- 
phora. Its perilous peregrinations demand 
agility of movement, long-sighted eyes and 
masterly balancing-appliances; it has, in fact, 
a slender shape, ocelli, legs and special organs 
adapted to averting a fall. Once inside the 
Bee's cell, it has to destroy the egg; its sharp 
mandibles, curved into hooks, will fulfil this 
office. This done, there is a change of diet: 
after the Anthophora's egg the larva pro- 
ceeds to consume the ration of honey. The 
environment in which it has to live also 
changes: instead of balancing itself on a 
hair of the Anthophora, it has now to float 
139 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

on a sticky fluid; instead of living in broad 
daylight, it has to remain plunged in the pro- 
foundest darkness. Its sharp mandibles 
must therefore become hollowed into a spoon 
that they may scoop up the honey; its legs, 
its cirri, its balancing-appliances must dis- 
appear as useless and even harmful, since all 
these organs can only involve the larva in 
serious danger, by causing it to stick in the 
honey; its slender shape, its horny in- 
teguments, its ocelli, being no longer neces- 
sary in a dark cell where movement is im- 
possible, where there are no rough en- 
counters to be feared, may likewise give place 
to complete blindness, to soft integuments, 
to a heavy, slothful form. This transfigura- 
tion, which everything shows to be indis- 
pensable to the life of the larva, is effected 
by a simple moult. 

We do not so plainly perceive the necessity 
of the subsequent forms, which are so ab- 
normal that nothing like them is known in 
all the rest of the insect class. The larva 
which is fed on honey first adopts a false 
chrysalid appearance and afterwards goes 
back to its earlier form, though the necessity 
for these transformations escapes us entirely. 
Here I am obliged to record the facts and to 
leave the task of interpreting them to the 
140 



Hypermetamorphosis 

future. The larva of the Meloidae, there- 
fore, undergo four moults before attaining 
the nymphal state; and after each moult 
their characteristics alter most profoundly. 
During all these external changes, the in- 
ternal organization remains unchangingly the 
same; and it is only at the moment of the 
nymph's appearance that the nervous system 
becomes concentrated and that the reproduct- 
ive organs are developed, absolutely as in 
the other Beetles. 

Thus, to the ordinary metamorphoses 
which make a Beetle pass successively 
through the stages of larva, nymph and per- 
fect insect, the Meloidae add others which 
repeatedly transform the larva's exterior, 
without introducing any modification of its 
viscera. This mode of development, which 
preludes the customary entomological forms 
by the multiple transfigurations of the larva, 
certainly deserves a special name: I sug- 
gest that of hypermetamorphosis. 

Let us now recapitulate the more promi- 
nent facts of this essay. 

The Sitares, the Meloes, the Zonites and 
apparently other Meloidae, possibly all of 
them, are in their earliest infancy parasites 
of the harvesting Bees. 

The larva of the Meloidae, before reach- 
141 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

ing the nymphal state, passes through four 
forms, which I call the primary larva, the 
secondary larva, the pseudochry salts and the 
tertiary larva. The passage from one of 
these forms to the next is effected by a simple 
moult, without any changes in the viscera. 

The primary larva is leathery and settles 
on the Bee's body. Its object is to get itself 
carried into a cell filled with honey. On 
reaching the cell, it devours the Bee's egg; 
and its part is played. 

The secondary larva is soft and differs 
completely from the primary larva in its ex- 
ternal characteristics. It feeds upon the 
honey contained in the usurped cell. 

The pseudochrysalis is a body deprived 
of all movement and clad in horny in- 
teguments which may be compared with those 
of the pupae and chrysalids. On these in- 
teguments we see a cephalic mask without 
distinct or movable parts, six tubercles in- 
dicating the legs and nine pairs of breathing- 
holes. In the Sitares the pseudochrysalis is 
enclosed in a sort of sealed pouch and in the 
Zonites in a tight-fitting bag formed of the 
skin of the secondary larva. In the Meloes 
it is simply half-sheathed in the split skin of 
the secondary larva. 

The tertiary larva reproduces almost ex- 
142 



Hypermetamorphosis 

actly the peculiarities of the second; it is en- 
closed, in the Sitares and probably also the 
Zonites, in a double vesicular envelope 
formed of the skin of the secondary larva 
and the slough of the pseudochrysalis. In 
the Meloes, it is half-enclosed in the split in- 
teguments of the pseudochrysalis, even as 
these, in their turn, are half-enclosed in the 
skin of the secondary larva. 

From the tertiary larva onwards the 
metamorphoses follow their habitual course, 
that is to say, this larva becomes a nymph; 
and this nymph the perfect insect. 



143 



CHAPTER VI 

CEROCONfcE, MYLABRES AND ZONITES 

ALL has not been told concerning the 
Meloidae, those strange parasites, some 
of which, the Sitares and the Oil-beetles, 
attach themselves, like the tiniest of Lice, 
to the fleece of various Bees to get them- 
selves carried into the cell where they 
will destroy the egg and afterwards feed 
upon the ration of honey. A most unex- 
pected discovery, made a few hundred yards 
from my door, has warned me once again 
how dangerous it is to generalize. To take 
it for granted, as the mass of data hitherto 
collected seemed to justify us in doing, that 
all the Meloidae of our country usurp the 
stores of honey accumulated by the Bees, 
was surely a most judicious and natural ge- 
neralization. Many have accepted it with- 
out hesitation; and I for my part was one 
of them. For on what are we to base our 
conviction \vhen we imagine that we are 
stating a law? We think to take our stand 
upon the general; and we plunge into the 
144 



Cerocomae, Mylabres and Zonites 

quicksands of error. And behold, the law 
of the Meloidae has to be struck off the 
statutes, a fate common to many others, as 
this chapter will prove. 

On the 1 6th of July, 1883, I was digging, 
with my son Emile, in the sandy heap where, 
a few days earlier, I had been observing the 
labours and the surgery of the Mantis-killing 
Tachytes. My purpose was to collect a few 
cocoons of this Digger-wasp. The cocoons 
were turning up in^ abundance under my 
pocket-trowel, when Emile presented me with 
an unknown object. Absorbed in my task 
of collection, I slipped the find into my box 
without examining it further than with a 
rapid glance. We left the spot. Half-way 
home, the ardour of my search became as- 
suaged; and a thought of the problematical 
object, so negligently dropped into the box 
among the cocoons, flashed across my mind. 

" Hullo 1" I said to myself. "Suppose 
it were that? Why not? But, no, yes, it 
is that; that's just what it is!" 

Then, suddenly turning to Emile, who was 
rather surprised by this soliloquy: 

" My boy," I said, " you have had a mag- 
nificent find. It's a pseudochrysalis of the 
Meloidae. It's a document of incalculable 
value; you've struck a fresh vein in the ex- 
145 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

traordinary records of these creatures. Let 
us look at it closely and at once." 

The thing was taken from the box, dusted 
by blowing on it and carefully examined. I 
really had before my eyes the pseudo- 
chrysalis of some Meloid. Its shape was 
unfamiliar to me. No matter: I was an 
old hand and could not mistake its source. 
Everything assured me that I was on the 
track of an insect that rivalled the Sitares 
and the Oil-beetles in the strangeness of its 
transformations; and, what was a still more 
precious fact, its occurrence amid the burrows 
of the Mantis-killer told me that its habits 
would be wholly different. 

" It's very hot, my poor Emile ; we are 
both of us pretty done. Never mind: let's 
go back to our sand-hill and dig and have 
another search. I must have the larva that 
comes before the pseudochrysalis; I must, if 
possible, have the insect that comes out of 
it." 

Success responded amply to our zeal. We 
found a goodly number of pseudochrysalids. 
More often still, we unearthed larvae which 
were busy eating the Mantes, the rations of 
the Tachytes. Are these really the larvae 
that turn into the pseudochrysalids? It 
seems very probable, but there is room for 
146 



Cerocomae, Mylabres and Zonites 

doubt. Rearing them at home will dispel 
the mists of probability and replace them by 
the light of certainty. But that is all : I have 
not a vestige of the perfect insect to inform 
me of the nature of the parasite. The fu- 
ture, let us hope, will fill this gap. Such was 
the result of the first trench opened in the 
heap of sand. Later searches enriched my 
harvest a little, without furnishing me with 
fresh data. 

Let us now proceed to examine my double 
find. And first of all the pseudochrysalis, 
which put me on the alert. It is a motion- 
less, rigid body, of a waxen yellow, smooth, 
shiny, curved like a fish-hook towards the 
head, which is inflected. Under a very 
powerful magnifying-glass the surface is seen 
to be strewn with very tiny points which are 
slightly raised and shinier than the surface. 
There are thirteen segments, including the 
head. The dorsal surface is convex, the 
ventral surface flat. A blunt ridge divides 
the two surfaces. The three thoracic seg- 
ments bear each a pair of tiny conical nipples, 
of a deep rusty red, signs of the future legs. 
The stigmata are very distinct, appearing as 
specks of a deeper red than the rest of the 
integuments. There is one pair, the largest, 
on the second segment of the thorax, almost 
147 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

on the line dividing it from the first segment. 
Then follow eight pairs, one on each seg- 
ment of the abdomen except the last, making 
in all nine pairs of stigmata. The last pair, 
that of the eighth abdominal segment, is the 
smallest. 

The anal extremity displays no peculiarity. 
The cephalic mask comprises eight cone- 
shaped tubercles, dark red like the tubercles 
of the legs. Six of these are arranged in two 
lateral rows ; the others are between the two 
rows. In each row of three nipples, the one 
in the middle is the largest; it no doubt cor- 
responds with the mandibles. The length of 
this organism varies greatly, fluctuating be- 
tween 8 and 15 millimetres. 1 Its width is 
from 3 to 4 millimetres. 2 

Apart from the general configuration, it 
will be seen that we have here the strikingly 
characteristic appearance of the pseudo- 
chrysalids of the Sitares, Oil-beetles and 
Zonites. There are the same rigid in- 
teguments, of the red of a cough-lozenge or 
virgin wax; the same cephalic mask, in which 
the future mouth-parts are represented by 
faintly marked tubercles; the same thoracic 
studs, which are the vestiges of the legs ; the 

l .jia to .585 inch. — Translator's Note. 
2 .ii7 to .156 inch. — Translator's Note. 
148 



Cerocomae, Mylabres and Zonites 

same distribution of the stigmata. I was 
therefore firmly convinced that the parasite 
of the Mantis-hunters could only be a 
Meloid. 

Let us also record the description of the 
strange larva found devouring the heap of 
Mantes in the burrows of the Tachytes. It 
is naked, blind, white, soft and sharply 
curved. Its general appearance suggests the 
larva of some Weevil. I should be even 
more accurate if I compared it with the 
secondary larva of Meloe cicatricosus, of 
which I once published a drawing in the 
Annales des sciences naturelles. 1 If we re- 
duce the dimensions considerably, we shall 
have something very like the parasite of the 
Tachytes. 

The head is large, faintly tinged with red. 
The mandibles are strong, bent into a pointed 
hook, black at the tip and a fiery red at the 
base. The antennae are very short, inserted 
close to the root of the mandibles. I count 
three joints: the first thick and globular, the 
other two cylindrical, the second of these cut 
short abruptly. There are twelve segments, 
apart from the head, divided by fairly 

1 It was his essays in this periodical, on the metamor- 
phoses of the Shares and Oil-beetles, that procured Fabre 
his first reputation as an entomologist. — Translator's 
Note. 

149 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

definite grooves. The first thoracic segment 
is a little longer than the rest, with the dor- 
sal plate very slightly tinged with russet, 
as is the top of the head. Beginning with 
the tenth segment, the body tapers a little. 
A slight scalloped rim divides the dorsal 
from the ventral surface. 

The legs are short, white and transparent 
and end in a feeble claw. A pair of stig- 
mata on the mesothorax, near the line of 
junction with the prothorax; a stigma on 
either side of the first eight abdominal seg- 
ments; in all nine pairs of stigmata, dis- 
tributed like those of the pseudochrysalis. 
These stigmata are small, tinged with red 
and rather difficult to distinguish. Varying 
in size, like the pseudochrysalid which seems 
to come from it, this larva averages nearly 
half an inch in length and an eighth of an 
inch in width. 

The six little legs, feeble though they be, 
perform services which one would not at first 
suspect. They embrace the Mantis that is 
being devoured and hold her under the 
mandibles, while the grub, lying on its side, 
takes its meal at its ease. They also serve 
for locomotion. On a firm surface, such as 
the wooden top of my table, the larva can 
move about quite well; it toddles along, 
150 



Cerocomae, Mylabres and Zonites 

dragging its belly, with its body straight from 
end to end. On fine, loose sand, change of 
position becomes difficult. The grub now 
bends itself into a bow; it wriggles upon its 
back, upon its side; it crawls a little way; it 
digs and heaves with its mandibles. But let 
a less crumbling support come to its assist- 
ance; and pilgrimages of some length are 
not beyond its powers. 

I reared my guests in a box divided into 
compartments by means of paper partitions. 
Each space, representing about the capacity 
of a Tachytes-cell, received its layer of sand, 
its pile of Mantes and its larva. And more 
than one disturbance arose in this refectory, 
where I had reckoned upon keeping the 
banqueters isolated one from the other, each 
at its special table. This larva, which had 
finished its ration the day before, was dis- 
covered next day in another chamber, where 
it was sharing its neighbour's repast. It had 
therefore climbed the partition, which for 
that matter was of no great height, or else 
had forced its way through some chink. 
This is enough, I think, to prove that the grub 
is not a strict stay-at-home, as are the larvae 
of the Sitares and the Oil-beetles when de- 
vouring the ration of the Anthophora. 

I imagine that, in the burrows of the 
151 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

Tachytes, the grub, when its heap of Mantes 
is consumed, moves from cell to cell until it 
has satisfied its appetite. Its subterranean 
excursions cannot cover a wide range, but 
they enable it to visit a few adjacent cells. 
I have mentioned how greatly the Tachytes' 
provision of Mantes varies. 1 The smaller 
rations certainly fall to the males, which are 
puny dwarfs compared with their compani- 
ons; the more plentiful fall to the females. 
The parasitic grub to which fate has al- 
lotted the scanty masculine ration has not 
perhaps sufficient with this share ; it wants an 
extra portion, which it can obtain by chan- 
ging its cell. If it be favoured by chance, 
it will eat according to the measure of 
its hunger and will attain the full develop- 
ment of which its race allows; if it wander 
about without finding anything, it will fast 
and will remain small. This would explain 
the differences which I note in both the 
grubs and the pseudochrysalids, differences 
amounting in linear dimensions to a hundred 
per cent and more. The rations, rare or 
abundant according to the cells lit upon, 
would determine the size of the parasite. 
During the active period, the larva un- 

!The essay on the Tachytes has not yet appeared in 
English. It will form part of a volume entitled More 
Hunting W asps.— Translator's Note. 
152 



Cerocomae, Mylabres and Zonites 

dergoes a few moults; I have witnessed at 
least one of these. The creature stripped 
of its skin appears as it was before, without 
any change of form. It instantly resumes 
its meal, which was interrupted while the old 
skin was shed; it embraces with its legs an- 
other Mantis on the heap and proceeds to 
nibble her. Whether simple or multiple, 
this moult has nothing in common with the 
renewals due to the hypermetamorphosis, 
which so profoundly change the creature's 
appearance. 

Ten days' rearing in the partitioned box is 
enough to prove how right I was when I 
looked upon the parasitic larva feeding on 
Mantes as the origin of the pseudochrysalis, 
the object of my eager attention. The 
creature, which I kept supplied with addi- 
tional food as long as it accepted it, stops 
eating at last. It becomes motionless, re- 
tracts its head slightly and bends itself into 
a hook. Then the skin splits across the head 
and down the thorax. The tattered slough 
is thrust back; and the pseudochrysalis ap- 
pears in sight, absolutely naked. It is white 
at first, as the larva was ; but by degrees and 
fairly rapidly it turns to the russet hue of 
virgin wax, with a brighter red at the tips 
of the various tubercles which indicate the 
153 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

future legs and mouth-parts. This shed- 
ding of the skin, which leaves the body of the 
pseudochrysalis uncovered, recalls the mode 
of transformation observed in the Oil- 
beetles and is different from that of the 
Sitares and the Zonites, whose pseudo- 
chrysalis remains wholly enveloped in the 
skin of the secondary larva, a sort of bag 
which is sometimes loose, sometimes tight 
and always unbroken. 

The mist that surrounded us at the out- 
set is dispelled. This is indeed a Meloid, 
a true Meloid, one of the strangest anomalies 
among the parasites of its tribe. Instead 
of living on the honey of a Bee, it feeds on 
the skewerful of Mantes provided by a 
Tachytes. The North-American naturalists 
have taught us lately that honey is not always 
the diet of the Blister-beetles : some Meloidae 
in the United States devour the packets of 
eggs laid by the Grasshoppers. This is a 
legitimate acquisition on their part, not an 
illegal seizure of the food-stores of others. 
No one, as far as I am aware, had as yet 
suspected the true parasitism of a carnivor- 
ous Meloid. It is nevertheless very remark- 
able to find in the Blister-beetles, on both 
sides of the Atlantic, this weakness for the 
flavour of Locust: one devours her eggs; the 
154 



Cerocomae, Mylabres and Zonites 

other a representative of the order, in the 
shape of the Praying Mantis and her kin. 

Who will explain to me this predilection 
for the Orthopteron in a tribe whose chief, 
the Oil-beetle, accepts nothing but the mess 
of honey? Why do insects which appear 
close together in all our classifications possess 
such opposite tastes? If they spring from 
a common stock, how did the consumption of 
flesh supplant the consumption of honey? 
How did the Lamb become a Wolf? This 
is the great problem which was once set us, 
in an inverse form, by the Spotted Sapyga, 
a honey-eating relative of the flesh-eating 
Scolia. 1 I submit the question to whom it 
may concern. 

The following year, at the beginning of 
June, some of my pseudochrysalids split open 
transversely behind the head and lengthwise 
down the whole of the median line of the 
back, except the last two or three segments. 
From it emerges the tertiary larva, which, 
from a simple examination with the pocket- 
lens, appears to me, in its general features, 
identical with the secondary larva, the one 
which eats the Tachytes' provisions. It is 
naked and pale-yellow, the 'colour of butter. 

1 The essays on these will appear in the volume, en- 
titled The Hunting Wasps, aforementioned. — Translator's 
Note. 

155 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

It is active and wriggles with awkward move- 
ments. Ordinarily it lies upon its side, but 
it can also stand in the normal position. 
The creature is then trying to use its legs, 
without finding sufficient purchase to enable 
it to walk. A few days later, it relapses into 
complete repose. 

Thirteen segments, including the head, 
which is large, with a quadrilateral cranium, 
rounded at the sides. Short antennae, con- 
sisting of three knotted joints. Powerful 
curved mandibles, with two or three little 
teeth at the end, of a fairly bright red. 
Labial palpi rather bulky, short and with 
three joints, like the antennae. The mouth- 
parts, labrum, mandibles and palpi are mova- 
ble and stir slightly, as though seeking food. 
A small brown speck near the base of each 
antenna, marking the place of the future 
eyes. Prothorax wider than the segments 
that come after it. These are all of one 
width and are distinctly divided by a furrow 
and a slight lateral rim. Legs short, trans- 
parent, without a terminal claw. They are 
three-jointed stumps. Pale stigmata, eight 
pairs of them, placed as in the pseudochry- 
salis, that is, the first and largest pair on the 
line dividing the first two segments of the 
thorax and the seven others on the first seven 
156 



Cerocomae, Mylabres and Zonites 

abdominal segments. The secondary larva 
and the pseudochrysalis also have a very 
small stigma on the penultimate segment of 
the abdomen. This stigma has disappeared 
in the tertiary larva ; at least I cannot detect 
it with the aid of a good magnifying-glass. 

Lastly, we find the same strong mandibles 
as in the secondary larva, the same feeble 
legs, the same appearance of a Weevil-grub. 
The movements return, but are less clearly 
marked than in the primary form. The 
passage through the pseudochrysalid state 
has led to no change that is really worth de- 
scribing. The creature, after this singular 
phase, is what it was before. The Meloes 
and Sitares, for that matter, behave similarly. 

Then what can be the meaning of this 
pseudochrysalid stage, which, when passed, 
leads precisely to the point of departure? 
The Meloid seems to be revolving in a circle : 
it undoes what it has just done, it draws 
back after advancing. The idea sometimes 
occurs to me to look upon the pseudo- 
chrysalis as a sort of egg of a superior or- 
ganization, starting from which the insect 
follows the ordinary law of entomological 
phases and passes through the successive 
stages of larva, nymph and perfect insect. 
The first hatching, that of the normal egg, 
i57 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

makes the Meloid go through the larval 
dimorphism of the Anthrax and the Leuco- 
spis. The primary larva finds its way to the 
victuals; the secondary larva consumes them. 
The second hatching, that of the pseudo- 
chrysalis, reverts to the usual course, so that 
the insect passes through the three customary 
forms : larva, nymph, adult. 

The tertiary larval stage is of brief dura- 
tion, lasting about a fortnight. The larva 
then sheds its skin by a longitudinal rent 
along the back, as did the secondary larva, 
uncovering the nymph, in which we recognize 
the Beetle, the genus and species being almost 
determinable by the antennas. 

The second year's development turned out 
badly. The few nymphs which I obtained 
about the middle of June shrivelled up with- 
out attaining the perfect form. Some 
pseudochrysalids remained on my hands 
without showing any sign of approaching 
transformation. I attributed this delay to 
lack of warmth. I was in fact keeping them 
in the shade, on a what-not, in my study, 
whereas under natural conditions they are ex- 
posed to the hottest sun, beneath a layer of 
sand a few inches deep. To imitate these 
conditions without burying my charges, whose 
progress I wished to follow comfortably, I 



Cerocomae, Mylabres and Zonites 

placed the pseudochrysalids that remained on 
a layer of fresh sand at the bottom of a glass 
receiver. Direct exposure to the sun was im- 
practicable: it would have been fatal at a 
period when life is subterranean. To avoid 
it, I tied over the mouth of the receiver a 
few thicknesses of black cloth, to represent 
the natural screen of sand; and the apparatus 
thus prepared was exposed for some weeks 
to the most brilliant sunshine in my window. 
Under the cloth cover, which, owing to its 
colour, favours the absorption of heat, the 
temperature, during the day-time, became 
that of an oven; and yet the pseudochrysalids 
persisted in remaining stationary. The end 
of July was near and nothing indicated a 
speedy hatching. Convinced that my at- 
tempts at heating would be fruitless, I re- 
placed the pseudochrysalids in the shade, on 
the shelves, in glass tubes. Here they 
passed a second year, still in the same con- 
dition. 

June returned once more and with it the 
appearance of the tertiary larva, followed 
by the nymph. For the second time this 
stage of development was not exceeded; the 
one and only nymph that I succeeded in ob- 
taining shrivelled, like those of the year be- 
fore. Will these two failures, arising no 
»59 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

doubt from the overdry atmosphere of my 
receivers, conceal from us the genus and the 
species of the Mantis-eating Meloid? For- 
tunately, no. The riddle is easily solved by 
deduction and comparison. 

The only Melodiae in my part of the 
country which, though their habits are still 
unknown, might correspond in size with 
either the larva or the pseudochrysalis in 
question are the Twelve-pointed Mylabris 
and Schaeffer's Cerocoma. I find the first 
in July on the flowers of the sea scabious; I 
find the second at the end of May and in 
June on the heads of the lies d'Hyeres ever- 
lasting. This last date is best-suited to ex- 
plain the presence of the parasitic larva and 
its pseudochrysalis in the Tachytes' burrows 
from July onwards. Moreover, the Cero- 
coma is very abundant in the neighbourhood 
of the sand-heaps haunted by the Tachytes, 
while the Mylabris does not occur there. 
Nor is this all : the few nymphs obtained have 
curious antennae, ending in a full, irregular 
tuft, the like of which is found only in the 
antennae of the male Cerocoma. The Myla- 
bris, therefore, must be eliminated; the an- 
tennae, in the nymph, must be regularly 
jointed, as they are in the perfect insect. 
There remains the Cerocoma. 
160 



Cerocomae, Mylabres and Zonites 

Any lingering doubts may be dispelled : by 
good fortune, a friend of mine, Dr. Beaure- 
gard, who is preparing a masterly work upon 
the Blister-beetles, had some pseudochry- 
salids of Schreber's Cerocoma in his possess- 
ion. Having visited Serignan for the pur- 
pose of scientific investigations, he had 
searched the Tachytes' sand-heaps in my 
company and taken back to Paris a few 
pseudochrysalids of grubs fed on Mantes, in 
order to follow their development. His at- 
tempts, like mine, had miscarried; but, on 
comparing the Serignan pseudochrysalids 
with those of Schreber's Cerocoma, which 
came from Aramon, near Avignon, he was 
able to establish the closest resemblance be- 
tween the two organisms. Everything there- 
fore confirms the supposition that my dis- 
covery can relate only to Schaeffer's Cero- 
coma. As for the other, it must be elimi- 
nated: its extreme rarity in my neighbour- 
hood is a sufficient reason. 

It is tiresome that the diet of the Aramon 
Meloid is not known. If I allowed my- 
self to be guided by analogy, I should be in- 
clined to regard Schreber's Cerocoma as a 
parasite of Tachytes tarsina, who buries her 
hoards of young Locusts in the high sandy 
banks. In that case, the two Cerocomae 
161 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

would have a similar diet. But I leave it to 
Dr. Beauregard to elucidate this important 
characteristic. 

The riddle is deciphered: the Meloid 
that eats Praying Mantes is Schaeffer's Cero- 
coma, of whom I find plenty, in the spring, 
on the blossoms of the everlasting. When- 
ever I see it, my attention is attracted by an 
unusual peculiarity: the great difference of 
size that is able to exist between one speci- 
men and another, albeit of the same sex. I 
see stunted creatures, females as well as 
males, which are barely one third the length 
of their better-developed companions. The 
Twelve-spotted Mylabris and the Four- 
spotted Mylabris present differences quite as 
pronounced in this respect. 

The cause which makes a dwarf or a giant 
of the same insect, irrespective of its sex, 
can be only the smaller or greater quantity 
of food. If the larva, as I suspect, is obliged 
to find the Tachytes' game-larder for itself 
and to visit a second and a third, when the 
first is too frugally furnished, it may be 
imagined that the hazard of the road does 
not favour all in the same way, but rather 
allots abundance to one and penury to an- 
other. The grub that does not eat its fill 
remains small, while the one that gluts itself 
162 



Cerocomae, Mylabres and Zonites 

grows fat. These differences of size, in them- 
selves, betray parasitism. If a mother's 
pains had amassed the food, or if the family 
had had the industry to obtain it direct in- 
stead of robbing others, the ration would be 
practically equal for all; and the inequalities 
in size would be reduced to those which often 
occur between the two sexes. 

They speak, moreover, of a precarious, 
risky parasitism, wherein the Meloid is not 
sure of finding its food, which the Sitaris 
finds so deftly, getting itself carried by the 
Anthophora, after being born at the very 
entrance to the Bee's galleries and leaving 
its retreat only to slip into its host's fleece. 
A vagabond obliged to find for itself the 
food that suits it, the Cerocoma incurs the 
risk of Lenten fare. 

One chapter is lacking to complete the his- 
tory of Schaeffer's Cerocoma : that which 
treats of the beginning, the laying of the eggs, 
the egg itself and the primary larva. While 
watching the development of the Mantis- 
eating parasite, I took my precautions, in the 
first year, to discover its starting-point. By 
eliminating what was known to me and seek- 
ing among the Meloidae of my neighbour- 
hood for the size that corresponded with 
the pseudochrysalids unearthed from the 
163 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

Tachytes' burrows, I found, as I have said, 
only Schaeffer's Cerocoma and the Twelve- 
spotted Mylabris. I undertook to rear these 
in order to obtain their eggs. 

As a standard of comparison, the Four- 
spotted Mylabris, of a more imposing size, 
was added to the first two. A fourth, 
Zonitis mutica, whom I did not need to con- 
sult, knowing that she was not connected with 
the matter in hand and being familiar with 
her pseudochrysalis, completed my school 
of egg-layers. I proposed, if possible, to 
obtain her primary larva. Lastly, I had 
formerly reared some Cantharides with the 
object of observing their egg-laying. In all, 
five species of Blister-beetles, reared in a 
breeding-cage, have left a few lines of notes 
in my records. 

The method of rearing is of the simplest. 
Each species is placed under a large wire- 
gauze dome standing in a basin filled with 
earth. In the middle of the enclosure is a 
bottle full of water, in which the food soaks 
and keeps fresh. For the Cantharides, this 
is a bundle of ash-twigs; for the Four-spotted 
Mylabris, a bunch of bindweed (Convolvus 
arvensis) or psoralea (P. bituminosa), of 
which the insect nibbles only the corolla?. 
For the Twelve-spotted Mylabris, I provide 
164 



Cerocomae, Mylabres and Zonites 

blossoms of the scabious (Scabiosa mari- 
titna) : for the Zonitis, the full-blown heads 
of the eryngo {Eryngium campestre) ; for 
Schaeffer's Cerocoma, the heads of the lies 
d'Hyeres everlasting (Helichrysum stoschas) . 
These three last nibble more particularly the 
anthers, more rarely the petals, never the 
leaves. 

A sorry intellect and sorry manners, which 
hardly repay the minute cares involved in the 
rearing. To browse, to love her lord, to 
dig a hole in the earth and carelessly to bury 
her eggs in it: that is the whole life of the 
adult Meloid. The dull creature acquires 
a little interest only at the moment when the 
male begins to toy with his mate. Every 
species has its own ritual in declaring its 
passion; and it is not beneath the dignity of 
the observer to witness the manifestations, 
sometimes so very strange, of the universal 
Eros, who rules the world and brings a 
tremor to even the lowest of the brute crea- 
tion. This is the ultimate aim of the insect, 
which becomes transfigured for this solemn 
function and then dies, having no more to do. 

A curious book might be written on the 

subject of love among the beasts. Long 

ago the subject tempted me. For a quarter 

of a century my notes have been slumbering, 

165 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

dustily, in a corner of my library. I extract 
from them the following details concerning 
the Cantharides. I am not the first, I know, 
to describe the amorous preludes of the 
Meloid of the Ash-tree; but the change of 
narrator may give the narrative a certain 
value : it confirms what has already been said 
and throws light upon some points which may 
have escaped notice. 

A female Cantharides is peacefully nib- 
bling her leaf. A lover comes upon the 
scene, approaches her from behind, suddenly 
mounts upon her back and embraces her with 
his two pairs of hind-legs. Then with his 
abdomen, which he lengthens as much as 
possible, he energetically slaps that of the 
female, on the right side and the left by turns. 
It is like the strokes of a washerwoman's bat, 
delivered with frenzied rapidity. With his 
antennae and his fore-legs, which remain 
free, he furiously lashes the neck of the vic- 
tim. While the blows fall thick as hail, in 
front and behind, the head and corselet of 
the amorous swain are shaken by an ex- 
travagant swaying and trembling. You 
would think that the creature was having an 
epileptic fit. 

Meanwhile, the beloved makes herself 
small, opening her wing-cases slightly, hiding 

166 



Cerocomae, Mylabres and Zonites 

her head and tucking her abdomen under her, 
as though to escape the erotic thunderstorm 
that is bursting upon her back. But the 
paroxysm calms down. The male extends 
his fore-legs, shaken by a nervous tremor, 
like the arms of a cross and in this ecstatic 
posture seems to call upon the heavens to 
witness the ardour of his desires. The 
antennae and the belly are held motionless, 
in a straight line; the head and the corselet 
alone continue to heave rapidly up and down. 
This period of repose does not last long. 
Short as it is, the female, her appetite undis- 
turbed by the passionate protestations of her 
wooer, imperturbably resumes the nibbling 
of her leaf. 

Another paroxysm bursts forth. Once 
more the male's blows rain upon the neck of 
the tightly-clasped victim, who hastens to bow 
her head upon her breast. But he has no 
intention of allowing his lady-love to escape. 
With his fore-legs, using a special notch 
placed at the juncture of the leg and the 
tarsus, he seizes both her antennae. The 
tarsus folds back; and the antennae are held as 
in a vice. The suitor pulls; and the callous 
one is forced to raise her head. In this 
posture the male reminds one of a horseman 
proudly sitting his steed and holding the 
. 167 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

reins in both hands. Thus mastering his 
mount, he is sometimes motionless and some- 
times frenzied in his demonstrations. Then, 
with his long abdomen, he lashes the female's 
hinder-parts, first on one side, then on the 
other; the front part he flogs, hammers and 
pounds with blows of his antennae, head and 
feet. The object of his desires will be un- 
feeling indeed if she refuse to surrender to 
so passionate a declaration. 

Nevertheless she still requires entreating. 
The impassioned lover resumes his ecstatic 
immobility, with his quivering arms out- 
stretched like the limbs of a cross. At brief 
intervals the amorous outbursts, with blows 
conscientiously distributed, recur in alterna- 
tion with periods of repose, during which 
the male holds his fore-legs crosswise, or else 
masters the female by the bridle of her an- 
tennae. At last the flagellated beauty allows 
herself to be touched by the charm attendant 
on his thumps. She yields. Coupling takes 
place and lasts for twenty hours. The he- 
roic part of the male's performance is over. 
Dragged backwards behind the female, the 
poor fellow strives to uncouple himself. His 
mate carts him about from leaf to leaf, wher- 
ever she pleases, so that she may choose the 
bit of green stuff to her taste. Sometimes he 
1 68 



Cerocomae, Mylabres and Zonites 

also takes a gallant resolve and, like the fe- 
male, begins to browse. You lucky creatures, 
who, so as not to lose a moment of your four 
or five weeks' existence, yoke together the 
cravings of love and hunger ! Your motto 
is, " A short life and a merry one." 

The Cerocoma, who is a golden green like 
the Cantharides, seems to have partly 
adopted the amorous rites of her rival in 
dress. The male, always the elegant sex in 
the insect tribe, wears special ornaments. 
The horns or antennae, magnificently com- 
plicated, form as it were two tufts of a thick 
head of hair. It is to this that the name 
Cerocoma refers: the creature crested with 
its horns. When a bright sun shines into the 
breeding-cage, it is not long before the in- 
sects form couples on the bunch of everlast- 
ings. Hoisted on the female, whom he em- 
braces and holds with his two pairs of hind- 
legs, the male sways his head and corselet 
up and down, all in a piece. This oscillatory 
movement has not the fiery precipitation of 
that of the Cantharides; it is calmer and as 
it were rhythmical. The abdomen more- 
over remains motionless and seems unskilled 
in those slaps, as of a washerwoman's bat, 
which the amorous denizen of the ash-tree 
so vigorously distributes with hi-s belly. 
169 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

While the front half of the body swings 
up and down, the fore-legs execute magnetic 
passes on either side of the tight-clasped 
female, moving with a sort of twirl, so 
rapidly that the eye can hardly follow them. 
The female appears insensible to this flagel- 
latory twirl. She innocently curls her an- 
tennae. The rejected suitor leaves her and 
moves on to another. His dizzy, twirling 
passes, his protestations are everywhere re- 
fused. The moment has not yet arrived, or 
rather the spot is not propitious. Captivity 
appears to weigh upon the future mothers. 
Before listening to their wooers they must 
have the open air, the sudden joyful flight 
from cluster to cluster on the sunlit slope, 
all gold with everlastings. Apart from the 
idyll of the twirling passes, a mitigated form 
of the Cantharides' blows, the Cerocoma re- 
fused to yield before my eyes to the last act 
of the bridal. 

Among males the same oscillations of the 
body and the same lateral flagellations are 
frequently practised. While the upper one 
makes a tremendous to-do and whirls his legs, 
the one under him keeps quiet. Sometimes a 
third scatterbrain comes on the scene, some- 
times even a fourth, and mounts upon the 
heap of his predecessors. The uppermost 
170 



Cerocomae, Mylabres and Zonites 

bobs up and down and makes swift rowing- 
strokes with his fore-legs; the others remain 
motionless. Thus are the sorrows of the 
rejected beguiled for a moment. 

The Zonites, a rude clan, grazing on the 
heads of the prickly eryngo, despise all 
tender preliminaries. A few rapid vibra- 
tions of the antennae on the males' part; and 
that is all. The declaration could not be 
briefer. The pairing, with the creatures 
placed end to end, lasts nearly an hour. 

The Mylabres also must be very expedi- 
tious in their preliminaries, so much so that 
my cages, which were kept well-stocked for 
two summers, provided me with numerous 
batches of eggs without giving me a single 
opportunity of catching the males in the least 
bit of a flirtation. Let us therefore consider 
the egg-laying. 

This takes place in August for our two 
species of Mylabres. In the vegetable mould 
which does duty as a floor to the wire-gauze 
dome, the mother digs a pit four-fifths of an 
inch deep and as wide as her body. This is 
the place for the eggs. The laying lasts 
barely half an hour. I have seen it last 
thirty-six hours with Sitares. This quickness 
of the Mylabris points to an incomparably 
less numerous family. The hiding-place is 
171 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

next closed. The mother sweeps up the rub- 
bish with her fore-legs, collects it with the 
rake of her mandibles and pushes it back into 
the pit, into which she now descends to stamp 
upon the powdery layer and cram it down 
with her hind-legs, which I see swiftly work- 
ing. When this layer is well packed, she 
starts raking together fresh material to com- 
plete the filling of the hole, which is carefully 
trampled stratum by stratum. 

I take the mother from her pit while she is 
engaged in filling it up. Delicately, with the 
tip of a camel-hair pencil, I move her a couple 
of inches. The Beetle does not return to her 
batch of eggs, does not even look for it. 
She climbs up the wire gauze and proceeds 
to graze among her companions on the bind- 
weed or scabious, without troubling herself 
further about her eggs, whose hiding-place 
is only half-filled. A second mother, whom 
I move only one inch, is no longer able to re- 
turn to her task, or rather does not think of 
doing so. I take a third, after shifting her 
just as slightly, and, while the forgetful 
creature is climbing up the trellis-work, bring 
her back to the pit. I replace her with her 
head at the opening. The mother stands 
motionless, looking thoroughly perplexed. 
She sways her head, passes her front tarsi 
172 



Cerocomae, Mylabres and Zonites 

through her mandibles, then moves away and 
climbs to the top of the dome without at- 
tempting anything. In each of these three 
cases I have to finish filling in the pit myself. 
What then are this maternity, which the 
touch of a brush causes to forget its duties, 
and this memory, which is lost at a distance 
of an inch from the spot? Compare with 
these shortcomings of the adult the expert 
machinations of the primary larva, which 
knows where its victuals are and as its first 
action introduces itself into the dwelling of 
the host that is to feed it. How can time and 
experience be factors of instinct? The new- 
born animalcule amazes us with its foresight; 
the adult insect astonishes us with its stu- 
pidity. 

With both Mylabres, the batch consists of 
some forty eggs, a very small number com- 
pared with those of the Oil-beetle and the 
Sitaris. This limited family was already 
foreseen, judging by the short space of time 
which the egg-layer spends in her under- 
ground lodging. The eggs of the Twelve- 
spotted Mylabris are white, cylindrical, 
rounded at both ends and measure a milli- 
metre and a half in length by half a milli- 
metre in width. 1 Those of the Four-spotted 

1 .058 x .019 inch. — Translator's Note. 
173 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

Mylabris are straw coloured and of an elon- 
gated oval, a trifle fuller at one end 
than at the other. Length, two millimetres; 
width, a little under one millimetre. 1 

Of all the batches of eggs collected, one 
alone hatched. The rest were probably 
sterile, a suspicion corroborated by the lack 
of pairing in the breeding-cage. Laid at the 
end of July, the eggs of the Twelve-spotted 
Mylabris began to hatch on the 5th of Sep- 
tember. The primary larva of this Meloid 
is still unknown, so far as I am aware; and 
I shall describe it in detail. It will be the 
starting-point of a chapter which perhaps 
will give us some fresh sidelights upon the 
history of the hypermetamorphosis. 

The larva is nearly 2 millimetres long. 2 
Coming out of a good-sized egg, it is en- 
dowed with greater vigour than the larvae 
of the Sitares and Oil-beetles. The head is 
large, rounded, slightly wider than the pro- 
thorax and of a rather brighter red. Man- 
dibles powerful, sharp, curved, with the ends 
crossing, of the same colour as the head, 
darker at the tips. Eyes black, prominent, 
globular, very distinct. Antennae fairly long, 

1 .078 x .039 inch. — Translator's Note. 
2 .078 inch. — Translators' Note. 
174 



Cerocomae, Mylabres and Zonites 

with three joints, the last thinner and pointed. 
Palpi very much pronounced. 

The first thoracic segment has very nearly 
the same diameter as the head and is much 
longer than those which come after. It 
forms a sort of cuirass equal in length to 
almost three abdominal segments. It is 
squared off in front in a straight line and is 
rounded at the sides and at the back. Its 
colour is bright red. The second ring is 
hardly a third as long as the first. It is also 
red, but a little browner. The third is dark 
brown, with a touch of green to it. This 
tint is repeated throughout the abdomen, so 
that in the matter of colouring the creature 
is divided into two sections : the front, which 
is a fairly bright red, includes the head and 
the first two thoracic segments; the second, 
which is a greenish brown, includes the third 
thoracic segment and the nine abdominal 
rings. 

The three pairs of legs are pale red, strong 
and long, considering the creature's small- 
ness. They end in a single long, sharp claw. 

The abdomen has nine segments, all of an 
olive brown. The membranous spaces which 
connect them are white, so that, from the 
second thoracic ring downwards, the tiny 
creature is alternatively ringed with white 
i7S 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

and olive brown. All the brown rings bris- 
tle with short, sparse hairs. The anal seg- 
ment, which is narrower than the rest, bears 
at the tip two long cirri, very fine, slightly 
waved and almost as long as the whole ab- 
domen. 

This description enables us to picture a 
sturdy little creature, capable of biting lustily 
with its mandibles, exploring the country with 
its big eyes and moving about with six strong 
harpoons as a support. We no longer have 
to do with the puny louse of the Oil-beetle, 
which lies in ambush on a cichoriaceous blos- 
som in order to slip into the fleece of a har- 
vesting Bee ; nor with the black atom of the 
Sitaris, which swarms in a heap on the spot 
where it is hatched, at the Anthophora's 
door. I see the young Mylabris striding 
eagerly up and down the glass tube in which 
it was born. 

What is it seeking? What does it want? 
I give it a Bee, a Halictus, 1 to see if it will 
settle on the insect, as the Sitares and Oil- 
beetles would not fail to do. My offer is 
scorned. It is not a winged conveyance that 
my prisoners require. 

The primary larva of the Mylabris there- 

1 Cf. Bramble-bees and Others: chaps, xii. to xiv. — 
Translator's Note. 

176 



Cerocomae, Mylabres and Zonites 

fore does not imitate those of the Sitaris and 
the Oil-beetle ; it does not settle in the fleece 
of its host to get itself carried to the cell 
crammed with victuals. The task of seek- 
ing and finding the heap of food falls upon 
its own shoulders. The small number of the 
eggs that constitute a batch also leads to the 
same conclusion. Remember that the pri- 
mary larva of the Oil-beetle, for instance, set- 
tles on any insect that happens to pay a mo- 
mentary visit to the flower in which the tiny 
creature is on the look-out. Whether this 
visitor be hairy or smooth-skinned, a manu- 
facturer of honey, a canner of animal flesh or 
without any determined calling, whether she 
be Spider, Butterfly, Fly or Beetle makes no 
difference: the instant the little yellow louse 
espies the new arrival, it perches on her back 
and leaves with her. And now it all de- 
pends on luck! How many of these stray 
travellers must be lost; how many will never 
be carried into a warehouse full of honey, 
their sole food! Therefore, to remedy this 
enormous waste, the mother produces an in- 
numerable family. The Oil-beetle's batch of 
eggs is prodigious. Prodigious too is that 
of the Sitaris, who is exposed to similar mis- 
adventures. 

If, with her thirty or forty eggs, the Myla- 
177 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

bris had to run the same risks, perhaps not 
one larva would reach the desired goal. For 
so strictly limited a family a safer method 
is needed. The young larva must not get 
itself carried to the game-basket, or more 
probably to the honey-pot, at the risk of 
never reaching it; it must travel on its own 
legs. Allowing myself to be guided by the 
logic of things, I shall therefore complete 
the story of the Twelve-spotted Mylabris as 
follows. 

The mother lays her eggs underground 
near the spots frequented by the foster- 
mothers. The recently-hatched young grubs 
leave their lodgings in September and travel 
within a restricted radius in search of bur- 
rows containing food. The little creature's 
sturdy legs allow of these underground in- 
vestigations. The mandibles, which are just 
as strong, necessarily play their part. The 
parasite, on forcing its way into the food-pit, 
finds itself faced with either the egg or the 
young larva of the Bee. These are com- 
petitors, whom it is important to get rid of 
as quickly as possible. The hooks of the 
mandibles now come into play, tearing the 
egg or the defenceless grub. After this act 
of brigandage, which may be compared with 
that of the primary larva of the Sitaris rip- 
178 



Cerocomae, Mylabres and Zonites 

ping open and drinking the contents of the 
Anthophora's egg, the Meloid, now the sole 
possessor of the victuals, doffs its battle ar- 
ray and becomes the pot-bellied grub, the 
consumer of the property so brutally ac- 
quired. These are merely suspicions on my 
part, nothing more. Direct observation will, 
I believe, confirm them, so close is their con- 
nection with the known facts. 

Two Zonites, both visitors of the eryngo- 
heads during the heats of summer, are among 
the Meloidae of my part of the country. 
They are Zonitis mutica and Z. prausta. I 
have spoken of the first in another volume ; x 
I have mentioned its pseudochrysalis found 
in the cells of two Osmiae, namely, the 
Three-pronged Osmia, which piles its cells in 
a dry bramble-stem, and the Three-horned 
Osmia and also Latreille's Osmia, both of 
which exploit the nests of the Chalicodoma of 
the Sheds. The second Zonitis is to-day add- 
ing its quota of evidence to a story which is 
still very incomplete. I have obtained the 
Burnt Zonitis, in the first place, from the cot- 
ton pouches of Anthidium scapular e, who, like 
the Three-toothed Osmia, makes her nests in 
the brambles; in the second place, from the 

1 Cf. Bramble-bees and Others: chaps, i., iii. and x.— - 
Translator's Note. 

179 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

wallets of Megachile sericans, made with 
little round disks of the leaves of the com- 
mon acacia; in the third place, from the cells 
which Anthidium bellicosum l builds with par- 
titions of resin in the shell of a dead Snail. 
This last Anthidium is the victim also of 
the Unarmed Zonitis. Thus we have two 
closely-related exploiters for the same victim. 
During the last fortnight of July, I wit- 
ness the emergence of the Burnt Zonitis from 
the pseudochrysalis. The latter is cylin- 
drical, slightly curved and rounded at both 
ends. It is closely wrapped in the cast skin 
of the secondary larva, a skin consisting of 
a diaphanous bag, without any outlet, with 
running along each side a white tracheal 
thread which connects the various stigmatic 
apertures. I easily recognize the seven ab- 
dominal stigmata; they are round and dimi- 
nish slightly in width from front to back. I 
also detect the thoracic stigma. Lastly, I 
perceive the legs, which are quite small, with 
weak claws, incapable of supporting the 
creature. Of the mouth-parts I see plainly 
only the mandibles, which are short, weak 
and brown. In short, the secondary larva 

1 For the Cotton-bee, Leaf-cutter and Resin-bee men- 
tioned, cf. Bramble-bees and Others: passim. — Trans- 
lator's Note. 

1 80 



Cerocomae, Mylabres and Zonites 

was soft, white, big-bellied, blind, with rudi- 
mentary legs. Similar results were furnished 
by the shed skin of the secondary larva of 
Zonitis mutica, consisting, like the other, of 
a bag without an opening, fitting closely over 
the pseudochrysalis. 

Let us continue our examination of the 
relics of the Burnt Zonitis. The pseudo- 
chrysalis is red, the colour of a cough- 
lozenge. It remains intact after opening, 
except in front, where the adult insect has 
emerged. In shape it is a cylindrical bag, 
with firm, elastic walls. The segmentation 
is plainly visible. The magnifying-glass 
shows the fine star-shaped dots already ob- 
served in the Unarmed Zonitis. The stig- 
matic apertures have a projecting, dark-red 
rim. They are all, even the last, clearly 
marked. The signs of the legs are mere 
studs, hardly protruding, a little darker than 
the rest of the skin. The cephalic mask is 
reduced to a few mouldings which are not 
easy to distinguish. 

At the bottom of this pseudochrysalidal 
sheath I find a little white wad which, when 
placed in water, softened and then patiently 
unravelled with the tip of a paint-brush, 
yields a white, powdery substance, which is 
uric acid, the usual product of the work of 
181 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

the nymphosis, and a rumpled membrane, in 
which I recognize the cast skin of the nymph. 
There should still be the tertiary larva, of 
which I see not a trace. But, on taking a 
needle and gradually breaking the envelope 
of the pseudochrysalis, after soaking it 
awhile in water, I see it dividing into two 
layers, one an outer layer, brittle, horny in 
appearance and currant-red; the other an 
inner layer, consisting of a transparent, flex- 
ible pellicle. There can be no doubt that this 
inner layer represents the tertiary larva, 
whose skin is left adhering to the envelope 
of the pseudochrysalis. It is fairly thick 
and tough, but I cannot detach it except in 
shreds, so closely does it adhere to the horny, 
crumbly sheath. 

Since I possessed a fair number of pseudo- 
chrysalids, I sacrificed a few in order to ascer- 
tain their contents on the approach of the 
final transformations. Well, I never found 
anything that I could detach; I never suc- 
ceeded in extracting a larva in its tertiary 
form, though this larva is so easily obtained 
from the amber pouches of the Sitares and, 
in the Oil-beetles and Cerocomae, emerges 
of its own accord from the split wrapper of 
the pseudochrysalis. When, for the first 
time, the stiff shell encloses a body which 
182 



Cerocomae, Mylabres and Zonites 

does not adhere to the rest, this body is a 
nymph and nothing else. The wall sur- 
rounding it is a dull white inside. I at- 
tribute this colouring to the cast skin of the 
tertiary larva, which was inseparably fixed 
to the shell of the pseudochrysalis. . 

The Zonites, therefore, display a pecu- 
liarity which is not offered by the other 
Meloidae, namely, a series of tightly-fitting 
shells, one within the other. The pseudo- 
chrysalis is enclosed in the skin of the sec- 
ondary larva, a skin which forms a pouch 
without an orifice, fitted very closely to its 
contents. The slough of the tertiary larva 
fits even more closely to the inner surface 
of the pseudochrysalid sheath. The nymph 
alone does not adhere to its envelope. In 
the Cerocomae and the Oil-beetles, each 
form of the hypermetamorphosis becomes 
detached from the preceding skin by a com- 
plete extraction; the contents are removed 
from the ruptured container and have no 
further connection with it. In the Sitares, 
the successive casts are not ruptured and re- 
main enclosed inside one another, but with 
an interval between, so that the tertiary 
larva can move and turn as it wishes in its 
multiple enclosure. In the Zonites, there is 
the same arrangement, with this difference, 
183 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

that, until the nymph appears, there is no 
empty space between one slough and the next. 
The tertiary larva cannot budge. It is not 
free, as witness its cast skin, which fits so 
precisely to the envelope of the pseudochrys- 
alis. This form would therefore pass un- 
perceived if its existence were not proclaimed 
by the membrane which lines the inside of 
the pseudochrysalid pouch. 

To complete the story of the Zonites, the 
primary larva is lacking. I do not yet know 
it, for, when rearing the insect under wire- 
gauze covers, I never succeeded in obtaining 
a batch of eggs. 



184 



CHAPTER VII 

THE CAPRICORN 

l\yTY youthful meditations owe some happy 
*T~ moments to Condillac's 2 famous sta- 
tue which, when endowed with the sense of 
smell, inhales the scent of a rose and out of 
that single impression creates a whole world 
of ideas. My twenty-year-old mind, full of 
faith in syllogisms, loved to follow the de- 
ductive jugglery of the abbe-philosopher: 
I saw, or seemed to see, the statue take life 
in that action of the nostrils, acquiring at- 
tention, memory, judgment and all the psy- 
chological paraphernalia, even as still waters 
are aroused and rippled by the impact of a 
grain of sand. I recovered from my illu- 
sion under the instruction of my abler mas- 

1 Etienne Bonnot de Condillac, Abbe de Mureaux 
(1715-1780), the leading exponent of sensational philoso- 
phy. His most important work is the Traite des sensa- 
tions, in which he imagines a statue, organized like a 
man, and endows it with the senses one by one, begin- 
ning with that of smell. He argues by a process of 
imaginative reconstruction that all human faculties and 
all human knowledge are merely transformed sensation, 
to the exclusion of any other principle, that, in short, 
everything has its source in sensation: man is nothing but 
what he has acquired. — Translator's Note. 
185 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

ter, the animal. The Capricorn shall teach 
urs that the problem is more obscure than the 
abbe led me to believe. 

When wedge and mallet are at work, pre- 
paring my provision of firewood under the 
grey sky that heralds winter, a favourite re- 
laxation creates a welcome break in my daily 
output of prose. By my express orders, the 
woodman has selected the oldest and most 
ravaged trunks in his stack. My tastes 
bring a smile to his lips; he wonders by what 
whimsy I prefer wood that is worm-eaten, 
chirouna, as he calls it, to sound wood, which 
burns so much better. I have my views on 
the subject; and the worthy man submits to 
them. 

And now to us two, O my fine oak-trunk 
seamed with scars, gashed with wounds 
whence trickle the brown drops smelling of 
the tan-yard. The mallet drives home, the 
wedges bite, the wood splits. What do your 
flanks contain? Real treasures for my 
studies. In the dry and hollow parts, groups 
of various insects, capable of living through 
the bad season of the year, have taken up 
their winter quarters : in the low-roofed gal- 
leries, galleries built by some Buprestis Bee- 
tle, Osmise, working their paste of masticated 
leaves, have piled their cells one above the 
186 



The Capricorn 

other; in the deserted chambers and vesti- 
bules, Megachiles have arranged their leafy- 
jars; in the live wood, filled with juicy 
saps, the larvae of the Capricorn (Cerambyx 
miles), the chief author of the oak's undo- 
ing, have set up their home. 

Strange creatures, of a verity, are these 
grubs, for an insect of superior organization: 
bits of intestines crawling about! At this 
time of year, the middle of autumn, I meet 
them of two different ages. The older are 
almost as thick as one's finger; the others 
hardly attain the diameter of a pencil. I 
find, in addition, pupae more or less fully 
coloured, perfect insects, with a distended 
abdomen, ready to leave the trunk when the 
hot weather comes again. Life inside the 
wood, therefore, lasts three years. How is 
this long period of solitude and captivity 
spent? In wandering lazily through the 
thickness of the oak, in making roads whose 
rubbish serves as food. The horse in Job 
swallows the ground * in a figure of speech; 
the Capricorn's grub eats its way literally. 
With its carpenter's-gouge, a strong black 

1 " Chafing and raging, he swalloweth the ground, 
neither doth he make account when the noise of the 
trumpet soundeth." — Job, xxxix, 23 (Douai version). — 
Translator's Note. 

187 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

mandible, short, devoid of notches, scooped 
into a sharp-edged spoon, it digs the opening 
of its tunnel. The piece cut out is a mouth- 
ful which, as it enters the stomach, yields its 
scanty juices and accumulates behind the 
worker in heaps of wormed wood. The 
refuse leaves room in front by passing 
through the worker. A labour at once of 
nutrition and of road-making, the path is 
devoured while constructed; it is blocked be- 
hind as it makes way ahead. That, how- 
ever, is how all the borers who look to wood 
for victuals and lodging set about their busi- 
ness. 

For the harsh work of its two gouges, or 
curved chisels, the larva of the Capricorn 
concentrates its muscular strength in the 
front of its body, which swells into a pestle- 
head. The Buprestis-grubs, those other in- 
dustrious carpenters, adopt a similar form; 
they even exaggerate their pestle. The part 
that toils and carves hard wood requires a 
robust structure; the rest of the body, which 
has but to follow after, continues slim. The 
essential thing is that the implement of the 
jaws should possess a solid support and 
a powerful motor. The Cerambyx-larva 
strengthens its chisels with a stout, black, 
horny armour that surrounds the mouth ; yet, 
188 



The Capricorn 

apart from its skull and its equipment of 
tools, the grub has a skin as fine as satin and 
as white as ivory. This dead white comes 
from a copious layer of grease which the 
animal's spare diet would not lead us to sus- 
pect. True, it has nothing to do, at every 
hour of the day and night, but gnaw. The 
quantity of wood that passes into its stomach 
makes up for the dearth of nourishing ele- 
ments. 

The legs, consisting of three pieces, the 
first globular, the last sharp-pointed, are 
mere rudiments, vestiges. They are hardly 
a millimetre l long. For this reason, they 
are of no use whatever for walking; they do 
not even bear upon the supporting surface, 
being kept off it by the obesity of the chest. 
The organs of locomotion are something al- 
together different. The Cetonia-grub 2 has 
shown us how, with the aid of the hairs and 
the pad-like excrescences upon its spine, it 
manages to reverse the universally-accepted 
usage and to wriggle along on its back. The 
grub of the Capricorn is even more ingeni- 
ous: it moves at the same time on its back 

1 .039 inch. — Translator's Note. 

2 For the grub of the Cetonia, or Rose-chafer, cf. The 
Life and Love of the Insect, by J. Henri Fabre, translated 
by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos: chap. xi. — Translator's 



Note. 



189 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

and belly; instead of the useless legs of the 
thorax, it has a walking-apparatus almost re- 
sembling feet, which appear, contrary to 
every rule, on the dorsal surface. 

The first seven segments of the abdomen 
have, both above and below, a four-sided 
facet, bristling with rough protuberances. 
This the grub can either expand or contract, 
making it stick out or lie flat at will. The 
upper facets consist of two excrescences sepa- 
rated by the mid-dorsal line; the lower ones 
have not this divided appearance. These 
are the organs of locomotion, the ambulacra. 
When the larva wishes to move forwards, it 
expands its hinder ambulacra, those on the 
back as well as those on the belly, and con- 
tracts its front ones. Fixed to the side of 
the narrow gallery by their ridges, the hind- 
pads give the grub a purchase. The flat- 
tening of the fore-pads, by decreasing the 
diameter, allows it to slip forward and to 
take half a step. To complete the step, the 
hind-quarters have to be brought up the same 
distance. With this object, the front pads 
fill out and provide support, while those be- 
hind shrink and leave free scope for their 
segments to contract. 

With the double support of its back and 
belly, with alternate puffings and shrinkings, 
190 



The Capricorn 

the animal easily advances or retreats along 
its gallery, a sort of mould which the con- 
tents fill without a gap. But, if the loco- 
motory pads grip only on one side, progress 
becomes impossible. When placed on the 
smooth wood of my table, the animal wrig- 
gles slowly; it lengthens and shortens with- 
out advancing by a hair's-breadth. Laid on 
the surface of a piece of split oak, a rough, 
uneven surface, due to the gash made by the 
wedge, it twists and writhes, moves the front 
part of its body very slowly from left to 
right and right to left, lifts it a little, lowers 
it and begins again. These are the most 
extensive movements made. The vestigial 
legs remain inert and absolutely useless. 

Then why are they there? Better to lose 
them altogether, if it be true that craw- 
ling inside the oak has deprived the animal 
of the good legs with which it started. The 
influence of environment, so well-inspired in 
endowing the grub with ambulatory pads, 
becomes a mockery when it leaves it these 
ridiculous stumps. Can the structure, per- 
chance, be obeying other rules than those of 
environment? 

Though the useless legs, the germs of the 
future limbs, persist, there is no sign in the 
grub of the eyes wherewith the Cerambyx 
191 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

will be richly gifted. The larva has not the 
least trace of organs of vision. What would 
it do with sight, in the murky thickness of 
a tree-trunk? Hearing is likewise absent. 
In the never-troubled silence of the oak's in- 
most heart, the sense of hearing would be a 
non-sense. Where sounds are lacking, of 
what use is the faculty of discerning them? 
Should there be any doubts, I will reply to 
them with the following experiment. Split 
lengthwise, the grub's abode leaves a half- 
tunnel wherein I can watch the occupant's 
doings. When left alone, it now gnaws the 
front of its gallery, now rests, fixed by its 
ambulacra to the two sides of the channel. 
I avail myself of these moments of quiet to 
enquire into its power of perceiving sounds. 
The banging of hard bodies, the ring of 
metallic objects, the grating of a file upon a 
saw are tried in vain. The animal remains 
impassive. Not a wince, not a move of the 
skin; no sign of awakened attention. I suc- 
ceed no better when I scratch the wood close 
by with a hard point, to imitate the sound of 
some neighbouring larva gnawing the inter- 
vening thickness. The indifference to my 
noisy tricks could be no greater in a lifeless 
object. The animal is deaf. 
192 



The Capricorn 

Can it smell? Everything tells us no. 
Scent is of assistance in the search for food. 
But the Capricorn-grub need not go in quest 
of eatables: it feeds on its home, it lives on 
the wood that gives it shelter. Let us make 
an attempt or two, however. I scoop in a 
log of fresh cypress-wood a groove of the 
same diameter as that of the natural galleries 
and I place the worm inside it. Cypress- 
wood is strongly-scented; it possesses in a 
high degree that resinous aroma which char- 
acterizes most of the pine family. Well, 
when laid in the odoriferous channel, the 
larva goes to the end, as far as it can go, and 
makes no further movement. Does not this 
placid quiescence point to the absence of a 
sense of smell? The resinous flavour, so 
strange to the grub which has always lived 
in oak, ought to vex it, to trouble it; and the 
disagreeable impression ought to be revealed 
by a certain commotion, by certain attempts 
to get away. Well, nothing of the kind hap- 
pens: once the larva has found the right po- 
sition in the groove, it does not stir. I do 
more : I set before it, at a very short distance, 
in its normal canal, a piece of camphor. 
Again, no effect. Camphor is followed by 
naphthaline. Still nothing. After these 
193 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

fruitless endeavours, I do not think that I am 
going too far when I deny the creature a 
sense of smell. 

Taste is there, no doubt. But such taste ! 
The food is without variety: oak, for three 
years at a stretch, and nothing else. What 
can the grub's palate appreciate in this mo- 
notonous fare ? The tannic relish of a fresh 
piece, oozing with sap; the uninteresting fla- 
vour of an over-dry piece, robbed of its na- 
tural condiment: these probably represent 
the whole gustative scale. 

There remains touch, the far-spreading 
passive sense common to all live flesh that 
quivers under the goad of pain. The sensi- 
tive schedule of the Cerambyx-grub, there- 
fore, is limited to taste and touch, both ex- 
ceedingly obtuse. This almost brings us to 
Condillac's statue. The imaginary being of 
the philosopher had one sense only, that of 
smell, equal in delicacy to our own; the real 
being, the ravager of the oak, has two, in- 
ferior, even when put together, to the former, 
which so plainly perceived the scent of a rose 
and distinguished it so clearly from any other. 
The real case will bear comparison with the 
fictitious. 

What can be the psychology of a creature 
possessing such a powerful digestive organ- 
ise 



The Capricorn 

ism combined with such a feeble set of 
senses? A vain wish has often come to me 
in my dreams: it is to be able to think, for a 
few minutes, with the crude brain of my 
Dog, to see the world with the faceted eyes 
of a Gnat. How things would change in 
appearance ! They would change much more 
if interpreted by the intellect of the grub. 
What have the lessons of touch and taste 
contributed to that rudimentary receptacle of 
impressions? Very little; almost nothing. 
The animal knows that the best bits possess 
an astringent flavour; that the sides of a 
passage not carefully planed are painful to 
the skin. This is the utmost limit of its ac- 
quired wisdom. In comparison, the statue 
with the sensitive nostrils was a marvel of 
knowledge, a paragon too generously en- 
dowed by its inventor. It remembered, com- 
pared, judged, reasoned: does the drowsy, 
digesting paunch remember? Does it com- 
pare? Does it reason? I defined the Capri- 
corn-grub as a bit of an intestine that crawls 
about. The undeniable accuracy of this 
definition provides me with my answer: the 
grub has the aggregate of sense-impressions 
that a bit of an intestine may hope to have. 
And this nothing-at-all is capable of mar- 
vellous acts of foresight; this belly, which 
195 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

knows hardly anything of the present, sees 
very clearly into the future. Let us take 
an illustration on this curious subject. For 
three years on end, the larva wanders about 
in the thick of the trunk; it goes up, goes 
down, turns to this side and that; it leaves 
one vein for another of better flavour, but 
without moving too far from the inner 
depths, where the temperature is milder and 
greater safety reigns. A day is at hand, a 
dangerous day for the recluse obliged to quit 
its excellent retreat and face the perils of the 
surface. Eating is not everything: we have 
to get out of this. The larva, so well- 
equipped with tools and muscular strength, 
finds no difficulty in going where it pleases, 
by boring through the wood; but does the 
coming Capricorn, whose short spell of life 
must be spent in the open air, possess the 
same advantages? Hatched inside the 
trunk, will the long-horned Beetle be able to 
clear itself a way of escape? 

That is the difficulty which the worm solves 
by inspiration. Less versed in things of the 
future, despite my gleams of reason, I re- 
sort to experiment with a view to fathoming 
the question. I begin by ascertaining that 
the Capricorn, when he wishes to leave the 
trunk, is absolutely unable to make use of 
196 



The Capricorn 

the tunnel wrought by the larva. It is a 
very long and very irregular maze, blocked 
with great heaps of wormed wood. Its dia- 
meter decreases progressively from the final 
blind alley to the starting-point. The larva 
entered the timber as slim as a tiny bit of 
straw; it is to-day as thick as one's finger. 
In its three years' wanderings, it always dug 
its gallery according to the mould of its 
body. Evidently, the road by which the 
larva entered and moved about cannot be the 
Capricorn's exit-way: his immoderate an- 
tennas, his long legs, his inflexible armour- 
plates would encounter an insuperable ob- 
stacle in the narrow, winding corridor, which 
would have to be cleared of its wormed wood 
and, moreover, greatly enlarged. It would 
be less fatiguing to attack the untouched tim- 
ber and dig straight ahead. Is the insect 
capable of doing so? We shall see. 

I make some chambers of suitable size in 
oak logs chopped in two; and each of my 
artificial cells receives a newly-transformed 
Cerambyx, such as my provisions of firewood 
supply, when split by the wedge, in October. 
The two pieces are then joined and kept to- 
gether with a few bands of wire. June 
comes. I hear a scraping inside my billets. 
Will the Capricorns come out, or not? The 

197 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

delivery does not seem difficult to me: there 
is hardly three-quarters of an inch to pierce. 
Not one emerges. When all is silence, I 
open my apparatus. The captives, from 
first to last, are dead. A vestige of saw- 
dust, less than a pinch of snuff, represents all 
their work. 

I expected more from those sturdy tools, 
their mandibles. But, as we have seen be- 
fore, the tool does not make the workman. 1 
In spite of their boring-implements, the her- 
mits die in my cases for lack of skill. I 
subject others to less arduous tests. I en- 
close them in spacious reed-stumps, equal in 
diameter to the natal cell. The obstacle to 
be pierced is the natural diaphragm, a yield- 
ing partition two or three millimetres 2 thick. 
Some free themselves; others cannot. The 
less valiant ones succumb, stopped by the 
frail barrier. What would it be if they had 
to pass through a thickness of oak? 

We are now persuaded: despite his stal- 
wart appearance, the Capricorn is powerless 

1 Cf. The Life and Love of the Insect: chap. iii. " The 
tool does not make the workman. The insect exerts its 
gifts as a specialist with any kind of tool wherewith it is 
supplied. It can saw with a plane or plane with a saw, 
like the model workman of whom Franklin tells us." — 
Translator's Note. 

2 .078 to .117 inch. — Translator's Note. 

198 



The Capricorn 

to leave the tree-trunk by his unaided efforts. 
It therefore falls to the worm, to the wisdom 
of that bit of an intestine, to prepare the way 
for him. We see renewed, in another form, 
the feats of prowess of the Anthrax, whose 
pupa, armed with trepans, bores through 
rock on the feeble Fly's behalf. Urged by 
a presentiment that to us remains an un- 
fathomable mystery, the Cerambyx-grub 
leaves the inside of the oak, its peaceful re- 
treat, its unassailable stronghold, to wriggle 
towards the outside, where lives the foe, the 
Woodpecker, who may gobble up the suc- 
culent little sausage. At the risk of its life, 
it stubbornly digs and gnaws to the very bark, 
of which it leaves no more intact than the 
thinnest film, a slender screen. Sometimes, 
even, the rash one opens the window wide. 

This is the Capricorn's doorway. The 
insect will have but to file the screen a little 
with its mandibles, to bump against it with 
its forehead, in order to bring it down; it 
will even have nothing to do when the win- 
dow is free, as often happens. The un- 
skilled carpenter, burdened with his extrava- 
gant head-dress, will emerge from the dark- 
ness through this opening when the summer 
heats arrive. 

After the cares of the future come the 
199 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

cares of the present. The larva, which has 
just opened the aperture of escape, retreats 
some distance down its gallery and, in the 
side of the exit-way, digs itself a transforma- 
tion-chamber more sumptuously furnished 
and barricaded than any that I have ever 
seen. It is a roomy niche, shaped like a 
flattened ellipsoid, the length of which reaches 
some eighty to a hundred millimetres. 1 The 
two axes of the cross-section vary: the hori- 
zontal measures twenty-five to thirty milli- 
metres 2 ; the vertical measures only fifteen."' 1 
This greater dimension of the cell, where the 
thickness of the perfect insect is concerned, 
leaves a certain scope for the action of its 
legs when the time comes for forcing the 
barricade, which is more than a close-fitting 
mummy-case would do. 

The barricade in question, a door which 
the larva builds to exclude the dangers from 
without, is two- and even three-fold. Out- 
side, it is a stack of woody refuse, of par- 
ticles of chopped timber; inside, a mineral 
hatch, a concave cover, all in one piece, of a 
chalky white. Pretty often, but not always, 
there is added to these two layers an inner 

1 3 to 4 inches. — Translator's Note. 

2 -975 to I > 1 7 inch. — Translator's Note. 
8 .585 inch. — Translator's Note. 

200 



The Capricorn 

casing of shavings. Behind this compound 
door, the larva makes its arrangements for 
the metamorphosis. The sides of the cham- 
ber are rasped, thus providing a sort of down 
formed of ravelled woody fibres, broken into 
minute shreds. The velvety matter, as and 
when obtained, is applied to the wall in a 
continuous felt at least a millimetre thick. 1 
The chamber is thus padded throughout with 
a fine swan's-down, a delicate precaution 
taken by the rough worm on behalf of the 
tender pupa. 

Let us hark back to the most curious part 
of the furnishing, the mineral hatch or inner 
door of the entrance. It is an elliptical 
skull-cap, white and hard as chalk, smooth 
within and knotted without, resembling more 
or less closely an acorn-cup. The knots 
show that the matter is supplied in small, 
pasty mouthfuls, solidifying outside in slight 
projections which the animal does not re- 
move, being unable to get at them, and pol- 
ished on the inside surface, which is within 
the worm's reach. What can be the nature 
of that singular lid whereof the Cerambyx 
furnishes me with the first specimen? It is 
as hard and brittle as a flake of lime-stone. 
It can be dissolved cold in nitric acid, dis- 

1 .039 inch. — Translator's Note. 
201 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

charging little gaseous bubbles. The process 
of solution is a slow one, requiring several 
hours for a tiny fragment. Everything is 
dissolved, except a few yellowish flocks, 
which appear to be of an organic nature. As 
a matter of fact, a piece of the lid, when 
subjected to heat, blackens, which proves the 
presence of an organic glue cementing the 
mineral matter. The solution becomes 
muddy if oxalate of ammonia be added and 
deposits a copious white precipitate. These 
signs indicate calcium carbonate. I look for 
urate of ammonia, that constantly-recurring 
product of the various stages of the meta- 
morphoses. It is not there: I find not the 
least trace of murexide. The lid, therefore, 
is composed solely of carbonate of lime and 
of an organic cement, no doubt of an al- 
buminous character, which gives consistency 
to the chalky paste. 

Had circumstances served me better, I 
should have tried to discover in which of the 
worm's organs the stony deposit dwells. I 
am, however, convinced: it is the stomach, 
the chylific ventricle, that supplies the chalk. 
It keeps it separate from the food, either as 
original matter or as a derivative of the 
ammonium urate; it purges it of all foreign 
bodies, when the larval period comes to an 

202 



The Capricorn 

end, and holds it in reserve until the time 
comes to disgorge it. This freestone-fac- 
tory causes me no astonishment: when the 
manufacturer undergoes his change, it serves 
for various chemical works. Certain Oil- 
beetles, such as the Sitaris, locate in it the 
urate of ammonia, the refuse of the trans- 
formed organism; the Sphex, the Pelopaei, 
the Scoliae, 1 use it to manufacture the shellac 
wherewith the silk of the cocoon is varnished. 
Further investigations will only swell the ag- 
gregate of the products of this obliging or- 
gan. 

When the exit-way is prepared and the cell 
upholstered in velvet and closed with a three- 
fold barricade, the industrious worm has con- 
cluded its task. It lays aside its tools, sheds 
its skin and becomes a nymph, a pupa, weak- 
ness personified, in swaddling-clothes, on a 
soft couch. The head is always turned to- 
wards the door. This is a trifling detail in 
appearance; but it is everything in reality. 
To lie this way or that in the long cell is a 
matter of great indifference to the worm, 
which is very supple, turning easily in its 
narrow lodging and adopting whatever po- 
sition it pleases. The coming Capricorn will 
not enjoy the same privileges. Stiffly girt in 

1 Three species of Digger-wasps. — Translator's Note. 
203 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

his horn cuirass, he will not be able to turn 
from end to end; he will not even be capable 
of bending, if some sudden wind should make 
the passage difficult. He must absolutely 
find the door in front of him, lest he perish 
in the casket. Should the grub forget this 
little formality, should it lie down to its 
nymphal sleep with its head at the back of 
the cell, the Capricorn is infallibly lost: his 
cradle becomes a hopeless dungeon. 

But there is no fear of this danger: the 
knowledge of the bit of an intestine is too 
sound in things of the future for the grub 
to neglect the formality of keeping its head 
to the door. At the end of spring, the Cap- 
ricorn, now in possession of his full strength, 
dreams of the joys of the sun, of the festivals 
of light. He wants to get out. What does 
he find before him? A heap of filings easily 
dispersed with his claws; next, a stone lid 
which he need not even break into fragments : 
it comes undone in one piece; it is removed 
from its frame with a few pushes of the fore- 
head, a few tugs of the claws. In fact, I find 
the lid intact on the threshold of the aban- 
doned cells. Last comes a second mass of 
woody remnants as easy to disperse as the 
first. The road is now free: the Cerambyx 
has but to follow the spacious vestibule, 
204 



The Capricorn 

which will lead him, without the possibility 
of mistake, to the exit. Should the window 
not be open, all that he has to do is to gnaw 
through a thin screen: an easy task; and be- 
hold him outside, his long antennae aquiver 
with excitement. 

What have we learnt from him ? Nothing 
from him; much from his grub. This grub, 
so poor in sensory organs, gives us with 
its prescience no little food for reflection. 
It knows that the coming Beetle will not be 
able to cut himself a road through the oak 
and it bethinks itself of opening one for him 
at its own risk and peril. It knows that the 
Cerambyx, in his stiff armour, will never be 
able to turn and make for the orifice of the 
cell ; and it takes care to fall into its nymphal 
sleep with its head to the door. It knows 
how soft the pupa's flesh will be and up- 
holsters the bedroom with velvet. It knows 
that the enemy is likely to break in during 
the slow work of the transformation and, to 
set a bulwark against his attacks, it stores 
a calcium pap inside its stomach. It knows 
the future with a clear vision, or, to be ac- 
curate, behaves as though it knew the future. 
Whence did it derive the motives of its ac- 
tions? Certainly not from the experience 
of the senses. What does it know of the 
205 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

outside world? Let us repeat, as much as a 
bit of an intestine can know. And this sense- 
less creature astounds us ! I regret that the 
clever logician, instead of conceiving a statue 
smelling a rose, did not imagine it gifted with 
some instinct. How quickly he would have 
recognized that, quite apart from sense-im- 
pressions, the animal, including man, pos- 
sesses certain psychological resources, certain 
inspirations that are innate and not acquired! 



206 



CHAPTER VIII 

THE PROBLEM OF THE SIREX 

1 I ^HE cherry-tree supports a small jet- 
■*■ black Capricorn, Cerambyx cerdo, 
whose larval habits it was as well to study 
in order to learn whether the instincts are 
modified when the form and the organization 
remain identical. Has this pigmy of the 
family the same talents as the giant, the 
ravager of the oak-tree? Does it work on 
the same principles? The resemblance be- 
tween the two, both in the larval state and 
in that of the perfect insect, is complete ; the 
denizen of the cherry-tree is an exact replica, 
on a smaller scale, of the denizen of the oak. 
If instinct is the inevitable consequence of the 
organism, we ought to find in the two in- 
sects a strict similarity of habits; if instinct 
is, on the other hand, a special aptitude fa- 
voured by the organs, we must expect va- 
riations in the industry exercised. For the 
second time the alternative is forced upon 
our attention: do the implements govern the 
practice of the craft, or does the craft gov- 
ern the employment of the implements? Is 
207 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

instinct derived from the organ, or is the or- 
gan instinct's servant? An old dead cherry- 
tree will answer our question. 

Beneath its ragged bark, which I lift in 
wide strips, swarms a population of larvae 
all belonging to Cerambyx cerdo. There are 
big larvae and little larvae; moreover, they 
are accompanied by nymphs. These details 
tell us of three years of larval existence, a 
duration of life frequent in the Longicorn 
series. If we hunt the thick of the trunk, 
splitting it again and again, it does not show 
us a single grub anywhere; the entire popu- 
lation is encamped between the bark and the 
wood. Here we find an inextricable maze 
of winding galleries, crammed with packed 
sawdust, crossing, recrossing, shrinking into 
little alleys, expanding into wide spaces and 
cutting, on the one hand, into the surface 
layer of the sap-wood and, on the other, into 
the thin sheets of the inner bark. The po- 
sition speaks for itself: the larva of the little 
Capricorn has other tastes than its large kins- 
man's; for three years it gnaws the outside 
of the trunk beneath the thin covering of 
the bark, while the other seeks a deeper 
refuge and gnaws the inside. 

The dissimilarity is yet more marked in 
the preparations for the nymphosis. Then 
208 



The Problem of the Sirex 

the worm of the cherry-tree leaves the sur- 
face and penetrates into the wood to a depth 
of about two inches, leaving behind it a wide 
passage, which is hidden on the outside by a 
remnant of bark that has been discreetly 
spared. This spacious vestibule is the fu- 
ture insect's path of release; this screen of 
bark, easily destroyed, is the curtain that 
masks the exit-door. In the heart of the 
wood the larva finally scoops out the cham- 
ber destined for the nymphosis. This is an 
egg-shaped recess an inch and a quarter to 
an inch and three-quarters in length by two- 
fifths of an inch in diameter. The walls are 
bare, that is to say, they are not lined with 
the blanket of shredded fibres dear to the 
Capricorn of the Oak. The entrance is 
blocked first by a plug of fibrous sawdust, 
then by a chalky lid, similar, except in point 
of size, to that with which we are already 
familiar. A thick layer of fine sawdust 
packed into the concavity of the chalky lid, 
completes the barricade. Need I add that 
the grub lies down and goes to sleep, for the 
nymphosis, with its head against the door? 
Not one forgets to take this precaution. 

The two Capricorns have, in short, the 
same system of closing their cells. Note 
above all the lens-shaped stony lid. In each 
209 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

case we find the same chemical composition, 
the same formation, like the cup of an acorn. 
Dimensions apart, the two structures are 
identical. But no other genus of Longicorn, 
so far as I am aware, practises this craft. 
I will therefore complete the classic descrip- 
tion of the Cerambyx-beetles by adding one 
characteristic: they seal their metamorphosis- 
chambers with a chalk slab. 

The similarities of habit go no farther, 
despite the identity of structure. There is 
even a very sharp contrast between the meth- 
ods pursued. The Capricorn of the Oak in- 
habits the deep layers of the trunk; the Cap- 
ricorn of the Cherry-tree inhabits the sur- 
face. In the preparations for the trans- 
formation, the first ascends from the wood 
to the bark, the second descends from the 
bark to the wood; the first risks the perils of 
the outer world, the second shuns them and 
seeks a retreat inside. The first hangs the 
walls of its chamber with velvet, the second 
knows nothing of this luxury. Though the 
work is almost the same in its results, it is 
at least carried out by contrary methods. 
The tool, therefore, does not govern the 
trade. This is what the two Cerambyx- 
beetles tell us. 

Let us vary the testimony of the Longi- 

210 



The Problem of the Sirex 

corns. I am not selecting; I am recording 
it in the order of my discoveries. The 
Shagreen Saperda (S. carcharias) lives in 
the black poplar; the Scalary Saperda (S. 
scalaris) lives in the cherry-tree. In both 
we find the same organization and the same 
implements, as is fitting in two closely-re- 
lated species. The Saperda of the Poplar 
adopts the method of the Capricorn of the 
Oak in its general features. It inhabits the 
interior of the trunk. On the approach of 
the transformation, it makes an exit-gallery, 
the door of which is open or else masked by 
a remnant of bark. Then, retracing its 
steps, it blocks the passage with a barricade 
of coarse packed shavings; and, at a depth 
of about eight inches, not far from the heart 
of the tree, it hollows out a cavity for the 
nymphosis without any particular upholster- 
ing. The defensive system is limited to the 
long column of shavings. To deliver itself, 
the insect will only have to push the heap of 
woody rubbish back, in so many lots; the 
path will open in front of it ready-made. If 
some screen of bark hide the gallery from 
the outside, its mandibles will easily dispose 
of that: it is soft and not very thick. 

The Scalary Saperda imitates the habits of 
its messmate, the Capricorn of the Cherry- 

211 



The Glow-Worm and Other Bcctlci 

tree. Its larva lives between the wood and 
the bark. I undergo its transformation, 
it goes down instead of coming up. In the 
I, parallel with the surface of the 
hunk, under a layer of wood barely a twenty- 
Id th of an inch in thickness, it makes a cylin- 
drkftl cell, rounded at the ends and roughly 
padded with ligneous fibres. A solid plug 
of shavings barricades the entrance, which 
is not preceded by any vestibule. Here the 
work of deliverance is the simplest. 7'he 

Saprrda has only to dent the door of his 

chamber to find beneath his mandibles the 
little bit of bark that remains to be pierced. 
As you see, we once more have to do with 
two specialists, each working in his own man- 
Ml wiili the same tools. 

I lie Buprestes, as zealous as the Longi- 
corns in the destruction of trees, whether 
lOUfld <•) ailing, tell us the same tale as the 
( 'rr.imhvv and Saperda -beetles. The Bronze 

Bupreitis (B. anca) is an inmate of the black 
poplar. Her larva gnaws the interior of 

the Irimk. lor (he nymphosis il installs it- 
••< II near the surface in a flattened, oval cell, 
which is prolonged at the back by the wan- 
dering-gallery, firmly packed with wormed 

wood, and in Ironl h\ a short, slightly curved 

vestibule. A layer of wood not a twenty-fifth 
ata 



The Problem of the Sirex 

of an inch thick is left intact at the end of the 
vestibule. There is no other defensive pre- 
caution; no barricade, no heap of shavings. 
In order to come out, the insect has only to 
pierce an insignificant sheet of wood and then 
the bark. 

The Nine-spotted Buprestis {Ptoshna 
novemmaculata) behaves in the apricot-tree 
precisely as the Bronze Buprestis does in the 
poplar. Its larva bores the inside of the 
trunk with very low-ceilinged galleries, 
usually parallel with the axis; then, at a dis- 
tance of an inch and a quarter or an inch and 
a half from the surface, it suddenly makes 
a sharp turn and proceeds in the direction of 
the bark. It tunnels straight ahead, taking 
the shortest road, instead of advancing by ir- 
regular windings as at first. Moreover, a 
sensitive intuition of coming events inspires 
its chisel to alter the plan of work. The 
perfect insect is a cylinder ; the grub, wide in 
the thorax but slender elsewhere, is a strap, 
a ribbon. The first, with its unyielding 
cuirass, needs a cylindrical passage; the sec- 
ond needs a very low tunnel, with a roof that 
will give a purchase to the ambulatory nip- 
ples of the back. The larva therefore 
changes its manner of boring utterly : yester- 
day, the gallery, suited to a wandering life 
213 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

in the thickness of the wood, was a wide bur- 
row with a very low ceiling, almost a slot; 
to-day the passage is cylindrical: a gimlet 
could not bore it more accurately. This sud- 
den change in the system of road-making on 
behalf of the coming insect once more sug- 
gests for our meditation the eminent degree 
of foresight possessed by a bit of an intes- 
tine. 

The cylindrical exit-way passes through 
the strata of wood along the shortest line, 
almost normally, after a slight bend which 
connects the vertical with the horizontal, a 
curve with a radius large enough to allow the 
stiff Buprestis to tack about without diffi- 
culty. It ends in a blind-alley, less than a 
twelfth of an inch from the surface of the 
wood. The eating away of the untouched 
sheet of wood and of the bark is all the la- 
bour that the grub leaves the insect to per- 
form. Having made these preparations, 
the larva withdraws, strengthening the 
wooden screen, however, with a layer of fine 
sawdust; it reaches the end of the round 
gallery, which is prolonged by the completely 
choked flat gallery; and here, scorning a spe- 
cial chamber or any upholstery, it goes to 
sleep for the nymphosis, with its head to- 
wards the exit. 

214 



The Problem of the Sirex 

I find numbers of specimens of a black 
Buprestis (B. octoguttata) in the old stumps 
of pine-trees left standing in the ground, 
hard outside but soft within, where the wood 
is as pliable as tinder. In this yielding sub- 
stance, which has a resinous aroma, the 
larvae spend their life. For the metamor- 
phosis they leave the unctuous regions of the 
centre and penetrate the hard wood, where 
they hollow out oval recesses, slightly flat- 
tened, measuring from twenty-five to thirty 
millimetres 1 in length. The major axis of 
these cells is always vertical. They are 
continued by a wide exit-path, sometimes 
straight, sometimes slightly curved, accord- 
ing as the tree is to be quitted through the 
section above or through the side. The exit- 
channel is nearly always bored completely; 
the window by which the insect escapes opens 
directly upon the outside world. At most, 
in a few rare instances, the grub leaves the 
Buprestis the trouble of piercing a leaf of 
wood so thin as to be translucent. But, if 
easy paths are necessary to the insect, pro- 
tective ramparts are no less needed for the 
safety of the nymphosis; and the larva plugs 
the liberating channel with a fine paste of 
masticated wood, very different from the or- 

1 «975 t0 I,I 7 inch. — Translator's Note. 
215 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

dinary sawdust. A layer of the same paste 
divides the bottom of the chamber from the 
low-ceilinged gallery, the work of the grub's 
active life. Lastly, the magnifying-glass re- 
veals upon the walls of the cell a tapestry of 
woody fibres, very finely divided, standing 
erect and closely shorn, so as to make a sort 
of velvet pile. This quilted lining, of which 
the Cerambyx of the Oak showed us the first 
example, is, it seems to me, pretty often em- 
ployed by the wood-eaters, Buprestes as well 
as Longicorns. 

After these migrants, which travel from 
the centre of the tree to the surface, we will 
mention some others which from the surface 
plunge into the interior. A small Buprestis 
who ravages the cherry-trees, Anthaxia niti- 
dula, passes his larval existence between the 
wood and the bark. When the time comes 
for changing its shape, the pigmy concerns 
itself, like the others, with future and present 
needs. To assist the perfect insect, the grub 
first gnaws the under side of the bark, leaving 
a thin screen of cuticle untouched, and then 
sinks in the wood a perpendicular well, 
blocked with unresisting sawdust. That is 
on behalf of the future: the frail Buprestis 
will be able to leave without hindrance. The 
bottom of the well, better wrought than the 
ai6 



The Problem of the Sirex 

rest and ceiled with the aid of an adhesive 
fluid which holds the fine sawdust of the stop- 
per in place, is a thing of the present; it is 
the nymphosis-chamber. 

A second Buprestis, Chrysobothrys chryso- 
stigma, likewise an exploiter of the cherry- 
tree, between the wood and the bark, al- 
though more vigorous, expends less labour 
on its preparations. Its chamber, with mod- 
estly varnished walls, is merely an expanded 
extension of the ordinary gallery. The 
grub, disinclined for persistent labour, does 
not bore the wood. It confines itself to hol- 
lowing a slanting dug-out in the bark, with- 
out touching the surface layer, through which 
the insect will have to gnaw its own way. 

Thus each species displays special me- 
thods, tricks of the trade which cannot be 
explained merely by reference to its tools. 
As these minute details have consequences of 
some importance, I do not hesitate to mul- 
tiply them : they all help to throw light upon 
the subject which we are investigating. Let 
us once more see what the Longicorns are 
able to tell us. 

An inhabitant of old pine-stumps, Crioce- 

phalus ferus makes an exit-gallery which 

yawns widely on the outside world, opening 

either on the section of the stump or on the 

217 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

sides. The road is barricaded about two 
inches down with a long plug of coarse shav- 
ings. Next comes the nymph's cylindrical, 
compressed apartment, which is padded with 
woody fibres. It is continued underneath by 
the labyrinth of the larva, the burrow 
crammed full of digested wood. Note also 
the complete boring of the liberating passage, 
including the bark when there is any. 

I find Stromatium strepens in ilex-logs 
which have been stripped of their bark. 
There is the same method of deliverance, 
the same passage curving gently towards the 
nearest outside point, the same barricade of 
shavings above the cell. Was the passage 
also carried through the bark? The 
stripped logs leave me ignorant as to this 
detail. 

Clytus tropicus, a sapper of the cherry- 
tree, C. arietis and C. arvicola, sappers of 
the hawthorn, have a cylindrical exit-gallery, 
with a sharp turn to it. The gallery is 
masked on the outside by a remnant of bark 
or wood, hardly a millimetre thick, 1 and 
widens, not far from the surface, into a 
nymphosis-chamber, which is divided from 
the burrow by a mass of packed sawdust. 

To continue the subject would entail an 

1 .039 inch. — Translator's Note. 
218 



The Problem of the Sirex 

excess of monotonous repetition. The gen- 
eral law stands out very clearly from these 
few data : the wood-eating grubs of the 
Longicorns and Buprestes prepare the path 
of deliverance for the perfect insect, which 
will have merely in one case to pass a barri- 
cade of shavings or wormed wood, or in an- 
other to pierce a slight thickness of wood or 
bark. Thanks to a curious reversal of its 
usual attributes, youth is here the season of 
energy, of strong tools, of stubborn work; 
adult age is the season of leisure, of industrial 
ignorance, of idle diversions, without trade or 
profession. The infant has its paradise in 
the arms of its mother, its providence; here 
the infant, the grub, is the providence of the 
mother. With its patient tooth, which 
neither the perils of the outside world nor 
the difficult task of boring through hard wood 
are able to deter, it clears a way for her to 
the supreme delights of the sun. The young- 
ster prepares an easy life for the adult. 

Can these armour-wearers, so sturdy in 
appearance, be weaklings? I place nymphs 
of all the species that come to hand in glass 
tubes of the same diameter as the natal cell, 
lined with coarse paper, which will provide 
a good purchase for the boring. The ob- 
stacle to be pierced varies: a cork a centi- 
219 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

metre thick; ■ a plug of poplar, very much 
softened by decay; a circular disk of sound 
wood. Most of my captives easily pierce 
the cork and the soft wood; these represent 
to them the barricade to be overthrown, the 
bark curtain to be perforated. A few, how- 
ever, succumb before the front to be attacked ; 
and all perish, after fruitless attempts, be- 
fore the disk of hard wood. Thus perished 
the strongest of them all, the Great Capri- 
corn, in my artificial oak-wood cells and even 
in my reed-stumps closed with their natural 
partitions. 

They have not the strength, or rather the 
patient art; and the larva, more highly gifted, 
works for them. It gnaws with indomi- 
table perseverance, an essential to success 
even for the strong; it digs with amazing 
foresight. It knows the future shape of the 
adult, whether round or oval, and bores the 
exit-passage accordingly, making it cylin- 
drical in one case and elliptical in the other. 
It knows that the adult is very impatient to 
reach the light; and it leads her thither by the 
shortest way. In its wandering life in the 
heart of the tree, it loves low-roofed, wind- 
ing tunnels, just big enough to pass through, 
or widening into stations when it strikes a 

1 .39 inch. — Translator's Note. 
220 



The Problem of the Sirex 

vein with a better flavour; now, it makes a 
short, straight, roomy corridor, leading with 
a sharp bend to the outside world. It had 
plenty of time during its capricious wander- 
ings; the adult has none to spare: his days 
are numbered; he must get out as quickly 
as he can. Hence the shortest road and as 
little encumbered by obstacles as is consistent 
with safety. The grub knows that the too 
sudden junction of the horizontal and the 
vertical part would stop the stiff, inflexible 
insect and bends it towards the outside with 
a gentle curve. This elbow changing the 
direction occurs whenever the larva ascends 
from the depths; it is very short when the 
nymphosis-chamber is next to the surface, but 
continues for some length when the chamber 
is well inside the trunk. In this case, the 
path traced by the grub has so regular a 
curve that you feel inclined to subject the 
work to geometrical measurement. 

For want of sufficient data, I should have 
left this elbow in the shadow of a note of 
interrogation, had I had at my disposal only 
the emergence-galleries of the Longicorns 
and Buprestes, which are too short to lend 
themselves to trustworthy examination with 
the compasses. A lucky find provided me 
with the factors required. This was the 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

trunk of a dead poplar, riddled, to a height 
of several yards, with an infinite number of 
round holes the diameter of a pencil. The 
precious pole, still standing, is uprooted with 
due respect, in view of my designs, and car- 
ried into my study, where it is sawn into 
longitudinal sections planed smooth. 

The wood, while retaining its structure, 
has been greatly softened by the presence of 
the mycelium of a mushroom, the agaric of 
the poplar. The inside is decayed. The 
outer layers, to a depth of over four inches, 
are in good condition, save for the innumer- 
able curved passages that cut through them. 
In a section involving the whole diameter of 
the trunk, the galleries of the late occupant 
produce a pleasing effect, of which a sheaf of 
corn gives us a pretty faithful image. Al- 
most straight, parallel with one another and 
assembled in a bundle down the middle, they 
diverge at the top and spread into a cluster 
of wide curves, each of which ends in one 
of the holes on the surface. It is a sheaf of 
passages which has not the single head of a 
sheaf of corn, but shoots its innumerable 
sprouts hither and thither, at all heights. 

I am enraptured by this magnificent speci- 
men. The curves, of which I uncover a 
layer at every stroke of the plane, far ex- 

222 



The Problem of the Sirex 

ceed my requirements; they are strikingly 
regular; they afford the compasses the full 
space needed for accurate measurement. 

Before calling in geometry, let us, if pos- 
sible, name the creator of these beautiful 
curves. The inhabitants of the poplar have 
disappeared, perhaps long ago, as is proved 
by the mycelium of the agaric; the insect 
would not gnaw and bore its way through 
timber all permeated with the felt-like growth 
of the cryptogam. A few weaklings, how- 
ever, have died without being able to escape. 
I find their remains swathed in mycelium. 
The agaric has preserved them from de- 
struction by wrapping them in tight cere- 
ments. Under these mummy-bandages, I 
recognise a Saw-fly, Sirex augur, KLUG., 
in the state of the perfect insect. And — 
this is an important detail — all these adult 
remains, without a single exception, occupy 
spots which have no means of communica- 
tion with the outside. I find them some- 
times in a partly-constructed curved passage, 
beyond which the wood remains intact, some- 
times at the end of the straight central gal- 
lery, choked with sawdust, which is not con- 
tinued in front. These remains, with no 
thoroughfare before them, tell us plainly that 
the Sirex adopts for its exit methods not 
223 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

employed by the Buprestes and the Longi- 
corns. 

The larva does not prepare the path of 
deliverance; it is left for the perfect insect to 
open itself a passage through the wood. 
What I have before my eyes tells me more 
or less plainly the sequence of events. The 
larva, whose presence is proved by galleries 
blocked with packed sawdust, do not leave 
the centre of the trunk, a quieter retreat, less 
subject to the vicissitudes of the climate. 
Metamorphosis is effected at the junction of 
the straight gallery and the curved passage 
which is not yet made. When strength 
comes, the perfect insect tunnels ahead for a 
distance of more than four inches and opens 
up the exit-passage, which I find choked, not 
with compact sawdust, but with loose pow- 
dery rubbish. The dead insects which I 
strip of their mycelium-shrouds are weaklings 
whose strength deserted them mid-way. 
The rest of the passage is lacking because 
the labourer died on the road. 

With this fact of the insect itself boring 
the exit passage, the problem assumes a more 
troublesome form. If the larva, rich in lei- 
sure and satisfied with its sojourn in the in- 
terior of the trunk, simplifies the coming 
emergence by shortening the road, what must 
224 



The Problem of the Sirex 

not the adult do, who has so short a time to 
live and who is in so great a hurry to leave 
the hateful darkness? He above any other 
should be a judge of short cuts. To go from 
the murky heart of the tree to the sun- 
steeped bark, why does he not follow a 
straight line? It is the shortest way. 

Yes, for the compasses, but not perhaps 
for the sapper. The length traversed is not 
the only factor of the work accomplished, of 
the total activity expended. We must take 
into account the resistance overcome, a re- 
sistance which varies according to the depth 
of the more or less hard strata and accord- 
ing to the method of attacking the woody 
fibres, which are either broken across or di- 
vided lengthwise. Under these conditions, 
whose value remains to be determined, can 
there be a curve involving a minimum of 
mechanical labour in cutting through the 
wood? 

I was already trying to discover how the 
resistance may vary according to depth and 
direction; I was working out my differentials 
and my minimum integrals, when a very sim- 
ple idea overturned my slippery scaffolding. 
The calculation of variations has nothing to 
do with the matter. The animal is not the 
moving body of the mathematicians, the par- 
225 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

tide of matter guided in its trajectory solely 
by the motive forces and the resistance of 
the medium traversed; it bears within itself 
conditions which control the others. The 
adult insect does not even enjoy the larva's 
privileges; it cannot bend freely in all direc- 
tions. Under its harness it is almost a stiff 
cylinder. To simplify the explanation, we 
may liken the insect to a section of an in- 
flexible straight line. 

Let us return to the Sirex, reduced by ab- 
straction to its axis. The metamorphosis is 
effected not far from the centre of the trunk. 
The insect lies lengthwise in the tree with 
its head up, very rarely with its head down. 
It must reach the outside as quickly as pos- 
sible. The section of an inflexible straight 
line that represents it nibbles away a little 
wood in front of it and obtains a shallow ca- 
vity wide enough to allow of a very slight 
turn towards the outside. An infinitesimal 
advance is made ; a second follows, the re- 
sult of a similar cavity and a similar turn in 
the same direction. In short, each change 
of position is accompanied by the tiny de- 
viation permitted by the slight excess of 
width of the hole; and this deviation invari- 
ably points the same way. Imagine a mag- 
226 



The Problem of the Sirex 

netic needle swung out of its position and 
tending to return to it while moving with a 
uniform speed through a resisting medium 
in which a sheath of a diameter slightly 
greater than the needle's opens bit by bit. 
The Sirex behaves more or less in the same 
fashion. His magnetic pole is the light out- 
side. He makes for that direction by imper- 
ceptible deviations as his tooth digs. 

The problem of the Sirex is now solved. 
The trajectory is composed of equal ele- 
ments, with an invariable angle between 
them; it is the curve whose tangents, divided 
by infinitely small distances, retain the same 
inclination between each one and the next; 
the curve, in a word, with a constant angle 
of contingence. This characteristic betrays 
the circumference of the circle. 

It remains to discover whether the facts 
confirm the logical argument. I take accu- 
rate tracings of a score of galleries, selecting 
those whose length best lends itself to the 
test of the compasses. Well, logic agrees 
with reality: over lengths which sometimes 
exceed four inches, the track of the com- 
passes is identical with that of the insect. 
The most pronounced deviations do not ex- 
ceed the small variations which we must 
227 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

reasonably expect in a problem of a physical 
nature, a problem incompatible with the ab- 
solute accuracy of abstract truths. 

The Sirex' exit-gallery then is a wide arc 
of a circle whose lower extremity is con- 
nected with the corridor of the larva and 
whose upper extremity is prolonged in a 
straight line which ends at the surface with 
a perpendicular or slightly oblique incidence. 
The wide connecting arc enables the insect to 
tack about. When, starting from a position 
parallel with the axis of the tree, the Sirex 
has passed gradually to a transversal posi- 
tion, he completes his course in a straight 
line, which is the shortest road. 

Does the trajectory imply the minimum of 
work? Yes, under the conditions of the in- 
sect's existence. If the larva had taken the 
precaution to place itself in a different di- 
rection when preparing for the nymphosis, 
to turn its head towards the nearest point of 
the bark instead of turning it lengthwise with 
the trunk, obviously the adult would escape 
more easily: he would merely have to gnaw 
straight in front of him in order to pass 
through the minimum thickness. But rea- 
sons of convenience whereof the grub is the 
sole judge, reasons dictated perhaps by 
weight, cause the vertical to precede the 



The Problem of the Sirex 

horizontal position. In order to pass from 
the former to the latter, the insect veers 
round by describing the arc of a circle. 
When this turn has been effected, the distance 
is completed in a straight line. 

Let us consider the Sirex at his starting- 
point. His stiffness of necessity compels him 
to turn gradually. Here the insect can do 
nothing of its own initiative; everything is 
mechanically determined. But, being free 
to pivot on its axis and to attack the wood on 
either side of the sheath, it has the option of 
attempting this reversal in a host of different 
ways, by a series of connected arcs, not in 
the same plane. Nothing prevents it from 
describing winding curves by revolving upon 
itself: spirals, loops constantly changing 
their direction, in fact, the complicated route 
of a creature that has lost its way. It might 
wander in a tortuous maze, making fresh at- 
tempts here, there and everywhere, groping 
for ever so long without succeeding. 

But it does not grope and it succeeds very 
well. Its gallery is still contained within 
one plane, the first condition of the minimum 
of labour. Moreover, of the different 
vertical planes that can pass through the 
eccentric starting-point, one, the plane which 
passes through the axis of the tree, cor- 

220 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

responds on the one side with the minimum 
of resistance to be overcome and on the other 
with the maximum. Nothing prevents the 
Sirex from tracing his path in any one of the 
multitude of planes on which the path would 
possess an intermediate value between the 
shortest and the longest. The insect refuses 
them all and constantly adopts the one which 
passes through the axis, choosing, of course, 
the side that entails the shortest path. In 
brief, the Sirex' gallery is contained in a plane 
pointing towards the axis of the tree and the 
starting-point; and of the two portions of this 
plane the channel passes through the less ex- 
tensive. Under the conditions, therefore, 
imposed upon him by his stiffness the hermit 
of the poplar-tree releases himself with the 
minimum of mechanical labour. 

The miner guides himself by the compass 
in the unknown depths underground, the 
sailor does the same in the unknown ocean 
solitudes. How does the wood-eating insect 
guide itself in the thickness of a tree-trunk? 
Has it a compass? One would almost say 
that it had, so successfully does it keep to the 
quickest road. Its goal is the light. To 
reach this goal, it suddenly chooses the 
economical plane trajectory, after spending 
its larval leisure in roaming tortuous pass- 
230 



The Problem of the Sirex 

ages full of irregular curves; it bends it in 
an arc which allows it to turn about; and, 
with its head held plumb with the adjacent 
surface, it goes straight ahead by the nearest 
way. 

The most extraordinary obstacles are 
powerless to turn it aside from its plane 
and its curve, so imperative is its guiding 
force. It will gnaw metal, if need be, rather 
than turn its back upon the light, which it 
feels to be close at hand. The entomo- 
logical records place this incredible fact be- 
yond a doubt. At the time of the Crimean 
War, the Institut de France received some 
packets of cartridges in which the bullets had 
been perforated by Sirex juvencus; a little 
later, at the Grenoble Arsenal, <S. gigas carved 
himself a similar exit. The larva was in 
the wood of the cartridge-boxes; and the 
adult insect, faithful to its direction of escape, 
had bored through the lead because the near- 
est daylight was behind that obstacle. 

There is an exit-compass, that is incon- 
testable, both for the larvae preparing the 
passage of deliverance and for the adult in- 
sect, the Sirex obliged to make that passage 
for himself. What is it? Here the prob- 
lem becomes surrounded with a darkness 
which is perhaps impenetrable; we are not 
231 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

well enough equipped with means of re- 
ceiving impressions even to imagine the causes 
which guide the creature. There is, in cer- 
tain events, another world of the senses in 
which our organs perceive nothing, a world 
which is closed to us. The eye of the 
camera sees the invisible and photographs 
the image of the ultra-violet rays; the tym- 
panum of the microphone hears what to us 
is silence. A scientific toy, a chemical con- 
trivance surpass us in sensibility. Would 
it be rash to attribute similar faculties to 
the delicate organization of the insect, even 
with regard to agencies unknown to our 
science, because they do not fall within the 
domain of our senses? To this question 
there is no positive reply; we have suspicions 
and nothing more. Let us at least dispel 
a few false notions that might occur to us. 

Does the wood guide the insect, adult or 
larva, by its structure? Gnawed across the 
grain, it must produce a certain impression; 
gnawed lengthwise, it must produce a dif- 
ferent impression. Is there not something 
here to guide the sapper? No, for in the 
stump of a tree left standing the emergence 
takes place, according to the proximity of the 
light, sometimes by way of the horizontal 
section, by means of a rectilinear path run- 
232 



The Problem of the Sirex 

ning along the grain, and sometimes by way 
of the side, by means of a curved road cut- 
ting across the grain. 

- Is the compass a chemical influence, or 
electrical, or calorific, or what not? No, 
for in an upright trunk the emergence is ef- 
fected as often by the north face, which is 
always in the shade, as by the south face, 
which receives the sun all day long. The 
exit-door opens in the side which is nearest, 
without any other condition. Can it be the 
temperature? Not that either, for the shady 
side, though cooler, is utilized as often as 
the side facing the sun. 

Can it be sound? Not so. The sound 
of what, in the silence of solitude ? And are 
the noises of the outside world propagated 
through half an inch of wood in such a way 
as to make differences perceptible? Can it 
be weight? No again, for the trunk of the 
poplar shows us more than one Sirex travel- 
ling upside down, with his head towards the 
ground, without any change in the direction 
of the curved passages. 

What then is the guide ? I have no idea. 
It is not the first time that this obscure quest- 
ion has been put to me. When studying the 
emergence of the Three-pronged Osmia from 
the bramble-stems shifted from their natural 
233 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

position by my wiles, I recognized the un- 
certainty in which the evidence of physical 
science leaves us; and, in the impossibility of 
finding any other reply, I suggested a special 
sense, the sense of open space. Instructed 
by the Sirex, the Buprestes, the Longicorns, 
I am once again compelled to make the same 
suggestion. It is not that I care for the 
expression: the unknown cannot be named 
in any language. It means that the hermits 
in the dark know how to find the light by the 
shortest road; it is the confessions of an 
ignorance which no honest observer will blush 
to share. Now that the evolutionists' in- 
terpretations of instinct have been recognized 
as worthless, we all come to that stimulating 
maxim of Anaxagoras', which laconically 
sums up the result of my researches: 

" Nov? irdvra SicKoafxrjac. Mind orders all 
things." 



234 



CHAPTER IX 

THE DUNG-BEETLES OF THE PAMPAS 

/ TPO travel the world, by land and sea, 
■"■ from pole to pole; to cross-question 
life, under every clime, in the infinite variety 
of its manifestations: that surely would be 
glorious luck for him that has eyes to see; 
and it formed the radiant dream of my young 
years, at the time when Robinson Crusoe was 
my delight. These rosy illusions, rich in 
voyages, were soon succeeded by dull, stay-at- 
home reality. The jungles of India, the 
virgin forests of Brazil, the towering crests 
of the Andes, beloved by the Condor, were 
reduced, as a field for exploration, to a patch 
of pebbles enclosed within four walls. 

Heaven forfend that I should complain! 
The gathering of ideas does not necessarily 
imply distant expeditions. Jean-Jacques 
Rousseau x herborized with the bunch of 
chick-weed whereon he fed his Canary; 
Bernardin de Saint-Pierre 2 discovered a 

1 Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), author of the 
Confessions, La Nouvelle Heloise, etc. — Translator's Note. 

2 Jacques Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre (1737- 

235 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

world on a strawberry-plant that grew by 
accident in a corner of his window; Xavier 
de Maistre, 1 using an arm-chair by way of 
post-chaise, made one of the most famous 
of journeys around his room. 

This manner of seeing country is within 
my means, always excepting the post-chaise, 
which is too difficult to drive through the 
bushes. I go the circuit of my enclosure 
over and over again, a hundred times, 
by short stages; I stop here and I stop 
there; patiently, I put questions and, at 
long intervals, I receive some scrap of a 
reply. 

The smallest insect village has become 
familiar to me: I know each fruit-branch 
where the Praying Mantis 2 perches; each 
bush where the pale Italian Cricket 3 strums 
amid the calmness of the summer nights; 
each downy plant scraped by the Anthidium, 
that maker of cotton bags; each cluster of 
lilac worked by the Megachile, the Leaf-cut- 
ter. 

1814), author of Paul et Virginie, La Chaumiere idienne 
and Etudes de la nature. — Translator's Note. 

1 Xavier de Maistre (1763-1852), best known for his 
Voyage autour de ma chambre (1795). — Translator's 
Note. 

2 Cf. The Life of the Grasshopper: chaps, vi. to ix. — 
Translator's Note. 

3 Cf. idem: chap. xvi. — Translator's Note. 

236 



The Dung-Beetles of the Pampas 

If cruising among the nooks and corners 
of the garden do not suffice, a longer voyage 
shows ample profit. I double the cape of 
the neighbouring hedges and, at a few hun- 
dred yards, enter into relations with the 
Sacred Beetle, 1 the Capricorn, the Geotru- 
pes, 2 the Copris, 3 the Decticus, 4 the Cricket, 5 
the Green Grasshopper, 6 in short, with a host 
of tribes the telling of whose story would ex- 
haust a lifetime. Certainly, I have enough 
and even too much to do with my near neigh- 
bours, without leaving home to rove in distant 
lands. 

Besides, roaming the world, scattering 
one's attention over a host of subjects, is not 
observing. The travelling entomologist can 
stick numerous species, the joy of the collector 
and the nomenclator, into his boxes; but to 
gather circumstantial evidence is a very dif- 
ferent matter. A Wandering Jew of science, 
he has no time to stop. Where a prolonged 
stay would be necessary to study this or that 

1 Cf. The Sacred Beetle and Others, by J. Henri Fabre, 
translated by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos: chaps i. to 
vi. — Translator's Note. 

2 Cf . idem : chaps, xii. to xiv. — Translator's Note. 
8 Cf . idem: chaps, ix and xvi. — Translator's Note. 

* Cf . The Life of the Grasshopper: chaps, xi to xiii. — 
Translator's Note. 

5 Cf. idem: chaps, xv and xvi. — Translator's Note. 

6 Cf . idem: chap. xiv. — Translator's Note. 

237 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

fact, he is hurried past the next stage. We 
must not expect the impossible of him under 
these conditions. Let him pin his specimens 
to cork tablets, let him steep them in jars of 
spirit, and leave to the sedentary the patient 
observations that require time. 

This explains the extreme penury of his- 
tory outside the dry descriptions of the 
nomenclator. Overwhelming us with its 
numbers, the exotic insect nearly always pre- 
serves the secret of its manners. Neverthe- 
less, it were well to compare what happens 
under our eyes with that which happens else- 
where; it were excellent to see how, in the 
same guild of workers, the fundamental in- 
stinct varies with climatic conditions. 

Then my longing to travel returns, vainer 
to-day than ever, unless one could find a seat 
on that carpet of which we read in the 
Arabian Nights, the famous carpet whereon 
one had but to sit to be carried whitherso- 
ever he pleased. O marvellous conveyance, 
far preferable to Xaxier de Maistre's post- 
chaise! If I could only find just a little 
corner on it, with a return-ticket ! 

I do find it. I owe this unexpected good 

fortune to a Brother of the Christian Schools, 

to Brother Judulien, of the La Salle College 

at Buenos Aires. His modesty would be of- 

238 



The Dung-Beetles of the Pampas 

fended by the praises which his debtor owes 
him. Let us simply say that, acting on my 
instructions, his eyes take the place of mine. 
He seeks, finds, observes, sends me his notes 
and his discoveries. I observe, seek and 
find with him, by correspondence. 

It is done ; thanks to this first-rate col- 
laborator, I have my seat on the magic 
carpet. Behold me in the pampas of the 
Argentine Republic, eager to draw a parallel 
between the industry of the Serignan 1 Dung- 
beetles and that of their rivals in the western 
hemisphere. 

A glorious beginning! An accidental 
find procures me, to begin with, the Splendid 
Phanaeus (P. splendidulus) , who combines 
a coppery effulgence with the sparkling green 
of the emerald. One is quite astonished to 
see so rich a gem load its basket with ordure. 
It is the jewel on the dung-hill. The corselet 
of the male is grooved with a wide hollow 
and he sports a pair of sharp-edged pinions 
on his shoulders; on his forehead he plants 
a horn which vies with that of the Spanish 
Copris. While equally rich in metallic 
splendour, his mate has no fantastic embel- 
lishments, which are an exclusive prerogative 

1 Serignan, in Provence, where the author ended his 
days. — Translator's Note. 

239 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

of masculine dandyism among the Dung- 
beetles of La Plata as among our own. 

Now what can the gorgeous foreigner do? 
Precisely what the Lunary Copris * does with 
us. Settling, like the other, under a flat cake 
of Cow-dung, the South American Beetle 
kneads egg-shaped loaves underground. 
Not a thing is forgotten: the round belly 
with the largest volume and the smallest sur- 
face; the hard rind which acts as a pre- 
servative against premature desiccation; the 
terminal nipple where the egg is lodged in a 
hatching-chamber; and, at the end of the 
nipple, the felt stopper which admits the air 
needed by the germ. 

All these things I have seen here and I 
see over there, almost at the other end of 
the world. Life, ruled by inflexible logic, 
repeats itself in its works, for what is true 
in one latitude cannot be false in another. 
We go very far afield in search of a new 
spectacle to meditate upon; and we have an 
inexhaustible specimen before our eyes, be- 
tween the walls of our enclosure. 

Settled under the sumptuous dish dropped 
by the Ox, the Phanaeus, one would think, 
ought to make the very best use of it and 

1 Cf. The Sacred Beetle and Others: chap. xvi. — Trans- 
lator's Note. 

240 



The Dung-Beetles of the Pampas 

to stock her burrow with a number of ovoids, 
after the example of the Lunary Copris. 
She does nothing of the sort, preferring to 
roam from one find to the other and to take 
from each the wherewithal to model a single 
pellet, which is left to itself for the soil to 
incubate. She is not driven to practise 
economy even when she is working the pro- 
duce of the Sheep far from the pastures of 
the Argentine. 

Can this be because the jewel of the 
pampas dispenses with the father's collabor- 
ation? I dare not follow up the argument, 
for the Spanish Copris would give me the 
lie, by showing me the mother occupied alone 
in settling the family and nevertheless stock- 
ing her one pit with a number of pellets. 
Each has her share of customs the secret 
of which escapes us. 

The two next, Megathopa bicolor and M. 
intermedia, have certain points of resem- 
blance with the Sacred Beetle, for whose 
ebon hue they substitute a blue black. The 
first besides brightens his corselet with mag- 
nificent copper reflections. With their long 
legs, their forehead with its radiating 
denticulations and their flattened wing-cases, 
they are fairly successful smaller editions of 
the famous pill-roller. 
241 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

They also share her talent. The work of 
both is once again a sort of pear, but con- 
structed in a more ingenious fashion, with 
an almost conical neck and without any ele- 
gant curves. From the point of view of 
beauty, it falls short of the Sacred Bertie's 
work. Considering the tools, which have 
ample free play and are well adapted for 
clasping, I expected something better from 
the two modellers. No matter: the work of 
the Megathopae conforms with the funda- 
mental art of the other pill-rollers. 

A fourth, Bolbites onitoides, compensates 
us for repetitions which, it is true, widen the 
scope of the problem but teach us nothing 
new. She is a handsome Beetle with a 
metallic costume, green or copper-red ac- 
cording as the light happens to fall. Her 
four-cornered shape and her long, toothed 
fore-legs make her resemble our Onites. 1 

In her, the Dung-beetles' guild reveals it- 
self under a very unexpected aspect. We 
know insects that knead soft loaves; and 
here are some which, to keep their bread 
fresh, discover ceramics and become potters, 
working clay in which they pack the food of 
the larvae. Before my housekeeper, before 

l Cf. The Sacred Beetle and Others: chap, xvi.— 
Translator's Note. 

242 



The Dung-Beetles of the Pampas 

any of us, they knew how, with the aid of a 
round jar, to keep the provisions from dry- 
ing during the summer heats. The work of 
the Bolbites is an ovoid, hardly differing in 
shape from that of the Copres; but this is 
where the ingenuity of the American insect 
shines forth. The inner mass, the usual 
dung-cake furnished by the Cow or the Sheep, 
is covered with a perfectly homogeneous and 
continuous coating of clay, which makes a 
piece of solid pottery impervious to evapor- 
ation. 

The earthen pot is exactly filled by its con- 
tents, without the slightest interval along the 
line of junction. This detail tells us the 
worker's method. The jar is moulded on 
the provisions. After the food-pellet has 
been formed in the ordinary baker's fashion 
and the egg laid in its hatching-chamber, the 
Bolbites takes some armfuls of the clay near 
at hand, applies it to the foodstuff and presses 
it down. When the work is finished and 
smoothed to perfection with indefatigable 
patience, the tiny pot, built up piecemeal, 
looks as though made with the wheel and 
rivals our own earthenware in regularity. 

The hatching-chamber, in which the egg 
lies, is, as usual, contrived in the nipple at 
the end of the pear. How will the germ and 
243 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

the young larva manage to breathe under 
that clay casing, which intercepts the access 
of the air? 

Have no fears : the pot-maker knows quite 
well how matters stand. She takes good 
care not to close the top with the plastic 
earth which supplied her with the walls. At 
some distance from the tip of the nipple, 
the clay ceases to play its part and makes 
way for fibrous particles, for tiny scraps of 
undigested fodder, which, arranged one 
above the other with a certain order, form a 
sort of thatched roof over the egg. The 
inward and outward passage of the air is 
assured through this coarse screen. 

One is set thinking in the presence of this 
layer of clay, which protects the fresh pro- 
visions, and this vent-hole stopped with a 
truss of straw, w«hich admits the air freely, 
while defending the entrance. There is the 
eternal question, if we do not rise above the 
commonplace : how did the insect acquire so 
wise an art? 

Not one fails in obeying those two laws, 

the safety of the egg and ready ventilation; 

not one, not even the next on my list, whose 

talent opens up a new horizon: I am now 

speaking of Lacordaire's Gromphas. Let 

not this repellant name of Gromphas (the old 
244 



The Dung-Beetles of the Pampas 

sow) give us a wrong notion of the insect. 
On the contrary, it is, like the last, an elegant 
Dung-beetle, dark-bronze, thickset, square- 
shaped like our Bison Onitis * and almost as 
large. It also practises the same industry, 
at least as regards the general effect of the 
work. 

Its burrow branches into a small number 
of cylindrical cells, forming the homes of 
as many larvae. For each of these the pro- 
visions consist of a parcel of Cow-dung, 
about an inch deep. The material is care- 
fully packed and fills the bottom of the cavity, 
just as a soft paste would do when pressed 
down in a mould. Until now the work is 
similar to that of the Bison Onitis; but the 
resemblance goes no farther and is replaced 
by profound and curious differences, having 
no connection with what the Dung-beetles of 
our own parts show us. 

As we know, our sausage-makers, Onites 
and Geotrupes alike, place the egg at the 
lower end of their cylinder, in a cell con- 
trived in the very midst of the mass of food- 
stuffs. Their rival in the pampas adopts 
a diametrically opposite method: she places 
the egg above the victuals, at the upper end 

> Cf. The Sacred Beetle and Others: chap, xvi.— Trans- 
lator's Note. 

245 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

of the sausage. In order to feed, the grub 
does not have to work upwards ; on the con- 
trary, it works downwards. 

More remarkable still: the egg does not 
lie immediately on top of the provisions; it 
is installed in a clay chamber with a wall 
about one-twelfth of an inch in thickness. 
This wall forms an hermetically-sealed lid, 
curves into a cup and then rises and bends 
over to make a vaulted ceiling. 

The germ is thus enclosed in a mineral 
box, having no connection with the provision- 
store, which is kept strictly shut. The new- 
born grub must employ the first efforts of its 
teeth to break the seals, to cut through the 
clay floor and to make a trap-door which will 
take it to the underlying cake. 

A rough beginning for the feeble mandible, 
even though the material to be bored through 
is a fine clay. Other grubs bite at once into 
a soft bread which surrounds them on every 
side; this one, on leaving the egg, has to 
make a breach in a wall before taking nour- 
ishment. 

Of what use are these obstacles? I do 
not doubt that they have their purpose. If 
the grub is born at the bottom of a closed pot, 
if it has to chew through brick to reach the 
larder, I feel sure that certain conditions of 
246 



The Dung-Beetles of the Pampas 

its well-being demand this. But what con- 
ditions? To become acquainted with them 
would call for an examination on the spot; 
and all the data that I possess are a few 
nests, lifeless things very difficult to inter- 
rogate. However, it is possible to catch a 
glimpse of one or two points. 

The Gromphas' burrow is shallow; those 
little cylinders, her loaves, are greatly ex- 
posed to drought. Over there, as here, the 
drying up of the victuals constitutes a mortal 
danger. To avert this peril, by far the most 
sensible course is to enclose the food in ab- 
solutely shut vessels. 

Well, the receptacle is dug in very fine, 
homogeneous, water-tight earth, with not a 
bit of gravel, not an atom of sand in it. To- 
gether with the lid that forms the bottom of 
its round chamber, in which the egg is lodged, 
this cavity becomes an urn whose contents 
are safe from drought for a long time, even 
under a scorching sun. However late the 
hatching, the new-born grub, on finding the 
lid, will have under its teeth provisions as 
fresh as though they dated from that very 
day. 

The clay food-pit, with its closely-fitting 
lid, is an excellent method, than which our 
agricultural experts have discovered no bet- 
247 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

ter way of preserving fodder; but it possesses 
one drawback: to reach the stack of food, 
the grub has first to open a passage through 
the floor of its chamber. Instead of the pap 
called for by its weakly stomach, it begins by 
finding a brick to chew. 

The rude task would be avoided if the 
egg lay directly on top of the victuals, inside 
the case itself. Here our logic is at fault: 
it forgets an essential point, which the insect 
is careful not to disregard. The germ 
breathes. Its development requires air; and 
the perfectly-closed clay urn does not allow 
any air to enter. The grub has to be born 
outside the pot. 

Agreed. But, in the matter of breathing, 
the egg is no better off for being shut up, on 
top of the provisions, in a clay casket quite 
as air-tight as the jar itself. Examine the 
thing more closely, however, and you will 
receive a satisfactory reply. The walls of 
the hatching-chamber are carefully glazed in- 
side. The mother has taken meticulous 
pains to give them a stucco-like finish. The 
vaulted ceiling alone is rugged, because the 
building-tool now works from the outside and 
is unable to reach the inner surface of the lid 
and smooth it. Moreover, in the centre of 
this curved and embossed ceiling, a small 
248 



The Dung-Beetles of the Pampas 

opening has been made. This is the air- 
hole, which allows of gaseous exchanges be- 
tween the atmosphere inside the box and that 
outside. 

If it were entirely free, this opening would 
be dangerous: some plunderer might take ad- 
vantage of it to enter the casket. The 
mother foresees the risk. She blocks the 
breathing-hole with a plug made of the 
ravelled vegetable fibres of the Cow-dung, a 
stopper which is eminently permeable. It is 
an exact repetition of that which the various 
modellers have shown us at the top of their 
calabashes and pears. All of them are ac- 
quainted with the nice secret of the felt stop- 
per as a means of ventilating the egg in a 
water-tight enclosure. 

Your name is not an attractive one, my 
pretty Dung-beetle of the pampas, but your 
industrial methods are most remarkable. I 
know some among your fellow-countrymen, 
however, who surpass you in ingenuity. One 
of these is Phanaus Milon, a magnificent in- 
sect, blue-black all over. 

. The male's corselet juts forward. On the 
head is a short, broad, flattened horn, end- 
ing in a trident. The female replaces this 
ornament by simple folds. Both carry on 
the forehead two spikes which form a trusty 
249 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

digging-implement and also a scalpel for dis- 
secting. The insect's squat, sturdy, four- 
cornered build resembles that of Onitis 
Olivieri, one of the rarities of the neighbour- 
hood of Montpellier. 

If similarity of shape implied purity of 
work, we ought unhesitatingly to attribute to 
Phanaus Milon short, thick puddings like 
those made by Olivier's Onitis. 1 Alas, 
structure is a bad guide where instinct is con- 
cerned! The square-chined, short-legged 
Dung-beetle excels in the art of manufactur- 
ing gourds. The Sacred Beetle herself sup- 
plies none that are more correctly shaped nor, 
above all, more capacious. 

The thickset insect astonishes me with the 
elegance of its work, which is irreproachable 
in its geometry : the neck is shorter, but never- 
theless combines grace with strength. The 
model seems derived from some Indian cala- 
bash, the more so as it has an open mouth 
and the belly is engraved with an elegant 
engine-turned pattern, produced by the in- 
sect's tarsi. One seems to see a pitcher pro- 
tected by a wickerwork covering. The 

1 1 owe this detail on the work of Olivier's Onitis to a 
note and a sketch communicated by Professor Valery- 
Mayer, of the Montpellier School of Agriculture. — 
Author's Note. 

250 



The Dung-Beetles of the Pampas 

whole attains and even exceeds the size of a 
Hen's egg. 

It is a very curious piece of work and of 
a rare perfection, especially when we con- 
sider the artist's clumsy and massive build. 
No, once again, the tool does not make the 
workman, among Dung-beetles any more 
than among ourselves. To guide the model- 
ler there is something better than a set of 
tools: there is what I have called the bump, 
the genius of the animal. 

Phanaus Milon scoffs at difficulties. He 
does much more than that: he laughs at our 
classifications. The word Dung-beetle im- 
plies a lover of dung. He sets no value on 
it, either for his own use or for that of his 
offspring. What he wants is the sanies of 
corpses. He is to be found under the car- 
casses of birds, Dogs or Cats, in the com- 
pany of the undertakers-in-ordinary. The 
gourd which I will presently describe was 
lying in the earth under the remains of an 
Owl. 

Let him who will explain this conjunction 
of the appetites of the Necrophorus * with 
the talents of the Sacred Beetle. As for me, 
baffled by tastes which no one would suspect 

i Or Burying-beetle. Cf. Chapters XL and XII. of the 
present volume. — Translator's Note. 
25* 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

from the mere appearance of the insect, I 
give it up. 

I know in my neighbourhood one Dung- 
beetle and one alone who also works among 
carrion. This is Onthophagus ovatus, LIN., 
a constant frequenter of dead Moles 
and Rabbits. But the dwarf undertaker 
does not on that account scorn stercoraceous 
fare: he feasts upon it like the other On- 
thophagi. Perhaps there is a twofold diet 
here: the bun for the adult; the highly-spiced, 
far-gone meat for the grub. 

Similar facts are encountered elsewhere, 
with differing tastes. The Hunting Wasp 
takes her fill of honey drawn from the nec- 
taries of the flowers, but feeds her little ones 
on game. Game first and then sugar, for 
the same stomach! How that digestive 
pouch must change during development! 
And yet no more than our own, which scorns 
in later life the food that delighted it when 
young. 

Let us now examine the work of Phanaus 
Milon more thoroughly. The calabashes 
reached me in a state of complete desiccation. 
They are very nearly as hard as stone ; their 
colour inclines to a pale chocolate. Neither 
inside nor out does the lens discover the 
slightest ligneous particle pointing to a vege- 
253 



The Dung-Beetles of the Pampas 

table residue. The strange Dung-beetle does 
not, therefore, use cakes of Cow-dung or 
anything like them; he handles products of 
another class, which at first are rather 
difficult to specify. 

Held to the ear and shaken, the object 
rattles slightly, as would the shell of a dry 
fruit with a stone lying free inside it. Does 
it contain the grub, shrivelled by desiccation? 
Does it contain the dead insect? I thought 
so, but I was wrong. It contains something 
much more instructive than that. 

I carefully rip up the gourd with the point 
of a knife. Within a homogenous wall, 
whose thickness is over three-quarters of an 
inch in the largest of my three specimens, 
is encased a spherical kernel, which fills the 
cavity exactly, but without sticking to the wall 
at any part. The small amount of free play 
allowed to this kernel accounts for the 
rattling which I heard when I shook the 
thing. 

In the colour and general appearance of 
the whole, the kernel does not differ from the 
wrapper. But break it open and minutely 
examine the pieces. We now recognize tiny 
fragments of bone, flocks of down, threads 
of wool, scraps of flesh, the whole mixed in 
an earthy paste resembling chocolate, 
253 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

This paste, when placed on hot charcoal, 
sifted under the lens and deprived of its part- 
icles of dead bodies, becomes much darker, 
is covered with shiny bubbles and sends forth 
puffs of that acrid smoke by which we so 
readily recognize burnt animal matter. The 
whole mass of the kernel, therefore, is 
strongly impregnated with sanies. 

Treated in the same manner, the wrapper 
also turns black, but not to the same extent; 
it hardly smokes; it does not become covered 
with jet-black bubbles; lastly, it would not 
anywhere contain bits of carcase similar to 
those in the central kernel. In both cases, 
the residue after calcination is a fine, red- 
dish clay. 

This brief analysis tells us all about the 
table of Phanaas Milon. The fare served 
to the grub is a sort of meat-pie. The 
sausage-meat consists of a mince of all that 
the two scalpels of the forehead and the 
toothed knives of the fore-legs have been able 
to remove from the corpse: hair and down, 
small crushed bones, strips of flesh and skin. 
Now hard as brick, the thickening of this 
mincemeat was originally a paste of fine clay 
steeped in the liquor of corruption. Lastly, 
the light crust of our meat-pies is here re- 
presented by a covering of the same clay, 
254 



The Dung-Beetles of the Pampas 

less rich in extract of meat than the other. 

The pastry-cook gives his work an ele- 
gant shape; he decorates it with rosettes, 
with twists, with scrolls. Phanaus Milon 
is no stranger to these culinary aesthetics. 
She turns the crust of her meat-pie into a 
splendid gourd, with a finger-print orna- 
mentation. 

The outer covering, an unprofitable crust, 
insufficiently steeped in savoury juices, is not, 
we can easily guess, intended for consumpt- 
ion. It is possible that, somewhat later, 
when the stomach becomes robust and is not 
repelled by coarse fare, the grub scrapes a 
little from the sides of its pasty walls; but, 
until the adult insect emerges, the calabash 
as a whole remains intact, having acted at 
first as a safeguard of the freshness of the 
force-meat and all the while as a protecting 
casket for the recluse. 

Above the cold pastry, right at the base 
of the neck of the gourd, is contrived a round 
cell with a clay wall continuing the general 
wall. A fairly thick floor, made of the same 
material, separates it from the store-room. 
This is the hatching-chamber. Here is laid 
the egg, which I find in its place but dried up ; 
here is hatched the grub, which, to reach the 
ball of food, must first open a trap-door 
255 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

through the partition that separates the two 
stories. 

We have here, in short, the edifice of the 
Gromphas, in a different style of architecture. 
The grub is born in a casket surmounting the 
stack of food but not communicating with it. 
The budding larva must therefore, at the 
opportune moment, itself pierce the covering 
of the pot of preserves. As a matter of fact, 
later, when the grub is on the sausage-meat, 
we find the floor perforated with a hole just 
large enough for it to pass through. 

Wrapped all round in a thick casing of 
pottery, the meat keeps fresh as long as is 
required by the duration of the hatching- 
process, a detail which I have not ascer- 
tained; in its cell, which is also of clay, the 
egg lies safe. Capital; so far, all is well. 
Phanaeus Milon is thoroughly acquainted 
with the secrets of fortification and the 
danger of victuals evaporating too soon. 
There remain the germ's respiratory require- 
ments. 

To satisfy these, the insect has been 
equally well-inspired. The neck of the cala- 
bash is pierced, in the direction of its axis, 
with a tiny channel which would admit at 
most the slenderest of straws. Inside, this 
conduit opens at the top of the dome of the 
256 



The Dung-Beetles of the Pampas 

hatching-chamber; outside, at the tip of the 
nipple, it spreads into a wide mouth. This 
is the ventilating-shaft, protected against in- 
truders by its extreme narrowness and by 
grains of dust which obstruct it a little with- 
out stopping it up. I said it was simply 
marvellous. Was I wrong? If a construct- 
ion of this sort is a fortuitous result, we must 
admit that blind chance is gifted with ex- 
traordinary powers of foresight. 

How does the clumsy insect manage to 
accomplish so delicate and complex a piece 
of building? Exploring the pampas as I 
do through the eyes of an intermediary, my 
only guide in this question is the structure 
of the work, a structure whence we can de- 
duct the workman's method without going 
far astray. I therefore imagine the build- 
ing to proceed in this manner: a small car- 
case is found, the oozing of which has soft- 
ened the underlying loam. The insect col- 
lects more or less of this loam, according to 
the richness of the vein. There are no pre- 
cise limits here. If the plastic material be 
plentiful, the collector is lavish with it and 
the provision-box becomes all the more solid. 
Then enormous calabashes are obtained, ex- 
ceeding a Hen's egg in volume and formed of 
an outer wall three-quarters of an inch thick. 

257 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

But a mass of this description is beyond the 
strength of the modeller, is badly handled 
and betrays, in its shape, the awkwardness 
attendant on an over-difficult task. If the 
material be rare, the insect confines its har- 
vesting to what is strictly necessary; and then, 
freer in its movements, it obtains a mag- 
nificently regular gourd. 

The loam is probably first kneaded into a 
ball and then scooped out into a large and 
very thick cup by the pressure of the fore- 
legs and the work of the forehead. Even 
thus do the Copris and the Sacred Beetle act 
when preparing, on the top of their round 
pill, the bowl in which the egg will be laid 
before the final manipulation of the ovoid or 
pear. 

In this first business, the Phanaeus is sim- 
ply a potter. So long as it be plastic, any 
clay serves her turn, however meagrely 
saturated with the juices running from the 
carcase. 

She now becomes a pork-butcher. With 
her toothed knife, she carves, she saws some 
tiny shreds from the rotten animal; she 
tears off, cuts away what she deems best 
suited to the grub's entertainment. She col- 
lects all these fragments and mixes them with 
choice loam in the spots where the sanies 
258 



The Dung-Beetles of the Pampas 

abounds. The whole, cunningly kneaded 
and softened, becomes a ball made on the 
spot, without any rolling-process, in the same 
way as the sphere of the other pill-manu- 
facturers. Let us add that this ball, a 
ration calculated by the needs of the grub, is 
very nearly constant in size, whatever the 
dimensions of the final calabash. 

The sausage-meat is now ready. It is set 
in place in the wide-open clay bowl. 
Loosely packed, without compression, the 
food will remain free, will not stick to its 
wrapper. 

Next, the potter's work is renewed. The 
insect presses the thick lips of the clay cup, 
rolls them out and applies them to the pre- 
pared force-meat, which is eventually con- 
tained by a thin partition at the top end and 
by a thick layer every elsewhere. A wide 
circular pad is left on the top partition, 
which is thin in view of the weakness of the 
grub that is to perforate it later, when ma- 
king for the provisions. Manipulated in its 
turn, this pad is converted into a hemi- 
spherical hollow, in which the egg is forth- 
with laid. 

The work is completed by rolling out and 
joining the edges of the little crater, which 
closes and becomes the hatching-chamber. 
259 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

Here, especially, a delicate dexterity becomes 
essential. At the same time that the nipple 
of the calabash is being shaped, the insect, 
when packing the material, must leave the lit- 
tle channel which is to form the ventilating- 
shaft, following the line of the axis. This 
narrow conduit, which an ill-calculated 
pressure might stop up beyond hope of 
remedy, seems to me extremely difficult to 
obtain. The most skilful of our potters 
could not manage it without the aid of a 
needle, which he would afterwards withdraw. 
The insect, a sort of jointed automaton, 
makes its channel through the massive nipple 
of the gourd without so much as a thought. 
If it did give it a thought, it would not suc- 
ceed. 

The calabash is made : there remains the 
decoration. This is the work of patient 
after-touches which perfect the curves and 
leave on the soft loam a series of stippled 
impressions similar to those which the potter 
of prehistoric days distributed over his big- 
bellied jars with the ball of his thumb. 

That finishes the work. The insect will 
begin all over again under a fresh carcase; 
for each burrow has one calabash and no 
more, even as with the Sacred Beetle and her 
pears. 

260 



The Dung-Beetles of the Pampas 

Here is another of these artists of the 
pampas. All black and as big as the largest 
of our Onthophagi, 1 whom she greatly re- 
sembles in general build, Canthon bispinus 
is likewise an exploiter of dead bodies, if not 
always on her own behalf, at least on that of 
her offspring. 

She introduces very original innovations 
into the pill-maker's art. Her work, strewn 
like the aforementioned with finger-prints, is 
the pilgrim's gourd, the double-bellied gourd. 
Of the two stories, which are joined together 
by a fairly plainly-marked groove, the upper 
is the smaller and contains the egg in an in- 
cubating-chamber; the lower and bulkier is 
the food-stack. 

Imagine the Sisyphus' little pear with its 
hatching-chamber swollen into a globule a 
trifle smaller than the sphere at the other 
end; suppose the two protuberances to be 
divided by a sort of wide open groove like 
that of a pulley; and we shall have something 
very like the Canthon's work in shape and 
size. 

When placed on burning charcoal, this 
double-bellied gourd turns black, becomes 
covered with shiny warts that look like jet 

i Cf. The Sacred Beetle and Others: chaps, xi. xvii., 
and xviii. — Translator's Note. 
261 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

beads, emits a smell like that of grilled meat 
and leaves a residue of red clay. It is there- 
fore formed of clay and sanies. Moreover, 
the paste is sprinkled with little scraps of 
dead flesh. At the smaller end is the egg, 
in a chamber with a very porous roof, to al- 
low the air to enter. 

The little undertaker has something better 
to show than her double sausage. Like the 
Bison Onitis, the Sisyphus and the Lunary 
Copris, she enjoys the collaboration of the 
father. Each burrow contains several 
cradles, with the father and mother invaria- 
bly present. What are the two inseparables 
doing? They are watching their brood and, 
by dint of assiduous repairs, keeping the lit- 
tle sausages, which are in constant danger 
of cracking or drying up, in good condition. 

The magic carpet which has allowed me 
to take this trip to the pampas supplies me 
with nothing else worth noting. Besides, 
the New World is poor in pill-rollers and 
cannot compare with Senegambia and the 
regions of the Upper Nile, that paradise of 
Copres and Sacred Beetles. Nevertheless 
we owe it one precious detail: the group 
which is commonly known by the name of 
Dung-beetles is divided into two corpora- 
262 



The Dung-Beetles of the Pampas 

tions, one of which exploits dung, the other 
corpses. 

With very few exceptions, the latter has 
no representatives in our climes. I have 
mentioned the little Oval Onthophagus as a 
lover of carrion corruption; and my memory 
does not recall any other example of the 
kind. We have to go to the other world to 
find such tastes. 

Can it be that there was a schism among 
the primitive scavengers and that these, at 
first addicted to the same industry, after- 
wards divided the hygienic task, some bury- 
ing the ordure of the intestines, the others 
the ordure of death? Can the comparative 
frequency of this or the other provender have 
brought about the formation of two trade- 
guilds ? 

That is not admissible. Life is insepara- 
ble from death; wherever a corpse is, there 
also, scattered at random, are the digestive 
residues of the live animal; and the pill-roller 
is not fastidious as to the origin of this waste 
matter. Dearth therefore plays no part in 
the schism, if the true dung-worker has act- 
ually turned himself into an undertaker, or 
if the undertaker has turned himself into 
a true dung-worker. At no time have ma- 
263 



The Glow-Worm and' Other Beetles 

terials for the work been lacking in either 
case. 

Nothing, not the scarcity of provisions, 
nor the climate, nor the reversed seasons, 
would explain this strange divergence. We 
must perforce regard it as a matter of ori- 
ginal specialities, of tastes not acquired but 
prescribed from the beginning. And what 
prescribed them was anything but the struct- 
ure. 

I would defy the greatest expert to tell me, 
simply from the insect's appearance and 
without learning the facts by experiment, 
the manner of industry to which Phanaus 
Milon, for instance, devotes himself. Re- 
membering the Onites, who are very similar 
in shape and who manipulate stercoral mat- 
ter, he would look upon the foreigner as 
another manipulator of dung. He would 
be mistaken : the analysis of the meat-pie has 
told us so. 

The shape does not make the real Dung- 
beetle. I have in my collection a magnificent 
insect from Cayenne, known to the no- 
menclators as Phanaus festivus, a brilliant' 
Beetle in festive attire, charming, beautiful, 
glorious to behold. How well he deserves 
his name ! His colouring is a metallic red, 
which flashes with the fire of rubies; and he 
264 



The Dung-Beetles of the Pampas 

sets off this splendid jewellery by studding 
his corselet with great spots of glowing 
black. 

What trade do you follow under your tor- 
rid sun, O gleaming carbuncle? Have you 
the bucolic tastes of your rival in finery, the 
Splendid Phanaeus? Can you be a knacker, 
a worker in putrid sausage-meat, like 
Phanaus Milonf Vainly do I consider you 
and marvel at you : your equipment tells me 
nothing. No one who has not seen you at 
work is capable of naming your profession. 
I leave the matter to the conscientious mas- 
ters, to the experts who are able to say : I do 
not know. They are scarce, in our days; 
but after all there are some, less eager than 
others in the unscrupulous struggle which 
creates upstarts. 

This excursion to the pampas leans to one 
conclusion of some importance. We find in 
another hemisphere, with reversed seasons, 
a different climate and dissimilar biological 
conditions, a series of true dung-workers 
whose habits and industry repeat, in their 
essential facts, the habits and industry of our 
own. Prolonged investigations, made at 
first hand and not, like mine, at second hand, 
would add greatly to the list of similar work- 
ers. 

265 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

And it is not only in the grassy plains of 
La Plata that the modellers of dung proceed 
according to the principles usual over here; 
we may say, without fear of being mistaken, 
that the magnificent Copres of Ethiopia and 
the big Sacred Beetles of Senegambia work 
exactly like our own. 

The same similarity of industry exists in 
other entomological series, however distant 
their country. My books give details of a 
Pelopaeus x in Sumatra, who is an ardent 
Spider-huntress like our own, who builds 
mud cells inside houses and who, like her, 
is fond of the loose hangings of the window- 
curtains for the shifting foundation of her 
nests. They tell me of a Scolia 2 in Mada- 
gascar who serves each of her grubs with a 
fat rasher, an Oryctes-larva, 3 even as our 
own Scolia; feed their family on prey of 
similar organization, with a highly concen- 
trated nervous system, such as the larvae of 
Cetoniae, Anoxias and even Oryctes. They 

1 Cf. The Mason-wasps, by J. Henri Fabre, translated 
by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos: chaps, iii. to vi. — 
Translator's Note. 

2 The chapters on the Scoliae will appear in More 
Hunting Wasps. Meanwhile, cf. The Life and Love of 
the Insect, by J. Henri Fabre, translated by Alexander 
Teixeira de Mattos : chap. xi. — Translator's Note. 

3 The larva of the Rhinoceros Beetle. — Translator's 
Note. 

266 



The Dung-Beetles of the Pampas 

tell me that in Texas a Pepsis, a huntress of 
big game akin to the Calicurgi, gives chase 
to a formidable Tarantula and vies in daring 
with our Ringed Calicurgus, 1 who stabs the 
Black-bellied Lycosa. 2 They tell me that the 
Sphex-wasps of the Sahara, a rival of our 
own White-banded Sphex, 3 operate on Lo- 
custs. But we must limit these quotations, 
which could easily be multiplied. 

For producing variations of animal species 
to suit our theorists there is nothing so con- 
venient as the influence of environment. It 
is a vague, elastic phrase, which does not 
compromise us by compelling us to be too 
precise and it supplies an apparent expla- 
nation of the inexplicable. But is this influ- 
ence so powerful as they say? 

I grant you that to some small extent it 
modifies the shape, the fur or feather, the 
colouring, the outward accessories. To go 
farther would be to fly in the face of facts. 
If the surroundings become too exacting, the 
animal protests against the violence endured 
and succumbs rather than change. If they 

1 For the Pompilus, or Ringed Calicurgus, cf. The Life 
and Love of the Insect: chap. xii. — Translator's Note. 

2 For the Narbonne Lycosa, or Black-bellied Taran- 
tula, cf. The Life of the Spider: chaps, i. and iii. to vii.. 
— Translator's Note. 

3 Cf. The Life of the Fly: chap, i.— Translator's Note. 

267 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

go to work gently, the creature subjected to 
them adapts itself as best it can, but invinci- 
bly refuses to cease to be what it is. It must 
live in the form of the mould whence it is- 
sued, or it must die: there is no other al- 
ternative. 

Instinct, one of the higher characteristics, 
is no less rebellious to the injunctions of en- 
vironment than are the organs, which serve 
its activity. Innumerable guilds divide the 
work of the entomological world; and each 
member of one of these corporations is sub- 
ject to rules which not climate, nor latitude, 
nor the most serious disturbances of diet are 
able to alter. 

Look at the Dung-beetles of the pampas. 
At the other end of the world, in their vast 
flooded pastures, so different from our scanty 
greenswards, they follow, without notable 
variations, the same methods as their col- 
leagues in Provence. A profound change of 
surroundings in no way effects the funda- 
mental industry of the group. 

Nor do the provisions available affect it. 
The staple food to-day is matter of bovine 
origin. But the Ox is a newcomer in the 
land, an importation of the Spanish conquest. 
What did the Megathopae, the Bolites, the 
Splendid Phanaeus eat and knead, before the 
268 



The Dung-Beetles of the Pampas 

arrival of the present purveyor? The 
Llama, that denizen of the uplands, was not 
able to feed the Dung-beetles confined to the 
plains. In days of old, the foster-father was 
perhaps the monstrous Megatherium, a 
dung-factory of incomparable prodigality. 

And from the produce of the colossal 
beast, whereof naught remains but a few 
rare skeletons, the modellers passed to the 
produce of the Sheep and the Ox, without 
altering their ovoids or their gourds, even as 
our Sacred Beetle, without ceasing to be 
faithful to her pear, accepts the Cow's flat 
cake in the absence of the favourite morsel, 
the Sheep's bannock. 

In the south as in the north, at the anti- 
podes as here, every Copris fashions ovoids 
with the egg at the smaller end; every Sa- 
cred Beetle models pears or gourds with a 
hatching-chamber in the neck; but the ma- 
terials employed vary greatly according to 
the season and locality and can be furnished 
by the Megatherium, the Ox, the Horse, the 
Sheep or by man and several others. 

We must not allow this diversity to lead 
us to believe in changes of instinct: that 
would be to strain at a Gnat and swallow a 
Camel. The industry of the Megachiles, 
for instance, consists of manufacturing wal- 
269 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

lets with bits of leaves; that of the Cotton- 
bees of making bags of wadding with the 
flock gathered from certain plants. 
Whether the pieces be cut from the leaves 
of this shrub or that, or at need from the 
petals of some flower; whether the cotton- 
wool be collected here or there, as chance may- 
direct the encounter, the industry undergoes 
no essential changes. 

In the same manner, nothing changes in 
the art of the Dung-beetle, victualling him- 
self with materials in this mine or that. 
Here in truth we have immutable instinct, 
here we behold the rock which our theorists 
are unable to shake. 

And why should it change, this instinct, 
so logical in its workings? Where could it 
find, even with chance assisting, a better 
plan? In spite of an equipment which varies 
in the different genera, it suggests to every 
modelling Dung-beetle the spherical shape, 
a fundamental structure which is hardly af- 
fected when the egg is placed in position. 

From the outset, without the use of com- 
passes, without any mechanical rolling, with- 
out shifting the thing on its base, one and 
all obtain the ball, the delicately executed 
compact body supremely favourable to the 
grub's well-being. To the shapeless lump, 
270 



The Dung-Beetles of the Pampas 

demanding no pains, they all prefer the 
sphere, lovingly fashioned and calling for 
much manipulation, the globe which is the 
preeminent form and best-adapted for the 
preservation of energy, in the case of a sun 
and of a Dung-beetle's cradle alike. 

When MacLeay ■ gave the Sacred Beetle 
the name of Heliocantharus, the Black- 
beetle of the Sun, what had he in mind? 
The radiating denticulations of the forehead, 
the insect's gambols in the bright sunlight? 
Was he not thinking rather of the symbol 
of Egypt, the Scarab who, on the pediment 
of the temples, lifts towards the sky, by way 
of a pill, a vermilion sphere, the image of 
the sun? 

The comparison between the mighty 
bodies of the universe and the insect's humble 
pellet was not distasteful to the thinkers on 
the banks of the Nile. For them supreme 
splendour found its effigy in extreme ab- 
jection. Were they very wrong? 

No, for the pill-roller's work propounds 

1 William Sharp MacLeay (1792-1865), author of 
Hora Entomologica; or, Essays on Annulose Animals 
(1819-1821), on which I quote the Dictionary of National 
Biography: 

" He propounded the circular or quinary system, a forc- 
edly artificial attempt at a natural system of classification, 
which soon became a byword among naturalists." — 
Translator's Note. 

271 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

a grave problem to whoso is capable of re- 
flection. It compels us to accept this al- 
ternative: either to credit the Dung-beetle's 
flat head with the signal honour of having 
of itself solved the geometrical problem of 
preserved food, or else to fall back upon a 
harmony ruling all things under the eye of 
an Intelligence Which, knowing everything, 
has provided for everything. 



272 



CHAPTER X 

INSECT COLOURING 

PHANjEUS SPLENDIDULUS, the glit- 
tering, the resplendent : this is the epithet 
selected by the official nomenclators to de- 
scribe the handsomest Dung-beetle of the 
pampas. The name is not at all exaggerated. 
Combining the fire of gems with metallic 
lustre, the insect, according to the incidence 
of the light, emits the green reflections of the 
emerald or the gleam of ruddy copper. The 
muck-raker would do honour to the jeweller's 
show-cases. 

For the rest, our own Dung-beetles, 
though usually modest in their attire, also 
have a leaning toward luxurious ornament. 
One Onthophagus decorates his corselet 
with Florentine bronze; another wears 
garnets on his wing-cases. Black above, the 
Mimic Geotrupes is the colour of copper 
pyrites below; also black in all parts exposed 
to the light of day, the Stercorarius Geo- 
trupes displays a ventral surface of a glorious 
amethyst violet. 

Many other series, of greatly varied 
273 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

habits, Carabi, 1 Cetoniae, Buprestes, Chry- 
somelae, 2 rival and even surpass the mag- 
nificent Dung-beetles in the matter of jewel- 
lery. At times we encounter splendours 
which the imagination of a lapidary would 
not venture to depict. The Azure Hoplia, 3 
the inmate of the osier-beds and elders by the 
banks of the mountain streams, is a wonder- 
ful blue, tenderer and softer to the eye than 
the azure of the heavens. You could not 
find an ornament to match it save on the 
throats of certain Humming-birds and the 
wings of a few Butterflies in equatorial 
climes. 

To adorn itself like this, in what Golconda 
does the insect gather its gems? In what 
diggings does it find its gold nuggets? What 
a pretty problem is that of a Buprestis' 
wing-case ! Here the chemistry of colours 
ought to reap a delightful harvest; but the 
difficulties are great, it seems, so much so 
that science cannot yet tell us the why and the 
wherefore of the humblest costume. The 
answer will come in a remote future, if in- 
deed it ever comes completely, for life's 
laboratory may well contain secrets denied 

1 Cf. Chapter XIV. of the present volume. 

2 Golden Apple-beetles. — Translator's Note. 

3 A genus of Cockchafer. Cf. The Life of the Fly: 
chap. vii. — Translator's Note. 

274 



Insect Colouring 

to our retorts. For the moment, I shall 
perhaps be contributing a grain of sand to 
the future palace if I describe the little that 
I have seen. 

My basic observation dates a long way 
back. I was at that time busy with the 
Hunting Wasps, following their larval de- 
velopment from the egg to the cocoon. Let 
us take an instance from my notes, which 
cover nearly all the game-hunters of my 
district. I will choose the larva of the Yel- 
low-winged Sphex, 1 which, with its convenient 
size, will furnish an easy object-lesson. 

Under the transparent skin of the larva, 
which has been recently hatched and is con- 
suming: its first Cricket, we soon perceive 
some fine white spots, which rapidly increase 
in size and number and eventually cover the 
whole body, except the first two or three seg- 
ments. On dissecting the grub, we find that 
these spots have to do with the adipose layer, 
of which they form a considerable part, for, 
far from being scattered only on the surface, 
they run through its whole thickness and are 
present in such numbers that the forceps can- 
not seize the least fragment of this tissue 
without picking up a few of them. 

1 Cf . The Hunting Wasps: chap. iv. — Translator's 
Note. 

275 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

Though perfectly visible without the help 
of a lens, these puzzling spots call for the 
microscope if we wish to study them in de- 
tail. We then find that the adipose tissue is 
made up of two kinds of vesicles: some, 
bright yellow and transparent, are filled with 
oily drops; the rest, opaque and starch-white, 
are distended with a very fine powder, which 
spreads in a cloudy trail when the vesicle 
containing it is broken on the object-slide. 
Intermingled without apparent order, the 
two kinds of bags are of the same shape and 
the same size. The first go to make up the 
nutritive reserves, the fatty tissue properly 
so-called; the second form the white dots 
which we will study for a moment. 

An inspection under the microscope tells 
us that the contents of the white cells are 
composed of very fine, opaque grains, in- 
soluble in water and of greater density. 
The use of chemical reagents on the object- 
slide proves that nitric acid dissolves these 
grains, with effervescence and without leaving 
the least residue, even when they are still en- 
closed in their vesicles. On the other hand, 
the true fatty cells suffer in no way when at- 
tacked by this acid; they merely turn a little 
yellower. 

Let us take advantage of this property to 
276 



Insect Colouring 

operate on a larger scale. The adipose tis- 
sue taken from a number of larvae is treated 
with nitric acid. The effervescence is as 
lively as if the reaction were taking effect on 
a bit of chalk. When it has subsided, some 
yellow clots are floating on the surface. 
These are easily separated. They come 
from the fatty substance and the cellular 
membranes. There remains a clear liquid 
containing the white granules in solution. 

The riddle of these granules was being 
presented to me for the first time; my pre- 
decessors had provided no physiological or 
anatomical data to guide me; great there- 
fore was my joy when, after a little fum- 
bling, I succeeded in hitting upon their char- 
acteristic feature. 

The solution is evaporated in a small 
porcelain capsule, placed on the hot embers. 
On the residue I pour a few drops of am- 
monia, or else simply water. A glorious 
crimson colour at once makes its appearance. 
The problem is solved: the colouring-matter 
which has just formed is murexide ; and con- 
sequently the powdery substance which filled 
the cells was none other than uric acid, or 
more precisely ammonium urate. 

A physiological fact of this importance can 
hardly stand alone. Indeed, since this basic 
277 



The Glow- Worm and, Other Beetles 

experiment I have discovered grains of uric 
acid in the adipose tissue of the larvae of all 
the Hunting Wasps of our parts, as well as 
in the Bees at the moment of the nymphosis. 
I have observed them in many other insects, 
either in the larval or in the perfect state; but 
in this respect there is none to equal the grub 
of the game-hunting Wasp, which is all 
speckled with white. I think I see the rea- 
son. 

Let us consider two larvae which eat live 
prey: that of the Sphex and that of the Hy- 
drophilus. 1 Uric acid, the inevitable pro- 
duct of the vital transformations, or at all 
events one of its analogues, must be formed 
in both. But the Hydrophilus' larva shows 
no accumulation of it in its adipose layer, 
whereas the Sphex' is full of it. 

In the latter the duct through which the 
solid excretions pass is not yet in' working or- 
der; the digestive apparatus, tied at the lower 
end, is not discharging an atom. The uri- 
nary products, being unable, for want of an 
open outlet, to flow away as formed, accumu- 
late in the adipose tissue, which thus 
serves as a common store-house for the 
residues of the present and the plastic ma- 
terial of the future organic processes. 

iThe Great Water-beetle.— Translator's Note. 
278 



Insect Colouring 

Here something occurs analogous to what we 
see in the higher animals after the removal 
of the kidneys; the urea at first contained in 
the blood, in imperceptible quantities ac- 
cumulates and becomes manifest when the 
means by which it is eliminated disappear. 

In the larva of the Hydrophilus, on the 
other hand, the excretions enjoy a free outlet 
from the beginning; and the urinary products 
escape as and when formed and are no longer 
deposited in the adipose tissue. But during 
the intense labour of the metamorphosis, any 
excretion becomes impossible; the uric acid 
must and does collect in the adipose sub- 
stance of the different larvae. 

It would be out of place, despite its im- 
portance, to pursue the problem of the uric 
residues any further. Our subject is color- 
ation. Let us return to it with the evidence 
supplied by the Sphex. Her almost trans- 
parent larva has the neutral tint of fluid white 
of egg. Under its fine translucid skin there 
is nothing coloured, save the long digestive 
pouch, which is swollen a deep purple by the 
pulp of the consumed Crickets. But against 
this indefinite, vitreous background the 
opaque white uric cells stand out distinctly 
in their myriads; and the effect of this stip- 
pling is a sketchy but by no means inelegant 
279 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

costume. It is skimpy in the extreme, but at 
any rate it is something. 

With the urinary broth of which its intes- 
tine is unable to get rid, the larva has dis- 
covered a means of making itself look a little 
smart. The Anthidia have shown us how, 
in their cotton-wool wallets, they manufac- 
ture a sort of jewellery with their ordure. 
The robe studded with grains of alabaster is 
a no less ingenious invention. 

To beautify themselves cheaply by using 
up their own refuse is a very common method 
even among insects endowed with all that is 
wanted for evacuating waste matter. While 
the larvae of the Hunting Wasps, unable to 
do better, stipple themselves with uric acid, 
there are plenty of industrious creatures that 
are able to make themselves a superb dress 
by preserving their excretions in spite of their 
own open sewers. With a view to self-em- 
bellishment, they collect and treasure up the 
dross which others hasten to expel. They 
turn filth into finery. 

One of these is the White-faced Decticus 
(D. albifrons, Fab.), the biggest sabre- 
bearer of the Provencal fauna. A magnifi- 
cent insect is this Grasshopper, with a broad 
ivory face, a full, creamy-white belly and 
long wings flecked with brown. In July, the 
280 



Insect Colouring 

season for the wedding-dress, let us dissect 
him under water. 

The adipose tissue, which is abundant and 
yellowish white, consists of a lace of wide, 
irregular, criss-cross meshes. It is a tubu- 
lar network swollen with a powdery matter 
which condenses into minute chalk-white 
spots, standing out very plainly against a 
transparent background. When crushed in 
a drop of water, a fragment of this fabric 
yields a milky cloud in which the microscope 
shows an infinite number of opaque floating 
atoms, without revealing the smallest blob of 
oil, the sign of fatty matter. 

Here again we have ammonium urate. 
Treated with nitric acid, the adipose tissue 
of the Decticus produces an effervescence sim- 
ilar to that of chalk and yields enough murex- 
ide to redden a tumblerful of water. A 
strange adipose body, this bundle of lace 
crammed with uric acid without a trace of 
fatty matter ! What would the Decticus do 
with nutritive reserves, seeing that he is near 
his end, now that the nuptial season has ar- 
rived? Delivered from the necessity of sav- 
ing for the future, he has only to spend in 
gaiety the few days left to him ; he has only 
to adorn himself for the supreme festival. 

He therefore converts into a paint-factory 
281 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

what at first was a warehouse for storing up 
foodstuffs; and with his chalk-like uric pulp 
he lavishly daubs his belly, which turns a 
creamy white, and smears it on his forehead, 
his face, his cheeks, until they assume the 
appearance of old ivory. All those parts, in 
fact, which lie immediately under the trans- 
lucid skin are covered with a layer of pig- 
ment which can be turned into murexide and 
is identical in nature with the white powder 
of the adipose lace. 

Biological chemistry can hardly offer a 
simpler and more striking experiment than 
this analysis of the Decticus' finery. To 
those who have not this curious Grasshopper 
handy, I recommend the Ephippiger of the 
Vines, who is much more widely distributed. 
His ventral surface, which also is of a 
creamy white, likewise owes its colour to a 
plastering of uric acid. In the Grasshopper 
family many other species of smaller size and 
requiring more delicate handling would give 
us the same results in varying degrees. 

White, slightly tinged with yellow, is all 
that the urinary palette of the Locustidae 
shows us. A caterpillar, the Spurge Hawk- 
moth's, will take us a little farther. Dappled 
red, black, white and yellow, its livery is the 
most remarkable in our part of the country. 
282 



Insect Colouring 

Reaumur in fact calls it la Belle. The flat- 
tering title is well-deserved. On the black 
background of the larva, vermillion-red, 
chrome-yellow and chalk-white figure side by 
side in circles, spots, freckles and stripes, as 
clearly marked as the glaring patches of a 
harlequin's dress. 

Let us dissect the caterpillar and apply the 
lens to its mosaic. On the inner surface of 
the skin, except in the portions coloured 
black, we observe a pigmentary layer, a coat- 
ing here red, there yellow or white. We 
will cut a strip from this coat of many col- 
ours, after depriving it of its muscular fibres, 
and subject it to the action of nitric acid. 
The pigment, no matter what its hue, dis- 
solves with effervescence and afterwards 
yields murexide. Here again, then, it is to 
uric acid, present, however, in small quan- 
tities in the adipose tissue, that the caterpil- 
lar's rich livery is due. 

The black parts are an exception. Un- 
assailable by nitric acid, they retain their 
sombre tint after treatment as before, 
whereas the portions stripped of their pig- 
ment by the reagent become almost as trans- 
parent as glass. The skin of the handsome 
caterpillar thus has two sorts of coloured 
patches. 

283 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

Those of an intense black may be likened 
to dyers' products: they are completely im- 
pregnated with the colouring matter, which 
is part and parcel of the molecular constitu- 
tion and cannot be isolated by the nitric 
solvent The others, red, yellow or white, 
are actually painted: on a translucid sheet is 
a wash of urinary pigment, which is dis- 
charged by the minute ducts issuing from the 
adipose layer. When the action of the ni- 
tric acid has ceased, the transparent circles 
of the latter stand out against the black back- 
ground of the former. 

Yet one more example taken from a dif- 
ferent order. As regards elegance of cos- 
tume, the Banded Epeira 1 is the most highly 
favoured of our Spiders. On the upper sur- 
face of her corpulent belly alternate, in trans- 
versal bands, bright black, a vivid yellow like 
that of yolk of egg and a dazzling white like 
that of snow. The black and yellow also 
show underneath, but arranged differently. 
The yellow, in particular, forms two longi- 
tudinal ribbons, ending in orange-red on 
either side of the spinnerets. A pale purple 
is faintly diffused over the sides. 

Examined from the outside with the lens, 

1 Cf. The Life of the Spider: chaps, ii., vii., xi. and xiii. 
— Translator's Note. 

284 



Insect Colouring 

the black parts reveal nothing out of the 
common. The black is homogeneous and 
everywhere of equal depth. On the other 
hand, in the coloured portions, we see little 
polygonal, granular masses, forming a close- 
meshed network. By cutting round the cir- 
cumference of the abdomen with a pair of 
scissors, the horny integument of the dorsal 
surface may readily be removed in one piece, 
without any shreds of the organs which it 
protected. This large strip of skin is trans- 
parent in the zones that correspond with the 
white bands in the natural state; it is black 
or yellow on the black or yellow bands. 
These last indeed owe their colouring to a 
layer of pigment which the point of a paint- 
brush will easily loosen and remove. 

As for the white bands, their origin is this : 
once the skin has been removed, the dorsal 
surface of the abdomen, whose graceful mo- 
saic is not in any way disturbed, reveals a 
layer of polygonal white spots, distributed in 
belts, here densely and there less so. The 
denser belts correspond with the white bands. 
It is their magnificent opaque white granula- 
tions which, seen through the transparent 
skin, form the snow-white stripes in the live 
Spider. 

Treated with nitric acid on the microscopic 
285 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

slide, they do not dissolve nor produce effer- 
vescence. Uric acid then is not present in 
this case ; and the substance must be guanine, 
an alkaloid known to be the urinary product 
of the Spiders. The same is true of the yel- 
low, black, purple or orange pigment that 
forms a coating under the skin. In short, 
by utilizing, in a different chemical combina- 
tion, the waste products of animal oxidiza- 
tion, the magnificent Spider rivals the mag- 
nificent caterpillar; she beautifies herself with 
guanine as the other does with its uric acid. 

Let us abridge this dry subject; let us be 
content with these few data, which could if 
necessary be corroborated by many others. 
What does the little that we have learnt 
teach us? It tells us that the materials re- 
jected by the organism, guanine, uric acid 
and other dross from life's refinery, play an 
important part in the coloration of the in- 
sect. 

Two cases are distinguishable, according 
as the colour is dyed or simply painted. The 
skin, itself colourless and transparent, is in 
places illumined by a coloured varnish, which 
can be removed by a touch with a paint- 
brush. Here we have paint, the result of 
the urinary compound laid on the inner sur- 
face of the covering, just as the chromatic 
286 



Insect Colouring 

ingredients of our glass-painters are laid on 
our stained-glass windows. 

At other places the skin is coloured in its 
very substance; the colouring-matter forms 
an integral part of it and can no longer be 
swept away with a camel-hair brush. Here 
we have a dyed fabric, represented in our 
windows by the panes of coloured glass which 
the crucible decorates uniformly with this or 
that tint, by means of the incorporated metal- 
lic oxides. 

Whereas, in these two cases, there is a 
profound difference in the distribution of the 
chromatic materials, is this true of their chem- 
ical nature as well? The suggestion is 
hardly admissible. The worker in stained 
glass dyes or paints with the same oxides. 
Life, that incomparable artist, must even 
more readily obtain an infinite variety of re- 
sults by uniformity of method. 

It shows us, on the back of the Spurge 
Caterpillar, 1 black spots jumbled up with 
other spots, white, yellow or red. Paints 
and dyes lie side by side. Is there on this 
side of the dividing line a paint-stuff and on 
the other side a dye-stuff, absolutely different 
in character from the first? While chem- 

1 The caterpillar of the Spurge Hawk-moth. — Trans- 
lator's Note, 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

istry is not yet in a position to demonstrate, 
with its reagents, the common origin of the 
two substances, at least the most convincing 
analogies point to it. 

In this delicate problem of the insect's col- 
ouring, one single point thus far comes within 
the domain of observed facts : the progressive 
advance of chromatic evolution. The car- 
buncle of the Dung-Beetle of the Pampas 
suggested the question. Let us then inquire 
of his near neighbours, who will perhaps en- 
able us to advance a step farther. 

Newly stripped of his cast-off nymphal 
skin, the Sacred Beetle possesses a strange 
costume, bearing no resemblance to the ebony 
black which will be the portion of the ma- 
ture insect. The head, legs and thorax arc 
a bright rusty red; the wing-cases and abdo- 
men are white. As a colour, the red is al- 
most that of the Spurge Caterpillar, but it is 
the result of a dye on which nitric acid has 
no effect as a detector of urates. The same 
chromatic principle must certainly exist in a 
more elaborate form and under a different 
molecular arrangement in the skin of the 
abdomen and the wing-cases which will 
presently replace white by red. 

In two or three days the colourless be- 
comes the coloured, a process whose rapidity 



Insect Colouring 

implies a fresh molecular structure rather 
than a change of composition. The build- 
ing-stone remains the same, but is arranged 
in a different order; and the structure alters 
in appearance. 

The Scarabaeus is now all red. The first 
brown stains show themselves on the denticu- 
lations of the forehead and fore-legs, the 
sign of an earlier maturity in the implements 
of labour, which are to acquire an excep- 
tional hardness. The smoky tinge spreads 
more or less all over the insect, replaces the 
red, turns darker and finally becomes the 
regulation black. In less than a week the 
colourless insect turns a rusty red, next a 
sooty brown and then an ebony black. The 
process is completed; the insect possesses its 
normal colouring. 

Even so do the Copres, the Gymnopleuri, 1 
the Onites, the Onthophagi and many others 
behave; even so must the jewel of the 
pampas, the Splendid Phanaeus set to work. 
With as much certainty as though I had him 
before my eyes at the moment when he di- 
vests himself of his nymphal swaddling- 
bands, I see him a dull red, rusty or crimson, 
excepting on the wing-covers and the abdo- 

1 Cf. The Sacred Beetle and Others: chap. viii. — Trans- 
lator's Note. 

289 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

men, which are at first colourless and pre- 
sently turn the same colour as the rest. In 
the Sacred Beetle this initial red is followed 
by black; the Phanaeus replaces it by the bril- 
liance of copper and the reflections of the 
emerald. Ebony, metal, the gem : have they 
the same origin here then? Evidently. 

The metallic lustre does not call for a 
change of nature; a mere nothing is enough 
to produce it. Silver, when very finely sub- 
divided by the methods whereof chemistry 
knows the secret, becomes a dust as poor to 
look at as soot. When pressed between two 
hard bodies, this dirty powder, which might 
be dried mud, a v once acquires the metallic 
sheen and again becomes the silver which 
we know. A mere molecular contact has 
wrought the miracle. 

Dissolved in water, the murexide derived 
from- uric acid is a magnificent crimson. 
Solidified by crystallization, it rivals in splen- 
dour the gold-green of the Cantharides. 
The widely-used fuschine affords a well- 
known example of like properties. 

Everything, then, appears to show that 
the same substance, derived from urinary ex- 
cretions, yields, according to the mode in 
which its ultimate particles are grouped, the 
metallic red of the Phanaeus, as well as the 
290 



Insect Colouring 

white, the dull red and the black of the Sa- 
cred Beetle. It becomes black on the dorsal 
surface of the Stercoraceous Geotrupes and 
the Mimic Geotrupes; and, with a quick 
change, it turns into amethyst under the belly 
of the first and into copper pyrites under 
the belly of the second. It covers the back 
of Cetonia floricola with golden bronze and 
the under surface with metallic purple. Ac- 
cording to the insect, according to the part 
of the body, it remains a dingy compound or 
sparkles with reflections even more vivid and 
varied than those possessed by the metals. 

Light seems irrelevant to the development 
of these splendours; it neither accelerates 
nor retards them. Since direct exposure to 
the sun, owing to the excess of heat, is fatal 
to the delicate process of the nymphosis, I 
shaded the solar rays with a screen of water 
contained between slips of glass; and to the 
bright light thus moderated in temperature I 
daily, throughout the period of chromatic 
evolution, subjected a number of Sacred 
Beetles, Geotrupes and Cetoniae. As stand- 
ards of comparison I had witnesses of whom 
I kept some in diffused light and others in 
complete darkness. My experiments had no 
appreciable result. The development of the 
colours took place in the sunlight and in the 
291 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

dark alike, neither more rapidly nor more 
slowly and without difference in the tints. 

This negative result was easy to foresee. 
The Buprestis emerging from the depths of 
the trunk in which he has spent his larval 
life; the Geotrupes and the Phanaeus leav- 
ing their natal burrows possess their final 
adornments, which will not become richer in 
the rays of the sun, at the time when they 
make their appearance in the open air. The 
insect does not claim the assistance of the 
light for its colour chemistry, not even the 
Cicada, 1 who bursts her larval scabbard and 
changes from pale green to brown as easily 
in the darkness of my apparatus as in the 
sunlight, in the usual manner. 

The chromatics of the insect, having as its 
basis the urinary waste products, might well 
be found in various animals of a higher or- 
der. We know of at least one example. 
The pigment of a small American lizard is 
converted into uric acid under the prolonged 
action of boiling hydrochloric acid. 2 This 
cannot be an isolated instance; and there is 
reason to believe that the reptilian class 

1 Cf. The Life of the Grasshopper: chaps, i. to v. — 
Translator's Note. 

2 A. B. Griffiths, Transactions of the Academic des sci- 
ences, 26 November, 1894. — Author's Note. 

292 



Insect Colouring 

daubs its garments with similar products. 
From the reptile to the bird is no great 
distance. Then the Wood-pigeon's iride- 
scent hues, the eyes on the Peacock's tail, 
the Kingfisher's sea-blue, the Flamingo's car- 
mine are more or less closely connected with 
the urinary excretions? Why not? Na- 
ture, that sublime economist, delights in these 
vast antitheses which upset all our concep- 
tions of the values of things. Of a pinch 
of common charcoal she makes a diamond ; of 
the same clay which the potter fashions into 
a bowl for the Cat's supper she makes a 
ruby; of the filthy waste products of the or- 
ganism she makes the splendours of the in- 
sect and the bird. The metallic marvels of 
the Buprestis and the Ground-beetle ; the ame- 
thyst, ruby, sapphire, emerald and topaz of 
the Humming-Bird; glories which would ex- 
haust the language of the lapidary jeweller: 
what are they in reality? Answer: a drop 
of urine. 



293 



CHAPTER XI 

THE BURYING-BEETLES : THE BURIAL 

"DESIDE the footpath in April lies the 
*-* Mole, disembowelled by the peasant's 
spade; at the foot of the hedge the pitiless 
urchin has stoned to death the Lizard, who 
was about to don his green, pearl-embellished 
costume. The passer-by has thought it a 
meritorious deed to crush beneath his heel 
the chance-met Adder; and a gust of wind 
has thrown a tiny unfledged bird from its 
nest. What will become of these little bodies 
and so many other pitiful remnants of life? 
They will not long offend our sense of sight 
and smell. The sanitary officers of the 
fields are legion. 

An eager freebooter, ready for any task, 
the Ant is the first to come hastening and be- 
gin, particle by particle, to dissect the corpse. 
Soon the odour attracts the Fly, the genitrix 
of the odious maggot. At the same time, the 
flattened Silpha, 1 the glistening, slow-trotting 
Cellar-beetle, the Dermestes, 2 powdered with 

1 Or Carrion-beetle. — Translator's Note. 

2 Or Bacon-beetle. — Translator's Note. 

294 



The Burying-Beetles: The Burial 

snow upon the abdomen, arid the slender 
Staphylinus, 1 all, whence coming no one 
knows, hurry hither in squads, with never- 
wearied zeal, investigating, probing and 
draining the infection. 

What a spectacle, in the spring, beneath 
a dead Mole! The horror of this labora- 
tory is a beautiful sight for one who is able 
to observe and to meditate. Let us over- 
come our disgust; let us turn over the unclean 
refuse with our foot. What a swarming 
there is beneath it, what a tumult of busy 
workers ! The Silphae, with wing-cases wide 
and dark, as though in mourning, flee dis- 
traught, hiding in the cracks in the soil; the 
Saprini, 2 of polished ebony which mirrors the 
sunlight, jog hastily off, deserting their work- 
shop; the Dermestes, of whom one wears a 
fawn-coloured tippet flecked with white, seek 
to fly away, but, tipsy with the putrid nectar, 
tumble over and reveal the immaculate white- 
ness of their bellies, which forms a violent 
contrast with the gloom of the 'rest of their 
attire. 

What were they doing there, all these 
feverish workers? They were making a 

1 Or Rove-beetle. — Translator's Note. 

2 The Saprinus is a very small carnivorous Beetle. 
Cf. The Life of the Fly: chap. xvi. — Translator's Note. 

295 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

clearance of death on behalf of life. Tran- 
scendent alchemists, they were transforming 
that horrible putrescence into a living and 
inoffensive product. They were draining the 
dangerous corpse to the point of rendering it 
as dry and sonorous as the remains of an old 
slipper hardened on the refuse-heap by the 
frosts of winter and the heats of summer. 
They were working their hardest to render 
the carrion innocuous. 

Others will soon put in their appearance, 
smaller creatures and more patient, who will 
take over the relic and exploit it ligament by 
ligament, bone by bone, hair by hair, until 
the whole has been restored to the treasury 
of life. All honour to these purifiers ! Let 
us put back the Mole and go our way. 

Some other victim of the agricultural la- 
bours of spring, a Shrew-mouse, Field-mouse, 
Mole, Frog, Adder, or Lizard, will provide 
us with the most vigorous and famous of 
these expurgators of the soil. This is the 
Burying-beetle, the Necrophorus, so different 
from the cadaveric mob in dress and habits. 
In honour of his exalted functions he exhales 
an odour of musk; he bears a red tuft at 
the tip of his antennas; his breast is covered 
with nankeen; and across his wing-cases he 
wears a double, scalloped scarf of vermillion. 
296 



The Burying-Beetles: The Burial 

An elegant, almost sumptuous costume, very 
superior to that of the others, but yet lugu- 
brious, as befits your undertaker's man. 

He is no anatomical dissector, cutting his 
subject open, carving its flesh with the scalpel 
of his mandibles; he is literally a grave-dig- 
ger, a sexton. While the others — Silphae, 
Dermestes, Cellar-beetles — gorge them- 
selves with the exploited flesh, without, of 
course, forgetting the interests of the fam- 
ily, he, a frugal eater, hardly touches his find 
on his own account. He buries it entire, on 
the spot, in a cellar where the thing, duly 
ripened, will form the diet of his larvae. 
He buries it in order to establish his progeny. 

This hoarder of dead bodies, with his stiff 
and almost heavy movements, is astonish- 
ingly quick at storing away wreckage. In a 
shift of a few hours, a comparatively enor- 
mous animal, a Mole, for instance, disap- 
pears, engulfed by the earth. The others 
leave the dried, emptied carcass to the air, 
the sport of the winds for months on end; 
he, treating it as a whole, makes a clean 
job of things at once. No visible trace of 
his work remains but a tiny hillock, a burial- 
mound, a tumulus. 

With his expeditious method, the Necro- 
phorus is the first of the little purifiers of the 
297 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

fields. He is also one of the most celebrated 
of insects in respect of his psychical capaci- 
ties. This undertaker is endowed, they say, 
with intellectual faculties approaching to rea- 
son, such as are not possessed by the most 
gifted of the Bees and Wasps, the collectors 
of honey or game. He is honoured by the 
two following anecdotes, which I quote from 
Lacordaire's x Introduction a I'entomologie, 
the only general treatise at my disposal: 

" Clairville," says the author, " reports 
that he saw a Necrophorus vespillo, who, 
wishing to bury a dead Mouse and finding 
the soil on which the body lay too hard, 
went to dig a hole at some distance, in soil 
more easily displaced. This operation com- 
pleted, he attempted to bury the Mouse in 
the cavity, but, not succeeding, he flew away 
and returned a few moments later, accom- 
panied by four of his fellows, who assisted 
him to move the Mouse and bury it." 

In such actions, Lacordaire adds, we can- 
not refuse to admit the intervention of rea- 
son. 

1 Jean Theodore Lacordaire (1801-1870), author of 
Genera des coleopteres (1854-1876) and of the work 
quoted above (1837-1839). — Translator's Note. 
298 



The Burying-Beetles: The Burial 

" The following case," he continues, " re- 
corded by Gleditsch, 1 has also every indica- 
tion of the intervention of reason. One of 
his friends, wishing to desiccate a Frog, 
placed it on the top of a stick thrust into the 
ground, in order to make sure that the Necro- 
phori should not come and carry it off. But 
this precaution was of no effect; the insects, 
being unable to reach the Frog, dug under 
the stick and, having caused it to fall, buried 
it as well as the body." 2 

To grant, in the intellect of the insect, a 
lucid understanding of the relations between 
cause and effect, between the end and the 
means, is to make a statement of serious im- 
port. I know of scarcely any more suited 
to the philosophical brutalities of my time. 
But are these two anecdotes really true ? Do 
they involve the consequences deduced from 
them? Are not those who accept them as 
sound evidence just a little too simple? 

To be sure, simplicity is needed in ento- 
mology. Without a good dose of this quali- 
ty, a mental defect in the eyes of practical 
folk, who would busy himself with the lesser 

1 Johan Gottlieb Gleditsch (1714-1786), the German 
botanist. — Translator's Note. 

2 Suites a Buff on. Introduction a I'entomologie, vol. 
ii., pp. 460-61. — Author's Note. 

299 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

creatures? Yes, let us be simple, without 
being childishly credulous. Before making 
insects reason, let us reason a little ourselves; 
let us, above all, consult the experimental 
test. A fact gathered at random, without 
criticism, cannot establish a law. 

I do not propose, O valiant grave-diggers, 
to depreciate your merits; such is far from 
being my intention. I have that in my notes, 
on the other hand, which will do you more 
honour than the story of the gibbet and the 
Frog; I have gleaned, for your benefit, ex- 
amples of prowess which will shed a new 
lustre upon your reputation. 

No, my intention is not to belittle your re- 
nown. Besides, it is not the business of 
impartial history to maintain a given thesis; 
it follows facts. I wish simply to question 
you upon the power of logic attributed to 
you. Do you or do you not enjoy gleams 
of reason? Have you within you the hum- 
ble germ of human thought? That is the 
problem before us. 

To solve it we will not rely upon the acci- 
dents which good fortune may now and again 
procure for us. We must employ the breed- 
ing-cage, which will permit of assiduous 
visits, continuous enquiry and a variety of 
artifices. But how to stock the cage? The 
300 



The Burying-Beetles: The Burial 

land of the olive-tree is not rich in Necro- 
phori. To my knowledge it possesses only 
a single species, N. vestigator, HERSCH. ; 
and even this rival of the grave-diggers of 
the north is pretty scarce. The discovery of 
three or four in the spring was as much as 
my hunting-expeditions yielded in the old 
days. This time, if I do not resort to the 
ruses of the trapper, I shall obtain no more 
than that, whereas I stand in need of at least 
a dozen. 

These ruses are very simple. To go in 
search of the sexton, who exists only here 
and there in the country-side, would be nearly 
always a waste of time; the favourable 
month, April, would be past before my cage 
was suitably stocked. To run after him is 
to trust too much to accident; so we will 
make him come to us by scattering in the 
orchard an abundant collection of dead 
Moles. To this carrion, ripened by the 
sun, the insect will not fail to hasten from 
the various points of the horizon, so accom- 
plished is he in detecting such a delicacy. 

I make an arrangement with a gardener 
in the neighbourhood, who, two or three 
times a week, makes up for the penury of 
my two acres of stony ground by providing 
me with vegetables raised in a better soil. 
301 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

I explain to him my urgent need of Moles in 
unlimited numbers. Battling daily with trap 
and spade against the importunate excava- 
tor who uproots his crops, he is in a better 
position than any one to procure for me what 
I regard for the moment as more precious 
than his bunches of asparagus or his white- 
heart cabbages. 

The worthy man at first laughs at my re- 
quest, being greatly surprised by the impor- 
tance which I attribute to the abhorrent ani- 
mal, the Darboun; but at last he consents, 
not without a suspicion at the back of his 
mind that I am going to make myself a 
gorgeous winter waist-coat with the sort, vel- 
vety skins of the Moles. A thing like that 
must be good for pains in the back. Very 
well. We settle the matter. The essential 
thing is that the Darbouns reach me. 

They reach me punctually, by twos, by 
threes, by fours, packed in a few cabbage- 
leaves, at the bottom of the gardener's bas- 
ket. The excellent fellow who lent himself 
with such good grace to my strange wishes 
will never guess how much comparative psy- 
chology will owe him ! In a few days I was 
the possessor of thirty Moles, which were 
scattered here and there, as they reached 
me, in bare spots of the orchard, among the 
302 



The Burying-Beetles: The Burial 

rosemary-bushes, the strawberry-trees and 
the lavender-beds. 

Now it only remained to wait and to ex- 
amine, several times a day, the under-side of 
my little corpses, a disgusting task which 
any one would avoid whose veins were not 
filled with the sacred fire of enthusiasm. 
Only little Paul, of all the household, lent 
me the aid of his nimble hand to seize the 
fugitives. I have already said that the en- 
tomologist needs simplicity of mind. In this 
important business of the Necrophori, my 
assistants were a small boy and an illiterate. 

Little Paul's visits alternating with mine, 
we had not long to wait. The four winds 
of heaven bore forth in all directions the 
odour of the carrion; and the undertakers 
hurried up, so that the experiments, begun 
with four subjects, were continued with four- 
teen, a number not attained during the whole 
of my previous searches, which were unpre- 
meditated and in which no bait was used as 
decoy. My trapper's ruse was completely 
successful. 

Before I report the results obtained in 
the cage, let us stop for a moment to con- 
sider the normal conditions of the labours 
that fall to the lot of the Necrophori. The 
Beetle does not select his head of game, 
303 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

choosing one in proportion to his strength, 
as do the Hunting Wasprs; he accepts what 
chance offers. Among his finds some are 
small, such as the Shrew-mouse; some me- 
dium-sized, such as the Field-mouse; some 
enormous, such as the Mole, the Sewer-rat 
and the Snake, any of which exceeds the dig- 
ging-powers of a single sexton. In the ma- 
jority of cases, transportation is impossible, 
so greatly disproportioned is the burden to 
the motive-power. A slight displacement, 
caused by the effort of the insects' backs, is 
all that can possibly be effected. 

Ammophila and Cerceris, 1 Sphex and 
Pompilus excavate their burrows wherever 
they please; they carry their prey on the 
wing, or, if too heavy, drag it afoot. The 
Necrophorus knows no such facilities in his 
task. Incapable of carting the monstrous 
corpse, no matter where encountered, he is 
forced to dig the grave where the body lies. 

This obligatory place of sepulture may be 
in stony soil or in shifting sand; it may oc- 
cupy this or that bare spot, or some other 
where the grass, especially the couch-grass, 
plunges into the ground its inextricable net- 
work of little cords. There is a great pro- 

1 Cf. The Hunting Wasps: chaps, i. to iii. — Trans- 
lator's Note. 

3Q4 



The Burying-Beetles: The Burial 

bability, too, that a bristle of stunted bram- 
bles may be supporting the body at some 
inches above the soil. Slung by the labour- 
er's spade, which has just broken his back, 
the Mole falls here, there, anywhere, at 
random; and where the body falls, no mat- 
ter what the obstacles, provided that they be 
not insurmountable, there the undertaker 
must utilize it. 

The difficulties of inhumation are capable 
of such variety as causes us already to fore- 
see that the Necrophorus cannot employ fixed 
methods in performing his task. Exposed 
to fortuitous hazards, he must be able to 
modify his tactics within the limits of his 
modest discernment. To saw, to break, to 
disentangle, to lift, to shake, to displace: 
these are so many means which are indis- 
pensable to the grave-digger in a predica- 
ment. Deprived of these resources, reduced 
to uniformity of procedure, the insect would 
be incapable of pursuing its calling. 

We see at once how imprudent it would 
be to draw conclusions from an isolated case 
in which rational co-ordination or premedi- 
tated intention might appear to play its part. 
Every instinctive action no doubt has its 
motive ; but does the animal in the first place 
judge whether the action is opportune ? Let 
305 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

us begin by a careful consideration of the 
creature's labours; let us support each piece 
of evidence by others; and then we shall per- 
haps be able to answer the question. 

First of all, a word as to diet. A gen- 
eral scavenger, the Burying-beetle refuses no 
sort of cadaveric putrescence. All is good 
to his senses, feathered game or furry, pro- 
vided that the burden do not exceed his 
strength. He exploits the batrachian or the 
reptile with no less animation. He accepts 
without hesitation extraordinary finds, pro- 
bably unknown to his race, as witness a cer- 
tain Gold-fish, a red Chinese Carp, whose 
body, placed in one of my cages, was forth- 
with considered an excellent tit-bit and bur- 
ied according to the rules. Nor is butcher's 
meat despised. A mutton-cutlet, a strip of 
beef-steak, in the right stage of maturity, 
disappeared beneath the soil, receiving the 
same attentions as those lavished on the Mole 
or the Mouse. In short, the Necrophorus 
has no exclusive preferences; anything putrid 
he conveys underground. 

The maintenance of his industry, there- 
fore, presents no sort of difficulty. If one 
kind of game be lacking, some other, the first 
to hand, will very well replace it. Nor is 
there much trouble in fixing the site of his 
306 



The Burying-Beetles: The Burial 

industry. A capacious wire-gauze cover, 
resting on an earthen pan filled to the brim 
with fresh, heaped sand, is sufficient. To 
obviate criminal attempts on the part of the 
Cats, whom the game would not fail to tempt, 
the cage is installed in a closed glass-house, 
which in winter shelters the plants and in 
summer serves as an entomological labora- 
tory. 

Now to work. The Mole lies in the cen- 
tre of the enclosure. The soil, easily shifted 
and homogeneous, realizes the best condi- 
tions for comfortable work. Four Necro- 
phori, three males and a female, are there 
with the body. They remain invisible, hid- 
den beneath the carcase, which from time to 
time seems to return to life, shaken from 
end to end by the backs of the workers. An 
observer not in the secret would be somewhat 
astonished to see the dead creature move. 
From time to time, one of the sextons, al- 
most always a male, comes out and walks 
round the animal, which he explores, probing 
its velvet coat. He hurriedly returns, ap- 
pears again, once more investigates and 
creeps back under the corpse. 

The tremors become more pronounced; 
the carcase oscillates, while a cushion of sand, 
pushed out from below, grows up all around 
307 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

it. The Mole, by reason of his own weight 
and the efforts of the grave-diggers, who are 
labouring at their task underneath, gradu- 
ally sinks, for lack of support, into the un- 
dermined soil. 

Presently the sand which has been pushed 
out quivers under the thrust of the invisible 
miners, slips into the pit and covers the in- 
terred Mole. It is a clandestine burial. 
The body seems to disappear of itself, as 
though engulfed by a fluid medium. For a 
long time yet, until the depth is regarded as 
sufficient, the body will continue to descend. 

It is, on the whole, a very simple opera- 
tion. As the diggers below deepen the cav- 
ity into which the corpse, shaken and tugged 
above, sinks without the direct intervention 
of the sextons, the grave fills of itself by the 
mere slipping of the soil. Stout shovels at 
the tips of their claws, powerful backs, ca- 
pable of creating a little earthquake: the 
diggers need nothing more for the practice 
of their profession. Let us add — for this 
is an essential point — the art of continually 
jerking the body, so as to pack it into a lesser 
volume and make it glide through difficult 
passages. We shall soon see that this art 
plays a leading part in the industry of the Ne- 
crophori. 

308 



The Burying-Beetles: The Burial 

Although he has disappeared, the Mole is 
still far from having reached his destination. 
Let us leave the undertakers to finish their 
job. What they are now doing below 
ground is a continuation of what they 
did on the surface and would teach us no- 
thing new. We will wait for two or three 
days. 

The moment has come. Let us inform 
ourselves of what is happening down there. 
Let us visit the place of corruption. I shall 
never invite anybody to the exhumation. Of 
those about me, only little Paul has the cour- 
age to assist me. 

The Mole is a Mole no longer, but a 
greenish horror, putrid, hairless, shrunk into 
a sort of fat, greasy rasher. The thing must 
have undergone careful manipulation to be 
thus condensed into a small volume, like a 
fowl in the hands of the cook, and, above all, 
to be so completely deprived of its furry 
coat. Is this culinary procedure undertaken 
in respect of the larvae, which might be in- 
commoded by the fur? Or is it just a casual 
result, a mere loss of hair due to putridity? 
I am not certain. But it is always the case 
that these exhumations, from first to last, 
have revealed the furry game furless and the 
feathered game featherless, except for the 
309 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

pinion- and tail-feathers. Reptiles and fish, 
on the other hand-, retain their scales. 

Let us return to the unrecognizable thing 
that was once a Mole. The tit-bit lies in a 
spacious crypt, with firm walls, a regular 
workshop, worthy of being the bake-house 
of a Copris. Except for the fur, which lies 
scattered about in flocks, it is intact. The 
grave-diggers have not eaten into it: it is the 
patrimony of the sons, not the provision of 
the parents, who, to sustain themselves, levy 
at most a few mouthfuls of the ooze of putrid 
humours. 

Beside the dish which they are kneading 
and protecting are two Necrophori; a couple, 
no more. Four collaborated in the burial. 
What has become of the other two, both 
males? I find them hidden in the soil, at a 
distance, almost on the surface. 

This observation is not an isolated one. 
Whenever I am present at a funeral under- 
taken by a squad in which the males, zealous 
one and all, predominate, I find presently, 
when the burial is completed, only one couple 
in the mortuary cellar. After lending their 
assistance, the rest have discreetly retired. 

These grave-diggers, in truth, are remark- 
able fathers. They have nothing of the 
happy-go-lucky paternal carelessness that is 
310 



The Burying-Beetles: The Burial 

the general rule among insects, which pester 
the mother for a moment with their atten- 
tions and then leave her to care for the off- 
spring! But those who would be idlers in 
the other castes here labour valiantly, now 
in the interest of their own family, now in 
that of another's, without distinction. If -a 
couple is in difficulties, helpers arrive, at- 
tracted by the odour of carrion; anxious to 
serve a lady, they creep under the body, 
work at it with back and claw, bury it and 
then go their ways, leaving the master and 
mistress of the house to their happiness. 

For some time longer these two manipu- 
late the morsel in concert, stripping it of fur 
or feather, trussing it and allowing it to sim- 
mer to the grub's taste. When everything is 
in order, the couple go forth, dissolving their 
partnership; and each, following his fancy, 
begins again elsewhere, even if only as a mere 
auxiliary. 

Twice and no oftener hitherto have I 
found the father preoccupied by the future 
of his sons and labouring in order to leave 
them rich: it happens with certain dung- 
workers and with the Necrophori, who bury 
dead bodies. Scavengers and undertakers 
both have exemplary morals. Who would 
look for virtue in such a quarter? 
311 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

What follows — the larval existence and 
the metamorphosis — is a secondary and, for 
that matter, a familiar detail. It is a dry 
subject and I will deal with it briefly. At 
the end of May, I exhume a Brown Rat, 
buried by the grave-diggers a fortnight 
earlier. Transformed into a black, sticky 
mass, the horrible dish provides me with fif- 
teen larvae already, for the most part, of 
the normal size. A few adults, unquestion- 
ably connections of the brood, are also 
swarming amid the putrescence. The laying- 
time is over now and victuals are plentiful. 
Having nothing else to do, the foster-parents 
have sat down to the feast with the nurs- 
lings. 

The undertakers are quick at rearing a 
family. It is at most a fortnight since the 
Rat was laid in the earth; and here already 
is a vigorous population on the verge of the 
metamorphosis. This precocity amazes me. 
It would seem as though carrion liquefaction, 
deadly to any other stomach, were in this 
case a food productive of special energy, 
which stimulates the organism and acceler- 
ates its growth, so that the fare may be con- 
sumed before its approaching conversion into 
mould. Living chemistry makes haste to 
312 



The Burying-Beetles: The Burial 

outstrip the ultimate reactions of mineral 
chemistry. 

White, naked, blind, possessing the cus- 
tomary attributes of life spent in the dark, 
the larva, with its tapering outline, is slightly 
reminiscent of the Ground-beetles'. The 
mandibles are black and powerful and make 
excellent dissecting-scissors. The limbs are 
short, but capable of a quick, toddling gait. 
The segments of the abdomen are clad on 
the upper surface in a narrow red plate, 
armed with four little spikes, whose office ap- 
parently is to furnish points of support when 
the larva quits the natal dwelling and dives 
into the soil, there to undergo the transforma- 
tion. The thoracic segments are provided 
with wider plates, but unarmed. 

The adults discovered in the company of 
their larval family, in this putrescence which 
was a Rat, are all abominably verminous. 
So shiny and neat in their attire, when at 
work under the first Moles of April, the 
Necrophori, when June approaches, become 
odious to look upon. A layer of parasites 
envelops them; insinuating itself into the 
joints, it forms an almost continuous crust. 
The insect presents a misshapen appearance 
under this overcoat of vermin, which my hair- 
313 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

pencil can hardly brush aside. Driven off 
the belly, the horde runs round the sufferer, 
perches on his back and refuses to let go. 

I recognize the Beetle's Gamasus, the Tick 
who so often soils the ventral amethyst of 
our Geotrupes. No, life's prizes do not go 
to the useful. Necrophori and Geotrupes 
devote themselves to the general health; and 
these two corporations, so interesting in their 
hygienic functions, so remarkable for their 
domestic morals, fall victims to the vermin 
of poverty. Alas, of this discrepancy be- 
tween the services rendered and the harsh- 
ness of life there are many other examples 
outside the world of scavengers and under- 
takers ! 

The Burying-beetles display an exemplary 
domestic morality, but it does not continue till 
the end. In the first fortnight of June, the 
family being* sufficiently provided, the sextons 
strike work and my cages are deserted on 
the surface, in spite of new arrivals of Mice 
and Sparrows. From time to time, some 
grave-digger leaves the subsoil and comes 
crawling languidly into the fresh air. 

Another rather curious fact now attracts 
my attention. All those who climb up from 
underground are maimed, with limbs ampu- 
tated at the joints, some higher up, some 
314 



The Burying-Beetles : The Burial 

lower down. I see one cripple who has only 
one leg left entire. With this odd limb and 
the stumps of the others, lamentably tat- 
tered, scaly with vermin, he rows, as it were, 
over the sheet of dust. A comrade emerges, 
better off for legs, who finishes the invalid 
and cleans out his abdomen. Thus do my 
thirteen remaining Necrophori end their 
days, half-devoured by their companions, or 
at least shorn of several limbs. The pacific 
relations of the outset are succeeded by can- 
nibalism. 

History tells us that certain peoples, the 
Massagetae and others, used to kill off their 
old men to save them from senile misery. 
The fatal blow on the hoary skull was in 
their eyes an act of filial piety. The Necro- 
phori have their share of these ancient bar- 
barities. Full of days and henceforth use- 
less, dragging out a weary existence, they 
mutually exterminate one another. Why 
prolong the agony of the impotent and the 
imbecile ? 

The Massagetae might plead, as an excuse 
for their atrocious custom, a dearth of pro- 
visions, which is an evil counsellor; not so 
the Necrophori, for, thanks to my generosi- 
ty, victuals are more than plentiful, both be- 
neath the soil and on the surface. Famine 
315 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

plays no part in this slaughter. What we see 
is an aberration due to exhaustion, the morbid 
fury of a life on the point of extinction. As 
is generally the case, work bestows a peace- 
able disposition on the grave-digger, while 
inaction inspires him with perverted tastes. 
Having nothing left to do, he breaks his 
kinsman's limbs and eats him up, heedless of 
being maimed or eaten himself. It is the 
final deliverance of verminous old age. 

This murderous frenzy, breaking out late 
in life, is not peculiar to the Necrophorus. I 
have described elsewhere the perversity of 
the Osmia, so placid in the beginning. Feel- 
ing her ovaries exhausted, she smashes her 
neighbours' cells and even her own; she scat- 
ters the dusty honey, rips open the egg, eats 
it. The Mantis devours the lovers who have 
played their parts ; the mother Decticus will- 
ingly nibbles a thigh of her decrepit hus- 
band; the merry Crickets, once the eggs are 
laid in the ground, indulge in tragic domes- 
tic quarrels and with not the least compunc- 
tion slash open one another's bellies. When 
the cares of the family are finished, the joys 
of life are finished likewise. The insect then 
sometimes becomes depraved; and its dis- 
ordered mechanism ends in aberrations. 

The larva has nothing striking to show in 
316 



The Burying-Beetles: The Burial 

the way of industry. When it has fattened 
to the desired extent, it leaves the charnel- 
house of the natal crypt and descends into 
the earth, far from the putrefaction. Here, 
working with its legs and its dorsal armour, 
it presses back the sand around it and makes 
itself a close cabin wherein to rest for the 
metamorphosis. When the lodge is ready 
and the torpor of the approaching moult ar- 
rives, it lies inert; but, at the least alarm, 
it comes to life and turns round on its axis. 

Even so do several nymphs spin round 
and round when disturbed, notably that of 
JEgasomus scabricornis which I have now 
before my eyes in July. It is always a fresh 
surprise to see these mummies suddenly 
throw off their immobility and gyrate on their 
own axis with a mechanism whose secret de- 
serves to be fathomed. The science of ra- 
tional mechanics might find something here 
to whet its finest theories upon. The 
strength and litheness of a clown cannot com- 
pare with those of this budding flesh, this 
hardly coagulated glair. 

Once isolated in its cell, the larva of the 
Necrophorus becomes a nymph in ten days 
or so. I lack the evidence furnished by di- 
rect observation, but the story is completed 
of itself. The Necrophorus must assume 
317 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

the adult form in the course of the summer; 
like the Dung-beetle, he must enjoy in the 
autumn a few days of revelry free from fam- 
ily cares. Then, when the cold weather 
draws near, he goes to earth in his winter 
quarters, whence he emerges as soon as spring 
arrives. 



318 



CHAPTER XII 

THE BURYING-BEETLES: EXPERIMENTS 

LET us come to the feats of reason which 
have earned for the Necrophorus the 
best part of his fame and, to begin with, sub- 
mit the case related by Clairville, that of 
the too hard soil and the call for assistance, 
to the test of experiment. 

With this object I pave the centre of the 
space beneath the cover, flush with the soil, 
with a brick, which I sprinkle with a thin 
layer of sand. This will be the soil that 
cannot be dug. All around it, for some dis- 
tance and on the same level, lies the loose 
soil, which is easy to delve. 

In order to approach the conditions of 
the anecdote, I must have a Mouse; with a 
Mole, a heavy mass, the removal would per- 
haps present too much difficulty. To obtain 
one, I place my friends and neighbours under 
requisition; they laugh at my whim but none 
the less proffer their traps. Yet, the mo- 
ment a very common thing is needed, it be- 
comes rare. Defying decency in his speech, 
after the manner of his ancestors' Latin, the 
319 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

Provencal says, but even more crudely than 
in my translation: 

" If you look for dung, the Donkeys be- 
come constipated ! " 

At last I possess the Mouse of my dreams ! 
She comes to me from that refuge, furnished 
with a truss of straw, in which official charity 
grants a day's hospitality to the pauper wan- 
dering over the face of the fertile earth, 
from that municipal hostel whence one in- 
evitably issues covered with Lice. O Reau- 
mur, 1 who used to invite marchionesses to see 
your caterpillars change their skins, what 
would you have said of a future disciple 
conversant with such squalor as this? Per- 
haps it is well that we should not be ig- 
norant of it, so that we may have compassion 
with that of the beast. 

The Mouse so greatly desired is mine. 
I place her upon the centre of the brick. 
The grave-diggers under the wire cover are 
now seven in number, including three fe- 
males. All have gone to earth; some are 
inactive, close to the surface; the rest are 
busy in their crypts. The presence of the 

1 Rene Antoine Ferchault de Reaumur (1683-1757), the 
inventor of the Reaumur thermometer and author of 
Mimoires pour servir a I'histoire naturelle des insectes 
(1734-1742). — Translator's Note. 

320 



The Burying-Beetles: Experiments 

fresh corpse is soon perceived. About seven 
o'clock in the morning, three Necrophori 
come hurrying up, two males and a female. 
They slip under the Mouse, who moves in 
jerks, a sign of the efforts of the burying- 
party. An attempt is made to dig into the 
layer of sand which hides the brick, so that 
a bank of rubbish accumulates round the 
body. 

For a couple of hours the jerks continue 
without results. I profit by the circumstance 
to learn the manner in which the work is 
performed. The bare brick allows me to see 
what the excavated soil would conceal from 
me. When it is necessary to move the body, 
the Beetle turns over; with his six claws he 
grips the hair of the dead animal, props 
himself upon his back and pushes, using his 
forehead and the tip of his abdomen as a 
lever. When he wants to dig, he resumes 
the normal position. So, turn and turn 
about, the sexton strives, now with his legs 
in the air, when it is a question of shifting 
the body or dragging it lower down; now 
with his feet on the ground, when it is neces- 
sary to enlarge the grave. 

The point at which the Mouse lies is 
finally recognized as unassailable. A male 
appears in the open. He explores the 
321 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

corpse, goes round it, scratches a little at 
random. He goes back; and immediately 
the dead body rocks. Is he advising his col- 
laborators of what he has discovered? Is 
he arranging the work with a view to their 
establishing themselves elsewhere, on pro- 
pitious soil? 

The facts are far from confirming this 
idea. When he shakes the body, the others 
imitate him and push, but without combining 
their efforts in a given direction, for, after 
advancing a little towards the edge of the 
brick, the burden goes back agaih, returning 
to the point of departure. In the absence of 
a concerted understanding, their efforts of 
leverage are wasted. Nearly three hours 
are occupied by oscillations which mutually 
annul one another. The Mouse does not 
cross the little sand-hill heaped about her by 
the rakes of the workers. 

For the second time, a male appears and 
makes a round of exploration. A boring is 
effected in loose earth, close beside the brick. 
This is a trial excavation, to learn the na- 
ture of the soil, a narrow well, of no great 
depth, into which the insect plunges to half 
its length. The well-sinker returns to the 
other workers, who arch their backs, and the 
load progresses a finger's-breadth towards 
322 



The Burying-Beetles: Experiments 

the point recognized as favourable. Have 
we done the trick this time? No, for after 
a while the Mouse recoils. There is no 
progress towards a solution of the difficulty. 

Now two males come out in search of in- 
formation, each of his own accord. Instead 
of stopping at the point already sounded, a 
point most judiciously chosen, it seemed, on 
account of its proximity, which would save 
laborious carting, they precipitately scour the 
whole area of the cage, trying the soil on 
this side and on that and ploughing super- 
ficial furrows in it. They get as far from 
the brick as the limits of the enclosure per- 
mit. 

They dig, by preference, against the base 
of the cover; here they make several bor- 
ings, without any reason, so far as I can see, 
the bed of soil being everywhere equally as- 
sailable away from the brick; the first point 
sounded is abandoned for a second, which 
is rejected in its turn. A third and fourth 
are tried; then another. At the sixth point 
the choice is made. In all these cases the 
excavation is by no means a grave destined 
to receive the Mouse, but a mere trial bor- 
ing, of inconsiderable depth and of the di- 
ameter of the digger's body. 

Back again to the Mouse, who suddenly 
323 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

shakes, swings, advances, recoils, first in one 
direction, then in another, until in the end the 
hillock of sand is crossed. Now we are free 
of the brick and on excellent soil. Little by 
little the load advances. This is no cartage 
by a team hauling in the open, but a jerky 
removal, the work of invisible levers. The 
body seems to shift of its own accord. 

This time, after all those hesitations, the 
efforts are concerted; at least, the load 
reaches the region sounded far more rapidly 
than I expected. Then begins the burial, 
according to the usual method. It is one 
o'clock. It has taken the Necrophori half- 
way round the clock to ascertain the condi- 
tion of the locality and to displace the Mouse. 

In this experiment it appears, in the first 
place, that the males play a major part in 
the affairs of the household. Better- 
equipped, perhaps, than their mates, they 
make investigations when a difficulty occurs; 
they inspect the soil, recognize whence the 
check arises and choose the spot at which the 
grave shall be dug. In the lengthy experi- 
ment of the brick, the two males alone ex- 
plored the surroundings and set to work to 
solve the difficulty. Trusting her assistants, 
the female, motionless beneath the Mouse, 
awaited the result of their enquiries. The 
324 



The Burying-Beetles: Experiments 

tests which are to follow will confirm the 
merits of these valiant auxiliaries. 

In the second place, the points where the 
Mouse lies being recognized as presenting 
an insurmountable resistance, there is no 
grave dug in advance, a little farther off, in 
the loose soil. All the attempts are limited, 
I repeat, to shallow soundings, which in- 
form the insect of the possibility of inhuma- 
tion. 

It is absolute nonsense to speak of their 
first preparing the grave to which the body 
will afterwards be carted. In order to ex- 
cavate the soil, our sextons have to feel the 
weight of their dead upon their backs. They 
work only when stimulated by the contact of 
its fur. Never, never in this world, do they 
venture to dig a grave unless the body to be 
buried already occupies the site of the cavity. 
This is absolutely confirmed by my two 
months and more of daily observations. 

The rest of Clairville's anecdote bears ex- 
amination no better. We are told that the 
Necrophorus in difficulties goes in search of 
assistance and returns with companions who 
assist him to bury the Mouse. This, in an- 
other form, is the edifying story of the Sa- 
cred Beetle whose pellet has rolled into a rut. 
Powerless to withdraw his booty from the 
325 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

abyss, the wily Dung-beetle summons three 
or four of his neighbours, who kindly pull 
out the pellet and return to their labours 
when the work of salvage is done. 1 

The ill-interpreted exploit of the thieving 
pill-roller sets me on my guard against that 
of the undertaker. Shall I be too particular 
if I ask what precautions the observer took 
to recognize the owner of the Mouse on his 
return, when he reappears, as we are told, 
with four assistants? What sign denotes 
that one of the five who was able, in so ra- 
tional a manner, to call for help? Can we 
even be sure that the one to disappear re- 
turns and forms one of the band? There 
is nothing to tell us so; and this was the es- 
sential point which a sterling observer was 
bound not to neglect. Were they not rather 
five chance Necrophori who, guided by the 
smell, without any previous understanding, 
hastened to the abandoned Mouse to exploit 
her on their own account? I incline to this 
opinion, the likeliest of all in the absence of 
exact information. 

Probability becomes certainty if we check 
the fact by experiment. The test with the 

1 For the confutation of this theory, cf. The Sacred 
Beetle and Others: chap. i. — Translator's Note. 
326 



The Burying-Beetles: Experiments 

brick already tells us something. For six 
hours my three specimens exhausted them- 
selves in efforts before they succeeded in re- 
moving their booty and placing it on prac- 
ticable soil. In this long and heavy job, 
helpful neighbours would have been most 
welcome. Four other Necrophori, buried 
here and there under a little sand, comrades 
and acquaintances, fellow-workers of the day 
before, were occupying the same cage; and 
not one of the busy ones thought of calling 
on them to assist. Despite their extreme 
embarrassment, the owners of the Mouse 
accomplished their task to the end, without 
the least help, though this could have been 
so easily requisitioned. 

Being three, one might say, they deemed 
themselves strong enough ; they needed no 
one else to lend them a hand. The objection 
does not hold good. On many occasions and 
under conditions even more difficult than 
those presented by a hard soil, I have again 
and again seen isolated Necrophori wearing 
themselves out against my artifices; yet not 
once did they leave their workshop to recruit 
helpers. Collaborators, it is true, often ar- 
rive, but they are summoned by their sense 
of smell, not by the first occupant. They 
are fortuitous helpers; they are never called 
327 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

in. They are received without strife but also 
without gratitude. They are not summoned ; 
they are tolerated. 

In the glazed shelter where I keep the 
cage I happened to catch one of these chance 
assistants in the act. Passing that way in 
the night and scenting dead flesh, he had en- 
tered where none of his kind had yet pene- 
trated of his own accord. I surprised him 
on the dome of the cover. If the wire had 
not prevented him, he would have set to work 
incontinently, in company with the rest. 
Had my captives invited this one? As- 
suredly not. Heedless of others' efforts, he 
hastened up, attracted by the odour of the 
Mole. So it was with those whose obliging 
assistance is extolled. I repeat, in respect 
of their imaginary prowess, what I have 
said elsewhere of the Sacred Beetle's: it is 
a child's story, worthy to rank with any fairy- 
tale for the amusement of the simple. 

A hard soil, necessitating the removal of 
the body, is not the only difficulty with which 
the Necrophori are acquainted. Frequently, 
perhaps more often than not, the ground is 
covered with grass, above all with couch- 
grass, whose tenacious rootlets form an in- 
extricable network below the surface. To 
dig in the interstices is possible, but to drag 
328 



The Burying-Beetles: Experiments 

the dead animal through them is another mat- 
ter: the meshes of the net are too close to 
give it passage. Will the grave-digger find 
himself helpless against such an obstacle, 
which must be an extremely common one? 
That could not be. 

Exposed to this or that habitual impedi- 
ment in the exercise of its calling, the ani- 
mal is always equipped accordingly; other- 
wise its profession would be impracticable. 
No end is attained without the necessary 
means and aptitudes. Besides that of the 
excavator, the Necrophorus certainly pos- 
sesses another art: the art of breaking the 
cables, the roots, the stolons, the slender 
rhizomes which check the body's descent into 
the grave. To the work of the shovel and 
the pick must be added that of the shears. 
All this is perfectly logical and may be clearly 
foreseen. Nevertheless, let us call in experi- 
ment, the best of witnesses. 

I borrow from the kitchen-range an iron 
trivet whose legs will supply a solid founda- 
tion for the engine which I am devising. 
This is a coarse network made of strips of 
raffia, a fairly accurate imitation of that of 
the couch-grass. The very irregular meshes 
are nowhere wide enough to admit of the 
passage of the creature to be buried, which 
329 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

this time is a Mole. The machine is planted 
by its three feet in the soil of the cage, level 
with the surface. A little sand conceals the 
ropes. The Mole is placed in the centre; 
and my bands of sextons are let loose upon 
the body. 

The burial is performed without a hitch 
in the course of an afternoon. The raffia 
hammock, almost the equivalent of the na- 
tural network of the couch-grass, scarcely dis- 
turbs the burying-process. Matters do not 
proceed quite so quickly; and that is all. No 
attempt is made to shift the Mole, who sinks 
into the ground where he lies. When the 
operation is finished, I remove the trivet. 
The network is broken at the spot where the 
corpse was lying. A few strips have been 
gnawed through; a small number, only as 
many as were strictly necessary to permit the 
passage of the body. 

Well done, my undertakers! I expected 
no less of your skill and tact. You foiled 
the experimenter's wiles by employing the re- 
sources which you use against natural ob- 
stacles. With mandibles for shears, you pa- 
tiently cut my strings as you would have 
gnawed the threads of the grass-roots. This 
is meritorious, if not deserving of excep- 
tional glorification. The shallowest of the 
330 



The Burying-Beetles: Experiments 

insects that work in earth would have done 
as much if subjected to similar conditions. 

Let us ascend a stage in the series of dif- 
ficulties. The Mole is now fixed by a strap 
of raffia fore and aft to a light horizontal 
cross-bar resting on two firmly-planted forks. 
It is like a joint of venison on the spit, ec- 
centrically fastened. The dead animal 
touches the ground throughout the length of 
its body. 

The Necrophori disappear under the 
corpse and, feeling the contact of its fur, 
begin to dig. The grave grows deeper and 
an empty space appears; but the coveted ob- 
ject does not descend, retained as it is by the 
cross-bar which the two forks keep in place. 
The digging slackens, the hesitations become 
prolonged. 

However, one of the grave-diggers climbs 
to the surface, wanders over the Mole, in- 
spects him and ends by perceiving the strap 
at the back. He gnaws and ravels it tena- 
ciously. I hear the click of the shears that 
completes the rupture. Crack! The thing 
is done. Dragged down by his own weight, 
the Mole sinks into the grave, but slant- 
wise, with his head still outside, kept in place 
by the second strap. 

The Beetles proceed with the burial of the 
331 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

hinder part of the Mole; they twitch and 
jerk it now in this direction, now in that. 
Nothing comes of it; the thing refuses to 
give. A fresh sortie is made by one of 
them, to find out what is happening over- 
head. The second strap is perceived, is se- 
vered in turn; and henceforth the work goes 
on as well as could be wished. 

My compliments, perspicacious cable-cut- 
ters ! But I must not exaggerate. The 
Mole's straps were for you the little cords 
with which you are so familiar in turfy soil. 
You broke them, as well as the hammock of 
the previous experiment, just as you sever 
with the blades of your shears any natural 
thread stretching across your catacombs. It 
is an indispensable trick of your trade. If 
you had had to learn it by experience, to 
think it out before practising it, your race 
would have disappeared, killed by the hesi- 
tations of its apprenticeship, for the spots 
prolific of Moles, Frogs, Lizards and other 
viands to your taste are usually covered with 
grass. 

You are capable of much better things 
still; but, before setting forth these, let us 
examine the case when the ground bristles 
with slender brushwood, which holds the 
corpse at a short distance from the ground. 
332 



The Burying-Beetles: Experiments 

Will the find thus hanging where it chances 
to fall remain unemployed? Will the Necro- 
phori pass on, indifferent to the superb mor- 
sel which they see and smell a few inches 
above their heads, or will they make it drop 
from its gibbet? 

Game does not abound to such a point 
that it can be despised if a few efforts will 
obtain it. Before I see the thing happen, I 
am persuaded that it will fall, that the Necro- 
phori, often confronted with the difficulties 
of a body not lying on the soil, must pos- 
sess the instinct to shake it to the ground. 
The fortuitous support of a few bits of stub- 
ble, of a few interlaced twigs, so common 
in the fields, cannot put them off. The drop 
of the suspended body, if placed too high, 
must certainly form part of their instinctive 
methods. For the rest, let us watch them 
at work. 

I plant in the sand of the cage a meagre 
tuft of thyme. The shrub is at most some 
four inches in height. In the branches I 
place a Mouse, entangling the tail, the paws 
and the neck among the twigs to increase the 
difficulty. The population of the cage now 
consists of fourteen Necrophori and will re- 
main the same until the close of my investi- 
gations. Of course they do not all take part 
333 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

simultaneously in the day's work: the ma- 
jority remain underground, dozing or occu- 
pied in setting their cellars in order. Some- 
times only one, often two, three or four, 
rarely more, busy themselves with the corpse 
which I offer them. To-day, two hasten to 
the Mouse, who is soon perceived overhead 
on the tuft of thyme. 

They gain the top of the plant by way 
of the trelliswork of the cage. Here are re- 
peated, with increased hesitation, due to the 
inconvenient nature of the support, the tac- 
tics employed to remove the body when the 
soil is unfavourable. The insect props itself 
against a branch, thrusting alternately with 
back and claws, jerking and shaking vigor- 
ously until the point whereat it is working 
is freed from its fetters. In one brief shift, 
by dint of heaving their backs, the two col- 
laborators extricate the body from the tan- 
gle. Yet another shake; and the Mouse is 
down. The burial follows. 

There is nothing new in this experiment: 
the find has been treated just as though it lay 
on soil unsuitable for burial. The fall is 
the result of an attempt to transport the 
load. 

The time has come to set up the Frog's 
gibbet made famous by Gleditsch. The ba- 

334 



The Burying-Beetles: Experiments 

trachian is "not indispensable; a Mole will 
serve as well or even better. With a liga- 
ment of raffia I fix him, by his hind-legs, to a 
twig which I plant vertically in the ground, 
inserting it to no great depth. The creature 
hangs plumb against the gibbet, its head and 
shoulders making ample contact with the 
soil. 

The grave-diggers set to work beneath the 
part which lies along the ground, at the very 
foot of the stake; they dig a funnel into 
which the Mole's muzzle, head and neck sink 
little by little. The gibbet becomes uprooted 
as they descend and ends by falling, dragged 
over by the weight of its heavy burden. I 
am assisting at the spectacle of the overturned 
stake, one of the most astonishing feats of 
reason with which the insect has ever been 
credited. 

This, for one who is considering the pro- 
blem of instinct, is an exciting moment. But 
let us beware of forming conclusions just 
yet; we might be in too great a hurry. Let 
us first ask ourselves whether the fall of the 
stake was intentional or accidental. Did 
the Necrophori lay it bare with the express 
purpose of making it fall? Or did they, on 
the contrary, dig at its base solely in order 
to bury that part of the Mole which lay on 
335 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

the ground? That is the question, which, 
for the rest, is very easy to answer. 

The experiment is repeated; but this time 
the gibbet is slanting and the Mole, hanging 
in a vertical position, touches the ground at a 
couple of inches from the base of the ap- 
paratus. Under these conditions, absolutely 
no attempt is made to overthrow it. Not 
the least scrape of a claw is delivered at the 
foot of the gibbet. The entire work of ex- 
cavation is performed at a distance, under 
the body, whose shoulders are lying on the 
ground. Here and here only a hole is dug 
to receive the front of the body, the part 
accessible to the sextons. 

A difference of an inch in the position of 
the suspended animal destroys the famous 
legend. Even so, many a time, the most 
elementary sieve, handled with a little logic, 
is enough to winnow a confused mass of 
statements and to release the good grain of 
truth. 

Yet another shake of this sieve. The gib- 
bet is slanting or perpendicular, no matter 
which; but the Mole, fixed by his hind-legs 
to the top of the twig, does not touch the 
soil; he hangs a few fingers'-breadths from 
the ground, out of the sextons' reach. 

What will they do now? Will they 
336 



The Burying-Beetles: Experiments 

scrape at the foot of the gibbet in order to 
overturn it? By no means; and the ingenu- 
ous observer who looked for such tactics 
would be greatly disappointed. No atten- 
tion is paid to the base of the support. It 
is not vouchsafed even a stroke of the rake. 
Nothing is done to overturn it, nothing, ab- 
solutely nothing! It is by other methods 
that the Burying-beetles obtain the Mole. 

These decisive experiments, repeated un- 
der many different forms, prove that never, 
never in this world, do the Necrophori dig, 
or even give a superficial scrape, at the foot 
of the gallows, unless the hanging body 
touch the ground at that point. And, in the 
latter case, if the twig should happen to fall, 
this is in no way an intentional result, but a 
mere fortuitous effect of the burial already 
commenced. 

What, then, did the man with the Frog, 
of whom Gleditsch tells us, really see? If 
his stick was overturned, the body placed to 
dry beyond the assaults of the Necrophori 
must certainly have touched the soil: a 
strange precaution against robbers and 
damp! We may well attribute more fore- 
sight to the preparer of dried Frogs and 
allow him to hang his animal a few inches 
off the ground. In that case, as all my ex- 
337 



The Glow- Worm arid Other Beetles 

periments emphatically declare, the fall of 
the stake undermined by the sextons is a pure 
matter of imagination. 

Yet another of the fine arguments in fa- 
vour of the reasoning-power of insects flies 
from the light of investigation and founders 
in the slough of error! I wonder at your 
simple faith, O masters who take seriously 
the statements of chance-met observers, 
richer in imagination than in veracity; I won- 
der at your credulous zeal, when, without 
criticism, you build up your theories on such 
absurdities ! 

Let us continue. The stake is henceforth 
planted perpendicularly, but the body hang- 
ing on it does not reach the base : a condition 
enough to ensure that there will never be 
any digging at this point. I make use of 
a Mouse, who, by reason of her light weight, 
will lend herself better to the insect's ma- 
noeuvres. The dead animal is fixed by the 
hind-legs to the top of the apparatus with a 
raffia strap. It hangs plumb, touching the 
stick. 

Soon two Necrophori have discovered the 
morsel. They climb the greased pole; they 
explore the prize, poking their foreheads into 
its fur. It is recognized as an excellent find. 
To work, therefore. Here we have again, 
338 



The Burying-Beetles: Experiments 

but under more difficult conditions, the tac- 
tics employed when it was necessary to dis- 
place the unfavourably situated body: the 
two collaborators slip between the Mouse 
and the stake and, taking a grip of the twig 
and exerting a leverage with their backs, 
they jerk and shake the corpse, which sways, 
twirls about, swings away from the stake and 
swings back again. All the morning is 
passed in vain attempts, interrupted by ex- 
plorations on the animal's body. 

In the afternoon, the cause of the check 
is at last recognized; not very clearly, for 
the two obstinate gallow-robbers first attack 
the Mouse's hind-legs, a little way below the 
strap. They strip them bare, flay them and 
cut away the flesh about the foot. They 
have reached the bone, when one of them 
finds the string of raffia beneath his mandi- 
bles. This, to him, is a familiar thing, rep- 
resenting the grass-thread so frequent in 
burials in turfy soil. Tenaciously the shears 
gnaw at the bond; the fibrous fetter is 
broken; and the Mouse falls, to be buried 
soon after. 

If it stood alone, this breaking of the sus- 
pending tie would be a magnificent perform- 
ance; but considered in connection with the 
sum of the Beetle's customary labours it 

339 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

loses any far-reaching significance. Before 
attacking the strap, which was not concealed 
in any way, the insect exerted itself for a 
whole morning in shaking the body, its usual 
method. In the end, finding the cord, it 
broke it, as it would have broken a thread 
of couch-grass encountered underground. 

Under the conditions devised for the 
Beetle, the use of the shears is the indis- 
pensable complement of the use of the shovel ; 
and the modicum of discernment at his dis- 
posal is enough to inform him when it will 
be well to employ the clippers. He cuts 
what embarrasses him, with no more exer- 
cise of reason than he displays when lower- 
ing his dead Mouse underground. So little 
does he grasp the relation of cause and effect 
that he tries to break the bone of the leg be- 
fore biting the raffia which is knotted close 
beside him. The difficult task is attempted 
before the extremely easy one. 

Difficult, yes, but not impossible, provided 
that the Mouse be young. I begin over 
again with a strip of iron wire, on which the 
insect's shears cannot get a grip, and a ten- 
der Mousekin, half the size of an adult. 
This time a tibia is gnawed through, sawed 
in two by the Beetle's mandibles, near the 
spring of the heel. The detached leg leaves 
340 



The Burying-Beetles: Experiments 

plenty of space for the other, which readily 
slips from the metal band; and the little 
corpse falls to the ground. 

But, if the bone be too hard, if the prize 
suspended be a Mole, an adult Mouse or a 
Sparrow, the wire ligament opposes an in- 
surmountable obstacle to the attempts of 
the Necrophori, who, for nearly a week, 
work at the hanging body, partly stripping 
it of fur or feather and dishevelling it until 
it forms a lamentable object, and at last 
abandon it when desiccation sets in. And 
yet a last resource remained, one as rational 
as infallible: to overthrow the stake. Of 
course, not one dreams of doing so. 

For the last time let us change our artifices. 
The top of the gibbet consists of a little fork, 
with the prongs widely opened and measur- 
ing barely two-fifths of an inch in length. 
With a thread of hemp, less easily attacked 
than a strip of raffia, I bind the hind-legs of 
an adult Mouse together, a little above the 
heels; and I slip one of the prongs in be- 
tween. To bring the thing down one has 
only to slide it a little way upwards ; it is like 
a young Rabbit hanging in the window of a 
poulterer's shop. 

Five Necrophori come to inspect what I 
have prepared. After much futile shaking, 
34i 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

the tibiae are attacked. This, it seems, is 
the method usually employed when the corpse 
is caught by one of its limbs in some narrow 
fork of a low-growing plant. While trying 
to saw through the bone — a heavy job this 
time — one of the workers slips between the 
shackled legs; in this position, he feels the 
furry touch of the Mouse against his chine. 
No more is needed to arouse his propensity 
to thrust with his back. With a few heaves 
of the lever the thing is done : the Mouse 
rises a little, slides over the supporting peg 
and falls to the ground. 

Is this manoeuvre really thought out? 
Has the insect indeed perceived, by the light 
of a flash of reason, that to make the morsel 
fall it was necessary to unhook it by sliding 
it along the peg? Has it actually perceived 
the mechanism of the hanging? I know 
some persons — indeed, I know many — 
who, in the presence of this magnificent re- 
sult, would be satisfied without further in- 
vestigation. 

More difficult to convince, I modify the 
experiment before drawing a conclusion. I 
suspect that the Necrophorus, without in any 
way foreseeing the consequences of his ac- 
tion, heaved his back merely because he felt 
the animal's legs above him. With the sys- 
342 



r The Burying-Beetles: Experiments 

tern of suspension adopted, the push of the 
back, employed in all cases of difficulty, was 
brought to bear first upon the point of sup- 
port; and the fall resulted from this happy 
coincidence. That point, which has to be 
slipped along the peg in order to unhook the 
object, ought really to be placed at a short 
distance from the Mouse, so that the Necro- 
phori may no longer feel her directly on 
their backs when they push. 

A wire binds together now the claws of 
a Sparrow, now the heels of a Mouse and is 
bent, three-quarters of an inch farther away, 
into a little ring, which slips very loosely 
over one of the prongs of the fork, a short, 
almost horizontal prong. The least push of 
this ring is enough to bring the hanging body 
to the ground; and because it stands out it 
lends itself excellently to the insect's methods. 
In short, the arrangement is the same as 
just now, with this difference, that the point 
of support is at a short distance from the 
animal hung up. 

My trick, simple though it be, is quite 
successful. For a long time the body is re- 
peatedly shaken, but in vain; the tibiae, the 
hard claws refuse to yield to the patient saw. 
Sparrows and Mice grow dry and shrivel, 
unused, upon the gallows. My Necrophori, 

343 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

some sooner, some later, abandon the in- 
soluble mechanical problem: to push, ever 
so little, the movable support and so to un- 
hook the coveted carcase. 

Curious reasoners, in faith ! If, just now, 
they had a lucid idea of the mutual relations 
between the tied legs and the suspending 
peg; if they made the Mouse fall by a rea- 
soned manoeuvre, whence comes it that the 
present artifice, no less simple than the first, 
is to them an insurmountable obstacle? For 
days and days they work on the body, ex- 
amining it from head to foot, without no- 
ticing the movable support, the cause of their 
mishap. In vain I prolong my watch; I 
never see a single one of them push the sup- 
port with his foot or butt it with his head. 

Their defeat is not due to lack of strength. 
Like the Geotrupes, they are vigorous ex- 
cavators. When you grasp them firmly in 
your hand, they slip into the interstices of 
the fingers and plough up your skin so as 
to make you quickly loose your hold. With 
his head, a powerful ploughshare, the Bee- 
tle might very easily push the ring off its 
short support. He is not able to do so, be- 
cause he does not think of it; he does not 
think of it, because he is devoid of the fac- 
ulty attributed to him, in order to support 

344 



The Burying-Beetles : Experiments 

their theories, by the dangerous generosity 
of the evolutionists. 

Divine reason, sun of the intellect, what 
a clumsy slap in thy august countenance, 
when the glorifiers of the animal degrade 
thee with such denseness! 

Let us now examine the mental obscurity 
of the Necrophori under another aspect. 
My captives are not so satisfied with their 
sumptuous lodging that they do not seek to 
escape, especially when there is a dearth of 
labour, that sovran consoler of the afflicted, 
man or beast. Internment within the wire 
cover palls upon them. So, when the Mole 
is buried and everything in order in the cellar, 
they stray uneasily over the trellised dome; 
they clamber up, come down, go up again and 
take to flight, a flight which instantly becomes 
a fall, owing to collision with the wire grat- 
ing. They pick themselves up and begin all 
over again. The sky is splendid,; the 
weather is hot, calm and propitious for those 
in search of the Lizard crushed beside the 
footpath. Perhaps the effluvia of the gamy 
tit-bit have reached them from afar, imper- 
ceptible to any other sense than that of the 
grave-diggers. My Necrophori therefore 
would be glad to get away. 

Can they? Nothing would be easier, if 

345 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

a glimmer of reason were to aid them. 
Through the trelliswork, over which they 
have so often strayed, they have seen, out- 
side, the free soil, the promised land which 
they want to reach. A hundred times if 
once have they dug at the foot of the ram- 
part. There, in vertical wells, they take up 
their station, drowsing whole days on end 
while unemployed. If I give them a fresh 
Mole, they emerge from their retreat by the 
entrance-corridor and come to hide them- 
selves beneath the belly of the beast. The 
burial over, they return, one here, one there, 
to the confines of the enclosure and disap- 
pear underground. 

Well, in two and a half months of cap- 
tivity, despite long stays at the base of the 
trellis, at a depth of three-quarters of an 
inch beneath the surface, it is rare indeed 
for a Necrophorus to succeed in circumvent- 
ing the obstacle, in prolonging his excava- 
tion beneath the barrier, in digging an elbow 
and bringing it out on the other side, a 
trifling task for these vigorous creatures. 
Of fourteen only one succeeds in escaping. 

A chance deliverance and not premedit- 
ated; for, if the happy event had been the 
result of a mental combination, the other 
prisoners, practically his equals in powers 
346 



The Burying-Beetles: Experiments 

of perception, would all, from first to last, 
have discovered by rational means the el- 
bowed path leading to the outer world; and 
the cage would promptly be deserted. The 
failure of the great majority proves that the 
single fugitive was simply digging at random. 
Circumstances favoured him; and that is all. 
We must not put it to his credit that he suc- 
ceeded where all the others failed. 

We must also beware of attributing to the 
Necrophori a duller understanding than is 
usual in insect psychology. I find the in- 
eptness of the undertaker in all the Beetles 
reared under the wire cover, on the bed of 
sand into which the rim of the dome sinks 
a little way. With very rare exceptions, 
fortuitous accidents, not one thinks of cir- 
cumventing the barrier by way of the base; 
not one manages to get outside by means 
of a slanting tunnel, not even though he be 
a miner by profession, as are the Dung- 
beetles par excellence. Captives under the 
wire dome and anxious to escape, Sacred 
Beetles, Geotrupes, Copres, Gymnopleuri, 1 
Sisyphi, 2 all see about them the free space, the 
joys of the open sunlight; and not one thinks 

1 Cf. The Sacred Beetle and Others: chap. vii. — Trans- 
lator's Note. 

2 Cf . idem : chap. xv. — Translator's Note. 

347 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

of going round under the rampart, which 
would present no difficulty to their pick- 
axes. 

Even in the higher ranks of animality, ex- 
amples of similar mental obfuscation are not 
lacking. Audubon 1 tells us how, in his days, 
wild Turkeys were caught in North America. 
In a clearing known to be frequented by 
these birds, a great cage was constructed with 
stakes driven into the ground. In the centre 
of the enclosure opened a short tunnel, which 
dipped under the palisade and returned to 
the surface outside the cage by a gentle slope, 
which was open to the sky. The central 
opening, wide enough to give a bird free 
passage, occupied only a portion of the en- 
closure, leaving around it, against the circle 
of stakes, a wide unbroken zone. A few 
handfuls of maize were scattered in the in- 
terior of the trap, as well as round about it, 
and in particular along the sloping path, 
which passed under a sort of bridge and led 
to the centre of the contrivance. In short, 
the Turkey-trap presented an ever-open 
door. The bird found it in order to enter, 

1 John James Audubon (1780-1851), the noted Ameri- 
can ornithologist, of French descent, author of Birds of 
America (1827-1830) and Ornithological Biography 
(1831-1839). — Translator's Note. 

348 



The Burying-Beetles: Experiments 

but did not think of looking for it in order to 
go out. 

According to the famous American orni- 
thologist, the Turkeys, lured by the grains 
of maize, descended the insidious slope, en- 
tered the short underground passage and be- 
held, at the end of it, plunder and the light. 
A few steps farther and the gluttons emerged, 
one by one, from beneath the bridge. They 
distributed themselves about the enclosure. 
The maize was abundant; and the Turkeys' 
crops grew swollen. 

When all was gathered, the band wished 
to retreat, but not one of the prisoners paid 
any attention to the central hole by which he 
had arrived. Gobbling uneasily, they passed 
again and again across the bridge whose arch 
was yawning beside them; they circled round 
against the palisade, treading a hundred 
times in their own footprints; they thrust 
their necks, with their crimson wattles, 
through the hars; and there, with their beaks 
in the open air, they fought and struggled 
until they were exhausted. 

Remember, O inept one, what happened 
but a little while ago; think of the tunnel 
that led you hither! If that poor brain of 
yours contains an atom of ability, put two 
ideas together and remind yourself that the 

349 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

passage by which you entered is there and 
open for your escape ! You will do nothing of 
the kind. The light, an irresistible attrac- 
tion, holds you subjugated against the pali- 
sade; and the shadow of the yawning pit, 
which has but lately permitted you to enter 
and will quite as readily permit you to go out, 
leaves you indifferent. To recognize the use 
of this opening you would have to reflect a 
little, to recall the past; but this tiny retro- 
spective calculation is beyond your powers. 
So the trapper, returning a few days later, 
will find a rich booty, the entire flock impris- 
oned! 

Of poor intellectual repute, does the 
Turkey deserve his name for stupidity? He 
does not appear to be more limited than 
another. Audubon depicts him as endowed 
with certain useful ruses, in particular when 
he has to baffle the attacks of his nocturnal 
enemy, the Virginian Owl. As for his be- 
haviour in the snare with the underground 
passage, any other bird, impassioned of the 
light, would do the same. 

Under rather more difficult conditions, 
the Necrophorus repeats the ineptness of the 
Turkey. When he wishes to return to the 
daylight, after resting in a short burrow 
against the rim of the cover, the Beetle, see- 
350 



The Burying-Beetles: Experiments 

ing a little light filtering through the loose 
soil, reascends the entrance-well, incapable 
of telling himself that he has only to prolong 
the tunnel as far in the opposite direction 
to reach the outer world beyond the wall and 
gain his freedom. Here again is one in 
whom we shall seek in vain for any sign of 
reflection. Like the rest, in spite of his 
legendary renown, he has no guide but the 
unconscious promptings of instinct. 



35i 



CHAPTER XIII 

THE GIANT SCARITES 

THE military profession can hardly be 
said to favour the talents. Consider 
the Carabus, or Ground-beetle, that fiery 
warrior among the insect people. What 
can he do? In the way of industry, nothing 
or next to nothing. Nevertheless the dull 
butcher is magnificent in his indescribably 
sumptuous jerkin. It has the refulgency of 
copper pyrites, of gold, of Florentine bronze. 
While clad in black, he enriches his sombre 
costume with a vivid amethyst hem. On the 
wing-cases, which fit him like a cuirass, he 
wears little chains of alternate pins and 
bosses. 

Of a handsome and commanding figure, 
slender and pinched in at the waist, the Cara- 
bus is the glory of our collections, but only 
for the sake of his appearance. He is a 
frenzied murderer; and that is all. We will 
ask nothing more of him. The wisdom of 
antiquity represented Hercules, the god of 
strength, with the head of an idiot. And in- 
deed merit is not great when limited to brute 
force. And this is the case with the Carabus. 
352 



The Giant Scarites 

To see him so richly adorned, who would 
not wish to find him a fine subject for in- 
vestigation, one worthy of history, a subject 
such as humbler natures provide with lavish 
generosity? From this ferocious ransacker 
of entrails we expect nothing of the kind. 
His art is that of slaying. 

We may without trouble observe him at his 
bandit's work. I rear him in a large breed- 
ing-cage on a layer of fresh sand. A few 
potsherds scattered about the surface enable 
him to take shelter beneath the rocks; a tuft 
of grass planted in the centre makes a grove 
and enlivens the establishment. 

Three species compose the population : the 
common Jardiniere, or Golden Beetle, the 
usual inmate of our gardens; Procustes 
coriaceus, the sombre and powerful explorer 
of the grassy thickets at the foot of walls; 
and the rare Purple Carabus, who trims the 
ebony of his wing-cases with metallic violet. 
I feed them on Snails, after partly removing 
the shell. 

Hidden at first promiscuously under the 
potsherds, the Carabi make a rush for the 
wretched Snail, who, in his despair, alter- 
nately puts out and withdraws his horns. 
Three of them at a time, then four, then five 
begin by devouring the edge of his mantle, 
353 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

specked with chalky atoms. This is the fa- 
vourite morsel. With their mandibles, those 
stout pincers, they lay hold of it through the 
froth; they tug at it, tear off a shred and re- 
tire to a distance to swallow it at their ease. 

Meanwhile the legs, streaming with slime, 
pick up grains of sand and become covered 
with heavy gaiters, which are extremely 
cumbersome but to which the Beetle pays no 
attention. Heavy with mire, he staggers 
back to his prey and cuts off another morsel. 
He will think of polishing his boots presently. 
Others do not stir, but gorge themselves on 
the spot, with the whole fore-part of their 
body immersed in the froth. The feast 
lasts for hours on end. The guests do not 
leave the joint until the distended belly lifts 
the roof of the wing-cases and uncovers the 
nudities of the stern. 

Fonder of shady nooks, the Procustes form 
a separate company. They drag the Snail 
into their lair, under the shelter of a potsherd, 
and there, peacefully and in common, dis- 
member the mollusc. They love the Slug, 
as easier to cut up than the Snail, who is de- 
fended by his shell; they regard the Testa- 
cella, 1 who bears a chalky shell, shaped like 

1 Or Shell-bearing Slug, found along the shore? of the 
Mediterranean. — Translator's Note. 
354 



The Giant Scarites 

a Phrygian cap, right at the hinder end of 
her foot, as a delicious tit-bit. The game 
has firmer flesh and is less nauseously slimy. 

To feast gluttonously on a Snail whom I 
myself have rendered defenseless by break- 
ing her shell is nothing for a warrior to 
boast about; but we shall soon see the Cara- 
bus display his daring. I offer a Pine-chafer, 
in the pink of strength, to the Golden Beetle, 
whose appetite has been whetted by a few 
days' fasting. The victim is a colossus be- 
side the Golden Carabus; an Ox facing a 
Wolf. 

The beast of prey prowls round the peace- 
ful creature and selects its moment. It 
rushes forward, recoils, hesitates and returns 
to the charge. And lo, the giant is over- 
thrown ! Incontinently the other devours 
him, ransacking his belly. If this had hap- 
pened in a higher order of the animal world, 
it would make one's flesh creep to watch the 
Carabus half immersed in the big Cockchafer 
and rooting out his entrails. 

I test the eviscerator with a more difficult 
quarry. This time the victim is Oryctes 
nasicornis, the powerful Rhinoceros Beetle, 
an invincible giant, one would think, under 
the shelter of his armour. But the hunter 
knows the weak point of the horn-clad prey, 

355 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

the fine skin protected by the wing-cases. 
By means of attacks which the assailant re- 
news as soon as they are repulsed by the as- 
sailed, the Carabus contrives to raise the 
cuirass slightly and to slip his head beneath 
it. From the moment that the pincers have 
made a gash in the vulnerable skin, the 
Rhinoceros is lost. Soon there will be no- 
thing left of the colossus but a pitiful empty 
carcase. 

Those who wish for a more hideous con- 
flict must apply to Calosoma sycophanta, the 
handsomest of our flesh-eating insects, the 
most majestic in costume and size. This 
prince of Carabi is the butcher of the cater- 
pillars. He is not to be overawed even by 
the sturdiest of rumps. 

His struggle with the huge caterpillar of 
the Great Peacock Moth 1 is a thing to see 
once, not oftener : a single experience of such 
horrors is enough to disgust one. The con- 
tortions of the eviscerated insect, which, with 
a sudden heave of the loins, hurls the bandit 
in the air and lets him fall, belly uppermost, 
without managing to make him release his 
hold; the green entrails spilt quivering on the 

1 Cf. The Life of the Caterpillar: chap. xi. — Trans- 
lator's Note. 

356 



The Giant Scarites 

ground; the tramping gait of the murderer, 
drunk with slaughter, slaking his thirst at 
the springs of a horrible wound: these are 
the main features of the combat. If en- 
tomology had no other scenes to show us, I 
should without the least regret turn my back 
upon my insects. 

Next day, offer the sated Beetle a Green 
Grasshopper or a White-faced Decticus, 
serious adversaries both, armed with power- 
ful lower jaws. With these big-bellied 
creatures the slaughter will begin anew, as 
eagerly as on the day before. It will be re- 
peated later with the Pine-chafer and the 
Rhinoceros Beetle, accompanied by the usual 
atrocious tactics of the Carabi. Even better 
than these last does the Calosoma know the 
weak point of the armoured Beetles, con- 
cealed beneath the wing-cases. And this will 
go on so long as we keep him provided with 
victims, for this drinker of blood is never 
satiated. 

Acrid exhalations, the products of a fiery 
temperament, accompany this frenzy for 
carnage. The Carabi elaborate caustic 
humours; the Procrustes squirts a jet of 
vinegar at any one who takes hold of him; 
the Calosoma makes the fingers smell of 
357 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

mouldy drugs; certain Beetles, such as the 
Brachini, 1 understand explosives and singe 
the aggressor's whiskers with a volley of 
musketry. 

Distillers of corrosives, gunners throwing 
lyddite, bombers employing dynamite : what 
can all these violent creatures, so well 
equipped for battle, do beyond committing 
slaughter? Nothing. We find no art, no 
industry, not even in the larva, which pract- 
ices the adult's trade and meditates its 
crimes while wandering under the stones. 
Nevertheless it is to one of these dull-witted 
warriors that I am deliberately proposing 
to apply to-day, prompted by the wish to 
solve a certain question. Let me tell you 
what it is. 

You have surprised this or that insect, 
motionless on a bough, blissfully basking in 
the sun. Your hand is raised, open, ready 
to descend on it and seize it. Hardly have 
you made the movement when the insect 
drops to the ground. It is a wearer of 
armoured wing-cases, slow to disengage the 
wings from their horny sheath, or perhaps 
an incomplete form, with no wing-surfaces. 

1 Or Bombardier Beetles. When disturbed, they eject 
a fluid which volatilizes, on contact with the air, with a 
slight report. — Translator's Note. 

3 5 8 



The Giant Scarites 

Incapable of sudden flight, the surprised in- 
sect lets itself fall. You look for it in the 
grass, often in vain. If you do find it, it is ly- 
ing on its back, with its legs folded, without 
stirring. 

It is shamming dead, people will tell you ; 
it is pretending, in order to escape its enemy. 
Man is certainly unknown to it; we count 
for nothing in its little world. What does 
it care for our hunting, whether we be child- 
ren or scientists? It does not fear the col- 
lector with his long pin ; but it realizes danger 
in general; and it dreads its natural enemy, 
the insectivorous bird, which swallows it with 
a single snap. To outwit the assailant, it 
lies upon its back, draws up its legs and 
simulates death. The bird, or any other 
persecutor, will despise it in this condition; 
and its life will be saved. 

This, we are assured, is how the insect 
would reason if suddenly surprised. The 
trick has long been famous. Once upon a 
time, two friends, at the end of their re- 
sources, sold the skin of a Bear before they 
had killed the brute. The encounter was 
unfortunate : they had to take to their heels. 
One of them stumbled, fell, held his breath 
and shammed dead. The Bear came up, 
turned the man over and over, explored him 

359 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

with his paw and his muzzle, sniffed at his 
face: 

" He smells already," he said and, with- 
out more ado, turned away. 

That Bear was a simpleton. 

The bird would not be duped by this 
clumsy stratagem. In those happy days 
when the discovery of a nest marked a red- 
letter day, I never saw my Sparrows or 
Greenfinches refuse a Locust because he was 
not moving, or a Fly because she was dead. 
Any mouthful that does not kick is eagerly 
accepted, provided that it be fresh and pleas- 
ant to the taste. 

If the insect, therefore, relies on the ap- 
pearance of death, it would seem to me to be 
very badly inspired. More wary than the 
Bear in the fable, the bird, with its per- 
spicacious eye, will recognize the fraud in a 
moment and proceed to business. Besides, 
had the object really been a corpse, but still 
fresh, it would none the less have gobbled 
it up. 

More insistent doubts occur to my mind 
when I consider the serious consequences to 
which the insect's artfulness might lead. It 
shams dead, says the popular idiom, which 
recks little of weighing the value of its term; 
it simulates death, scientific language repeats, 
360 



The Giant Scarites 

happy to find some gleams of reason in the 
insect. What truth is there in this unani- 
mous statement, which in the one case is too 
unreflecting and in the other too much in- 
clined to favour theoretical fancies? 

Logical arguments are insufficient here. 
It is essential that we should obtain the ver- 
dict of experiment, which alone can furnish 
a valid reply. But to which of the insects 
shall we go first? 

I remember something that dates back 
some forty years. Delighted with a recent 
University triumph, I was staying at Cette, 
on my return from Toulouse, where I had 
just passed my examination as a licentiate 
in natural science. It gave me a fine chance 
of renewing my acquaintance with the sea- 
side flora, which had delighted me a few 
years before on the shores of the wonderful 
Gulf of Ajaccio. It would have been foolish 
to neglect it. A degree does not confer the 
right to cease studying. If one really has a 
touch of the sacred fire in one's veins, one 
remains a student all one's life, not of books, 
which are a poor resource, but of the great, 
inexhaustible school of actual things. 

One day, then, in July, in the cool stillness 
of the dawn, I was botanizing on the fore- 
shore at Cette. For the first time I plucked 
361 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

the Convolvulus soldanella, which trails 
along the high-water mark its ropes of 
glossy green leaves and its great pink bell- 
flowers. Withdrawn into his white, flat, 
heavily-keeled shell, a curious Snail, Helix 
explanata, was slumbering, in groups, on the 
bent grasses. 

The dry shifting sands showed here and 
there long series of imprints, recalling, on a 
smaller scale and under another form, the 
tracks of little birds in the snow which used 
to arouse a delightful flutter in my youthful 
days. What do these imprints mean? 

I follow them, a hunter on the trail of a 
new species. At the end of each track, by 
digging to no great depth, I unearth a mag- 
nificent Carabus, whose very name is almost 
unknown to me. It is the Giant Scarites (S. 
gig as, FAB.). 

I make him walk on the sand. He ex- 
actly reproduces the tracks which put me on 
the alert. It was certainly he who, questing 
for game in the night, marked the trail with 
his feet. He returned to his lair before day- 
light; and now not a single Beetle is to be 
seen in the open. 

Another characteristic thrusts itself upon 
my notice. If I shake him for a moment 
and then place him on the ground upon his 
362 



The Giant Scarites 

back, he remains a long time without stirring. 
No other insect has yet displayed such per- 
sistent immobility, though I confess that my 
investigations in this respect have been only 
superficial. The detail is so thoroughly en- 
graved on my memory that, forty years later, 
when I want to experiment on the insects 
which are experts in the art of simulating 
death, I at once think of the Scarites. 

A friend sends me a dozen from Cette, 
from the very beach on which I once passed 
a delightful morning in the company of this 
skilful mimic of the dead. They reach me 
in perfect condition, mixed up in the same 
package with some Pimeliae (P. bipunctata, 
FAB.), their compatriots in the sands beside 
the sea. Of these last, a pitiable crew, many 
have been disembowelled, absolutely emp- 
tied; others have merely stumps instead of 
legs; a few, but only a few, are unwounded. 

It was what one might have expected of 
these Carabidae, lawless hunters one and all. 
Tragic events took place in the box during 
the journey from Cette to Serignan. The 
Scarites gormandized riotously on the peace- 
able Pimeliae. 

Their tracks, which I followed long ago 
on the actual spot, bore evidence to their 
nocturnal rounds, apparently in search of 
363 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

their prey, the pot-bellied Pimelia, whose sole 
defence consists of a strong armour of welded 
wing-cases. 1 But what can such a cuirass 
avail against the bandit's ruthless pincers? 

He is indeed a mighty hunter, this Nim- 
rod of the sea-shore. All black and glossy, 
like a jet bugle, his body is divided by a very 
narrow groove at the waist. His weapon 
of offence consists of a pair of claw-like 
mandibles of extraordinary vigour. None 
of our insects equals him in strength of jaw, 
if we except the Stag-beetle, who is far bet- 
ter armed, or rather decorated, for the ant- 
lered mandibles of the inmate of the oak are 
ornaments of the male's attire, not a panoply 
of battle. 

The brutal Carabid, the eviscerator of the 
Pimeliae, knows how strong he is. If I tease 
him a little on the table, he at once adopts a 
posture of defence. Well braced upon his 
short legs, especially the fore-legs, which are 
toothed like rakes, he dislocates himself in 
two, so to speak, thanks to the groove that 
divides him behind the corselet; he proudly 
raises the fore-part of the body, his wide, 
heart-shaped thorax and massive head, open- 
ing his threatening pincers to their full extent. 
He is now an awesome sight. More : he has 

1 The Pimelia is a wingless Beetle. — Translator's Note. 
364 



The Giant Scarites 

the audacity to rush at the finger which has 
touched him. Here of a surety is one not 
easily intimidated. I look twice before I 
handle him. 

I lodge my strangers partly under a wire- 
gauze cover and partly in glass jars, all sup- 
plied with a layer of sand. Each of them with- 
out delay digs himself a burrow. The in- 
sect bends his head a long way down and, 
with the points of his mandibles, brought to- 
gether to form a pick-axe, he hews, digs and 
excavates with a will. The fore-legs, spread 
out and armed with hooks, gather the dust 
and rubbish into a load which is thrust 
backwards. In this way, a mound rises on 
the threshold of the burrow. The dwelling 
grows deeper quickly and by a gentle slope 
reaches the bottom of the jar. 

Checked in the downward direction, the 
Scarites now digs against the glass wall and 
continues his work horizontally until he has 
obtained a length of nearly twelve inches in 
all. 

This arrangement of the gallery, almost 
the whole of which runs just under the glass, 
is very useful to me, enabling me to follow 
the insect in the privacy of its home. If I 
wish to observe its underground operations, 
all that I need do is to remove the opaque 
365 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

sheath which I have been careful to put over 
the jar, in order to spare the creature the 
annoyance of the light. 

When the house is deemed to be long 
enough, the Scarites returns to the entrance, 
which he works more carefully than the rest. 
He makes a funnel of it, a pit with shifting, 
sloping sides. It is the Ant-Lion's crater on 
a larger scale and constructed in a more 
rustic fashion. This mouth is continued by 
an inclined plane, kept free of all rubbish. 
At the foot of the slope is the vestibule of the 
horizontal gallery. Here, as a rule, the 
hunter lurks, motionless, with his pincers 
half open. He is waiting. 

There is a sound overhead. It is a speci- 
men of game which I have just introduced, 
a Cicada, a luscious morsel. The drowsy 
trapper at once wakes; he moves his palpi, 
which quiver with cupidity. Cautiously, step 
by step, he climbs his inclined plane. He 
takes a glance outside the funnel. The Ci- 
cada is seen. 

The Scarites darts out of his pit, runs for- 
ward, seizes the Cicada and drags her back- 
wards. The struggle is brief, thanks to the 
trap of the entrance, which yawns like a fun- 
nel to receive even a bulky quarry and con- 
tracts into a crumbling precipice that para- 
366 



The Giant Scarites 

lyses all resistance. The slope is fatal: who 
crosses the brink can no longer escape the 
murderer. 

Head first, the Cicada dives into the abyss, 
down which the spoiler drags her by success- 
ive jerks. She is drawn into the low-ceil- 
inged tunnel. Here the wings cease to flut- 
ter, for lack of space. She reaches the 
knacker's cellar, at the end of the corridor. 
The Scarites now works at her for some time 
with his pincers, in order to reduce her to 
complete immobility, fearing lest she should 
escape; then he returns to the mouth of the 
charnel-house. 

It is not everything to possess plenty of 
game; the question next arises how to con- 
sume it in peace. The door is therefore 
closed against importunate callers, that is to 
say, the insect fills the entrance to the tunnel 
with his mound of rubbish. Having taken 
this precaution, he goes back again and sits 
down to his meal. He will not reopen his 
hiding-place nor remake the pit at the en- 
trance until later, when the Cicada has been 
digested and hunger makes its reappearance. 
Let us leave the glutton with his quarry. 

The brief morning which I spent with him 
in his native place did not enable me to watch 
him at his hunting, on the sands of the beach; 
367 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

but the facts gathered in captivity are enough 
to tell us all about it. They show us -in the 
Scarites a bold hero who is not to be in- 
timidated by the biggest or strongest ad- 
versary. 

We have seen him coming up from under- 
ground, falling on the passers-by, seizing 
them at some distance from the burrow and 
dragging them forcibly into his cut-throat 
den. The Rose-chafer, the Common Cock- 
chafer are but small deer for him. He dares 
to attack the Cicada, he dares to dig his 
hooks into the corpulent Pine-chafer. He is 
a fearless ruffian, ready for any crime. 

Under natural conditions his audacity can 
be no less. On the contrary, the familiar 
spots, freedom of movement, unlimited space 
and his beloved salt air excite the warrior to 
yet greater feats of daring. 

He has dug himself a refuge in the sand, 
with a wide, crumbling mouth. This is not 
so that he may, like the Ant-Lion, wait at the 
bottom of his funnel for the passing of a vic- 
tim which stumbles on the shifting slope and 
rolls into the pit. The Scarites disdains 
these petty poachers' methods, these fowlers' 
snares; he prefers a run across country. 

His long trails on the sand tell us of noc- 
turnal rounds in search of big game, often 
368 



The Giant Scarites 

the Pimelia, sometimes the Half-spotted 
Scarab. 1 The find is not consumed on the 
spot. To enjoy it at his ease, he needs the 
peaceful darkness of the underground manor; 
and so the captive, seized by one leg with 
the pincers, is forcibly dragged along the 
ground. 

If no precautions were taken, the intro- 
duction of the victim into the burrow would 
be impracticable, with a huge quarry offering 
a desperate resistance. But the entrance to 
the tunnel is a wide crater, with crumbling 
walls. However large he be, the captive, 
tugged from below, enters and tumbles into 
the pit. The crumbling rubbish immediately 
buries him and paralyses his movements. 
The thing is done. The bandit now pro- 
ceeds to close his door and empty his prey's 
belly. 

1 Cf. The Sacred Beetle and Others; chaps, ii. and vii. — 
Translator's Note. 



369 



CHAPTER XIV 

THE SIMULATION OF DEATH 

THE first insect that we will put to the 
question is that audacious disembowel- 
ler, the savage Scarites. To provoke his 
state of inertia is a very simple matter: I 
handle him for a moment, rolling him be- 
tween my fingers; better still, I drop him on 
the table, twice or thrice in succession, from 
a small height. When the shock due to the 
fall has been administered and, if need be, re- 
peated, I turn the insect on its back. 

This is enough: the prostrate Beetle no 
longer stirs, lies as though dead. The legs 
are folded on the belly, the antennae ex- 
tended like the arms of a cross, the pincers 
open. A watch beside me tells me the exact 
minute of the beginning and the end of the 
experiment. Nothing remains but to wait 
and especially to arm one's self with patience, 
for the insect's immobility lasts long enough 
to become tedious to the observer watching 
for something to happen. 

The duration of the lifeless posture varies 
greatly on the same day, under the same 
37o 



The Simulation of Death 

atmospheric conditions and with the same 
subject, though I cannot fathom the causes 
which shorten or lengthen it. How to in- 
vestigate the external influences, so numerous 
and often so slight, which intervene in such 
a case; above all, how to scrutinize the in- 
sect's private impressions: these are impene- 
trable mysteries. Let us confine ourselves to 
recording the results. 

Immobility continues fairly often for as 
long as fifty minutes; in certain cases, even, 
it lasts more than an hour. The most fre- 
quent length of time averages twenty minutes. 
If nothing disturbs the Beetle, if I cover him 
with a glass shade, protecting him from the 
Flies, who are importunate visitors in the hot 
weather prevailing at the time of my experi- 
ment, the inertia is complete : not a quiver of 
the tarsi, nor of the palpi, nor of the anten- 
nae. Here indeed is a simulacrum of death, 
with all its inertia. 

At last the apparently deceased comes back 
to life. The tarsi quiver, those of the fore- 
legs first; the palpi and the antennae move 
slowly to and fro: this is the prelude to the 
awakening. Now the legs begin to kick. 
The insect bends slightly at its pinched waist; 
it buttresses itself on its head and back; it 
turns over. There it goes, jogging away, 
371 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

ready to become an apparent corpse once 
more if I renew my shock tactics. 

Let us repeat the experiment immediately. 
The newly resuscitated Beetle is for a second 
time lying motionless on his back. He pro- 
longs his make-believe of death longer than 
he did at first. When he wakes up, I renew 
the test a third, a fourth, a fifth time, with 
no intervals of repose. The duration of the 
motionless condition increases each time. 
To quote the figures, the five consecutive ex- 
periments, from the first to the last, have 
continued respectively for 17, 20, 25, 33 and 
50 minutes. Starting with a quarter of an 
hour, the attitude of death ends by lasting 
nearly a whole hour. 

Without being constant, similar facts re- 
cur repeatedly in my experiments, the du- 
ration, of course, varying. They tell us 
that as a general rule the Scarites lengthens 
the period of his lifeless posture the oftener 
the experiment is repeated. Is this a matter 
of practice, or is it an increase of cunning 
employed in the hope of finally tiring a too 
persistent enemy? It would be premature 
to draw conclusions: the cross-examination 
of the insect has not yet been thorough 
enough. 

Let us wait. Besides, we need not 
372 



The Simulation of Death 

imagine that it is possible to go on like this 
until our patience is exhausted. Sooner or 
later, flurried by my pestering, the Scarites 
refuses to sham dead. Scarcely is he laid on 
his back after a fall, when he turns over and 
takes to his heels, as though he judged a 
stratagem which succeeded so indifferently to 
be henceforth useless. 

If we were to stop here, it would certainly 
seem that the insect, a cunning hoaxer, seeks, 
as a means of defence, to cheat those who 
attack him. He counterfeits death ; he re- 
peats the process, becoming more persistent 
in his fraud in proportion as the aggression 
is repeated; he abandons his trickery when 
he deems it futile. But hitherto we have 
subjected him only to a friendly examina- 
tion-in-chief. The time has come to put a 
string of searching questions and to trick the 
trickster if there be really any deception. 

The Beetle under experiment is lying on 
the table. He feels beneath him a hard body 
which gives him no chance of digging. As 
he cannot hope to take refuge underground, 
an easy task for his nimble and vigorous 
tools, the Scarites lies low in his death-like 
pose, keeping it up, if need be, for an hour. 
If he were reclining on the sand, the loose 
soil with which he is so familiar, would he 

373 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

not regain his activity more rapidly, would 
he not at least betray by a few twitches his 
desire to escape into the basement? 

I was expecting to see him do so; and I 
was mistaken. Whether I place him on 
wood, glass, sand or garden mould, the 
Beetle in no way modifies his tactics. On a 
surface readily excavated he continues his 
immobility as long as on an unassailable sur- 
face. 

This indifference to the nature of the sup- 
port half opens the door to doubt; what fol- 
lows opens it wide. The patient is on the 
table before me and I watch him closely. 
With his gleaming eyes, overshadowed by 
his antennae, he also sees me; he watches me; 
he observes me, if I may so express myself. 
What can be the visual impression of the in- 
sect when face to face with that monstrosity, 
man? How does the pigmy measure the 
enormous monument that is the human body? 
Seen from the depths of the infinitely little, 
the immense perhaps is nothing. 

We will not go so far as that; we will ad- 
mit that the insect watches me, recognizes 
me as his persecutor. So long as I am here, 
he will suspect me and refuse to budge. If 
he does decide to do so, it will be after he 
has exhausted my patience. Let us there- 

374 



The Simulation of Death 

fore move away. Then, since any trickery 
will be needless, he will hasten to take to his 
legs again and make off. 

I move ten paces farther from him, to the 
other end of the room. I hide, I do not 
move a muscle, for fear of breaking the 
silence. Will the insect pick itself up? 
No, my precautions are superfluous. 
Alone, left to itself, perfectly quiet, it re- 
mains motionless for as long a time as when 
I was standing close beside it. 

Perhaps the clear-sighted Scarites has seen 
me in my corner, at the other end of the 
room; perhaps a subtle scent has revealed 
my presence to him. We will do more, then. 
I cover him with a bell-glass which will save 
him from being worried by the Flies and I 
leave the room; I go downstairs into the 
garden. There is no longer anything likely 
to disturb him. Doors and windows are 
closed. Not a sound from without; no cause 
for alarm indoors. What will happen in 
the midst of that profound silence ? 

Nothing more and nothing less than usual. 
After twenty, forty minutes' waiting out of 
doors, I come upstairs again and return to 
my insect. I find him as I left him, lying 
motionless on his back. 

This experiment, many times repeated with 

375 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

different subjects, throws a vivid light upon 
the question. It expressly assures us that the 
attitude of death is not the ruse of an in- 
sect in danger. Here there is nothing to 
alarm the creature. Around him all is si- 
lence, solitude, repose. When he persists in 
his immobility it cannot now be to deceive 
an enemy. I have no doubt about it: there 
is something else involved. 

Besides, why should he need special de- 
fensive artifices? I could understand that 
a weak, pacific, ill-protected insect might re- 
sort to ruses when in danger; but in him, the 
warlike bandit, so well armoured, it is more 
than I can understand. No insect on his 
native sea-shore has the strength to resist 
him. The most powerful of them, the 
Sacred Beetle and the Pimelia, are easy-go- 
ing creatures which, so far from molesting 
him, are fine booty for his burrow. 

Can he be threatened by the birds? It 
is very doubtful. As a Carabus, he is 
saturated with acrid humours which must 
make his body a far from pleasing mouthful. 
For the rest, he lives hidden from the light 
of day in a burrow where no one sees him; 
he emerges only at night, when the birds are 
no longer inspecting the beach. There are 
no beaks about for him to fear. 
376 



The Simulation of Death 

And this butcher of the Pimeliae and even 
occasionally of the Sacred Beetles, this bully 
whom no danger threatens, is supposed to be 
such a coward as to sham death on the slight- 
est alarm ! I take the liberty of doubting 
this more and more. 

I am confirmed in my doubts by the 
Smooth-skinned Scarites (S. lavigatus, 
FAB.), a denizen of the same shores. The 
first insect is a giant; the second, by com- 
parison, is a dwarf. Otherwise he displays 
the same shape, the same jet-black costume, 
the same armour, the same habits of bri- 
gandage. Well, the Smooth-skinned Scar- 
ites, in spite of his weakness and his small- 
ness, is almost ignorant of the trick of pre- 
tending to be dead. When molested for a 
moment and then turned on his back, he at 
once picks himself up and flees. I can hardly 
obtain a few seconds' immobility; once only, 
daunted by my obstinacy, the dwarf remains 
motionless for a quarter of an hour. 

How different from the giant, motionless 
the moment that he is thrown upon his back, 
sometimes picking himself up only after an 
hour of inaction! It is the reverse of what 
ought to happen, if the apparent death were 
really a defensive ruse. The giant, confi- 
dent in his strength, should disdain this 
277 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

cowardly posture ; the timid dwarf should be 
quick to have recourse to it. And it is just 
the other way about. What is there behind 
all this? 

Let us try the influence of danger. With 
what natural enemy shall I confront the big 
Scarites, motionless on his back? I know 
none. Let us then create a make-believe as- 
sailant. The Flies put me on the track of 
one. 

I have spoken of their importunity during 
my investigations in the hot season. If I 
do not employ a bell-glass or keep an assi- 
duous watch, rarely does the shrewish Dip- 
tcron fail to alight upon my patient and ex- 
plore him with her proboscis. We will let 
her have her way this time. 

Hardly has the Fly grazed this apparent 
corpse with her legs, when the Scarites' 
tarsi quiver as though twitched by a slight 
electric shock. If the visitor be merely pass- 
ing, matters go no farther; but, if she per- 
sist, particularly near the Beetle's mouth, 
moist with saliva and disgorged secretions 
of food, the tormented Scarites promptly 
kicks, turns over and makes off. 

Perhaps he did not think it opportune to 
prolong his fraud in the face of so contempti- 
ble an enemy. He resumes his activity be- 
378 



The Simulation of Death 

cause he has recognized the absence of 
danger. Then let us call in another inter- 
loper, one of formidable size and strength. 
I happen to have handy a Great Capricorn, 
with powerful claws and mandibles. That 
the long-horned insect is a peaceful creature 
I am well aware; but the Scarites does not 
know it; on the sands of the shore he has 
never encountered such a colossus as this, 
who is capable of impressing less timid 
creatures than he. Fear of the unknown will 
merely aggravate the situation. 

Guided by the tip of my straw, the Capri- 
corn sets his foot upon the prostrate insect. 
The Scarites' tarsi begin to quiver immedi- 
ately. If the contact be prolonged or multi- 
plied, or if it become aggressive, the dead 
insect gets on its legs again and scuttles off, 
just as the titillations of the Fly have al- 
ready shown me. When danger is imminent 
and all the more to be dreaded because its 
nature is unknown, the trick of the simulation 
of death disappears and flight takes its 
place. 

The following experiment is not without 
value. I take some hard substance and 
knock the foot of the table on which the in- 
sect is lying on its back. The shock is very 
slight, not enough to shake the table per- 

379 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

ceptibly. The whole thing is limited to the 
inner vibrations of a resilient body which has 
received a blow. But it is quite enough to 
disturb the insect's immobility. At each tap 
the tarsi are flexed and quiver for a moment. 

Lastly, let us try the effect of light. So 
far, the patient has been treated in the shade 
of my cabinet, away from the direct sun- 
light. The sun is shining full upon the 
window. What will the motionless insect 
do if I carry it thither, from my table to the 
window, into the bright light ? That we can 
find out in a moment. Under the direct rays 
of the sun, the Scarites immediately turns 
over and moves off. 

This is enough. Patient, persecuted 
creature, you have half-betrayed your insect. 
When the Fly tickles you, drains your moist 
lip, treats you as a corpse whose juices she 
would like to suck; when the huge Capricorn 
appears to your horrified gaze and puts a 
foot on your belly, as though to take possess- 
ion of his prey; when the table quivers, that 
is to say, when, for you, the ground shakes, 
undermined perhaps by some invader of your 
burrow; when a bright light surrounds you, 
favouring the designs of your enemies and 
imperilling your safety as an insect that loves 
the dark, then, in truth, it would be wiser 
380 



The Simulation of Death 

not to move, if really your chief resource, 
when danger threatens you, is to simulate 
death. 

On the contrary, at those critical moments, 
you give a start; you move, you resume your 
normal attitude, you run away. Your fraud 
is discovered; or, to put it more plainly, 
there is no trick. Your inertia is not simu- 
lated; it is real. It is a condition of tempo- 
rary torpor into which you are plunged hy 
your delicate nervous organization. A 
mere nothing makes you fall into it; a mere 
nothing withdraws you from it, above all a 
bath of light, that sovran stimulus of activity. 

In respect of prolonged immobility as the 
result of emotion, I find a rival of the Giant 
Scarites in a large black Buprestis, with a 
flour-speckled corselet, a lover of the black- 
thorn, the hawthorn and the apricot-tree. 
His name is Capnodis tenebrionis, LIN. 
At times I see him, with his legs closely 
folded and his antennae lowered, prolonging 
his motionless posture upon his back for more 
than an hour. At other times the insect is 
bent upon escaping, apparently influenced by 
atmospheric conditions of which I do not 
know the secret. One or two minutes' im- 
mobility is as much as I can then obtain. 

Let me recapitulate : in my various sub- 
381 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

jects the attitude of death is of very variable 
duration, governed as it is by a host of un- 
suspected circumstances. Let us take ad- 
vantage of favourable opportunities, which 
are fairly frequent. I subject the Cloudy 
Buprestis to the different tests undergone by 
the Giant Scarites. The results are the 
same. When you have seen the first, you 
have seen the second. There is no need to 
linger over them. 

I will only mention the promptness with 
which the Buprestis, lying motionless in the 
shade, recovers his activity when I carry him 
away from my table into the broad sunlight 
of the window. After a few seconds of this 
bath of heat and light, the insect half-opens 
his wing-cases, using them as levers, and 
turns over, ready to take flight if my hand 
did not instantly snap him up. He is a 
passionate lover of the light, a devotee of the 
sun, intoxicating himself in its rays upon the 
bark of his blackthorn-trees on the hottest 
afternoons. 

This love of tropical temperature suggests 
the following question: what would happen 
if I were to chill the creature in its immobile 
posture? I foresee a more prolonged in- 
ertia. The chill, of course, must not be 
great, for it would be followed by the leth- 
382 



The Simulation of Death 

argy into which insects capable of surviving 
the winter fall when benumbed by the cold. 

On the contrary, the Buprestis must as 
far as possible retain his full vitality. The 
lowering of the temperature must be gentle, 
very moderate and such that the insect, un- 
der similar climatic conditions, would retain 
his powers of action in ordinary life. I have 
a convenient refrigerator at my disposal. It 
is the water of my well, whose temperature, 
in summer, is nearly twenty-two degrees 
Fahrenheit below that of the surrounding 
air. 

The Buprestis, in whom I have just pro- 
duced inertia by means of a few taps, is in- 
stalled on his back in a little flask which I 
seal hermetically and immerse in a bucket 
full of this cold water. To keep the bath 
as cool as at first, I gradually renew it, ta- 
king care not to shake the flask in which the 
patient is lying, in his attitude of death. 

The result rewards my pains. After five 
hours under water, the insect is still motion- 
less. Five hours, I say, five long hours; and 
I might certainly say longer, if my exhausted 
patience had not put an end to the experi- 
ment. But this is enough to banish any idea 
of fraud on the insect's part. Here, beyond 
a doubt, the insect is not shamming dead. 
383 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

He is actually somnolent, deprived of the 
power of movement by an internal distur- 
bance which my teasing produced at the out- 
set and which is prolonged beyond its usual 
limits by the surrounding coolness. 

I try the effect of a slight decrease in 
temperature upon the Giant Scarites by sub- 
jecting him to a similar sojourn in the cold 
water of the well. The result does not 
respond to the hopes which the Buprestis 
gave me. I do not succeed in obtaining 
more than fifty minutes' inertia. I have 
often obtained as long periods of immobility 
without resorting to the refrigerating artifice. 

It might have been foreseen. The Bu- 
prestis, a lover of the burning sunshine, is 
affected by the cold bath in a different degree 
from the Scarites, who prowls about by night 
and spends his day in the basement. A fall 
of a few degrees in temperature takes the 
chilly insect by surprise and has no effect upon 
the one accustomed to the coolness under- 
ground. 

Other experiments on these lines tell me 
nothing more. I see the inert condition per- 
sisting sometimes for a longer, sometimes 
for a shorter period, according as the insect 
seeks the sunlight or avoids it. Let us 
change our method. 

384 



The Simulation of Death 

I evaporate a few drops of sulphuric ether 
in a glass jar and put in a Stercoraceous 
Geotrupes and a specimen of Buprestis 
tenebrtonis, at the same time. In a few 
moments both subjects are motionless, anaes- 
thetized by the etheric vapour. I take them 
out quickly and lay them on their backs in 
the open air. 

Their attitude is exactly that which they 
would have assumed under the influence of a 
shock or any other cause of alarm. The 
Buprestis has his legs symmetrically folded 
against his chest and belly; the Geotrupes has 
his outspread, stretched in disorder, rigid 
and as though attacked by catalepsy. You 
could not tell if they were dead or alive. 

They are not dead. In a minute or two, 
the Geotrupes' tarsi twitch, the palpi quiver, 
the antennae wave gently to and fro. Then 
the fore-legs move; and a quarter of an hour 
has not elapsed before the other legs are 
struggling. The activity of the insect made 
motionless by the concussion of a shock would 
reawaken in precisely the same fashion. 

As for the Buprestis, he is in a state of 
inertia so profound that at first I really be- 
lieve him to be dead. He recovers during 
the night; and next day I find him in possess- 
ion of his usual activity. The ether experi- 
385 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

ment, which I took care to stop at the moment 
when it produced the desired effect, has not 
been fatal to him; but it has had much more 
serious consequences for him than for the 
Geotrupes. The insect more sensitive to the 
alarm due to concussion or to a fall of tem- 
perature is also the more sensitive to the ac- 
tion of ether. 

Thus the enormous difference which I ob- 
serve in these two insects, with regard to the 
inertia provoked by a shock or by handling 
them in one's fingers, is explained by nice 
differences of impressionability. Whereas 
the Buprestis remains motionless for nearly 
an hour, the Geotrupes is struggling vio- 
lently after a minute or two. And even then 
I rarely attain this limit. 

In what respect has the Geotrupes, to de- 
fend itself, less need of the stratagem of 
simulated death than the Black Buprestis, 
well protected by his massive build and his 
armour, which is so hard that it resists the 
point of a pin and even of a needle? We 
should be perplexed by the same question in 
respect of a multitude of insects, some of 
which remain motionless while others do not; 
and we could not possibly foresee what 
would happen from the genus of the subject, 
its form, or its way of living. 
386 



The Simulation of Death 

Buprestis tenebrionis, for example, ex- 
hibits a persistent inertia. Will it be the 
same, because of similarity of structure, with 
other members of the same group? Not at 
all. My chance finds provide me with the 
Brilliant Buprestis (B. rutilans, FAB.), and 
the Nine-spotted Buprestis (Ptosima novem- 
maculata, FAB.). The first resists all my 
attempts. The splendid creature grips my 
fingers, grips my tweezers and insists on get- 
ting up the moment that I lay it on its back. 
The second readily becomes immobile; but 
how brief is its attitude of death! Four 
or five minutes at most. 

A Melasoma-beetle, Omocrates abbrevi- 
ates, OLIV., whom I frequently discover un- 
der the broken stones on the neighbouring 
hills, continues motionless for over an hour. 
He rivals the Scarites. We must not forget 
to add that very often the awakening takes 
place within a few minutes. 

Can he owe his long period of inertia to 
the fact that he is one of the Tenebrionidae, 
or Darkling Beetles ? By no means, for here 
in the same group is Pimelia bipunctuata, who 
turns a somersault on his round back and 
finds his feet the moment he has turned 
over; here is a Cellar-beetle (Blaps similis, 
LATR.), who, unable to turn with his flat 
387 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

back, his big belly and his welded wing-cases, 1 
struggles desperately after a minute or two of 
inertia. 

The short-legged Beetles, trotting along 
with tiny steps, ought, one would think, to 
make up in cunning, more fully than the 
others, for their incapacity for rapid flight. 
The facts do not correspond with this ap- 
parently well-founded forecast. I have con- 
sulted the genera Chrysomela, 2 Blatta, 3 Sil- 
pha, Cleonus, 4 Bolboceras, 5 Cetonia, Hoplia, 
Coccinella, 6 and so on. A few minutes or 
a few seconds are nearly always long enough 
for the return to activity. Several of them 
even obstinately refuse to sham death. 

As much must be said of the Beetles well- 
equipped for pedestrian escape. Some re- 
main motionless for a few seconds; others, 
more numerous still, behave in an ungovern- 
able fashion. In short, there is no guide to 
tell us in advance : 

" This one will readily assume the posture 

1 The Cellar-beetle is one of the wingless Beetles. — 
Translator's Note. 

2 Golden-apple Beetles. — Translator's Note. 

3 Blackbeetles or Cockroaches. — Translator's Note. 

4 A genus of Weevils. — Translator's Note. 

5 A mushroom-eating Beetle. Cf. The Life of the Fly; 
chap, xviii. — Translator's Note. 

6 Ladybirds. — Translator's Note. 

388 



The Simulation of Death 

of a dead insect; this one will hesitate; that 
one will refuse." 

There is nothing but shadowy probabili- 
ties, until experiment has given its verdict. 
From this muddle shall we draw a conclu- 
sion which will set our minds at rest? I 
hope so. 



389 



CHAPTER XV 

SUICIDE OR HYPNOSIS? 

YOU do not imitate the unfamiliar; you 
do not counterfeit a thing of which you 
know nothing: that is obvious. The simu- 
lation of death, therefore, implies a certain 
knowledge of death. 

Well, has the insect, or rather, has any 
kind of animal, a presentiment that its life 
cannot last for ever? Does the perturbing 
problem of an end occur to its dense brain? 
I have associated a great deal with animals, 
I have lived on intimate terms with them 
and I have never observed anything to justify 
me in saying yes. The animal, with its 
humbler destiny, is spared that apprehension 
of the hour of death which constitutes at 
once our torment and our greatness. 

Like the child still in the limbo of uncon- 
sciousness, it enjoys the present without ta- 
king thought of the future; free from the bit- 
terness of a prospective ending, it lives in the 
blissful calm of ignorance. It is ours alone 
to foresee the briefness of our days; it is ours 
390 



Suicide or Hypnosis? 

alone anxiously to question the grave regard- 
ing the last sleep. 

Moreover, this glimpse of the inevitable 
destruction calls for a certain maturity of 
mind and, for that reason, is rather late in 
developing. I had a touching example of it 
this very week. 

A pretty little Kitten, the joy of all the 
household, after languidly dragging itself 
about for a couple of days, died in the night. 
Next morning the children found it lying 
stark in its basket. General affliction. 
Anna, especially, a little girl of four, con- 
sidered with a pensive glance the little friend 
with which she had so often played. She 
petted it, called it, offered it a drop of milk 
in a cup : 

" Kitty won't play," said the child. " She 
doesn't want my breakfast any more. She's 
asleep. I've never seen her sleep like this be- 
fore. When will she wake up? " 

This simplicity in the presence of death's 
harsh problem wrung my heart. Hastily I 
led the girl away from the sight and had the 
dead Kitten secretly buried. As, from this 
time onward, it no longer appeared by the 
table at meal-times, the grief-stricken child 
at last understood that she had seen her little 
friend sleeping the profound slumber that 
391 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

knows no awaking. For the first time a 
vague idea of death found its way into her 
mind. 

Has the insect the signal honour of know- 
ing what we do not know in our early child- 
hood, at a time when thought is already 
manifesting itself, far superior, however 
feeble it be, to the dull understanding of the 
animal? Has it the power to foresee an 
ending, an attribute which in its case would 
be inconvenient and useless? Before de- 
ciding, let us consult, not the abstruse theories 
of science, a doubtful guide, but the Turkey, 
an eminently truthful one. 

I recall one of the most vivid memories 
that remain to me from my brief sojourn at 
the Royal College of Rodez. So they called 
it then ; to-day they call it a grammar-school ; 
what improvement as the world grows older ! 

The thrice-blessed Thursday had come; 
our bit of translation was done, our dozen 
Greek roots had been learnt by heart; and 
we trooped down to the far end of the val- 
ley, so many bands of madcaps. With our 
trousers turned up to our knees, we exploited, 
artless fishermen that we were, the peaceful 
waters of the river, the Aveyron. What we 
hoped to catch was the Loach, no bigger than 
392 



Suicide or Hypnosis? 

our little finger, but tempting, thanks to his 
immobility on the sand amid the water- 
weeds. We fully expected to transfix him 
with our trident, a fork. 

This miraculous catch, the object of such 
shouts of triumph when it succeeded, was very 
rarely vouchsafed to us: the Loach, the ras- 
cal, saw the fork coming and with three 
strokes of his tail disappeared ! 

We found compensation in the apple-trees 
in the neighbouring pastures. The apple has 
from all time been the urchin's delight, above 
all when plucked from a tree which does not 
belong to him. Our pockets were soon 
crammed with the forbidden fruit. 

Another distraction awaited us. Flocks of 
Turkeys were not rare, roaming at their own 
sweet will and gobbling up the Locusts 
around the farms. If no watcher hove in 
sight, we had great sport. Each of us would 
seize a Turkey, tuck her head under her 
wing, rock it in this attitude for a moment 
and then place her on the ground, lying on 
her side. The bird no longer budged. The 
whole flock of Turkeys was subjected to our 
hypnotic handling; and the meadow assumed 
the aspect of a battle-field strewn with the 
dead and dying. 

And now look out for the farmer's wife! 

393 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

The loud gobbling of the harassed birds had 
told her of our wicked pranks. She would 
run up armed with a whip. But we had 
good legs in those days! And we had a 
good laugh too, behind the hedges, which 
favoured our retreat! 

O delightful days when we put the 
Turkeys to sleep, can I recover the skill 
which I then possessed? To-day it is no 
longer the playful trick of a schoolboy; it is 
a matter of serious research. I happen to 
have the very subject that I need: a Turkey- 
hen, doomed soon to be the victim of our 
Christmas merry-making. I repeat with her 
the method of manipulation which I em- 
ployed so successfully on the banks of the 
Aveyron. I tuck her head well under her 
wing and, molding it in this attitude with 
both hands, I rock the bird gently up and 
down for a couple of minutes. 

The strange effect is produced; my child- 
hood's manoeuvres obtained no better result. 
Laid on the ground, on her side and left to 
herself, my patient is a lifeless bundle. One 
would think her dead, if a slight rise and fall 
of the plumage did not reveal the breathing. 
She looks really like a dead bird which, in 
a last convulsion, had drawn its chilled feet, 
with their shrivelled toes, under its belly. 

394 



Suicide or Hypnosis? 

The spectacle has a tragic air; and I feel 
overcome by a certain anxiety when I gaze 
upon the results of my evil spells. Poor 
Turkey! What if she were never to wake 
again ! 

We need not be afraid: she is waking; 
she stands up, staggering a little, it is true, 
with drooping tail and a shamefaced ex- 
pression. That soon passes off; not a trace 
of it remains. In a few moments the bird 
is once more what it was before the experi- 
ment. 

This torpor, the mean between true sleep 
and death, is of variable duration. When 
repeatedly provoked in my Turkey-hen, with 
suitable intervals of repose, immobility lasts 
sometimes for half an hour and sometimes 
for a few minutes. Here, as in the insect, 
it would be very difficult to analyse the causes 
of these differences. With the Guinea-fowl 
I succeed even better. The torpor lasts so 
long that I become alarmed by the bird's 
condition. The plumage reveals no trace of 
breathing. I ask myself, anxiously, whether 
the bird is not actually dead. I push it a 
little way along the ground with my foot. 
The patient does not stir. I do it again. 
And lo, the Guinea-fowl frees her head, 
stands up, regains her balance and scurries 

395 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

off! Her state of lethargy has lasted more 
than half an hour. 

Now for the Goose. I have none. The 
gardener next door trusts me with his. She 
is brought to my house, which she fills with 
her trumpeting as she waddles about. 
Shortly afterwards there is absolute silence: 
the web-footed Amazon is lying on the 
ground, with her head tucked under her wing. 
Her immobility is as profound and as pro- 
longed as that of the Turkey and the Guinea- 
fowl. 

It is the Hen's turn now and the Duck's. 
They too succumb, but, so it seems to me, less 
persistently. Can it be that my hypnotic 
tricks are less efficacious with small birds 
than with large ones? To judge by the 
Pigeon, this may well be so. He yields to 
my art only to the extent of two minutes' 
sleep. A still smaller bird, a Greenfinch, is 
even more refractory: all that I obtain from 
him is a few seconds' drowsiness. 

It would appear, then, that, in proportion 
as the activity is concentrated in a body of 
less volume, the torpor has less hold. The 
insect has already shown us this. The Giant 
Scarites does not stir for an hour, while the 
Smooth-skinned Scarites, a pigmy, wearies 
my persistence in turning him over; the large 
396 



Suicide or Hypnosis? 

Cloudy Buprestis submits to my manoeuvres 
for a long period, whereas the Glittering 
Buprestis, a pigmy again, obstinately refuses 
to do so. 

We will leave on one side, as insufficiently 
investigated, the influence of the bodily mass 
and remember only this fact, that it is pos- 
sible, by a very simple artifice, to reduce a 
bird to a condition of apparent death. Do 
my Goose, my Turkey and the others resort 
to trickery with the object of deceiving their 
tormentor? It is certain that none of them 
thinks of shamming dead; they are actually 
immersed in a deep torpor; in a word, they 
are hypnotized. 

These facts have long been known; they 
are perhaps the first in date in the science of 
hypnosis or artificial sleep. How did we, 
the little Rodez schoolboys, learn the secret 
of the Turkey's slumber? It was certainly 
not in our books. Coming from no one 
knows where, indestructible as everything 
that enters into children's games, it was 
handed down, from time immemorial, from 
one initiate to another. 

Things are just the same to-day in my vil- 
lage of Serignan, where there are numbers 
of youthful adepts in the art of putting poul- 
try to sleep. Science often has very humble 
397 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

beginnings. There is nothing to tell us that 
the mischief of a pack of idle urchins is not 
the starting-point of our knowledge of hyp- 
nosis. 

I have just been practising on insects tricks 
which to all appearances are as puerile as 
those which we practised on the Turkeys in 
the days when the farmer's wife used to run 
after us cracking her whip. Do not laugh: 
a serious problem looms behind this artless- 
ness. 

My insects' condition bears a strange re- 
semblance to that of my poultry. Both pre- 
sent the image of death, inertia, the contrac- 
tion of convulsed limbs. In both again the 
immobility is dispelled before its time by 
the agency of a stimulus, by sound in the case 
of the bird, by light in that of the insect. 
Silence, darkness and tranquillity prolong it. 
Its duration varies greatly in different spe- 
cies and appears to increase with corpulence. 

Among ourselves, who are very unequal 
subjects for induced sleep, the hypnotist is 
obliged to pick and choose. He succeeds 
with one and not with another. Similarly, 
among the insects, a selection is necessary, 
for they do not all of them, by a long way, 
respond to the experimenter's attempts. My 
best subjects have been the Giant Scarites and 
398 



Suicide or Hypnosis? 

the Cloudy Buprestis; but how many others 
have resisted quite indomitably, or remained 
motionless for only a few seconds! 

The insect's return to the active state pre- 
sents certain peculiarities which are well 
worthy of attention. The key to the pro- 
blem lies here. Let us return for a moment 
to the patients who have been subjected to 
the ordeal of ether. These are really hyp- 
notized. They do not remain motionless by 
way of a ruse, there is no doubt upon that 
point; they are actually on the threshold of 
death; and, if I did not take them in good 
time out of the flask in which a few drops 
of ether have been evaporated, they would 
never recover from the torpor whose last 
stage is death. 

Now what symptoms herald their return 
to activity? We know the symptoms: the 
tarsi tremble, the palpi quiver, the antennae 
wave to and fro. A man emerging from a 
deep sleep stretches his limbs, yawns and rubs 
his eyes. The insect awaking from the 
etheric sleep likewise has its own fashion of 
marking its recovery of consciousness : it flut- 
ters its tiny digits and the more mobile of 
its organs. 

Let us now consider an insect which, up- 
set by a shock, perturbed by some sort of 

399 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

excitement, is believed to be shamming dead, 
lying on its back. The return to activity is 
announced exactly in the same fashion and 
in the same order as after the stupefying ef- 
fect of ether. First the tarsi quiver; then 
the palpi and antennae wave feebly to and fro. 

If the creature were really shamming, 
what need would it have of these minute pre- 
liminaries to the awakening? Once the dan- 
ger has disappeared, or is deemed to have 
done so, why does the insect not swiftly get 
upon its feet, to make off as quickly as pos- 
sible, instead of dallying with untimely pre- 
tences? I am quite sure that, once the Bear 
was gone, the comrade who had shammed 
dead under the animal's nose did not think 
of wasting time in stretching himself or rub- 
bing' his eyes. He jumped up at once and 
took to his heels. 

And the insect is supposed to carry its cun- 
ning to the length of counterfeiting resusci- 
tation down to the least details ! No, no and 
again no; it would be madness. Those qui- 
verings of the tarsi, those awakening move- 
ments of the palpi and antennae are the ob- 
vious proof of a genuine torpor, now coming 
to an end, a torpor similar to that induced by 
ether but less intense; they show that the 
insect struck motionless by my artifice is not 
400 



Suicide or Hypnosis? 

shamming dead, as the vulgar idiom has it 
and as the fashionable theories repeat. It 
is really hypnotized. 

A shock which disturbs its nerve-centres, 
an abrupt fright which seizes upon it reduce 
it to a state of somnolence like that of the 
bird which is swung for a second or two with 
its head under its wing. A sudden terror 
sometimes deprives us human beings of the 
power of movement, sometimes kills us. 
Why should not the insect's organism, so 
delicate and subtle, give way beneath the 
grip of fear and momentarily succumb? If 
the emotion be slight, the insect shrinks into 
itself for an instant, quickly recovers and 
makes off; if it be profound, hypnosis super- 
venes, with its prolonged immobility. 

The insect, which knows nothing of death 
and therefore cannot counterfeit it, knows 
nothing either of suicide, that desperate 
means of cutting short excessive misery. No 
authentic example has ever been given, to 
my knowledge, of an animal of any kind rob- 
bing itself of its own life. That those most 
richly endowed with the capacity of affection 
sometimes allow themselves to die of grief 
I grant you; but there is a great difference 
between this and stabbing one's self or cut- 
ting one's throat. 

401 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

Yet the recollection occurs to me of the 
Scorpion's suicide, sworn to by some, denied 
by others. What truth is there in the story 
of the Scorpion who, surrounded by a circle 
of fire, puts an end to his suffering by stab- 
bing himself with his poisoned sting? Let 
us see for ourselves : 

Circumstances favour me. I am at this 
moment rearing, in large earthen pans, with 
a bed of sand and with potsherds for shel- 
ter, a hideous menagerie which hardly comes 
up to my expectations as regards the study 
of morals. 1 I will profit by it in another 
way. It consists of some twenty-four speci- 
mens of Buthus occitanus, the large White 
Scorpion of the south of France. The 
odious animal abounds, always isolated, un- 
der the flat stones of the neighbouring hills, 
in the sandy spots which enjoy the most sun- 
light. It has a detestable reputation. 

On the effects of its sting I personally have 
nothing to say, having always avoided, by a 
little caution, the danger to which my rela- 
tions with the formidable captives in my 
study might have exposed me. Knowing 
nothing of it myself, I get people to tell me 

1 For the habits of the White or Languedocian Scorp- 
ion, cf. The Life and Love of the Insect: chaps, xvii. and 
xviii. — Translator's Note. 

4p2 



Suicide or Hypnosis? 

of it, wood-cutters in particular, who from 
time to time fall victims to their imprudence. 
One of them tells me the following story: 

" After having my dinner, I was dozing 
for a moment among my faggots, when I 
was roused by a sharp pain. It was like the 
prick of a red-hot needle. I clapped my 
hand to the place. Sure enough, there was 
something moving! A Scorpion had crept 
under my trousers and stung me in the lower 
part of the calf. The ugly beast was full 
as long as my finger. Like that, sir, like 
that!" 

And, adding gesture to speech, the worthy 
man extended his great fore-finger. This 
size did not surprise me : while insect-hunting, 
I have seen Scorpions as large. 

" I wanted to go on with my work," he 
continued, " but I came out in a cold sweat; 
and my leg swelled up so you could see it 
swelling. It got as big as that, sir, as big 
as that." 

More mimicry. Our friend spreads his 
two hands round his leg, at a distance, so as 
to denote the girth of a small barrel: 

" Yes, like that, sir, like that; I had great 
trouble to get home, though it was only half 
a mile away. The swelling crept up and up. 
Next day it had got so high." 
403 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

A gesture indicates the height. 

" Yes, sir, for three days I couldn't stand 
up. I bore it as well as I could, with my leg 
stretched out on a chair. Soda-compresses 
did the trick; and there you are, sir, there 
you are." 

Another woodcutter, he adds, was also 
stung in the lower part of the leg. He was 
binding faggots together at some distance 
and had not the strength to regain his home. 
He collapsed by the side of the road. Some 
men passing by carried him on their shoul- 
ders: 

" A la cabro morto, moussu, a la cabro 
morto! " 

The story of the rustic narrator, more 
versed in mimicry than in speech, does not 
seem to me exaggerated. A White Scor- 
pion's sting is a very serious accident for 
a human being. When stung by his own 
kind, the Scorpion himself quickly succumbs. 
Here I have something better than the evi- 
dence of strangers: I have my own observa- 
tions. 

I take two healthy specimens from my 
menagerie and place them together at the 
bottom of a glass jar on a layer of sand. 
Excited with the tip of a straw which brings 
them face to face again whenever they draw 

4<H 



Suicide or Hypnosis? 

back, the two harassed creatures decide On 
mortal combat. Each no doubt attributes 
to the other the annoyances of which I 
myself am the cause. The claws, those 
weapons of defence, are displayed in a semi- 
circle and open to keep the adversary at a 
distance; the tails, in sudden jerks, are flung 
forward above the back; the poison-phials 
clash together; a tiny drop, limpid as water, 
beads the point of the sting. 

The fight does not last long. One of the 
Scorpions receives the full force of the other's 
poisoned weapon. It is all over: in a few 
minutes the wounded one succumbs. The 
victor very calmly proceeds to gnaw the fore- 
part of the victim's cephalothorax, or, in 
less crabbed terms, the bit at which we look 
for a head and find only the entrance to a 
belly. The mouthfuls are small, but long- 
drawn-out. For four or five days, almost 
without a break, the cannibal nibbles at his 
murdered comrade. To eat the vanquished, 
that's good warfare, the only sort excusable. 
What I do not understand, nor shall until we 
tin the meat on the battle-field for food, is 
our wars between nations. 

We now have authentic information: the 
Scorpion's sting is fatal, promptly fatal, to the 
Scorpion himself. Let us come to the mat- 
40s 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

ter of suicide, such as it has been described 
to us. When surrounded by a circle of live 
embers, the animal, so we are told, stabs 
itself with its sting and finds an end of its 
torment in voluntary death. This would be 
very fine on the creature's part if it were 
true. We shall see. 

In the centre of a ring of burning charcoal, 
I place the largest specimen from my 
menagerie. The bellows increase the glow. 
At the first smart of the heat, the animal 
moves backwards within the circle of fire. 
It collides by inadvertence with the burning 
barrier. Now follows a disorderly retreat, 
in every direction, at random, renewing the 
agonizing contact. At each attempt to es- 
cape, the burning is repeated more severely 
than before. The animal becomes frantic. 
It darts forward and scorches itself. In a 
desperate frenzy, it brandishes its weapon, 
crooks it, straightens it, lays it down flat and 
raises it again, all with such disorderly haste 
that I am quite unable to follow its move- 
ments accurately. 

The moment ought to have come for the 
Scorpion to release himself from his torture 
with a blow of the stiletto. And indeed, with 
a sudden spasm, the long-suffering creature 
becomes motionless, lies at full-length, flat 
406 



Suicide or Hypnosis? 

upon the ground. There is not a movement; 
the inertia is complete. Is the Scorpion 
dead? It really looks like it. Perhaps he 
has pinked himself with a thrust of his sting 
that escaped me in the turmoil of the last 
efforts. If he has actually stabbed himself, 
if he has resorted to suicide, then he is dead 
beyond a doubt: we have just seen how 
quickly he succumbs to his own venom. 

In my uncertainty, I pick up the apparently 
dead body with the tip of my forceps and lay 
it on a bed of cool sand. An hour later, the 
alleged corpse returns to life, as lusty as 
before the ordeal. I repeat the process with 
a second and third specimen. The results 
are the same. After the frantic plunges of 
the desperate victim, we have the same sud- 
den inertia, with the creature sprawling flat 
as though struck by lightning, and the same 
return to life on the cool sand. 

It seems probable that those who invented 
the story of the Scorpion committing suicide 
were deceived by this sudden swoon, this 
paralysing spasm, into which the high tem- 
perature of the enclosure throws the exas- 
perated beast. Too quickly convinced, they 
left the victim to burn to death. Had they 
been less credulous and withdrawn the ani- 
mal in good time from its circle of fire, they 
407 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

would have seen the apparently dead Scor- 
pion return to life and thus assert its pro- 
found ignorance of suicide. 

Apart from man, no living thing knows 
the last resource of a voluntary end, because 
none has a knowledge of death. As for us, 
to feel that we have the power to escape from 
the miseries of life is a noble prerogative, 
upon which it is good to meditate, as a sign 
of our elevation above the commonalty of 
the animal world; but in point of fact it be- 
comes cowardice if from the possibility we 
pass to action. 

He who proposes to go to that length 
should at least repeat to himself what Con- 
fucius, the great philosopher of the yellow 
race, said five-and-twenty centuries ago. 
Having surprised a stranger in the woods 
fixing to the branch of a tree a rope where- 
with to hang himself, the Chinese sage ad- 
dressed him in words the gist of which was 
as follows : 

" However great your misfortunes, the 
greatest of all would be to yield to despair. 
All the rest can be repaired; this one is irre- 
parable. Do not believe that all is lost for 
you and try to convince yourself of a truth 
which has been proved indisputable by the 
experience of the centuries. And that truth 
408 



Suicide or Hypnosis? 

is this: so long as a man has life, there is no 
need for him to despair. He may pass from 
the greatest misery to the greatest joy, from 
the greatest misfortune to the highest fe- 
licity. Take courage and, as though you 
were this very day beginning to recognize the 
value of life, strive at every moment to make 
the most of it." 

This humdrum Chinese philosophy is not 
without merit. It suggests the moralizing 
of the fabulist: 

1 ". . . Qu'on me rende impotent, 
Cul-de-jatte, goutteux, manchot, pourvu 

qu'en somme 
Je vive, c'est assez: )e suis plus que content. 

Yes, yes, La Fontaine and Kung the phi- 
losopher are right: life is a serious matter, 
which it will not do to throw away into the 
first bush by the roadside like a useless gar- 
ment. We must look upon it not as a 
pleasure, nor yet as a punishment, but as a 
duty of which we have to acquit ourselves as 
well as we can until we are given leave to 
depart. 

To anticipate this leave is cowardly and 

1 ". . . So powerless let me lie, 

Gout-ridden, legless, armless ; if only, after all, 
I live, it is enough: more than content am I." 
409 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

foolish. The power to disappear at will 
through death's trap-door does not justify us 
in deserting our post; but it opens to us cer- 
tain vistas which are absolutely unknown to 
the animal. 

We alone know how life's pageant closes, 
we alone can foresee our end, we alone pro- 
fess devotion to the dead. Of these high 
matters none other has any suspicion. 
When would-be scientists proclaim aloud, 
when they declare that a wretched insect 
knows the trick of simulating death, we will 
ask them to look more closely and not to 
confound the hypnosis due to terror with the 
pretence of a condition unknown to the ani- 
mal world. 

Ours alone is the clear vision of an end, 
ours alone the glorious instinct of the be- 
yond. Here, filling its modest part, speaks 
the voice of entomology, saying: 

" Have confidence ; never did an instinct 
fail to keep its promises." 



410 



CHAPTER XVI 

THE CRIOCERES 

AM a stubborn disciple of St. Thomas 
*■• the Apostle and, before I agree to any- 
thing, I want to see and touch it, not once, 
but twice, thrice, an indefinite number of 
times, until my incredulity bows beneath the 
weight of evidence. Well, the Rhynchites 1 
have told us that the build does not deter- 
mine the instincts, that the tools do not de- 
cide the trade. And now, yes, the Crioceres 
come and add their testimony. I question 
three of them, all common, too common, in 
my paddock. At the proper season, I have 
them before my eyes, without searching for 
them, whenever I want to ask them for in- 
formation. 

The first is the Crioceris of the Lily, or 
Lily-beetle. Since Latin words offend our 
modesty let us just once mention her scientific 
name, Crioceris merdigera, LIN., without 
translating it, or, above all, repeating it. 

1 A genus of Weevils, the essays upon whom will ap- 
pear in a later volume to be entitled The Life of the 
W*4<vkL — Translator's Note. 

, will 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

Decency forbids. I have never been able 
to understand why natural history need in- 
flict upon a lovely flower or an engaging ani- 
mal an odious name. 

As a matter of fact, our Crioceris, so ill- 
treated by the nomenclators, is a sumptuous 
creature. She is nicely shaped, neither too 
large nor too small, and a beautiful coral 
red, with jet-black head and legs. Every- 
body knows her who in the spring has ever 
glanced at the lily, when its stem is beginning 
to show in the centre of the rosette of leaves. 
A Beetle, of less than the average size and 
coloured sealing-wax red, is perched up on 
the plant. Your hand goes out to seize her. 
Forthwith, paralysed with fright, she drops 
to the ground. 

Let us wait a few days and return to the 
lily, which is gradually growing taller and 
beginning to show its buds, gathered together 
in a bundle. The red insect is still there. 
Further, the leaves, which are seriously bit- 
ten into, are reduced to tatters and soiled 
with little heaps of greenish ordure. It 
looks as if some witchcraft had mashed up 
the leaves and then splashed the mess all 
over the place. 

Well, this filth moves, travels slowly along. 
Let us overcome our repugnance and poke 
412 



The Crioceres 

the heaps with a straw. We uncover, indeed 
we unclothe an ugly, pot-bellied, pale-orange 
larva. It is the grub of the Crioceris. 

The origin of the garment of which we 
have just stripped it would be unmentionable, 
save in the world of the insect, that manu- 
facturer devoid of shame. This doublet is, 
in fact, obtained from the creature's excre- 
tions. Instead of evacuating downwards, on 
the superannuated principle, the Crioceris' 
larva evacuates upwards and receives upon 
its back the waste products of the intestine, 
materials which move from back to front as 
each fresh pat is dabbed upon the others. 
Reaumur has complacently described how the 
quilt moves forward from the tail to the 
head by wriggling along inclined planes, 
making so many dips in the undulating back. 
There is no need to return to this stercoral 
mechanism after the master has done with it. 

We now know the reasons that procured 
the Lily-beetle an ignominious title, confined 
to the official records: the grub makes itself 
an overcoat of its excrements. 

Once the garment is completed so as to 
cover the whole of the creature's dorsal sur- 
face, the clothing-factory does not cease work 
on that score. At the back a fresh hem is 
added from moment to moment; but the 
413 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

overlapping superfluity in front drops off of 
its own weight at the same time. The coat 
of dung is under continual repair, being reno- 
vated and lengthened at one end as it wears 
and grows shorter at the other. 

Sometimes also the stuff is too thick and 
the heap capsizes. The denuded grub recks 
nothing of the lost overcoat; its obliging in- 
testine repairs the disaster without delay. 

Whether by reason of the clipping that 
results from the excessive length of a piece 
which is always on the loom, or of accidents 
that cause a part or the whole of the load to 
fall off, the grub of the Crioceris leaves 
accumulations of dirt in its track, till the 
lily, the symbol of purity, becomes a very 
cess-pool. When the leaves have been 
browsed, the stem next loses its cuticle, 
thanks to the nibbling of the grub, and is re- 
duced to a ragged distaff. The flowers even, 
which have opened by now, are not spared: 
their beautiful ivory chalices are changed 
into latrines. 

The perpetrator of the misdeed embarks 
on his career of defilement early. I wanted 
to see him start, to watch him lay the first 
course of his excremental masonry. Does 
he serve an apprenticeship? Does he work 
badly at first, then a little better and then 
414 



The Crioceres 

well? I now know all about it: there is no 
noviciate, there are no clumsy attempts; the 
workmanship is perfect from the outset, the 
product ejected spreads over the hinder part. 
Let me tell you what I saw. 

The eggs are laid in May, on the under 
surface of the leaves, in short trails avera- 
ging from three to six. They are cylindrical, 
rounded at both ends, of a bright orange- 
red, glossy and varnished with a glutinous 
wash which makes them stick to the leaves 
throughout their length. The hatching 
takes ten days. The shell of the egg, now a 
little wrinkled, but still of a bright orange 
colour, retains its position, so that the group 
of eggs, apart from its slightly withered ap- 
pearance, remains just as it was. 

The young larva measures a millimetre 
and a half ' in length. The head and legs 
are black, the rest of the body a dull amber- 
red. On the first segment of the thorax is 
a brown sash, interrupted in the middle; 
lastly, there is a small black speck on each 
side, behind the third segment. This is the 
initial costume. Presently orange-red will 
take the place of the pale amber. The tiny 
creature, which is exceedingly fat, sticks to 
the leaf with its short legs and also with its 

* .959 inch. — Translator's Note, 
415 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

hind-quarters, which act as a lever and push 
the round belly forwards. The motion re- 
minds you of a cripple sitting in a bowl. 

The grubs emerging from any one group of 
eggs at once begin to browse, each beside the 
empty skin of its egg. Here, singly, they 
nibble and dig themselves a little pit in the 
thickness of the leaf, while sparing the cuticle 
of the opposite surface. This leaves a trans- 
lucent floor, a support which enables them to 
consume the walls of the excavation without 
risking a fall. 

Seeking for better pasture, they move 
lazily on. I see them scattered at random; 
a few of them are grouped in the same 
trench; but I never see them browsing eco- 
nomically abreast as Reaumur relates. 
There is no order, no understanding between 
messmates, contemporaries though they be 
and all sprung from the same row of eggs. 
Nor is any heed paid to economy: the lily is 
so generous ! 

Meanwhile, the paunch swells and the in- 
testine labours. Here we are ! I see the 
first bit of the overcoat evacuated. As is 
natural in extreme infancy, it is liquid and 
there is not much of it. The scanty flow is 
used all the same and is laid methodically, 
right at the far end of the back. Let the 
416 



The Crioceres 

little grub be. In less than a day, piece by 
piece, it will have made itself a suit. 

The artist is a master from the first at- 
tempt. If its baby-flannel is so good to start 
with, what will the future ulster be, when 
the stuff, brought to perfection, is of much 
better quality? Let us proceed; we know 
what we want to know concerning the talents 
of this manufacturer of excremental broad- 
cloth. 

What is the purpose of this nasty great- 
coat? Does the grub employ it to keep it- 
self cool, to protect itself against the attacks 
of the sun ? It is possible : a tender skin need 
not be afraid of blistering under such a sooth- 
ing poultice. Is it the grub's object to dis- 
gust its enemies? This again is possible: 
who would venture to set tooth to such a heap 
of filth? Or can it be simply a caprice of 
fashion, an outlandish fancy? I will not 
say no. We have had the crinoline, that 
senseless bulwark of steel hoops ; we still have 
the extravagant stove-pipe hat, which tries 
to mould our heads in its stiff sheath. Let 
us be indulgent to the evacuator nor dis- 
parage his eccentric wardrobe. We have 
eccentricities of our own. 

To feel our way a little in this delicate 
question, we will question the near kinsmen 
417 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

of the Lily-beetle. In my acre or two of peb- 
bles I have planted a bed of asparagus. 
The crop, from the culinary point of view, 
will never repay me for my trouble : I am 
rewarded in another fashion. On the scanty 
shoots which I allow to display themselves 
freely in plumes of delicate green, two Crio- 
ceres abound in the spring: the field species 
(C. campestris, LIN.) and the twelve-spot- 
ted species (C. duodecimpunctata, LIN.). 
A splendid windfall, far better than any bun- 
dle of asparagus. 

The first has a tricolor costume which is 
not without merit. Blue wing-cases, braided 
with white on the outer edge and each 
adorned with three white dots; a red corselet, 
with a blue disk in the centre. Its eggs are 
olive-green and cylindrical and, instead of 
lying flat, grouped in short lines, after the 
manner of the lily-dweller's, occur singly and 
stand on end on the leaves of the asparagus- 
plant, on the twigs, on the flower-buds, more 
or less everywhere, without any fixed or- 
der. 

Though living in the open air on the leaves 
of its plant and thus exposed to all the va- 
rious perils that may threaten the Lily-grub, 
the larva of the Field Crioceris knows no- 
thing whatever of the art of sheltering itself 
418 



The Crioceres 

beneath a layer of ordure. It goes through 
life naked and always perfectly clean. 

It is of a bright greenish yellow, fairly fat 
behind and thinner in front. Its principal 
organ of locomotion is the end of the in- 
testine, which protrudes, curves like a flexi- 
ble finger, clasps the twig and supports the 
creature while pushing it forward. The true 
legs, which are short and placed too far in 
front with regard to the length of the body, 
would find it very difficult by themselves to 
drag the heavy mass that comes after. 
Their assistant, the anal finger, is remark- 
ably strong. With no support, the larva 
turns over, head downwards, and remains 
suspended when shifting from one sprig to 
another. This Jack-in-the-bowl is a rope- 
dancer, a consummate acrobat, performing 
its evolutions amid the slender sprigs with- 
out fear of a fall. 

Its attitude in repose is curious. The 
heavy stern rests on the two hind-legs and 
especially on the crooked finger, the end of 
the intestine. The fore-part is lifted in a 
graceful curve, the little black head is raised 
and the creature looks rather like the 
crouching Sphinx of antiquity. This pose is 
common at times of slumber and blissful di- 
gestion in the sun. 

419 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

An easy prey is this naked, plump, de- 
fenceless grub, snoozing in the heat of a 
blazing day. Various Gnats, of humble 
size, but very likely terribly treacherous, 
haunt the foliage of the asparagus. The 
larva of the Crioceris, motionless in its 
sphinx-like attitude, does not appear to be 
on its guard against them, even when they 
come buzzing above its rump. Can they be 
as harmless as their peaceful frolics seem to 
proclaim? It is extremely doubtful: the Fly 
rabble are not there merely to imbibe the 
scanty exudations of the plant. Experts in 
mischief, they have no doubt hastened hither 
with another object. 

And, in truth, on the greater number of 
the Crioceris-larvae we find, adhering firmly 
to the skin, certain white specks, very small 
and of a china-white. Can these be the sow- 
ing of a bandit, the spawn of a Midge? 

I collect the grubs marked with these 
white specks and rear them in captivity. A 
month later, about the middle of June, they 
shrivel, wrinkle and turn brown. All that 
is left of them is a dry skin which tears from 
end to end, half uncovering a Fly-pupa. A 
few days later, the parasite emerges. 

It is a small, greyish Fly, fiercely bristling 
with sparse hairs, half the size of the House- 
4ao 



The Crioceres 

fly, whom it resembles slightly. It belongs 
to the Tachina group, who, in their larval 
form, so often inhabit the bodies of cater- 
pillars. 

The white spots sprinkled over the larva 
of the Crioceris were the eggs of the hateful 
Fly. The vermin born of those eggs have 
perforated the victim's paunch. By subtle 
wounds, which cause little pain and are al- 
most immediately healed, they have pene- 
trated the body, reaching the humours in 
which the entrails are bathed. At first the 
larva invaded is not aware of its danger; it 
continues to perform its rope-dancer's gym- 
nastics, to fill its belly and to take its siestas 
in the sun, as though nothing serious had 
occurred. 

Reared in a glass tube and often examined 
under the lens, my parasite-ridden larvae be- 
tray no uneasiness. The fact is that the 
Tachina's children display an infernal judg- 
ment in their first actions. Until the mo- 
ment when they are ready for the trans- 
formation, their portion of game has to hold 
out, must be kept fresh and alive. They 
therefore gorge themselves with the reserves 
intended for future use, the fats, the savings 
which the Crioceris hoards in view of the 
remodelling whence the perfect insect will 

421 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

emerge; they consume what is not essential 
to the life of the moment and are very care- 
ful not to touch the organs which are indis- 
pensable at the present time. If these re- 
ceived a bite, the host would die and so would 
they. Towards the end of their growth, 
prudence and discretion being no longer es- 
sential, they make a complete clearance of the 
victim, leaving only the skin, which will serve 
them for a shelter. 

One satisfaction is vouchsafed me in these 
horrible orgies: I see that the Tachina in her 
turn is subjected to severe reductions. How 
many were there on the larva's back? Per- 
haps eight, ten or more. One Midge, never 
more than one, comes out of the victim's 
skin, for the morsel is too small to provide 
food for many. What has become of the 
others? Has there been an internecine bat- 
tle inside the poor wretch's body? Have 
they eaten one another up, leaving only the 
strongest to survive, or the one most fa- 
voured by the chances of the fight? Or has 
one of them, earlier developed than the rest, 
found himself master of the stronghold and 
have the others preferred to die outside 
rather than enter a grub already occupied, 
where famine would be rife if the messmates 
numbered even two? I am all for mutual 
422 



The Crioceres 

extermination. Kinsman's flesh or stranger's 
flesh must be all one to the fangs of the ver- 
min swarming in the Crioceris' belly. 

Fierce though the competition is among 
these bandits, the Beetle's race does not 
threaten to die out. I review the innumer- 
able troop on my asparagus-bed. A good 
half of them have Tachina-eggs plainly visi- 
ble as tiny white specks on their green skins. 
The blemished larvae tell me of a paunch 
already or on the point of being invaded. 
On the other hand, it is doubtful whether 
those which are unscathed will all remain in 
that condition. The malefactor is inces- 
santly prowling around the green plumes, 
watching for a favourable opportunity. 
Many larvae free from white spots to-day 
will show them to-morrow or some other day, 
so long as the Fly's season lasts. 

I estimate that the vast majority of the 
troop will end by being infested. My rear- 
ing-experiments tell me much on this point. 
If I do not make a careful selection when 
I am stocking my wire-gauze-covers, if I go 
to work at random in picking the branches 
colonized with larvae, I obtain very few 
adult Crioceres; nearly all of them are re- 
solved into a cloud of Midges. 

If it were possible for us to wage war ef- 
423 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

fectually upon an insect, I should advise as- 
paragus-growers to have recourse to the 
Tachina, though I should cherish no illusions 
touching the results of the expedient. The 
exclusive tastes of the insect auxiliary draw 
us into a vicious circle : the remedy allays the 
evil, but the evil is inseparable from the re- 
medy. To rid ourselves of the ravages of the 
asparagus-beds, we should need a great many 
Tachinae; and to obtain a great many Ta- 
chinae we should first of all need a great many 
ravagers. Nature's equilibrium balances 
things as a whole. Whenever Crioceres 
abound, the Midges that reduce them arrive 
in numbers; when Crioceres become rare, the 
Midges decrease, but are always ready to 
return in masses and repress a surplus of the 
others during a return of prosperity. 

Under its thick mantle of ordure the grub 
of the Lily-beetle escapes the troubles so fa- 
tal to its cousin of the asparagus. Strip it 
of its overcoat: you will never find the ter- 
rible white specks upon its skin. The me- 
thod of preservation is most effective. 

Would it not be possible to find a defensive 
system of equal value without resorting to 
detestable filth? Yes, of course: the insect 

need only house itself under a covering 

424 



The Crioceres 

where there would be nothing to fear from 
the Fly's eggs. This is what the Twelve- 
spotted Crioceris does, occupying the same 
quarters as the Field Crioceris, from whom 
she differs in size, being rather larger, and 
still more in her costume, which is rusty red 
all over, with twelve black spots distributed 
symmetrically on the wing-cases. 

Her eggs, which are a deep olive-green 
and cylindrical, pointed at one pole and 
squared off at the other, closely resemble 
those of the Field Crioceris and, like these, 
usually stand up on the supporting surface, 
to which they are fastened by the square end. 
It would be easy to confuse the two if we 
had not the position which they occupy to 
guide us. The Field Crioceris fastens her 
eggs to the leaves and the thin sprays; the 
other plants them exclusively on the still 
green fruit of the asparagus, globules the 
size of a pea. 

The grubs have to open a tiny passage 
for themselves and to make their own way 
into the fruit, of which they eat the pulp. 
Each globule harbours one larva, no more, 
or the ration would be insufficient. Often, 
however, I see two, three or four eggs on 
the same fruit. The first grub hatched is 
425 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

the one favoured by luck. He becomes the 
owner of the pill, an intolerant owner ca- 
pable of wringing the neck of any who should 
come and sit down at table beside him. Al- 
ways and everywhere this pitiless competi- 
tion! 

The grub of the Twelve-spotted Crioceris 
is a dull white, with an interrupted black scarf 
on the first segment of the thorax. This 
sedentary creature has none of the talents of 
the acrobat grazing on the swaying foliage 
of the asparagus; it cannot take a grip with 
its posterior, turned into a prehensile finger. 
What use would it have for such a preroga- 
tive, loving repose as it does and destined to 
put on fat in its cell, without roaming in 
quest of food? In the same group each 
species has its own gifts, according to the 
kind of life that awaits it. 

It is not long before the occupied fruit 
falls to the ground. Day by day, it loses its 
green colour as the pulp is consumed. It 
becomes, at last, a pretty, diaphanous opal 
sphere, while the berries which have not been 
injured ripen on the plant and acquire a rich 
scarlet hue. 

When there is nothing left to eat inside 
the skin of its pill, the grub makes a hole 
in it and goes underground. The Tachinae 
426 



The Crioceres 

have spared it. Its opal box, the hard rind 
of the berry, has ensured its safety just as 
well as a filthy overcoat would have done and 
perhaps even better. 



427 



CHAPTER XVII 

the crioceres (continued) 

* I ""HE Crioceris has found safety inside its 
* opal globe. Safety? Ah, but what 
an unfortunate expression I have used! Is 
there any one in the world who can flatter 
himself that he has escaped the spoiler? 

In the middle of July, at the time when 
the Twelve-spotted Crioceris comes up from 
under the ground in the adult form, my rear- 
ing-jars yield me swarms of a very small Gall- 
fly, a slender, graceful, blue-black Chalcid, 
without any visible boring-tool. Has the 
puny creature a name? Have the nomen- 
clators catalogued it? I do not know, nor 
do I much care; the main thing is to learn 
that the covering of the asparagus-berry, 
which becomes an opal globe when the grub 
has emptied it, has failed to save the recluse. 
The Tachina-midge drains her victim by her- 
self; this other, tinier creature feasts in com- 
pany. Twenty or more of them batten on 
the grub together. 

When everything seems to foretell a quiet 
428 



The Crioceres 

life, a pigmy among pigmies appears, charged 
with the express duty of exterminating an 
insect which is protected first by the casket 
of the berry and next by the shell, the under- 
ground work of the grub. To eat the 
Twelve-spotted Crioceris is its mission in life, 
its special function. When and how does it 
deliver its attack? I do not know. 

At any rate, proud of her vocation and 
finding life sweet, the Chalcid curls her an- 
tennae into a crook and waves them to and 
fro: she rubs her tarsi together, a sign of 
satisfaction; she dusts her belly. I can 
hardly see her with the naked eye; and yet 
she is an agent of the universal extermina- 
tion, a wheel in the implacable machine 
which crushes life as in a wine-press. 

The tyranny of the belly turns the world 
into a robber's cave. Eating means killing. 
Distilled in the alembic of the stomach, the 
life destroyed by slaughter becomes so much 
fresh life. Everything is melted down 
again, everything has a fresh beginning in 
death's insatiable furnace. 

Man, from the alimentary point of view, 
is the chief brigand, consuming everything 
that lives or might live. Here is a mouth- 
ful of bread, the sacred food. It represents 
a certain number of grains of wheat which 
429 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

asked only to sprout, to turn green in the 
sun, to shoot up into tall stalks crowned with 
ears. They died that we might live. Here 
are some eggs. Left undisturbed with the 
Hen, they would have emitted the Chickens' 
gentle cheep. They died that we might live. 
Here is beef, mutton, poultry. Horror, it 
smells of blood, it is eloquent of murder! 
If we gave it a thought, we should not dare 
to sit down to table, that altar of cruel sacri- 
fices. 

How many lives does the Swallow, to men- 
tion only the most peaceable, harvest in the 
course of a single day! From morning to 
evening he gulps down Crane-flies, Gnats and 
Midges joyously dancing in the sunbeams. 
Quick as lightning he passes; and the dan- 
cers are decimated. They perish; then 
their melancholy remnants fall from the nest 
containing the young brood, in the form of 
guano which becomes the turf's inheritance. 
And so it is with all and everything, with 
large and small, from end to end of the 
animal progression. A perpetual massacre 
perpetuates the flux of life. 

Appalled by these butcheries, the thinker 

begins to dream of a state of affairs which 

would free us from the horrors of the maw. 

This ideal of innocence, as our poor nature 

430 



The Crioceres 

vaguely sees it, is not an impossibility; it is 
partly realized for all of us, men and ani- 
mals. 

Breathing is the most imperious of needs. 
We live by the air before we live by bread; 
and this happens of itself, without painful 
struggles, without costly labour, almost with- 
out our knowledge. We do not set out, 
armed for war, to conquer the air by rapine, 
violence, cunning, barter and desperate la- 
bour; the supreme element of life enters our 
bodies of its own accord; it penetrates us 
and quickens us. Each of us has his gener- 
ous share of it without giving the matter a 
thought. 

To crown perfection, it is free. And this 
will last indefinitely until an ever ingenious 
Treasury invents distributing-taps and pneu- 
matic receivers from which the air will be 
doled out to us at so much a piston-stroke. 
Let us hope that we shall be spared this par- 
ticular item of scientific progress, for that, 
woe betide us, would be the end of all things : 
the tax would kill the tax-payer ! 

Chemistry, in its lighter moods, promises 
us, in the future, pills containing the concen- 
trated essence of food. These cunning com- 
pounds, the product of our laboratories, 
would not end our longing to possess a stom- 
431 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

ach no more burdensome than our lungs and 
to feed even as we breathe. 

The plant partly knows this secret: it 
draws its carbon quietly from the air, in 
which each leaf is impregnated with the 
wherewithal to grow tall and green. But 
the vegetable is inactive; hence its innocent 
life. Action calls for strongly flavoured 
spices, won by fighting. The animal acts; 
therefore it kills. The highest phase, per- 
haps, of a self-conscious intelligence, man, 
deserving nothing better, shares with the 
brute the tyranny of the belly as the irresist- 
ible motive of action. 

But I have wandered too far afield. A 
living speck, swarming in the paunch of a 
grub, tells us of the brigandage of life. 
How well it understands its trade as an ex- 
terminator! In vain does the Crioceris- 
larva take refuge in an unassailable casket: 
its executioner makes herself so small that 
she is able to reach it. 

Adopt such precautions as you please, you 
pitiable grubs, pose on your sprigs in the 
attitude of a threatening Sphinx, take refuge 
in the mysteries of a box, arm yourself with 
a cuirass of dung: you will none the less pay 
your tribute in the pitiless conflict; there will 
432 



The Crioceres 

always be operators who, varying in cun- 
ning, in size, in implements, will inoculate 
you with their deadly germs. 

Not even the lily-dweller, with her dirty 
ways, is safe. Her grub is as often the prey 
of another Tachina, larger than that of the 
Field Crioceris. The parasite, I am con- 
vinced, does not sow her eggs upon the vic- 
tim so long as the latter is wrapped in its 
repulsive great-coat; but a moment's impru- 
dence gives her a favourable opportunity. 

When the time comes for the grub to bury 
itself in the ground, there to undergo the 
transformation, it lays aside its mantle, with 
the object perhaps of easing itself when it 
descends from the top of the plant, or else 
with the object of taking a bath in that kindly 
sunlight whereof it has hitherto tasted so 
little under its moist coverlet. This naked 
journey over the leaves, the last joy of its 
larval life, is fatal to the traveller. Up 
comes the Tachina, who, finding a clean skin, 
all sleek with fat, loses no time in dabbing 
her eggs upon it. 

A census of the intact and of the injured 
larvae provides us with particulars which 
agree with what we foresaw from the nature 
of their respective lives. The most ex- 
posed to parasites is the Field Crioceris, 
433 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

whose larva lives in the open air, without any 
sort of protection. Next comes the Twelve- 
spotted Crioceris, who is established in the as- 
paragus-berry from her early infancy. The 
most favoured is the Lily-beetle, who, while 
a grub, makes an ulster of her excretions. 

For the second time, we are here con- 
fronted by three insects which look as if they 
had all come out of one mould, so much are 
they alike in shape. If the costumes were 
not different and the sizes dissimilar, we 
should not know how to tell one from an- 
other. And this pronounced resemblance in 
figure is accompanied by a no less pro- 
nounced lack of resemblance in instinct. 

The evacuator that soils its back cannot 
have inspired the hermit living in cleanly re- 
tirement inside its globe; the occupant of 
the asparagus-berry did not advise the third 
to live in the open and wander like an acro- 
bat through the leafage. None of the three 
has initiated the customs of the other two. 
All this seems to me as clear as daylight. 
If they have issued from the same stock, how 
have they acquired such dissimilar talents? 

Furthermore, have these talents developed 
by degrees? The Lily-beetle is prepared to 
tell us. Her grub, let us suppose, once con- 
ceived the notion, when tormented by the 

434 



The Crioceres 

Tachina, of making the stercoral slit open 
above. By accident, with no definite pur- 
pose in view, it emptied the contents of its 
intestine over its back. The natty Fly hesi- 
tated in the presence of this filth. The grub, 
in its cunning, recognized, as time went on, 
the benefit to be derived from its poultice; 
and what at first was an unpremeditated pol- 
lution became a prudent custom. 

As success followed upon success, with the 
aid of the centuries, of course, for these in- 
ventions always take centuries, the dung over- 
coat was extended from the hinder end to 
the fore-part, right down to the forehead. 
Finding itself the gainer by this invention, 
setting the parasite at defiance under its co- 
verlet, the grub made a strict law of what 
was an accident; and the Crioceris faithfully 
handed down the repulsive great-coat to her 
offspring. 

So far this is not so bad. But things now 
begin to become complicated. If the insect 
was really the inventor of its defensive me- 
thods, if it discovered for itself the advantage 
of hiding under its ordure, I look to its in- 
genuity to keep up the tricks until the precise 
moment has come for burying itself. But, 
on the contrary, it undresses itself some time 
beforehand; it wanders about naked, taking 

435 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

the air on the leaves, at a time when its fair 
round belly is more than ever likely to tempt 
the Fly. It completely forgets, on its last 
day, the prudence which it acquired by the 
long apprenticeship of the centuries. 

This sudden change of purpose, this heed- 
lessness in the face of danger tells me that 
the insect forgets nothing, because it has 
learnt nothing, because it has invented no- 
thing. When the instincts were being dis- 
tributed, it received as its share the overcoat, 
of whose methods it is ignorant, though it 
benefits by its advantages. It has not ac- 
quired it by successive stages, followed by a 
sudden halt at the most dangerous moment, 
the moment most calculated to inspire it with 
distrust; it is no more and no less gifted than 
it was in the beginning and is unable in any 
way to alter its tactics against the Tachina 
and its other enemies. 

Nevertheless, we must not be in a hurry 
to attribute to the garment of filth the exclu- 
sive function of protecting the grub against 
the parasite. It is difficult to see in what 
respect the Lily-grub is more deserving than 
the Asparagus-grub, which possesses no de- 
fensive arts. Perhaps it is less fruitful and, 
to make up for the poverty of the ovaries, 
boasts an ingenuity which safeguards the 
436 



The Crioceres 

race. Nor is there anything to tell us that 
the soft coverlet is not at the same time a 
shelter which screens a too sensitive skin from 
the sun. And, if it were a mere fal-lal, a 
furbelow of larval coquetry, even that would 
not surprise me. The insect has tastes 
which we cannot judge by our own. Let us 
end with a doubt and proceed. 

May is not over when the grub, now fully- 
grown, leaves the lily and buries itself at the 
foot of the plant, at no great depth. Work- 
ing with its head and rump, it forces back the 
earth and makes itself a round recess, the 
size of a pea. To turn the cell into a hollow 
pill which will not be liable to collapse, all 
that remains for it to do is to drench the 
wall with a glue which soon sets and grips 
the sand. 

To observe this work of consolidation, I 
unearth some unfinished cells and make an 
opening which enables me to watch the grub 
at work. The hermit is at the window in a 
moment. A stream of froth pours from his 
mouth like beaten-up white of egg. He 
slavers, spits profusely; he makes his pro- 
duct effervescence and lays it on the edge of 
the breach. With a few spurts of froth the 
opening is plugged. 

I collect other grubs at the moment of 
437 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

their interment and install them in glass tubes 
with a few tiny bits of paper which will serve 
them as a prop. There is no sand, no build- 
ing-material other than the creature's spittle 
and my very few shreds of paper. Under 
these conditions can the pill-shaped cell be 
constructed? 

Yes, it can; and without much difficulty. 
Supporting itself partly on the glass, partly 
on the paper, the larva begins to slaver all 
around it, to froth copiously. After a spell 
of some hours, it has disappeared within a 
solid shell. This is white as snow and 
highly porous; it might almost be a globule 
of whipped albumen. Thus, to stick to- 
gether the sand in its pill-shaped nest, the 
larva employs a frothy albuminous substance. 

Let us now dissect the builder. Around 
the oesophagus, which is fairly long and soft, 
are no salivary glands, no silk-tubes. The 
frothy cement is therefore neither silk nor 
saliva. One organ forces itself upon our at- 
tention : it is the crop, which is very capacious, 
and dilated with irregular protuberances that 
put it out of shape. It is filled with a col- 
ourless, viscous fluid. This is certainly the 
raw material of the frothy spittle, the glue 
that binds the grains of sand together and 
consolidates them into a spherical whole. 
438 



The Crioceres 

When the preparations for the metamor- 
phosis are at hand, the stomachic pouch, 
having no longer to do duty as a digestive 
laboratory, serves the insect as a factory, or 
a warehouse for different purposes. Here 
the Sitares store up their uric waste pro- 
ducts; here the Capricorns collect the chalky 
paste which becomes the stone lid for the 
entrance to the cell; here caterpillars keep in 
reserve the gums and powders with which 
they strengthen the cocoon; hence the Hy- 
menoptera draw the lacquer which they em- 
ploy to upholster their silken edifice. And 
now we find the Lily-beetle using it as a store 
for frothy cement. 1 What an obliging organ 
is this digestive pouch! 

The two Asparagus-beetles are likewise 
proficient dribblers, worthy rivals of their 
kinswoman of the lily in the matter of build- 
ing. In all three cases the underground shell 
has the same shape and the same structure. 

When, after a subterranean visit of two 
months' duration, the Lily-beetle returns to 
the surface in her adult form, a botanical 
problem remains to be solved before the his- 
tory of the insect is completed. We are 

1 This subject is continued in the essay on the Foamy 
Cicadella. Cf. The Life of the Grasshopper: chap. xx. — 
Translator's Note. 

439 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

now at the height of summer. The lilies 
have had their day. A dry, leafless stick, 
surmounted by a few tattered capsules, is all 
that is left of the magnificent plant of the 
spring. Only the onion-like bulb remains a 
little way down. There, postponing the 
process of vegetation, it waits for the steady 
rains of the autumn, which will renew its 
strength and make it burgeon into a sheaf of 
leaves. 

How does the Lily-beetle live during the 
summer, before the return of the green foli- 
age dear to its race? Does it fast during 
the extreme heat? If abstinence is its rule 
of life in this season of vegetable dearth, 
why does it emerge from underground, why 
does it abandon its shell, where it could sleep 
so peacefully, without the necessity of eat- 
ing? Can it be need of food that drives it 
from the substratum and sends it to the sun- 
light so soon as the wing-cases have assumed 
their vermilion hue? It is very likely. For 
the rest, let us look into the matter. 

On the ruined stems of my white lilies I 
find a portion covered with a scrap of green 
skin. I set it before the prisoners in my jars, 
who emerged from their sandy bed a day or 
two ago. They attack it with an appetite 
which is extremely conclusive ; the green mor- 
440 



The Crioceres 

sel is stripped bare to the wood. Soon I 
have nothing left, in the way of their regu- 
lation diet, to offer my famished captives. I 
know that all the lilies, native or exotic, the 
Turk's cap lily, or Martagon, the lily of 
Chalcedon, the tiger lily and many others, are 
to their taste ; I do not forget that the crown 
imperial fritillary and the Persian fritillary 
are equally welcome; but most of these deli- 
cate plants have refused the hospitality of 
my two acres of pebbles and those which it is 
more or less possible for me to grow are 
now as tattered as the common lily. There 
is not a patch of green left on them. 

In botany the lily gives its name to the 
family of the Liliaceae, of which it is the 
leading representative. Those who feed 
upon the lily ought also, in the absence of 
anything better, to accept the other plants 
of the same group. This is my opinion at 
first; it is not that of the Crioceris, who 
knows more than I do about the virtues of 
plants. 

The family of the Liliaceae is subdivided 
into three tribes: the lilies, the daffodils and 
the asparaguses. Not any of the daffodil 
tribe suit my famishing prisoners, who allow 
themselves to die of inanition on the leaves 
of the following genera, the only varieties 
441 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

with which the modest "resources of my gar- 
den have allowed me to experiment: aspho- 
del, funkia, or niobe, agapanthus, or African 
lily, tritelia, hemerocallis, or day lily, tritoma, 
garlic, ornithogalum, or star of Bethlehem, 
squill, hyacinth, muscari, or grape-hyacinth. 
I record, for whom it may concern, this pro- 
found contempt of the Crioceris for the daf- 
fodils. An insect's opinion is not to be de- 
spised: it tells us that we should obtain a 
more natural arrangement by separating the 
daffodils farther from the lilies. 

In the first of the three tribes, the classic 
white lily, the plant preferred by the insect, 
takes the chief place; next come the other 
lilies and the fritillaries, a diet almost as 
much sought after; and lastly the tulips, 
which the season is too far advanced to allow 
me to submit for the approval of the Crio- 
ceris. 

The third tribe had a great surprise in 
store for me. The red Crioceris fed, though 
with a very scornful tooth, on the foliage of 
the asparagus, the favourite dish of the Field 
Crioceris and the Twelve-spotted Crioceris. 
On the other hand, she feasted rapturously on 
the lily of the valley (Convallaria maialis) 
and on Solomon's seal (Polygonatum vul- 
gar e) , both of which are so different from the 
442 



The Crioceres 

lily to any eye untrained in the niceties of 
botanical analysis. 

She did more: she browsed, with every 
appearance of a contented stomach, on a 
prickly creeper, Smilax aspera, which tangles 
itself in the hedges with its corkscrew tendrils 
and produces, in the autumn, graceful clus- 
ters of small red berries, which are used for 
Christmas decorations. The fully-developed 
leaves are too hard for her, too tough; she 
wants the tender tips of the nascent foliage. 
When I take this precaution, I can feed her 
on the intractable vine as readily as on the 
lily. 

The fact that the smilax is accepted gives 
me confidence in the prickly butcher' s-broom 
(Ruscus aculeatus) , another shrub of sturdy 
constitution, admitted to the family rejoicings 
at Christmas because of its handsome green 
leaves and its red berries, which are like big 
coral beads. In order not to discourage the 
consumer with leaves that are too hard, I 
select some young seedlings, newly sprouted 
and still bearing the round berry, the nutri- 
tive gourd, hanging at their base. My pre- 
cautions lead to nothing: the insect obstinately 
refuses the butcher's-broom, on which I 
thought that I might rely after the smilax had 
been accepted. 

443 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

We have our botany; the Crioceris has 
hers, which is subtler in its appreciation of 
affinities. Her domain comprises two very 
natural groups, that of the lily and that of the 
smilax, which, with the advance of science, 
has become the family of the Smilaceae. In 
these two groups she recognizes certain gen- 
era — the more numerous — as her own ; she 
refuses the others, which ought perhaps to be 
revised before being finally classified. 

An exclusive taste for the asparagus, one 
of the foremost representatives of the Smi- 
laceae, characterizes the two other Crioceres, 
those eager exploiters of the cultivated as- 
paragus. I find them also pretty often on 
the needle-leaved asparagus {A. acutifolius), 
a forbidding-looking shrub with long, flexible 
stems bearing many branches, which the 
Provencal vine-grower uses, under the name 
of roumieu, as a filter before the tap of the 
wine-vat, to prevent the refuse of the grapes 
from choking up the vent-hole. Apart from 
these two plants, the two Crioceres refuse ab- 
solutely everything, even when in July they 
come up from the earth with the famishing 
stomachs which the long fast of the meta- 
morphosis has given them. On the same 
wild asparagus, disdainful of the rest, lives a 
fourth Crioceris (C. paracenthesia) , the 

444 



The Crioceres 

smallest of the group. I do not know enough 
of her habits to say anything more about her. 
These botanical details tell us that the 
Crioceres, which hatch early, in the middle 
of summer, have no reason to fear famine. 
If the Lily-beetle can no longer find her fa- 
vourite plant, she can browse upon Solomon's 
seal and smilax, not to mention the lily of 
the valley and, I dare say, a few others of 
the same family. The other three are more 
favoured. Their food-plant remains erect, 
green and well provided with leaves until the 
end of autumn. The wild asparagus even, 
undaunted by the extreme cold, maintains a 
sturdy existence all the year round. Be- 
lated resources, moreover, are superfluous. 
After a brief period of summer freedom, the 
various Crioceres seek their winter quarters 
and go to earth under the dead leaves. 



445 



CHAPTER XVIII 

THE CLYTHR^E 

THE Lily-beetle dresses herself: with her 
ordure she makes herself a cosy gown, 
an infamous garment, it is true, but an ex- 
cellent protection against parasites and sun- 
stroke. The weaver of faecal cloth has 
hardly any imitators. The Hermit-crab 
dresses himself: he selects to fit him, from the 
discarded wardrobe of the Sea-snail, an 
empty shell, damaged by the waves; he slips 
his poor abdomen, which is incapable of 
hardening, inside it and leaves outside his 
great fists of unequal size, clad in stone box- 
ing-gloves. This is yet another example 
rarely followed. 

With a few exceptions, all the more re- 
markable because they are so rare, the ani- 
mal, in fact, is not burdened by the need of 
clothing itself. Endowed, without having to 
manufacture a thing, with all that it wants, 
it knows nothing of the art of adding defen- 
sive extras to its natural covering. 

The bird has no need to take thought of 
446 



The Clythrae 

its plumage, the furry beast of its coat, the 
reptile of its scales, the Snail of his shell, 
the Ground-beetle of his jerkin. They dis- 
play no ingenuity with the object of securing 
protection from the inclemencies of the at- 
mosphere. Hair, down, scales, mother-of- 
pearl and other items of the animal's appa- 
rel: these are all produced of their own 
accord, on an automatic loom. 

Man, for his part, is naked; and the se- 
verities of the climate oblige him to wear an 
artificial skin to protect his own. This pover- 
ty has given rise to one of our most attrac- 
tive industries. 

He invented clothing who, shivering with 
cold, first thought of flaying the Bear and 
covering his shoulders with the brute's hide. 
In a distant future this primitive cloak was 
gradually to be replaced by cloth, the pro- 
duct of our industry. But under a mild sky 
the traditional fig-leaf, the screen of modesty, 
was for a long while sufficient. Among peo- 
ples remote from civilization, it still suffices 
in our day, together with its ornamental com- 
plement, the fish-bone through the cartilage 
of the nose, the red feather in the hair, the 
string round the loins. We must not forget 
the smear of rancid butter, which serves to 
keep off the Mosquito and reminds us of the 

447 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

unguent employed by the grub that dreads 
the Tachina. 

In the first rank of the animals protected 
against the bite of the atmosphere without 
the intervention of a handicraft are those 
which go clad in hair, dressed free of cost in 
fleeces, furs or pelts. Some of these natural 
coats are magnificent, surpassing our downi- 
est velvets in softness. 

Despite the progress of weaving, man is 
still jealous of them. To-day, as in the ages 
when he sheltered under a rock, he values 
furs greatly for the winter. At all seasons 
he holds them in high esteem as ornamental 
accessories; he glories in sewing on his attire 
a shred of some wretched flayed beast. The 
ermine of kings and judges, the white rabbit- 
tails with which the university graduate 
adorns his left shoulder on solemn occasions 
carry us back in thought to the age of the 
cave-dwellers. 

Moreover, the fleecy animals still clothe 
us in a less primitive fashion. Our woollens 
are made of hairs interlaced. Ever since the 
beginning, without hoping to find anything 
better, man has clothed himself at the ex- 
pense of the hairy orders of creation. 

The bird, a more active producer of heat, 
448 



The Clythrae 

whose maintenance is a more delicate matter, 
covers itself with feathers, which overlap 
evenly, and puts round its body a thick cush- 
ion of air on a bed of down. It has on its 
tail a pot of cosmetic, a bottle of hair-oil, a 
fatty gland from which the beak obtains an 
ointment wherewith it preens the feathers one 
by one and renders them impermeable to 
moisture. A great expender of energy by 
reason of the exigencies of flight, it is es- 
sentially, chilly creature that it is, better- 
adapted than any other to the retention of 
heat. 

For the slow-moving reptile the scales suf- 
fice, preserving it from hurtful contacts, but 
playing hardly any part as a bulwark against 
changes of temperature. 

In its liquid environment, which is far 
more constant than the air, the fish requires 
no more. Without effort on its part, with- 
out violent expenditure of motor force, the 
swimmer is borne up by the mere pressure of 
the water. A bath whose temperature 
varies but little enables it to live in ignorance 
of excessive cold or heat. 

In the same way, the mollusc, for the most 
part a denizen of the seas, leads a blissful 
life in its shell, which is a defensive fortress 

449 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

rather than a garment. Lastly the crusta- 
cean confines itself to making a suit of arm- 
our out of its mineral skin. 

In all these, from the hairy to the crusta- 
ceous, the real coat, the coat turned out by a 
special industry, does not exist. Hair, fur, 
feather, scale, shell, stony armour require no 
intervention of the wearer; they are natural 
products, not the artificial creations of the 
animal. To find clothiers able to place upon 
their backs that which their organization re- 
fuses them, we must descend from man to 
certain insects. 

Ridiculous attire, of which we are so 
proud, made from the slaver of a caterpillar 
or the fleece of a silly sheep : among its inven- 
tors the first and foremost is the Crioceris- 
larva, with its jacket of dung! In the art of 
clothing itself, it preceded the Eskimo, who 
scrapes the bowels of the seal to make himself 
a suit of dittos; it forestalled our ancestor the 
troglodyte, who borrowed the fur-coat of his 
contemporary the Cave-bear. We had not 
got beyond the fig-leaf, when the Crioceris al- 
ready excelled in the manufacture of home- 
spun, both providing the raw material and 
piecing it together. 

For reasons of economy and easy acquisi- 
tion, its disgusting method, but with very ele- 
4So 



The Clythrae 

gant modifications, suits the clan of the 
Clythrae and Cryptocephali, those pretty and 
magnificently coloured Beetles. Their larva, 
a naked little grub, makes itself a long, nar- 
row pot, in which it lives just like the Snail 
in his shell. As a coat and as a dwelling the 
timid creature makes use of a jar, better 
still, of a graceful vase, the product of its 
industry. 

Once inside, it never comes out. If any- 
thing alarms it, with a sudden recoil it with- 
draws completely into its urn, the opening of 
which is closed with the disk formed by the 
flat top of the head. When quiet is restored, 
it ventures to put out its head and the three 
segments with legs to them, but is very care- 
ful to keep the rest, which is more delicate 
and fastened to the back, inside. 

With tiny steps, weighted by the burden, 
it makes its way along, lifting its earthenware 
container behind it in a slanting position. It 
makes one think of Diogenes, dragging his 
house, a terra-cotta tub, about with him. 
The thing is rather unwieldy, because of the 
weight, and is liable to heel over, owing to 
the excessive height of the centre of gravity. 
It makes progress all the same, tilting like a 
busby rakishly cocked over one ear. One of 
our Land-snails, the Bulimus, whose shell is 
45i 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

continued into a turret, moves almost in the 
same fashion, tumbling repeatedly as he goes. 

The Clythra's is a shapely jar and does 
credit to the insect's art of pottery. It is 
firm to the touch, of earthy appearance and 
smooth as stucco inside, while the outside is 
relieved by delicate diagonal, symmetrical 
ribs, which are the traces of successive en- 
largements. The back part is slightly di- 
lated and is rounded off at the end with two 
slight bumps. These two terminal projec- 
tions, with the central furrow which divides 
them, and the ribs marking additions, which 
match on either side, are evidence of work 
done in two parts, in which the artist has 
followed the rules of symmetry, the first 
condition of the beautiful. 

The front part is of rather smaller dia- 
meter and is cut off on a slant, which enables 
the jar to be lifted and supported on the 
larva's back as it moves. Lastly, the mouth 
is circular, with a blunt edge. 

Any one finding one of these jars for the 
first time, among the stones at the foot of an 
oak, and wondering what its origin could be, 
would be greatly puzzled. Is it the stone of 
some unknown fruit, emptied of its kernel 
by the patient tooth of the Field-mouse? Is 
it the capsule of a plant, from which the lid 

452 



The Clythrae 

has dropped, allowing the seeds to fall? It 
has all the accuracy, all the elegance of the 
materpieces of the vegetable kingdom. 

After learning the origin of the object, he 
would be no less doubtful as to the nature of 
the materials, or rather of their cement. 
Water will not soften, will not disintegrate 
the shell. This must be so, else the first 
shower of rain would reduce the grub's gar- 
ment to pulp. Fire does not affect it greatly 
either. When exposed to the flame of a can- 
dle, the jar, without changing shape, loses its 
brown colour and assumes the tint of burnt 
ferruginous earth. The groundwork of the 
material therefore is of a mineral nature. 
It remains for us to discover what the cement 
can be that gives the earthy element its brown 
colour, holds it together and makes it solid. 

The grub is ever on its guard. At the 
least flurry, it shrinks into its shell and does 
not budge for a long time. Let us be as pa- 
tient as the grub. We shall surely, some day 
or other, manage to surprise it at work. 
And indeed I do. It suddenly backs into its 
jar, disappearing inside entirely. In a mo- 
ment it reappears, carrying a brown pellet 
in its mandibles. It kneads the pellet and 
works it up with a little earth gathered on 
the threshold of its dwelling; it softens the 
453 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

mixture as required and then spreads it art- 
istically in a thin strip on the edge of the 
sheath. 

The legs take no part in the job. Only 
the mandibles and the palpi work, acting as 
tub, trowel, beater and roller in one. 

Once more the grub backs into its shell: 
once more it returns, bringing a second clod, 
which is prepared and used in the same man- 
ner. Five or six times over, it repeats the 
process, until the whole circumference of the 
mouth has been increased by the addition of 
a rim. 

The potter's compound, as we have seen, 
consists of two ingredients. One of these, 
the first earth that comes to hand, is collected 
on the threshold of the workshop; the other 
is fetched from inside the pot, for, each time 
that the grub returns, I see it carrying a 
brown pellet in its teeth. What does it keep 
in the back-shop? Though we can scarcely 
find out by direct observation, we can at least 
guess. 

Observe that the jar is absolutely closed 
behind, without the smallest waste-pipe by 
which the physiological needs from which the 
grub is certainly not immune can be relieved. 
The grub is boxed in and never stirs out of 
doors. What becomes of its excretions? 

454 



The Clythrae 

Well, they are evacuated at the bottom of 
the pot. By a gentle movement of the rump, 
the product is spread upon the walls, strength- 
ening the coat and giving it a velvet lining. 

It is better than a lining; it is a precious 
store of putty. When the grub wants to 
repair its shell or to enlarge it to fit its fig- 
ure, which increases daily, it proceeds to 
clean out its cess-pool. It turns round and, 
with the tips of its mandibles, collects singly, 
from the back, the brown pellets which it 
has only to work up with a little earth to 
make a ceramic paste of the highest quality. 

Observe also that the grub's pottery is 
shaped like the legs of our peg-top trousers 
and is wider inside than at the opening. 
This excessive girth has its obvious use. It 
enables the animal to bend and turn when 
the contents of the cess-pit are needed for a 
fresh course of masonry. 

A garment should be neither too short nor 
too tight. It is not enough to add a piece 
which lengthens it as the body grows longer ; 
we must also see that it has sufficient fulness 
not to hamper the wearer and to give him 
liberty of movement. 

The Snail and all the molluscs with turbin- 
ate shells increase the diameter of their cork- 
screw staircase by degrees, so that the last 

455 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

whorl is always an exact measure of their 
actual condition. The lower whorls, those 
of childhood, when they become too narrow, 
are not abandoned, it is true; they become 
lumber-rooms in which the organs of least 
importance to active life find shelter, drawn 
out into a slender appendage. The essen- 
tial portion of the animal is lodged in the 
upper story, which increases in capacity. 

The big Broken Bulimus, that lover of 
crumbling walls and limestone rocks leaning 
in the sun, sacrifices the graces of symmetry 
to utility. When the lower spirals are no 
longer wide enough, he abandons them alto- 
gether and moves higher up, into the spacious 
staircase of recent formation. He closes the 
occupied part with a stout partition-wall at 
the back; then, dashing against the sharp 
stones, he chips off the superfluous portion, 
the hovel not fit to live in. The broken shell 
loses its accurate form in the process, but 
gains in lightness. 

The Clythra does not employ the Bulimus' 
method. It also disdains that of our dress- 
makers, who split the overtight garment and 
let in a piece of suitable width between the 
edges of the opening. To break the jar 
when it becomes too small would be a wilful 
waste of material; to split it lengthwise and 
456 



The Clythrae 

increase its capacity by inserting a strip would 
be an imprudent expedient, which would ex- 
pose the occupant to danger during the slow 
work of repair. The hermit of the jar can 
do better than that. It knows how to enlarge 
its gown while leaving it, except for its ful- 
ness, as it was before. 

Its paradoxical method is this: of the li- 
ning it makes cloth, bringing to the outside 
what was inside. Little by little, as the need 
makes itself felt, the grub scrapes and strips 
the interior of its cell. Reduced to a soft 
paste by means of a little putty furnished by 
the intestine, the scrapings are applied over 
the whole of the outer surface, down to the 
far end, which the grub, thanks to its perfect 
flexibility, is able to reach without taking too 
much trouble or leaving its house. 

This turning of the coat is accomplished 
with a delicate precision which preserves the 
symmetrical arrangement of the ornamental 
ridges ; lastly, it increases the capacity by a 
gradual transfer of the material from the in- 
side to the outside. This method of renew- 
ing the old coat is so accurate that nothing is 
thrown aside, nothing treated as useless, not 
even the baby-wear, which remains encrusted 
in the keystone at the original top of the 
structure. 

457 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

If fresh materials were added, obviously 
the jar would gain in size at the cost of 
thickness. The shell would become too thin, 
by dint of being turned in order to make 
space, and would sooner or later lack the 
requisite solidity. The grub guards against 
that. It has in front of it as much earth as 
it can wish for; it keeps putty in a back-shop; 
and the factory which produces it never 
slacks work. There is nothing to prevent it 
from thickening the structure at will and 
adding as much material as it thinks proper 
to the inner scrapings from the shell. 

Invariably clad in a garment that is an ex- 
act fit, neither too loose nor too tight, the 
grub, when the cold weather comes, closes the 
mouth of its earthenware jar with a lid of 
the same mixed compound, a paste of earth 
and stercoral cement. It then turns round 
and makes its preparations for the meta- 
morphosis, with its head at the back of the 
pot and its stern near the entrance, which will 
not be opened again. It reaches the adult 
stage in April and May, when the ilex be- 
comes covered with tender shoots, and 
emerges from its shell by breaking open the 
hinder end. Now come the days of revelry 
on the leafage, in the mild morning sun. 

The Clythra's jar is a piece of work en- 
458 



The Clythrae 

tailing no little .delicacy of execution. I can 
quite well see how the grub lengthens and en- 
larges it; but I cannot imagine how it begins 
it. If it has nothing to serve as a mould and 
a base, how does it set to work to assemble 
the first layers of paste into a neatly-shaped 
cup? 

Our potters have their lathe, the tray 
which keeps the work rotating and imple- 
ments to determine its outline. Could the 
Clythra, an exceptional ceramic artist, work 
without a base and without a guide? It 
strikes me as an insurmountable difficulty. I 
know the insect to be capable of many re- 
markable industrial feats ; but, before admit- 
ting that the jar can be based on nothing, we 
should have to see the new-born artist at 
work. Perhaps it has resources bequeathed 
to it by its mother; perhaps the egg presents 
peculiarities which will solve the riddle. Let 
us rear the insect, collect its eggs; then the 
pottery will tell us the secret of its beginnings. 

I install three species of Clythrae under 
wire-gauze covers, each with a bed of sand 
and a bottle of water containing a few young 
ilex-shoots, which I renew as and when they 
fade. All three species are common on the 
holm-oak: they are the Long-legged Clythra 
(C longipes, FAB.), the Pour-spotted Cly- 
459 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

thra (C. quadripunctata, LIN.), and the 
Taxicorn Clythra (C. taxkornis, FAB.). 

I set up a second menagerie with some 
Cryptocephali, who are closely related to the 
Clythrae. The inmates are the Ilex Crypto- 
cephalus (C. ilicis, OLIV.), the Two-spotted 
Cryptocephalus (C. bipunctatus, LIN.) and 
the Golden Cryptocephalus (C. hypochceri- 
dis, LIN.), who wears a resplendent cos- 
tume. For the first two I provide sprigs of 
ilex; for the third, the heads of a centaury 
{Centaur ea aspera), which is the favourite 
plant of this living gem. 

There is nothing striking in the habits of 
my captives, who spend the morning very 
quietly, the first five browsing on their oak- 
leaves and the sixth on her centaury-blooms. 
When the sun grows hot, they fly from the 
bunch of leaves in the centre to the wire trellis 
and back from the trellis to the leaves, or 
wander about the top of the cage in a state 
of great excitement. 

Every moment couples are formed. They 
pester each other, pair without preliminaries, 
part without regrets and begin elsewhere all 
over again. Life is sweet; and there are 
enough for all to choose from. Several are 
persistent. Mounted on the back of the pa- 
tient female, who lowers her head and seems 
460 



The Clythrae 

untouched by the passionate storm, they shake 
her violently. Thus do the amorous insects 
declare their flame and win the consent of 
the hesitating fair. 

The attitude of the couple now tells us the 
use of a certain organic detail peculiar to the 
Clythra. In several species, though not in 
all, the males' fore-legs are of inordinate 
length. What is the object of these extrava- 
gant arms, these curious grappling-irons out 
of all proportion to the insect's size? The 
Grasshoppers and Locusts prolong their hind- 
legs into levers to assist them in leaping. 
There is nothing of the sort here : it is the 
fore-legs which are exaggerated; and their 
excessive length has nothing to do with lo- 
comotion. The insect, whether resting or 
walking, seems even to be embarrassed by 
these outrageous stilts, which it bends awk- 
wardly and tucks away as best it can, not 
knowing exactly what to do with them. 

But wait for the pairing; and the extrava- 
gant becomes reasonable. The couple take 
up their pose in the form of a T. The male, 
standing perpendicularly, or nearly, repre- 
sents the cross-piece and the female the shaft 
of the letter, lying on its side. To steady 
his attitude, which is so contrary to the usual 
position in pairing, the male flings out his 
461 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

long grappling-hooks, two sheet-anchors 
which grip the female's shoulders, the fore- 
edge of her corselet, or even her head. 

At this moment, the only moment that 
counts in the adult insect's life, it is a good 
thing indeed to possess long arms, long hands, 
like Clythra longimana and C. longipes, as 
the scientific nomenclature calls them. Al- 
though their names are silent on the subject, 
the Taxicorn Clythra and the Six-spotted 
Clythra (C. sexmaculata, FAB.) and many 
others also have recourse to the same means 
of equilibrium: their fore-legs are utterly ex- 
aggerated. 

Is the difficulty of pairing in a transversal 
position the explanation of the long grap- 
pling-irons thrown out to a distance? We 
will not be too certain, for here is the Four- 
spotted Clythra, who would flatly contradict 
us. The male has fore-legs of modest di- 
mensions, in conformity with the usual rules; 
he places himself crosswise like the others 
and nevertheless achieves his ends without 
hindrance. He finds it enough to modify 
slightly the gymnastics of his embrace. The 
same may be said of the different Crypto- 
cephali, who all have stumpy limbs. Wher- 
ever we look, we find special resources, known 
to some and unknown to others. 



CHAPTER XIX 

THE CLYTHR^: THE EGG 

LET us leave the long-armed and short- 
armed to pursue their amorous contests 
as they please and come to the egg, the main 
object of my insect-rearing. The Taxicorn 
Clythra is the first in the field; I see her at 
working during the last days of May. A 
most singular and disconcerting batch of eggs 
is hers! Is it really a group of eggs? I 
hesitate until I surprise the mother using her 
hind-legs to finish extracting the strange germ 
which issues slowly and perhaps laboriously 
from her oviduct. 

It is indeed the Taxicorn Clythra's batch. 
Assembled in bundles of one to three dozen 
and each fastened by a slender transparent 
thread slightly longer than itself, the eggs 
form a sort of inverted umbel, which dangles 
sometimes from the trellisworlc of the cover, 
sometimes from the leaves of the twigs that 
provide the grub with food. The bunch of 
grains quivers at the least breath. 

We know the egg-cluster of the Hemero- 
463 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

bius, the object of so many mistakes to the 
untrained observer. The little Lace-winged 
Fly with the gold eggs sets up on a leaf a 
group of long, tiny columns as fine as a 
spider's thread, each bearing an egg as a 
capital. The whole resembles pretty closely 
a tuft of some long-stemmed mildew. Re- 
member also the Eumenes' hanging egg, 1 
which swings at the end of a thread, thus 
protecting the grub when it takes its first 
mouthfuls of the heap of dangerous game. 
The Taxicorn Clythra provides us with a 
third example of eggs fitted with suspension- 
threads, but so far nothing has given me an 
inkling of the function or the use of this 
string. Though the mother's intentions es- 
cape me, I can at least describe her work in 
some detail. 

The eggs are smooth, coffee-coloured and 
shaped like a thimble. If you hold them to 
the light, you see in the thickness of their 
skin five circular zones, darker than the rest 
and producing almost the same effect as the 
hoops of a barrel. The end attached to the 
suspension-thread is slightly conical; the 
other is lopped off abruptly and the section is 
hollowed into a circular mouth. A good lens 
shows us inside this, a little below the rim, a 

1 Cf. The Mason-wasps: chap. i. — Translator's Note. 
464 



The Clythrae: The Egg 

fine white membrane, as smooth as the skin 
of a drum. 

In addition, from the edge of the orifice 
there rises a wide membranous tab, whitish 
and delicate, which might be taken for a 
raised lid. Nevertheless there is no raising 
of a lid after the eggs are laid. I have seen 
the egg leave the oviduct; it is then what it 
will be later, but lighter in colour. No mat- 
ter: I cannot believe that so complicated a 
machine can make its way, with all sail set, 
through the maternal straits. I imagine that 
the lid-like appendage remains lowered, clo- 
sing the mouth, until the moment when the 
egg sees the light. Then and not till then 
does it rise. 

Guided by the rather less complex struc- 
ture of the eggs of the other Clythrae and of 
the Cryptocephali, I think of trying to take 
the strange germ to pieces; and I succeed 
after a fashion. Under the coffee-coloured 
sheath, which forms a little five-hooped bar- 
rel, is a white membrane. This is what we 
see through the mouth and what I compared 
with the skin of a drum. I recognize it as 
the regulation tunic, the usual envelope of 
any insect's egg. The rest, the little brown 
barrel, broached at one end and bearing a 
raised lid, must therefore be an accessory in- 
465 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

tegument, a sort of exceptional shell, of 
which I do not as yet know any other ex- 
ample. 

The Long-legged Clythra and the Four- 
spotted Clythra know nothing of packing 
their eggs in long-stemmed bundles. In June, 
from the height of the branches in which 
they are grazing, both of them carelessly al- 
low their eggs to drop to the ground, one by 
one, here and there, at random and at long 
intervals, without giving the least thought to 
their installation. They might be little 
grains of excrement, unworthy of interest 
and ejected at hazard. The egg-factory and 
the dung-factory scatter their products with 
the same indifference. 

Nevertheless, let us bring the lens to bear 
upon the minute particle so contumeliously 
treated. It is a miracle of elegance. In 
both species of Clythrae the eggs have the 
form of truncated ellipsoids, measuring about 
a millimetre in length. 1 The Long-legged 
Clythra's are a very dark brown and remind 
one of a thimble, a comparison which is the 
more exact inasmuch as they are dented with 
quadrangular pits, arranged in spiral series 
which cross one another with exquisite pre- 
cision. 

1 .03.9 inch. — Translator's Note. 
466 



The Clythrae: The Egg 

Those of the Four-spotted Clythra are pale 
'In colour. They are covered with convex 
scales, overlapping in diagonal rows, ending 
in a point at the lower extremity, which is 
free and more or less askew. This collec- 
tion of scales has rather the appearance of a 
hop-cone. Surely a very curious egg, ill- 
adapted to gliding gently through the nar- 
row passages of the ovaries. I feel sure 
that it does not bristle in this fashion when it 
descends the delicate natal sheath; it is near 
the end of the oviduct that it receives its 
coat of scales. 

In the case of the three Cryptocephali 
reared in my cages, the eggs are laid later; 
their season is the end of June and July. As 
in the Clythrae, there is the same lack of 
maternal care, the same hap-hazard drop- 
ping of the seeds from the centaury-blossoms 
and the ilex-twigs. The general form of the 
egg is still that of a truncated ellipsoid. 
The ornaments vary. In the eggs of the 
Golden Cryptocephalus and the Ilex Crypto- 
cephalus they consist of eight flattened, wavy 
ribs, winding corkscrew-wise ; in those of the 
Two-spotted Cryptocephalus they take the 
form of spiral rows of pits. 

What can this envelope be, so remarkable 
for its elegance, with its spiral mouldings, 
467 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

its thimble-pits and its hop-scales? A few 
little accidental facts put me on the right 
track. To begin with, I acquire the cer- 
tainty that the egg does not descend from 
the ovaries as I find it on the ground. Its 
ornamentation, incompatible with a gentle 
gliding movement, had already told me as 
much; I now have a clear proof. 

Mingled with the normal eggs of both the 
Golden Cryptocephalus and the Long-legged 
Clythra, I find others which differ in no re- 
spect from the usual run of insects' eggs. 
The eggs are perfectly smooth, with a soft, 
pale-yellow shell. As the cage contains no 
other insects than the Clythra under con- 
sideration or the Cryptocephalus, I cannot 
be mistaken as to the origin of my finds. 

Moreover, if any doubts remained, they 
would be dispelled by the following evidence : 
in addition to the bare, yellow eggs there are 
some whose base is set in a tiny brown, pitted 
cup, obviously the work of either the Two- 
spotted Cryptocephalus or the Long-legged 
Clythra, according to the cage, but unfinished 
work, which half-clothed the egg, as it left 
the ovaries, and then, when the dress-ma- 
terial ran short, or something went wrong 
with the machinery, allowed it to cross the 
468 



The Clythrae: The Egg 

outer threshold in the likeness of an acorn 
fixed in its cup. 

Nothing could be prettier than this yellow 
egg, standing in its artistic egg-cup. Nor 
could anything tell us more conclusively 
where the jewel is manufactured. It is in 
the cloaca, the chamber common to the ovi- 
duct and the intestine, that the bird wraps 
its egg in a calcareous shell, often decorating 
it with magnificent hues: olive-green for the 
Nightingale, sky-blue for the Wheatear, soft 
pink for the Icterine Warbler. It is in the 
cloaca also that the Clythra and the Crypto- 
cephalus produce the elegant armour of 
their eggs. 

It remains to decide upon the material em- 
ployed. From its horny appearance there 
is reason to believe that the little barrel of 
the Taxicorn Clythra and the scales of the 
Four-spotted Clythra are the products of a 
special secretion; and, now that it is too late, 
I much regret that I neglected to look for the 
apparatus yielding this secretion in the neigh- 
bourhood of the cloaca. As for the thing 
so prettily wrought by the Long-legged 
Clythra and the Cryptocephali, let us admit 
without false shame that it is made of fsecal 
matter. 

469 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

The proof is furnished by certain speci- 
mens, by no means rare in the Golden Cryp- 
tocephalus, in which the customary brown is 
replaced by an unmistakable green, the sign 
of a vegetable pulp. In course of time, these 
green eggs turn brown and become like the 
others, no doubt by reason of an oxidization 
which alters the natural qualities of the di- 
gestive product still further. The egg, en- 
tering the cloaca in a soft and utterly naked 
state, receives an artistic coat of the in- 
testinal dross, even as the Hen's egg is cov- 
ered by a shell formed of the chalky secre- 
tions. 

Materiem superabat opus, nam Mulciber 

illic 
JEquora celerat, 

said Ovid, in his description of the Palace 
of the Sun. The poet had precious metals 
and gems wherewith to build his imaginary 
marvel. What has the Clythra wherewith 
to achieve its ideal jewel? It has the shame- 
ful material whose name is banished from 
decent speech. And which is the Mulciber, 
the Vulcan, the artist-engraver that engraves 
the covering of the egg so prettily? It is 
the terminal sewer. The cloaca rolls the 
470 



The Clythrae: The Egg 

material, flutes it, twists it into spirals, decks 
it with chains of little pits and makes it up 
into a scaly suit of armour, showing how na- 
ture laughs at our paltry standards of value 
and how well able she is to convert the sordid 
into the beautiful. 

In the bird, the egg-shell is a tempo- 
rary defensive cell which at hatching-time is 
broken and abandoned and is henceforth use- 
less. Made of horny matter or stercoral 
paste, the shell of the Clythra and the Cryp- 
tocephalus is, on the contrary, a permanent 
refuge, which the insect will never leave so 
long as it remains a larva. Here the grub 
is born with a ready-made garment, of rare 
elegance and an exact fit, a garment which 
it only has to enlarge, little by little, in the 
original manner described above. The shell, 
shaped like a little barrel or thimble, is open 
in front. There is nothing therefore to 
break, nothing to cast aside at the moment 
of hatching, except perhaps the actual en- 
velope of the egg. Directly this membrane 
is burst, the tiny creature is free, with a 
handsome carved jacket, a legacy from its 
mother. 

Let us indulge in a crazy dream and 
imagine young birds which keep the egg- 
shell intact, save for an opening through 
471 



The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles 

which they pass their head, and which, all 
their lives long, remain clad in this shell, on 
condition that they themselves enlarge it as 
they grow. This absurd dream is realized 
by our grub : it is dressed in the shell of its 
egg, expanded by degrees as the grub itself 
grows bigger. 

In July all my collection of eggs are 
hatched, each isolated in a large cup covered 
with a slip of glass which will moderate the 
evaporation. What an interesting family! 
My vermin are swarming amid the miscella- 
neous vegetable refuse with which I have fur- 
nished the premises. They all move along 
with tiny steps, dragging their shells, which 
they carry lifted on a slant; they come half- 
way out and suddenly pop in again; they tum- 
ble over if they merely attempt to scale a 
sprig of moss, pick themselves up again, forge 
ahead and cast about at random. 

Hunger, we can no longer doubt, is the 
cause of this agitation. What shall I give my 
famished nurselings? They are vegetari- 
ans: there can be no doubt whatever about 
that; but this is not enough to settle the bill 
of fare. What would happen under the 
natural conditions? Rearing the insects in 
cages, I find the eggs scattered at random on 
the ground. The mother drops them care- 
472 



The Clythrae: The Egg 

lessly, here and there, from the top of the 
bough where she is refreshing herself by 
soberly notching some tender leaf. The 
Taxicorn Clythra fits a long stalk to her eggs 
and fixes them in clusters on the foliage. 
While I cannot yet make up my mind, in the 
absence of direct observation, whether the 
new-born larva cuts the suspension-thread 
itself, or whether the thread is broken merely 
as a result of drying up, sooner or later these 
eggs are lying on the ground, like the others. 

The same thing must happen outside my 
cages : the eggs of the Clythrae and the Cryp- 
tocephali are scattered over the ground be- 
neath the tree or plant on which the adult 
feeds. 

Now what do we find under the shelter of 
the oak? Turf, dead leaves, more or less 
pickled by decay, dry twigs cased in lichens, 
broken stones with cushions of moss and, 
lastly, mould, the final residue of vegetable 
matters wrought upon by time. Under the 
tufts of the centaury on which the Golden 
Cryptocephalus browses lies a black bed of 
the miscellaneous refuse of the plant. 

I try a little of everything, but nothing an- 
swers my expectations very positively. I ob- 
serve, nevertheless, that a few disdainful 
mouthfuls are taken, a little bit here, a little 

473 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

bit there, enough to tell me the nature of the 
first layers which the grub adds to its natal 
sheath. With the exception of the Taxicorn 
Clythra, whose egg, with its suspension-stalk, 
seems to denote rather special habits, I see 
my several charges begin to prolong their 
shell with a brown paste, similar in appear- 
ance to that with whose manufacture and em- 
ployment we are already familiar. 

Discouraged by a food which does not suit 
them and perhaps also tried by a season of 
exceptional drouth, my young potters soon 
relinquish their task; they die after adding a 
shallow rim to their pots. 

Only the Long-legged Clythra thrives and 
repays me amply for my troublesome nursing. 
I provide it with chips of old bark taken from 
the first tree to hand, the oak, the olive, the 
fig-tree and many others. I soften them by 
steeping them for a short time in water. 
The cork-like crusts, however, are not what 
my boarders eat. The actual food, the but- 
ter on the bread, is on the surface. There is 
a little here of all that the first beginnings of 
vegetable life add to old tree-trunks, all that 
breaks up decrepit age to turn it into perpe- 
tual youth. 

There are tufts of moss, hardly a twelfth 
of an inch in height, which were sleeping 

474 



The Clythrae: The Egg 

droughtily under the merciless sun of the 
dog-days, but which a bath in a glass of water 
awakens at once. They now display their 
ring of green leaflets, brightened up and re- 
stored to life for a few hours. There are 
leprous efflorescences, with their white or yel- 
low dust; tiny lichens radiating in ash-grey 
straps and covered with glaucous, white- 
edged shields, great round eyes that seem 
to gaze from the depths of the limbo in 
which dead matter comes to life again. 
There are collemas, which, after a shower, 
become dark and bloated and shake like 
jellies; sphaerias, whose pustules stand out 
like ebony teats, full of myriads of tiny sacs, 
each containing eight pretty seeds. A glance 
through the microscope at the contents of one 
of these teats, a speck only just visible to the 
eye, reveals an astounding world: an infinity 
of procreative wealth in an atom. Ah, what 
a beautiful thing life is, even on a chip of 
rotten bark no bigger than a finger-nail! 
What a garden ! What a treasure-house ! 

This is the best pasture put to the test. 
My Clythra? graze upon it, gathering in 
dense herds at the most luxuriant spots. 
One would take this heap for pinches of some 
brown, modelled seed or other, the snap- 
dragon's, for instance; but these particular 
475 



The Glow- Worm and Other Beetles 

seeds push and sway; if one of them moves 
the least bit, the shells all clash together. 
Others wander about, in search of a good 
place, staggering and tumbling under the 
weight of the overcoat; they wander at ran- 
dom through that great and spacious world, 
the bottom of my cup. 

Not a fortnight has elapsed before a strip, 
built up on the rim, has doubled the length 
of the Long-legged Clythra's shell, in order 
to maintain the capacity of the earthenware 
jar in proportion to the size of the grub, 
which has been growing from day to day. 
The recent portion, the work of the larva, 
is very plainly distinguishable from the ori- 
ginal shell, the product of the mother; it is 
smooth over its whole extent, whereas the 
rest is ornamented with tiny holes arranged 
in spiral rows. 

Planed away inside as it becomes too tight, 
the jar grows wider and at the same time 
longer. The dust taken from it, once more 
kneaded into mortar, is reapplied outside, 
more or less everywhere, and forms a rubble 
under which the original beauties end by dis- 
appearing. The neatly-pitted masterpiece is 
swamped by a layer of brown plasterwork; 
not always entirely, however, even when the 
structure reaches its final dimensions. If we 
476 



The Clythrae: The Egg 

pass an attentive lens between the two humps 
at the lower end, we very often see, en- 
crusted in the earthy mass, the remains of the 
shell of the egg. This is the potter's mark. 
The arrangement of the spiral ridges, the 
number and the shape of the pits enable us al- 
most to read the name of the maker, Clythra 
or Cryptocephalus. 

From the very first I could not imagine the 
worker in ceramic paste designing its own 
pottery by drafting the first outlines. My 
doubts were justified. The grubs of the 
Clythra and the Cryptocephalus possess a 
maternal legacy in the shape of a shell, a 
garment which they have only to enlarge. 
They are born the owners of a layette which 
becomes the groundwork of their trousseau. 
They increase it, without, however, imitating 
its artistic elegance. A more vigorous age 
discards the laces in which the mother de- 
lights to clothe the new-born child. 



477 



INDEX 



Acarus, 33, 44 
Adder, 294, 296 
JEgosomus scabricornus, 

H7 . 

Ammophila hirsuta (see 
Hairy Ammophila), 96, 
304 

Andrena, 55, 85 

Anoxia, 266 

Ant, 294 

Anthaxia nidulata, 216 

Anthidium (see also the 
varieties below), 180, 
236, 280 

Anthidium bellicosum, 180 

Anthidium scafulare, 179 

Anthophora (see also the 
varieties below), 28, 30- 
34. 37, 39-4i» 43-45, 53- 
61, 63-71, 73-75, 77-82, 
84, 88, 90, 93, 97, 100, 
103-105, 107-110, 114, 
126, 128, 131, 139, 151, 
163, 176, 179 

Anthophora parietina, 28, 
86, 90 

Anthophora personata (see 
Masked Anthophora), 86 

Anthophora pilipes (see 
Hairy-footed Antho- 

phora), 29, 64, 84, 86, 106 

Anthophora retusa, 86 

Anthrax (see A. sinuata), 
30, 37, 158, 199 

479 



Anthrax sinuata, 30, 35 
Anthrenus (see also A. 

musaeorum), 33, 44 
Anthrenus musaorum, 33 
Ant-lion, 13, 366, 368 
Asparagus-beetle, Aspara- 
gus-grub (see also Field 
Crioceris, Twelve-spotted 
Crioceris), 436, 439 
Audubon, John James, 348, 

35o 
Azure Hoplia, 274 



B 

Bacon-beetle (see Dermes- 

tes), 294 
Banded Epeira, 284 
Bear (see also Cave-bear), 

359-360, 400, 447 
Beauregard, Dr., 161-162 
Bee (see also Bumble-bee, 
Hive-Bee, Mason-bee and 
the varieties), 28-30, 34, 
45. 53-54, 56-57, 59. 60- 
65. 67, 70-71, 77, 79, 82, 
85, 86, 88-90, 92, 97, 99, 
101, 105, 106-108, no, 
128, 141-142. 144, 154, 
163, 176, 178, 278, 298 
Bee-louse, 85 
Beetle, passim, 7, 28, 31 
Beetle's Gamasus, 314 
Belle (see Spurge Hawk- 
moth), 283 



Index 



Bernardin de Saint-pierre, 
Jacques Henri, 235 

Bison Onites, 245, 262 

Blackbeetle, 388 

Blackbeetle of the Sun (see 
Sacred Beetle) 

Black-bellied Lycosa (see 
Black-bellied Tarantu- 
la), 267 

Black-bellied Tarantula, 
267 

Black Buprestis (see 
Cloudy Buprestis), 386 

Blatta (see Blackbeetle), 
388 

Blister-beetle (see also 
Cantharides, Cerocoma, 
Mylabris, Zonitis), 154, 
161, 164 

Bluebottle, 95-96, 100 

Bolbites (see also B. Oni- 
toides), 243, 268 

Bolbites onitoides, 242 

Bolboceras, 388 

Bombardier Beetle, 358 

Brachinus (see Bombardier 
Beetle), 358 

Brillat-Savarin (Anthel- 
me), 2 

Brilliant Buprestis, 387 

Broken Bulimus, 456 

Bronze Buprestis, 212 

Bulimus (see also Broken 
Bulimus), 451 

Bumble-bee, 71 

Buprestis (see also the va- 
rieties), 186, 188, 212, 
214-217, 219, 221, 224, 
234, 274, 292-293, 381- 
382, 384, 386 

Buprestis aunea (see 
Bronze Buprestis), 212 

Buprestis octoguttata (see 

480 



Eight-spotted Buprestis), 

2I 5 
Buprestis tenebrionis (see 

Cloudy Buprestis), 385, 

387 
Burnt Zonitis, 179-181 
Burying-beetle, 296, 306, 

3H. 337 . 
But/ius occitanus (see Lan- 

guedocian Scorpion), 402 
Butterfly, 100, 102, 177, 274 



Calicurgus (see Ringed 

Calicurgus), 267 
Calliphora vomitoria (see 

Bluebottle), 95 
Calosoma sycophanta, 356— 

357 

Camel, 269 

Cantharides, 164, 166, 169- 
170, 290 

Cant/ion bispinus, 261 

Capnodis tenebrionis (see 
Cloudy Buprestis), 381 

Capricorn (see also the va- 
rieties below), 186-189, 
*93» I95-I99. 203-204, 
209, 220, 237, 380, 439 

Capricorn of the Cherry- 
tree (see Cerambyx 
cerdo), 207-208, 2IO-2H 

Capricorn of the Oak (see 
Capricorn), 209-211 

Carabus (see also Golden 
Carabus, Purple Cara- 
bus), 274, 353, 355-357, 
363-364, 376 

Carrion-beetle (see Sil- 
pha), 294 

Cat, 307 

Cave-bear, 450 



Index 



Cellar-beetle, 294, 297, 387— 
388 

Cerambyx (see the varie- 
ties below), 188, 191, 
194, »97» !99, 201, 204, 

205, 2IO, 212, 2l6 

Cerambyx cerdo, 207-208 

Cerambyx miles (see Cap- 
ricorn), 187 

Cerceris, 304 

Cerocoma (see also Schaef- 
fer's Cerocoma, Schre- 
ber's Cerocoma), 160- 
161, 163, 169-170, 182- 
183 

Cetonia (see also Golden 
Cetonia, C. floricola), 
101, 189, 266, 274, 291, 
388 

Cetonia aurata (see Golden 
Cetonia), 101 

Cetonia floricola, 291 

Chalcid (see also Gall- 
fly), 428-429 

Chalicodoma (see Mason- 
bee), 136, 179 

Chicken, 430 

Chinese Carp, 306 

Chrysobothrys chrysostig- 
ma, 217 

Chrysomela (see Golden 
Apple-beetle), 274, 388 

Cicada, 292, 366-368 

Clairville, 298, 319, 325 

Cleonus, 388 

Clerus (see also the varie- 
ties below), 33 

Clerus alvearius, 33 

Clerus apiarius, 33 

Cloudy Buprestis, 382, 397, 

399 
Clythra (see also the vari- 
eties below), 451-452, 

481 



456, 45M62. 465. 4<>8- 
47i» 473, 475, 477 

Clythra longimana, 462, 467 

Clythra longipes (see Long- 
legged Clythra), 459, 
462, 466, 468-469, 474, 
476 

Clythra quadnpunctata 

(see Four-spotted Cly- 
thra), 459 

Clythra sexmaculata (see 
Six-spotted Clythra), 462 

Clythra taxicornis (see 
Taxicorn Clythra), 460 

Clythus (see the varieties 
below), 218 

Clythus arietis, 218 

Clythus arvicola, 218 

Clythus tropicus, 218 

Coccinella (see Ladybird), 
388 

Cockchafer (see also Com- 
mon Cockchafer, Pine- 
chafer), 355 

Cockroach (see Blackbee- 
tle), 388 

Coelyoxis, 94, 95 

Common Cockchafer, 368 

Common Wasp, 71 

Condillac, fitienne Bonnot 
de, Abbe de Murwaux, 
185, 194 

Confucius, 408 

Copris (see also Lunary 
Copris, Spanish Copris), 
237, 243, 258, 262, 266, 
269, 289, 310, 347 

Cotton-bee (see also Anthi- 
dium scapular e), 180, 
270 

Cow, 243, 269 

Crane-fly, 430 

Cricket (see also Italian 



Index 



Cricket), 237, 275, 279, 
316 

Criocephalus ferus, 217 

Crioceris (see also the va- 
rieties below), 411-414, 
418, 420-421, 423-424, 
428, 432, 435, 441-4421 
444-445. 450 

Crioceris merdigera (see 
Field Crioceris), 418 

Crioceris duodecimpuncata 
(see Twelve-spotted Cri- 
oceris), 418 

Crioceris merdiger a (see 
Lily-beetle), 411 

Crioceris paracenthesia, 444 

Cryptocephalus ( see also 
the varieties below), 451, 
460, 462, 465, 467, 468- 
469, 471, 477 . 

Cryptocephalus bipunctatus 
(see Two-spotted Cryp- 
tocephalus, 460, 467-468, 

473 
Cryptocephalus tlicts (see 

Ilex Cryptocephalus), 

460 
Cyclostome, 8 



Darboun (see Mole), 302 

Decticus (see also White- 
faced Decticus), 237, 
281-282, 316 

Dermestes, 294-295, 297 

Diogenes, 451 

Dog, 195, 251 

Donkey, 320 

Drilus maroccanus, 8, 9 

Drone-fly, 95-96, 100 

Duck, 396 



Dufour, Jean Marie Leon, 
55, 85, 106 

Dung-beetle, 239-240, 242, 
245, 249-253, 263, 268- 
274, 288, 317, 325, 347 



E 

Eight-spotted Buprestis, 215 

Epeira (see Banded Epe- 
ira), 284 

Ephippiger of the Vines, 
282 

Eristalis tenax (see Drone- 
fly), 95 

Eumenes, 464 



Fabre, Emile, the author's 
son, 145-146 

Fabre, Mile. Anna, the au- 
thor's daughter, 391 

Fabre, Paul, the author's 
son, 303, 309 

Field Crioceris, 418, 425, 

.433, 442 
Field-mouse, 296, 304, 452 
Flamingo, 293 
Fly (see also House-fly), 

12, 30, 95, 101-102, 177, 

199, 294, 360, 371, 375, 

378-380, 420, 423, 425, 

435-436 
Foamy Cicadella, 439 
Four-spotted Clythra, 459, 

462, 466-467, 469 
Four-spotted Mylabris, 162, 

164, 173 
Frog, 296, 299, 300, 332, 

334, 337 



Index 



Gall-fly, 428 

Geer, Baron Karl de, 87 

Geotrupes (see also Mimic 
Geotrupes, Stercoraceous 
Geotrupes), 237, 245, 
291-292, 314, 344, 347, 
386 

Giant Scarites, 362, 381- 
382, 384, 396, 398 

Gleditsch, Johann Gottlieb, 

299, 334. 337 
Glow-worm, I, 3, 4, 7-8, 

10, 12-27 
Gnat, 195, 269, 420, 430 
Godart, Jean Baptiste, 87 
Golden Apple-beetle, 388 
Golden Beetle, 353, 355 
Golden Carabus, 355 
Golden Cetonia, 101 
Golden Cryptocephalus, 

460, 467-468, 470, 473 
Golden Rose-chafer (see 

Golden Cetonia), 101 
Goldfish (see Chinese 

Carp), 306 
Goose, 396-397 
Grasshopper (see also 

Green Grasshopper), 

154, 280, 282, 461 
Great Capricorn (see Cap- 
ricorn), 379 
Great Peacock Moth, 356 
Great Water-beetle, 278 
Greenfinch, 360, 396 
Green Grasshopper, 237, 

357 
Grey Worm (see Turnip 

Moth), 96 
Griffiths, A. B., 292 
Gromphas (see Lacor- 
483 



daire's Gromphas), 244, 
247, 256 
Ground-beetle (see Cara- 
bus), 293, 313, 447 
Guinea-fowl, 395-396 
Gymnopleurus, 289, 347 

H 

Hairy-footed Anthophora, 
96, 106 

Half-spotted Scarab, 369 

Halictus, 176 

Heliocantharus (see Sacred 
Beetle), 271 

Helix aspersa, 12 

Helix explanata, 362 

Helix variabilis, 3-4 

Hemerobius (see Lace- 
winged Fly), 463 

Hen, 251, 257, 396, 470 

Hermit-crab, 446 

Hive-bee, 71, 100 

Hoplia (see also Azure 
Hoplia), 274, 388 

Hornet, 68 

Horse, 269 

House-fly, 420 

Humming-bird, 274, 293 

Hunting Wasp, 7, 96, 252, 
275, 278, 280, 304 

Hydropbilus (see Great 
Water-beetle), 278-279 



Icterine Warbler, 469 
Ilex Cryptocephalus, 460, 

467 
Italian Cricket, 236 



Job, 187 



Index 



Judulien, Brother, 238 



M 



Kingfisher, 293 

Kitten, 391 

Kung (see Confucius), 409 



Lace-winged Fly, 464 
Lacordaire, Jean Theodore, 

244, 298 
La Fontaine, Jean de, 409 
Lamb, 155 
Lamellicorn, 129 
Lampyris, L. noctiluca (see 

Glow-worm), 1-3, 5-6, 

8-9, n-12, 15 
Land-snail (see Bulimus, 

Helix, Snail), 451 
Languedocian Scorpion, 

402 
Lark, 25 

Latreille's Osmia, 179 
Leaf-cutter (see Mega- 
chile), 180, 236 
Lily-beetle, 411, 413, 418, 

424, 434, 436, 439, 440, 

445-446 
Lizard, 292, 294, 296, 332, 

345 
Llama, 269 
Loach, 392-393 
Locust, 154, 161, 282, 360, 

393, 461 
Louse, 59, 85, 106, 128, 144, 

320 
Lunary Copris, 240, 262 
Lycosa (see Black-bellied 

Tarantula), 267 

484 



Macleay (William Sharp), 
271 

Maistre, Xavier de, 236, 
238 

Malachius, 100 

Mantis (see Praying Man- 
tis), 145-146, H9, 15°- 
154, 160-161, 163, 316 

Masked Anthophora, 86 

Mason-bee (see also An- 
thophora and the varie- 
ties below), 72, 75, 86, 

93, i°4, 136 
Mason-bee of the Sheds, 

136 
Mason-bee of the Walls, 

136 
Megachile (see also M. se- 

rtcans), 187, 236, 269 
Megachile sericans, 180 
Megatherium, 269 
Megathopa (see also the 

varieties below), 242, 268 
Megathopa bicolor, 241 
Megathopa intermedia, 241 
Melecta, 94-95 
Melecta armata, 36 
Meloe (see Oil-beetle and 

the varieties below), 56, 

84-86, 88-89, 91, 93-97, 

99-101, 103-108, 128, 

1 34-1 3 5, 141-143, 157 
Meloe cicatricosus, 86, 104, 

106, 128, 149 
Meloe proscar abaus, 87 
Meloid (see also Blister- 
beetle, Cantharides, Ce- 
rocoma, Mylabris, Zoni- 
tis), 135, 141, 144-146, 
»49, 154, 157-158, 160- 



Index 



x6i, 165-166, 174, 179. 
183 

Melosoma (see also Omo- 
crates abbreviates), 387 

Miall, Bernard, vii 

Midge, 420, 422-424, 430 

Mimic Geotrupes, 273, 291 

Mite, 103 

Mole, 252, 294-297, 301, 
304-310, 313, 3 J 9» 328- 
332. 335-337, 34i, 345" 
346 

Mosquito, 447 

Mouse (see also Field- 
mouse, Shrew-mouse), 
298, 306, 314, 319-326, 

333-334. 338-343 
Mylabris (see also Four- 
spotted Mylabris, Twelve- 
spotted Mylabris), 160, 
171, 173, 176 



N 

Narbonne Lycosa (see 
Black-bellied Tarantula), 
267 

Necrophorus (see Burying- 
beetle, N. vestigator), 
2511 297-299, 301, 303- 
308, 310-3", 3I3-3I7, 
319, 321, 324-329, 33 1 " 
332, 335, 337-338, 341- 
343, 345-347 

Necrophorus vestigator, 
296, 301 

Newport, George, 56, 85- 
87, 89, 91-92, 105-106, 
108, 130, 133 

Nightingale, 469 

Nine-spotted Buprestis, 213, 

485 



Odynerus, 28 

Oil-beetle, 56, 84-93, 101, 
105-106, 109, 130, 132- 
135, x 44, x 46, H8, IS»i 
154-155, 173-174, x 76- 
177, 182-183, 203 

Onitis (see also the vane- 
ties below), 242, 245, 
264, 289 

Onitis bison (see Bison 
Onitis), 245, 262 

Onitis Olivierii (see Oliv- 
ier's Onitis), 250 

Onthophagus (see also 
Oval Onthophagus), 252 
261, 273, 289 

Onthophagus ovatus (see 
Oval Onthophagus), 252 

Oryctes, O. nasicornis (see 
Rhinoceros Beetle), 266, 

355 / , L 

Osmia (see also the varie- 
ties below), 32-34, 36- 
37, 56, 65, 108, 136, 138, 
179, 186, 316 

Osmia Latreillii (see Lat- 
reille's Osmia), 136 

Osmia tricornis (see Three- 
horned Osmia), 31, 64, 
136 

Osmia tridentata (see 
Three-pronged. Osmia), 
136 

Oval Onthophagus, 263 

Ovid, 470 

Owl (see also Virginian 
Owl), 251 

Ox, 240, 268-269, 355 



Peacock, 293 



Index 



Peacock Moth {see Great 
Peacock Moth), 356 

Pediculus apis {see Bee- 
louse), 85 

Pelopaeus, 203, 266 

Pepsis, 267 

Phanaus {see the varieties 
below), 240, 258, 290, 
292 

Phanaus festivus, 264 

Phartaus Milon, 249, 252, 
254-256, 264-265 

Phanaus splendidulus {see 
Splendid Phanaeus), 239, 
265, 268, 273, 289 

pigeon {see also Wood- 
pigeon), 396 

Pimelia {see also P. bipunc- 
tata), 363-364, 369, 376- 

377, 387 
Pine-chafer, 355, 357, 368 
Pompilus {see Ringed Cali- 

curgus), 267, 304 
Praying Manits, 155, 162, 

236 
Procrustes coriaceus, 353— 

354. 357 
Ptosima Novemmaculata 

{see Nine-spotted Bupres- 

tis), 213, 387 
Purple Carabus, 353 

R 

Rabbit, 252, 341 

Rat {see Brown Rat, 

Sewer-rat), 312-313 
Reaumur, Rene Antoine 

Ferchault de, 283, 320, 

413, 416 
Resin-bee {see Anthidium 

bellicosum), 180 
Rhinoceros Beetle, 355-357 

486 



Rhynchites, 411 
Ringed Calicurgus, 267 
Rose-chafer {see Cetonia, 

Golden Cetonia), 368 
Rousseau, Jean Jacques, 

235 
Rove-beetle {see Staphy- 

linus), 295 



Sacred Beetle, 237, 241- 
242, 250-251, 258, 260, 
262, 266, 269, 271, 288, 
290-291, 325, 347, 376- 
377 

Saperda {see the varieties 
below), 212 

Sapeda carcharias {see 
Shagreen Saperda), 211 

Saperda of the Poplar {see 
Scalary Saperda), 211 

Saperda scalaris {see Sca- 
lary Saperda), 211 

Saprinus, 295 

Sapyga {see Spotted Sap- 
yga), 155 

Saw-fly {see Sirex), 223 

Scalary Saperda, 211 

Scarab {see Half-spotted 
Scarab, Sacred Beetle), 
271 

Scarabreus {see Sacred Bee- 
tle), 289 

Scarites {see Giant Scar- 
ites, Smooth - skinned 
Scarites), 363, 365-368, 

370, 372-373, 375, 378- 

380, 387 
Schaeffer's Cerocoma, 160, 

162-165 
Schreber's Cerocoma, 161 
Scolia, 155, 203, 266 
Scorpion {see also Langue- 



Index 



docian Scorpion), 402- 
405. 407-408 

Sea-snail, 446 

Sewer-rat, 304 

Shagreen Saperda, 211 

Sheep, 243, 269 

Shell-bearing Slug (see 
Testacella), 354 

Shrew-mouse, 296, 304 

Silky Leaf-cutter {see Me- 
gachile sericans), 180 

Silpha, 294-295, 297, 388 

Sirex (see also the varie- 
ties below), 223, 226- 
231, 234 

Sirex augur, 223 

Sirex gigas, 231 

Sirex juvencus, 231 

Sisyphus, 261-262, 347 

Sitaris (see also S. hume- 
ralis), 31, 36-37. 39, 40, 
43, 50-61, 63-67, 74-82, 
85-88, 97-98, 105-107, 
109-110, 114, 116, 11S- 
120, 127-135, 138, 141- 
144, 146, 148, 151, 154, 
157. 171. 73-174, 176- 
178, 182, 203, 439 

Sitaris humeralis, 30, 58 

Six-spotted Clythra, 462 

Slug (see also Testacella), 

3S4 
Smooth-skinned Scarites, 

377, 396 
Snail (see also Bulimus, 
Helix), 3-6, 10-12, 14- 
I5> 48, 353-355, 362, 447, 
455 
Snake, 304 

Spanish Copris, 239, 241 
Sparrow, 314, 341, 343, 360 
Sphex (see also White- 
banded Sphex, Yellow- 

487 



winged Sphex), 203, 267, 

278-279, 304 
Spider, 30-31, 39, 44, 101- 

102, 177, 284-286 
Spotted Sapyga, 155 
Spurge Hawk-moth, 282, 

287-288 
Stag-beetle, 364 
Staphylinus, 295 
Stercoraceous Geotrupes, 

273, 291, 385 
Stromatium strep ens, 218 
Swallow, 430 



Tachina, 421-424, 426, 428, 
433, 435-436, 448 

Tachytes (see also T. tar- 
sina), 145-146, 149, 151- 
152, 154-155, 160-162, 
164 

Tachytes tarsina, 161 

Tarantula (see Black-bel- 
lied Tarantula), 267 

Taxicorn Clythra, 460, 462- 
464, 469, 473-474 

Teixeira de Mattos, Alex- 
ander, 7, 28, 30, 55, 189, 
237, 266 

Testacella, 354 

Thomas the Apostle, Saint, 
411 

Three-horned Osmia, 64 

Three-pronged Osmia, 233 

Tick (see also Beetle's 
Gamasus), 314 

Triungulin of the Andrenae, 
Triungulinus (see T. an- 
drenetarum) , 56 

Triungulinus andreneta- 
rum, 85 

Turkey, 348-350, 393~398 



Index 



Turnip, Moth, 96 
Twelve-spotted Crioceris, 
418, 425-426, 428-429. 

434 ■ . 

Twelve-spotted Mylabns, 

162, 164, 173-174. 178 
U 
Unarmed Zonitis, 181 
V 

Valery-Mayer, Professor, 

250 
Vespa crebro (see Hornet), 

68 
Virginian Owl, 350 

W 

Warbler (see Icterine 
Warbler), 469 

Wasp (see also Common 
Wasp, Hunting Wasp 
and the other varieties), 
7, 28, 69, 71, 145, 278, 
298 



Water-beetle (see Great 

Water-beetle), 278 
Weevil, 149, 157, 388, 411 
Wheatear, 469 
White-banded Sphex, 267 
White-faced Decticus, 280, 

357 
White Scorpion (see Lan- 

guedocian Scorpion), 402, 

404 
Wolf, 155, 355 
Wood-pigeon, 293 



Yellow-winged Sphex, 275 
Z 

Zonitis (see also the vari- 
eties below), 138, 141- 
143, 148, 154, 164-165, 
171, 179-180, 182-183 

Zonitis mutica (see Un- 
armed Zonitis), 138, 164, 
179, 181 

Zonitis prausta (see Burnt 
Zonitis), 179 



*x& 



QL Fabre, Jean Henri Casimir 

576 The glow-worm and other 

F333 beetles 



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