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i^m^Kf^m^iV.:::' -■: 


PLaze W. 

FuilitJted bi/longrnan,,IfursTjiees, Ornu Ic Brown, London, Jan j. i8jy. 






















1818. ^ 


Ricliard utid Arthur luylur, 
Prinlers, London. 


XVI. Societies of Insects. f*^?^ 

1. Imperfect Societies, ^ ^^ 

XVII. Societies of Insects continued. 

2. Perfect Societies. 

While Ants. Ants, 26—106 

XVIII. Perfect Societies of Insects continued. 

m$ps. Humlle-lees, 107—120 

XIX. Perfect Societies of Insects continued. 

Hive-lee, 121—170 

XX. Perfect Societies of Insects concluded. 

Hive^hee, 171-217 

XXI. Means by which Insectsdefend themselves, 218—269 

XXII. Motions of Insects. 

Larva and Pupa, 270—303 

XXIII. Motions of Insects continued. 

Imago, 304-374 

XXIV. Noises produced by Insects 375 — 408 

XXV. Luminous Insects 409—429 

XXVI. Hybernation and Torpidity of Insects . . 430—465 
XXVII. Instinct of Insects 466—530 


Page. Line. 
54 17 after " whence" insert " in the first instance here related." 
121 note, 1. ult. dele the comma after "vagina," and insert one after 
" spicula." 
for " was" read " were." 

for " their sensorium" read " the sensorium of these insects." 
for" common" read" carrion." 

insert as a note to " H. ceneus." — " The insect alluded to under 
this name, answers Fabricius's description of H. eeneuSj but 
from Olivier's figure appears distinct from it." 
416 29 after "ivory" insert "or rather ebony." 















1 SEE already) and I see it with pleasure, that you will 
not content yourself with being a mere collector of in- 
sects. To possess a cabinet w ell stored, and to know by 
what name each described individual which it contains 
should be distinguished, will not satisfy the loye that is 
already grown strong in you for my favourite pursuit; 
and you now anticipate with a laudable eagerness, the 
discoveries that you may make respecting the history 
and economy of this most interesting department of the 
works of our Creator. I hail with joy this intention to 
emulate the bright example, and to tread in the hal- 
lowed steps of Swammerdam, JLeeuwenhoek, Redi, 
Malpighi, Vallisnieri, Ray, Lister, Reaumur, De Geer, 
Lyonet, Bonnet, the Hubers, &c. ; and 1 am confident 
that a man of your abilities, discernment, and obser- 
vation will contribute, in no small degree, to the trea- 

VOI-. II f B 


sures already poured into the general fund by these 
your illustrious predecessors. 

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

But if the facts already related, however extraordi- 
nary, have had power to produce such an effect upon 
you, what Avill be the momentum, when I lay before 
you more at large, as I next purpose, the most striking 
particulars of the proceedings of insects in society, and 
shovv the almost incredibly wonderful results of the 
combined instii^ts and labours of these minute beings? 
li^ comparison with these, all that is the fruit of soli- 
tary efforts, though some of them sufliciently marvel- 
lous, appear trilling and insignificant: as the works of 
man himself, when they are the produce of the industry 
and genius of only one, or a few individuals, though 
they might be regarded with admiration by a being who 
had seen nothing similar before, yet when contrasted 
with those to which the union of these qualities in large 
bodies has given birth, sink into nothing, and seem 
unworthy of attention. Who would think a hut ex- 
traordinary by the side of a stately palace, or a small 
"village when in the vicinity of a populous and magni- 
'ficent city ? 

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

There are societies the objectof which is mutual de- 


fence ; while that of others is the propagation of the 
snccies. Some form marauding parties, and associate 
for prey and plunder ; — others meet, as it should seem, 
under certain circumstances, merely for the sake of 
company ; — again, olliers are brought together by ac- 
cidental causes, and disperse when these cease to ope- 
rate ; — and finally, others, which may be said to form 
proper societies, are associated for the nurture of their 
voung, and, by the union of their labours and instincts, 
for mutual society, help, and comfort, in erecting or 
repairing their common habitation, in collecting provi- 
sions, and in defending their fortress when attacked. 

With respect to the duration of the societies of in- 
sects, some last only during their first or larva state ; 
and are occasionally even restricted to its earliest pe- 
riod ; — some again only associate in their perfect or 
imago state ; while w ith others, the proper societies 
for instance, the association is for life. But if I divide 
societies of insects into perfect and imperiect, it will, 
I think, enable me to give you a clearer and better 
view of the subject. By perfect societies I mean those 
that are associated in all their states, live in a common 
habitation, and unite their labours to promote a com- 
mon olyject; — and hy iinperfeetf^oc\ei\G9, those that are 
either associated during part of their existence only, or 
else do not dwell in a common habitation, nor unite 
their labours to promote a common object. In the pre- 
sent letter I shall confine myself to giving you some 
account o'l iniperfect societies. I 

Imperfect societies may be considered as of five de- 
scriptions : — associations for the sake of company only 
—associations of males during the season for pairing — 

B ^2 


associations formed for the purpose of travelling of 
emigratins: together — associations for feeding together 
—and associations that undertake some common work. 
The first of these associations consists chiefly of in- 
sects in their perfect state. The little beetles called 
whirlwigs (Gi/rinus, L.), — which may be seen cluster- 
ing in groups under warm banks in every river and 
every pool, and wheeling round and round with great 
velocity ; at your approach dispersing and diving under 
Water, but as soon as j'ou retire resuming their accus- 
tomed movements, — seem to be under the influence of 
the social principle, and to form their assemblies for 
no other purpose but to enjoy together, in the sun- 
beam, the mazy dance. Impelled by the same feeling, 
in the very depth of winter, even when the earth is co- 
vered with snow, the tribes of TipiiUdce (usually, but 
improperly, called gnats) assemble in sheltered situa- 
tions at midday, when the sun shines, and form them- 
selves into choirs, that alternately rise and fall with 
rapid evolutions^. To see these little aery beings ap- 
parently so full of joy and life, and feeling the entire 
force of the social principle in that dreary season, w hen 
the whole animal creation appears to suffer, and the 
rest of the insect tribes are torpid, always conveys to 
my mind the most agreeable sensations. These little 
creatures may always be seen at all seasons amusing 
themselves with these choral dances ; which Mr. Words- 
worth, in a late poem% has alluded to in the following 
beautiful lines : 

" Nor wanting here to entertain the thought, 
Creatures that in communities exist, 
' See also Markn'ick in White's NaU Hist, it, 23G. * The pxcunion. 


Less, as might seem, for general guardianship 

Or through dependance upon mutual aid, 

Than by participation of delight, 

And a strict lovi- of fellowship combined. 

What other s[)irit can it ha that prompts 

The gilded summer flics to mix and weave 

Their sports toge(her in the solar beam. 

Or in the gloom and twilight hum their joy?" 

Another association is that of males during the sea- 
son of pairing'. Of this nature seems to be that of the 
cockchafer and fernchafer (MeIolot?tha vulgaris and 
solstitialis, F.), which, at certain periods of tlie year 
and hours of the day, hover over the summits of the 
trees and hedges like swarms of bees, affording, when 
they alight on tlie ground, a grateful food to cats, pigs, 
and poultry. The males of another root-devouring 
beetle {HopUa nrgenfea, F.) assemble by myriads be- 
fore noon in the meadows, when in these infinite hosts 
you will not find even one female^. After noon the con- 
gregation is dissolved, and not a single individual is to 
be seen in the air'' : while those of Melolontha vulgaris 
and solsiilialis are on the wing only in the evening. 

At the same time of the day some of the short-lived 
Ephemera; assemble in numerous troops, and keep 
rising and failing alternately in the air, so as to exhi- 
bit a very amusing scene. Many of these also are 
males. They continue this dance from about an hour 
before sun-set, till the dew becomes too heavy or too 
cold for them, in the beginning of September, for two 
successive years, I was so fortunate as to witness a 

a The females {Scaraheeus argcnleiis, Marsh.) have red legs, and the 
males (Scnrabo'us puluerulenliis, Marsh.) black, 
'' Kirby in Linn. Trans, v. 250, 


spectacle of this kind, which afforded me a more sub- 
lime gratification than any work or exhibition of art 
has power to communicate. — The first was in 1811 : — 
taking an evening walk by a river near my house, Avhen 
the sun declining fast towards the horizon shone fortii 
without a cloud, the whole atmosphere over and near 
the stream swarmed with infinite myriads of EphemercB 
and little gnats of the genus Chiron omi4s, Latr., which 
in the sun-beam appeared as numerous and more lucid 
than the drops of rain, as if the heavens were shower-i 
ing down brilliant gems. — Afterwards, in the following 
year, one Sunday, a little before sun-set, I was enjoy- 
ing a stroll with a friend at a greater distance from the 
river, when in a field by the road-side the same pleas- 
ing scene was renewed, but in a style of still greater 
magnificence; for, from some cause in the atmosphere, 
the insects at a distance looked much larger than they 
really were. The choral dances consisted principally 
of Ephemerae, but there were also some of Chironomi : 
the former, however, being most conspicuous, attracted 
our chief attention — alternately rising and falling, in 
the full beam they appeared so transparent and glori- 
ous, that they scarcely resembled any thing material—^ 
they reminded us of angels and glorified spirits drinlc- 
Ing life and joy in the effulgence of the Divine favour'"-. 
The bard of Twickenham, from the terms in which his 
beautiful description of his sylphs is conceived in The 
Rape of the Loch^ seems to have witnessed the pleasing- 
scene here described : 

a The authors of this work iiere the wifnosses of the m;i«>,nifi(ent 
scene here described. It was on the second of September. The first was 
on the ninth of thr.l month. 


• *' Some to the sun their insect wings unfold, 

Waft on the breeze, or sink in ciuuds of gold ; 

Transparent forms, too fine for mortal sight, 

Their fluid bodies half dissolv'd in light; 

JiOose to the wind their airy garments ilawj 

Thin glittering textures of the filmy dew, 

Dipt in the richest tincture of the skies, 

Where light disports in ever miugiing dyes, 

While every beam new transient colours flings, 

Colours that change whene'er (hey wave their wings." 

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

The next description of insect associations is of those 
that congregate for the purpose of travelling or emi- 
grating together. De Geer lias given an account of 
the larvae of certain gnats (Tipu/cc, L.) which assemble 
in considerable numbers for this purpose, so as to form 
a band of a finger's breadth, and of from one to two 
yards in length. And, what is remarkable, while upon 
their march, which is very slow, they adhere to each 
other by a kind of glutinous secretion ; but when dis- 
turbed they separate without difficulty^. Kuhn men- 
tions another of the Tipulidce (from the antennae in his 
figure, which is very indifferent, it should seem a spe- 
cies of agaric-gnat (Mycetophila) ), the larvae of whicfi 

. a De Geer, vi. 338. 


live in society and emigrate in files, like the caterpiliaf 
of the procession-moth. Fir^^t g^oes one, next follow 
two, then three, &c., so as to exliibit a serpentine ap- 
pearance, probably from their simultaneous undulating 
motion and the continuity of the files ; whence the com- 
mon people in Germany call them (or rather the file 
"when on march) heerzourm, and view them with great 
dread, regarding" them as ominous of war. These larvag 
are apodes, white, subtransparent, with black heads'. 
-^ — But of insect emigrants none are more celebrated 
than the locusts, which, when arrived at their perfect 
state, assemble as before related, in such numbers, as 
in their flight to intercept the sun-beams, and to darken 
whole countries; passing from one region to another, 
and laying waste kingdom after kingdom :, — but upon 
these I have already said much, and shall have occa- 
sion again to enlarge. — The same tendency to shift 
their quarters has been observed in our little indige^ 
nous devourers, the Aphides. Mr. White tells us, 
that about three o'clock in the afternoon of the first 
of August 1785, the people of the village of Selborne 
were surprised by a shower of Aphides orsmother-flies, 
which fell in those parts. Those that VTalked in the 
street at tliat juncture found themselves covered with 
these insects, which settledalso upon the hedges and in 
the gardens, blackening ail the vegetables where they 
alighted. His annuals were discoloured by them, and 
the stalks of a bed of onions quite coated over for six 
days after. These armies, he observes, were then, no 
doubt, in a ^tate of emigration, and shifting their quar-? 
ters i and might have come from the great hop-pianta-s 

s Nalvrforsch. xvii. 2i6. 


tions of Kent or Sussex, the wind being- all that day 
in the east. Tho) were observed at the same time in 
great clouds about Farnham, and all along- the vale 
from Farnham to Alton". A sisniiar emigration of 
these flies I once witnessed, to my great annoyance, 
ivhen travelling later in the year, in the Isle of Ely. 
The air was so full of them, that they were incessantly 
flying- into my eyes, nostrils, &c. ; and my clothes were 
covered by them. And in 1814, in the autumn, the 
Aphides were so abundant for a few days in the vici- 
nity of Ipswich, as to be noticed with surprise by the 
most incurious observers. 

As the locust-eating- thrush (Turdus grj/llivorus,J^.) 
accompanies the locusts, so the Coccinellra seem to pur- 
sue the Aphides ; for I know no other reason to as- 
sign for the vast number tliat are sometimes, especially 
in the autumn, to be met w ith on the sea-coast or the 
banks of large rivers. Many years ago, those of the 
Jiumber v/ere so thickly strewed with the common 
Lady-bird {C. septempmictata, L.), that it was difficult 
to avoid treading upon them. Some years afterwards 
I noticed a mixture of species, collected in vast num- 
bers, on the sand-hills on the sea-shore, at the north- 
Tvest extremity of Norfolk. My friend the Uev. Peter 
L*athbury made long since a similar observation at 
Orford, on the SutFoik coast ; and about five or six 
years ago they covered the cliffs, as I have before rc^ 
marked'', of ail the watering-places on the Kentish and 
Sussex coasts, to the no small alarm of the superstir 
lious, who thought them forerunners of some direful 
levil. These last probably emigrated with the Aphides 
fioin the hop-grounds. Whether the latter and tlicir 
? Nat, Ilht. ii. 101. ? Vo:.. I. 2d Ed. 2G1, 


devoiirers cross the sea has not been ascertainecl j 
that the Coccinella? attempt it, is evidejjt from their 
alighting upon ships at sea, as 1 have witiiessed myself. 
— This appears clearly to have been the case with an- 
other emigrating insect, the sau-lly (Tenthredo) ofthe 
turnip (which, though so njischievous, appears n?ver 
to have been described ; it is nearly related to T. Cen- 
iifoliw, Panz.)^. It is the general opinion in Norfolk, 
Mr. Marshall informs us^, that Ihese insects come from 
over sea. A farmer declared he saw them arrive in 
clouds so as to darken the air ; the fishermen asserted 
that they had repeatedly seen flights of them pass over 
their heads when they were at a distance from land ; 
and on the beach and cliffs they were in such quanti- 
ties, that they might have been taken up by shovels- 
full. Three miles in-land they were described as re- 
sembling swarms of bees. This was in August 1782. 
Unentomological observers, such as farmers and fisher- 
men, might easily mistake one kind of insect for another ; 
but snpposinj^ them correct, the swarms in question 
might perhaps have passed from Lincolnshire to Nor- 
folk. — Meinecken toils us, that he once saw in a village 
in Anhah, on a clear day, about four in the afternoon, 
such a cloud of dragon-flies (Libe/hdce, L.) as almost 
concealed the sun, and not a little alarmed the villagers, 
under the idea that they were locusts" ; several in- 
stances are given by Rosel of similar clouds of these 
insects having been seen in Silesia and other districts' ; 
and Mr. Woolnough of HoUesley in Suffolk, a most 
attentive observer of nature, once witnessed such an 
army of the smaller dragon-flies {Agricriy F.) flying* 

■ Fn. Germ. Inii. xli\. IS. " PMlos. T> am. Ixxiii. 217. 

^ Nainrjonch. vi. 110. ^ ii. \6o. 


in-land from the sea, as to cast a slight shadow over a 
field of four acres as they passed. — Professor Walch 
states, that one night about eleven o'clock, sitting in 
his study, his attention was attracted by what seemed 
the pelting of hail against his window, which surpris- 
ing him by its long continuance, he opened the window, 
and found the noise was occasioned by a flight of the 
froth frog'-hopper {Cicada sjmmar'ia^ L.), v»hich en- 
tered the room in such numbers as to cover the table; 
From this circumstance and the continuance of the 
pelting, which lasted at least half an hour, an idea 
may be formed of the vast host of this insect passing 
over. It passed from east to west ; and as his window 
faced the south, they only glanced against it oblique- 
ly*. He afterwards witnessed, in August, a similar 
emigration of myriads of a kind of beetle (Carabu^ 
vulgaris, L.)''. — Another writer in the same work, 
H. Kapp, observed on a calm sunny day a prodigious 
flight of the noxious cabbage-butterfly (Papilio Bras-^ 
sicce, Li.), which passed from north-east to south-west, 
and lasted twer hours'". Kalm saw these last insects 
midway in the British Channel"^. Liiidley, a writer 
in the Royal MiUlari/ Chronicle, tells us, that in Bra- 
zil, in the beginning of March 1803, for many days 
successively there was an immense flight of white and 
yellow butterflies, probably of the same tribe as the 
cabbage-butterfly. They were observed never to set- 
tle, but proceeded in a direction from north-west to 
svuth-east. No buildings seemed to stop them from 
steadily pursuing their course ; which being to the 

* 'Naturforsch.v .111. " Ibid, xi. 95. 

'' Ibid. 94. "* Truvds, i. 13. 


ocean, at only a small distance, they must consequently 
perish. It is remarked that at this time no other kind 
of butterfly is to be seen, though the country usually 
abounds in such a variety*. — Major Moor, while sta- 
tioned at Bombay, as he was playing at chess one even- 
ing" with a friend in Old Woman's Island, near that 
place, witnessed an immense flight of bugs (Cimices), 
which were going westward. They Avere so numerous 
as to cover every thing in the apartment in which he was 
sitting. — When staying at Aldeburgh, on the eastern 
coast, I have, at certain times, seen innumerable in- 
sects upon the beach close to the waves, and appa- 
vcntly washed up by them. Though wetted, they were 
quite alive. It is remarkable, that of the emigrating 
insects here enumerated, the majority — for instance 
the Libellulae, Coccinellae, Carabi, Cicadae, &c.— are 
not usually social insects, but seem to congregate, like 
swallows, merely for the purpose of emigration. What 
incites them to this is one of those mysteries of nature, 
which at present we cannot penetrate. A scarcity of 
food urges the locusts to shift their quarters ; and too 
confined a space to accommodate their numbers occa- 
sions the bees to swarm : but neither of these motives 
can operate in causing unsocial insects to congregate. 
It is still more difficult to account for the impulse that 
urges these creatures, with their fiimy wings and fra- 
gile form, to attempt to cross the ocean, and expose 
themselves, one would think, to inevitable destruction. 
Yet, though we are unable to assign the cause of this 
lingular instinct, some of the reasons which induced 
the Creator to endow them with it maybe conjectured. 

» B, Milil. Chron. for March 1815, p. 452. 


This is clearly one of the modes by which their num- 
bers are kept within due limits, as, doubtless, the great 
majority of these adventurers perish in the waters. 
Thus, also, a greatsupply of food is furnished to those 
fish in the sea itself, which at other seasons ascend the 
rivers in search of them ; and jthis probably is one of 
the means, if not the only one, to which the numerous 
islands of this globe arc indebted for their insect po- 
pulation. Whether the insects I observed upon the 
beach wetted by the waves, had flown from our own. 
shores, and falling- into the water had been brought 
back by the tide ; or whether they had succeeded in 
the attempt to pass from the continent to us, by flyin^^ 
as far as they could, and then falling had been brought 
by the waves, cannot certainly be ascertained ; but 
Kalm's observation inclines me to the latter opinion. 

The next order of imperfect associations is that cf 
those insects which feed together : — these are of two de- 
•scriptions — those that associate in their^r^^or last state 
only, and those that associate in all their states. The 
first of these associations is often very short-lived : a 
patch of eggs is glued to a leaf; when hatched, the 
little larvae feed side by side very amicably, and a plea- 
sant sight it is to see the regularity with which thf.^ 
■work is often done, as if by word of command ; but 
when the leaf that served lor their cradle is consumed, 
their society is dissolved, and each goes where he can 
lo seek his own fortune, regardless of the fate or lot of 
his brethren. Of this kind are the larvae of the saw- 
i\\ of the gooseberry, whose ravages I have recorded 
before*;, and that of the cabbage-butter fiy ; the latter, 

• Voi. l.SdF.d. I'JT. 


however, keep longer together, and seldom wholly se*- 
parate. In their final state, 1 have noticed that the in- 
dividuals of Thrips JP/ij/sapus, the fly that causes us'in 
hot weather such intolerable titillation, are very fond 
of each other's company when they feed. Towards the 
latter end of last July, walking through a wheat-field, 
I observed that all the blossoms o? Convohulus arvensis, 
though very numerous, were interiorly turned quite 
black by the infinite number of these insects, which 
were coursing about within them. 

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

- So much as the world has sufit;red from these ani- 
mals % it is extraordinary that so few observations have 
been made upon their history, economy, and mode of 
'proceeding. One of the best accounts seems to be 
that of Profci^sor Pallas, in his Travels into the South- 
em Provinces of the Hussian Empire. The species to 
which his principal attention was paid appears to have 
been the Gri/Uus ilalicus, in its larva and pupa states. 
" In sei*eiie warm weather," says he, " the loc\ists ace 

•See Vol. I. 2d Ed. 214. 


in full motion in the morning immediately after the 
evaporation of the dew ; and if no dew has fallen, they 
appear as soon as the sun imparts his genial warmth. 
At first some are seen running about like messengers 
among the reposing- swarms, which arc lying partly 
compressed upon the ground, at the side of small emi- 
nences, and partly attached to tali plants and shrubs. 
Shortly after the whole body begins to move forward 
in one direction and with little deviation. They re- 
semble a swarm of ants, all taking the same course, at 
small distances, but without touching each other : they 
uniformly travel towards a certain region as fast as a 
fly can run, and without leaping, unless pursued ; in 
which case, indeed, they disperse, but soon collect 
again and follow their former route. In this manner 
they advance from morning to evening without halting, 
frequently at the rate of a hundred fathoms and up- 
%vards in the course of a day. Although they prefer 
marching along high roads, footpaths, or open tracts; 
yet when their progress is opposed by bushes, hedges, 
and ditches, they penetrate through them : their way 
can only be impeded by the waters of brooks or canals, 
as they are apparently terrified at every kind of mois- 
ture. Often, however, they endeavour to gain the op- 
posite bank v,ith the aid of overhanging boughs ; and 
if the stalks of plants or shrubs be laid across the wa- 
ter, they pass in close columns over these temporary 
bridges ; on which they even seem to rest and enjoy 
the refreshing coolness. Towards sun-set the whole 
swarm gradually collect in parties, and creep up the 
plants^ or encamp on slight eminences. On cold, 
cloudy, or rainy days they do not travel. — As soon as 


they acquire wings they prof^ressively disperse, but stilt 
fly about in large swarms^." 

" In the month of May, when the ovaries of thest? 
insects were ripe and turgid," says Dr. Shaw'', "each 
of these swarms began gradually to disappear, and re- 
tired into the Mettijiah, and other adjacent plains, 
where they deposited their eggs. These were no sooner 
hatched in June, than each of the broods collected it- 
self into a compact body, of a furlong or more in square 5 
and marching afterwards directly forwards toward the 
sea, they let nothing escape them^ — thei/ Jcept their 
ranks, like men of war; climbing over, as they advanced, 
every tree or wall that was in their way; nay, they en- 
tered into our very houses and bed-chambers, like sa 

man?/ thieves. A day or two after one of these hordes 

was in motion, others were already hatched to march 

and glean after them. Having lived near a month 

in this manner they arrived at their full growth, 

and threw off their ni/mpha-state by casting their out- 
ward skin. To prepare themselves for this change, 
they clung by their hinder feet to some bush, twig, or 
corner of a stone ; and immediately, by using an undl^- 
lating motion, their heads would first break out, and 
then the rest of their bodies. The whole transforma'- 
tion was performed in seven or eight minutes; after 
which they lay for a small time in a torpid and seem- 
ingly in a languishing condition ; but as soon as the 
sun and the air had hardened their wings, by drying 
up the moisture that remained upon them after cast- 
ing their sloughs, they reassumed their former vora;- 
city, with an addition of strength and agility. Yet 

" Tallaa,. ii. 422-6, " Travels^ 1S7. 


they ccntimiod not long in this state before they were 
entirely dispersed." The species Dr. Shaw here speaks 
of is probably not the Grj/llus migratorius, L. 

The old Arabian fable, that they are directed in 
their flio-hts by a leader or king% has been adopted, 
but I think without sufficient reason, by several travel- 
lers. Thus Benjamin Bullivant, in his observations 
on the Natural History of New England'', says that 
" the locusts have a kind of regimental discipline, and 
as it were some commanders, which show greater and 
more splendid wings than the common ones, and arise 
first when pursued by the fowls or the feet of the tra- 
veller, as I have often seriously remarked." And in 
like terms Jackson observes, that " they have a govern- 
ment amongst themselves simihir to that of the bees 
and ants ; and when the {Sultan Jerraad) king of the 
locusts rises, the whole body follow him, not one soli- 
tary straggler being left behind*"." But that locusts 
have leaders, like the bees or ants, distinguished from 
the rest by the size and splendour of their wings, is a 
circumstance that has not yet been established by any 
satisfactory evidence ; indeed, very strong reasons may 
be urged against it. The nations of bees and ants, it 
must be observed, are housed together in one nest or 
hive, the whole population of which is originally de- 
rived from one common mother, and the leaders of the 
swarms in each are the females. But the armies of 
locusts, though they herd together, travel together, 
and feed together, consist of an infinity of separate fa- 
milies, all derived from different mothers, who have 

a Bocliart, Hierozoic. ii. 1. 4. c. 2. 460. b In Phi!i>^. Tranit. for 1G98, 
<• Jackson's Maroeco, 51. 
VOL. It. c 


laid their eggs in separate cells or houses in the earth t. 
so that there is little or no analogy between the socie- 
ties of locusts and those of bees and ants ; and this 
pretended sultan is something quite different from the 
queen-bee or the female ants. It follows, therefore, that 
as the locusts have no common mother, like the bees, 
to lead their swarms, there is no one that nature, by a 
different organization and ampler dimensions, and a 
more august form, has destined to this high office. The 
only question remaining is, whether one be elected 
from the rest by common consent as their leader, or 
whether their instinct impels them to follow the first 
that takes flight or alights. This last is the learned 
Bochart's opinion, and seems much the most reason- 
able *. The absurdity of the other supposition, that an 
election is made, will appear from such queries as these, 
at which you may smile — Who are the electors ? Are 
the myriads of millions all consulted, or is the elective 
franchise confined to a few .' Who holds the courts 
and takes the votes? Who casts them up and declares 
the result? When is the election made.? — The larvae 
appear to be as much under government as the perfect 
insect. — Is the monarch then chosen by his peers Avhen 
they first leave the egg and emerge from their subter- 
ranean caverns ? or have larva, pupa, and imago each 
their separate king? The account given us in Scrip- 
ture is certainly much the most probable, that the lo- 
custs have no king, though they observe as much order 
and regularity in their movements as if they were 
under military discipline, and had a ruler over them''. 
Some species of ants, as we learn from the admirable 

a Bochart, Ilitrozoic. ubi supra. '^ Proverbs xxx. 27. 


history of them by M. P. Huber, though they go forth 
by common consent upon their military expeditions, 
yet the order of their columns keeps perpetually chan- 
ging ; so that those who lead the van at the first setting 
out, soon fall into the rear, and others take their place; 
their successors do the same ; and such is the constant 
order of their march. It seems probable, as these co- 
lumns are extended to a considerable length, that the 
object of this successive change of leaders is to convey 
constant intelligence to those in the rear, of what is 
going forward in the van. Whether any thing like 
this takes place for the regulation of their motions in 
the innumerable locust-armies, which are sometimes 
co-extensive with vast kingdoms; or whether their in- 
stinct simply directs them to follow the first that moves 
or flies, and to keep their measured distance, so that, 
as the prophet speaks, " one does not thrust another, 
and they walk every one in his path%" must be left 
to future naturalists to ascertain. And I think that 
you will join with me in the wish that travellers, who 
have a taste for Natural History, and some knowledge 
of insects, would devote a share of attention to the 
proceedings of these celebrated animals, so that we 
might have facts instead of fables. 

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

Amongst the Coleoptera^ Ateiichus pilularius^ a beetle 
before mentioned, acts under the influence of this prin- 
ciple. " I have attentively admired their industry and 

a Joel ii. 8. 
C 2 


mutual assisting of each other," says Catesby, " hi 
rolling- those globular balls from the place where they 
made them, to that of their interment, which is usually 
the distance of some yards, more or less. This they 
perform breech foremost, by raising their hind parts, 
forcing along the ball with their hind feet. Two or 
three of them are sometimes eftaaffed in trundlinff one 
ball, which, from meeting with impediments from the 
unevenness of the ground, is sometimes deserted by 
them : it is however attempted by others with success, 
unless it happens to roll into some deep hollow chink, 
%vhere they are constrained to leave it ; but they con- 
tinue their work by rolling off the next ball that comes 
in their way. None of them seem to know their own 
balls, but an equal care for the whole appears to affect 
all the community''." 

Many larvas also of Lepkloptera associate with this 
view, some of which are social only during part of theii 
existence, and others during the whole of it. The 
first of these continue together while their united la- 
bours are beneficial to them ; but wlien they reach a 
certain period of their life, they disperse and become 
solitary. Of this kind are the caterpillars of a little 
butterfly (Papilio Cinxia) which devour the narrow- 
leaved plantain. The families of these, usually amount- 
ing to about a hundred, unite to form a pyramidal 
silken tent, containing several apartments, which is 
pitched over some of the plants that constitute their 
food, and shelters them both from the sun and tlse rain. 
When they have consumed the provi?ion which it co^ 
vers, they construct a new one over other roots of thi* 

aCatesbj's Carolirta^W. 111. See above, Vol.. I. 2d i.d. ^'50. 


plant ; and sometimes four or five of these encamp- 
ments may be seen within a foot or two of each other. 
Against winter they weave and erect a strongc r habi- 
tation of a rounder form, not divided by any partitions, 
in which they lie heaped one upon another, each being 
rolled up. About April they separate, and continue 
solitary till they assume the pupa. 

Reaumur, to \vhom I am indebted for this account, 
has also given us an interesting history of another in- 
sect, the gold-tail-moth before mentioned, whose cater- 
pillars are of this description. They belong to that 
family of Bombyces, which envelop their eggs in hair 
plucked from their own body. As soon as one of these 
young caterpillars is disclosed from the egg, it begins to 
feed; another quickly joins it, placing itself by its side; 
thus they proceed in succession till a file is formed 
across the leaf: — a second is then begun; aiul after 
this is completed, a third— and so they proceed till the 
whole upper surface of the leaf is covered: — i)ut as a 
single leaf will not contain the whole family, the re- 
mainder take their station upon the adjoining ones. No 
sooner have they satisfied the cravings of hunger, than 
they begin to think of erecting a common habitation, 
which at first is only a vaulted web, that covers the 
leaf they inhabit, but by their united labours in due 
time grows into a magnificent tent of silk, containing 
various apartments sufficient to defend and shelter 
them ail from the attack of enemies and the inclemency 
of the seasons. As our caterpillars, like eastern raon- 
archs, are too delicate to adventure their feet upon 
the rough bark of the tree upon which they feedj they 


lay a silken carpet over every road and pathway lead- 
ing to their palace, which extends as far as they have 
occasion to go for food. To the habitation just de- 
scribed they retreat during heavy rains, and when 
the sun is too hot : — they liiiewise pass part of the 
night in them ; — and, indeed, at all times some may 
usually be found at home. Upon any sudden alarm 
they retreat to them for safety, and also when they cast 
their skins : — in the winter they are wholly confined 
to them, emerging again in the spring : but in May and 
June they entirely desert them ; and, losing all their 
love for society, live in solitude till they become pupae, 
which takes place in about a month. When they de- 
sert their nests, the spiders take possession of them ; 
which has given rise to a prevalent though most absurd 
opinion, that they are the parents of these caterpillars*. 
, With other caterpillars the association continues 
during the whole of the larva state. De Geer mentions 
one of the TefithredimdcE of this description which form 
a common nidus by connecting leaves together with 
silken threads, each larva moreover spinning a tube of 
the same material for its own private apartment, in 
which it glides backwards and forwards upon its back''. 
I have observed similar nidi in this country; the insects 
that form them belong to the Fabrician genus Li/da. 

The most remarkable insects, however, that arrange 
under this class of imperfect associates, are those that 
observe a particular order of march. Though they 
move without beat of drum, they maintain as much 
regularity in their step as a file of soldiers. It is a most 

a Vol. I. 2d Ed. 476. Reaumur, ii. 125. > De Geer, ii. 1029. 


agreeable sig'lit, says one of Nature's most favoured 
admirers, Bonnet, to see several hundreds of the larvae 
of P.B. Neustria marching- after each other, some in 
straight lines, others in curves of various inflection, re- 
sembling, from their fiery colour, a moving cord of gold 
stretched upon a silken ribband of the purest white; 
this ribband is the carpeted causeway that leads to 
their leafy pasture from their nest. Equally amusing 
is the progress of another moth, the Pittjocampa^ be- 
fore noticed ; they march together from their common 
citadel, consisting of pine-leaves united and inwoven 
with tlie silk which they spin, in a single line : in fol- 
lowing each other they describe a multitude of grace- 
ful curves of varying figure, thus forming a series of 
living wreaths, which change their shape every mo- 
ment : — all move with a uniform pace, no one pressing 
too forward or loitering behind ; when the first stops, 
all stop, each defiling in ex&ct military order*. 

A still more singular and pleasing spectacle, when 
their regiments march out to forage, is exhibited by 
the Processionary Bomhyx. This moth, which is a 
native of France, and has not yet been found in this 
country, inhabits the oak. Each family consists of 
from 600 to 800 individuals. When young, they have 
no fixed habitation, but encamp sometimes in one place 
and sometimes in another, under the shelter of their 
web: but when they have attained two-thirds of their 
growth, they weave for themselves a common tent, be- 
fore described''. About sun-set the regiment leaves 
its quarters; or, to make the metaphor harmonize with 

" Bonnet, ii. 57, " Vol. I. 2d Ed. 418. 


the trivial name of the animal, the monks their cosno- 
bium. At their head is a chief, by whose movements 
their procession is regulated. When he stops, all stop, 
and proceed when he proceeds ; three or four of his 
immediate followers succeed in the same line, the head 
of the second touching the tail of the first : then comes 
an equal series of pairs, next of threes, a>w{ -o on as 
far as fifteen or twenty. The whole procession uioves 
regularl} on with an even pace, each file treating upon 
the steps of those that precede it. If the leader, ar- 
riving at a particular point, pursues a different direc- 
tion, all march to that point before they turn. Pro- 
bably in this they are guided by some scent imparted 
to the tracks by those that pass over them. Sometimes 
the order of procession is different : the leader, who 
moves singly, is followed by two, these are succeeded 
by three, then come four, and so on. When the leader, 
— who in nothing differs from the rest, and is probably 
the caterpillar nearest the entrance to the nest, fol- 
lowed, as I have described, — has proceeded to the 
distance of about two feet, more or less, he makes a 
halt ; during which those which remain come forth, 
take their places, the company forms into files, the 
inarch is resumed, and all follow as regularly as if they 
kept time to music. These larvae may be occasionally 
found at mid-day out of their nests, packed close one 
to another without making any movement ; so that, al- 
though they occupy a space sufficiently ample, it is not 
easy to discover them. At otiier times, instead <)f being 
simply laid side by side, they are formed into singular 
masses, in which they are heaped one upon anothcrj 


and as it were interwoven together. Thus also they 
are disposed in their nests. Sometimes their families 
divide into two bands, which never afterwards unite \ 

I have nothing further of importance to commnni* 
rate to vou on imperfect societies : in my next I shall 
begin the most interesting subject that Entomology 
offers; a subject, to say the least, including as great 
a portion b »th of instruction and amusement as any 
branch of Natural History affords ; — I mean those 
perfect associations which have for their great object 
the multiplication of the species, and the education, if 
such a term may be here employed, of the young. This 
is too fei'tile a theme to be confined to a single letter, 
but must occupy several. 

I am, c^e. 

» Rt'fii'.iDur, ij. 180. 



PERFECT SOCIETIES. {White Auts and Aiits.) 

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


and to raise works of munition that may resist his at- 
tack. A 

The main instrument of association is language, and 
no association can be perfect where there is not a com- 
mon tongue. The origin of nationality was diiTorence 
of speech : — at Babel, when tongues were divided, na- 
tions separated. Language may be understood in a 
larger sense than to signify inllectionsof the voice, — it 
may well include all the meansof making yourself un- 
derstood by another, whether by sounds, gestures, signs, 
or words : the two first of these kinds may be called na- 
tural language, and the two last arbitrary or artificial. 

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

But when we consider the object of these societies, 
the preservation and multiplication of the species ; and 
the means by winch that object is attained, the united 
labours and cooperation of perhaps millions of indivi- 
duals, it seems as if they were impelled by passions 
very similar to those main-springs of human associa- 
tions, which I have just enumerated. Desire appears 
to stimulate them — love to allure them — fear to alarm 
them. They want a habitation to reside in, and food 
for their subsistence. Does not this look as if desire 
were the operating cause, which induces them to unite 
their labours to construct the one and provide the 
other? Tiieir nests contain a numerous family of help- 


less brood. Does not love here seem to urge them to 
that exemplary and fond attention, and those unre- 
mitted and indefatigable exertions manifested by the 
whole community for the benefit of these dear objects? 
Is it not also evidenced by their general and singular 
attachment to their females, by their mutual caresses, 
by their feeding each other, by tlieir apparent sympa- 
tliy with suffering individuals and endeavours to re- 
lieve them, by their readiness to help those that are in 
difficulty, and finally by their sports and assemblies 
for relaxation ? That fear produces its influence upon 
them seepjs no less evident, when we see them, agi- 
tated by the approachof enemies, endeavour to remove 
Avhat is inost dear to them beyond their reach, unite 
their efforts to repel their attacks, and to construct 
Avorks of defence. They appear to have besides a com- 
mon language ; for they possess the faculty, by signi- 
ficative gestures and sounds, of communicating their 
wants and ideas to each other» 

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

Man also, endowed with reason, forms a judgement 
from circumstances, and by a variety of means can at- 
tain the same end. Besides the language of nature, ges- 
tures, and exclamations, which the passions produce. 


Ire i» gifted with the divine faculty of speech, and cart 
express his thoughts 'oy articulate sounds or artificial 
language. — Not so our social insects. Every species 
has its peculiar mode of proceeding, to which it adheres 
as to the law of its nature, never deviating but under 
the control of imperious circumstances ; for in parti- 
cular instances, as you will see when I come to treat 
of their instincts, tiicy know how to vary, though not 
very materially, from the usual mode^. But they ne- 
ver depart, like man, from the general system ; and, 
in common with the rest of the animal kingdom, they 
have no articulate language. 

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

I shall not detain you longer by prefatory remarks 
from the amusing scene to which I am eager to intro- 
duce you ; but the following- observations of M. P. Hu- 
ber on tliis subject are so just and striking, that I can- 
not refrain from copying them. 

a Plusieurs d'entre eux ( Jnserfex) savent uscrde ressources in£;e.nieii?es 
dans les circonstances duficiles: ils sortcnt alors de leur routine accou- 
tmnee et semblenl a2;ir d'apres la position dans laqijelle ils se trouvenf ; 
«'>st la sans doiite I'liu des phenomi^nps les plus ciirieux de I'histoire na- 
liirelle. Huber, Nouvelles Obsen'ntions sur la jibeiUts, ii. 198. — Com^ 
pare also ibid. 250, note N . R. 


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

The great end of the societies of insects being the 
rapid multiplication of the species. Providence has 
employed extraordinary means to secure the fulfilment 
of this object, by creating a particular order of indivi- 
duals in eacli society, which, freed from sexual pur- 
suits, may give themselves wholly to labour, and thus 
absolve the females from every employment but that of 
furnishing the society from time to time with a sufficient 
supply of eggs to keep up the population to its proper 
standard. In the case of the Termites, the office of work- 
ing for the society, as these insects belong to an order 
whose metamorphosis is semi-complete^ devolves upon 


the larvae ; the neuters, unless these should prove to be 
the larvae of males, being the soldiers of the community. 

From this circumstance perfect societies may be di- 
vided into two classes ; the first including those whose 
workers are larvce, and the second those whose workers 
are neuters''. The white ants belong to the former of 
these classes, and the social Ilj/menoptera to the latftr. 

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

I have on a former occasion given you some account 
of the devastation produced by the white ants, or Ter- 
miles, the species of which constitute the first class 
of perfect societies '^ ; I shall now relate to you some 

a I employ ocrasionall y the teiiti neuters, though it is not perfectly pro- 
per, for the sake of convenience; — strictly speaking, they may rather be 
regarded as imperfect or sterile females. Yet certainly, as the imperfec- 
tion of their organization unfits them for sexual purposes, the term nculer 
is not absolutely improper. b (F.tiv. ix. 163. 

c M. P. Huber in I,inn. Trans, vi. 256. Reaum. v. 

J Vol I. 2d lid. i?4^^. 


further particulars of their history, Avhich will, Ihope^ 
give you a better opinion of them. 

The majority of these animals are natives of tropical 
countries, though two species are indigenous to Eu- 
rope; one of which, thought to have been imported, is 
come so near to us as Bourdeaux. The fullest ac- 
count hitherto given of their history is that of Mr. 
Smeathmau, in the Philosophical Transactions ^or 1781 ; 
which, since it has in many particulars been confirmed 
by the observations of succeeding naturalists, though 
in some things he was evidently mistaken, I shall 
abridge for you, correcting him where he appears to 
be in error, and adding from Latreiile, and the MS. 
of a French naturalist resident on the spot, kindly fur- 
nished by W. J. Hooker, esq.'^ what they have ob- 
served with respect to those of Bourdeaux and Ceylon. 
The white ants, though they belong to the Neuroptera 
order, borrow their instinct from the hymenopterous 
social tribes, and in conjunction with the ants(/brw2?"crt) 
connect the two orders. Their societies consist of five 
different descriptions of individuals — workers or larvaB 
— nymphs or pupaa — neuters or soldiers — males, and 

1. The workers or larvse, answering to the hymeno- 
pterous neuters, are the most numerous and at the 
same time most active part of the communits : upon 
whom devolves the office of erecting and repairing the 
buildings, collecting provision, attending upon the fe- 
male, conveying the eggs when laid to what Smeath- 

a Author of a very interestini; Tour in Icelaiid,]a splendid Mqnograpij 
«H (he Genus Jungerniamda, &c. 


itian calls the nurseries, and feeding the young larvae 
till they are old enough to take care of themselves. 
They are distinguished from the soldiers by their di- 
minutive size, by their round heads and shorter man- 

2. The nymphs or pupae. These were not noticed by 
Smeathman, who mistook the neuters for them : — they 
differ in nothing from the larvae, and probably are 
equally active, except that they have rudiments of 
wings, or rather the wings folded up in cases (Ptero- 
thecce). They were first observed by Ivatreille ; nor 
did they escape the author of the MS. above ailuded 
tOj who mistook them for a different kind of larvae. 

3. The neuters^ erroneously called by Smeathman 
pupae. These are much less numerous than the work- 
ers, bearing the proportion of one to one hundred, and 
exceeding them greatly in bulk. They are also di- 
stinguishable by their long and large head, armed with 
very long subulate mandibles. Their office is that of 
sentinels: and when the nest is attacked, to them is 
committed the task of defending it. These neuters are 
quite unlike those in the Hi/menoptera perfect socie- 
ties, Avhich seem to be a kind of abortive females, and 
there is nothing analogous to them in any other depart- 
ment of Entomology. 

4. and 5. Males and females, or the insects arrived 
at their state of perfection, and <;apable of continuing 
the species. There is only one of each in every sepa<p 
rate society ; they are exempted from all participation 
in the labours and employments occupying the rest of 
the community, that they may be wholly devoted to 
the furnishing of constant accessions to the population 

VOL. II. D - 


of til? colony. Thougli at their first disclosure from 
the pupa they have four wings, like the female ants 
they soon cast them ; but they may then be distinguish* 
ed from the blind larvae, pupse, and neuters, by iheir 
large and prominent eyes^. 

The first establishment of a colony of Termites takes 
place in the following manner. In the evening, soon 
after the first tornado, which at the latter end of the 
dry season proclaims the approach of the ensuing rains, 
these animals, having attained to their perfect state, in 
which they are furnished and adorned with two pair of 
wings, emerge from their clay-built citadels by myri- 
ads and myriads, to seek their fortune. Borne on these 
ample wings, and carried by the wind, they fill the air, 
entering the houses, extinguishing the lights, and even 
sometimes being driven on board the ships that are not 
far from the shore. The next morning they are dis- 
covered covering the surface of the earth and waters : 
deprived of the wings which enable them to avoid their 
numerous enemies, and which are only calculated to 
C9.rry them a few hours, and looking like large mag- 
gots; from the most active, industrious, and rapacious, 
they are now become the most helpless and cowardly 
beings in nature, and the prey of innumerable enemies, 
to the smallest of which they make not the least resist- 
ance. Insects, especially ants, which are always on 
the hunt for them, leaving no place unexplored ; birds, 
reptiles, bejists, an^ even man himself, look upon this 

a The neuters in all respects bear a stronger analogy to the larvae than 
to the perfect insects ; and, after all, may possibly turn out to be larv«, 
perhaps of the males. Huber seems to doubt their being neuters. Nouv. 
ObtM, 444, note *. 


event as their harvest, and, as you have been told be- 
fore, make them their food ; so that scarcely a single 
pair in many millions get into a place of safety, fuljfil 
the first law of nature, and lay the foundation of anew 
community. At this time they are seen running upon 
the ground, the male after the female, and sometimes 
two chasing one, and contending with great eagerness, 
regardless of the innumerable dangers that surround 
them, who shall win the prize. 

The workers, who are continually prowling about in 
their covered ways, occasionally meet with one of these 
pairs, and, being impelled by their instinct, pay them 
homage, and they are elected as it were to be king and 
queen, or rather father and mother, of a new colony^: 
all that are not so fortunate, inevitably perish; and, 
considering the infinite host of their enemies, probably 
in the course of the following day. The workers, as 
soon as this election takes place, begin to inclose their 
new rulers in a small chamber of clay, before descri- 
bed^, suited to their size, the entrances to which are 
only large enough to admit themselves and the neuters, 
but milch too small for the royal pair to pass through ; 
-^so that their state of royalty is a state of confinement, 
and so continues during the remainder of their exist- 
cilce. The impregnation of the female' is supposed to 
take place after this confinement, and she soon begins 
to furnish the infant colony with new inhabitants. The 

a In this these animals vary from the usual instinct of the social Hif' 
menoptera, the ants, the wasps, and the humble-bees — with whom the 
females lay the first foundations of the colonies, unassisted by any neuters; 
— -but in the swarms of the hive-bee an election may, perhaps, in some 
instances, be said to take place. b Vol. 1. 2d £d. 5 IS. 

D 2 


care of feeding her and her male companion devolved 
upon the industrious larvce, who supply them both with 
every thing that they want. As she increases in di- 
mensions, they keep enlarging the cell in which she is 
detained. When the business of oviposition commences, 
they take the eggs from the female, and deposit them 
in the nurseries *. Her abdomen now begins gradually 
to extend, till in process of time it is enlarged to 1500 
or 2000 times the size of the rest of her body, and her 
bulk equals that of 20,000 or 30,000 workers. This 
part, often more than three inches in length, is now a 
vast matrix of eggs, which make long circumvolutions 
through numberless slender serpentine vessels : — it is 
also remarkable for its peristaltic motion, (in this re- 
sembling the female ant'',) which, like the undulations 
of water, produces a perpetual and successive rise and 
fall over the whole surface of the abdomen, and occa- 
sions a constant extrusion of the eggs, amounting some- 
times in old females to sixty in a minute, or eighty 
thousand and upwards in twenty-four hours'^. As these 
females live two years in their perfect state, how asto* 
nishing must be tlie number produced in that time ! 

This incessant extrusion of eggs miist call for the at* 
tention of a large number of the workers in the royal 
chamber (and indeed it is always full of thsm), to take 
them as they come forth and carry them to the nurse* 
ries; in which, when hatched, they are provided with 
food, and receive every necessary attention till they are 

a See Vol. I. 2d Ed, 513, b Gould's Account of English Jnts, 22. 

c The late John Hunter dissected two young queens. In the abdomen 
he found two ovaries, consisting of many hundred oviducts, each contain- 
ing iunumeiable eggs. 


able to shift for themselves.—- One remarkable circum- 
stance attends these nurseries — they are always covered 
with a kind of mould, amongst which arise numerous 
globules about the size of a small pin's head. This is 
probably a species oi Mitcor ; and by Mr. Kcinig-, who 
found them also in nests of an East-Indian species of 
Termes, is conjectured to be the food of the larvaB. 

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

The manner in which the Termites feed the young 
brood, before they commence their active life and are 
admitted to share in the labours of the nest, has not, 
as far as I know, been recorded by any writer : I shall 
therefore leave them in their nurseries, and introduce 
you to the bustling scene which these creatures exhi- 
bit in their first state after they are become useful. To 
do this, in vain should I carry you to one of their nests 
• — you would scarcely see a single one stirring — though, 
perhaps, under your feet there would be millions going- 
and returning by a thousand different ways. Unless 
1 possessed the power of Asmodeus in Le Diahle Boi- 
teux, of showing you their houses and covered ways 
with their roofs removed, you would return home as 
wise as you came ; for these little busy creatures are 
taught by Providence always to work under cover. If 


they have to travel over a rock or up a tree, they vault 
with a coping of earth the route they mean to pursue, 
and they form subterranean paths and tunnels, some 
of a diameter wider than the bore of a large cannon, on 
all sides from their habitation to their various objects 
of attack; or which sloping down (for they cannot well 
mount a surface quite perpendicular) penetrate to the 
depth of three or four feet under their nests into the 
earth, till they arrive at a soil proper to be used in the 
erection of their buildings. Were they, indeed, to 
expose themselves, the race would soon be annihilated 
by their innumerable enemies. This circumstance has 
deceived the author of the MS. account of those in 
Ceylon, who, speaking of the nests of these insects in 
that island, which he describes as twelve feet high, ob- 
serves, that " They may be considered as a large city, 
which contains a great number of houses, and these 

houses an infinite number of cells or apartments : 

these cells appear to me to communicate with each 
other, but not the houses. I have convinced myself, 
by bringing together the broken walls of one of the ca- 
vities of the nest or cone, that it does not communicate 
with any other, nor with the exterior of the cone — a 
very curious circumstance, which I will not undertake 
to explain. Other cavities communicate by a very nar- 
row tunnel." By not looking for subterranean com-, 
inunications, he was probably led into this error. 

You have before heard of their diligence in building. 
Does any accident happen to their various structures, 
or are they dislodged from any of their covered ways, 
they are still more active and expeditious in repairing, 
(Jetting out of si^ht as soon as possibiej— and they rati 


as fast or faster than any insect of their size, — in a sin- 
gle night they will restore a gallery of three or four 
yards in length. If, attacking the nest, you divide it 
in halves, leaving the royal chamber, and thus lay open 
thousands of apartments, all will be shut up with their 
sheets of clay by the next morning; — nay, even if the 
whole be demolished, provided the king and the queen 
be left, every interstice between the ruins, at which 
either cold or wet can possibly enter, will be covered, 
and in a year the building will be raised nearly to its 
pristine size and grandeur. 

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

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

When any one is bold enough to attack their nest 
and make a breach in its walls^ the labourers, who are 


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

On the other hand, if, after the first attack, you get a 
little out of the way, giving them no further interruption, 
supposing the assailant of their citadel is gone beyond 
their reach, in less than half an hour they will retire 
into the nest ; and before they have all entered, you 
will see the labourers in motion, hastening in various 


directions towards the breach, every one carrying in his 
mouth a mass of mortar half as big as his body% ready 
tempered : — this mortar is made of the finer parts of the 
gravel, which they probably select in the subterranean 
pits or passages before described, which, worked up to 
a proper consistence, hardens to the solid substance 
resembling stone, of which their nests are constructed. 
As fast as they come up, each sticks its burthen upon 
the breach ; and this is done with so much regularity 
and dispatch, that although thousands, nay millions, 
are employed, they never appear to embarrass or in- 
terrupt one another. By the united labours of such 
an infinite host of creatures the wall soon rises and the 
breach is repaired. 

While the labourers are thus employed, almost all 
the soldiers have retired quite out of sight, except here 
and there one, who saunters about amongst the la- 
bourers, but never assists in the work. One in parti- 
cular places himself close to the wall v/hich they are 
building; and turning himself leisurely on all sides, as 
if to survey the proceedings, appears to act the part of 
an overseer of the works. Every now and then, at the 
interval of a minute or two, by lifting up his head and 
striking with his forceps upon the wall of the nest, he 
makes a particular noise, which is answered by a loud 
hiss from all the labourers, and appears to be a signal 
for dispatch ; for, every time it is heard, they may be 
seen to redouble their pace, and apply to their work 

a The anonymous author before alluded to, who observed the Cejloti 
white ants, says, that such was ihe size of the masses, which were tem- 
pered"with a strong gluten, that they adhered though laid on the upper 
part of the breach. 


with increased diligence. Renew the attack, and this 
amusing scene will be repeated : — in rush the labour- 
ers, a]l disappearing- in a few seconds, and out march 
the military as numerous and vindictive as before. — 
When all is once more quiet, the busy labourers re- 
appear, and resume their Avork, and the soldiers vanish. 
Repeat the experiment a hundred times, and the same 
■will always be the result ; — you will never find, be the 
peril or emergency ever so great, that one order at- 
tempts to fight, or the other to work. 

You have seen how solicitous the Termites are to 
move and work under cover and concealed from obser- 
vation ; this, however, is not always the case ; — there 
is a species larger than T. bel/icosus, whose "proceed- 
ings I have been principally describing, which Mr. 
Smeathman calls the marching- Termes {Termes via- 
rum). He was once passing through a thick forest, 
when on a sudden a loud hiss, like that of serpents, 
struck him with alarm. The next step produced a re- 
petition of the sound, which he then recognised to be 
that of white ants : yet he was surprised at seeing none 
of their hil's or covered ways. Following the noise, 
to his great astonishment and delight he saw an army 
of these creatures emerging from a hole in the ground ; 
their number was prodigious, and they marched with 
the utidost celerity. When they had proceeded about 
a yard they divided into two columns, chiefly composed 
of labourers, about fifteen abreast, following each other 
in close order, and going straight forward. Here and 
there was seen a soldier, carrying his vast head with 
apparent difficulty, and looking like an ox in a flock of 
sheep, who marched on in the same manner. At the 


distance of a foot or two from the columns many other 
soldiers were to be seen, standing- still or pacing- about 
as if upon the look-out, lest some enemy should sud- 
denly surprise their unwarlike comrades ; — other sol- 
diers, which was the most extraordinary and amusing 
part of the scene, having- mounted some plants and 
placed themselves on the points of their leaves, ele- 
vated from ten to fifteen inches from theg-round, hung 
over the army marching- below, and by striking their 
forceps upon the leaf, produced at intervals the noise 
before mentioned. To this signal the whole army re- 
turned a hiss, and obeyed it by increasing their pace. 
The soldiers at these signal-stations sat quite still du- 
ring the intervals of silence, except now aud then 
making a slight turn of the head, and seemed as soli- 
citous to keep their posts as regular sentinels. The 
two columns of this army united after continuing sepa- 
rate for twelve or fifteen paces, having in no part been 
above three yards asunder, and then descended into the 
earth by two or three holes. Mr. Srneathman continued 
watching them for above an hour, during which time 
their numbers appeared neither to increase nor dimi- 
nish : — the soldiers, however, who quitted the line of 
inarch and acted as sentinels, became much more nu- 
merous before he quitted the spot. The larvas and 
neuters of this species are furnished with eyes. 

The societies of Termes luciftfgits, discovered by 
Latreille at Bourdeaux, are very numerous ; but in- 
stead of erecting artificial nests, they make their lodge- 
ment in the trunks of pines and oaks, where the branches 
diverge from the tree. They eat the wood the nearest 
the bark, or the alburnum, without attacking the inte- 


nor, and bore a vast number of holes and irregular 
galleries. That part of the wood appears moist, and 
is covered with little gelatinous particles, not unlike 
gum-arabic These insects seem to be furnished with 
an acid of a very penetrating odour, which perhaps is 
useful to them for softening the wood^. The soldiers 
in these societies are as about one to twenty-five of the 
labourers'^. The anonymous author of the observa- 
tions on the Termites of Ceylon seems to have disco- 
vered a sentry-box in his nests. " I found," says he, 
*' in a very small ceil in the middle of the solid mass, 
(a cell about half an incli in height, and very narrow,) 
a larva with an enormous head. — Two of these indivi- 
duals were in the same cell : — one of the two seemed 
placed as sentinel at the entrance of the cell. I amused 
myself by forcing the door two or three times; — the 
sentinel immediately appeared, and only retreated 
when the door was on the point to be stopped up, which 
was done in three minutes by the labourers," 

I hope this account has reconciled you in some de-» 
gree to the destructive Termites : — I shall uext intro- 
duce you to social insects, concerning most of which 
you have probably conceived a more favourable opi- 
nion ; — I mean those which constitute the second class 
of perfect societies, whose workers are not larvee, but 
neuters. These all belong to the Hi/menoptera order 
of Linne : — there are four kinds of insects in this order, 
(which you will find as fertile in the instructors of man^ 
kind, as you have seen it to be in our benefactors,) that, 
varying considerably from each other in their proceedi' 

^ Lair. Hist. Nut. %\u.Q\, h Did. Hint. Nat. xxii, 51,58, 


irtgs as social animals, separately merit your attention : 
namely, ants, wasps and hornets, humble-bees, and the 
hive-bee. I begin with tb.e first. 

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

In reading what the ancients say on this subject, we 
must be careful, however, to separate truth from error, 
or we shall attribute much more to ants than of right 
belongs to them. Who does not smile when he reads 
of ants that emulate the wolf in size, the dog in shape, 
the lion in its feet, and the leopard in its skin ; ants, 
whose employment is to mine for gold, and from whose 
vengeance the furtive Indian is constrained to fly on 
the swift camel's back* ? But w hen we find the writer;-? 
of all nations and ages unite in affirming, that, having 
deprived it of the power of vegetating, ants store up 
grain in their nests, Ave feel disposed to give larger 
credit to an assertion, which, at first sight, seems to 
savour more of fact than of fable, and does not attri- 
bute rriore sagacity and foresight to these insects than 
rn other instances they are found to possess. Writers 
rn general, therefore, who have considered this sub- 

a Bocharf, llicroroic. ii. J. iv. c. 52. 


ject, and some even of very late date, have taken it for 
granted that the ancients were correct in this notion. 
But when observers of nature began to examine the 
manners and economy of these creatures more narrowly, 
it was found, at least with respect to the European 
species of ants, that no such hoards of grain were made 
by them, and, in fact, that they had no magazines in 
their nests in which provisions of any kind were stored 
up. It was therefore surmised that the ancients, ob- 
serving them carry about their pupae, which in shape, 
size, and colour, not a little resemble a grain of corn, 
and the ends of which they sometimes pull open to let 
out the inclosed insect, mistook the one for the other, 
and this action for depriving the grain of thecorculum. 
Mr. Gould, our countryman, was one of the first histo- 
rians of the ant, who discovered that they did not store 
up corn ; and since his time naturalists have generally 
subscribed to that opinion. 

Till the manners of exotic ants are more accurately 
explored, it would, however, be rash to affirm that 
no ants have ma^^azines of provisions ; for although, 
during the cold of our winters in this country, they 
remain in a state of torpidity, and have no need of 
food, yet in warmer regions, during the rainy sea- 
sons, when they are probably confined to their nests, a 
store of provisions may be necessary for them. Even 
in northern climates, against wet seasons, they may 
provide in this way for their sustenance and that of the 
young brood, which, as Mr. Smeathman observes, are 
very voracious, and cannot bear to be long deprived of 
their food ; else why do ants carry worms, living in- 
sects, and many other such things into their nests ? So- 
lomon's lesson to the sluggard has been generally ad- 


duced as a strong- confirmation of the ancient opinion : 
it can, however, only relate to the species of a vvarni 
climate, the habits of which, as I have just observed, 
are probably different from those of a cold one ; — so 
that his words, as commonly interpreted, nvay be per- 
fectly correct and consistent with nature, and yet be 
not at all applicable to the species that are indigenous 
to Europe. But I think, if Solomon's words are pro- 
perly considered, it will be found that this interpreta- 
tion has been fathered upon them, rather than fairly 
deduced from them. He does not affirm that the ant 
which he proposes to his sluggard as an example, laid 
up in her magazines stores of grain : " Go to the ant, 
thou sluggard, consider her ways and be wise ; which, 
having neither captain, overseer, or ruler, prepares her 
bread in the summer, and gathers her food in the har- 
vest." These words may very well be interpreted 
simply to mean, that the ant, with commendable pru- 
dence and foresight, makes use of the proper seasons to 
collect a supply of provision sufficient for her purposes. 
There is not a word in them implying that she stores 
up grain or other provision. She prepares her bread, 
and gathers her food, — namely, such food as is suited to 
her, — in summer and harvest, — that is, when it is most 
plentiful, — and thus shows her wisdom and prudence 
by using the advantages offered to her. The words 
thus interpreted, which they may be without any vio- 
lence, will apply to our European species as well as to 
those that are not indigenous. 

I shall now bid farewell to the ancients, and proceed 
to lay before you what the observations of modern au- 
thors have enabled me to add to the history of ants :-»- 


the principal of thdse are Leeuwenlioeck, Swammer* 
dam (who was the lirst that had recourse to artificial 
means for observing their proceedings), Linne, Bonnet^ 
and especially the illustrious Swedish entomologist De 
Geer. Gould also, m ho, though no systematical natu- 
l^list, was a man of sense and observation, has thrown' 
great light upon the history of ants, and anticipated se- 
veral of what are accounted the discoveries of more 
modern writers on this subject*. Latreille's Natural 

aM. P. Huber, in the account which, in imitation of De Gecr, he has 
given of the discoveries made by his predecessors in the history of ants, 
having passed without notice, probably ignorant of the existence of sucir 
a writer, those of our intelligent countryman Gould, I shall here give a 
short analysis of them ; from which it will appear, that he was one of 
their best, or rather their very best historian, till M. Huber's work came 
Out. Wk Account of English Ants via.i ^vMWshv A in 1141, long before 
either Linne or De Geer had written upon the subject, 

I. Spccii-s. He describes five species of English ants; viz. I. The hill 
ant (For»i/c« ru/a, L.). 2. Tim jet atit {F. fuliginnsa, La.U\). 3. The 
red ant {Myrmica rubra, Latr. Formica, Lin.) : lie observes, that this 
species alone is armed with a sting ; whereas, the others make a wound 
with their mandibles, and inject the formic acid into it. 4. The common 
yellow ant {F.Jlava, l.atr.): and 3. The small black ant {F.fusca, L.). 

ir. Egg. He observes that the eggs producing males and females are 
laid the earliest, and are the largest : — he seems, however, to have con- 
founded the black and brown eggs of Aphides with those of ants. 

III. Larva. These, when first hatched, he observes, are hairy, and 
continue in the larva state twelve months or more. He, as well as De 
Geer, was aware that the larvse of Myrmica rubra do not, as other antf^ 
do, spin a cocoon when they assume the pupa. 

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

V. Imago, He knew perfectly the sexes, and was aware that fe-^ 
males cast their wings previous to their l>ecoming mothprs ; that, at the 
lime of their swarms, large numbers of both sexes become the prey of 
birds and fishes i that the surviving females, sometimes in numbers, go 
yjder ground, particulaily in mole-hills, and lav eggs; but he had not 


Itislory of Ants is likewise extremely valuable, not only 
as giving a systematic arrangement and descriptions of 
the species, but as concentrating tlie accounts of pre- 
ceding authors, and adding several interesting facts e^ 
propria penu. The great historiographer of ants, how- 
ever, is M. P. Huber ; vvlio has lately published a most 
admirable and interesting work upon them, in which 

discovered that tliey then act the part of neuters in the care of their 
progeny. He knew also, that when there was more than one queen in 
A nest, the rivals lived in perfect harmony. 

With respect ro the neuters, he had witnessed the homage they pay 
their queens or fertile females, continued even after their death; — this 
homage, he however observes, which is noticed by no other author, ap- 
pears often to be temporary and local— ceasing at certain times, and 
being renewed upon a change ot residence. He enlarges upon their ex- 
emplary Care of the eggs, larvae, and pupae. He tells us that the eggs, as 
soon as laid, are taken by the neuters and deposited in heaps, and that 
the neuters brood them. He particularly notices their carrying them, 
with the larvaj and pupae, daily from the interior to the surface of the 
■nest and back again, according to tlie temperature; and that they feed 
the larvae by disgorging the food from their own stomach. He speaks 
also of their opening the cocoons when the pupae are ready to assume the 
imago, and disengaging them from them. With regard to their labours, 
he found that they work all night, except during violent rains: — that their 
instinct varies as to the station of their nest: — that their masonry is con- 
solidated by no cement, but consists merely of mould ; — that they form 
roads and trackways to and from their nests: — that they carry each other 
in sport, and sometimes lie heaped one on another in the sun. — He su- 
spects that they occasionally emigrate ; — he proves by a variety of ex- 
periments that they do not hoard up provisions. He found they were 
often infested by a particular kind of Gordius : — he had noticed also that 
the neuters of F. rufa and Jlav a (which escaped M. Hnber, though he 
observed it in F. rufescens, Latr.^ are of two sizes, which the writer of 
this note can confirm by producing specimens: — and lastly, with Swan\- 
merdam, he had recourse to artificial colonies, the better to enable him 
to examine their proceedings, but not comparable to the ingenious^p- 
paratus of M. Huber. \ 



Iicflias far outstripped all his predecessors. — Such are 
the sources from which the following account of ants 
is'principally drawn, intermixed with which you will 
■find some occasional observations, — which your par- 
tiality to your friend may, perhaps, induce you to 
think not wholly devoid of interest, — that it has been 
my fortune to make. 

The societies of ants, as also of other Hi/menoptera, 
differ from those of the Termites in having inactive 
larvEe and pupae, the neuters or w^orkers cohibining in 
themselves both the military and civil functions. Be- 
sides the helpless larvae and pupae, which have no lo- 
comotive powers, these societies consist of females, 
males, and workers. The office o^ihe females, at their 
first exclusion distinguished by a pair of ample wings, 
(which however, as you have heard, they soon cast,) 
is the foundation of new colonies, and the furnishing of 
a constant supply of eggs for the maintenance of the 
population in the old nests as well as in the new. These 
are usually the least numerous part of the community'. 
The office of the males, which are also winged, and at 
the tiiPiO of swarming are extremely numerous, is 
merely the impregnation of the females : after the sea- 
son for this is passed, they die. Upon the workers^ de- 

a Could says that the males anti females are nearly equal in number, 
p. 62 ; but from liuber's observations it seems to follow that the former 
are most numerous, p. 96. 

b That the neuter ants, like those of the hive-bee, are imperfectly or- 
jjanizcd females, appears from the following observation of iM. Huber 
(Nouv- Ohserv. S^r. ii. 443.) — " F^es fourmis nous ont encore otl'ert a cet 
egard une analogic tres frappante : a la verite, nous n'avohs jamais vu 
pondre les ouvrieres, raais nous avons ete temoins de leur accouplcraent. 
Ce fait pourroit etre atteste pur plusieurs mcmbres de la Socicte d'ilis- 


volves, except in nascent colonies, all the work, as well 
as the defence of the community, of which they are the 
most numerous portion. In some societies of ants the 
workers are of two dimensions. — In the nests of F.rufa 
and Jfava such were observed by Gould, the size of one 
exceeding^ that of the other about one-third*. (In my 
specimens, the large workers of F. rufa are nearly 
three times, and of F.flava twice, the size of the small 
ones.) All were equally engaged in the labours of the 
colony. Large workers were also noticed by M. P. 
Huber in the nests of F. rufescens^, but he could not 
ascertain their office. 

Having introduced you to the individuals of which 
the associations of ants consist, I shall now advert to 
the principal events of their history, relating first the 
fates of the males and females. In the warm days that 
occur from the end of July to the beginning of Septem- 
ber, and sometimes later, the habitations of the various 
species of ants may be seen to swarm with winged in- 
sects, which are the males and females, preparing to 
quit for ever the scene of their nativity and education. 
Every thing is in motion — and the silver wings con- 
trasted with the jet bodies which compose the animated 
mass, add a degree of splendour to the interesting scene. 
The bustle increases, till at length the males rise, as it 

toire Natiirelle de Geneve, a qui nous I'avons fait voir; I'approche du 
mile etoit toujours suivie de la inort de I'ouvriere; leur conformation 
ne permet done pas (ju'elles dcvit nnent meres, mais Tinstinct du mMe 
prouve da nioiiis que ce sont des femellcs." a Gould, 103. 

b M. Huber calls this an apterous female; yet he could not discover 
that they laid eggs: and he owns that they more nearly resembled the 
workers than the females; and that he should have considered them as 
such, had he seen (hesn mix with them in their excursions. //«6er, p. 351. 

E 2 


were by a generaliinpulse, into the air, and the females 
accompany them. The whole swarm alternately rises 
and falls with a slow movement to the height of about 
ten feet, the males flying obliquely with a rapid zig- 
zag motion, and the females, though they follow the 
general movement of the column, appearing suspended 
in the air, like balloons, seemingly with no individual 
motion, and having their heads turned towards the 

Sometimes the swarms of a whole district unite their 
infinite myriads, and, seen at a distance, produce an 
effect resembling the flashing of an aurora borealis. 
Rising with incredible velocity in distinct columns, they 
soar above the clouds. Each column looks like a kind 
of slender net-work, and has a tremulous undulating 
motion, which has been observed to be produced by 
the regular alternate rising and falling just alluded 
to. The noise emitted by myriads and myriads of these 
creatures does not exceed the hum of a single wasp. 
The slightest zephyr disperses them ; and if in their 
progress they chance to be over your head, if you 
walk slowly on, they will accompany you, and regulate 
their motions by yours. The females continue sailing 
majestically in the centre of these numberless males, 
who are all candidates for their favour, each till some 
fortunate lover darts upon her, and, as the Roman 
youth did the Sabine virgins, drags hi§ bride from the 
sportive crowd, and the nuptials are consummated in 
mid-air; though sometimes the union takes place on 
the summit of plants, but rarely in the nests*. After 
this danse de Vamour is celebrated, the males disap- 

aDe Gecr, ii. 1104. 


pear, probably dying, or becoming-, with many of the 
females, the prey of birds or fish"; for, since they do 
not return to the nest, they cannot be destroyed, as 
some have supposed, like the drone bees, by the neu- 
ters. That many, both males and females, become 
the prey of fish, I am enabled to assert from my own 
observation. — In the beginning of August IS 12, I was 
going up the Orford river, in Suffolk, in a row-boat, 
in the evening, when my attention was caught by an 
infinite number of winged ants, both males and females, 
at which the fish were every where darting, floating 
alive upon the surface of the water. While passing 
the river, these had probably been precipitated into it, 
either by the wind, or by a heavy shower wliich had 
just fallen. And M. Huber after the same event ob- 
served the earth strewed with females that had lost 
their wings, all of which could not form colonies'*. 

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

"In September 1814, being on the deck of the hulk 
to the Ciorinde, ray attention was drawn to the water 
by <he first-lieutenant (Haverfield) observing there 
was something black floating down with the tide. On 
looking with a glass, I discovered they were insects. — 
The boat was sent, and brought a bucket full of them 
on board ; — they proved to be a large species of ant, 
and extended from the upper part of Salt-pan reach out 

a Goals, 99. b llubcr, 105. 


towards the Great Nore, a distance of five or six 
miles. The column appeared to be in breadth eight 
or ten feet, and in height about six inche?, which I 
suppose must have been from their resting one upon 
another." Purchas seems to have witnessed a similar 
phenomenon on shore. "Other sorts (of ants)," says 
he, " there are many, of which some become winged 
and fill the air with swarms, which sometimes happens 
in England. On Bartholomew 1613 1 was in the 
island of Foulness on our Essex shore, where were 
such clouds of these flying pismires, that we could no 
where fly from them, but they filled our clothes, yea 
the floors of some houses where they fell were in a 
manner covered with a black carpet of creeping ants ; 
which they say drown themselves about that time of 
the year in the sea"". ^ 

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

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

The females that escape from the injury of the ele-t 

a n'grimage, 1090, 


inoiits and their various onemies, become the founders 
of new colonies, doing- ail the work, as 1 have related 
in a former letter, that is usually done by the neuters^ 
M. P. Iluber has found incipient colonies, in which 
were only a few workers engaged with their mother iu 
the care of a small number of larvae ; and M. Perrot, his 
friend, once discovered a small nest, occupied by a soli- 
tary female, who was attending upon four pupae; only. 
Such is the foundation and first establishment of those po- 
pulous nations of ants with which we everywhere meet. 
But tliough the jnajority of females produced in a 
nest probably thus desert it, all are not allowed this 
liberty. The prudent workers are taught by their in- 
stinct that the existence of their community depends 
upon the presence of a sufficient number of females. 
Some therefore that are fecundated in or near the 
spot they forcibly detain, pulling off their wings, and 
keepini^ them prisoners till they are ready to lay their 
egg's, or are reconciled to their fate. De Geer in a 
nest of F. rufa observed that the workers compelled 
some females that were come out of the nest, to re-enter 
it''; and from M. P. Huber we learn that^ being seized 
at the moment of fecundation, they are conducted into 
the interior of the formicary, when they become en- 
tirely dependent upon the neuters, who hanging per- 
tinaciously to each leg prevent their going out, but 
at the same time attend upon them with the greatest 
care, feeding them regularly, and conducting- thein 

a M. Huber observes t!iat fecundated females, after they have lost 
their wings, make themselves a subterranean cell, some singly, others in 
lominon. From which it appears that some colonies ha' e more thin ono 
female, from their first establishment. l> ii. lOTl. 


wliere the temperature is suitable to them, but never 
quitting- them a single moment. By degrees these fe- 
males become reconciled to their fate, and lose all de-« 
sire of making their escape ; — their abdomen enlarges, 
and they are no longer detained as prisoners, yet each 
is still attended by a body-guard — a single ant, which 
always accompanies her, and prevents her wants. — Its 
station is remarkable, it being mounted upon her ab- 
domen, with its posterior legs upon the ground. These 
sentinels are constantly relieved ; and to watch the mo- 
ment when the female begins the important work of 
oviposition, and carry oif the eggs, of which she lays 
four or five thousand or more in the course of the year^ 
seems to be their principal office. 

When the female is acknowledged as a mother, the 
workers begin to pay her a homage very similar to that 
which the bees render to their queen. All press round 
her, offer her food, conduct her by her mandibles thi'ougli 
the difficult or steep passages of the formicary ; nay, 
they sometimes even carry her about their city ; — she is 
then suspended upon their jaws, the ends of which are 
crossed; and, being coiled up like the tongue of a but- 
terfly, she is packed so close as to incommode the carrier 
but little. When she sets her down, others surround 
and caress her, one after another tapping- her on the 
head with their antennae. " In whatever apartment," 
says Gould^ '<' a queen condescends to be present, 
she commands obedience and respect. An universal 
gladness spreads itself through the whole cell, which 
is expressed by particular acts of joy and exultation. 
They have a particular way of skipping, leaping, and 
standing upon their hitid-legs, and pvancing with tfe© 


others. These frolics they make use of, both to congra- 
tulate each other when they meet, and to show their re- 
gard for the queen ; some of them gently walk over her, 
others dance round her ; — she is generally encircled 
with a cluster of attendants, who, if you separate them 
from her, soon collect themselves into a body, and in- 
close her in the midst \" Nay, even if she dies, as if 
they were unwilling to believe it, they continue some- 
times for months the same attentions to her, and treat 
her with the same courtly formality as if she were alive, 
and they will brush her and lick her incessantly''. 

This homage paid by the Avorkers to their queens, 
according to Gould, is temporary and local ; — when 
!?he has laid eggs in any cell, their attentions, he ob- 
served, seemed to relax, and she became unsettled and 
uneasy. In the summer months she is to be met with 
in various apartments in the colony ; and eggs also are 
to be seen in several places, which induced him to be- 
lieve that, having deposited a parcel in one, she re- 
tires to another for the same purpose, tlius frequently 
changing her situation and attendants. As there are 
always a number of lodgements void of eggs but full 
of ants, she is never at a loss for an agreeable station 
and submissive retinue ; and by the time she has gone 
her rounds in this manner, the eggs first laid are 
brought to perfection, and her old attendants are glad 
to receive her again. Yet this inattention after ovipo- 
sition is not invariable ; the female and neuters some- 
times unite together in the same cell after the eggs are 
laid. On this occasion the workers divide their atten- 
tion; and if you disturb them, some will run to thede- 
u Gculd, p. 24— b Couipaie Gould p. 25, with Huber \';io, note (1.) 


fence of their queen, as well as of the eggs, which last, 
however, are the great objects of their solicitude. This 
statement diffeis somewhat from M. Ruber's ; but dif- 
ferent S5)ecies vary in their instincts, wliich will account 
for this and similar dissonances in authors who have 
observed their proceedings. Mr. Gould also noticed 
but very few females in ant-nes(s, sometimes only one ; 
but M. Huber, who had better opportunities, found se- 
veral, which he says live very peaceai>ly together, 
showing- none of that spirit of rivalry sorenusrkabie in 
the queen bee. 

And here I must close my narrative of the life and 
adventures of male and female ants ; but, as it will be 
followed by a history of the stiil more interesting pro- 
ceedings of the zeorkcrs, I think you will not regret the 
exchange. I shall show these to you in many diiferent 
views, under each'^of which you will find fresh reason to 
admire them. My only fear will be lest you should think 
the picture too highly coloured, and deem it incredible 
that creatures so minute should so far exceed the largef 
animals in wisdom, foresight, and sagacity, and make so 
near an appi'oacli in these respects to man liimself. — 
]My facts, however, are derived from authorities so re- 
spectable, that I think they will do away any bias of 
this kind that you may feel in your mind''. 

I need not here repeat wliat i have said in a former 
letter concerning the ex2mplary attention paid by these 

a It mny be thought that many of the anecdotes related in the folloTV- 
ing history of the. proceedings of neuter ants could not have been ob- 
served by any one, unless he had been admitted into ananl-hill; but it 
must be recollected thn( M. P. Ilubrr, from v/hose work the nn st extra- 
ordinary facts are copiel, invented a kind of ant-hive, to constructed us 
to enable him to observe their proceedings fiithoai disturbing them. 


kind foster-mothers to the youOjO^ brood of thoir colo- 
nies ; nor shall 1 enlarge upon the buildiiis^and nature 
of their habitations, which have been already noticed* ; 
— but, without any of these, 1 have matter cnoiio-h to 
fill the rest of this letter with interesting;- traits, while I 
endeavour to teach you their language, to develojD their 
affections and passions, and to delineate their virtues ; — 
while I show them to you wlien engaged in war, and en- 
able you to accompany them both in their military ex- 
peditions in and their emigrations, — while 1 make you 
a witness of their indefatigable industry and incessant 
labours,— or invite you to be present, during- their 
hours of relaxation, at tiieir sports and amusements. 

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

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

a Vol. I, 2d Ed. 479. 


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

The legs of one of this gentleman's artificial formi- 
caries were plunged into pans of water, to prevent the 
escape of the ants ; — this proved a source of great en- 
joyment to these little beings, for they are a very thirsty 
race, and lap water like dogs^. One day, when he ob- 
served many of them tippling very merrily, he was so 
cruel as to disturb them, which sent most of the ants 
in a fright to the nest; but some more thirsty than the 
rest continued their potations. Upon this, one of those 
that had retreated returns to inform his thoughtless 
companions of their danger ; one he pushes v.'ith his 
jaws ; another he strikes first upon the belly, and then 
upon the breast; and so obliges three of them to leave 
off their carousing, and march homewards ; but the 
fourth, more resolute to drink it out, is not to be discom- 
fited, and pays not the least regard to the kind blows. 

a Gould, 92. De Geer, Li. 1067. Huber, 5. 132, 


with which his compeer, solicitous for his safety, re- 
peatedly belabours him : — atlength, determined to have 
his way, he seizes biin by one of his hind-legs, and gives 
him a violent pull : — upon this, leaving his liquor, the 
loiterer turns round, and opening his threatening- jaws 
with every appearance of anger, goes very coolly to 
drinking again; but his monitor, without further cere- 
mony, rushing before him, seizes him by his jaws, and 
at last drags him otf in triumph to the formicary^. 

The langu age of ants, however, is not conlined mere- 
ly to giving intelligence of the approach or presence of 
danger; it is also co-extensive with all their other oc- 
casions for communicating their ideas to each other. 

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

If you scatter the ruinsof an ant's nest in your apart- 
ment, you will be furnished with anotherproof of their 
language. The ants will take a thousand different 
paths, each going by itself, to increase the chance of dis- 
covery; they will meet and cross each other in all di- 
rections, and perhaps will wander long before they can 

a Huber, 13J. b Tbid. 237, 21 7, IGT. 


find a spot convenient for their reunion. No sooner 
does any one discover a little chink in the floor, through 
which it can pass below, than it returns to its compa- 
nions, and, by means of certain motions of its antennae, 
makes some of them comprehend wliat route they are 
to pursue to find it, sometimes even accompanying- them 
to the spot; these, in their turn, become the guides of 
others, till all know which way to direct their steps'^. 

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

Here may be related a very amusing experiment of 
Gould's. Having deposited several colonies of ants 
(i^.^^^Ci^O if flower-pots, he placed them in some earthen 
pans full of water, which prevented them from making 
excursions from their nest. When they had been ac- 
customed some days to this imprisonment, he fastened 
small threads to the upper part of the pots, and ex- 
tending them over the water pans fixed them in the 
ground. The sagacious ants soon found out that by 
these bridges they could escape from their moated 

a Huber, 137. b Bradley, 134. 


castle. The discovery was communicated to the whole 
society, and in a short time the threads were filled with 
trains of busy workers passiniif to and fro*. 

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

" The next of these moving little animals are ants or 
pismires; and these are but of a small size, but great in 
industry; and that which gives them means to attain to 
this end is, they have all one soul. If I should say they 
are here or there, I should do them wrong, for they are 
every where ; under ground, where any hollow or loose 
earth is ; asnongst the roots of trees ; upon the bodies, 
branches, leaves and fruit of all trees; in all places with- 
out the houses and within ; upon the sides, walls, win- 
dows, and roofs without; and on the floors, side walls, 
ceilings, and windows within; tables, cupboards, beds? 
stools, all are covered with them, so that thoy are a kind 

of ubiquitaries. We sometimes kill a cockroach, 

and throw hsm on the ground ; and mark what they will 
do with him : his body is bigger than a hundred of them, 
and yet they will find the means to take hold of him, and 
lift him up; and having him above ground, away they 
carry him, and some go by as ready assistant?, if any be 
weary ; and some are the officers that lead and show 
the way to the hole into which he must pass; and if the 
vancurriers perceive that the body of the cockroach 
lies across, and will not pass through the hole or arch 
through which they mean to carry him, order is given, 

•I CiOiild, S,).. 


and the body turned endwise, and this is done a foot be- 
fore tliey come to the hole, and that without any stop 
or stay ; and this is observable, that they never pull 

contrary ways. A table being- cleared with great 

care, by way of experiment, of all the ants that were 
upon it, and some sugar being put upon it, some, after 
a circuitous route, were observed to arrive at it, when 
again departing without tasting the treasure, they 
hastened away to inform their friends of their disco- 
Tery, who upon this came by myriads ; — " and when 
they are thickest upon the table," says he, " clap a 
large book (or any thing fit for that purpose) upon 
them, so hard as to kill all that are under it ; and when 
you have done so, take away the book, and leave then^ 
to themselves but a quarter of an hour, and when you 
come again, you shall find all those bodies carried away. 
Other trials we make of their ingenuity, as this : — 
Take a pewter dish, and fill it half full of water, into 
which put a little gally-pot filled with sugar, and the 
ants will presently find it and come upon the table ; but 
when they perceive it environed with water, they try 
about the brims of the dish where the gally-pot is near- 
est ; and there the most venturous amongst them com- 
mits himself to the water, though he be conscious how 
ill a swimmer he is, and is drowned in the adventure ; 
the next is not warned by his example, but ventures 
too, and is alike drowned ; and many more, so that 
there is a small foundation of their bodies to venture ; 
and then they come faster than ever, and so make a 
bridge of their own bodies ='." 

a Hist, of Barbadocs, p. G3. 


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

Next to their language, and scarcely different from 
it, are the modes by wliich they express their affections 

VOL. n. ' 1- 


and aversions. Whether ants, with man and some of 
the larger animals, experience any thing like attach- 
ment to individuals, is not easily ascertained ; but that 
they feel the full force of tlie sentiment which we term 
patriotism, or the love of the community to w hich they 
belong, is evident from the whole series of tlieir pro- 
ceedings, which all tend to promote the general good. 
Distress or difficulty falling upon any member of their 
society, generally excites their sympathy, and they do 
their utmost to relieve it. M. Latreille once cut off the 
antennae of an ant ; and its companions, evidently pity- 
ing its sufferings, anointed the wounded part with a 
drop of transparent fluid from their mouth : and who- 
ever attends to what is going forward in the neighbour- 
hood of one of their nests, will be pleased to observe 
the readiness with which they seem disposed to assist 
each other in difficulties. When a burthen is too heavy 
for one, another will soon come to ease it of part of the 
weight; and if one is threatened with an attack, all 
hasten to the spot, to join in repelling it. 

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

They are also ever intent to promote each other's 
welfare, and ready to share with their absent compa- 


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

If ants feel the force of love, they are equally suscep- 
tible of the emotions of anger ; and when they are me- 
naced or attacked, no insects show a greater degree of 
it. Providence, moreover, has furnished them with 
weapons and faculties which render it extremely for- 
midable to their insect enemies, and sometimes, as I 
have related on a former occasion, a great annoyance 
to man himself'^. Two strong mandibles arm their 
mouth, with which they sometimes fix themselves so 
obstinately to the object of their attack, that they will 
sooner be torn limb from limb than let go their hold ; 
— and after their battles, the headof a conquered enemy 
may often be seen suspended to the antennae or legs of 
the victor, — a trophy of his valour, which, however 
troublesome, he will be compelled to carry about with 
him to the day of his death. Their abdomen is also 
furnished with a poison-bag (loterium). in which is se- 
creted a powerful and venomous fluid, long celebrated 

a Vol. I. 2d Ed. p, 123, 
F 2 


in chemical researches, and once caWed formic acid, 
though now considered a modification of the acetic and 
mafic''; which, when their enemy is beyond the reach 
of their mandibles (I speak here particularly of the 
hil!-ant, or F. rufa), standing erect on their hind-legs, 
they ejaculate from their anus with considerable force, 
so that from the surface of the nest ascends a shower of 
poison, exhaling a strong sulphureous odour, sufficient 
to overpower or repel any insect or small animal. Such 
is the fury of some species, that with the acid, accord- 
ing to Gould'', they sometimes partly eject, drawing it 
back however directly, the poison-bag itself. If a stick 
be stuck into one of the nests of the hill-ant, it is so sa- 
turated with the acid as to retain the scent for many 
hours. A more formidable weapon arms the species 
of the genus Mi/rmica, Latr. ; for, besides the poison- 
bag, they are furnished with a sting ; and their aspect 
is also often rendered peculiarly revolting, by the ex- 
traordinary length of their jaws, and by the spineswhich 
defend their head and trunk. 

But weapons without valour are of but little use : 
and this is one distinguishing feature of our pygmy 
race. Their courage and pertinacity are unconquer- 
able, and often sublimed into the most inconceivable 
rage and fury. It makes no difference to them whethei' 
they attack a raite or an elephant; and man himself 
instills no terror into their warlike breasts. Point your 
finger towards any individual of F. rufa^ — instead of 
running away, it instantly faces about, and, that it may 
make the most of itself, stiffening its legs into a nearly 

a See Fourcroy, Annates du Mmeum, no. 5. p. 338, 342. Some, how • 
ever, still regard it as a distinct acid. b p. 34. 


straight line, it gives its body the utmost elevation it 
is capable of; and thus 

"Collecting all its might dilated stands" 

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

This angry people, so well armed and so courageous, 
we may readily imagine are not always at peace with 
their neighbours; causes of dissension may arise to 
light the flame of war between the inhabitants of nests 
not far distant faom each other. To these little bus- 
tling creatures a square foot of earth is a territory worth 
contending for; — their droves of Aphides equally valu- 
able with the flocks and herds that cover our plains ; 
and the body of a fly or a beetle, or a cargo of straws 
and bits of stick, an acquisition as important as the 
treasures of a Lima fleet to our seamen. Their wars 
are usually between nests of different species ; some- 
times, however, those of the same, when so near as to 
interfere with and incommode each other, have their 
battles; and with respect to ants of one species, Mi/r- 
micn rubra^ combats occasionally take place, contrary 
to the o-eneral habits of the tribe of ants, between those 
of the same nest. 1 shall give yon some account of all 
these conflicts, beginning with the last. But I must 
first observe, that the only warriors amongst our ants 
are the neuters or workers; the males and females be- 
ing very peaceable creatures, and always glad to get 
out of harm's way. 

The wars of the red ant {M. rubra) are usually be- 

a See Fourcroy, Annalcs du Mmeum, no. 5. 343, 


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

a Gould, 104. 
- b One would think the writer of the areoitnt of ants in Moaffet had 
been witness to something similar. " If they see any one idle," says he, 
■■' they not only drive him as spurious, witliout food, from the nest ; but 
likewise, a circle of all ranks being assembled, cut off his head before the 
gates, that he may be a warning to their children not to give themselves 
up for the future to idleness and effeminacy." — 'Thcatr. Ins. 241. 


ponents, as if it was unhurt. This did not look like 
languor or sickness. 

The v/ars of ants that are not of the same species 
take place usually between those that differ in size ; and 
the great endeavouring- to oppress tlie small are never- 
theless often outnumbered by them, and defeated. Their 
])attles have long been celebrated, and the date of them, 
as if it were an event of the first importance, has been 
formally recorded, ^neas Sylvius, after giving a very 
circumstantial account of one contested with great ob- 
stinacy by a great and small species on the trunk of a 
pear-tree, gravely states, "This action was fought in 
the pontificate of Eugenius the Fourth, in the presence 
of Nicholas Pistoricnsis, an eminent lawyer, who re- 
lated the whole history of the battle with the greatest 
fidelity!" A similar engagement between great and 
small ants is recorded by Olaus Magnus, in which the 
small ones being victorious are said to have buried the 
bodiesof their own soldiers, but left those of their giant 
enemies a prey to the birds. This event happened 
previous to the expulsion of the tyrant Christiern the 
Second from Sweden ^. 

M.P. Huber is the only modern author that appears 
to have been witness to these combats. He tells us 
that, when the great attack the small, they seek to take 
them by surprise, (probably to avoid their fastening 
themselves to their legs.) and, seizing them by the 
upper part of the body, they strangle them with their 
mandibles; but when the s'.nall have time to foresee 
the attack, they give notice to their companions, who 
rush in crowds to their succour. Sometimes, however, 

aMoiiflct, Tlieatr. Ins. 242. 


after suffering a signal defeat, the smaller species arfe 
obliged to shift their quarters, and to seek an establish- 
ment more out of the way of danger. Irl order to cover 
their march, many small bodies are then posted at a 
little distance from the nest. As soon as the large 
ants approach the camp, the foremost sentinels instantly 
fly at them with the greatest rage, a violent struggle 
ensues, multitudes of their friends come to their assist- 
ance, and, though no match for their enemies singly, 
by dint of numbers they prevail, and the giant is either 
slain or led captive to the hostile camp. The species 
whose proceedings M. Huber observed were F. hercv.- 
lanea, L. and F. sartguinea, Latr. neither of which have 
yet been discovered in Britain^. 

But if you would see more numerous armies engaged, 
and survey war in all its forms, you must witness the 
combats of ants of the same species, you must go into 
the woods where the hill-ant of Gould (F. rt/fa, L.) 
erects its habitations. There you will sometimes be- 
hold populous and rival cities, like Rome and Carthage, 
as if they had vowed each other's destruction, pouring 
forth their myriads by the various roads that, like rays, 
diverge on all sides from their respective metropolises, 
to decide by an appeal to arms the fate of their little 
world. As tlie exploits of frogs and mice were the 
theme of Homer's muse, so, were I gifted like him, 
might I celebrate on this occasion the exhibition of 
Myrmidonian valour ; but, alas ! I am Davus, not 
CEdipus ; you must therefore rest contented, if 1 do 
my best in plain prose ; and I trust you will not com* 
plain if, being unable to ascertain the name of any one 
» Huber, 160. 


of my heroes, my Mi/rmidonomacJiia be perfectly ano- 

Figure to yourself two of tliese cities equal in sizf^ 
and population, and situated about a hundred paces 
from each other ; observe their countless numbers, 
equal to the population of two mighty empires. The 
whole space which separates them for the breadth of 
twenty-four inches appears alive with prodigious crowds 
of their inhabitants. The armies meet midway be- 
tween their respective habitations, and there join bat- 
tle. Thousands of champions, mounted on more ele- 
vated spots, engage in single combat, and seize each 
other with their powerful jaws ; a still greater num- 
ber are engaged on both sides in taking prisoners, 
which make vain efforts to escape, conscious of the 
cruel fate which awaits them when arrived at tlie hostile 
formicary. The spot where the battle most rages is 
about two or three square feet in dimensions : a pene- 
trating odour exhales on all sides, — numbers of ants 
are here lying dead covered with venom, — others, corn- 
loosing groups and chains, are hooked together by their 
legs or jaws, and drag each other alternately in con- 
trary directions. These groups are formed gradually. 
At first a pair of combatants seize each other, and rear- 
ing upon their hind-legs mutually spirt their acid, then 
closing they fall and wrestle in the dust. Again re- 
covering their feet, each endeavours to drag off his an- 
tagonist. If their strength be equal, they remain im- 
moveable, till the arrival of a third gives one the ad- 
vantage. Both, however, are often succoured at the 
same time, and the battle still continues undecided — 
others take part on each side, till chains are formed of 


six, eight, or sometimes ten, all hooked together and 
struggling pertinaciously for the mastery : the equili- 
brium remains unbroken, till a number of champions 
from the same nest arriving at once, compel them to let 
go their hold, and the single combats recommence. At 
the approach of night, each party gradually retreats 
to its own city : but before the foliov/ing dawn the 
combat is renewed with redoubled fury, and occupies 
a greater extent of ground. These daily figiits con- 
tinue till, violent rains separating the combatants, they 
forget their quarrel, and peace is restored. 

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

a See Hiiber> chap, v. 


which it is to be feared are the devoted victims of a 
cannibal feast. 

Having;, 1 apprehend, satiated you with the fury and 
carnage of IMyrmidouian wars, I shall next bring for- 
ward a scene still more astonishing, which at first, per- 
haps, you will be disposed to regard as the mere illusion 
of a lively imagination. What will you say when I tell 
you that certain ants are affirmed to sally forth from 
their nests on predatory expeditions, for the singular 
purpose ofprocuring slaves to employ in their domestic 
business; and that these ants are usually a ruddy race, 
while their slaves themselves are black? I think I see 
you here throw down my letter and exclaim — " What ! 
ants turned slave-dealers ! This is a fact so extraor- 
dinary and improbable, and so out of the usual course 
of nature, that nothing but the most powerful and 
convincing evidence shall induce me to believe it." In 
this I perfectly approve your caution ; such a solecism 
in nature ought not to be believed till it has undergone 
the ordeal of a most thorough investigation. Unfortu- 
nately in this country we have not the means of satis- 
fying ourselves by ocular demonstration, since none of 
the slave-dealing ants appear to be natives of Britain. 
W^e must be satisfied, therefore, with weighing the 
evidence of others. Hear what M. P. Huber, the dis- 
coverer of this almost incredible deviation of nature 
from her general laws, has advanced to convince the 
world of the accuracy of his statement, and you will, I 
am sure, allow that he has thrown over his history a 
colouring of verisimilitude, and that his appeal to tes- 
timony is in a very high degree satisfactory. 

" My readers, ' eays he, " will perhaps be tempted 


to believe that I have suffered myself to be carried 
away by the love of the marvellous, and ^hat, in order 
to impart greater interest to my narration, I have given 
M ay to an inclination to embellish the facts that I have 
observed. But the more the wonders of nature have 
attractions for me, the less do 1 feel inclined to alter 
them by a mixture of the reveries of imagination. I 
bave sought to divest myself of every illusion and pre- 
judice, of the anibition of saying new things, of the 
prepossessions often attached to perceptions too rapid, 
the love of system, and the like. And I have endea- 
voured to keep myself, if I may so say, in a disposition 
of mind perfectly neuter, and ready to admit all facts, 
of whatever nature they might be, that patient obser- 
vation should confirm. Amongst the persons whom I 
have taken as witnesses to the discovery of mixed ant- 
bills, I can cite a distinguished philosopher (Prof. 
Jurine) who was desirous of verifying their existence 
by examining himself the two species united''." 

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

There are two species of ants which engage in these 
excursions, F. rufescens and F. sanguinea, Latr. ; but 
they do not, like the African kings, make slaves of 
adults, their sole object being to carry off the helpless 
infants of the colony which they attack, the larvae and 
pupae; these they educate in their own nests, till they 

a Huber, 287. Jurine, Hytnenopieren, 273. 


arrive at their perfect state, when they undertake all 
the business of the society^. In the following account I 
shall chiefly confine myself to what Huber relates of the 
first of these species, and conclude ray extracts with his 
history of an expedition of the latter to procure slaves. 

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

Their time of sallying forth is from two in the 
afternoon till five, but more generally a little before 
five : the weather, however, must be fine, and the 
thermometer must stand at above 36° in the shade. 
Previously to marching there is reason to think that 

a It is not clear that our Willuj^hby bad no; some knowledge of this 
extraordinary fact ; for in liis description of ants, speaking of tti ir cqrrt 
of their pnpa^, he says, " tlint Ihey alao carry the aurelice ofothfrs into their 
nestx, as if they ivcre their oiO!!." Rai, Ilisf. Jns. 69. — Goidd remarks con« 
cerning the hill-ant, " This species is very rapacious after the vermhki 
nmd nymphs of otJu'r ants. If you plare a parcel before or near their 
colonies, they will, with remarkable greediness, seize and carry thenaoff," 
91, note *. Querj' — Do they this to devour them, or educate them ? 
White made the same observation, Nat, Hist. ii. 278. 

b This species forms a kird of link which connects Latreill/'s two ^c- 
nera Formica and Mrr.nica, borrowing; t!'e .-ibilouiiiial squama from tlie 
former, and the s'.ing from the latter. 


they send out scouts to explore the vicinity; upon 
whose return they emerge from their subterranean city, 
directing their course to the quarter from which the 
scouts came. They have various preparatory signals, 
such as pushing each other with the mandibles or fore- 
head, or playing with the antennae, the object of which 
is probably to excite their martial ardour, to give the 
word for marching, or to indicate the route tliey are to 
take. The advanced guard usually consists of eight or 
ten ants; but no sooner do these get beyond the rest, 
than they move back, wheeling round in a semicircle, 
and mixing with the main body, while others succeed 
to their station. They have " no captain, overseer, or 
ruler,'''' as Solomon observes, their army being com- 
posed entirely of neuters, without a single female : thus 
all in their turns take their place at the head, and then 
retreating towards the rear, make room for others. 
This is the usual order of their march : and the object 
of it may be to communicate intelligence more readily 
from one part of the column to another. 

When w indjng through the grass of a meadow they 
have proceeded to thirty feet or more from their own 
habitation, they disperse; and, like dogs with their 
noses, explore the ground with their antennas to detect 
the traces of the game they are pursuing. The negro 
forraicary, the object of their search, is soon disco- 
vered ; some of the inhabitants are usually keeping 
guard at the avenues, which dart upon the foremost of 
their assailants with inconceivable fury. The alarm 
increasing, crowds of its swarthy inhabitants rush forth 
from every apartment; but their valour is exerted in 


vain ; for the besiegers, precipitating themselves upon 
them, by the ardour of their attack compel them tore- 
treat within, and seek shelter in the lowest story ; great 
numbers entering with them at the gates, while others 
with their mandibles make a breach in the walls, 
tiirough which the victorious army marches into the 
besieged city. In a few minutes, by the same passages, 
they as hastily evacuate it, each carrying off in its 
mouth a larva or pupa which it has seized in spite of 
its unhappy guardians. On their return home with 
their spoil, they pursue exactly the route by which 
they went to the attack. Their success on these ex- 
peditions is rather the result of their impetuosity, by 
which they damp the courage of the negroes, than of 
their superior strength, though they are a larger ani- 
mal ; for sometimes a very small body of them, not 
more than 1 50, has been known to succeed in their at- 
tack and to carry off their booty ^. 

a Since the publication of the first edition of tliis volume I have met 
w ith fresh confinTiation of the extraordinar3' history here related. Hav- 
ing been induced to visit Paris this summer, and calling upon M. La- 
treille (so justly celebrated as one of tlse first entomologists of the age, 
and to whom I feel infinitely indebted for the friendly attentions which 
he paid to me during my too short stay in that metropolis), he assured 
me, that he had verified all the principal facts advanced by Hubcr. He 
has also said the same in his Considerations nonvsUes et gcnerales sur les 
iiiserfes vivaiU en Sncicle . (Mem. du Mus. iii. 407.) At the same time he 
informed me that there was a nest of the rufescent ants in the Bois de 
Boulogne, to which place he afterwards was so good as to accompany 
me. We went on the 55th of June, The day was excessively Iiot and 
sultry. A little before five in the afternoon we began our search. At 
first we conld not discern a single ant in motion. In a minute or two> 
liow ever, ray friend directed my attention to one individual — two or 
three more next appeared — and soon a numerous army was to be seen 
wiiidiii'; through the long gri!!« of a low ridge in which was their formi- 


When from their proximity they are more readilytt? 
be come at than those of the negroes, they sometimes 
assault with the same view the nest of another species 

carj'. Just at <he entrance of the wood from Paris, on the right-hand 
and near the. road, is a bare place paled in for the Sunday amusement of 
the lower orders — to this the ants directed their march, and upon enter- 
ing it divided into two columns, which traversed it rapidly and with great 
apparent eagerness; all the while exploring the ground with their an- 
tenniC as t)ea;>ies With their noses, evidently as if in pursuit of game. 
Those in the van, as liuher also observed, kept perpetually falling bark 
into the main body. When they had passed this inclosure, they appeared 
for some time to be at a loss, making no progress but only coursing about : 
but after a few minutes delay, as if they had received some intelligence, 
they resumed (heir march and soon arrived at a negro nest, which they 
entered by one or two apertures. We could not observe that any ne- 
groes were expecting their attack outside the nest, but in a short time a 
few came out at another opening, and seemed to be making their escape. 
Perhaps some conflict might have taken place within the nest, in the in- 
terval between the appearance of these negroes and the entry of their 
assailants. However this migFit be, in a few minutes one of the latter 
made its appearance with a pupa in its mouth ; it was followed by three 
or four more ; and soon the whole army began to emerge as fast as it could, 
almostevery individual carrying its burthen. IVJostthat I observed seemed 
to have pupae. I then traced the expedition back to the spot from which 
I first saw tliem set out, which according to my steps was about 136 feet 
from the negro formicary. The whnl.i business was transacted in little 
more than an hour. Though I could tiare the ants back to a certain 
spot in the ridge before men(ioned,wherethey first nppeared in the long 
grass, I did not succeed in finding the entrance to their nest, so that I 
was deprived of the pleasure of seeing the mixed society. As we dined 
at anauhergec\ose to the spot, T proposed renewing my researches after 
dinner; but a violent tempest of thunder and rain, though I attempted 
It, prevented my succeeding ; and afterwards I had no opportunity of 
revisiting the place. 

M. Latreille very justly observes that it is physically impossible for 
the rw/escen^ants, on account of the form of their jaws and the accessory 
parts of the mouth, cither to prepare habitations for their family, tti 
procure food, or to feed them. — Consideratiotu nvuvellis^ 8fc. p. 408. 


of ant, which I shall call the miners (F. aimcuhnia^ L.). 
This species being- more courageous than the other, on 
this account the rufescent host marches to the attack 
in closer order than usual, moving with astonishing ra- 
pidity. As soon as they begin to enter their habita- 
tion, myriads of the miners rushing out fall upon them 
■with great fury ; while others, well aware of their pur- 
pose, making a passage through the midst of them, 
carry off in their mouth the larvae and pupse. The sur- 
face of the nest thus becomes the scene of an obstinate 
conflict, and the assailants are often deprived of the 
prey which they had seized. The miners dart upon 
them, fight them foot to foot, dispute every inch of their 
territory, and defend their progeny with unexampled 
courage and rage. When the rufescents, laden with 
pillage, retire, they do it in close order — a precaution 
highly necessary, since tlieir valiant enemies, pursuing 
them, impede their progress for a considerable distance 
from their residence. 

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

Formica scmguinea^ as I observed above, is another 
of the slave-making ants ; and its proceedings merit 
separate notice, since they differ considerably from 
those of the rufescents. They construct their nests 



imder hedges of a southern aspect, and likewise attack 
the hills both of the negroes and miners. On the 15th 
of July, alien in the morning, Huber observed a small 
band of these ants sallying forth from their formicary, 
and marching rapidly to a neighbouring nest of ne- 
groes, around which it dispersed. The inhabitants, 
rushing out in crowds, attacked them and took several 
prisoners : those that escaped advanced no further, but 
appeared to wait for succours ; small brigades kept fre- 
quently arriving to reinforce them, which emboldened 
them to approach nearer to the city they had block- 
aded; upon this their anxiety to send couriers to their 
own nest seemed to increase : these spreading a gene- 
ral alarm, a large reinforcement immediately set out 
to join the besieging army; yet even then they did not 
begin the battle. Almost all the negroes, coming out 
of their fortress, formed themselves in a body about two 
foet square in front of it, and there expected the enemy. 
Frequent skirmishes were the prelude to the main con- 
flict, which was begun by the negroes. Long before 
success appeared dubious they carried off their pupae, 
and heaped them up at the entrance to their nest, on the 
side opposite to that on which the enemy approached. 
The young females also fled to the same quarter. The 
sanguine ants at length rush upon the negroes, and at- 
tacking them on all sides, after a stout resistance the 
latter, renouncing all defence, endeavour to make off 
to a distance with the pupa; they have heaped up : — the 
host of assailants pursues, and strives to force from tliem 
i'hese objects of their care. Many also enter the for- 
micary, and begin to carry off the young brood that are 
left in it. A continued chain of ants engaged in this 


feliiployment extends from nest to nest, and the day and 
part of the night pass before all is finished. A gar- 
rison being left in the captured city, On the following 
morning the business of transporting the brood is re- 
newed. It often happens (for this species of ant loves 
to change its habitation) that the conquerors emigrate 
with all their family to the acquisition which their va- 
lour has gained. All the incursions of F. sanguinea 
take place in the space of a month, and they make only 
five or six in the year* They will sometimes travel 
150 paces to attack a negro colony. 

After reading this account of expeditions undertaken 
by ants for so extraordinary a purpose, you will be cu- 
rious to know how the slaves are treated in the nests of 
these marauders — whetherthey live happily^ orlaboui* 
under an oppressive yoke. You must recollect that 
they are not carried otF, like our negroes, at an age 
when the amor patrice 2inA. all thecharitiesof life which 
bind them to their country, kindred and friends, are 
in their full strength, but in wh;/t may be called the 
helpless days of infancy, or in their state of repose, be- 
fore they can have formed any associations or imbibed 
any notions that render one place and society more 
dear to them than another. Preconceived ideas, there- 
fore, do not exist to influence their happiness, which 
must altogether depend upon the treatment which they 
experience at the hands of their new masters. Here 
the goodness of Providence is conspicuous; which, al- 
though it has gifted these creatures with an instinct so 
extraordinary, and seemingly so unnatural, has not 
made it a source of misery to the objects of it. 

You will here, perhaps, imagine that I have not suf- 
G 2 


fieiently taken into consideration the anxiety and pri- 
vations undergone by the poor neuters, in beholding 
those foster-childrenj for which they have all along- ma- 
nifested such tender solicitude, thus violently snatched 
from them : but when you reflect that. they are the com- 
mon property of the whole colony, and that, conse- 
quently, there can scarcely be any separate attachment 
to particular individuals, you will admit that, after the 
fright and horror of the conflict are over, and their 
enemies have retreated, they are not likely to expe- 
rience the poignant affliction felt by parents when de- 
prived of their children ; especially when you further 
consider, that most probably some of their brood are 
rescued from the general pillage ; or at any rate their 
females are left uninjured, to restore the diminished 
population of their colonies, and to supply them with 
those objects of attention, the larvae, &c. so necessary 
to that development of their instincts in which consists 
their happiness. 

But to return to the point from which I digressed — 
The negro and miner ants suffer no diminution of hap- 
piness, and are exposed to no unusual hardships and 
oppression in consequence of being transplanted into a 
foreign nest. Their life is passed in much the same 
employments as would have occupied it in their native 
residence. They build or repair the common dwelling ; 
they make excui'sions to collect food ; they attend upon 
the females ; they feed them and the larvae ; and they 
pay the necessary attention to the daily sunning of the 
eggs, larvae, and pupae. Besides this, they have also to 
feed their masters and to carry them about the nest. 
This you will say is a serious addition to the ordinary 


occupations of their own colonies : but when you con- 
sider the greater division of labour in these mixed so- 
cieties, which sometimes unite both negroes and miners 
in the same dwelling, so that three distinct races live 
together, from their vast numbers so far exceeding 
those of the native nest, you will not think this too 
severe employment for so industrious an animal. 

But you will here ask, perhaps — " Do the masters 
take no part in these domestic employments? At least, 
surely, they direct their slaves, and see that they keep 
to their work ? " — No sucli thing, I assure you — the 
sole motive for their predatory excursions seems to be 
mere laziness and hatred of labour. Active and in- 
trepid as they are in the field, at all other times they 
are the most helpless animals that can be imagined ; — 
unwilling to feed themselves, or even to walk, their 
indolence exceeds that of the sloth itself. So entirely 
dependent, indeed, are they upon their negroes for 
every thing, that upon some occasions the latter seem 
to be the masters, and exercise a kind of authority over 
them. They will not suffer them, for instance, to go 
out before the proper season, or alone ; and if they re- 
turn from their excursions without their usual booty, 
they give them a very indifferent reception, showing 
their displeasure, which however soon ceases, by at- 
tacking them ; and when they attempt to enter the nest, 
dragging them out. To ascertain w hat they would do 
when obliged to trust to their own exertions, Huber 
shut up thirty of the rufescent ants in a glazed box, 
supplying them with larvae and pupse of their own kind, 
with the addition of several negro pupse, excluding very 
carefully all their slaves, and placing some honey in a 


corner of their prison. Incredible as it may seem, they 
made no attempt to feed themselves : and though at 
first they paid some attention to their larvae, carrying 
them here and there, as if too great a charge they soon 
laid them down again; most of them died of hunger in 
less than two days ; and the few that remained alive 
appeared extremely weak and languid. At length, 
commiserating their condition, he admitted a single 
negro; and this little active creature by itself re-esta- 
blished order — made a cell in the earth ; collected the 
larvae and placed them in it ; assisted the pupae that 
were ready to be developed; and preserved the life of 
the neuter rufescents that still survived. What a pic- 
ture of beneficent industry, contrasted with the bale- 
ful effects of sloth, does this interesting anecdote af- 
ford ! Another experiment which he tried made the 
contrast equally striking. He put a large portion of 
one of these mixed colonies into a woollen bag, in the 
mouth of which he fixed a small tube of wood, glazed 
at the top, which at the other end was fitted to the en- 
trance of a kind of hive. The second day the tube was 
crowded with negroes going and returning : — the inde- 
fatigable diligence and activity manifested by them in 
transporting the young brood and their rufescent mas- 
ters, whose bodies were suspended upon their man- 
dibles, was astonishing. These last took no active 
part in the busy scene, while their slaves showed the 
greatest anxiety about them, generally carrying them 
into the hive; and if they sometimes contented them- 
selves with depositing them at the entrance of the tube, 
it was that they might use greater dispatch in fetching 
the rest, The rufescent when thus set down remained 



for a moment coiled up without motion, and then lei- 
surely unrolling itself, looked all around, as if it was 
quite at a loss what direction to take ; — it next went 
up to the negroes, and by the play of its antennje seem- 
ed to implore their succour, till one of them attending 
to it conducted it into the hive. 

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

The above observations, Avith respect to the indo- 
lence of our slave-dealers, relate principally to the ru- 
fescent species ; for the sanguine ants are not altogether 
so listless and helpless ; they assist their negroes in the 
construction of their nests, they collect their sweet 
fluid from the Aphides; ancf one of their most usual 
occupations is to lie in wait for a small species of ant, 
on which they feed ; and when their nest is menaced by 
an enemy, they show their value for these faithful ser- 
vants by carrying them down into the lowest apart- 
ments, as to a place of the greatest security. Some- 
times even the rufescents rouse themselves from the 
torpor that usually benumbs tliem. In one instance, 
when they wished to emigrate from their own to a de- 
serted nest, they reversed what usually takes place on 
such occasions, and carried all their negroes themselves 
to the spot they had chosen. At the first foundation 
also of their societies by impregnated females, there is 
good reason for thinking, that, like those of other spe- 


cies% they take upon themselves the whole charge of 
the nascent colony. I must not here omit a most ex- 
traordinary anecdote related by M. Huber. He put 
into one of his artificial formicaries pupae of both spe- 
cies of the slave-collecting ants, w hich, under the care 
of some negroes introduced with them, arrived at their 
imago state, and lived together under the same roof in 
the most perfect amity. 

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

Unparalleled and unique in the animal kingdom as 
this history may appear, you will scarcely deem the 
next I have to relate less singular and less worthy of 
admiration. That ants should have their milch cattle 
is as extraordinary as that they should have slaves. 
Here, perhaps, you may again feel a fit of incredulity 
shake you; — but the evidence for the fact I am now 
stating being abundant and satisfactory, 1 flatter my- 
self it will not shake you long. 

The loves of the ants and the aphides (for these last 
are the kine in question) have long been celebrated ; 
and that there is a connection between them you may 

a Vol. I, 2d Ed. 369. b See Huber, chap, vii— xi. 


at any time, in the proper season, convince yourself; 
for you will always find the former very busy on those 
trees and plants on wJ.ich the latter abound : and if 
you examine more closely, you will discover that their 
object in thus attending upon them is to obtain the sac- 
charine fluid, which may well be denominated their 
milk", that they secrete. 

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

a The ant ascends the tree, says Linnc, t/iat it may mil!; its cows, i/n 
Jphides, not kill them, Spst. Nat. 962. 3. 


When it has thus milked one, it proceeds to another, 
and so on, till being satiated it returns to the nest. 

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

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

The greatest cow- keeper of all the ants, is one to be 
met with in most of our pastures, residing in hemisphe- 
rical formicaries, which are sometimes of considerable 
diameter. I mean the yellow ant of Gould (F./lata). 
This species, which is not fond of roaming from home, 


and likes to have all its conveniences within reach, 
osually collects in its nest a large herd of a kind of 
Aphis, that derives its nutriment from the roots of grass 
and other plants {Aphis radicum) ; these it transports 
from the neighbouring roots, probably by subterra- 
nean galleries, excavated for the purpose, leading from 
the nest in all directions^; and thus, without going 
out, it has always at hand a copious supply of food. 
These creatures share its care and solicitude equally 
with its own offspring. To the eggs it pays particular 
attention, moistening them with its tongue, carrying 
them in its mouth with the utmost tenderness, and 
giving them the advantage of the sun. This last fact 
I state from my own observation ; for once upon open- 
ing one of these ant-hills early in the spiing, on a sunny 
day, I observed a parcel of these eggs, which I knew 
by their black colour, very near the surface of the nest. 
My attack put the ants into a great ferment, and they 
immediately began to carry these interesting objects 
down into the interior of the nest. It is of great con- 
sequence to them to forward the hatching of these eggs 
as much as possible, in order to ensure an early source 
of food for their colony; and they had doubtless in this 
instance brought them up to the warmest part of their 
dwelling with this view. M. Iluber, in a nest of the 
same ant, at the foot of an oak, once found the eggs of 
Aphis Querci/Sy L. 

Our yellow ants are equally careful of their Aphides 
after they are hatched, when their nest is disturbed 
conveying them into the interior, fighting fiercely for 

a Huber, 195. I have more than once found these Aphides in the nests 
pf this species of ant. 


them if the inhabitants of neighbouring formicaries, 
as is sometimes the case, attempt to make them their 
prey ; and carrying them about in their mouths to 
change their pasture, or for some other purpose. When 
you consider that from them they receive almost the 
whole nutriment both of themselves and larvae, you 
will not wonder at their anxiety about them, since tlie 
wealth and prosperity of the community is in propor- 
tion to the number of their cattle. Several other spe- 
cies keep Aphides in their nests, but none in such 
numbers as those of which I am speaking^. 

When the population exceeds the produce of a coun- 
try, or its inhabitants suffer oppression, or are not 
comfortable in it, emigrations frequently take place, 
and colonies issue forth to settle in other parts of the 
fflobe: and sometimes whole nations leave their own 
country, either driven to this step by their enemies, or 
excited by cupidity to take possession of what appears 
to them a more desirable residence. These motives 
operate strongly on some insects of the social tribes. — 
Bees and ants are particularly influenced by them. 
The former, confined in a narrow hive, when their so- 
ciety becomes too numerous to be contained conveni- 
ently in it, must necessarily send forth the redundant 
part of their population to seek for neAV quarters; and 
the latter — though they usually can enlarge their 
dwelling to any dimensions which their numbers may 
require, and therefore do not send forth colonies, unless 
we may distinguish by that name the departure of the 

a See Huber, chap. vi. I have found Aphides in the nest of Myrmica 
rubra. Boisier de Sauvages speaks of ants keeping their own Aphides, 
and gives an interesting account of them, Journ. de Physique, i. 195. 


males and females from the nest — are often disgusterA 
with their present habitation, and seek to establish 
themselves in a new one : — either the near neighbour- 
hood of enemies of their own species; annoyance from 
frequent attacks of man or other animals ; their expo- 
sure to cold or wet from the removal of some species of 
shelter; or the discovery of a station better circum*- 
stanced or more abundant in aphides ; — all these may 
operate as inducements to them to change their resi- 
dence. That this is the case might be inferred from 
the circumstance noticed by Gould % which I have also 
partly witnessed myself, that they sometimes transport 
their young brood to a considerable distance from their 
home. But M. Huber, by his interesting observations, 
has placed this fact beyond all controversy ; and his 
history of their emigrations is enlivened by some traits 
so singular, that I am impatient to relate them to you. 
They concern chiefly the great hill-ant {F. rufa)y 
though several other species occasionally emigrate. 

Some of the neuters having found a spot which they 
judge convenient for a new habitation, apparently with- 
out consulting the rest of the society, determine upon 
an emigi'ation, and thus they compass their intention : 
The first step is to raise recruits : — with this view they 
eagerly accost several fellow citizens of their own or- 
der, caress them with their antennje, lead them by their 
mandibles, and evidently appear to propose the journey 
to them. If they seem disposed to accompany them, 
the recruiting officer, for so it may be called, prepares 
to carry oft' his recruit, who, suspending himself upon 
hismandibles,hangs coiled up spirally under his neck; 

a (uuiUi, 42. 


— all this passes in an amicable manner after muhicU 
salutations. Sometimes, however, the recruiter takeS 
the other by surprise, and drags him from the ant-hill 
without giving him time to consider or resist. When 
arrived at the proposed habitation, the suspended ant 
uncoils itself, and, quitting its conductor, becomes a re- 
cruiter in its turn. The pair return to the old nest, 
and each carries off a fresh recruit, which being arrived 
at the spot joins in the undertaking : — thus the num- 
ber of recruiters keeps progressively increasing, till the 
path between the new and the old city is full of goers 
and comers, each of the former laden with a recruit. 
What a singular and amusing scene is then exhibited 
of the little people thus employed ! When an emigra- 
tion of a rufescent colony is going forward, the negroes 
are seen carrying their masters ; and the contrast of the 
red with the black renders it peculiarly striking. The 
little turf-ants (jF. ccespituin, L.) upon these occasions 
carry their recruits uncoiled, with their head down- 
wards and their body in the air. 

This extraordinary scene continues several daysj 
but when all the neuters are acquainted with the road 
to the new city, the recruiting ceases. As soon as a 
sufficient number of apartments to contain them are 
prepared, the young brood, with the males and females, 
are conveyed thither, and the whole business is con- 
cluded. When the spot thus selected for their resi- 
dence is at a considerable distance from the old nest, 
the ants construct some intermediate receptacles, re- 
sembling small ant-hills, consisting of a cavity fhlled 
with fragments of straw and other materials, in which 
they form several cells; and here at first they deposit 


tlieir recruits, males, females, and brood, which they 
afterwards conduct to the final settlement. Tliese in- 
termediate stations sometimes become permanent nests, 
which however maintain a connexion with the capital 

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

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

a Walking one day caily in July,, this summer (1815) in a spot where 
I used to notice a single nest o^ Formica rufa, I observed that a new co- 
iaony had been formed of considerable magrritude; and between it and 
the original nest were six or seven smaller seitleraents. 

b See Hiiber, chap. iv. ^ 3. 


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

After their annual labours are begun, few are igno- 
rant how incessantly ants are engaged in building or 
repairing their habitations, in collecting provisions, 
and in the care of their young brood; but scarcely any 
are aware of the extent to which their activity is car- 
ried, and that their labours are going on even in the 
night. — Yet this is a certain fact. — Long ago Aristotle 
affirmed that ants worked in the night when the moon 
was at the full''; and their historian Gould observes, 
" that they even exceed the painful industrious bees- 

a Gould, 67. De Geer, ii. 1054. ^ Hist. Animal. I. ix. c. 38. 


For the ants employ each moment, by day and night, 
almost without intermission, unless hindered by exces* 
sive rains*." M. Iluber also, speaking- of a mason- 
ant, not found with us, tells us that they work after 
sun-set, and in the nighf". To these I can add some 
observations of my own, which fully confirm these ac- 
counts. My first were made at nine o'clock at night, 
when I found the inhabitants of a nest of the red ant 
{Mi/rmica rubra) very busily employed ; I repeated 
the observation, which 1 could conveniently do, the nest 
being in my garden, at various times from that hour till 
twelve, and always found some going and coming, even 
while a heavy rain was falling. Having in the day 
noticed some Aphides upon a thistle, I examined it 
again in the night, at about eleven o'clock, and found 
my ants busy milking their cows, which did not for the 
sake of repose intermit their suction. At the same 
hour, another night, I observed the little negro ant 
(F.fusca) engaged in the same employment upon an 
elder. About two miles from my residence was a nest 
of Gould's hill-ant (F. rttfa), whi(!h, according to 
M. Huber, shut their gates, or rather barricade them, 
every night, and remain at home*^. Being desirous of 
ascertaining the accuracy of his statement, early in 
October, about two o'clock one morning, I visited this 
nest, in company with an intelligent friend; and to our 
surprise and admiration we found our ants at work, 
some being engaged in carrying their usual burden, 
sticks and straws, into their habitation, others going 
out from it, and several were climbing the neighbour- 
ing oaks, doubtless to milk their Aphides. The num- 

a Gould, 68. I) Ui\bcT, 35, 42. c Hubcr, 23. 



her of comers and goers at that hour, however, was 
notjiing compared with the myriads that may always 
be seen on these nests during- the day. It so happened 
that oilr visit was paid while the moon was near the 
full; so that wliether this species is equally vigilant 
and active in the absence of that luminary yet remains 
uncertain. Perhaps this circumstance might reconcile 
Huber's observation with ours, and confirm the accu- 
racy of Aristotle's statement before quoted. To the 
red ant, indeed, it is perfectly indifferent whether the 
moon shine or not ; they are always busy, though not 
in such numbers as during the day. It is probable 
that these creatures take their repose at all hours in- 
differently ; for it cannot be supposed that they are 
employed day and night without rest. 

I have related to you in this and former letters most 
of the works and employments of ants, but as yet I have 
given you no account of their roads and track- ways. — 
Don't be alarmed, and imagine I am going to repeat 
to you the fable of the ancients, that they wear a path 
in the stones*; for I suppose you will scarcely be 
brought to believe that, as Hannibal cut a way for the 
passage of his army over the Alps by means of vinegar, 
so the ants may with equal effect employ the formic 
acid : but more species than one do really form roads 
which lead from their formicaries into the adjoining 
country. Gould, speaking of his jet-ant (F.fuliginosa), 
says that they make several main track-ways, (streets 
he calls them,) with smaller paths striking off from 
them, extending sometimes to the distance of forty feet 
from their nest, and leading to those spots in which they 

a Plic. IIL:. Nat. Ixi. c. 29. 


collect their provisions ; that upon these roads they 
always travel, and are very careful to remove from them 
bits of sticks, straw, or any thing that may impede their 
progress ; nay, that they even keep low the herbs and 
grass which grow in them, by constantly biting them 
ofF% so that they may be said to mow their walks. But 
the best constructors of roads are the hill-ants {F.riifa). 
Of these De Geer says, " When you keep yourself 
still, without making any noise in the woods peopled 
with these ants, you may hear them very distinctly 
walking over the dry leaves which are dispersed upon 
the soil, the claws of their feet producing a slight sound 
when they lay hold of them. They make in the ground 
broad paths, well beaten, which may be readily distin- 
guished, and which are formed by the going and coming 
of innumerable ants, whose custom it is always to tra- 
vel in the same route^." From Huber we further 
learn, that these roads of the hill-ants aie sometimes a 
hundred feet in length, and several inches wide; and 
that they are not formed merely by the tread of these 
creatures, but hollowed out by their labour '^. Virgil 
alludes to their tracks in the following animated lines, 
which, though not altogether correct, are very beau- 
tiful : 

'' So when the pismires, an industrious train, 
Embodied rob some golden heap of grain, 
Studious ere stormy winter frowns to lay 
Safe in their darksome cells the treasured prey ; 
In one long track the dusky legions lead 
Their prize in triumph through the rerdant mead ; 

a Gould, S7. b Dc Geer, ii. 1067. c Ilubcr, 146. 

U 2 


Here bending with the load, a ])anting throng 
With force conjoin'd heave some huge grain along 5 
Some lash the stragglers to the task assigned, 
Some to their ranks the bands that lag behind : 
They crowd the peopled path in thick array, 
Glow at the work, and darken ail the way." 

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

Though ants have no mechanical inventions to di- 
minish the quantum of labour, yet by numbers, strength, 
and perseverance they effect what at first sight seems 
quite beyond their powers. Their strength is wonder- 
ful : I once, as I formerly observed, saw two or three of 
them haling along a young snake not dead, which was of 
the thickness of a goose-quill ''. St. Pierre relates, that 
he was highly amused with seeing a number of ants car- 
a-(Euv.dc Bonnet, i. 535. Huber, 191. 1* Vol. 1. 2d Ed. !e57. 


rying oft' a Patagonian centipede. They had seized it 
by all its legs, and bore it along as workmen do a large 
piece of timber*. The Mahometans hold, as Thevenot 
relates, that one of the animals in Paradise is Solomon's 
ant, which, when all creatures in obedience to him 
brought him presents, dragged before him a locust, and 
was therefore preferred before all others, because it 
had brought a creature so much bigger than itself. 
They sometimes, indeed, aim at things beyond their 
strength ; but if they make their attack, they perti- 
naciously persist in it though at the expense of their 
lives. I have in my cabinet a specimen of Colliuris 
/ongico/lis, Latr., to one of the legs of which a small 
ant, scarcely a thirtieth part of its bulk, is fixed by its 
jaws. It had probably the audacity to attack this giant, 
compared with itself, and obstinately refusing to let 
go its hold was starved to death ^. Professor Afzelius 
once related to me some particulars with respect to a 
species of ant in Sierra Leone, which proves the same 
point. He says that they march in columns that ex- 
ceed all powers of numeration, and always pursue a 
straight course, from which nothing can cause them to 
deviate: if they come to a house or other building, 
they storm or undermine it ; if a river comes across 
them, though millions perish in the attempt, they en- 
deavour to swim over it. 

This quality of perseverance in ants on one occar 

a Voy. to Maurit. 7 1 . 

b I was much amused, when dining in the forest of Fontainebleau this 
summer, by the pertinacity with which the hill-ant {F. riifa) attacked 
«iur food, haling from our very plates, while we were eating, long strips 
;of meat many times their own size. 


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

Madame Merian, in her Surinam Insects, speaking 
of the large-headed ant {Formica megacephala, L.), 
affirms that, if they wish to emigrate, they will construct 
a living bridge in this manner : — One individual first 
fixes itself to a piece of wood by means of its jaws, and 
remains stationary ; with this a second connects itself; 
a third takes hold of the second, and a fourth of the 
third, and so on, till a long connected line is formed 
fastened at one extremity, which floats exposed to the 
wind, till the other end is blown over so as to fix itself 
to tne opposite side of the stream, when the rest of the 
colony pass over upon it, as a bridge ^. This is the 
process, as far as I can collect it from her imperfect 
account : — as she is not always very correct in her state- 
ments, I regarded this as altogether fabulous, till I 

a Related in the Quarterly Review for August 1816, p. 259, 
b Insect. Surinam, p. 18. In her plate the ants are represented so 


met with the following history of a similar proceeding 
in De Azara, which induces me to give more credit 
to it. 

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

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

Gould tells us that the hill-ant is very fond of bask- 
ing in the sun, and that on a fine serene morning you 

a Voyages dam V^mriiqm Mtrid. i. 1ST. 


may see them conglomerated like bees on the surface 
of their nest, from whence, on the least disturbance, 
they will disappear in an instant ''. M. Huber also 
observes, after their labours are finished, that they 
stretch themselves in the sun, where they lie heaped 
one upon another, and seem to enjoy a short interval 
of repose : and in the interior of an artificial nest, in 
which he had confined some of this species, where he 
saw many employed in various ways, he noticed some 
reposing which appeared to be asleep ^. 

But they have not only their time for repose ; they 
also devote some to relaxation, during which they 
amuse themselves with sports and games. " You may 
frequently perceive one of these ants (F. rufa) (says 
our Gould) run to and fro with a fellow-labourer in 
his forceps, of the same species and colony. It appear- 
ed first in the light of provisions; but I was soon un- 
deceived by observing, that after being carried for some 
time, it was let go in a friendly maiyier, and received 
no personal injury. This amusement, or whatever title 
you please to give it, is often repeated, particularly 
amongst the hill-ants, who are very fond of this sportive 
exercise '^." A nest of ants which Bonnet found in the 
head of a teazle, when enjoying the full sun, which 
seems the acme of formic felicity, amused themselves 
with carrying each other on their backs, the rider hold- 
ing with his mandibles the neck of his horse, and em- 
bracing it closely with his legs ''. But the most circum- 
stantial account of their sports is given by Huber. " I 
approached one day," says he, '' one of their formicaries 

a Gould, 69. b Huber, 73. c Gould, 103— d Bonnet, ii. 407. 


<lie is speaking of F. riifa) exposed to the sun and 
sheltered from the north. The ants were heaped to- 
gether in great numbers, and seemed to enjoy the tem- 
perature which they experienced at the surface of the 
nest. None of them were working : tliis multitude of 
accumulated insects exhibited the appearance of a boil- 
ing fluid, upon which at first the eye could scarce fix 
itself without difficulty. But when I set myself to fol- 
low each ant separately, I saw them approach each 
other, moving their antennae with astonishing rapidity; 
with their fore-feet they patted lightly the cheeks of 
other ants: after these first gestures, which resembled 
caresses, they reared upon their hind-iegs by pairs, 
they wrestled together, they seized one another by a 
mandible, by a leg or an antenna, they then let go their 
hold to renew the attack ; they fixed themselves to 
each other's trunk or abdomen, they embraced, they 
turned each other over, or lifted each other up by turns 
they soon quitted the ants they had seized, and en- 
deavoured to catch others : I have seen some who en- 
gaged in these exercises with such eagerness, as to pur- 
sue successively several workers; and the combat did 
not terminate till the least animated, having thrown 
his antagonist, accomplished his escape by concealing 
himself in some gallery^." He compares these sports 
to the gambols of two puppies, and tells us that he not 
only often observed them in this nest, but also in his 
artificial one. 

I shall here copy for you a memorandum I made last 
year. " On the ninth of May, at half-past two, as I 
>vas walking on the Plumstead road near Norwich, 

•-• Hiiber, 170,— 


on a sunny bank I observed a large number of ants 
(Formica fusca, L,) agglomerated in crowds near the 
entrances of their nest. They seemed to make no long 
excursions, as if intent upon enjoying the sun-shine at 
home; but all the while they were coursing about, and 
appeared to accost each other with their antennae. Exa- 
mining them very attentively, I at length saw one drag- 
ging another, which it absolutely lifted up by its an- 
tennae, and carrying it in the air. I followed it with my 
eye, till it concealed itself and its antagonist in the nest. 
I soon noticed another that had recourse to the same 
manoeuvres ; but in this instance the ant that was at- 
tacked resisted manfully, a third sometimes appearing 
inclined to interfere : the result was, that this also was 
dragged in. A third was haled in by its legs, and a fourth 
by its mandibleo. What was the precise object of these 
proceedings, whether sport or violence, I could not as- 
certain. I walked the same way on the following morn- 
ing, but at an earlier hour, when only a few comers and 
goers were to be seen near the nest :" And soon leav- 
ing the place, I had no further opportunity to attend 
to them. 

And now having conducted you through every apart- 
ment of the formicary, and shown you its inhabitants 
in every light, I shall leave you to meditate on the ex- 
traordinary instincts with which their Creator has gift- 
ed them, reserving what I have to say on the other so- 
cial insects for a future occasion. 

I am, &c. 




I SHALT, now call your attention to such parts of the 
history of two other descriptions of social insects, wasps, 
namely, and humble-bees^ as have not been related to 
you in my letters on the affection of insects for their 
young, and on their habitations. What I have to com- 
municate, though not devoid of interest, is not to be 
compared with the preceding account of the ants, nor 
with that which w ill follow of the hive-bee. This, how- 
ever, may ansa more from the deficiency of observa- 
tions than the barrenness of the subject. 

The first of these animals, zcasps, — with whose pro- 
ceedings I shall begin, — we are apt to regard in a very 
unfavourable light. They are the most impertinent 
of intruders. If a door or window be open at the sea- 
son of the year in which they appear, they are sure to 
enter. When they visit us, they stand upon no cere- 
mony, but make free with every thing that they can 
come at. Sugar, meat, fruit, wine, are equally to their 
taste ; and if we attempt to drive them away, and are 
not very cautious, they will often make us sensible that 
tliey are not to be provoked with impunity. Compared 
with the bees, they may be considered as a horde of 
thieves and brigands ; and the latter as peaceful, honest, 


and industrious subjects, whose persons are attacked 
and property plundered by them. Yet, with all this 
love of pillag^e and other bad propensities, they are not 
altogether disagreeable or unamiable ; they are brisk 
and lively; they do not usually attack unprovoked; 
and their object in plundering us is not purely selfish, 
but is principally to provide for the support of the 
young brood of their colonies. 

The societies of wasps, like those of ants and other 
social Hymenoptera^ consist of females, males, and 
workers. The females may be considered as of two 
sorts : first, the females by way of eminence, much 
larger than any other individuals of the community, 
equalling six of the workers (from which in other re- 
spects they do not materially differ) in weight, and lay- 
ing both male and female eggs. Then the small fe- 
males, not bigger than the workers, and laying only 
male eggs. This last description of females, which are 
found also both amongst the humble-bees and hive-bees, 
were first observed amongst the wasps by M. Perrot, 
a friend of Ruber's^. The large females are produced 
later than the workers, and make their appearance in 
the following spring ; and whoever destroys one of them 
at that time, destroys an entire colony, of which she 
would be the founder. They are more worthy of praise 
than the queen-bee ; since upon the latter, from her 
very first appearance in the perfect state, no labour 
devolves, — all her wants being prevented by a host of 
workers, some of which are constantly attending upon 
her, feeding her, and permitting her to suffer no fa- 
tigue ; while others take every step that is necessary 

a Huber, Nouv. Observ. ii. 443. 


fof the safety and subsistence of the colony. Not so 
our female wasp ; — she is at first an insulated being 
that has had the fortune to survive tlie rigours of win- 
ter. When in the spring- she lays the foundation of her 
future empire, she has not a single worker at her dis- 
posal ; with her own hands and teeth she often hollows 
out a cave w herein she may lay the first foundations of 
her paper metropolis ; she must herself build the first 
liouses, and produce from her own womb their first in- 
habitants ; which in their infant state she must feed and 
educate, before they can assist her in her great design. 
At length she receives the reward of her perseverance 
and labour ; and from being a solitary unconnected in- 
dividual, in the autumn is enabled to rival the queen 
of the hive in the number of her children and subjects; 
and in the edifices which they inhabit — the number of 
cells in a vespiary sometimes amounting to more than 
16,000, almost all of which contain either an egg, a 
grub, or a pupa; and each cell serving for three gene- 
rations in a year ; which, after making every allowance 
for failures and other casualties, will give a population 
of at least 30,000. Even at this time, when she has so 
numerous an army of coadjutors, the industry of this 
creature does not cease, but she continues to set an 
example of diligence to the rest of the community. — If 
by any accident, before the other females are hatched, 
the queen mother perishes, the neuters cease their la- 
bours, lose their instincts, and die. 

The number of females in a populous vespiary is con- 
siderable, amounting to several hundred; they emerge 
from the pupa about the latter end of August, at the 
same time with the males, and fly in September and 


October, when they pair. Of this large number of fe- 
males, very few survive the winter. Those that are 
so fortunate remain torpid till the vernal sun recalls 
them to life and action. They then fly forth, collect 
provision for their young brood, and are engaged in the 
other labours necessary for laying the foundation of 
their empire: but in the summer months they are 
never seen out of the nest. 

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

The toorkeis are the most numerous, and to us the 


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

Another principal employment of the workers is the 
enlarging and repairing of the nest. It is extremely 
amusing to see them engaged upon this foliaceous co- 
vering. They work with great celerity; and though 
a large number are occupied at the same time, there is 
not the least confusion. Each individual has its por- 
tion of work assigned to it, extending from an inch to 
an inch and a half, and is furnished with a ball of ligne- 
ous fibre, scraped or rather plucked by its powerfuf 
jaws from posts, rails, and the like. This is carried in its 
moutli, and is thus ready for immediate use : — but upon 


this subject I have enlarged in a former letter''. The 
workers also clean the cells, and prepare them to 
receive another egg, after the imago is disclosed and 
has left it. 

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

It sometimes happens, that when a large number of 
female wasps have been o])served in the spring, and an 
abundance of workers has in consequence been ex- 
pected to make their attack upon us in the summer and 
autumn, but few have appeared. Mr. Knight observed 
this in 1806, and supposes it to be caused by a failure 
of males ''. I have since more than once made the same 
observation, and Major Moor, as well as myself, no- 
ticed it last year (1815). What took place here in the 
present year (181G) may in some degree account for 
it. Though the summer has been so wet, and one may 
almost say winterly, there were in the neighbour- 

a Vol. I. 2d Ed. p. 505. b For 180T, 242— c Ibid. 243. 


hood in which I reside abundance of wasps at the usual 
time ; but, except on some few warm days, in which 
they were very active, benumbed by the cold they were 
crawling about upon the floors of ray house, and seemed 
unable to fly. In this vicinity numbers make their 
nests in the banks of the river. In the beginning of 
October there was a very considerable inundation, after 
which not a single wasp was to be seen. The conti- 
nued wet that produces an inundation may also destroy 
those nests that are out of the reach of the waters ; — 
and perhaps this cause may have operated in those 
years above alluded to, in which the appearance of the 
workers in the summer and autumn did not correspond 
with the large numbers of females observed in the 

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

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



of their history, concerning which we are now in 

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

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

The large j^wa/c^, like the female wasps, are the 
original founders of their republics. They are often 
so large, that by the side of the small ones or the work- 
ers, which in every other respect they exactly resemble, 
they look like giants opposed to pygmies. They are 
excluded from the pupa in the autumn ; and pair in that 
season, with males produced from the eggs of the small 
females. They pass the winter under ground, and, as 
appears from an observation of M. P. Huber, in a par- 
ticular apartment, separate from the nest, and ren- 
dered warm by a carpeting of moss and grass, but with-^ 
out any supply of food. Early in the spring, (for they 
make their first appearance as soon as the catkins of 
the sallows and v^'illows are^in flower,) like the female 
wasps, they lay the foundations of a new colony with- 


out the assistance of any neuters, which all perish before 
the winter. In some instances however, if a conjec- 
ture of M. de la Billardiere be correct, these creatures 
have an assistant assigned to them. He says, at this 
season (the approach of winter) he found in the nest of 
Apis St/lvarutn (Kirby) some old females and workers, 
whose wings were fastened together to retain them in 
the nest by hindering them from flying ; these wings 
in each individual were fastened together at the ex- 
tremity, by means of some very brown wax applied 
above and below*. This he conceives to be a precau- 
tion taken by the other bees to oblige these indivi- 
duals to remain in the nest and take care of the brood 
that was next year to renew the population of the co- 
lony. I feel, however, great hesitation in admitting 
this conjecture, founded upon an insulated and per- 
haps an accidental fact. For, in the first place, the 
young females that come forth in the autumn, and not ' 
the old ones, are the founders of new colonies ; and 
their instinct directs them to fulfil the great laws of 
their nature without such compulsion ; and in the next, 
the workers are never known to survive the cold of 

The employment of a large female, besides the 
care of the young brood before described, and the col- 
lecting of honey and pollen, is principally the construc- 
tion of the cells in which her eggs are to be laid ; 
which M. P. Huber seems to think, though they oflen 
assist in it, the workers are not able to complete by 
themselves. So rapid is the female in this work, that 
to make a cell, fill it with pollen, commit one or two 

a Mriiiohrs du Muaeum, &,<:. «. 35. 
1 2 


eo-o-s to it, and cover them in, requires only the short 
space of half an hour. Her family at first consists only 
of workers, which are necessary to assist her in her la- 
bours; these appear in May and June : but the males 
and females are later, and sometimes are not produced 
before August and September^. As in the case of 
the hive -bee, the food of these several individuals dif- 
fers; for the grubs that will turn to workers are fed 
with honey and pollen mixed, while those that are 
destined to be males and females are supplied with 
pure honey. 

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

I have told you above, that amongst the wasps a 
&»naU kind of female has been discovered : this is the 
oase also amongst the humble-bees, in whose societies 

aP. Huber, ill Linn. Trans, vi. 264;. — This author says however, in 
a,n(>(.ht r place (ibid. 285), tliat the male eggs are laid in the spring, at thf 
same time with those that are to produce workers. Perhaps by the former 
he means the male offspring of the small females, and by the latter tho^^e 
of Ihe large ? 


they are more readily detected: not indeed by any 
observable difference between them and the workers, 
but chiefly by the difference of their instincts : — from 
the other females tliey are distinguished solely by their 
diminutive size. Like those of the wasps and hive- 
bees, these minor queens produce only male eggs, 
which come out in time to fertilize the young females 
that found the vernal colonies. M. P. Huber suspects 
that, as in the case of the female bee, it is a different 
kind of food that develops their ovaries, and so distin* 
guishes them from the workers. They are generally 
attended by a small number of males, who form their 

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


several ofthe small females contended for the cell with 
indescribable rage, all endeavouring to lay their eggs 
in it at the same time. These small females perish in 
the autumn. 

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

The workers, which are the first fruits of the queen- 
mother's vernal parturition, assist her, as soon as they 
are excluded from the pupa, in her various labours. 
To them also is committed the construction of the 
waxen vault that covers and defends the nest. When 
any individual larva has spun its cocoon and assumed 
the pupa, the workers remove all the wax from it; and 
as soon as it has attained to its perfect state, which takes 
place in about five days, the cocoons are used to hold 
honey or pollen. When the bees discharge the honey 
into them upon their return from their excursions, they 
open their mouths and contract their bodies, which 
occasions the honey to fall into the I'eservoir. Sixty of 
these honey-pots are occasionally found in a single 
nest, and more than forty are sometimes filled in a day. 
In collecting honey, humble-bees, if they cannot get 


at that contained in any flower by its natural open- 
ina^, will often make an aperture at the base of the co- 
rolla, or even in the calyx, that they may insert their 
proboscis in the very place where nature has stored up 
her nectar '^. M. Huber relates a singular anecdote of 
some hive-bees paying a visit to a nesl of humble-bees 
placed under a box not far from their hive, in order to 
steal or beg their honey ; which places in a strong light 
the good temper of the latter. This happened in a time 
of scarcity. The hive-bees, after pillaging, had taken 
almost entire possession of the nest. Some humble-bees 
which remained in spite of this disaster, went out to 
collect provisions ; and bringing home the surplus after 
they had supplied their own immediate wants, the hive- 
bees followed them, and did not quit them till they had 
obtained the fruit of their labours. They licked them, 
presented to them their proboscis, surrounded them, 
and thus at last persuaded them to part with the con- 
tents of their honey-bags. The humble-bees after this 
flew away to collect a fresh supply. The hive-bees did 
them no harm, and never once showed their stings; — 
so that it seems to have been persuasion rather than 
force that produced this singular instance of self- denial. 
This remarkable manoeuvre was practised for more 
than three weeks; when the wasps being attracted by 
the same cause, the humble-bees entirely forsook the 

The workers are the most numerous part of the com- 
munity, but are nothing when compared with the num- 
bers to be found in a vespiary or a beehive : — two or 

a Hub. Nouv. Observ. ii. 375. b Ibid. 373— 


three hundred is a large population for a humble-bees 
nest ; in some species it not being more than fifty or 
sixty. — They may more easily be studied than either 
wasps or hive-bees, as they seem not to be disturbed 
or interrupted in their works by the eye of an ob- 

I am, &c. 

a This account of the proceedings of hurabU -bees is chieflj' taken from 
Reaumur, vi. 3Iem. I.; and M. P. Huber in Linn. Trans, vi, 214 — 



1 HE glory of an all- wise and omnipotent Creator, you 
will acknowledge, is wonderfully manifested by the va- 
ried proceedings of those social tribes of which I have 
lately treated : but it shines forth with a brightness 
still more intense in the instincts that actuate the Jiive- 
hee, and which I am next to lay before you. Indeed, 
of all the insect associations, there are none that have 
more excited the attention and admiration of mankind 
in every age, or been more universally interesting, than 
the colonies of these little useful creatures. Both Greek 
and Roman writers are loud in their praise ; — nay, 
some philosophers were so enamoured of them, that, as 
I observed before % they devoted a large portion of 
their time to the study of their history. Whether the 
knowledge they acquired was at all equivalent to the 
years that were spent in the attainment of it, may be 
doubted : for, were it so, it is probable that Aristotle 
and Pliny would have given a clearer and more con- 
sistent account of the inhabitants of the hive than they 
have done. Indeed, had their discoveries borne any 
proportion to the long tract of time asserted to have 
been employed by some in the study of these insect?, 

" Vol. I. 2d Ed. 485. 


they ought to have rivalled, and even exceeded, those 
of the Reaumurs and Hubers of our own age. 

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

But do not think that all the ancients imbibed such 
monstrous opinions. Aristotle's sentiments seem to 
have been much more correct, and not very wide of 
>vhat some of our best modern apiarists have advanced. 
According to him, the kings (so he denominates the 
queen-bee) generate both kings and Avorkers; and the 
latter the drones. This he seems to have learned from 
keepers of bees. The kings, says he in another place, 
are the parents of the bees, and the drones their chil- 
dren. It is right, he observes again, that the kings 

a Judges xiv. 8, 9. b See Aristot. Hhl. Animal, 1. v. c. 22. 

Virgil. Georgic. 1. iv.; and Mouict, 12 — 


(which by some were called mothers) should remain 
within the hive unfettered by any employment, because 
they aie made for the multiplication of the species*. 
To tiie same purpose Riem of Lauten of the Palatinale 
Apiarian Sociefj/, and Wilhelmi of the Lusatian, af- 
firm that the queen lays the eggs which produce the 
queens and workers ; and the workers those that pro- 
duce the drones or males *•. Aristotle also tells us, that 
gome in his time affirmed that the bees (the workers) 
were the females, and the drones the males ; an opi- 
nion which he combats from an analogy pushed rather 
too far, that nature would never give offensive armour 
to females '^. In another place he appears to think 
that the workers are hermaphrodites : — his words are 
remarkable, and seem to indicate that he was aware of 
the sexes of plants : " having in themselves," says he, 
'' like plants, the male and the female''." 

Fables and absurdities, however, are not confined to 
the ancients, nor even to those moderns who lived be^ 
fore Swammerdam, Maraldi, Reaumur, Bonnet, Schi- 
rach, John Hunter, Huber, and their followers, by their 
observations and discoveries had thrown so much light 
upon this interesting subject. Even in our own times, 
a Neapolitan professor, Monticelli, asserts, on the au- 
thority of a certain father Tanoya, that in every hive 
there are three sorts of bees independent of each other ; 
viz. male and female drones — male and female, I mu&t 
not say queens — call them what }ou will; and male 
and female workers ; and that eacli construct their own 

d Aristot, uM supr. c. 21. De General. JnimaK 1. iii. c. 10, where there 
is some curious reasoning upon this subject. l> Bonnet, x. 199 — . 236 — 
c Jliil. Animal. 1. v. c. t2. d De General. Animal, l.iii. c 10.' 


cells ! ! ! Another writer, Mr. Huish, whose work has 
just made its appearance, and whose presumption can 
only be equalled by his ignorance % denies most of the 
modern discoveries, and asserts that the queen always 
remains a virgin ! ! Enough, liovvever, upon this sub- 
ject. I shall now endeavour to lay before you the best 
authenticated facts in the history of these animals; but 
you must not expect an account of them complete i?5 
all its parts; for, much as wc know, Bonnet's observa- 
tion will still hold good : ''• The more I am engaged in 
making fresh observations upon bees, the more stead- 
fast is my conviction, that the time is not yet arrived 
in which we can draw satisfactory conclusions with re- 
spect to their policy. It is only by varying and com- 
bining experiments in a thousand ways, and J)y placing 
these industrious flies in circumstances more or less re- 
moved from their ordinary state, that we can hope to 
ascertain the right direction of their instinct, and the 
true principles of their government''. 

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

The society of a hive of bees, besides the young 

a The following passage, in which he speaks of the Sphinx Atropos as 
belonging to Linne's </!ree lepidopterous genera, will sufBciently justify 
this assertion. The Death-headed Sphinx {Sphinx Atropos) is a gre^t 
butterfly, and belongs also to the genus Phalcna, p. 126 ! ! ! 

b (Euvr. X. 191— 


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

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

b As every reader is not aware of the differences of form, &c. that di- 
stinguish the females, males, and workers from each other (I have seen 
the male mistaken for a distinct species, and placed in a cabinet as Apis 
lagopcda, L.), I shall here subjoin a description of each. — The body of 
the female bee is considerably longer than that of either the drone or 
the worker. The prevailing colour in all three is the same, black or 
black-brown ; but with respect to the female this does not appear to be 
invariably the case; for — uot to insist upon Virgil's royal bees glittering 
with ruddy or golden spots and scales, where allowance must be made 
for poetic license — Reaumur affirms, after describing some differences of 
colour in different individuals of this sex, that a queen may always be di- 
stinguished, both from the workers and males, by the colour of her body *. 
If this observation be restricted to the colour of some parts of her body, 
it is correct ; but it will not apply to all generally (unless, as I suspect 
may be the case, by the term body he means the abdomen), for, in all that 
I have had an opportunity of examining, the prevailing colour, as I hiive 
stated it, is the same. 

The //eflrf is not larger than thatof the workers; but the <ow^!/e is shorter 

* Reaumur, v. 375. 


There are two descriptions of males — one not bigger 
than the workers, supposed to be produced from a male 

and more slender, with straighter maxillae. Tlie mandibles are forficate, 
and do not jut out like theirs into a prominent angle; they are of the 
colour of pitch with a red tinge, and terminate in two teeth, the exte- 
rior being acute, and the interior blunt or truncated. The labrum or 
upper-lip is fulvous ; and the antennee are piceous. 

In the trunk, the tegnlee or scales that defend the base of the wings are 
nifo-piceous. The wings reach only to the tip of the third abdominal 
■legraent. The tarsi and the apex of the tibiee are rufo-fulvons. The po- 
■iterior tibia are plane above and covered with short adpressed hairs, hav- 
ing neither the corbicula (or marginal fringe of hairs for carrying the 
masses of pollen) nor the pecien; and the posterior pten<<E have neither 
(he brush formed of hairs set in strisp, nor the auricle at the base. 

The abdomen is consider.ably longer than the head and trunk taken to- 
gether, receding from the trunk, elongato-conical, and rather sharp at 
tlie anus. The dorsal segments are fulvous at the tip ; covered with very 
short, pallid, and, in certain lights, shining adpressed hairs; the first seg- 
ment being very short, and cover^'d with longer hairs. The ventral seg- 
ments, except the anal, which is black, are fulvescent or rufo- fulvous, and 
covered with soft longer hairs. The vagina of the spicula (commonly 
called the sting) is curved. 

The male bee, or drone, is quite the reverse of his royal paramour; his 
body being thick, short, and clumsy, and very obtuse at each extremity *. 
It is covered also, as to the head and trunk, with dense hairs. 

The head is depressed and orbicular. The tongue is shorter and more 
slender than that of the female ; and the mandibles, though nearly of the 
same shape, are smaller. The eye.s are very large, meeting at the b«ick 
part of the head. In the space between them are placed the antenna 
and stemmata. The former consist of fourteen joints, including tiie 
radicle, the fourth and fifth being very short and not easily distin- 

The trunk is large. The imngs are longer than the body. The legi 

* Virgil seems to have regarded the drone as one of the sorts of kings* 
•r leaders of the bees, when he says, speaking of the latter, 

"... lUe horridus alter 

Desidia, latamquc trahcns inglorius alvnm." 

Georgic. iv. 1, 93. 


egg laid in a worker's cell. The common males are 
much larger, and will counterpoise two workers. 
I have before observed to you that there are two 

arr short and slender. Tlie posterior tilnie are lon^, club-shaped, and 
covered with inconspicuous hairs. The posterior planlte ari» furnished 
underneath with thick-set scnpulcv, which they use to brush their bodies. 

The chno-joints are fulvescent. 

The abdomen is cordate, very short, being scarcely so long as th:^ head 
und trunk together, consisiing of seven segments, which are fulvous at 
their apex. Tlie first segment is longer than any of the succeeding ones, 
and covered above with rather long hairs. The second and third dorsal 
segments are apparently naked ; but under a triple lens, in a certain 
light, some adpressed hairs may bt> perceived ;— the remaining ones are 
hairy, the three last being infl?xed. Tlie ventral segments are very nar- 
row, hairy, and fulvous. 

The body of the workers is oblong. 

The head triangular. The mandibles are prominent, so as to terminate 
the head in an angle, toothless and forcipate. The tongue and rnaxillte ar« 
long and incurved : the labrum and antennee black. 

In the trunk the tegulce are black. The wings extend only to the 
apex of the fourth segment of the abdomen. The legsnre all black, with 
the digits only rather piceous. The posierior tibitB are naked above, 
evteriorly longitudinally concave, and interiorly longitudinally convex; 
furnished with lateral and recumbent hairs to form the corbicula, and 
arraed at the end with the pecten. The upper surface of the posterior 
piantte resembles that of the tibiee ; underneath they are furnished with, 
a scapula or brush of stiff hairs set in rows : at the base they are armed 
with stiff" bristles, and exteriorly with an acute appendage or auricle. 

^he abdomen is a little longer than the head and trunk together; ob- 
long,and rather heart-shaped — a transverse section of it is triangular. 
It is covered with longisli flavo-pallid hairs: the first segment is short 
with longer hair<; the base of the tiiree intermediate segments is covered, 
anJas it were banded, with pale hairs. The apex of the three inter- 
mediate ventral segments is rather fulvescent, and their base is distin- 
guished on e«icli side by a trapeziform wax -pocket covered by a thin 
i^emhr^ne. Thchtitig, or ratlier rngina, of the mpicula is straigtit. 


sorts of workers, the wax-makers and nurses*. They 
may also be further divided into fertile and sterile ^ : 
for some of them, which in their infancy are supposed 
to have partaken of some portion of the royaljelly, lay 
male eggs. There is found in some hives, according- 
to Huber, a kind of bees, which from having less doAvn 
upon the head and thorax appear blacker than the 
others, by whom they are always expelled from the 
hive, and often killed. Perfect ovaries, upon dissec- 
tion, were discovered in these bees, though not fur- 
nished with eggs. This discovery induced M"^ Ju- 
rine, the lady who dissected them, to examine the 
common workers in the same way ; and she found in 
all that she examined, what had escaped Swammerdam, 
perfect though sterile ovaries ". It is worth inquiry, 
though Mr. Huber gives no hint of this kind, whether 
these were not in fact superannuated bees, that could 
no longer take part in the labours of the hive. Thor- 
ley remarks, which confirms this idea, that, if you 
closely observe a hive of bees in July, you may per- 
ceive many amongst them of a dark colour, with wings 
rent and torn ; but that in September not one of them 
is to be seen '^. Huber does not say whether the wings 
of the bees in question were lacerated; but in super- 
annuated insects the hair is often rubbed off the body, 
which gives them a darker hue than that of more recent 

a See Vol, I. 2d. Ed. p. 490. 

b In liives where a queen laying male ca;gs has been killed, the workers 
continue to make only male cells, though supplied with a fertile queen, 
atit. the fertile workers lay eggs in them. Schirach, 238. 

c Fubcr, ii. 425— «I Thorley, On Bees, 179. 


individuals of the same species. Should this conjec- 
ture turn out true, tlieir banishment and destruction of 
the seniors of the hive would certainly not show our 
little creatures in a very amiable point of view. Yet 
it seems the law of their nature to rid their community 
of all supernumerary and useless members, as is evi- 
dent from their destruction of the drones after their 
M'ork is done. 

It is not often that insects have been weighed ; but 
Reaumur's curiosity was excited to know the weight 
of bees; and he found that 3:j6 weighed an ounce, and 
6376 a pound. According to John Hunter, an ale-house 
pint contains 2160 Workers. 

I have described to you the persons of the different 
individuals that compose the society of the bee-hive 
more in detail than 1 should otherwise have done, in 
order that you may be the better able to form a judge- 
ment upon a most extraordinary circumstance in their 
history, which is supported by evidence that seems 
almost incontrovertible. The fact to which I allude 
is this — that if the bees are deprived of their queen, 
and are supplied with comb containing young worker 
brood only, they will select one or more to be edu- 
cated as queens ; which, by having a royal cell erected 
for their habitation, and being fed with royal jelly for 
Hot more than two days, when they emerge from the 
pupa state (though, if they had remained in the cells 
which they originally inhabited, they would have turned 
outworkers) will come forth complete queens, with their 
form, instincts, and powers of generation entirely dif- 
ferent. In order to produce this effect, the grub must 
not be more than three days old ; and this is the age at 



which, according to Schirach, (the first apiarist tvhrt 
called the public attention to this miracle of nature,) 
the bees usually elect the larvae to be royally educated ; 
though it appears from Ruber's observations, that a 
larva two days or even twenty-four hours old Avilldo'. 
Their mode of proceeding is described to be as follows : 
— Having chosen a grub, they remove the inhabitants 
and their food from two of the cells which join that in 
which it resides ; they next take dow n the partitions 
which separate these three cells ; and, leaving the bot- 
toms untouched, raise round tlve selected worm a cylin- 
drical tube, which follows the horizontal direction of 
the other cells : but since at the close of the third day 
of its life its habitation must assume a different form 
and direction, they gnaw away the cells below it, and 
sacrifice without pity the grubs they contain, using the 
wax of which they were formed to construct a new py- 
ramidal tube, which they join at right angles to the 
horizontal one, the diameter of the former diminish- 
ing insensibly from its base to its mouth. During the 
two days which the grub inhabits this cell, like the 
common royal cells now become vertical'', a bee may 
always be observed with its head plunged into it; and 
when one quits it another takes its place. These bees 
keep lengthening the cell as the worm grows older, and 
duly supply it with food, which they place before its 
mouth, and round its body. The animal, which can 
only move in a spiral direction, keeps incessantly turn- 
ing to take the jelly deposited before it; and thus 

aHul)er, i. 137. 

b Reaumur, wlio was however unacquainteil with this exiraordinary 
Tait, has figured one of these cells, v. /. 32./. 3. h. 


slowly Working downwards, arrives insensibly near the 
orifice ofthe cell, just at the time that it is ready to as- 
sume the pupa ; when, as before described, the workers, 
shut up its cradle with an appropriate covering^. 

When you have read this account, I fear, with the 
celebrated John Hunter, you will not be very ready 
to believe it, at least you will call upon me to bring 
forth my " strong reasons" in support of it. What ! — 
you will exclaim — can a larger and warmer house (for 
the royal cells are affirmed to enjoy a higher tempera- 
ture than those of the other bees''), a different and 
more pungent kind of food, and a vertical instead of 
a horizontal posture, in the first place, give a bee a 
differently shaped tongue and mandibles ; render the 
surface of its posterior tibiae fiat instead of concave ; 
deprive them ofthe fringe of hairs that forms the basket 
for carrying the masses of pollen ; of the auricle and 
pecten which enable the workers to use these tibiae as 
pincers'^; ofthe brush that lines the inside of their 
plantaB ? Can they lengthen its abdomen ; alter its 
colour and clothing ; give a curve to its sting ; de- 
prive it of its wax-pockets, and of the vessels for se- 
creting that substance ; and render its ovaries more 
conspicuous, and capable of yielding female as well 
as male eggs ? Can, in the next place, the seeming- 
ly,, trivial circumstances just enumerated altogether 
alter the instinct of these creatures ? Can they give 
to one description of animals address and industry; 
arid to the other astonishing fecundity? Can we con- 
ceive them to change the very passions, tempers, and 

a Compai*. Bonnet, x. 156, with Hiibcr, i. 134— b Schirach, 69. 
c ]fubcr,t. 4, f. J— 3. 



manners ? That the very same fetus, if fed with more 
pungent food, in a higher temperature and in a verti-^ 
cal position, shall become a female destined to enjoy 
love, to burn with jealousy and anger, to be incited 
to vengeance, and to pass her time without labour — 
that this very same foetus, if fed with more simple food, 
in a lower temperature, in a more confined and hori- 
zontal habitation, shall come forth a worker zealous 
for the good of the community, a defender of the public 
rights, enjoying an immunity from the stimulus of 
sexual appetite and the pains of parturition — labo- 
rious, industrious, patient, ingenious, skilful — inces- 
santly engaged in the nurture of the young; in col- 
lecting honey and pollen ; in elaborating wax ; in con- 
structing cells, and the like ! — paying the most respect- 
ful and assiduous attention to objects which, had its 
ovaries been developed, it would have hated, and pur- 
sued with the most vindictive fury till it had destroyed 
them ! Further, that these factitious queens (I mean 
those that the bees elect from amongst worker 
brood, and educate to supply the place of a lost one 
in the manner just described) shall differ remarkably 
from the natural queens, (or those that have been 
wholly educated in a royal cell,) in being altogether 
mute* — All this, you will think, at first sight, so im- 
probable, and next to impossible, that you will require 
the strongest and most irrefragable evidence before 
you will believe it. 

In spite of all these powerful probabilities to the 
contrary, this astonishing and seemingly incredible 
fact rests upon strong foundations, and is estalblished 

aHuber, L 292. 


by experiments made at different times, by different 
persons of the highest credit, in different parts of Eu- 
rope. The first who brought it before the public (as 
I lately observed) was M. Schirach, secretary of an 
Apiarian Society established at Little Bautzen in 
Upper Lusatia. He observed, that bees when shut up 
with a portion of comb, containing only worker brood, 
would soon erect royal cells, and thus obtain queens : 
— the experiment was frequently repeated, and there- 
suit was almost uniformly the same. In one instance 
he tried it with a single cell, and it succeeded'^. This 
curious fact was communicated to the celebrated Bon- 
net, who, though he hesitated long before he admitted 
it, was at length fully convinced. M. Wilhelmi (Schi- 
rach's brother-in-law), though at first he accounted for 
the fact upon other principles, and objected strongly 
to the doctrine in question, induced by the powerful 
evidence in favour of it, at last gave up his former 
opinion, and embraced it. And, to mention no more, 
the great Aristomachus of modern times, M. Huber, 
by experiments repeated for ten years, was fully con- 
vinced of the truth of Schirach's position''. 

The fact in question, though the public attention 
was first called to it by the latter gentleman, had in- 
deed been practically known long before he wrote. 
M. Vogel, in a letter to Wilhelmi, asserts that nume- 
rous experiments confirming this extraordinary fact 
had been made by more than a hundred different per- 
sons, in the course of more than a hundred years; and 
that he himself had known old cultivators of bees who 
ji4d unanimously declared to him, that, when proper 
n Bouiiet, X. b Uuber, i, 132« 


precautions were taken, in a practice of more than fifty 
years, the experiment had never failed^. Signer Mon- 
ticelli, the Neapolitan professor before mentioned, 
informs us that the Greeks and Turks of the Ionian 
Islands know how to make artificial swarms; and that 
the art of producing queens at will has been practised 
by the inhabitants of a little Sicilian island called 
Favignana, from very remote antiquity ; and he even 
brings arguments to prove that it was no secret to the 
Greeks and Romans'', though had the practice been 
common it would surely have been noticed by Ari- 
stotle and Pliny. 

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

As I think you will allow that the evidence just de- 
tailed to you is abundantly sufficient to establish the 
fact in question, we will now see whether any satisfac- 
tory account can be given for such changes being pro- 
duced by such causes. " It does not appear to me impro- 
bable," says Bonnet, " that a certain kind of nutriment, 
and in more than usual abundance, may cause a de- 
velopment in the grubs of bees, of organs which would 

aSchirach, 121-. b Iluber, ii. 453. c Bonner yn iices, 56. 


never be developed without it. I can readily conceive 
also, that a habitation considerably more spacious, and 
differently placed, is absolutely necessary to the com- 
plete development of organs which the new nutri- 
ment may cause to grow in all directions*." And 
again, with respect to the wings of the queen bee, 
which do not exceed those of the workers in length, 
he thinks that this may arise from their being- of a 
substance too stiff to admit of their extension. Those 
parts and points that were in a state to yield most easily 
to the action which this kind of nutriment produced, 
would be most prominent ; and the vertical position 
of the grub and pupa, since nature does nothing in 
vain, may probably assist this action, and render the 
parts of the animal more capable of such extension 
than if it continued in a horizontal position. 

We know, with respect to the human species and 
the larger animals, that numerous differences, both as 
to the form and relative proportion of parts, occur 
continually. The cause of these differences we can- 
not always ascertain ; yet in many instances they may 
either be derived from the nutriment which the embryo 
receives in the womb, or from the greater or less di- 
mensions or higher or lower temperature of that or- 
gan — a case that analogically would not be very wide 
of that of the grub or embryo of a bee inclosed in a cell. 
Some of the differences in man I now allude to, may 
often be caused by a particular diet in childhood ; a 
warmer or a colder, a looser or a tighter dress, or the 
like. Thus, for instance, the Egyptians, who went 
bare-headed, had their skulls remarkably thick; while 
aHuber, ii. ■445. 


the Persians, who covered the head with a turban or 
mitre, were distinguished by the tenuity of theirs. 
Again, the inhabitants of certain districts are often re- 
markable for peculiarities of form, which are evidently 
produced by local circumstances. 

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

The following observations, mostly taken from an 
essay of the celebrated anatomist John Hunter, in the 
Philosophical Transactions, since they are intimately 
connected with the subject that we are now consider- 
ing, will not be here misplaced. In animals just born, 
or very young, there are no peculiarities of shape, ex- 
clusive of the primary distinctions, by which one sex 
maybe known from the other. Thus secondary distinc- 
tive characters, such as the beard in men, and the 
breasts in women, are produced at a certain period c^f 

W See J. Jlynter's Treatise o^ certain Parts of the Animal (Econoiuii^ 


life; and these secondary characters, in some instances, 
are changed for those of the other sex ; which does not 
arise from any action at the first formation, but takes 
place when the great command " Increase and multi- 
ply" ceases to operate. Thus women in advanced 
]ife are sometimes distinguished by beards; and after 
they have done laying, hen-birds occasionally assume 
the plumage of the cock : this has been observed more 
than once by ornitliologists, more particularly with re- 
spect to the pheasant and the pea-hen^. — For females to 
assume the secondary characters of males, seems cer- 
tainly a more violent change, than for a worker bee, 
which may be regarded as a sterile female, in conse- 
quence of a certain process, to assume the secondary- 
characters of a fertile female. 

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

Did we know the causes of the various deviations, 
as to form and the like, observable in the three king- 
doms of nature, and could apply them, we should be 
able to produce these deviations at our pleasure. This 
is exactly what the bees do. Their instinct teaches 
them that a certain kind of food, supplied to a grub iu' 
habiting a certain dwelling, in a certain position, will 

a Philas. Trans, 179:2. viii. 167. Hunter on certain Parts ofihe Animai 
CEconomy, p. 65. Latliani, Synops. ii. 672. t. 80, 


produce certain effects upon it, rendering- it different 
from what it would have been under ordinary circum- 
stances, and fitted to answer their peculiar wants. 

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

There are a few other facts with respect to the larvae 
and pupae of the bees, which, before I enter upon the 

a Kcaum. v. 271 — . . 


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

The larvaB of bees, though without feet, are not alto- 
gether without motion. They advance from their first 

a Huber, i. 215 — . Schirach asserts, that in cold weadier tlie disclo- 
sure of the imago takes place two days later than in warm: and Ricm, 
that in a bad season the eggs will remain in the cells many months witU- 
0Ut hatching. Schirach, 79. 241. 


station at the bottom of the cell, as I before hinted, in 
a spiral direction. This movement, for the first three 
days, is so slow as to be scarcely perceptible ; but after 
this it is more easily discerned. The animal now makes 
two entire revolutions in about an hour and three quar- 
ters ; and when the period of its metamorphosis arrives, 
it is scarcely more than two lines from the mouth of 
the celL Its attitude, which is always the same, is a 
strong curve*. This occasions the inhabitant of a ho- 
rizontal cell to be always perpendicular to the hori-» 
zon, and that of a vertical one to he parallel with it. 

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

^ Schiracli, I. 3. f. 10. b JIuber, i. 224, 



Hiis instinctive and murderous hatred of their rivals I 
shall soon enlarge. 

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

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

The queen-mother here demands our first attention^ 
as the personage upon whom, when established in her 
regal dignity, the welfare and happiness of the apiarian 
tiomraunity altogether depend. 1 shall begin my his- 
tory with the events that befall her on her quitting the 
royal cradle, and appearing in the perfect state. And 
here you will find that the first moments of her life, 
prior to her election to lead a swarm or fill a vacant 
throne, are moments of the greatest uneasiness and 
vexation, if not of extreme peril and vindictive i^.nd 

a Ucautn. V. 598. 


mortal warfare. The Homeric maxim, that " The go- 
vernment of many is not ^ood%" is fully adopted and 
rigorously adhered to in these societies. The jealous 
Semiramis of the hive will bear no rival near her 
throne. There are usually not less than sixteen, and 
sometimes not less than twenty, royal cells in the same 
nest; you may therefore conceive what a sacrifice is 
made when one only is suffered to live and to reign. 
But here a distinction obtains which should not be 
overlooked : in some instances a single queen only h 
wanted to govern her native hive ; in others several 
are necessary to lead the swarms. In the first case in- 
evitable death istiie lot of all but one; in the other, as 
many as are wanted are preserved from destruction by 
the precautions taken on that occasion, under the di- 
rection of an all-wise Providence, by the workers. 

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

Naturalists had observed, that when there were two 
queens in the same hive, one of them soon perished: 
but some supposed (this was the opinion of Schiracb 
and Riem) that the workers destroyed the supernu- 
meraries. Reaumur, however, conjectured that these 
queens attacked each other : and his conjecture has been 
since confirmed by the actual observation of other na- 


turalists. Blassiere, the translator of Scliiracb, tells 
us, as what he had himself witnessed, that the strongest 
queen kills her rival with her sting ; and the same is 
asserted by Iluber, whose opportunities of observation 
were greater than those of any of his precursors'^. 

The queen that is Hrst liberated from her confine- 
ment, and has assumed the perfect or imago state (it is 
to be supposed that the author is here speaking of a hive 
which has lost the old queen), soon after this event 
goes to visit the royal cells that are still inhabited. 
She darts with fury upon the first with which she meets; 
by means of her jaws she gnaws a hole large enough 
to introduce the end of her abdomen, and with her 
sting, before the included female is in a condition to 
defend herself or resist her attack, she gives her a mor- 
tal wound. The workers, who remain passive spec- 
tators of this assassination, after siie quits the victim of 
her jealousy, enlarge the breach that she has jmade, 
and drag forth the carcase of a queen just emerged from 
the thin membrane that envelops the pupa. If the ob- 
ject of her attack be still in the pupa state, she is sti- 
mulated by a less violent degree of rage, and contents 
herself with making a breach in the cell : when this 
happens, the death of the inclosed insect is equally cer- 
tain, for the workers enlarge the breach, pull it out, 
and it perishes''. If it happens, as it sometimes does, 
that two queens are disclosed at the same time, the care 
of Providence to prevent the hive from being wholly 
despoiled of a governor is singularly manifested by a 
remarkable trait in their instinct, which, when mutual 
destruction seems inevitable, makes them separate from 

a Schirach,209, note *. llubrr, i. 170— 'J lJu»)er, i. 171— 


each other as if panic-struck. " Two young queens/^ 
saysM. Huber, " left their cells one day, almost at the 
same moment ;— as soon as they came within sight, they 
darted upon each other, as if inflamed by the most un- 
governable anger, and placed themselves in such an 
attitude, that the antennae of each were held by the 
jaws of its antagonist ; head was opposed to head, trunk 
to trunk, abdomen to abdomen ; and they had only to 
bend the extremity of the latter, and they would have 
fallen reciprocal victims to each other's sting." But 
nature having decreed that these duels should not be 
fatal to both combatants, as soon as they were thus cir- 
cumstanced a panic fear seemed to strike them, and 
they disengaged themselves, and epch fled away. After 
a few minutes were expired, the attack was renewed 
in a similar manner with the game issue ; till at last 
one suddenly seizing the other by her wing, mounted 
upon her and inflicted a mortal Wound'*. 

The combats I have here described to you took place 
between virgin queens ; but M. Huber found that those 
which had been impregnated were actuated by the same 
animosity, and attacked royal cells with a fury equally 
destructive. AVhen another fertile queen had been in- 
troduced into this hive, a singular scene ensued, which 
proves how well aware the workers are that they can- 
not prosper with two sovereigns. Soon after she was 
introduced, a circle of bees was formed round the 
stranger, not to compliment her on her arrival, or pay 
her the usual homage, but to confine her, and prevent 
her escape ; for they insensibly agglomerated them- 
selves in such numbers round her, and hemmed her ia 

a Huber, i. 174. 


SO closely^ that in about a minute she was completely a 
prisoner. Wliiie this was transacting', what was equally 
remarkable, other workers assembled in clusters round 
the leoitimate queen, and impeded all her motions; so 
that soon she was not more at liberty than the intruder. 
It seemed as if the bees foresaw the combat that was to 
ensue between the two rivals, and were impatient for 
the event; for they only confined them when they ap- 
peared to avoid each other. . To witness the homage, 
respect, and love that they usually manifest to theif 
lawful ruler; the anxiety concerning her which they 
often exhibit ; and the distrust which for a time (as 
we shall see hereafter) they usually show towards 
strange ones even when deprived of their own ; one 
would expect that, rather than permit such a perilous 
combat, they would unite in the defence of their sove- 
reign, and cause the interloper to perish under the 
stroke of their fatal stings. But no ; the contest for em- 
pire must be between the rival candidates; no worker 
must interfere in any otlier way than that which I have 
described; no contending armies must fight the battles 
of their sovereigns, for the law of succession seems to 
be ^^ detur fortiori.'' But to return to my narrative. 
The legitimate queen appearing inclined to move to- 
wards that part of the comb on which her rival was 
stationed, tiie bees immediately began to retire from 
the space that intervened between them, so that there 
was soon a clear arena for the combat. When they 
could discern each other, the rightful queen rushing 
furiously upon the pretender, seized her with her jaws 
near the root of the w ings, and, after fixing her without 
power of motion against the comb, with one stroke of 

>V0L. IT. L 


her sting dispatched her. If ever-so-many queens are 
introduced into a hive, all but one will perish, and that 
one will have won the throne by her own unassisted 
valour and strength. Sometimes a strange queen at- 
tempts of herself to enter a hive : in this case the 
workers, who are upon the watch and who examine 
every thing that presents itself, immediately seize her 
with their jaws by the legs or wings, and hem her in 
so straitly with a clustered circle of guards, turning 
their heads on all sides towards her, that it is impos- 
sible for her to penetrate within. If they retain her 
prisoner too long, she dies either from the want of food 
or air, but never from their stings^. 

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

I must now beg you to attend to what takes place in 
the second case that I mentioned, where queens are 

a Uuhetj i. 186. b Reaum. v. 268. c Huber, i. 190. 


tranted to lead forth swarms. Here you will, with 
reason, suppose that nature has instilled some instinct 
into the bees, by which these necessary individuals are 
rescued from the fury of the reigning sovereign. 

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

L 2 


facilitates her exit, and probably Fenders the evapora* 
tion of the superabundant fluids of the body of the pupa 
more easy. 

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

a llubrcr, i. ^30. 


You may think it perhaps extraordinary that the 
workers should thus endeavour to retard the appear- 
ance of their youn^ females beyond its natural limit : 
but when I explain to you the reason for this seeming- 
incongruity of instinct, you will adore the wisdom that 
implanted it. Were a queen permitted;) to leave her 
cell as soon as the natural term for it arrived, it would 
require some time to fit her for flii^ht, and to lead forth a 
fiwarm ; during- which interval a troublesome task would 
be imposed upon the workers, who must constantly de- 
tail her a prisoner to prevent lier from destroying her 
rivals, which would require the labours and attention 
of a much larger number than are necessary to keep Iter 
confined to her cell. On this account they never suf- 
fer her to come forth till she is perfectly fit to take her 
flight. When at length she is permitted to do this, if 
she approaches the other royal cells, the workers on 
guard seem greatly irritated against her, and pull and 
bite and chase her away ; and she enjoys tranquillity 
only while she keeps at a distance from them. As her 
instinct is constantly urging her to attack them, this 
proceeding is frequently repeated. Sometimes stand- 
ing in a particular and commandinj^ attitude, she utters 
that authoritative sound which so much affects tlic 
bees ; they then all hang down their heads and remain 
motionless; but as soon as it ceases, they resume their 
opposition. At last she becomes violently agitated, 
and, communicating her agitation to others, the confu-r 
sion more and more increases, till a swarm leaves the 
hive, which she either precedes or follows. In the 
same manner the other young queens are treated while 
there are swarms to go forth ; but when the hive is suf- 


ficiently thinned, and it becomes troublesome to guard 
them in the manner here described, they come forth 
unnoticed, and fight unimpeded till one alone remains 
to fill the deserted throne of the parent hive. — You see 
here the reason why the eggs that produce these queens 
are not laid at the same time, but after some interval, 
that they may come forth successively. For did they 
all make their appearance together, it would be a 
much more laborious and difiicult task to keep them 
from destroying each other. 

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

a Iluber, i. 286. 


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

But though the bees, in one of these cases, appear 
such unconcerned spectators of the destruction of royal 
personages, or rather, the applauders and inciters of 
the bloody fact; and in the other show little respect to 
them, put such a restraint upon their persons, and ma- 
nifest such disregard to their wishes ; yet when they 
are once acknowledged as governors of the hive, and 
leaders of the colony, their instinct assumes a new and 
wonderful direction. From this moment they become 
the '''"'publka cura^'' the objects of constant and univer- 
sal attention ; and wherever they go, are greeted by a 
homage which evinces the entire devotion of their sub- 
jects. You seemed amused and interested in no slight 


degree by what I related in a former letter of the 
marked respect paid by the ants to their fentales'*; but 
this will bear no comparison with that shown by the in- 
}iabitant«! of the hive to their cr een. She appears to 
be the very soul of all their actions, and the centre of 
their instincts. When they are deprived of her, or of 
the means of replacing her, they lose all their activity, 
and pursue no longer their daily labours. In vain the 
flowers tempt them with their npctar and ambrosial 
dust: they collect neither ; they elaborate no wax, and 
build no cells ; they scarcely seem to exist ; and, in- 
deed, would soon perish, were not the means of restoring 
their monarch put within their reach. But, if a small 
piece of comb containing the brood grubs of workers be 
given to them, all seem endued with new life : their 
instincts revive; they immediately set about building 
royal cells ; they feed with their appropriate food the 
grubs they have selected, and every thing proceeds in 
the usual routine. Virgil has described this attach- 
ment of the bees to their sovereign with great truth and 
spirit in the following lines; 

*' Lydiiii nur Mede so much his king adores, 
Nor tiiose on iNilus' or Hydaspes' shores: 
The state united stands whUe ho remains. 
But should he full, what dire confusion reigns ! 
Their waxen combs and honey, late their joy, ' 

With grief and rage distracted, they destroy : 
lie guards the works, with avye they him surround, 
And crowd about him with triumphant sound ; 
Him frequent on their duteous shoulders bear, 
Bleed, fall, and die for him in glorious war," 

See above, p. 56. 


r M. Huber tlius describes the consequences of the loss 
lofa queen. — When the queen is removed from a hive, 
at first the bees seem not to perceive it, their order and 
tranquillity not being disturbed, and their labours pro- 
ceeding- as usual. About an hour after her departure, 
inquietude begins to manifest itself amongst theni; the 
. care of the young brood no longer engages their atten- 
tion, and they run here and there, as if in great agita- 
tion. This agitation, however, is at fust confined to a 
small portion of the community. The bees that are 
.first sensible of their loss meet with others, they mu- 
tually cross their antenucB, and strike them lightly. 
By this action they appear to communicate the sad in- 
telligence to those who receive the blow, who in their 
turn impart it in the same way to others. Disorder 
and confusion increase rapidly, till the whole popula- 
tion is in a tumult. Then the workers may be seen 
running over the combs, and against each other; im- 
petuously rushing to the entrance and quitting the 
hive; from thence they spread themselves all around, 
.they re-enter, and go out again and again. The hum 
in the hive becomes very loud, and increases the tu- 
mult, which lasts two or three hours, rarely four or 
rive: they then return and resume their wonted care 
;of the young; and if the hive be visited twenty-four 
hours after the departure of the queen, it will be seen 
that they have taken steps to repair their loss by fillinii 
some of the cells with a larger quantity of jelly than is 
the usual portion of common larvae; which however is 
mtended, it seems, not for the food of the inhabitant, 
I)ut for a eiishicn to elevate it, since it is found uncon- 


sumed in the cell when the grub is descended into the 
pyramidal habitation afterwards prepared for it*. 

If, after being removed, their old queen is restored 
to the hive, they instantly recognise her, and pay her 
the usual attentions : but if a strange one be introduced 
within the first twelve hours after the old one is lost, 
she is kept a close prisoner till she perishes : if twenty- 
four hours, as I have before hinted, have expired since 
they lost their queen, and you introduce a new one, at 
the moment you set this stranger upon a comb, the 
workers that are near her first touch her with their an- 
tennae, and then pass their proboscis over all parts of 
her body : place is next given to others, who salute 
her in the same manner : — all then beat their wings at 
the same time, and range themselves in a circle round 
their new sovereign. A kind of agitation is now com- 
municated to the whole surface of the comb, which 
brings all the bees upon it to see what is going forward. 
This may be called the first shout of the applauding 
multitude to welcome the arrival of their new sove- 
reign. The circle of courtiers increases, they vibrate 
their wings and bodies, but without tumult, as if their 
sensations were very agreeable. When she begins to 
move, the circle opens to let her pass, and all follow 
her steps. She is received with similar demonstrations 
of loyalty in the other parts of the hive, is soon ac- 
knowledged queen by all, and begins to lay eggs. — 
Reaumur put some bees into a hive without their 
queen, and then introduced to them one that he had 
taken when half perished with cold, and kept inabox^, in 

aHuber, ii. 396 — 


which she had covered herself with powder. The bees 
immediately owned her for tlieir queen, employed them- 
selves very anxiously in cleaning her and warming her, 
sometimes turning- her upon her back for this purpose 
•—and then began to construct cells in their new habi- 
tation^. Even when'the bees have got young brood, 
have built or are building royal cells, and are engaged 
in feeding these hopes of their hive, knowing that their 
great aim is already accomplished, they cease all these 
employments when this intruder comes amongst them. 

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

The instinct of the bees, however, does not always 
enable them to distinguish a partially fertile queen 
from one that is universally so. What I mean is this 
— A queen, whose impregnation is retarded beyond the 
twenty-eighth day of her whole existence, lays only 
male eggs, which are of no use whatever to the com- 

"Reaura. v, 262, b Reauia. v. Pref. xv. clluber, i. 269, 


munity, unless they are at the same time provided wiih 
a sufficient supply of workers. Yet even a queen of 
this description, and sometimes one that is entirely 
sterile, is treated by them with the same respect and 
homage as a fertile one. This seems to evince an ami' 
able feeling- in these creatures, attachment to the per- 
son as well as to the functions of the sovereigu: vvhich 
is further manifested by their unwillingness at first to 
receive a new sovereign upon the loss ordeath of their 
old one. Nay, this respect is sometimes shown to the 
carcase of a defunct queen, which Iluber assures us he 
has seen bees treat with the same attention that tliey 
had shown her when alive; for a long time preferring 
her inanimate corpse to the fertile queens that he 
offered to them^. He attributes this to some agreeable 
sensation which they e?iperience from their queens, in-- 
dependent of their fecundity. But since virgin queens, 
as we have seen, do not excite it, more probably it is 
a remnant of their former attachment, first excited by 
Iier fecundity, and afterwards t^trengthened and conti- 
nued by habit. 

I may here introduce an interesting anecdote re- 
lated by Reaumur, which strongly marks the attach- 
ment of bees to their queen when apparently lifeless, lie 
took one out of the water quite motionless, and seem- 
ingly dead, which had lost part of one of its legs. Bring- 
ing it home, he placed it amongst some workers that he 
had found in the same situation, most of which he haci 
revived by means of warmth ; some however still being 
in as bad a state as the poor queen. No sooner dici 
these revised workers perceive the latter in this wretgh-? 

a Huber, i, 322, 


ril condition, than they appeared to compassionate I>er 
case, and did not cease to lick her with their tongues 
till she showed signs of returning animation ; which the 
bees no sooner perceived, than they set up a general 
hum, as if for joy at the happy event. All this time 
they paid no attention to the workers who w ere in the 
same miserable state ^. 

On a former occasion I have mentioned the laying of 
the eggs by the queen'' ; but as I did not then at all en-, 
large upon it, I shall now explain the process more in 
detail. In a subsequent letter I shall notice, what has 
so much puzzled learned apiarists — her fecundation ; 
which is now ascertained beyond contradiction, from 
the observations of M. Huber, to take place in the open 
air, and to be followed by the death of the unfortunate 
male''. It is to be recollected that, from September to 
April, generally speaking, there are no males in the 
hives ; yet during this period the queen often ovipo- 
sits: a former fecundation, therefore, must fertilize all 
the eggs laid in tliis interval. The impregnation, in 
order to ensure complete fertility, must not be too long 
retarded; for, as I before observed, if this be delayed 
beyond the twenty-eighth day of her existence, her 
oraries become so vitiated, that she can no longer lay 
eggs that will produce workers, but can only furnish 
the hive with a male population ; which, however high 
a privilege it may be accounted amongst men, is the 
reverse of it amongst the bees. When this is the case, 
the abdomen of the queen becomes so enlarged that 
she is no longer able to fly '^; and, what is remarkable, 

a Rtaum. V. 266. b Vol. I. 2d Ed. 376. 

e HubrT, i. G3 — d Schiracli, 257. 


she loses that instinctive animosity which stimulates 
the fertile ones to attack their rivals^. Thus she seems 
to own that she is not equal to the duties of her station, 
and can tolerate another to discharge them in her room. 
When we consider how much virgin queens are slighted 
by their subjects, we may suppose that nature urges? 
them to take the opportunity of the first warm day, 
when the males fly forth, to pair with one of them. 

When fecundation has not been retarded, forty-six 
hours after it has taken place, the queen begins to lay- 
eggs that will produce workers, and continues for the 
subsequent eleven months, more or less, to lay thera 
solely; and it is only after this period that an uninter- 
rupted laying of male eggs commences. — But when it 
has been retarded, after the same number of hours she 
begins laying male eggs, and continues to produce these 
alone during her whole life. From hence it should 
seem to follow, that the former kind of eggs are first 
in the oviducts, and, if impregnation be not effected 
within a given time, that all the worker embryos perish. 
Yet how this can take place with respect to those that 
in a fertile queen should succeed the laying of male 
eggs, or be produced in the second year of her life, 
seems difficult to conceive ; — or how the male embryos 
escape this fate, which destroys all the females, both 
those that are to precede them and those that are to 
follow them. Is it impossible that the sex of the em- 
bryo may be determined by the period at which the 
aura seminalis vivifies it, and by the state of the ovary 
at that time ? In one state of the ovary this principle 
may cause the embryos to become workers, iij another 

a Uuber, i. 319— 


males. And something of this kind perhaps may be 
the cause of hermaphrodites in other animals. But 
this I give merely as conjecture*: the truth seems 
enveloped in mystery that we cannot yet penetrate. 
Huber is of opinion that a single impregnation ferti- 
lizes all the eggs that a queen will produce during 1 or 
whole life, which is sometimes more than two years''. 
But of this enough. 

I said that forty-six hours after impregnation the 
queen begins laying worker eggs ; — this is not, how- 
ever, invariable. When her impregnation takes place 
late in the year, she does not begin laying till the fol- 
lowing spring. Schirach asserts, that in one season a 
single female will lay from 70,000 to 100,000 eggs'". 
Reaumur says, that upon an average she lays about 
two hundred in a day, a moderate swarm consisting of 
12,000, which are laid in two months ; and Huber, 
that she lays above a hundred. All these statements, 
the observations being made in different climates, and 
perhaps under different circumstances, may be true. 
The laying of worker eggs begins in February, some- 
times so early as January**. After this, in the spring, 
the great laying of male eggs commences, lasting 
thirty days ; in which time about 2,000 of these eggs 
are laid. Another laying of them, but less consider- 

a This conjecture receives strong confirination from the following ob» 
serrations of Sir E. Home, which I met with since it came into my mind. 
From the nipples present in man, which sometimes even aiTord milk, 
and from the general analogy between the male and female organs of 
generation, he supposes the germ is originally fitted to become either 
sex ; and that which it shall be is determined at the time of impregna- 
tion by some unknown cause- Philos. Trans. 1799. 157. 

b i. 106— c Schirach, 7. 13. <> Ibid. 13, Tharley, 105. 


able, takes place in autumn. In the sea^^on of ovipo-^ 
sition, the queen may be discerned traversing the 
combs in all directions with a slow step, and seeking 
tor cells proper to receive her eggs. As she walks, she 
keeps her head inclined, and seems to examine, one by 
Oi!e, all the cells she meets with. When she finds one 
to her purpose, she immediately gives to her abdomen 
the curve necessary to enable it to reach the orifice of 
the cell, and to introduce it within it. The eggs are 
set in the angle of the pyramidal bottom of the cell, or 
in one of the hollows formed by the conflux of the sides 
of the rhombs, and, being besmeared with a kind of 
gluten, stand upright. If, however, it be a female that 
lays only male eggs, they are deposited upon the lowest 
of the sides of the cell, as she is unable to reach the 

While our prolific lady is engaged in this employ* 
ment, her court consists of from four to twelve at- 
tendants, which are disposed nearly in a circle, with 
their heads turned towards her. After laying from 
two to six eggs, she remains still, reposing for eight 
or nine minutes. During this interval the bees in her 
train redouble their attentions, licking her fondly with 
their tongues. Generally speaking, she lays only one 
egg in a cell ; but when she is pressed, and there are 
not cells enough, from two to four have been found in 
one. In this case, as if they were aware of the conse- 
quences, the provident workers remove all but one. 
From an experiment of Huber's it appears that the 
instinct of the queen invariably directs her to deposit 
worker eggs in worker cells; for When he confined one- 

a. Bonnet, s. 958, Svo Kd. 


■Juring her course of laying- worker eggs, where she 
«ould only come at male cells, she refused to oviposit 
in them ; and trying in vain to make her escape, they 
at length dropped from her; upon which the workers 
devoured them. Retarded queens, however, lose this 
instinct, and often, though they lay only male eggs, 
oviposit in worker cells, and even in royal ones. In 
this latter case the workers themselves act as if they 
suffered in their instinct from the imperfect state of 
their queen ; for they feed these male larvcB with royal 
jelly, and treat them as they would a real queen. 
Though male eggs deposited in worker cells produce 
«mall males, their education in a royal cell with "royal 
<iainties" adds nothing to their ordinary dimensions^. 

The swarming of bees is a very curious and interest- 
ing subject, to which, since a female is the sine qua non 
on this occasion, I may very properly call your atten- 
tion here. You will recollect that I said something 
"upon the principle of emigrations, when I was amusing 
you with the history of ants^; but the object with them 
seems to be merely a change of station for one more 
convenient or less exposed to injury, and not to dimi- 
nish a superabundant population. Whereas, in the 
■societies of the hive-bee, the latter is the general cause 
t)f emigrations, which invariably take place every year, 
if their numbers require it; if not, when the male eggs 
are laid, no royal cells are constructed, and no swarm 
is led forth. What might be the case with ants, were 
they confined to hives, we cannot say. Formicaries in 
general are capable of indefinite enlargement, therefore 
want of room does not cause emigration ; — but bees 

a Hubcr, i. 122— b Sec above, p. 5T. 



being confined tea given space, which they possess not 
the means of enlarging, — to avoid the ill effects result- 
ing from being too much crowded, when their popula- 
tion exceeds a certain limit, they must necessarily emi- 
grate. Sometimes — for instance, when wasps have got 
into a hive — the bees will leave it, in order to fly from 
afi inconvenience or enemy which they cannot otherwise 
avoid ; but it does not very often happen that they 
wholly desert a hive. 

Apiarists tell us that, in this country, the best season 
for swarming is from the middle of May to the middle 
of June ; but swarms sometimes occur so early as the 
beginning of April, and as late as the middle of Au- 
gust*. The first swarm, as I before observed, is led 
by the reigning queen, and takes place when she is so 
much reduced in size, in consequence of the number 
of eggs she has laid, (for previously to oviposition 
her gravid body is so heavy that she can scarcely drag 
it along,) as to enable her to fly with ease. The most 
indubitable sign that a hive is preparing to swarm, — so 
says Reaumur, — is when on a sunny morning, the wea- 
ther being favourable to their labours, few bees go out 
of a hive, from which on the preceding day they had 
issued in great numbers, and little pollen is collected. 
This circumstance, he observes, must be very embar- 
rassing to one who attempts to explain all their pro- 
ceedings upon principles purely mechanical. Does it 
not prove, he asks, that all the inhabitants of a hive, 
or almost all, are aware of a project that will not be 
put in execution before noon, or some hours later ? 
For why should bees, who worked the day before witl> 

" a Keys On Bees, 16, 


Wo much activity, cease their labours in a habitation 
Which they are to quit at noon, were they not aware 
that they should soon abandon it^? The appearance 
of the males, and the clustering of the population at 
the mouth of the hive, (though this last is less to be 
relied upon, being often occasioned by extreme heat,) 
are also indications of the approach of this event. A 
good deal depends, however, on the warmth of the at- 
mosphere and the state of the weather either to acce- 
lerate or retard it. Another sign is a general hum in 
the evening, which is continued even during the night, 
— all seems to be in a bustle, the greatest restlessness 
agitates the bees. Sometimes to hear this hum the 
ear must be placed close to the hive, when clear and 
"sharp sounds may be distinguished, which appear to be 
produced by the vibration of the wings of a single bee. 
This hum by some has been gravely construed into an 
harangue of the queen to animate her subjects to the 
great undertaking which she now meditates — the found- 
ing of a new empire. There sometimes seem to hap- 
pen suddenly amongst them, says Reaumur, events 
which put all the bees in motion^ for which no account 
can be given. If you observe a hive with attention, 
you may often remain a long time and hear only a slight 
murmur, and then, all in a moment, a sonorous hum 
will be excited, and the workers, as if seized with a 
^anic terror, may be seen quitting their various la- 
bours, and running off in different directions. At these 
hioments if a youiig queen goes out, she will be fol- 
lowed by a numerous troop. 

Iluber has given a very lively and interesting ac- 

a ReJiuoi. v. 61 1. 
M 2 


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

It is to be observed that this agitation, excited by 
the queen, increases the customary heat of the hive to 
a very high temperature, which the action of the sun 
augments till it becomes intolerable, and which often 
causes the bees accumulated near the mouth of the hive 
to perspire so copiously, that those near the bottom, 
who support the weight of the rest, appear drenched 
with the moisture. This intolerable heat determines 
the most irresolute to leave the hive. Immediately 
a Huber, i. 251. 


before the swarming, a louder hum than usual is heard, 
many bees take flight, and, if the queen be at their 
head, or soon follows them, in a moment the rest rise in 
crowds after her into the air, and the element is filled 
with bees as thick as the falling snow. The queen at 
first does not alight upon the branch on which the 
swarm fixes ; but as soon as a group is formed and clus- 
tered, she joins it : after this it thickens more and more, 
all the bees that are in the air hastening to their com- 
panions and their queen, so as to form a living mass of 
animals supporting themselves upon each other by the 
claws of their feet. Thus they sometimes are so con- 
catenated, each bee suspending its legs to those of an- 
other, as to form living chaplets*. After this they soon 
become tranquil, and none are seen in the air. Before 
they are housed they often begin to construct a little 
comb on the branch on which they alight''. Sometimes 
it happens that two queens go out with the same swarm ; 
and the result is, that the swarm at first divides into 
two bodies, one under each leader ; but as one of 
these groups is generally much less numerous than the 
other, the smallest at last joins the largest, accompa- 
nied by the queen to whom they had attached them- 
selves ; and, when they are hived, this unfortunate 
candidate for empire falls sooner or later a victim to 

a Some critics have found fault with Mr. Southey for ascribing, in his 
Curse of Ke/iama, to Camdeo, the Cupid of Indian inytholo^iy, a how 
strung with bees. The idea is not so absurd as they imagine ; and the 
poet doubtless was led to it by his knowledge of the natural history of 
these animals, and that they form themselves info strings oi chaplcts.— 
See Reaum. v. /. x.xii. /". 3. b Reaumur, 615-641. 


the jealousy of her rival. Till this great question is 
decided the bees do not settle to their usual labours*. 
If no queen goes out with a swarm, they return to the 
hive from whence they came. 

As in regular monarcliies, so in this of the bees, the 
first-born is probably the fortunate candidate for the 
throne. She is usually the most active and vigorous; 
the most able to take flight; and in the best condition 
to lay eggs. Though the queen that is victorious, and 
mounts the throne, is not, as Virgil asserts, resplen- 
dent with gold and purple, and her rival hideous, sloth- 
ful and unwieldy '', yet some differences are observ- 
'able ; the successful candidate is usually redder and 
larger than the others : these last, upon dissection, ap- 
pear to have no eggs ready for laying, while the formerj 
which is a powerful recommendation, is usually full of 
them. Eggs are commonly found in the cejls twenty- 
four hours after swarming, or at the latest two or three 

You may think, perhaps, that the bees which emi- 
grate from the parent hive are the youth of the colony; 
but this is not the case, for bees of all ages unite to 
form the swarms. The numbers of which they consist 
vary much, Reaumur calls 12,000 a moderate swarm ; 
and he mentions one which amounted to more thai;! 
three timer; that number (40^000), A swarm seldom. 

a Reaumur, 615-644. 

b " Alter erit maculis auro squalentibus ardens, 
(Nam duo sunt genera) hie melior, insignis et ore, 
Et rutilis clarus squarais: ille horrjdus alter 
Pesidi^i lataraque trahens inglorius alvum." 

Qeorg. iv. 91— : 


or never takes place except when the sun shines and 
the air is calm. Sometimes, when every thing seems 
to prognosticate swarming, a cloud passing over the 
sun calms the agitation; and afterwards, upon his 
shining forth again, the tumult is renewed, keeps aug- 
menting, and the swarm departs". On this account the 
confinement of the queens, before related, is observed 
to be more protracted in bad weather. 

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

It is not without example, though it rarely happens, 
that a swarm conducted by the old queen increases so 
much in the space of three weeks as to send forth a 
new colony. Being already impregnated, she is in a 
condition to oviposit as soon as there are cells ready to 
receive her eggs : and an all-wise Providence has so 
ordered it, that at this time she lays only suck as pro- 
duce workers. And it is the first employment of her 
subjects to construct cells for this purpose ". The young 

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

b Huber, i.27I. c Ibid.^SO, 


queens that conduct the secondary swarms usually paip 
the day after they are settled in their new abode ; when 
the indifference with which their subjects have hitherto 
treated them is exchanged for the usual respect and ho- 

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

a Hiiber, i. 305. 


ivive it that direction which is most beneficial to the 
community ? 

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

The amputation of one of the antennas of a queen 
bee appears not to affect her perceptibly ; but cutting 
off both these important organs produces a very striking 
derangement of all her proceedings — She seems in a 
species of delirium, and deprived of all her instincts; 
every thing is done at random ; yet the respect and ho- 
mage of the workers towards her, though they are re- 
ceived by her with indifference, continue undiminished. 
If another in the same condition be put in the hive, the 
bees do not appear to discover the difference, and treat 
them both alike : but if a perfect one be introduced, 
even though fertile, they seize her, keep her in con- 
finement, and treat her very unhandsomely. One 
may conjecture from this circumstance, that it is by 


those wonderful organs, the antennae, that the bees 
know their own queen. If two mutilated queens meet, 
they show not the slightest symptom of resentment. 
While one of these continues in the hive, the workers 
never think of choosing another ; but if she leaves it, 
they do not accompany her, probably because the heat 
is not increased by her putting them into the prepa- 
ratory agitation*. 

I am, &c. 

a Hiiber, i. 316. 




JriAViNG given you a history sufficiently ample of the 
queen or female bee, I shall next add some account of 
the drone or male lee; but this will not detain you 
long-, since " to be born and die" is nearly the sura 
total of their story. Much abuse, from the earliest 
times, has been lavished upon this description of the 
inhabitants of the hive, and their indolence and glut-s- 
tony have become proverbial. — Indeed, at first sight, it 
seems extraordinary that seven or eight hundred indi- 
viduals should be supported at the public expense, 
and to common appearance do nothing all the while 
that may be thought to earn their living. But the 
more we look into nature, the more we discover the 
truth of that common axiom, — that nothing is made in 
vain. — Creative Wisdom cannot be caught at fault. 
Therefore, where we do not at present perceive the 
reasons of things, instead of cavilling at what we do 
not understand, we ought to adore in silence, and 
wait patiently till the veil is removed which, in any par- 
ticular instance, conceals its final cause from our sight. 
The mysteries of nature are gradually opened to us, 
one truth making way for the discovery of another : 
but still there will always be in nature, as well as in 


revelation, even in those things that fall under our daily 
observation, mysteries to exercise our faith and hu- 
mility ; so that we may always reply to the caviller, — 
*' Thine own things and those that are grown up with 
thee hast thou not known; how then shall thy vessel 
comprehend the way of the Highest?" 

V^arious have been the conjectures of naturalists, 
even in very recent times, with respect to the fertiliza- 
tion of the eggs of the bee. Some have supposed, — and 
the number of males seemed to countenance the sup- 
position, — that this was effected after they were depo- 
Eited in the cells. Of this opinion Maraldi seems to 
have been the author, and it was adopted by Mr. De- 
braw of Cambridge, who asserts that he has seen the 
f^maller males (those that are occasionally produced in 
cells usually appropriated to workers) introduce their 
abdomen into cells containing eggs, and fertilize them ; 
and that the eggs so treated proved fertile, while others 
that were not remained sterile. The common or large 
drones, which form the bulk of the male population 
of the hive, could not be generally destined to this 
office, since their abdomen, on account of its size, could 
only be introduced into male and royal cells. Bonnet, 
however, saw some motions of one of these drones, 
^vhich, while it passed by those that were empty, ap- 
peared to strike with its abdomen the mouth of the cells 
containing eggs^. Swammerdam thought that the fe- 
male was impregnated by efiiuvia which issued from 
the male**. Reaumur, from some proceedings that he 
witnessed, was convinced that impregnation took place 
according to the usual law of nature, and, as he sup- 

a Bonnet, x. 25P. b jiibl. Nd. i. i2I. h. ed. Hill. 


posed, within the hiv^e'. This opinion Huber has con- 
firmed by indubital)le proofs; but he further discovered 
that these aniuials pair abroad, in the air, during the 
flight of the queen : a fact which renders a large num- 
ber of inaies necessary, to ensure lier impregnation in 
due time to lay eggs that vviil produce workers'*. Iluber 
also observed those appearances which induced Debraw 
to adopt the opinion I mentioned just now, and was at 
first disposed to think them real : but afterwards, upoii 
a nearer inspection, he discovered that it was an illu- 
sion caused by the reflection of the rays of light '^. 

In.fine weather the drones, during the warmest part 
of the day, take their flights ; and it is then that they 
pair with the queen in mid air, the result being inva- 
riably the death of the drone. No one has yet disco- 
vered, unless the proceedings observed by Debraw and 
Bonnet may be so interpreted, that when in the hive 
they take any share in the business of it, their great 
employment within doors being to eat. Their life how- 
ever is of very short duration, the eggs that produce 
drones being laid in the course of April and May, and 
their destruction being usually accomplished in the 
months of July and August. The bees then, as M. 
Huber observes, chase them about, and pursue them 
to the bottom of the hives, where they assemble in 
crowds. At the same time numerous carcases of drones 
may be seen on the ground before the hives. Hence he 
conjectured, though he never could detect them en- 
gaged in this work upon the combs, that they were 
stung to death by the workers. To ascertain how their 
death was occasioned, he caused a table to be glazed, 
on which he placed six hives, and under this table he 

a Rcaum. v. 503— i> Huber, i. 24— o i!>id, 37 — 


employed the patient and indefatigable Biirnens, whd 
■was to him instead of eyes, to watch their proceedingSc 
On the fourth of July this accurate observer saw the 
massacre going on in all the hives at the same time, 
and attended by the same circumstances. The table! 
was crowded with workerSj wliO, apparently in great 
fage, darted upon the drones as soon as they arrived 
at the bottom of the hive, seizing them by their an- 
tennae, their legs, and their wings ; and killing- them 
by violent strokes of their sting, which they generally 
inserted between the segments of the abdomen. The 
tnoment this fearful weapon entered their body, the 
poor helpless creatures expanded their wings and ex- 
pired. After this, as if fearful that they were not suffi- 
ciently dispatched, the bees repeated their strokes, so 
that they often found it difficult to extricate their sting. 
On the following day they were equally busy in the 
work of slaughter ; but their fury, their own having 
perished, was chiefly vented upon those drones, which, 
after having escaped from the neighbouring hives, had 
sought refuge with them. Not content with destroy- 
ing those that were in the perfect state, they attacked 
also such male pupae as were left in their cells ; and 
then dragging them forth, sucked the fluid from their 
bodies and cast them out of the hive ^. 

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

What it is that, in the former instanpe^ excite? the 

a liubcr, i. 195. b Ibid, i99. 


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

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

When I consider the proceedings of these little crea- 
tures, both in the hive and out of it, they are so nume- 
rous and multifarious, that I scarcely know where to 
begin. You have already, however, heard much of 


their internal labours, in the care and nurture of the 
young; the construction of their combs*; and their 
proceedings with respect to their queens and their 
paramours. It vvilltherefoi^ change the scene a little, 
if we accompany them in their excursions to collect the 
various substances of which they have need**. On these 
occasions the principal object of the bees is to furnish 
themselves with three different materials : — the nectar 
of flowers, from which they elaborate honey and wax; 

a. Vol. I. 2d. Ed. 3T5— and 481— 

b The following beautiful lines by Professor Smjth are extremely ap- 
plicable to tliis part of a bee's labours: 

" Thou cheerful Eee ! crme, freely come. 
And travel round my woodbine bower I 
Delight me with thy wandering hum, 
' And rouse me from my musing hour; 

Oh ! try no more those tedious fields. 
Come tabte the sweets my garden yields: 
The treasures of each blooming mine. 
The bud, the blossom, — all are thine. 

" And careless of this nooD-tide heat, 

I'll follow as thy ramble guides ; 
To watch thee pause and chafe thy feet. 

And sweep them o'er thy downy sides: 
Then in a flower's bell nestling lie. 
And all thy envied ardor ply ! 
Then o'er the stem, fho' fair it grow, 
With touch rejecting, glance, and go. 

" O Nature kind ! O labourer wise ! 

That roam'st along the summer's ra) , 
Clean'st every bliss thy life supplies, 

And meet'st prepared thy wintry day ! 
Go, envied go — with crowded gates 
The hive thy rich return awaits ; 
Bear home thy store, in triumph gay, 
Aj}d shame each idler of the day," 


Jhe pollen or fertilizinn; dust of the anthers, of which 
they make what is called boe-bread, serving as food 
both to old and youni>; ; and the resinous substance 
called by the ancients Propolis, Pissoceros, &c. used 
in various ways in rendering the hive secure and giv- 
ing the finish to the combs. The first of these sub- 
stances is the pure fluid secreted in the nectaries of 
flowers, w hich the length of their tongue enables them 
to reach in most blossoms. The tongue of a bee, you 
are to observe, though so long and sometimes so in- 
flated *, is not a tube through which the honey passes, 
nor a pump acting by suction, but a real tongue which 
laps or licks the honey, and passes it down on its upper 
surface, as we do, to the mouth, which is at its base 
concealed by the mandibles^. It is conveyed by this 
orifice through the cesophagus into the first stomach, 
which we call the honey-bag, and which, from being 
very small, is swelled when full of it to a considerable 
size. Honey is never found in the second stomach, 
(which is surrounded with muscular rings, and resem- 
bles a cask covered with hoops from one end to the 
other,) but only in the first : in the latter and the intes- 
tines the bee-bread only is discovered. How the wax 
is secreted, or what vessels are appropriated to that 
purpose, is not yet ascertained. Huber suspects that a 
cellular substance, consisting of hexagons, which lines 
the membrane of the wax-pockets, may be concerned 
in this operation. This substance he also discovered 
in humble-bees (which though they make wax have no 
wax-pockets), occupying all the anterior part or base 
of the segments •=. • If you wish to see the wax-pockets 

a Reaum, v. f. xxviii./. 1, 2. b Ihid./. 7. o. t ltubei;ii.3--.f. h.f.8. 


in the hive-bee, you must press the abdomen so as to 
cause it to extend itself; you will then find on each of 
the four intermediate ventral segments, separated by 
the carina or elevated central part, two trapeziform 
whitish pockets, of a soft membranaceous texture : on 
these the laminaB of wax are formed, and they are found 
upon them in different states, so as to be more or less 
perceptible. I must here observe that, besides Thor- 
ley, who seems to have been the first apiarist that ob- 
served these laminae, Wildman was not ignorant of 
them, nor of the wax being formed from honey ^ : we 
must not therefore permit foreigners to appropriate to 
themselves the whole credit of discoveries that have 
been made, or at least partially made, by our own 

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

She has to attend to a double task — to collect mate- 
rials for bee-bread as well as for honey and wax. Ob- 
serve a bee that has alighted upon an open flower. 
The hum produced by the motion of her wings ceases, 
and her employment begins. In an instant she unfold^s 
her tongue, which before w as rolled up under her head. 
With what rapidity does she dart this organ between 
the petals and the stamina ! Atone time she extends it 

* a Wildman, 43, 


to its full length, then she contracts it ; she moves it 
about in all directions, so that it may be applied both 
to the concave and cx>nvex surface of a petal, and wipe 
them both ; and thus by a virtuous theft robs it of all 
its nectar. All the while this is going- on, she keeps 
herself in a constant vibratory motion. The object of 
the industrious animal is not, like the more selfish but- 
terfly, to appropriate this treasure to herself. It goes 
into the honey-bag as into a laboratory, where it is 
transformed into pure honey ; and when she returns 
to the hive, she regurgitates it in this form into one of 
the cells appropriated to that purpose ; in order that, 
after tribute is paid from it to the queen, it may consti- 
tute a supply of food for the rest of the community. 

In collecting honey, bees do not solely confine them- 
selves to flowers, they will sometimes very greedily 
absorb the sweet juices of fruits : this I have frequently 
observed with respect to the raspberries in my garden, 
and have noticed it, as you may recollect, in a former 
letter-^. They will also eat sugar, and produce wax 
from it ; but from Huber's observations, it appears not 
calculated to supply the place of honey in the jelly 
with which the larvae are fed'\ Though the great mass 
of the food of bees is collected from flowers, they do 
not wholly confine themselves to a vegetable diet; for, 
besides the honeyed secretion of the Aphides, the pos- 
session of which they will sometimes dispute with the 
ants% upon particular occasions they will eat the eggs 
of the queen. They are very fond also of the fluid that 
oozes from the cells of the pupae, and will suck eagerly 

a Vol, 1. 2d Rd. 197. b Hiibrr, li. 82. 

c Abbe Boisicr, quoted in Mills on Bees, 24. 

N 2 


all that is fluid in their abdomen after they are destroy-* 
ed by their rivals '^. — Several flowers that produce much 
honey they pass by ; in some instances from inability ta 
get at it. Thus, for this reason probably, they do not 
attempt those of the trumpet-honeysuckle, (L&nicera 
sempervirens^ L.) which, if separated from thegermen 
after they are open, will yield two or three drops of the 
purest nectar. So that were this shrub cultivated with 
that view, much honey in its original state might be ob- 
tained from a small number of plants. In other cases, 
it appears to be the poisonous quality of their honey 
that induces bees to neglect certain flowers. You have 
doubtless observed the conspicuous white nectaries of 
the crown imperial, (Fritillaria imperialism L.) and 
that they secrete abundance of this fluid. It tempts in 
vain the passing bee, probably aware of some noxious 
quality that it possesses. The oleander (Nerium Olemi' 
der, L.) yields a honey that proves fatal to thousands of 
imprudent flies ; but our bees, more wise and cautious^ 
avoid it. Occasionally, perhaps, in particular seasons, 
wlien flowers are less numerous than common, this in- 
stinct of the bees appears to fail them, or to be over- 
powered by their desire to collect a sufficient store of 
honey for their purposes, and they suffer for their want 
of self-denial. Sometimes whole swarms have been de- 
stroyed by merely alighting upon poisonous trees. This 
happened to one in the county of West Chester in the 
province of New York, which settled upon the branches 
of the poison-ash (Rhus Vernix, L.). In the following 
morning the imprudent animals were all found dead, and 
swelled to more than double their usual size"'. Whether 
a Scbirach,45. Huber, i. 179. t> Nicholson's Journal) xxiii. ^Sl, 


the honey extracted from the species of the genus Kal- 
mia, Andromeda, Rhododendron, &c. be hurtful to the 
bees themselves, is not ascertained ; but, as has been 
before observed, it is often poisonous to man ^. The 
Greeks, as you probably recollect, in their celebrated 
retreat after the death of the younger Cyrus, found a 
kind of honey at Trebisond on the Euxine coast, which, 
though it produced no fatal eftects upon them, rendered 
those who ate but little like men very drunk, and those 
who ate much like mad men or dying persons; and 
numbers lay upon the ground as if there had been a 
defeat. Pliny, who mentions this honey, calls it mce- 
nomenon, and observes that it is said to be collected 
from a kind of Rhododendron, of which Tournefort 
noticed two species there ^. 

When the stomach of a bee is filled with nectar, it 
next, by means of the feathered hairs '^ with which its 
body is covered, pilfers from the flowers the fertilizing 
dust of the anthers, the pollen ; which is equally ne- 
cessary to the society with the honey, and may be named 
the ambrosia of the hive, since from it the bee-bread is 
made. Sometimes a bee is so discoloured with this 
powder as to look like a different insect, becoming 
white, yellow, or orange, according to the flowers in 
which it has been busy. Reaumur was urged to visit 
the hives of a gentleman, Avho on this account thought 
his bees were different from the common kind"^. He 
suspected, and it proved, that the circumstance just 
jnentioned occasioned the mistaken notion. When the 

a VoL.T. 2d Ed, 143. 

bXenoph. Jnuhas. 1. iv. Plin. Hist. Nat. 1. xxi. c. 13. 

c Reauin, v. t. xxvi, /. 1. d Ibid. 285. 


body of the bee is covered with farina, with the brushes 
of its legs, especially of the hind ones, it wipes it off: 
not, as we do with our dusty clothes, to dissipate and 
disperse it in the air, but to collect every particle of 
it, and then to knead it and form it into two little 
masses, which she places, one in each, in the baskets 
formed by hairs'* on her hind legs. 

Aristotle says that in each journey from the hive, 
bees attend only one species of flower*"; Reaumur, 
however, seems to think that they fly indiscriminately 
from one to another : but Mr. Dobbs in the Philoso- 
phical Transactions '^.f and Butler before him, asserts 
that he has frequently followed a bee engaged in col- 
lecting pollen, &c. and invariably observed that it con- 
tinned collecting from the same kind of flowers with 
which it first began ; passing over other species, how- 
ever numerous, even though the flower it first selected 
was scarcer than others. His observations, he thinks, 
are confirmed — and the idea seems not unreasonable — 
by the uniform colour of the pellets of pollen, and their 
different size. Reaumur himself tells us that the bees 
enter the hive, some with yellow pellets, others with 
red ones, others again with whitish ones, and that some- 
times they are even green : upon which he observes, 
that this arises from their being collected from parti- 
cular flowers, the pollen of whose anthers is of those 
colours'*. Sprengel, as before intimated'', has made an 
observation similar to that of Dobbs. It seems not im^ 
probable that the reason why the bee visits the same 

aKirby, Monogr. jip. Angl. i. t.\2. **. e. 1. neut. f. 19. a. b. 

b Hist. Anim. 1. Lx. c. 40. c xlvi. 536. 

d uhi supra, 301 . e y ol. I. 2d Ed, 295. 


Species of plants during one excursion may be this: — 
Her instinct teaches her that the grains of pollen which 
enter into the same mass should be homogeneous, in 
order perhaps for their more effectual cohesion; and 
thus Providence also secures two important ends, — the 
impregnation of those flowers that require such aid, 
by tiie bees passing from one to another; and the 
avoiding the production of hybrid plants, from the ap- 
plication of the pollen of one kind of plant to the stigma 
of another. When the anthers are not yet burst, the 
bee opens them with her mandibles, takes a parcel of 
pollen, which one of the first pair of legs receives and 
delivers to the middle pair, from which it passes to one 
of the hind legs. 

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

In the months of April and May, as Reaumur tells 
us, the bees collect pollen from morning to evening ; 
but in the warmer months the great gathering of it is 
from the time of their first leaving the hive (which is 
sometimes so early as four in the morning) to about 
10 o'clock A. M. About that hour all that enter the 
hive may be seen with their pellets in their baskets ; 
but during the rest of the day the number of those so 
furnished is small in comparison of those that are not. 
In a hive, however, in which a swarm is recently esta- 
blished, it is generally brought in at all parts of the day. 


He supposes, in order for its being formed into pellets, 
that it requires some moisture, which the heat evapo- 
rates after the above hour ; but in the case of recently 
colonized hives, that the bees go a great >vay to seek 
it in moist and shady places ^. 

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

The pollen is employed as circumstances direct. 

a Reaum. v. 302. — comp. 433. I have seen bees out before it was lis^ht, 

Ilube r observes that the honey for store is collected hy the wa.i- 

niaking bees only {abeilles cirieres), and that the nurses {abeillen nourrko) 

gather no more than what is wanted for themselves and companloni ^=it^ 

work ill the hive, ii, 66. c Reauui. v. 448, 


When the bee laden with it arrives at the hive, she 
sometimes stops at the entrance, and very leisurely de- 
tacliing- it by piecemeal, devours one or both the pel- 
lets on her legs, chewing them with her jaws, and pass- 
ing- them then down the little orifice before noticed. 
Sometimes she enters the hive, and walks upon the 
combs ; and whether she walks or stands, still keeps 
beating her wings. By the noise thus produced, which 
seems a call to some of her fellow-citizens, three or 
four go to her, and placing themselves around her, be- 
gin to lighten her of her load, each taking and devour- 
ing- a small portion of her ambrosia : this they repeat, 
if more do not arrive to assist them, three or four 
times, till the whole is disposed of*". Wiklman ob- 
served them on this occasion supporting themselves 
upon their two fore feet ; and making several motions 
with their wings and body to the right and left, which 
produced the sound that summoned ther assistants •". 
This bee^bread, as I said before, is generally found in 
the second stomach and intestines, but the honey never; 
which induced Reaumur to think (but he was mistaken) 
that the bees elaborated wax from it : and he observes, 
that the bees devour this when they are busily en- 
gaged in constructing combs *". When more pollen is 
collected than the bees have immediate occasion for, 
they store it up in some of the empty cells. The laden 
bee puts her two hind legs into the cell, and with the 
intermediate pair pushes off the pellets. W^hen this is 
done, she, or another bee if she is too much fatigued 
with her day's labour, enters the cell with her head 
firstj and remains there some time; she is engaged in 

a Re.ium, V. 418— '' p, 33. t uhi supr. i\9. 


diluting- the pellets, kneading them, and packing them 
close: and so they proceed till the cell is filled*. A 
large portion of the cells of some combs are filled with 
this bread, which one while is found in insulated cells, 
at another in cells amongst those that are filled with 
honey or brood. — Thus it is everywhere at hand for use. 
You have seen how the bees collect and employ two 
of the materials that I mentioned ; 1 must now advert 
to the third — the Propolis. Huber was a long time un- 
certain from whence the bees procured this gummy re- 
sin; but it at last occurred to him to plant some cut- 
tings of a species of poplar (before their leaves were 
developed, when their leaf-buds were swelling, and 
besiiieared and filled with a viscid juice,) in some pots, 
whicli he placed in the way of the bees that went from 
his hives. Almost immediately a bee alighted upon a 
twig, and soon Avith its mandibles opened a bud, and 
drew from it a thread of the viscid matter which it 
contained ; with one of its second pair of legs it took 
it from the mouth, and placed it in the basket: thus it 
proceeded till it had given them both their load*^. I 
have myself seen bees very busy collecting it from the 
Tacamahaca {Populus halsamifera, L.). But this is an 
old discovery, confirmed by recent observation ; for 
MoufFet tells us from Cordus, that it is collected from 
the gems of trees, instancing the poplar and the birch '^. 
Riem observes that it is also collected from the pine and 
fir. The propolis is soft, red, will pull out in a thread, 
is aromatic, and imparts a gold colour to white po- 
lished metals. It is employed in the hive not only in 

a Compare Reaum. 420, and Huber, ii.2J, with "VVildman, 40. 
b Iluber, ii. 2G0. c Jnscct.TheatT.2Q. Schirach,241. 


finishing- the combs, as I related in my letter on Habi- 
tations^; but also in stopping every chink or orifice 
by which cold, wet, or any enemy can enter. They 
cover likewise with it the sticks which support the 
combs, and often spread it over a considerable portion 
of the interior of the hive. Like the pellets of pollen, 
it is carried on the posterior tibiae, but the masses are 

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

Bees in their excursions do not confine themselves to 
the spot immediately contiguous to their dwelling, but, 
when led by the scent of honey, will go a mile from it. 
Huber even assigns to them a radius of half a league 
round their hive for their ordinary excursions ; yet from 
this distance they will discover honey with as much 
certainty as if it was within their sight. To prove 
that it is by their scent that bees find it out, he put 
some behind a window-shutter, in a place where it could 
not be seen, leaving the shutter just open enough for 

a Vol. T. 2d Ed. 500. b Reaum. nU supr. 437— 

c Philos. Trans. 1807,242, 


insects, if they liked, to get at it. In less than a quar- 
ter of an hour four bees, a butterfly, and some house- 
flies had discovered it. At another time he put some 
into boxes, with little apertures in the lid, into which 
pieces of card were fitted, which he placed about two 
hundred paces from his hives. In about half an hour 
the bees discovered them, and traversing- them very in- 
dustriously, soon found the apertures, when, pushing 
in the pieces of card, they got to the honey. That 
contained in the blossom of many plants is quite as 
much concealed, yet the acuteness of their scent en- 
ables them to detect it. 

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

a j.xii,\. 145. 


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

How long our little active creatures repose before 
they take a second excursion I cannot precisely say. 
In a hive the greatest part of the inhal)itants generally 
appear in repose, lying together, says Reaumur, but 
this probably for a short time. Huber tells us, that 
bees may always be observed in a hive with the head 
and thorax inserted into cells that contain eggs, and 
sometimes into empty ones ; and that they remain in 
this situation fifteen or twenty minutes so motionless, 
that did not the dilatation of the segments of the abdo- 
men prove the contrary, they might be mistaken for 
dead. He supposes their object is repose from their 
labours ''. The queen, for this purpose, enters the large 

a Knight in Philos. Trans, for 1807,231. Marshall, JgricuU. of Norfolk. 

b It has been supposed, and the supposition was adopted originally in 
this work (Voi. I. 1st Ed. p. 371), that the object in this case is brood- 
ing the eggs; but upon further consideration we incline to Huber's opi-» 
nion, that, it has no connexion with it, the ordinary temperature of the 
liive being sufficient for this purpose: and the circumstance of their en- 
tering unoccupied cells proves that this attitude has no particular con- 
nexion with the eggs. Huhr,\. 2\Z — " When large pieces of comb," says 


cells of the males, and continues in them without mo- 
tion a very long time. Even then the workers form a 
circle round her, and brush the uncovered part of her 
abdomen. The drones while reposing do not enter 
the cells, but cluster in the combs, and sometimes re- 
main without stirring a limb for eighteen or twenty 
hours ^. 

Reaumur observes, that in a hive the population of 
which amounts to 18,000, the number that enter the 
hive in a minute is a hundred ; which, allowing four- 
teen hours in the day for their labour, makes 84,000 : 
thus every individual must make four excursions daily, 
and some five. In hives where the population was 
smaller, the numbers that entered were comparatively 
greater, so as to give six excursions or more to each 
bee**. But in this calculation Reaumur does not seem 
to take into the account those that are employed within 
the hive in building or feeding the young brood; which 
must render the excursions of each bee still more nu- 
merous. He proceeds further to ground upon this 
statement a calculation of the quantity of bee-bread 
that may be collected in one day by such a hive ; and 
he found, supposing only half the number to collect it, 
that it would amount to more than a pound ; so that in 
one season, one such hive might collect a hundred 

Wildnian (p. 45), " were broken off and left at the bottom of the hive, 
a great number of bees have gone and placed themselves upon them." 
This looks like incubation. Reaumur however affirms (p. 591) that if 
part of a comb falls and loses its perpendicular direction, the bees, as if 
conscious that they would come to nothing, pull out and destroy all the 
larvae. They might perhaps remain perpendicular in the case observed 
by Wildman. 

a Reaum. v, 431. Huber, ii. 212. b Reaum. v. 432 — 


pounds". What a wonderful idea does this give of the 
industry and activity of these little useful creatures ! 
And what a lesson do they read to the members of so- 
cieties that have both reason and religion to guide their 
exertions for the common good ! Adorable is that 
Great Being who has gifted them with instincts, which 
render them as instructive to us, if we wi-ll condescend 
to listen to them, as they are profitable. 

While I am upon this part of the story of bees, I 
cannot pass over the account Reaumur has given from 
Maillet of the transportation of hives in Egypt from 
one place to another, before alluded to**, to enable 
them to make in greater abundance their collections 
of honey, &c. Towards the end of October, when the 
inundations of the Nile have ceased, and the husband- 
men can sow their land, saintfoin is one of the first 
things that is sown ; and as Upper Egypt is warmer 
than the Lower, the saintfoin gets there first into blos- 
som. At this time, bee-hives are transported in boats 
from all parts of Egypt into the upper district, and are 
there heaped in pyramids upon the boats prepared to 
receive them; each being numbered by the individual 
to which it belongs. In this station they remain some 
days ; and when they are judged to have got in the 
harvest of honey and pollen that is to be collected 
there, they are removed two or three leagues lower 
down, where they remain the same time ; and so they 
proceed till towards the middle of February, when 
having traversed Egypt, they arrive at the sea, from 
whence they are dispersed to their several owners. 
John Hunter observes, that when the season for lay- 
ii Reaum. V. 434— b Vol. I, 3tl Ed. 331. Reaumur, v. 698— 


ing- is over, that for collecting honey comes on (he 
means, probably, for making the principal collection of 
it); and that when the last pupa is disclosed, the cell 
it deserts, after being- cleaned, is immediately filled 
with it ; and as soon as full is covered with pure wax : 
but this only holds with respect to the cells containing 
honey for winter use, those destined to receive that 
which forms their food when bad weather prevents 
tliem from going out, being left open^. Sometimes, 
when the year is remarkably favourable for collecting 
honey, the bees Avill destroy many of the larvas to make 
room for it ; but they never meddle with the pupae^ 
When no more honey is to be collected, they remain 
quiet in the hive for the winter. Mr. Hunter found 
that a hive ffrew lighter in a cold than in a warm week ; 
he found also, that in three months (from November 
10th to February 9th) a single hive lost 72 oz. l|drani'*. 

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

A new-born bee, as soon as it is able to use its wings, 
seems perfectly aware, without any previous instruc- 
tion, what are to be its duties and employments forthe 
rest of its life. It appears to know that it is born for 
society, and not for selfish pursuits ; and tlierefore it 
invariably devotes itself and its labours to the benefit 

a Philos. Tiam. 1792, 160, Comp. Reaum. v, 450, 

a Reaum. ibhi. 391— lliiiUei, ibid. 161 — c Reaum. ibid. 69T, 


of the community to which it belongs. Walking upon 
the combs, it seeks for the door of the hive, that it may 
sally forth and be useful. Full of life and activity, it 
then takes its first flight ; and, unconducted but by its 
instinct, visits like the rest the subjects of Flora, ab- 
sorbs their nectar, covers itself with their ambrosial 
dust, which it kneads into a mass and packs upon its 
hind legs; and if need be, gathers propolis, and returns 
unembarrassed to its own hive*. 

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

In treating of the various employments of the bees, 
I must not omit one of the greatest importance to 
them — the ventilation of their abode. When you con- 
sider the numbers contained in so confined a space ; 
the high temperature to which its atmosphere is raised ; 
and the small aperture at which the air principally en- 
ters, you will readily conceive how soon it must be ren- 
dered unfit for respiration, and be convinced that there 
must be some means of constantly renewing it. If you 
feel disposed to think that the ventilation takes place, 
as in our apartments, by natural means, resulting from 
the rarefaction of the air by the heat of the hive, and 
the consequent establishment of an interior and exte- 

a R<auni. v. 602. *> Ibid- 656. 



rior current — a simple experiment will satisfy you that 
this cannot be. Take a vessel of the size of a bee-hive, 
with a similar or even somewhat larger aperture — in- 
troduce a lighted taper, and if the temperature be 
raised to more than 140°, it will go out in a short 
time. We must therefore admit, as Huber observes^ 
that the bees possess the astonishing- faculty of attract- 
ing the external air, and at the same time of expelling 
tliat which has become corrupted by their respiration. 

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

Maraldi, and after him Reaumur, long ago noticed 
this action of the bees; but they attributed to it an ef- 
fect the reverse of that which it really produces ; the 
former imagining it to occasion directly the high tem- 
perature of the hive, and the latter indirectly ''. It 

a ii. 339. b Reaum. v. 672. 


was reserved for Huber to discover the true cause of 
it ; and from him the chief of what I have to say upon 
the subject will be derived*. 

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

This humming is observable not only during the 
heats of summer, but at all seasons of the year. It 
sometimes seems even more forcible in the depth of 

a Iliiber.ii. 338— 362. 
o 2 


winter than when the temperature of the atmosphere 
is higher. An employment so constant, which always 
occupies a certain number of bees, must produce as 
constant an effect. The column of air once disturbed 
within, must give place to that without the hive : thus 
a current being established, the ventilation will be per- 
petual and complete. 

To be convinced that such an effect is produced, ap- 
proach your hand to a ventilating bee, and you will 
find that she causes a very perceptible motion in the 
air. Huber tried an experiment still more satisfac- 
tory. On a calm day, at the time when the bees had 
returned to their habitation — having fixed a screen be- 
fore the mouth of the hive to prevent his being misled 
by any sudden motion of the external air — he placed 
within the screen little anemometers or wind-gauges, 
made of bits of paper, feather, or cotton, suspended by 
a thread to a crotch. No sooner did they enter the 
atmosphere of the bees than they were put in motion^ 
being alternately attracted and repelled to and from the 
aperture of the hive with considerable rapidity. These 
attractions and repulsions were proportioned to the 
number of bees engaged in ventilation, and, though 
sometimes less perceptible, were never entirely sus- 
pended. Burnens tried a similar experiment in the 
winter, when the thermometer stood in the shade at 33°. 
Having selected a well-peopled hive, the inhabitants of 
which appeared full of life and sufficiently active in the 
interior, and luted it all around, except the aperture to 
the platform on which it stood, he stuck in the top a 
piece of iron wire which terminated in a hook, to which 
he fastened a hair with a small square of very thin 


paper at the other end ; this was exactly opposite to the 
aperture, at the distance of about an inch from it. As 
soon as the apparatus was fixed, the hair with its paper 
pendulum began to oscillate more or less, the greatest 
oscillations on both sides being an inch, by admeasure- 
ment, from the perpendicular: if the paper was moved 
by force to a greater distance, the vibrations did not 
take place, and the apparatus remained at rest, lie 
then made an opening in the top of the hive, and 
poured in some liquid honey : soon after there arose a 
hum, the movement in the interior increased, and 
some bees came out. The oscillations of the pendu- 
lum upon this became more frequent and intense, and 
extended to fifteen lines or an inch and a quarter from 
the perpendicular ; but when the paper was removed 
to a greater distance from the aperture it remained at 

Huber, at the proposal of M. de Saussure, in order 
to ascertain whether artificial ventilators would pro- 
duce an analogous effect, got a mechanical friend to 
construct for him a little mill with eighteen sails of tin. 
He also prepared a large cylindrical vase, into which 
he could, at an aperture in the box upon which it was 
fixed, introduce a lighted taper. In one side of this 
bo^t was another aperture to represent that of a hive, 
but larger. The ventilator was placed below, and 
luted at the points of contact, and anemometers were 
suspended before the aperture. The first experiment 
was the introduction of the taper, without putting the 
ventilator in motion. Though the capacity of the ves- 
sel was about 3228 cubic inches, the flame soon dimi- 
nished, and went out in about eight minutes, and the 


anemometers continued motionless. The same expe- 
riment was next repeated with the door shut, with 
precisely the same result. After the air of the vessel 
had been renewed, the taper was again introduced, 
and the ventilator set in motion : immediately, as ap- 
peared by the oscillations of the anemometers, two 
currents of air were established, and the brilliancy of 
the flame was not diminished during the whole course 
of the experiment, which might have been prolonged 
for an indefinite time. A thermometer placed in the 
lower part of the apparatus rose to 112°; and the 
temperature was evidently still more elevated at the 
top of the rieceiver. 

The Creator often has one end in view in the ac- 
tions of animals, (and nothing more conspicuously dis- 
plays the invisible hand that governs the universe,) 
while the agents themselves have another. This pro- 
bably is the case in the present instance, since we can 
scarcely suppose that the bees beat the air with their 
wings in order to ventilate the hive, but rather to re- 
lieve themselves from some disagreeable sensation w hich 
oppresses them. The following experiments prove that 
one of their objects in this action, as it is with ladies 
when they use their fans, is to cool themselves when 
they suffer from too great heat. When Huber once 
opened the shutter of a glazed hive, so that the solar 
rays darted upon the combs covered with bees, a hum- 
ming, the sign of ventilation, soon was heard amongst 
them, while those which were in the shade remained 
tranquil. The bees composing the clusters which often 
are suspended from the hives in summer, when they are 
incommoded by the heat of the sun, fan themselves with 


great energy. But if by any means a shadow is cast over 
any portion of the group, the ventilation ceases there, 
while it continues in the part which feels the heat of 
the sun. The same cause produces a similar effect upon 
humble-bees, wasps, and hornets. 

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

Whatever be the proximate cause, it is I trust now 
evident to you, that the Author of nature, having as- 
signed to these insects a habitation into which the air 
cannot easily penetrate, has gifted them with the means 
of preventing the fatal effects wiiich would result from 
corrupted air. An indirect effect of ventilation is the 
elevated temperature which these animals maintain, 
without any effort, in their hive : — but upon this 1 shall 
enlarge hereafter. 

Bees are extremely neat in their persons and habi- 
tations, and remove all nuisances with great assiduity, 
at least as far as their powers enable them. Some- 
times slugs or snails will creep into a hive, which with 
all their address they cannot readily expel or carry out. 

a Iluber, ii. 359— ■ 


But here their instinct is at no loss ; for they kill them, 
and afterwards embalm them with propolis, so as to 
prevent any offensive odours from incommoding them. 
An unhappy snail, that had travelled up the sides of a 
glazed hive, and which they could not come at with 
their stings, they fixed, a monument of their vengeance 
and dexterity, by laying this substance all around the 
mouth of its shell *. When they expel their excre- 
ments, they go apart that they may not defile their 
companions : and in winter, when prevented by ex- 
treme cold, or the injudicious practice of wholly closing 
the door of the hive, from going out for this purpose, 
their bodies sometimes become so swelled from the ac- 
cumulation of feces in the intestines, that when at last 
able to get out they can no longer fly, so that falling 
to the ground in the attempt, they perish with cold, the 
sacrifice of personal neatness''. When a bee is dis- 
closed from the pupa and has left its cell, a worker 
comes, and taking out its envelope carries it from the 
hive ; another removes the exuviae of the larva, and a 
third any filth or ordure that may remain, or any pieces 
of wax that may have fallen in when the nascent image 
broke from its confinement. But they never attempt 
to remove the internal lining of silk that covers the 
walls, spun by the larva previous to its metamorphosis, 
because, instead of being a nuisance, it renders the cell 
more solid ". 

Having now described to you the usual employments 
of my little favourites both within doors and without, 
I shall next enlarge a little upon their language, me- 

a Reaum. v. 442. b Bonner On Bees, 10?. 

c Reaum. ubi supr, 580-60Q, 


mory, tempers, manners, and some other parts of their 

" Brutes" (it is the remark of Mr. Knight) " have 
language to express sentiments of love, of fear, of an- 
ger ; but they seem unable to transmit any impression 
they have received from external objects. But the lan- 
guage of bees is more extensive; if not a language of 
ideas, it is something very similar^." You have seen 
above that the organ of the language of ants is their 
antennae. Huber has proved satisfactorily, that these 
parts have the same use with the bees. He wished to 
ascertain whether, when they had lost a queen (intel- 
ligence which traverses a whole hive in about an hour) 
they discovered the sad event by their smell, their 
touch, or any unknown cause. He first divided a hive 
by a grate, Avhich kept the two portions about three or 
four lines apart ; so that they could not come at each 
other, though scent would pass. In that part in which 
there vvas no queen, the bees were soon in great agi- 
tation ; and as they did not discover her where she was 
confined, in a short time they began to construct royal 
cells, which quieted them. He next separated them 
by a partition through which they could pass their an- 
tennae, but not their heads. In this case the bees all 
remained tranquil, neither intermitting the care of the^ 
brood, nor abandoning their other employments; nor 
did they begin any royal cell. The means they used 
to assure themselves that their queen was in their vi- 
cinity and to communicate with her, was4o pass their 
antennae through the openings of the grate. An infi- 
nite number of these organs might be seen at onpe, as 

a In Fhilos. Trans. 1807, 239. 


it were, inquiring, in all directions; and the queen was 
observed answering these anxious inquiries of her sub- 
jects in the most marked manner ; for she was always 
fastened by her feet to the grate, crossing her antennae 
with those of the inquirers. Various other experiments, 
which are too long to relate, prove the importance of 
these organs as the instrument of communicating with 
each other, as well as to direct the bee in all its pro- 
ceedings^. Besides their antennae, the bees also cause 
themselves to be understood by certain sounds, not in- 
deed produced by the mouth, but by other parts of 
their body : — but upon this subject 1 shall have occa- 
sion to enlarge hereafter. 

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

From the earliest times our little citizens of the hive 
have had the character of being an irritable race. 
Their anger is without bounds, says Virgil ; and if they 
are molested, this character is no exaggeration. Some 
individuals, however, they will suffer to go near their 
hives, and to do almost any thing : and there are others 
to whom they seem to take such an antipathy, that they 
will attack them unprovoked. A great deal will probably 
depend upon this — whether any thing has happened to 
put them out of humour. The bees usually do not attack 

a Huber, ii. 407— b Ibid. 315, 


me ; but I remember one day last year, when the as- 
paragus was in blossom, which a large number were at- 
tending, I happened to go between my asparagus beds ; 
which discomposed them so much, that I was obliged 
to retreat with hasty steps, and some of them flew after 
me; I escaped however unstung. Thorley relates an 
anecdote of a gentleman, wlio desirous of securing a 
swarm of bees that had settled in a hollow tree, rashly 
undertook to dislodge them. He succeeded; but though 
he had used the precaution of securing his head and 
hands, he was so stung by the furious animals, that a 
violent fever was the consequence, and his recovery 
was for some time doubtful. The strength of his con- 
stitution at length prevailed; and the hole of the tree 
being stopped, the survivors of the battle settled upon 
a branch, were hived, and became the dear-bought 
property of their conqueror^. 

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

a Thorley, 16 — The Psalmist alludes to the fury of these crratuies, 
when hi says of his entmies, " They compassed me about likt bees." 
Ps. cxviii. \'2. 

b Park's Last Mudon, 133. 297. Corap. Journal, 331 . 


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

Many means have been had recourse to for the di- 
spersion of mobs and the allaying of popular tumults, 

a Thorley, 150— 



In St. Petersburgh (so travellers say) a fire-engine 
playing upon them does not always cool their choler; 
but were a few hives of bees thus employed, their dis- 
comfiture would be certain. The experiment has been 
tried. Lesser tells us, that in 15'25, during the confu- 
sion occasioned by a time of war, a mob of peasants as- 
sembling in Hohnstein (in Thuringia) attempted to pil- 
lage the house of the minister of Elende ; who having 
in vain employed all his eloquence to dissuade thera 
from their design, ordered his domestics to fetch his 
bee-hives, and throw them in the middle of this furious 
mob. The effect was what might be expected ; they were 
immediately put to flight, and happy if they escaped un- 

The anger of bees is not confined to man ; it is not 
seldom excited against their own species. From what 
I have said above respecting the black bees'' and their 
fate, it seems not improbable that, when the workers 
become too old to be useful to the community, they are 
either killed, or expelled the society Reaumur, who 
observed that the inhabitants of the same hive had often 
mortal combats, was of opinion that this was their ob- 
ject in these battles '', which take place, he observes, in 
fine or warm vi^eather. On these occasions the bees 
are sometimes so eager, that examining them with a 
lens does not part them : — their whole object is to pierce 
each other with their sting, the stroke of which, if once 
it, penetrates to the muscles, is mortal. In these en- 
gagements the conqueror is not always able to extri^ 
cate this weapon, and then both perish. The duration 
of the conflict is uncertain; sometimes it lasts an hour, 

1 Lesser, L.ii. 171. 6 See above, p. 128. c Reaum. v. 360-365. 


and at others is very soon determined : and occasion- 
ally it happens that both parties, fatigued and despair- 
ing of victory, give up the contest and fly away. 

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

This strange fury however does not always show 
itself on this occasion; for now and then some friendly 
intercourse seems to take place. Bees, from a hive in 
Mr. Knight's garden, visited those in that of a cottager, 
a hundred yards distant, considerably later than their 
usual time of labour, every bee as it arrived appearing 
to be questioned. Oi^ the tenth morning, however, the 
intercourse ceased, ending in a furious battle. On 
another occasion, an intimacy took place between two 


hives of his own, at twice the distance, which ceased 
on the fifth day. Sometimes he observed that tliis com- 
l^iunication terminated in the union of two swarms; as 
in one instance, where a swarm had taken possession 
of a hollow tree'% it is probable tJiat the reception of 
one swarm by another may depend upon their num- 
bers, and the fitness of their station to accommodate 
them. Thorley witnessed a battle of more than two 
days continuance, occasioned by a strange swarm forcing 
their way into a hive''. Two swarms that rise at the 
same time sometimes fight till great numbers have been 
destroyed, or one of the queens slain, when both sides 
cease all their enmity and unite under the survivor*^. 

These apiarian battles are often fought in defence 
of the property of the hive. Bees that are ill managed, 
and not properly fed, instead of collecting for them- 
selves, will now and then get a habit of pillaging flora 
their more industrious neighbours : these are called by 
Schirach corsair bees, and by English writers, robbers. 
They make their attack chiefly in the latter end of Ju- 
ly, and during the month of August. At first they act 
with caution, endeavouring to enter by stealth ; and 
then, emboldened by success, come in a body. If one 
of the queens be killed, the attacked bees unite with the 
assailants, take up their abode with them, and assist 
in plundering their late habitation''. Schirach very 
gravely recommends it to apiarists whose hives are 
attacked by these depredators, to give the bees some 
honey mixed with brandy or wine, to increase and 

a "^Mlos. Trans. 1807, 2.S4— b 166. c Thorley, ibid. Coinp. 

Mills On Bees, 63. a Corap. Schirach, 49. Mills, 62— Thorley, 



inflame their courage, that they may more resolutely 
defend their property against their piratical assailants''. 
It is however to be apprehended, that this method of 
making- them pot-valiant might induce them to attack 
their neighbours, as well as to defend themselves. 

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

As the poison of bees exhales a penetrating odour, 
M. Huber was curious to observe the effect it might 
produce upon them. Having extracted with pincers 
the sting of a bee and its appendages impregnated with 
poison, he presented it to some workers, which were 
settled very tranquilly before the gate of their man- 
sion. Instantaneously the little party was alarmed ; 
none however took flight, but two or three darted upon 
the poisoned instrument, and one angrily attacked the 
observer. When however the poison was coagulated, 
they were not in the least affected by it — A tube im- 
pregnated with the odour of poison recently ejected 

a 51. 


bDJng presented to them, aftccted them in tlie same 
manner". This circumstance may sometimes occasion 
battles amongst them, that are not otherwise easy to be 
accounted for. 

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

Upon this subject of the enemies of bees, I cannot 
persuade myself to omit the account Mr. White has 
given of an idiot-boy, who from a child showed a strong 

a ii. 386-- b Vor,. I. 2d Ed. 164, and 280. 288. 

c Schiracli, 52. '^ 170. e FJeaiira. v. 710. f Thorley, 171 

VOL. II. r 


propensity to bees. They were his food, his amusement, 
his sole object. In the winter he dozed away his time 
in his father's house, by the fire-side, in a torpid state, 
seldom leaving the chimney-corner : but in summer he 
was all alert and in quest of his game. Hive-bees, 
humble-bees, and wasps were his prey wherever he 
found them. He had no apprehension from their 
stings, but would seize them with naked hands, and 
at once disarm them of their weapons, and suck their 
bodies for the sake of their honey-bags. Sometimes he 
would fill his bosom between his shirt and skin with 
these animals ; and sometimes he endeavoured to con- 
fine them in bottles. He was very injurious to men 
that kept bees ; for he would glide into their bee- 
gardens, and sitting down before the stools, would rap 
with his fingers, and so take the bees as they came out. 
He has even been known to overturn the hives for the 
sake of the honey, of which he was passionately fond. 
Where metheglin was making, he would linger round 
the tubs and vessels, begging a draught of wlrat he 
called bee-wine. As he ran about, he used to make a 
humming noise with his lips resembling the buzzing of 
bees. This lad was lean and sallow, and of a cadave- 
rous complexion ; and except in his favourite pursuit, in 
which he was wonderfully adroit, discovered no manner 
of understanding. Had his capacity been better, and 
directed to the same object, he had perhaps abated 
much of our wonder at the feats of a more modern ex- 
hibiter of bees ; and we may justly say of him now, 
" Thou, 

Had thy presiding star propitious shone, 

Should'st Wilduian be." = 

a White's iVa<. Hist. 8vo. i. 330— 


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

The time that bees will inhabit the same stations is 
wonderful. Reaumur mentions a countryman who pre- 
served bees in the same hive for thirty years ^. Thor- 
ley tells us that a swarm took possession of a spot un- 
der the leads of the study of Ludovicus Vivos in Ox- 
ford, where they continued a hundred and ten years, 
from 1520 to 1630''. These circumstances have led 
authors to ascribe to bees a greater age than they caa 
claim. Thus Mouffet, because he knoAV a bees-nest 
which had remained thirty years in the same quarters, 
concludes that they are very long-lived, and very sapi- 
ently doubts whether they even die of old age at all ^ ! ! ! 
Which is just as wise as if a man should contend, be- 
cause London had existed from before the time of Ju- 
lius Caesar, that therefore its inhabitants must be im- 

Bees are subject to many accidents, particularly, as 
I have. said above, they often fall or are precipitated 

a Swamm. Bib. Nat. Ed. Hill, !. 160. h uM supr. 665. 
ens— «l T/(f«<r. J«.s-. 21. 

P 2 


by the wind into water ; and though like the cat a Loe* 
has not nine lives, nor 

" J\ine times emerging from the crystal flood, 
She mews to every watery god," 

yet she will bear submersion nine hours ; and, if exposed 
to suHicient heat, be reanimated. In this case their pro- 
boscis is generally unfolded, and stretched to its full 
length. At the extremity of this, motion is first per- 
ceived, and then at the ends of the legs. After these 
symptoms appear they soon recover, fold up the tongue, 
and plume themselves for flight^. Experimentalists 
may therefore, without danger, submerge a hive of 
bees, when they want to examine them particularly, 
for they will all revive upon being set to the fire. 
Reaumur says that in winter, during frosts, the bees 
remain in a torpid state. He must mean severe frosts; 
for Huber relates an instance, when upon a sudden 
emergency, the bees of one of his hives set themselves 
to work in the middle of January ; and he observes 
that they are so littld torpid in winter, that' even when 
the thermometer abroad is below the freezing point, it 
stands high in populous hives. Swammerdam, and 
after him the two authors last quoted, found that some- 
times, even in the middle of winter, hives have young 
brood in them, which the bees feed and attend to ''. In 
an instance of this kind, which fell under the eye of 

a Reaum. v. 340 — 

b January 11, 1818. My bees were out, and very alert this day. Tiie 
thermometer stood abroad in the shade at 51 5° When the sun shour 
there was quite a cluster of them at the mouth of the hives, and grefit 
numbers were buzzing about in the air before them. 


Huber, the thermometer stood in the hive at about 92°. 
in colder climates, however, the bees will probably be 
less active in the winter. They are then generally si- 
tuated between the combs towards their lower part. 
But when the air grows milder, especially if the rays 
of the sun fall upon the hive and warm it, they awake 
from their lethargy, shake their wings, and begin 
to move and recover their activity; with which their 
wants returning, they then feed upon the stock of 
honey and bee-bread which they have in reserve. The 
lowest cells are first uncovered, and their contents 
consumed ; the highest are reserved to the last. The 
honey in the lowest cells being collected in the autumn, 
probably will not keep so well as the vernal. 

The degree of heat in a liive in winter, as I have 
just hinted, is great. A thermometer near one, in 
the open air, that stood in January at 6|° below the 
freezing point, upon the insertion of the bulb a little 
way into the hive, rose to 22|° above it ; and could it 
have been placed between the conib"^, where the bees 
themselves were agglomerated, the mercury, Reaumur 
conjectures, would have risen as high as it does abroad 
in the warm days in snmmer^. Huber says that it 
stands in frost at 86° and 88° in populous hives''. In 
May, the former author found, in a hive in which he 
had lodged a small swarm, that the thermometer indi-^ 
cated a degree of heat above that of the hottest days of 
summer*". He observes that their motion, and even 
the agitation of their wings, increases the heat of their 
atmosphere. Often, Avhen the squares of glass in a hive 
appeared cold to the touch, if either by design or 

■'' V, 671. b i.35J. Note"*. c ulti guar. 


chance he happened to disturb the bees, and the ag- 
glomerated mass in a tumult began to move different 
ways, sending forth a great hum, in a very short time 
so considerable an accession of heat was produced, 
that when lie touched the same squares of glass, he felt 
them as hot as if they had been held near a fierce fire. 
By teasing the bees the heat generated was sometimes 
so great, as to soften very much the wax of the combs, 
and even to cause them to fall^. This generation of 
heat in bee-hives seems to be one of those mysteries of 
nature that has not yet been satisfactorily accounted 
for. Generally speaking, insects appear to have no 
animal heat ; the temperature of their bodies being 
usually that of the atmosphere in which they happen 
to be. But bees are an exception to this rule, and pro- 
duce heat in themselves. Whether they are the only 
insect that can do this, as John Hunter affirms, or 
whether others that are gregarious, such as humble- 
bees, wasps, and ants, may not possess the same faculty, 
seems not yet clearly ascertained. The heat in the 
hive in the above instance was evidently occasioned by 
the tumult into which the bees were put; and the hum, 
and motions that followed it, Avas probably the result of 
their anger. But how these act physically, in an ani- 
mal that has no circulation, I am unable to say ; and 
must leave the question, like my predecessors, unde- 

And now, having detailed to you thus amply the 
wonderful history and proceedings of the social tribes 
of the insect world, you will allow, I think, that I have 
a Reaum. v, 672. 


redeemed my pledge, when I taught you to expect that 
this history would exceed in interest and variety and 
marvellous results every thing that 1 had before related 
to you. I trust, moreover, that you will scarcely feel 
disposed to subscribe to that opinion, though it has the 
sanction of some great names, which attributes these 
almost miraculous instincts to mere sensation ; which 
tells us, that their sensorium is so modelled with re- 
spect to the difterent operations that are given them in 
charge, that it is by the attraction of pleasure alone 
that they are determined to the execution of them ; 
and that, as every circumstance relative to the succes- 
sion of their different labours is pre-ordained, to each of 
them an agreeable sensation is affixed by the Creator : 
and that thus, when the bees build their cells ; when 
they sedulously attend to the young brood; when they 
collect pi-ovisions ; this is the result of no plans, of no 
affection, of no foresight; but that the sole determining 
jnotive is the enjoyment of an agreeable sensation at- 
tached to each of these operations^. Surely it would 
be better to resolve all their proceedings at once into 
a direct impulse from the Creator, than to maintain a 
theory so contrary to fact; and which militates against 
the whole history w hich M. Huber, who adopts this 
theory from Bonnet, has so ably given of these crea- 
tures. That they may experience agreeable sensations 
from their various employments, nobody will deny ; but 
that such sensations instruct them how to perform their 
several operations, without any plan previously im- 
pressed upon their sensorium, is contrary both to rea- 
son and experience. They have a plan, it is evident ; 

aliHber, i. 313, 


and that plan, which proves that it is not mere sensa- 
tion, they vary according- to circumstances. As to af- 
fection — that bees are irritable, and feel the passion of 
anger, no one will deny ; that they are also susceptible 
of fear, is equally evident; and if they feel anger and 
fear, why may they not also feel love? Further, if they 
have recourse to precautions for the prevention of any 
evil that seems to threaten them, how can we refuse 
them a degree o^ foresight? Must we also resolve all 
their patriotism, and the singular regard for the welfare 
of their community, which seems constantly to actuate 
them, and the sacrifices, even sometimes of themselves, 
that they make to promote and ensure it, into indivi-^ 
dual self-love ? We would not set them up as rivals 
to man in intelligence, foresight, and the affections ; 
but they have that degree of each that is necessary for 
their purposes. On account of the difficulties attend- 
ing all theories that give them some degree of these qua- 
lities, to resolve all into mere sensation, is removing 
one difficulty by a greater. 

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


SO contradictory of all the facts we know relative to 
this subject. 

After all, there are mysteries, as to the primum mO" 
bile, a nono^st these social tribes, that with all our 
boast h1 reason we cannot fathom ; nor develop satis- 
factorily the motives that urge them to fulfil in so re- 
markable though diversified away their different de- 
stinies. One thing- is clear to demonstration, that by 
these creatures and their instincts, the power, wisdom 
and goodness of the Great Father of the universe 
are loudly proclaimed ; the atheist and infidel con- 
futed; the believer confirmed in his faith and trust ia 
Providence, which he thus beholds watching-, with in- 
cessant care, over the welfare of the meanest of his 
creatures; and from which he may conclude that he, 
the prince of the creation, will never be overlooked or 
forsaken : and from them what lessons may be learned 
of patriotism and self-devotion to the public good; of 
loyalty ; of prudence, temperance, diliigence, and 
self-denial. — But it is time at length to put an end to 
tiiis long disquisition. 

T am, &c. 



^Vv HEN a country is particularly open to attack, or sur- 
rounded by numerous enemies, who from cupidity or 
hostile feelings are disposed to annoy it, we are usually 
led to inquire what are its means of defence? whether 
natural, or arising from the number, courage, or skill 
of its inhabitants. The insect tribes constitute such a 
nation : with them infinite hosts of enemies wage con- 
tinual war, many of whom derive the Avhole of their 
subsistence from them : and amongst their own tribes 
there are numerous civil broils, the strong often prey- 
ing upon tlie weak, and the cunning upon the simple : 
so that unless a watchful Providence (which cares for 
all its creatures, even the most insignificant,) had sup- 
plied them with some mode of resistance or escape, this 
innumerable race must soon be extirpated. That such 
is the case, it shall be my endeavour in this letter to 
prove; in which I shall detail to you some of the most 
remarkable means of defence with which they are pro- 
vided. For the sake of distinctness I shall consider 
these under two separate lieads, into which indeed they 
naturall) divide themselves : — Passive means of de- 
fence, such as are independent of any efforts of the in- 
sect ; and active means of defence, such as result from 
certain efforts of the insect in the employment of those 


instincts and instruments with which Providence has 
furnished it for this purpose. 

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

They often deceive them by imitating various sub- 
stances. Sometimes they so exactly resemble the soil 
which they inhabit, that it must bo a practised eye which 
can distinguish them from it. Thus, one of our scarcest 
British weevils (Curculio nebuhsi^s, L.), by its gray co- 
lour spotted with black, so closely imitates the soil con- 
sisting of white sand mixed with black earth, on which 
I have always found it, that its chance of escape, even 
though it be hunted for by the lyncean eye of an ento- 
mologist, is not small. Another insect of the same tribe 
{Brachyrhimis scahriculus, F.), of which I have ob- 
served several species of common dors {Harpalus, 
Latr.) make great havoc, abounds in pits of a loamy 
soil of the same colour precisely with itself; a circum- 
stance that doubtless occasions many to escape from 
their pitiless foes. — Several other weevils, for instance 
Brachj/tiii?2us niveus and cretaccus, F., resemble chalk, 
and perhaps inhabit a chalky or white soil. 

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


A numerous host of our little animals escape front 
birds and other assailants by imitating the colour of the 
plantSjOrpartsof them, which they inhabit; orthetwigs 
of shrubs and trees ; their foliage, flowers, and fruit. 
Many of the mottled moths, which take their station 
of diurnal repose on the north side of the trunks of 
trees, are with difficulty distinguished from the gr?.y 
and green lichens that cover them. Of this kind are 
'Noctua aprilina and Psi, F. The caterpillar of N. 
AlgcE, F. when it feeds on the yellow Lichen jumperiniis, 
is always yellow ; but when upon the gray Lichen saxa- 
lilis its hue becomes gray ^. This change is probably 
produced by the colour of its food. Phryganea aira^ a 
kind of may-fly, frequents the black flower-spikes of the 
common sedge {Carex riparia), which fringes the banks 
of our rivers. I have often been unable to distinguish 
it from them, and the birds probably often make the 
same mistake and pass it by. — A jumping bug, very 
similar to one figured by Schellenberg '', also much 
resembles the lichens of the oak on which I took it. 

The Spectre tribe (Phasma, Licht.) go still further 
in this mimicry, representing a small brsnch with its 
spray. I have one from Brazil eight inches long, that, 
unless it was seen to move, could scarcely be conceived 
to be any thing else ; the legs, as well as the head, 
having their little snags and knobs, so that no imita- 
tion can be more accurate. Perhaps this may be the 
species mentioned by Molina '^^ which the natives of 
Chili call " The Devil's Horsed",321. hCimic.Helvet.t. iii./.3. cHisf.ofChili,\.n2. 
A Since the first edition of this volume was printed, a lady from the 
West Indies looking at my cabinet, upon being shown this insect, ex- 
claimed " Oh, that is The Devil's Horse " 


Other insects, of various tribes, represent the leaves 
of plants, living, decaying, and dead ; some in their 
colour, and some both in tiieir colour and shape. The 
caterpillar of a moth {Noctua .LigustrL F.) that feeds 
upon the privet, is so exactly of the colour of the un- 
derside of the leaf, upon which it usually sits in the 
day-time, that you may have the leaf in your hand and 
yet not discover it^. — Tlie tribe of grasshoppers, called 
Lociistce by Fabric! us, though the true Locust does 
not belong to it, in the veining, colour, and texture 
of their elytra, resemble green leaves''. — The genera 
Montis and Phasjna — named praying-insects and spec- 
tres — also of the Orthopiera order, often exhibit the 
same pecuiiarity. — Others of them, by the spots and 
mixtures of colour observable in these organs, repre- 
sent leaves that are decaying in various degrees. — 
Those of several species of Mantis likewise imitate dry 
leaves, and so exactly, by their opacity, colour, rigi- 
dity, and veins, that, were no other part of the animal 
visible, even after a close examination, it would be 
generally affirmed to be nothing but a dry leaf. Of 
this nature is the Mantis siccifolia, F., and two or three 
Brazilian species in my cabinet, that seem undescribed, 
which I will show you when you give me an opportu- 
nity. But these imitations of dry leaves are not con- 
fined to the Orthoptera order solely. Amongst the 
Hemiptera, the Coreus paradoxus, F., a kind of bug, 
surprised Sparrman not a little. He was sheltering 
himself from the mid-day sun, when the air was so still 

a Brahm Inseklen Kalender, ii. 383. 

b Hence we have LocuHa dtrifoUa, laurifoKa, camellifoUci, myrtifolia, 


and calm as scarcely to shake an aspen leaf, and saw 
with wonder what he mistook for a little withered, pale, 
crumpled- leaf, eaten as it were by caterpillars, flutter- 
ing from the tree. The sight appeared to him so very 
extraordinary, that he left his place of shelter to con- 
template it more nearly; and could scarcely believe his 
eyes, when he beheld a living insect, in shape and colour 
resembling a fragment of a withered leaf with the edges 
turned up and eaten away as it were by caterpillars, 
and at the same time all over beset with prickles*. — 
A British insect, one of our largest moths {Bomhyx 
quercifolia^ F.) called by collectors the Iwppet-moth^ 
affords an example from the Lepidoptera order of the 
imitation in question, its wings representing, both in 
shape and colour, an arid brown leaf. Some bugs, be- 
longing to the genus Tingis, P., simulate portions of 
leaves in a still further state of decay, when the veins 
only are left. For, the thorax and elytra of these in- 
sects being reticulated, with the little areas or meshes 
of the net-work transparent, this circumstance gives 
them exactly the appearance of small fragments of ske- 
letons of leaves. 

But you have probably heard of most of these spe- 
cies of imitation : I hope, therefore, you will give 
credit to the two instances to which I shall next call 
your attention, of insects that even mimic flowers and 
fruit. With respect to the former, I recollect to have 
seen in a collection made by Mr. Masson at the Cape 
of Good Hope, a kind of Pnenmora, Thunb. — ar- 
ranged by Linnc with the grasshoppers (Giyllus) — the 
elytra of which were of a rose- or pink-colourj which, 

a Voyage, &c. ii. 16. 


shrovvdlng its vesiculose abdomen, gave it much the 
appearance of a fine flower. — A most beautiful and 
brilliant beetle, of the genus Chlamj/s, Knoch, as yet 
undescribed, and found by Captain Hancock in Brazil, 
by the inequalities of its ruby-coloured surface, strik- 
ingly resembles some kinds of fruit. — And to make the 
series of imitations complete, a minute black beetle, 
with ridges upon its elytra, (Hister sulcatus, OViv.)^, 
when lying without motion, is very like the seed of an 
umbelliferons plant. The dog-tick is not unlike a small 
bean ; which resemblance has caused a bean, commonly 
cultivated as food for horses, to be called the tick-bean. 
The Palma Christi, also, had probably the name of Ri- 
cinus given to it from the similitude of its seed to a tick. 
Another tribe of these little animals, before alluded 
to, is secured from harm by a different kind of imita- 
tion, and affords a beautiful instance of the wisdom of 
Providence in adapting means to their end. Some 
singular larva;, with a radiated anus"^, live in the nests 
of humble-bees, and are the offspring of a particu- 
lar genus of flies, (Volucella, Geoffr., Plerocera, Mei- 
gen), many of the species of which strikingly resemble 
those bees in shape^ clothing, and colour. Thus has 
the Author of nature provided that they may enter 
these nests and deposit their eggs undiscovered. Did 
these intruders venture themselves amongst the humble- 
bees in a less kindred form, their lives would probably 
pay the forfeit of their presumption. Mr. Sheppard 
once found one of these larvas in the nest of Apia 

a Oliv. Entomolog. i. no. 8. 17. 

b Plate. XIX. Fig. 11. Vor. I. 2d Ed.266. LaUcWie, Gen. Crust, 
el Ins. iv, 322. 


Raklla.) K., but we could not ascertain what the ffv 
was. Perhaps it might be Plerocera bomhi/hms^ Meig., 
which resembles those humble-bees that have a red 

The brilliant colours in which many insects are ar- 
rayed, may decorate them M'ith some other view than 
that of mere ornament. They may dazzle their ene- 
mies. The radiant blue of the upper surface of the 
wings of a giant butterfly, abundant in Brazil {Papilio 
JMenelaus, L.), which from its size would be a ready 
prey for any insectivorousbirds, by its splendour (which 
I am told, when the insect is flying in the sunshine, is 
inconceivably bright,) may produce an effect upon the 
sight of such birds, that may give it no small chance of 
escape. Latreille has a similar conjecture with re- 
spect to the golden wasps (Chr?/sis, L.). These ani-* 
mals lay their eggs in the nests of such Hi/menoptera, 
— wasps, bee- wasps (Benibe.r, L.), and bees, — as are 
redoubtable for their stings ; and therefore have the 
utmost occasion for protection against these murderous 
weapons. Amongst other defences the golden wasps 
are adorned with the most brilliant colours, which by 
their radiance, especially in the sunny situations fre- 
quented by these insects, may dazzle the eyes of their 
enemies, and enable them to effect unhurt the purpose 
for which they were created^. 

The frightful aspect of certain insects is anothoi' 
passive mean of defence by which they sometimes strike 
beholders, especially children, often great insect tor- 
mentors, with alarm, and so escape. The terrific and 
protended jaws of the stag-beetle (Lucanus Cervus^ L.) 

a Latreille, AnnaU d:i Mus, 1810. 5. 


in Europe, and of the stag-horn Capricorn beetle (Pn- 
onus ccrvicornis^ F.) in America, may save them from 
the cruel fate of the poor cockchafer % whose gyrations 
and motions, when transfixed by a pin, too often form 
the amusement of ill-disciplined children. The threat- 
ening horns also, prominent eyes, or black and dismal 
hue of many other Co/eojj/e?'a belonging to the Linnean 
genera Scarabceus, Ciciiidelay and Carabus, may produce 
the same elfect. 

But the most striking instances of armour are to be 
found in the Hemiptera order amongst the Cicadiadce. 
In some of these, the horns that rise from the thorax 
are so singular and monstrous, that nothing parallel to 
them can be found in nature. Of this kind is the Ci- 
cada spinosa, Stoll '', the Centrotus clavatus, F. '^, and 
more particularly the Centrotus globularis, F.^, so re- 
markable for the extraordinary apparatus of balls and 
spines, which it appears to carry erect, like a standard, 
over its head. What is the precise use of all the va- 
rieties of armour with which these little creatures are 
furnished it is not easy to say, but they may probably^ 
defend them from the attack of some enemies. 

Under this head I may mention the long hairs, stifl^ 
bristles, sharp spines, and hard tubercular prominences 
with which many caterpillars are clothed, bristled, and 
studded. That these are means of defence is rendered 
more probable by the fact that, in several instances, 

a One would almost wish that the same superstition prevailed here 
which Sparrman observes is common in Sweden, with respect to these ani- 
mals. " Simple people," says he, " believe that their sins will be forgiven 
if they set a cockchafer on its legs." Voyage, i. 28. b Clgales,/. 83, 

c Ibid./. 115. Coquebert, lUuslr. Ic. ii. t, xxviii./. 5. 

tl Stoll, C/jrt?fj,/. 163. Corop. Fallas, SpiciV. Zoof. /. i./. 12. 
TOL. 11. Q 


the animals so distinguished, at their last moult, pre- 
vious to their assuming the pupa, (in which state they 
are protected by other contrivances,) appear with a 
smooth skin, without any of the tubercles, hairs, or 
gpines for which they were before remarkable ^. Won- 
derful are the varieties of this kind which insects ex- 
hibit : — but upon these I shall treat more at large on a 
future occasion. I shall only here select a few facts more 
particularly connected with my present subject. The 
caterpillar of the great tiger-moth (Bombi/x Caja, F.), 
■Avhich is beset with long demise hair, when rolled up 
— an attitude it usually assumes if alarmed — cannot 
then be taken without great difficulty, slipping repeat- 
edly from the pressure of the fingers. If its hairs do 
not render it distasteful, this may often be the mean 
of its escape from the birds. — That little destructive 
l)eetle, Anthrenus Museorum^ F., which so annoys the 
entomologist, if it gets into his cabinets, wfien in the 
larva state, being covered with bunches of diverging 
hairs, glides from between your lingers as if it were 
lubricated with oil. The two tufts of hairs near the 
tail of this are most curious in their structure, being 
jointed through their Avhole length, and terminating in 
a sharp halberd-shaped point^. — I have a small lepido- 
pterous caterpillar from Brazil, the upper side of which 
is thickly beset with strong, sharp, branching spines, 
which would enter into the finger, and would probably 
render it a painful morsel to any minor enemy. 

a Rcaum. v. 94. 

b This was first pointed out to me by Mr. Briggs of the Post-office, 
^\ ho sent me an accurate drawing of the animal and of one of it^ hair$. 
1 did not at that time discover that it had been figured l^y De Geer, iv, 
i. viii./.l-T. 

/JheAns of defence of insects. 227 

The powers of amioi/ancc, by means of their hair, 
with which the moth of the fir, and the procession-moth, 
before noticed % are gifted, are doubtless a defensive 
armour to them. — Madame Merian has figured an 
enormouscaterpillar of this kind, — which unfortunately 
she could not trace to the perfect insect, — by the very 
touch of which her hands, she says, were inflamed, and 
that the inflammation was succeeded by the most ex- 
cruciating pain*'. The vesicatory beetles, likewise, 
{Li/tta vesicatoria, F., &c.) are not improbably de- 
fended from their assailants by the remarkable quality, 
so useful to suffering mortals, that distinguishes them. 

Your own observation must have proved to you, that 
insects often escape great perils, from the crush of the 
foot, or of superincumbent weights, by the hardness 
oT the substance that covers great numbers of thera. 
The elytra of many beetles of the genus Ilister are so 
nearly impenetrable, that it is very difficult to make a 
pin pass through them ; and the smaller stag-beetle 
(L?icanus parallelopipedus, L.) will bear almost any 
weight-T-the head and trunk forming a slight angle with 
the abdomen — which passes Over it upon the ground. 
Other insects are protected by the toughness of their 
skin. A remarkable instance of this is afforded by the 
common forest-fly (Ilippobosca equina, L.), which, as 
was before observed *^, can scarcely be killed by the ut- 
most pi'essure of the finger and thumb. 

The involuntary/ secretions of these little beings 
may also be regarded as means of defence, which either 
conceal them from their enemies, make them more 

a Vlwt. 1. 2d Ed. p. 131. b Insect. Surinam, t. 37. 

e Vol. I.iSd Ed. p. 119. 

Q 2 


difficult to be attacked, or render them less palata- 
ble. Thus, the white froth often observable upon rose- 
bushes, and other shrubs and plants, called by the vul- 
gar frog-spittle, — but which, if examined, will be found 
to envelop the larva of a small hemipterous insect 
(Cicada spumaria, L.)? from whose anus it exudes, al- 
thouo^h it is sometimes discovered even in this con- 
cealment by the indefatigable wasps, and becomes their 
prey, — serves to protect the insect, which soon dies 
when exposed, not only from the heat of the sun and 
from violent rains, but also to hide it from the birds and 
its other foes. — The cottony secretion that transpires 
through the skin of many species of Aphis, Chermes^ 
and Coccus, and in which the eggs of the latter are often 
involved, may perhaps be of use to them in this view^ ; 
either concealing them — for they look rather like little 
locks of cotton, or feathers, than any thing animated — 
or rendering them distasteful to creatures that would 
otherwise prey upon them. — The same remark may 
apply to the slimy caterpillars of some of the saw-flies 
(Tenihredo, L., 7\ Cerasi, Scrophularice, Sfc). The 
<;oat of slime of these animals, as Professor Peck ob- 
serves % retains its humidity though exposed to the 
fiercest sun. — Under this head I shall also mention the 
phosphoric insects : the glow-worm {Lampi/ris) ; the 
lantern-fly (jFm /o-or«); the fire-fly (E later) ; and the 
electric centipede (Scolopendra electrica, L.) ; since the 
light emitted by these animals may defend them from the 
attack of some enemies. Mr. Sheppard once floticed a 
Carabus running round the last-mentioned insect, when 
shioing, as if wishing but afraid to attack it. 

a Nat' Hist, of the Slug-isorm, 7. 


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

AVe often wonder how the cheese-mite {Acariis Siro, 
L.) is at hand to attack a cheese wherever deposited; 
but when we learn from Leeuwenhoek, that one lived 
eleven weeks gummed on its back to the point of a 
needle without food, our wonder will be diminished''. 
Another species of mite (A, vegetans, L.) was observed 
by De Geer to live some time in spirits of wine'^. This 
last circumstance reminds me of an event which befel 
myself, that I cannot refrain from relating to you, since 
it was the cause of my taking up the pursuit I am re- 

a The penetrating o;enius of Lord Verulam discovered in a great degree 
the cause of this vitality. " They stirre," says he, speaking of insects, 
" a good while after their heads are off, or that they be cut in pieces ; 
which is caused also for that their vital spirits are more diffused thorowout 
all their parts, and lesse confined to organs than in perfect creatures," 
Sylu. Sylvar. cent. vii. ^ 697. 
b Loeuw. Epist. 17, l(i94. c De Geer, vii. 127. 


commending to you. One morning I observed on 
my study window a little lady-bird yeilov/ with black 
dots (Coccinella 22-pt(nctata, L.) — " You are very 
pretty," said I to myself, " and I should like to have a 
collection of such creatures." Immediately I seized 
my prey, and not knowing how to destroy it, I im- 
mersed it in geneva. After leaving it in this situa- 
tion a day and a night, and seeing it without motion, 
I concluded it was dead, and laid it in the sun to 
dry. It no sooner, however, felt the warmth than it 
began to move, and afterward flew away. From this 
time I began to attend to insects. — The chamfelecn-fly 
(^StratT/omis Chamwleon, F.) was observed by Swam- 
merdam to retain its vital powers after an immersion 
equally long in spirits of wine. Goedart affirms that 
this fly, on which account it was called chamBeleon, 
will live nine months without food ; a circumstance, 
if true, more wonderful than what I formerly re- 
lated to you with respect to one of the aphidivorous 
flies ^. — If insects will escape unhurt from a bath of 
alcohol, it may be supposed that one of water will 
be less to be dreaded by them. To this they are 
often exposed in rainy weather, when ruts and hol- 
lows are filled with water : but when the water is 
dried up, it is seldom that any dead carcases of in- 
sects are to be seen in them. Mr. Curtis submerged 
tlie fragile aphides for sixteen hours ; when taken 
out of the water they immediately showed signs of life, 
and out of four, three survived the experiment : — an 
immersion of twenty-four hours, however, proved 
fatal to them^. 

a Bib. Nat. ii. d 3. Vol. I. 2d Ed. p. 400. b Linn. Trans, vi. 84. 


Thelate ingenious, learned, and lamented Dr. Reeve 
of Norwich once related to me that he found in a hot 
fountain on the top of a mountain, near Leuk in the 
Valais in Switzerland, in which the thermometer stood 
c;t205^, transparent larvae, probably of gnats, or some 
such insect. — Lord Bute also, in a letter to my late le- 
vered friend, the Rev. William Jones of Nayland, im- 
parts a similar observation made by His Lordship at the 
baths of Abano, near the Euganian mountains, on the 
borders of the Paduan states. They are strong, sul- 
phureous, boiling springs, oozing out of a rocky emi- 
nence in great numbers, and spreading over an acre of 
the top of a gentle hill. In the midst of these boiling 
springs, within three feet of five or six of them, rises g. 
tepid one about blood warm. But the most extraor- 
dinary circumstance that he relates is, that not only 
confervas were found in the boiling springs, but num- 
bers of small black beetles, that died upon being taken 
out and plunged into cold water '^. — And once, having 
taken in the hot dung of my cucumber-bed a small 
beetle {Li/ctus Juglandis, F.), 1 immersed it in boil- 
ing water; and after keeping it submerged a suffi- 
cient time, as I thought, to destroy it, upon taking it 
out, and laying it to dry, it soon began to move and 
walk. Its native station being of so high a tempe- 
rature. Providence has fitted it for it, by giving it 
extraordinary powers of sustaining heat. Other in- 
sects are as remarkable for bearing any degree of 
cold. Some gnats that De Geer observed, survived 
after the water in which they were was frozen into a 

a J. Mason Good's Anniversary Oration^ delivered March 8, ISOS^befure 
the Medical Socid}} of London, p. jI. 


mass of ice : and Reaumur relates many simitar in- 

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

II. The active means of defence, which tend to se- 
cure insects from injury ar attack, are much more nu- 
merous and diversified than the passive ; and also more 
interesting, since they depend, more or less, upon the 
efforts and industry of these creatures themselves. 
When urged by danger, they endeavour to repel k 
either by having recourse to certain attitudes or mo- 
tions ; producing particular noises ; emitting disagree- 
able scents or fluids; employing their limbs; or wea- 
pons, and valour; concealing themselves in various 
ways; or by counteracting the designs and attack of 
their enemies by contrivances that require ingenuity 
and skill. 

The attitudes which insects assume for this purpose 
are various. Some are purely imitative, as in many 
instances detailed above. I possess a diminutive rove- 
beetle (Aleochara complicans, K. Ms.) to which ray at- 
tention was attracted as a very minute, shining, round, 
black pebble. This successful imitation was produceti 
ftDe Geerjvi. 355; comp. 320, and Reaum. ii, 141-147, 


by folding its head under its breast, and turning up its 
abdomen over its elytra; sotliattlic most piercing and 
discriminating eye would never have discovered it to be 
an insect. — I have observed that a common beetle (S?7- 
j)ha thoracica, L.) when alarmed has recourse to a si- 
milar manceuvre. Its orange-coloured tliorax, the rest 
of the body being black, renders it particularly conspi- 
cuous. To obviate this inconvenience, it turns its head 
and tail inwards till they are parallel with the trunk and 
abdomen, and gives its thorax a vertical direction, whew 
it resembles a rough stone. — The species of another 
genus of beetles {Agathidium^ F.) will also bend both 
head and thorax under the elytra, and so assume the 
appearance of shining globular pebbles. 

Related to the defensive attitude of the two last- 
mentioned insects, and precisely the same with that of 
the Armadillo (Das?/pus, L.) amongst quadrupeds, is 
that of one of the species of woodlouse {ArmadUlo vul- 
garis, Latr.). This insect when alarmed rolls itself up 
into a iittle ball. In this attitude its legs and the un- 
derside of the body, which are soft, are entirely covered 
and defended by the hard crust that forms the upper 
surface of the animal. These balls are perfectly sphe- 
rical, black, and shining, and belted with narrow white 
bands, so as to resemble beautiful beads; and could 
they be preserved in this form and strung, would make 
very ornamental necklaces and bracelets. At least so 
thought Swammerdam's maid, who, finding a number 
of these insects thus rolled up in her master's garden, 
mistaking them for beads, employed herself in stringing 
thera on a thread ; w hen, to her great surprise, the 
vjoor animals beginning to move and struggle for their 

^54^ MEANS OF defe:nce of insects. 

liberty, crying out and running- away in the utmost alarm 
Khe threw down her prize''. — The golden-wasp tribe 
also, (Chrj/sis and Parnopes, F.) all of which I suspect to 
be parasitic insects, roll themselves up, as I have often 
observed, into a little ball when alarmed, and can thus 
secure themselves — the upper surface of the body being 
remarkably hard, and impenetrable to their weapons — • 
from the stings of those Ili/menoptera whose nests they 
enter with the view of depositing their eggs in their 
offspring. Latreille noticed this attitude in Parnopes 
cornea^ which, he tells us, Bemhex rostrata pursues, 
though it attacks no other similar insect, with great 
fury ; and, seizing it with its feet, attempts to dispatch 
it with its sting, from which it thus secures itself*. 

Other insects endeavour to protect themselves from 
danger by simulating death. The common dung-chafer 
(Scarabceus stercorarius^ L.) when touched, or in fear, 
sets out its legs as stiff as if they were made of iron- 
wire — which is their posture when dead — and remain- 
ing perfectly motionless, thus deceives the rooks which 
prey upon them, and like the ant-lion before cele- 
brated "^ will eat them only when alive. A different 
attitude is assumed by one of the tree-chafers {Hoplia 
pulxerulenUi) probably with the same view. It some- 
times elevates its posterior legs into the air, so as 
to form a straight vertical line, at right angles with 
the upper surface of its body. — Another genus of in- 
sects of the same order, the pill-beetles {hyrrhus^ F., 
dstela. Marsh.), have recourse to a method the re- 
verse of this. They pack their legs, which are short 

a Hill's Svsamm. i. 174. b Jnn. du Mus. 1810. 5, 

c Vol. I. 2d EcL p. 42S. 


and flat, so close to their body, and lie so entirely 
without motion when alarmed, that they look like a 
dead body, or rather the dung of some small animal. — 
Amongst the weevil tribe, the species of Illiger's genus 
Cri/ptorynchus ( Ei/nchccnus^ F., Curculio, Latr.), when 
an entomological linger approaches them, as 1 have 
often experienced to my great disappointment, apply- 
ing their rostrum and legs to the underside of their 
trunk, fall from the station on which you hope to en- 
trap them, to the ground or amongst the grass; where, 
lying- without stirring a limb, they are scarcely to be 
distinguished from the soil around them. Thus also, 
doubtless, they often disappoint the birds as well as the 
entomologist. — A little timber-boring beetle {Anohium 
jjertinax, F.), (and others of the genus have the same 
faculty,) which, when the head is withdrawn somewhat 
within the thorax, much resembles a monk with his 
hood, has long been famous for a most pertinacious si- 
mulation of death. All that has been related of the 
heroic constancy of American savages, when taken and 
tortured by their enemies, scarcely comes up to that 
which these little creatures exhibit. You may maim 
them, pull them limb from limb, roast them alive over 
a slow fire'', but you will not gain your end ; not a 
joint will they move, nor show by the least symptom 
that they suffer pain. Do not think, however, that I 
ever tried these experiments upon them myself, or that 
I recommend you to do the same. I am content to 
believe the facts that I have here stated upon the con- 
current testimony of respectable witnesses, without 
feeling any temptation to put the constancy of the poor 

a De Gccr, iv. 229. 


insect again to the test. — A similar apathy is shown by 
some species of savv-fiy {Tenthredo, L.), which when 
alarmed conceal their antennae under their body, place 
their legs close to it, and remain without motion even 
when transfixed by a pin. — Spiders also simulate death 
by folding up their legs, falling from their station, and 
remaining motionless ; and when in this situation, they 
may be pierced and torn to pieces without their exhi- 
biting the slightest symptom of pain''. 

There is a certain tribe of caterpillars called sur* 
veyors (Geoiyietrce), that will sometimes support them- 
selves for whole hours, by means of their posterior 
legs, solely upon their anal extremity, forming an an- 
gle of various degrees with the branch on which they 
are standing, and looking like one of its twigs. Many 
concurring circumstances promote this deception. The 
body is kej)t stiff and immoveable, with the separations 
of the segments scarcely visible ; it terminates in a 
knob, the legs being applied close, so as to resemble 
the gem at the end of a twig ; besides which, it often 
exhibits intermediate tubercles which increase the re- 
semblance. Its colour too is usually obscure, and si- 
milar to that of the bark of a tree. So that, doubtless, 
the sparrows and other birds are frequently deceived 
by this mancEuvre, and thus balked of their prey, 
llosel's gardener, mistaking one of these caterpillars 
for a dead twig, started back in great alarm when upon 
attempting to break it olFhe found it was a living ani- 
mal ''. 

But insects do not always confine themselves to at- 
titudes by which they meditate escape or concealment; 

a SmcUie, riul. of Nat. Hist. i. 150. b Ros. I. v. 27. 


they sometimes, to show their courage, put themselves 
in a posture of defence, and even have in view t!!e 
annoyance as well as the repelling of their foes. The 
great rove-beetle {Staphf/Unus olens, F.) presents an 
object sufficiently terrific, when with its large jaws ex- 
panded, and its abdomen turned over its head, like a 
scorpion, it menaces its enemies, some of which this 
ferocious attitude may deter from attacking it. Mr. 
Bingley informs us that the giant earwig (Forficula 
giganlea, F.), a rare species that his researches have 
added to the catalogue of British insects, turns up over 
its head, in a similar manner, its abdomen, which being 
armed at the end with a large forceps must give it an 
appearance still more alarming*. 

The caterpillars of some hawk-moths (Sphinx, L.), 
particularly that which feeds upon the privet, when 
they repose, holding strongly with their prologs the 
branch on which they are standing, rear the anterior: 
part of their body so as to form nearly a right angle 
with the posterior ; and in this position it will remain 
perfectly tranquil, — thus eluding the notice of its ene- 
mies, or alarming them, — perhaps for hours. Reau- 
mur relates that a gardener in the employment of the 
celebrated Jussieu used to be quite disconcerted by the 
self-sufficient air of these animals, saying they must be 
very proud, for he had never seen any other caterpillars 
hold their head so high''. From this attitude, which 
precisely resembles that which sculptors have assigned 
to the fabulous monster called by that name, the terra 
Sphinx has been used to designate this genus of insects. 
— The caterpillar of a moth (Bombj/x camelina, F.) 
» PsATK I. Fig, 7. Linn, Trans, x. -iOl— i> Reaujw. ij. 253. 


noticed by the author just quoted, whenever it rests 
from feeding, turns its head over its back, then become 
concave, at the same time elevating its tail, the extre- 
mity of which remains in a horizontal position, with two 
short horns like ears behind it. Thus the six anterior 
legs are in the air, and the whole animal looks like a qua- 
druped in miniature ; the tail being its head — the horns 
its ears — and the reflexed head simulating a tail curled 
over itsback^. In this seemingly unnatural attitude 
it will remain without motion for a very long time. 

Some lepidopterous larvs, that fix the one half of 
the body and elevate the other, agitate the elevated 
part, whether it be the head or the tail, as if to strike 
what disturbs thera*^. The giant caterpillar of a large 
North- American moth (Bombt/x regalis, F.) is armed 
behind the head and at the back of the anterior se<;- 
ments with seven or eight strong curved spines from 
half to three-fourths of an inch in length. Mr. Abbott 
tells us that this caterpillar is called in Virginia the 
hickory-horned devil, and that when disturbed it draws 
up its head, shaking or striking it from side to side ; 
which attitude gives it so formidable an aspect, that no 
one, he affirms, will venture to handle it, people in ge- 
neral dreading it as much as a rattle-snake. When, to 
convince the Negroes that it was harmless, he himself 
took hold of this animal in their presence, they used to 
reply that it could not sting him, but would them '^. 
The species of a genus of beetles separated f*om Can- 
tharis, L., under the name oi Malachius, F,, endeavour 
to alarm their enemies and show their rage by puffing 

a Reaum. ii.260. t. 20./. 10. 11. Compare Sepp IV. t. \.f. 3-7. 
b Ibid.i. 100. c Smith's AbboWs Ins. of Georgia, ii. 121v 


out and inflating four vesicles from the sides of tlieir 
bodj', which are of a bright red, soft, and of an irregu- 
lar shape. When the cause of alarm is removed, they 
are retracted, so that only a small portion of them ap- 
pears ^. 

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

These motions menace vengeance ; those of some 
other insects are merely to effect their escape. Thus I 

a De Geer, iv. T4, b Nat. Hist. ii. 268. 

c P. liuber in Linn, Trans, vi. 219. Kirby, Mon, Jp. Angl. i. 201. 


have observed that the species of the May-fly triba 

Phri/ganea, L., Trichoptera^ K.*), when I have at- 
tempted to take them, have often glided av/ay from un- 
der my hand — v/ithout moving their limbs that I could 
discover — in a remarkable manner. I once observed a 
weevil (Braclnyrhinns, F.) upon a rail, which, when it 
saw me, slidcd sideways, and then rolled off. To notice 
the ordinary motions of insects, which are often means 
by which they escape from danger, would here be pre- 
mature, since they will be fully considered in a subse- 
quent letter. I shall therefore only mention the zigzag 
iiight of butterflies and the traverse sailing of humble- 
bees, which certainly render it more difficult for the 
birds to catch them while on tlie wing. 

I^oises are another mean of defence to which insects* 
Lave occasional recourse. I have heard the lunar 
dung-beetle {Copris hoiaris, F.) when disturbed utter 
a shrill sound. Gcoirupes Oro?nedon, F., another of 
the ScarabceidcBy Mas observed by Dr. Arnold to make, 
when alarmed, a kind of creaking noise, which it pro- 
duced by rubbing its abdomen against its elytra. A 
third of the same tribe, Trox sabulosus, F., emits a 
small sibilant or chirping noise, as I once observed 
when I found several feeding in a ram's horn. The 
" drowsy hum" of beetles, humble-bees, and other in- 
sects, in their flight, may tend to preserve them from 
some of their aerial assailants. And the angry chidings 
of the inhabitants of the hive, which are very distin- 
guishable from their ordinary sounds, may be regarded 
as warning voices to those from whom they apprehend 
evil or an attack. 1 have before observed that the 

a Kirby in Linn, Trans, xi. 87, note *. 


death's-head hawk-moth (Sphinx Atropos, L.), when 
menaced by the stings often thousand bees enraj^ed at 
her depredations upon their property, possesses the 
secret to disarm them of their fury ^. This insect, wlw^n 
in fear or danger, is known to produce a sharp, shrill, 
mournful cry, which with the superstitious has added 
to the ahirm produced by the symbol of death which 
signalizes its thorax''. This cry, there is reason to 
believe, aft'ects and disarms the bees, so as to enable 
her to proceed in her spoliations with impunity '^. One 
of these insects being' once brought to a learned divine, 
who w as also an entomologist, when he was unwell, he 
was so much moved by its plaintive noise, that, instead 
of devoting it to destruction, he gave the animal its life 
and liberty. I might say more upon tliis subject of de- 
fensive noises ; but I shall reserve what I have further 
to communicate, to a letter which I purpose devoting to 
the sounds produced or emitted by insects. 

You are acquainted with the singular property of 
the skunk ( Viverra putorius, L.), which repels its as- 
sailants by the fetid vapour that it explodes ; but per- 
haps are not aware that the Creator has endowed many 
insects with the same property and for the same pur- 
pose — some of which exhale powerful or disagreeable 
odours at all times, and from the general surface of their 
body ; while they issue from others only through par- 
ticular organs, and when they are attacked. 

Of the former description of defensive scents there 

a Vol. I, 2d Ed. 1G5. b Ibid. 31. 

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



are numerous examples in almost every order ; ioi*, 
next to plants and vegetable substances, insects, of any 
part of the creation, afford the greatest diversity of 
odours. In the Coleoptera order a very common beetle, 
the whirlwig- {Gijrinus Natator^ L.)? will infect your 
finger for a long time with a disagreeable rancid smell ; 
while two other species, G. minutus and vil/osus, are 
scentless. — Those unclean feeders, the carrion beetles 
(Silphce, L.), as might be expected from the nature of 
their food, are at the same time very fetid. — Pliny tells 
us of a Blatta, — which, from his description, is evi- 
dently the darkling-beetle (Blaps moriisaga, F.), and 
which he recommends as an infallible nostrum, when 
applied with oil extracted from the cedar, in otherwise 
incurable ulcers, — that was an object of general dis- 
gust on account of its ill scent, a character which it still 
maintains *. — Numbers of the CarabidcE (a kind of black 
beetles that run very fast, and are found under stones, 
and m places that have not a free circulation of air,) 
exhale a most disagreeable and penetrating odour, 
which De Geer observes resembles that of rancid 
butter, and is not soon got rid of It is produced, he 
says, from an unctuous matter that transpires through 
the body ^ ; but I am rather inclined to think it pro- 
ceeds from the extremity. — I have noticed that some 
small beetles of the Omalium genus Grav. — for in- 
stance O. rivulare, and another species that I once found 
in abundance on the primrose (O. Primulce, K. Ms.), 
especially the latter — are abominably fetid when taken, 
and that it requires more than one washing to free the 
fingers from it. Every one knows that the cock-roachj 

a Hist. Nat, 1. axix. c, 6. b Jv. 86. 


[Ulaita orient alls, L.), belonging to the Orthoptera or- 
der, is not remarkable for a pleasant scent; — but none 
are more notorious for their bad character in this re- 
spect than the bug tribe (Cimicidce)., which almost uni- 
versally exhale an odour that mixes with the scent of 
cucumbers another extremely unpleasant and annoy- 
ing. Some liowever are less disgusting, particularly 
Li/gceus Hyoscyumi^ F., which yields, De Geer found, 
an agreeable odour of thyme ^. — Several lepidopterous 
larvae are defended by their ill smell ; but I shall only 
particularize the silk- worms, which on that account are 
said to be unwholesome. — Phryganea grandis^ a kind 
of May-fly, is a trichopterous insect that oflfends the 
nostrils in this way ; but a worse is Hemerohius Perla^ 
a golden-eyed and lace-winged fly, of the next order, 
whose beauty is counterbalanced by a strong scent of hu- 
man ordure that proceeds from it. — Numberless //y- 
menoptera act upon the olfactory nerves by their ill or 
powerful eflluvia. One of them, an ant ( Formica foetiday 
De Geer, fa'tens, Oliv.), has the same smell with the 
insect last mentioned •*. Our common black ant (F.fuli' 
ginosa, Latr.), whose curious nests in trees have been 
before described to you*", is an insect of a powerful and 
penetrating scent, which it imparts to every thing with 
which it comes in contact; andFabricius distinguishes 
another (F, analis, Latr., foetens, F.) by an epithet 
ifostidissima) which sufficiently declares its properties. 
Many wild bees (Meliifa, K., Andrena, F.) are distin- 
guished by their pungent alliaceous smell. Crahro 
U-Jlavuniy Helw., a wasp-like insect, is remarkable for 
the perti^trating and spirituous effluvia of ether that it 
a De Geer, iii. 249. 374. b Ibid. 611. c Vol. I. 2d Ed. 483. 
11 2 


exhales*. Indeed there is scarcely any species in this 
order that has not a peculiar scent. — Some dipterous 
insects — though these in general neither offend nor de- 
light us by it — are distinguished by their smell. Thus 
Musca myslacea^ L., a fly that in its grub state lives 
in cow-dung, savours in this respect, when a deni- 
zen of the air, of the substance in which it first drew 
breath. And another {M. eijnipsea, L.) emits a fra- 
grant odour of baum ''. — I have not much to tell you 
with respect to apterous insects, except that lulus ter- 
restris, a common millepede, leaves a strong and dis- 
agreeable scent upon the fingers when handled ''. Most 
of the insects I have here enumerated, probably, are 
defended from some enemy or injury by the strong va- 
pours that exhale from them ; and perhaps some in the 
list produce it from particular organs not yet noticed. 

I shall next beg your attention to those insects that 
emit their smell from particular organs. Of these, 
some are furnished with a kind of scent-vessels, which 
I shall call osmatcria ; while in others it issues from the 
intestines at the ordinary passage. In the former in- 
stance the organ is usually retractile within the body, 
being only exerted when it is used : it is generally a 
bifid vessel, something in the shape of the letter Y. 
Linne, in his generic character of the rove-beetles^ 
(Slap/ij/linus), mentions two oblong vesicles as proper 
to this genus. These organs, — which are by no means 
common to the whole genus, even as restricted by late 
writers, — are its osmateria, and give forth the scent for 
which some species, particularly S. brunnipes, are re- 

a Kirby, Mon. Ap. Angl. i. 136. note a. b Dc Gcer, vi.^35. fi% 
t Ibid. vii. 581, 


iTiarkable. If you press the abdomen hard, you \\i\\ 
find that these vesicles are only branches from a com- 
mon stem ; and you may easily ascertain that the smell 
of this insect, which mixes something- extremely fetid 
with a spicy odour, proceeds from their extremity. — A 
similar organ,, half an inch in Icngtli, and of the 
eame shape, issues from the neck of the caterpillar of 
the swallow-tail butterfly (Papilio jVachaon, L.) ". 
When I pressed this caterpillar, says Bonnet, near 
its anterior part, it darted forth its horn as if it meant 
to prick me with it, directing- it towards my fingers ; 
but it withdrew it as soon as I left off pressing it. 
This horn smells strongly of fennel, and probably is 
employed by the insect, by means of its powerful scent, 
to drive away the flies and ichneumons that annoy it. 
A similar horn is protruded by the slimy larva of 
JP. Anchises^ L., as also P. Apollo and many other 
Eqintes^. — Another insect, the larva of a species of 
saw-fly (Tentliredo) described by De Geer, is furnished 
with osmateria, or scent-organs, of a different kind. 
They are situated between the five first pair of in- 
termediate legs, which they exceed in size, and are 
perforated at the end like the rose of a watering-pot. 
If you touch the insect, they shoot out like the horns of 
a snail, and emit a most nauseous odour, which remains 
long upon the finger; but when the pressure is re- 
moved they are withdrawn within the body''. — The 
grub of the poplar-beetle {Chri/somehi Populi^ L.) 
also is remarkable for similar organs. On each of the 
nine intermediate dorsal segments of its body is a pair 

a Plate XIX. Fi6. 1. a. b Mcrian Surinum. 17. Jones in Linn, 

Trans, ii, 64. c De Gcer, ii. 9S9 — ■ t. xx.wii./. 0. 


of Dlack, elevated, conical tubercles, of a hard sub-* 
stance; from all of these when touched the animal 
emits a small drop of a white milky fluid, the smell of 
which, De Geer observes, is almost insupportable, being 
inexpressibly strong and penetrating. These drops 
proceed at the same instant from all the eighteen scent- 
organs; which forms a curious spectacle. The insect, 
however, does not waste this precious fluid; each drop 
instead of falling, after appearing for a moment and 
dispensing its perfume, is withdrav/n again within its 
receptacle, till the pressure is repeated, when it re- 
appears *. 

I shall now introduce you to the true counterparts of 
the skunk, which explode a most fetid vapour from the 
ordinary passage. I have lately hinted that the scent of 
many Carabida; is thus emitted. Ilarpalus prasinus, a 
beetle of this tribe, combats its enemies with repeated 
discharges of smoke and noise : but the most famous 
for their exploits in this way are those, which on this 
account are distinguished by the name of bombardiers, 
(^Bracliimts^Y.). The most common species (/J. cre- 
pitans, F.), which is found occasionally in many parts 
of Britain, when pursued by its great enemy, Calosonia 
Inquisitor, P., seems at first to have no mode of escape ; 
when suddenly a loud explosion is heard, and a blue 
smoke, attended by a very disagreeable scent, is seen 
to proceed from its anus, which immediately stops the 
progress of its assailant ; when it has recovered from 
the effect of it, and the pursuit is renewed, a second 
discharge again arrests its course. The bombardier cai\ 

a De Geer, v. 291. Compare Ray's LellerSf 43. See Plate XVUIo 
Fig. 1. 


fire its artillery twenty times in succession if necessary, 
and so gain time to effect its escape. — Another species, 
Brachinus Displosor, makes exY>\osions similar to those 
of B. crepitans: when irritated it can give ten or 
twelve good discharges ; but afterwards, instead of 
smoke it emits a yellow or brown fluid. By bending the 
joints of its abdomen it can direct its smoke to any par- 
ticular point. M. Leon Dufour observes that this 
smoke has a strong and pungent odour, which has a 
striking analogy with that exhaled by the Nitric Acid. 
It is caustic, reddening white paper, and producing on 
the skin the sensation of burning, and forming red 
spots, which pass into brown, and though washed re- 
main several days^. 

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

You have doubtless often observed a black beetle 
crossing pathways with a slow pace, which feeds upon 
the different species of bedstraw {Galium, L.), called 
by some the bloody-nose beetle {Chrysomela tenehri- 
cosa,F.). This insect, when taken, usually ejects from 
its mouth a clear drop or two of red fluid, which will 
stain paper of an orange colour. The carrion-bettles 
(Si/pha and Necrophorus, F.), as also the larger Ca- 
rabi, defile us, if handled roughly, with brown fetid 
saliva. Mr. Sheppard having taken one of the latter 
(C. violaceus, L.) applied it in joke to his son's face, 

a^inn, Jm Mus. xviii. 70. 


and was surprised to hear him immediately cry out as 
if hurt: repeating- the experiment with another of his 
boys, he complained of its making- him smart : upon this 
he touched himself with it, and it caused as much pain 
as if, after shaving, he had rubbed his face with spirits 
of wine. This he observed was not invariably the 
case with this beetle, its saliva at other times bein? 
harmless. JHence he conjectures that its caustic na- 
ture, in the instance here recorded, might arise from 
its food ; which he had reason to think had at that time 
been the electric centipede ( Scolopendra electrica, L.). — 
Juesser having* once touched the anal horn of the cater- 
pillar of some sphinx, suddenly turning its head round, 
it vomited upon his hand a quantity of green, viscous, 
and very fetid fluid, whicl), tliough he washed it fre- 
quently with soap and fumed it with sulphur, infected 
it for two days'*. — Lister relates that he saw a spider, 
when upon being" provoked it attempted to bite, 
emit several times small drops of very clear fluid''. — - 
Mr. Briggs observed a caterpillar caught in the Aveb 
of one of our largest spiders, by means of a fluid which 
it sent forth entirely dissolve the great breadth of 
threads with which the latter endeavoured to envelop 
it, as fast as produced, till the spider appeared quite 
exhausted'. — The caterpillars also of a particular tribe 
of saw-flies, remarkable for the beautiful pennated an-^ 

• a Lesser L. i. 281. note 6. b De Jraneis 27. 

c This S"'"'*^"!'"^" i^ of opinion that spiders possess the means ofre-r 
dissolvinn their webs. He observed one, when its net was broken, run 
up its thread, and gathering a considerable mass of the web into a ball, 
suddenly dissolve it with fluid. He also observes, that when windwig up 
3 powerful prey, a spider can form its threads into a broad sheet. 


lemiaB of the males {Pleronus Jurine)'', when disturb- 
ed eject a drop of fluid from their n.outh. Those of one 
ypecies inhabitins^ the fir-tree {Pi. Pini) are ordina- 
rily stationed on the narrow leaves of that tree — which 
they devour most voraciously in the manner that we 
eat radishes — with their head towards the point. Some- 
times two are enga<red opposite to each other on the 
same leaf. They collect in groups often of more than 
a hundred, and keep as close to each other as they can. 
When a branch is stripped they all move together to 
another. If one of these caterpillars be touched or 
disturbed, it immediately with a twist lifts the anterior 
part of its body, and emits from its mouth a drop of 
clear resin, perfectly similar both in odour and con- 
sistence to that of the fir''. What is still more remark- 
able, no sooner does a single individual of the group 
give itself this motion, than all the rest, as if they were 
moved by a spring, instantaneously do the same*^. Thus 
these animals fire a volley as it were at their annoyers, 
the scent of which is probably sufficient to discomfit any 
ichneumons, fiies, or predaceous beetles that may be 
desirous of attacking them. 

Amongst those which annoy their enemies by the 
emission of fluids from their anus are the larger Carabi. 
These, if roughly handled, will spirt to a considerable 
distance an acrid, caustic, stinking liquor, which if it 
touch the eyes or the lips occasions considerable pain"^. — 
The rose-scented Capricorn (Cercmibj/x moschatus,lj.) 
produced a similar effect upon Mr. Sheppard by simi- 

a Jiirine Hymenopt. t. v'l.f. 8. b De Geer, ii. 97 I. 

f I owe the knowledge of this circumstance to Mr, MacLcuy. 
»l Dc Geer, iv. S6. GeolTr, i. 141. 


lar means. The fluid in this had a powerful odour of 
musk. — The acid of ants has long- been celebrated, and 
is one of their most powerful means of defence. When 
the species that have no sting- make a wound with their 
jaws, they insinuate into it some of this acid, the ef- 
fluvia produced by which are so subtile and penetra- 
ting, that it is impossible to hold your head near the 
nest of the hill-ant {Formica rufa, L.), when the ants 
are much disturbed, Avithout being almost suffocated. 
This odour thus proceeding from myriads of ants, is 
powerful enough, it is said, to kill a frog, and is pro- 
bably the means of securing the nest from the attack 
of many enemies. — Dr. Arnold observed a species of 
bug (Scutellera, F.) abundant upon some pohgamous 
plant which he could not determine, and in all their 
different states. They were attended closely by hosts 
of ants, and when disturbed emitted a very strong 
smell. One of these insects ejected a minute drop 
of fluid into one of his eyes, which occasioned for 
some hours considerable pain and inflammation. In 
the evening, however, they appeared to subside ; — 
but on the following morning the inflammation was 
renewed, became worse than ever, and lasted for three 

Other insects, when under alarm, discharge a fluid 
from the joints and segments of their body. You have 
often seen what has been called the unctuous or oil 
beetle (Meloe Proscarabceus, L.), and I dare say, when 
you took it, have observed orange-coloured or deep- 
yellow drops appear at its joints. As these insects feed 
upon acrid plants, the species of crowfoot or RanuH' 
culusj it is probable that this fluid partakes of the na- 


lure of their food and is very acrimonious — and thus 
may put to flight its insect assailants or the birds, from 
neither of which it could otherwise escape, being a very 
slow and sluggish and at the same time very conspi- 
cuous animal. Another beetle (Phnelia collaris, F.)^ 
has likewise this faculty. — The lady-bird, we know, 
has been recommended as a cure for the tooth-ache. 
This idea may have taken its rise from a secretion of 
this kind being noticed upon it. I have observed that 
one species {CoccineUa hipunctata, L,) when taken 
ejects from its joints a yellow fluid which yields a pow- 
erful but not agreeable scent of opium. — Asilus crahrof 
ififormis, L., a dipterous insect, once when I took it, 
emitted a white milky fluid from its proboscis, the joints 
of the legs and abdomen, and the anus.-^—The common 
scorpion-fly, likewise, upon the same occasion ejects 
from its proboscis a brown and fetid drop^. Some in- 
sects have peculiar organs from which their fluids issue, 
or are ejaculated. Thus, the larvas of saw-flies when 
taken into the hand cover themselves with drops, ex- 
uding from all parts of their body, of an unpleasant 
penetrating scent '^. That of Tenlhredo lutea^ L. of the 
same tribe, from a small hole just above each spiracle, 
syringes a similar fluid in horizontal jets of the diame- 
ter of a thread, sometimes to the distance of more than 
a foot '^— -The caterpillar of the great emperor moth 
(Bomb?/x Pavonia major, F., Saturnia Pi/ri, Schrank) 
^Iso spirts out, when the spines that cover them are 

a Fab. Ent. Syst. Em. i. 104. 26. In Si/st. Eleulh. (i. 135.5.) it isninde 
an Aids. 

b De Geer, ii. 734. c Reaumur, v. 96. d De Geer, ii. 'J,S7— 

2j2 means of defence of INSECY!?. 

touched, clear lymph from its pierced tubercles*. — • 
Willughby has remarked a curious circumstance with 
respect to a water-beetle {Di/tisciis cinereus, Marsh.) 
which ought not to be overlooked. A transverse line 
of a pale colour is observable upon the elytra of the 
male; where this line terminates certain oblong pores 
are visible, from which he affirms he has often seen a 
milky fluid exuding''; and what may conlirm his state- 
ment, I have more than once observed such a fluid 
issue from Dytisci of the same family. — The caterpillar 
of the puss-moth (Bo7nbi/x xinula), as well as those of 
several other species, has a cleft in the neck between 
the head and the first pair of legs. From this issues, 
at the will of the animal, a singular syringe, laterally 
bifid ; the branches of which are terminated by a nip- 
ple perforated like the rose of a watering-pot. By 
means of this organ, Avhen touched, it will syringe a 
fluid to a considerable distance, which, if it enters the 
eyes, gives them acute but not lasting pain. The animal 
Avben taken from the tree on which it feeds, though 
supplied with its leaves, loses this faculty, with which 
it is probably endowed to driveoff the ichneumons that 
infest iV. — And, to name no more, the great tiger- 
moth {Bonib^x Caja, F.), when in its last or perfect 
state, has near its head a remarkable tuft of the most 
brilliant carmine, from amongst the hairs of which, if 
the thorax be touched, some minute drops of transpa- 
rent water issue, doubtless for some similar purpose''. 
The next active means of defence with which Crea- 

a Rosel, iv. 162. De Geer, i. 273. h Rai. Hist. Tns. 9h n. 3, 
c De Geer, i. 324— d Ibid, i. 208. 


tJve Wisdom has endowed these busy tribes, are those 
limbs or weapons with which tliey are furnished. The 
insect lately mentioned, the puss-moth, besides the 
syringes just described, is remarkable for its singular 
forked tail, entirely dissimilar to the anal termination 
of the abdomen of most other caterpillars. This tait 
is composed of two long cylindrical "tubes moveable 
at their base, and beset with a great number of short 
stiff spines. When the animal walks, the two branches 
of the tail are separated from each other, and at every 
step are lowered so as to touch the plane of position ; 
hence we may conclude that they assist it in this mo- 
tion and supply the place of hind legs. If you touch 
or otherwise incommode it, from each of the above 
branches there issues a long, cylindrical, slender, 
fleshy, and very flexible organ of a rose colour, to 
which the caterpillar can give every imaginable curve 
or inflexion, causing it sometimes to assume even a 
spiral form. It enters the tube, or issues from it, in the 
same manner as the horns of snails of slugs. These 
tails form a kind of double whip, the tubes represent- 
ing the handle, and the horns the thong or lash, 
with which the animal drives away the ichneumons 
and flies that attempt to settle upon it. Touch any 
part of the body, and immediately one or both the horns 
will appear and be extended ; and the animal will, as 
it were, lash the spot where it feels that you incom- 
mode it. De Geer, from whom this account is taken, 
says that this caterpillar will bite very sharply". — 
Several larvae of butterflies, distinguished at their 
head by a semicoronet of strong spines, figured by 
a De Geer, i. 322— 


Madame Merian, are armed with singular anal organs ^^ 
which may have a similar use. Rcisel when he first 
saw the caterpillar of the puss-moth stretched out his 
hand with great eagerness, so he tells us, to take the 
prize; but when in addition to its grim attitude he 
beheld it dart forth these menacing catapults, appre- 
hending they might be poisonous organs, his courage 
failed him. At length without touching the monster, 
he ventured to cut off the twig on which it was, and 
let it drop into a box ''I The caterpillar of the gold- 
tail moth {Bomhi/x chrysorhcea^ F.) has a remarkable 
aperture, which it can open and shut, surrounded by a 
rim on the upper part of each segment. This aperture 
includes a little cavity, from which it has the power 
of darting forth small flocks of a cottony matter that 
fills if. This manosuvre is probably connected with 
our present subject, and employed to defend it from 
its enemies. It also ejects a fluid from its anus. ' 

There is a moth in Nevv Holland, the larva of which 
annoys its foes in adifferent way : from eight tubercles 
in- its back it darts forth, when alarmed, as many 
bunches of little stings, by which it inflicts very pain- 
ful and venomous wounds'^. 

The caterpillar of the moth of the beech {Bomhyx 
Fagi, F.), called the lobster, is distinguished by the 
vmcommon length of its anterior legs. Mr. Stephens, 
an acute entomologist, relates to me that he once saw 
this animal use them to rid itself of a mite that incom- 
moded it. They are probably equally useful in deli- 
vering it from the ichneumon and its other insect ene- 

a Ins. Swiiiam. t. viii. xxiii. xxxii. b I, iv. 122. 

<; llcauia. li. Ij5. t. vii./. 4 — 7. d Lewin's Prodromus, 


mies. — Dr. Arnold has made a curious observation 
(confirmed by Dr. Porsstrom with respect to others of 
the ^enus) on the use of the long- processes or tails that 
distinguish the secondary wings of Ilesperia larhas. 
These processes, he remarks, resemble antennae, and 
when the butterfly is sitting- it keeps them in constant 
motion ; so that at first sight it appears to have a head 
at each extremity; which deception is much increased 
by a spot resembling an eye at the base of the processes. 
These insects, perhaps, thus perplex or alarm their as- 
sailants. — Goedart pretended that the anal horn with 
which the caterpillars of so many hawk-moths (Sphinx} 
are armed, answers the end of a sting instilling a dan- 
gerous venom : but the observations of modern ento- 
mologists have proved that this is altogether fabulous, 
since the animal has not the power of moving them*. 
Their use is still unknown. 

Whether the long and often tremendous horns on 
the head, thorax, and even elytra, with which man/ 
insects are armed, are beneficial to them in the view 
under consideration, is very uncertain. They are often 
sexual distinctions, and have a reference probably 
rather to sexual purposes and the economy of the 
animal, than to any thing else. They may, however, in 
some instances deter enemies from attacking them, and 
therefore it was right not to omit them wholly, though 
I shall not further enlarge upon them. — Their mandi- 
bles or upper jaws, though principally intended for 
mastication, — and in the case of the Hymenoptera^ as 
instruments for various economical and mechanical 
usesj — are often employed to annoy their enemies or 
a De Geer, i. 149— 


assailants. I once suffered considerable pain from tlie 
tite of the common water-beetle (Di/tisa^s marginalis^ 
L.)? fi'^ ^vel! as from that of the great rove-beetle (Sta- 
phi/linusolens, F.); but the most tremendous and effec- 
tualweapon with which insects are armed — though this, 
except in the case of the scorpion, is also a sexual instru- 
ment, and useful to the females in oviposition — is their 
sting. With this they keep not only the larger animals, 
but even man himself, in awe and at a distance. But 
en these I enlarged sufficiently in a former letter*. 

These weapons, tremendous as they are, would be 
of but little use to insects if they had not courage to 
employ them : in this quality, however, they are by no 
nieans deficient; for, their diminutive size considered, 
they are, many of them, the most valiant animals in 
nature. The giant bulk of an elephant would not de- 
ter a hornet, a bee, or even an ant, from attacking it, 
if it was provoked. I once observed a small spider 
walking in my path. On putting my stick to it, it im- 
mediately turned round as if to defend itself. On the 
approach of my finger, it lifted itself up and stretched 
out its legs to meet it. — In Ray's Letters mention is 
made of a singular combat between a spider and a toad 
fought at Hetcorne near Sittinghurst'' in Kent; but 

a Mr. MacLeay relates to me, from the communications of Mr. E, 
Forster, the folio wins; particulars respecting the history of Mutilla cuc- 
einea, L,, which from this account appears to be one of the most redoubt- 
able of stinging insects. The females are most plentiful in Maryland, ia 
the months of July and August, hut are never very numerous. They are 
very active, and have been observed to take flies by surprise. A person 
stung Sy one of them lost his senses in five minute*, and was so ill for- 
several days that his life was despair.d of. 

b Hcdcorne near SiUingbourne ? 


as the particulars and issue of this famous duel are not 
given, I can only mention the circumstance, and con- 
jecture that the spider was victorious "" I Terrible as 
is the dragon-fly to the insect world in general, putting 
to flight and devouring whole hosts of butterflies, may- 
flies, and others of its tribes, it iristils no terror into 
the stout heart of the scorpion-fly (Panorpa communis, 
L<.)j though much its inferior in size and strength. Ly- 
onet saw one attack a dragon-fly of ten times its own 
bigness, bring it to the ground, pierce it repeatedly 
with its proboscis; and had he not by his eagerness 
parted them, he doubts not it would have destroyed this 
tyrant of the insect creation ''. 

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

I know nothing more astonishing than the wonder- 
ful muscular strength of insects, which in proportion 
to their size exceeds that of any other class of aninlals, 
and is likewise to be reckoned amongst their means of 

a Dr. Lon? in Ray's Letters, 370. b Lesser L. i. 263. Note |, 

c Huber,2V(,uo. Obs. ii. 301 — d Bingley, Animal Biogr. iii. 1st Ed. 
247— White, Nat. Hist. ii. 82. 



defence. Take one of the common chafers or dung' 
beetles (Scarabceus stercorarius^ L., or Copris lunaris, 
F.) into your hand, and observe how he makes his 
way in spite of your utmost pressure ; and read the ac- 
counts which authors have left us of the very great 
weights that a flea will easily move, as if a single man 
should draw a waggon with forty or fifty hundred 
weight of hay : — but upon this I shall touch hereafter, 
and therefore only hint at it now. 

We are next to consider the modes o^ concealment to 
which insects have recourse in order to escape the ob- 
servation of their enemies. One is by covering them- 
selves with various substances. Of this description is 
a little water-beetle {Elophorus aqualicus, F.), which 
is always found covered with mud, and so when feed- 
ing at the bottom of a pool or pond can scarcely be di- 
stinguished, by the predaceous aquatic insects, from 
the soil on which it rests. Another very minute insect 
of the same order {Limnius ceneus, Miill. Elmis, Latr.) 
that is found in rivulets under stones and the like, 
soujetimes conceals its elytra with a thick coating of 
mud, that becomes nearly as hard as stone. 1 never 
met with these animals so circumstanced but once ; 
then, however, there were several which had thus de- 
fended themselves, and I can now show you a speci- 
men. — We have two species of a minute coleopterous 
genus {Geori/ssus) lately established, one of which, {G. 
arenifera, K. Trox dubius, Panzer,) living in wet spots 
where the toad-rush (Juncus bttfonius, L.) grows, covers 
itself with sand; and another (G. cretifera, K.) Avhich 
frequents chalk, whitens itself all over with that sub- 
stance. As this animal, when clean, is very black, were it 


hot for this manceuvre, it would be too conspicuous upoii 
its white territory to have any chance of escape from the 
birds and its other assailants.-^No insect is more cele- 
brated for rendering itself hideous by a coat of dirt than 
the Reduvius personatus^ P., a kind of bug sometimes 
found in houses. When in its two preparatory states, 
every part of its body, even its legs and antennae, is so 
covered with the dust of apartments, consist ing of a mix- 
ture of particles of sand, fragments of wool or silk, and 
similar matters, that the animal at first would be taken 
for one of the ugliest spiders. This grotesque appear- 
ance is aided and increased by motions equally awk- 
ward and grotesque, upon which I shall enlarge here- 
after. If you touch it with a hair-pencil or a feather, 
this clothing will soon be removed, and you may be- 
hold the creature unmasked, and in its proper form. 
It is an insect of prey ; and amongst other victims will 
devour its more hateful congener the bed-bug^. Its 
slow movements, combined with its covering, seem to 
indicate that the object of these manoeuvres is to con- 
ceal itself from observation, probably, both of its ene- 
mies and of its prey. It is therefore properly noticed 
under my present head. 

As Hercules, after he had slain the Nemean lion, 
made a doublet of its skin, so the larva of another in- 
sect (Ilemerobius C/iri/sops,Ij., a lace-winged fly with 
golden eyes,) covers itself with the skins of the luckless 
Aphides that it has slain and devoured. From the 
head to the tail, this pygmy destroyer of the helpless 
is defended by a thick coat, or rather mountain com- 
posed of the skins, limbs, and down of these creatures, 

a De Geer, iii. 233— Geoffr. HisU Im. i. 437 . 
S 2 


Reaumur, in order to ascertain how far this covering- 
was necessary, removed it, and put the animal into a 
glass, at one time with a silk cocoon, and at another 
with raspings of paper. In the tirst instance, in the 
space of an hour it had clothed itself with particles of 
the siik ; and in the second, being again laid bare, it 
found the paper so convenient a material, that it made 
ef it a coat of unusual thickness''. 

Insects in general are remarkable for their cleanli- 
ness ; — however filthy the substances which they inha- 
bit, yet they so manage as to keep themselves person- 
.ally neat. Several, however, by no means deserve 
this character : and I fear you will scarcely credit me 
when I tell you that some shelter themselves under an 
umbrella formed of their own excrement ! You will 
exclaim, perhaps, that there is no parallel case in all 
pature ; — it may be so; — yet as I am bound to confess 
;the faults of insects as well as to extol their virtues, I 
must not conceal from you this opprobrium. Beetles 
of three different genera are given to this Hottentot 
habit. The first to which I shall introduce you is one 
that hfis long been celebrated under the name of the 
beetle of the lily {Lema jnerdigera, F., Cantaridc de' 
Gigli, Vallisn.). The Iarv£B of this insect have a very 
tender skin, which appears to require some covering 
from the impressions of the external air and from the 
rays of the sun; and it finds nothing so well adapted 
to answer these purposes, and probably also to conceal 
itself from the birds, as its own excrement, with which 
it covers itself in the following manner. Its anus is re- 
.niarkably situated, being on the back of the last seg- 

a Ileuum. iij. o91. 


ment of the body, and not at or under its extremity, as 
obtains in most insects. By means of such a position, 
the excrement when it issues from the body, instead of 
being pushed away and falling, is lifted up above the 
back in the direction of the head. When entirely 
clear of the passage, it falls, and is retained, though 
slightly, by its viscosity. The grub next, by a move- 
ment of its segments, conducts it from the place where 
it fell to the vicinity of the head. It effects this by 
swelling the segment on which the excrement is depo- 
sited, and contracting the following one, so that it ne- 
cessarily moves that way. Although, when discharged, 
it has a longitudinal direction, by the same action of 
the segments the animal contrives to place every grain 
transversely. Thus, when laid quite bare, it will 
cover itself in about two hours. There are often 
many layers of these grains upon the back of the insect, 
so as to form a coat of greater diameter than its body. 
When it becomes too heavy and stiff, it is thrown off, 
and a new one begun ^. — The larvaB of the various spe- 
cies of the tortoise-beetles (Cassida, L.) have all of 
them, as far as they are known, similar habits, and are 
furnished besides with a singular apparatus, by means 
of which they can elevate or drop their stercorarious 
parasol so as most effectually to shelter or shade them. 
The instrument by which they effect this is an anal 
fork, upon which they deposit their excrement, and 
which is sometimes turned up and lies flat upon their 
backs ; at others forms different angles, from very 
acute to very obtuse, with their body ; and occasionally 

a Reaum, iii. 220 — Coaipare Vallisnieii Esperienz> ed Osservaz. 195. 
Ed. 1T26. 


is unbent and in the same direction with it". In some 
species the excrement is not so disgusting as you may 
suppose, being formed into fine branching filaments. 
This is the case with C. maculata, L.**. — In the cognate 
genus Imatidium, the larvae also are merdigerous ; 
and that of /. Leayaman^ Latr., taken by Colonel 
Hardwicke in the East Indies, also produces an as- 
semblage of very long filaments, that resemble a dried 
fucus or a filamentous lichen, — The clothing of the 
Tinece, clothes-moths and others, and also of the case- 
worms, having enlarged upon in a former letter % I 
need not describe here. 

Some insects, that they may^ not be discovered and 
become the prey of their enemies when they are re- 
posing, conceal themselves in flowers. The male of a 
little bee (Apis Campanularum, K., Heriades, Latr.)? a 
true Sybarite, dozes voluptuously in the bells of the dif- 
ferent species of Campanula — in which, indeed, I have 
often found other kinds asleep. Linne named another 
Bpec'ies ^orisomn is on account of a similar propensity. 
A third, a most curious and rare species {Melitta spi' 
nigera, K.), shelters itself when sleeping, at least I once 
found it there so circumstanced, in the nest-like umbel 
of the wild carrot. You would think it a most extra- 
ordinary freak of Nature, should any quadruped sleep 
suspended by its jaws, (some birds however are said, I 
think, to have such a habit, and Sits Bahyroussa one 
something like it,) — yet insects do this occasionally. 
L/inne informs us that a little bee {Apis variegatay^asses 
the night thus suspended to the beak of the flowers of 

a Reaiim. 233 — b Kirby in Linn. Trans, iii. !(\. 

f you I. ?d Ed, 460-70, 


Geranium phceum : and I once found one of the vespi- 
tbrm bees {Apis Goodeninna, K., Nomada, F.) hanging 
by its mandibles from the edge of a hazel- leaf, apparently 
asleep, with its limbs relaxed and folded. On being dis- 
engaged from its situation it became perfectly lively. 

There is no period of their existence in which insects 
usually are less able to help themselves, than during 
that intermediate state of repose which precedes their 
coming forth in their perfect Ibrnvs. I formerly ex- 
plained to you how large a portion of them during this 
state cease to be locomotive, and assume an appear- 
ance of death*. In this help'ess condition, unless Pro- 
vidence had furnished them with some means of secu- 
rity, they must fall an easy prey to the most insignificant 
of their assailants. But even here they are taught to 
conceal themselves from their enemies by various and 
singular contrivances. Some seek for safety by bury- 
ing themselves, previously to the assumption of the 
pupa, at a considerable depth under the earth ; others 
bore into the heart of trees, or into pieces of timber; 
some take their residence in the hollow stalks of plants; 
and many are concealed under leaves, or suspend them- 
selves in dark places, where they cannot readily be 
seen. But in this state they are not only defended 
from harm by the situation they select, but also by the 
covering in which numbers envelop themselves ; for, 
besides the leathery case that defends the yet tender 
and unformed imago, many of these animals know how 
to weave for it a costly shroud of the finest njaterial=!, 
through which few of its enemies can make their way ; 
— and to this curious instinct, as 1 long since observed, 

a Vot. I. 2d r.d, 66— 


we owe one of the most valuable articles of commerce,- 
the silk that gives lustre to the beauty of our females.' 
These shrouds are sometimes double. Thus the larvJB 
of certain saw-flies spin for themselves a cocoon of a 
soft, flexible, and close texture, which they surround 
with an exterior one composed of a strong kind of net- 
work, which withstands pressure like a racket^. Here 
nature has provided that the inclosed animal shall be 
protected by the interior cocoon from the injury it 
might be exposed to from the harshness of the exterior, 
while the latter by its strength and tension prevents it 
from being hurt by any e'.ternal pressure. 

But of all the contrivances by which insects in this 
state are secured from their enemies, there is none more 
ingenious than that to which the may-flies ( hvyganea^ 
L.) have recourse for this ])urp()se. You have heard 
before that these insects are at first aqurtic, and inha- 
bit curious cases made of a variety of materials, which 
are usually open at each end''. Since they must re- 
side in these cases, when they are become pupa;, till 
the time of their final change approaches, if they are 
left open, how are the animals, now become torpid, 
to keep out their enemies ? Or, if they are wholly 
closed, how is tl.e water, which is necessary to their 
respiration and life, to be introduced? These saga- 
cious creatures know how to compass both these ends 
at once. They fix a grate or portcullis to each extre- 
mity of their fortress, which at the same time keeps out 
intruders and admits the water. These grates they 
weave witli silk sj>un from theiranusinto strong threads, 
which cross each other, and are not soluble in vv^ater. 

a Reauni. v. 100. b Vol. I. 2d Ed. 467-- 


One of them, descri!*e(l by De Geer, is very remark- 
able. It consists of a small, thickish, circular lamina 
of brown silk, becoming as bard as gum, which exactly 
fits the aperture of the case, and is fixed a little within 
the margin. It is pierced all over with holes disposed 
in concentric circles, and separated by ridges which 
go from the centre to the circumference, but often not 
quite so regularly as the radii of a circle or the spokes 
of a wheel. These radii are traversed again by other 
ridges, which follow the direction of the circles of 
holes ; so that the two kinds of ridges crossing each 
other form compartments, in the centre of each of 
which is a hole^. 

Under this head I shall call your attention to another 
circumstance that saves from their enemies innumera- 
ble insects : — I mean their coming forth for flight or for 
food only in the night, and taking tiieir repose in va- 
rious places of concealment during the day. The 
infinite hosts of moths {Phalcena^ L.), — amounting in 
this country probably to a thousand species, — with few 
exceptions, are all night-fliers. And a considerable 
proportion of the other orders,— exclusive of the Hy- 
menoptera and Diptera, which are mostly day-fliers, — 
are of the same description. Many larvce of moths also 
come out only in the night after their food, lying hid 
all day in subterraneous or other retreats. Of this 
kind is that of Noctua pulla and Ni/cterohhis^ whose 
proceedings have been before described''. The cater- 
pillar of another moth {Noctua subterranea, F.) never 
ascends the stems of plants, but remains, a true Tro- 

a Reaum. iii. 170. De Gcer, ii. 519. 545, Plate XVII. f ic. II. 
b Vol. I. 2d Ed. 45G. 


glodyte, always in its cell under ground, biting the 
stems at their base, which falling, bring thus their 
foliage within its reach ^. 

The habitations of insects are also usually places of 
retreat, which secure ihem from many of their ene- 
mies : — but I li^ve so fully enlarged upon this subject 
on a former occasion'', that it would be superfluous to 
do more than mention it here. 

I am now to lay before you some examples of the 
contrivances, requiring skill and ingenuity, by which 
our busy animals occasionally defend themselves from 
the designs and attack of their foes. Of these I have 
already detailed to you many instances, which I shall 
not here repeat ; my history therefore will not be very 
prolix. — I observed in my account of the societies of 
wasps, that they place sentinels at the mouth of their 
nests. The same precaution is taken by the hive-bees, 
particularly in the night, when they may expect that 
the great destroyers of their combs, Tinea mellonella ^Y . 
and its associates'^, will endeavour to make their way 
into the hive. Observe them by moonlight, and you 
will see the sentinels pacing about with their antennaB 
extended, and alternately directed to the right and left. 
In the mean time the moths flutter round the entrance; 
and it is curious to see with what art they know how to 
profit of the disadvantage that the bees, which cannot 
discern objects but in a strong light, labour under at 
that time. But should they touch xi moth with these 
organs of nice sensation, it falls an immediate victim to 
their just anger. The moth, however, seeks to glide 

a Fab. Ent. SysU Em. iii, TO. 200, b Vol. I. 2d Ed, 431-^ 

c Ibid. 166. 


between the sentinels, avoiding with tlie utmost caution, 
as if she were sensible that her safety depended upon 
k, all contact with their antennae. These bees upon 
guard in the night, are frequently heard to utter a very 
short low hum ; but no sooner does any strange insect 
or enemy touch their antenna?, than the guard is put 
into a commotion, and the hum becomes louder, re- 
sembling that of bees when they fly, and the enemy is 
assailed by workers from the interior of the hive"^. 

To defend themselves from the death's-head hawk- 
moth, they have recourse to a ditFerent proceeding. In 
seasons in which they are annoyed by this animal, they 
often barricade the entrance of their hive by a thick 
wall made of wax and propolis. This wall is built 
immediately behind and sometimes in the gateway, 
which it entirely stops up ; but it is itself pierced with 
an opening or two sufficient for the passage of one or 
two workers. These fortifications are occasionally 
varied : sometimes there is only one wall, as just de- 
scribed, the apertures of which are in arcades, and 
placed in the upper part of the masonry. At others 
many little bastions, one behind the other, are erected. 
Gateways masked by the anterior walls ; and not cor- 
responding with those in them, are made in the second 
Hne of building. These casemated gates are not con- 
structed by the bees without the most urgent necessity. 
When their danger is present and pressing, and they are 
as it were compelled to seek some preservative, they 
have recourse to this mode of defence'', which places 
the instinct of these animals in a wonderful light, and 
shows how well they know how to adapt their proceed-. 

a Jluber, Nouv, Obs. ii. 412. iJ Ihid, 294-^ 


ings to circumstances. Can this be merely sensitive ? 
When attacked by strange bees, they have recourse to 
a similar manceuvre ; only in this case they make but 
narrow apertures, sufficient for a single bee to pass 
through. — Pliny affirms that a sick bear will provoke 
a hive of bees to attack him in order to let him blood*. 
What will you say, if humble-bees have recourse to a si- 
milar manoeuvre ? It is related to me by Dr. Leach, from 
the communications of Mr. Daniel Bydder — an inde- 
fatigable and well-informed collector of insects, and ob- 
server of their proceedings — that Apis terrestris, when 
labouring under ^carm^i^'' from the numbers of a small 
mite {Gammasus Gymnopterorum^ F.) that infest it, 
will take its station in an ant-hill; where beginning to 
scratch, and kick, and make a disturbance, the ants im- 
mediately come out to attack it, and falling foul of the 
mites, they destroy or carry them all off; when the 
bee, thus delivered from its enemies, takes its flight. 

In this long detail, the first idea that will, I should 
hope, strike the mind of every thinking being, is the 
truth of the Psalmist's observation — that the tender 
mercies of God are over all his works. Not the least 
and roost insignificant of his creatures is, we see, de- 
prived of his paternal care and attention ; none are 
exiled from his ail-directing providence. Why then 
should man, the head of the visible creation, for whom 
all the inferior animals were created and endowed ; for 
whose well-being, in some sense, all these wonderful 
creatures with their miraculous instincts, whose history 
I am giving you, were put in action, — why should he 
ever doubt, if he uses his powers and faculties rightly^ 

■A Hist. Nat. 1. viii. c. 36. b Vol. I. 2d Ed. 99— 


that his Creator will provide him with what is neces- 
sary for his present state ? — Why should he imagine 
that a Being-, whose very essence is Love, unless he 
compels him by his own wilful and obdurate wicked- 
ness, will ever cut him off from his care and provi- 
dence ? 

Another idea that upon this occasion must force it- 
self into our mind is, that nothing is made in vain. 
When we find that so many seemingly trivial varia- 
tions in the colour, clothing, form, structure, motions, 
habits, and economy of insects are of very great im- 
portance to them, we may safely conclude that the pe- 
culiarities in all these respects, of which we do not yet 
know the use, are equally necessary : and we may al- 
most say, reversing the words of our Saviour, that not 
a hair is given to them without our Heavenly Fatlier. 

r am, &c. 


MOTIONS OF INSECTS. {Larva and Pupa.) 

Amongst the means of defence to which insects have 
recourse, I have noticed their motions. These shall b^ 
the subject of the present letter. I shall not, however^ 
confine myself to those by which they seek to escapd 
from their enemies ; but take a larger and more com- 
prehensive survey of them, including not only every 
species of locomotion, but also the movements they give 
to different parts of their body when in a state of re* 
pose : and in order to render this survey more com- 
plete, I shall add to it some account of the various or- 
gans and instruments by which they move. 

Whenever you go abroad in summer, wherever you 
turn your eyes and attention, you will see insects in 
motion. They are flying or sailing everywhere in the 
air ; dancing in the sun or in the shade ; creeping 
slowly, or marching soberly, or running swiftly, or 
jumping upon the ground; traversing your path in all 
directions ; coursing over the surface of the waters, or 
swimming at every depth beneath ; emerging from a 
subterranean habitation, or going into one ; climbing 
up the trees, or descending from them ; glancing from 
flower to flower; now alighting upon the f^arth and 
waters, and now leaving them to follow the impulse of 
their various instincts; sometimes travelling singly; at 


other times in countless swarms : these the busy chil- 
dren of the day, and those of the ni<rht. If you return 
to your apartment — there are these ubiquitaries — some 
flying about — others pacing against gravity up the walls 
or upon the cieling — others walking with ease upon 
the glass qf your windows, and some even venturing 
to take tlieir station on your own sacred person, and 
asserting their right to the lord of the creation. 

This universal movement and action of these restless 
little animals gives life to every part and portion of our 
globe, rendering even tiie most arid desert interesting. 
From their visitations every leaf and flower become 
animated ; the very dust seems to quicken into life, and 
the stones, like those thrown by Deucalion andPyrrha, 
to be metamorphosed into locomotive beings. In the 
variety of motions which they exhibit, we see, as Cu- 
vier remarks'', tliose of every other description of ani- 
mals. They walk, run, and jump with the quadru- 
peds ; they fly with the birds; they glide with the ser- 
pents ; and they swim with the fish. And the provi- 
sion made for these motions in the structure of their 
bodies is most wonderful and various. " If I was 
minded to expatiate," says the excellent Derham, " I 
might take notice of the admirable mechanism in those 
that creep; the curious oars in those amphibious in- 
sects tnat"s\yim and walk; the incomparable provision 
made in the^ feet of such as walk or hang upon smooth 
surfaces ; ^he great strength and spring in the legs of 
such as leap ; the strong-made feet and talons of such 
as dig ; and, to name no more, the admirable faculty 
of such as cannot fly, to convey themselves with speed 

i* J nafom. Compar. i. 444. 


and safety, by the help of their webs, or some other 
artifice, to make their bodies lighter than the air^." 

Since the motions, and instruments of motion, of in- 
sects are usually very different in their preparatory 
states, from what they are in the imago or perfect state, 
1 shall therefore consider them separately, and divide 
ray subject into — motions of larvae, — motions of pupae, 
— and motions of perfect insects. 

I. Amongst larvcB there are two classes of movers — 
Apodous larvEE, or those that move without legs, — and 
Pedate larvae, or those that move by means of legs. I 
must here observe, that by the term legs, which I use 
strictly, I mean only jointed organs, that have free mo- 
tion, and can walk or step alternately : not those spu- 
rious legs without joints, that have no free motion, and 
cannot walk or take alternate steps ; such as support 
the middle and anus of the larvas of most Lepidopfei'a 
and saw-flies (TenthredinidcE). 

Apodous larvae seldom have occasion to take long 
jburneys; and many of them, except when about to as- 
sume the pupa, only want to change their place or pos- 
ture, and to follow their food in tlie substance, whether 
animal or vegetable, to which, when included in the 
egg, the parent insect committed them. Legs there- 
fore would be of no great use to them, and to these 
last a considerable impediment. They are capable of 
three kinds of motion; — they either walk, or jump, or 
swim. I use zoalking in an improper sense, for want of 
a better term equally comprehensive : for some may be 
stiid to niove by gliding; and others (I mean those 

a PTtysku-Thcol. I'A. 13. 363. 


that, fixing- the head to any point, bring the tail up to 
it, and so proceed) by stepj iiig. 

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

I shall begin the list of walkers, the movements of 
which are aided by various instruments, with one which 
is well known to most people,— the grub of the nut- 

a Encyd. Brit,, art. Physiology, 709. b Cuvier, Jnat. Corny, i. 430, 
VOL.11. T 


Aveevil (Curculio Nucum, L.). When placed upon a 
table, after lying fome time, perhaps, bent in a bow, 
with its head touching its tail, at last it begins to move, 
which, though in no certain direction, it docs with 
more speed than might be expected. Rcisel I'ancied 
that this animal had feet furnished with claws ; but in 
this, as De Geer justly observes, he was altogether 
mistaken, since it has not the least rudiment of them, 
its motion being produced solely by the alternate con- 
traction and extension of the segments of the body, as- 
sisted, perhaps, by the Heshy prominences of its sides. 
— Other larvcB have this annular motion aided by a 
slimy secretion, which gives them further hold upon 
the plane on which they are moving, and supplies in 
some degree the place of legs or claws. That of the 
weevil of the common figwort {Cionus Scrophularice, 
Latr.) is always covered with slime, which enables it, — 
though it renders its appearance disgusting, — to walk 
with steadiness, by the mere lengthening and shortening 
of its segments, upon the leaves of that plant^.— Of this 
kind also are those larvae, mentioned above '', received 
by De Geer from M. Ziervogel, which, adhering to 
each other by a slimy secretion, glide along so slowly 
upon the ground as to be a quarter of an hour in going 
tlie breadth of the hand, whence the natives call their 
bands Gards-drag". 

As a further help, others again call in the assistance 
of their unguiform mandibles. These, which are pe- 
culiar to grubs with a variable membranaceous head, 
especially those of the lly tribe (3Iuscid(e), when the 
animal does not use them, are retracted not only within 

a De Geer, V. 210. b See above, p. 7. c De Geer, vi. 338. 


the head, but even within the segments behind it*; but 
when it is moving' they are protrnded, and lay hold of 
the surface on which it is placed. They were long 
ago noticed l)y the accurate Ray. " This blackness in 
the head," says he, speaking of the maggot of the com- 
mon llesh ily, " is caused by two black spines or hooks, 
which when in motion it puts forth, and fixing them 
in the ground, so drags along its body*"." — The larvae 
of the aphidivorous flies {St/rpl/us, F.), the ravages of 
w hich amongst the Aphides 1 have before described to 
you '^, transport themselves from place to place in the 
same way, walking by means of their teeth. Fixing 
their hind part to the sidjstance on which they are 
moving, they give their body its greatest possible ten- 
sion; and, if I may so speak, thus take as long a step 
as they can : next, laying hold of it with their mandi- 
bles, by setting free the tail and relaxing the tension, 
the former is brought near the head. Thus the animal 
proceeds, and thus will even walk upon glass''. Some 
grubs, as the lesser house-fly (Musca domestica minor, 
De Geer), have only one of these claw-teeth : and in 
some they have the form as well as the office of legs''. 
Bonnet mentions an apodous larva, that, before it can 
use its mandibles, is obliged to spin, at certain intervals, 
little hillocks or steps of silk; of which it then lays hold 
by them, and so drags itself along. 

Besides their mandibular hooks, some of these grubs 

a De Geer, vi. 65. b Hht. Lis. 270. c Vol. I. 2d Ed. 264. 
d Reaumur, iii. 369. 

e Vol. 1. 2d Ed. 138. De Geer, vi, 76. Reaumur, iv. 376. Swamm. 
Bibl. Nat. Ed. Hill, ii. 46. a. t. xxxix./. 3. h h. 

T 2 



supply the want of legs by means of claws at their anns^ 
Thus that of the flesh-fly, Ray tells us in tlie place just 
<|Uoted, pushes itself by the protruded spines (if its tail. 
The larva also of a long-legged gnat ( Tipula rcplicata, 
L.), which in that state lives in the water, is furnished 
with these aiial claws, which, in conjunction with its an- 
nular tension and relaxation, and the hooks of its mouthy 
assist it in walking over the aquatic plants'*. 

A remarkable difterence, according to their station, 
obtains in the bots ofgad-Hies; those that are subcutane- 
ous {CutkoUc, Clark) having no unguiform mandibles; 
while those that are gastric {GastricoJce, Clark), and 
those that inhabit the maxillary sinuses ofanimals(C«- 
•a'cofe, Clark), are furnished with them. In tlvisvve evi- 
dently see Creative Wisdom adapting means to their 
end. For the cuticular bots having no plane surface 
to move upon, and imbibing a liquid food, in them the 
mandibular hooks would be superfluous. But they are 
furnished with other means by which they can accom- 
plish such motions, and in contrary directions, as are ne- 
cessary to them; the anterior part of each segment be- 
ing beset with numbers of very minute spines, not visi- 
ble except under a strong magnifier, sometimes arranged 
in bundles, which all look towards the anus ; and the 
posterior part is as it were paved with similar hooks, but 
smaller, which point to the head. Thus we may con- 
ceive, when the animal wants to move forward, that it 
pushes itself by the first set of hooks, keeping the rest, 
which would other wise impede motion in that direction, 
pressed close to its skin — or it may depress that part 

a De Geer, vi. 335, 


of the seg^nient ; — and wlion it would move backwards 
that it employs the second '. The other descriptions of 
bot?, not being- embedded in the flesh but fixed to a 
plane, are armed with the mandibles in question, by 
which they can not only suspend themselves in their 
several stations, but likewise, with the aid of the spines 
with which their segments also are furnished, move at 
their pleasure ''. Other larvse of flies, as well as the 
bots, lire furnislied with spines or hooks — by which 
lliey take stronger hold — to assist them in their mo- 
tions. Those mentioned in my last letter as inhabiting 
the nests of humble-bees'^, besides the six radii that 
arm their anus, and which perhaps may assist them in 
locomotion, have the margin of their body fringed with 
a double row of short spines '\ which are, doubtless, 
useful in the same way. 

The next order of walkers amongst apodous larvas 
are those that move by means of fleshy tuberculiform 
or pediform prominences, — which last resemble the 
spurious legs of the caterpillars of most Lepidopfera. 
Some, a kind of monopods, have only one of such pro- 
minences, which being always fixed almost under the 
head, may serve, in some degree, the purpose of an 
unguiform mandible. The grub of a kind of gnat ( Ti- 
pula stercoraria, De Geer), and also another, probably 
of the Tipulidan tribe (found by De Geer in a subpu- 
trescent stalk of Angelica which he was unable to trace 

a Reaum. iv. 416. t. xxxvi. /. 5. Compare Clark On the Bots, &c. 48. 

b Mr. Clark (ibid. 62) observed only rough points on the bofs of the 
sheep, but these also have spines or hooks looking towards the anus. 
Reaum. iv. 556. t. xxxv. /« 11, 13, 15. 1 also observed them myself in 
the same grub. c See above, p. 223. 

dPLATEXlX. FiC. 11. 


to the fly), have each a fleshy leg on the underside of 
the first segment, which points towards the, head and 
assists them in their motions "". — Others again go a little 
further, and are supported at their anterior extremity 
by' a pair of spurious legs. An aquatic larva of a most 
singular form, and of the same tribe, figured by Reau- 
mur, is this circumstanced. In this case the processes 
in question proceed from the head, and are armed with 
claws ''. Would you think it — another Tipnlidan grub 
is distinguished by three legs of this kind ? It was first 
noticed by De Geer under the name of Tipula maculata 
{Tani/pus, Meig.), who gives the following account of 
its motions and their organs : — It is found, he observes, 
in the water of swampy places and in ditches, is not 
bigger than a horse-hair, and about a quarter of an 
inch in length. Its mode of swimming is like that of a 
serpent, with an undulating motion of the body, and it 
sometimes walks at the bottom of the water and upon 
aquatic plants. The most remarkable part of it are 
its legs, called by Latreille, but it should seem impro- 
perly, tentacula. They resemble, by their length and 
rigidity, wooden legs. The anterior leg is attached to 
the underside, but towards the head, of the first seg- 
ment of the body. It is long and cylindrical, placed 
perpendicularly or obliquely, according to the different 
movements the animal gives it, and terminates in two 
feet, armed at their extremity by a coronet of long move- 
able hooks. These feet, like the tentacula of snails, are 
retractile within the leg, and even within the body, 
so that only a little stump, as it were, remains with- 

a De Geer, vi. /. xxii. f. 15, /. t. xviii, f. S, p% 
b Reaiun. v. t. vi. f. 5, mm. 


out. The insect moves them both together, as a lame 
man does his crutches, either backwards or forwards. 
The two posterior legs are placed at the anal end of 
the body. They are similar to the one just described, 
but larger, and entirely separate from each other, being 
not, like them, retractile within the body, but always 
stiff and extended. These also are armed with hooks. 
In Avalking, this larva uses these two legs much as the 
caterpillars of tlie moths, called Gconwlrcr, do theirs. 
By the inflection of the anus it can give them any kind 
of lateral movement, except that it can neither l)end 
nor shorten them, since like a wooden leg, as 1 have 
before observed, they always remain stiff and extend- 
ed''. Lyonet had observed this larva, or a species 
nearly related to it ; but he speaks of it as having four 
legs, two before and two behind. Pro])ably, when he 
examined them, the common base, from which the feet 
I are branches, was retracted within the body"*. 

Generally speaking, however, in these apodous walk- 
ers the place of legs is supplied by fleshy and often 
retractile mamillse or tubercles. By means of these and 
a slimy secretion, unaided by mandibular hooks, the ca- 
terpillar of a little moth {Ifeputlus Tcstudo, Y.Apoda^ 
Haworth) moves from place to place '^. — A subcuta- 
neous larva belonging to the same order, that mines 
the leaves of the rose, moves also by tubercular legs 
assisted by slime. It has eighteen homogeneous legs, 
with which, when removed from its house of conceal- 
ment, it will walk well upon any surface, whether ho- 

aDeCecr, vi. 395—. Plate XXIII. Fig. 7. Foreleg, u. Hind- 
legs, iS. b Lesser Z.. i, 96. i;o;e t. 
»; Klemann, Be?7)rtg-t, 33?. 


rizontal, inclined, or even vertical*. But the greatest 
number of legs of this kind that distinguish any known 
larva, is to be observed in that of a two- winged fly 
(SccEva Pj/raslri,F.) that devours the Aphides of the 
rose. This animal has six rows of tubercular feet, with 
which it moves, each row consisting of seven, making 
in all forty-two''. — The grub of the weevil of the dock 
(Curculio RumiciSy L.) has twenty-four tubercular legs ; 
but, what is remarkable, the six anterior ones, being 
longer than the rest, seem to represent the real legs, 
while the others represent the spurious ones, of lepi- 
dopterous larvcB. These legs, however, are all fleshy 
tubercles, and have no claws, the place of which is 
supplied by slime which covers all the underside of the 
body, and hinders the animal from falling ^ Another 
weevil (Lixus paraplecticus, F.) produces a grub in- 
habiting the water-hemlock, which has only six tuber- 
cles that occupy the place and are representatives of 
the legs of the perfect insect''. 

Some larvaB have these tubercles armed with claws. 
The maggot of a fly described by De Geer under the 
name o{ JMusca plumata, but which Linne makes a va- 
riety of Sj/rphus mj/sfaceus, F., has six pair of them, 
each of which has three long claws. This aniuial has 
a radiated anus, and seems related to those flies that 
live in the nests of humble-bees^. 

Insects in the peculiarities of their structure, as we 
have seen in many instances, sometimes realize the 
wildest fictions of the imagination. Should a traveller 
tell you that he had seen a quadruped whose legs v.ere 

a De Geer, i. 447— . t.xxxi.f. 17. b Tbid. vi. HI. 

c Ibid, V. 233. d Ibid. i:28. e Ibid. vi. 137. /, viii./. 8, ". 


on its hack, you would immediately conclude that he 
was playing^ upon your credulity, and had lost that re- 
gard to truth which ought to distii)f»uish the narratives 
of persons of his dcficription. What then will you say 
to me, when I affirm, upon the evidence of two most 
unexceptionable witnesses, Reaumur and De Geer, 
that there are insects which exhil»it this extraordinary 
structure ? The grub of a little gali-tly, appearing to 
be Ci/nips Quercus inferus of Linne — which inhabits a 
ligneous gall resembling a berry to be met with on the 
underside of oak-leaves — was found by the former to 
have on its back, on the middle of each segment, a re- 
tractile ilcsljy protuberance that resemliled strikingly 
the spurious legs of some caterpillars. A little atten- 
tion will convince any one, argues Reaumur, that the 
legs of insects circumstanced like the one under consi- 
deration, if it has any, should be on its back. For this 
grub — inhabiting a spherical cavity, in which it lies 
rolled up as it were in a ring — when it wants to move, 
will be enabled to do so, in this hollow sphere, with 
much more facility, by lueans of legs on the middle of 
its back, than if they were in their ordinary situation "^. 
So wisely has Providence ordered every thing. — An- 
other similar instance is recorded by De Geer, which 
indeed had previously been noticed, though cursorily, 
by the illustrious Frenchman ''. There is a little larva, 
he observes, to be found at all seasons of the year, the 
depth of winter excepted, in stagnant waters, which 
keeps its body always doubled as it were in two, against 

a Reaum. iii. 496. t. xXv.f. ?, 

'-'> Ibid. Mam. de CAcad, Roy. des Scien. de Paris, An. 1714. j , "^OS. 



the sides of ditches or the stalks of aquatic plants. If 
it is placed in a glass half full of Avater, it so fixes 
itself against the sides of it, that its head and tail are 
in the water while the remainder of the body is out 
of it; thus assuming- the form of a siphon, the tail 
end being the longest. When this animal is disposed 
to feed, it lifts its head and places it horizontally on 
the surface of the water, so that it forms a right angle 
with the rest of the body, which always remains in a 
situation perpendicular to the surface. It then agi- 
tates, with vivacity, a couple of brushes, formed of 
hairs and fixed in the anterior part of the head, which 
producing a current towards the mouth, it makes its 
meal of the various species of aniraalcula, abounding 
in stagnant waters, that come within the vortex thus 
produced. As these animals require to be firmly fixed 
to the substance on which they take their station, and 
their back is the only part, when they are doubled as 
just described, that can apply to it, — they are furnished 
with minute legs armed with black claws, by which 
they are enabled to adhere to it. They have ten of 
these legs : the four anterior ones, which point towards 
the head and are distant from each other, are placed 
upon the fourth and fifth dorsal segments of the body ; 
and the six posterior ones, which point to the anus and 
are so near to each other as at first to look like one 
leg, are placed on the eighth, ninth, and tenth. When 
the animal moves, the body continues bent, and the 
sixth segment, which is without feet and forms the 
summit of the curve, goes first f. De Geer named the 

a De, vi. 380— /. xxiv,/. U9. 


fly it produces Tipida amphibia: it seems not clear, 
from his figure, to which of the modern genera of the 
Tipulida; it belongs. 

I come now to the jumping apodes, and one of this 
description will immediately occur to your recollec- 
tioji, — that I mean which revels in our richest cheeses, 
and produces a little black shining fly (Tephritis putris, 
F.). These maggots have long been celebrated for their 
saltatorious powers. They effect their tremendous leaps 
— laugh not at the term, for they are truly so when 
compared with what human force and agility can ac- 
complish — in nearly the same manner as salmon are 
stated to do when they wish to pass over a cataract, 
by taking their tail in their mouth, and letting it go 
suddenly. When it prepares to leap, our larva first 
erects itself upon its anus, and then, bending itself into 
a circle by bringing its head to its tail, it pushes forth 
its unguiform mandibles, and fixes them in two cavi- 
ties in its anal tubercles. All being thus prepared, it 
jiext contracts its body into an oblong, so that the two 
halves are parallel to each other. This done, it lets 
go its hold with so violent a jerk that the sound pro- 
duced by its mandibles may be readily heard, and the 
leap takes place. Svvammerdam saw one, whose length 
did not exceed the fourth part of an inch, jump in this 
manner out of a box six inches deep; which is as if at, 
man six feet high should raise himself in the air by 
jumping 144 feet! He had seen others leap a great 
deal higher*. The grub of a little gnat lately noticed 
(Tipiila stercoraria, De Geer) has a similar faculty, 
though executed in a manner rather different. These 

n ; Bi'jl. Nat. Ed. HiU, ii, 64 b. 


larvae, which inhabit horse-dung, though deprived of 
feet, cannot move by annular contraction and dilata- 
tion ; but are able, by various serpentine contortions, 
aided by their mandibles, to move in the substance 
which constitutes their food. Should any accident re- 
move them from it. Providence has enabled them to 
recover their natural station by the power I am speak- 
ing of When about to leaj), they do not, like tlie 
cheese-fly, erect themselves so as to form an angle with 
the plane of posilion ; but lying horizontally, they 
bring the anus near the head, regulating the distance 
by the length of the leap they mean to take; when hx- 
ing it firmly, and then suddenly resuming a rectilinear 
position, they are carried through the air sometimes 
to the distance of two or three inches. They appear to 
have the power of flattening their anal extremity, and 
even of rendering it concave; by means of which it 
niay probably act as a sucker, and so be more firmly 
fixable ^. — The grub of a fly whose proceedings in that 
state I have before noticed^ (Lrptis Vermileo^ F), will, 
when removed from its habitation, endeavour to re- 
cover it by leaping. Indeed this mode of motion seems 
often to be given to this description of larva? by Pro- 
vidence, to enable them to return to their natural sta- 
tion, when by any accident they have wandered away 
from it. 

Many apodous larvae inhabit the water, and there- 
fore must be furnished with means of locomotion proper 
io that element. To this class belongs the common 
gnat {Cidcx pipiens, L.), which being one of our great- 
est torments, compels us to feel some curiosity about 
a De Geer, vi. 389— ^ Vol. I. 2d Ed. 43':. 


its history. Its larva is a very singular creature, fur- 
nished with a remarkable anal apparatus for respira- 
tion, by which it usually remains suspended at the sur- 
ftice of tlie water. If disposed to descend, it seenis to 
sink by the weight of Its body ; but wlien it would 
move upwards again, it eflects its purpose by alter- 
nate contortions of the upper and lower halves of it, 
and thus it moves with much celerity. The laminae or 
swimmers, which terminate its anus% are doubtless of 
use to it in promoting this purpose. It does not, that 
I ever observed, move in a lateral direction, but only 
from the surface downwards, and vice versa. — Another 
dipterous larva (Corethra culiciformis, Meig-,) which 
much resembles that of the gnat in form, differs from 
it in its motions and station of repose. For, instead of 
being suspended at the surface with its head down- 
wards, it usually, like fishes, remains in a horizontal 
position in the middle of the water. When it ascends 
to the surface, it is always by means of a few strokes 
of its tail, so that its motion is not equable, sed per 
saltus. It descends again gradually by its own weight, 
and regains its equilibrium by a single stroke of the 
tail''. — A well known lly {Stratj/omis Chamceleon, F.), 
in its first state an aquatic animal, often remains sus- 
pended, by its radiated anus, at the surface of the 
water, with its head downwards. But when it is dis- 
posed to seek the bottom or to descend, by bending the 
radii of its tail so as to form a concavity, it includes in 
them a bubble of air, in brilliancy resembling silver 
or pearl; and then sinks with it by its own weight. 
AVhen it would return to the surface it is by means of 

a Rtaiiin. iv. /. 43./. 3. nn. b De Geer, v;.375. t. xxiii./. 4,5. 


this bubble, which is, as it were, its air-balloon. If it 
moves upon the surface or horizontally, it bends its 
body alternately to the right and left, contracting it- 
self into the form of the letter S ; and then extending 
itself again into a straight line, by these alternate move- 
ments it makes its way slowly in the water''. 

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

I come now to pedate larvae, or those that move by 
means of proper or articulate legs. These legs (gene- 
rally six in nun)ber, and attached to the underside of 
the three first segments of the body) vary in larvae oi' 
the different orders : but they seem in most to have 
joints answering to the hip (coxa) ; trochanter ; thigh 
(^ femur) ; shank (tibia) ; foot (tarsus), of perfect in- 
sects, the legs of which they include. Cuvier, speaking 
of Coleopterji and some Ncnroplera, mentions only three 
joints. But many in these orders (amongst which he 
included the Trichoptera) have the joints I have euu- 

a Swamra. BiA.NaU Ed. Hill,ii. 44. b. 47. a. 


merated. To name no more, the Scaraba;ida^, Dj/tiscij 
Silpha;, Stap/ij//hii, Ciclmklw, and Gi/rini, amongst co- 
leopterous larvae ; and the PhrT/ganew, as well as the 
Lib(iluUd(v and Ephemercv, amongst Cuvier's NeurO' 
ptera, — have these joint-, and in many the last termi- 
nates in a double claw''. In some coleopterous genera 
the tarsus seems absent or obsolete. The larva of the 
lady -bird (Coccinclla) affords an example of the for- 
mer kind, and that o^ ChrT/somela of the latter''. These 
joints are very visible in the legs of caterpillars of Z*e- 
pidoptera, and their tarsus is armed with a single claw". 
The larva; that have these legs walk with them some- 
times very swiftly. In stepping- they set forward at the 
same time the anterior and posterior legs of one side, 
and the intermediate one of the other; and so alter- 
nately on each side. 

Pedate larvje are of two descriptions : those that to 
perfect legs add spurious ones with or without claws, 
and those that have only perfect legs. I begin with 
the former — those that have both kinds of legs. But 
first I must make a few remarks upon spurious legs. 
Because their muscles, instead of the horny substance 
that protects them in perfect legs, are covered only by 
a soft membrane, they have been usually denominated 
membranaceous legs : since, however, they are tempo- 
rary, vanishing altogether when the insect arrives at 
its perfect state, — are merely used, for they do not 
otherwise assist in this motion, as props to hinder its 

a For examples of larvae Laving these joints, sec Dc Geer, iv. 289. 
i.xiii.f.W. ii. t.xVi.f.3. /,xvi. /.5, 6, t.x\x.fA.&c. 
Ibid. V. ^xi. /. il. t. ix. /. 9, o. 
c Lyonet, TraiU Anatom. t. iii. /. 8. 


long body, when it walks, from trailing- on the ground; 
to push agairjst the plane of position ; and, by means 
of their hooks or ciaws, to fix itself firmly to its sta- 
tion when it feeds or reposes, — I shall therefore call 
them prolegs (propedes). These organs consist of 
three or four folds, and are commonly terminated, 
though not always, by a coronet or semicoronet of very 
minute crooked claws or hooks. These claws, which 
sometimes amount to nearly a hundred on one proleg, 
are alternately longer and shorter. They are crooked 
at both enus, and. are attached to the proleg by the 
back by means of a membrane, which covers about 
two-thirds of their length, leaving their two extremi- 
ties naked. Of these the upper one is sharp, and the 
lower blunt. The sole, or part of the prolegs within 
the clav»'s, is capable of opening and shutting. When 
the aniiiial walks, that they may not impede its mo- 
tion, it is shut, and the claws are laid fiat with their^ 
points inwards ; but Avhen it wishes to fix itself, the 
sole is opened, becoming of greater diameter than be- 
fore, and the claws stand erect with their points out- 
wards. Thus they can lay stronger hold of the plane 
of position''. 

The number of these prolegs varies in different spe- 
cies and families. In the numerous tribes of saw-flies 
{Tenthredo, L.), the larvae of which resenible those of 
I.epidopfera, and are called by Reaumur spurious ca- 
terpillars {fausses chenilles), one family {Cinibex^ F. 
J^ophyrus^ Latr.) has sixteen prolegs; a second {Hy- 
lotoma, Latr. &c.) fourteen: another {Tenllircdo, F.) 
twelve; and a fourth {Lyda^ F.) none at all, having only 

a Lyonet,8£— ^ iii./. 10-16. 


the six perfect legs. — The majority of larvae of Lepi- 
doptera have ten prolegs, eight being attached, a pair on 
each, to the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth segments 
of the body, and two to the twelfth or anal segment^. 
The caterpillar of the puss-moth {P. Bomhi/x Vinula^ 
1^.) and some others, instead of the anal prolegs, have 
two tails or horns. A heniigeometer, described by De 
Geer, has only six intermediate prolegs, the posterior 
pair of which are longer than the rest to assist the anal 
pair in supporting the body in a posture more or less 
erect ''. Other hemigeometers, of which kind is the 
larva of Noctua Gamma, F. '', have only six prolegs, 
four intermediate and two anal. The true geometers or 
surveyors {Geometi'oi) have only two intermediate and 
two anal prolegs. Many grubs of Coleoptera, espe- 
cially those of Staphj/lini, Silphce, &c. which are long 
and narrow, are furnished with a stiff joint at the anus, 
which they bend downwards and use as a prop to pre- 
vent their body from trailing. This joint, though with- 
out claws, may be regarded as a kind of proleg, which 
supports them when they walk "^ ; and probably may 
assist their motion by pushing against the plane of po- 

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

a Lyonet, uhi supr. t. 1. /. 4. b De Geer, i. 379. /. xxv. /. 1-3. 

c Vol. 1. 2d Ed. 193. d De Geer, i. 12. 40. t. i. /. 27. q. 

t.y\.f. 11. e. 



Amongst those that walk, some are remarkable for 
the sloM'ness of their motion, while others are extremely 
swift. The caterpillar of the hawk-moth of the Fili- 
pendula {Zi/gcena Filipendulce, F,) is of the former de- 
scription, moving in the most leisurely manner; while 
thatof J3owiZ>y.r lejwrina, F., a moth unknown in Britain, 
is named after the hare, from its great speed. The ca- 
terpillar of another moth, the species of which seems 
not to be ascertained, is celebrated by De Geer for the 
wonderful celerity of its motions. When touched it 
darts away backwards as well as forwards, giving its 
body an undulating motion with such force and rapi- 
dity, that it seems to fly from side to side^. — Cuvier 
observes, that the grubs of some coleopterous and neu- 
ropt^rous insects, which have only the six perfect legs, 
by means of them lay hold of any surrounding object, 
and, fixing themselves to it, drag the rest of their body 
to that point ; and that those of many Capricorn beetles 
and their affinities (but that of Callidium violaceum is 
an apode '') have these legs excessively minute and al- 
most nothing; that they move in the sinuosities which 
they bore by the assistance of their mandibles, with 
which they fix themselves, and also of several dorsal 
and ventral tubercles, by which they are supported 
against the sides of their cavity, and push themselves 
along, in the same manner as a chimney-sweeper — by 
the pressure of his knees, elbows, shoulder-blades, 
and other prominent parts — pushes himself up a chim- 
ney ^ The larva of the ant-lion {Mi/rmeleon) — with the 
exception of one species, which moves in the common 

a De Geer, i. 424. b Kirbj in Linn. Trans, v. 258. 

c Aiiatom. Comp, i. 430. 


^vay — always walks backwards, even when its legs are 
cut off. 

The jumpers amongst pedate larvae, as far as they 
are known, are not very numerous, and will not de- 
tain you long. When the caterpillar of Noctua Qua- 
dra, F., a moth not uncommon, would descend from 
one branch or leap to another, it approaches to the 
edge of the leaf on which it is stationed, bends its body 
together, and retiring a little backwards, as if to take 
a good situation, leaps through the air, and however 
high the jump, alights on its legs like a cat. That of 
enother moth (Pi/ralis rostralis, F.) will also leap to a 
considerable height ^. 

Another species of motion, which is peculiar to 
larvae, — their mode I mean of climbing, — as it merits 
particular attention, will occupy more time. I have 
already related so many extraordinary facts in their 
history, that I promise myself you will not disbelieve me 
if I assert that insects either use ladders forthis purpose, 
or a single rope. You may often have seen the cater- 
pillar of the common cabbage-butterfly climbing up 
the walls of your house, and even over the glass of 
your windows. When next you witness this last cir- 
cumstance, if you observe closely the square upon 
which the animal is travelling, you will find tliat, like 
a snail, it leaves a visible track behind it. Examine 
this with your microscope, and you will see that it con- 
sists of little silken threads, which it has spun in a 
zigzag direction, forming a rope-ladder, by which it 
ascends a surface it could not otherwise adhere to. 
The silk as it comes from the spinners is a gummy 

a Rosel, I. iv. 112. vi. 14. 
u 2 


fluid, which hardens in the air; so that it has no diffi- 
culty in makinjo- it stick to the glass. — Many caterpil- 
lars that feed upon trees, particularly the geometers, 
have often occasion to descend from branch to branch, 
and sometimes, especially previously to assuming the 
pupa, to the ground. Had they to descend by the 
trunk, supposing them able to traverse with ease its 
rugged bark, what a circuitous route must they take 
before they could accomplish their purpose ! Provi- 
dence, ever watchful over the welfare of the most in- 
significant of its creatures, has gifted them with the 
means of attaining tl.ese ends, without all this labour 
and loss of time. From their own internal stores they 
can let down a rope, and prolong it indefinitely, which 
will enable them to travel where they please. Shake 
the branches of an oak or other tree in summer, and 
its inhabitants of this description, whether they were 
reposing, moving, or feeding, will immediately cast 
themselves from the leaves on which they were sta- 
tioned; and however sudden your attack, they are ne- 
vertheless still provided for it, and will all descend by 
means of the silken cord just alluded to, and hang sus- 
pended in the air. Their name of geometer was given 
them, because they seem to measure the surface they 
pass over, as they walk, with a chain. If you place one 
upon your hand, you w ill find that they draw a thread 
as they go ; when they move, their head is extended 
as far as they can reach with it ; then fastening their 
thread there, and bringing up the rest of their body, 
they take another step; never moving without leaving 
this clue behind them ; the object of which, however, 
is neither to measure, nor to mark its path that it may 


find it again : but thus, whenever the caterpillar falls 
or would descend from a leaf, it has a cord always 
ready to support it in the air, by lengthening- whicli it 
can with ease reach the ground. Thus it can drop 
itself without danger from the summit of the most 
lofty trees, and ascend again by the same road. As 
the silky matter is fluid when it issues from tlie spinners, 
it should seem as if the weight of the insect would be 
too great, and its descent too rapid, so as to cause it 
to fall with violence upon the earth. The little ani- 
mal knows how to prevent such an accident, by de- 
scending gradually. It drops itself a foot or half a 
foot, or even less, at a time ; then making a longer or 
shorter pause, as best suits it, it reaches the ground 
at last without a shock. From hence it appears that 
these larvae have power to contract the orifice of the 
spinners, so as that no more of the silky gum shall is- 
sue from it; and to relax it again when they intend to 
resume their motion downwards : consequently there 
must be a muscular apparatus to enable them to effect 
this, or at least a kind of sphincter, which, pressing the 
silk, can prevent its exit. From hence also it appears, 
that the gummy fluid which forms the thread must have 
gained a degree of consistence even before it leaves 
the spinner, since as soon as it emerges it can support 
the weight of the caterpillar. — In ascending, the ani- 
mal seizes the thread with its jaws as high as it can 
reach it; and then elevating that part of the back that 
corr:}sponds with the six perfect legs, till these legs be- 
come higher than the head, with one of the last pair it 
catches the thread; from this the other receives it, and 
so a step is gained : and thus it proceeds till it has 


ascended to the point it wishes to reach. At this time 
if taken it will be found to have a packet of thread, 
from which, however, it soon disengages itself, between 
the two last pairs of perfect legs''. To see hundreds of 
these little animals pendent at the same time from the 
boughs of a tree, suspended at different heights, some 
working their way downwards and some upwards, af- 
fords a very amusing spectacle. Sometimes when the 
wind is high, they aie blown to the distance of several 
yards from the tree, and yet maintain their threads un- 
broken. I witnessed an instance of this last summer, 
when numbers were driven far from the most extend- 
ed branches, and looked as if they were floating in 
the air. 

Having related to you what is peculiar in the mo- 
tions of pedate larvae upon the earth and in the air, I 
must next say something with respect to their locomo- 
tive powers in the water. Numbers of this description 
inhabit that element. — Amongst the beetles, the genera 
Dj/tiscus, Jfj/drophilus, Gyrinus, Elmis, Parnus, He- 
terocerns, Elophorus, Hydrcena^ &c. amongst the bug 
tribes (Cimicidce), Gerris, Velia, Uj/drometra, Noto- 
necta, Sigara, Nepa, Ranatra^ Naucoris ; a ^ew Lepi- 
doptera ; the majority of Trichoptera ; Libelhtla, Aeshjia, 
Agrion, Sialis, Ephemera, &c. anKuigst the Neurop- 
tera ; Culex and many of the Tipulidce from tiie dipte- 
rous insects ; and from the Aptera, AtaXy some PodurcE, 
and many of the Oniscida^, &c. — All these, in their 
larva state, are aquatic animals. 

The motions of these creatures in this state are 
various. Some walk on the ground under water ; some 

a Reaum. ii. 315 — 


move in midwater, either by the same motion of the 
legs as they use in walking", oi' by strokes, as in swim- 
ming; others for this purpose employ certain laminae, 
which terminate tlicir tails, as oars ; others again swim 
like fish, with an equable motion ; sonle move by the 
force of the water which they spirt from their anus ; 
others again swim about in cases, or crawl over ihe 
submerged bottom ; and others walk even on the sur- 
face of the water. I shall not now enlarge on all these 
kinds of water-motion, since many will come under 
consideration hereafter. 

There are two descriptions of larvas of Hydroiplnli^ 
one furnished with swimmers or anal appendages, by 
means of which they are enabled to swim; the other 
have them not, and hence are not able to rise from the 
bottom *. The lar vaa o^Dijthci^ by means of these nata- 
tory organs, will swim, though slowly, and every now 
and then rise to the surface for the sake of respiration. 
Those of Epliemerce^ when they swim, apply their legs 
to the body, and swim witli the swiftness and motions 
offish''. Those of the true may-fly (Semblis lufaria, 
F.), on the contrary, use their legs in swimming, and 
at the same time, by alternate inflexions, give to their 
bodies the undulations of serpents'^. But the larvas of 
certain dragon-flies {Aeshna and Libellula, F.) will af- 
ford you the most amusement by their motions. These 
larvae commonly swim very little, being generally found 
walking at the bottom on aquatic plants; when neces- 
sary, however, they can swim well, though in a sin- 
gular manner. If you see one swimming, you will 
find that the body is pushed forward by strokes, be- 

a Miger,^nn. du Mus. aiv. -Ill . b De Geer, ii. 621. c Ibid. 72S— 


tween which an interval takes place. The legs are 
not employed in producing this progressive motion, for 
they are then applied close to the sides of the trunk, 
in a state of perfect inaction. But it is effected by a 
strong ejacula*tion of water from the anus. When I 
treat upon the respiration of insects, I shall explain to 
you the apparatus by which these animals separate 
the air from the water for that purpose ; in the pre- 
sent case it is subsidiary to their motions, since it is 
by drawing in and then expelling the water that they 
are enabled to swim. To see this, you have only to 
put one of these larvae into a plate with a little water. 
You will find that, while the animal moves forward, a 
current of water is produced by this pumping, in a 
contrary direction. As the larva, between every stroke 
of its internal piston, has to draw in a fresh supply of 
water, an interval must of course take place between 
the strokes. Sometimes it will lift its anus out of the 
water, when a long thread of water, if I may so speak, 
issues from it^. 

II. I am next to say something upon the motions 
of insects in their pupa state. This is usually to our 
little favourites a state of perfect repose; but, as I 
long since observed"', there are several that, even when 
become pupae, are as active and feed as rapaciously as 
they do when they are either larvae or perfect insects. 
The Dermaptera, Orthoptera, I/einiptera, many of the 
Neuroptera, and the majority of the Aptera, are of this 
description. With respect to their motions, we may 

a De Geer, ii. 675 — Compare Ileaura. vi. 3D3 — 
bVoi.. 1. 2d Ed. 68. 


therefore consider pupae as of two kinds — active pupae 
and qidesccnl pupae. 

The motions of most insects whose pu[jae are acthc, 
are so similar in all their states, except where the 
wings are concerned, as not to need any separate ac- 
count. I shall therefore request you to wait for what 
I have to say upon them, till I enter upon those of the 
imago. One insect, however, of this kind, moving dif- 
ferently in its preparatory states, is entitled to notice 
under the present head. — In a late letter, I mentioned 
to you a bug (Rcduvius personatus, F.) which usually 
covers itself with a mask of dust, and fragments of 
various kinds, cutting a very grotesque figure'^. Its 
awkward motions add not a little to the effect of its 
appearance. When so disposed, it can move as well 
and as fast as its congeners ; yet this does not usually 
answer its purpose, which is to assume the appearance 
of an inanimate substance. It therefore hitches along 
in the most leisurely manner possible, as if it was 
counting its steps. Having set one foot forward (for 
it moves only one leg at a time), it stops a little before 
it brings up its fellow, and so on with the second and 
third legs. It moves its antennae in a similar way, 
striking, as it were, first with one, and then, after an 
interval of repose, with the other ^. — The pupae of gnats 
also, as well as those of many other aquatic Diptera, 
retain their locomotive powers, not however the free 
motion of their limbs. When not engaged in action, 
they ascend to the surface by the natural levity of their 
bodies, and are there suspended by two auriform re- 
spiratory organs in the anterior part of the trunk, 

a See above, p. 259. b De Geer, iii. 28^1. 


their abdomen being then folded under the breast; 
when disposed to descend the animal unfolds it, and 
by sudden strokes which she gives with it and her anal 
swimmers to the water, she swims, to the right and 
left as well as downwards, with as much ease as the 

Bonnet mentions a pupa which climbs up and down 
in its cocoon, — and that of the common glow-worm 
{Lampyris noctiluca, L.) will sometimes push itself 
along by the alternate extension and contraction of 
the segments of its body''. — Others turn round when 
disturbed. That of a weevil (Curculio Arator, L.), 
which spins itself a beautiful cocoon like fine gauze, and 
which it fixes to the stalks of the common spurrey (Sa- 
gina arvensiSf L.), upon my touching this stalk, whirled 
round several times with astonishing rapidity. — The 
chrysalis of a scarce moth {Bomhi/x dispar, F.) when 
touched turns round with great quickness ; but, as if 
fearful of breaking the thread by which it is suspended 
by constantly twisting it in one direction, it performs 
its I gyrations alternately from left to right, and from 
right to left"^. Generally speaking, quiescent pupfe 
when disturbed show that they have life, by giving 
their abdomen violent contortions. 

But the most extraordinary motion of pupae is jump- 
ing. In the year 1810 I received an account from a 
very intelligent young lady, who collected and studied 
insects with more than common ardour and ability, 
that a friend had brought her a chrysalis endued with 
this faculty. It was scarcely a quarter of an inch in 

a De Geer,vi. SOS. b Ibid. iv. 43. 

c Dumcril, Trail. Element, ii. 49. n. 603. 


length ; of an oval form ; its colour was a semitrans- 
parent brown, with a w! ite opake band round the 
middle. It was found attached, by one end, to the leaf 
of a bramble. It repeatedly jumped out oi an open 
pill-box that was an inch in heioht. When put into a 
drawer in which some other insects were impaled, it 
skipped from side to side, jassing- over their backs for 
nearly a quarter of an hour with surprising agility. 
Its mode of springing seemed to be by balancing itself 
upon one extremity of its case. About the end of Oc- 
tober one end of the case grew black, and from that 
time the motion ceased; and about the middle of April, 
in the following year, a very minute ichneumon made 
its appearance by a hole it had made at the opposite 
end. — So(ne time after I had received this history, I 
happened to have occasion to look at Reaumur's Me- 
moir upon the enemies of caterpillars, where I met with 
an account of a similar jumping chrysalis, if not the 
same. Round the nests of the processionary Bombyx, 
before noticed % he found numerous little cocoons sus- 
pended by a thread three or four inches long to a twig 
or a leaf, of a shortened oval form, and close texture, 
but so as the meshes might be distinguished. These 
cocoons were rather transparent, of a coffee-brown co- 
lour, and surrounded in the middle by a whitish band. 
When put into boxes or glasses, or laid on the hand, 
they surprised him by leaping. Sometimes their leaps 
were not more than ten lines, at others they were 
extended to three or four inches, both in height and 
length. When the animal leaps, it suddenly changes 
its ordinary posture (in which the back is convex and 

a.VcL. I. 2(! Kcl, 478; aod above, p. 23. 


touches the upper part of the cocoon, and the head and 
anus rest upon the loAver), and strikes the upper part 
with the head and tail, before its belly, which then be- 
comes the convex part, touches the bottom. This oc- 
casions the cocoon to rise in the air to a height propor- 
tioned to the force of the blow. At first sight this fa- 
culty seems of no great use to an animal that is sus- 
pended in the air; but the winds may probably some- 
times place it in a different and unsuitable position, 
and lodge it upon a leaf or tuig- : in this case it has 
it in its power to recover its natural station. Reau- 
mur could not ascertain the fly that should legitimately 
come from this cocoon, for different cocoons gave dif- 
ferent flies : whence it was evident that these ich- 
neumons were infested by their own parasite ^ This 
might be the case with that of the lady just mentioned. 
Perhaps, properly speaking, in this last instance the 
motions ought rather to be regarded as belonging to a 
larva; but as it had ceased feeding, and had inclosed 
itself in its cocoon, I consider it as belonging to the 
present head. 

You may probably here feel some curiosity to be in- 
formed how the numerous larvae that are buried in their 
pupa state, either in the heart of trees, under the earth, 
or in the waters, effect their escape from their various 
prisons and become denizens of the air, especially as 
you are aware that each is shrowded in a winding sheet 
and cased in a coffin. In most, however, if you exa- 
mine this coffin closely, you will see resurgam writ- 
ten upon it. What I mean is this. The puparimn or 
case of the animal is furnished with certain acute points 

a Reaum. ii. iHO. 


{admifdcuhi), generally single, but in some instances 
forked, looking- towards the anus, and usually placed 
upon transverse ridges on the back of the abdomen, 
but sometimes arming tlie sides or the margins of the 
segments. By this simple contrivance, aided by new- 
born vigour, when the time for its great change is ar- 
rived, the included prisoner of hope, if under ground, 
pushes itself gradually upwards, till reaching the sur- 
face its head and trunk emerge, when an opening in 
the latter being effected by its efforts, it escapes from 
its confinement, and once more tastes the sweets of li- 
berty and the joys of life. Those that are inclosed in 
trees and spin a cocoon, are furnished with points on 
the head, with which they make an opening in the for- 
mer. The pupa of the great goat-moth {Bombyx CoS' 
sus, F.) thus, by divers movements, keeps disengaging 
itself from this envelope, till it arrives at a hole in the 
tree which it liad made when a caterpillar ; when its 
anterior part having emerged, it stops short, and so 
escapes a fall that might destroy it. After some re- 
pose, in consequence of very violent efforts, the pu- 
parium opens, and it escapes from its prison^-. 

The insects of the Trichoptera order {Phryganea^ L.) 
are quiescent when they first assume the pupa, but be- 
come locomotive towards the close of their existence in 
that state. Since they inhabit the water when they be- 
come pupae, Providence has furnished them with the 
means of quitting that fluid without injury, when they 
are to exchange it for the air ; which in their winged 
siate is their proper sphere of action. I have before 

a I^one(, Trait. Anat. 15 — 


described to you the grates which shut up their cases 
when they became quiescent''; if they had no means 
of piercing these grates, they would perish in the wa- 
ters. The head of these pupae is provided at first with 
a particular instrument, which enables them to effect 
this purpose. The anterior part of the head is armed 
with a pair of hooks in form resembling the beak of a 
bird ; and with this, previously to their last change, 
they make an opening in the grate which, though it 
once defended, now confines them. But at this moment, 
perhaps, the insect has a considerable space of water 
to rise through before she can reach the surface. This 
is all wisely provided for; before she leaves the en- 
velope which covers her body, she emerges from the 
water, and fixes herself upon some plant or other ob- 
ject, the summit of which is not overflowed. But you 
will here, perhaps, ask — How can a pupa in her enve- 
lope, with all her limbs set fast, do this? This affords 
another instance of the wise provision of the benefi- 
cent Father of the universe for the welfare of his crea- 
tures. The antennae and legs of this tribe of insects, 
when they are pupae, are not included, as is the case 
with most that are quiescent in that state, in the gene- 
ral envelope ; but each in a separate one, so as to al- 
low it free motion. Thus the insect Avhen the time is 
come for its last change can use them (except the hind- 
legs, which being partly covered by the wing-cases re- 
main without motion) with ease. It then stretches out 
its antennsB, and steering with its legs makes for the 
surface. De Geer saw one just escaped from it's case 

a See above, p. 264. 


run and swir.i with surprising agility over the bottom 
of a saucer, in which he had put some cases of these 
flies ; and at last when he held a piece of stick to it, 
it got upon it, and having emerged from the water, 
prepared to cast its envelope. It is remarkable, that 
the envelope of the intermediate tarsi, like the poste- 
rior ones of Dytisci, is fringed on one side with hairs, 
to enable the insects to use them as swimming feet% 
while those neither of the larva nor imago are so cir- 

I am, &c. 

a De Geer, ii. 518— 



III. 1 HE motions of insects in their perfect or imago 
state are various, and for various purposes ; and the 
provision of organs by which they are enabled to effect 
them is equally diversified and wonderful. It will be 
convenient to divide this multifarious subject; I shall 
therefore consider their motions under two principal 
heads : — motions of insects reposing — and motions of 
insects in action ; — and this last head I shall further 
subdivide into motions whose object is change of place, 
and sportive motions. 

The first of these, motions of insects reposing, will 
not detain us long. The most remarkable is that of 
the long-legged gnats or crane-flies (TipulcB, F.). — 
When at rest upon any wall or ceiling, sometimes stand- 
ing upon four legs, and sometimes upon five, you may 
observe them elevate and depress their body alternately. 
This oscillating movement is produced by the weight 
of their body and the elasticity of their legs, and is con- 
stant and uninterrupted during their repose. Unless 
it be connected with the respiration of the animal, it is 
not easy to say what is the object of it. — Moths, when 
feeling the stimulus of desire, or under alarm, set their 
whole body into a tremor*. A living specimen of the 

a Peck iu Linn. Trans, xi. 92. 


hawk-moth of the willow being onee brought me, upon 
placing it upon my hand, after ejecting a milky fluid 
from its anus, it put its wings and body into a most ra- 
pid vibration, ^hich continued more than a minute, 
when it flew away. — A butterfly, called by Aurelians 
"The large skipper," (Ilesperia Sj/lvanus, F.) when 
it alights, — which it does very often, for they are never 
long on the wing, — always turns half-way round ; so 
that, if it settles with its head from you, it turns it to- 
wards you. 

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

" Their goldeo pinions ope and close ;" 

thus, it should seem, unless this motion be connected 
with their respiration, alternately warming and cool- 
ing their bodies. — ^You have probably noticed a very 
common little fly, of a shining black, with a black spot 
at the end of its wings {Tephritis vibrans, Latr., Seio- 
ptera, K. Ms.). It has received its trivial name (vi- 
brans) from the constant vibration which, when re- 
posing, it imparts to its wings. This motion also, I 
have reason to think, assists its respiration. — Some in- 
sects when awake are very active with their antennae, 
though their bodies are at rest. I remember one even- 
ing attending for some time to the proceedings of one 
of those may-flies {PhrT/ganea, L.) that are remark- 
able, like certain moths, for their long antennae. It was 
perched upon a blade of grass, and kept moving these 
organs, which were twice as long as itself, in all direc-^ 
tions, as if by means of them it was exploring ©^very 



thing that occurred in its vicinity. — Many Tipulas, and 
likewise some mites (Acarus vibrans and Gamasus tno- 
iatorius, F.), distinguished by long anterior legs, from 
this circumstance denominated pedes motatorii by Linne, 
holding them u[) in the air impart to them a vibratory 
motion, resembling that of the antennae of some in- 
sects*. — I scarcely need mention, what must oO^en have 
attracted your attention, the actions of flies when they 
clean themselves ; how busily they rub and wipe their 
head and thorax with their fore legs, and their wings 
and abdomen with their hind ones. — Perhaps you are 
not equally aware of tlie use to which the rove -beetles 
(Stuphj/linus, L.) put their long abdomen. They turn 
it over their back not only to put themselves in a tlireat- 
ening attitude, as I lately related'^, but also to fold up 
their wings with it, and pack them under their short 

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

The locomotions of these animals are walking, run- 
ning, jumping, climbing, flying, swimming, and bur- 
rowing. I begin with the walkers. 

The mode of their walking depends upon the num- 
ber and kind of their legs. With regard to these, 
insects may be divided into four natural classes ; viz. 
Hexapodsy or those that have only six legs : such are 
those of every order except the Aptera of Linne, of 
which only three or four genera belong to this class. — 
Octopods, or those that have eight legs, including the 
a De Geer, vi. 335. b See above, p. 237. 


tribes of mites {Acaridcn) ; spiders {Araneidce) ; long- 
legged spiders {Phalangidce) ; and scorpions (Scorpi- 
onidce): — Pol //pods, or those that ha\e fourteen legs, 
consisting of the woodlouse tribe (Oniscidcp) ; — and 
M?/riapods, or those that have more than fourteen legs 
— often more than a hundred — composed of the two 
tribes of centipedes {Scolopendridce) and millepedes 
(JididcL'). The first of these classes may be denomi- 
nated proper, and the rest improper insects. The legs 
of all seem to consist of the same general parts ; the 
hip, troclianter, thigh, shank, and foot ; the four first 
being usually without joints (though in the Araneidce, 
&c. the shank has two), and the foot having from one 
to above forty*. 

In walking and running, the hexapods, like the larvae 
that have perfect legs, move the anterior and posterior 
leg of one side and the intermediate of the other alter- 
nately, as I have often witnessed. De Geer, however, 
affirms, that they advance each pair of legs at the same 
time^; but this is contrary to fact, and indeed would 
make their ordinary motions, instead of walking and 
running, a kind of canter and gallop. Whether those 

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

Geoftroy, and after him most modern entomolooisfs, has taken the 
primary divisions of the Coleoptera order from the number of joints in the 
tarsus; but this, althou2;!i perhaps in the majority of cases it may aiford 
a natural division, will not universally. For — not to mention the in- 
stance of Pselaplius, clearly belonging to the Slaphylinidtr — both Oxyte- 
his, Grav., and another genus that I liavc separated from it {Carpali~ 
mifs, K. Ms,), have only two joints in their tarsi. In this tribe, therefore, 
it can only be used for secondary divisions. K, •> iii. 284. 

X 2 


that have more than six feet move in this way — which 
is not improbable — from the difficulty of attending at 
the same time to the movements of so many members, 
is not easily ascertained. 

The dog-tick {Ixodes Ricinus^ F.), if when young 
and active it moves in the same way that it does when 
swoln to an enormous size with blood, seems to afford 
an exception to the mode of walking just described. It 
first uses, says Ray, its two anterior legs as antennae 
to feel out its way, and then fixing them, brings the 
next pair beyond them, which being also fixed, it takes 
a second step with the anterior, and so drags its bloated 
carcase along ^. — Redi observes, that when scorpions 
walk they use those remarkable comb-like processes at 
the base of their posterior legs to assist them in their 
motions, extending them and setting them out from 
the body, as if they were wings : and his observation is 
confirmed by Amoreux, who calls them ventral swim- 
mers''. — I have often noticed a millepede {Julus ter- 
restris, L.), frequently found under the bark of trees, 
and where there is not a fi'ee circulation of air, the 
motions of which are worthy of attention. Observed at 
a little distance, it seems to glide over the surface, like 
a serpent, without legs; but a nearer inspection shows 
how its movement is accomplished. Alternate portions 
of its numerous legs are extended beyond the line of 
the body, so as to form an obtuse angle with it, while 
those in the intervals preserve a vertical direction. So 
that, as long as it keeps moving, little bunches of the 
legs are alternately in and out from one end to the 
other of its long body ; and an amusing sight it is to 

a Hist. Ins. 10. , b Redi Optisc, i. 80. Amoreux, 44 — 


see the undulating line of motion successively begin- 
ning at the head and passing oft" at the tail. — The mo- 
tion of centipedes (Scolopendra), as well as that of this 
insect and its congeners, is retrogressive as well as pro- 
gressive. Put your finger to the common one (S. mor- 
sitans, L.), and it will immediately retrograde, and with 
the same facility as if it was going forwards. This dif- 
ference, however, is then observable — it uses its four 
hind legs, which, when it moves in the usual way, are 
dragged after it. — Almost all the other apterous insects, 
as well as many of those in the other orders, can move 
in all directions ; backwards, and towards both sides, 
as well as forwards. Bonnet mentions a spider (not a 
spinner) that always walked backwards when it at- 
tacked a large insect of its own tribe; but when it had 
succeeded in driving it from a captive fly, which how- 
ever it did not eat, it walked forwards in the ordinary 

Insects vary much in their walking paces : some 
crawling along; others walking slowly; and others 
moving with a very quick step. The field-cricket 
(Aclieta campestris, F.) creeps very slowly — the bloody- 
nose beetle {Chri/somela tenebricosa) and the oil-beetle 
(Meloe Proscarahceus) march very leisurely ; the spider- 
wasps (Po»?p!Y««,F.) walk by starts, as it were, vibra- 
ting their wings, at the same time, witliout expanding 
them ; while flies, ichneumons, wasps, &c., and many 
beetles, walk as fast as they can. One insect, a kind of 
snake-fly (Raphidia Majitispa, F.), is said to walk upon 
its knees. The crane-flies (Tipula oleracea, L.) and 
shepherd-spiders (Phalangium, L.) have legs so dispro- 
portionately long, that they seem to walk upon stilts; 

a CEuvr. ii. 426, 


but when we consider that they have to walk over and 
amongst grass, — the former laying its eggs in meado\Ts, 
— rwe shall see the reason of this conformation. In- 
sects do not always walk in a right line ; for I have 
often observed the little midges (Ps7/c/wda, Latr.), 
when walking up glass, moving alternately from right 
to left and from left to right, as humble-bees fly, so as 
to describe small zig-zags. 

Numerous are the insects that run. Almost all the 
predaceous tribes, the black dors, clocks, or ground- 
beetles {Carah idee), and their fellow destroyers the Ci- 
cindelidce, — which last Linne, with much propriety, has 
denominated the tigers of tlie insect world, — are gifted 
with uncommon powers of motion, and run with great 
rapidity. The velocity, in this respect, of ants is also 
very great. — Mr. Delisie observed a fly — so minute as 
to be almost invisible — which ran nearly three inches 
in a demi-second, and in that space made 540 steps. 
Consequently it could take a thousand steps during one 
pulsation of the blood of a man in health''. Which is 
as if a man, whose steps measured two feet, should run 
at the incredible rate of more than twenty miles in a 
minute ! How astonishing then are the powers with 
which these little beings are gifted ! — The forest-fly 
(Uippobosca), and its kindred genus Ornithomi/ia pa- 
rasitic upon birds, are extremely difficult to take, as I 
have more than once experienced, from their extreme 
agility. I lost one from this circumstance two years 
ago that I found upon the sea-lark {Charadrius Hiati- 
cula, L.), and which appeared to be non-descript. 
Another most singular insect, which though apterous 
is nearly related to these — I mean the louse of the bat 

a Lesser, I. i. 248, note 24. 


{Nt/cteribia Vespertilionis, Latr.), is still more remark- 
able for its swiftness. Its legs, as appears from the ob- 
servations of Colonel Montague, are fixed in an unusual 
position on the upper side of the trunk. " It trans- 
ports itself," to use the words of the gentleman just 
mentioned, " with such celerity, from one part of the 
animal it inhabits, to the opposite and most distant, 
although obstructed by the extreme thickness of the 

fur, that it is not readily taken." " When two or 

three were put into a small phial, their agility appeared 
inconceivably great; for, as their feet are incapable of 
fixing upon so smooth a body, their whole exertion was 
employed in laying hold of each other; and in this 
most curious struggle they appeared actually flying in 
circles : and when the bottle was reclined, they would 
frequently pass from one end to the other w ith asto- 
nishing velocity, accompanied by the same gyrations : 
if by accident they escaped each other, they very soon 
became motionless : and as quickly were the whole put 
in motion again by the least touch of the bottle, or the 
movement of an individual. — Incredibly great also is 
the rapidity with which a little reddish mite, with two 
black dots on the anterior part of its back (Gama' 
sus Baccarum, F.), common upon strawberries, moves 
along. Such is the velocity with which it runs, that it 
appears rather to glide or fly than to use its legs. 

When insects walk or run, their legs are not the only 
members that are put in motion. They will not, or 
rather cannot, stir a step till their antenna are removed 
from their station of repose and set in action. When 
<he chafers (Scarabceidce) are about to move, these 

a Linn, Trans, xi. 13. 


organs, before concealed, instantly appear, and the 
laminae which terminate them being- separated from 
each other as widely as possible, they begin their march. 
They employ their antennae, however, not as feelers to 
explore surrounding objects, — their palpi being rather 
used for that purpose, — but, it should seem, merely 
to receive vibrations, or impressions from the atmo* 
sphere, to which these laminae, especially in the male 
cockchafers {Melolonthce^ F.), present a considerable 
surface. Yet insects that have filiform or setaceous an- 
tennae appear often to use them for exploring. When 
the turnip-beetle {Haltica oleracea, F.) walks, its an- 
tennae are alternately elevated and depressed. — The 
same thing takes place with some woodlice {Omscidce)^ 
which use them as tactors, touching the surface on each 
side with them, as they go along. This is not however 
constantly the use of this kind of antennae ; for I have 
observed that Cantharis livida, L. — a narrow beetle 
with soft elytra, common in flowers, — when it walks 
vibrates its setaceous antennae very briskly, but does 
not explore the surface with them. The parasitic tribes 
of Ichneumonidce, especially the minute ones, when 
they move vibrate these organs most intensely, and 
probably by them discover the insect to which the law 
of their nature ordains that they should commit their 
eggs ; some even using them to explore the deep holes 
in which a grub, the appropriate food of their larva, 
lurks ^. But upon this subject I shall have occasion to 
enlarge when I treat of the senses of insects. — Antennae 
are sometimes used as legs. A gnat-like kind of bug 
{Gerris vagabundns, F.) has very short anterior legs, 

a Marsham in Linn. Trans, iii. 26 — 


or rather arras, while the two posterior pair are very 
long. Its antennae also are long-. Wlien it walks, 
which it does very slowly, with a solemn measured step, 
its fore legs, which perhaps are useful only in climbing-, 
or to seize its prey, are applied to the body, and the 
antennae being bent, their extremity, which is rather 
thick, is made to rest upon the surface on which the 
animal moves, and so supply the place of fore legs^. — 
I have observed that mites often use the long hairs with 
which the tail of some species is furnished, to assist them 
in vyalking. 

Another mode of motion with which many insects are 
endowed is jumping. This is generally the result of 
the sudden unbending of the articulations of the poste- 
rior legs and other organs, which before had received 
more than their natural bend. This unbending im- 
presses a violent rotatory motion upon these parts, the 
impulse of which being communicated to the centre 
of gravity, causes the animal to spring into the air 
with a determinate velocity, opposed to its weight 
more or less directly •*. Various are the organs by 
which these creatures are enabled to ett'ect this mo- 
tion. The majority do it by a peculiar conformation 
of the hind legs ; others by a pectoral process ; and 
others, again, by means of certain elastic appendages 
to the abdomen. 

The hind legs of many beetles are furnished with re- 
markably large and thick posterior thighs. Of this de- 
scription are several species of weevils {CurculionidcB) ; 
for instance, Rynchcenus Alni, &c., F., and Ramphus 
Jlavicornisj Clairv. ; the whole tribe of skippers (Hal" 

a De Geer, iii, 324 — b Ciivier, yinat. Comp. i. 496 — 


tica, F.)? and the splendid African tribe of Sagra, F.% 
&c. The object of these disproportioned and clumsy 
thighs is to allow space for more powerful muscles, by 
which the tibiae, when the legs are unbent, are impelled 
with greater force. In the Orthoptera order all the 
grasshoppers {Gryllidce^ — including the genera Gryl- 
lotalpo ; Acheta ; Tridactijlus ; Gtyllus ; Locusia ; 
Pneumora ; Truxalis ; Acrydium ; and Tetrix of La- 
treille — are distinguished by incrassated posterior 
thighs ; which however are much longer, more taper- 
ing and shapely, (they are indeed somewhat clumsy in 
the two first genera, the crickets,) than those of most 
of the Coleoptera that are furnished with them. When 
disposed to leap, these insects bend their hind leg so as 
to bring the shank into close contact with the thigh — 
which has often a longitudinal furrow armed with a 
row of spines on each side, to receive it. The leg being 
thus bent, they suddenly unbend it with a jerk, when 
pushing against the plane of position, they spring into 
the air often to a considerable height and distance. 
A locust, which however is aided by its wings, it is said 
will leap two hundred times its own length''. — Aristo- 
phanes, in order to make the gi-eat and good Athenian 
philosopher, Socrates, appear ridiculous, represents 
him as having measured the leap of a flea ". In our 
better times scientific men have done this without being 
laughed at for it, and have ascertained that, compara- 
tively, it equalled that of the locust, being also tw^o 
hundred times its length. Being affected by muscular 
force, without the aid of wings, this is an astonishing 

a Oliv. Entom. n. 90, <. i. b Swamm, Bibl Nat. Ed. Hill, i. 123. b, 

c Aristopii. Nuhci, Act. i. Sc 2, 


]eap. — There are several insects however, that,aUhougIi 
they are furnished with incrassated posterior thighs, 
do not jump. Of this description are some beetles be- 
longing- to the genus Neci/dalis^ (Oedemera, Oliv.) F., 
in which this seems a peculiarity of the male : and 
amongst the Hi/mcuoplera^ not to mention others, se- 
veral species of C/ialcis, F., and all tViat are known of 
that singular genus Leucospis. 

Many insects, that jump by means of their posterior 
legs, have not these thighs. This is said to be the 
case with Scaphidium^ a little tribe of beetles^: and one 
of the same order, that seems to come between Anobium 
and Plilinus, found by our friend the Rev. R. Sheppard, 
and which I have named after him Choragus Sheppardi, 
is similarly circumstanced. — In the various tribes of 
frog-hoppers (Cicadiado'.), the posterior tibias appear to 
be principally concerned in their leaping. These are 
often very long, and furnished on their exterior mar- 
gin with a fringe of stiff hairs, or a series of strong 
spines, by pressing which against the plane of position 
they are supposed to be aided in effecting this motion. 
On this occasion they bend their legs like the grass- 
hoppers, and then unbending kick them out with vio- 
lence''. Many of them, amongst the rest Cicada spu- 
maria, have the extremity of the above tibiae armed 
with a coronet of spines ; these are of great use in 
pushing them off when the legs are unbended. This 
insect, Avhen about to leap, places its posterior thighs 
in a direction perpendicular to the plane of position, 
keeping them close to the body ; it next with great vio- 
lence pushes them out backwards, so as to stretch the 

« Trost, Beiirage: 40. b J)e Geer, iii, 161. 


leg in a right line. These spines then lay hold of the 
surface, and by their pressure enable the body to spring 
forwards, when, being assisted by its wings, it will 
make astonishing leaps, sometimes as much as five or 
six feet, which is more than 250 times its own length ; 
or as if a man of ordinary stature should be able at 
once to vault through the air to the distance of a quar- 
ter of a mile. Upon glass, where the spines are of no 
use, the insect cannot leap more than six inches ^. — The 
species of another genus of this order (Chermes, L.), 
that jump very nimbly by pushing out their shanks, are 
perhaps assisted in this motion by a remarkable horn 
looking towards the anus, which arms their posterior 
hip. — Some bugs that leap well, JLj/gwus saltatorius, F., 
&c., seem to have no particular apparatus to assist 
them, except that their posterior tibiae are very long. 
— Several of the minute ichneumons also jump with 
great agility, but by what means I am unable to say. — 
There is a tribe of spiders, not spinners, that leap even 
sideways upon their prey. One of these (Aranea sce- 
nica, L., Sallicus, Latr., Attus, Walck.), when about 
to do this, elevates itself upon its legs, and lifting 
its head seems to survey the spot before it jumps. 
When these insects spy a small gnat or fly upon a wall, 
they creep very gently towards it Avith short steps, till 
they come within a convenient distance, when they 
spring upon it suddenly like a tiger. — Bartram ob- 
served one of these spiders that jumped two feet upon 
a humble-bee. The most amusing account, however, 
of the motions of these animals is given by the cele- 
brated Evelyn in his Travels. When at Rome, he 

a De Geer, iii. 1T8. 


often observed a spider of this kind luintinjv the flies 
which alii^hted upon a rail on which was its station. 
It kept crawling under the rail till it arrived at the 
part opposite to the fly, when steal inp^ up it would at- 
tempt to leap upon it. If it discovered that it was not 
perfectly opposite, it would immediately slide down 
again unobserved, and at the next attempt would come 
directly upon the fly's back. Did the fly happen not to 
be within a leap, it would move towards it so softly, 
that its motion seemed not more perceptible than that 
of the shadow of the gnomon of a dial. If the intended 
prey moved, the spider would keep pace with it as ex- 
actly as if they were actuated by one spirit, moving 
backwards, forwards, or on each side without turning. 
When the fly took wing, and pitched itself behind the 
huntress, she turned round with the swiftness of thought, 
and always kept her head towards it, though to all ap- 
pearance as immoveable as one of the nails driven into 
the wood on which was her station : till at last, being 
arrived within due distance, swift as lightning she made 
the fatal leap and secured her prey*. I have had an 
opportunity of observing very similar proceedings in 
Salticus scenicuSy Latr. 

But the legs of insects are not the only organs by 
which they leap. The numerous species of the elastic 
beetles (Elater, L.), skip-jacks as some call them, per- 
form this motion by means of r pectoral process or mu- 
cro. These animals having very short legs, when laid 
upon their backs, cannot by their means recover a 
prone position. To supply this seeming defect in their 
structure, Providence has furnished them with an in- 

a Lvelyn, quoted in Hooke's Microgr. 200—. 


strument which, when they are so circumstanced, ena- 
bles them to spring into the air and recover their stand- 
ing. If you examine the breast {pectus) of one of these 
insects, you will observe between the base of the an- 
terior pair of legs a short and rather blunt process, the 
point of v/hich is towards the anus. Opposite to this 
point, and a little before the base of the intermediate 
legs, you will discover in the after-breast (posfpectus) 
aratherdeepcavity, in which the point is often sheathed. 
This simple apparatus is all that the insect wants to 
effect the above purpose. When laid upon its back, in 
your hand if you please, it will first bend back, so as 
to form a very obtuse angle with each other, the head 
and trunk, and abdomen and metathorax, by which 
motion the mucro is quite liberated from its sheath ; 
and then bending them in a contrary direction, the 
mucro enters it again, and the former attitude being 
briskly and suddenly resumed, the mucro flies out with 
a spring, and the insect rising, sometimes an inch or 
two into the air, regains its legs and moves off. The 
upper part of the body, by its pressure against the 
plane of position, assists this motion, during which the 
legs are kept close to its underside. Cuvier, when he 
says that man and birds are the only animals that can 
leap vertically % seems to have forgotten this leap of 
Elaters, which is generally vertical, the trunk being 
vertically above the organ that produces the leap. 

Other insects again leap by means of the abdomen or 
some organs attached to it. An apterous species — be- 
longing to the Ichneumonidcc, and to the genus CVy- 
ptus, F. — takes long leaps by first bending its abdomen 

nAiuii. Ccmi). i. 4'J8. 


inwards, as De Geer tliinks, and then pushing it with 
force along the plane of por,itioM^. — Tiiere is a tribe of 
minute insects amongst the Jplcra, found often under 
bark, sometimes on the water, and in various other 
situations, which Linnc has named Podura, a terra 
implying that they have a leg in their tail. This is 
literally the fact. For the tail, or anal extremity, -ef 
these insects is furnished with an indexed fork"*, which, 
though usually bent under the body, they have the 
power of unbending; during which action, the forked 
spring, pushing powerfully against the plane of posi- 
tion, enables the animal to leap sometimes two or three 
inches. What is more remarkable, these little ani- 
mals are by this organ even empowered to leap upon 
water. There is a minute black species (P. aquatica^ L.) 
w hich in the spring is often seen floating on that con- 
tained in ruts, hollows, or even ditches, and in such 
infinite numbers as to resemble gunpowder strewed 
upon the surface. When disturbed, these black grains 
are seen to skip about as if ignited, jumping with as 
much ease as if the fluid were a solid plane, that resists 
their pressure. — The insects of another genus — sepa- 
rated from Podura by Latreille under the name of 
Sminthurus — have also an anal spring, which when 
bent under the body nearly reaches the head. These, 
which are of a more globose form than Podura, are so 
excessively agile that it is almost impossible to take 
them. Pressing their spring against the surface on 
which they stand, and unbending it with force, they are 
out of your reach before your finger can come near 
them. One of them, .S'. fuscus, besides the caudal 
a ii, «10, b Plate XV. Fig, 10. 


fork, has a very singular organ, the use of which is to 
prevent it from falling from a perpendicular surface, 
on which they are often found at a great height from 
the ground. Between the ends of the fork there is an 
elevated cylinder or tube, from which the animal, 
when necessary, can protrude two long, filiform, flex- 
ible transparent threads covered with a slimy secre- 
tion. By tliese, when it has lost its hold, it adheres to 
the surface on which it is stationed^. — Another insect 
related to the common sugar-louse, and called by La- 
treille Machilis poli/poda (Lepisma, F.), in some places 
common under stones '', has eight pair of springs, one 
on each ventral segment of the abdomen, by means of 
which it leaps to a wonderful distance, and with the 
greatest agility. 

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

a De Geer^vii. 38—. /. iii./. 10. rr. 

b This insect abounds at East Farleigh, near Maidstone. 


The first order of climbers — those that climb by 
Cleans of their claws — includes a large proportion of in- 
sects, especially in the Coleoptera order — the majority 
of those that have five joints in their tarsi being- of this 
description. The predaceous tribes, particularly the 
numerous and prowling- ground-beetles (Corabiflcb)^ 
often thus asdend the plants and trees after their prey. 
Thus one of them, the beautiful but ferocious Colosoma 
Sj/cophanta, mounts the trunk and branches of the oak 
to commit fearful ravages amongst the hordes of cater- 
pillars that inhabit it ^. By these the less savage but 
equally destructive tree-chafers{3Ielolonthce), and those 
enemies of vegetable beauty the rose-chafers (Cetonia 
aiirata), are enabled to maintain their station on the 
trees and shrubs that they lay waste. And by these 
also the water-beetles (D?/lisct{s, Il2/drophilus, &c.) 
climb the aquatic plants.— But it is unnecessary further 
to enlarge upon this head ; I shall only observe, that 
in most of the insects here enumerated, the claws ap- 
pear to be aided by stilT hairs or bristles. 

Other climbers ascend by means o^ cushions {puhilU) 
composed of hairs, as thickly set as in plush or velvety 
with which the underside of tlie joints of their tarsi — 
the claw-joint, which is always naked, excepted — are 
covered. These cushions are particularly conspicuous 
in the beautiful tribe of plant-beetles {Chrysomela^ F.). 
A common insect of this kind, before mentioned, called 
the bloody-nose beetle (C. tenebricosa)^ by the aid of 
these is enabled to adhere to the trailing plants, the 
various species of b^ed-straw {Galium), on which it 
feeds ; and by these will support itself against gravity ; 

a Reaiim; ii. 457. ^ 

VOL* Iti Y 


for both this and C. goeitingensis will walk upon the 
hand with their back downwards, and it then requires a 
rather strong- pull to disengage them from their station. 
— The whole tribe of weevils (Curcttliomdce) are also 
furnished with these cushions, but not always upon all 
their joints, some having them only at their apex; and 
the palm-weevil (Calandra JPalfnariim, F.) at the ex- 
tremity solely of the last joint but one. — Those bril- 
liant beetles the Btiprestes have also these cushions, as 
have likewise the numerous tribes of capricorn-beetles 
[Ceramh^cidcB). The larvae of these being timber- 
borers, the parent insect is probably thus enabled to 
adhere to this substance whilst it deposits its eggs. In- 
deed in some species of the former genus the cushions 
wear the appeai-ance of suckers. — While the linear 
species of Ilelojjs, F. are without them, they clothe all 
the tarsi of //. ceneus. In two other genera of the same 
order, Silpha and Cicindela, the anterior tarsi of the 
males are furnished with them; in these therefore they 
may be regarded, like the suckers of the larger water- 
beetles (Di/tisci), as given for sexual purposes. The 
three first joints of the anterior tarsi of many of the 
larger rove-beetles {Staphi/Unus^ L.) are dilated so as 
to form, as in the last-mentioned insects, an orbicular 
patella, but covered by cushions. Since in them this 
is not peculiar to the males, it is probably given that 
they may be able to support their long bodies when 

But the most remarkable class of climbers consists of 
those that are furnished \y'\\}x an apparatus by which 
they can form a 'vacuum^ so as to adhere to the plane 
on which they are moving by atmospheric pressure. 


That flies can walk upon glass placed vertically, and 
in general against gravity, has long been a source of 
wonder and inquiry ; and various have been the opi- 
nions of scientific men upon the subject. Some ima- 
gined that the suckers on the feet of these animals 
were spunges filled with a kind of gluten, by which 
they were enabled to adhere to such surfaces. This 
idea, though incorrect, was not so absurd as at first it 
may aeem ; since we have seen above in many instances, 
and very lately in that of the Sminthurus fusctis, that 
insects are often aided in their motions by a secretion 
of this kind. Hooke appears to have been one of the 
first who remarked that the suspension of these animals 
was produced by some mechanical contrivance in their 
feet. Observing that the claws alone could not effect 
this purpose, he justly concluded that it must be prin- 
cipally owing to the mechanism of the two palms, pat- 
tens, or soles as he calls the suckers ; these he de- 
scribes as beset underneath with small bristles or ten- 
ters, like the wire teeth of a card for working wool, 
which, having a contrary direction to the claws, and 
both pulling different ways, if there be any irregula- 
fity or yielding in the surface of a body, enable the fly 
to suspend itself very firmly. That they walk upon 
glass, he ascribes to some ruggedness in the surface; 
and principally to a smoky tarnish which adheres to it, 
by means of which the fly gets footing upon it^. But 
these tenter-hooks in the suckers of flies, and this 
smoky tarnish upon glass, are mere fancies, since they 
can walk as well upon the cleanest glass as upon the 
most tarnished. Reaumur also attributes this faculty 

a Microgr. 170, 
Y 2 


of these animals to the hairs upon their suckers ^. That 
learned and pious naturalist, Dr. Derham, seems to 
have been one of the first who gave the true solution 
of this enigma. " Flies," says he, " besides their sharp 
hooked nails, have also skinny palms to their feet, to 
enable them to stick on glass and other smooth bodies, 
by the pressure of the atmosphere^.'''' He compares 
these palms to the curious suckers of male Dytisci, 
before alluded to, and illustrates their action by a com- 
mon practice of boys, who carry stones by a wet piece 
of leather applied to their top. Another eminent and 
excellent naturalist, the late Mr. White, adopted this 
solution. He observes that in the decline of the year, 
when the mornings and evenings become chilly, many 
species of flies retire into houses and swarm in the 
windows : that at first they are very brisk and alert : 
but, as they grow more torpid, that they move with dif- 
ficulty, and are scarcely able to lift their legs, which 
seem as if glued to the glass; and that by degrees many 
do actually stick till they die in the place. Then no- 
ticing Dr. Derham's opinion as just stated, he further 
remarks, that they easily overcome the atmospheric 
pressure when they are brisk and alert. But, he pro- 
ceeds, in the decline of the year this resistance becomes 
too mighty for their diminished strength ; and we see 
flies labouring along, and lugging their feet in windows 
as if they stuck fast to the glass ". 

Sir Joseph Banks, to whom every branch of Natural 
History becomes daily more indebted, has lately ex- 
cited an inquiry, the results of which have confirmed 

aiv. 259. ft Physico-Thcol. Ed. 13. 363, note b. 

« Nat. Hist. ii. 274. 


Dorham's system concerning this motion of animals 
against gravity. When abroad, he had noticed that a 
lizard, on account of the sound that it emits before rain, 
named the Gecko* (Laccrta Gecko, L.), could walk 
against gravity up the walls of houses; and comparing 
this with the parallel motions of flies, he was desirous 
of having the subject more scientifically illustrated 
than it had been. This inquiry was put into the able 
hands of Sir Everard Home, so justly celebrated as a 
comparative anatomist, who was assisted in it by the 
incomparable pencil of Mr. Bauer : and it has been 
proved most satisfactorily, that it is by producing a va- 
cuum between certain organs destined for that purpose 
and the plane of position, sufficient to cause atmor 
spheric pressure upon their exterior surface, that the 
animals in question are enabled to walk up a polished 
perpendicular, like the glass in our windows and the 

a Amoen. Acad. i. 549. The Gecko, probably, is not the only lizard 
that walks against gravity. St. Pierre mentions one not longer than a 
finger, that, in the Isle of France, climbs along the walls, and even up 
the glass after the flies and other insects, for which it watches with great 
jpatience. These lizards are sometimes so tame that they will feed out of 
the hand. — Voyage, &c. 73. Major Moor and Captain Green observed si- 
imilar lizards in India, that ran up the walls and over the ceilings after 
the mosqiiitos. Ilasselquist says that the Gecko is very frequent at 
Cairo, both in the houses and without them, and that it exhales a very 
deleterious poison from the lobuli between the toes. He saw two women 
and a girl at the point of death, merely from eating a cheese on which it 
had dropped its venom. One ran over the hand of a man, who endea- 
voured to catch it; and immediately little piistuL s, resembling those oc- 
casioned by the stinging-nettlcj rose all over the parts the creature had 
touched, — Voyage, '220. M. Savigny, however, who examined this ani- 
mal in Egypt, assures me that this account of Hasselqiiist's, as far as it re- 
lates to the venom of the Gecko, is not correct. 


chunam walls in India, or with their backs downward 
on a ceiling-, without being brought to the ground by 
the weight of their bodies. 

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

Dipterous insects, which in general have these or- 
gansj and some three on each foot**, are not exclusively 
gifted with them; for various others in different or-t 
ders have them, and some in greater numbers. As I 
lately observed, the cushions of the Buprestes are some^ 

? Philos. Trans. 1816. 32b. L xviii. /. 1-7. b Ibid. /. 8-11. 


thing very like them, particularly those of B. fascicu- 
laris, Li. — A Brazilian beetle in my cabinet, belong- 
ing to the family of the Cleridw, but not arranging well 
under any of Latreille's genera, which I have named 
Prioccra variegata, has curious involuted suckers on 
its feet. — The strepsipterous genera, Sfj/lops, K. and 
Xenos, R., are remarkable for the vesicles of membrane 
that cover the underside of their tarsi, whicli, though 
flaccid in old specimens, appear to be inflated in the living 
animal or those that are recent '^. It is not improbable 
that tliese vesicles, whicli are large and hairy, may act 
in some degree as suckers, and assist it in climbing. 

The insects of the Orthoptera order are, many of 
them, remarkable for two kinds of appendages con- 
nected with my present subject, being furnished both 
w ith suckers and cushions. The former are concavo- 
convex processes, varying in shape in different species — 
being sometimes orbicular, sometimes ovate or oblong, 
and often wedge-shaped — which terminate the tarsus 
between the claw, one on each foot. They are of a 
hard substance, and seem capable of free motion. In 
some instances'', another minute cavity is discoverable 
at the base of the concave part, similar to that in Cim- 
hex iutea'^. The latter, the cushions, are usually con- 
vex appendages, of an oblong form, and often, though 
not always, divided in the middle by a very deep lon- 
gitudinal furrow, attached to the underside of the tarsal 
joints. Sir E. Home is of opinion that the object of 
these cushions is to take oiF the jar, when the body of 

a Kirby in Linn. Trans, x'l. 106. f. viii. /. 13. a. 

b I observed this in the hind legs of a variety of Grijllits migratorius. 

c Philos. Trans. 1816. t. xix. f.5. 


the animal is suddenly brought from a state of motion 
to a state of rest ^. This may very likely be one of their 
uses, but there are several circumstances which mili- 
tate against its being the only one. By their elasti- 
city they probably assist the insects that have them in 
their leaps ; and when they climb they may in some 
degree act as suckers, and prevent them from falling. 
But their usevvill be best ascertained by a review of 
the principal genera of the order. Of these the cock- 
roaches (B/o/^o), the spectres (Phasma), and the pray- 
ing-insects (Mantis), are distinguished by tarsi of five 
joints''. The grasshoppers with setaceous antennae (Lo- 
custa, F.) have four tarsal joints. Those with filiform 
antennae {Grj/llus, F. and Acrydhim, F.), those with 
ensiform (Truxatis, F.), and the crickets (Acheta, F.), 
have only three. In Blatta, the variations with re- 
spect to the suckers and cushions (for many species 
are furnished with both) are remarkable. The former 
in some (Biatta gigantea, L.) are altogether wanting; 
in others (jB. Petiveriana, L.) they are mere rudiments; 
and in others (B, Maderce) they are more conspicuous, 
and resemble those of the GrijlUdce. The cushions also 
in some are nearly obsolete, and occupy the mere ex- 
tremity of the four first tarsal joints (B. orientalis, 
americana, capensis, &c.). In B. Petiveriana there is 
none upon the first joint ; but upon the extremity of 

a Philos. Trans. 1816. p. 325. 

1» In a specimen in my cabinet of Blatta giganiea, the posterior and 
anterior tarsi of one side havi^ only four joints, while the intermediate 
one has live. On the otht-r side the hind leg is broken ojf, but the an.? 
terior and intermediate tarsi have both five joints. In another specimen 
pn^ posterior tarsus has four and the other five joints. 


ihe four last, not excepting the claw-joint, there is a 
Kiinute orbicular concave one, resembling a sucker, 
hi others (B. gigftnica, &c.) they extend the length 
of the four first joints, and are very conspicuous. In 
some (B. Mouffeti, K.^), which have no claw-sucker, 
there appears to be a cavity in the extremity of the 
claw-joint, which may serve the purpose of one. These 
cushions are usually of a pale colour : but in one speci- 
men of a hairy female which I have, from Brazil, they 
are black. The spectre genus {PJuisma) exhibits no 
particular varieties in this respect. The tarsal joints 
of the legs have cushions at their apex, which appear 
to be bifid. They have a large orbicular sucker be- 
tween the claws. In Mantis the fore feet have neither 
of the parts in question, and the others have no suckers. 
They have cushions on the four first tarsal joints of the 
two last pair of legs, which, though smaller, are shaped 
much like those in Pliasma. In Lociista the feet have 
no suckers between the claws, but they are distinguish- 
ed by two oval, soft, concave, and moveable processes 
attached to the base of the first joint of the tarsus, 
which probably act as suckers''- In this genus there 
are two cushions on the first joint of the tarsi, and one 
on each of the two following ones '^. — The species of 

a This insect, which is remarkable for having the margin of its thorax 
reflpxed, was long since well figured in Mouffet's work {13,0. fig. injima). 
It has not, however, been described by any other author I have met with. 
It is common in Brazil. Some specimens are pallid, while others are of 
ft dark brown. 

b De Geer, iii. 421. t. xxi.f. 13. h. This author has also noticed tho 
cushions in this genus and Gryllus, and the claw-sucker in the latter, whicji 
f)e thinks are analogous to those of the fly. Ibid. 462. i. xxii,/. "? -8, 

c Philos. Trans. 1816, t. xxi.f. 8-13. 


tlie Fabrician genus Gryllus come next. This genus; 
is now called Acri/dium by Latreille after GeofFroy ; 
but, since it includes the true locust^ it ought to have 
retained the name Locusta given by Linne to the tribe 
to which it belongs. All these insects have the ter- 
minal sucker between the claws, three cushions on the 
jfirst joint of the tarsus, and one on the second^; and 
the same conformation also distinguishes the feet of 
Truxalis, F. In the species o^ Acri/dium, F. (TetriXy 
Latr.), the cushions, I believe — for in the dead insect 
they are the reverse of conspicuous — ^^are arranged 
nearly as in the two preceding genera, but these in- 
sects are without the claw-sucker. And lastly, Acheia, 
F., has neither suckers nor cushions. From this state- 
ment it seems to follow — since Blatla, Phasma, and 
Mantis^ that do not leap, are provided with cushions ; 
and Acheta, F., a heavy tribe of insects that does, are 
without them — that their object cannot be exclusively 
to break the fall of the insects that have them. And 
for the same reason we may conclude, that they must 
have some further use than augmenting their elasticity 
when they jump. When we consider that Blattce-^ 
many of which have no suckers, or very small ones — 
are climbing insects (I have seen B ., ge^^manica run,up 
and down the walls of an apartment with great agi- 
lity), and that the long and gigantic apterous spectres 
&c. {PJiasmn) require considerable means to enable 
them to climb the trees in which they feed, and to 
maintain their station upon them, we may conclude 
that these cushions, by acting in some degree as suckers, 
may promote these ends. 

a Philos. Trans. 1816. t. xxi.f, 1-9. 


Amongst the Ilemiptera, Cheivnes and many of the 
Cicadiada''' are furnished with the claw-siiekers; but 
the noisy Tettigonice, as well as the tribes oi' Cimicidce, at 
least as far as my examination of them has gone, have 
them not. De Geer has observed, speaking of a small 
fly of this order (Thrips JPhj/sapits, L.), that the ex- 
tremity of its feet is furnished with a transparent mem- 
branaceous flexible process, like a bladder. He further 
says that, when the animal fixes and presses this ve- 
sicle on the surface on which it walks, its diameter is 
increased, and it sometimes appears concave, the con- 
cavity being in proportion to the pressure ; which made 
him suspect that it acted like a cupping-glass, and so 
produced the adhesion^. This circumstance affords 
another proof that the cushions in the Ortlioptera may 
act the same part; they appear to be vesicular; and in 
numbers of specimens, after death, I have observed 
that they becbme concave, particularly in Lociista vi- 

In Cimbex^ and others amongst the saw-fly tribes 
(Tenthredimdce), the claw-sucker is distinguished by 
this remarkable peculiarity, that its upper surface is 
concave'", so that before it is used it must be bent in- 
wards. Besides these, at the extremity of each tarsal 
joint these animals are furnished with a spoon-shaped 
sucker, which seems analogous to the cushions in the 
Gryllidce : and, what is more remarkable, the two spurs 
(calcaria) at the apex of the shanks have likewise each 
a minute one*^. — Various other insects of this order 
have the claw- suckers. Amongst others the common 

aDe Gecr, iii. 132. 173. b Ibid. 7. 

c Philos. Trans. 1816. t, x\x,f. 3,^, i\ It>id, t. xix. f. 1-9. 


M'asp ( Vespa vulgaris) is by these enabled to walk up 
and down our glass windows. 

We learn from De Geer that several mites (Aca- 
ridce), to fii^ish with the Aplera^ have something of this 
kind. Among these is the cheese-mite {Acarus Siro^ 
F.) : its four fore feet being terminated by a vesicle 
with a long neck, to which it can give every kind of 
inflexion. When it sets its foot down, it enlarges and 
inflates it; and when it lifts it up, it contracts it so that 
the vesicle almost entirely disappears. This vesicle is 
between two claws ^. — The itch acarus {A. Scabiei, L.) 
is similarly circumstanced. — Ixodes Ricinus and Re- 
duvius have also tJiese vesicles — which are armed with 
two claws — on all their feet''. 

I am next to consider those climbers that ascend and 
descend, and probably maintain themselves in their 
station, by the assistance of a secretion which they have 
the power of producing. You will immediately per- 
ceive that I am speaking of the numerous tribes of 
spiders {Araneidce)^ which, most of them, are endowed 
with this faculty. Every body knows that these insects 
ascend and descend by means of a thread that issues' 
from them ; but perhaps every one lias not remarked 
— when they wish to avoid a hand held out to catch 
them, or any other obstacle — that they can sway this 
thread from the perpendicular. When they move up 
or down, their legs are extended, sometimes gathering 
in and sometimes guiding their thread"^; but when their 
motion is suspended, they are bent inwards. These ani- 

a De Geer, vii. 91. t. v./. 6, 7. 

b IMd. 96— <.v./. 13, 14, 17, 19, ^vL/,2, 5, 

c Vol. I, 2d Ed, 407, 


tn^h, although they have no suckers or other appa- 
ratus—except the hairs of their legs and the three 
claws of their biarticulate tarsi, to enable them to do it 
— can also walk against gravity, both in a perpendicular 
and a prone position. Dr. Hulse, in Ray's Letters, 
s«eins to have furnished a clue that will very well 
explain this. I give it you in his own homely phrase. 
" They," spiders, " will often fasten their threads in 
several places to the things they creep up; the manner 
is by beating" their bums or tails against them as they 
creep along^." Fixing their anus by means of a web, the 
anterior part of their body, when they are resting, we 
can readily conceive, would be supported by the claws 
and hairs of their legs ; and their motion may be ac- 
complished by alternately fixing one and then the other. 
But you will remember I give you thismerely as con- 
jecture, having never verified it by observation. 

It may not be amiss to mention here another apte- 
rous insect that reposes on perpendicular or prone sur- 
faces, without either suckers or any viscous secretion 
by which it can adhere to them. I mean the long-legged 
or shepherd spiders {Phalangium, L.). The tarsi of 
these insects are setaceous and nearly as fine as a hair, 
consisting sometimes of more than forty joints, those 
toward the extremity being very minute, and scarcely 
discernible, and terminating in a single claw. These 
tarsi, which resemble antennae rather than feet, are ca- 
pable of every kind of inflexion, sometimes even of a 
spiral one. These circumstances enable them to ap- 
ply their feet to the inequalities of the surface on which 
they repose, so that every joint may in some measure 

a 63. 


become a point of support. Their eight legs also^ 
which diverge from their body like the spokes from the 
nave of a wheel, give them equal hold of eight almost 
equidistant spaces, which, doubtless, is a great stay to 

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

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

" The fine nets which oft we woven see 

Of scorched dew," 

says Spenser. Another, fellow to it, and equally ab- 
surd, was that adopted by a learned man and good na- 
tural philosopher, and one of the first fellows of the 
Royal Society, Robert Hooke, the author of Micro" 
graphia. " Much resembling a cobweb," says he, ^' or 
a confused lock of these cylinders, is a certain white 


Substance which, after a fogg, may be observed to fly 
up and down the air : catching several of these, and ex- 
amining- them with my microscope, I found them to be 
much of the same form, looking most like to a flake of 
Worsted prepared to be spun ; though by what means 
they should be generated or produced is not easily ima- 
gined : they were of the same weight, or very little 
heavier than the air; and Uis not unlikelj/, but that 
those great zshite clouds^ liiat appear all the summer limey 
may he of the same substance'^.'" So liable are even the 
wisest men to error when, leaving fact and experiment, 
they follow the guidance of fancy. Some French na- 
turalists have supposed that these Jils de la Vierge, as 
they are called in France, are composed of the cot- 
tony matter in which the eggs of the Coccus of the vine 
(C. Viiis, I^.) are enveloped^. In a country abound- 
ing in vineyards this supposition would not be absurd; 
but in one like Britain, in which the vine is confined 
to the fruit-garden, and the Coccus seldom seen out of 
the conservatory, it will not at all account for the 
phaenomenon. — What will you say, if I tell you that 
these webs (at least many of them) are air-balloons — 
and that the aeronauts are not 

" Lovers who may bestride the gossamer 
That idles in tiic wanton summer air. 
And yet not fall" — 

Jiut spiders, who long before Montgolfier, nay, ever since 

a Ulicrogi; 202. It has been objected to an excellent primitive writer 
(Clemens liomanus), that he believed the absurd fable of the phcenix. 
Rut surely this may be allowed for in him, who was no naturalist, when 
a scientific natural philosopher could believe that the clouds are made of 
spiders web t ■> b Latrrille, Hist. Nat. xii. 3S8. 


the creation, have been in the habit of sailing througTi 
the fields of ether in these air-iight chariots! This 
seems to have been suspected long ago by Henry Moore j 
^vho says, 

" As light and thin as cobwebs that do fly 
In the blew air, caiis'd by the autumnal sun, 
TJiat boils the dew rha' on the earth doth lie, 
May Si.'em this whitish ni^ then is tlic scnm ; 

Unless that wiser men make't ihejield-spider's loom^." 

Where he also alludes to the old opinion of scorched 
dew. But the first naturalists who made this discovery 
appear to have been Dr. Hulse and Dr. Martin Lister — • 
the former first observing that spiders shoot their webs 
into the air ; and the latter, besides this, that they 
were carried upon them in that element''. This last 
gentleman, in fine serene weather in September, had 
noticed these webs falling from the heavens, and in 
them discovered more than once a spider, which he 
named the bird. On another occasion, whilst he was 
watching the proceedings of a common spider, the ani- 
mal suddenly turning upon its back and elevating its 
anus, darted forth a long thread, and vaulting from 
the place on which it stood, was carried upwards to a 
considerable heighjt. Numerous observations after- 
Wards confirmed this extraordinary fact; and he fur- 
ther discovered, that while they fly in this manner, they 
pull in their long thread with their fore feet, so as to 
form it into a ball — or, as we may call it, air-balloon — 
of flalie. The height to which spiders will thus ascend 
he affirms is prodigious. One day in the autumn, 
when the air was full of webs, he mounted to the top 
a Quoted in the Atheneeum, v. 126. b Raj's Lftters. 69, 36-^ 


of the highest steeple of York minster, from whence he 
could discern the floating; webs still very high above 
him. Some spiders that fell and were entangled upon 
the pinnacles he took. They were of a kind that 
never enter houses, and therefore could not be sup- 
posed to have taken their flight from the steeple'^. It 
appears from his observations, that^this faculty is not 
confined to one species of spider, but is common to 
several, though only in their young- or half-grown 
state*"; whence we may infer, that when full-grown 
their bodies are too heavy to be thus conveyed. One 
spider he noticed that at one time contented itself with 
ejaculating- a single thread, while at others it darted 
out several, like so many shining rays at the tail of a 
comet. Of these, in Cambridgeshire in October, he 
once saw an incredible number sailing in the air*^. 
Speaking of his Ar. suhfuscus mimitissimis oculis, &c. 
he says, " Certainly this is aa excellent rope-dancer, 
and is wonderfully delighted with darting its threads : 
nor is it only carried in the air, like the preceding ones ; 
but it effects itself its ascent and sailing: for, by means 
of its legs closely applied to each other, it as it were 
balances itself, and promotes and directs its course 
no otherwise than as if nature had furnished it with 
wings or oars'*." A later, but equally gifted observer 
of nature, Mr. White, confirms Dr. Lister's account. 

a Ray's lexers, 37. 87. Lister De Aran. ^0. Lister illustrates the 
force with which these creatuWes shoot their thread, by a homely, though 
very forcible simile : " Rcsupinata (says he) aimm in ventura tledil, filum- 
que ejaculata est quo plane modo robustissimus juvenis e distentissima 
vesicli urinam." 

b Be JraneU,6.21. 64. 75—. 79—. c Ibid. 79—. a Ibid. 85. 


" Every clay in fine weather in autumn," says he, "do 
1 see these spiders shooting out their webs, and mount- 
ing- aloft: they will go otF from the finger, if you will 
take them into your hand. Last summer one alighted on 
my book as I was reading in the parlour; and running 
to the top of the page and shooting out a web, took its 
departure from thence. But what I most wondered at 
was, that it went off with considerable velocity in a 
place where no air was stirring; and 1 am sure that I 
did not assist it with my breath. So that these little 
crawlers seem to have while mounting some locomo- 
tive power without the use of wings, and move faster 
than the air in the air itself'^." A writer in the last 
number of Thomson's Annals of PhUosophi/^, under 
the signature of Carolan, has given some curious ob- 
servations on the mode in which some geometric spiders 
shoot and direct their threads, and fly upon them ; by 
which it appears, that as they dart them out they guide 
them as if by magic, emitting at the same time a stream 
of air, as he supposes, or possibly some subtile electric 
fluid. One which was running upon his hand, dropped 
hv its thread about six inches from the point of his 
finger, when it immediately emitted a pretty long line 
at a right angle with that by which it was suspended. 
This thread, though at first horizontal, quickly rose 
upwards, carrying the spider along with it. When it 
had ascended as far above his finger as it had dropped 
before below it, it let out the thread by which it had 
])een attached to it, and continued flying smoothly up- 
wards till it nearly reached the roof of the room, when 
it veered on one side and alighted on the wall. In fly- 
a Nut. Hist. i. 3ST. b No. lii. 306—. 


ing", its motion was smoother and quicker than when a 
spider runs along' its thread. He observes, that as the 
line lengthens behind them, the tendency of spiders to 
rise increases. — 1 have myself more than once observed 
these creatures take their flight, and find the following 
memorandum with respect to their mode of proceeding-. 
" The spider first extends its thighs, shanks, and feet 
into a right line, and then elevating its abdomen till it 
becomes vertical, shoots its thread into the air, and flies 
off from its station." It is not often, however, that an 
observer can be gratified with this interesting sight, 
since these animals are soon alarmed. I have frequently 
noticed them — for at the times when these webs are float- 
ing in the air they are very numerous — on the vertical 
angle of a post, or pale, or one of the uprights of a gate, 
with the end of their abdomen pointing upwards, as if to 
shoot their thread previously to flying off': when, upon 
my approaching to take n nearer view, they have low- 
ered it again, and persisted in disappointing my wish 
to see them mount aloft. The rapidity with which the 
spider vanislies from the sight upon this occasion and 
darts into the air, is a problem of no easy solution. Can 
the length of web that they dart forth counterpoise the 
weight of their bodies? Or have they any organ analo- 
gous to the natatory vesicles of fishes % which contri- 
butes at their will to render them buoyant in the air? 
Or do they rapidly ascend their threads in their usual 
way, and gather them up, till having collected them 
into a mass of sufficient magnitude, they give themselves 
to the air, and are carried here and there in these cha- 
riots? I must here give you Mr. White's Very curious 

* Cnyier, Annt. C<>mp. i.504. 
Z 2 


account of a shower of these webs that he witnessed. 
On the 21st of September 1741, intent upon field di- 
versions, he rose before day-break ; but on going out, 
he found the whole face of the country covered with a 
thick coat of cobweb drenched with dew, as if two or 
three setting-nets had been drawn one over the other. 
When his dogs attempted to hunt, their eyes were so 
blinded and hood-winked that they were obliged to lie 
down and scrape themselves. This appearance was 
followed by a most lovely day. About nine A. M. a 
shower of these webs (formed not of single floating 
threads, but of perfect flakes, some near an inch broad, 
and five or six long,) was observed falling from very 
elevated regions, which continued without interruption 
during the whole of the day; — and they fell with a ve- 
locity which showed that they were considerably hea- 
vier than the atmosphere. When the most elevated 
station in the country where this was observed was 
ascended, the webs were still to be seen descending 
from above, and twinkling like stars lit the sun, so as 
to draw the attention of the most incurious. The flakes 
of the web on this occasion hung so thick upon the 
hedges and trees, that baskets-full might have been 
collected. No one doubts, he observes, but that these 
webs are the production of small spiders, which swarna 
in the fields in fine weather in autumn, and have a 
power of shooting out webs from their tails, so as to 
render themselves buoyant and lighter than the air^. 
In Germany these flights of gossamer appear so con- 
stantly in autumn, that they are there metaphorically 
called ^' Der Jlie§^ender Sommer^^ (the flying or depart- 

« Nat. Hist. i. 325—^ 


ing summer) ; and authors speak of the web as often 
hanging in flakes like wool on every hedge and bush 
throughout extensive districts. 

Here we may inquire — Why is the ground in these 
serene days covered so thickly by these webs, and what 
becomes of them ? What occasions the spiders to 
mount into the air, and do the same species form both 
the terrestrial and aerial gossamer? — And what causes 
the webs at last to fall to the earth ? I fear I cannot to 
all these queries return a fully satisfactory answer; but 
I will do the best I can. At first one would conclude 
from analogy, that the object of the gossamer which 
early in the morning is spread over stubbles and fal- 
lows — and sometimes so thickly as to make them appear 
as if covered with a carpet, or rather overflown by a sea, 
of gauze, presenting, when studded with dew-drops, 
as I have often witnessed, a most enchanting spectacle 
— is to entrap the flies and other insects as they rise 
into the air from their nocturnal station of repose, to 
take their diurnal flights. But Dr. Strack's observa- 
tions render this very doubtful : for he kept many of 
the spiders that produce these webs in a large glass 
upon turf, where they spun as when at liberty, and he 
could never observe them attempt to catch or eat — even 
when entangled in their webs — the flies and gnats with 
which he supplied them ; though they greedily sucked 
water when sprinkled upon the turf, and remained 
lively for two months without other food*. As the 
single threads shot by other spiders are usually their 
bridges, this perhaps may be the object of the webs in 

a Neue SchrifUn der Naturfomchenden GessdUchaft zu Halle 1810. v. 
Heft , 


question ; and thus the animals may be conveyed from 
furrow to furrow or straw to straw less circuitously, 
and with less labour, than if they had travelled over 
the ground. As these creatures seem so thirsty, may 
we not conjecture that the drops of dew, with which 
they are always as it were strung, are a secondary ob- 
ject with them ? So prodigious are their numbers, that 
sometimes every stalk of straw in the stubbles, and 
every clod and stone in the fallows, swarms with them. 
Dr. Sti'ack assures us that twenty or thirty often sit 
upon a single straw, and that he collected about 200Q 
in half an hour, and could have easily doubled the 
number had he wished it : he remarks, that the cause 
of their escaping the notice of other observers, is their 
falling to the ground upon the least alarm. 

As to what becomes of this immense carpeting of 
web there are different opinions. Mr. White conjec- 
tures that these threads, when first shot, might be eur 
tangled in the rising dew, and so drawn up, spiders and 
all, by a brisk evaporation, into the region where the 
clouds are formed^. But this seems almost as inad- 
missible as that of Hooke, before related. An ingeni- 
ous and observant friend, thinking the numbers of the 
flying spiders not sufficient to produce the whole of the 
phenomenon in question, is of opinion that an equi- 
noctial gale, sweeping along the fallows and stubbles 
coated with the gossamer, must bring many single 
threads into contact, which, adhering together, may 
gradually collect into flakes; and that being at length 
detached by the violence of the wind, they are carried 
along with it : and as it is known that such winds oftew 

a Nat. Hist. i. 326. 


convey even sand and earth to great heights, he deems it 
highly probable that so light a substance may be trans- 
ported to so great an elevation, as not to fall to the earth 
for some days after, when the weather has become se- 
rene, or to descend upon ships at sea, as has sometimes 
happened. This, which is in part adopted from the 
German authors, is certainly a much more reasonable 
supposition than the other ; but some facts seem to 
militate against it: for, in the first place, thougli gos- 
samer often occurs upon the ground when there is 
none in the air, yet the reverse of this has never been 
observed ; for gossamer in the air, as in the instance re- 
corded by Mr. White, is always preceded by gossamer 
on the ground. Now, since the weather is constantly 
calm and serene when these showers appear, it cannot 
be the wind that carries the Aveb from the ground into 
the air. Again, it is stated that these showers take place 
after several calm days* : now, if the web was raised by 
the wind into the air, it would begin to fall as soon as 
the wind ceased. Whence I am inclined^ to think that 
the cause assigned by Dr. Lister is the real source of 
the whole phenomenon. Though ordinary observers 
have overlooked them, he noticed these spiders in the 
air in such prodigious numbers, that he deemed them 
suflficient to produce the effect. I shall not, however, 
decide positively; but, having stated the different opi- 
nions, leave you to your own judgement. 

The next query is. What occasions the spiders to 
mount their chariots and seek the clouds? Is it in pur- 
suit of their food ? Insects, in the fine warm days in 
which this phenomenon occurs, probably take higher 

a Ray's Ltlicrs, 36. 


flights than usual, and seek the upper regions of the at- 
mosphere ; and that the spiders catch them there, ap- 
pears by the exuviae of gnats and flies, which are often 
found in the falling webs'*. Yet one would suppose 
that insects would fly high at all times in the summer 
in serene warm weather. Perhaps the flight of some 
particular species constituting a favourite food of our 
little charioteers — the gnats, for instance, which we 
have seen sometimes rise in clouds into the air*" — may 
at these times take place ; or the species of spiders that 
are most given to these excursions, may not abound in 
their young state — when only they can fly — at other 
seasons of the year. 

Whether the same species that cover the earth with 
their webs produce those that fill the air, is to be our 
next inquiry. Did the appearance of the one always 
succeed that of the other, this might be reasonably con- 
cluded : — but the former, as I lately observed to you, 
often occurs without being followed by the latter. Yet, 
since itshoul^ seem that the aerial gossamer, though it 
does not always follow it, is always preceded by the 
terrestrial, this warrants a conjecture that they may be 
synonymous. Two German authors, Bechstein'^ and 
Strack**, have described the spider that produces gossa- 
mer in Germany under the name of Aranea obtextrLv^, 
But it is not clear, unless they have described it at dif- 
ferent ages, when spiders often greatly change their 
appearance, that they mean the same species. The 
former describes his as of the size of a small pin's head, 

a Ray's Letleis, 42. Lister De Araneis, 8. b Vol. I. 2d Ed. 1 15. 

c Lichtenber^ uiid Voight Magazhu 1789. vi. 53 — . 

d Ntve Schriften der Nalurforscfi. &c. 1-810. v. Hefr. 41-56. 


with its eight eyes disposed in a circle, having a black- 
brown body and light-yellow legs : while Dr. Strack 
represents his A. ohtextrix as more than two lines in 
length ; eyes four in a square, and two on each side 
touching each other ; thorax deep brown with paler 
streaks; abdomen below dull white, above dark cop- 
per brown, with a dentated white spot running longi- 
tudinally down the middle. The first of these, if di- 
stinct, as I suspect they are, agrees very well with the 
young of one which Lister observed as remarkable for 
taking aerial flights'*; and which 1 have most usually 
seen so engaged. The other may possibly be that be- 
fore noticed, which he found in such infinite numbers 
in Cambridgeshire ^. If this conjecture be correct, it 
will prove that the same species first produce the gos- 
samer that covers the ground, and then, shooting other 
threads, mount upon them into the air. 

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

I trust you will allow from this mass of evidence, 
that the English Arachnologists — may I coin this terra ? 
— were correct in their account of this singular phe- 
nomenon ; and think, with me, that Swammerdam (who 
however admits that spiders sail on their webs), and 
after him De Goer, were rather hasty when they stig- 

« Dc JiantL, 66, b ibid. 79. c:Sai. Hist. i. 356. 

34l6 motions of insects. 

matized the discovery that these animals shoot their 
webs into the air, and so take flight, as a strange and 
unfounded opinion^. The fact, though so well authen- 
ticated, is indeed strange and wonderful, and affords 
another proof of the extraordinary powers, unparal- 
leled in the higher orders of animals, with which the 
Creator has gifted the insect world. Were indeed 
man and the larger animals, with their present pro- 
pensities, similarly endowed, the whole creation would 
soon go to ruin. But these almost miraculous powers 
in the hands of these little beings only tend to keep it 
in order and beauty. Adorable is that Wisdom, Power, 
and Goodness, that has distinguished these next to 
nothings by such peculiar endowments for our preser- 
vation as if given to the strong and mighty would 
work our destruction. 

After the foregoing marvellous detail of the aerial 
excursions of our insect air-balloonists, I fear you will 
think the motions of those which fly by means o[ wings 
less interesting. You w ill find, however, that they are 
not altogether barren of amusement. Though the 
wings are the principal instruments of the flight of in- 
sects, yet there are others subsidiary to them, which I 
shall here enumerate, considering them more at large 
under the orders to which they severally belong. These 
are wing-cases (i?(^/rrt, Tegmina, and H emelytra) ', 
winglets {Alidce); poisers {Halteres) ; tailets (CffZ/f/M- 
loe) ; booklets {Hamuli) ; base-covers ( Tegulee)^ &c. 
Besides, their tails, legs, and even antenna assist them, 
in some instances, in this motion. 

As wings are common to almost the whole class, I 

a Swamm. Eibl. Nat. Ed. Hill. i. 24. De Geer, vii. 190. 


sliall consider their structure here. Every wing con- 
sists of two membranes, more or less transparent, ap- 
plied to each other : the upper membrane being very 
strongly attached to the nervures (Neurce), and the 
lower adhering more loosely, so as to be separable 
from them. Tlie nervures" are a kind of hollow tube, 
— above elastic, horny, and convex ; and flat and 
nearly membranaceous below, — which take their origin 
in tb.e trunk, and keep diminishing gradually, the mar- 
ginal ones excepted, to their termination. The ves- 
sels contained in tRe nervures consist of a spiral thread, 
whence tliey appear to be air-vessels communicating 
with the tracheal in the trunk. — The expansion of the 
wing at the will of the insect is a problem that can 
only be solved by supposing that a subtile fluid is intro- 
duced into these vessels, which seem perfectly analo^ 
gous to those in the wings of birds ; and that thus an 
impulse is communicated to every part of the organ, 
sufficient to keep it in proper tension. We see by this 
that a wing is supported in its flight like a sail by its 
cordage ''. It is remarkable that those insects which 
keep the longest on the wing, the dragon-flies (Libel- 
lulidce) for instance, have their wings most covered 
with nervures. The wings of insects in flying, like 
those of other flying animals, you are to observe, move 
vertically or up and down. 

In considering the flight of insects, I shall treat of 
that of each order separately, beginning with the Co- 

a French naturalists use this term (nerviire) for the veins of wings, 
leaves, &c., restricting nerve inerf) to the ramifications from the brain 
jvnd spinal marrow. We have adopted the term, which we express iu 
l^atin by neura, from the Greek viv^a. b Juriiie Hymenopt. 19^ 


leoptera or beetles. Their subsidiary instruments of 
flight are their wing-cases (Eli/ira), and in one instance, 
winglets (Ahtlce). The former'^ — which in some are of 
a hard horny substance, and in others are softer and 
more like leather, though they are kept immoveable in 
flight, are probably, by their resistance to the air, not 
without their use on this occasion. The winglets are 
small concavo-convex scales, of a stiff membranaceous 
substance, generally fringed at their extremity ''. I 
know at present of only one coleopterous insect that lias 
them (D^tiscits marginalis, L.)- They are placed under 
the elytra at their base. Their use is unknown ; but 
it may probably be connected with their flight. The 
wings of beetles •= are usually very ample, often of a 
substance between parchment and membrane. The 
nervures that traverse and extend them, though not 
numerous, are stronger and larger than those in the 
wings of insects of the other orders, and are so dispersed 
as to give perfect tension to the organ. When at rest 
— except in Molorchus^ Artruclocerus, Necj/dalis, and 
some other genera — they are folded transversely under 
the elytra, generally near the middle, with a lateral 
longitudinal fold, but occasionally near the extremity ''. 
When they prepare for flight, their antennae being set 
cut, the elytra are opened so as to form an angle with 
the body and admit the free play of the wings, and they 
then fly off, striking the air by the vertical motion of 
these organs, the elytra all the while remaining im- 
moveable. During their flight the bodies of insects of 

a Plate X. Fig. 1. b Platf. XXIII. Fjg. 6. a. c Plate X. Fig. 4. 
(1 In Plath XXIII. Fig. 5. the wings of Dytiscus marginaUs are re- 
^)reieiUcd as they appear when folded. 


this order, as far as I have observed them, are always 
in a position nearly vertical, which gives to the larger 
sorts, tiie stag-beetle for instance, a very singular ap- 
pearance. Olivier, probably having some of the larger 
and heavier beetles in his eye, affirms that the wings 
of insects of this order are not usually proportioned to 
tire weight of their bodies, and that the muscular ap- 
paratus that moves them is deficient in force. In con- 
sequence of which, he observes, they take flight with 
difficulty, and fly very badly. The strokes of their 
wings being frequent, and their flight short, uncertain, 
heavy, and laborious, they can use their wings only in 
very calm weather, the least wind beating them down. 
Yet he allows that others, whose body is lighter, rise 
into the air and fly with a little more ease ; especially 
when the weather is warm and dry, their flights how- 
ever being short, though frequent. He asserts also, 
that no coleopterous insect can fly against the wind'*. 
These observations may hold perhaps Avith respect to 
many species ; but they will by no means apply gene- 
rally. The cockchafer (3 felolontha vulgaris), if thrown 
into the air in the evening, its time of flight, will take 
wing before it falls to the ground. The common dung- 
chafer {Scarabcetis stcrcorarins) — wheeling from side to 
side like the humble-bee — -flies with great rapidity and 
force, and, with all its dung-devouring confederates, 
directs its flight with the utmost certainty, and proba- 
bly often against the wind, to its food. The root-de- 
vourers or tree-chafers {Melolontha, I{oplia,&c.) sup- 
port themselves, like swarming bees, in the air and over 
the trees, flying round in all directions. The Staphj/li- 

a Entomol. i. 1. 


nidce and Donacice^ in warm Iveather, fly off fiom theiV 
station with the utmost ease ; — their wings are un- 
folded, and they are in tlie air in an instant, especially 
the latter, as I have often found when 1 have attempted 
to take them. None are more remarkable for this than 
tTie Cicindelce, which, however, takiiig- very short flights, 
are as easily marked down as a partridge, and afford as 
much amusement to the entomologist, as the latter to 
the sportsman. — It is to be observed that many insects 
in this order have no wings, and the female glow- 
worms neither wings nor elytra. 

Many persons are not aware that the insects of the 
next order, the Dermaptera, can fly : but earw igs ( For- 
Jicida), their size considered, are furnished with very 
ample and curious Avings, the principal nervures of 
which are so many radii, diverging from a conmion 
point near the anterior margin. Between these are 
others which, proceeding from the opposite margin, 
terminate in the middle of the wing". These organs, 
when at rest, are more than once folded both trans- 
versely and longitudinally. 

Wings equally ample, forming the quadrant of a 
circle, and with five or six nervures diverging from 
their base, distinguish the strepsipterous tribe. When 
unemployed these are folded longitudinally. It is not 
easy to ascertain the use of their spurious elj tra, which 
are fixed at the base of their anterior legs ; but pos- 
sibly tliey may be serviceable in their flight''. 

Probably in the next or Aev {Orihopitro),i\\e Teg- 
inina, or wing-covers — since they are usually of a much 
thinner substance than elytra — assist them in flying;, 
a Plate X. Fig. 5. b Plate II. I'm. I- 


They are however quite covered by irregular reticu- 
lations, produced by various nervures sent forth by 
the longitudinal ones, and running- in all directions. 
When at rest the inner part of one laps over that of 
the other ^ : but in ditferent genera there is a singular 
variation in this circumstance. Thus in B/allu, Pliasma^ 
and male Locustre, and generally speaking-, but not in- 
variably, in Grj/ilus, F. and Triixalis,— the left elytrum 
laps over the right : but in Mantis, F. ; Manlispa, Latr. ; 
^ome female JLoc//.if^r? ; Achcla ; and Gri/Uotalpa, Latr. - 
the right is laid over the left. The wings in this order, 
though always ample and larger than the tegmina, do 
not invariably form a quadrant of a circle, falling- often 
short of it. They are extended by means of nervures, 
which, like so many rays, diverge from the base of the 
wing, and are intersected alternately by transverse 
ones, which thus form quadrangular areas, arranged 
like bricks in a waP. When at rest, they are lono-itu- 
dinally folded. The flight of these insects, as far as it 
has been observed, much resembles, it is said, that of 
certain birds. Ray tells us that both sexes of the 
house-cricket {Acheta domestica, F.) fly with an undu- 
lating motion, like a woodpecker, alternately ascend- 
ing with expanded wings, and descending with folded 
ones ^. The field- and mole-crickets (Ac/iela cainpestris 

and Gri/Uotalpa, F.), as we learn from Mr. White *=, 

and, since the structure of ..their wings is similar, pro- 
bal)ly the other Orthoptera — fly in the same way. 

Ilemipterous insects, witli respect to their Ilemely- 
tra. may be divided into two classes. Those in which 
they are all of the same substance — varying from meni- 

a Plate X. Fig. 2. . b Uht. Iii^. 03. civ^^ //jj.^. n, gj. 


brane to a leathery or horny crust^ — and those in whicti 
the base and the apex are of different substances ; the 
first being generally corneous, and the latter membra- 
naceous*". The former division includes the Cicadiadm ; 
Aphis-. Chermes; Thrips; ixwA Coccus ., — and the latter 
the Cimicidce, comprehending besides the Linnean ge- 
nus Cimex, Notonecta; Sigma; Nepa; Ranatra; and 
Naucoris of Fabricius. The posterior tibiae of some of 
this last division (Lj/gcens pfij/llopus,foliacem,8ic.,F.) 
are furnished on each side with a foliaceous process — 
which may act the part of out-riggers, and assist them in 
their flights I can give you no particular information 
with respect to the aerial movements of the insects of 
this order: the British species that belong to it are 
generally so minute that it is not easy to trace them 
with the naked eye ; and unless some kind optician, 
which is much to be wished, would invent a telescope 
by which the proceedings of insects could be examined 
at a distance, there is no other way of studying them. 
The four wings of the next order, the Trichoptera 
or case-worm flies, both in their shape and nervures 
resemble those of many moths'^; only instead of scales 
they are usually covered with hairs, and the under 
win""S, which are larger than the upper, fold longitu- 
dinally. Some of these flies, I have observed, move 
in a direct line, with their legs set out, which makes 
them look as if they were walking in the air. In fly- 
in"- they often apply their antenna; to each other, 
stretching them ont straight, and thus probably are 
assisted in their motion. 

a Plate IT. Fig. 4. b Plate X. Fig. S. II. fjc. 3. 
c Plate XV. Fig. 2. d Plate 111. Fig. 4. 


The Lepidoptera vary so infinitely in the shape, com- 
parative magnitude, and appendages of their wings, 
that I should detain you too long did I enlarge upoii so 
multifarious a subject. I shall therefore only observe, 
that one species is described, both by L\onel and De 
Geer* (Plmfa-na he.vaptera, F?), as having six wings; 
forbesidesthefourordinary ones, ithasa vvinglet(^''///ff) 
attached to the base ot the lower one, and placed, when 
the wings are folded, between it and the upper. These 
organs in this order you know are covered with scales 
of various shape''. Their nervures are diverging rays, 
which issue either from a basal area or from the base 
itself, and terminate in the exterior margin''. The 
wings of many male butterflies, hawk-moths, and moths, 
are distinguished by a reniarkable apparatus, noticed 
by De Geer, and since by many other na(uraiiits'', for 
keeping them steady and underanged in their flight. 
The upper wings, on their underside near their base, 
have a minute process, bent into a hook (Ilainus), and 
covered with hairs and scales. In this hook one or 
more bristles ( Tendo), attached to the base of the under 
^ving-, have their play. When the fly unfolds its wings, 
the hook does not quit its hold of the bristle, which 
moves to and fro in it as they expand or close. The 
females, which seldom fly far, often have the bristles, 
but never the hook. The hairy tails of some insects, 
Sesia, F., belonging to the hawk-moth tribe, are ex- 
panded vt^hen they fly, so as to form a kind of rudder, 

a Lesser, L. i. 109, note *. De Geer, ii. 460—. t. ix. f. 9. 
b Plate XXII. Fro. 1— « Plate X. Fis. 6. 

«l De Geer, i. 173. t. x.f. 4. Linn. Trans, i. 135—. 
VOL. II. 2 A 


which enables them to steer their course with tnore 

The insects of this, and of every other order, except 
the Coleopter'a, fly with their bodies in a horizontal 
position, or nearly so. As their wings are usually so 
ample, we need not wonder that the Lepidoptera are 
excellent fliers. Indeed they seem to flit untired from 
flower to flower and from field to field; impelled at 
one while by hunger, and at another by love or mater- 
nal solicitude. — The distance to which some males will 
fly is astonishing. That of one of the silk-worm moths 
(Bombt/x Paphia^ F.) is stated to travel sometimes 
more than a hundred milesin this way ^. — Our most beau- 
tiful butterfly, the purple emperor (Pajnlio Iris, L.), 
when he makes his first appearance fixes his throne on 
the summit of some lofty oak, from whence in sunny 
days, unattended by his empress, who does not fly, he 
takes his excursions. Launching into the air from one 
of the highest twigs, he mounts often to so great a 
height as to become invisible. When the sun is at the 
meridian his loftiest flights take place ; and about four 
in the afternoon he resumes his station of repose ''. — 
The large bodies of hawk-moths {Sphinx, F.) are car- 
ried by wings remarkably strong both as to nervures 
and texture, and their flight is proportionably rapid 
and direct. That of butterflies is by dipping and rising 
alternately, so as to form a zig-zag line with vertical 
angles, which the animal often describes with a skip- 
ping motion, so that each zig-zag consists of smaller 

a Linn. Trans, vii. 40. 
Haworth Lepidopt. Diit. i. 19. 


ones. This doubtless renders it more difficult for the 
birds to take them as they fly; and thus the niale^ 
when paired, often flits away with the female. 

Amongst the Neuropterous tribes the most conspi- 
cuous insects are the dragon-flies (Libellulidce), which 
— their metamorphosis, habits, mode of iife, and charac- 
ters considered — form a distinct natural order of them- 
selves. Their four wings, which are nearly equal in 
size, are a complete and beautiful piece of net-work, 
resembling the finest lace, the meshes of which are 
usually filled by a pure, transparent, glassy membrane. 
In two of the genera belonging to this tribe, the wings, 
when the animal is at rest, are always expanded, so 
that they can take flight in an instant, no previous un- 
folding of these organs being necessary. In Agrion^ 
the other genus of the tribe, the wings when they re- 
pose are not expanded. I have observed of these in*- 
sects, and also of several others in different orders, 
that without turning they can fly in all directions—^ 
backwards, and to the right and left, as well as for- 
wards. This ability to fly all ways, without having to 
turn, must be very useful to them when pursued by a 
bird. Leeuwenhoek once saw a swallow chasing an 
insect of this tribe, which he calls nMordello^ in a me- 
nagerie about a hundred feet long. The little crea- 
ture flew with such astonishing velocity — to the right 
— to the left — and in all directions — that this bird of 
rapid wing and ready evolution was unable to overtake 
and entrap it ; the insect eluding every attempt, and 
being generally six feet before it*. Indeed, such is the 
power of the long wings by which the dragon-flies are 

a Lcpuw. Epist. 6. Mart. 1717. 
2 A 2 


distinguished, particularly in Mshna and Lihelhda^ and 
such the force of the muscles that move them, that they 
seem never to be wearied with flying. I have ob- 
served one of the former genus sailing for hours ov?r 
a piece of water — sometimes to and fro, and sometimes 
wheeling from side to side ; and all the while chasing, 
capturing, and devouring the various insects that came 
athwart its course, or driving away its competitors — 
without ever seeming tired, or inclined to alight. 
Another species (jEshna variegata) very common in 
Janes and along hedges, which flies like the Ortho' 
ptera, in a waving line, is equally alert and active after 
its prey. This, however, often alights for a moment, 
and then resumes its gay excursive flights. The spe- 
cies of the genns Agrion cut the air with less velocity ; 
but so rapid is the motion of their wings, that they be- 
come quite invisible. Hawking always about for prey, 
tlie Agrions, from the variety of the colours of different 
individuals, form no uninteresting object during a sum- 
mer stroll. With respect to the mode of flight of the 
other neuropterous tribes I have nothing to remark ; 
for that of the EphemercE, which has been most noticed, 
I shall consider under another head. 

The next order of insects, the Hi/menoptera, attract 
also general attention as fliers, and from our earliest 
years. The ferocious hornet, with its trumpet of ter- 
ror; the intrusive and indomitable wasp; the booming- 
and pacific humble-bee, the frequent prey of merciless 
school-boys; and that universal favourite, the indus- 
trious inhabitant of the hive, — all belonging to it, — are 
fArailiar to every one. And in summer-time there is 
scarcely a flower or leaf in field or garden, which is 


wot visited by some of its numerous tribes. The four 
wings of these insects, the upper pair of which are 
larger than the under, vary much in their nervures. 
From the saw-flies ( 7>w<Are<^/>?/c?fle), whose wings are; 
nearly as much reticulated as those of some Neifro- 
ptera, to the minute Clialcis and Psilus, in whicii these 
organs are without nervures, there is every interme- 
diate variety of reticulation that can bo imagined^. It 
has been observed, that the nervures of the wings are 
usually proportioned to the weight of the insect. Thus 
the saw-flies have generally bodies thicker than thosa 
of most other Hymenoptera, while those that have^ 
fewer nervures are iriore slender. This, however, does, 
not hold good in all cases — so that the dimensions and 
cut of the wings, the strength of their nervures, and 
the force of their muscles, must also be taken into con- 
sideration. The wings of many of these insects when, 
expanded, are kept in the same plane by means of 
small hooks {Hamuli) in the anterior margin of the, 
under wing, wiiich lay hold of the posterior margin of 
the upper''. Another peculiarity also distinguishes 
them. Base-covers ( Tegulct), or small concavo-convex 
shields, protect the base of the wings from injury % or 

The most powerful fliers in this order are the humble- 
bees, which, like the dung-chdifierfi (Scarabceus), traverse 
the air in segments of a circle, the arc of which is alter- 
nately to right and left. The rapidity of their flight is 
80 great, that could it be calculated, it would be found, 
the size of the creature considered, far to exceed that 

R Jurine Hymenopt. t. 2-5. l> Kirby Mon. Ap. Jngl. i. 96. 108 

;. iiii. /. 19. c Ibid. %. 107. t.v.J. 8. M. 


of any bird. — The aerial movements of the hive-bee 
are more direct and leisurely. When leaving the hive 
for an excursion, I have observed that as soon as they 
come out they turn about as if to survey the entrance^ 
and then wheeling round in a circle, fly off. When 
they return to the hive, they often fly from side to side, 
as if to examine before they alight. When swarming, 
the heads of all are turned towards the group at the 
mouth of their dwelling ; and upon rising into the 
air these little creatures fly so thick in every direction, 
as to appear like a kind of net-work with meshes of 
every angle. The queen also, upon going forth, when 
her object is to pair, after returning to reconnoitre, be- 
gins her flight by describing circles of considerable di- 
ameter, thus rising spirally with a rapid motion '^. The 
object of these gyrations is probably to increase her 
chance of meeting with a drone. — I have not much to 
tell you with respect to the flight of other insects of 
this order, except that a spider-wasp {Pompilus viati- 
cuS) F.), whose sting is redoubtable, and which often, 
when we are in the vicinity of sandy sunny banks, ac- 
companies our steps, has a kind of jumping movement 
when it flies. 

The next order, the Diptera, consists altogether of 
two-winged flies : — but to replace the under wings of 
the tetrapterous insects, they are furnished with poisers, 
and numbers of them also with winglets. The poisers 
(Haltcres) are little membranaceous threads placed 
one under the origin of each wing, near a spiracle, and 
terminated by an oval, round, or triangular button, 
which seems capable of dilatation and contraction. 

» Huber, i. 38. 


The animal moves these organs with great vivacity, 
often when at rest, and probably when flying. Their 
winglets (^Alulce) are different from those of Dytiscus 
marginalis, and the moth before noticed. Like them, 
they are of rigid membrane^ and fringed ; but they con- 
sist generally of two concavo-convex pieces (some- 
times surrounded by a nervure), situated between the 
wing and the poisers, which, when the insect reposes, 
fold over each other like the valves of a bivalve shell ; 
but when it flies they are extended. The use of neither 
of these organs seems to have been satisfactorily as- 
certained. Dr. Derham thinks they are for keeping 
the body steady in flight ; and asserts, that if either a 
poiser or winglet be cut off, the insect will fly as if one 
side overbalanced the other, till it falls to the ground; 
and that if both be cut off, they will fly awkwardly and 
unsteadily, as if they had lost sovne very necessary 
part^. Shelver cut off the winglets of a fly, leaving 
both wings and poisers, but it could no longer fly. He 
next cut off the poisers of another, leaving the wings 
and winglets, and the same result followed. He found, 
upon removing one of these organs, that they were not 
properly compared to balancers. Observing that a - 
common crane-fly (Tipula crocata) moved the knee of 
the hinder tibia in connexion with the wing and poiser, 
he cut it off, and it could no longer fly : this last ex- 
periment, however, seems contradicted by the fact, 
which has been often observed, that the insects of this 
genus will fly when half their legs are gone. He after- 
wards cut off both its poisers, when it could neither 
fly nor walk. Hence he conjectures that the poisers 

a Phys. Theol. 13th Ed. 366, note ((.) 


are connected with the feet, and are air-holders*. I 
have ofien seen tiles move their poisers very briskly 
when at rest, particularly Scioptera vibrans, before 
inenfioned. This renders Shelver's conjecture — that 
they are connected with respiration — not iinprohable. 
Perliaps by tl'.eir action vSome effect may be produced 
upon the spiracie in their vicinity, either as to the 
opening- or closing of it. 

There are three classes of fliers in this order, the 
form oi whose bodies, as well as the shape and circum- 
stances of their wings, is different. First are the slen- 
der flies — the gnats, gnat-like flies, and crane-flies 
(Tipii/id(e). The bodies of these are light, their wings 
narrow, and their legs long, and they have no wing- 
lets. Next are those whose bodies, though slender, 
are more weighty — the Asilidce, Conopsidce, &c. ; these 
have larger wings, shorter legs, and very minute and 
sometimes even obsolete winglets. Lastly come the 
flies, the MuscidcE^ and their affinities, whose bodies 
being short, thick, and olten very heavy, are furnished 
not only vvith proportionate wings and shorter legs, 
but also vvith conspicuous winglets. From these com- 
parative differences and distinctions, we may conjec- 
ture in tlie first place — since the lightest bodies are 
furnished with the longest legs, and the heaviest with 
•tiie shortest — that the legs act as poisers and rudders, 
that keep them steady while they fly, and assist them 
in directing their course ''; and in the next — since the 

a Wi'demann's Aichiv. ii. 210 — . 

b To those that frpqucnt meadows and pastures ( Tipiila oleracea, L. &c.) 
Ihey are also useful, as I have before obferved, as stilts, to enable them 
to walk over the grass. Reautn. v. Pref. i. t. iii./. 10. 


winglets arc largest in the heaviest bodies, and alto- 
gether vvantinj:^ in the lightest— that one of their prin* 
cipal uses is to assist the wings when the insect is flying. 

The flight of the Tipulidan genera is very various. 
Sometimes, as I have observed, they fly up and down 
with a zig-zag- course; at others in vertical curves of 
small diameter, like some birds; atothers, again, in hori- 
zontal curves: — all these lines they describe with a kind 
of skipping motion. Sometimes they would seem to flit 
in every possible way — upwards, downwards, athwart, 
obliquely, and sometimes almost in circles. The common' 
gnat {Ciilex plpicns) seems to sail along also in various 
directions. The motion of its wings, if it does not fly 
like a hawk, is so rapid as not to be perceptible. When 
the crane-fly (Tipula oleracea)^is upon the wing, its 
fore-iegs are placed horizontally, pointing forwards, 
and the lour hind ones stretched out in an opposite 
direction, the one forming the prow, and the other the 
•tern of the vessel, in its voyage through the ocean of 
air. The legs of another insect of this tribe {Ilirtcea 
Marci) all point towards the anus in flight, the long 
anterior pair forming an acute angle with the body: — 
thus, perhaps, it can better cut the air. 

I have often been amused in my walks with the mo- 
tions of the hornet-fly {Asilus crabroniformis, L), be- 
longing to the second division just mentioned. This 
insect is carnivorous, living upon small flies. When 
you are taking your rambles, you may often observe it 
alight just before you; — as soon as you come up, it flies 
a little further, and will thus be your avant-courier for 
the w hole length of a long field. This usually takes 
place, I seem to have observed, when a path lies under 


a hedge ; and perhaps the object of this manoeuvre may 
be the capture of prey. Your motions may drive a 
number of insects before you, and so be instrumental 
in supplying it with a meal. Other species of the ge- 
nus have the same habit. 

The aerial progress of the fly tribes (Muscidce), in- 
cluding the gad-flies (CEstrus) ; horse-flies ( Tabimus) ; 
carrion-flies (3Iitsca), and many other genera — which 
constitute the heavy horse amongst our two- winged fliers 
— is wonderfully rapid^ and usually in a direct line. An 
anonymous observer in Nicholson's t/owrwa/^ calculates 
that, in its ordinary flight, the common house-fly (Blusca 
domesiica, L.) makes with its wings about 600 strokes, 
which carry it five feet, every second. But if alarmed, 
he states their velocity can be increased six or seven- 
fold, or to thirty or thirty-five feet, in the same period. 
In this space of time a race-horse could clear only ninety 
feet, which is at the rate of more than a mile in a minute. 
Our little fly, in her swiftest flight, will in the same space 
of time go more than the third of a mile. Now com- 
pare the infinite difference of the size of the two animals 
(ten millions of the fly would hardly counterpoise one 
racer), and how wonderful will the velocity of this mi- 
nute creature appear ! Did the fly equal the race-horse 
in size, and retain its present powers in the ratio of its 
magnitude, it would traverse the globe with the rapi- 
dity of lightning. 

It seems to me, that it is not by muscular strength 
alone that many insects are enabled to keep so long 
upon the wing. Every one who attends to them must 
have noticed that the velocity and duration of their 

a 4to. iii. 36. 


flights depend much upon the heat or coolness of the 
atmosphere; especially the appearance of the sun. 
The warmer and more unclouded his beam, the more 
insects are there upon the wing, and every diurnal spe- 
cies seems fitted for longer or more frequent excur- 
sions. As these animals have no circulating fluid ex- 
cept the air in their tracheae and bronchiae, their loco- 
motive powers, with few exceptions, must depend alto- 
gether upon the state of that element. When the ther- 
mometer descends below a certain point they become 
torpid, and when it reaches a certain height they re- 
vive; so that the air must be regarded, in some sense, 
as their blood, or rather the caloric that it contains ; 
which when conveyed by the air, it circulates quickly 
in them, invigorates all their motions, enter- into the 
muscles and nervures of their wings, maintaining their 
tension, and by the greater or less rapidity of its pulsa- 
tions accelerating or diminishing their action. 

Having given you all the information that I can col- 
lect with respect to the motions of perfect insects in the 
air^ I must next say something concerning their modes 
of locomotion in or upon the water. These are of two 
kinds, swimming and walking. Obsei-ve — 1 call that 
movement swimming, in which the animal pushes itself 
along by strokes — while in walking, the motion of the 
legs is not different from what it would be if they were 
on land. Most insects that swim have their posterior 
legs peculiarly fitted for it, either by a dense fringe of 
hairs on the shank and foot, as in the water-beetles 
(Di/tiscus)^, or the water-boatmen {Notonecla) ; or by 
having their terminal joints very much dilated — as in 
the whirlwig {Gyrinus) — so as to resemble the paddle 
a Plate XIV. Fig. 6. 


• of an oar^. When the Dytisci rise to the silrfacc to 
take in fresh air — a silver bubble of which may often 
be seen suspended at their anus — they ascend, as it 
should seem, merely in consequence of their being spe- 
cifically lighter than the water; but when they descend 
or move horizontally, which they do with considerable 
rapidity, it is by regular and successive strokes of thek 
swimming' legs. While they remain suspended at the 
surface, these legs are extended so as to fonn a right 
angle with their body. The Notonecfce swim upon their 
back, which enables them to see readily and seize the 
insects that fall upon ihe water, which are their prey. 
Sigarfi, however, a cognate genus separated from No- 
tonecta by Fabricius, swmss in the ordinary way. As 
the Gyrini are usually in motion at the surface, whirl- 
ing round and round in circles, it is probable that their 
legs are best adapted to this movement. They dive 
down, however, with great ease and velocity when 
alarmed. The common water- bug (Gem's (acusiris, 
I^atr.), though it never goes under water, will some- 
times swim upon the surface, which it does by strokes 
of the intermediate and posterior legs''. These, how- 
ever, are neither fringed nor dilated, but very long and 
slender, with claws, not easily detected, situated un- 
der the apex of the last joint of the foot, which covers 
and conceals them. The underside of their body — as 
is the case with Elophonis^ F., and many other aquatic 
insects — is clothed with a thick coat of gray hairs like 
satin, which in certain lights have no small degree of 
lustre, and protect its body from the effects of the water- 

a Mr. Briggs observes that this insect appears to move all its legs at 
«ncc, with wonderful rapidity, by which motion it produces a radiating 
vibration on the surface of the water, b De Grer, iii. 314. 


Seme insects, that are not naturally aquatic, if they 
fall into the water will swim very well. 1 once saw a 
kind of grasshopper (yJaydium, F.), which by the pow- 
erful strokes of its hind legs pushed itself across a 
stream with great rjipidity. 

Other insects wall:, as it were, in the water, moving 
their legs much in the same way as they would do on 
the land. Many smaller species of water-beetles, be- 
longing- to the genera Il^drophilus, Efophorus, Ht/<- 
driena, Parnus., Elmis, &c., thus win their way in the 
waves. — Thus also the water-scorpion (Nepa) pursues 
its prey ; and the little water-mites {Ilydrachna) may 
be seen in every pool thus working their little legs with 
great rapidity, and moving about in all directions. — 
Some spiders also will not only traverse the surface of 
the waters, but, as you have heard with respect to one % 
descend into tlieir bosom. There are other insects 
moving in this way that are not divers. Of this kind 
are the aquatic bugs (Gerris lacustris, Hrjdromctnt 
Stagno)-i(m, Velia JRhulorum, &c., Latr.). The first 
can walk, run, and even leap, which it does upon its 
prey, as well as swim upon the surface. The second, 
remarkable for its extreme slenderness, and for its pro- 
minent hemispherical eyes — which, though they are 
really in the head, appear to be in the middle of the 
body — rambles about in chase of other insects, in con-' 
aiderable numbers, in most stagnant waters. Tho 
Velia is to be met with chiefly in running- streams and 
rivers, coursing very rapidly over their waves. The 
two last species neither jump nor swim. 

I ana next to say a few words upon the motions of 

*YoB. 1. 2d Ed. ns. 


insects that burrozo, either to conceal themselves 6t 
their young. Though the latter is not always a loco- 
motion, I shall consider it Under this head, to preserve 
the unity of the subject. Many enter the earth by 
means of fore legs particularly formed for the purpose. 
The flat, dentated anterior shanks, with slender feet, 
that distinguish the chakrs (Scarabceidce) — all of which 
in their first states live under ground, and many occa- 
sionally in their last — enable them to make their way 
either into the earth or out of it. Two other genera 
of beetles (Scarites and Clivina, Latr.) '^ have these 
shanks palmated, or armed w ith longer teeth at their 
extremity, for the same purpose. But the most re- 
markable burrower amongst perfect insects is that sin- 
gular animal the mole-cricket {Gryllotalpa vulgaris, 
Latr.) ''. This creature is endowed with wonderful 
strength, particularly in its thorax and fore legs. The 
former is a very hard and solid shell or crust, covering 
like a shield the trunk of the animal ; and the latter are 
uncommonly fitted for burrowing, both by their strength 
and construction. The shanks are very broad, and 
terminate obliquely in four enormous sharp teeth "^j 
like so many fingers : the foot consists of three joints 
— the two first being broad and tooth-shaped, and 
pointing in an opposite direction to the teeth of the 
shank ; and the last small, and armed at the extremity 
with two short claws. This foot is placed inside the 
shank, so as to resemble a thumb and perform the of- 
fice of one''. The direction and motion of these hands, 
as in moles, is outwards ; thus enabling the animal 

a Plate XV. Fig. 5. b Plate II. Fig. 2. 

e Plate XV. Fir. 6. a. ^ Ibid. 6. 


«iost effectually to remove the earth when it burrows. 
By the help of these powerful instruments, it is asto- 
nishing how instantaneously it buries itself This 
creature works under ground like a jfield-mouse, raising 
a ridge as it goes ; but it does not throw up heaps like 
its namesake the mole. They will in this manner un- 
dermine whole gardens ; and thus in wet and swampy 
situations, in which they delight, they excavate their 
curious apartments, before described. — The field- 
cricket {Achcta campestris) is also a burrower, but by 
means of different instruments ; for with its strong 
jaws, toothed like the claws of a lobster, but sharper, 
in heaths and other dry situations it perforates and 
rounds its curious and regular cells. The house-cricket 
(A.domeslica), which, on account of the softness of the 
mortar, delights in new-built houses, with the same 
organs, to make herself a covered-way from room to 
room, burrows and mines between the joints of the 
bricks and stones *. 

But of all the burrowing tribes, none are so nume- 
rous as those of the order Hymeno'ptera. Wherever 
you see a bare bank, of a sunny exposure, you always 
find it full of the habitations of insects beloneins: to it : 
— and besides this, evQX"^ rail and old piece of timber is 
with the same view perforated by them. Bees; wasps; 
bee-wasps (JBemhex) ; spider-wasps {Pompilus) ; fly- 
wasps (Mellmus, Cerceris, Crabro), with many others, 
excavate subterranean or ligneous habitations for their 
young. None is more remarkable in this respect than 
the sand- wasp {Ammophila, K.), or as it might be better 
named — since it always commits its eggs to caterpillars 

a WJiite Nat. Hist. ii. 80. 72, 7G. 

5C8 MOTIONS or insects. 

which it inhumes — the caterpillar- wasp. It digs its bur- 
rows by ?cratc3)in^ with its fore legs like a clog or a rab- 
bit, dispersing with its ind ones, which are particularly 
constructed for that purpose, the sand socoJiected*. 

Since most of these burrows are designed for the re- 
ception of the eggs of the burrowers, 1 shall next de- 
scribe to 30U the manner in v/hich one of the long- 
legged gnats, or crane-flies (TZ/^w/a variegata, L.) — a 
proceeding to which I was myself a witness — oviposits. 
Choosing a south bank bare of grass, she stood with her 
legs stretched out on each side, and kept turning her- 
self half round backwards and forwards alternately. 
Thus the ovipositor, which terminates her long cvlin- 
drical pointed abdomen, made its way into the hard 
soil, and deposited her eggs in a secure situation. All, 
however, were not committed to the same burrow; for 
she every now and then shifted her station, but not 
more than an inch from where she bored last. While 
she was thus engaged, I observed her male companion 
suspended by one of his legs on a twig, not far from 
her. The common turf-boring crane*fly (T. oleracea, 1j.) 
when engaged in laying eggs, moves over the grass 
with her body in a vertical position, by the help — her 
four anterior legs being in the air — of her two posterior 
ones, and the end of her abdomen, which performs the 
office of another. Whether in boring, like T. variegata, 
!«he turns half round and back, does not appear flrom 
Reaumur's account''. 

I now come to motions whose object seems to be 
sport and amusement rather than locomotion. They 

a Linn,. Trans, iv, SOO— . b t, SO — 


hiay be considered as of three kinds — hovering — gyrar 
tions — and dancing. 

You have often in the woods and other places seen 
flies suspended as it were in the air, their wings all the 
while moving so rapidly as to be almost invisible. This 
koverinp;, which seems peculiar to the aphidivorous flies, 
has been also noticed by Do Geer^. I have frequently 
amused myself with watching them t, but when I have 
endeavoured to entrap them with my forceps, they have 
immediately shifted their qufirters, and resumed their 
amusement elsewhere. The most remarkable insects 
in this respect are the sphinxes, and from this they 
doubtless took their name of hawk-moths. When they 
unfold their long tongue, Jtnd wipe its sweets from any 
nectariferous flower, they always keep upon the wing, 
suspending themselves over it til! they have exhausted 
them, Avhen they fly away (o another. The species 
called by collectors the hununing-bird (S. Stellatnrum^ 
L/.), and by some persons mistaken for a real one, h 
remarkablfe foi* this, and the motion of its wings is in- 
conceivably rapid''. 

The gt/ratlons of insects take place either when they 
are reposing, or when they are flying or swimming. — ^ 
I was once much diverted by observing the actions of a 
minute moth {Tinea) upon a leaf on which it was sta- 
tioned. Making its head the centre of its revolutions^ 
it turned round ind round with considerable rapidity, 
as if it had the vertigo, for some time. I did not, how- 
ever, succeed in my attempts to take it. — Scaliger no- 
ticed a similar motion in the book-crab (Chelifer can-^ 
croides) '^i 

a vi. 104. b Ilai. Hist. Ins. 133. 1. c Lesser, L. i. 248, note 22, 
VO|^. U. '2 H 


Reaumur describes in a very interesting and lively 
way the gyrations of the EpheraeraB before noticed", 
round a lighted flambeau. It is singular, says he, 
that moths which fly only in the night, and shun the 
day, should be precisely those that come to seek the 
light in our apartments. It is still more extraordinary 
that these Ephemera? — which appearing after sun-set, 
and dying before sun-rise, are destined never to behold 
the lio-ht of that orb — should have so strong an incli- 
nation for any luminous object. To hold a flambeau 
when they appeared was no very pleasant office ; for 
he who filled it, in a few seconds had his dress covered 
with the insects, which rushed from all quarters to him. 
The light of the flambeau exhibited a spectacle which 
enchanted every one that beheld it. All that were pre- 
sent, even the most ignorant and stupid of his domes- 
tics, were never satisfied with looking at it. Never had 
any armillary sphere so many zones, as there were here 
circles, which had the light for their centre. There 
was an infinity of them — crossing each other in all di- 
rections, and of every imaginable inclination — all of 
which were more or less eccentric. Each zone was 
composed of an unbroken string of Ephemerae, resem- 
bling a piece of silver lace formed into a circle deeply 
notched, and consisting of equal triangles placed end 
to end (so that one of the angles of that which followed 
touched the middle of the base of that which preceded), 
and moving with astonishing rapidity. The wings oi' 
the flies, which was all of them that could then be di- 
stinguished, formed this appearance. Each of these 
creatures, after having described one or two orbits^ fell 

a Vol. I. 2d I'A. 282—. 


iipon the earth or into the water, but not in conse- 
quence of being burned^. Reaumur was one of the 
most accurate of observers ; and yet 1 suspect that 
the appearance he describes was a visual deception, 
and for the followini^ reason. I was once walking in 
the day-time with a friend'', when our attention was 
caught by myriads' of small flies, which were dancing 
under every tree ; — viewed in a certain light they ap- 
peared a concatenated series of insects (as Reaumur 
has here described his EphemeraB) moving in a spiral 
direction upwards ; — but each series, upon close exa- 
mination, we found was produced by the astonishingly- 
rapid movement of a single fly. Indeed when we con- 
sider the space*that a fly will pass through in a second, 
it is not wonderful that the eye should be unable to 
trace its gradual progress, or that it should appear pre- 
sent in the whole space at the same instant. The fly 
We saw was a small male Ichneumon. 

Other circular motions of sportive insects take place 
in the waters. Linne, in his Lapland tour, noticed a 
black Tipula which ran over the water, and turned 
iound like a Gyrinus'^. This last insect I have often 
mentioned ; — it seems the merriest and most agile of all 
the inhabitants of the waves. Wonderful is the velocity 
with which they turn round and round, as it were, pur- 
suing each other in incessant circles, sometimes moving 
in oblique, and indeed in every other direction. Now 
and then they repose on the surface, as if fatigued with 
their dances, and desirous of enjoying the full eiFect of 

a 484. t. xW.f.l. 

b The persons observing the appearance here related Were the nuUiors 
of I hi* work. c Lack. Lapp. i. 194. 

2 B 2 


the sun-beam : if you approach, they are instahtant^- 
ously in motion again. Attempt to entrap them with 
your net, and they are under the water and dispersed 
in a moment. When the danger ceases they re-appear 
and resume their vagaries. Covered with lucid armour, 
when the sun shines they look like little dancing masses 
of silver or brilliant pearls^. 

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

Towai'ds sun-set the common Ephemerae ( E. vulgata, 
L.), distinguished by their spotted wings and three long- 
tails (Candulce), counnence their dances in the meadows 
near the rivers. They assemble in troops, consisting 
sometimes of several hundreds, and keep rising and 
falling continually, usually over some high tree. They 

a Compare Oliv, Entoinol. iii. Gyiinui 4. 


rise beating the air rapidly with their wings, till they 
have ascended five or six feet above the tree ; then they 
descend to it with their wings extended and motion- 
less, sailing like hawks, and having their three tails 
elevated, and the lateral ones so separated as to form 
nearly a right angle with the central one. These tails 
seem given them to balance their bodies when they de- 
scend, which they do in a horizontal position. This 
motion continues two or three hours without ceasing, 
and commences in fine clear weather about an hour be- 
fore sun-set, lasting till the copious falling of the dew 
compels them to retire to their nocturnal station^. 
Our mok common species, which 1 have usually taken 
for the E. vulgata, varies from that of de Geer in its 
proceedings. I found them at the end of May dancing 
over the meadows, not over the trees, at a much earlier 
hour — at half-past three — rising in the way just de- 
scribed, about a foot, and then descending, at the di- 
stance of about four or five feet from the ground. An- 
other species, common here, rises seven or eight feet. 
1 have also seen Ephemerae flying over the water in a 
horizontal direction. The females are sometimes in 
the air, when the males seize them, and they fly paired. 
These insects seem to use their fore legs to break the 
air; they are applied together before the head, and 
look like antennas. — Empis maura^ a little beaked fly, 
I have observed rushing in infinite numbers like a 
shower of rain driven by the wind, as before observed ''j 
over waters, and then returning back. 

It is remarkable that the smaller TipuUdce will fly 
unwetted in a heavy shower of rain, as I have often 

a De Geer, ii. 6S8 — . b See above, p. 7. 


observed. How keen must be their sight, and how 
rapid their motions, to enable them to steer between 
drops bigger than their own bodies, which, if they fell 
upon them, must dash them to the ground ! 

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

I am, &c. 



X HAT insects, though they fill the air with a variety of 
sounds, have no voice, may seem to you a paradox, and 
you may be tempted to exclaim with the Roman natu- 
ralist. What, amidst this incessant diurnal hum of bees ; 
this evening- boom of beetles; this nocturnal buz of 
gnats ; this merry chirp of crickets and grasshoppers ; 
this deafening- drum of Cicada, have insects no voice ! 
If by voice we understand sounds produced by the air 
expelled from the lungs, which, passing through the 
larynx, is modified by the tongue, and emitted from the 
mouth, — it is even so. For no insect, like the larger 
animals, uses its mouth for utterance of any kind : in 
this respect they are ail perfectly mute ; and though 
incessantly noisy, are everlastingly silent. Of this fact 
the Stagy rite was not ignorant, since, denying them a 
voice, he attributes the sounds emitted by insects to 
another cause. But if we feel disposed to give a larger 
extent to this word ; if we are of opinion that all sounds, 
however produced, by means of which animals deter- 
mine those of their own species to certain actions, me- 
rit the name of voice ; then I will grant that insects 
have a voice. But, decide this question as we will, we 
ajl know that by some means or other, at certain sea- 
sons and on various occasions, these little creatures 


make a great din in the world. I must therefore now 
bespeak your attention to this department of their hi- 

In discussing this subject, I shall consider the noises 
insects emit — during their motions — when they are feed- 
ing, or otherwise employed — when they are calling or 
commanding — or when they are under the influence of 
the passions ; of fear, of anger, of sorrow, joy, or love. 

The only kind o? locomotion during which these ani- 
mals produce sounds, is flying : for though the hill-ants 
(Formica rufa, L.)j as I formerly observed % make a 
rustling noise with their feet when walking over dry 
leaves, I know of no other insect the tread of which is 
accompanied by sound — except indeed the flea, whose 
steps, a lady assures me, she always hears when it paces 
over her night-cap, and that it clicks as if it was walk- 
ing in pattens ! That the flight of numbers of insects 
is attended by a humming or booming is known to aU 
most every one ; but that the great majority move 
through the air in silence^ has not perhaps been so often 
observed. Generally speaking, those that fly with the 
most force ahd rapidity, and with wings seemingly mo- 
tionless, make the most noise ; while those that fly 
gently and leisurely, and visibly fan the air with their 
wings, yield little or no sound. 

Amongst the beetle tribes (Coleoptera), none is more 
noticed, or more celebrated for " wheeling its droning- 
flight," than the common dung-chafer (Scarabceus ster- 
corarius, L*.) and its affinities. Linne affirms — but the 
prognostic sometimes fails — that when these insects fly 
ill numbers, it indicates a subsequent fine day**, The 

a gee above, p, 97. b Si/st, NaU 550. 42. 


truth is, they only fly in fine weather. Mr. White has 
remarked, that in the dusk of the evening beetles begin 
'to buz, and that partridges begin to call exactly at the 
same time*. The common cockchafer, and that which 
appears at the summer solstice {Mclolontha viflgaris and 
sohtitialis, F.), when they hover over the summits of 
trees in numbers, produce a hum somewhat resembling 
that of bees swarming. Perhaps some insect of this 
kind may occasion the humming in the air mentioned 
by Mr. White, and which you and I have often heard 
in other places. " There is," says he, " a natural oc- 
currence to be met with in the highest part of our 
down on the hot summer days, which always amuses 
me much, without giving me any satisfaction with re- 
spect to the cause of it; — and that is a loud audible 
humming of bees in the air, though not one insect is to 
be seen.— — Any person would suppose that a large 
vSwarm of bees was in motion, and playing about over 
his head^." 

'< Resounds the living surface of the ground — - 
Nor undelightful is the ceaseless hum 
To him who muses through the woods at noon, 
Or drowsy shepherd as he lies rcclin'd." 

The hotter the weather, the higher insects will soar ; 
and it is not improbable that the sound produced by 
numbers may be heard, when those that produce it are 
out of sight. — The burying-beetle (Necropliorus Ves- 
pillo, F.), whose singular history*^ so much amused you, 
as well as Cicindda sylvatica of the same order, flies 
likewise, as I have more than once witnessed, with a 
considerable hum. 
ji Nat. Hid. ii. 254. b Jbid. 236. c Vol. I, 2d Ed. 351—. 


Whether the innumerable locust armies, to which I 
have so often called your attention, make any noise in 
their flight, I have not been able to ascertain ; tlje 
mere impulse of the wings of myriads and myriads of 
these creatures upon the air, must, one would think, 
produce some sound. In the symbolical loclists men* 
tioned in the Apocalypse^, this is compared to the 
sound of chariots rushing to battle : an illustration 
which the inspired author of that book would scarcely 
have had recourse to, if the real locusts winged their 
way in silence. 

Amongst the Hemiptera^ I know only a single spe- 
cies that is of noisy fliglit; though doubtless, were the 
attention of entomologists directed to that object, others 
would be found exhibiting the same peculiarity. The 
insect I allude to (Coreus marginaius^ F.) is one of the 
numerous tribe of bugs; when flying, especially when 
hovering together in a sunny sheltered spot, they emit 
a hum as loud as that of the hive-bee. 

From the magnitude and strength of their wings, it 
might be supposed that many lepidopterous insects 
would not be silent in their flight ; — and indeed many 
of the hawk-moths {Sphinx^ F.), and some of the 
larger moths {Bomhyx^ F.), are not so; B. Cossus, for 
instance, is said to emulate the booming of beetles by 
means of its large stiff wings; whence in Germany it 
is called the humming-bird (Brumm- Vogel). — But the 
great body of these numerous tribes, even those that 
fan the air with "sail-broad vans," produce little or 
no sound by their motion. I must therefore leave 
them, as well as the Trichoptera and Neuroptera, which 

a Rev. ix. 9. 


are equally barren of insects of sounding wing — and 
proceed to an order, the Hi/menoptera^ in which the 
insects that compose it are, many of them, of more fame 
for this property. 

The indefatigable hive-bee, as she flies from flower 
to flower, amuses the dbserver with her hum, which, 
though monotonous, pleases by exciting the idea of 
happy industry, that wiles the toils of labour with a 
song. When she alights upon a flower, and is en- 
gaged in collecting its sweets, her hum ceases ; but it 
is resumed again the moment that she leaves it. — The 
wasp and hornet also are strenuous hummers ; and when 
they enter our apartments, their hum often brings ter- 
ror with it. But the most sonorous fliers of this order 
are the larger humble-bees, whose bombination, boom" 
iiig, or bombing, may be heard from a considerable di- 
stance, gradually increasing as the animal approaches 
jou, and when, in its wheeling flight, it rudely passes 
close to your ear, almost stunning you by its sharp, 
shrill, and deafening sound, Many genera, however, 
of this order fly silently. 

But the noisiest wings belong to insects of the dipte- 
rous order, a majority of which, probably, give notice 
of their approach by the sound of their trumpets. Most 
of those, however, that have a slender bod) , — the gnat 
genus (Culex) excepted, — explore the air in silence. Of 
this description are the Tipulidce, the Asilidce, the ge- 
nus Empis, and their affinities. The rest are more or 
less insects of a humming flight; and with respect to 
ma3)y of them, their hum is a sound of terror and dis- 
may to those who hear it. To man, the trumpet of the 
gnat or mosquito ; and to beasts, that of the gad-fly ; 


the various kinds of horse flies (Tabanus, StomoX)/s, 
Ilippobosca) ; and of the Ethiopian zinib, as I have 
before related at large % is the signal of intolerable 
annoyance. Homer, in his Balrachomi/omachia^ long 
ago celebrated the first of these as a trumpeter — 

" For their sonorous trumpofs far lenown'd, 
Of battle the dire charge mosquitos sound." 

Mr. Pope, in his translation, with his usual inaccuracy, 
thinking no doubt to improve upon his author, has 
turned the old bard's gnats into hornets. In Guiana 
these animals are distinguished by a name still more 
tremendous, being called the devil's trumpeters ''. I 
have observed that early in the spring, before their 
thirst for blood seizes them, gnats when flying emit no 
sound. At this moment (Feb. ISth) two females are 
flying about my windows in perfect silence. 

After this short account of insects that give notice 
when they are upon the wing by the sounds that pre- 
cede them, I must inquire by what means these sounds 
are produced. Ordinarily, except perhaps in the case 
of the gnat, they seem perfectly independent of the will 
of the animal ; and in almost every instance, the sole 
instruments that cause the noise of flying insects are 
their wings, or some parts near to them, wliich, by their 
friction against the trunk, occasion a vibration — as the 
fingers upon the strings of a guitar — yielding a sound 
more or less acute in proportion to the rapidity of their 
flight — the action of the air perhaps upon these organs 
giving it some modifications. Whether, in the beetles 
that fly with noise, the elytra contribute more or less 

A Vol, I, 2d Ed. 1 13. 146— h Stedman's Surinam^ i, 34. 


to produce it, seems not to have been clearly ascer- 
tained : yet, since they fly with force as vvell as velo- 
city, the action of the air may cause sorre motion in 
them, enough to occasion friction. With respect to 
Diptera, Latreille contends that the noise of Hies on 
the wing cannot be the result of friction, because their 
wings are then expanded ; but though to us flies seem 
to sail through the air without moving these organs, 
yet they are doubtless all the while in motion, though 
too rapid for the eye to perceive it. When the aphi- 
divorous flies are hovering, the vertical play of their 
wings, though very rapid, is easily seen ; but when 
they fly off it is no longer visible. Repeated experi- 
ments have been tried to ascertain the cause of sound 
in this tribe, but it should seem with different results. 
De Geer, whose observations were made upon one of 
the flies just mentioned, appears to have proved that, 
in the insect he examined, the sounds were produced 
by the friction of the root or base of the wings against 
the sides of the cavity in which they are inserted. To 
be convinced of this, he afiirms, the observer has nothing 
to do but to hold each wing w ith the finger and thumb, 
and stretching them out, taking care not to hurt the 
animal, in opposite directions, thus to prevent their 
motion, — and immediately all sound will cease. For 
further satisfaction he made the following experiment. 
He first cut olTthe wings of one of these flies very near 
the base; but finding that it still continued to buz as 
before, he thought that the winglets and poisers, which 
he remarked were in a constant vibration, might oc- 
casion the sound. Upon this, cutting both off, he ex- 
amined the mutilated fly with a microscope, and found 


that the remaining fragments of the wings were in con- 
stant motion all the time that the buzzing continued : 
but that upon pulling them up by the roots all sound 
ceased^. Shelver's experiments, noticed in ray last 
letter, go to prove, with respect to the insects that he 
examined, that the winglets are more particularly con- 
cerned with the buzzing. Upon cutting otf the wings 
of a lly — but he does not state that he pulled them up 
by the roots — he found the sound continued. He next 
cut off the poisers — the buzzing went on. This expe- 
riment was repeated eighteen times with tlie same re- 
sult. Lastly, when he took off the winglets, either 
wholly or partially, the buzzing ceased. This, how- 
ever, if correct, can only be a cause of this noise in the 
insects that have winglets. Numbers have them not. 
He next, therefore, cut off the poisers of a crane-fly 
(Tiptdu crocata, L.), and found that it buzzed when it 
moved the wing. He cut off half the latter, yet still 
the sound continued ; but when he had cut off the whole 
of these organs the sound entirely ceased''. 

Aristophanes in his Clouds, deriding Socrates, intro- 
duces Chajrephon as asking that philosopher whether 
gnats made their buz with their mouth or their tail '^. 
Upon which Mouffet very gravely observes, that the 
Sound of one of these insects approaching is much mor^ 
acute than that of one retiring ; from whence he very 
sapiently concludes, that not the tail but the mouth 
must be their organ of sound''. But after all, the fric- 
tion of the base of the wings against the thorax seems 
to be the sole cause of the alarming buz of the gnat 

a Dc Geer, vi. 13. h Wiedemann's Jrchiv. ii. 210, 21T. 

t/tcti.Sc.'i. <» I\loi>flet, 81. 


as well as that of other Diptera. The warmer the 
weather, the greater is their thirst for blood, the more 
forcible their flight, the motion of their wings more 
rapid, and the sound produced by that motion more 
intense. In the niglit — -hut perhaps this may arise from 
the universal stillness that then reigns — their hum ap- 
pears louder than in tl.e day : whence its tones may 
seem to be modified by the will of the animal. 

Sounds also are sometimes emitted by insects when 
they are feeding or otherwise emploi/cd. The action of 
the jaws of a large number of cockchafers produces a 
noise resembling- the sawing of timber; that of the 
locusts has been compared to the crackling of a flame 
of fire driven by the wind ; indeed the collision at the 
same instant of myriads of millions of their powerful 
jaws must be attended by a considerable sound. The 
timber-borers also — the Buprestes ; the stag-horn bee- 
tles (Lucani) ; and particularly the capricorn-beetles 
{Ceramhi/cida') — the mandibles of whose larvae resem- 
ble a pair of mill-stones " — most probably do not feed in 
silence. A little v/ood-louse (Psocus pulsatorius, Latr.) 
— which on that account has been confounded with the 
death-watch — is said also, when so engaged, to emit a 
ticking noise. — Certain two-winged flies seen in spring, 
distinguished by a very long proboscis (Bombi/lius, L.), 
hum all the time that they suck the honey from the 
flowers ; as do also many hawk-moths, particularly that 
called from this circumstance the humming-hhd (Sphinx! 
Slellaiarum L.), which, while it hovers over them, 
unfolding its long tongue, pilfers their sweets without 
interrupting its song. — The giant cock-roach (Blaita 

uLimi. Trans, v. 255. t. xii. f, 7. b. 


oiga}ilea, L.), wliich abounds in old timber houses in 
the warmer parts of the worldj makes a noise when 
the family are asleep like a pretty smart rapping with 
the knuckles — three or four sometimes appearing to 
answer each other. — On this account in the West In- 
dies it is called the Drummer', and they sometimes 
beat such a leveille, that only good sleepers can rest 
ibr thcm^. As the animals of this genus generally 
come forth in the night for the purpose of feeding, this 
noise is probably connected with that subject. 

Insects also, at least many of the social ones, emit 
peculiar noises while engaged in their various ew/?/o?/- 
merits. If an ear be applied to a wasps or humble- 
bees nest, or a bee-hive, a hum more or less intense 
nmy alv\ ays be perceived. Were I disposed to play 
upon your credulity, 1 might tell you, with Gcedart, 
that in every humble-bees nest there is a trumpeter, 
who early in the morning, ascending to its summit, 
vibrates his wings, and sounding his trumpet for the 
space of a quarter of an hour, rouses the inhabitants to 
work! But since Reaumur could never witness this, 
I shall not insist upon your believing it, though the 
relater declares that he had heard it w ith his ears, and 
seen it with his eyes, and had called many to witness 
the vibrating and strepent wings of this trumpeter 
humble-bee^. — The blue sand-wasp (Ammoplnla cj/a-' 
nea), which at all other times is silent, when engaged 
in building its cells emits a singular but pleasing sound, 
which may be heard at ten or twelve yards distance '^. 
Some insects also are remarkable for a peculiar mode 

a Dniry's Insects, iii. Preface. b Lister's Goedart, 244—. Com- 

pare Reaum. vi. 30. c Bingley, Animal Biogr. iii. 1st Ed. 335, 


of callings commanding^ or giving an alarm. I have 
before mentioned the noise made by the neuters or sol- 
diers amongst the white ants, by Avhich they keep the 
labourers, who answer it by a hiss, upon the alert and 
to their work". This noise, which is produced by 
striking any substance with their mandibles, Smeath- 
man describes as a small vibrating sound, rather shriller 
and quicker than the ticking of a watch. It could be 
distinguished, he says, at the distance of three or four 
feet, and continued for a minute at a time with very 
short intervals. When any one walks in a solitary 
grove, where the covered ways of these insects abound, 
they give the alarm by a loud hissing, which is heard 
at every step''. — " When house-crickets are out," says 
Mr. White, " and running about in a room in the 
night, if surprised by a candle they give two or three 
shrill notes, as it were for a signal to their followers, 
that they may escape to their crannies and lurking- 
holes to avoid danger*^." 

Under this head I shall consider a noise before al- 
luded to*^, which has been a cause of alarm and terror 
to the superstitious in all ages. You will perceive that 
I am speaking of the death-watch — so called, because 
it emits a sound resembling the ticking of a watch, sup- 
posed to predict the death of some one of the family in 
the house in which it is heard. Thus sings the muse 
of the witty Dean of St. Patrick on this subject : 

'* A wood-worm 

That lies in old wood, like a hare ia her form : 

a See above, p. 41. b Philos. Trans. 1781. 48. 38. 

c Nat. Hist. ii. 262. d Vol. I. 2d Ed. 37 . 

VOL. II. 2 C 


With teeth or with claws it will bite or will scratchy " 

And chambermaids christen this worm a death-watch: 

Because like a watch it always cries click; 

Then woe be to those ia the house who are sirk ! 

For, sure as a gun, they will give up the ghost, 

If the maggot cries click, when it scratches the post ; 

But a kettle of scalding hot water injected. 

Infallibly cures the timber affected : 

The omen is broken, the danger is over. 

The maggot wiJ! die, and the sick will recover," 

To add to the effect of this noise, it is said to be made 
only when there is a profound silence in an apartment, 
and every one is still. 

Authors were formerly not agreed concerning the 
insect from which this sound of terror proceeded, some 
attributing it to a kind of wood-louse, as I lately ob- 
served, and others to a spider; but it is a received 
opinion now, adopted upon satisfactory evidence, that 
it is produced by some litt^ beetles belonging- to the 
timber-boring genus Anobium, F. Swammerdam ob- 
serves, that a small beetle, which he had in his collec- 
tion, having firmly fixed its fore legs, and put its in- 
flexed head between them, makes a continual noise in 
old pieces of wood, walls, and ceilings, which is some- 
times so loud, that upon hearing it, people have fan- 
cied that hobgoblins, ghosts, or fairies wci'e wandering 
around them ^. Evidently this was one of the death- 
watches. Latreille o])served Anobium striatum, F. 
produce the sound in question by a stroke of its mandi- 
bles upon the wood, ^vhich was answered by a similar 
noise from within it. But the species whose proceed- 

»mbl.Nat.Ed. lilll, i, 125. 


ings hkve been most noticed by British observers is 
A. tcssellatum, F. When spring- is far advanced, these 
insects are said to commence their ticking, which is 
only a call to each other, to which if no answer be re- 
turned, the animal repeats it in another place. It is 
thus produced. Raising itself upon its hind legs, with 
the body somewhat inclined, it beats its head with great 
force and agility upon the plane of position ; and its 
strokes are so powerful as to make a considerable im- 
pression if they fall upon any substance softer than 
wood. The general number of distinct strokes in suc- 
cession is from seven to nine or eleven. They follow 
each other quickly, and are repeated at uncertain in- 
tervals. In old houses, where these insects abound, 
they may be heard in warm weather during the whole 
day. The noise exactly resembles that produced by 
tapping moderately with the nail upon the table ; and 
when familiarized, the insect will answer very readily 
the tap of the nail^. 

The queen bee has long beon celebrated for a pecu- 
liar sound, producing the most extraordinary effects 
upon her subjects. Sometimes, just before bees swarm, 
-^—instead of the great hum usually heard, and even in 
the night — if the ear be placed close to the mouth of 
the hive, a sharp clear sound may be distinguished, 
which appears to be produced by the vibration of the 
wings of a single bee. This, it has been pretended, is 
the harangue of the new queen to her subjects, to in- 
spire them with courage to achieve the foundation of 
a new empire. But Butler gives to it a different in- 

a Shaw's Nat. Misc. iii. 104. Phil. Trans, xxxiii. 159. Compare 
Uumeril Tiaite ElemenU ii. 91. n. C9-J. 

2 c 2 


terpretation. He asserts, that the candidate for the 
new throne is then with earnest entreaties, lamenta- 
tions, and groans, supplicating the queen-mother of 
the hive to grant her permission to lead the intended 
colony ; — that this is continued, before she can obtain 
her consent, for two days ; when the old queen relent- 
ing gives her fiat in a fuller and stronger tone. That 
should the former presume to imitate the tones of the 
sovereign, this being the signal of revolt, she would be 
executed on the spot, with all whom she had seduced 
from their loyalty '^. — But it is time to leave fables: 
I shall therefore next relate to you what really takes 
place. You have heard how the bees detain their 
young queens till they are fit to lead a swarm. — I then 
mentioned the attitude and sound that strike the for- 
mer motionless''. When she emits this authoritative 
sound, reclining her thorax against a comb, the queen 
stands with her wings crossed upon her back, which, 
without being uncrossed or further expanded, are kept 
in constant vibration. The tone thus produced is a 
very distinct kind of clicking, composed of many notes 
in the same key, which follow each other rapidly. This 
sound the queens emit before they are permitted to 
leave their cells ; but it does not then seem to affect 
the bees. But when once they are liberated from con- 
finement and assume the above attitude, its effects upon 
them are very remarkable. As soon as the sound was 
heard, Huber tells us, bees that had been employed in 
plucking, biting^ and chasing a queen about, hung 
do^\ n their heads and remained-'altogether motionless; 

« Rcaum. v. 6!5. Butler's Female Monarchy, c. v. \ 4. 
•> See above, \., !49 — 


and whenever she had recourse to this attitude and 
sound, they operated upon them in the same manner. 
The writer just mentioned observed differences both 
with re£^ard to the succession and intensity of the notes 
and tones of this royal song : and, as he justly remarks, 
there may be still finer shades which, escaping our or- 
gans, may be distinctly perceived by the bees^. He 
seems however to doubt by what means this sound is 
produced. Reasoning analogically, the motion of the 
wings should occasion it. We have seen that they are 
in constant motion when it is uttered. Probably the 
intensity of the tones and their succession are regulated 
])y the intensity of the vil)rations of the vvings. Reau- 
mur remarks, that the different tones of the bees, 
whether more or less grave or acute, are produced by 
the strokes, more or less rapid, of their wings against 
the air, and that perhaps their different angles of incli- 
nation may vary the sound. Tlie fiiction of their 
bases likewise against the sides of the cavity in which 
they are inserted, as in the case of the fly lately men- 
tioned, or against the base-covers (Tegidce), may pro- 
duce or modulate their sounds, a bee whose wings are 
eradicated being perfectly mute''. This last assertion, 
however, is contradicted by John Hunter, who affirms 
that bees produce a noise independent of tlieir wings, 
emitting a shrill and peevish sound though they are cut 
off, and the legs held fast ^. Yet it does not appear from 
his experiment that the wings were eradicated. And 
if they were only cut off, the friction of their base might 
cause the sound. I have before noticed the reraark- 

aHubcr, i. 260. ii. 292— b Rcauni.v. G17. 

c Philos. Tram. 1732. 


able fact, that the tjueens educated according to M. 
Schirach's method aie absolutely mute : on which ac- 
count the bees keep no guard around their cells, nor 
retain them an instant in them after their transforma- 
tion ^. 

The passions, also, which urge us to various excla-r 
mations, elicit from insects occasionally certain sounds. 
Fear, anger, sorrow, joy, or love and desire, they ex- 
press in particular instances by particular noises. I 
shall begin with those which they emit when under any 
alarm. One larva only is recorded as uttering a cry of 
alarm, and it produces a perfect insect remarkable for 
the same faculty: I allude to SpMnx Atropns. Its ca-f 
terpillar, if disturbed at all, draws back rapidly, making 
at the same time a rather loud noise, which has been 
compared to the crack of an electric spark''. — You 
would scarcely think that any quiescent pupcc could 
show their fears by a sound, — yet in one instance this 
appears to be the case. De Geer having made a small 
incision in the cocoon of a moth, which included that 
of its parasite Ichneumon (/. Cantator, De G.), the in- 
sect concealed within the latter uttered a little cry, 
similar to the chirping of a small grasshopper, conti- 
nuing it for a long time together. The sound was pro- 
duced by the friction of its body against the elastic sub- 
stance of its own cocoon, and was easily iniitated by 
rubbing a knife against its surface '^. 

But to come to/jer/ecHnsects. Many beetles when 
taken show tljeir alarm by the emission of a shrill, sibi- 
lant, or creaking sound — which some compare to the 
chirping of young birds — produced by rubbing their 

r^ Iluber, i. 292— b Fuessl.^ro^iu. 8. 10. c De Geer, vii. 534. 


elytra with the extremity of their abdomen. This is 
the case with the dung-chafers (Scarahoius vernalis, 
stercor^aritis, and Copris lunaris) ; with the carrion- 
chafer ( Trox sabi(losus) ; and others of the Scarahceidce, 
The burj ing-beetle {Necrophoms Vespillo), Auchenia 
mdanopa, E. B., Crioccris mcrdigera, and Dytiscus 
Hermanm., and many other Co/eo/;/errt produce a simi- 
lar noise by the same means. When this noise is made, 
the movement of the abdomen may be perceived ; and 
if a pin is introduced under the elytra it ceases. Long 
after many of these insects are dead the noise may be 
caused by pressure. Rosel found this with respect to 
the Scarabcpidce^, and I have repeated the experiment 
with success upon Necrophorus VespiUo. The Capri- 
corn tribes (Ccrambj/cidce) emit under alarm an acute 
or creaking sound — which Lister calls querulous, and 
Dumeril compares to the braying of an ass** — by the 
friction of the thorax, which they alternately elevate 
and depress, against the neck, and sometimes against 
the base of the elytra *■, On account of tliis, Prionus 
coriarius^ F. is c2i[\eA the Jldler in Germany''. Two 
other coleopterous genera, Cj/chri/s and Clylns^ make 
their cry of Noli me tangere by rubbing their thorax 
against the base of the elytra. Pimelia, another beetle, 
does the same by the friction of its legs against each 
other ^. And, doubtless, many more Coleopiera, if ob- 
served, would be found to express their fears by simi- 
lar means. 

In the other orders the examples of cries of terror are 

a Ftosel, II. 208 b Rai. 77/47. Ins. 284. Dumeril, Trait. Ekment, 

ii.IOO. n. 17. c Dp (iepr,v. 58.69. Ro?rl, II. iii. 5, 

dRospljibid. e Latr. /7?s7. iVrif. x. 2G4, 


much less numerous. Ahug(Clmex subapterus, JieG.) 
when taken emits a sharp sound, probably with its ro- 
strum, by moving its head up and down =*. Ray makes 
a similar remark with respect to another bug (Reduvius 
personatuSy F.), the cry of which he compares to the 
chirping of a grasshopper ''. Mutilla europcea, a hy- 
menopterous insect, makes a sibilant chirping, as I once 
observed at Southwold, Avhere it abounds, but how 
produced I cannot say. The most remarkable noise, 
however, proceeding from insects under alarm, is that 
emitted by the death's-head hawk-moth, and for which 
it has long been celebrated. The Lepidoptera, though 
some of them, as we have seen, produce a sound when 
they fly, at other times are usually mute insects : but 
this alarmist — for so it may be called, from the terrors 
which it has occasioned to the superstitious •" — when it 
walks, and more particularly when it is confined, or 
taken into the hand, sends forth a strong and sharp cry, 
resembling that of a mouse, but more plaintive, and 
even lamentable, which it continues as long as it is 
held. This cry does not appear to be produced by the 
wings ; for when they, as well as the thorax and abdo- 
men, are held down, the cries of the insect become still 
louder. Schrceter says that the animal, when it utters 
its cry, rubs its tongue against its head ^ ; and Rcisel, 
that it produces it by the friction of the thorax and ab- 
domen ^. But Reaumur found, after the most atten- 
tive examination, that the cry came from the mouth, 
or rather from the tongue ; and he thought that it was 
produced by the friction of the palpi against that organ. 

a De Geer, iii. 2S9. b Hut. Jus. 56. c Vol. I. 2d Ed. 34. 

d Naturforscher Stk. xxi. TT. e III. 16. 


When, by means of a pin, he unfolded the s;piral tongue, 
the cry ceased ; but as soon as it was rolled up again be- 
tween the palpi it was renewed. Henextpreventedi;he 
palpi from touching it, and the sound also ceased; and 
.upoji removing- only one of them, though it continued, 
it became nnich more feeble^. Huber, however, denies 
that it is produced by the friction of the tongue and pal- 
pi '': but, as he has not stated his reasons for this opinion, 
I think his assertion that he has ascertained this cannot 
be allowed to countervail Reaumur's experiments. 

I must next say a few words upon the angry chidings 
of our little creatures; for tlieir anger sometimes vents 
itself in sounds. 1 have often been amused with hear- 
ing' the indignant tones of a humble-bee while lying 
upon its back. When I held my finger to it, it kicked 
and scolded with all its might. Hive-bees when irri- 
tated emit a shrill and peevish sound, continuing even 
when they are held under water, which Joha Hunter 
says vibrates at the point of contact with the air-holes 
at the root of their wings *=. This sound is particularly 
sharp and angry when they fly at an intruder. The 
same sounds, or very similar ones, tell us when a wasp 
is offended, and we may expect to be stung; — but this 
passion of anger in insects is so nearly connected with 
their fear, that I need not enlarge further upon it. 

Concerning their shouts ofjoj/ and cries o{ sorrow I 
have little to record : that pleasure or pain makes a diffe- 
rence in the tones of vocal insects is not improbable ; but 
our auditory organs are not fine enough to catch all their 
different modulations. When Schirach had once smoked 

a Reaum. ii. 500—. b Nouv. Obs. ii. 300. note *. 

c In P/ii!os. Tram. 1792. 


a hive to oblige the bees to retire to the top of it, the 
queen with some of the rest flew away. Upon this, 
those that remained in the hive sent forth a most plain- 
tive sound, as if they were all deploring their loss: 
when their sovereign was restored to them, these lugu- 
brious sounds were succeeded by an agreeable hum- 
ming, which announced their joy at the event''. Hu- 
ber relates, that once when all the worker-brood was 
removed from a hive, and only male brood left, the 
bees appeared in a state of extreme despondency. 
Assembled in clusters upon the combs, they lost all their 
activity. The queen dropped her eggs at random ; and 
instead of the usual active hum, a dead silence reignetl 
in the hive*". 

But love is the soul of song with those that may be 
esteemed the most musical insects, the grasshopper 
irilyes (Gri/Ilidce), and the long celebrated Cicada (5 ef- 
ifgonia, F.). You would suppose, perhaps, that the 
ladies would bear their share in these amatory strains. 
But here you would be mistaken — female insects are 
too intent upon their business, too coy and reserved to 
tell their love even to the winds. — The males alone 

" Formosam resonare docont Amaryllida sylvas." 

With respect to the Cicadcc, tliis was observed by 
Aristotle ; and Pliny, as usual, has retailed it after 
him*^. The observation also holds good with respect 
to the Gr^UidcE and other insects, probably, whose 
love is musical. Olivier however has noticed an ex- 
ception to this doctrine ; for he relates, that in a spe- 

a SrJiirarh, 73— b i. 226— . 

P- Aristot. lUst. AnimA. v. c. 30. Plin. Ilht. Nat. 1. xi. c. 26. 


cles of beetle (Pimelia striata^ F.), the female has a 
round granulated spot in the middle of the second seg- 
ment of the abdomen, by striking- which against any 
hard substance, she produces a rather loud sound, and 
that the male, obedient to this call, soon attends her, 
and they pair*. 

As I have nothing to communicate to you with re- 
spect to the love-songs of other insects, my further ob- 
servations will ])e confined to the two tribes lately 
mentioned, the Gryllidoc and the Cicadce. 

No sound is to me more agreeable than the chirping 
of most of the Gryllidie ; it gives life to solitude, and 
always conveys to my mind the idea of a perfectly 
happy being. As these creatures are now very pro- 
perly divided into several genera, I shall say a few 
words upon the song of such as are known to be vocal, 

The remarliable genus Pneumora — whose pellucid 
abdomen is blown up like a bladder, on which account 
they are called Blaazops by the Dutch colonists at the 
Cape — in the evening, for they are silent in the day, 
make a tremulous and tolerably loud noise, which is 
sometimes heard on every side''. How their sound is 
produced is not stated. 

The cricket tribe are a very noisy race, and their 
chirping is caused by the friction of the bases of their 
elytra against each other. For this purpose there is 
sometJiing peculi^ar in their structure, which I shall 
describe to you. The elytra of both sexes are divided 
longitudinally into two portions ; a vertical or lateral 
one, which covers the sides ; and a horizontal or dorsal 

• a O'iv. Entt'inoK i. Prof. ix. b Sparrman, Voy. i, 312. 


one, which covers the back. In the female both these 
portions resemble each other in their nervures; vvhich 
running- obliquely in two directions, by their intersec- 
tion form numerous small lozenge-sliaped or rhom- 
boidal meshes or areolets. The elytra also of these have 
no elevation at their base. In the males the vertical 
portion does not materially differ from that of the fe- 
males ; but in the horizontal the base of each elytrum 
is elevated so as to form a cavity underneath. The 
nervures also, which are stronger and more prominent, 
run here and there very irregularly with various in- 
flexions, describing curves, spirals, and other figures 
difficult and tedious to describe, and producing a vari- 
ety of areolets of different size and shape, but generally 
larger than those of the female : particularly towards 
the extremity of the wing you may observe a space 
nearly circular, surrounded by one nervure, and di- 
vided into two areolets by another^. The friction of 
the nervures of the upper or convex surface of the base 
of the left-hand elytrum — which is the undermost — 
against those of the lower or concave surface of the base 
of the right-hand — which is the uppermost one — will 
communicate vibrations to the areas of membrane, more 
or less intense in proportion to the rapidity of the fric- 
tion, and thus produce the sound for which these crea- 
tures are noted. 

The merry inhabitant of our dwellings, the house- 
cricket {Acheta domestica^ F.), though it is often heard 
by day, is most noisy in the night. As soon as it grows 
dusk, their shrill note increases till it becomes quite an 
annoyance, and interrupts conversation. When the 

a Compare De Gecr, iii. 612. 


male sins^s, he elevates the elytra so as to form an 
acute angle with the body, and then rubs them against 
each other by a horizontal and very brisk motion*. 
The learned Scaliger is said to have been particularly 
delighted with the chirping of these animals, and was 
accustomed to keep them in a box for his amusement. 
We are told that they have been sold in Africa at a 
hig;h price, and employed to procure sleep''. If they 
could 1)0 used to supply the place of laudanum, and lull 
the restlessness of busy thought in this country, the 
exchange would be beneficial. Like many other noisy 
persons, crickets like to hear nobody louder than them- 
selves. Ledelius relates that a woman, who had tried 
in vain every method she could think of to banish them 
from her house, at last got rid of them by the noise 
made by drimis and trumpets, which she had procured 
to entertain her guests at a wedding. They instantly 
forsook the house, and she heard of them no more'^. 

The field-cricket (Acheta campestris, F.) makes a 
shrilling noise— still more sonorous than that of the 
house-cricket — which may be heard at a great distance. 
Mouffet tells us, that their sound may be imitated by 
rubbing their elytra, after they are taken off, against 
each other''. "Sounds," says Mr. White, "do not 
always give us pleasure according to their sweetness 
and melody ; nor do harsh sounds always displease. 

Thus the shrilling of the field-cricket, though sharp 

and stridulous, yet marvellously delights some hearers, 
filling their minds with a train of summer ideas of every 

a De Geer, iii. 517. Sec :iIso White,. Vn^ Hist, ii.76;— and Rai. Hist. 
Jns. 63. b Mouftbt, 136. c Cotdniitls's Jnimat. N-it. vi 2S. 

(! Ins. Tlieafr. 134. 


thing- that is rural, verdurous, and joyous." One of 
iiiese crickets, when confined in a paper cage and set in 
the sun, and supplied with plants moistened with water 
— for if they are not wetted it will die — will feed, and 
thrive, and become so merry and loud, as to be irksome 
in the same room where a person is sitting*. 

Having never seen a female of that extraordinary 
animal the mole-criclcet {GryUolulpa -culgarh^ Latr.), I 
cannot say what diiFerence obtains in the reticulation 
of the elytra of the two sexes. The male varies in this 
respect from the other male crickets, for they have no 
circular area, nor' do the nervures run so irregularly; 
the areolets, however, toward their base are large, 
with very tense membrane. The base itself also is 
scarcely at all elevated. Circumstances these, which 
demonstrate the propriety of considering them distinct 
from the other crickets. This creature is not however 
mute. Where they abound they may be heard about 
the middle of April singing their love-ditty in a low, 
dull, jarring, uninterrupted note, not unlike that of 
the goat-sucker (Cflpn?wM/»7/5 enropcBus^ L.), but more 
inward**. I remember once tracing one by its shrilling 
to the very hole, under a stone, in the bank of my ca-^ 
nal, in which it was concealed. 

Another tribe of grasshoppers (Locusta, F.) — the 
females of which are distinguished by their long ensi- 
form ovipositor- — like the crickets, make their noise by 
the friction of the base of their elytra. And the chirp- 
ing they thus produce is long, and seldom interrupted, 
which distinguishes it from that of the common grass- 
hoppers (Gri/Uus, F.). What is remarkable, the grass- 

a Kat.Iiisl.W. 13. b Ibid. 81. 


Iwppevlark (Sj/lvia locustella), Avhich preys upon them, 
makes a similar noise. Professor Lichtenstein in the 
JLinnean Transactions has called the attention of na- 
turalists to the eye-like area in the right wing of the 
males of this genus''; but he seems not to have been 
aware that De Geer had noticed it before him as a 
sexual character ; who also, with good reason, sup- 
poses it to assist these animals in the sounds they pro- 
duce. Speaking of Lociista viridisshna-^ common with 
us— he says, " In our male grasshoppers, in that part 
of the right elytrum which is folded horizontally over 
the trunk, there is a round plate made of very fine 
transparent membrane, resembling a little mirror or 
piece of talc, of the tension of a drum. This mem- 
brane is surrounded by a strong and prominent ner- 
vurcj and is concealed under the fold of the left ely- 
trum, which has also several prominent nervures an- 
swering to the margin of the membrane or ocellus. 
There is," he further remarks, "every reason to be- 
lieve that the brisk movement with which the grass- 
hopper rubs these nervures against each other, pro- 
duces a vibration in the membrane augmenting the 
sound. The males in question sing continually in the 
hedges and trees during the months of July and Au- 
gust, especially towards sun-set and part of the night. 
When any one approaches they immediately cease 
their song''." 

The last description of singers that 1 shall notice 
amongst the Gryllidae, are those that are more com- 
monly denominated grasshoppers (Giyllus, F.). To 
this genus belong the little chirpers thiit we hear in 

a Linn. Trans, iv. 51— b De Geer,iii. 429, 


every sunny bank, and which make vocal every heath. 
They begin their song — which is a short chirp regularly 
interrupted, in which it diifers from that o^ the Locusta 
— long before sun-rise. In the heat of the day it is in- 
termitted, and resumed in the evening. Tiiis sound is 
thus produced : — Applying its posterior shank to the 
thigh, the animal rvibs it briskly against the elytrum% 
doing this alternately with the right and left legs, 
which causes the regular breaks in the sound. But 
this is not their whole apparatus of song — since, like 
the Tettigoniffi, they have al^oa tympanum or drum." 
De Geer, who examined the insects he describes with 
the eye of an anatomist, seems to be ihe only entomo- 
logist that has noticed this organ. " On each side of 
the first segment of the abdomen," says he, " immedi- 
ately above the origin of the posterior thighs, there is 
a considerable and deep aperture of rather an oval 
form, which is partly closed by an irregular flat plate 
or operculum of a liard substance, but covered by a 
wrinkled flexible membrane. The opening left by 
this operculum is semi-lunar, and at the bottom of 
the cavity is a white pellicle of considerable tension, 
and shining like a little mirror. On that side of the 
aperture which is towards tlie head, there is a little 
oval hole, into which tlie point of a pin may be intro- 
duced without resistance. When the pellicle is re- 
moved, a large cavity appears. In my opinion this 
aperture, cavity, and above all the menjbrane in ten- 
sion, contribute much to produce and augment the 
sound emitted by the grasshopper''." This descrip- 
tion, which was taken from the migratory locust (G. mi~ 

a Dc Gcer, iii.470. l> Ibid. 47). t. xxiii./, 2. 3. 


gratorius, L.)? answers tolerably well to the tympanum 
of our common grasshoppers, only in them the aperture 
s6ems to be rather semicircular, and the wrinkled 
plate — which has no marginal hairs — is clearly a conti- 
nuation of the substance of the segment. This appa- 
ratus so much resembles the drum of the Cicadae, that 
there can be little doubt as to its use. The vibrations 
caused by the friction of the thighs and elytra striking 
upon this drum, are reverberated by it, and so intense- 
ness is given to the sound. In Spain, we are told 
that people of fashion keep these animals — called there 
Grillo — in cages, which they name Grilleria, for the 
sake of their song^. 

I shall conclude this diatribe upon the noises of in- 
sects, with a tribe that have long been celebrated for 
their musical powers; I mean the Cicadce, including 
the two genera Fulgora, L. and Tettigonia, F. The 
FulgorcB appear to be night-singers, while the Cicadm 
sing usually in the day. The great lantern-fly {FuU 
gora laternaria, L.)? fi'om its noise in the evening— 
nearly resembling the sound of a cymbal, or razor- 
grinder when at work — is called Scare-sleep by the 
Dutch in Guiana. It begins regularly at sun-set''. 
Perhaps an insect mentioned by Ligon as making a 
great noise in the night in Barbadoes, may belong to 
this tribe. " There is a kind of animal in the woods," 
says he, " that I never saw, which lie all day in holes 
and hollow trees, and as soon as the sun is down begin 
their tunes, which are neither singing nor crying, but 
the shrillest voices I ever heard : nothing can be so 
nearly resembled to it as the mouths of a pack of sroall 

a Osbeck's Vuit. i. 71. b Stcdraan"? Surinam, ii. S7, 

VO!.. II. i O / 


beagles at a distance; and so lively and chirping the 
noise is, as nothing can be more delightful to the ears, 
if there were not too much of it; for the music hath no 
internnssion till morning, and then all is husht^." 

The species of the other genus, Tetiigonia, F., called 
by the ancient Greeks — by whom they were often kept 
in cages for the sake of their song — TettLv, seem to 
have been the favourites of every Grecian bard from 
Homer and Hesiod to Anacreon and Theocritus. Sup- 
posed to be perfectly harmless, and to live only upon 
the dew, they were addressed by the most endearing 
epithets, and were regarded as ail but divine. One 
bard entreats the shepherds to spare the innoxious 
Tettix, that nightingale of the Nymphs, and to make 
those mischievous birds the thrush and blackbird their 
prey. Sweet prophet of the summer, says Anacreon, 
addressing this insect, the Muses love thee, Phcebus 
himself loves thee, and has given thee a shrill song; 
old age does not wear thee; thou art wise, earth-born, 
musical, impassive, without blood ; thou art almost 
like a god"*. So attached were the Athenians to these 
insects, that they were accustomed to fasten golden 
images of them in their hair, implying at the same 
time a boast that they themselves, as well as the Ci- 
cadae, were Terrmjilii. They were regarded indeed 
by all as the happiest as well as the most innocent of 
animals — not, we w ill suppose, for the reason given by 
the saucy Rhodian Xenarchus, when he says, 
" Happy the Cicadas' lives, 
Since they all have voiceless wives." 
if the Grecian Tettix or Cicada had been distin- 

a Ilis(, o/Barbadoes, 65, l> Epi^ramtn. Deled Ab- 234. 


giiished by a harsh and deafening note, like those of 
some other countries, it would hardly have been an ob- 
ject of such affection. That it was not, is clearly proved 
by the connexion which v» as supposed to exist between 
it and music. Thus the sound of this insect and of the 
harp were called by one and the same name''. A Ci- 
cada sitting upon a harp was a usual emblem of the sci- 
ence of music, which was thus accounted for: — When 
two rival musicians, Eunomus and Ariston, were con- 
tending- upon that instruuient, a Cicada flying to the 
former and sitting upon his harp, supplied the place of 
a broken string, and so secured to him the victory''* 
To excel this animal in singing seems to have been the 
highest commendation of a singer; and even the elo- 
quence of Plato was not thought to suffer by a compa- 
rison with it*". At Surinam the noise of the Tettigonia 
Tibicen is still supposed so much to resemble the sound 
of a harp or lyre, that they are called there harpers 
(Lierman)^. Whether the Grecian Cicadas maintain 
at present their ancient character for music, travellers 
do not tell us. 

Those of other countries, however, have been held 
in less estimation for their powers of song ; or rather 
have been execrated for the deafening din that they 
produce. Virgil accuses those of ftaly of bursting the 
very shrubs with their noise^; and Dr. Smith observes 
that this species, which is very common, makes a most 
disagreeable dull chirping ^ Another, Tetligonia sep" 
lendecim — which fortunately, as its name imports, ap- 

a Gr. Tt^iTifffia. b Mouffet, Theatr. 130. 

c'hSu8tȣ nxaraiy, xeci TiT'Tti,ni ktoXccXcs. d Merian Surinam. 49. 

« Et cantu querulae rumpent arbusta cicadic. Gcorg. iii. 828. 
' Smith'!! 7bHr, iii. 95. 

2 J) 2 


pears 6tily once in seventeen years — makes suchf a con* 
tinual din from morning to evening that people cannot 
hear each other speak. They appear in Pennsylvania 
in incredible numbers in the middle of May*. — " In 
the hotter months of summer," says Dr. Shaw, "espe- 
cially from midday to the middle of the afternoon, the 
Cicada, tstti^, or grasshopper, as we falsely translate 
it, is perpetually stunning our ears with its most ex- 
cessively shrill and ungrateful noise. It is in this re- 
spect the most troublesome and impertinent of insects, 
perching upon a twig and squalling sometimes two or 
three hours without ceasing ; thereby too often dis- 
turbing the studies, or short repose that is frequently 
indulged, in these hot climates, at those hours. The 
rsTTj^ of the Greeks must have had a quite different 
voice, more soft surely and melodious; otherwise the 
fine orators of Homer, who are compared to it, can be 
looked upon no better than loud loquacious scolds''." — 
An insect of this tribe, and I am told a very noisy one, 
has been found by Mr. Daniel Bydder, before men- 
tioned, in the New Forest, Hampshire. Previously to 
this it was not thought that any of these insect musi- 
cians were natives of the British Isles. — Captain Han- 
cock informs me that the Brazilian Cicada sing so 
loud as to be heard to the distance of a mile. This is 
as if a man of ordinary stature, supposing his powers of 
voice increased in the ratio of his size, could be heard 
all over the world. So that Stentor himself beconaes 
a mute when compared with these insects. 

You feel very curious, doubtless, to know by vyhat 

a Collinson in Philos. Trans. 1163. Stoll, Cigahs, 26. 
b .'/Vate/i, 2d Ed. ISe. 


)ncans these little animals are enabled to emit such 
prodifl^ious sounds. I have lately mentioned to you the 
drum of certain grasshoppers ; this, however, appears 
to be an organ of a very simple structure : but since it 
is essential to the economy of the Cicadae that their 
males should so much exceed all other insects in the 
loudness of their tones, they are furnished with a much 
more complex, and indeed most wonderful, apparatus, 
Avhich I shall now describe. If you look at the under- 
side of the body of a male, the first thing- that will 
strike you is a pair of large plates of an irregular form 
— in some semi-oval, in others triangular, in others 
again a segment of a circle of greater or less diameter 
— covering the anterior part of the belly, and fixed to 
the trunk between the abdomen and the hind legs*. 
These are the drum-covers or opercula, from beneath 
which the sound issues. At the base of the posterior 
legs, just above each operculum, there is a small 
pointed triangular process (pessellmn)^, the object of 
which, as Reaumur supposes, is to prevent them from 
being too much elevated. When an operculum is re- 
moved, beneath it you will find on the exterior side a 
hollow cavity, with a mouth somewhat linear, which 
seems to open into the interior of the abdomen "^ : next 
to this, on the inner side, is another large cavity of an 
irregular shape, the bottom of which is divided into 
three portions; of these theposterior is lined obliquely 
with a beautiful membrane, which is very tense — in 
some species semi-opake, and in others transparent— 

a Plate VIII. Fig 1. 8. a a, Rpaum. v. t. xvi./. 5. u n. 

b Plate VIII. Fig. 18, b b. Reaum. ubi svpra, t. svi. f. M.b. 

c Reaum. ibid. /. 3. 1 1, 


and reflects all the colours of the rainbow. This mir- 
ror is not the real origan of sound, but is supposed to 
modulate it". The middle portion is occupied by a 
plate of a horny substance, placed horizontally and 
forming the bottom of the cavity. On its inner side this 
plate terminates in a carina or elevated ridge, com- 
mon to both drums''. Between the plate and the after- 
breast (postpectus) another membrane, folded trans- 
versely, fills an oblique, oblong, or semi-lunar cavity*^. 
In some species 1 have seen this membrane in tension 
— probably the insect can stretch or relax it at its plea- 
sure. But even all this apparatus is insufficient to 
produce the sound of these animals; — one stil more 
important and curious yet remains to be described. 
This organ can only be discovered by dissection. A 
portion of the first and second segments being removed 
from that side of the back of the abdomen which an- 
swers to the drums, two bundles of muscles meeting 
each other in an acute angle, attached to a place oppo- 
site to the point of the mucro of the first ventral seg- 
ment of the abdomen, will appear''. In Reaumur's 
specimens these bundles of muscles seem to have been 
cylindrical ; but in one I dissected ( Tetiigonia capensis) 
they were tubiform, the end to which the true drum is 
attached being dilated^. These bundles consist of a 
prodigious number of muscular fibres applied to each 
other, but easily separable. Whilst Reaumur was 
examining one of these, pulling it from its place with a 
pin, he let it go again, and immediately, though the 
animal had been long dead, the usual sound was 

a'Reaum.uij supra,/. 3. mm. b Ibid, q.q, c. c Ibid, wn, 

4 Ibiil./. 6.//. e Ibid,/. 9. //. Plate VIII. Fig. 19. bb. " 


emitted. On each side of the drum-cavitios, when the 
opercula are removed, another cavity of a lunulute 
sluipe, opening into the interior of tlie abdomen, is ob- 
servable^. In this is the true drum, the principal or- 
gan of sound, and its aperture is to the Cicada what 
our larynx is to us. If these creatures are unable 
themselves to modulate their sounds, here are parts 
enough to do it for them : for the mirrors, the mem- 
branes, and the central portions, with their cavities, 
all assist in it. In the cavity last described, if you re- 
move the lateral part of the first dorsal segment of the 
abdomen, you will discover a semi-opaque and nearly 
semicircular concavo-convex membrane with trans- 
verse folds — this is the drum'^. Each bundle of mus- 
cles, before mentioned, is terminated by a tendinous 
plate nearly circular, from which issue several little 
tendons that, forming a thread, pass through an aper- 
ture in the horny piece that supports the drum, and are 
attached to its under or concave surface. Thus the 
bundle of muscles being alternately and briskly relaxed 
and contracted, will by its play draw in and let out the 
drum : so that its convex surface being thus rendered 
concave when pulled in, when let out a sound will be 
produced by the effort to recover its convexity ; which, 
striking upon the mirror and other membranes before 
it escapes from under the operculum, will be ijiodulated 
and augmented by them ". 1 should imagine that the 

a Reaum. ubi supr.f. 3. II. b Ibid./. 6.^^/9. 

c Plate VIII. Fig. 19, cc. The figure given in this plate does not 
show the drums clearly ; but the principal object of it was to exhibit the 
bundles of muscles, which are of a different form from those in Reaumur's 
figures. In the above figure, a. is the mirror ,• bb. the bunches of mm' 
cles; cc. the drums; d. the back of the abdomen; e. the belly. 


muscular bundles are extended and contracted by the 
alternate approach and recession of the trunk and ab- 
domen to and from each other. 

And now, my friend, what adorable wisdom, what 
consummate art and skill are displayed in the admira- 
ble contrivance and complex structure of this wonder- 
ful, this unparalleled apparatus ! The Great Cre- 
ator has placed in these insects an organ for producing 
and emitting sounds, which in the intricacy of its con- 
struction seems to resemble that which he has given to 
man, and the larger animals, for receiving them. Here 
is a cochlea ; a meatus ; and, as it should seem, more 
than one tympanum. 

J am, &c. 



We boast of our candles, our wax-lights, and our 
Argand-lanips, and pity our fellow-men who, ignorant 
of our methods of producing artificial light, are con- 
demned to pass their nights in darkness. We regard 
these inventions as the results of a great exertion of 
human intellect, and never conceive it possible that 
other animals are able to avail themselves of modes of 
illumination equally efficient; and are furnished with 
the means of guiding their nocturnal evolutions by 
actual lights, similar in their effect to those which we 
make use of. Yet many insects are thus provided. 
Some are forced to content themselves with a single 
candle, not more vivid than the rush-light which glim- 
mers in the peasant's cottage; others exhibit two or 
ibur, which cast a stronger radiance ; and a few can 
display a lamp little inferior in brilliancy to som€ of 
ours. Not that these insects are actually possessed of 
candles and lamps. You gre aware that I am speak- 
ing figuratively. But Providence has supplied them 
with an effectual substitute — a luminous preparation 
or secretion, which has all the advantages of our lamps 
and candles without their inconveniences ; which gives 
light sufficient to direct their motions, while it is' inca- 


pable of burning; and whose lustre is maintained with- 
out needing fresh supplies of oil or the application of 
the snuffers. 

Of the insects thus singularly provided, the common 
glow-worm (Lamp?/ris noctiluca) is the most familiar 
instance. Who that has ever enjoyed the luxury of a 
summer evening's walk in the country, in the southern 
parts of our island, but has viewed with admiration 
these " stars of the earth and diamonds of the night?" 
And if, living like me in a district where it is rarely 
met with, the first time you saw this insect, chanced 
to be, as it was in my case, one of those delightful 
evenings which an English summer seldom yields, when 
not a breeze disturbs the balmy air, and " every sense 
is joy," and hundreds of these radiant worms, studding 
their mossy couch with mild effulgence, were presented 
to your wondering eye in the course of a quarter of a 
mile, — you could not help associating with the name 
of glow-worm the most pleasing recollections. No 
wonder that an insect, which chiefly exhibits itself on 
occasions so interesting, and whose economy is so 
remarkable, should have afforded exquisite images 
and illustrations to those poets who have cultivated 
Natural History. 

If you take one of these glow-worms home with you 
for examination, you will fjnd that in shape it some- 
what resembles a caterpillar, only that it is much more 
depressed; and you will observe that the liglit pro- 
ceeds from a pale-coloured patch that terminates the 
underside of the abdomen. It is not, liowever, the 
iarva of an insect, but the perfect female of a winged 
beetle, from which it is altogether so different, that 


nothing but actual observation could have inferred the 
fact of their being- the sexes of the same iiisect. In the 
course of our inquiries you will find that sexual difte- 
rences even more extraordinary exist in the insect 

It has been supposed by many that the males of tlie 
different species of JLaw7/}7/m do not possess the pro- 
perty of giving out any light ; but it is now ascertained 
that this supposition is inaccurate, though tlieir light 
is much less vivid than that of tJic female. Ray first 
pointed out this fact with respect to L. nGctiluca'' . 
Geoifroy also observed that the male of this species \\zi 
four small luminous points, two on each of the two last 
segments of the belly'' : and his observation has been 
recently confirmed by Miiiler. This last entomologist, 
indeed, saw only two shining spots ; but from the in- 
sect's having the power of withdrawing them out of 
sight so that not the smallest trace of light remains, he 
thinks it is not improbable that at times two other 
points still smaller may be exhibited, as Geoifroy 
has described. In the males of L. Splcndidula and of 
L. hemiptera the light is very distinct, and may be seen 
in the former while flying'^. — The females have the 
same faculty of extinguishing or concealing their light 
— a very necessary provision to guard them from the 
attacks of nocturnal birds : Mr. White even thinks 
that tliey regularly put it out between eleven and 
twelve every night'' : and they have also the power of 
rendering it for a while more vivid than ordinary. 

Authors who have noticed the luminous parts of <he 

a. Hist. Ins. 81. h Jlist. abre^. i. 1C8. <• ll'.igpr Mag. iv. 195. 

^ Nnt. Hist. ii,279. 


eonimon female glow-worm, having usually contented 
themselves with stating that the light issues from the 
three last ventral segments of the abdomen* ; I shall give 
you the result of some observations I once made upon 
this subject. One evening, in the beginning of July, 
meeting with two of these insects, I placed them on my 
hand. At first their light was exceedingly brilliant, so 
as to appear even at the junctions of the upper or dor- 
sal segments of the abdomen. Soon after I had taken 
them, one withdrew its light altogether, but the other 
continued to shine. While it did this it was laid upon 
its back, the abdomen forming an angle with the rest 
of its body, and the last or anal segment being kept in 
constant motion. This segment was distinguished by 
two round and vei'y vivid spots of light; which, in the 
specimen that had ceased to shine, were the last that 
disappeared, and they seem to be the first parts that 
become luminous when the animal is disposed to yield 
its light. The penultimate and antepenultimate seg- 
ments each exhibited a middle transverse band of yel- 
low radiance, terminated towards the trunk by an 
obtusely-dentated line ; a greener and fainter light 
being emitted by the rest of the segment. 

Though many of the females of the different species 
of Lampi/ris are without wings and even elytra, (in 
which circumstance they differ from all other apterous 
Coleoptera^) this is not the case with all. The female 
ot L. italica, a species common in Italy, and which, if 
we may trust to the accuracy of the account given by 
Mr. Waller in the Philosophical Transaclions for 1684, 
would seem to have been taken by him in Hertford- 
it GeoflFi-. i, 167. De Gecr, iv. 35. 


shirr, is winged ; and when a number of these moving 
stars are seen to dart through the air in a dark night, 
nothina; can have a more beautiful effect. Dr. Smith 
tells us that the beaus of Italy are accustomed in an 
evening to adorn the heads of the ladies with these ar- 
tificial diamonds by sticking them into their hair; and 
a similar custom, as I have before informed you% pre- 
vails amongst the ladies of India. 

Besides the difTorent species of the genus Lamp?/ris, 
all of which are probably more or less luminous, an- 
other insect of the beetle tribe, Elaler noctiluciis, is en- 
dowed with the same property, and that in a much 
higlier degree. This insect, which is an inch long, 
and about one-third of an inch broad, gives out its 
principal light from two transparent eye-like tubercles 
placed upon the thorax ; but there are also two lumi- 
nous patches concealed under the elytra, which are not 
visible except when the insect is flying, at which time 
it appears adorned with four brilliant gems of the most 
beautiful golden-blue lustre : in fact, the whole body is 
full of light, which shines out between the abdominal 
segments when stretched. The light emitted by the 
two thoracic tubercles alone is so considerable, that 
the smallest print may be read by moving one of these 
insects along the lines; and in the West India islands, 
particularly in St. Domingo, where they are very com- 
mon, the natives were formerly accustomed to employ 
these living lamps, which they called CucuiJ, instead of 
candles in performing their evening household occupa- 
tion-. In travelling at night they used to tie one to 
each great to? : and in fishing and hunting required no 

« Vor- I. 2d E-1.3i5. 


other flambeau^. — Southey has happily introduced thl? 
insect in his " Madoc'" as furnishing the lamp by which 
Coatel rescued the British hero from the hands of the 
Mexican priests. 

'* She beckoned and descended, and drew out 
From underneath her vest a cage, or net 
It rather might be called, so line the twigs 
Which knit it, where, confined, two Fire-flies gave 
Their lustre. By that light did Madoc first 
Behold the features of his lovely .'^aide." 

Pietro Martire tells us that the Cucuij serve the na-- 
lives of tlie Spanish West India islands not only in- 
stead of candles, but as extirpators of the gnats, which 
are adreadful pest to the inhabitants of the low grounds. 
They introduce a few fire-Hies, to which the gnats are 
a grateful food, into their houses, and by means of 
these "commodious hunters" are soon rid of the in- 
truders. "How they are a remedy," says this author, 
" for so great a mischiefe it is a pleasant thing to hear. 
Hee who understandeth he hath those troublesome 
guestes (the gnattes) at home, diligently hunteth after 
the Cucuij. Whoso wanteth Cucuij goeth out of the 
house in the first twilight of the night, carrying a 
burning fire-brande in his hande, and ascendeth ttie 
next hillock tliat the Cucuij mayseeit,and heeswingeth 
the fire-brande about, calling Cucuius aloud, and beat- 
eth the ayre with often calling out Cucuie, Cucuie" 
He goes on to observe, that the simple people believe 
the insect is attracted by their invitations ; but that, 
for his part he is rather inclined to think that the fire 

a Pieiro Martire, T/i^ Decudes of the Neva World, quoted in Mad^c, 


is the magnet. Having obtained a sufficient number 
of Cucuij, the beetle-hunter returns home and lets them 
fly looae in the house, where they diligently seek the 
g-nats about the beds and the faces of those asleep, and 
devour them''. — These insects are also applied to pur- 
poses of decoration. On certain festival days, in the 
month of June, they are collected in great numbers, 
and tied all over the garments of the young people, who 
gallop through the streets on horses similarly orna- 
mented, producing on a dark evening the effect of a 
large moving body of light. On such occasions the 
lover displays his gallantry by decking his mistress with 
these living gems''. And according to P. Martire, 
" many wanton wilde fellowes" rub their faces with 
the flesh of a killed Cucuius, as boys with us use phos- 
phorus, " with purpose to meet their neighbours with 
a flaming countenance," and derive amusement from 
their fright. 

Besides Elater noclilucus, E. igniius and several 
others of the same genus are luminous. Not fewer than 
twelve species of this family are described by Illiger 
in the Berlin Naturalist Societi/'s JSIagazine'^ . 

The brilliant nocturnal spectacle presented by these 
insects to the inhabitants of the countries where they 
abound cannot be better described than in the language 
of the poet above referred to, who has thus related its 
first effect upon the British visitors of the new world : 

" Sorrowing wc beheld 

The night come on ; but soon did night display 
More wonders than it veil'd : innuraerous tribes 

a P, Martire, nJn siipr. b Walton's Present State of the Spaniah 

Cciluniei, i. 128. c Ja/irffang, i. 141. 


From the wood-cover swarra'd, and darkness made 
Their beauties visible : one while they streamed 
A bright blue radiance upon flowers that closed 
Their gorgeous colours from the eye of day ; 
Now motionless and dark, eluded search, 
Self-shrouded; and anon, starring the sky, 
Rose like a shower of fire." 

The beautiful poetical imagery with which Mr. 
Southey has decorated this and a few other entomolo- 
gical facts, will make you join in my regret that a morp 
extensive acquaintance with the science has not enalaled 
hira to spread his embellishments over a greater num- 
ber. The gratification which the entomologist derives 
from seeing his favourite study adorned with the grace? 
of poetry is seldom unalloyed with pain, aj'ising from 
the inaccurate knowledge of the subject in the poet. 
Dr. Darwin's description of the beetle to which the nut- 
maggot is transformed may delight him (at least if he 
be an admirer of the Darwinian style) as he read?> 
for the first time, 

"So sleeps in silence the Curculio, shut 
In the dark chamber of the cavern'd nut ; 
Erodes with ivory beak the vaulted shell, 
And quits on filmy wings its narrow cell." 

But when the music of the lines has allowed him roam 
for pause, and he recollects that they are built wholly 
upon an incorrect supposition, the Curculio never in- 
habiting the nut in its beetle shape, nor employing its 
ivory beak upon it, but undergoing its transformation 
underground, he feels disappointed that the passage 
has not truth as well as sound. — Mr. Southey, too, has 
fallen into an error : ho confounds the fire-fly of St. 


Domingo {Elater nocliliicus) with a quite difFerent in- 
sect, the lantern-fly {FuJgora laternaria) of Madam Me- 
rian; but happily this error does not affect his poetry. 

But to return from this digression. — If we are to be- 
lieve Mouffet, (and the story is not incredible,) the ap- 
pearance of the tropical fire-flies on one occasion led 
to a more important result than might have been ex- 
pected from such a cause. He tells us, that when Sir 
Thomas Cavendish and Sir Robert Dudley first landed 
in the West Indies, and saw in the evening an infinite 
number of moving lights in tlie woods, which were 
merely these insects, they supposed that the Spaniards 
were advancing upon them, and immediately betook 
themselves to their ships'^: — a result as well entitling 
the Elaters to a commemoration feast, as a similar good 
office the land-crabs of Hispaniola, which, as the Spa- 
niards tell, (and the story is confirmed by an anniver- 
sary Fiesta de 16s Cangrejos,) by their clattering — mis- 
taken by the enemy for the sound of Spanish cavalry 
close upon their heels — in like manner scared away a 
body of English invaders of the city of St. Domingo **. 

An anecdote less improbable, perhaps, and certainly 
more ludicrous, is related by Sir James Smith of the ef- 
fect of the first sight of the Italian fire-flies upon some 
Moorish ladies ignorant of such appearances. These 
females had been taken prisoners at sea, and, until they 
could be ransomed, lived in a house in the outskirts of 
Genoa, where they were frequently visited by the re- 
spectable inhabitants of the city ; a party of whom, on go- 
ing one evening, were surprised to find the house closely 
shut up, and their Moorish friends in the greatest grief 

a 112. b Walton's Hispaniola, i. 39. 

VOL. II. 2 15 


and consternation. On inquiring into the cause, they 
ascertained that some of the Lcwrp7/ris italicahad found 
their way into the dwelling, and that the ladies within 
had taken it into their heads that these brilliant guests 
were no other than the troubled spirits of their rela- 
tions ; of which idea it was some time before they could 
be divested. — The common people in Italy have a su- 
perstition respecting these insects somewhat similar, 
believing that they are of a spiritual nature, and 
proceed out of the graves, and hence carefully avoid 
them ^. 

The insects hitherto adverted to have been beetles, 
or of the order Coleoptera. But besides these, a genus 
in the order Hemiptera, called Fidgora, includes seve- 
ral species which emit so powerful a light as to have 
obtained in English the generic appellation of Lantern-' 
jlies. Two of the most conspicuous of this tribe are 
the F. laternaria and F. candelaria ; the former a na- 
tive of South America, the latter of China. Both, as 
indeed is the case with the whole genus, have the ma- 
terial which diffuses their light included in a hollow 
subtransparent projection of the head. In F. candelaria 
this projection is of a subcylindrical shape, recurved at 
the apex, above an inch in length, and the thickness of 
a small quill. We may easily conceive, as travellers 
assure us, that a tree studded with multitudes of these 
living sparks, some at rest and others in motion, must 
at night have a superlatively splendid appearance. — In 
F. laternaria, which is an insect two or three inches 
long, the snout is much larger and broader, and more 
of an oval shape, and sheds a light the brilliancy of 

a Tow on the Continent, 2d Edit. iii. 85. 


which transcends that of any other luminous insect. 
Madam Merian informs us, that the first discovery 
which she made of this property caused her no small 
alarm. The Indians had brought her several of thesei 
insects, which by day-light exhibited no extraordinary 
appearance, and sl)e inclosed them in a box until she 
should have an opportunity of drawing them, placing 
it upon a table in her lodging-room. In the middle of 
the night the confined insects made such a noise as to 
awake her, and slie opened the box, the inside of 
which to her great astonishment appeared all in a 
blaze ; and in her fright letting it fail, she was not less 
surprised to see each of the insects apparently on fire. 
She soon, however, divined the cause of this unex- 
pected phenomenon, and re-inclosed her brilliant guests 
in their place of confinement. She adds, that the light 
of one of these Fulgorce is sufficiently bright to read a 
newspaper by : and though the tale of her having 
drawn one of these insects by its own light is without 
foundation, s!ie doubtless might have done so if she 
had chosen*. — Another species {F. pi/rrhorT/nchus) is 
f}gured by Mr. Donovan in his Insects of India, of* 

a Ins. Stir. 49. — Tlie above account of the luminous properties of 
Fulgora lalcrnaria is given, because nep;ative evidence ought not hastily 
to be allowed to set aside facts positively asserted by an author whose 
Veracity is unimpcached ; but it is necessary to state, that not only have 
several of tlic inliabitants of Cayenne, according to the French Dic- 
tionnaire (Vltisloirc Nuturelle, denied that this insect shines, in which de- 
nial they are joined by M. Richard, who reared the species {Encyclo- 
peaie.j art. Fnlgora) ; but the learned and accurate Count HofTmansegg 
informs us, that his insect collector Sieber, a practised entomologist of 
thirty years standing, arid who, when in the Brazils for some years, took 
many specimens, affirms, that he never saw a single one in the 1 ast lu» 
luiaous. Der Gesdhchafl Naturf. Fr. zu Berlin Mag. i. 153i 
2 E 2 


which the light, though from a smaller snout than that 
of F. laternaria, must assume a more splendid and stri- 
king appearance, the projection being of a rich deep 
purple from the base to near the apex, which is of a 
fine transparent scarlet ; and these tints will of course 
be imparted to the transmitted light. 

In addition to the insects already mentioned, some 
others have the power of diffusing light, as two species 
of Scolopendra (S. electrica and phosphorea), and pro- 
bably others of the same genus. In these the light is 
not confined to one part, but proceeds from the whole 
body. S. electrica is a common insect in this country, 
residing under clods of earth, and often visible at 
night in gardens. S. phosphorea, a native of Asia, is an 
obscure species, described by Linne, on the authority 
of C. G. Ekeberg, the captain of a Swedish East India- 
man, who asserted that it dropped from the air, shining 
like a glow-worm, upon his ship, when sailing in the 
Indian ocean a hundred miles (Swedish) from the con- 
tinent. However singular this statement, it is not in- 
credible. The insect may either, as Linne suspects, 
have been elevated into the atmosphere by wings with 
which, according to him, one species of the genus is 
provided ; or more piobably, perhaps, by a strong 
wind, such as that which raised into the air the shower 
of insects mentioned by De Geer as occurring in Swe- 
den in the winter of 1749, after a violent storm that 
had torn up trees by the roots, and carried away to a 
great distance the surrounding earth, and insects which 
had taken up their winter quarters amongst it ^ That 

a De Geer, iv. 63. — These insects, which were chiefly Staphylini, L., 
email Scarabtei, L., spiders, caterpillars, but particularly the larvae of 


the wind may convey the light body of an insect to the 
above-mentioned distance from land, you will not dis- 
pute when you call to mind that our friend Hooker, in 
his interesting Tour in Iceland, tells us that the ashes 
from the eruption of one of the Icelandic volcanos in 
1755 were conveyed to Ferrol, a distance of upwards 
of 300 miles*. — Lastly, to conclude my list of luminous 
insects, Professor Afzelius observed " a dim phospho- 
ric light" to be emitted from the singular hollow an- 
tennae o{ Pmisits sphcerocerus^. A similar appearance 
has been noticed in the eyes of Noctua Psi, Bom- 
hyx Cossus, and other moths. Chiroscelis bifenestrata 
of Lamarck, a beetle, has two red oval spots covered 
with a downy membrane on the second segment of the 
abdomen, which he thinks indicate some particular or- 
gan perhaps luminous*^: and M. Latreille informs me 
that a friend of his, who saw one living which was brought 
from China to the Isle of France in wood, found that 
the ocelli in the elytra of Buprestis oceUata were lu- 

But besides the insects here enumerated, others may 
be luminous which have not hitherto been suspected of 
being so. This seems proved by the following fact. 
A learned friend "^ has informed me, that when he was 

Cantharisfusca, fell in such abundance that they might have been taken 
from the snow by handfuls. — Other showers of insects which have been 
recorded, as that in Hungary, 20th November 1672 {Ephem, Nat. Curios, 
1673.80.),and one mentioned in the newspapers ofJuly 2d, 1810, to have 
fallen in France the January preceding, accompanied by a shower of 
red snow, may evidently be explained in the same manner. 

a p. 40T. b Linn. Trans, iv. 261. c Latr. Hist. Nat. x. 262. 

<l Rev. Dr. Sutton of Norwich. 


cirrate of Ickleton, Cambridgeshire, in 1780, a farmer 
of that place of the name of Simpringham brought to 
him a mole-cricket {Gryllotalpa vulgaris^ Latr.), and 
told him that one of his people, seeing a Jack- o"* lantern, 
pursued it and knocked it down, when it proved to be 
this insect, and the identical specimen shown to him. 

This singular fact, while it renders it probable that 
some insects are luminous which no one lias imagined 
to be so, seems to afford a clue to the, at least, partial 
explanation of the very obscure subject of ignes fatui, 
and to show that there is considerable ground for the 
opinion long ago maintained by Ray and Willughby, 
that the majority of these supposed meteors are no 
other than luminous insects. That the large varying 
lambent flames, mentioned by Beccaria to be very com- 
mon in some parts of Italy, and the luminous globe seen 
by Dr. Shaw'* cannot be thus explained, is obvious. 
These were probably electrical phenomena : certainly 
not explosions of phosphuretted hydrogene, as has been 
suggested by some, which must necessarily have been 
momentary. But that the ignis fatuus mentioned by 
Derham as having been seen by himself, and which he 
describes as flitting about a thistle**, was, though he 
seems of a different opinion, no other than some lumi- 
nous insect, I have little doubt. Mr. Sheppard informs 
me that, travelling one night between Stamford and 
Grantham on the top of the stage, he observed for 
more than ten minutes a very large ignis fatuus in the 
low marshy grounds, which had every appearance of 
^eing an insect. The wind was very high : consequently, 

a Travels, 2d Ed. 334. b Phil. Trans. 1T29. 201. 


had it been a vapour, it must have been carried for- 
ward in a direct line ; but this was not the case. It 
had the same motions as a Tipula, flyings upwards and 
downwards, backwards and forwards, sometimes ap- 
pearing- as settled, and sometimes as hovering in tlie 
air. — Whatever be the true nature of these meteors, of 
which so much is said and so little known, it is singu- 
lar how few modern instances of their having been ob- 
served are on record. Dr. Darwin declares, that 
though in the course of a long life he had been out in 
the night, and in the places where they are said to ap- 
pear, times without number, he had never seen any 
thing of the kind : and from the silence of other philo- 
sophers of our own times, it should seem that their ex- 
perience is similar. 

With regard to the immediate source of the lumi- 
nous properties of these insects, Mr. Macartney, to 
whom we are indebted for the most recent investiga- 
tion on the subject, has ascertained that in the common 
glow-worm, and in Elater noctilucus and ignitus, the 
light proceeds from masses of a substance not generally 
differing, except in its yellow colour, from the intersti- 
tial substance (corps graisseux) of the rest of the body, 
closely applied underneath those transparent parts of 
the insects' skin which afford the light. In the glow- 
worm, besides the last-mentioned substance, which, 
when the season for giving light is passed, is absorbed, 
and replaced by the common interstitial substance, he 
observed on the inner side of the last abdominal seg- 
ment two minute oval sacs formed of an elastic spirally- 
wound fibre similar to that of the tracheae, containing 


a soft j-ellow substance of a closer texture than that 
which lines the adjoining region, and affording a more 
permanent and brilliant light. This light he found to 
be less under the control of the insect than that from 
the adjoining luminous substance, which it has the 
power of voluntarily extinguishing, not by retracting 
it under a membrane, as Carradori imagined, but by 
some inscrutable change dependent upon its will: and 
when the latter substance was extracted from living 
glow-worms it afforded no light, while the two sacs in 
like circumstances shone uninterruptedly for several 
hours. Mr. Macartney conceives, from the radiated 
structure of the interstitial substance surrounding the 
•oral yellow masses immediately under the transparent 
spots in the thorax of Elatcr noctilucus, and the sub- 
transparency of the adjoining crust, that the intersti- 
tial substance in this situation has also the property of 
shining — a supposition which, if De Geer and other 
authors be correct in stating that this insect has two 
luminous patches under its elytra, and that the inci- 
sures between the abdominal segments shine when 
stretched, may probably be extended to the whole of 
the interstitial substance of its body. — What peculiar 
organization contributes to the production of light in 
the hollow projections of Fi/lgora laternaria and cande' 
laria, the hollow antenna of Pausus sphcerocerus, and 
under the whole integument of Scolopendra electrica^ 
Mr. Macartney was una!)le to ascertain. Respecting 
this last he remarks, what 1 have myself observed, that 
there is an apparent effusion of a luminous fluid on its 
surface, that may be received upon the hand, which ex- 
hibits a phosphoric light for a few seconds a^rwards ; 


and tliat it vv ill not shine unless it have been previously 
exposed for a short time to the solar light*. 

With respect to the remote cause of the luminous 
property of insects, philosophers are considerably di- 
vided in opinion. The disciples of modern Chemistry 
have in general, with Dr. Darwin, referred it to the 
slow combustion of some combination of phosphorus 
secreted from their fluids by an appropriate organiza- 
tion, and entering into combination with the oxygene 
supplied in respiration. This opinion is very plausibly 
built upon tlie ascertained existence of phosphoric acid 
as an animal secretion ; the great resemblance between 
the light of phosphorus in slow combustion and animal 
light; the remarkably large spiracula in glow-worms; 
and upon the statement, that the light of the glow-worm 
is rendered more brilliant by the application of heat 
and oxygene gas, and is extinguished by cold and by 
hydrogene and carbonic acid gases. From these last 
facts Spallanzani was led to regard the luminous mat- 
ter as a compound of hydrogene and carburetted hydro- 
gene gas. Carradori having found that the luminous 
portion of the belly of the Italian glow-worm {Lampt/- 
ris ilalica) shone in vacuo, in oil, in water, and when un- 
der other circumstances where the presence of oxygene 
gas was precluded, with Brugnatelli ascribed the pro- 
perty in question to the imbibition of light separated 
from the food or air taken into the body, and after- 

a Phil. Trnns. 1810, p. 281.— Mr. Macartney's statement on this point 
is not very clear. He probably means that the insect w ill not shine in a 
(lark place in the day time, iinlesr, previously exposed to the f»^5ar light: 
for it is often seen to shine at right when it coiiid have had no recent ex- 
pssure to the snn. 


wards secreted in a sensible form''. Lastly, Mr. Ma- 
cartney having- ascertained by experiment that the light 
of a glow-worm is not diminished by immersion in wa- 
ter, or increased by the application of heat; that the 
substance aftbrding- it, though poetically cniplojed for 
lighting- the fairies' tapers'", is incapable of inflamma- 
tion if applied to the flame of a candle or red-hot iron; 
and when separated from the body exhibits no sensible 
heat on the thermometer's being applied to it — rejects 
the preceding hyj)otheses as unsatisfactory, but without 
substituting- any other explanation; suggesting, how- 
ever, that the facts he observed are more favourable 
to the supposition of light being a quality of matter 
than a substance''. 

Which of these opinions is the more correct I do not 
pretend to decide. But though the experiments of Mr. 
Macartney seem fairly to bear him out in denying the 

a Jniud. di C/iimica,xn\. 1797. PhiJ. Mag. ii. 80. 

l> " And for night-tapers crop their waxen thighs, 
And light them at the fiery glow-worms' eyes." 

c Some experiments made by my friend the Rev. R. Sheppard on the 
glow-worm are worthy of being recorded. — One of the receptacles 
being extracted with a penknife continued himinous; but on being im- 
mersed in camphorated spirit of wine became immediately extinct. 
The animal, with one of its receptacles uninjured, being plunged into the 
same spirit, became apparently lifeless in less than a minute; but the re- 
ceptacle continued luminous for five minutes, the light gradually disap- 
pearing. — Having extracted the luminous matter from tlic receptacles, 
in two days they were healed, and filled with luminous matter as before. 
He found this matter to lose its luminous property, and become dry and 
glossy like gum, in about two minutes; but it recovered it again on being 
moistened with saliva, and again lost it when dried. When the matter 
was extracted from two or three glow-worms, and covered with liquid 
gum-arabic, it continued luminous for upwards of a quarter of an hour. 


existence of any ordinary combination of phosphorus 
in luminous insects, there exists a contradiction in 
many of the statements, which requires reconciling; be- 
fore final decision can be pronounced. The diiferent 
results obtained by Forster and Spallanzani, who as- 
sert that glow-worms shine more brilliantly in oxygene 
gas, and by Beckerheim, Dr. Ilulme, and Sir II. Davy, 
who could perceive no such effect, may perhaps be ac- 
counted for by the supposition tliat in tlie latter in- 
stances the insects Imving- been taken more recently, 
might be less sensible to the stimulus of the gas than 
in the former, where possibly their irritability was, as 
Brown would say, accumulated by a longer abstinence : 
but it is not so easy to reconcile the experiment of Sir 
H. Davy, who found the light of the glow-worm not 
to be sensibly diminished in hydrogene gas^, with those 
of Spallanzani and Dr. Hulme, who found it to be ex- 
tinguished by the same gas, as well as by carbonic 
acid, nitrous and sulphuretted hydrogene gases''. Pos- 
sibly some of these contradictory, results were occa- 
sioned by not adverting to the faculty vt'hich the living 
insect possesses of extinguishing its lights at pleasure; 
or different philosophers may have experimented on 
different species of Lampyris. 

The general use of this singular provision is not 
much more satisfactorily ascertained than its nature. 
I have before conjectured — and in an instance I then 
related it seemed to be so — that it may be a means of 
defence against their enemies •=. In different kinds of 
jnsectSj however, it may probably have a different ob>- 

a PhUos. Trans. 1810, p. 587, b Ibid. ISO!, j). 483, 

F Spc above, p. 228. , 


ject. Thus in the lantern-flies (Fulgora), whose light 
precedes them, it may act the part that their name im- 
ports, enabling them to discover their prey, and to steer 
themselves safely in the night. In the tire-flies (Eluier)^ 
if we consider the inhnite numbers that in certain cli* 
mates and situations present themselves every where in 
the night, it may distract the attention of tlieireneuiies 
or alarm them. And in the glow-worm — since their 
light is usually most brilliant in the female ; in some 
species, if not all, present only in the season M'hen the 
sexes are destined to meet ; and strikingly more vivid 
at the very moment when the meeting takes place ^ — 
besides the above uses, it is most probably intended to 
conduct the sexes to each other. This seems evidently 
the design in view in those species in which, as in the 
common glow-worm (L. noctiluca, L.), the females are 
apterous. The torch which the wingless female, doomed 
to crawl upon the grass, lights up at the approach of 
night, is a beacon which unerringly guides the vagrant 
male to her " love-illumined form," however obscure 
the place of her abode. It has been objected, how- 
ever, to this explanation, that — since both larva and 
pupa, as De Geer observe^]'', and the males shine as 
well as the females — the meeting of the sexes can 
scarcely be the object of their luminous provision. 
But this difficulty appears to me easily surmounted. 
As the light proceeds from a peculiarly organized sub- 
stance, which probably must in part be elaborated in 
the larva and pupa states, there seems nothing incon- 
sistent in the fact of so}ne light being then emitted, 
with the supposition of its being destined solely for 

•■' ]V^ull?r in Jliig. Mag. iv. 178. •> iv. i9. 


use in the perfect state : and the circumstance of the 
male having the same luniinoiis property, no more 
proves that the superior brilliancy of the female is not 
intended for conducting him to her, than the existence 
of nipples and sometimes of milk in man proves that 
the breast of woman is not meant for the support of 
her offspring. We often see, without being able to 
account for the fact, except on Sir E. Home's idea, 
that tlie sex of the ovum is undetermined', traces of 
an organization in one sex indisputably intended for 
the sole use of the other. 

I am, ■Sec. 

« Phil. Tram. 1199. 157. 



If insects can boast of enjoying- a greater variety of 
food than many other tribes of animals, this advantage 
seems at first siglit more than counterbalanced in our 
climates, by the temporary nature of their supply. The 
graminivorous quadrupeds, with few exceptions, how- 
ever scanty their bill of fare, and their carnivorous 
brethren, as well as the whole race of birds and fishesj 
can at all seasons satisfy, in greater or less abundance, 
their demand for food. But to the great majority of 
insects, the earth for nearly one half of the year is A 
barren desert, affording no appropriate nutriment. As 
soon as winter has stripped the vegetable world of its 
foliage, the vast hosts of insects that feed on the leaves 
of plants must necessarily fast until the return of^ 
spring: and even the carnivorous tribes, such as the 
CarahidcB, Ichneumonida;, Spliegiadce, &c. would at 
that period of the year in vain look for their accus- 
tomed prey. 

How is this difficulty provided for? In what mode 
has the Universal Parent secured an uninterrupted 
succession of generations in a class of animals for the 
most part doomed to a six months' deprivation of the 
food which they ordinarily devour with such voracity ? 
By a beautiful series of provisions founded on the fa- 


culty, common also to some of the larger animals, of 
passing the winter in a state of torpor — hy ordaining 
that t]ie insect shall live through that period, either in 
an incomplete state of its existence when its organs of 
nutrition are undeveloped, or, if the active epoch of its 
life has commenced, that it shall seek out appropriate 
hyhernacida or winter quarters, and in them fall into 
a profound sleep, dming which a supply of food is 
equally unnecessary. 

In two of the four states of existence common to in- 
sects, in which different tribes pass the winter, namely, 
the egg and the pupa state, the organs for taking food 
(except in some cases in the latter) are not developed, 
and consequently the animal is incapable of eating. 
The existence of insects in these states during the win- 
ter, differs from their existence in the same form in sum- 
mer only in the greater length of its term. In both 
seasons food is alike unnecessary, so that their hy-» 
Ijernation in these circumstances has liUle or nothing 
analogous to that of larger animals. With this, how- 
ever, strictly accords their hybernation in the larva 
and imago states, in which their abstinence from food 
is solely owing to the torpor that pervades them, and 
the consequent non-expenditure of the vital powers.— 
I shall attend to tiio peculiarities of their hybernation 
in each of these states in the order just laid dovvn ; 
premising that we have yet much to learn on this sub- 
ject, no observations having been instituted respect- 
ing the state in which multitudes of insects pass the 

It is probable that some insects of almost every order 
hybernate in the ei^g state : though that these must be 


comparatively few in number, seems proved from two 
considerations : first, That the majority of insects as- 
sume the imago, and deposit their eggs in the summer 
and early part of autumn, when the heat suffices to hatch 
them in a short period : and secondly, That the eggs 
of a very large proportion of insects require for their 
due exclusion and the nutriment of the larvae spring- 
ing from them, conditions only to be fulfilled in sum- 
mer, as all those which are laid in young fruits and 
seeds ; in the interior and galls of leaves ; in insects 
that exist only in summer, &c. &c. The insects which 
pass the winter in the egg state are chiefly such as 
have several broods in the course of the year, the 
females of the last of which lay eggs that, requiring 
more heat for their development than then exists, ne- 
cessarily remain dormant until the return of spring. 

The situation in which the female insect places her 
eggs in order to their remaining there through the 
winter, is always admirably adapted to the degree of 
cold which they are capable of sustaining ; and to the 
ensuring a due supply of food for the nascent larvae. 
Thus, with the former view, Gri/llus verrucivorus and 
many other insects whose eggs are of a tender con- 
sistence, deposit them deep in the earth out of the 
reach of frost; and with the latter, Bombi/x Neustria, 
3. castrensis, B. dispar^ and some other moths, de- 
parting from the ordinary instinct of their congeners, 
which teaches them to place their eggs upon the hates 
of plants, fix theirs to the stem and branches only. 
That this variation of procedure has reference to the 
hybernation of the eggs of these particular species, is 
abundantly obvious. Insects whose eggs are to be 


hatched in summer, usually fix them slightly to the 
leaves upon which the larvae are to feed. But it is 
evident thtit, were this plan to be adopted by those 
whose eggs remain through the Avinter, their progeny 
might be blown away along with the leaf to which they 
are attached, far from their destined food. These, 
therefore, choose a more stable support, and carefully 
fasten them, as has just been observed, either to the 
trunk or branches of the tree, whose young leaves in 
spring are to be the food of the excluded larvae. The 
latter plan is followed by the female o^ Bomhyj^ Neus- 
tria, which curiously gums her eggs in bracelets round 
the twigs of the hawthorn, &c. But another provi- 
sion is demanded. Were these eggs of the usual deli- 
cate consistence, and to be attached with the ordinary 
slight gluten, they would have a poor chance of sur- 
viving the storms of rain and snow and hail to which 
for six or eight months they are exposed. They are 
therefore covered with a shell much more hard and 
thick than common ; packed as closely as possible to 
each other ; and the interstices are filled up with a te- 
nacious gum, which soon hardens the whole into a 
8olid mass almost capable of resisting a penknife. Thus 
secured, they defy the elements, and brave the blasts 
of winter uninjured. — The female of Bomhi/x dispar, 
whose eggs have a more tender shell, glues them in 
an oval mass to the stem of a tree (whence the German 
gardeners call the larvJE Stamm-rcmpe), and then covers 
them with a warm non-conducting coat of hairs pluck- 
ed from her own body, equally impervious to cold aild 

Another of those beautiful relations between objects 
VOL. II. 2 r 


at first sight apparently unconnected, which at every 
step reward the votaries of Entomology, is afforded 
by the coincidence between the period of the hatching 
in spring of eggs deposited before winter, and of the 
leafing of the trees upon which they have been fixed, 
and on whose foliage the larvae are to feed : which two 
events, requiring exactly the same temperature, are 
always simultaneous. Of this fact I have had a striking 
exemplification the last spring (1816). On the 20th 
of E^ebruary, observing the twigs of the birches in the 
Hull Botanic Garden to be thickly set, especially about 
the buds, with minute oval black eggs of some insect 
with which I was unacquainted, I brought home a small 
branch and set it in ajar of water in my study, in which 
is a fire daily, to watch their exclusion. On the 28th of 
March I observed that a numerous brood of Aphides 
(not A. Befulce, as the wings were without the dark 
bands of that species) had been hatched from them, and 
that two or three of the lower buds had expanded into 
leaves, upon the sap of which they were greedily feast, 
ins-. This was full a month before either a leaf of the 
birch appeared, or the egg of an Aphis was disclosed 
in the open air. — To view the relation of which I am 
speaking with due admiration, you must bear in mind 
the extremely different periods at which many trees 
acquire their leaves, and the consequent difference de- 
manded ir. the constitution of the eggs which hyber- 
nate upon dissimilar species, to ensure their exclusion, 
though acted upon by the mme temperature, earlier 
or later, according to the early or late foliation of these 
specie?. There is no visible difference between the 
conformation of the eggs of the Aphis of the birch and 


those of the Aphis of the ash ; yet in the same exposure 
those of the former shall be hatched, simultaneously 
with the expansion of the leaves, nearly a month ear- 
lier than those of the latter : thus demonstrably prov- 
ing that the hybernation of these eggs is not accidental, 
but has been specially ordained by the Author of na- 
ture, who has conferred on those of each species a pe- 
culiar and appropriate organization. 

A niu<^h greater number of insects pass the winter 
in the pupa than in the egg state ; probably nine-tenths 
of the extensive order Lepidoptera, many in Hymen- 
optera, and several in other orders. In placing these 
pupae in security from the too great cold of winter and 
the attacks of enemies, the larvte from which they are 
to be metamorphosed exhibit an anxiety and ingenuity 
evidently imparted to them for this express design. A 
few are suspended without any covering, though usually 
in a sheltered situation. But by far the larger num- 
ber are concealed under leaves, in the crevices of trees, 
&c., or inclosed in cocoons of silk or other materials 
wh'ch will be described to you in a subsequent letter, 
and often buried deep under ground out of the reach of 
frost. — ^One reason why so many lepidopterous insects 
pass the winter as pupae, has been plausibly assigned 
by Rosel, in remarking that this is the case with all 
the numerous species which feed on annual plants. As 
these have no local habitation, dying one year and 
springing up from seed in another quarter the next, it 
is obvious that eggs deposited upon them in autumn 
would have no chance of escaping destruction ; and that 
even if the larvae were to be hatched before winter, 
and to hybernate in that state, they would have no eer- 

^ F 2 


tainty of being in the neighbourhood of their appro- 
priate food the next spring. By wintering in the pupa 
state, these accidents are etfectually provided against. 
The perfect insect is not ready to break forth until the 
food of the young, which are to proceed from its eggs, 
is sprung up. 

To the insects which hybernate in the larva state, of 
course belong, in the first place, all those which exist 
under that form more than one year ; as many Melo- 
lonthoe^ Elateres, Ceramb?/ces, Bupresles^ and several 
species of Lihellula, Ephemera., &c. There are also 
many larvaB wliich, though their term of life is not a 
year, being hatched from the es,^ in autumn, neces- 
sarily pass the winter in that state, as those of several 
Anobia and other wood-boring insects ; o^Tortria: TVcc- 
herana and others of the same family ; of the second 
broods of several butterflies, &c. Many of these re- 
siding in the ground or in the interior of trees need no 
other hybernacula than the holes which they constantly 
inhabit; some, as the aquatic larvae, merely hide them- 
selves in the sides or muddy bottom of their native 
pools ; while others seek for a retreat under moss, dead 
leaves, stones, and the bark of decaying trees. Most 
of these can boast of no better winter quarters than a 
simple unfurnished hole or cavity; but a few, more 
provident of comfort, prepare themselves an artificial 
habitation. With this view the larva of Bomht/x Cos- 
sus, L., as formerly observed in describing the habita- 
tions of insects % forms a covering of pieces of wood 
lined with fine silk; those of Bomhi/x Humuli, Noctua 
radicca, and some other moths, excavate under a stone 

ayoL. I.2d Ed.455. 


a cavity exactly the size of their bodies, to which they 
give all round a coating- of silk"; and the larvaB of jPa- 
pilio Cratcegi inclose themselves in autumn in cases of 
the same material'*, and thus pass the cold season in 
small societies of from two to twelve, under a common 
covering formed of leaves. Bonnet mentions a trait of 
the cleanliness of these insects which is almost ludi- 
crous. He observed in one of these nests a sort of 
sack containing nothing but grains of excrement; and 
a friend assured him that he had seen one of these ca- 
terpillars partly protrude itself out of its case, the hind 
feet first, to eject a similar grain ; so that it would seem 
the society have en their establishment a scavenger, 
whose business it is to sweep the streets and convey the 
rejectamenta to one grand repository '^ \ This, however 
singular, is rendered not improbable from the fact that 
beavers dig in their habitations holes solely destined 
for a like purpose''. 

A very considerable number of insects hybernate in 
ihe perfect state, chiefly of the orders Coleoptera, Hemi' 
ptera, Hi/menoptera, and Diptera, and especially of the 
first. Papilio Urficce, lo, and a few other lepidopterous 
species, with a small proportion of the other orders, 

a Brahm, Ins.Kal. n. 59. 118. 

b I have reason to think that the larvas of some species of Hemerobius 
thus protect themselves by a net-like case of silken threads; at least I 
fuiind one to-day (December 3d, 1816) inclosed in a case of this de- 
scription concealed under the bark of a tree ; and it is not very likely 
that it could be a cocoon, both because the inhabitant was not a pupa, 
which state, according to Reaumur, is assumed soon after the cocoon is 
fabricated (iii. 385); and because the same author describes the cocoons 
of these insects as perfectly spherical and of a very close texture (384); 
while this was oblong, and the net-work with rather wide meshes. 

c(£mu, ii.72, A Ibid. ix. 161. 


occasionally survive the winter ; but the bulk of these 
are rarely found to hybernate as perfect insects. Of 
coleopterous insects, Schmid, to whom we are indebted 
for some valuable remarks on the present subject % says 
that he never found, or heard of any entomologist find- 
ing, a hybernating individual of the common cockchafer 
{Melolontha vulgaris)^ or of the stag-beetle {Lucanus 
Cervus) ; and suggests that it is only those insects 
which exist but a short period as larvae, as most of the 
tribe of Curculionidce, CoccinellidcB, &c., that survive 
the winter in the perfect state ; while those which live 
more than one year in the larva state, as the species 
just mentioned, are deprived of this privilege. 

Towards the close of autumn the whole insect world, 
particularly the tribe of beetles, is in motion. A ge- 
neral migration takes place : the various species quit 
their usual haunts, and betake themselves in search of 
secure hybernacula. Different species, however, do not 
select precisely the same time for making this change of 
abode. Thus many CoccinellcE, Cimices, and Muscidce 
are found out of their winter quarters even after the 
commencement of frost; while others, as Schmid has re- 
marked, make good their retreat long before any severe 
cold has been felt : in fact, I am led to believe, from my 
own observations, that this is the case with the majority 
of coleopterous insects ; and that the days which they 
select for retiring to their hybernacula, are some of the 
warmest days of autumn, when they may be seen in great 
numbers alighting on walls, rails, path-ways, &c,, and 
running into crevices and cracks, evidently in search of 
some object very different from those which ordinarily 

a Ulig. M(Lg. i, 209-'i28. 


guide their movements. I have noticed this assemblage 
in different years, but more particularly in the last au- 
tumn (1816). Walking on the banks of the Humber on 
the 14th of October about noon, — the day bright, calm, 
and deliciously mild, Fahrenheit's thermometer 58" in 
the shade, — my attention was first attracted by the path- 
ways swarming with numerous species of rove -beetles 
(Staphi/linus, Oxj/telus, Aleochara, &c.), which kept 
incessantly alighting, and hurrying about in every di- 
rection. On further examination I found a similar as- 
semblage, with the addition of multitudes of other bee- 
tles, HalliccPy Nitidulce, Curculiones, Cri/ptophagi, &c. 
on every post and rail in my walk, as well as on a wall 
in the neighbourhood ; and on removing the decaying 
mortar and bark, I found that some had already taken 
up their abode in holes, from their situation with their 
antennae folded, evidently meant for winter quarters. 
I am not aware that any author has noticed this re- 
markable congregation of coleopterous insects previ- 
ously to hybernating, which it is so difficult to explaia 
on any of the received theories of torpidity, except the 
pious Lesser, who so expressly alludes to it, and with- 
out quoting any other authority, that he would seem tq 
have derived the fact from his own observation ^. 

a Lesser, L. i. 236. — Lyoiiet inserts a note to explain that Lessei^'s re- 
mark is to be understood onlj of such insects as live in societies; and adds, 
that solitary species do not assemble to pass the winter together. Les- 
ser, however, says nothjn"; about these insects passing the winter together, 
us his translator erroneously understands him ; but merely that they as- 
semble as U preparing to retire for the winter, which my oivn observa- 
tions, as above, confirm. His expression in the original German is, 
" gleichsam als wenn sie sich zu ihrer winter-r.ihe feitig machen wol- 
ten." Edit. Frankfurt und Leipsig 1738, p. 152. 


The site chosen by different perfect insects for theii^ 
hybernacula is very various. Some are content with 
insinuating themselves under any large stone, a collec- 
tion of dead leaves^ or the moss of the sheltered side of 
an old wall or bank. Others prefer for a retreat the 
lichen or ivy-covered interstices of the bark of old 
trees, the decayed bark itself, especially that near the 
roots, or bury themselves deep in the rotten trunk; and 
a very great number penetrate into the earth to the 
depth of several inches. The aquatic tribes, such as 
Di/iisci, Ili/drophili, &c. burrow into the mud of their 
pools ; but some of these are occasionally met with un- 
der stones, bark, &c. In every instance the selected 
dormitory is admirably adapted to the constitution, 
mode of life, and wants of the occupant. Those in- 
sects which can bear considerable cold without injury, 
are careless of providing- other than a slight covering ; 
while the more tender species either enter the earth 
beyond the reach of frost, or prepare for themselvesi 
artificial cavities in substances such as moss and rotten, 
wood, which conduct heat with difficulty, and defend 
them from an injuriously low temperature. It does not 
appear that any perfect insect has the faculty of fabri- 
cating for itself a winter abode similar to those formed 
of silk, &c. by some larvae. Schmid, indeed, has men- 
tioned finding Rhagium mordux and Inquisilor^ F. in 
such abodes, constructed, as he thought, of the inner 
bark of trees ; but these, as liliger has suggested, were 
more probably the deserted dwellings of lepidopterous* 
larvae, of which the beetles in question had taken pos- 
session "". — Most ijisects place themselves ia their hy- 

a lUig. Mag. I 216. 


bernacula in the attitude which they ordinarily assume 
when at rest ; but others clioose a position peculiar to 
their winter abode. So most of the Carahidce adhere 
by their claws to the under side of the stone, which 
serves for their retreat, their backs being next to the 
ground ; in which posture, probably, they are most 
etfectually protected from wet. Sfaphi/Unus sanguino- 
ientus, Gravenhorst, and others of the same family, 
coils itself up like a snake, witli the head in the centre. 

The majority of in:^ects pas ; the Avinter in perfect 
solitude. Occasionally, however, several individuals 
of one species, not merely of such insects as Harpalus 
(Cai^abus, L.) prasinus, Chnex aptert/s, &c., which 
usually in summer also live in a sort of society, but of 
others which are never seen thus to associate, as IIc/l- 
iica oleracea, Carabus intrfcatiis, and several Coccinellce^ 
&c. are found crowded together. This is perhaps often 
more through accident than design, as individuals of 
the same species are frequently met with singly ; yet 
that it is njot wholly accidental, seems proved by the 
fact that such assemblages are generally of the same 
genus and even species. Sometimes, however, insects 
of dissimilar genera and even orders are met with to- 
gether. Schraid once in February found the rare Xo- 
mechusa strumosa. Gravenhorst, {SUipli^Unus, L.) tor- 
pid in an ant-hill in the mitlstofa conglomerated lump 
of ants, with which it was closely interwined^. 

By far the greater proportion of insects pass the 
winter only in one or other of the several states of 
egg, pupa, larva, or imago, but are never found to hy- 
bernate in more than one. Some specieSj however, 

a lllijc, Mag, i. 491. 


depart from this rule. Thus Aphis Rosce.^ Cardui, and 
probably raai)y others of the genus, hybernate both in 
the egg and perfect state * ; Papilio Cardui, Rhamni^ 
and some other species, usually in the pupa, but often 
in the perfect state also ; and Papilio lo, according to 
the accurate Brahm, in the three states of egg, pupa, 
and imago ^. It is probable that in these instances the 
perfect insects are females, which, not having been 
impregnated, have their term of life prolonged beyond 
the ordinary period. 

The first cold weather, after insects have entered 
their winter quarters, produces effects upon them si- 
milar to those which occur in the dormouse, hedgehog, 
and others of the larger animals subject to torpor. 
At first a partial benumbment takes place ; but the in- 
sect if touched is still capable of moving its organs. 
But as the cold increases all the animal finictions cease. 
The insect breathes no longer, and has no need of a 
supply of air '^; its nutritive secretions cease, and no 
more food is required ; the muscles lose their irritabi- 
lity*^; and it has all the external symptoms of death. 
In this state it continues during the existence of great 
cold, but the degree of its torpidity varies with the 
temperature of the atmosphere. The recurrence of a 
mild day, such as we sometimes have in winter, infuses 
a partial animation into the stiffened animal : if dis- 
turbed, its limbs and antennae resume their power of 
extension, and even the faculty of spirting out their de- 
fensive fluid is re-acquired by many beetles^. But 

a Kyberin Gerniar Magazin der Entcmolngie, ii. 2. 

l> Ins. Kcil. ii. 188. c Spallanzani, Rapports dc Vy(ir, &V. i. 'SO. 

d Carlisle in Phil. Trans. 1805, p, 25. e Schmid in lllig. Mag. i. 222. 


however mild the atmosphere in winter, the great 
bulk of hybernating insects, as if conscious of the de- 
ceptions nature of their pleasurable feelings, and that 
no food could then be procured, never quit their quar- 
ters, but quietly wait for a renewal of their insensibi- 
lity by a fresh accession of cold. 

On this head I have had an opportunity of making 
some observations which, in the paucity of recorded 
facts on the hybernation of insects, you may not be sorry 
to have laid before you. The second of December 1816 
was even finer than many of the preceding days of the 
season, which so happily falsified the predictions that 
the unprecedented dismal summer would be followed 
by a severe winter. The thermometer was 46" in the 
shade ; not a breath of air was stirring ; and a bright 
sun imparted animation to troops of the winter gnat 
(Tiichocera hiemalis^ Meig.), which frisked under every 
bush; to numerous PsychodoR; and even to the flesh- 
fly, of which two or three individuals buzzed past me 
while digging in my garden. Yet though these insects, 
Avhich I shall shortly advert to as exceptions to the ge- 
neral rule, were thus active, the heat was not sufficient 
to induce their hybernating brethren to quit their re- 
treats. Removing some of the dead bark of an old 
apple-tree, I soon discovered several insects in their 
winter-quarters. Of the little beetie Lebia quadri- 
notata, Duftsphmid Faun. Aastr. {Carabus puncioma' 
culatus, Ent. Brit.), I found six or eight individuals, 
and all so lively, that though remaining perfectly quiet 
^n their abode until disturbed, they ran about with 
their ordinary activity as soon as the covering of bark 
was displaced. The same was the case with a colony 


of earwigs. Two or three md'ividuals of Lehia qua' 
drhnacidata showed more torpidity. When first unco- 
vered their antenns were laid back ; and it was only 
after the sun had shone some seconds upon them that 
they exhibited symptoms of animation, and after stretch- 
ing- out these organs began to walk. Close by them 
lay a single Ilhynchxnus Pomonim, but in so deep a 
sleep that at first I thought it dead. It gave no sign of 
life when placed on my hand, quite hot with the exer- 
cise of digging ; and it was only after being kept there 
some seconds, and breathed upon several times, that it 
first slowly unfolded its rostrum, and then its limbs. 
It deserves remark, that all these insects, thus diffe- 
rently affected, were on the same side of the tree, un- 
der a similar covering of bark, and apparently equally 
exposed to the sun, which shone full upon the cover- 
ing of their retreat*. 

All insects, however, do not undergo this degree of 

a Since writing the above, I have had another opportunity of confirm- 
ing the observations here made. The last week of January 1817, in the 
neighbourhood of Hull, was most delicious weather — calm, sunny, dry, 
and genial — the wind south-west, the thermometer from 47° to 52° every 
"day, and at night rarely below 40°; in fact, a week much finer than we 
can often boast of in May : the 27th of the month was the most delight- 
ful day of the whole: the air swarmed with Trichocera hiemalis, Psychodce, 
and numerous other Diplera, and the bushes were hung with the lines of 
the gossamer-spider as in autumn. Yet, with the exception of Aphodius 
contaminaius, I did not observe a single coleopterous insect on the wing, 
nor even an individual tempted to crawl on the trunks of the trees, under 
the dead bark of which I found many in a very lively state. Five or 
six individuals of Haltica Nemnrum were still very lethargic; and two of 
Scarabceus stercurarius, which I accidentally dug up from their hyber- 
nacula in the earth at the depth of six or eight inclies, though the 
yicari upon them were quite alert, exhibited every symptom of c6in|)lete 


torpidity. In fact, there are some, though but few, 
which cannot, at least in our climate, strictly be said to 
hybcrnate, understanding- by that term passing the win- 
ter in one selected situation in a greater or less degree 
of torporj without food. Not to mention Phaloina 
G. hrumata, and some other moths, which are disclosed 
from the pupa^ in tlie middle of winter, and can there- 
fore be scarcely regarded as exceptions to the rule, 
some in.iccts are torpid only in very severe weather, 
and on fine mild days in winter come out to eat. This 
is the case with the larva of Noclita fuUginosa^ L.^ ; 
and Lyonet asserts that there are many other cater- 
pillars which cat and grow even in the midst of slight 
frost''. Amongst perfect insects, troops of Trichocera 
Memalis^ the gnat whose choral dances have been before 
described*", may be constantly seen gamboling in the air 
in the depth of winter when it is mild and calm, accom- 
panied by the little Psychoda, so common in w indow s, 
several Muscidce, spiders, and occasionally some Apho- 
dii and Staphj/linida; : and the societies of ants, as well 
as their attendant Aphides, are in motion and take 
more or less food during the whole of that season when 
the cold is not intense. The younger Huber informs 
us that ants become torpid only at 2° Reaum. below 
freezing (27^ Fahrenheit), and apparently endeavour 
to preserve themselves from the cold, when its ap- 
proach is gradual, by clustering togetlier. When the 
temperature is above this point they follow their ordi- 
nary habits (he has seen them even walk upon the 
snow), and can then obtain the little food which they 
require in winter from their cows the Aphides, which, 

a Kiaiiiu, Jns. Kal, ii. 31, ^ Lesser, L, i. 255. c Sec above, p, 4. 372. 


by an admirable provision, become lethargic at pre- 
cisely the same degree of cold as the ants, and awake 
at the same period with theni^. 

Lastly, there are some few insects which do not 
seem ever to be torpid, as Podura nivalis^ L., and the 
singular apterous insect recently described by Dalman, 
Chionea araneo'ides^, both of which run with agility on 
the snow itself; and the common hive-bee ; though with 
regard to the precise state in which this last passes the 
winter, this part of its economy has not been made the 
subject of such accurate investigation as is desirable. 

Many authors have conceived that it is the most na- 
tural state of bees in winter to be perfectly torpid at 
a certain degree of cold, and that their partial revi- 
viscency, and consequent need of food in our climate, 
are owing to its variableness and often comparative 
mildness in winter; whence they have advised placing 
bees during this season in an ice-house, or on the north 
side of a wall, where the degree of cold being more 
uniform, and thus their torpidity undisturbed, they 
imagine no food would be required. So far, however, 
do these suppositions and conclusions seem from being 
warranted, that Huber expressly affirms that, instead of 

a Recherches, 20'2. — In dis^aiing in my garden on the 26tli of January 
ISn, I turned up in three or four places colonies of Myrmica rubra, Lafr. 
in their winter retreats, each of which comprised apparently one or two 
hundred ants, with several larva; as big as a grain of mustard, closely 
clustered together, occupying a cavity the size of a hen's egg, in tena- 
cious clay, at the depth of six inches from the surface. They were very 
lively; but though Fahrcnheil's Ihermometer stood at 47° in the shade, T 
did not then, nor at any other time during tlie very mild winter, see a 
single ant out of its hybernacuhun. 

b Kongl. I'd. Jcad. Handling. 1816. lOi. 


being torpid in winter, the heat in a well-peopled hive 
continues + 24" or 25** of Reaumur (86** Fahrenheit)^ 
when it is several degrees below zero in the open air; 
that they then cluster together and keep themselves iri 
motion in order to preserve their heat*; and that in the 
depth of winter they do not cease to ventilate the hive by 
the singular process of agitating their wings before de- 
scribed ''. He asserts also that, like Reaumur, he has 
in winter found in the combs brood of all ages; which, 
too, the observant Bonner says he has witnessed''; and 
which is confirmed by Swammerdam, who expressly 
states that bees tend and feed their young even in the 
midst of winter*^. To all these weighty authorities 
may be added that of John Hunter, who, as before no- 
ticed, found a hive to grow lighter in a cold than in a 
warm week of winter ; and that a hive from Novem- 
ber 10th to February 9th lost more than four pounds 
in Aveight*^; whence the conclusion seems inevitable, 
that bees do eat in winter. 

On the other hand, Reaumur adopts (or rather, per- 
haps, has in great measure given birth to) the more 
commonly received notion, that bees in a certain degree 
of cold are torpid and consume no food. These are his 
words : — " It has been established with a wisdom which 
we cannot but admire, — with that wisdom with which 
every thing in nature has been made and ordained, — 
that during the greater part of the time in whicli the 
country furnishes nothing to bees, they have no longer 
need to eat. The cold which arrests the vegetation of 
plants, which deprives our fields and meadows of their 
flowers, throws the bees into a state in which nourish- 

a Huber, i. 131. b Ibid. ii. 344. 358. Sec above, p. 193— 

c Conner On Bccf, 104. * Jliilx r, i. .%1. e p/,,7. Trans. h<)(). !GI . 


ment ceases to be necessary to them : it keeps them in 
a sort of torpidity (etigourdissement), in which no tran- 
spiration from tl^em takes phice ; or, at least, during 
which the quantity of that which transpires is so incon- 
siderable, that it cannot be restored by aliment with- 
out their lives being- endangered. In winter, while it 
freezes, one may observe without fear the interior of 
hives that are not of glass ; for we may lay them on 
their sides, and even turn them bottom upwards,without 
putting any bee into motion. We see the bees crowded 
and closely pressed one against the other : little space 
then suffices for them^"." In another place, speaking 
of the custom in some countries of putting bee-hives 
during winter into out-houses and cellars, he says that 
in such situations the air, though more temperate than 
out of doors during the greater part of winter, " is 
yet sufficiently cold to keep the bees in that species 
of torpidity which does away their need of eating''." 
And lastly, he expressly says that the milder the 
weather, the more risk there is of the bees consuming 
their honey before the spring, and dying of hunger ; 
and confirms his assertion by an account of a striking 
experiment, in which a hive that he transferred during 
winter into his study, where the temperature was usu- 
ally in the day 10 or 12^ R. above freezing (^9'^ F.), 
though provided with a plentiful supply of honey, that 
if they had been in a garden would have served theia 
past the end of April, had consumed nearly their whole 
stock before the end of February*^. 
■ Now, how are we to reconcile this contradiction .* 
— for, if Huber be correct in asserting that in frosty- 
weather bees agitate themselves to keep off the cold, 

a Reaum. v. 6GT. b Ibid. 68-^. c Ibid, 6G3, 


and ventilate their hive ; — if, as both he and Swam- 
iiierdani state, they feed their young brood in the depth 
of winter — it seems impossible to admit that they ever 
can be in the torpid condition which Reaumur sup- 
poses, ill which food, so far from being necessary, is in- 
jurious to them. In fact, Reaumur himself in another 
place informs us, that bees are so infinitely more sen- 
sible of cold than the generality of insects, that they 
perish >vhen in numbers so small as to be unable to 
generate sufficient aninuil heat to counteract the ex- 
ternal cold, even at 11° R. above freezing'' (57° F.) ; 
which corresponds with what Huber has o!)served (as 
quoted above) of the high temperature of well-peopled 
hives, even in very severe weather. We are forced, 
then, to conclude that this usually most accurate of ob- 
servers hos in the present instance been led into error, 
chiefly, it is probable, from the clustering of bees in. 
the hives in cold weather; but which, instead of being, 
as he conceived, an indication of torpidity, would seem 
to be intended, as Huber asserts, as a preservative 
against the benumbing effects of cold. 

Bees, then, do not appear to pass the winter in a 
state of torpidity in our climates, and probably not in 
any others. Populous swarms inhabiting hives formed 
of the hollow truidis of trees, used in many northern 
regions, or of other materials that are bad conductors 
of heat, seem able to generate and keep up a tempera- 
ture sufficient to counteract the intensest cold to which 
they are ordinarily exposed. At the same time, how- 
ever, 1 think we may infer, that though bees are not 
strictly torpid at that lowest degree of heat which they 

a Ilcaiim. 67 S. Compare also 673. 
VOL. II. 2 G 


can sustain, yet that when exposed to that degree they 
consume considerably less food than at a higher tem- 
perature ; and consequently that the plan of placing 
hives in a north aspect in sunny and mild winters may 
be adopted by the apiarist with advantage. John Hun- 
ter's experiment, indeed, cited above, in which he found 
that a hive grew lighter in a cold than in a warm week, 
seems opposed to this conclusfon.; but an insulated ob- 
servation of this kind, which we do not know to have 
been instituted with a due regard to all the circum- 
stances that required attention, must not be allowed to 
set aside the striking facts of a contrary description 
recorded by Reaumur and corroborated by the almost 
universal sentiment of writers on bees. — After all, how- 
ever, on this point, as well as on many others connected 
with the winter economy of these endlessly-wonderful 
insects, there is evidently much yet to be observed, and 
many doubts which can be satisfactorily dispelled only 
by new experiments. 

The degree of cold which most insects in their diffe- 
rent states, while torpid, are able to endure with im- 
punity, is very various ; and the habits of the different 
species, as to the situation which they select to pass 
the winter, are regulated by their greater or less sen- 
sibility in this respect. Many insects, though able to 
sustain a degree of cold sufficient to induce torpidity, 
would be destroyed by the freezing temperature, to 
avoid which they penetrate into the earth or hide them- 
selves under non-conducting substances; and there can 
be little doubt that it is with this view that so many 
species while pupai are thus secured from cold by co- 


coons of silk or other materials. Yet a very great pro- 
portion of insects in all their states are necessarily sub- 
jected to an extreme degree of cold. Many eggs and 
pupae are exposed to the air without any covering ; 
and many,'both larva; and perfect insects, are sheltered 
too slightly to be secure from the frost. This they are 
either able to resist, remaining unfrozen though ex- 
posed to the severest cold, or, which is still more sur- 
prising, are uninjured by its intensest action, recover- 
ing their vitality even after having been frozen into 
lumps of ice. 

The eggs of insects are filled with a fluid matter, in- 
cluded in a skin infinitely thinner than that of hens' 
eggs, which John Hunter found to freeze at about 15" 
of Fahrenheit. Yet on exposing several of the former, 
including those of the silkworm, for five hours to a 
freezing mixture which made Fahrenheit's thermo- 
meter fall to~38° below zero, Spallanzani found that 
they were not frozen, nor their fertility in the slightest 
degree impaired. Others were exposed even to 56° 
below zero, without being injured*. 

A less degree of cold suffices to freeze many pupas 
and larvaB, in both which states the consistency of the 
animal is almost as fluid as in that of the egg. Theii* 
vitality enables them to resist it to a certain extent, and 
it must be considerably below the freezing point to af- 
fect them. The winter of 1813-14 was one of the se- 
, verest we have had for many years, Fahrenheit's ther- 
mometer having been more than once as low as 8° when 
the ground was wholly free from snow; yet almost the 
first objects which I observed in my garden, in the com- 

a Tracts, 22. 
2 G 2 


niencement of spring, were numbers of the caterpillars 
of the gooseberry-moth {Phalcena G. grossulariata)^ 
which, thougli they had passed the winter with no other 
shelter than the slightly projecting^ rim of some large 
garden-pots, were alive and quite uninjured; and these 
and many other larvae never in my recollection were so 
numerous and destructive as in that spring : whence, as 
well as from the corresponding fact recorded with sur- 
prise by Boerhaave, that insects abounded as much 
after the intense winter of 1709, during- which Fahren- 
heit's thermometer fell to 0, as after the mildest season, 
we may see the fallacy of the popular notion, that hard 
winters are destructive to insects^. 

But though many larvae and pupae are able to resist 
a great degree of cold, when it increases to a certain 
extent they yield to its intensity and become solid 
masses of ice. In this state we should think it impos- 
sible that they should ever revive. That an animal 
whose juices, muscles, and whole body have been sub- 
jected to a process which splits bombshells, and con- 
verted into an icy mass that may be snapped asunder 
like a piece of glass, should ever recover its vital 
powers, seems at first view little less than a miracle ; 
and, if the reviviscency of the v^heel animal ( Vorticella 
rotatoriaynnA of snails, &c. after years of desiccation, 
had not made us familiar with similar prodigies, might 
have been pronounced impossible ; and it is probable 
that many insects when thus frozen never do revive. 
Of the fact, however, as to several species, there is no 
doubt. It was first noticed by Lister, who relates that 

a Vid. Spciice in Transactions of the HoriicuH. Soc, of London, ii. 148. 
Couipttrc lleauin. ii. 111. 


he had found caterpilhirs so frozen, that n^hen dropped 
into a glass they chinked like stones, which neverthe- 
less revived =*. Reaumur, indeed, repeated this expe*- 
rinient without success ; and found that when the larvae 
o^ Bomhi/x Piti/ocampn, F. were frozen into ice by a 
cold of 15° R. below zero (2° F. belovy zero), they 
could not be made to revive''. But other trials have 
fully confirmed Lister's observations. My friend Mr. 
Stickney, before mentioned as the author of a valuabl(6 
Essay on the Grub (larva of Tipiila olentcca) — to ascer* 
tain the effect of cold in destroying this insect, exposed 
some of them to a severe frost, which congealed them 
into perfect masses of ice. When broken, their whole 
interior was found to be frozen. Yet several of these 
resumed their active powers. Bonnet had precisely 
the same result with the pupae of Papilio Brassicce, 
which, by exposing to a frost of 14'' R. below zero 
(0^ F.), became lumps of ice, and yet produced butter- 
flies'^. Indeed, thecircumstance that animals of a much 
more complex organization tlian insects, namely, serv 
pents and fishes, have been known to revive after being 
frozen, is sufficient to dispel any doubts on this head^ 
John Hunter, though himself unsuccessful in his at- 
tempts to reanimate carp and other animals that had 
been frozen, confesses that the fact itself is so well 
authenticated as to admit of no question''. 

On w hat principle a faculty so extraordinary and so 
contrary to our common conceptions of the nature of 
animal life depends, I shall not attempt to explain. 
Nor can any thing very satisfactory be advanced with 

a Lister. Goedart. de Inseclts, 76. b Keaum. ii. 142. 

c OEuvres, vi. 12. il Obseivuthns on the Animal Economi/^9Q, 


t'egard to the source of the power which many insects 
in sonie states, and almost all in the egg state, have of 
resisting intense degrees of cold without becoming fro- 
zen. It is clear.that the usual explanation of the same 
faculty to a lc!?s<legreein the warm-blooded animals — 
the constant prodiiction of animal heat from the caloric 
set free in tlw*. decomposition of the respired air — will 
jiot avail us here. For, first, the hive-bee, which has 
the capacity of evolving animal heat in a much greater 
degree than any other insect, is killed by a cold consi- 
derably less than that of freezing. Secondly, many 
large larvae, as Reaumur has observed, are destroyed 
by a less degree of cold than smaller species whose re- 
spiratory organization is necessarily on a much less 
extensive scale. And thirdly, the eggs of insects — in 
;which, though they probably are in some degree acted 
(Upon by the oxygen of the atmosphere, nothing like re- 
spiration takes place— can endure a much greater in- 
tensity of cold than either the larvae or pupae produced 
from them. 

Nor can we refer the eflect in question to the thin- 
joess or thickness — the greater or less non-conducting 
power-— of the skin of the animal. Reaumur found that 
the subterranean pupae of many moths perished with a 
cold of 7^ or 8'' R. below zero (14° F.), while the ex- 
posed pupae of Papilio Brassicce and other species en- 
dured 15° or 16° without injury^; (a proof, by the way, 
that the different economy of these insects, as to their 
choice of a situation in their state of pupae, is regulated 
by their power of resisting cold,) but no difference in 
the substance of the exterior skin is perceptible. And 

a Reaum. ii. 146 — 


the eggs of insects have usually thinner skins than 
pupae, and yet they are unaffected by a degree of cold 
much superior. 

In the present state, then, of our knowledge of ani- 
mal physiology, we must confess our ignorance of the 
cause of these phenomena, which seem never to have 
been sufficiently adverted to by general speculators on 
the nature of animal heat. We may conjecture, in- 
deed, either that they are owing to some peculiar and 
varying attraction for caloric inherent in the fluids 
which compose the animal, and which in the egg state, 
like spirit of wine, resist our utmost producible arti- 
ficial cold ; or that, as John Hunter seems to infer with 
respect to a similar faculty in a minor degree in the 
hen's egg, the whole are to be referred to some un- 
known power of vitality. The latter seems the most 
probable supposition ; for Spallanzani found that the 
blood of marmots, which remains fluid when they are 
exposed to a cold several degrees below zero of Fahren- 
heit, freezes at a much higher temperature when drawn 
fi'om the animal ^ ; and it is reasonable to conjecture 
that the same result would follow if the fluids filling 
the eggs of insects were collected separately, and then 
exposed to severe cold. 

Spring is, of course, the period when insects shake 
off the four or five months' sleep which has sweetly 
banished winter from their calendar, quit their dormi-*- 
tories, and again enter the active scenes of life. It is 
impossible to deny that the increased temperature of 
this season is the immediate cause of their reappear- 

A Rapports lie V^ir, S^c, it. ^15. 


ance; for they leave their retreats much earlier in for- 
ward than in backward springs. Thus in the early sprinc^ 
of 1805 (to me a memorable one, since in it 1 began my 
entomological career, and had anxiously watched its 
first approaches in order to study practically the science 
of which I had gained some theoretical knowledge in 
the winter.) insects M'ere generally out by the middle 
of March ; and before the 30th, I find, on referring to 
my entomological journal, that I had taken and inves- 
tigated (1 scarcely need add, not always Avith a coirect 
result,) fifty-eight coleopterous species : while in the 
last untoward spring (1816) I did not observe even a 
bee abroad until the 20th of April ; and the first butter- 
fly that I saw did not appear until the 26th. 
• There are, however, circumstances connected with 
this reappearance, which seem to prove that something 
onoie than the mere sensation of warmth is concerned 
in causing it. I shall not insist upon the remarkable fact 
yvhich Spallanzani has noticed, that insects reappear 
in spring at a temperature considerably lower than 
that at which they retired in autumn ; because it may 
be plausibly enough explained by reference to their in- 
creased irritability in spring, the result of so long an 
abstinence from food, and their consequent augmented 
sensibility to the stimulus of heat. But if the mere 
perception of warmth were the sole cause of insects 
ceasing to hybernate, then we might fairly infer, that 
species of apparently similar organization, and placed 
in similar circumstances, would leave their winter 
quarters at the same time. This, however, is far 
from being the case. Reaumur observed that the lar- 
vte of Pajrilio Cinaia quitted their nest a full month 


sooner than those o^ Bornhi/x chri/sorrhca^. The rea- 
son is obvious; but cannot be referred to mere sensa- 
tion. The former live on grass, and on the leaves of 
plantain, whicli they can meet with at the beginning 
of March — the period of their appearance : the latter 
eat only the leaves of trees which expand a month 
later. It might, indeed, be still contended, that this 
fact is susceptible of explanation by supposin^^ that the 
organization of these two species of larva, though ap- 
parently similar, is yet in fact different, that of the 
one being constituted so as to be acted upon by a less 
degree of heat than that of the other : and this solu- 
tion would be satisfactory if the torpidity of these larvae 
were uninterrupted up to the very period at which they 
quit their nest. But facts do not v.arrant any such 
supposition. You have seen'' that the temperature of 
a mild day even in winter awakens many insects from 
their torpidity, though without inducing them to leave 
their hybernacula; and it is therefore highly impro- 
bable that the larvae of H. chrysorrhea should not often 
have their torpid state relaxed during the month of 
March, when we have almost constantly occasional 
bright days elevating the thermometer to above £0''. 
Yet as they still do not, like the larvEB of P. C'mxia, 
leave their nest, it seems obvious that something more 
than the sensation of heat is the regulator of the move- 
ments of each. Not, however,, to detain you here un- 
necessarily, I shall not enlarge at present on this point, 
but shall pass on, in concluding this letter, to advert 
to the causes which have been assigned for the hyber- 
nation and torpidity of animals, and to state my own 
a Reaum. ii. 170. ^ See above, 443-6. 


ideas on the subject, which will equally apply to the 
termination of this condition in spring. 

The authors who have treated on these phenomena 
have generally^ referred them to the operation of cold 
UDon the animals in which they are witnessed, but act- 
ing in a different manner. Some conceive that cold, 
combined with a degree of fatness arising from abund- 
ance of food in autumn, produces in them an agreeable 
sensation of drowsiness, such as we know, from the ex- 
perience of Sir Joseph Banks and Dr. Solander in Terra 
del Fuego, as well as from other facts, is felt by man 
when exposed to a very low temperature ; yielding to 
w hich, torpidity ensues. Others, admitting that cold is 
the cause of torpidity, maintain that the sensations which 
precede it are of a painful nature ; and that the re- 
treats in which hybernating animals pass the winter 
are selected in consequence of their endeavours to 
escape from the di&agreeable influence of cold. 

I have before had occasion to remark'' the inconclu- 
siveness of many of the physiological speculations of 
very OQiinent philosophers, arising from their ignorance 
of Entomology, which observation forcibly applies in 
the present instance. The reasoners upon torpidity 
have almost all confined their view to the hybernating 
quadrupeds, as the marmot, dormouse, &c., and have 
thus lost sight of the far more extensive series of facts 
supplied by hybernating insects, which would often at 

a Here must be excepted my lamented friend the late Dr. Reeve of 
Norwich, who, in his ingenious Essuy on the Torpidity of Animals, Uas 
come to nearly the same conclusion as is adopted in this letter; but, by 
omitting to make a distinction between torpidity and hybernation, he 
bas not done justice to his own iJcas. 

b Vol. I. 2d Ed. 3S. 


once have set aside their most confidentlyrasserted hy- 
potheses. If those who adopt the fonuer of the opi- 
nions above alluded to, liad been aware that nuincious 
insects retire to their hybernaciila (as has been before 
observed) on some of the finest days at the close of 
autumn, they could never have contended that this 
movement, in which insects disphiy extraordinary ac- 
tivity, is caused by the agreeable drozosiness consequent 
on severe cold ; and the very same fact is equally con- 
clusive against the theory, that it is to escape the pain 
arising from a low temperature that insects bury them- 
eelves in their winter quarters. 

In fact, the great source of the confused and unsatis- 
factory reasoning which has obtained on this subject, 
is, that no authoi-, as far as my knowledge extends, has 
kept steadily in view, or indeed has distinctly per- 
ceived, the difference between torpidity and hyberna- 
tion ; or, in other words, between the state in which ani- 
mals pass the winter, and their selection of a situation 
in which they may become subject to that state. 

That the torpidity of insects, as well as of otsier hy- 
bernating animals, is caused by cold, is unquestionable. 
However early the period at which a beetle, for exam- 
ple, takes up its winter quarters, it does not suffer 
that cessation of the powers of active life which we 
understand by torpidity, until a certain degree of cold 
has been experienced ; the degree of its torpidity varies 
with the variations of temperature ; and there can be 
no doubt that, if it were kept during winter from the 
influence of cold, it would not become torpid at all — 
at least this has proved the fact with marmots and dor- 
juice thus treated; and the Aphis of the rose (A. Rosce\ 


which becomes torpid in winter in the open air% re- 
tains its activity and gives birth to a numerous pro^ 
geny upon rose trees preserved in greenhouses and 
warm apartments. 

But, can we, in the same way, regard mere cold as 
the cause of the hyhcrnalion of insects ? Is it wholly 
owing to this agent, as most writers seem to think — 
to feelings either of a pleasurable or painful nature 
produced by it — that prcvioitsli/ to becoming torpid 
they select or fabricate connnodious retreats precisely 
adapted to the constitution and wants of diiFerent spe- 
cies, in which they quietly wait the accession of tor- 
pidity and pass the winter? In my opinion, certainly 

In the first place, if sensations proceeding from cold 
lead insects to select retreats for hybernating, how 
comes it that, as above shown, a large proportion of 
them enter these retreats before any severe cold has 
been felt, and on days considerably warmer than many 
that preceded them? If this supposition have any mean- 
ing, it must imply that insects are so constituted that, 
when a certain degree of cold has been felt by them, 
the sensations which this feeling excites impel them 
to seek out hybernacula. Now the thermometer in 
the shade on the V4th of October 1816, when I observed 
vast numbers thus employed, was at 58" — this then, on 
the theory in question, is a temperature sufficiently 
low to induce the requisite sensations. But it so hap- 
pens, as I learn from my meteorological journal (which 
registers the greatest and least daily temperature as 
indicated by a Six's thermometer), that on the 31st 

V a Rjber iii Germar's Mag. dcr Exit. ii. 3. 


August 1816 the greatest heat was not more than 52% 
or six degrees lower than on the 1 1th of October: yet it 
was six weeks later that insects retired for the winter ! 

But it may be objected, that it is perhaps not so 
much the precise degree of cold prevailing on tlic day 
when insects select their liybernacula, that regulates 
their movements, as (he lower degree which may have 
obtained for a few nights previously, and which may 
act upon their delicate organization so as to influence 
their future proceedings. Facts, however, are again 
indirect opposition to tlie explanation; for 1 find that, 
for a week previously to the 14th of October 181G, the 
thermometer was never lower at night than 48°, while 
in the first week of August it was twice as low as 16", 
and never higher than 50\^ 

As a last resource, the advocates of the doctrine I 
am opposing, may urge, that possibly insects may even 

a Since the publication of the first cdiiion of this vohimo, I have had 
an opportunity of inakins; some observations wliich strongly corroborate 
the above reasoning. The month of October in the present year 
(1817) set in extremely cold. From the first to the sixth piercing north 
and north-west «inds blew; the tliermomcler at HjiM, though the sun 
shone brightly, in the day-time was never higher than from 52° to 56", 
nor at night tiian 36° ; in fact, on the first and third it sunk as low as 34", 
and on the second to 31": anil on those dajs, at eight in the morning, 
the grass was covered v\rth a white hoar frost ; in short, to every one's 
feelings the weather indicated December rather than Oc(o!)cr. Here 
then was every condition fuUilled that the theory 1 am opposing can 
require; consequently, according to that theory, such a state of the 
atmosphere should have driven every iiybernating insect to its winter 
quarters. But so far was this from being the case, that on the lifth, 
when I made an excursion purposely to as,-crtain the fact, I fuuiul all' 
the insects still abroa.l \'j hie!! I had m^t will: s;x w.'cks before in similar 


have their sensations affected by the cold some days 
before it comes on, in the same way as we know that 
spiders and some other animals are influenced by 
changes of weather previously to their actual occur- 
rence. But once more I refer to my meteorological 
journal ; and I find that the average lowest height of 
the thermometer, in the week comprising the latter 
end of October and beginning of November 1816, was 
434° : M hilo in the week comprising the same days of 
the month of the end of August and beginning of Sep- 
tember it was only 44f° — a difference surely too incon- 
siderable to build a theory upon. 

I have entered into this tedious detail, because it is 
of importance to the spirit of true philosophizing to 
show what little agreement there often is between 
facts and many of the hypotheses, which authors of 
the present day are, from their determination to ex- 
plain every thing, led to promulgate. But in truth 
there was no absolute need for imposing this fatigue 
upon your attention ; for the single notorious consi- 
deration that in this climate, as well as in more south- 
ern ones, we not unfrequently have sharp night-frosts 
in summer, and colder weather at that season than in 
the latter end of autumn and beginning of winter, and 
yet that insects do hybernate at the latter period, but 
do not at the former, is an ample refutation of the no- 
tion that mere cold is the cause of the phenomenon. If, 
indeed, the hybernacula of insects were simply the un- 
derside of any dead leaf, clod, or stone, that chanced 
to be in the neighbourhood of their abode, it might 
still be contended, that such situations were alwai/s re- 


sorted to by them on the occurrence of a certain de- 
gree of cold, but that they remained in them only 
when its continuance had induced torpidity : and it 
seems to have been in this view that most reasoners 
on this subject have regarded the hybernation of the 
larger animals, to which they have exclusively directed 
their attention. But had they been acquainted (as sure- 
ly the investigators of such a question ought to have 
been) with the economy, of the class of insects, in which 
not merely a few species, as among quadrupeds, but 
ninety-nine hundredths of the whole, in our climates, 
hybernate, they would have known that their hyber- 
nacula are in general totally distinct from their ordi- 
nary retreats in casual cold weather; and that many 
of them even fabricate habitations requiring consider- 
able time and labour, expressly for the purpose of 
their winter residence— which last fact in particular, 
on their theory, admits of no satisfactory explanation. 
We may say, and truly, that the sensation of fatigue 
causes man to lie down and sleep ; but we should 
laugh at any one who contended that this sensation 
forced him first to make a four-post bedstead to repose 

In the second place, if we grant for a moment that 
it is cold which drives insects to their hybernacula, 
there are other phenomena attending the state of hy- 
bernation which on this supposition are inexplicable. 
If cold led insects to enter their winter quarters, then 
they ought to be led by the cessation of cold to quit 
them. But, as has been before observed, we have 
often days in winter milder than at the period of hy- 


bernating, and in which insects are so roused from 
their torpidity as to run about nimbly when molested 
in their retreats ; yet though their irritability must 
have been increased by a two or three months inac- 
tivity and abstinence, they do not leave them, but 
quietly remain until a fresh accession of cold again in- 
duces insensibility. 

In short, to refer the hybernation of insects to the 
mere direct influence of cold, is to suppose one of the 
most important acts of their existence given up to the 
blind guidance of feelings which in the variable cli- 
mates of Europe would be leading them into perpe- 
tual and fatal errors — which in spring would be in- 
ducing them to quit their ordinary occupations, and 
prepare retreats and habitations for winter to be quit- 
ted again as soon as a few fine days had dispelled 
the frosty feel of a May week; and in a mild winter's 
day, when the thermometer, as is often the case, rises 
to 50^ or 55°, would lure them to an exposure that 
must destroy them. It is not, we may rest assured, to 
such a deceptions guide that the Creator has intrusted 
the safety of so important a part of his creatures : 
their destinies are regulated by feelings far less liable 
to err. 

What, you will ask, is this regulator ? I answer 
Instinct — that faculty to which so many other of the 
equally surprising actions of insects are to bo referred ; 
and which alone can adequately account for the phe- 
nomena to be explained. Why, indeed, should we 
think it necessary to go further ? We are content to 
refer to instinct, the retirement of insects into the earth 


previously to becoming pupae, and the cocoons which 
they then fabricate ; and why should we not attribute 
to the same energy, their retreat into appropriate hy- 
bernacula, and tlie construction by many species of ha- 
bitations expressly destined for their winter residence! 
The cases are exactly analogous; and the insect knows 
no more tliat its hybernaculum is to protect it from too 
severe a degree of cold during winter, than does the 
full-fed caterpillar when it enters the earth that it 
shall emerge a glorious butterfly. 

I am, &c. 

VOL. II. 1 H 



J. HE greater part of those surprising facts connected 
with the manners and economy of insects, of which the 
relation has occupied the preceding letters, is (o be re- 
ferred, I have told you, to their instinct. But what, 
you will ask, is this instinct ? — of what nature is this 
foculty which produces effects so extraordinary ? 

To this query I do not pretend to give any satis- 
factory answer. As I am quite of Bonnet's opinion^ 
that philosophers will in vain torment themselves to 
define instinct, until they have spent some time in the 
head of an animal without actually being that animal 
— a species of metempsychosis through which I have 
never passed — I shall not attempt to explain what 
this mysterious energy is. It will not, however, I 
imagine, be very cfifficult to show what it is not ; and 
some observations with this view, followed by an enu- 
meration of peculiarities which distinguish the instincts 
of insects from those of other tribes of animals, and a 
short inquiry whether their actions are guided solely 
by instinct, will form the substance of this letter. 

I. It is quite superfluous at this day to controvert 
the explanations of instinct advanced by soipe of the 


philosophers of the old school, such as that of Cud- 
worth, who referred thi;; faculty to a certain plastic na- 
ture; or that of Des Cartes, who contended that ani- 
mals are mere machints. Nor, I fancy, would you 
thank me for entering- into an elaborate refutation of 
the doctrine of Mylius, that many of the actions deemed 
instinctive are the etfect of painful corporeal feelings ; 
the cocoon of a caterpillar, for instance, being the re- 
sult of a fit of the colic, produced by a superabund- 
ance of the gum which fills its silk-bags, and which ex- 
uding, is twisted round it, by its uneasy contortions, into 
a regular ball. Still less need I advert to the notable 
discovery of some pupils of Professor Winckler, that 
the brain, alias the soul, of a bee or pider, is impress- 
ed at the birth of the insect with certain geometrical 
figures, according to which models its works are con- 
structed, — a position which these gentlemen demon- 
strate very satisfactorily by a memorable experiment 
in which they themselves were able to hear triangles. 

It is as unnecessary to waste any words in refutation 
of the nonsense (for it deserves no better name) of 
Buftbn, who refers the instinct of societies of insects to 
the circumstance of a great number of individuals being 
brought into existence at the same time, all acting with 
equal force, and obliged by the similarity of their in- 
ternal and external structure, and the conformity of 
their movements, to perform each the same actions, 
in the same place, in the most convenient mode for 
themselves, and least inconvenient for their compa- 
nions; whence results a regular, well-proportioned, 
and symmetrical structure : and he gravely tells us 
that the boasted hexagonal cells of bees are produced 

2 11 ^ 


by the reciprocal pressure of the cylindrical bodies of 
these insects against each other* ! ! 

Nor is it requisite to advert^at length to the expla- 
nations of instinctive actions more recently given by 
StefFens, a Cernian author (one of the transcenden- 
talists, I conclude, from the incomprehensibility of his 
book to ray ordinary intellect), who says that the pro- 
ducts of the vaunted instinct of insects are nothing but 
" shootings out of inorganic animal masses" (anorgis- 
che ansch'ussey ; and by Lamarck *", who attributes them 
to certain inherent inclinations arising from habits im- 
pressed upon the organs of the animals concerned in 
producing them, by the constant efflux towards these 
organs of the nervous fluid, which during a series of 
ages has been displaced in their endeavours to per- 
form certain actions which their necessities have given 
birth to. The mere statement of an hypothesis of 
which the enunciation is nearly unintelligible, and 
built upon the assumption of the presence of an unseen 
fluid, and of the existence of the animal some millions 
of years, is quite sufficient, and would even be unne- 
cessary if it were not of such late origin. Neither 
shall I detain you with any formal consideration of 
the hypothesis advanced by Addison and some other 
authors, that instinct is an immediate and constant im- 

a Wst. Nat. Edit. 1785, v. 277. 

b Reitrage zitr inne.rn Natur^iMcldchtc der Eidc 1801, p. 298, 
c In his F/iilosopiiir, Zooiogique, raris 18C9 (ii. 325) — a work which 
every zoolosrist wiil, 1 think, join wilh mo in ref retting should be de- 
voted to metaphvsical diiquiiilioiis built on the most gratuitous assump- 
tions, insteadof comprising that luminous generalization oi facts rela- 
tive to the animal world which is so great a desideratum, and for per- 
forming which satidfactorily this eminent naturalist is so well qualified. 


pulse of the Deity; which, to omit other obvious ob- 
jections, is sufficiently refuted by the fact, that animals 
in their instincts are sometimes at fault, and commit 
mistakes, which on the above supposition could not in 
any case happen. 

The only doctrine on the subject of instinct requiring 
any thing like a formal refutation, is that which, con- 
tending for tlie identity of this faculty wit]i reason in 
man, maintains that all the actions of animals, however 
complicated, are, like those of the human race, the re- 
sult of observation, invention, and experience. This 
theory, maintained by the sceptics, Pythagoras, Plato, 
and some other ancient philosophers, and in modern 
times by llelvetius, Condillac, and Smellie, has been 
by none more ingeniously supported than by Dr. Dar- 
win, who in the chapter treating on instinct, in the 
first volume of Zoonomia^ has brought forward a collec- 
tion of facts which give it a great air of plausibility. 
This plausibility, however, is merely superficial; and 
the result of a rigorous examination by any competent 
judge is, that the greater part of Dr. Darwin's facts 
bear more strongly in favour of the dissimilarity of in- 
stinct and reason than of their identity: and that those 
few wliich seem to support the latter position, are 
built upon the relations of persons ignorant of natural 
history, who have confused together distinct species of 
animals. Thus, because some anonymous informant 
told him that hive-bees when transported to Barba- 
does, where there is no winter, ceased to lay up a store 
of honey. Dr. Darwin infers that all the operations of 
these insects are guided by reason and the adaptation 
of means to an end — a very just inference, if the state- 


ment from which it is drawn were accurate; but that 
it is not so, is known to e\ery naturalist acquainted 
with the fact that many different species of bees store 
up honey in the hottest climates ; and that there is no 
authentic instance on record of the hive-bees' altering* 
in any age or climate their peculiar operations, which 
are now in the coldest and in the hottest regions pre- 
cisely what they w ere in Greece in the time of Aristotle, 
and in Italy in the days of Virgil. Indeed the single 
fact, depending on the assertions of such accurate ob- 
servers as Reaumur and Swammerdam, that a bee as 
soon after it is disclosed from the pupa as its body is 
dried and its wings expanded, and before it is possible 
that it should have received any instruction, betakes 
itself to the collecting of honey or the fabrication of a 
cell, which operations it performs as adroitly as the 
most hoary inhabitant of the hive, is alone sufficient to 
set aside all the hear-say statements of Dr. Darwin, 
and should have led him, as it must every logical rea- 
soner, to the concluHion, that these and similar actions 
of animals cannot be referred to any reasoning pro- 
cess, nor be deemed the result of observation and ex- 
perience. — It is true, it does not follow that animals, 
besides instinct, have not, in a degree, the faculty of 
reason also; aod as I shall in the sequel endeavour to 
show, many of the actions of insects can be adequately 
explained on no other supposition. But to deny, as 
Dr. Darwin does, that the art with which the caterpil- 
lar weaves its cocoon, or the unerring care witli ^^hich 
the moth places her eggs upon food that she herself 
can never use, are the effects of instinct, is as unphi- 
losophical and contrary to fact, as to insist that the 


eagerness with which, though it has never tasted milk, 
the infant seeks for its mother's breast, is the effect of 

Instinct, then, is not the result of a plastic nature ; 
of a system of machinery ; of diseased bodily action ; 
of models impressed on the brain ; nor of organic 
shootings-out : — it is not the effect of the habitual de- 
tennination for ages of the nervous fluid to certain or- 
gans ; nor is it either the impulse of the Deity, or 
reason. Without pretending to give a logical defini- 
tion of it, which while we are ignorant of the essence 
of reason is impossible, we may call the instincts of 
animals those unknown faculties implanted in their 
constitution by the Creator, by which, independent of 
instruction, observation, or experience, and without a 
knowledge of the end in view, they are impelled to the 
performance of certain actions tending to the well-being 
of the individual and the preservation of the species : 
and with this description, which is in fact merely a 
confession of ignorance, we must, in the present state 
of metaphysical science, content ourselves. 

I here say nothing of that supposed connexion of the 
instinct of animals with their sensations, which has 
been introduced into many definitions of this mysteri- 
ous power, for two reasons. In the first place, this 
definition merely sets the world upon the tortoise; for 
what do we know more than before about the nature of 
instinct, when we have called it with Brown, a predis- 
position to certain actions when certain sensations exist, 
or with Tucker have ascribed it to the operation of 
the senses, or to that internal feeling called appe- 
tite ? But, secondly, this connexion of instinct with 
bodily sensation, though probable enough in some in- 


stances, is by no means generally evident. We may 
explain in this way the instincts connected with hun- 
ger and the sexual passion, and some other particular 
facts, as the laying of the eggs of the flesh-fly in the 
flowers of Stapelia /lirsuta, instead of in carrion their 
proper nidus, and of those of the common house-fly in 
snuff*'' instead of dung; for in these instances the smell 
seems so clearly the guide, that it even leads into error. 
But what connexion between sensation and instinct do 
we see in the conduct of the working-bees, which fabri- 
cate some of the cells in a comb larger than others, ex- 
pressly to contain the eggs and future grubs of drones, 
thoGgh these eggs are not laid by themselves, and are 
still in the ovaries of the queen ? So, we may plau- 
sibly enough conjecture that the fury with which, in 
ordinary circumstances, at a certain period of the year, 
the working-bees are inspired towards the drones, is 
the effect of some disagreeable smell or emanation pror 
ceeding from them at that particular time : but how 
can we explain on similar grounds, the fact that in a 
hive deprived of a queen, no massacre of the drones 
takes place ? Lastly, to onut here a hundred other 
instances, as many of them will be subsequently ad- 
verted to, if we may with some show of reason sup- 
pose that it is the sensation of heat which causes bees 
to swarm ; yet what possible conception can we form 
of its being bodily sensations that lead bees to send out 
scouts in search of a hive suitable for the new colony, 
several days before swarming ? 

a Dr. Zinken £;on;ii)nt Sommer says, (iirit if in Aua;tist and Si-pfcinber a 
snufT-box be left open, it will be seen to be froq'.>.ei;tid by the common 
house-fly {Miisca doiutstica), the rg;;s of which will be found to h;ive been 
deposited amongst th snnflT. Genii;ir jllng. dcr Eu!. 1. ii, 1S9. 


After these observations on tlie nature of instinct, 
generally, I pass on to contrast in several particulars 
the instincts of insects with those of other animals; and 
thus to bring together some remarkable instances of 
the former which have not hitherto been laid before 
you, as well as to deduce from some of those already 
related, inferences to which it did not fall in with my 
design before to direct your attention. This contrast 
may be conveniently made under the three heads of— • 
the exquisiteness of their instincts — their number — and 
their extraordinary development. 

The instincts of by far the majority of the superior 
animals are of a very simple kind, only directing- them 
to select suitable food; to propagate their species ; to 
defend themselves and their young from harm ; to ex- 
press their sensations by various vocal modulations ; 
and to a few other actions which need not be particu- 
larized. Others of the larger animals, in addition to 
these simpler instinctive propensities, are gifted with 
more extensive powers ; storing up food for their win- 
ter consumption, and building nests or habitations for 
their young, which they carefully feed and tend. 

All these instincts are common to insects, a great 
proportion of which are in like manner confined to these. 
But a very considerable number of this class are en- 
dowed with instincts of an exquisiieness to which the 
higher animals can lay no claim. What bird or fish, 
for example, catches its prey by means of nets as art- 
lully woven and as admirably adapted to their pur- 
poses as any that ever fisherman or fowler fabricated ? 
Vet such nets are constructed by the race of spiders. 
What beast of prey thinks of digging a pit-fall in the 


track of the animals which serve it for food, and at the 
bottom of which it conceals itself, patiently waiting 
until some unhappy victim is precipitated down the 
sides of its cavern ? Yet this is done by the ant-lion 
and another insect. Or, to omit the endless instances 
furnished by wasps, ants, the Termites, &c., what ani- 
mals can be adduced which, like the hive-bee associat- 
ing in societies, build regular cities composed of ceils 
formed with geometrical precision, divided into dwell- 
ings adapted in capacity to different orders of the so- 
ciety, and storehouses for containing a supply of provi- 
sion ? Even the erections of the beaver, and the pen- 
sile dwelling of the tailor-bird, must be referred to a 
les? elaborate instinct than that which guides the pro^ 
cedures of these little insects — the complexness and yet 
perfection of whose operatioiis, when contrasted with 
the insignificance of the architect, have at all times 
caused the reflecting observer to be lost in astonish- 

It is, however, in the deviations of the instincts of in- 
sects and their accommodation to circumstances that the 
exquisiteness of these faculties is most decidedly mani- 
fested. The instincts of the larger animals seem ca- 
pable of but slight modification. They are either ex- 
ercised in their full extent or not at all- A bird, when 
its nest is pulled out of a bush, though it should be 
laid uninjured close by, never attempts to replace it in 
its situation ; it contents itself with building another. 
But insects in similar contingencies often exhibit the 
most ingenious resources, their instincts surprisingly 
accommodating themselves to the new circumstances in 
which they are placed, in a manner more wonderful 


and incomprehensible than the existence of the facul- 
ties themselves. Take a honey-comb, for instance. If 
every comb that bees fabricate were always made 'pre- 
cisely alike — with the same general form, placed in the 
same position, the cells all exactly similar, or where 
varying- with the variations always alike ; — this struc- 
ture would perhaps in reality be not more astonishing 
than many of a much simpler conformation. But when 
we know that in nine instances out often the combs in 
a bee-hive are thus similar in their properties, and yet 
that in the tenth one shall be found of a form altoge- 
ther peculiar; placed in a different positiort; with 
cells of a different shape — and all these variations evi- 
dently adapted to some new circumstance not present 
when the other nine were constructed, — we are con- 
strained to admit that^nothing in the instinct of other 
animals can be adduced, exhibiting similar exquisite- 
ness : just as we must confess an ordinary loom, how- 
ever ingeniously contrived, far excelled by one capable 
of repairing its defects when out of order. 

The examples of this variation and accommodation 
to circumstances among insects are very numerous ; and 
as presenting many interesting facts in their history not 
before related, I shall not fear wearying you with, a 
pretty copious detail of them, beginning with the more 

It is the m'a{\\\{ Scarahaeixsxeriudh to roll up pel- 
lets of dung, in each of whicli it deposits one of its 
eggs; and in places where it meets with cow- or horse- 
dung only, it is constantly under the necessity of havin,^ 
recourse to this process. But in districts where sheep 
gire kept, it wisely saves its labour, and ingeniously 

476 ijrsTiNCT OF insects. 

avails itself of the pellet-shaped balls ready made to its 
hands which the excrement of these animals supplies*. 

A caterpillar described by Bonnet, which from being 
confined in a box was unable to obtain a supply of the 
bark with which its ordinary instinct directs it to make 
its cocoon, substituted pieces of paper that were given 
to it, tied them together with silk, and constructed a 
very passable cocoon with them.— In another instance 
the same naturalist having opened several cocoons of a 
moth (Noctua Verbasci, F.), which are composed of a 
mixture of grains of earth and silk, just after being- 
finished; the larvae did not repair the injury in the 
same manner. Some employed both earth aiid silk ; 
others contented themselves with spinning a silken veil 
before the opening'*. 

The larva of the cabbage-butterfly {Pdpilio Uras- 
sicce, L.) when about to assume the pupa state, com- 
monly fixes itself to the under-side of the coping of a 
wall or some similar projection. But the ends of tiie 
slender thread which serves for its girth would not 
adhere firmly to stone or brick, or even wood. In 
such situations, therefore, it previously covers a space 
of about an inch long and half an inch broad with a 
web of silk, and to this extensive base its girth can be 
securely fastened. That this proceeding, however, is 
not the result of a blind unaccommodating instinct, 
seems proved by a fact which has come under my own 
observation. Having fed some of these larvae in a box 
covered by apiece of muslin, they attached themselves 
to this covering; but as its texture afforded a firm hold 
to their girth, they span no preparatory web. 

a Sturm, Deuischland^s Fauna, i. 27. b CLluvres, ii. 238. See above, p. 260. 


Apis Muscorum^ L., and some other species of hum- 
ble-bees cover their nests with a roof of moss. M. P. 
Huber having placed a nest of the former under a bell 
glass, he stufied the interstices between its bottom and 
the irregular surface on which it rested, with a linen 
cloth. This cloth, the bees, finding* themselves in a si- 
tuation n here no moss was to be had, tore thread from 
thread, carded it with their feet into a felted mass, 
and applied it to the same purpose as moss, for which 
it was nearly as well adapted. — Some other humble- 
bees tore the cover of a book with which he had closed 
the top of the box that contained them, and made use 
of the detached morsels in covering their nest''. 

The larva o^ Bombyx Cossus, L., whith feeds in the 
interior of trees, previously to fabricating a cocoon and 
assuming the pupa state, forms for the egress of the 
future moth a cylindrical orifice, except when it finds 
a suitable hole ready made. When the moth is about 
to appear, the chrysalis with its anterior end forces an 
opening in the cocoon. If the orifice in the tree has 
been formed by itself, in which case it exactly fits its 
body, it oiiirelj/ quits the cocoon, and pushes itself half 
way out of the hole, where it remains secure from fall- 
ing until the moth is disclosed. But if the orifice, hav- 
ing been adopted, be larger than it ought to have been, 
and thus not capable of supporting the pupa in this 
position, the provident insect pushes itself only half 
waj/ out of the cocoon, which thus serves for the sup- 
port which in the former case the wood itself afibrded^'. 
The variations in the procedures of the larva of a 
little moth (Tinea, F.) described by Reaumur, whose 

a Linn. Trans, vi. 251 — . b Ljonet, Truile anatonilquc, t^c. 16—. 


habitation has been before noticed' — one of thos^ 
which constantly reside in a subcylindrical case — are 
still more remarkable. This little caterpillar feeds 
upon the elm, the leaves of which serve it at once 
for food and clothinsf. It eats the parenchyma or 
inner pulp, burrowing between the upper and under 
membranes, of portions of which cut out, and pro- 
perly sewed together, it forms its case. Its usual plan 
is, to insinuate itself between the epidermal mem- 
branes of the leaf, close to one of the edges. Parallel 
with this it excavates a cavity of suitable form and di- 
mensions, gnawing the pulp even out of every projec- 
tion of the serratures, but carefully avoiding to sepa- 
rate the membranes at the very edge, which with a 
wise saving of labour it intends should form one of the 
seams of its coat; and as the little miner is not embar- 
rassed with the removal of the excavated materials, 
which it swallows as it proceeds, a cavity sufficiently 
large is but the work of a few hours. It then lines it 
with silk, at the same tiuje pushing it into a more cy- 
lindrical shape ; and lastly, cutting it off at the two 
ends and inner side, it sews up the latter with such 
nicety that the suture is scarcely discoverable ; and is 
now provided with a case or coat exactly titting its 
body, open at the two end-^, by one of which it feeds 
and by the other discharges its excrement, having on 
one side a nicely-joined seam, and the other — that 
which is couimonly applied to its back — composed of 
the natural marginal junction of the membranes of the 

Such are the ordinary operations of this insect, which. 

a Vol. I. -2d Ed. 4j8 — 


when it h considered that the case is rather fusiform 
than cylindrical ; that the end through which it eats 
is circular, and the other curiously three-cornered like 
a cocked-hat; and that consequently its cloth requires 
to be very irregularly and artfully cut, to be accommo- 
dated to such a figure — it must be admitted, are the re- 
sult of an instinct of no very simple kind. Compli- 
cated, however, as these manoeuvrts seem, our ingeni- 
ous workman is not confined to them. By way of put- 
ting its resources to the test, Reaumur cut off the ser- 
rated edge from the nearly-finished coat of one of them, 
and exposed the little occupant to the day. He ex- 
pected that it would have quitted its mutilated gar- 
ment and commenced another ; and so it certainly 
would, had it been guided by an invariable instinct. 
But he calculated erroneously. Like oiie of its bro- 
ther tailors of the biped race, it knew how " to cut its 
coat according to its clotis," and immediately setting 
about repairing the injury sewed up the rent. Nor 
was this all. The scissars having cut off one of the 
projections intended to enter into the construction of 
tlie triangular end of its case, it entirely changed the 
original plan, and made that end the head which had 
been first designed for the tail. 

On another occasion Reaumur observed one of these 
larvae to cut out its coat from the very centre of a leaf, 
where it is obvious a series of operations wholly dilFer- 
ent must be adopted, the two membranes composing it 
necessarily requiring to be cut and sewed on two sides 
instead of on one only. But what was most striking 
in this new procedure was the alteration which the ca- 
terpillar ma,dc in the period of sewing up its garment. 



When these larvae cut out their case from th6 edge of 
a leaf, they seem aware that, if they were to detach it 
entirely from the inner side before the process of sew- 
ing, lining-, &c., is completed, having no support on the 
exterior edge, it would be liable to fall down ; at the 
sanie time they could not sew together tlic membranes 
composing it at the inner side, without cutting thejn in 
part from the leaf. While, therefore, they divide the 
major part of their inner side from the leaf, they artfully 
leave theni attached to it by one of the large nerves at 
each end; and these supports they do not cut asunder 
until the intermediate space has been sewed up, and 
they are ready to step, with their house on their back, 
upon the terra Jirma of the disk of the leaf In this in- 
stance, therefore, the larvee do not wholly separate 
their case from the leaf, until it is sewed. But when 
the same larvs cut out their materials from the n^iddle 
of the leaf, where, though completely cut round, they 
are retained in their situation secure from ail danger of 
falling by the serratures of the incisions made by the 
jaws of the larvae, these little tailors vary their mode, 
and entirely detach the pieces from the surrounding 
leaf, before they pi'oceed to set a stitch into them''. 

In the preceding instances the variation of instinct 
takes place in the same individual, but Bonnet men- 
tions a very curious fact in which it occurs in different 
generations of the same species. There are annually, 
he informs us, two generations of the Angoumois moth, 
an insect which has been before mentioned'', as destruc- 
tive to wheat ; the first appear in Blay and June, and 
lay their eggs upon the ears of wheat in the fields; the 

^ Reaum. iii. 1 12-1 19. i> Vol. 1, '2d Ed. ITS. 


second appear at the end of the summer or in autumn, 
and these lay their eggs upon wheat in the granaries. 
These last pass the winter in the state of larvae, from 
which proceeds the first generation of moths. But 
what is extremely singular as a variation of instinct, 
those motlis which are disclosed in JMoi/ and June in 
the granaries, quit them with a rapid flight at sun-set, 
and betake themselves to the yet unreaped fields, where 
they lay their eggs ; while the moths which are dis- 
closed in the granaries after harvest, stay there, and 
never attempt to go out, but lay their eggs upon the 
stored wheat''. — This is as extraordinary and inexpli- 
cable as if a litter of rabbits produced in spring were 
impelled by instinct to eat vegetables, while another 
produced in autumn should be as irresistibly directed 
to choose flesh. 

It is, hovvever, into the history of the hive-bee that 
we must look for the most striking examples of varia- 
tion of instinct ; and here, as in every thing relating to 
this insect, the work of the elder Huber is an unfailing 
source of the most novel and interesting facts. 

It is the ordinary instinct of bees to lay the founda- 
tion of their combs at the top of the hive, building them 
perpendicularly downwards ; and they pursue this plan 
so constantly, that you might examine a thousaiKl 
(probably ten thousand) hives, without finding any ma- 
terial deviation from it. Yet Huber in the course of 
his experiments forced them to build their combs per- 
pendicularly upward"*; and, what seems even more re- 
marka])le, in an horizontal direction'. 

The combs of bees are always at an uniform distance 

a CF.m-res, ix. 370. ^ Hiibfr, il. Itl! — . «-• Ibid. ii. iXQ. 

VOL. II. * 2 I 


from each other, namely about one third of an inch, 
which is just wide enough to allow them to pass easily 
and have access to the youn^ brood. On the approach 
of winter, when their honey-cells are not sufficient in 
number to contain all the stock, they elongate them 
considerably, and thus increase their capacity. By 
this extension the intervals between the combs are 
unavoidably contracted; but in winter well-stored ma- 
gazines are essential, while from their state of compa- 
rative inactivity spacious communications are less ne- 
cessary. On the return of spring, however, when the 
cells are wanted for the reception of eggs, the bees 
contract the elongated cells to their former dimensions, 
and thus re-establish the just distances between the 
combs which the care of their brood requires^. But 
this is not all. Not only do they elongate the cells of 
the old combs when there is an extraordinary harvest 
of honey, but they actually give to the new cells which 
they construct on this emergency a much greater dia- 
meter as well as a greater depth''. 

The queen-bee in ordinary circumstances places 
each egg in the centre of the pyramidal bottom of the 
cell, where it remains fixed by its natural gluten : but 
in an experiment of Huber, one whose fecundation had 
been retarded, had the first segments of her abdomen 
no swelled that she was unable to reach the bottom of 
the cells. She therefore attached her eggs (which 
were those of males) to their lower side, two lines 
from the mouth. As the larvae always pass that state 
in the place where they are deposited, those hatched 
from the eggs in question remained in the situation 

a Huber, i. 348. ' b Ibid. ii. 227. 


assigned them. But the working-bees, as if aware that 
in these circumstances the cells would be too short to 
contain the larvaB when fully grown, extended their 
lengthy even before the eggs were liatched^. 

Bees close up the cells of the grubs, previously to 
their transformation, with a cover or lid of wax ; and 
in hanging its abode with a silken tapestry before it 
assumes the pupa state, the grub requires that the cell 
should not be too short for its movements. Bonnet 
having placed a swarm in a very flat glass hive, the 
bees constructed one of the combs parallel to one of 
the principal sides, where it was so straight that they 
could not give to the cells their ordinary depth. The 
queen, however, laid eggs in them, and the workers 
daily nourished the grubs, and closed the cells at the 
period of transformation. A few days afterwards he 
was surprised to perceive in the lids, holes more or 
less large, out of which the grubs partly projected, the 
cells having been too short to admit of their usual 
movements. He was curious to know how the bees 
would proceed. He expected that they would pull all 
the grubs out of the cells, as they commonly do when 
great disorders in the combs take place. But he did 
not sufficiently give credit to the resources of their 
instinct. They did not displace a single grub — they 
left them in their cells : but as they saw that these cells 
were not deep enough, they closed them afresh with 
lids much more convex than ordinary, so as to give to 
them a sufficient depth ; and from that time no more 
holes were made in the lids. 

The working bees, inclosing up the cells containing 

aHuber, i. 119. 
2i 2 


larva?, invariably give a convex lid to the large celk 
of drones, and one nearly flat to the smaller cells of 
workers : but in an experiment instituted by Huber to 
ascertain the influence of the size of the cells on that 
of the included larvae, he transferred the larvae of work- 
ers to the cells of drones. AYhat was the result ? Did 
the bees still continue blindly to exercise their ordi- 
nary instinct ? On the contrary, they now placed a near- 
ly Jlat lid upon these large cells, as if well aware of 
their being occupied by a different race of inhabitants ^. 

On some occasions bees, in consequence of Ruber's 
arrangements in the interior of their habitations, have 
begun to build a comb nearer to the adjoining one than 
the usual interval ; but they soon appeared to perceive 
their error, and corrected it by giving to the comb a 
gradual curvature, so as to resume the ordinary di- 

In another instance in which various irregularities 
had taken place in the form of the combs, the bees, in 
prolonging one of them, had, contrary to their usual 
custom, begun two separate and distant continuations, 
which in approaching instead of joining would have 
interfered with each other, had not the bees, apparently 
foreseeing the difliculty, gradually bent their edges so 
as to make them join with such exactness that the} 
could afterwards continue them conjointly". 

In constructing their combs, bees, as you have been 
before told, in my letter on the habitations of insect?, 
form the first range of cells — that by which the comb 
is attached to the top of the hive — of a different shape 
from the rest. Each cell instead of being hexagonal 

a Huber, j. 233. b Ibid. ii. '239. c Ibid, ii. 210. 


is pentagonal, having the fifth broadest side fixed to 
the top of the hive, whence the comb is mnch more se- 
curely cemented to that part, than if the first range of 
cells had been of the ordinary construction. For some 
time after their fabrication, the combs remain in this 
state ; but at a certain period the bees attack the first 
range of cells as if in fury, gnaw away the sides with- 
out touching the lozenge-shaped bottoms; and having 
mixed the wax with propolis, they form a cement well 
known to the ancients under the names of Mifj/s or Com' 
jnosis and Pissoceros, which they substitute in the place 
of the removed sides of the cells, forming of it thick and 
massive walls and heavy and shapeless pillars, which 
they introduce between the comb and the top of the 
hive so as to agglutinate them firmly together. Huber, 
who first in modern times Avitnessed this remarkable 
modification of the architecture of bees, observed, that 
not only are they careful not to touch the bottoms of 
the cells, but that they do not remove at once the cells 
on both sides of the comb, which in that case might 
fall down; but they work alternately, first on one side 
and then on the other, replacing the demolished cells 
as they proceed, with mitys, which firmly fixes the comb 
to its support. 

The object of this substitution of mitys for wax 
seems clear. While the combs are new and only par- 
tially filled with honey, the first range of cells, origin- 
ally established as the base and the guide for the py- 
ramidal bottoms of the subsequent ones, serves as a 
sufficient support for them. But when they contain a 
store of several pounds, the bees seem to foresee the 
danger of such a weight proving too heavy for the thin 


waxen walls by which the combs are suspended, and 
providently hasten to substitute for them thicker walls, 
and pillars of a more compact and viscid material. 

But their foresight does not stop here. When they 
have sufficient wax, they make their combs of such a 
breadth as to extend to the sides of the hive, to which 
they cement them by constructions approaching- more 
or less to the shape of cells. But when a scarcity of 
wax happens before they have been able to give to 
their combs the requisite diameter, a large vacant space 
is left between the edges of these combs, which are 
only fixed by their upper part, and the sides of the 
hive; and they might be pulled down by the weight of 
the honey, did not the bees insure their stability by in- 
troducing large irregular masses of wax between their 
edges and the sides of the hive. — A striking instance 
of, this art of securing their magazines occurred to Hu- 
ber. A comb, not having been originally well fastened 
to the top of his glass hive, fell down during the win- 
ter amongst the other combs, preserving, however, its 
parallelism with them. The bees could not fill up the 
space between its upper edge and the top of the hive, 
because they never construct combs of old wax, and 
they had not then an opportunity of procuring new : 
at a more favourable season they would not have he- 
sitated to build a new comb upon the old one ; but it 
being inexpedient at that period to expend their pro- 
vision of honey in the elaboration of wax, they pro- 
vided for the stability of the fallen comb by another 
process. They furnished themselves with wax from 
the other combs, by gnawing away the rims of the cells 
more elongated than the rest, and then betook them- 


selves in crowds, some upon the edges of the fallen 
comb, others between its sides and those of the adjoin- 
ing- combs; and there securely fixed it, by constructing 
several ties of diflferent shapes between it and the glass 
of the hive ; some were pillars, others buttresses, and 
others beams artfully disposed and adapted to the lo- 
calities of the surfaces joined. Nor did they content 
themselves with repairing the accidents which their 
masonry had experienced ; they provided against those 
which might happen, and appeared to profit by the 
warning given by the fall of one of the combs to conso- 
lidate the others and prevent a second accident of the 
same nature. These last had not been displaced, and 
appeared solidly attached by their base ; whence Ru- 
ber was not a little surprised to see the bees strengthen 
their principal points of connexion by making them 
much thicker than before with old wax, and forming 
numerous ties and braces to unite them more closely 
to each other and to the walls of their habitation. — 
What was still more extraordinary, all this happened 
in the middle of January, at a period when the bees 
ordinarily cluster at the top of the hive, and do not 
engage in labours of this kind**. 

You will admit, I think, that these proofs of the re- 
sources of the architectural instinct of bees are truly 
admirable. If, in the case of the substitution of mitys 
for the first range of waxen cells, this procedure in- 
variably took place in evert/ bee-hive at ajixed period 
— when, for example, the combs are two-thirds filled 
with honey — it would be less surprising : but there is 
nothing of this invariable character about it. It does 

a Huber, ii. 280. 


not, as Huber expressly informs us^, occur at any marked 
and regular period, but appears to depend on several 
circumstances not always combined. Sometimes the 
bees content themselves with bordering the sides of 
the upper cells with propolis alone, without altering 
their form or giving them greater thickness. And it 
is not less remarkable that, from the instances last 
cited, it appears that tliey are not confined to one kind 
of cement for strengthening and supporting their combs, 
but avail themselves of propolis, wax, or a mixture 
of both, as circumstances direct. 

Not to weary you with examples of the modifications 
of instinct we are considering, I shall introduce but 
three more : — the first, of the mode in which bees ex- 
tend the dimensions of an old comb; the second, of that 
which they adopt in constructing the male cells and 
connecting them with the smaller cells of workers; 
and the last, of the plan pursued by them Avhen it be- 
comes necessary to bend their combs. 

You must have observed that a comb newly made 
becomes gradually thinner at its edges, the cells there, 
on each side, progressively decreasing in length : but 
in time these marginal cells, as they are wanted for the 
purposes of the hive, are elongated to the depth of the 
rest. Now suppose bees, from an augmentation of the 
size of their hive, to have occasion to extend their 
combs either in length or breadth, the process which 
they adopt is this : They gnaw away the tops of the 
marginal cells until the combs have resumed their ori- 
ginal lenticular form, and then construct upon their 
edges the pyramidal lozenge-shaped bottoms of cells, 

' a Huber, \i. 2S4, nale *. 


upon which the hexagonal sides are subsequently raised, 
as in their operation of cell-buildin<^. This course of 
proceeding is invariable : they never extend a comb 
in any direction whatever, without having first made 
its edges thinner, diminishing its thickness in a portion 
sufficiently large to leave no angular projection. — 
Huber observes, and with reason, in relating this sur- 
prising law which obliges bees partially to demolish 
the cells situated upon the edges of the combs, that it 
deserves a more close examination than he found him- 
self competent to give it : for, if we may to a certain 
point form a conception of tlie instinct which leads 
these animals to employ their art of building cells, yet 
how can we conceive of that which in particular cir- 
cumstances forces them to act in an opposite direction, 
and determines them to detnolish what they have so la- 
boriously constructed^? 

Drones, or male bees, are more bulky than tl^e work- 
ers ; and you have been told, in speaking of the habi- 
tations of insects, that the cells which bees construct 
for rearing the larvae of the former, are larger than 
those destined for the education of the larvae of the 
latter. The diameter of the cells of drones is always 
34- lines (or twelfths of an inch); that of those of workers 
2|- lines: and these dimensions are so constant in their 
ordinary cells, that some authors have thonglit they 
might be adopted as an universal and invariable scale 
of measure, which would have the great recommenda- 
tion of being every where at hand, and at all events 
would be preferable to our hurley-corns. Several ranges 
of male cells, sometimes from thirty to forty, are usually 

a Iluber, ii. 2SS. 


found in each comb, generally situated about the middle. 
Now as these cells are not isolated, but form a part of the 
entire comb, corresponding- on its two faces — by what 
art is it that the bees unite hexagonal cells of a small, 
with others of a larger diameter, without leaving any 
void spaces, and without destroying the uniformity and 
regularity of the comb ? This problem would puzzle 
an ordinary artist, but is easily solved by the resources 
of the instinct of our little workmen. 

When they are desirous of constructing the cells of 
males below those of workers, they form several ranges 
of intermediate or transition cells, of which the diame- 
ter augments progressively, until they have reached 
that range where the male cells commence : and in the 
same manner, when they wish to revert to the model- 
ling of the cells of workers, they pass by a gradually 
decreasing gradation to the ordinary diameter of the 
cells of this class. — We commonly meet with three or 
four ranges of intermediate cells before coming to those 
of males; the first ranges of which participate in some 
measure in the irregularity of the former. 

But it is upon the construction of the bottoms of the 
intermediate ranges of cells that this variation of their 
architecture chiefly hinges. The bottoms of the regu- 
lar cells of bees are, as you are aware, composed of 
three equal-sized rhomboidal pieces ; and the base of 
a cell on one side of the comb is composed of portions 
of the bases of tliree cells on the other : but the bot- 
toms of the intermediate cells in question (though 
their orifices are perfectly hexagonal) are composed of 
four pieces, of which two are hexagonal and two rhom- 
boidal ; and each, instead of corresponding with three 


cells on the opposite side, corresponds with Jour. The 
size and the shape of the four pieces composing the 
bottom, vary; and these intermediate cells, a little 
larger than the third part of the three opposite eells, 
comprise in their contour a portion of the bottom of a 
fourth cell. Just below the last range of cells with re- 
gular pyramidal bottoms, are found cells with bottoms 
of four pieces, of which tliree are very large, and one 
very small, and this last is a rhomb. The two rhombs 
of the transition cells are separated by a considerable 
interval ; but the two hexagonal pieces are adjacent 
and perfectly alike. A cell lower, we perceive that 
the two rhombs of the bottom are not so unequal : the 
contour of the cell has included a greater portion of 
the opposite fourth cell. Lastly, we find cells in pretty 
considerable number, of which the bottom is composed 
of four pieces perfectly regular — namely, two elon- 
gated hexagons and two equal rhombs, but smaller than 
those of the pyramidal bottoms. In proportion as we 
remove our view from tlie cells with regular tetrahe- 
dral bottoms, whether in descending or from right to 
left, we see that the subsequent cells resume their or- 
dinary form ; that is to say, that one of their rhombs is 
gradually lessened un^il it finally disappears entirely; 
and the pyramidal form re-exhibits itself, but on a 
larger scale than in the cells at the top of the comb. 
This regularity is maintained in a great number of 
ranges, namely, those consisting of male cells ; after- 
wards the ceils diminish in size, and we again remark 
the tetrahedral bottoms just described, until the cells 
have once more resumed the pi'oper diameter of those 
of workers. 



It is, then, by encroaching in a small degree upon 
the cells of the other face of the comb, that bees at 
length succeed in giving greater dimensions to their 
cells; and the graduation of the transition cells being 
reciprocal on the two faces of the comb, it follows that 
on both sides each hexagonal contour corresponds with 
four cells. — When the bees have arrived at any degree 
of this mode of operating, they can stop there and con- 
tinue to employ it in several consecutive ranges of 
cells : but it is to the intermediate degree that they ap- 
pear to confine themselves for the longest period, and 
we then find a great number of cells of vt'hich the bot- 
toms of four pieces are perfectly regular. They niiglit, 
then, construct the whole comb on this plan, if their 
object were not to revert to the pyramidal form with 
w hich they set out. — In building the male cells, the 
bees begin their foundation with a block or mass of 
wax thicker and higher than that employed for the 
cells of workers, without which it would be impracti- 
cable for tlsem to preserve the same order and symme- 
try in working on a larger scale. 

Irregularities (to use the language of Huber, from 
whom the above details are abstracted,) have often been 
observed in the cells of bees. Reaumur, Bonnet and 
other naturalists cite them as so many examples of im- 
perfections. What would have been their astonish- 
ment if they had been aware that part of these ano- 
malies are calculated; that there exists as it were a 
moveable harmony in the mechanism by which the cells 
are composed! If, in consequence of the imperfection 
of their organs or of their instruments, bees occasion- 
ally constructed some of their cells unequal; or of parts 


badly put together, it would still manifest some talent 
to be able to repair these defects, and to compensate 
one irregularity by another : but it is far more asto- 
nishing that they know how to quit their ordinary rou- 
tine when circumstances require that they should build 
male cells ; tluit they should be instructed to vary tlie 
dimensions and the shape of each piece so as to return 
to a regular order ; and that, after having constructed 
thirty or forty ranges of male cells, they again leave the 
regular order on which these were formed, and arrive 
by successive diminutions at the point from which they 
set out. How should these insects be able to extricate 
themselves from such a difficulty — from such a compli- 
cated structure? how pass from the little to the great, 
from a regular plan to an irregular one, and again re- 
sume the former ? These are questions which no knowji 
system can explain *. 

Here again, as observed in a former instance, the 
wonder would be less, i^ evert/ comb contn'ined a certain 
number of transition and of male ceils, constantly si- 
tuated in one and the same part of it : but this is far 
from being the case. The event which alone, at w^hat- 
ever period it may happen, seems to determine the bees 
to construct male cells, is the oviposition of the queen. 
So long as she continues to lay the eggs of workers not 
a male cell is founded ; but as soon as she is about to 
lay male eggs, the workers seem aware of it, and you 
then see them form their cells irregularly, impart to 
them by degrees a greater diameter, and at length pre- 
pare suitable ranges of cradles for all the male race''. 
—You must perceive how absurd it would be to refer 

a Uiiber, ii. 2'^l-286. 244-2iT. b Ibid, ii, 256. 


this astonishing variation of instinct to any mere change 
in the sensations of the bees ; and to what far-fetched 
and gratuitous suppositions we must be reduced, if we 
adopt any such explanation. We can but refer it to 
an instinct of which we know nothing; and so referring 
it, can we help exclaiming with Huber, " Such is the 
grandeur of the views and of the means of ordaining 
wisdom, that it is not by a minute exactness that she 
marches to her end, but proceeds from irregularity to 
irregularity, compensating one by another : the admea- 
surements are made on high, the apparent errors ap- 
preciated by a divine geometry ; and order often results 
from partial diversity. This is not the first instance 
which science has presented to us of preordained irre- 
gularities which astonish our ignorance, and are the 
admiration of the most enlightened minds : So true it 
is, that the more we investigate the general as well as 
particular Inws of this vast system, the more perfection 
does it present'." 

It is observed by M. P. Huber, in his appendix to 
the account of his father's discoveries relative to the 
architecture of bees, that in general the form of the 
prisms or tubes of the cells is more essential than that 
of their bottoms, since the tetrahedral-bottomed trans- 
ition cells, and even those cells which being built 
immediately upon wood or glass, were entirely with- 
out bottoms, still preserved their usual shape of hexa- 
gonal prisms. But a remarkable experiment of the 
elder Huber shows that bees can alter even the form of 
their cells when circumstances require it, and that in a 
way which one would not have expected. 

e Huber, ii. 230. 


Having placed in front of a comb which the bees 
wereconstructing, aslipof glass, they seemed immedi- 
ately aware that it would be very difficult to attach it 
to so slippery a surface : and instead of continuing the 
comb in a straight line, t]u>y bent it at a rigid angle, so 
as to extend beyond the slip of glass, and ullimately 
fixed it to an adjoining part of the wood-work of the 
hive which the glass did not cover. This deviation, if 
the comb had been a mere simple and uniform mass of 
Wax, would have evinced no small ingenuity; but you 
will bear in mind that a comb consists on each side or 
face, of cells, having between them bottoms in common : 
and if you take a comb, and having softened the wax by 
heat, endeavour to bend it in any part at a right angle, 
you will then comprehend the difficulties which our 
little architects had to encounter. The resources of 
their instinct, however, were adequate to the emer- 
gency. They made the cells on the convex side of the 
bent part of the comb much larger, and those on the 
concave side much smaller than usual; the former hav- 
ing three or four times the diameter of the latter. But 
this was not all. As the bottoms of the small and larffe 
cells were as usual common to both, the cells were not 
regular prisms, but the small ones considerably wider at 
the bottom than at the top, and conversely in the large 
ones ! — What conception can we form of so wonderful 
a flexibility of instinct? How, as Huber asks, can we 
comprehend the mods in which sxh a crowd of labour- 
ers, occupied at the same time on the edge of the comb, 
could agree to give to it the same curvature from one 
extremity to the other ; or how they could arrange to- 
gether to construct on one face cells so small, while on 


the other they imparted to them such enlarged dimen- 
sions ? — And how can we feel adequate astonishment 
tliat they should have the art of making cells of such 
diiferent sizes correspond*? 

After this long but I flatter myself not wholly unin- 
teresting enumeration, yon will scarcely hesitate to ad- 
mit that insects, and of these the bee pre-eminently, are 
endowed with a much more exquisite and flexible in- 
stinct than the larger animals. But you may be here 
led to ask, Can all this be referred to instinct ? Is not 
this pliability to circumstances — this surprising adap- 
tation of means for accomplishing an end — rather the 
result of rf<250wP 

You will not doubt my allowing the appositeness of 
this question, when I frankly tell you, that so strikingly 
do many of the preceding facts seem at lirst view the 
effect of reason, that in my original sketch of the letter 
you are now reading, I had arranged them as instances 
of this faculty. But mature consideration has con- 
vinced me (though I confess the subject has great dif- 
ficulties) that this view was fallacious ; and that though 
some circumstances connected with these facts may, as 
I shall hereafter show, be referable to reason, the facts 
themselves can only be consistently explained by re- 
garding them as I have here done, as examples of 
variations of particular instincts : — and this on two ac- 

In the first place, these variations, however singular, 
are limited in their extent : all bees are, and have always 
been, able to avail themselves of a. certain number, 

-a Huher, ii.SlU— . 


but not to increase that number. Bees cemented their 
combs when becoming heavy, to the top of the hive, with 
mitys, in the time of Aristotle and Pliny as they do now ; 
and there is every reason to believe that then, as now, 
they occasionally varied their procedures, by securing 
them with wax or with propolis only, either added to 
the upper range of cells, or disposed in braces and ties 
to the adjoining combs. But if in thus proceeding they 
were guided by reason, why not under certain circum- 
stances adopt other modes of strengthening their combs ? 
Why not, when wax and propolis are scarce, employ 
mudy which they might see the martin avail herself of 
so successfully ? Or why should it not come into the 
head of some hoary denizen of the hive, that a little of 
the mortar with which his careful master plasters the 
crevices between his habitation and its stand, might 
answer the end of mitys ? " Si seulement ils elevoient 
une fois des cabanes quarrees," (says Bonnet when 
speaking as to wha,t faculty the works of the beaver are 
to be referred,) *' mais ce sont eternellement des ca- 
banes rondes ou ovales * :" — and so we might say of the 
phenomena in question : — Show us but one instance of 
bees having substituted mud or mortar for mitys, pis- 
soceros, or propolis, or wooden props for waxen ties, 
and there could be no doubt of their being here guided 
by reason. But since no such instance is on record ; 
since they are still confined to the same limits — however 
surprising the range of these limits — as they were two 
thousand years ago ; and since the bees emerged from 
their pupae but a few hours before, will set themselves 
as adroitly to work and pursue their operations as 8ci- 

a ffitd'res, ix. 159. 
VOL. II. 2 K 


entifically as their brethren, who can boast 1*he experi- 
ence of a long life of twelve months duration ; — we 
must still regard these actions as variations of instinct. 

In the second place, no degree of reason that we can 
with any share of probability attribute to bees, could be 
competent to the performance of labours so compli- 
cated as those we have been considering, and which, 
if the result of reason, would involve the most exten- 
sive and varied knowledge in the agents. Suppose a 
man to have attained by long practice the art of mo- 
delling wax into a congeries of uniform hexagonal cells, 
withpyramidal bottoms composed each of three rhombs, 
resembling the cells of workers among bees. Let him 
now be set to make a congeries of similar but larger 
cells (answering to the male cells), and unite these 
with the former by other hexagonal cells, so that there 
should be no disruption in the continuity or regularity 
of the whole assemblage, and no vacant intervals or 
patching at the junctions either of the tubes or the bot- 
toms of the cells ; — and you would have set him no 
very easy task — a task, in short, which it may be 
doubted if he would satisfactorily perform in a twelve- 
month, though gifted with a clear head and a compe- 
tent store of geometrical knowledge, and which, if de- 
stitute of these requisites, it may be safely asserted that 
he would never perform at all. How then can we 
imagine it possible that this difficult problem, and others 
of a similar kind, can be so completely and exactly 
solved by animals of which some are not two days old, 
others not a week, and probably none a year ? The 
conclusion is irresistible — it is not reason but instinct 
that is their guide. 


The second head under which I proposed contrast- 
ing- the instincts of insects with those of the lari^er ani- 
mals, was that of their number in the same individual. 
— In the latter this is for the most part very limited, 
not exceeding- (if we omit those common to almost all 
animated beings) eight or ten distinct instincts. Thus 
in the common duck, one instinct leads it at its birth 
from the egg- to rush to the water ; another to seek its 
proper food ; a third to pair with its mate ; a fourth to 
form a nest; a fifth to sit upon its eggs till hatched; a 
sixth to assist the young- ducklings in extricating them- 
selves from the shell ; and a seventh to defend them 
when in danger until able to provide for themselves : 
and it would not be easy, as far as my knowledge ex- 
tends, to add many more distinct instinctive actions 
to the enumeration, or to adduce many species of the 
superior classes of animals, endowed with a greater 

But how vastly more manifold are the instincts of the 
majority of insects ! It is not necessary to insist upon 
those differences which take place in the same insect in 
its different states, leading it to select one kind of food 
in the larva, and another in the perfect state ; to defend 
itself in one mode in the former, and in another in the 
latter, &c. — because, however remarkable tJiese varia- 
tions, they may be referred with great plausibility to 
those striking- changes in the organic stniclure of the 
animal, which occur at the two periods of its existence. 
It is to the nundjer of instincts observable in the same 
individual of many insects in their perfect state that I 
now confine myself; and as the most striking- example 
of the whole I shall select the hive-bee, — begging- you 
2 K ^ 


to bear in mind that I do not mean to include those 
exhibited by the queen, the drones, or even those of 
the workers, termed by Hubercmere* (wax-makers) ; 
but only to enumerate those presented by that portion 
of the workers, termed by Huber nourrices or petites 
aheilles (nurses), upon whom, as you have been before 
told '*, with the exception of making wax, laying the 
foundation of the cells, and collecting honey for be- 
ing stored, the principal labours of the hive devolve. 
It will be these individuals alone that I shall understand 
by the term bees, under the present head : and though 
the other inhabitants of the hive may occasionally con- 
cur in some of their actions and labours, yet it is ob- 
vious that so many as are those in which they distinctly 
take part, so many instincts must we regard them as 
endowed with. 

To begin, then, with the formation of the colony: — . 
By one instinct bees are directed to send out scouts pre- 
viously to their swarming in search of a suitable 
abode''; and by another, to rush out of the hive after the 
queen that leads forth the swarm, and follow wherever 
she bends her course. Having taken possession of 
their new abode, whether of their own selection or 
prepared for them by the hand of man, a third instinct 
teaches them to cleanse it from all impurities ' ; a fourlji 
to collect propolis ; and with it to stop up every crevice 
except the entrance ; a fifth to ventilate the hive for 
preserving the purity of the air; and a sixth to keep a 
constant guard at the door*^. 

In constructing the houses and streets of their new 

a Vol. I. 2d Ed. 490. b See above, p. 189. 

c Ruber, n. 102. d Ibid. i. 186. ii, 41?. 


city, or the cells and combs, there are probably several 
distinct instincts exercised ; but not to leave room for 
objection, I shall regard them as the result of one only : 
yet the operations of polishing the interior of the cells, 
and soldering their angles and orifices with propolis, 
which are sometimes not undertaken for weeks after the 
cells are built ^; and the obscure but still more curious 
one of varnishing them with the yellow tinge observable 
in old combs ; — seem clearly referable to at least two 
distinct instincts. The varnishing process is so little 
connected with that of building, that, though it takes 
place in some combs in three or four days, it does not 
in others for several months, though both are equally 
employed for the same uses ''. Huber ascertained by 
accurate experiment that this tinge is not owing to the 
heat of the hives; to any vapours in the air which they 
include ; to any emanations from the wax or honey ; 
nor to the deposition of this last in the cells ; but he in- 
clines to think it is occasioned by a yellow matter which 
the bees seem to detach from their mandibles, and to 
apply to the surface which they are varnishing, by re- 
peated strokes of these organs and of the fore feet''. 

In their out-of-door operations several distinct in- 
stincts are concerned. By one they are led to extract 
honey from the nectaries of flowers ; by another to col- 
lect pollen after a process involving very complicated 
manipulations, and requiring a singular apparatus of 
brushes and baskets ; and that must surely be consi- 
dered a third, which so remarkably and beneficially 
restricts each gathering to the same plant '^. It is clearly 

a Huber, ii. 264—. Vol. I. 2d Ed. 500. h Huber, ii. 274. 
c Huber, ii. 275 — •' See above, p. 182. 


a distinct instinct which inspires bees with such dread 
of rain, that even if a cloud pass before the sun, they 
return to the hive in the greatest haste ^ ; and that seems 
to me not less so, which teaches them to find their way 
back to their home after the most distant and intricate 
wanderings. When bees have found the direction in 
which their hive lies, Huber says they fiy to it with an 
extreme rapidity, and as straight as a ball from a mus- 
ket '' : and if their hives were always in open situations, 
one might suppose, as Huber seems inclined to think, 
that it is by their sight they are conducted to them. 
But hives are frequently found in small gardens em- 
bowered in wood, and in the midst of villages sur- 
rounded and interspersed with trees and buildings, so 
as to make it impossible that they can be seen from a 
distance. If you had been with me in 1815, in the fa- 
mous Pays de Waes in Flanders — where the country 
is a perfect flat, and the inhabitants so enamoured ei- 
ther of the beauty or profit of trees, that their fields, 
which are rarely above three acres in extent, are con- 
stantli/ surrounded with a double row, making the 
whole district one vast wood — you would have pitied 
the poor bees if reduced to depend on their own eye- 
sight for retracing the road homeward. In vain during 
my stay at St. Nicholas I sallied out at every outlet to 
try to gain some idea of the extent and form of the 
town. Trees — trees — trees — still met me, and inter- 
cepted the view in every direction ; and I def\ any in- 
habitant bee of this rural metropolis, after once quit- 
ting its hive, ever to gain a glimpse of it again until 
nearly perpendicularly over it. The bee;-:, therefore, 

a fhiber, i. 3j6. b Ibid. ii. ojT. 


of the Pays de Waes, and consequently all other bees, 
must be led to their abodes by instinct, as certainly as 
it is instinct that directs the migrations of birds or of 
fishes, or domestic quadrupeds to find out their homes 
from inconceivable distances*. — When they have 
reached the hive, another instinct leads them to regur- 
gitate into the extended proboscis of their hungry com- 
panions who have been occupied at home, a portion of 
the honey collected in the fields ; and another directs 
them to unload their legs of the inasses of pollen, and 
to store it in the cells for future use. 

Several distinct instincts, again, are called into ac- 

a The following striking anecdote of this last species of instinct in an 
aniiniil not famed for sagacity, was related to me bj' Lieutenant Alder-, 
son, (royal engineers,) who was personally acquainted with the facts. — 
In !\larch 1816 an ass, the property of Captain Dundas, R. N., then at 
Malta, was shipped on board the Ister frigate, Captain Forrest, hound 
from Gibraltar for that island. The vessel having struck on some sands 
off the Point de Gat, at some distance from the shore, the ass was thrown 
overboard to give it a chance of swimming to land — a poor one, for the 
sea was running so high that a boat which left the ship was lost. A few 
days afterwards, however, when the gates of Gibraltar were opened in 
the morning, the ass presented himself for admittance, and proceeded to 
the stable of Mr. Weeks, a merchant, which he had formerly occupied, 
to the no small surprise of this gentleman, who imagined that from some 
accident the animal had never been shipped on board the Ister. On the 
return of this vessel to repair, the mystery was explained ; and it tuined 
out that Valiante (so the ass was called) had not only swam safely to 
shore, but , without guide, compass, or travelling map, had found his way 
from Point de Gat to Gibraltar, a distance of more than two hundred 
miles, which he had never traversed before, through a mountainous and 
intricate country, intersected by streams, and in so short a period that he 
could not have made one false turn. His not having been stopped on the 
road was attributed to the circumstance of his having been formerly used 
to whip criminals upon, which was indicated to the peasants, who have 
a superstitious horror of such asses, by the holes in his ears, to which the 
persons flogged were tied. 


tion in the important business of feeding the young 
brood. One teaches them to swallow pollen, not to 
satisfy the calls of hunger, but that it may undergo in 
their stomach an elaboration fitting it for the food of 
the grubs ; and another to regurgitate it when duly 
concocted, and to administer it to their charge, propor- 
tioning the supply to the age and condition of the reci- 
pients. A third informs them when the young grubs 
have attained their full growth, and directs them to 
cover their cells with a waxen lid, convex in the male 
cells, but nearly flat in those of workers ; and by a 
fourth, as soon as the young bees have burst into day, 
they are impelled to clean out the deserted tenements 
and to make them ready for new occupants. 

Numerous as are the instincts I have ah-^ady enu- 
merated, the list must yet include those connected with 
that mysterious principle which binds the working bees 
of a hive to their queen : — the singular imprisonment in 
which they retain the young queens that are to lead off 
a swarm, until their wings be sufficiently expanded to 
enable them to fly the moment they are at liberty, gradu- 
ally paring away the waxen wall that confines them to 
their cell to an extreme thinness, and only suffering it 
to be broken down at the precise moment required ; — the 
attention with which, in these circumstances, they feed 
the imprisoned queen by frequently putting honey upon 
her proboscis, protruded from a small orifice in the lid 
of her cell ; — the watchfulness with which, when at the 
period of swarmipg more queens than one are required, 
they place a guard over the cells of those undisclosed, 
to preserve them from the jealous fury of their excluded 
rivals ; — the exquisite calculation with which they iti-s 


variably release the oldest queens the first from their 
confinement ; — the singular love of monarchical do- 
minion, by which, when tno queens in other circum- 
stances are produced, they are led to impel them to 
combat until one is destroyed ; — the ardent devotion 
which binds them to the fate and fortunes of the sur- 
vivor; — the distraction which they manifest at her loss, 
and their resolute determination not to accept of any 
stranger until an interval has elapsed sufficiently long 
to allow of no chance of tlie return of their rightful 
sovereign ; — and (to omit a further enumeration) the 
obedience which in the utmost noise and confusion they 
show to her well-known hum. 

1 have now instanced at least thirty distinct instincts 
with which every individual of the nurses amongst the 
working-bees is endowed : and if to the account be 
added their care to carry from the hive the dead bo- 
dies of any of the community; their pertinacity in their 
battles, in directing their sting at those parts only of 
the bodies of their adversaries which are penetrable by 
it ; their annual autumnal murder of the drones, &c. 
&c. — it is certain that this number might be very con- 
siderably increased, perhaps doubled. 

At the first view you will be inclined to suspect some 
fallacy in this enumeration, and that this variety of ac- 
tions ought to be referred rather to some general prin- 
ciple, capable of accommodating itself to different cir- 
cumstances, than to so many different kinds of instinct. 
But to what principle ? Not to reason, the faculty to 
which we assign this power of varying accommodation. 
All the actions above adduced come strictly under the 
description of instinctive actions, being all performed 


by every generation of bees since the creation of the 
world, and as perfectly a day or two after their birth 
as at any subsequent period. And as the very essence 
of instinct consists in the determinate character of the 
actions to which it gives birth, it is clear that every 
distinctly different action must be referred to a distinct 
instinct. Few will dispute that the instinct which 
leads a duck to resort to the water is a different instinct 
from that which leads her to sit upon her eggs; for the 
hen tijough endowed with one is not with the other. 
In fact, they are as distinct and unconnected as the 
senses of sight and smell ; and it appears to mo that it 
would be as contrary to philosophical accuracy of lan- 
guage, in the former case to call the two instincts mo- 
dificiilions of each other, as in the latter so to designate 
the two senses ; and as we say that a deaf and blind man 
has fewer senses than other men, so strictly we ought not 
to speak of instinct as one faculty (though to avoid cir- 
cumlocution 1 have myself often employed this common 
mode of expression), or say that one insect has a greater 
or less share of instinct than another, but more or fewer 
instmcts. — That it is not always easy to determine what 
actions are to be referred to a distinct instinct and what 
to a modification of an instinct, I am very ready to ad- 
mit ; but this is no solid ground for regarding all in- 
stincts as modifications of some one principle. It is 
often equally difficult to fix the limits between instinct 
aiul reason; but we are not on this account justified in 
deeming them the same. 

This multitude of instincts in the same individual, 
becomes more wonderful when considered in another 
point of view. Were they constantly to follow each 


other in regular sequence, so that each bee necessarily 
first began to build cells, then to collect honey, next 
pollen, and so on, we might plausibly enough refer, 
them to some change in the sensations of the animal, 
caused by alterations in the structure and gradual de- 
velopment of its organs, in the same way as on similar 
principles we explain the sexual instincts of the supe- 
rior tribes. But it is certain that no such consecutive 
series prevails. The different instincts of tlie bee are 
called into action in an order regulated solely by the 
needs of the society. If combs be wanted, no bee col- 
lects honey for storing until they are piovided^: and 
if, when constructed, any accident injure or destroy 
them, every labour is suspended until the mischief is 
repaired or new ones substituted^. When the crevices 
round the hive are effectually secured with propolis, 
the instinct directing the collection of this substance 
lies dormant : but transfer the bees to a new hive 
which shall require a new luting, and it is instantly re- 
excited. But these instances are superfluous. Every 
one knows that at the same moment of time the citizens 
of a hive are employed in the most varied and opposite 
operations. Some are collecting pollen; others are in 
search of honey; some busied at home in the first con- 
struction of the cells ; others in giving them their last 
polish; others in ventilating the hive; others again in 
feeding the young brood and the like. 

Now, how are we to account for this regularity of 
procedure — this undeviating accuracy with which the 
precise instinct wanted is excited — this total absence 
of all confusion in the employment by each inhabitant 

a Huber, ii. 64. b ibid. ii. 138. 


of the hive, of that particular instinct out of so many 
whjch the good of the community requires ? No think- 
ing man ever witnesses the complexness and yet regu- 
larity and efficiency of a great establishment, such as 
the Bank of England, or the Post-office, without mar- 
velling that even human reason can put together with 
so little friction and such slight deviations from cor- 
rectness, machines whose wheels are composed not of 
wood and iron, but of fickle mortals of a thousand dif- 
ferent inclinations, powers, and capacities. But if such 
establishments be surprising even with reason for their 
prime mover, how much more so is a hive of bees whose 
proceedings are guided by their instincts alone ! We 
can conceive that the sensations of hunger experienced 
on awaking in the morning should excite into action 
their instinct of gathering honey. But all are hungry; 
yet all do not rush out in search of flowers. What 
sensation is it that c?e/a/w5 a portion of the hive at home, 
unmindful of the gnawings of an empty stomach, busied 
in domestic arrangements, until the return of their 
roving companions ? Of those that fly abroad, what 
conception can we form of the cause which, while one 
set is gathering honey or pollen, leads another com- 
pany to load their legs with pellets of propolis ? Are 
we to say that the instinct of the former is excited by 
one sensation, that of the latter by another ? But why 
should one sensation predominate in one set of bees, 
while another takes the lead in a second ? — or how is 
it that these different instincts are called up precisely 
in the degree which the actual and changing state of 
things in the hive requires ? — Of those which remain 
at home, what is it that determines in one party the 


instinct of building cells to prevail; in another that of 
ventilating the hive ; in a third that of feeding the 
ybung brood ? For my own part, I confess that the 
more I reflect on this subject, and contrast the diver- 
sity of the means with the regularity and uniformity of 
the end, the more I am lost in astonishment. The 
effects of instinct seem even more wonderful than those 
of reason, in the same manner as the consentaneous 
movements of a mighty and divided army, which, though 
under the command of twenty generals and from the 
most distant quarters, should meet at the assigned spot 
at the very hour fixed upon, would be more surprising 
than the steam-moved operations, however complex, of 
one of Boulton's mints. 

For the sake of distinctness and compression, I have 
confined myself in considering the number of the in- 
stincts of individual insects to a single species, the bee; 
but if the history of other societies of these animals- 
wasps, ants, &c. detailed in my former letters, be duly 
weighed, it will be seen that they furnish examples of 
the variety in question fully as striking. These coi - 
roborating proofs I shall leave to yo\ir own inference, 
and proceed to the third head, under which I proposed 
to consider the instincts of insects — that of their ex- 
traordinary development. 

The development of some of the instincts of the 
larger animals, such as those of sex, is well known to 
depend upon their age and the peculiar state of the 
bodily organs ; and to this, as before observed, the suc- 
cession of different instincts in the same insect, in its 
larva and perfect state, is closely analogous. But 


what I have now in view is that extraordinary deve- 
lopment of instinct, which is dependent not upon the age 
or any change in the organization of the animal, but upon 
external events — wiiicli in individuals of the same spe- 
cies, age, and structure, in some circumstances slum- 
bers unmoved, but may in others be excited to the most 
singular and unlooked-for action. In illustratino- this 
property of instinct, which, as far as I am aware, is not 
known to occur in any of the larger animals, I shall 
confine myself as before to the hive-bee ; the only insect, 
indeed, in which its existence has been satisfactorily as- 
certained, though it is highly probable that other species 
living in societies may exhioit the same phenomenon. 

Several of the facts occurring in the history of bees 
might be referred to this head ; but I shall here advert 
only to the treatment of the drones by the workers 
under different circumstances, and to the operations of 
the latter consequent upon the irretrievable loss of the 
queen — facts which have been before stated to you, but 
to the principal features of which my present argument 
makes it necessary that I should again direct your at- 

If a hive of bees be this year in possession of a queen 
duly fertilized, and consequently sure the next season 
of a succession of males, all the drones, as I have be- 
fore stated", towards the approach of winter are mas- 
sacred by the workers with the most unrelenting fero- 
city- To this seemingly cruel course they are doubt- 
less impelled by an imperious instinct; and as it is re- 
gularly followed in every hive thus circumstanced, it 
would seem at the first view to be an impulse as inti- 

a Stc above, p. 173—. 



niately connected with tlie organization and very ex- 
istence of tlie workers, and as incapable of change, as 
that which leads theiii to build cells or to store up ho- 
ney. But this is far from being the case. However 
certain the doom of the drones this autumn, if the hive 
be furnished with a duly-fertilized queen, their undis- 
turbed existence over the winter is equally sure if the 
hive have lost its sovereign, or her impregnation have 
been so retarded as to make a succession of males in 
the spring doubtful. In such a hive the workers do not 
destroy a single drone, though the hottest persecution 
rages in all the hives around them. 

Now, how are we to explain this diiference of con- 
duct? Are we to suppose that the bees know and rea- 
son upon this alteration in the circunistances of their 
community — that they infer the possibility of their en- 
tire extinction if the whole male stock were destroyed 
when without a queen — and that thus influenced by a 
wise policy they restrain the fury they would other- 
wise have exercised ? This would be at once to make 
them not only gifted with reason, but endowed with a 
power of looking before and after, and a command over 
the strongest natural propensities, superior to what 
could be expected in a similar case even from a soci- 
ety of men ; and is obviously unwarrantable. The 
only probable supposition is, clearly, that a new instinct 
is developed suited to the extraordinary situation in 
which the community stands, leading them now to re- 
gard with kindness the drones, for whom otherwise 
they would have felt the most violent aversion. 

In this instance, indeed, it would perhaps be more 
strictly correct to say (which, however, is eqiraiJy won- 


derful,) that the old instinct M'as extinguished; but in 
the case of the loss of a queen, to which I am next to 
advert, which is followed by positive operations, the 
extraordinary development of a new and peculiar in- 
stinct is indisputable. 

In a hive which no untoward event has deprived of 
its queen, the workers take no other active steps in the 
education of her successors — those of which one is to 
occupy her place when she has flown off at the head 
of a new swarm in spring — than to prepare a certain 
number of cells of extraordinary capacity for their re- 
ception while in the egg, and to feed them when be- 
come grubs with a peculiar food until they have at- 
tained maturity. This, therefore, is their ordinary in- 
stinct ; and it may happen that the workers of a hive 
may have no necessity for a long series of successive 
generations to exercise any other. But suppose them 
to lose their queen. Far from sinking into that inac- 
tive despair which was formerly attributed to them, af- 
ter the commotion which the rapidly-circulated news 
of their calamity gave birth to has subsided, they be- 
take themselves with an alacrity from which man when 
under misfortune might deign to take a lesson, to the 
active reparation of their loss. Several ordinary cells, 
as was before related at large % are without delay 
pulled down, and converted into a variable number of 
royal cells capacious enough for the education of one 
or more queen-grubs selected out of the unhoused 
working grubs — which in this pressing emergency are 
mercilessly sacrificed — and fed with the appropriate 
royal food to maturity. Thus sure of once more ac- 

a Sec above, p. 130 — . 


Xjuiring- a head, the hive return to their ordinary la- 
bours, and in about sixteen days one or more queens 
are produced; one of which, after being indebted to 
fortune for an elevation as singular as that of Cathe- 
rine the First of Russia, steps into day and assumes 
the reins of state. 

To this remarkable deviation from the usual pro- 
tedures of the community, the observations above made 
in the case of the drones must be applied. We can- 
not account for it by conceiving- the working bees to 
be acquainted with the end which their operations have 
in view. If we suppose them to JmoxD that the queen 
and working-grubs are originally the same, and that to 
convert one of the latter into the former it is only ne- 
cessary to transfer it to an apartment sufficiently spa- 
cious and to feed it with a peculiar food, we confer 
upon them a depth of reason to which Prometheus, 
when' he made his clay man, had no pretensions — an 
original discovery, in short, to which man has but just 
attained after some thousand years of painful research, 
having escaped all the observers of bees from Aristo- 
machus to Swammerdam and Reaumur of modern 
times. We have no other alternative, then, but to 
refer this phenomenon to the extraordinary develop- 
ment of a new instinct suited for the exigency, how- 
ever incomprehensible to us the manner of its excite- 
ment may appear. 

II. Such, then, are the exquisiteness, the number, 
and the extraordinary development of the instincts of 
insects. But is instinct the sole guide of tl^eir actions ? 
Are they in every case the blind agents of irresistible 

VOL. II. 2 L 


impulse? These queries, I have already hinted, can- 
not in my opinion be replied to in the affirmative ; and 
I now proceed to show, that though instinct is the chief 
guide of insects, they are endowed also with no incon- 
siderable portion o^ reason. 

Some share of reason is denied by few philosophers 
of the present day to the larger animals. But its ex- 
istence has not generally (except by those who reject 
instinct altogether) been recognised in insects; proba- 
bly on the ground that, as the proportions of reason and 
of instinct seem to coexist in an inverse ratio, the for- 
mer might be expected to be extinct in a class in which 
the latter is found in such perfection. This rule, how- 
ever, though it may hold good in man, whose instincts 
are so few and imperfect, and whose reason is so pre- 
eminent, is far from being confirmed by an extended 
survey of the classes of animals generally. Many qua- 
drupeds, birds, and fishes, with instincts apparently 
not very acute, do not seem to have their place sup- 
plied by a proportionably superior share of reason : 
and insects, as I think the facts I have to adduce will 
prove, though ranking so low in the scale of creation, 
seem to enjoy as great a degree of reason as many ani- 
mals of the superior classes, yet in combination with 
instincts much more numerous and exquisite. 

I must premise, however, that in so perplexed and 
intricate a field, I am sensible how necessary it is to 
tread with caution. A far greater collection of facts 
must be made, and the science of metaphysics generally 
be placed on a more solid foundation than it now can 
boast, before we can pretend to decide, in numerous 
cases, which of the actions of insects are to be deemed 


)|^urely instinctive, and which the result of reason. 
What I advance, therefore, on this head, I wish to be 
regarded rather as conjectures, that, after the best con- 
sideration I am able to give to a subject so much beyond 
my depth, seem to me plausible, than as certainties 
to which I require your implicit assent. 

That reason has nothing to do with the major part 
of the actions of insects is clear, as I have before ob- 
served, from the determinateness and perfection of 
these actions, and from their being performed inde- 
pendently of instruction and experience. A young bee 
(I must once more repeat) betakes itself to the complex 
operation of building cells, with as much skill as the 
oldest of its compatriots. We cannot suppose that it 
has any knowledge of the purposes for which the cells 
are destined ; or of the effects that will result from its 
feeding the young larvae, and the like. And if an in- 
dividual bee be thus destitute of the very materials of 
reasoning as to its main operations, so must the society 
iijr general. 

Nor in those remarkable deviations and accommo- 
dations to circumstances, instanced under a former head, 
can we, for considerations there assigned, suppose in- 
sects to be influenced by reason. These deviations are 
still limited in number, and involve acts far too com- 
plex and recondite to spring from any process of ratio- 
eination in an animal whose term of life does not ex- 
ceed two years. 

It does not follow, however, that reason may not 
have a part in inducing some of these last-mentioned 
actions, though the actions themselves are purely in- 
stinctive. I do not pretend to explain in what way or 
2 12 


degree they are combined ; but certainly some of the 
facts do"not seem to admit of explanation, exception 
this supposition . Thus, in the instance above cited from 
Huber, in which the bees bent a comb at right angles 
in order to avoid a slip of glass, the remarkable varia- 
tions in the form of the cells can only, as I have there 
said, be referred to instinct. Yet the original deter- 
mination to avoid the glass seems, as Huber himself ob- 
serves, to indicate something more than instinct, since 
glass is not a substance against which Nature can be sup- 
posed to have forewarned bees, there being nothing in 
hollow trees (their natural abodes) resembling it either 
in polish or substance : and what was most striking in 
their operations was, that they did not wait until they 
had reached the surface of the glass before changing 
the direction of the comb, but adopted this variation 
at a considerable distance, as though they foresaw the 
inconveniences which might result from another mode 
of construction ^. — However difficult it may be to form 
a clear conception of this union of instinct and reason 
rn the same operation, or to define precisely the limits 
of each, instances of these »^^.rec? actions are sufficiently 
common among animals to leave little doubt of the 
feet. It is instinct which leads a greyhound, to pursue 
a hare ; but it must be reason that directs " an old 
greyhound to trust the more fatiguing part of the chase 
to the younger, and to place himself so as to meet the 
hare in her doubles''." 

As another instance of these mixed actions in which 
both reason and instinct seem concerned, but the for- 
mer more decidedly, may be cited the account which 

a Huber, ii. 219. b Hiune's Essay on the Reason of Animals. 


Huber gives of the manner in which the bees of some 
of his neighbours protected themselves against the at- 
tacks of the death's-head moth (Sphinx Atropos), laid 
before you in a former letter % by so closing the en- 
trance of the hive with walls, arcades, casements, and 
bastions, built of a mixture of wax and propolis, that 
these insidious marauders could no longer intrude them- 

We can scarcely attribute these elaborate fortifica- 
tions to reason simply ; for it appears that bees have 
recourse to a similar defensive expedient when attacked 
even by other bees ; and the means employed seem too 
subtle and too well adapted to the end to be the result 
of this faculty in a bee. 

But on the other hand, if it be most probable that in 
this instance instinct was chiefly concerned, if we im- 
partially consider the facts, it seems impossible to deny 
that reason had some share in the operations. Pure 
instinct would have taught the bees to fortify them- 
selves on the Jirst attack. If the occupants of a hive 
had been taken unawares by these gigantic aggressors 
one night, on the second, at least, the entrance should 
have been barricadoed. But it appears clear from the 
statement of Huber, that it was not until the hives had 
been repeatedly attacked and robbed of nearly their 
whole stock of honey, that the bees betook themselves 
to the plan so successfully adopted for the security of 
their remaining treasures ; so that reason taught by 
experience, seems to have called into action their dor- 
mant instinct''. 

If it be thus probable that reason has some influence 

a See above, p. 26T. b Huber, ii. 289— 


upon the actions of insects, which must be mainly re- 
garded as instinctive, the existence of this faculty is? 
still more evident in numerous traits of their history 
where ins-tinct is little if at all concerned. An insect 
is taught by its instincts the most unerring means to 
the attainment of certain ends; but these ends, as I 
have already had occasion more than once to remark, 
are limited in number, and such only as are called for 
by its wants in a state of nature. We cannot reason- 
ably suppose insects to be gifted with instincts adapte4 
for occasions that are never likely 1o happen. If there- 
fore we find them, in these extraordinary and improba- 
ble emergencies, still availing themselves of the means 
apparently best calculated for ensuring their object ; 
— and if in addition they seem in some cases to gain 
knowledge by experience ; if they can communicate 
information to each other ; and if they are endowed 
with memory — it appears impossible to deny that they 
are possessed of )'eason. — I shall now produce facts 
in proof of each of these positions; not by any means 
all that might be adduced, but a few of the most stri- 
king that occur to me. 

First, then, insects often in cases not likely to be 
provided for by instinct, adopt means evidently designed 
for effecting their object. 

A certain degree of warmth is necessary to hatch a 
hen's eggs, and we give her little credit for reason in 
sitting upon them for this purpose. But if any one 
had ever seen a hen make her nest in a heap of fer- 
menting dung, among the bark of a hot-bed, or in the 
vicinity of a baker's oven, where, the heat being as well 


adapted as the stoves of the Egyptians to bring her 
chickens into life, she left off the habit of her race, and 
saved herself the trouble of sitting upon them, — we 
should certainly pronounce her a reasoning hen : and 
if this hen had chanced to be that very one figured and 
so elaborately described by Professor Fischer, with 
the profile of mi old zGoman^y a Hindoo metaphysician at 
least could not doubt of her body, however hen-like, 
being in truth directed in its operations by the soul of 
some quondam amateur of poultry-breeding. Now 
societies of ants have more than once exhibited a de- 
viation from their usual instinct, which to me seems 
quite as extraordinary and as indicative of reason as 
would be that supposed in a hen. A certain degree 
of warmth is required for the exclusion and rearing of 
their eggs, larvae and pupge ; and in their ordinary 
abodes, as you have been already told"^, they undergo 
great daily labour in removing their charge to different 
parts of the nest, as its temperature is affected by the 
presence or absence of the sun. But Reaumur, in re- 
futing the common notion of ants being injurious to 
bees, tells us that societies of the former often saved 
themselves all this trouble, by establishing their colo- 
nies between the exterior wooden shutters and panes 
of his glass hives, where, owing to the latter substance 
being a tolerably good conductor of heat, their progeny 
was at all times, and without any necessity of changing 
their situation, in a constant, equable, and sufficitint 

a See Fischer's Beschreibung eines Huhns mit nienschenahnlkhern Pro- 
file, 8vo, St. Petersburg 1816, and a translation in Thomson's .^nnafa of 
Phil, viii, 241. 
b Vol. I. 2d Ed, 364. 


temperature ^. Bonnet observed the same fact. He. 
found that a society of ants had piled up their young 
to the height of several inches, between the flannel- 
lined case of his glass hives and the glass. When dis- 
turbed they ran away with them, but always replaced 
them ^ 

I am persuaded that after duly considering these 
facts, you will agree with me that it is impossible con- 
sistently to refer them to instinct, or to account for 
them without supposing some stray ant, that had in- 
sinuated herself into this tropical crevice, first to have 
been struck with the thought ot^ what a prodigious sav- 
ing of labour and anxiety would occur to her compa- 
triots by establishing their society here ; — that she had 
communicated her ideas to them; — and that they had 
resolved upon an emigration to this new-discovered 
country — this Madeira of ants— whose genial clime 
presented advantages which no other situation could 
offer. Neither instinct, nor any conceivable modifi- 
cation of instinct, could have taught the ants to avail 
themselves of a good fortune which but for the inven- 
tion of glass hives would never have offered itself to a 
generation of these insects since the creation ; for there 
is nothing analogous in nature to the constant and 
equable warmth of such a situation, the heat of any ac- 
cidental mass of fermenting materials soon ceasing, and 
no heat being given out from a society of bees when 
lodged in a hollow tree, their natural residence. The 
conclusion, then, seems irresistible, that reason must 
have been their guide, inducing a departure from their 
natural instinct as extraordinary as would be that of a 

a Rcaum. V. 709. V> (Euvres,n. ilQ, 


lien which should lay her eggs in a hot-bed, and cease 
to sit upon them. 

The adaptation of means to an end not likely to 
have been provided for by instinct, is equally obvious 
in the ingenious mode by which a nest of humble-bees 
propped up their tottering comb, the particulars of 
which having before mentioned to you % I need not 
here repeat. 

There is perhaps no surer criterion of reason than, 
after having tried one mode of accomplishing a pur- 
pose, adopting another more likely to succeed. Insects 
are able to stand this test. A bee which Huber watched 
while soldering the angles of a cell with propolis, de- 
tached a thread of this material with which she entered 
the cell. Instinct would have taught her to separate 
it of the exact length required ; but after applying it 
to the angle of the cell, she found it too long, and cut 
off a portion so as to fit it to her purpose ''. 

This is a very simple instance ; but one such fact is 
as decisive in proof of reason as a thousand more com- 
plex, and of such there is no lack. Dr. Darwin (whose 
authority in the present case depending not on hearsay, 
but his own observation, may be here taken,) informs 
us, that walking one day in his garden he perceived 
a wasp upon the gravel walk with a large fly nearly a? 
big as itself which it had caught. Kneeling down he 
distinctly saw it cut off the head and abdomen, and then 
taking up with its feet the trunk or middle portion of 
the body to which the wings remained attached, fly 
away. But a breeze of wind acting upon the wings 
pf the fly turned round the wasp with its burthen, and 

a Vol. I. 2d Ed. 360. b Huber, ii. 268. 


impeded its progress. Upon this it alighted again on 
the gravel walk, deliberately sawed off first one wing 
and then the other; and having thus removed the cause 
of its embarrassment, flew off with its booty^. Could 
any process of ratiocination be more perfect? " Some- 
thing acts upon the wings of this fly and impedes my 
flight. If I wish to reach my nest quickly, I must get 
rid of them — to effect which, the shortest way will be 
to alight again and cut them off." These reflections, 
or others of similar import, must be supposed to have 
passed through the mind of the wasp, or its actions are 
altogether inexplicable. Instinct might have taught 
it to cut off the wings of all flies, previously to flying 
away with them. But here it first attempted to fly with 
the wings on, — was impeded by a certain cause, — dis- 
covered what this cause was, — and alighted to remove 
it. The chain of evidence seems perfect in proof that 
nothing but reason could have been its prompter. 

An analogous though less striking fact is mentioned 
by Reaumur on the authority of M. Cossigny, who 
witnessed it in the Isle of France where the Spheges 
are accustomed to bury the bodies of cockroaches 
along with their eggs for provision for their young. 
He sometimes saw one of these Spheges attempt to 
drag after it into its hole a dead cockroach, which was 
too big to be made to enter by all its efforts. After 
several ineffectual trials the Sphex came out, cut off its 
elytra and some of its legs, and thus reduced in com- 
pass drew in its prey without difficulty''. 

Under this head I shall mention but one fact more. — 
A friend of Gleditsch the observer of the singular eco- 

a Zoonomia, i. 183. b Reaum. vi. 283. 


nomy of the burying beetle {Necrophorus Vespillo) re- 
lated in a former letter % being desirous of drying a 
dead toad, fixed it to the top of a piece of wood which 
he stuck into the ground. Rut a short time after- 
wards, he found that a body of these indefatigable lit- 
tle sextons had circumvented him in spite of his pre- 
cautions. Not being able to reach the toad, they had 
undermined the base of the stick until it fell, and then 
buried both stick and toad''. 

In the second place, insects gain knowledge front eX' 
perience, which would be impossible if they were not 
gifted with some portion of reason. In proof of their 
thus profiting, I shall select from the numerous facts 
that might be brought forward, two only, one of which 
has been already slightly adverted to''. 

M. P. Huber, in his valuable paper in the sixth 
volume of the Linnean Transactions'^, states that he has 
seen large humble-bees, when unable from the size of 
their head and thorax to reach to the bottom of the 
long tubes of the flowers of beans, go directly to the 
calyx, pierce it as well as the tube w ith the exterior 
horny parts of their proboscis, and then insert their 
proboscis itself into the orifice and abstract the honey. 
They thus flew from flower to flower, piercing the tubes 
from without, and sucking the nectar, while smaller 
humble-bees or those with a longer proboscis entered 
in at the top of the corolla. Now from this statement 
it seems evident, that the larger bees did not pierce the 
^ottoms of the flowers until they had ascertained by 

a Vol. 1. 2d Ed. 351 . b Gleditsch Physic. Bot. (Econ. Jbhandl. iii. SSOw 
e See above, p. 1 18. «1 p. 222. 


trial that tliey could not reach the nectar from the top ; 
but that having- once ascertained by experience that 
the flowers of beans are too strait to admit them, they 
then, without further attempts in the ordinary way, 
pierced the bottoms of all the flowers which they 
wished to rifle of their sweets. — M. Aubert du Petit- 
Thouars observed that humble-bees and X?/locopa 
%iiolacea gained access in a similar manner to the 
nectar of Antirrhinum Linariu and majus, and Mira- 
hilis Jalappa ; as do the common bees of the Isle of 
France to that of Canna indica^; and I have myself 
more than once noticed holes at the base of the long" 
nectaries of Aquilcgia vulgaris, which I attribute to 
the same agency. 

My second fact is supplied by the same ants, whose 
sagacious choice of the vicinity of Reaumur's glass 
hives for their colony has been just related to you. 
He tells us that of these ants, of which there were such 
swarms on the outside of the hive, not a single one was 
ever perceived within ; and infers that, as they are 
such lovers of honey, and there was no difliculty in 
finding crevices to enter in at, they were kept Avithout, 
solely from fear of the consequences''. Whence arose 
this fear ? We have no ground for supposing ants en- 
dowed with any instinctive dread of bees; and Reau- 
mur tells us, that when he happened to leave in his 
garden, hives of which the bees had died, the ants then 
never failed to enter them and regale themselves with 
the honey. It seems reasonable, therefore, to attri- 
bute it to experience. Some of the ants no doubt had 
tried to enter the peopled as they did the empty hive, 

a Nouvcau BiiUclln des Sciences- i. 4.>. W Rcanm. v. 709. 


hnt had been punished for their presumption, and the 



dear-bought lesson was not lost on the rest of the com 

Insects, in the third place, are able mutually to com-' 
mitnicate and receive information, which, in whatever 
way effected, would be impracticable if they were devoid 
of reason. Under this head it is only necessary to re- 
fer you to the endless facts in proof, furnished by almost 
every page of my letters on the history of ants and of 
the hive-bee. I shall therefore but detain you for a 
moment with an additional anecdote or two, especially 
with one respecting the former tribe, which is valuable 
from the celebrity of the relater. 

Dr. Franklin was of opinion that ants could commu- 
nicate their ideas to each other ; in proof of which he 
related to Kalm, the Swedish traveller, the following 
fact. Having placed a pot containing treacle in a closet 
infested with ants, these insects found their way into 
it, and were feasting very heartily when he discovered 
them. He then shook them out and suspended the pot 
by a string from the ceiling. By chance one ant re- 
mained, which, after eating its fill, with some difficulty 
found its way up the string, and thence reaching the 
ceiling, escaped by the wall to its nest. In less than 
half an hour a great company of ants sallied out of 
their hole, climbed the ceiling-, crept along the string 
into the pot, and began to eat again. This they con- 
tinued until the treacle was all consumed, ona swarm 
running up the string while another passed down '. If 

a Kalin's Travtls in North .Iiitcrtia, s. 239. 


seems indisputable that the one ant had in this instance 
conveyed news of the booty to his comrades, who would 
not otherwise have at once directed their steps in a body 
to the only accessible route. 

A German artist, a man of strict veracity, states that 
in his journey through Italy he was an eye-witness to 
the following occurrence. He observed a species of 
Scarabceus busily engaged in making, for the reception 
of its egg, a pellet of dung, v/hich when finished it 
rolled to the summit of a small hillock, and repeatedly 
suffered to tumble down its side, apparently for the sake 
of consolidating- it by the earth which each time ad- 
hered to it. During this process the pellet unluckily fell 
into an adjoining hole, out of which all the efforts of 
the beetle to extricate it were in vain. After several 
ineffectual trials, the insect repaired to an adjoining 
heap of dung, and soon returned with three of his com- 
panions. All four now applied their united strength 
to the pellet, and at length succeeded in pushing it 
out; which being done, the three assistant beetles left 
the spot and returned to their own quarters^. 

Lastly, insects are endowed with memo7y, which 
(at least in connexion with the purposes to which it is 
subservient) implies some degree of reason also ; and 
their historian may exclaim with the poet who has so 
well sung the pleasures of this faculty. 

Hail, Memory, hail ! thy unirersal reign 
Guards the least link of Being's glorious chftln. 

a lUiger Mag. i. 488» 


In the elegant lines in which tliis couplet occurs % 
ivhich were pointed out to me by my friend Dr. Alder- 
son of Hull, Mr. Rogers supposes the bee to be con- 
ducted to its hive by retracing the scents of the various 
flowers which it has visited : but this idea is more po- 
etical than accurate, bees, as before observed'', flying 
straight to their hives from great distances. Here, as 
I have more than once had occasion to remark in si- 
milar instances, we have to regret the want of more 
correct entomological information in the poet, who 
might have employed with as much effect, the real fact 
of bees distinguishing their own hives out of numbers 
near them, when conducted to the spot by instinct. 
This recognition of home seems clearly the result of 
memory ; and it is remarkable that bees appear to re- 
collect their own hive rather from its situation, than 
from any observations on the hive itself"; just as a man 

a " Hark ! the bee winds her small but mellow horn, 
Blithe to salute the sunny smile of morn. 
O'er thymy downs she bends her bus^ course. 
And many a stream allures her to its source. 
'Tis noon, 'tis night. That eye so finely wrought, 
Beyond the search of sense, the soar of thought, 
^fow vainly asks the scenes she left behind; 
Its orb so full, its vision so confin'd ! 
Who guides the patient pilgrim to her cell ? 
"Who bids her soul with conscious triumph swell ? 
With conscious truth retrace the mazy clue 
Of varied scents that charm'd her as she flew ? 
Hail, Memory, hail ! thy universal reign 
Guards the least link of Being's glorious chain." 

tj See above, p. 188 and 502. 

If a hive be removed out of its ordinary position, the first day after 
this removal, the bees do not fly to a distance without having visited ail 


is guided to his house from his memory of its position 
relative to other buildings or objects, without its being 
necessary for him even to cast a look at it. If, after 
quitting- my house in a morning, it were to be lifted 
out of its site in the street by enchantment, and re- 
placed by another with a similar entrance, I should 
probably, even in the day time, enter it, Avithout being 
struck by the change ; and bees, if during their absence 
their old hive be taken away, and a similar one set in 
its place, enter this last, and if it be provided with 
brood comb contentedly take up their abode in it, never 
troubling themselves to inquire what has become of 
the identical habitation which they left in the morning, 
and with the inhabitants of which, if it be removed 
to fifty paces distance, they never resume their con- 

If, pursuing my illlustration, you should object that 
no man would thus contentedly sit down in a new 
house without searching after the old one, you must 
bear in miiid that I am not aiming to show that bees 
have as precise a memory as ours, but only that they 
are endowed with some portion of this faculty, which I 
think the above fact proves. Should you view it in a 
different light, you will not deny the force of others 
that have already been stated in the course of our cor- 
respondence ; such as the mutual greetings of ants of 
the same society when brought together after a separa- 
tion of four months''; and the return of a party of bees 

tlie nei'^hbouring objects. The queen does the same thing when flying 
into the air for fecundation. Huber, Rechercltes sur les Fourmis, 100. 

a See the account of the mode in which the Favignanais increase the 
number of their hives by thus dividing them. Huber, ii. 459. 

b See above, p. 66. 


in spring to a window, where in the preceding autumn 
they had regaled on honey, though none of this sub- 
stance had been again placed there ^. 

But the most striking fact evincing the memory of 
these last-mentioned insects has been communicated to 
me by my intelligent friend Mr. William Stickney, of 
Ridgemont, Holderness. About twenty years ago, a 
swarm from one of this gentleman's hives took posses- 
sion of an opening beneath the tiles of his house, 
whence, after remaining a few hours, they were dis- 
lodged and hived. For many subsequent years, when 
the hives descended from this stock were about to swarm, 
a considerable party of scouts were observed for a few 
days before to be reconnoitring about the old hole 
under the tiles ; and Mr. Stickney is persuaded, that 
if suffered they would have established themselves 
there. He is certain that for eight years successively 
the descendants of the very stock that first took posses- 
sion of the hole frequented it as above stated, and not 
those of any other swarms ; having constantly noticed 
them, and ascertained that tiiey were bees from the 
original hive by powdering them while about the tiles 
with yellow ochre, and watching their return. And 
even at the present time there are still seen every 
swarming season about the tiles, bees, which Mr. Stick- 
ney has no doubt are descendants from the original 

Had Dr. Darwin been acquainted with this fact, he 
would have adduced it as proving that insects can con- 
vey traditionary information from one generation to 
another ; and at the first glance the circumstance of 

a See above, p. 202. 
VOL. II. 2 M 



the descendants of the same stock retaining a know- 
ledge of the same fact for twenty years, during which 
period there must have been as many generations of 
bees, would seem to warrant the inference. But as it is 
more probable that th^ party of surveying scouts of the 
first generation was the next yekr accompanied by 
others of a second, who in like manner conducted their 
bre^ren of the third, and these last again others of the 
fourth generation, and so on, — I draw no other con- 
clusion from it than that bees are endowed with me- 
mory, which I think it proves most satisfactorily. 

I am, &c. 






"^ fAuxJca cUU^ «A ,a.cMi/r^ 

Abluihid lii/Zon/)man. Mirst R^ef, Orme artdSr^ vn .LoTuLin, , Jan. j. 1S17. 




Fig. 1. Sirex Gigas. 

2. Evania appcndigaster magnified. 

3. Nomada Marshauiella. 


4. Pedicia rivosa. 

5. Scricomyia Lapponum. 


Fig. 1. Oxypterum Kirbyanum. Leach, magnified. 

2. Pulex irritans magnified. 


3. Ricinus Pavonis magnified. 

4. Aranca marginata. Donovan, 

5. Chelifer cancroides magnified. 

6. Scolopendra forficata. 


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