« PreviousContinue »
“WATCH, AS WELL AS PRAY !” Various " Religious” Flies: a, Mantis religiosa ; 6, larva of same;
c, another, with its victim ; d, its larva. .
Now, what is the fact ?
This serious, this sacred, this saintly fly, which appears so strangely pious and good in the constant act of prayer, is a devout cheat, a pious swindler : it is watching for its prey, and nothing else.
Have you ever watched a cat in the garden after a bird ? Slyly and slowly she steals along till within one leap, and then the poor unwary songster is in her mouth. Just so with our pious insect. So slowly does it move towards the imprudent fly that remains near to its apparently stationary saintship, that you can hardly see its motion ; but, presently, one leap with those heaven-directed legs and the victim is seized, impaled on the long, sharp spiky spines with which the “aids to devotion ” (!) are furnished, and the fly may be numbered with the things of the past.
Will you think me very uncharitable if I pass an opinion that there are sometimes, in other places than green fields, creatures with reason and intelligence who very much resemble the Mantis religiosa ?
Have you and I ever been seen by an invisible eye among them ?
My friend the dragon - fly, that affords me so much delight in its resurrection dress, with its twenty-four thousand wonderful eyes, what a downright savage it is in life number one; it is not much better, I am sorry to say, in life number three. And one lesson we may learn from the beautiful creature which our French neighbours love to call “ Demoiselle" is, that what we are here we shall be hereafter. And there was another lesson, too, we might have learned from the hypocritical mantis, for, do you know, in China the children there amuse themselves by catching the insects during their mimic prayer-time, then putting them in closed cages, they enjoy the spectacle of the ferocious battles which take place between the insects; for these fore-legs, these “ aids to devotion,” as we have called them, become instruments of destruction, and banging each other about till one becomes stunned by the blows of the other, the business is then settled by the conqueror biting the head off its victim.
May such be the occupation of the hypocrite in anotherworld, less the fatal bite ?
Now let us come back, in our lesson, to the French demoiselles, these handsome “young ladies," as Monsieur would have us call them, who teach us that we shall carry our nature with us into another world.
Here is the larva of one; it is aquatic. If you look in the front of its head you will see there a perfect mask; it hides with it those terrible jaws which are bebind. The unsuspecting little insect that is enjoying itself in that tiny drop of water, which is to it what the great world you and I inherit is to us—ah ! how little it thinks it is in the immediate presence of one who is seeking whom it shall devour. Can there possibly be any harm in so innocenta looking creature as the larva of Demoiselle ?
Wait, and you will see.
Nearer and nearer draws the leviathan towards the animalcule, when down goes the mask just as it is within reach, and it is another case of Jonah in the belly of the whale.
Now look at this specimen I lay on the miscroscope for your inspection. It is the imago, the perfect image, of the cliarming “young lady” who performed the suggestive operation you just witnessed. Look at its gauzy wings, its countless eyes, its curious feet-all, mark you, as different from its former life as one object can very well be from another. It now inhabits, not the water but the air; now it has organs of locomotion, too, differing altogether from what it had in life number one. Truly was its former life described by the entomologist as larva, that is, a mask, for it did not appear what it should, in the other world, be. But only let me add to our magnifying power, and behold its body is full of its undigested meal; Transformation of the Dragon-fly : a, the perfect insect ; b, the pupa
undergoing the great change, showing the method of escape ; c and d, life underneath in the first and second stages, as larva and pupa. —and what does this consist of? Why, the fragments of very minute insects; there are the remains of the legs of one, the eyes of another, the wings of a third, and the little feet of a fourth.
Do you not see it has carried its nature with it into another world ? Shall we not do so, also ?
But we are wandering far away from Solomon's little people, you will say. Then let us return to the ant, and perhaps there we shall discover a still deeper lesson.
In some parts of France there is an insect called the Myrmeleo formicarius, which being interpreted means the " Ant Lion.” As I have had some living specimens brought me for examination, I shall give you my own experience, truthfully but pictorially.
The larva of the ant lion is a savage, ill-looking grub, living in sandy places where there is little vegetation and
very much sun, just the place where a worker ant has no business to be. We place one or two of the living larvæ in a basin filled with sand;
presently they Ant Lion: The Den, the Lion at the bottom on disappear, bethe look-out.
guiled into the belief that they are in their native soil, and prepare for work.
Did you observe the strange spade-shaped form of the head, adapted for the purposes of engineering and shovel. ling, with which the insect is endowed ? Now, watching carefully, you will observe by working backwards in a