Page images

spiral direction, patiently but perseveringly, it succeeds in excavating a curiously funnel-shaped kind of snare. Now, lacking an ant, we are reluctantly obliged to take the common house fly; let us watch what takes place as the one seeks to devour the other which we have placed on the margin of this sandy pit. Just at the bottom of the funnel appears a little head, a tiny black speck, nearly the whole of the body being hidden below. The “lion” presently sees its distant meal,

and prepares to take it. “How?" Ah!

that is the most singular part of the

story. The fly has four thousand eyes,

and the first object the hidden enemy

has in view is to blind these eyes; so pitch

ing grain after grain of sand into the eyes

of its victim, presently it falls down the in

cline of the snare



The Ant Lion : a, Larva ; 6, Pupa ; c, Pupa-case; d, the

final state, Imago. and is devoured.

The favourite food of this monster is ants, but only those ants who have wandered away from home and home duties find themselves where the enemy abides. But, would you believe it ?—this ant lion, after it has passed through life number two, is one of the most beautiful fourwinged flies you can possibly imagine.

Now, what is our lesson here? Let us turn to the otheja revelation. In 1 Peter v. 8 we read thus, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”

You observed how singular was the transformation of the ant lion from life number one into life number three; now look at 2 Corinthians xi. 14, “ Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light;” and yet, once more, the same epistle, just as if St. Paul had the ant lion before him, and he was thinking of the words with which he began his famous letter to his Roman friends about the visible things in one world being symbolic of the invisible things in the other (Rom. i. 20), he wrote, “ The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”

But, returning to the comparison of instinct and intelligence, let us see whether man has learned the lesson of reciprocity from the ant, or the ant from man.

You know the little green fly that infests your pretty roses, often suffocating the breathing parts of the plant, sucking the vital juices from the leaves, and causing the withering up of both flowers and bud. Ah, you know them very well! This little green fly, with its hundreds of golden eyes sparkling like gems on ruby velvet, this is. the Aphis of the entomologist. In Rennie's work on • Insect Transformations,” the most reliable and interesting of all entomological works in our opinion, we read : • The almost instantaneous appearance of the destructive: insects in great numbers at the same time is taken notice of with wonder by almost every writer. This circumstance, it must be confessed, gives considerable plausibility to the notion of their being brought by winds; for whence, we may ask, could they otherwise come? Simply, we reply, from the eggs deposited the preceding autumn, which, all having been laid at the same time, and exposed

to the same degree of temperature, are of course all simultaneously hatched.” In the case of the aphides, also, the fecundity is almost incalculable. Réaumur proved by experiment that “one aphis may be the progenitor of 5,904,900,000 descendants during its life”—that is, five and a half billions, or, to make it comprehensible, that is upwards of four times the population of the whole globe; and Latreille says " a female during the summer months usually produces about twenty-five a day. Réaumur further supposes that in one year there may be twenty generations. We ourselves have counted more than a thousand aphides on a single leaf of the hop; and in seasons when they are abundant, when every hop-leaf is peopled with a similar swarm, the number of eggs laid in autumn must be, to use the words of Good, ‘myriads of myriads.'

“Well,” but you ask, “ what has all this to do with our story ? "

Everybody knows that the atmosphere has certain effects as well upon plants as it has upon animals. Amongst these effects may be reckoned the curious deposition of a moist matter called honey-dew; whether this honey-dew is brought by the atmosphere under peculiar circumstances from the plant, or deposited by the atmosphere on the plant, it is difficult to determine. From experiments made the former theory would appear to be the more correct; if so, then it is a literal distillation of the plant, a clear, limpid, honey-like mass of globules covering both sides of the leaf.

Now of this sweet juice the aphis is particularly fond; but just as the nectar in the flower has to be re-manufactured in the stomach of the bee, and then brought up again (regurgitated), before it becomes the honey with which we are familiar, so has honey-dew to be reformed in the little green workshop of a body of the aphis before it can be fitted for food for ants. But here is the odd part


Aphis: One on the wing; an Ant“ milking” another.

of our story: the bee regurgitates its food—that is, pours it forth in the form of liquid honey by its mouth, while the aphis pours out the honey-dew through two curious paps upon its hind-quarters.

The “little people” have discovered the whereabouts of this delicacy; but, then, shall they kill the goose that lays the golden egg? They are better taught; they cultivate the friendship of the aphides, and milk them just as we do our cows, and in exchange for the constant supply of this sweet honey-dew they nurse them and protect them from the aphis' enemy, the ear-wig, declaring perpetual war against that enemy. But ants-being, I am sorry to say, carnivorous—will sometimes devour one another, and though a flock of aphides should prove a delicacy, have learned the meaning of the proverb that one good turn deserves another, and so give as well as get; and with their little instinct read a lesson to you and to me as to what we, who have reason and intelligence, should do with both.

How many lessons, not only of self-help but mutual help, may be learned from insects generally, and our “ little people” particularly. Confirming all we have said about antennal language, the Rev. J. G. Wood relates the following story in his very useful little work, “The Common Objects of the Microscope.”

“I once,” he says, “saw a very curious scene take place at an ants' nest, near Hastings. A great Daddy Long.legs had unfortunately settled on the nest, and was immediately pinned' by an ant or two at each leg so effectually that all its struggles availed it nothing. Help was, however, needed, and away ran four or five ants in different directions, intercepting every comrade they met, and by a touch of the antenne sending them off in the proper direction. A large number of the wise insects soon crowded round the poor victim, whose fate was rapidly sealed. Every ant took its proper place, just like a gang

and bor direction the poor its prop

« PreviousContinue »