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of labourers under the orders of their foreman; and by dint of pushing and pulling, the long-legged insect was dragged to one of the entrances of the nest, and speedily disappeared.”
Here was a lesson in mutual help. Here's another in selfhelp, from my own experience.
Some people's legs are a sore hindrance to them one way, whatever help they may be in another. They walk into temptation, and fall an easy prey to the great adversary, who lays his snares just at the right time and in the right manner suitable to the desires of his victims.
Standing at the parlour window one day, I observed a large garden spider had woven its beautiful geometric web outside the pane of glass; there it stood in the middle, Nimrod like, “a mighty hunter.” Suddenly a “Daddy Long-legs” dashed furiously on to the web, and its beautiful wings presently became the means of its ruin. "
The garden spider it is that spins a beautiful spiral line which, in its roundabout structure, is covered with about 120,000 viscid globes, in less than three quarters of an hour; and just what the bird-lime is to the bird-catcher, these gummy drops are to the fly.
On those viscid globes the beautiful wings of the Daddy Long-legs became entangled. Now was the spider's opportunity the fly's extremity, so rushing down upon the prey it cleverly tied up its wings, first to prevent escape and then to prevent further damage to its web; then it commenced to suck the life of the unfortunate captive, whose dried-up remains in half an hour were hanging from the broken web, as a warning to me and to you to be constantly on the look out for our greater adversary.
I have alluded once to the family of one of my many domestic pets, the common house fly, who rejoices in the aristocratic name of Musca domestica. Let me tell you why I mention it again.
The smallest known organic form is supposed to be the
monad. It consists, as its name implies (the word coming from the Greek monos, alone), of one simple single cell, an indivisible atom, measuring the izdogth of an inch in diameter; it belongs to the animal kingdom, and requires a very high magnifying power to be discerned. The largest known animal in living form we may take to be the whale. Now, between the monad measuring the booth of an inch in length, and the whale measuring 100 feet, we may be sure amidst the hundreds of thousands of living beings there is a half-way house.
Where do you think that half-way house is to be found ? In my friend Musca domestica, the common house fly.
It is, therefore, a great leap to jump from the ant to the dog for a comparison of instinct, and so, in this part of our story, we will wait for another chapter, when we will compare instinct with intelligence in some of the animals that are greater, physically, than the ant as the ant is above the monad, and should be as much below the intelligence of the man as they are below him in stature.
“ANTS PREPARE THEIR MEAT IN THE SUMMER.” Reference has been made in the foregoing chapter to that romantic page in entomological history, the love of the ant for the aphis. Lest my readers should be inclined, notwithstanding the authorities quoted, to doubt the reality of this part of my story, I will add the experience of another prince of naturalists, Mr. Kirby, who, with his friend and companion, Mr. Spence, has contributed the most charming pages about insect life for the study of the curious to be found in any language.
“That ants should have their milch cattle," he writes, “is as extraordinary as that they should have slaves. Here, perhaps, you may again feel a fit of incredulity shake you; but the evidence for the fact I am now stating being abundant and satisfactory, I flatter myself it will not shake you long.
“The loves of the ants and the aphides have long been celebrated ; and that there is a connection between them you may, at any time in the proper season, convince yourself, for you will always find the former very busy on those trees and plants on which the latter abound; and if you examine more closely, you will discover that their object in thus attending upon them is to obtain the saccharine fluid, which may well be denominated their milk, that they secrete ; the French writer Lèuné remarking on this subject that the ant ascends the tree that it may milk its cows, the aphides, not kill them.'"
And I may remind you here that this is just the contrary act of the ear-wig-or ear-wing as it should be called, from the curious resem. Llance of the wing of this insect to the outward form of the human ear-the ear-wig seeking the aphis to destroy it, and thus creating perpetual war between itself and the ant.
" This saccharine fluid," continues Kirby, “which is scarcely inferior to honey in sweetness, issues in limpid drops from the abdomen of the aphis, not only by the ordinary passage, but also by two setiform tubes, placed one on each side just above it.
“ Their sucker being inserted into the tender bark, is without intermission employed in absorbing the sap, which, after it has passed through the system, they keep continually discharging through these organs.
“When no ant attends them, by a certain jerk of the body, which takes place at regular intervals, they ejaculate it to a distance; but when the ants are at hand, watching the moment when the aphides emit their fluid, they seize and suck it down immediately. This, however, is the least of their talents, for they absolutely possess the art of making them yield it at their pleasure; or, in other words, of milking them. On this occasion their antenne 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. When it has thus milked one it proceeds to another, and so on, till, being satisfied, it returns to the nest.
"But you are not arrived at the most singular part of this history, that ants make a property of these cows, for the possession of which they contend with great earnestness, and use every means to keep them to themselves. Sometimes they seem to claim a right to the aphides that inhabit the branches of a tree or the stalks of a plant; and if stranger ants attempt to share their treasure with them they endeavour to drive them away, and may be seen running about in a great bustle, and exhibiting every symptom of inquietude and anger. Sometimes, to rescue them from their rivals, they take their aphides in their mouth; they generally keep guard round them, and when the branch is conveniently situated they have recourse to an expedient
more effectual to keep off interlopers; they enclose it in a tube of earth or other materials, and thus confine them in a kind of paddock near their nest, and often communicating with it.
“The greatest cow-keeper of all the ants is one to be met with in most of our pastures-I mean the yellow ant. This species is not fond of roaming from home, and likes to have all its conveniences within reach, usually collecting in its nest a large herd of a kind of aphis that derives its nourishment from the roots of grass and other plants; these it transports from the neighbouring roots, probably by subterranean 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 opening one of these ant-hills, early in the spring on a sunny day, I observed a parcel of these aphis eggs, which I knew by their black colour, very near the surface of the nest. My attack put the ants into a great ferment, and they immediately began to carry these interesting objects down into the interior of the nest.
“It is of great consequence to them to forward the hatching of these eggs as much as possible, in order to insure an early source of food for their colony; and they had doubtless in this instance brought them up to the warmest part of the dwelling with this view.
“Our yellow ants are equally careful of their aphides after they are hatched; when their nest is disturbed conveying them into the interior, fighting fiercely for them if the inhabitants of neighbouring formi. caries, as is sometimes the case, attempt to make them their prey ; and carrying them about in their mouths to change their pasture, or for some other purpose. When you consider that from them they receive almost the whole nutriment, both of themselves and larvæ, you will not wonder at their anxiety about them, since the wealth and prosperity of the community is in proportion to the number of their cattle.”—(Kirby and Spence's "Entomology,” pp. 334-35, 1858.),
The observations of the above worthy naturalists, whose fascinating chapters are sermons and addresses as eloquent as the first ever preached in his church, or the second ever delivered in the Royal Society, refer to the care ants have for their young.
“ The most determined despiser of insects and their concerns," they write—“he who never deigned to open his eyes to any other part of their economy, must yet have observed, in spite of himself, the