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of them uninviting objects; and, indeed, the pretty butterfly, winging its way from flower to flower, is almost the only specimen of the insect race which we look upon with pleasure.
But insects were created by the same divine hand that fashioned man; and we may be sure that God has made nothing in vain. These little creatures, which appear of so little consequence in the world, perform in many cases the most important services to man. We should not indeed value the lower classes of animals solely by their usefulness to man ; but taking even this standard, we shall be surprised to find that insects are by no means the worthless beings that they seem. Individually, the highest of their class is but a feeble instrument either for good or for evil; but their importance is derived from their infinite numbers, and from the fact that they generally act and work together. We shall speak in the present lesson of some of those insects which produce substances which are consumed by man, and thus have a value in com
By far the most valuable of the products of the insect tribe is silk, which is the gift of a species of caterpillar, known by the name of the silkworm. On acquiring its full growth, it spins for itself an oval-shaped cocoon, formed by a single thread of yellow silk, from ten to twelve yards in length. It is in this state that the material is taken, the insect being destroyed by dipping into hot water, and the cocoon carefully unwound. Silk is, as is well known, the richest and most beautiful of the fabrics from which human clothing is formed ; and it is in universal use all over the civilized world. How much are the beauty of the female face, and the grace of the female form, indebted to this splendid fabric, woven by an unsightly worm, which a fine lady would hardly venture to touch with the tip of her parasol !
In some portions of the south of Europe, the culture of silk forms the principal occupation of a large part of the inhabitants. It has the advantage of affording employment to women and children as well as to men, so that a whole family may work together for their common support. The worms must be fed and sheltered; the cocoons must be unwound; the threads must be sorted; so that much must be done before even the raw material can be produced. Then comes the work of the weaver, of the artist who designs the patterns, and of the dyer who colors them with the brilliant hues which so delight
It has been supposed that at least a million and a half of human beings derive their support from the culture and manufacture of silk. In Great Britain the annual value of the silk manufacture is not far from fifty millions of dollars; and the amount of this rich material imported into the United States during the year ending June, 1856, was not less than thirty-six millions of dollars. Such is the commercial importance of a humble insect which to the ignorant eye would seem of as little value as the common earthworm of our gardens.
In connection with the silkworm we may next treat of the insect from which the brilliant red dye called cochineal is produced. The male of this species is winged, and not much larger than a flea : the female is wingless, and when full grown, about the size of a barley grain. It is the dried body of the female which forms the cochineal of commerce, having in this state the appearance of a shrivelled berry. It is used in dyeing various shades of red; and no other substance gives so brilliant a hue. With the exception of indigo, it is the most important of all dyeing materials. The supply is derived mainly from Mexico and Central America.
The insects feed upon the leaves of a species of plant called the cactus, from which they are gathered several times a year, mostly by Indian women. They are killed either by throwing them into boiling water, or by exposing them in heaps to a hot sun, or by placing them in ovens. Some idea may be formed of the vast numbers and diminutive size of these insects from the fact that a single pound is supposed to contain about seventy thousand of them. Great Britain pays annually about a million of dollars for a substance composed of the dried carcasses of a minute insect.*
THE SAME SUBJECT, CONCLUDED.
THERE is a substance brought from the East Indies, known by the name of lac, which is the produce of a small insect. It deposits its eggs on the leaves and branches of certain trees, and then covers them with a material like gum, intended to protect the eggs and the
young. When gathered in this state, it is called stick lac; but it is usually brought to Europe and America in thin, transparent plates, called shell lac, which is the stick lac melted and strained. Lac is used in the countries that produce it, in the manufacture of beads, rings, and other female ornaments; but here and in Europe it is employed in making sealing wax, varnishes, and hat bodies. A kind of red dye is also produced from it. About three millions of pounds of shell lac, and one million pounds of lac dye, are carried into Great Britain every year; about half of which, however, is sent to other countries. A great deal of shell lac also comes to America from the East Indies. Shell lac sells in London at from fifteen to twenty-five cents à pound, and lac dye from fifty to seventy-five cents. In this country the price is somewhat less.
To an insect we are indebted for the coloring matter of that fluid which enables us to record our thoughts and transmit our affections to our absent friends. We mean the fly that produces the gall nut, from which ink is made. These nuts are from a quarter of an inch to an inch in diameter, and are found on several kinds of oak. The insect bores a hole in the leaf and deposits its eggs ; this diverts the sap of the leaf from its proper channels, and forms a sort of wen, which increases
* The value of cochineal imported into the United States during the year ending June, 1856, was about two hundred and fifty thousand dollars.
its size, together with the young insect inside. When arrived at maturity, the latter eats its way out: hence gall nuts are generally found with a hole in them. The best of them come from Aleppo and Smyrna, and are about the size of a nutmeg. They are also used in preparing some kinds of medicine. They cost from ten to twenty dollars a hundred weight, according to quality.
In many diseases it becomes important to raise a blister upon the skin. This is done by applying a plaster made from an insect commonly called the Spanish fly; which is a sort of beetle, of a bright green color, about three quarters of an inch in length. They are most abundant in Italy and Spain. They are worth from two dollars to two dollars and twenty cents a pound.
Our catalogue of insects which are directly beneficial to man may be concluded by one of the most important, and the most interesting, of all; and that is the common honey bee little busy bee” of the poet. Known from the earliest times, and almost every where found, it has become the type, or model, of diligence and industry. And it is a most faithful little worker, and well deserves its reputation. Diminutive as it is, it has had more books written about it than any other lower animal, the horse and ox perhaps excepted.
The bee is of great value to us. Unlike the silkworm, it does not require to be fed and taken care of; but it earns its own living, and asks nothing at the hands of man. It takes that which is not missed; and the flower it has rifled loses nothing of its fragrance or beauty. It gives us honey, which is a most delicious article of food; and wax, which is employed for various purposes. There is hardly any part of the world, within the torrid and temperate zones, in which the bee is not found, either in a wild or domesticated state. It is abundant in our western forests, and its honey is gathered by men called bee hunters, who show great sagacity in finding where it is stored.
The actual value in money of the products of bees is very great, but can hardly be estimated. In Europe, many cottagers and small farmers derive no slight part of the support of their families from their beehives. In Great Britain alone about six hundred thousand dollars are spent every year for foreign honey, besides what is made at home; and about the same sum for foreign wax. The wax and honey produced in the United States during the year 1850 were upwards of two millions three hundred and seventy-six thousand dollars in value. Such is the wealth created by a little brown creature, which we can hardly see as it wings its flight through the air.
LXI. - BERNARDO DEL CARPIO.
[The celebrated Spanish champion, Bernardo del Carpio, having made many ineffectual efforts to procure the release of his father, the Count Saldana, who had been imprisoned by King Alfonso of Asturias, at last took up arms in despair. The war which he maintained proved so destructive that the men of the land gathered round the king, and united in demanding Saldana’s liberty. Alfonso, accordingly, offered Bernardo immediate possession of his father's person, in exchange for his castle of Carpio. Bernardo, without hesitation, gave up his stronghold, with all his captives, and being assured that his father was then on his way from prison, rode forth with the king to meet him. “And when he saw his father approaching, he exclaimed,” says the ancient chronicle, “O God! is the Count of Saldana indeed coming ?” “Look where he is,” replied the cruel king; “ and now go and greet him whom you have so lung desired to see.” The remainder of the story will be found related in the ballad. The chronicles and romances leave us nearly in the dark as to Bernardo's history after this event.]
The warrior bowed his crested head, and tamed his heart of
fire, And sued the haughty king to free his long-imprisoned sire : “I bring thee here my fortress keys, I bring my captive train; I pledge my faith : my liege, my lord, O, break my father's
“ Rise ! rise! even now thy father comes, a ransomed man this
day; Mount thy good steed, and thou and I will meet him on his