« ElőzőTovább »
LITTELL'S LIVING AGE.—No. 242.-6 JANUARY, 1849.
From the Westminster Review.
ternal forms of these creatures are the least curious 1. A Familiar Introduction to the History of In- and least instructive sources of interest attaching to sects ; being a new and greatly improved
edition of the "Grammar of Ểntomology." By Ep them; and the popular style of the work at once WARD Newman, F. L. S., Z. S., &c. Lon- secured for it an elevated rank in scientific literadon: John Van Voorst, Paternoster Row.
ture, which, notwithstanding sundry unavoidable 2. Popular British Entomology; containing a fa- minor errors of detail, it will ever retain. In con
miliar and technical description of the Insects sequence of the acknowledged merit of this work, most common to the various localities of the we shall not hesitate to borrow from its valuable British Isles. By Maria E. Carlow. London: Reeve, Benham and Reeve, King William pages such illustrative passages as may tend to Street, Strand. 1848.
further the object we have in view—the vindica
tion of the study of insects from the charge of beIt is a well established fact, that the attention ing either a frivolous or an unprofitable mode of of observant minds has ever been more or less at
occupying time. tracted to the wonders of the insect world from a
But although this admirable work did much tovery remote period. We meet with numerous wards diffusing a taste for the study of insect life, references to insects in the most ancient records and consequently tended greatly to dispel much which have been preserved to us; and in the old of the ignorance which had previously prevailed est of these the industry and foresight of certain relative to numerous obscure points of insect econinsects, and the ravages of others, are specially omy, yet even at the present day it is by no means brought under our notice.
Nor is it difficult to unusual to meet with persons, tolerably well inaccount for this. The splendid hues of many in- formed upon other points, who would see nothing sects, the remarkable forms of others, and the cu
suspicious in the famous Virgilian recipe for the rious habits of all, are well calculated to excite production at will of a swarm of bees from the the admiration even of those who know nothing carcass of a purposely slaughtered ox, or in of them scientifically; while the extensive injuries Kircher’s directions for breeding serpents ; who committed by associated bands of creatures, indi
can believe, with Hamlet, that “the sun breeds vidually so insignificant, could scarcely fail to confer importance upon an enemy, against whose in- maggots in a dead dog;” that a horse-hair will vasions the sufferers must have felt themselves to and not the cause, of honey-dew.
turn to an eel; and that Aphides are the effect, be altogether powerless.
The size and price of Kirby and Spence's volThe scientific study of insects may be traced back to a much earlier period on the continent of general readers ; they consequently remained
umnes unfortunately placed them beyond the reach than in our own country; but we very much sealed books to precisely that class who would the doubt whether, even there, the same class of indi- most gladly have availed themselves of the valuaviduals were ever so devoted to the pursuit as, to ble information contained in them. No effort to their honor, they have long been among ourselves.
remedy this, at least none that we are aware of, Crabbe's “ friend, the weaver, was no imaginary
was made before the appearance of the three volpersonage ; nor is the poet's description of his he
umes on insects in Charles Knight's “ Library of ro's ardent pursuit of this " untaxed and undis- Entertaining Knowledge,” which were precisely puted game," by any means a mere creation of the description of books to rivet the attention of the fancy. The Spitalfields weavers and the the reader, and to lead him on to examine for Sheffield cutlers have long been noted for their
himself. In these volumes, the substance of Kirenthusiasm jo search of
by and Spence's “ Introduction," and of other Bright troops of virgin moths and fresh-born but- generally inaccessible works, in most cases given terflies.
in the very words of the authorities, is combined But their purpose in collecting these beautiful with much original matter from the pen of Procreatures, with a few honorable exceptions, seems fessor Rennie, the compiler of the work. The to have been limited to the formation of pretty three volumes are, moreover, profusely illustrated pictures by the arrangement of the gayly colored with wood-cuts, and their low price places them insects, according to the caprice or the taste of within the reach of all ; though not free from ertheir captors.
ror, they are admirably calculated to awaken and The publication of Kirby and Spence's invalu- diffuse a taste for the observation of insects and able " Introduction to Entomology” gave a new di- their habits. rection to the study of insects, and taught their col- The best popular guide to the scientific study lectors that there was a far higher purpose to be at- of Entomology that we are acquainted with, is Mr. tained than the mere admiration of elegant forms and Newman's “ Familiar Introduction to the History gay colors. It showed beyond dispute that the ex- of Insects." Being himself practically well ac
quainted with the subject, and knowing from acceptable present to the young student of entoexperience precisely the sort of aid required by be- mology than these two books. Miss Catlow's ginners, the author has made it his aim through- “ Popular British Entomology" contains an introout the volume to give the best kind of infor-ductory chapter or two upon classification ; these mation in the plainest language ; and in this are followed by brief generic and specific descripendeavor he has been eminently successful. The lions in English of above two hundred of the volume is divided into four books. The first of commoner British species, together with accurate these—“The History of Insects”-contains a se- figures of about seventy of those described. The ries of histories of some of the most remarkable work is beautifully printed, and the figures for the species, copied for the most part from the works most part nicely colored ; and will be quite a of original observers, the authority for each being treasure to any one just commencing the study of scrupulously given. Having by this means ex- a fascinating science. hibited the kind of material the young entomolo- The publishers of Miss Catlow's litile book gist has to work upon, the author, in the second have in preparation a charming popular work on book, proceeds to give lucid directions for the entomology, to be called “ Episodes of Insect “ Collection and Preservation of Insects," with Life.” We have been favored with a sight of the mode of investigating them. In the third the proof sheets, and must say that the book is book he treats of the “ Physiology or Anatomy admirably adapted to induce the reader to dip of Insects ;” and in the fourth, of their “ Classi- below the surface, and to make himself further fication.' The whole is illustrated by numerous acquainted with more of the sober realities of beautiful wood-cuts, with two exceptions drawn insect life, which, we can assure him, he will find upon the blocks by the author himself; and the fully as interesting as those so temptingly shown character of the book is well expressed by the up in these delightful episodes. Many of the words of the preface, where it is spoken of as illustrations are exceedingly droll; insects being simple introduction, a kind of reading-made-easy,' made to figure in them in all sorts of funny charto the youthful butterfly-hunter ;” and this is pre-acters, and the humor displayed in the descriptions cisely the sort of work required by those interest- is quite on a par with that of the illustrations, ing members of the community.
which we must not omit to say are exquisitely But this excellent work is only introductory ; drawn on stone in the German style. and consequently contains no specific descriptions But from this digression on books we must or characters beyond those of the classes and return to insects. orders; these could not have been added without In their "6 Introductory Letter," Kirby and defeating the author's object, by increasing the Spence set forth the claims of their science to a bulk and enhancing the price of his book, with consideration equal, if not superior, to those of the but little adequate advantage to the purchaser. other branches of Natural History. They show Other books are thus necessary to those whom the sources of pleasure opened to the entomologist Mr. Newman has assisted over the threshold of from the inexhaustible nature of the subject, the the science. The embarrassment consequent on infinite variety and beauty of insects, their curious the very abundance of the materials for study habits, the instruments of attack and defence with offered by this science, must obviously render the which they are provided for their own protection, opportunity of consulting accurate figures of insects as well as those expressly intended for the conan advantage of primary importance to the young struction of habitations for their progeny ; and, entomologist. Unfortunately, however, the extent above all, the religious instruction to be drawn of the subject has precluded the possibility of giv- from an acquaintance with these wonderful little ing more than a selection of the most typical forms creatures. From this letter we make an interestin any general work, even when confined to British ing extract, showing that in most of his boasted insects; and the necessarily high price of standard inventions man has long been anticipated by the illustrated books on entomology confines the pos- insect race. session of such publications to the wealthy. For
The lord of the creation plumes himself upon
his example, even such admirable works as those of powers of invention, and is proud to enumerate the Stephens and Curtis, in which are given descrip- various useful arts and machines to which they tions of all known British insects, although the have given birth, not aware that " He who teaches illustrations are confined to a figure of one species man knowiedge” has instructed these despised in each genus, so extensive is the subject that they builders of Babel doubtless thought their invention
insects to anticipate him in many of them. The are both very voluminous and very expensive. of turning earth into artificial stone a very happy Several volumes of Jardine's “Naturalist's Li- discovery ; yet a little bee had practised this art, brary,” published at a moderate price, are devoted using indeed a different process, on a small scale, to insects, and contain beautiful figures and good and the white ants on a large one, ever since the descriptions of a goodly number of British insects, world began. Man thinks that he stands unrivalled and consequently did much towards supplying the as an architect, and that his buildings are without a want; and Miss Catlow's pretty little volume, animals. He would be of a different opinion did
parallel among the works of the inferior order of just published by the Messrs. Reeve, will be found he attend to the history of insects ; he would find an excellent accompaniment to Mr. Newman's that many of them have been architects from time
Introduction ;" in fact we know of no more l immemorial; that they have had their houses divided into various apartments, and containing and knives, and lancets, and scissors, and forceps, staircases, gigantic arches, domes, colonnades, and with many other similar implements ; several of the like; nay, that even tunnels are excavated by which act in more than one capacity, and with a them so immense, compared with their own size, complex and alternate motion to which we have as to be twelve times bigger than that projected by not yet attained in the use of our tools. Nor is the Mr. Dodd to be carried under the Thames at fact so extraordinary as it may seem at first, since Gravesend. The modern fine lady, who prides “He who is wise in heart and wonderful in workherself on the lustre and beauty of the scarlet hang- ing,” is the inventor and fabricator of the apparatus ings which adorn the stately walls of her drawing of insects; which may be considered as a set of room, or the carpets that cover its floor, fancying miniature patterns drawn for our use by a Divine that nothing so rich and splendid was ever seen hand.-(Introd., i. 14.) before, and pitying her vulgar ancestors, who were doomed to unsightly whitewash and rushes, is ignorant all the while, that before she or her ances. The little stone-inaking insect first alluded to is a
There is no exaggeration in these statements. tors were in existence, and even before the boasted Tyrian dye was discovered, a little insect had member of the family of mason-bees, all of which known how to hang the walls of its cells with build their solid houses of artificial stone, formed tapestry of a scarlet more brilliant than any her principally of grains of sand selected with great rooms can exhibit, and that others daily weave care, one by one, and formed into masses with silken carpets, both in tissue and texture infinitely their own viscid saliva. With these masses of superior to those she so much admires. No female ornament is more prized and costly than lace, the sand, transported singly in her jaws to the site of invention and fabrication of which seems the exclu- her building, the little architect constructs a numsive claim of the softer sex. But even here they ber of cells, in each of which she deposits an egg, have been anticipated by these little industrious together with a supply of provision to be ready creatures, who often defend their helpless chrysalis for the young larva on its exclusion; the vacuities by a most singular covering, and as beautiful as between the cells are filled up with the same singular, of lace. Other arts have been equally material as the cells themselves are formed of, and forestalled by these creatures. What vast importance is attached to the invention of paper! For the whole is finally covered with a coating of near six thousand years one of our commonest coarser grains of sand. The mass of cells thus insects has known how to make and apply it to its finished looks more like a splash of mud casually purposes, and even pasteboard, superior in sub-thrown on the wall than anything else, and is so stance and polish to any we can produce, is manu- hard as not to be easily penetrated by a knife; factured by another. We imagine that nothing but hard as it is, certain parasitic insects contrive short of human intellect can be equal to the construction of a diving-bell or an air-pump--yet a
to pierce the structure with their boring instruspider is in the daily habit of using the one, and, ments, and to deposit their eggs in the cells; the what is more, one exactly similar in principle to larvæ proceeding from the eggs of these intruders ours, but more ingeniously contrived, by means devour the provision stored up by the industrious of which she resides unweited in the bosom of the cell-builders, whose care for the safety of their water, and procures the necessary supplies of air offspring is thus frustrated. by a much more simple process than our alternating Another family of bees includes the upholbuckets—and the caterpillar of a little moth knows how to imitate the other, producing a vacuum when sterers, which excavate burrows in the earth for
the reception of their eggs.
These burrows they necessary for its purposes, without any piston besides its own body. 'If we think with wonder of line with an elegant tapestry of leaves or flowers, the populous cities which have employed the united cut from the living plants. One of these bees labors of man for many ages to bring them to their selects the brilliant scarlet petals of the poppy for full extent, what shall we say to the white ants, the drapery of her apartments.
After having which require only a few months to build a metrop- excavated à burrow about three inches in depth, olis capable of containing an infinitely greater num- and polished its sides, she flies to the poppies, ber of inhabitants than even imperial Nineveh, Babylon, Rome or Pekin, in all their glory?
cuts oval pieces out of their flowers, and returns That insects should thus have forestalled us in to her cell with these portions so cut out carried our inventions, ought to urge us to pay a closer between her legs. The petals of poppies, before attention to them and their ways than we have they are fully expanded, are much wrinkled ; the hitherto done, since it is not at all improbable that bee manages to smooth out the wrinkles, and the result would be many useful hints for the otherwise fit the pieces to the places they are to improvement of our arts and manufactures, and perhaps for some beneficial discoveries. The occupy. Placing three or four coats at the botpainter might thus probably be furnished with more tom, she overlays her walls with the brilliant brilliant pigments, the dyer with more delicate tapestry, proceeding from below upwards until the tints, and the artisan with a new and improved set whole is covered. An egg is then deposited, iz of tools. In this last respect insects deserve par- supply of food provided, and the upper portion of ticular notice. All their operations are performed the lining folded in so as to envelope the contents with admirable precision and dexterity; and though of the cell, the mouth of which is last of all closed they do not usually vary the mode, yet that mode is always the best that can be conceived for attain- with earth. The proceedings of the other upholing the end in view. The instruments also with sterer bees are equally curious ; they usually which they are provided are no less wonderful and select the green leaves of trees for the lining of various than the operations themselves. They their burrows, which are filled with several thimhave their saws, and files, and augurs, and gimlets, ble-shaped cells, placed one within the other, the
rounded end of one fitting into the mouth of that threads, which are attached to the leaves and next below it.
stems of water-plants; over this frame-work she The wonderful building operations of the white next spreads a transparent varnish, impervious to ants form the subject of a most interesting paper water ; then, by ascending to the surface, she manby Smeathman, quoted by Mr. Newman from the ages to carry down into the chamber thus formed
Philosophical Transactions.” This chapter is a bubble of air, and fills the chamber by repeating too long for extract ; we must therefore beg to her visits the surface a sufficient number of times refer our readers to the work itself, with the to effect its distension, each time carrying down a assurance that the perusal will amply repay the bubble of air. trouble ; but we may be allowed to quote a sum- On the under side of the leaves of pear-trees mary account of the labors of these insects from may often be seen, in spring, a number of spineKirby and Spence.
like projections, about a quarter of an inch high, That such diminutive insects, (for they are
and not much thicker than a pin. These are the scarcely a fourth of an inch in length,) however silken tents of a little caterpillar, which preys upon numerous, should, in the space of three or four the parenchyma or pulp of the leaf. The tent is years, be able to erect a building twelve feet high, attached to the leaf by a number of silken threads; and of a proportionate bulk, covered by a vast dome, but should any extraordinary violence threaten to adorned without by numerous pinnacles and turrets, disturb the perpendicularity of the habitation, the and sheltering under its ample arch myriads of tenant instantly creates a vacuum in the lower porvaulted apartments of various dimensions, and constructed of different materials that they should, tion by ascending to the upper part; its body fills moreover, excavate, in different directions and at the upper portion, and thus leaves the lowermost different depths, innumerable subterranean roads or free of air; the vacuum so caused serving to attunnels, some twelve or thirteen inches in diameter, tach the tent quite firmly to the leaf. or throw an arch of stone over other roads leading
One of the most curious things connected with from the metropolis into the adjoining country to the insect economy is that succession of changes from distance of several hundred feet—that they should project and finish the (for them) vast interior stair-the egg to the perfect state through which all incases or bridges lately described-and, finally, that sects pass. In reference to these changes, or the millions necessary to execute such Herculean metamorphoses, as they are called, which equal in labors, perpetually passing to and fro, should never wonder while they surpass in interest any of the interrupt or interfere with each other—is a miracle transformations recorded in the pages of Ovid, of nature, or, rather, the Author of nature, far ex: Kirby, and Spence have some appropriate remarks ceeding the most boasted works and structures of which are by no means exaggerated. man ; for, did these creatures equal him in size, retaining their usual instincts and activity, their build
Were a naturalist to announce to the world the ings would soar to the astonishing height of more discovery of an animal, which, for the first five years than half a mile, and their tunnels would expand to of its life, existed in the form of a serpent; which a magnificent cylinder of more than three hundred then, penetrating into the earth, and weaving a feet in diameter; before which the pyramids of shroud of pure silk of the finest texture, contracted Egypt and the aqueducts of Rome would lose all itself within this covering into a body without extheir celebrity, and dwindle into nothing.—(Introd., ternal mouth or limbs, and resembling, more than 1. 512.)
anything else, an Egyptian mummy; and which, Examine the nest of the common wasp. This lastly, after remaining in this state without food and is generally formed in an underground cavity, without motion for three years longer, should, at usually in a bank; it is oval in shape, about sixteen the end of that period, burst its silken cerement, or eighteen inches long, and twelve or thirteen day a winged bird—what think you would be the
struggle through its earthly covering, and start into broad. A well-peopled nest will contain at least sensation excited by this strange piece of intelli16,000 cells, similar in shape to those of the honey gence? After the first doubts of its truth were disbee, and like them disposed in combs or layers ; pelled, what astonishment would succeed! Amongst but, unlike those of the bee, the cells of the wasp the learned, what surmises !—what investigations ! do not contain honey, are not formed in double Amongst the vulgar, what eager curiosity and layers, and do not consist of wax, but of the same of such an unheard-of phenomenon ; even the most
amazement! All would be interested in the history substance as the external envelope of the nest. torpid would fluck to the sight of such a prodigy.What is this substance ? No other than paper, (Introd., i. 58.) of a grayish color, which the insect instinctively knew how to manufacture from the fibres of wood, And yet, without exciting much surprise, that detached by their jaws from posts, rails, or other is what is continually going on under our eyes ; places, long, long before the art of making paper with divers modifications of minor import, it is the as we now see it was discovered by man; and the course through which have passed the countless pasteboard nests of another wasp, a native of Cey- hosts of insects, many of which were formerly belon, vie in whiteness, solidity, and polish with the lieved to be the result of spontaneous generationmost superior article of that description ever fabri- an absurd idea, by no means exploded in our own cated by the most celebrated manufacturers. days. Harvey's aphorism—omne vivum ex ovo—
The spider alluded to as having forestalled the is no less true of the most minute insect than of diving-bell, forms her curious habitation at the bot- the gigantic ostrich. On the score of variety the tom of the water. She spins a number of loose advantage is indeed on the side of the insect; for