« ElőzőTovább »
taken the trouble to ascertain the weight of bees. Reaumur found that 336 of these animals weighed exactly an ounce; consequently the mean weight of a hive-bee is 14280 grains ! information to wbich, we suspect, few of our readers will attach a high degree of importance. Mr. Jolin Hunter has not contributed much more to the stock of philosophical knowledge, in having investigated and recorded the trivial fact, that 2160 working-bees fill an ale-house pint ! i But it is time for us to leave the Apiary; we cannot, however,
do so without quoting a singular anecdote, of the truth of which į we confess we are somewhat sceptical; and yet we are not sure
that it is reasonable to entertain doubts of a simple fact which appears to be traced to respectable authority.
Upon this subject of the enemies of bees, I cannot persuade my. [ self to omit the account Mr. White has given of an idiot boy, who
from a child shewed a great propensity to bees. They were his food, · his amusement, his sole object. In the winter he dozed away his
time in his father's house, by the fire-side, in a torpid state, seldom . leaving the chimney-corner : but in summer he was all alert and in
quest of his game. Hive-bees, humble-bees, and wasps, were his
pp. 210, 211. The chapter which treats on the Motions of Insects, contains some very interesting matter. Among the various methods by which Insects are transported from place to place, none is so curious as the silken ropes formed by the various tribes of spin-, vers. The common cabbage butterfly ascends a smooth surface by a rope-ladder, composed of silken threads which it has spun in a zig-zag direction. Many other larvæ (particularly those called geometers, from the circumstance of their measuring their
path by successive links of a silken line) drop from an astonishing heiglit, leaving a rope behind them, along which they can again ascend at pleasure. But, perhaps, the most wonderful of these animals are the spiders which produce the gossamer webs; by the buoyancy of which, it is conceived, they are enabled to sail in the air, and to mount to prodigious elevations. These webs, which so frequently cover the surface of fallow and stubble fields, or form a delicate tracery upon our hedges, strung with the pearl-like drops of the morning dew, are most common in the autumn. In Germany, their appearance is so constant at this period, and so closely connected with the change of season, that they are popularly denominated by the expressive name, Der fliegender sommer,—the flying summer. The production of these webs, was, with the naturalists of former times, a subject of strange speculation. Spenser alludes to the vulgar idea of their formation, when he speaks of · The fine nets wbich oft we woven
see of scorched devo !' Robert Hooke, one of the earliest Fel. Jows of the Royal Society, and an eminent philosopher, gravely conjectures respecting Gossamer, that “ 'tis not unlikely but that 'those great white clouds, that appear all the summer time, may "be of the same substance!' In France, where these webs ara called Fils de la Vierge, it has been imagined that they are formed of the cottony envelope of the eggs of the Vine Coccus. After enumerating these several opinions, or rather fancies, our Authors proceed to give us a more natural account of this phenomenon.
• These webs (at least many of them) are air-balloons and the aeronauts are not
“ Lovers who may bestride the gossamer
That idles in the wanton summer air,
And yet not fall". but spiders, who, long before Montgolfier, pay, ever since the crea. tion, have been in the habit of sailing through the fields of ether in these air-light chariots! This seems to have been suspected long ago by Henry Moore, who says,
o As light and thin as cobwebs that do fly
In the blew air, caus'd by the autumnal sun,
Unless that wiser men make’t the field-spider's loom." Where he also alludes to the old opinion of scorched dew. But the first naturalists who made this discovery appear to have been Dr. Hulse and Dr. Martin Lister-the former first observing that spiders shoot their webs into the air ; and the latter, besides this, that they are carried upon them in that element. This last gentleman, in fine serene weather iq September, had noticed these webs falling from the heavens, and in them discovered more than once a spider, which he
named the bird. On another occasion, whilst he was watching the 1 proceedings of a common spider, the animal suddenly.... darted forth
a long thread, and vaulting from the place on which it stood, was car, ried upwards to a considerable height Numerous observations after
wards confirmed this extraordinary fact; and he further discovered. that, while they fly in this manner, they pull in their long thread with their fore-feet, so as to form it into a ball-or, as we may call it, air
balloon-of flake. The height to which spiders will thus ascend he ! affirms is prodigious. One day in the autumn, when the air was full 1 of webs, he mounted to the top of the highest steeple of York Minster, 1 from whence he could discern the floating webs still very high above ! him. Some spiders that fell and were entangled upon the pinnacles 1 he took. They were of a kind that never enter houses, and therefore
could not be supposed to have taken their flight from the steeple.'
pp. 335-337. 1 . There are several questions connected with the formation of
gossamer, which still remain open for the researches of naturalists. Whether the terrestrial and aërial gossamer be formed by the same animal, though highly probable, is yet undecided.
The purpose for which these nets are spread over the surface of .the fields, is not less a matter of doubt. The present Writers
adopt the opinion that the meshes are intended as bridges by which the little animal may pass with facility from straw to straw, or from clod to clod; and that they also serve to collect the dew, which spiders drink with avidity. We think that they have too easily doubted that they are chiefly designed to catch the flies when they rise in the morning from the surface of the earth. What, again, is the purpose of the lofty excursions of spiders, into the upper regions of the atmosphere? It appears scarcely rational to doubt that these are predatory voyages, and that spiders sail among the clouds of gnats, and the swarms of Aies, which sport in the more elevated strata, the exudiæ of these animals being frequently found in these filmy balloons, when descending to the ground.
Not quite so smooth, nor so rapid, is the motion of insects which move through the air by the aid of wings. And yet, when compared with the loco-motive powers of quadrupeds, how astonishingly swift is their progress.
• The aërial progress of the fly-tribes, (Muscida), including the Gad-flies (Estrus), Horse-flies (Tabanus), Carrion-flies (Musca), and many other genera,—which constitute the heavy horse among our Iwo-winged Aiers,- is wonderfully rapid, and usually in a direct line. An anonymous observer in Nicholson's Journal calculates that, in its ordinary fight, the common house-fly (Musca domestica, L.) makes with its wings about 600 strokes, which carry it five feet every second.' p. 362.
Such calculations prooeed upon hypotheses the most falla-, cious, and are undeserving, we think, of being seriously quoted, The rate of motion is, however, a subject of actual observation, and wonderful is the fact. The most incurious observer must have remarked, with some astonishment, that swarms of minute insects have kept in his company with a uniform progress, and apparently without effort, wben he has been travelling with considerable expedition. The ordinary flight of the house-fly is stated, above, to be five feet in a second; when alarmed, its velocity can be increased to thirty-five feet! It is stated that, supposing a race-horse to clear one mile in a minute, the Musca domestica would, in its swiftest flight, pass over onethird of the same distance in the same time.
We have left ourselves little space for quotations from the en- , tertaining letter upon the Noises of Insects. It commences with the statement of an Entomological paradox, that Insects have no voice, though they produce noises !
You may be tempted to exclaim with the Roman naturalist, What, amidst this incessant diurnal hum of bees; this evening boom of beetles; this nocturnal buz of gnats ; this merry chirp of crickets and grasshoppers; this deafening drum of cicadæ, have insects no voice!' p. 375.
The paradox, however, admits of an easy solution, by voice being usually understood a tone proceeding from the mouth, whereas no insects produce sound by this organ. It is by the vibration of the wings, alone, that Ipsects produce noises, during their motion from place to place. To this statement, Mr. Kirby sportively allows two exceptions. ... The only kind of locomotion, during which these animals produce sounds, is flying : for though the hill-ants (Formica rufa, L.) as I formerly observed, make a rustling noise with their feet when walking over dry leaves, I know of no other insect, the tread of which is accompanied by sound, except indeed the flea, whose steps a lady assures me, she always hears when it paces over her night cap, and that it clicks as if it was walking in pattens ! !' p. 376.
Among the Insects which produce a considerable noise by the motion of their wings, in flying, the most remarkable, of the Coleopterous tribe, is Scarabæus stercorarius, L. (the Common Dung-Chafer) which wheels its droning flight at sun-set. Melolontha vulgaris & solstitialis, F. (the Common Cockchafer, and that which appears at the summer solstice); Necrophorus
Vespillo, F. (the Burying Beetle) ; and Cicindela sylvatica, ' are also adduced as striking examples. Among the Hemiptera,
Coreus marginatus, F. is the only instance with which our Authors are acquainted. Few of the Lepidoptera belong to the noisy tribe ; although some of the Hawk-moths (Sphinx, F.) must be excepted. The Hymenopterous Order has inany Insects of sounding wing, of which the Bee is a familiar instance.
Cohors are alihough, bellymenoptile Bee is
The noisiest wings belong to insects of the Dipterous Order, (p. 379) of which the Goat Genus (Culex), and the various kinds of Horse-flies (T'abanus, Tomoxys, Hippubusca,) are well known as being among the most troublesome enemies of man and beast.
Another mode by which noises are produced by Insects is, the motion of their jaws in feeding. The ticking of the Deathwatches, (supposed to be little beetles of the timber-boring genus, Anobium, F.) is produced by the head, which it beats with great force upon the substance in which it penetrates.
The Cricket tribe (Achetu) produce their shrill, chirping sounds, by rubbing the bases of their elytra against each other. The noise of Grass-hoppers, is due to the same cause. We shall conclude our notice of this part of the work, with a quotation respecting the supposed musical powers of the Cicadæ tribe..
• The species of the Genus Tettigonia, F. called by the antient Greeks, by whom they were often kept in cages for the sake of their song-Tettit, seem to have been the favourites of every Grecian bard from Homer and Hesiod to Anacreon and Theocritus. Supposed to be perfectly harmless, and to live only upon the dew, they were addressed by the most endearing epithets, and were regarded as all but divine. One bard intreats the shepherds to spare the innoxious Tettix, that nightingale of the nymphs, and to make those mischievous birds the thrush and blackbird their prey. Sweet prophet of the summer, says Anacreon, addressing this insect, the Muses love thee, Phæbus himself loves thee, and has given thee a shrill song : old age does not wear thee; thou art wise, earth-born, musical, impassive, without blood; thou a:t almost like a God. So attached were the Athenians to these insects, that they were accustomed to fasten golden images of them in their hair, implying at the same time a boast that they themselves, as well as the Cicadæ, were Terræ filii. They were regarded, indeed, by all. as the happiest, as well as the most innocent of animals not we will suppose, for the reason given by the saucy Rhodian Xenarchus, where he says,
“i lappy the Cicadas' lives,
Since they all have voiceless wives.'' • The sound of this insect, and of the harp, were called by one and the same name. A Cicada sitting upon a harp was a usual emblem of the science of music, which was thus accounted for, when two rival musicians, Eunomus and Ariston, were contending upon that instru. ment, a Cicada flying to the former and sitting upon his harp, supplied the place of a broken string, and so secured to him the victory? pp. 402, 403.
But it is time to close this article. From the preceding quotations, our readers will perceive that this is a volume of no ordinary interest. It is with regret that we again notice a fault which we pointed out in our Review of the first volume, and which is not less observable in that which lies before us;
VOL. X. N.S.