The Wonders of Instinct
by J. H. Fabre
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Note:—Chapters 5 and 6 have been translated by Mr. Bernard Miall; the remainder by Mr. Alexander Teixeira de Mattos.


THE HARMAS. 1. The author and his two daughters in the lilac-walk. 2. J.H. Fabre's house at Serignan.


INSECTS AT REST. Bees and wasps asleep, extended in space by the strength of their mandibles.

THE LARVA OF THE GREAT CAPRICORN. 1. The grub. 2. The grub digging its galleries in the trunk of the oak.



EXPERIMENT 1. The mole is fixed fore and aft, with a lashing of raphia, to a light horizontal cross-bar resting on two forks. The Necrophori, after long tiring themselves in digging under the body, end by severing the bonds.

EXPERIMENT 2. A dead mouse is placed on the branches of a tuft of thyme. By dint of jerking, shaking and tugging at the body, the Burying-beetles succeed in extricating it from the twigs and bringing it down.

EXPERIMENT 3. With a ligament of raphia, the Mole is fixed by the hind feet to a twig planted vertically in the soil. The head and shoulders touch the ground. By digging under these, the Necrophori at the same time uproot the gibbet, which eventually falls, dragged over by the weight of its burden.

EXPERIMENT 4. The stake is slanting; the Mole touches the ground, but at a point two inches from the base of the gibbet. The Burying-beetles begin by digging to no purpose under the body. They make no attempt to overturn the stake. In this experiment they obtain the Mole at last by employing the usual method, that is by gnawing the bond.


THE LYCOSA LIFTING HER WHITE BAG OF EGGS TOWARDS THE SUN, TO ASSIST THE HATCHING. The Lycosa lying head downwards on the edge of her pit, holding in her hind-legs her white bag of eggs and lifting them towards the sun, to assist the hatching.



THE BANDED EPEIRA SWATHING HER CAPTURE. The web has given way in many places during the struggle.



ARTIFICIAL HIVE INVENTED BY THE AUTHOR TO STUDY THE OSMIA'S LAYING. It consists of reed-stumps arranged Pan-pipe fashion.


1. Nest of the Mason-bee of the Shrubs.

2. Osmia-grubs in empty shells of the Garden Snail.

3. Nests of the Mason-bee of the Sheds.

THE GLOW-WORM: a, male; b, female.

THE CABBAGE CATERPILLAR: a, the caterpillars; b, the cocoons of their parasite, Microgaster glomeratus.



This is what I wished for, hoc erat in votis: a bit of land, oh, not so very large, but fenced in, to avoid the drawbacks of a public way; an abandoned, barren, sun-scorched bit of land, favoured by thistles and by Wasps and Bees. Here, without fear of being troubled by the passers-by, I could consult the Ammophila and the Sphex (two species of Digger-or Hunting-wasps.—Translator's Note.) and engage in that difficult conversation whose questions and answers have experiment for their language; here, without distant expeditions that take up my time, without tiring rambles that strain my nerves, I could contrive my plans of attack, lay my ambushes and watch their effects at every hour of the day. Hoc erat in votis. Yes, this was my wish, my dream, always cherished, always vanishing into the mists of the future.

And it is no easy matter to acquire a laboratory in the open fields, when harassed by a terrible anxiety about one's daily bread. For forty years have I fought, with steadfast courage, against the paltry plagues of life; and the long-wished-for laboratory has come at last. What it has cost me in perseverance and relentless work I will not try to say. It has come; and, with it—a more serious condition—perhaps a little leisure. I say perhaps, for my leg is still hampered with a few links of the convict's chain.

The wish is realized. It is a little late, O! my pretty insects! I greatly fear that the peach is offered to me when I am beginning to have no teeth wherewith to eat it. Yes, it is a little late: the wide horizons of the outset have shrunk into a low and stifling canopy, more and more straitened day by day. Regretting nothing in the past, save those whom I have lost; regretting nothing, not even my first youth; hoping nothing either, I have reached the point at which, worn out by the experience of things, we ask ourselves if life be worth the living.

Amid the ruins that surround me, one strip of wall remains standing, immovable upon its solid base: my passion for scientific truth. Is that enough, O! my busy insects, to enable me to add yet a few seemly pages to your history? Will my strength not cheat my good intentions? Why, indeed, did I forsake you so long?

Friends have reproached me for it. Ah, tell them, tell those friends, who are yours as well as mine, tell them that it was not forgetfulness on my part, not weariness, nor neglect: I thought of you; I was convinced that the Cerceris' (A species of Digger-wasp.—Translator's Note.) cave had more fair secrets to reveal to us, that the chase of the Sphex held fresh surprises in store. But time failed me; I was alone, deserted, struggling against misfortune. Before philosophizing, one had to live. Tell them that, and they will pardon me.

Others have reproached me with my style, which has not the solemnity, nay, better, the dryness of the schools. They fear lest a page that is read without fatigue should not always be the expression of the truth. Were I to take their word for it, we are profound only on condition of being obscure. Come here, one and all of you—you, the sting-bearers, and you, the wing-cased armour-clads—take up my defence and bear witness in my favour. Tell of the intimate terms on which I live with you, of the patience with which I observe you, of the care with which I record your actions. Your evidence is unanimous: yes, my pages, though they bristle not with hollow formulas nor learned smatterings, are the exact narrative of facts observed, neither more nor less; and whoso cares to question you in his turn will obtain the same replies.

And then, my dear insects, if you cannot convince those good people, because you do not carry the weight of tedium, I, in my turn, will say to them:

"You rip up the animal and I study it alive; you turn it into an object of horror and pity, whereas I cause it to be loved; you labour in a torture-chamber and dissecting-room, I make my observations under the blue sky, to the song of the Cicadae (The Cicada Cigale, an insect akin to the Grasshopper and found more particularly in the south of France.—Translator's Note.); you subject cell and protoplasm to chemical tests, I study instinct in its loftiest manifestations; you pry into death, I pry into life. And why should I not complete my thought: the boars have muddied the clear stream; natural history, youth's glorious study, has, by dint of cellular improvements, become a hateful and repulsive thing. Well, if I write for men of learning, for philosophers, who, one day, will try to some extent to unravel the tough problem of instinct, I write also, I write above all things, for the young, I want to make them love the natural history which you make them hate; and that is why, while keeping strictly to the domain of truth, I avoid your scientific prose, which too often, alas, seems borrowed from some Iroquois idiom!"

But this is not my business for the moment: I want to speak of the bit of land long cherished in my plans to form a laboratory of living entomology, the bit of land which I have at last obtained in the solitude of a little village. It is a "harmas," the name given, in this district (The country round Serignan, in Provence.—Translator's Note.), to an untilled, pebbly expanse abandoned to the vegetation of the thyme. It is too poor to repay the work of the plough; but the Sheep passes there in spring, when it has chanced to rain and a little grass shoots up.

My harmas, however, because of its modicum of red earth swamped by a huge mass of stones, has received a rough first attempt at cultivation: I am told that vines once grew here. And, in fact, when we dig the ground before planting a few trees, we turn up, here and there, remains of the precious stock, half carbonized by time. The three-pronged fork, therefore, the only implement of husbandry that can penetrate such a soil as this, has entered here; and I am sorry, for the primitive vegetation has disappeared. No more thyme, no more lavender, no more clumps of kermes-oak, the dwarf oak that forms forests across which we step by lengthening our stride a little. As these plants, especially the first two, might be of use to me by offering the Bees and Wasps a spoil to forage, I am compelled to reinstate them in the ground whence they were driven by the fork.

What abounds without my mediation is the invaders of any soil that is first dug up and then left for a time to its own resources. We have, in the first rank, the couch-grass, that execrable weed which three years of stubborn warfare have not succeeded in exterminating. Next, in respect of number, come the centauries, grim-looking one and all, bristling with prickles or starry halberds. They are the yellow-flowered centaury, the mountain centaury, the star-thistle and the rough centaury: the first predominates. Here and there, amid their inextricable confusion, stands, like a chandelier with spreading orange flowers for lights, the fierce Spanish oyster-plant, whose spikes are strong as nails. Above it towers the Illyrian cotton-thistle, whose straight and solitary stalk soars to a height of three to six feet and ends in large pink tufts. Its armour hardly yields before that of the oyster-plant. Nor must we forget the lesser thistle-tribe, with, first of all, the prickly or "cruel" thistle, which is so well armed that the plant-collector knows not where to grasp it; next, the spear-thistle, with its ample foliage, ending each of its veins with a spear-head; lastly, the black knap-weed, which gathers itself into a spiky knot. In among these, in long lines armed with hooks, the shoots of the blue dewberry creep along the ground. To visit the prickly thicket when the Wasp goes foraging, you must wear boots that come to mid-leg or else resign yourself to a smarting in the calves. As long as the ground retains a few remnants of the vernal rains, this rude vegetation does not lack a certain charm, when the pyramids of the oyster-plant and the slender branches of the cotton-thistle rise above the wide carpet formed by the yellow-flowered centaury's saffron heads; but let the droughts of summer come and we see but a desolate waste, which the flame of a match would set ablaze from one end to the other. Such is, or rather was, when I took possession of it, the Eden of bliss where I mean to live henceforth alone with the insect. Forty years of desperate struggle have won it for me.

Eden, I said; and, from the point of view that interests me, the expression is not out of place. This cursed ground, which no one would have had at a gift to sow with a pinch of turnip-seed, is an earthly paradise for the Bees and the Wasps. Its mighty growth of thistles and centauries draws them all to me from everywhere around. Never, in my insect-hunting memories, have I seen so large a population at a single spot; all the trades have made it their rallying-point. Here come hunters of every kind of game, builders in clay, weavers of cotton goods, collectors of pieces cut from a leaf or the petals of a flower, architects in paste-board, plasterers mixing mortar, carpenters boring wood, miners digging underground galleries, workers handling goldbeater's skin and many more.

Who is this one? An Anthidium. (A Cotton-bee.—Translator's Note.) She scrapes the cobwebby stalk of the yellow-flowered centaury and gathers a ball of wadding which she carries off proudly in the tips of her mandibles. She will turn it, under ground, into cotton-felt satchels to hold the store of honey and the egg. And these others, so eager for plunder? They are Megachiles (Leaf-cutting Bees.—Translator's Note.), carrying under their bellies their black, white, or blood-red reaping-brushes. They will leave the thistles to visit the neighbouring shrubs and there cut from the leaves oval pieces which will be made into a fit receptacle to contain the harvest. And these, clad in black velvet? They are Chalicodomae (Mason-bees.—Translator's Note.), who work with cement and gravel. We could easily find their masonry on the stones in the harmas. And these, noisily buzzing with a sudden flight? They are the Anthophorae (a species of Wild Bees.—Translator's Note.), who live in the old walls and the sunny banks of the neighbourhood.

Now come the Osmiae. One stacks her cells in the spiral staircase of an empty snail-shell; another, attacking the pith of a dry bit of bramble, obtains for her grubs a cylindrical lodging and divides it into floors by means of partition-walls; a third employs the natural channel of a cut reed; a fourth is a rent-free tenant of the vacant galleries of some Mason-bee. Here are the Macrocerae and the Eucerae, whose males are proudly horned; the Dasypodae, who carry an ample brush of bristles on their hind-legs for a reaping implement; the Andrenae, so manyfold in species; the slender-bellied Halicti. (Osmiae, Macrocerae, Eucerae, Dasypodae, Andrenae, and Halicti are all different species of Wild Bees.—Translator's Note.) I omit a host of others. If I tried to continue this record of the guests of my thistles, it would muster almost the whole of the honey-yielding tribe. A learned entomologist of Bordeaux, Professor Perez, to whom I submit the naming of my prizes, once asked me if I had any special means of hunting, to send him so many rarities and even novelties. I am not at all an experienced and still less a zealous hunter, for the insect interests me much more when engaged in its work than when stuck on a pin in a cabinet. The whole secret of my hunting is reduced to my dense nursery of thistles and centauries.

By a most fortunate chance, with this populous family of honey-gatherers was allied the whole hunting tribe. The builders' men had distributed here and there, in the harmas, great mounds of sand and heaps of stones, with a view of running up some surrounding walls. The work dragged on slowly; and the materials found occupants from the first year. The Mason-bees had chosen the interstices between the stones as a dormitory where to pass the night in serried groups. The powerful Eyed Lizard, who, when close-pressed, attacks wide-mouthed both man and dog, had selected a cave wherein to lie in wait for the passing Scarab (A Dung-beetle known also as the Sacred Beetle.—Translator's Note.); the Black-eared Chat, garbed like a Dominican, white-frocked with black wings, sat on the top stone, singing his short rustic lay: his nest, with its sky-blue eggs, must be somewhere in the heap. The little Dominican disappeared with the loads of stones. I regret him: he would have been a charming neighbour. The Eyed Lizard I do not regret at all.

The sand sheltered a different colony. Here, the Bembeces (A species of Digger-wasps.—Translator's Note.) were sweeping the threshold of their burrows, flinging a curve of dust behind them; the Languedocian Sphex was dragging her Ephippigera (A species of Green Grasshopper—Translator's Note.) by the antennae; a Stizus (A species of Hunting-wasp.—Translator's Note.) was storing her preserves of Cicadellae. (Froghoppers—Translator's Note.) To my sorrow, the masons ended by evicting the sporting tribe; but, should I ever wish to recall it, I have but to renew the mounds of sand: they will soon all be there.

Hunters that have not disappeared, their homes being different, are the Ammophilae, whom I see fluttering, one in spring, the others in autumn, along the garden-walks and over the lawns, in search of a caterpillar; the Pompili (The Pompilus is a species of Hunting-wasp known also as the Ringed Calicurgus—Translator's Note.), who travel alertly, beating their wings and rummaging in every corner in quest of a Spider. The largest of them waylays the Narbonne Lycosa (Known also as the Black-bellied Tarantula—Translator's Note.), whose burrow is not infrequent in the harmas. This burrow is a vertical well, with a curb of fescue-grass intertwined with silk. You can see the eyes of the mighty Spider gleam at the bottom of the den like little diamonds, an object of terror to most. What a prey and what dangerous hunting for the Pompilus! And here, on a hot summer afternoon, is the Amazon-ant, who leaves her barrack-rooms in long battalions and marches far afield to hunt for slaves. We will follow her in her raids when we find time. Here again, around a heap of grasses turned to mould, are Scoliae (Large Hunting-wasps—Translator's Note.) an inch and a half long, who fly gracefully and dive into the heap, attracted by a rich prey, the grubs of Lamellicorns, Oryctes, and Cetoniae. (Different species of Beetles. The Cetonia is the Rose-chafer—Translator's Note.)

What subjects for study! And there are more to come. The house was as utterly deserted as the ground. When man was gone and peace assured, the animal hastily seized on everything. The Warbler took up his abode in the lilac-shrubs; the Greenfinch settled in the thick shelter of the cypresses; the Sparrow carted rags and straw under every slate; the Serin-finch, whose downy nest is no bigger than half an apricot, came and chirped in the plane-tree tops; the Scops made a habit of uttering his monotonous, piping note here, of an evening; the bird of Pallas Athene, the Owl, came hurrying along to hoot and hiss.

In front of the house is a large pond, fed by the aqueduct that supplies the village pumps with water. Here, from half a mile and more around, come the Frogs and Toads in the lovers' season. The Natterjack, sometimes as large as a plate, with a narrow stripe of yellow down his back, makes his appointments here to take his bath; when the evening twilight falls, we see hopping along the edge the Midwife Toad, the male, who carries a cluster of eggs, the size of peppercorns, wrapped round his hind-legs: the genial paterfamilias has brought his precious packet from afar, to leave it in the water and afterwards retire under some flat stone, whence he will emit a sound like a tinkling bell. Lastly, when not croaking amid the foliage, the Tree-frogs indulge in the most graceful dives. And so, in May, as soon as it is dark, the pond becomes a deafening orchestra: it is impossible to talk at table, impossible to sleep. We had to remedy this by means perhaps a little too rigorous. What could we do? He who tries to sleep and cannot needs become ruthless.

Bolder still, the Wasp has taken possession of the dwelling-house. On my door-sill, in a soil of rubbish, nestles the White-banded Sphex: when I go indoors, I must be careful not to damage her burrows, not to tread upon the miner absorbed in her work. It is quite a quarter of a century since I last saw the saucy Cricket-hunter. When I made her acquaintance, I used to visit her at a few miles' distance: each time, it meant an expedition under the blazing August sun. To-day I find her at my door; we are intimate neighbours. The embrasure of the closed window provides an apartment of a mild temperature for the Pelopaeus. (A species of Mason-wasp—Translator's Note.) The earth-built nest is fixed against the freestone wall. To enter her home, the Spider-huntress uses a little hole left open by accident in the shutters. On the mouldings of the Venetian blinds, a few stray Mason-bees build their group of cells; inside the outer shutters, left ajar, a Eumenes (Another Mason-wasp—Translator's Note.) constructs her little earthen dome, surmounted by a short, bell-mouthed neck. The Common Wasp and the Polistes (A Wasp that builds her nest in trees—Translator's Note.) are my dinner-guests: they visit my table to see if the grapes served are as ripe as they look.

Here surely—and the list is far from complete—is a company both numerous and select, whose conversation will not fail to charm my solitude, if I succeed in drawing it out, my dear beasts of former days, my old friends, and others, more recent acquaintances, all are here, hunting, foraging, building in close proximity. Besides, should we wish to vary the scene of observation, the mountain (Mont Ventoux, an outlying summit of the Alps, 6,270 feet high.—Translator's Note.) is but a few hundred steps away, with its tangle of arbutus, rock-roses and arborescent heather; with its sandy spaces dear to the Bembeces; with its marly slopes exploited by different Wasps and Bees. And that is why, foreseeing these riches, I have abandoned the town for the village and come to Serignan to weed my turnips and water my lettuces.

Laboratories are being founded at great expense, on our Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, where people cut up small sea-animals, of but meagre interest to us; they spend a fortune on powerful microscopes, delicate dissecting-instruments, engines of capture, boats, fishing-crews, aquariums, to find out how the yolk of an Annelid's (A red-blooded Worm.—Translator's Note.) egg is constructed, a question whereof I have never yet been able to grasp the full importance; and they scorn the little land-animal, which lives in constant touch with us, which provides universal psychology with documents of inestimable value, which too often threatens the public wealth by destroying our crops. When shall we have an entomological laboratory for the study not of the dead insect, steeped in alcohol, but of the living insect; a laboratory having for its object the instinct, the habits, the manner of living, the work, the struggles, the propagation of that little world with which agriculture and philosophy have most seriously to reckon? To know thoroughly the history of the destroyer of our vines might perhaps be more important than to know how this or that nerve-fibre of a Cirriped ends (Cirripeds are sea-animals with hair-like legs, including the Barnacles and Acorn-shells.—Translator's Note.); to establish by experiment the line of demarcation between intellect and instinct; to prove, by comparing facts in the zoological progression, whether human reason be an irreducible faculty or not: all this ought surely to take precedence of the number of joints in a Crustacean's antenna. These enormous questions would need an army of workers; and we have not one. The fashion is all for the Mollusc and the Zoophyte. (Zoophytes are plant-like sea-animals, including Star-fishes, Jelly-fishes, Sea-anemones, and Sponges.—Translator's Note.) The depths of the sea are explored with many drag-nets; the soil which we tread is consistently disregarded. While waiting for the fashion to change, I open my harmas laboratory of living entomology; and this laboratory shall not cost the ratepayers one farthing.


We are in the middle of July. The astronomical dog-days are just beginning; but in reality the torrid season has anticipated the calendar and for some weeks past the heat has been overpowering.

This evening in the village they are celebrating the National Festival. (The 14th of July, the anniversary of the fall of the Bastille.—Translator's Note.) While the little boys and girls are hopping round a bonfire whose gleams are reflected upon the church-steeple, while the drum is pounded to mark the ascent of each rocket, I am sitting alone in a dark corner, in the comparative coolness that prevails at nine o'clock, harking to the concert of the festival of the fields, the festival of the harvest, grander by far than that which, at this moment, is being celebrated in the village square with gunpowder, lighted torches, Chinese lanterns and, above all, strong drink. It has the simplicity of beauty and the repose of strength.

It is late; and the Cicadae are silent. Glutted with light and heat, they have indulged in symphonies all the livelong day. The advent of the night means rest for them, but a rest frequently disturbed. In the dense branches of the plane-trees a sudden sound rings out like a cry of anguish, strident and short. It is the desperate wail of the Cicada, surprised in his quietude by the Green Grasshopper, that ardent nocturnal huntress, who springs upon him, grips him in the side, opens and ransacks his abdomen. An orgy of music, followed by butchery.

I have never seen and never shall see that supreme expression of our national revelry, the military review at Longchamp; nor do I much regret it. The newspapers tell me as much about it as I want to know. They give me a sketch of the site. I see, installed here and there amid the trees, the ominous Red Cross, with the legend, "Military Ambulance; Civil Ambulance." There will be bones broken, apparently; cases of sunstroke; regrettable deaths, perhaps. It is all provided for and all in the programme.

Even here, in my village, usually so peaceable, the festival will not end, I am ready to wager, without the exchange of a few blows, that compulsory seasoning of a day of merry-making. No pleasure, it appears, can be fully relished without an added condiment of pain.

Let us listen and meditate far from the tumult. While the disembowelled Cicada utters his protest, the festival up there in the plane-trees is continued with a change of orchestra. It is now the time of the nocturnal performers. Hard by the place of slaughter, in the green bushes, a delicate ear perceives the hum of the Grasshoppers. It is the sort of noise that a spinning-wheel makes, a very unobtrusive sound, a vague rustle of dry membranes rubbed together. Above this dull bass there rises, at intervals, a hurried, very shrill, almost metallic clicking. There you have the air and the recitative, intersected by pauses. The rest is the accompaniment.

Despite the assistance of a bass, it is a poor concert, very poor indeed, though there are about ten executants in my immediate vicinity. The tone lacks intensity. My old tympanum is not always capable of perceiving these subtleties of sound. The little that reaches me is extremely sweet and most appropriate to the calm of twilight. Just a little more breadth in your bow-stroke, my dear Green Grasshopper, and your technique would be better than the hoarse Cicada's, whose name and reputation you have been made to usurp in the countries of the north.

Still, you will never equal your neighbour, the little bell-ringing Toad, who goes tinkling all round, at the foot of the plane-trees, while you click up above. He is the smallest of my batrachian folk and the most venturesome in his expeditions.

How often, at nightfall, by the last glimmers of daylight, have I not come upon him as I wandered through my garden, hunting for ideas! Something runs away, rolling over and over in front of me. Is it a dead leaf blown along by the wind? No, it is the pretty little Toad disturbed in the midst of his pilgrimage. He hurriedly takes shelter under a stone, a clod of earth, a tuft of grass, recovers from his excitement and loses no time in picking up his liquid note.

On this evening of national rejoicing, there are nearly a dozen of him tinkling against one another around me. Most of them are crouching among the rows of flower-pots that form a sort of lobby outside my house. Each has his own note, always the same, lower in one case, higher in another, a short, clear note, melodious and of exquisite purity.

With their slow, rhythmical cadence, they seem to be intoning litanies. "Cluck," says one; "click," responds another, on a finer note; "clock," adds a third, the tenor of the band. And this is repeated indefinitely, like the bells of the village pealing on a holiday: "cluck, click, clock; cluck, click, clock!"

The batrachian choristers remind me of a certain harmonica which I used to covet when my six-year-old ear began to awaken to the magic of sounds. It consisted of a series of strips of glass of unequal length, hung on two stretched tapes. A cork fixed to a wire served as a hammer. Imagine an unskilled hand striking at random on this key-board, with a sudden clash of octaves, dissonances and topsy-turvy chords; and you will have a pretty clear idea of the Toads' litany.

As a song, this litany has neither head nor tail to it; as a collection of pure sounds, it is delicious. This is the case with all the music in nature's concerts. Our ear discovers superb notes in it and then becomes refined and acquires, outside the realities of sound, that sense of order which is the first condition of beauty.

Now this sweet ringing of bells between hiding-place and hiding-place is the matrimonial oratorio, the discreet summons which every Jack issues to his Jill. The sequel to the concert may be guessed without further enquiry; but what it would be impossible to foresee is the strange finale of the wedding. Behold the father, in this case a real paterfamilias, in the noblest sense of the word, coming out of his retreat one day in an unrecognizable state. He is carrying the future, tight-packed around his hind-legs; he is changing houses laden with a cluster of eggs the size of peppercorns. His calves are girt, his thighs are sheathed with the bulky burden; and it covers his back like a beggar's wallet, completely deforming him.

Whither is he going, dragging himself along, incapable of jumping, thanks to the weight of his load? He is going, the fond parent, where the mother refuses to go; he is on his way to the nearest pond, whose warm waters are indispensable to the tadpoles' hatching and existence. When the eggs are nicely ripened around his legs under the humid shelter of a stone, he braves the damp and the daylight, he the passionate lover of dry land and darkness; he advances by short stages, his lungs congested with fatigue. The pond is far away, perhaps; no matter: the plucky pilgrim will find it.

He's there. Without delay, he dives, despite his profound antipathy to bathing; and the cluster of eggs is instantly removed by the legs rubbing against each other. The eggs are now in their element; and the rest will be accomplished of itself. Having fulfilled his obligation to go right under, the father hastens to return to his well-sheltered home. He is scarcely out of sight before the little black tadpoles are hatched and playing about. They were but waiting for the contact of the water in order to burst their shells.

Among the singers in the July gloaming, one alone, were he able to vary his notes, could vie with the Toad's harmonious bells. This is the little Scops-owl, that comely nocturnal bird of prey, with the round gold eyes. He sports on his forehead two small feathered horns which have won for him in the district the name of Machoto banarudo, the Horned Owl. His song, which is rich enough to fill by itself the still night air, is of a nerve-shattering monotony. With imperturbable and measured regularity, for hours on end, "kew, kew," the bird spits out its cantata to the moon.

One of them has arrived at this moment, driven from the plane-trees in the square by the din of the rejoicings, to demand my hospitality. I can hear him in the top of a cypress near by. From up there, dominating the lyrical assembly, at regular intervals he cuts into the vague orchestration of the Grasshoppers and the Toads.

His soft note is contrasted, intermittently, with a sort of Cat's mew, coming from another spot. This is the call of the Common Owl, the meditative bird of Minerva. After hiding all day in the seclusion of a hollow olive-tree, he started on his wanderings when the shades of evening began to fall. Swinging along with a sinuous flight, he came from somewhere in the neighbourhood to the pines in my enclosure, whence he mingles his harsh mewing, slightly softened by distance, with the general concert.

The Green Grasshopper's clicking is too faint to be clearly perceived amidst these clamourers; all that reaches me is the least ripple, just noticeable when there is a moment's silence. He possesses as his apparatus of sound only a modest drum and scraper, whereas they, more highly privileged, have their bellows, the lungs, which send forth a column of vibrating air. There is no comparison possible. Let us return to the insects.

One of these, though inferior in size and no less sparingly equipped, greatly surpasses the Grasshopper in nocturnal rhapsodies. I speak of the pale and slender Italian Cricket (Oecanthus pellucens, Scop.), who is so puny that you dare not take him up for fear of crushing him. He makes music everywhere among the rosemary-bushes, while the Glow-worms light up their blue lamps to complete the revels. The delicate instrumentalist consists chiefly of a pair of large wings, thin and gleaming as strips of mica. Thanks to these dry sails, he fiddles away with an intensity capable of drowning the Toads' fugue. His performance suggests, but with more brilliancy, more tremolo in the execution, the song of the Common Black Cricket. Indeed the mistake would certainly be made by any one who did not know that, by the time the very hot weather comes, the true Cricket, the chorister of spring, has disappeared. His pleasant violin has been succeeded by another more pleasant still and worthy of special study. We shall return to him at an opportune moment.

These then, limiting ourselves to select specimens, are the principal participants in this musical evening: the Scops-owl, with his languorous solos; the Toad, that tinkler of sonatas; the Italian Cricket, who scrapes the first string of a violin; and the Green Grasshopper, who seems to beat a tiny steel triangle.

We are celebrating to-day, with greater uproar than conviction, the new era, dating politically from the fall of the Bastille; they, with glorious indifference to human things, are celebrating the festival of the sun, singing the happiness of existence, sounding the loud hosanna of the July heats.

What care they for man and his fickle rejoicings! For whom or for what will our squibs be spluttering a few years hence? Far-seeing indeed would he be who could answer the question. Fashions change and bring us the unexpected. The time-serving rocket spreads its sheaf of sparks for the public enemy of yesterday, who has become the idol of to-day. Tomorrow it will go up for somebody else.

In a century or two, will any one, outside the historians, give a thought to the taking of the Bastille? It is very doubtful. We shall have other joys and also other cares.

Let us look a little farther ahead. A day will come, so everything seems to tell us, when, after making progress upon progress, man will succumb, destroyed by the excess of what he calls civilization. Too eager to play the god, he cannot hope for the animal's placid longevity; he will have disappeared when the little Toad is still saying his litany, in company with the Grasshopper, the Scops-owl and the others. They were singing on this planet before us; they will sing after us, celebrating what can never change, the fiery glory of the sun.

I will dwell no longer on this festival and will become once more the naturalist, anxious to obtain information concerning the private life of the insect. The Green Grasshopper (Locusta viridissima, Lin.) does not appear to be common in my neighbourhood. Last year, intending to make a study of this insect and finding my efforts to hunt it fruitless, I was obliged to have recourse to the good offices of a forest-ranger, who sent me a pair of couples from the Lagarde plateau, that bleak district where the beech-tree begins its escalade of the Ventoux.

Now and then freakish fortune takes it into her head to smile upon the persevering. What was not to be found last year has become almost common this summer. Without leaving my narrow enclosure, I obtain as many Grasshoppers as I could wish. I hear them rustling at night in the green thickets. Let us make the most of the windfall, which perhaps will not occur again.

In the month of June my treasures are installed, in a sufficient number of couples, under a wire cover standing on a bed of sand in an earthen pan. It is indeed a magnificent insect, pale-green all over, with two whitish stripes running down its sides. Its imposing size, its slim proportions and its great gauze wings make it the most elegant of our Locustidae. I am enraptured with my captives. What will they teach me? We shall see. For the moment, we must feed them.

I offer the prisoners a leaf of lettuce. They bite into it, certainly, but very sparingly and with a scornful tooth. It soon becomes plain that I am dealing with half-hearted vegetarians. They want something else: they are beasts of prey, apparently. But what manner of prey? A lucky chance taught me.

At break of day I was pacing up and down outside my door, when something fell from the nearest plane-tree with a shrill grating sound. I ran up and saw a Grasshopper gutting the belly of a struggling Cicada. In vain the victim buzzed and waved his limbs: the other did not let go, dipping her head right into the entrails and rooting them out by small mouthfuls.

I knew what I wanted to know: the attack had taken place up above, early in the morning, while the Cicada was asleep; and the plunging of the poor wretch, dissected alive, had made assailant and assailed fall in a bundle to the ground. Since then I have repeatedly had occasion to witness similar carnage.

I have even seen the Grasshopper—the height of audacity, this—dart in pursuit of a Cicada in mad flight. Even so does the Sparrow-hawk pursue the Swallow in the sky. But the bird of prey here is inferior to the insect. It attacks a weaker than itself. The Grasshopper, on the other hand, assaults a colossus, much larger than herself and stronger; and nevertheless the result of the unequal fight is not in doubt. The Grasshopper rarely fails with the sharp pliers of her powerful jaws to disembowel her capture, which, being unprovided with weapons, confines itself to crying out and kicking.

The main thing is to retain one's hold of the prize, which is not difficult in somnolent darkness. Any Cicada encountered by the fierce Locustid on her nocturnal rounds is bound to die a lamentable death. This explains those sudden agonized notes which grate through the woods at late, unseasonable hours, when the cymbals have long been silent. The murderess in her suit of apple-green has pounced on some sleeping Cicada.

My boarders' menu is settled: I will feed them on Cicadae. They take such a liking to this fare that, in two or three weeks, the floor of the cage is a knacker's yard strewn with heads and empty thoraces, with torn-off wings and disjointed legs. The belly alone disappears almost entirely. This is the tit-bit, not very substantial, but extremely tasty, it would seem. Here, in fact, in the insect's crop, the syrup is accumulated, the sugary sap which the Cicada's gimlet taps from the tender bark. Is it because of this dainty that the prey's abdomen is preferred to any other morsel? It is quite possible.

I do, in fact, with a view to varying the diet, decide to serve up some very sweet fruits, slices of pear, grape-bits, bits of melon. All this meets with delighted appreciation. The Green Grasshopper resembles the English: she dotes on underdone meat seasoned with jelly. This perhaps is why, on catching the Cicada, she first rips up his paunch, which supplies a mixture of flesh and preserves.

To eat Cicadae and sugar is not possible in every part of the country. In the north, where she abounds, the Green Grasshopper would not find the dish which attracts her so strongly here. She must have other resources. To convince myself of this, I give her Anoxiae (A. pilosa, Fab.), the summer equivalent of the spring Cockchafer. The Beetle is accepted without hesitation. Nothing is left of him but the wing-cases, head and legs. The result is the same with the magnificent plump Pine Cockchafer (Melolontha fullo, Lin.), a sumptuous morsel which I find next day eviscerated by my gang of knackers.

These examples teach us enough. They tell us that the Grasshopper is an inveterate consumer of insects, especially of those which are not protected by too hard a cuirass; they are evidence of tastes which are highly carnivorous, but not exclusively so, like those of the Praying Mantis, who refuses everything except game. The butcher of the Cicadae is able to modify an excessively heating diet with vegetable fare. After meat and blood, sugary fruit-pulp; sometimes even, for lack of anything better, a little green stuff.

Nevertheless, cannibalism is prevalent. True, I never witness in my Grasshopper-cages the savagery which is so common in the Praying Mantis, who harpoons her rivals and devours her lovers; but, if some weakling succumb, the survivors hardly ever fail to profit by his carcass as they would in the case of any ordinary prey. With no scarcity of provisions as an excuse, they feast upon their defunct companion. For the rest, all the sabre-bearing clan display, in varying degrees, a propensity for filling their bellies with their maimed comrades.

In other respects, the Grasshoppers live together very peacefully in my cages. No serious strife ever takes place among them, nothing beyond a little rivalry in the matter of food. I hand in a piece of pear. A Grasshopper alights on it at once. Jealously she kicks away any one trying to bite at the delicious morsel. Selfishness reigns everywhere. When she has eaten her fill, she makes way for another, who in her turn becomes intolerant. One after the other, all the inmates of the menagerie come and refresh themselves. After cramming their crops, they scratch the soles of their feet a little with their mandibles, polish up their forehead and eyes with a leg moistened with spittle and then, hanging to the trellis-work or lying on the sand in a posture of contemplation, blissfully they digest and slumber most of the day, especially during the hottest part of it.

It is in the evening, after sunset, that the troop becomes lively. By nine o'clock the animation is at its height. With sudden rushes they clamber to the top of the dome, to descend as hurriedly and climb up once more. They come and go tumultuously, run and hop around the circular track and, without stopping, nibble at the good things on the way.

The males are stridulating by themselves, here and there, teasing the passing fair with their antennae. The future mothers stroll about gravely, with their sabre half-raised. The agitation and feverish excitement means that the great business of pairing is at hand. The fact will escape no practised eye.

It is also what I particularly wish to observe. My wish is satisfied, but not fully, for the late hours at which events take place did not allow me to witness the final act of the wedding. It is late at night or early in the morning that things happen.

The little that I see is confined to interminable preludes. Standing face to face, with foreheads almost touching, the lovers feel and sound each other for a long time with their limp antennae. They suggest two fencers crossing and recrossing harmless foils. From time to time, the male stridulates a little, gives a few short strokes of the bow and then falls silent, feeling perhaps too much overcome to continue. Eleven o'clock strikes; and the declaration is not yet over. Very regretfully, but conquered by sleepiness, I quit the couple.

Next morning, early, the female carries, hanging at the bottom of her ovipositor, a queer bladder-like arrangement, an opaline capsule, the size of a large pea and roughly subdivided into a small number of egg-shaped vesicles. When the insect walks, the thing scrapes along the ground and becomes dirty with sticky grains of sand. The Grasshopper then makes a banquet off this fertilizing capsule, drains it slowly of its contents, and devours it bit by bit; for a long time she chews and rechews the gummy morsel and ends by swallowing it all down. In less than half a day, the milky burden has disappeared, consumed with zest down to the last atom.

This inconceivable banquet must be imported, one would think, from another planet, so far removed is it from earthly habits. What a singular race are the Locustidae, one of the oldest in the animal kingdom on dry land and, like the Scolopendra and the Cephalopod, acting as a belated representative of the manners of antiquity!


The sea, life's first foster-mother, still preserves in her depths many of those singular and incongruous shapes which were the earliest attempts of the animal kingdom; the land, less fruitful, but with more capacity for progress, has almost wholly lost the strange forms of other days. The few that remain belong especially to the series of primitive insects, insects exceedingly limited in their industrial powers and subject to very summary metamorphoses, if to any at all. In my district, in the front rank of those entomological anomalies which remind us of the denizens of the old coal-forests, stand the Mantidae, including the Praying Mantis, so curious in habits and structure. Here also is the Empusa (E. pauperata, Latr.), the subject of this chapter.

Her larva is certainly the strangest creature among the terrestrial fauna of Provence: a slim, swaying thing of so fantastic an appearance that uninitiated fingers dare not lay hold of it. The children of my neighbourhood, impressed by its startling shape, call it "the Devilkin." In their imaginations, the queer little creature savours of witchcraft. One comes across it, though always sparsely, in spring, up to May; in autumn; and sometimes in winter, if the sun be strong. The tough grasses of the waste-lands, the stunted bushes which catch the sun and are sheltered from the wind by a few heaps of stones are the chilly Empusa's favourite abode.

Let us give a rapid sketch of her. The abdomen, which always curls up so as to join the back, spreads paddle wise and twists into a crook. Pointed scales, a sort of foliaceous expansions arranged in three rows, cover the lower surface, which becomes the upper surface because of the crook aforesaid. The scaly crook is propped on four long, thin stilts, on four legs armed with knee-pieces, that is to say, carrying at the end of the thigh, where it joins the shin, a curved, projecting blade not unlike that of a cleaver.

Above this base, this four-legged stool, rises, at a sudden angle, the stiff corselet, disproportionately long and almost perpendicular. The end of this bust, round and slender as a straw, carries the hunting-trap, the grappling limbs, copied from those of the Mantis. They consist of a terminal harpoon, sharper than a needle, and a cruel vice, with the jaws toothed like a saw. The jaw formed by the arm proper is hollowed into a groove and carries on either side five long spikes, with smaller indentations in between. The jaw formed by the forearm is similarly furrowed, but its double saw, which fits into the groove of the upper arm when at rest, is formed of finer, closer and more regular teeth. The magnifying-glass reveals a score of equal points in each row. The machine only lacks size to be a fearful implement of torture.

The head is in keeping with this arsenal. What a queer-shaped head it is! A pointed face, with walrus moustaches furnished by the palpi; large goggle eyes; between them, a dirk, a halberd blade; and, on the forehead a mad, unheard of thing: a sort of tall mitre, an extravagant head-dress that juts forward, spreading right and left into peaked wings and cleft along the top. What does the Devilkin want with that monstrous pointed cap, than which no wise man of the East, no astrologer of old ever wore a more splendiferous? This we shall learn when we see her out hunting.

The dress is commonplace; grey tints predominate. Towards the end of the larval period, after a few moultings, it begins to give a glimpse of the adult's richer livery and becomes striped, still very faintly, with pale-green, white and pink. Already the two sexes are distinguished by their antennae. Those of the future mothers are thread-like; those of the future males are distended into a spindle at the lower half, forming a case or sheath whence graceful plumes will spring at a later date.

Behold the creature, worthy of a Callot's fantastic pencil. (Jacques Callot (1592-1635), the French engraver and painter, famed for the grotesque nature of his subjects.—Translator's Note.) If you come across it in the bramble-bushes, it sways upon its four stilts, it wags its head, it looks at you with a knowing air, it twists its mitre round and peers over its shoulder. You seem to read mischief in its pointed face. You try to take hold of it. The imposing attitude ceases forthwith, the raised corselet is lowered and the creature makes off with mighty strides, helping itself along with its fighting-limbs, which clutch the twigs. The flight need not last long, if you have a practised eye. The Empusa is captured, put into a screw of paper, which will save her frail limbs from sprains, and lastly penned in a wire-gauze cage. In this way, in October, I obtain a flock sufficient for my purpose.

How to feed them? My Devilkins are very little; they are a month or two old at most. I give them Locusts suited to their size, the smallest that I can find. They refuse them. Nay more, they are frightened of them. Should a thoughtless Locust meekly approach one of the Empusae, suspended by her four hind-legs to the trellised dome, the intruder meets with a bad reception. The pointed mitre is lowered; and an angry thrust sends him rolling. We have it: the wizard's cap is a defensive weapon, a protective crest. The Ram charges with his forehead, the Empusa butts with her mitre.

But this does not mean dinner. I serve up the House-fly, alive. She is accepted, without hesitation. The moment that the Fly comes within reach, the watchful Devilkin turns her head, bends the stalk of her corselet slantwise and, flinging out her fore-limb, harpoons the Fly and grips her between her two saws. No Cat pouncing upon a Mouse could be quicker.

The game, however small, is enough for a meal. It is enough for the whole day, often for several days. This is my first surprise: the extreme abstemiousness of these fiercely-armed insects. I was prepared for ogres: I find ascetics satisfied with a meagre collation at rare intervals. A Fly fills their belly for twenty-four hours at least.

Thus passes the late autumn: the Empusae, more and more temperate from day to day, hang motionless from the wire gauze. Their natural abstinence is my best ally, for Flies grow scarce; and a time comes when I should be hard put to it to keep the menageries supplied with provisions.

During the three winter months, nothing stirs. From time to time, on fine days, I expose the cage to the sun's rays, in the window. Under the influence of this heat-bath, the captives stretch their legs a little, sway from side to side, make up their minds to move about, but without displaying any awakening appetite. The rare Midges that fall to my assiduous efforts do not appear to tempt them. It is a rule for them to spend the cold season in a state of complete abstinence.

My cages tell me what must happen outside, during the winter. Ensconced in the crannies of the rockwork, in the sunniest places, the young Empusae wait, in a state of torpor, for the return of the hot weather. Notwithstanding the shelter of a heap of stones, there must be painful moments when the frost is prolonged and the snow penetrates little by little into the best-protected crevices. No matter: hardier than they look, the refugees escape the dangers of the winter season. Sometimes, when the sun is strong, they venture out of their hiding-place and come to see if spring be nigh.

Spring comes. We are in March. My prisoners bestir themselves, change their skin. They need victuals. My catering difficulties recommence. The House-fly, so easy to catch, is lacking in these days. I fall back upon earlier Diptera: Eristales, or Drone-flies. The Empusa refuses them. They are too big for her and can offer too strenuous a resistance. She wards off their approach with blows of her mitre.

A few tender morsels, in the shape of very young Grasshoppers, are readily accepted. Unfortunately, such windfalls do not often find their way into my sweeping-net. Abstinence becomes obligatory until the arrival of the first Butterflies. Henceforth, Pieris brassicae, the White Cabbage Butterfly, will contribute the greater portion of the victuals.

Let loose in the wire cage, the Pieris is regarded as excellent game. The Empusa lies in wait for her, seizes her, but releases her at once, lacking the strength to overpower her. The Butterfly's great wings, beating the air, give her shock after shock and compel her to let go. I come to the weakling's assistance and cut the wings of her prey with my scissors. The maimed ones, still full of life, clamber up the trellis-work and are forthwith grabbed by the Empusae, who, in no way frightened by their protests, crunch them up. The dish is to their taste and, moreover, plentiful, so much so that there are always some despised remnants.

The head only and the upper portion of the breast are devoured: the rest—the plump abdomen, the best part of the thorax, the legs and lastly, of course, the wing-stumps—is flung aside untouched. Does this mean that the tenderest and most succulent morsels are chosen? No, for the belly is certainly more juicy; and the Empusa refuses it, though she eats up her House-fly to the last particle. It is a strategy of war. I am again in the presence of a neck-specialist as expert as the Mantis herself in the art of swiftly slaying a victim that struggles and, in struggling, spoils the meal.

Once warned, I soon perceive that the game, be it Fly, Locust, Grasshopper, or Butterfly, is always struck in the neck, from behind. The first bite is aimed at the point containing the cervical ganglia and produces sudden death or immobility. Complete inertia will leave the consumer in peace, the essential condition of every satisfactory repast.

The Devilkin, therefore, frail though she be, possesses the secret of immediately destroying the resistance of her prey. She bites at the back of the neck first, in order to give the finishing stroke. She goes on nibbling around the original attacking-point. In this way the Butterfly's head and the upper part of the breast are disposed of. But, by that time, the huntress is surfeited: she wants so little! The rest lies on the ground, disdained, not for lack of flavour, but because there is too much of it. A Cabbage Butterfly far exceeds the capacity of the Empusa's stomach. The Ants will benefit by what is left.

There is one other matter to be mentioned, before observing the metamorphosis. The position adopted by the young Empusae in the wire-gauze cage is invariably the same from start to finish. Gripping the trellis-work by the claws of its four hind-legs, the insect occupies the top of the dome and hangs motionless, back downwards, with the whole of its body supported by the four suspension-points. If it wishes to move, the front harpoons open, stretch out, grasp a mesh and draw it to them. When the short walk is over, the lethal arms are brought back against the chest. One may say that it is nearly always the four hind-shanks which alone support the suspended insect.

And this reversed position, which seems to us so trying, lasts for no short while: it is prolonged, in my cages, for ten months without a break. The Fly on the ceiling, it is true, occupies the same attitude; but she has her moments of rest: she flies, she walks in a normal posture, she spreads herself flat in the sun. Besides, her acrobatic feats do not cover a long period. The Empusa, on the other hand, maintains her curious equilibrium for ten months on end, without a break. Hanging from the trellis-work, back downwards, she hunts, eats, digests, dozes, casts her skin, undergoes her transformation, mates, lays her eggs and dies. She clambered up there when she was still quite young; she falls down, full of days, a corpse.

Things do not happen exactly like this under natural conditions. The insect stands on the bushes back upwards; it keeps its balance in the regular attitude and turns over only in circumstances that occur at long intervals. The protracted suspension of my captives is all the more remarkable inasmuch as it is not at all an innate habit of their race.

It reminds one of the Bats, who hang, head downwards, by their hind-legs from the roof of their caves. A special formation of the toes enables birds to sleep on one leg, which automatically and without fatigue clutches the swaying bough. The Empusa shows me nothing akin to their contrivance. The extremity of her walking-legs has the ordinary structure: a double claw at the tip, a double steelyard-hook; and that is all.

I could wish that anatomy would show me the working of the muscles and nerves in those tarsi, in those legs more slender than threads, the action of the tendons that control the claws and keep them gripped for ten months, unwearied in waking and sleeping. If some dexterous scalpel should ever investigate this problem, I can recommend another, even more singular than that of the Empusa, the Bat and the bird. I refer to the attitude of certain Wasps and Bees during the night's rest.

An Ammophila with red fore-legs (A. holosericea) is plentiful in my enclosure towards the end of August and selects a certain lavender-border for her dormitory. At dusk, especially after a stifling day, when a storm is brewing, I am sure to find the strange sleeper settled there. Never was more eccentric attitude adopted for a night's rest! The mandibles bite right into the lavender-stem. Its square shape supplies a firmer hold than a round stalk would do. With this one and only prop, the animal's body juts out stiffly, at full length, with legs folded. It forms a right angle with the supporting axis, so much so that the whole weight of the insect, which has turned itself into the arm of a lever rests upon the mandibles.

The Ammophila sleeps extended in space by virtue of her mighty jaws. It takes an animal to think of a thing like that, which upsets all our preconceived ideas of repose. Should the threatening storm burst, should the stalk sway in the wind, the sleeper is not troubled by her swinging hammock; at most, she presses her fore-legs for a moment against the tossed mast. As soon as equilibrium is restored, the favourite posture, that of the horizontal lever, is resumed, perhaps the mandibles, like the bird's toes, possess the faculty of gripping tighter in proportion to the rocking of the wind.

The Ammophila is not the only one to sleep in this singular position, which is copied by many others—Anthidia (Cotton-bees.—Translator's Note.), Odyneri (A genus of Mason-wasps.—Translator's Note.), Eucerae (A species of Burrowing-bees.—Translator's Note.)—and mainly by the males. All grip a stalk with their mandibles and sleep with their bodies outstretched and their legs folded back. Some, the stouter species, allow themselves to rest the tip of their arched abdomen against the pole.

This visit to the dormitory of certain Wasps and Bees does not explain the problem of the Empusa; it sets up another one, no less difficult. It shows us how deficient we are in insight, when it comes to differentiating between fatigue and rest in the cogs of the animal machine. The Ammophila, with the static paradox afforded by her mandibles; the Empusa, with her claws unwearied by ten months' hanging, leave the physiologist perplexed and make him wonder what really constitutes rest. In absolute fact, there is no rest, apart from that which puts an end to life. The struggle never ceases; some muscle is always toiling, some nerve straining. Sleep, which resembles a return to the peace of non-existence, is, like waking, an effort, here of the leg, of the curled tail; there of the claw, of the jaws.

The transformation is effected about the middle of May, and the adult Empusa makes her appearance. She is even more remarkable in figure and attire than the Praying Mantis. Of her youthful eccentricities, she retains the pointed mitre, the saw-like arm-guards, the long bust, the knee-pieces, the three rows of scales on the lower surface of the belly; but the abdomen is now no longer twisted into a crook and the animal is comelier to look upon. Large pale-green wings, pink at the shoulder and swift in flight in both sexes, cover the belly, which is striped white and green underneath. The male, the dandy sex, adorns himself with plumed antennae, like those of certain Moths, the Bombyx tribe. In respect of size, he is almost the equal of his mate.

Save for a few slight structural details, the Empusa is the Praying Mantis. The peasant confuses them. When, in spring, he meets the mitred insect, he thinks he sees the common Prego-Dieu, who is a daughter of the autumn. Similar forms would seem to indicate similarity of habits. In fact, led away by the extraordinary armour, we should be tempted to attribute to the Empusa a mode of life even more atrocious than that of the Mantis. I myself thought so at first; and any one, relying upon false analogies, would think the same. It is a fresh error: for all her warlike aspect, the Empusa is a peaceful creature that hardly repays the trouble of rearing.

Installed under the gauze bell, whether in assemblies of half a dozen or in separate couples, she at no time loses her placidity. Like the larva, she is very abstemious and contents herself with a Fly or two as her daily ration.

Big eaters are naturally quarrelsome. The Mantis, bloated with Locusts, soon becomes irritated and shows fight. The Empusa, with her frugal meals, does not indulge in hostile demonstrations. There is no strife among neighbours nor any of those sudden unfurlings of the wings so dear to the Mantis when she assumes the spectral attitude and puffs like a startled Adder; never the least inclination for those cannibal banquets whereat the sister who has been worsted in the fight is devoured. Such atrocities or here unknown.

Unknown also are tragic nuptials. The male is enterprising and assiduous and is subjected to a long trial before succeeding. For days and days he worries his mate, who ends by yielding. Due decorum is preserved after the wedding. The feathered groom retires, respected by his bride, and does his little bit of hunting, without danger of being apprehended and gobbled up.

The two sexes live together in peace and mutual indifference until the middle of July. Then the male, grown old and decrepit, takes counsel with himself, hunts no more, becomes shaky in his walk, creeps down from the lofty heights of the trellised dome and at last collapses on the ground. His end comes by a natural death. And remember that the other, the male of the Praying Mantis, ends in the stomach of his gluttonous spouse.

The laying follows close upon the disappearance of the males.

One word more on comparative manners. The Mantis goes in for battle and cannibalism; the Empusa is peaceable and respects her kind. To what cause are these profound moral differences due, when the organic structure is the same? Perhaps to the difference of diet. Frugality, in fact, softens character, in animals as in men; gross feeding brutalizes it. The gormandizer gorged with meat and strong drink, a fruitful source of savage outbursts, could not possess the gentleness of the ascetic who dips his bread into a cup of milk. The Mantis is that gormandizer, the Empusa that ascetic.

Granted. But whence does the one derive her voracious appetite, the other her temperate ways, when it would seem as though their almost identical structure ought to produce an identity of needs? These insects tell us, in their fashion, what many have already told us: that propensities and aptitudes do not depend exclusively upon anatomy; high above the physical laws that govern matter rise other laws that govern instincts.


My youthful meditations owe some happy moments to Condillac's famous statue which, when endowed with the sense of smell, inhales the scent of a rose and out of that single impression creates a whole world of ideas. (Etienne Bonnot de Condillac, Abbe de Mureaux (1715-80), the leading exponent of sensational philosophy. His most important work is the "Traite des sensations," in which he imagines a statue, organized like a man, and endows it with the senses one by one, beginning with that of smell. He argues by a process of imaginative reconstruction that all human faculties and all human knowledge are merely transformed sensation, to the exclusion of any other principle, that, in short, everything has its source in sensation: man is nothing but what he has acquired.—Translator's Note.) My twenty-year-old mind, full of faith in syllogisms, loved to follow the deductive jugglery of the abbe-philosopher: I saw, or seemed to see, the statue take life in that action of the nostrils, acquiring attention, memory, judgment and all the psychological paraphernalia, even as still waters are aroused and rippled by the impact of a grain of sand. I recovered from my illusion under the instruction of my abler master, the animal. The Capricorn shall teach us that the problem is more obscure than the abbe led me to believe.

When wedge and mallet are at work, preparing my provision of firewood under the grey sky that heralds winter, a favourite relaxation creates a welcome break in my daily output of prose. By my express orders, the woodman has selected the oldest and most ravaged trunks in his stack. My tastes bring a smile to his lips; he wonders by what whimsy I prefer wood that is worm-eaten—chirouna, as he calls it—to sound wood which burns so much better. I have my views on the subject; and the worthy man submits to them.

And now to us two, O my fine oak-trunk seamed with scars, gashed with wounds whence trickle the brown drops smelling of the tan-yard. The mallet drives home, the wedges bite, the wood splits. What do your flanks contain? Real treasures for my studies. In the dry and hollow parts, groups of various insects, capable of living through the bad season of the year, have taken up their winter quarters: in the low-roofed galleries, galleries which some Buprestis-beetle has built, Osmia-bees, working their paste of masticated leaves, have piled their cells, one above the other; in the deserted chambers and vestibules, Megachiles (Leaf-cutting Bees.—Translator's Note.) have arranged their leafy jars; in the live wood, filled with juicy saps, the larvae of the Capricorn (Cerambyx miles), the chief author of the oak's undoing, have set up their home.

Strange creatures, of a verity, are these grubs, for an insect of superior organization: bits of intestines crawling about! At this time of year, the middle of autumn, I meet them of two different ages. The older are almost as thick as one's finger; the others hardly attain the diameter of a pencil. I find, in addition, pupae more or less fully coloured, perfect insects, with a distended abdomen, ready to leave the trunk when the hot weather comes again. Life inside the wood, therefore, lasts three years. How is this long period of solitude and captivity spent? In wandering lazily through the thickness of the oak, in making roads whose rubbish serves as food. The horse in Job swallows the ground in a figure of speech; the Capricorn's grub literally eats its way. ("Chafing and raging, he swalloweth the ground, neither doth he make account when the noise of the trumpet soundeth."—Job 39, 23 (Douai version).—Translator's Note.) With its carpenter's gouge, a strong black mandible, short, devoid of notches, scooped into a sharp-edged spoon, it digs the opening of its tunnel. The piece cut out is a mouthful which, as it enters the stomach, yields its scanty juices and accumulates behind the worker in heaps of wormed wood. The refuse leaves room in front by passing through the worker. A labour at once of nutrition and of road-making, the path is devoured while constructed; it is blocked behind as it makes way ahead. That, however, is how all the borers who look to wood for victuals and lodging set about their business.

For the harsh work of its two gouges, or curved chisels, the larva of the Capricorn concentrates its muscular strength in the front of its body, which swells into a pestle-head. The Buprestis-grubs, those other industrious carpenters, adopt a similar form; they even exaggerate their pestle. The part that toils and carves hard wood requires a robust structure; the rest of the body, which has but to follow after, continues slim. The essential thing is that the implement of the jaws should possess a solid support and a powerful motor. The Cerambyx-larva strengthens its chisels with a stout, black, horny armour that surrounds the mouth; yet, apart from its skull and its equipment of tools, the grub has a skin as fine as satin and white as ivory. This dead white comes from a copious layer of grease which the animal's spare diet would not lead us to suspect. True, it has nothing to do, at every hour of the day and night, but gnaw. The quantity of wood that passes into its stomach makes up for the dearth of nourishing elements.

The legs, consisting of three pieces, the first globular, the last sharp-pointed, are mere rudiments, vestiges. They are hardly a millimetre long. (.039 inch.—Translator's Note.) For this reason they are of no use whatever for walking; they do not even bear upon the supporting surface, being kept off it by the obesity of the chest. The organs of locomotion are something altogether different. The grub of the Capricorn moves at the same time on its back and belly; instead of the useless legs of the thorax, it has a walking-apparatus almost resembling feet, which appear, contrary to every rule, on the dorsal surface.

The first seven segments of the abdomen have, both above and below, a four-sided facet, bristling with rough protuberances. This the grub can either expand or contract, making it stick out or lie flat at will. The upper facets consist of two excrescences separated by the mid-dorsal line; the lower ones have not this divided appearance. These are the organs of locomotion, the ambulacra. When the larva wishes to move forwards, it expands its hinder ambulacra, those on the back as well as those on the belly, and contracts its front ones. Fixed to the side of the narrow gallery by their ridges, the hind-pads give the grub a purchase. The flattening of the fore-pads, by decreasing the diameter, allows it to slip forward and to take half a step. To complete the step the hind-quarters have to be brought up the same distance. With this object, the front pads fill out and provide support, while those behind shrink and leave free scope for their segments to contract.

With the double support of its back and belly, with alternate puffings and shrinkings, the animal easily advances or retreats along its gallery, a sort of mould which the contents fill without a gap. But if the locomotory pads grip only on one side progress becomes impossible. When placed on the smooth wood of my table, the animal wriggles slowly; it lengthens and shortens without advancing by a hair's-breadth. Laid on the surface of a piece of split oak, a rough, uneven surface, due to the gash made by the wedge, it twists and writhes, moves the front part of its body very slowly from left to right and right to left, lifts it a little, lowers it and begins again. These are the most extensive movements made. The vestigial legs remain inert and absolutely useless. Then why are they there? It were better to lose them altogether, if it be true that crawling inside the oak has deprived the animal of the good legs with which it started. The influence of environment, so well-inspired in endowing the grub with ambulatory pads, becomes a mockery when it leaves it these ridiculous stumps. Can the structure, perchance, be obeying other rules than those of environment?

Though the useless legs, the germs of the future limbs, persist, there is no sign in the grub of the eyes wherewith the Cerambyx will be richly gifted. The larva has not the least trace of organs of vision. What would it do with sight in the murky thickness of a tree-trunk? Hearing is likewise absent. In the never-troubled silence of the oak's inmost heart, the sense of hearing would be a non-sense. Where sounds are lacking, of what use is the faculty of discerning them? Should there be any doubts, I will reply to them with the following experiment. Split lengthwise, the grub's abode leaves a half-tunnel wherein I can watch the occupant's doings. When left alone, it now gnaws the front of its gallery, now rests, fixed by its ambulacra to the two sides of the channel. I avail myself of these moments of quiet to inquire into its power of perceiving sounds. The banging of hard bodies, the ring of metallic objects, the grating of a file upon a saw are tried in vain. The animal remains impassive. Not a wince, not a movement of the skin; no sign of awakened attention. I succeed no better when I scratch the wood close by with a hard point, to imitate the sound of some neighbouring larva gnawing the intervening thickness. The indifference to my noisy tricks could be no greater in a lifeless object. The animal is deaf.

Can it smell? Everything tells us no. Scent is of assistance in the search for food. But the Capricorn grub need not go in quest of eatables: it feeds on its home, it lives on the wood that gives it shelter. Let us make an attempt or two, however. I scoop in a log of fresh cypress-wood a groove of the same diameter as that of the natural galleries and I place the worm inside it. Cypress-wood is strongly scented; it possesses in a high degree that resinous aroma which characterizes most of the pine family. Well, when laid in the odoriferous channel, the larva goes to the end, as far as it can go, and makes no further movement. Does not this placid quiescence point to the absence of a sense of smell? The resinous flavour, so strange to the grub which has always lived in oak, ought to vex it, to trouble it; and the disagreeable impression ought to be revealed by a certain commotion, by certain attempts to get away. Well, nothing of the kind happens: once the larva has found the right position in the groove, it does not stir. I do more: I set before it, at a very short distance, in its normal canal, a piece of camphor. Again, no effect. Camphor is followed by naphthaline. Still nothing. After these fruitless endeavours, I do not think that I am going too far when I deny the creature a sense of smell.

Taste is there, no doubt. But such taste! The food is without variety: oak, for three years at a stretch, and nothing else. What can the grub's palate appreciate in this monotonous fare? The tannic relish of a fresh piece, oozing with sap, the uninteresting flavour of an over-dry piece, robbed of its natural condiment: these probably represent the whole gustative scale.

There remains touch, the far-spreading, passive sense common to all live flesh that quivers under the goad of pain. The sensitive schedule of the Cerambyx-grub, therefore, is limited to taste and touch, both exceedingly obtuse. This almost brings us to Condillac's statue. The imaginary being of the philosopher had one sense only, that of smell, equal in delicacy to our own; the real being, the ravager of the oak, has two, inferior, even when put together, to the former, which so plainly perceived the scent of a rose and distinguished it so clearly from any other. The real case will bear comparison with the fictitious.

What can be the psychology of a creature possessing such a powerful digestive organism combined with such a feeble set of senses? A vain wish has often come to me in my dreams; it is to be able to think, for a few minutes, with the crude brain of my Dog, to see the world with the faceted eyes of a Gnat. How things would change in appearance! They would change much more if interpreted by the intellect of the grub. What have the lessons of touch and taste contributed to that rudimentary receptacle of impressions? Very little; almost nothing. The animal knows that the best bits possess an astringent flavour; that the sides of a passage not carefully planed are painful to the skin. This is the utmost limit of its acquired wisdom. In comparison, the statue with the sensitive nostrils was a marvel of knowledge, a paragon too generously endowed by its inventor. It remembered, compared, judged, reasoned: does the drowsily digesting paunch remember? Does it compare? Does it reason? I defined the Capricorn-grub as a bit of an intestine that crawls about. The undeniable accuracy of this definition provides me with my answer: the grub has the aggregate of sense-impressions that a bit of an intestine may hope to have.

And this nothing-at-all is capable of marvellous acts of foresight; this belly, which knows hardly aught of the present, sees very clearly into the future. Let us take an illustration on this curious subject. For three years on end the larva wanders about in the thick of the trunk; it goes up, goes down, turns to this side and that; it leaves one vein for another of better flavour, but without moving too far from the inner depths, where the temperature is milder and greater safety reigns. A day is at hand, a dangerous day for the recluse obliged to quit its excellent retreat and face the perils of the surface. Eating is not everything: we have to get out of this. The larva, so well-equipped with tools and muscular strength, finds no difficulty in going where it pleases, by boring through the wood; but does the coming Capricorn, whose short spell of life must be spent in the open air, possess the same advantages? Hatched inside the trunk, will the long-horned insect be able to clear itself a way of escape?

That is the difficulty which the worm solves by inspiration. Less versed in things of the future, despite my gleams of reason, I resort to experiment with a view to fathoming the question. I begin by ascertaining that the Capricorn, when he wishes to leave the trunk, is absolutely unable to make use of the tunnel wrought by the larva. It is a very long and very irregular maze, blocked with great heaps of wormed wood. Its diameter decreases progressively from the final blind alley to the starting-point. The larva entered the timber as slim as a tiny bit of straw; it is to-day as thick as my finger. In its three years' wanderings it always dug its gallery according to the mould of its body. Evidently, the road by which the larva entered and moved about cannot be the Capricorn's exit-way: his immoderate antennae, his long legs, his inflexible armour-plates would encounter an insuperable obstacle in the narrow, winding corridor, which would have to be cleared of its wormed wood and, moreover, greatly enlarged. It would be less fatiguing to attack the untouched timber and dig straight ahead. Is the insect capable of doing so? We shall see.

I make some chambers of suitable size in oak logs chopped in two; and each of my artificial cells receives a newly transformed Cerambyx, such as my provisions of firewood supply, when split by the wedge, in October. The two pieces are then joined and kept together with a few bands of wire. June comes. I hear a scraping inside my billets. Will the Capricorns come out, or not? The delivery does not seem difficult to me: there is hardly three-quarters of an inch to pierce. Not one emerges. When all is silence, I open my apparatus. The captives, from first to last, are dead. A vestige of sawdust, less than a pinch of snuff, represents all their work.

I expected more from those sturdy tools, their mandibles. But, as I have said elsewhere, the tool does not make the workman. In spite of their boring-implements, the hermits die in my cases for lack of skill. I subject others to less arduous tests. I enclose them in spacious reed-stumps, equal in diameter to the natal cell. The obstacle to be pierced is the natural diaphragm, a yielding partition two or three millimetres thick. (.078 to .117 inch.—Translator's Note.) Some free themselves; others cannot. The less vibrant ones succumb, stopped by the frail barrier. What would it be if they had to pass through a thickness of oak?

We are now persuaded: despite his stalwart appearance, the Capricorn is powerless to leave the tree-trunk by his unaided efforts. It therefore falls to the worm, to the wisdom of that bit of an intestine, to prepare the way for him. We see renewed, in another form, the feats of prowess of the Anthrax, whose pupa, armed with trepans, bores through rock on the feeble Fly's behalf. Urged by a presentiment that to us remains an unfathomable mystery, the Cerambyx-grub leaves the inside of the oak, its peaceful retreat, its unassailable stronghold, to wriggle towards the outside, where lives the foe, the Woodpecker, who may gobble up the succulent little sausage. At the risk of its life, it stubbornly digs and gnaws to the very bark, of which it leaves no more intact than the thinnest film, a slender screen. Sometimes, even, the rash one opens the window wide.

This is the Capricorn's exit-hole. The insect will have but to file the screen a little with its mandibles, to bump against it with its forehead, in order to bring it down; it will even have nothing to do when the window is free, as often happens. The unskilled carpenter, burdened with his extravagant head-dress, will emerge from the darkness through this opening when the summer heats arrive.

After the cares of the future come the cares of the present. The larva, which has just opened the aperture of escape, retreats some distance down its gallery and, in the side of the exit-way, digs itself a transformation-chamber more sumptuously furnished and barricaded than any that I have ever seen. It is a roomy niche, shaped like a flattened ellipsoid, the length of which reaches eighty to a hundred millimetres. (3 to 4 inches.—Translator's Note.) The two axes of the cross-section vary: the horizontal measures twenty-five to thirty millimetres (.975 to 1.17 inch.—Translator's Note.); the vertical measures only fifteen. (.585 inch.—Translator's Note.) This greater dimension of the cell, where the thickness of the perfect insect is concerned, leaves a certain scope for the action of its legs when the time comes for forcing the barricade, which is more than a close-fitting mummy-case would do.

The barricade in question, a door which the larva builds to exclude the dangers from without, is two-and even three-fold. Outside, it is a stack of woody refuse, of particles of chopped timber; inside, a mineral hatch, a concave cover, all in one piece, of a chalky white. Pretty often, but not always, there is added to these two layers an inner casing of shavings. Behind this compound door, the larva makes its arrangements for the metamorphosis. The sides of the chamber are rasped, thus providing a sort of down formed of ravelled woody fibres, broken into minute shreds. The velvety matter, as and when obtained, is applied to the wall in a continuous felt at least a millimetre thick. (.039 inch.—Translator's Note.) The chamber is thus padded throughout with a fine swan's-down, a delicate precaution taken by the rough worm on behalf of the tender pupa.

Let us hark back to the most curious part of the furnishing, the mineral hatch or inner door of the entrance. It is an elliptical skull-cap, white and hard as chalk, smooth within and knotted without, resembling more or less closely an acorn-cup. The knots show that the matter is supplied in small, pasty mouthfuls, solidifying outside in slight projections which the insect does not remove, being unable to get at them, and polished on the inside surface, which is within the worm's reach. What can be the nature of that singular lid whereof the Cerambyx furnishes me with the first specimen? It is as hard and brittle as a flake of lime-stone. It can be dissolved cold in nitric acid, discharging little gaseous bubbles. The process of solution is a slow one, requiring several hours for a tiny fragment. Everything is dissolved, except a few yellowish flocks, which appear to be of an organic nature. As a matter of fact, a piece of the hatch, when subjected to heat, blackens, proving the presence of an organic glue cementing the mineral matter. The solution becomes muddy if oxalate of ammonia be added; it then deposits a copious white precipitate. These signs indicate calcium carbonate. I look for urate of ammonia, that constantly recurring product of the various stages of the metamorphoses. It is not there: I find not the least trace of murexide. The lid, therefore, is composed solely of carbonate of lime and of an organic cement, no doubt of an albuminous character, which gives consistency to the chalky paste.

Had circumstances served me better, I should have tried to discover in which of the worm's organs the stony deposit dwells. I am however, convinced: it is the stomach, the chylific ventricle, that supplies the chalk. It keeps it separated from the food, either as original matter or as a derivative of the ammonium urate; it purges it of all foreign bodies, when the larval period comes to an end, and holds it in reserve until the time comes to disgorge it. This freestone factory causes me no astonishment: when the manufacturer undergoes his change, it serves for various chemical works. Certain Oil-beetles, such as the Sitaris, locate in it the urate of ammonia, the refuse of the transformed organism; the Sphex, the Pelopaei, the Scoliae use it to manufacture the shellac wherewith the silk of the cocoon is varnished. Further investigations will only swell the aggregate of the products of this obliging organ.

When the exit-way is prepared and the cell upholstered in velvet and closed with a threefold barricade, the industrious worm has concluded its task. It lays aside its tools, sheds its skin and becomes a nymph, a pupa, weakness personified, in swaddling-clothes, on a soft couch. The head is always turned towards the door. This is a trifling detail in appearance; but it is everything in reality. To lie this way or that in the long cell is a matter of great indifference to the grub, which is very supple, turning easily in its narrow lodging and adopting whatever position it pleases. The coming Capricorn will not enjoy the same privileges. Stiffly girt in his horn cuirass, he will not be able to turn from end to end; he will not even be capable of bending, if some sudden wind should make the passage difficult. He must absolutely find the door in front of him, lest he perish in the casket. Should the grub forget this little formality, should it lie down to its nymphal sleep with its head at the back of the cell, the Capricorn is infallibly lost: his cradle becomes a hopeless dungeon.

But there is no fear of this danger: the knowledge of our bit of an intestine is too sound in things of the future for the grub to neglect the formality of keeping its head to the door. At the end of spring, the Capricorn, now in possession of his full strength, dreams of the joys of the sun, of the festivals of light. He wants to get out. What does he find before him? A heap of filings easily dispersed with his claws; next, a stone lid which he need not even break into fragments: it comes undone in one piece; it is removed from its frame with a few pushes of the forehead, a few tugs of the claws. In fact, I find the lid intact on the threshold of the abandoned cells. Last comes a second mass of woody remnants, as easy to disperse as the first. The road is now free: the Cerambyx has but to follow the spacious vestibule, which will lead him, without the possibility of mistake, to the exit. Should the window not be open, all that he has to do is to gnaw through a thin screen: an easy task; and behold him outside, his long antennae aquiver with excitement.

What have we learnt from him? Nothing, from him; much from his grub. This grub, so poor in sensory organs, gives us no little food for reflection with its prescience. It knows that the coming Beetle will not be able to cut himself a road through the oak and it bethinks itself of opening one for him at its own risk and peril. It knows that the Cerambyx, in his stiff armour, will never be able to turn and make for the orifice of the cell; and it takes care to fall into its nymphal sleep with its head to the door. It knows how soft the pupa's flesh will be and upholsters the bedroom with velvet. It knows that the enemy is likely to break in during the slow work of the transformation and, to set a bulwark against his attacks, it stores a calcium pap inside its stomach. It knows the future with a clear vision, or, to be accurate, behaves as though it knew it. Whence did it derive the motives of its actions? Certainly not from the experience of the senses. What does it know of the outside world? Let us repeat, as much as a bit of an intestine can know. And this senseless creature fills us with amazement! I regret that the clever logician, instead of conceiving a statue smelling a rose, did not imagine it gifted with some instinct. How quickly he would have recognized that, quite apart from sense-impressions, the animal, including man, possesses certain psychological resources, certain inspirations that are innate and not acquired!


Beside the footpath in April lies the Mole, disembowelled by the peasant's spade; at the foot of the hedge the pitiless urchin has stoned to death the Lizard, who was about to don his green, pearl-embellished costume. The passer-by has thought it a meritorious deed to crush beneath his heel the chance-met Adder; and a gust of wind has thrown a tiny unfeathered bird from its nest. What will become of these little bodies and of so many other pitiful remnants of life? They will not long offend our sense of sight and smell. The sanitary officers of the fields are legion.

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