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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 270 pages of information about Social Life in the Insect World.

The origin of the evil is in the kitchen-garden.  It is there that we ought to keep a watch on the misdeeds of the Bruchus, were it not for the fact that we are nearly always weaponless when it comes to fighting an insect.  Indestructible by reason of its numbers, its small size, and its cunning, the little creature laughs at the anger of man.  The gardener curses it, but the weevil is not disturbed:  it imperturbably continues its trade of levying tribute.  Happily we have assistants more patient and more clear-sighted than ourselves.

During the first week of August, when the mature Bruchus begins to emerge, I notice a little Chalcidian, the protector of our peas.  In my rearing-cages it issues under my eyes in abundance from the peas infested by the grub of the weevil.  The female has a reddish head and thorax; the abdomen is black, with a long augur-like oviscapt.  The male, a little smaller, is black.  Both sexes have reddish claws and thread-like antennae.

In order to escape from the pea the slayer of the weevil makes an opening in the centre of the circular trap-door which the grub of the weevil prepared in view of its future deliverance.  The slain has prepared the way for the slayer.  After this detail the rest may be divined.

When the preliminaries to the metamorphosis are completed, when the passage of escape is bored and furnished with its lid of superficial membrane, the female Chalcidian arrives in a busy mood.  She inspects the peas, still on the vine, and enclosed in their pods; she auscultates them with her antennae; she discovers, hidden under the general envelope, the weak points in the epidermic covering of the peas.  Then, applying her oviscapt, she thrusts it through the side of the pod and perforates the circular trap-door.  However far withdrawn into the centre of the pea, the Bruchus, whether larvae or nymph, is reached by the long oviduct.  It receives an egg in its tender flesh, and the thing is done.  Without possibility of defence, since it is by now a somnolent grub or a helpless pupa, the embryo weevil is eaten until nothing but skin remains.  What a pity that we cannot at will assist the multiplication of this eager exterminator!  Alas! our assistants have got us in a vicious circle, for if we wished to obtain the help of any great number of Chalcidians we should be obliged in the first place to breed a multiplicity of Bruchidae.

CHAPTER XIX

AN INVADER.—­THE HARICOT-WEEVIL

If there is one vegetable on earth that more than any other is a gift of the gods, it is the haricot bean.  It has all the virtues:  it forms a soft paste upon the tongue; it is extremely palatable, abundant, inexpensive, and highly nutritious.  It is a vegetable meat which, without being bloody and repulsive, is the equivalent of the horrors outspread upon the butcher’s slab.  To recall its services the more emphatically, the Provencal idiom calls it the gounflo-gus—­the filler of the poor.

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