Social Life in the Insect World eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 321 pages of information about Social Life in the Insect World.

Within twenty-four hours it has usually attained both.  I see the tiny grub perforate the horny skin that covers the cotyledons; I watch its efforts; I surprise it sunk half-way in the commencement of a burrow, at the mouth of which is a white floury powder, the waste from the mandibles.  It works its way inward and buries itself in the heart of the seed.  It will emerge in the adult form in the course of about five weeks, so rapid is its evolution.

This hasty development allows of several generations in the year.  I have recorded four.  On the other hand, one isolated couple has furnished me with a family of eighty.  Consider only the half of this number—­supposing the sexes to be equal in number—­and at the end of a year the couples issued from this original pair would be represented by the fortieth power of forty; in larvae they would represent the frightful total of more than five millions.  What a mountain of haricots would be ravaged by such a legion!

The industry of the larvae reminds us at every point what we have learned from the Bruchus pisi.  Each grub excavates a lodging in the mass of the bean, respecting the epidermis, and preparing a circular trap-door which the adult can easily open with a push at the moment of emergence.  At the termination of the larval phase the lodgements are betrayed on the surface of the bean by so many shadowy circles.  Finally the lid falls, the insect leaves its cell, and the haricot remains pierced by as many holes as it has nourished grubs.

Extremely frugal, satisfied with a little farinaceous powder, the adults seem by no means anxious to abandon the native heap or bin so long as there are beans untouched.  They mate in the interstices of the heap; the mothers sow their eggs at random; the young larvae establish themselves some in beans that are so far intact, some in beans which are perforated but not yet exhausted; and all through the summer the operations of breeding are repeated once in every five weeks.  The last generation of the year—­that of September or October—­sleeps in its cells until the warm weather returns.

If the haricot pest were ever to threaten us seriously it would not be very difficult to wage a war of extermination against it.  Its habits teach us what tactics we ought to follow.  It exploits the dried and gathered crop in the granary or the storehouse.  If it is difficult to attack it in the open it would also be useless.  The greater part of its affairs are managed elsewhere, in our storehouses.  The enemy establishes itself under our roof and is ready to our hand.  By means of insecticides defence should be relatively easy.



I have just witnessed a moving spectacle:  the last moult of a locust; the emergence of the adult from its larval envelope.  It was magnificent.  I am speaking of the Grey Locust, the colossus among our acridians,[10] which is often seen among the vines in September when the grapes are gathered.  By its size—­and it grows as long as a man’s finger—­it lends itself to observation better than any other of its tribe.

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Social Life in the Insect World from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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