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.

Do you suffer from any nephritic irritation or from stricture?  Drink an infusion of Cigales.  Nothing, they say, is more effectual.  I must take this opportunity of thanking the good soul who once upon a time, so I was afterwards informed, made me drink such a concoction unawares for the cure of some such trouble; but I still remain incredulous.  I have been greatly struck by the fact that the ancient physician of Anazarbus used to recommend the same remedy.  Dioscorides tells us:  Cicadae, quae inassatae manduntur, vesicae doloribus prosunt.  Since the distant days of this patriarch of materia medica the Provencal peasant has retained his faith in the remedy revealed to him by the Greeks, who came from Phocaea with the olive, the fig, and the vine.  Only one thing is changed:  Dioscorides advises us to eat the Cigales roasted, but now they are boiled, and the decoction is administered as medicine.  The explanation which is given of the diuretic properties of the insect is a marvel of ingenuousness.  The Cigale, as every one knows who has tried to catch it, throws a jet of liquid excrement in one’s face as it flies away.  It therefore endows us with its faculties of evacuation.  Thus Dioscorides and his contemporaries must have reasoned; so reasons the peasant of Provence to-day.

What would you say, worthy neighbours, if you knew of the virtues of the larva, which is able to mix sufficient mortar with its urine to build a meteorological station and a shaft connecting with the outer world?  Your powers should equal those of Rabelais’ Gargantua, who, seated upon the towers of Notre Dame, drowned so many thousands of the inquisitive Parisians.



Where I live I can capture five species of Cigale, the two principal species being the common Cigale and the variety which lives on the flowering ash.  Both of these are widely distributed and are the only species known to the country folk.  The larger of the two is the common Cigale.  Let me briefly describe the mechanism with which it produces its familiar note.

On the under side of the body of the male, immediately behind the posterior limbs, are two wide semicircular plates which slightly overlap one another, the right hand lying over the left hand plate.  These are the shutters, the lids, the dampers of the musical-box.  Let us remove them.  To the right and left lie two spacious cavities which are known in Provencal as the chapels (li capello).  Together they form the church (la gleiso).  Their forward limit is formed by a creamy yellow membrane, soft and thin; the hinder limit by a dry membrane coloured like a soap bubble and known in Provencal as the mirror (mirau).

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