Social Life in the Insect World eBook

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

When the blue-winged cricket, basking on the pebbles of some country footpath, grows deliciously intoxicated with the heat of the sun and rubs its great posterior thighs against the roughened edge of its wing-covers; when the green tree-frog swells its throat in the foliage of the bushes, distending it to form a resonant cavity when the rain is imminent, is it calling to its absent mate?  By no means.  The efforts of the former produce a scarcely perceptible stridulation; the palpitating throat of the latter is as ineffectual; and the desired one does not come.

Does the insect really require to emit these resounding effusions, these vociferous avowals, in order to declare its passion?  Consult the immense majority whom the conjunction of the sexes leaves silent.  In the violin of the grasshopper, the bagpipe of the tree-frog, and the cymbals of the Cacan I see only their peculiar means of expressing the joy of living, the universal joy which every species of animal expresses after its kind.

If you were to tell me that the Cigales play on their noisy instruments careless of the sound produced, and merely for the pleasure of feeling themselves alive, just as we rub our hands in a moment of satisfaction, I should not be particularly shocked.  That there is a secondary object in their conceit, in which the silent sex is interested, is very possible and very natural, but it is not as yet proven.[1]

CHAPTER IV

THE CIGALE.  THE EGGS AND THEIR HATCHING

The Cigale confides its eggs to dry, slender twigs.  All the branches examined by Reaumur which bore such eggs were branches of the mulberry:  a proof that the person entrusted with the search for these eggs in the neighbourhood of Avignon did not bring much variety to his quest.  I find these eggs not only on the mulberry-tree, but on the peach, the cherry, the willow, the Japanese privet, and other trees.  But these are exceptions; what the Cigale really prefers is a slender twig of a thickness varying from that of a straw to that of a pencil.  It should have a thin woody layer and plenty of pith.  If these conditions are fulfilled the species matters little.  I should pass in review all the semi-ligneous plants of the country were I to catalogue the various supports which are utilised by the gravid female.

Its chosen twig never lies along the ground; it is always in a more or less vertical position.  It is usually growing in its natural position, but is sometimes detached; in the latter case it will by chance have fallen so that it retains its upright position.  The insect prefers a long, smooth, regular twig which can receive the whole of its eggs.  The best batches of eggs which I have found have been laid upon twigs of the Spartium junceum, which are like straws stuffed with pith, and especially on the upper twigs of the Asphodelus cerasiferus, which rises nearly a yard from the ground before ramifying.

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