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.

CHAPTER X

THE FIELD-CRICKET

The breeding of Crickets demands no particular preparations.  A little patience is enough—­patience, which according to Buffon is genius; but which I, more modestly, will call the superlative virtue of the observer.  In April, May, or later we may establish isolated couples in ordinary flower-pots containing a layer of beaten earth.  Their diet will consist of a leaf of lettuce renewed from time to time.  The pot must be covered with a square of glass to prevent the escape of the inmates.

I have gathered some very curious data from these makeshift appliances, which may be used with and as a substitute for the cages of wire gauze, although the latter are preferable.  We shall return to the point presently.  For the moment let us watch the process of breeding, taking care that the critical hour does not escape us.

It was during the first week of June that my assiduous visits were at last repaid.  I surprised the female motionless, with the oviduct planted vertically in the soil.  Heedless of the indiscreet visitor, she remained for a long time stationed at the same point.  Finally she withdrew her oviduct, and effaced, though without particular care, the traces of the hole in which her eggs were deposited, rested for a moment, walked away, and repeated the operation; not once, but many times, first here, then there, all over the area at her disposal.  Her behaviour was precisely the same as that of the Decticus, except that her movements were more deliberate.  At the end of twenty-four hours her eggs were apparently all laid.  For greater certainty I waited a couple of days longer.

I then examined the earth in the pot.  The eggs, of a straw-yellow, are cylindrical in form, with rounded ends, and measure about one-tenth of an inch in length.  They are placed singly in the soil, in a perpendicular position.

I have found them over the whole area of the pot, at a depth of a twelfth of an inch.  As closely as the difficulties of the operation will allow, I have estimated the eggs of a single female, upon passing the earth through a sieve, at five or six hundred.  Such a family will certainly undergo an energetic pruning before very long.

The egg of the Cricket is a curiosity, a tiny mechanical marvel.  After hatching it appears as a sheath of opaque white, open at the summit, where there is a round and very regular aperture, to the edge of which adheres a little valve like a skull-cap which forms the lid.  Instead of breaking at random under the thrusts or the cuts of the new-formed larva, it opens of itself along a line of least resistance which occurs expressly for the purpose.  The curious process of the actual hatching should be observed.

A fortnight after the egg is laid two large eye-marks, round and of a reddish black, are seen to darken the forward extremity of the egg.  Next, a little above these two points, and right at the end of the cylinder, a tiny circular capsule or swelling is seen.  This marks the line of rupture, which is now preparing.  Presently the translucency of the egg allows us to observe the fine segmentation of the tiny inmate.  Now is the moment to redouble our vigilance and to multiply our visits, especially during the earlier part of the day.

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