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.
You have spread the story, with shrug and smirk,
That the artist ne’er does a stroke of work;
And so let him suffer, the imbecile! 
Be you silent!  ’Tis you, I think,
When the Cigale pierces the vine to drink,
Drive her away, her drink to steal;
And when she is dead—­you make your meal!



The first Cigales appear about the summer solstice.  Along the beaten paths, calcined by the sun, hardened by the passage of frequent feet, we see little circular orifices almost large enough to admit the thumb.  These are the holes by which the larvae of the Cigale have come up from the depths to undergo metamorphosis.  We see them more or less everywhere, except in fields where the soil has been disturbed by ploughing.  Their usual position is in the driest and hottest situations, especially by the sides of roads or the borders of footpaths.  Powerfully equipped for the purpose, able at need to pierce the turf or sun-dried clay, the larva, upon leaving the earth, seems to prefer the hardest spots.

A garden alley, converted into a little Arabia Petraea by reflection from a wall facing the south, abounds in such holes.  During the last days of June I have made an examination of these recently abandoned pits.  The soil is so compact that I needed a pick to tackle it.

The orifices are round, and close upon an inch in diameter.  There is absolutely no debris round them; no earth thrown up from within.  This is always the case; the holes of the Cigales are never surrounded by dumping-heaps, as are the burrows of the Geotrupes, another notable excavator.  The way in which the work is done is responsible for this difference.  The dung-beetle works from without inwards; she begins to dig at the mouth of the burrow, and afterwards re-ascends and accumulates the excavated material on the surface.  The larva of the Cigale, on the contrary, works outward from within, upward from below; it opens the door of exit at the last moment, so that it is not free for the discharge of excavated material until the work is done.  The first enters and raises a little rubbish-heap at the threshold of her burrow; the second emerges, and cannot, while working, pile up its rubbish on a threshold which as yet has no existence.

The burrow of the Cigale descends about fifteen inches.  It is cylindrical, slightly twisted, according to the exigencies of the soil, and always approaches the vertical, or the direction of the shortest passage.  It is perfectly free along its entire length.  We shall search in vain for the rubbish which such an excavation must apparently produce; we shall find nothing of the sort.  The burrow terminates in a cul-de-sac, in a fairly roomy chamber with unbroken walls, which shows not the least vestige of communication with any other burrow or prolongation of the shaft.

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