« PreviousContinue »
though it was near midsummer, as naked and desolate as it would have been in the middle of winter. The noise which these enormous swarms made in seizing and devouring the leaves, was so loud as to have been compared to the distant sawing of timber. Swine and poultry destroyed them in vast numbers. These waited under the trees for the clusters dropping, and devoured such swarms as to become fat upon them alone. Even the native Irish, from the insects having eaten up the whole produce of the ground, adopted a mode of cooking them, and used them as food. Towards the end of summer they disappeared so suddenly, that, in a few days, there was not a single one left.
About sixty years ago a farm near Norwich was so infested with Cock-chafers, that the farmer and his servants affirmed that they gathered eighty bushels of them; and the grubs had done so much injury, that the court of that city, in compassion to the misfortune, allowed him 251.
Mouffet informs us, that in the month of February, 1574, there were such multitudes of Chafers in the western parts of England, that those which fell into the river Severn completely clogged the water-wheels of the mills.
Rooks and gulls devour immense numbers of the grubs of this destructive insect, by which they render a most essential service to mankind, and great care ought to be taken to cherish and protect them. The chief employment of rooks, during nearly three months in the spring of the year, is to search for insects of this sort as food; and the havock that a numerous flock makes among them must be very great.
A gentleman, having found a nest of five young jays, remarked that each of these birds, while yet very young, consumed at least fifteen full-sized grubs of the Chafer in a day; and averaging their sizes, it may be said that each consumed twenty: this for the five makes a hundred; and if we suppose the parents to devour between them the same number, it appears that
the whole family consumed about two hundred every day. These, in three months, would amount to twenty thousand. But as the grub continues in the same state for four years, this single pair, with their family alone, without reckoning their descendants after the first year, would destroy as many as eighty thousand grubs. Now, supposing that forty thousand of these may be females, and that each female lays, as is the case, about two hundred eggs, it will appear that no fewer than eight millions of grubs have been destroyed, or at least prevented from being hatched, by this single family of jays.
It is true, that in these labours of the rooks, jays, and some other birds, they sometimes do mischief to man; and yet there can be little doubt, that the damage they thus commit is amply repaid by the benefits that result from these their unceasing exertions.
Some farmers plough the ground in order to expose the grubs to the birds; and others take the pains to dig deeper, wherever the rooks point them out by their attempts to reach them. When the insects are in their winged state, to shake the trees at noon, during the time that they are all either asleep or in a state of inactive stupor, and to gather or sweep them up from the ground, seems the most eligible method. One person has been known to kill in a day, by this method, above a thousand: by which, though in so short a space of time, at a fair calculation, he prevented no fewer than a hundred thousand eggs from being laid.
The dead bodies of these insects afford a very acceptable food to ducks, turkeys, and other poultry. Swine, as already observed, greedily devour them; cats catch and eat them with great avidity.
A person near Bloise, in France, employed, in the year 1785, a number of children and poor persons, to destroy the Cock-chafers, at the rate of two liards a hundred. In a few days fourteen thousand were brought to him. Thus, for the moderate sum of about seven shillings and eightpence sterling, he destroyed,
according to his calculation, nearly a million and a half of the grubs; which, had they been allowed to be hatched, might, in the course of four years, have done damage to the amount of many thousand pounds.
There are scarcely any of the English Chafers more beautiful than this. The upper parts of the female are of a shining green colour, marked transversely on the wing-cases with a few short white or yellowish lines. The male is of a burnished copper-colour, with a greenish cast. These insects are somewhat more than an inch in length. They are found on flowers, particularly on those of the rose and peony.
The grubs that produce this beetle feed underground, generally at the roots of trees, and never appear on the surface unless disturbed by digging, or some other accident. They are thought to be injurious to the gardener, by devouring the roots of his plants and trees. The female deposits her eggs in the middle of June. For this purpose she burrows into soft, light ground, hollowing out and forming for them a proper receptacle. When the operation is over, she returns to the surface and flies off, but seldom lives more than two months afterwards. The grubs are produced in about fourteen days, and immediately seek out for food, which the parent always takes care to have near the place where she lays her eggs. As soon as they have attained sufficient strength, the young grubs separate, each burrowing in a different direction, in search of roots. They remain four years in this state, annually changing their skin till they become of full growth, when they are of a cream-colour, with brown head and feet. During winter they eat but little, if at all, and
* SYNONYMS. Scarabæus auratus. Linnæus.-Cetonia aurata. Fabricius.-Rose May Chafer, Green Beetle, and Brass. Beetle, in some parts of England.
they retire so deeply into the ground as to avoid the effects of the frost.
About the month of March, at the end of the fourth year, the grub forms a case of earth, about the size of a walnut, somewhere near the surface, within which it changes into a chrysalis. In this state it remains till the beginning of May, when it bursts out a perfect Chafer. This is at first of a light green colour, and very tender; but it soon acquires its proper hardness and strength.
When the insect is touched it emits a fetid moisture, which, no doubt, is a mode of defence against the attacks of its enemies.
THE PILL CHAFER *.
In its habits of life the Pill Chafer is one of the most remarkable of the Beetle tribe. It comes forth in April, and is to be seen abroad until about September, when it disappears. Its almost constant employment, in which indeed it is indefatigable, is in the different operations necessary to continue its species. It constructs a proper nidus for its eggs, by forming round pellets of dung, in the middle of each of which it deposits an egg. These, in September, the insects convey to the depth of about three feet into the ground. Here they remain till the approach of spring, when the grubs burst their shells, and find their way to the surface of the earth.
"I have attentively admired their industry, and their
DESCRIPTION. This insect is somewhat more than an inch in length, and of a dusky black colour, sometimes with a greenish hue above, and underneath of a very brilliant blue or green. The wing-cases and thorax are very smooth; the former are marked with several longitudinal streaks, and the latter are round, margined, and have a slight groove in the middle.
This insect is found both in Europe and America.
SYNONYMS. Scarabæus pilularius. Linn-Ateuchus pilularius. Fabricius.-Tumble-dung Beetle. Brickell.
mutually assisting of each other (says Catesby) in rolling these globular balls from the place where they made them, to that of their interment, which is usually at the distance of some yards, more or less. This they perform breech foremost, by raising their hind parts, and forcing along the ball with their hind feet. Two or three of them are sometimes engaged in trundling one ball, which, from meeting with impediments, on account of the unevenness of the ground, is sometimes deserted by them. It is, however, attempted by others with success, unless it happen to roll into some deep hollow or chink, where they are constrained to leave it; but they continue their work by rolling off the next ball that comes in their way. None of them seem to know their own balls, but an equal care for the whole appears to affect all the community. They form these pellets while the dung remains moist; and leave them to harden in the sun before they attempt to roll them. In their moving of them from place to place, both they and the balls may frequently be seen tumbling about over the little eminences that are in their way. They are not, however, easily discouraged; and, by repeating their attempts, usually surmount the difficulties."
Catesby says also that these insects find out their subsistence by the excellence of their noses, which direct them in their flight to newly-fallen dung, on which they immediately go to work, tempering it with a proper mixture of earth. So intent are they always upon their employment, that, though handled or otherwise interrupted, they are not to be deterred, but immediately on being freed, persist in their work without any apprehension of danger.
They are so strong and active, as to move about, with the greatest ease, things that are many times their own weight. Dr. Brickell was supping one evening in a planter's house of North Carolina, when two of these insects were conveyed, without his knowledge, under the candlesticks. A few blows were struck on the table, and to his great surprise the candlesticks be