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The benefit which they produce by removing offensive matter, and thus converting the putrefactive particles, that would otherwise fill the air with infection and disease, into fresh animated beings, is incalculable. This offers a fit subject for the contemplative naturalist. He sees in it the beneficence, the wisdom, the contrivance of a gracious God. What would otherwise breed pestilence, and vitiate the whole atmosphere, gives life and sustenance to thousands of happy beings, in whose existence we have fresh proofs of what has properly been called the 'insatiable variety of Nature. It seems as if the Creator had said, every thing shall have its use, every spot shall have its inhabitants, all the world shall teem with life. To these active, useful animals we are indebted for the speedy removal of whatever would be noxious. No sooner has life departed from a beast of the field, than its carcase is visited by these devourers; and what would baye lain weeks, perhaps months, gradually imparting to the air disagreeable odours and noxious qualities, is stripped to the very bones in a few days, and becomes no longer offensive or injurious. How seldom do we see dead birds, hares, rabbits, &c. in the woods or in the fields ! It is because in woods, in thickets, and in fields, myriads of these insects are ready to revel in their carcases as soon as they have paid the debt of Nature.
Few insects are better known than the lady-cow or lady-bird tribe (coccinella). They are usually found on plants, where they repose with the legs concealed under the body of their antenne or feelers, beneath the head. In the winter season they conceal themselves and become torpid, appearing again in the spring. On the benefits derived from this insect, see p. 248 of our present volume.
The corn-weevil (curculio granarius) is too well known to most farmers, from the devastations that it makes in their granaries. The parent insect lays its eggs in grains of corn, probably one in each grain. Here the larvæ, on being hatched, continue for some time to live, and it is very difficult to discover them, as they lie concealed within. They increase their size, and, with it, their dwelling, at the expence of the interior or farinaceous parts of the grain on which they feed. Corn-lofts are often laid waste by these grubs, whose numbers are sometimes so great, as to devour nearly the whole of their contents. When the grub has attained its full size, it still remains within the grain, hidden under the empty husk. There, being transformed, it becomes a chrysalis; and, when it has attained its perfect state, it forces its way out.
The nut-weevil (c. nucuin) is well deserving of our attention: it is the insect produced by the maggot residing in the hazel nut. Though every one is well acquainted with the maggot in the nut, yet the various changes through which it passes, the mode of its introduction into the nut, and its appearance in its complete or perfect state, are known only to those conversant in the history of insects. The weevil makes its appearance early in the month of August, and may then be found creeping about hazel trees. The female insect, when ready to deposit her eggs, singles out a nut, which she pierces with her proboscis, and then deposits an egg in the cavity. She passes on and singles out another nut, which she pierces in the same manner, placing an egg in it, and thus proceeds till she has deposited her whole stock in different nuts. The nut, not apparently injured by this slight perforation, continues to grow, and gradually ripens its kernel. When the egg is batched, the young larva or maggot, finding its food ready prepared, begins to feast on the kernel. By the time that it is arrived at its full growth, and has nearly consumed the whole of the kernel, the natural fall of the nut takes place : the inclosed larva, not in the least injured by the fall, continues in the nut some time longer, and then creeps out at the hole in the side, which it has previously made, by gnawing in a circular direction, and immediately begins to burrow or creep under the surface of the ground, till, having obtained the depth sufficient for its convenient residence, during the long period of its winter concealment, it lies dormant for eight months, and then, casting its skin, commences a chrysalis of the same general shape and appearance with the rest of the beetle tribe; and it is not till the beginning of August that it arrives at its complete or ultimate form, at which period it casts off the skin of the chrysalis, creeps to the surface, and commences an inhabitant of the upper world'. While in this state it breeds, and, like the major part of the insect race, enjoys for a short time the pleasures of a more enlarged existence. There is a very elegant species of the curculio (c. auratus) frequently seen during the summer months in fields and gardens. It is about a quarter of an inch in length, and of the most beautiful gold or silver-green colour, exhibiting, when viewed with the microscope, a covering of scales, shining with a strong metallic lustre,
The musk-goatchafer (cerambyx moschatus) is not very uncommon in many parts of England. It usually makes its appearance in the hottest part of July, and may be smelt at a considerable distance; and if taken and rolled up for some minutes in a handkerchief, will perfume it for the whole day. This insect measures about an inch and a quarter in length, and is of a fine dark green colour, with a slight gilded tinge on the upper parts—and sometimes a strong
Dr. Darwin, in his Botanic Garden, thus beautifully expresses the egress of this insect from the cavity of the nut:
So sleeps in silence the Curculio, shut
cast of blue or purple. It is chiefly found on wlilows or poplars, in the decayed wood of which its larva resides, · The common glow-worm (lampyris noctiluca), of which many poetical illustrations have appeared in our volumes (see also p. 247, note), may be observed after sunset, during the summer season, in meadows, by road sides, and near bushes. Among the crooked lanes, in every hedge, the glow-worm lights his gem,
through the dark
A moving radiance twinkles. They are most frequently to be seen during the month of June. In the day time they conceal themselves among the leaves of plants. Each sex is luminous, but in the male the light is less brilliant. The common or wingless glow-worm may be very successfully kept for a considerable length of time, if properly supplied with moist turf, grass, moss, &c., and, as soon as the evening commences, will regularly exhibit its beautiful effulgence, illuminating every object within a small space around it; and sometimes the light is so vivid as to be perceived through the box in which it is kept. Dr. Darwin, in his admired poem of the • Botanic Garden,' commemorates the splendour of the glow-worm, among other phenomena supposed to be produced under the superintendence of the "Nymphs of Fire.'
You with light gas the lamps nocturnal feed,
Star of the earth, and diamond of the night. The common earwig (forficula auricularia), though in its nature extremely harmless, except in our gardens to our fruits and vegetables, has fallen, in a very particular manner, a victim to human cruelty
and caprice, originating in the idea that it introduces itself into the ears, and from thence penetrates to the brain, and occasions death. We must be permitted to express a wish, that females, who but too commonly lay aside all ideas of tenderness at the very sight of it, would be convinced that the wax and membranes of the ears are a sufficient defence against all its pretended attacks upon this organ. Our gardeners have, it is true, some room for complaint. It lives among flowers, and frequently destroys them; and, when fruit has been wounded by flies, the earwigs also generally come in for a share. In the night they may often be seen in amazing numbers upon lettuces and other esculent vegetables, committing those depredations that are often ascribed to snails or slugs. The best mode, therefore, of destroying them, seems to be, to attend the garden now and then in the night, and to seize them while they are feeding. The bowl of a tobacco-pipe, and the claws of lobsters, stuck upon sticks that support flowers, are the usual methods by which they are caught, as, in the day-time, they creep into holes and dark places. Placing hollow reeds behind the twigs of wall-trees, is also a good mode, if they be examined and cleared every morning. But at a midnight visit, more may be done in an hour than by any of the other means in a week.
It may not, perhaps, be known to the generality of observers, that the earwig is possessed of wings, which are both large and elegant, and that one of these, when extended, will nearly cover the whole insect. The earwig, unlike most others of the insect tribe, hatches its eggs, and the young earwigs are fostered by the parent, in the same way as birds bring up their young.-(See some curious instances of this in Mr. Bingley's very entertaining and instructive . Animal Biography,' vol. iii, pp. 150-151.)