The Bug, Ant, Glow-Worm, Gnat, and Antlion, pp.323-330.

[Three Hundred Animals Contents]

   THE Bug is a worse insect than the two foregoing, for although it deserves death for its troublesome depredations on our very blood, yet he punishes us for the deed, leaving a strong and nauseous smell. They hide themselves so curiously in bed-posts and wooden partitions of houses, that when they have taken once their abode any where it is next to impossible to destroy completely their race. 

   The Bug has a large round body, about the eighth of an inch in diameter, a small corselet, and a smaller head. It is provided with the necessary apparatus to suck human blood, and is endowed by Providence with great fecundity: a female lays generally one hundred and fifty eggs. Although this insect does not appear to have wings, yet it is so cunning that it often drops from the ceiling or the tester of the bed, upon the face of the person asleep under it. They have a most delicate and keen power of smelling, and snuff their prey at a great distance. Fumigations of aromatic plants have some times succeeded in charming them away, but they are so tenacious of their selected abodes that unless you fill up the room with the strong vapour of sulphur, they will not depart, or if they do, will soon return. Leaves and branches of rue strewed on the bed will also keep them aloof for some time. 

The Ant, Pismire, or Emmet. 

   IS a well known insect in our country as well as in the rest of the world. They have no wings, but assume them when nature calls the males to the duty of wooing the females, from which circumstance they are styled by Entomologists, Hymenoptera. The colour of the ant is in general a dark red or brown, with a fine gloss on the belly. Some ants are furnished with stings for their defence, while others are wholly destitute of them. They are, like the bees divided into three tribes, male, female, and neutral. The two former are in proper season, furnished with wings, but the latter are destitute of them, and are doomed to all labour and drudgery on the hill. This hill is constructed with a considerable deal of art and labour; it is raised, in general, in the form of a sugar-loaf, and composed of leaves, bits of wood, sand, earth, gum from the trees, which are all united in a solid compact, being perforated with galleries to give access to the numerous cells which it contains. From this hill there are several paths, worn by the constant passings and repassings of these creatures, and it is worthy the admiration of the naturalist to consider how busy the whole legion appears, in bringing bits of straw, dead bodies of other insects, or in carrying away their eggs, if some imminent danger threatens the republic. Their organ of smelling must be uncommonly keen, as they can find at a great distance from their habitations any food they are fond of. The scouts give notice to their respective tribes; they come in long procession, for the length of one or two miles, sometimes more, to commit their depredations on a ripe fruit, or on a pot of sweet meats. This insect has been long proposed as an instance of industry and economy. 

“ – First crept 

The parsimonious emmet, provident 

Of future, in small room large heart inclos’d; 

Patern of just equality, perhaps, 

Hereafter; joined in her popular tribes 

Of commonality. -” 

————————————————–MILTON’S PARADISE LOST, B. VII. 

   But it has been lately discovered that the Ant is not so provident as it was supposed, against the dearth of the winter season; for indeed it does not want to hoard up, as it passes the whole of the brumal months in a state of torpidity. 

The Glow-Worm.

   THIS curious insect is a living phenomenon; the light, or phosphoric glow, which he emits from two spots placed at the interior part of his body, has been long the admiration of all, and the puzzle of many naturalists. This light resembles so much in its colour, and perhaps in its nature, that which shines on putrid fish and rotten wood; that it might be nothing else but the fæces of the animal in a certain state of fermentation: and this appears the more probable, when we consider that the light appears in brightness and intensity in proportion with the worms, being more or less irritated. This insect’s body is divided into twelve sections, or annulets, each covered with a scale of a black colour; the head is flat and depressed, the body measures about an inch, and the worm is found upon banks on the sides of roads, and at the foot of hedges, where this bright lustre shines through the blades of grass, among which the creature creeps very slowly. The best observers pretend to have ascertained, that the shining worm is the female of the species, and that the male is a small fly which, in its form, does not resemble the glow-worm. If it is so, it must be one of the greatest anomalies in nature, and especially in Entomology, where we have not yet found an union between a winged insect and a worm. The case of the ants, and other hymenoptery, is different; the males and females are the same in the shape of the body, except that the male is furnished with wings, that he may, with less trouble, and in a shorter time, single out and overtake the object of his love, for the grand end of nature. But here we are told that the fly is considerably smaller than the worm, and does not seem to a be a kin to it. However, it is a mystery which is not yet unravelled; and if it is a fact, we find it very appropriately concealed under the mythological and elegant story of Psyche and Cupid; he, the lover, with wings, she following him with a lamp in her hand. The following lines allude to the fable: 

“Thou, living meteor of the dewy bank 

That tip’st the glossy leaves and emeral’d turf 

With silver rays; bright Cicindela, tell, 

Oh! tell me how thy lovely mother once 

The gentle Psyche, on the eager wings 

Of fond desire, thro’ all the world, in quest 

Of wanton Cupid, went; and brought from heav’n, 

This clear, translucid lamp, thou still preserv’st 

And hold’st up still, like her, in search of love, 

A faithful beacon to thy wand’ring mate. 


The Gnat. 

   IS an insect which deserves the observation of the naturalist, not only for the most curious conformation of its lancet, which so quickly and powerfully cut our arteries and small veins, and through which it aspires our blood into its body, but also for the several metamorphoses it undergoes before it arrives to its winged state. The Gnat deposits its eggs upon the slimy surface of stagnant water, and sets them upright one against another in the form of a small boat; after floating upon the water for several days in the first warm weather in the spring, as soon as they feel the time of hatching, the worms, which the eggs contains, precipitates themselves to the bottom, and there feed for a fortnight; after which time they undergo another transformation: The result is a curious animal, with a kind of wheel in incessant motion, through which it imbibes the air, at the surface of the water, to which it is obliged to repair every moment; having passed about ten days in that state, their increate being at an end, they assume another form, and keep longer near the surface, and at last the outer skin bursts, and the winged insect, standing upon the exuriæ he is going to leave behind, smoothes his new-born wings, springs into the air, and begins its depredations. The fecundity of this animal is so remarkable, that in the course of summer they might increase to the amazing number of five or six hundred thousands, if Providence had not ordered that they should become the prey of birds, who by this means prevent their multiplying more than they generally do. The fleam, or lancet, which this insect carries at its mouth, is a microscope object, and affords the lover of natural wonders great subject for inquiries. Its trunk is in the shape of a scaly sheath, and so fine, that the extremity can scarcely be seen with the assistance of the best microscope; from this trunk it darts four small cutting instruments which inflict these troublesome wounds we feel so keenly, and which are attended with a local swelling, which is produced by a small drop of poison distilling down the lancet, and a drop of caustic liquid emitted at the hinder part of the body; this swelling occasions the blood to rush to the wound, and the insect is seen to swell and become red, as the blood ascends into its body. These observations have been made with attention, and often repeated, by the Editor of this work. It is curious that this insect, which is called Cousin in vulgar French, as if, sharing some of the human blood, he were consanguineous to man, is called here Gnat, from Cognatus, a kin, a cousin. 

The Ant-Lion. 

   IS an insect of wonderful properties; it is hatched from an egg laid in soft moving ground, or sand; the insect increases soon in size, and assumes the shape of a small spider, with this difference, that his legs are constructed in such a way that he proceeds backwards; he has six feet, and the belly is in the shape of a heart, armed with small tubercles and bristles. The corselet to which the legs are attached is small, and the head is armed with two horns, not unlike those of the stag beetle, and two very sharp eyes. What must create our utmost admiration is, that this insect, which cannot move but in a retrograde direction, is doomed by nature to feed upon flies and ants, whose quickness and agility would at all times deprive him of his prey; but he has been endowed with an uncommon instinct, attended with stratagem: he makes a kind of funnel-like hole in a soft ground or sand, and placing himself at the bottom of it, waits there with the utmost patience, for several days, till an uncautious ant, or giddy fly, falls in the deathful-pit. Then all his skill is put in requisition; he throws out, by the shaking of his horns, a great quantity of sand upon and above the insect, to prevent its climbing up the steep sides of his hole; and, when the prey appears strong and nimble, he gives a general commotion, the whole construction crumbles down, and the imprudent insect, overwhelmed with the ruins, falls [into] the horns of the Ant-lion, which open as a pair of forceps at the bottom. When he has suckled the blood and inside of his prey, he charges it upon his head, and by a sudden jerk, throws the carcase, at a great distance, away from his abode. After passing several weeks in these watchings and troubles to get his food, he being then grown to a larger size, makes himself a kind of hall out of the sand, which he hangs inside with a shining kind of thread or silk, and remains there till he arrives at his second state, which is a sort of chrysalis, or larva, the appearance of which is between the past and the future form. From this larva, this shapeless, uncouth, ill-looking mummy-like being, arises a slender-waisted, winged insect, which, after fluttering about for a few weeks, performing the duty of nature, and depositing eggs in the sand, resigns its life, conscious, we may suppose, of having done all it was created for, and fulfilled the intention and will of God. The winged insect has a head of a chesnut colour; the body is of a pearly grey, the legs short, the wings long and greyish, and the superior ones marked with four brown spots. It is often seen fluttering about the sides of roads and dry banks exposed to the East, in the months of June and July – continues for a little time, and then entirely disappears. The Editor of this publication has kept for several years, many Ant lions under his inspection, and can vouch for the truth of what is asserted above. This insect is very rare in this country; but in France and Italy there is not a bank on the sides of a public road, a sandy ridge at the foot of an old wall which does not harbour a great number of these insects. 

Leave a Reply