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More Hunting Wasps by J. Henri Fabre

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the Cricket. This one hunts the Locust and nothing else; that one the
Mantis and the Empusa. Yet another is addicted to the Grey Worm and another
to the Looper.

Fools! How great was your mistake in allowing the wise eclecticism of your
ancestress, whose relics now repose in the hard mud of some lacustrian
stratum, to become obsolete! How much better would things be for you and
yours! Abundance is assured; painful and often fruitless searches are
avoided; the larder is crammed without being subject to the accidents of
time, place and climate. When Ephippigers run short, you fall back upon
Crickets; when there are no Crickets, you capture Grasshoppers. But no, my
beautiful Sphex-wasps, you were not such fools as that. If in our days you
are each confined to a standing family-dish, it is because your ancestress
of the lacustrian schists never taught you variety.

Could she have taught you uniformity? Let us suppose that the Sphex of
antiquity, a novice in the gastronomic art, prepared her potted meats with
a single kind of game, no matter what. It was then her descendants who,
subdivided into groups and constituted into so many distinct species by the
slow travail of the centuries, realized that in addition to the ancestral
fare there existed a host of other foods. Tradition being abandoned, there
was nothing to guide their choice. They therefore tried a bit of everything
in the way of insect game, at hap-hazard; and each time the larva, whose
tastes alone had to be consulted, was satisfied with the food supplied, as
it is to-day in the refectory provisioned by my care.

Every attempt led to the invention of a new dish, an important event,
according to the masters, an inestimable resource for the family, who were
thereby delivered from the menace of death and enabled to thrive over large
areas whence the absence or rarity of a uniform game would have excluded
it. And, after making use of a host of different viands in order to attain
the culinary variety which is to-day adopted by the whole of the Sphex
nation, lo and behold, each species confines itself to a single sort of
game, outside which every specimen is obstinately refused, not at table, of
course, but in the hunting-field! By your experiments, from age to age, to
have discovered variety in diet; to have practised it, to the great
advantage of your race, and to end up with uniformity, the cause of
decadence; to have known the excellent and to repudiate it for the
middling: oh, my Sphex-wasps, it would be stupid if the theory of evolution
were correct!

To avoid insulting you and also from respect for common sense, I prefer
therefore to believe that, if in our days you confine your hunting to a
single kind of game, it is because you have never known any other. I prefer
to believe that your common ancestress, your precursor, whether her tastes
were simple or complex, is a pure chimera, for, if they were any
relationship between you, having tested everything in order to arrive at
the actual food of each species, having eaten everything and found it
grateful to the stomach, you would now, from first to last, be unprejudiced
consumers, omnivorous progressives. I prefer to believe, in short, that the
theory of evolution is powerless to explain your diet. This is the
conclusion drawn from the dining-room installed in my old sardine-box.


Considered in respect of quality, the food has just disclosed our profound
ignorance of the origins of instinct. Success falls to the blusterers, to
the imperturbable dogmatists, from whom anything is accepted if only they
make a little noise. Let us discard this bad habit and admit that really,
if we go to the bottom of things, we know nothing about anything.
Scientifically speaking, nature is a riddle to which human curiosity finds
no definite solution. Hypothesis follows hypothesis; the theoretical
rubbish-heap grows bigger and bigger; and still truth escapes us. To know
how to know nothing might well be the last word of wisdom.

Considered in respect of quantity, the food sets us other problems, no less
obscure. Those of us who devote ourselves assiduously to studying the
customs of the game-hunting Wasps soon find our attention arrested by a
very remarkable fact, at the time when our mind, refusing to be satisfied
with sweeping generalities, which our indolence too readily makes shift
with, seeks to enter as far as possible into the secret of the details, so
curious and sometimes so important, as and when they become better-known to
us. This fact, which has preoccupied me for many a long year, is the
variable quantity of the provisions packed into the burrow as food for the

Each species is scrupulously faithful to the diet of its ancestors. For
more than a quarter of a century I have been exploring my district; and I
have never known the diet to vary. To-day, as thirty years ago, each
huntress must have the game which I first saw her pursuing. But, though the
nature of the victuals is constant, the quantity is not so. In this respect
the difference is so great that he would need to be a very superficial
observer who should fail to perceive it on his first examination of the
burrows. In the beginning, this difference, involving two, three, four
times the quantity and more, perplexed me extremely and led me to the
conclusions which I reject to-day.

Here, among the instances most familiar to me, are some examples of these
variations in the number of victims provided for the larva, victims, of
course, very nearly identical in size. In the larder of the Yellow-winged
Sphex, after the victualling is completed and the house shut up, two or
three Crickets are sometimes found and sometimes four. Stizus ruficornis
(Cf. "The Hunting Wasps": chapter 20; also "Bramble-bees and Others":
chapter 9.--Translator's Note.), established in some vein of soft
sandstone, places three Praying Mantes in one cell and five in another. Of
the caskets fashioned by Amedeus' Eumenes (Cf." The Mason-wasps": chapter
1.--Translator's Note.) out of clay and bits of stone, the more richly
endowed contain ten small caterpillars, the more poorly furnished five. The
Sand Cerceris (Cf. "The Hunting Wasps": chapter 2.--Translator's Note.)
will sometimes provide a ration of eight Weevils and sometimes one of
twelve or even more. My notes abound in abstracts of this kind. It is
unnecessary for the purpose in hand to quote them all. It will serve our
object better if I give the detailed inventory of the Bee-eating Philanthus
and of the Mantis-hunting Tachytes, considered especially with regard to
the quantity of the victuals.

The slayer of Hive-bees is frequently in my neighbourhood; and I can obtain
from her with the least trouble the greatest number of data. In September I
see the bold filibuster flying from clump to clump of the pink heather
pillaged by the Bee. The bandit suddenly arrives, hovers, makes her choice
and swoops down. The trick is done: the poor worker, with her tongue
lolling from her mouth in the death-struggle, is carried through the air to
the underground den, which is often a very long way from the spot of the
capture. The trickling of earthy refuse, on the bare banks, or on the
slopes of footpaths, instantly reveals the dwellings of the ravisher; and,
as the Philanthus always works in fairly populous colonies, I am able, by
noting the position of the communities, to make sure of fruitful
excavations during the forced inactivity of winter.

The sapping is a laborious task, for the galleries run to a great depth.
Favier wields the pick and spade; I break the clods which he brings down
and open the cells, whose contents--cocoons and remnants of provisions--I
at once pour into a little screw of paper. Sometimes, when the larva is not
developed, the stack of Bees is intact; more often the victuals have been
consumed; but it is always possible to tell the number of items provided.
The heads, abdomens and thoraxes, emptied of their fleshy substance and
reduced to the tough outer skin, are easily counted. If the larva has
chewed these overmuch, the wings at least are left; these are sapless
organs which the Philanthus absolutely scorns. They are likewise spared by
moisture, putrefaction and time, so much so that it is no more difficult to
take an inventory of a cell several years old than one of a recent cell.
The essential thing is not to overlook any of these tiny relics while
placing them in the paper bag, amid the thousand incidents of the
excavation. The rest of the work will be done in the study, with the aid of
the lens, taking the remains heap by heap; the wings will be separated from
the surrounding refuse and counted in sets of four. The result will give
the amount of the provisions. I do not recommend this task to any one who
is not endowed with a good stock of patience, nor above all to any one who
does not start with the conviction that results of great interest are
compatible with very modest means.

My inspection covers a total of one hundred and thirty-six cells, which are
divided as in the table below:

2 cells each containing 1 Bee
52 cells each containing 2 Bees
36 cells each containing 3 Bees
36 cells each containing 4 Bees
9 cells each containing 5 Bees
1 cell containing 6 Bees

The Mantis-hunting Tachytes consumes its heap of Mantes, the horny envelope
included, without leaving any remains but scanty crumbs, quite insufficient
to establish the number of items provided. After the meal is completed, any
inventory of the rations becomes impossible. I therefore have recourse to
the cells which still contain the egg or the very young larva and, above
all, to those whose provisions have been invaded by a tiny parasitic Gnat,
a Tachina (Cf. "The Hunting Wasps": chapters 4 and 16.--Translator's
Note.), which drains the game without cutting it up and leaves the whole
skin intact. Twenty-five larders, put to the count, give me the following

8 cells each containing 3 items
5 cells each containing 4 items
4 cells each containing 6 items
3 cells each containing 7 items
2 cells each containing 8 items
1 cell containing 9 items
1 cell containing 12 items
1 cell containing 16 items

The predominant game is the Praying Mantis, green; next comes the Grey
Mantis, ash-coloured. A few Empusae make up the total. The specimens vary
in dimensions within fairly elastic limits: I measure some which are a
third to a half inch long, averaging two-thirds to one inch long, and some
which are two-fifths, averaging three quarters. I see pretty plainly that
their number increases in proportion as their size diminishes, as though
the Tachytes were seeking to make up for the smallness of the game by
increasing the amount; none the less I find it quite impossible to detect
the least equivalence by combining the two factors of number and size. If
the huntress really estimates the provisions, she does so very roughly; her
household accounts are not at all well kept; each head of game, large or
small, must always count as one in her eyes.

Put on my guard, I look to see whether the honey-gathering Bees have a
double service, like the game-hunting Wasps'. I estimate the amount of
honeyed paste; I gauge the cups intended to contain it. In many cases the
result resembles the first obtained: the abundance of provisions varies
from one cell to another. Certain Osmiae (O. cornuta and O. tricornis (Cf.
"Bramble-bees and Others": passim; and, in particular, chapters 3 to 5.--
Translator's Note.)) feed their larvae on a heap of pollen-dust moistened
in the middle with a very little disgorged honey. One of these heaps may be
three or four times the size of some other in the same group of cells. If I
detach from its pebble the nest of the Mason-bee, the Chalicodoma of the
Walls, I see cells of large capacity, sumptuously provisioned; close beside
these I see others, of less capacity, with victuals parsimoniously
allotted. The fact is general; and it is right that we should ask ourselves
the reason for these marked differences in the relative quantity of
foodstuffs and for these unequal rations.

I at last began to suspect that this is first and foremost a question of
sex. In many Bees and Wasps, indeed, the male and the female differ not
only in certain details of internal or external structure--a point of view
which does not affect the present problem--but also in length and bulk,
which depend in a high degree on the quantity of food.

Let us consider in particular the Bee-eating Philanthus. Compared with the
female, the male is a mere abortion. I find that he is only a third to half
the size of the other sex, as far as I can judge by sight alone. To obtain
exactly the respective quantities of substance, I should need delicate
balances, capable of weighing down to a milligramme. My clumsy villager's
scales, on which potatoes may be weighed to within a kilogramme or so, do
not permit of this precision. I must therefore rely on the evidence of my
sight alone, evidence, for that matter, which is amply sufficient in the
present instance. Compared with his mate, the Mantis-hunting Tachytes is
likewise a pigmy. We are quite astonished to see him pestering his giantess
on the threshold of the burrows.

We observe differences no less pronounced of size--and consequently of
volume, mass and weight--in the two sexes of many Osmiae. The differences
are less emphatic, but are still on the same side, in the Cerceres, the
Stizi, the Spheges, the Chalicodomae and many more. It is therefore the
rule that the male is smaller than the female. There are of course some
exceptions, though not many; and I am far from denying them. I will mention
certain Anthidia where the male is the larger of the two. Nevertheless, in
the great majority of cases the female has the advantage.

And this is as it should be. It is the mother, the mother alone, who
laboriously digs underground galleries and chambers, kneads the plaster for
coating the cells, builds the dwelling-house of cement and bits of grit,
bores the wood and divides the burrow into storeys, cuts the disks of leaf
which will be joined together to form honey-pots, works up the resin
gathered in drops from the wounds in the pine-trees to build ceilings in
the empty spiral of a Snail-shell, hunts the prey, paralyses it and drags
it indoors, gathers the pollen-dust, prepares the honey in her crop, stores
and mixes the paste. This severe labour, so imperious and so active, in
which the insect's whole life is spent, manifestly demands a bodily
strength which would be quite useless to the male, the amorous trifler.
Thus, as a general rule, in the insects which carry on an industry the
female is the stronger sex.

Does this pre-eminence imply more abundant provisions during the larval
stage, when the insect is acquiring the physical growth which it will not
exceed in its future development? Simple reflection supplies the answer:
yes, the aggregate growth has its equivalent in the aggregate provisions.
Though so slight a creature as the male Philanthus finds a ration of two
Bees sufficient for his needs, the female, twice or thrice as bulky, will
consume three to six at least. If the male Tachytes requires three Mantes,
his consort's meal will demand a batch of something like ten. With her
comparative corpulence, the female Osmia will need a heap of paste twice or
thrice as great as that of her brother, the male. All this is obvious; the
animal cannot make much out of little.

Despite this evidence, I was anxious to enquire whether the reality
corresponded with the previsions of the most elementary logic. Instances
are not unknown in which the most sagacious deductions have been found to
disagree with the facts. During the last few years, therefore, I have
profited by my winter leisure to collect, from spots noted as favourable
during the working-season, a few handfuls of cocoons of various Digger-
wasps, notably of the Bee-eating Philanthus, who has just furnished us with
an inventory of provisions. Surrounding these cocoons and thrust against
the wall of the cell were the remnants of the victuals--wings, corselets,
heads, wing-cases--a count of which enabled me to determine how many head
of game had been provided for the larva, now enclosed in its silken abode.
I thus obtained the correct list of provisions for each of the huntress'
cocoons. On the other hand, I estimated the quantities of honey, or rather
I gauged the receptacles, the cells, whose capacity is proportionate to the
mass of the provisions stored. After making these preparations, registering
the cells, cocoons and rations and putting all my figures in order, I had
only to wait for the hatching-season to determine the sex.

Well, I found that logic and experiment were in perfect agreement. The
Philanthus-cocoons with two Bees gave me males, always males; those with a
larger ration gave me females. From the Tachytes-cocoons with double or
treble that ration I obtained females. When fed upon four or five Nut-
weevils, the Sand Cerceris was a male; when fed upon eight or ten, a
female. In short, abundant provisions and spacious cells yield females;
scanty provisions and narrow cells yield males. This is a law upon which I
may henceforth rely.

At the stage which we have now reached a question arises, a question of
major importance, touching the most nebulous aspect of embryogeny. How is
it that the larva of the Philanthus, to take a particular case, receives
three to five Bees from its mother when it is to become a female and not
more than two when it is to become a male? Here the various head of game
are identical in size, in flavour, in nutritive properties. The food-value
is precisely in proportion to the number of items supplied, a helpful
detail which eliminates the uncertainties wherein we might be left by the
provision of game of different species and varying sizes. How is it, then,
that a host of Bees and Wasps, of honey-gatherers as well as huntresses,
store a larger or smaller quantity of victuals in their cells according as
the nurselings are to become females or males?

The provisions are stored before the eggs are laid; and these provisions
are measured by the needs of the sex of an egg still inside the mother's
body. If the egg-laying were to precede the rationing, which occasionally
takes place, as with the Odyneri (Cf. "The Hunting Wasps": chapters 2 and
8.--Translator's Note.), for example, we might imagine that the gravid
mother enquires into the sex of the egg, recognizes it and stacks victuals
accordingly. But, whether destined to become a male or a female, the egg is
always the same; the differences--and I have no doubt that there are
differences--are in the domain of the infinitely subtle, the mysterious,
imperceptible even to the most practised embryogenist. What can a poor
insect see--in the absolute darkness of its burrow, moreover--where science
armed with optical instruments has not yet succeeded in seeing anything?
And besides, even were it more discerning than we are in these genetic
obscurities, its visual discernment would have nothing whereupon to
practice. As I have said, the egg is laid only when the corresponding
provisions are stored. The meal is prepared before the larva which is to
eat it has come into the world. The supply is generously calculated by the
needs of the coming creature; the dining-room is built large or small to
contain a giant or a dwarf still germinating in the ovarian ducts. The
mother, therefore, knows the sex of her egg beforehand.

A strange conclusion, which plays havoc with our current notions! The logic
of the facts leads us to it directly. And yet it seems so absurd that,
before accepting it, we seek to escape the predicament by another
absurdity. We wonder whether the quantity of food may not decide the fate
of the egg, originally sexless. Given more food and more room, the egg
would become a female; given less food and less room, it would become a
male. The mother, obeying her instincts, would store more food in this case
and less in that; she would build now a large and now a small cell; and the
future of the egg would be determined by the conditions of food and

Let us make every test, every experiment, down to the absurd: the crude
absurdity of the moment has sometimes proved to be the truth of the morrow.
Besides, the well-known story of the Hive-bee should make us wary of
rejecting paradoxical suppositions. Is it not by increasing the size of the
cell, by modifying the quality and quantity of the food, that the
population of a hive transforms a worker larva into a female or royal
larva? It is true that the sex remains the same, since the workers are only
incompletely developed females. The change is none the less miraculous, so
much so that it is almost lawful to enquire whether the transformation may
not go further, turning a male, that poor abortion, into a sturdy female by
means of a plentiful diet. Let us therefore resort to experiment.

I have at hand some long bits of reed in the hollow of which an Osmia, the
Three-horned Osmia, has stacked her cells, bounded by earthen partitions. I
have related elsewhere (Cf. "Bramble-bees and Others": chapters 2 to 5.--
Translator's Note.) how I obtain as many of these nests as I could wish
for. When the reed is split lengthwise, the cells come into view, together
with their provisions, the egg lying on the paste, or even the budding
larva. Observations multiplied ad nauseam have taught me where to find the
males and where the females in this apiary. The males occupy the fore-part
of the reed, the end next to the opening; the females are at the bottom,
next to the knot which serves as a natural stopper to the channel. For the
rest, the quantity of the provisions in itself points to the sex: for the
females it is twice or thrice as great as for the males.

In the scantily-provided cells, I double or treble the ration with food
taken from other cells; in the cells which are plentifully supplied, I
reduce the portion to a half or a third. Controls are left: that is to say,
some cells remain untouched, with their provisions as I found them, both in
the part which is abundantly provided and in that which is more meagrely
rationed. The two halves of the reed are then restored to their original
position and firmly bound with a few turns of wire. We shall see, when the
time comes, whether these changes increasing or decreasing the victuals
have determined the sex.

Here is the result: the cells which at first were sparingly provided, but
whose supplies were doubled or trebled by my artifice, contain males, as
foretold by the original amount of victuals. The surplus which I added has
not completely disappeared, far from it: the larva has had more than it
needed for its evolution as a male; and, being unable to consume the whole
of its copious provisions, it has spun its cocoon in the midst of the
remaining pollen-dust. These males, so richly supplied, are of handsome but
not exaggerated proportions; you can see that the additional food has
profited them to some small extent.

The cells with abundant provisions, reduced to a half or a third by my
intervention, contain cocoons as small as the male cocoons, pale,
translucent and limp, whereas the normal cocoons are dark-brown, opaque and
firm to the touch. These, we perceive at once, are the work of starved,
anaemic weavers, who, failing to satisfy their appetite and having eaten
the last grain of pollen, have, before dying, done their best with their
poor little drop of silk. Those cocoons which correspond with the smallest
allowance of food contain only a dead and shrivelled larva; others, in
whose case the provisions were less markedly decreased, contain females in
the adult form, but of very diminutive size, comparable with that of the
males, or even smaller. As for the controls which I was careful to leave,
they confirm the fact that I had males in the part near the orifice of the
reed and females in the part near the knot closing the channel.

Is this enough to dispose of the very improbable supposition that the
determination of the sex depends on the quantity of food? Strictly
speaking, there is still one door open to doubt. It may be said that
experiment, with its artifices, does not succeed in realizing the delicate
natural conditions. To make short work of all objections, I cannot do
better than have recourse to facts in which the experimenter's hand has not
intervened. The parasites will supply us with these facts; they will show
us how alien the quantity and even the quality of the food are from either
specific or sexual characters. The subject of enquiry thus becomes double,
instead of single as it was when I plundered one cell in my split reeds to
enrich another. Let us follow this double current for a little while.

An Ammophila, the Silky Ammophila (Cf. "The Hunting Wasps": chapter 13.--
Translator's Note.), which feeds on Looper caterpillars (Known also as
Measuring-worms, Inchworms, Spanworms and Surveyors: the caterpillars of
the Geometrid Moths.--Translator's Note.), has just been reared in my
refectory on Spiders. Replete to the regulation point, it spins its cocoon.
What will emerge from this? If the reader expects to see any modifications,
caused by a diet which the species, left to itself, had never effected, let
him be undeceived and that quickly. The Ammophila fed on Spiders is
precisely the same as the Ammophila fed on caterpillars, just as man fed on
rice is the same as man fed on wheat. In vain I pass my lens over the
product of my art: I cannot distinguish it from the natural product; and I
defy the most meticulous entomologist to perceive any difference between
the two. It is the same with my other boarders who have had their diet

I see the objection coming. The differences may be inappreciable, for my
experiments touch only a first rung of the ladder. What would happen if the
ladder were prolonged, if the offspring of the Ammophila fed on Spiders
were given the same food generation after generation? These differences, at
first imperceptible, might become accentuated until they grew into distinct
specific characters; the habits and instincts might also change; and in the
end the caterpillar-huntress might become a Spider-huntress, with a shape
of her own. A species would be created, for, among the factors at work in
the transformation of animals, the most important of all is incontestably
the type of food, the nature of the thing wherewith the animal builds
itself. All this is much more important than the trivialities which Darwin
relies upon.

To create a species is magnificent in theory, so that we find ourselves
regretting that the experimenter is not able to continue the attempt. But,
once the Ammophila has flown out of the laboratory to slake her thirst at
the flowers in the neighbourhood, just to try to find her again and induce
her to entrust you with her eggs, which you would rear in the refectory, to
increase the taste for Spiders from generation to generation! Merely to
dream of it were madness. Shall we, in our helplessness, admit ourselves
beaten by the evolutionary effects of diet? Not a bit of it! One
experiment--and you could not wish for a more decisive--is continually in
progress, apart from all artifices, on an enormous scale. It is brought to
our notice by the parasites.

They must, we are told, have acquired the habit of living on others in
order to save themselves work and to lead an easier life. The poor wretches
have made a sorry blunder. Their life is of the hardest. If a few establish
themselves comfortably, dearth and dire famine await most of the rest.
There are some--look at certain of the Oil-beetles--exposed to so many
chances of destruction that, to save one, they are obliged to procreate a
thousand. They seldom enjoy a free meal. Some stray into the houses of
hosts whose victuals do not suit them; others find only a ration quite
insufficient for their needs; others--and these are very numerous--find
nothing at all. What misadventures, what disappointments do these needy
creatures suffer, unaccustomed as they are to work! Let me relate some of
their misfortunes, gleaned at random.

The Girdled Dioxys (D. cincta) loves the ample honey-stores of the
Chalicodoma of the Pebbles. There she finds abundant food, so abundant that
she cannot eat it all. I have already passed censure on this waste. (Cf.
"The Mason-bees": chapter 10.--Translator's Note.) Now a little Osmia (O.
cyanoxantha, Perez) makes her nest in the Mason's deserted cells; and this
Bee, a victim of her ill-omened dwelling, also harbours the Dioxys. This is
a manifest error on the parasite's part. The nest of the Chalicodoma, the
hemisphere of mortar on its pebble, is what she is looking for, to confide
her eggs to it. But the nest is now occupied by a stranger, by the Osmia, a
circumstance unknown to the Dioxys, who comes stealing up to lay her egg in
the mother's absence. The dome is familiar to her. She could not know it
better if she had built it herself. Here she was born; here is what her
family wants. Moreover, there is nothing to arouse her suspicions: the
outside of the home has not changed its appearance in any respect; the
stopper of gravel and green putty, which later will form a violent contrast
with its white front, is not yet constructed. She goes in and sees a heap
of honey. To her thinking this can be nothing but the Chalicodoma's
portion. We ourselves would be beguiled, in the Osmia's absence. She lays
her eggs in this deceptive cell.

Her mistake, which is easy to understand, does not in any way detract from
her great talents as a parasite, but it is a serious matter for the future
larva. The Osmia, in fact, in view of her small dimensions, collects but a
very scanty store of food: a little loaf of pollen and honey, hardly the
size of an average pea. Such a ration is insufficient for the Dioxys. I
have described her as a waster of food when her larva is established,
according to custom, in the cell of the Mason-bee. This description no
longer applies; not in the very least. Inadvertently straying to the
Osmia's table, the larva has no excuse for turning up its nose; it does not
leave part of the food to go bad; it eats up the lot without having had

This famine-stricken refectory can give us nothing but an abortion. As a
matter of fact, the Dioxys subjected to this niggardly test does not die,
for the parasite must have a tough constitution to enable it to face the
disastrous hazards which lie in wait for it; but it attains barely half its
ordinary dimensions, which means one-eighth of its normal bulk. To see it
thus diminished, we are surprised at its tenacious vitality, which enables
it to reach the adult form in spite of the extreme deficiency of food.
Meanwhile, this adult is still the Dioxys; there is no change of any kind
in her shape or colouring. Moreover, the two sexes are represented; this
family of pigmies has its males and females. Dearth and the farinaceous
mess in the Osmia's cell has had no more influence over species or sex than
abundance and flowing honey in the Chalicodoma's home.

The same may be said of the Spotted Sapyga (S. punctata (A parasitic Wasp.
Cf. "The Mason-bees": chapters 9 and 10.--Translator's Note.)), which, a
parasite of the Three-pronged Osmia, a denizen of the bramble, and of the
Golden Osmia, an occupant of empty Snail-shells, strays into the house of
the Tiny Osmia (O. parvula (This bee makes her home in the brambles. Cf.
"Bramble-dwellers and Others": chapters 2 and 3.--Translator's Note.)),
where, for lack of sufficient food, it does not attain half its normal

A Leucopsis (Cf. "The Mason-bees": chapter 11.--Translator's Note.) inserts
her eggs through the cement wall of our three Chalicodomae. I know her
under two names. When she comes from the Chalicodoma of the Pebbles or
Walls, whose opulent larva saturates her with food, she deserves by her
large size the name of Leucopsis gigas, which Fabricius bestows upon her;
when she comes from the Chalicodoma of the Sheds, she deserves no more than
the name of L. grandis, which is all that Klug grants her. With a smaller
ration "the giant" is to some degree diminished and becomes no more than
"the large." When she comes from the Chalicodoma of the Shrubs, she is
smaller still; and, if some nomenclator were to seek to describe her, she
would no longer deserve to be called more than middling. From dimension 2
she has descended to dimension 1 without ceasing to be the same insect,
despite the change of diet; and at the same time both sexes are present in
the three nurselings, despite the variation in the quantity of victuals.

I obtain Anthrax sinuata ("The Mason-bees": chapters 8, 10 and 11.--
Translator's Note.) from various bees' nests. When she issues from the
cocoons of the Three-horned Osmia, especially the female cocoons, she
attains the greatest development that I know of. When she issues from the
cocoons of the Blue Osmia (O. cyanea, KIRB.), she is sometimes hardly one-
third the length which the other Osmia gives her. And we still have the two
sexes--that goes without saying--and still identically the same species.

Two Anthidia, working in resin, A. septemdentatum, LATR., and A.
bellicosum, LEP. (For these Resin-bees, cf. "Bramble-bees and Others":
chapter 10.--Translator's Note.), establish their domicile in old Snail-
shells. The second harbours the Burnt Zonitis (Z. proeusta (Cf. "The Glow-
worm and Other Beetles": chapter 6.--Translator's Note.)). Amply nourished
this Meloe then acquires her normal size, the size in which she usually
figures in the collections. A like prosperity awaits her when she usurps
the provisions of Megachile sericans. (For this Bee, the Silky Leaf-cutter,
cf. "Bramble-bees and Others": chapter 8.--Translator's Note.) But the
imprudent creature sometimes allows itself to be carried away to the meagre
table of the smallest of our Anthidia (A. scapulare, LATR. (A Cotton-bee,
cf. idem: chapter 9.--Translator's Note.)), who makes her nests in dry
bramble-stems. The scanty fare makes a wretched dwarf of the offspring
belonging to either sex, without depriving them of any of their racial
features. We still see the Burnt Zonitis, with the distinctive sign of the
species: the singed patch at the tip of the wing-cases.

And the other Meloidae--Cantharides, Cerocomae, Mylabres (For these
Blister-beetles or Oil-beetles, cf. "The Glow-worm and Other Beetles":
chapter 6.--Translator's Note.)--to what inequalities of size are they not
subject, irrespective of sex! There are some--and they are numerous--whose
dimensions fall to a half, a third, a quarter of the regular dimensions.
Among these dwarfs, these misbegotten ones, these victims of atrophy, there
are females as well as males; and their smallness by no means cools their
amorous ardour. These needy creatures, I repeat, have a hard life of it.
Whence do they come, these diminutive Beetles, if not from dining-rooms
insufficiently supplied for their needs? Their parasitical habits expose
them to harsh vicissitudes. No matter: in dearth as well as in abundance
the two sexes appear and the specific features remain unchanged.

It is unnecessary to linger longer over this subject. The demonstration is
completed. The parasites tell us that changes in the quantity and quality
of food do not lead to any transformation of species. Fed upon the larva of
the Three-horned Osmia or of the Blue Osmia, Anthrax sinuata, whether of
handsome proportions or a dwarf, is still Anthrax sinuata; fed upon the
allowance of the Anthidium of the empty Snail-shells, the Anthidium of the
brambles, the Megachile or doubtless many others, the Burnt Zonitis is
still the Burnt Zonitis. Yet variation of diet ought to be a very potential
factor in the problem of progress towards another form. Is not the world of
living creatures ruled by the stomach? And the value of this factor is
unity, changing nothing in the product.

The same parasites tell us--and this is the chief object of my digression--
that excess or deficiency of nutriment does not determine the sex. So we
are once more confronted with the strange proposition, which is now more
positive than ever, that the insect which amasses provisions in proportion
to the needs of the egg about to be laid knows beforehand what the sex of
this egg will be. Perhaps the reality is even more paradoxical still. I
shall return to the subject after discussing the Osmiae, who are very
weighty witnesses in this grave affair. (Cf. "Bramble-bees and Others":
chapters 3 to 5. The student is recommended to read these three chapters in
conjunction with the present chapter, to which they form a sequel, with
that on the Osmiae (chapter 2 of the above volume) intervening.--
Translator's Note.)


To meet among the Wasps, those eager lovers of flowers, a species that goes
hunting more or less on its own account is certainly a notable event. That
the larder of the grub should be provided with prey is natural enough; but
that the provider, whose diet is honey, should herself make use of the
captives is anything but easy to understand. We are quite astonished to see
a nectar-drinker become a blood-drinker. But our astonishment ceases if we
consider things more closely. The double method of feeding is more apparent
than real: the crop which fills itself with sugary liquid does not gorge
itself with game. The Odynerus, when digging into the body of her prey,
does not touch the flesh, a fare absolutely scorned as contrary to her
tastes; she satisfies herself with lapping up the defensive drop which the
grub (The Larva of Chrysomela populi, the Poplar Leaf-beetle.--Translator's
Note.) distils at the end of its intestine. This fluid no doubt represents
to her some highly-flavoured beverage with which she seasons from time to
time the staple diet fetched from the drinking-bar of the flowers, some
appetizing condiment or perhaps--who knows?--some substitute for honey.
Though the qualities of the delicacy escape me, I at least perceive that
the Odynerus does not covet anything else. Once its jar is emptied, the
larva is flung aside as worthless offal, a certain sign of a non-
carnivorous appetite. Under these conditions, the persecutor of the
Chrysomela ceases to surprise us by indulging in the crying abuse of a
double diet.

We even begin to wonder whether other species may not be inclined to derive
a direct advantage from the hunting imposed upon them for the maintenance
of the family. The Odynerus' method of work, the splitting open of the anal
still-room, is too far removed from the obvious procedure to have many
imitators; it is a secondary detail and impracticable with a different kind
of game. But there is sure to be a certain variety in the direct means of
utilizing the capture. Why, for instance, when the victim paralysed by the
sting contains a delicious broth in some part of its stomach, should the
huntress scruple to violate her dying prey and force it to disgorge without
injuring the quality of the provisions? There must be those who rob the
dead, attracted not by the flesh but by the exquisite contents of the crop.

In point of fact, there are; and they are even numerous. We may mention in
the first rank the Wasp that hunts Hive-bees, the Bee-eating Philanthus (P.
apivorus, LATR.). I long suspected her of perpetrating these acts of
brigandage on her own behalf, having often surprised her gluttonously
licking the Bee's honey-smeared mouth; I had an inkling that she did not
always hunt solely for the benefit of her larvae. The suspicion deserved to
be confirmed by experiment. Also, I was engaged in another investigation,
which might easily be conducted simultaneously with the one suggested: I
wanted to study, with all the leisure of work done at home, the operating-
methods employed by the different Hunting Wasps. I therefore made use, for
the Philanthus, of the process of experimenting under glass which I roughly
outlined when speaking of the Odynerus. It was even the Bee-huntress who
gave me my first data in this direction. She responded to my wishes with
such zeal that I believed myself to possess an unequalled means of
observing again and again, even to excess, what is so difficult to achieve
on the actual spot. Alas, the first-fruits of my acquaintance with the
Philanthus promised me more than the future held in store for me! But we
will not anticipate; and we will place the huntress and her game together
under the bell-glass. I recommend this experiment to whoever would wish to
see with what perfection in the art of attack and defence a Hunting Wasp
wields the stiletto. There is no uncertainty here as to the result, there
is no long wait: the moment when she catches sight of the prey in an
attitude favourable to her designs, the bandit rushes forward and kills. I
will describe how things happen.

I place under the bell-glass a Philanthus and two or three Hive-bees. The
prisoners climb the glass wall, towards the light; they go up, come down
again and try to get out; the vertical polished surface is to them a
practicable floor. They soon quiet down; and the spoiler begins to notice
her surroundings. The antennae are pointed forwards, enquiringly; the hind-
legs are drawn up with a little quiver of greed in the tarsi; the head
turns to right and left and follows the evolutions of the Bees against the
glass. The miscreant's posture now becomes a striking piece of acting: you
can read in it the fierce longings of the creature lying in ambush, the
crafty waiting for the moment to commit the crime. The choice is made: the
Philanthus pounces on her prey.

Turn by turn tumbling over and tumbled, the two insects roll upon the
ground. The tumult soon abates; and the murderess prepares to strangle her
capture. I see her adopt two methods. In the first, which is more usual
than the other, the Bee is lying on her back; and the Philanthus, belly to
belly with her, grips her with her six legs while snapping at her neck with
her mandibles. The abdomen is now curved forward from behind, along the
prostrate victim, feels with its tip, gropes about a little and ends by
reaching the under part of the neck. The sting enters, lingers for a moment
in the wound; and all is over. Without releasing her prey, which is still
tightly clasped, the murderess restores her abdomen to its normal position
and keeps it pressed against the Bee's.

In the second method, the Philanthus operates standing. Resting on her
hind-legs and on the tips of her unfurled wings, she proudly occupies an
erect attitude, with the Bee held facing her between her four front legs.
To give the poor thing a position suited to receive the dagger-stroke, she
turns her round and back again with the rough clumsiness of a child
handling its doll. Her pose is magnificent to look at. Solidly planted on
her sustaining tripod, the two hinder tarsi and the tips of the wings, she
at last crooks her abdomen upwards and again stings the Bee under the chin.
The originality of the Philanthus' posture at the moment of the murder
surpasses the anything that I have hitherto seen.

The desire for knowledge in natural history has its cruel side. To learn
precisely the point attacked by the sting and to make myself thoroughly
acquainted with the horrible talent of the murderess, I have investigated
more assassinations under glass than I would dare to confess. Without a
single exception, I have always seen the Bee stung in the throat. In the
preparations for the final blow, the tip of the abdomen may well come to
rest on this or that point of the thorax or abdomen; but it does not stop
at any of these, nor is the sting unsheathed, as can readily be
ascertained. Indeed, once the contest is opened, the Philanthus becomes so
entirely absorbed in her operation that I can remove the cover and follow
every vicissitude of the tragedy with my pocket-lens.

After recognizing the invariable position of the wound, I bend back and
open the articulation of the head. I see under the Bee's chin a white spot,
measuring hardly a twenty-fifth of an inch square, where the horny
integuments are lacking and the delicate skin is shown uncovered. It is
here, always here, in this tiny defect in the armour, that the sting
enters. Why is this spot stabbed rather than another? Can it be the only
vulnerable point, which would necessarily determine the thrust of the
lancet? Should any one entertain so petty a thought, I advise him to open
the articulation of the corselet, behind the first pair of legs. He will
there see what I see: the bare skin, quite as fine as under the neck, but
covering a much larger surface. The horny breast-plate offers no wider
breach. If the Philanthus were guided in her operation solely by the
question of vulnerability, it is here certainly that she ought to strike,
instead of persistently seeking the narrow slit in the neck. The weapon
would not need to hesitate and grope; it would obtain admission into the
tissues off-hand. No, the stroke of the lancet is not forced upon it
mechanically: the assassin scorns the large defect in the corselet and
prefers the place under the chin, for eminently logical reasons which we
will now attempt to unravel.

Immediately after the operation I take the Bee from the Philanthus. What
strikes me is the sudden inertia of the antennae and the mouth-parts,
organs which in the victims of most of the Hunting Wasps continue to move
for so long a time. There are here not any of the signs of life to which I
have been accustomed in my old studies of insect paralysis: the antennary
threads waving slowly to and fro, the palpi quivering, the mandibles
opening and closing for days, weeks and months on end. At most, the tarsi
tremble for a minute or two; that constitutes the whole death-struggle.
Complete immobility ensues. The inference drawn from this sudden inertia is
inevitable: the Wasp has stabbed the cervical ganglia. Hence the immediate
cessation of movement in all the organs of the head; hence the real instead
of the apparent death of the Bee. The Philanthus is a butcher and not a

This is one step gained. The murderess chooses the under part of the chin
as the point attacked in order to strike the principal nerve-centres, the
cephalic ganglia, and thus to do away with life at one blow. When this
vital seat is poisoned by the toxin, death is instantaneous. Had the
Philanthus' object been simply to effect paralysis, the suppression of
locomotor movements, she would have driven her weapon into the flaw in the
corselet, as the Cerceres do with the Weevils, who are much more powerfully
armoured than the Bee. But her intention is to kill outright, as we shall
see presently; she wants a corpse, not a paralytic patient. This being so,
we must agree that her operating-method is supremely well-inspired: our
human murderers could achieve nothing more thorough or immediate.

We must also agree that her attitude when attacking, an attitude very
different from that of the paralysers, is infallible in its death-dealing
efficacy. Whether she deliver her thrust lying on the ground or standing
erect, she holds the Bee in front of her, breast to breast, head to head.
In this posture all that she need do is to curve her abdomen in order to
reach the gap in the neck and plunge the sting with an upward slant into
her captive's head. Suppose the two insects to be gripping each other in
the reverse attitude, imagine the dirk to slant slightly in the opposite
direction; the results would be absolutely different and the sting, driven
downwards, would pierce the first thoracic ganglion and produce merely
partial paralysis. What skill, to sacrifice a wretched Bee! In what
fencing-school was the slayer taught her terrible upward blow under the

If she learnt it, how is it that her victim, such a past mistress in
architecture, such an adept in socialistic polity, has so far learnt no
corresponding trick to serve in her own defence? She is as powerful as her
executioner; like the other, she carries a rapier, an even more formidable
one and more painful, at least to my fingers. For centuries and centuries
the Philanthus has been storing her away in her cellars; and the poor
innocent meekly submits, without being taught by the annual extermination
of her race how to deliver herself from the aggressor by a well-aimed
thrust. I despair of ever understanding how the assailant has acquired her
talent for inflicting sudden death, when the assailed, who is better-armed
and quite as strong, wields her dagger anyhow and therefore ineffectively.
If the one has learnt by prolonged practice in attack, the other should
also have learnt by prolonged practice in defence, for attack and defence
possess a like merit in the fight for life. Among the theorists of the day,
is there one clear-sighted enough to solve the riddle for us?

If so, I will take the opportunity of putting to him a second problem that
puzzles me: the carelessness, nay, more, the stupidity of the Bee in the
presence of the Philanthus. You would be inclined to think that the victim
of persecution, learning gradually from the misfortunes suffered by her
family, would show distress at the ravisher's approach and at least attempt
to escape. In my cages I see nothing of the sort. Once the first excitement
due to incarceration under the bell-glass or the wire-gauze cover has
passed, the Bee seems hardly to trouble about her formidable neighbour. I
see one side by side with the Philanthus on the same honeyed thistle-head:
assassin and future victim are drinking from the same flask. I see some one
who comes heedlessly to enquire who that stranger can be, crouching in wait
on the table. When the spoiler makes her rush, it is usually at a Bee who
meets her half-way, and, so to speak, flings herself into her clutches,
either thoughtlessly or out of curiosity. There is no wild terror, no sign
of anxiety, no tendency to make off. How comes it that the experience of
the ages, that experience which, we are told, teaches the animal so many
things, has not taught the Bee the first element of apiarian wisdom: a
deep-seated horror of the Philanthus? Can the poor wretch take comfort by
relying on her trusty dagger? But she yields to none in her ignorance of
fencing; she stabs without method, at random. However, let us watch her at
the supreme moment of the killing.

When the ravisher makes play with her sting, the Bee does the same with
hers and furiously. I see the needle now moving this way or that way in
space, now slipping, violently curved, along the murderess' convex surface.
These sword-thrusts have no serious results. The manner in which the two
combatants are at grips has this effect, that the Philanthus' abdomen is
inside and the Bee's outside. The latter's sting therefore finds under its
point only the dorsal surface of the foe, a convex, slippery surface and so
well armoured as to be almost invulnerable. There is here no breach into
which the weapon can slip by accident; and so the operation is conducted
with absolute surgical safety, notwithstanding the indignant protests of
the patient.

After the fatal stroke has been administered, the murderess remains for a
long time belly to belly with the dead, for reasons which we shall shortly
perceive. There may now be some danger for the Philanthus. The attitude of
attack and defence is abandoned; and the ventral surface, more vulnerable
than the other, is within reach of the sting. Now the deceased still
retains the reflex use of her weapon for a few minutes, as I learnt to my
cost. Having taken the Bee too early from the bandit and handling her
without suspecting any risk, I received a most downright sting. Then how
does the Philanthus, in her long contact with the butchered Bee, manage to
protect herself against that lancet, which is bent upon avenging the
murder? Is there any chance of a commutation of the death-penalty? Can an
accident ever happen in the Bee's favour? Perhaps.

One incident strengthens my faith in this perhaps. I had placed four Bees
and as many Eristales under the bell-glass at the same time, with the
object of estimating the Philanthus' entomological knowledge in the matter
of the distinction of species. Reciprocal quarrels break out in the mixed
colony. Suddenly, in the midst of the fray, the killer is killed. She
tumbles over on her back, she waves her legs; she is dead. Who struck the
blow? It was certainly not the excitable but pacific Drone-fly; it was one
of the Bees, who struck home by accident during the thick of the fight.
Where and how? I cannot tell. The incident occurs only once in my notes,
but it throws a light upon the question. The Bee is capable of withstanding
her adversary; she can then and there slay her would-be slayer with a
thrust of the sting. That she does not defend herself to better purpose,
when she falls into her enemy's clutches, is due to her ignorance of
fencing and not to the weakness of her weapon. And here again arises, more
insistently than before, the question which I asked above: how is it that
the Philanthus has learnt for offensive what the Bee has not learnt for
defensive purposes? I see but one answer to the difficulty: the one knows
without having learnt; the other does not know because she is incapable of

Let us now consider the motives that induce the Philanthus to kill her Bee
instead of paralysing her. When the crime has been perpetrated, she
manipulates her dead victim without letting go of it for a moment, holding
its belly pressed against her own six legs. I see her recklessly, very
recklessly, rooting with her mandibles in the articulation of the neck,
sometimes also in the larger articulation of the corselet, behind the first
pair of legs, an articulation of whose delicate membrane she is perfectly
well aware, even though, when using her sting, she did not take advantage
of this point, which is the most readily accessible of all. I see her
rough-handling the Bee's belly, squeezing it against her own abdomen,
crushing it in the press. The recklessness of the treatment is striking; it
shows that there is no need for keeping up precautions. The Bee is a
corpse; and a little hustling here and there will not deteriorate its
quality, provided there be no effusion of blood. In point of fact, however
rough the handling, I fail to discover the slightest wound.

These various manipulations, especially the squeezing of the neck, at once
bring about the desired results: the honey in the crop mounts to the Bee's
throat. I see the tiny drops spurt out, lapped up by the glutton as soon as
they appear. The bandit greedily, over and over again, takes the dead
insect's lolling, sugared tongue into her mouth; then she once more digs
into the neck and thorax, subjecting the honey-bag to the renewed pressure
of her abdomen. The syrup comes and is instantly lapped up and lapped up
again. In this way the contents of the crop are exhausted in small
mouthfuls, yielded one at a time. This odious meal at the expense of a
corpse's stomach is taken in a sybaritic attitude; the Philanthus lies on
her side with the Bee between her legs. The atrocious banquet sometimes
lasts for half an hour or longer. At last the drained Bee is discarded, not
without regret, it seems, for from time to time I see the manipulation
renewed. After taking a turn round the top of the bell-jar, the robber of
the dead returns to her prey and squeezes it, licking its mouth until the
last trace of honey has disappeared.

This frenzied passion of the Philanthus for the Bee's syrup is declared in
yet another fashion. When the first victim has been sucked dry, I slip
under the glass a second victim, which is promptly stabbed under the chin
and then subjected to pressure to extract the honey. A third follows and
undergoes the same fate without satisfying the bandit. I offer a fourth and
a fifth. They are all accepted. My notes mention one Philanthus who in
front of my eyes sacrificed six Bees in succession and squeezed out their
crops in the regulation manner. The slaughter came to an end not because
the glutton was sated but because my functions as a purveyor were becoming
rather difficult: the dry month of August causes the insects to avoid my
harmas, which at this season is denuded of flowers. Six crops emptied of
their honey: what an orgy! And even then the ravenous creature would very
likely not have scorned a copious additional course, had I possessed the
means of supplying it!

There is no reason to regret this break in the service; the little that I
have said is more than enough to prove the singular characteristics of the
Bee-slayer. I am far from denying that the Philanthus has an honest means
of earning her livelihood; I find her working on the flowers as assiduously
as the other Wasps, peacefully drawing her honeyed beakers. The males even,
possessing no lancet, know no other manner of refreshment. The mothers,
without neglecting the table d'hote of the flowers, support themselves by
brigandage as well. We are told of the Skua, that pirate of the seas, that
he swoops down upon the fishing birds, at the moment when they rise from
the water with a capture. With a blow of the beak delivered in the pit of
the stomach he makes them give up their prey, which is caught by the robber
in mid-air. The despoiled bird at least gets off with nothing worse than a
contusion at the base of the throat. The Philanthus, a less scrupulous
pirate, pounces on the Bee, stabs her to death and makes her disgorge in
order to feed upon her honey.

I say feed and I do not withdraw the word. To support my statement I have
better reasons than those set forth above. In the cages in which various
Hunting Wasps, whose stratagems of war I am engaged in studying, are
waiting till I have procured the desired prey--not always an easy thing--I
have planted a few flower-spikes, a thistle-head or two, on which are
placed drops of honey renewed at need. Here my captives come to take their
meals. With the Philanthus, the provision of honeyed flowers, though
favourably received, is not indispensable. I have only to let a few live
Bees into her cage from time to time. Half a dozen a day is about the
proper allowance. With no other food than the syrup extracted from the
slain, I keep my insects going for a fortnight or three weeks.

It is as plain as a pikestaff: outside my cages, when the opportunity
offers, the Philanthus must also kill the Bee on her own account. The
Odynerus asks nothing from the Chrysomela but a mere condiment, the
aromatic juice of the rump; the other extracts from her victim an ample
supplement to her victuals, the crop full of honey. What a hecatomb of Bees
must not a colony of these freebooters make for their personal consumption,
not to mention the stored provisions! I recommend the Philanthus to the
signal vengeance of our Bee-masters.

Let us go no deeper into the first causes of the crime. Let us accept
things as we know them for the moment, with their apparent or real
atrocity. To feed herself, the Philanthus levies tribute on the Bee's crop.
Having made sure of this, let us consider the bandit's method more closely.
She does not paralyse her capture according to the rites customary among
the Hunting Wasps; she kills it. Why kill it? If the eyes of our
understanding be not closed, the need for sudden death is clear as
daylight. The Philanthus proposes to obtain the honeyed broth without
ripping up the Bee, a proceeding which would damage the game when it is
hunted on behalf of the larvae, without resorting to the murderous
extirpation of the crop. She must, by able handling, by skilful pressure,
make the Bee disgorge, she must milk her, in a manner of speaking. Suppose
the Bee stung behind the corselet and paralysed. That deprives her of her
power of locomotion, but not of her vitality. The digestive organs in
particular retain or very nearly retain their normal energy, as is proved
by the frequent excretions that take place in the paralysed prey, so long
as the intestine is not empty, as is proved above all by the victims of the
Languedocian Sphex (Cf. "The Hunting Wasp": chapters 8 to 10.--Translator's
Note.), those helpless creatures which I used to keep alive for forty days
on end with a soup consisting of sugar and water. It is absurd to hope,
without therapeutic means, without a special emetic, to coax a sound
stomach into emptying its contents. The stomach of the Bee, who is jealous
of her treasure, would lend itself to the process even less readily than
another. When paralysed, the insect is inert; but there are always internal
energies and organic forces which will not yield to the manipulator's
pressure. The Philanthus will nibble at the throat and squeeze the sides in
vain: the honey will not rise to the mouth so long as a vestige of life
keeps the crop closed.

Things are different with a corpse. The tension is relaxed, the muscles
become slack, the resistance of the stomach ceases and the bag of honey is
emptied by the robber's vigorous pressure. You see, therefore, that the
Philanthus is expressly obliged to inflict a sudden death, which will do
away at once with the elasticity of the organs. Where is the lightning
stroke to be delivered? The slayer knows better than we do, when she sticks
the Bee under the chin. The cerebral ganglia are reached through the little
hole in the neck and death ensues immediately.

The relation of these acts of brigandage cannot satisfy my distressing
habit of following each reply obtained with a fresh question, until the
granite wall of the unknowable rises before me. If the Philanthus is an
expert in killing Bees and emptying crops swollen with honey, this cannot
be merely an alimentary resource, especially when, in common with the
others, she has the banqueting-hall of the flowers. I cannot accept her
atrocious talent as inspired merely by the craving for a feast obtained at
the expense of an empty stomach. Something certainly escapes us: the why
and wherefore of that crop drained dry. A creditable motive may lie hidden
behind the horrors which I have related. What is it?

Any one can understand the vagueness of the observer's mind when he first
asks himself this question. The reader is entitled to be treated with
consideration. I will spare him the recital of my suspicions, my gropings
and my failures and will come straight to the results of my long
investigation. Everything has its harmonious reason for existence. I am too
fully persuaded of this to believe that the Philanthus pursues her habit of
profaning corpses solely to satisfy her greed. What does the emptied crop
portend? May it not be that..? Why, yes...After all, who knows?...Let us
try along these lines.

The mother's first care is the welfare of the family. So far, we have seen
the Philanthus hunting only for her stomach's sake; let us watch her
hunting as a mother. Nothing is easier than to distinguish the two
performances. When the Wasp wants a few good mouthfuls and nothing more,
she scornfully abandons the Bee after picking her crop. The Bee is to her a
worthless remnant, which will shrivel where it lies and be dissected by the
Ants. If, on the other hand, she wants to stow away the Bee as a provision
for her larvae, she clasps her in her two intermediate legs and, walking on
the other four, goes round and round the edge of the bell-glass, seeking
for an outlet through which to fly off with her prey. When she recognizes
the circular track as impossible, she climbs up the sides, this time
holding the Bee by the antennae with her mandibles and clinging to the
polished and perpendicular surface with her six feet. She reaches the top
of the glass, stays for a little while in the hollow of the knob at the
top, returns to the ground, resumes her circling and her climbing and does
not decide to relinquish her Bee until she has stubbornly attempted every
means of escape. This persistence on her part to retain her hold on the
cumbrous burden tells us pretty plainly that the game would go straight to
the cells if the Philanthus had her liberty.

Well, these Bees intended for the larvae are stung under the chin like the
others; they are real corpses; they are manipulated, squeezed, drained of
their honey exactly as the others are. In all these respects, there is no
difference between the hunt conducted to provide food for the larvae and
the hunt conducted merely to gratify the mother's appetite.

As the worries of captivity might well be the cause of a few anomalies in
the insect's actions, I felt that I ought to enquire how things happen in
the open. I lay in wait near some colonies of Philanthi, for longer perhaps
than the question deserved, as it had already been settled by what had
happened under glass. My tedious watches were rewarded from time to time.
Most of the huntresses returned home immediately, with the Bee under their
abdomen; some halted on the brambles hard by; and here I saw them squeezing
the dead Bee and making her disgorge the honey, which was greedily lapped
up. After these preliminaries the corpse was stored. Every doubt is
therefore removed: the provisions of the larva are first carefully drained
of their honey.

Since we are on the spot, let us prolong our stay and enquire into the
customs of the Philanthus in a state of liberty. Serving dead prey, which
goes bad in a few days, the Bee-huntress cannot adopt the method of certain
insects which paralyse a number of separate heads of game and fill the cell
with provisions, completing the ration before laying the egg. She needs the
method of the Bembex, whose larva receives the necessary nourishment at
intervals, as it grows larger. The facts confirm this deduction. Just now I
described as tedious my watches near the colonies of the Philanthi. They
were tedious in fact, even more so perhaps than those which the Bembeces
used to inflict upon me in the old days. Outside the burrows of the Great
Cerceris and other Weevil-lovers, outside those of the Yellow-winged Sphex,
the Cricket-slayer, there is plenty of distraction, thanks to the bustling
movement of the hamlet. The mother has hardly come back home before she
goes out again, soon returning laden with a new prey and once more setting
out upon the chase. The going and coming is repeated at close intervals
until the warehouse is full.

The burrow of the Philanthus is far from showing any such animation, even
in a populous colony. In vain were my watches prolonged for whole mornings
or afternoons; it was but very rarely that the mother whom I had seen go in
with a Bee came out again for a second expedition. Two captures at most by
the same huntress was all that I was able to see during my long vigils.
Feeding from day to day involves this deliberation. Once the family is
supplied with a sufficient ration for the moment, the mother suspends her
hunting-trips until further need arises and occupies herself with mining-
work in her underground house. Cells are dug; I see the rubbish gradually
pushed up to the surface. Beyond this there is not a sign of activity; it
is as though the burrow were deserted.

The inspection of the site is no easy matter. The shaft descends to a depth
of nearly three feet in a compact soil, either vertically or horizontally.
The spade and pick, wielded by stronger but less expert hands than mine,
are indispensable, for which reason the process of excavation is far from
satisfying me fully. At the end of this long tunnel, which the straw which
I use for sounding despairs of ever reaching, the cells are at last
encountered, oval cavities with a horizontal major axis. Their number and
general arrangement escape me.

Some of them already contain the cocoon, which is slender and
semitransparent, like those of the Cerceris, and, like them, suggests the
shape of certain homoeopathic phials, with oval bellies surmounted by a
tapering neck. The cocoon is fastened to the end of the cell by the tip of
this neck, which is darkened and hardened by the larva's excrement; it has
no other support. It looks like a short club fixed by the end of the handle
along the horizontal axis of the nest. Other cells contain the larva in a
more or less advanced stage. The grub is munching the last morsel served to
it, with the scraps of the victuals already consumed lying around it.
Others lastly show me a Bee, one only, still untouched and bearing an egg
laid on her breast. This is the first partial ration; the others will come
as and when the grub grows larger. My anticipations are thus confirmed:
following the example of the Bembeces, the Fly-killers, the Philanthus, the
Bee-killer, lays her egg on the first piece warehoused and at intervals
adds to her nurselings' repast.

The problem of the dead game is solved. There remains this other problem,
one of incomparable interest: why are the Bees robbed of their honey before
being served to the larvae? I have said and I say again that the killing
and squeezing cannot be explained and excused simply by reference to the
Philanthus' love of gormandizing. Robbing the worker of her booty is
nothing out of the way: we see it daily; but cutting her throat in order to
empty her stomach is going beyond a joke. And, as the Bees packed away in
the cellar are squeezed dry just as much as the others, the thought occurs
to my mind that a rumpsteak with jam is not to everybody's liking and that
the game stuffed with honey might well be a distasteful or even unwholesome
dish for the Philanthus' larvae. What will the grub do when, sated with
blood and meat, it finds the Bee's honey-bag under its mandibles and
especially when, nibbling at random, it rips open the crop and spoils its
venison with syrup? Will it thrive on the mixture? Will the little ogre
pass without repugnance from the gamy flavour of a carcase to the scent of
flowers? A blunt statement or denial would serve no purpose. We must see.
Let us see.

I rear some young Philanthus-grubs, already waxing large; but, instead of
supplying them with the prey taken from the burrows, I give them game of my
own catching, game replete with nectar from the rosemaries. My Bees, whom I
kill by crushing their heads, are readily accepted; and I at first see
nothing that corresponds with my suspicions. Then my nurselings languish,
disdain their food, give a careless bite here and there and end by
perishing, from the first to the last, beside their unfinished victuals.
All my attempts miscarry: I do not once succeed in rearing my larvae to the
stage of spinning the cocoon. And yet I am no novice in the functions of a
foster-father. How many pupils have not passed through my hands and reached
maturity in my old sardine-boxes as comfortably as in their natural

I will not draw rash conclusions from this check; I am conscientious enough
to ascribe it to another cause. It may be that the atmosphere of my study
and the dryness of the sand serving as a bed have had a bad effect on my
charges, whose tender skins are accustomed to the warm moisture of the
subsoil. Let us therefore try another expedient.

It is hardly feasible to decide positively by the methods which I have been
following whether the honey is or is not repugnant to the grubs of the
Philanthus. The first mouthfuls consist of meat; and then nothing
particular occurs: it is the natural diet. The honey is met with later,
when the morsel has been largely bitten into. If hesitation and lack of
appetite are displayed at this stage, they come too late in the day to be
conclusive: the larva's discomfort may be due to other, known or unknown,
causes. The thing to do would be to offer the grub honey from the first,
before artificial rearing has affected its appetite. It is useless, of
course, to make the attempt with pure honey: no carnivorous creature would
touch it, though it were starving. The jam-sandwich is the only device
favourable to my plans, a meagre jam-sandwich, that is to say, the dead Bee
lightly smeared or varnished with honey by means of a camel's-hair pencil.

Under these conditions, the problem is solved with the first few mouthfuls.
The grub that has bitten into the honeyed prey draws back in disgust,
hesitates a long time and then, urged by hunger, begins again, tries this
side and that and ends by refusing to touch the dish. For a few days it
pines away on top of its almost intact provisions; then it dies. All that
are subjected to this regimen succumb. Do they merely perish of inanition
in the presence of an unaccustomed food, which revolts their appetite, or
are they poisoned by the small quantity of honey absorbed with the early
mouthfuls? I cannot tell. The fact remains that, whether poisonous or
repugnant, the Bee in the state of bread and jam is death to them; and this
result explains, more clearly than the unfavourable circumstance of my
former experiment, my failures with the Bee that had not been made to

This refusal to touch the unwholesome or distasteful honey is connected
with principles of nutrition which are too general to constitute a
gastronomic peculiarity of the Philanthus. The other carnivorous larvae, at
least in the order of the Hymenoptera, are bound to share it. Let us try.
We will go to work as before. I unearth the larvae when they have attained
a medium size, to avoid the weakness of infancy; I take away the natural
provisions, smear the carcases separately with honey and, when this is
done, restore its victuals to each of the grubs. I had to make a choice:
not every subject was equally suited to my experiments. I must reject the
larvae which are fed on one fat joint, such as those of the Scolia. The
grub in fact attacks its prey at a determined point, dips its head and neck
into the insect's body, rooting skilfully in the entrails to keep the game
fresh until the end of the meal, and does not withdraw from the breach
until the whole skin is emptied of its contents.

To make it let go with the object of coating the inside of the venison with
honey had two drawbacks: I should be compromising the lingering vitality
which saves the insect that is being devoured from going bad and, at the
same time, I should be disturbing the delicate art of the devouring insect,
which, if removed from the lode which it was working, would no longer be
able to recover it or to distinguish between the lawful and the unlawful
morsels. The larva of the Scolia, consuming its Cetonia-grub, has taught us
all that we want to know on this subject in my earlier volume. (Chapters 2
to 5 of the present volume contain the whole of the matter referred to
above.--Translator's Note.) The only acceptable larvae are those supplied
with a heap of small insects, which are attacked without any special art,
dismembered at random and eaten up quickly. Among these I have tested such
as chance threw in my way: those of various Bembeces, all fed on Flies,
those of the Palarus, whose bill of fare consists of a very large
assortment of Hymenoptera; those of the Tarsal Tachytes, supplied with
young Locusts; those of the Nest-building Odynerus, furnished with
Chrysomela-grubs; those of the Sand Cerceris, endowed with a pinch of
Weevils. A goodly variety, as you see, of consumers and consumed. Well, to
all of these the seasoning with honey proved fatal. Whether poisoned or
disgusted, they all died in a few days.

A strange result indeed! Honey, the nectar of the flowers, the sole diet of
the Bee-tribe in both its forms and the sole resource of the Wasp in her a
adult form, is to the larvae of the latter an object of insurmountable
repugnance and probably a toxic dish. Even the transformation of the
nymphosis surprises me less than this inversion of the appetite. What
happens in the insect's stomach to make the adult seek passionately what
the youngster refused lest it should die? This is not a question of organic
debility unable to endure a too substantial, too hard, too highly spiced
dish. The grub that gnaws the Cetonia-larva, that generous piece of
butcher's meat; the glutton that crunches its batch of tough Locusts; the
one that battens on nitrobenzine-flavoured game: they certainly own
unfastidious gullets and accommodating stomachs. And these robust eaters
allow themselves to die of hunger or digestive troubles because of a drop
of syrup, the lightest food imaginable, suited to the weakness of extreme
youth and a feast for the adult besides! What a gulf of obscurity in the
stomach of a wretched grub!

These gastronomical researches called for a counterexperiment. The
carnivorous larva is killed by honey. Conversely, is the mellivorous larva
killed by animal food? Reservations are needful here, as in the previous
tests. We should be courting a flat refusal if we offered a pinch of
Locusts to the larvae of the Anthophora or the Osmia, for instance. (For
both these Wild Bees cf. "Bramble-bees and Others": passim.--Translator's
Note.) The honey-fed insect would not bite into it. There would be no use
whatever in trying. We must find the equivalent of the jam-sandwich
aforesaid; in other words, we must give the larva its natural fare with a
mixture of animal food. The addition made by my artifices shall be albumen,
as found in the egg of the Hen, albumen the isomer of fibrin, which is the
essential factor in any form of prey.

On the other hand, the Three-horned Osmia lends herself most admirably to
my plans, because of her dry honey, consisting for the greater part of
floury pollen. I therefore knead this honey with albumen, graduating the
dose until its weight largely exceeds that of the flour. In this way I
obtain pastes of different degrees of consistency, but all firm enough to
bear the larva without danger of immersion. With too fluid a mixture there
would be a risk of death by drowning. Lastly I install a moderately-
developed larva on each of my albuminous cakes.

The dish of my inventing does not incite dislike: far from it. The grubs
attack it without hesitation and consume it with every appearance of the
usual appetite. Things could not go better if the food had not been altered
by my culinary recipes. Everything goes down, including the morsels in
which I feared that I had overdone the addition of albumen. And--an even
more important point--the Osmia-larvae fed in this manner attain their
normal dimensions and spin their cocoons, from which adult insects issue in
the following year. Notwithstanding the albuminous regimen, the cycle of
the evolution is achieved without impediment.

What are we to conclude from all this? I feel greatly embarrassed. Omne
vivum ex ovo, the physiologists tell us. Every animal is carnivorous, in
its first beginnings: it is formed and nourished at the cost of its egg, in
which albumen predominates. The highest, the mammal, adheres to this diet
for a long time: it has its mother's milk, rich in casein, another isomer
of albumen. The gramnivorous nestling is first fed on grubs, which are
better adapted to the niceties of its stomach; many of the minutest new-
born creatures, being at once left to their own devices, take to animal
food. In this way the original method of nourishment is continued for all
alike: the method which allows flesh to be made from flesh and blood from
blood, with no chemical process beyond the simplest modification. At
maturity, when the stomach has acquired its full strength, vegetable food
is adopted, involving a more complicated chemistry but easier to obtain.
Milk is followed by fodder, worms by seeds, the prey in the burrow by the
nectar of the flowers.

This supplies a partial explanation of the twofold diet of the Hymenoptera
with carnivorous larvae: meat first, honey next. But then the note of
interrogation is shifted. It stood elsewhere; it now stands here. Why is
the Osmia, who as a larva fares so well on albumen, fed on honey at the
start? Why do the Bee-tribe receive a vegetable diet when the other members
of the order receive an animal diet?

If I were a believer in evolution, I should say yes, by the fact of its
germ, every animal is originally carnivorous. The insect in particular
starts with albuminoid materials. Many larvae adhere to the egg-food, many
adult insects do likewise. But the struggle to fill the belly, which after
all is the struggle for life, demands something better than the precarious
hazards of the chase. Man, at first a ravenous hunter after game, brought
the flock into existence and turned shepherd to avoid a time of dearth. An
even greater progress inspired him to scrape the earth and to sow seed,
which assures him of a living. The evolution from scarcity to moderation
and from moderation to plenty has led to the resources of husbandry.

The animals forestalled us this path of progress. The ancestors of the
Philanthus, in the remote ages of the lacustrian tertiary formations, lived
by prey in both the larval and the adult forms: they hunted for themselves
as well as for the family. They did not confine themselves to emptying the
Bee's crop, as their descendants do to this day: they devoured the
deceased. From the beginning to the end they remained flesh-eaters. Later,
fortunate innovators, whose race supplanted the laggards, discovered an
inexhaustible nourishment, obtained without dangerous conflicts or
laborious search: the sugary secretions of the flowers. The costly habit of
living on prey, which does not favour large populations, was maintained for
the feeble larvae; but the vigorous adult broke herself of it to lead an
easier and more prosperous life. Thus, gradually, was formed the Philanthus
of our day; thus was acquired the twofold diet of the various predatory
insects our contemporaries.

The Bee has done better still: from the moment of leaving the egg she
delivered herself completely from food-stuffs the acquisition of which
depended on chance. She discovered honey, the grubs' food. Renouncing the
chase for ever and becoming an agriculturalist pure and simple, the insect
attains a degree of physical and moral prosperity which the predatory
species are far from sharing. Hence the flourishing colonies of the
Anthophorae, the Osmiae, the Eucerae (A genus of long-horned Burrowing
Bees.--Translator's Note.), the Halicti and other honey-manufacturers,
whereas the predatory insects work in isolation; hence the societies in
which the Bee displays her wonderful tendencies, the supreme expression of

This is what I should say if I belonged to that school. It all forms a
chain of very logical deductions and proffers itself with a certain air of
likelihood which we should be glad to find in a host of evolutionist
arguments put forward as irrefutable. Well, I will make a present of my
deductive views, without regret, to whoever cares to have them: I don't
believe one word of them; and I confess my profound ignorance of the origin
of the twofold diet.

What I do understand more clearly, after all these investigations, is the
tactics of the Philanthus. When witnessing her ferocious feasting, the real
reason of which was unknown to me, I heaped the most ill-sounding epithets
upon her, calling her a murderess, a bandit, a pirate, a robber of the
dead. Ignorance is always evil-tongued; the man who does not know indulges
in rude assertions and mischievous interpretations. Now that my eyes have
been opened to the facts, I hasten to apologize and to restore the
Philanthus to her place in my esteem. In draining the crops of her Bees the
mother is performing the most praiseworthy of all actions: she is
protecting her family against poison. If she happens to kill on her own
account and to abandon the corpse after making it disgorge, I dare not
reckon this against her as a crime. When the habit has been formed of
emptying the Bee's crop with a good motive, there is a great temptation to
do it again with no other excuse than hunger. Besides, who knows? Perhaps
there is always at the back of her hunting some thought of game which might
be useful for the larvae. Although not carried into effect, the intention
excuses the deed.

I therefore withdraw my epithets in order to admire the insect's maternal
logic and to hold it up to the admiration of others. The honey would be
pernicious to the health of the larvae. How does the mother know that the
syrup, a treat for her, is unwholesome for her young? To this question our
science offers no reply. The honey, I say, would imperil the grubs' lives,
The Bee must therefore first be made to disgorge. The disgorging must be
effected without lacerating the victim, which the nurseling must receive in
the fresh state; and the operation is impracticable on a paralysed insect
because of the resistance of the stomach. The Bee must therefore be killed
outright instead of being paralysed, or the honey will not be voided.
Instantaneous death can be inflicted only by wounding the primordial centre
of life. The sting must therefore aim at the cervical ganglia, the seat of
innervation on which the rest of the organism depends. To reach them there
is only one way, through the little gap in the throat. It is here therefore
that the sting must be inserted; and it is here in fact that it is
inserted, in a spot hardly as large as the twenty-fifth of an inch square.
Suppress a single link of this compact chain, and the Bee-fed Philanthus
becomes impossible.

That honey is fatal to carnivorous larvae is a fact which teems with
consequences. Several Hunting Wasps feed their families upon Bees. These
include, to my knowledge, the Crowned Philanthus (P. coronatus, FAB.), who
lines her burrows with big Halicti; the Robber Philanthus (P. raptor,
LEP.), who chases all the smaller-sized Halicti, suited to her own
dimensions, indifferently; the Ornate Cerceris (C. ornata, FAB.), another
passionate lover of Halicti; and the Palarus (P. flavipes, FAB.), who, with
a curious eclecticism, stacks in her cells the greater part of the
Hymenopteron clan that does not exceed her powers. What do these four
huntresses and the others of similar habits do with their victims whose
crops are more or less swollen with honey? They must follow the example of
the Bee-eating Philanthus and make them disgorge, lest their family perish
of a honeyed diet; they must manipulate the dead Bee, squeeze her and drain
her dry. Everything goes to show it. I leave it to the future to display
these dazzling proofs of my doctrine in their proper light.

CHAPTER 11. THE METHOD OF THE AMMOPHILAE. (For these Sand-wasps, cf. "The
Hunting Wasps": chapters 13 and 18 to 20.--Translator's Note.)

My readers may differ in appraising the comparative value of the trifling
discoveries which entomology owes to my labours. The geologist, the
recorder of forms, will prefer the hypermetamorphosis of the Oil-beetles
(The chapter treating of this subject has not yet been translated into
English and will appear in a later volume.--Translator's Note.), the
development of the Anthrax (Cf. "The Life of the Fly": chapter 2.--
Translator's Note.) or larval dimorphism; the embryogenist, searching into
the mysteries of the egg, will have some esteem for my enquiries into the
egg-laying habits of the Osmia (Cf. "Bramble-bees and Others": chapter 4.--
Translator's Note.) ; the philosopher, racking his brain over the nature of
instinct, will award the palm to the operations of the Hunting Wasps. I
agree with the philosopher. Without hesitation, I would abandon all the
rest of my entomological baggage for this discovery, which happens to be
the earliest in date and that of which I have the fondest memories. Nowhere
do I find a more brilliant, more lucid, more eloquent proof of the
intuitive wisdom of instinct; nowhere does the theory of evolution suffer a
more obstinate check.

Darwin, a true judge, made no mistake about it. (Charles Robert Darwin,
born the 12th of February, 1809, at Shrewsbury, died at Down, in Kent, on
the 19th of April, 1882. For an account of certain experiments which the
author conducted on his behalf, cf. "The Mason-bees": chapter 4.--
Translator's Note.) He greatly dreaded the problem of the instincts. My
first results in particular left him very anxious. If he had known the
tactics of the Hairy Ammophila, the Mantis-hunting Tachytes, the Bee-eating
Philanthus, the Calicurgi and other marauders, his anxiety, I believe,
would have ended in a frank admission that he was unable to squeeze
instinct into the mould of his formula. Alas, the philosopher of Down
quitted this world when the discussion, with experiments to support it, had
barely begun: a method superior to any argument! The little that I had
published at that time left him with still some hope of an explanation. In
his eyes, instinct was always an acquired habit. The predatory Wasps killed
their prey at first by stabbing it at random, here and there, in the
softest parts. By degrees they found the spot where the sting was most
effectual; and the habit once formed became a true instinct. Transitions
from one method of operation to the other, intermediary changes, sufficed
to bolster up these sweeping assertions. In a letter of the 16th of April,
1881, he asks G.J. Romanes to consider the problem:

"I do not know," he says "whether you will discuss in your book on the mind
of animals any of the more complex and wonderful instincts. It is
unsatisfactory work, as there can be no fossilised instincts, and the sole
guide is their state in other members of the same order, and mere

"But if you do discuss any (and it will perhaps be expected of you), I
should think that you could not select a better case than that of the sand-
wasps which paralyse their prey as described by Fabre in his wonderful
paper in the "Anales des sciences naturelles," and since amplified in his
admirable "Souvenirs..."

I thank you, O illustrious master, for your eulogistic expressions, proving
the keen interest which you took in my studies of instinct, no ungrateful
task--far from it--when we tackle it as it should be tackled: from the
front, with the aid of facts, and not from the flank, with the aid of
arguments. Arguments are here out of place, if we wish to maintain our
position in the light. Besides, where would they lead us? To evoking the
instincts of bygone ages, which have not been preserved by fossilization?
Any such appeal to the dim and distant past is quite unnecessary, if we
wish for variations of instinct, leading by degrees, according to you, from
one instinct to another; the present world offers us plenty.

Each operator has her particular method, her particular kind of game, her
particular points of attack and tricks of fence; but in the midst of this
variety of talents we observe, immutable and predominant, the perfect
accordance of the surgery with the victim's organization and the larva's
needs. The art of one will not explain the art of another, no less exact in
the delicacy of its rules. Each operator has her own tactics, which
tolerate no apprenticeship. The Ammophila, the Scolia, the Philanthus and
the others all tell us the same thing: none can leave descendants if she be
not from the outset the skilful paralyser or slayer that she is to-day. The
"almost" is impracticable when the future of the race is at stake. What
would have become of the first-born mammal but for its perfect instinct of

And then, to suppose the impossible: a Wasp discovers by chance the
operative method which will be the saving attribute of her race. How are we
to admit that this fortuitous act, to which the mother has vouchsafed no
more attention than to her other less fortunate attempts, could leave a
profound trace behind it and be faithfully transmitted by heredity? Is it
not going beyond reason, going beyond the little that is known to us as
certain, if we grant to atavism this strange power, of which our present
world knows no instance? There is a good deal to be said for this point of
view, my revered master! But, once more, arguments are here out of place;
there is room only for facts, of which I will resume the recital.

Hitherto I had but one means of studying the operative methods of the
spoilers: to surprise the Wasp in possession of her capture, to rob her of
her prey and immediately to give her in exchange a similar prey, but a
living one. This method of substitution is an excellent expedient. Its only
defect--a very grave one--is that it subjects observation to very uncertain
chances. There is little prospect of meeting the insect dragging its victim
along; and, in the second place, should good fortune suddenly smile upon
you, preoccupied as you are with other matters you have not the substitute
at hand. If we provide ourselves with the necessary head of game in
advance, the huntress is not there. We avoid one reef to founder on
another. Moreover, these unlooked for observations, made sometimes on the
public highway, the worst of laboratories, are only half-satisfactory. In
the case of swiftly-enacted scenes, which it is not in our power to renew
again and again until perfect conviction is reached, we always fear lest we
may not have seen accurately, may not have seen everything.

A method which could be controlled at will would offer the best guarantees,
above all if employed at home, under comfortable conditions, favourable to
precision. I wished, therefore, to see my insects at work on the actual
table at which I am writing their history. Here very few of their secrets
would escape me. This wish of mine was an old one. As a beginner, I made
some experiments under glass with the Great Cerceris (C. tuberculata) and
the Yellow-winged Sphex. Neither of them responded to my desires. The
refusal of each to attack respectively her Cleonus or her Cricket
discouraged further progress in this direction. I was wrong to abandon my
attempts so soon. Now, very long afterwards, the idea occurs to me to place
under glass the Bee-eating Philanthus, whom I sometimes surprise in the
open engaged in forcing a bee to disgorge her honey. The captive massacres
her bees in such a spirited fashion that the old hope revives stronger than
ever. I contemplate reviewing all the wielders of the stiletto and forcing
each to reveal her tactics.

I was obliged to abate these ambitions considerably. I had some successes
and many more failures. I will tell you of the former. My insect-cage is a
spacious dome of wire-gauze resting on a bed of sand. Here I keep in
reserve the captives of my hunting-expeditions. I feed them on honey,
placed in little drops on spikes of lavender, on heads of thistle, or field
eryngo, or globe-thistle, according to the season. Most of my prisoners do
well on this diet and seem scarcely affected by their internment; others
pine away and die in two or three days. These victims of despair nearly
always throw me back, because of the difficulty of obtaining the necessary
prey at short notice.

Indeed it entails no small trouble to secure in the nick of time the game
demanded by the huntress who has recently fallen a captive to my net. As
assistant-purveyors I have a few small schoolboys, who, released from the
tedium of their declensions and conjugations, set out, on leaving the
classroom, to inspect the greenswards and beat the bushes in the
neighbourhood on my behalf. The gros sou, the penny-piece, if you please,
stimulates their zeal; but with misadventurous results! What I need to-day
is Crickets. The band sallies forth and returns with not a single Cricket,
but numbers of Ephippigers, for which I asked the day before yesterday and
which I no longer need, my Languedocian Sphex being dead. General surprise
at this sudden change of market. My young scatterbrains find it hard to
understand that the beast which was so precious two days ago is now of no
value whatever. When, owing to the chances of my net, a renewed demand for
the Ephippiger sets in, then they will bring me the Cricket, the despised

Such a trade could never hold out if now and again my speculators were not
encouraged by some success. At the moment when urgent necessity is sending
up prices, one of them brings me a magnificent Gad-fly intended for the
Bembex. For two hours, when the sun was at its height, he kept watch on the
threshing-floor hard by, waiting for the blood-sucker, in order to catch
him on the buttocks of the Mules which trot round and round trampling the
corn. This gallant fellow shall have his gros sou and a slice of bread and
jam as well. A second, no less fortunate, has found a fat Spider, the
Epeira, for whom my Pompili are waiting. To the two sous of this fortunate
youth I add a little picture for his missal. Thus are my purveyors kept
going; and, after all, their help would be very inadequate if I did not
take upon myself the main burden of these wearisome quests.

Once in possession of the requisite prey, I transfer the huntress from my
warehouse, the wire-gauze cage, to a bell-glass varying in capacity from
one to three or four litres (1 3/4 to 5 or 7 pints.--Translator's Note.),
according to the size and habits of the combatants; I place the victim in
the arena; I expose the bell-glass to the direct rays of the sun, without
which condition the executioner as a rule declines to operate; I arm myself
with patience and await events.

We will begin with the Hairy Ammophila, my neighbour. Year after year, when
April comes, I see her in considerable numbers, very busy on the paths in
my enclosure. Until June I see her digging her burrows and searching for
the Grey Worm, to be placed in the meat-cellar. Her tactics are the most
complex that I know and more than any other deserves to be thoroughly
studied. To capture the cunning vivisector, to release her and catch her
again I find an easy matter for the best part of a month; she works outside
my door.

I have still to obtain the Grey Worm. This means a repetition of the
disappointments which I had before, when, to find a caterpillar, I was
obliged to watch the Ammophila while hunting and to be guided by her hints,
as the truffle-hunter is guided by the scent of his Dog. A patient
exploration of the harmas, one tuft of thyme after another, does not give
me a single worm. My rivals in this search are finding their game at every
moment; I cannot find it even once. Yet one more reason for bowing to the
superiority of the insect in the management of her affairs. My band of
schoolboys get to work in the surrounding fields. Nothing, always nothing!
I in my turn explore the outer world; and for ten days the pursuit of a
caterpillar torments me till I lose my power of sleep. Then, at last,
victory! At the foot of a sunny wall, under the budding rosettes of the
panicled centaury, I find a fair supply of the precious Grey Worm or its

Behold the worm and the Ammophila face to face beneath the bell-glass.
Usually the attack is prompt enough. The caterpillar is grabbed by the neck
with the mandibles, wide, curved pincers capable of embracing the greater
part of the living cylinder. The creature thus seized twists and turns and
sometimes, with a blow of its tail, sends the assailant rolling to a
distance. The latter is unconcerned and thrusts her sting thrice in rapid
succession into the thorax, beginning with the third segment and ending
with the first, where the weapon is driven home with greater determination
than elsewhere.

The caterpillar is then released. The Ammophila stamps on the ground; with
her quivering tarsi she taps the cardboard on which the bell-glass stands;
she lies down flat, drags herself along, gets up again, flattens herself
once more. The wings jerk convulsively. From time to time the insect places
its mandibles and forehead on the ground, then rears high upon its hind-
legs as though to turn head over heels. In all this I see a manifestation
of delight. We rub our hands when rejoicing at a success; the Ammophila is
celebrating her triumph over the monster in her own fashion. During this
fit of delirious joy, what is the wounded caterpillar doing? It can no
longer walk; but all the part behind the thorax struggles violently,
curling and uncurling when the Ammophila sets a foot upon it. The mandibles
open and shut menacingly.

SECOND ACT.--When the operation is resumed, the caterpillar is seized by
the back. From front to rear, in order, all the segments are stung on the
ventral surface, except the three operated on. All serious danger is
averted by the stabs of the first act; therefore, the Wasp is now able to
work upon her patient without the haste displayed at the outset.
Deliberately and methodically she drives in her lancet, withdraws it,
selects the spot, stabs it and begins again, passing from segment to
segment, taking care, each time, to lay hold of the back a little more to
the rear, in order to bring the segment to be paralysed within reach of the
needle. For the second time, the caterpillar is released. It is absolutely
inert, except the mandibles, which are still capable of biting.

THIRD ACT.--The Ammophila clasps the paralysed victim between her legs;
with the hooks of her mandibles she seizes the back of its neck, at the
base of the first thoracic segment. For nearly ten minutes she munches this
weak spot, which lies close to the cerebral nerve-centres. The pincers
squeeze suddenly but at intervals and methodically, as though the
manipulator wished each time to judge of the effect produced; the squeezes
are repeated until I am tired of trying to count them. When they cease, the
caterpillar's mandibles are motionless. Then comes the transportation of
the carcase, a detail which is not relevant in this place.

I have set forth the complete tragedy, as it is fairly often enacted, but
not always. The insect is not a machine, unvarying in the effect of its
mechanism; it is allowed a certain latitude, enabling it to cope with the
eventualities of the moment. Any one expecting to see the incidents of the
struggle unfolding themselves exactly as I have described will risk
disappointment. Special instances occur--they are even numerous--which are
more or less at variance with the general rule. It will be well to mention
the more important, in order to put future observers on their guard.

Not infrequently the first act, that of paralysing the thorax, is
restricted to two thrusts of the sting instead of three, or even to one,
which is then delivered in the foremost segment. This, it would seem, from
the persistency with which the Ammophila inflicts it, is the most important
prick of all. Is it unreasonable to suppose that the operator, when she
begins by pricking the thorax, intends to subdue her capture and to make it
incapable of injuring her, or even of disturbing her when the moment comes
for the delicate and protracted surgery of the second act? This idea seems
to me highly admissible; and then, instead of three dagger-thrusts, why not
two only, why not merely one, if this would suffice for the time being? The
amount of vigour displayed by the caterpillar must be taken into
consideration. Be this as it may, the segments spared in the first act are
stabbed in the second. I have sometimes even seen the three thoracic
segments stung twice over: at the beginning of the attack and again when
the Wasp returned to her vanquished prey.

The Ammophila's triumphant transports beside her wounded and writhing
victim are also subject to exceptions. Sometimes, without releasing its
prey for a moment, the insect proceeds from the thorax to the next segments
and completes its operation in a single spell. The joyous entr'acte does
not take place; the convulsive movements of the wings and the acrobatic
postures are suppressed.

The rule is paralysis of all the segments, however many, in regular order
from front to back, including even the anal segment if this boast of legs.
By a fairly frequent exception the last two or three segments are spared.
Another exception, but a very rare one, of which I have observed only a
single instance, consists in the inversion of the dagger-thrusts of the
second act, the thrusts being delivered from back to front. The caterpillar
is then seized by its hinder extremity; and the Ammophila, progressing
towards the head, stings in reverse order, passing from the succeeding to
the preceding segment, including the thorax already stabbed. This reversal
of the usual tactics I am inclined to attribute to negligence on the
insect's part. Negligence or not, the inverted method has the same final
result as the direct method: the paralysis of all the segments.

Lastly, the compression of the neck by the mandibulary pincers, the
munching of the weak spot between the base of the skull and the first
segment of the thorax, is sometimes practised and sometimes neglected. If
the caterpillar's jaws open and threaten, the Ammophila stills them by
biting the neck; if they are already growing quiescent, she refrains.
Without being indispensable, this operation is useful at the moment of
carting the prey. The caterpillar, too heavy to be carried on the wing, is
dragged, head first, between the Ammophila's legs. If the mandibles are
working, the least clumsiness may render them dangerous to the carrier, who
is exposed to their bite without any means of defence.

Moreover, once on the way, thickets of grass are traversed in which the
Grey Worm can seize a blade and offer a desperate resistance to the
traction. Nor is this all. The Ammophila does not as a rule trouble about
her burrow, or at least does not complete it, until she has caught her
caterpillar. During the mining-operations, the game is laid somewhere high
up, out of reach of the Ants, on some tuft of grass, or the twigs of a
shrub, whither the huntress, from time to time, stopping her well-sinking,
hastens to see if her quarry is still there. For her this is a means of
refreshing her memory of the spot where she has laid it, often at some
distance from the burrow, and of preventing attempts at robbery. When the
moment comes for removing the game from its hiding-place, the difficulty
would be insurmountable were the worm, gripping the shrub with all the
might of its jaws, to anchor itself there. Hence inertia of the powerful
hooks, which are the paralysed creature's sole means of resistance, becomes
essential during the carting. The Ammophila obtains it by compressing the
cerebral ganglia, by munching the neck. The inertia is temporary; it wears
off sooner or later; but by this time the carcase is in the cell and the
egg, prudently laid at a distance on the ventral surface of the worm, has
nothing to fear from the caterpillar's grapnels. No comparison is
permissible between the methodical squeezes of the Ammophila benumbing the
cephalic nerve-centres and the brutal manipulations of the Philanthus
emptying the crop of her Bee. The huntress of Grey Worms induces a
temporary torpor of the mandibles; the ravisher of Bees makes them eject
their honey. No one gifted with the least perspicacity will confound the
two operations.

For the moment we will not dwell any longer on the method of the Hairy
Ammophila; we will see instead how her kinswomen behave. After protracted
refusals the Sandy Ammophila (A. sabulosa, FAB.),on whom I experimented in
September, ended by accepting the proffered prey, a powerful caterpillar as
thick as a lead-pencil. The surgical method did not differ from that
employed by the Hairy Ammophila when operating on her Grey Worm in one
spell. All the segments, excepting the last three, were stung from front to
back, beginning with the prothorax. This single success with a simplified
method left me in ignorance of the accessory manoeuvres, which I do not
doubt must more or less closely recall those of the preceding species.

I am all the more inclined to accept these secondary manoeuvres, not as yet
recorded--the transports of triumph and the compressions of the neck--
inasmuch as I see them practised upon the Looper caterpillars, which differ
so greatly from the others in external structure, exactly as I have
described them in the case of the Grey Worm, which is of the ordinary form.
Two species, the Silky Ammophila (A. holoserica, FAB.) and Jules' Ammophila
(See in the first volume of the "Souvenirs entomologiques" what I mean by
this denomination.--Author's Note.), affect this curious prey, which moves
with the stride of a pair of compasses. The first, often renewed under
glass during the greater part of August, has always refused my offers; the
second, her contemporary, has, on the contrary, promptly accepted them.

I present Jules' Ammophila with a slender, brownish Looper which I caught
on the jasmine. The attack is not slow in coming. The caterpillar is
grabbed by the neck: lively contortions of the victim, which rolls the
aggressor over and drags her along, now uppermost, now undermost in the
struggle. First the thorax is stung, in its three rings, from back to
front. The sting lingers longest near the throat, in the first segment.
This done, the Ammophila releases her victim and proceeds to stamp her
tarsi, to polish her wings, to stretch herself. Again I observe the
acrobatic postures, the forehead touching the ground, the hinder part of
the body raised. This mimic triumph is the same as that of the huntress of
the Grey Worm. Then the Looper is once more seized. Despite its
contortions, which are not in the least abated by the three wounds in the
thorax, it is stung from front to back in each segment still unwounded, no
matter how many, whether supplied with legs or not. I expected to see the
sting refrain more or less in the long interval which separates the true
legs in front from the pro-legs at the back (Fleshy legs found on the
abdominal segments of caterpillars and certain other larvae.--Translator's
Note.): segments devoid of organs of defence or locomotion did not seem to
me to deserve conscientious surgery. I was mistaken: not a segment of the
Looper is spared, not even the last ones. It is true that these, being
eminently capable of catching hold with their false legs, would be
dangerous later were the Wasp to neglect them.

I observe, however, that the lancet works more rapidly in the second part
of the operation than in the first, either because the caterpillar, half
subjugated by the triple wound at the outset, is easier to reach with the
sting, or because the segments more remote from the head are rendered
harmless with a smaller injection of poison. Nowhere do we see repeated the
care expended upon paralysing the thorax, still less the insistent
attention to the first segment. On returning to her Looper after the
entr'acte devoted to the joys of success, the Ammophila stabs so swiftly
that, on one occasion, I saw her obliged to begin all over again. Lightly
stung along its whole length, the victim still struggles. Without
hesitation, the operator unsheathes her scalpel for the second time and
operates on the Looper afresh, with the exception of the thorax, which was
already sufficiently anaesthetized. This done, all is in order; there is no
more movement.

After the stiletto the hooks of the mandibles rarely fail to intervene.
Long and curved, they nibble at the paralysed victim's neck, sometimes from
above, sometimes from below. It is a repetition of what the Hairy Ammophila
showed us: the same sudden squeezes of the pincers, with rather long
intervals between. These intervals, these measured bites and the insect's
watchful attitude have every appearance of telling us that the operator is
noting the effect produced before giving a fresh pinch of the nippers.

It will be seen how valuable is the evidence of Jules' Ammophila: it tells
us that the immolaters of Looper caterpillars and those of ordinary
caterpillars follow precisely the same method; that victims displaying very
dissimilar external structure do not entail any modification of the
operative tactics so long as the internal organization remains the same.
The number, arrangement and degree of mutual independence of the nerve-
centres guide the sting; the anatomy of the game, rather than its form,
controls the huntress' tactics.

Let me mention, before I dismiss the subject, a superb example of this
marvellous anatomical discrimination. I once took from between the legs of
a Hairy Ammophila, which had just paralysed it, a caterpillar of Dicranura
vinula. What a strange capture compared with the ordinary caterpillar!
Bridling in thick folds beneath its pink neckerchief, its fore-part raised
in a sphinx-like attitude, its hinder-part slowly waving two long caudal
threads, the curious animal is no caterpillar to the schoolboy who brings
it to me, nor to the man who comes upon it while cutting his bundle of
osiers; but it is a caterpillar to the Ammophila, who treats it
accordingly. I explore the queer creature's segments with the point of a
needle. All are insensitive; all therefore have been stung.


After the Ammophilae, the paralysers who multiply their lancet-thrusts to
destroy the influence of the various nerve-centres, excepting those of the
head, it seemed advisable to interrogate other insects which also are
accustomed to a naked prey, vulnerable at all points save the head, but
which deliver only a single thrust of the sting. Of these two conditions
the Scoliae fulfilled one, with their regular quarry, the tender Cetonia-,
Oryctes-or Anoxia-larva, according to the Scolia's species. Did they fulfil
the second? I was convinced beforehand that they did. From the anatomy of
the victims, with their concentrated nervous system, I foresaw, when
compiling my history of the Scoliae, that the sting would be unsheathed
once only; I even mentioned the exact spot into which the weapon would be

These were assertions dictated by the anatomist's scalpel, without the
slightest direct proof derived from observed facts. Manoeuvres executed
underground escaped the eye, as it seemed to me that they must always do.
How indeed could I hope that a creature whose art is practised in the
darkness of a heap of mould would decide to work in broad daylight? I did
not reckon upon it all. Nevertheless, to salve my conscience, I tried
bringing the Scolia into contact with her prey under the bell-glass. I was
well-advised to do so, for my success was in inverse ratio to my hopes.
Next to the Philanthus, none of the Hunting Wasps displayed such ardour in
attacking under artificial conditions. All the insects experimented upon,
some sooner, some later, rewarded me for my patience. Let us watch the Two-
banded Scolia (S. bifasciata, VAN DER LIND) operating on her Cetonia grub.

The incarcerated larva strives to escape its terrible neighbour. Lying on
its back, it fiercely wends its way round and round the glass circus.
Presently the Scolia's attention awakens and is betrayed by a continued
tapping with the tips of the antennae upon the table, which now represents
the accustomed soil. The Wasp attacks the game, delivering her assault upon
the monster's hinder end. She climbs upon the Cetonia-grub, obtaining a
purchase with the tip of her abdomen. The quarry merely travels the more
quickly on its back, without coiling itself into a defensive posture. The
Scolia reaches the fore-part, with tumbles and other accidents which vary
greatly with the amount of tolerance displayed by the larva, her improvised
steed. With her mandibles she nips a point of the thorax, on the upper
surface; she places herself athwart the beast, arches herself and makes
every effort to reach with the end of her abdomen the region into which the
sting is to be driven. The arch is a little too narrow to embrace almost
the whole circumference of her corpulent prey; and she renews her attempts
and efforts for a long time. The tip of the belly tries every conceivable
expedient, touching here, there and everywhere, but as yet stopping
nowhere. This persistent search in itself demonstrates the importance which
the paralyser attaches to the point at which her lancet is to penetrate the

Meanwhile, the larva continues to move along on its back. Suddenly it curls
up; with a stroke of its head it hurls the enemy to a distance.
Undiscouraged by all her set-backs, the Wasp picks herself up, brushes her
wings and resumes her attack upon the colossus, almost always by mounting
the larva's hinder end. At last after all these fruitless attempts, the
Scolia succeeds in achieving the correct position. She is seated athwart
the Cetonia-grub; the mandibles grip a point on the dorsal surface of the
thorax; the body, bent into a bow, passes under the larva and with the tip
of the belly reaches the region of the neck. The Cetonia-grub, placed in
serious peril, writhes, coils and uncoils itself, spinning round upon its
axis. The Scolia does not interfere. Holding the victim tightly gripped,
she turns with it, allows herself to be dragged upwards, downwards,
sidewards, following its contortions. Her obstinacy is such that I can now
remove the bell-glass and follow the details of the drama in the open.

Briefly, in spite of the turmoil, the tip of the abdomen feels that the
right spot has been found. Then and only then the sting is unsheathed. It
plunges in. The thing is done. The larva, at first plump and active,
suddenly becomes flaccid and inert. It is paralysed. Henceforth there are
no movements save of the antennae and the mouthparts, which will for a long
time yet bear witness to a remnant of life. The point wounded has never
varied in the series of combats under glass: it occupies the middle of the
line of demarcation between the prothorax and the mesothorax, on the
ventral surface. Note that the Cerceres, operating on Weevils, whose
nervous system is as compact as the Cetonia-grub's, drive in the needle at
the same spot. Similarity of nervous organization occasions similarity of
method. Note also that the Scolia's sting remains in the wound for some
time and roots about with marked persistence. Judging by the movements of
the tip of the abdomen, one would certainly say that the weapon is
exploring and selecting. Free to shift in one direction or the other,
within narrow limits, its point is most probably seeking for the little
mass of nerve-tissue which must be pricked, or at least sprinkled with
poison, to obtain overwhelming paralysis.

I will not close this report of the duel without relating a few further
facts, of minor importance. The Two-banded Scolia is a fierce persecutor of
the Cetonia. In one sitting the same mother stabs three larvae, one after
the other, in front of my eyes. She refuses the fourth, perhaps owing to
fatigue or to exhaustion of the poison-bag. Her refusal is only temporary.
Next day, she begins again and paralyses two grubs; the day after that, she
does the same, but with a zeal that decreases from day to day.

The other Hunting Wasps that pursue the chase far afield grip, drag, carry
their prey, after depriving it of movement, each in her own fashion and,
laden with their burden, make prolonged attempts to escape from the bell-
glass and to gain the burrow. Discouraged by these futile endeavours, they
abandon them at last. The Scolia does not remove her quarry, which lies on
its back for an indefinite time on the actual spot of the sacrifice. When
she has withdrawn her dagger from the wound, she leaves her victim where it
lies and, without taking further notice of it, begins to flutter against
the side of the glass. The paralysed carcase is not transported elsewhere,
into a special cellar; there where the struggle has occurred it receives,
upon its extended abdomen, the egg whence the consumer of the succulent
tit-bit will emerge, thus saving the expense of setting up house. It goes
without saying that under the bell-glass the laying does not take place:
the mother is too cautious to abandon her egg to the perils of the open

Why then, recognizing the absence of her underground burrow, does the
Scolia uselessly pursue the Cetonia with the frantic ardour of the
Philanthus flinging herself upon the Bee? The action of the Philanthus is
explained by her passion for honey; hence the murders committed in excess
of the needs of her family. The Scolia leaves us perplexed: she takes
nothing from the Cetonia-grub, which is left without an egg; she stabs,
though well aware of the uselessness of her action: the heap of mould is
lacking and it is not her custom to transport her prey. The other
prisoners, once the blow is struck, at least seek to escape with their
capture between their legs; the Scolia attempts nothing.

After due reflection, I lump together in my suspicions all these surgeons
and ask myself whether they possess the slightest foresight, where the egg
is concerned. When, exhausted by their burden, they recognize the
impossibility of escape, the more expert among them ought not to begin all
over again; yet they do so begin a few minutes later. These wonderful
anatomists know absolutely nothing about anything, they do not even know
what their victims are good for. Admirable artists in killing and
paralysis, they kill or paralyse at every favourable opportunity, no matter
what the final result as regards the egg. Their talent, which leaves our
science speechless, has not a shadow of consciousness of the task

A second detail strikes me: the desperate persistence of the Scolia. I have
seen the struggle continue for more than a quarter of an hour, with
frequent alternations of good luck and bad, before the Wasp achieved the
required position and reached with the end of her abdomen the spot where
the sting should penetrate. During these assaults, which were resumed as
soon as they were repulsed, the aggressor repeatedly applied the tip of her
belly to the larva, but without unsheathing, as I could see by the absence
of the start which the larva gives when it feels the pain of the sting. The
Scolia therefore does not prick the Cetonia anywhere until the weapon
covers the requisite spot. If no wounds are inflicted elsewhere, this is
not in any way due to the structure of the larva, which is soft and
vulnerable all over, except in the head. The point sought by the sting is
no more unprotected than any other part of the skin.

In the scuffle, the Scolia, curved into a bow, is sometimes seized by the
vice-like grip of the Cetonia-grub, which is violently coiling and
uncoiling. Heedless of the powerful grip, the Wasp does not let go for a
moment, either with her mandibles or with the tip of her abdomen. At such
times the two creatures, locked in a mutual embrace, turn over and over in
a mad whirl, each of them now on top, now underneath. When it contrives to
rid itself of its enemy, the larva uncoils again, stretches itself out and
proceeds to make off upon its back with all possible speed. Its defensive
ruses are exhausted. Formerly, before I had seen things for myself, taking
probability as my guide I willingly granted to the larva the trick of the
Hedgehog, who rolls himself into a ball and sets the Dog at defiance.
Coiled upon itself, with an energy which my fingers have some difficulty in
overcoming, the larva, I thought, would defy the Scolia, powerless to
unroll it and disdaining any point but the one selected. I hoped and
believed that it possessed this means of defence, a means both efficacious
and extremely simple. I had presumed too much upon its ingenuity. Instead
of imitating the Hedgehog and remaining contracted, it flees, belly in air;
it foolishly adopts the very posture which allows the Scolia to mount to
the assault and to reach the spot for the fatal stroke. The silly beast
reminds me of the giddy Bee who comes and flings herself into the clutches
of the Philanthus. Yet another who has learnt no lesson from the struggle
for life.

Let us proceed to further examples. I have just captured an Interrupted
Scolia (Colpa interrupta, LATR.), exploring the sand, doubtless in search
of game. It is a matter of making the earliest possible use of her, before
her spirit is chilled by the tedium of captivity. I know her prey, the
larva of Anoxia australis (The Anoxia are a genus of Beetles akin to the
Cockchafers.--Translator's Note.); I know, from my past excavations, the
points favoured by the grub: the mounds of sand heaped up by the wind at
the foot of the rosemaries on the neighbouring hill-sides. It will be a
hard job to find it, for nothing is rarer than the common if one wants it
then and there. I appeal for assistance to my father, an old man of ninety,
still straight as a capital I. Under a sun hot enough to broil an egg, we
set off, shouldering a navvy's shovel and a three-pronged luchet. (The
local pitchfork of southern France.--Translator's Note.) Employing our
feeble energies in turns, we dig a trench in the sand where I hope to find
the Anoxia. My hopes are not disappointed. After having by the sweat of our
brow--never was the expression more justified--removed and sifted two cubic
yards at least of sandy soil with our fingers, we find ourselves in
possession of two larvae. If I had not wanted any, I should have turned
them up by the handful. But my poor and costly harvest is sufficient for
the moment. To-morrow I will send more vigorous arms to continue the work
of excavation.

And now let us reward ourselves for our trouble by studying the tragedy in
the bell-glass. Clumsy, awkward in her movements, the Scolia slowly goes
the round of the circus. At the sight of the game, her attention is
aroused. The struggle is announced by the same preparations as those
displayed by the Two-banded Scolia: the Wasp polishes her wings and taps
the table with the tips of her antennae. And view, halloo! The attack
begins. Unable to move on a flat surface, because of its short and feeble
legs, deprived moreover of the Cetonia-larva's eccentric means of
travelling on its back, the portly grub has no thought of fleeing; it coils
itself up. The Scolia, with her powerful pincers, grips its skin now here,
now elsewhere. Curved into a circle with the two ends almost touching, she
strives to thrust the tip of her abdomen into the narrow opening in the
coil formed by the larva. The contest is conducted calmly, without violent
bouts at each varying accident. It is the determined attempt of a living
split ring trying to slip one of its ends into another living split ring,
which with equal determination refuses to open. The Scolia holds the victim
subdued with her legs and mandibles; she tries one side, then the other,
without managing to unroll the circle, which contracts still more as it
feels its danger increasing. The actual circumstances make the operation
more difficult: the prey slips and rolls about the table when the insect
handles it too violently; there are no points of purchase and the sting
cannot reach the desired spot; the fruitless efforts are continued for more
than an hour, interrupted by periods of rest, during which the two
adversaries represent two narrow, interlocked rings.

What ought the powerful Cetonia-grub to do to defy the Two-banded Scolia,
who is far less vigorous than her victim? It should imitate the Anoxia-
larva and remain rolled up like a Hedgehog until the enemy retires. It
tries to escape, unrolls itself and is lost. The other does not stir from
its posture of defence and resists successfully. Is this due to acquired
caution? No, but to the impossibility of doing otherwise on the slippery
surface of a table. Clumsy, obese, weak in the legs, curved into a hook
like the common White Worm (The larva of the Cockchafer.--Translator's
Note.), the Anoxia-larva is unable to move along a smooth surface; it
writhes laboriously, lying on its side. It needs the shifting soil in
which, using its mandibles as a plough-share, it digs into the ground and
buries itself.

Let us try if sand will shorten the struggle, for I see no end to it yet,
after more than an hour of waiting. I lightly powder the arena. The attack
is resumed with a vengeance. The larva, feeling the sand, its native
element, tries to escape. Imprudent creature! Did I not say that its
obstinacy in remaining rolled up was due to no acquired prudence but to the
necessity of the moment? The sad experience of past adversities has not yet
taught it the precious advantage which it might derive from keeping its
coils closed so long as danger remains. For that matter, on the unyielding
support of my table, they are not one and all so cautious. The larger seem
even to have forgotten what they knew so well in their youth: the defensive
art of coiling themselves up.

I continue my story with a fine-sized specimen, less likely to slip under
the Scolia's onslaught. When attacked, the larva does not curl up, does not

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