Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

him ; every animal he sees reproaches him. Let such a man, who lies as a burthen or dead weight upon the species, and contributes nothing either to the riches of the commonwealth, or to the maintenance of himself and family, consider that instinct with which Providence has endowed the ant, and by which is exhibited an example of industry to rational creatures. This is set forth under many surprising instances in the paper of yesterday, and in the conclusion of that narrative, which is as follows: Thus

my

ants were forced to make shift for a livelihood, when I had shut up the garret out of which they used to fetch their provisions. At last, being sensible that it would be a long time before they could discover the small heap of corn which I had laid up for them, I resolved to show it to them.

“In order to know how far their industry could reach, I contrived an expedient, which had good success : the thing will appear incredible to those who never considered that all animals of the same kind, which form a society, are more knowing than others. I took one of the largest ants, and threw her upon that small heap of wheat. She was so glad to find herself at liberty, that she ran away to her nest, without carrying off a grain ; but she observed it: for an hour after, all my ants had notice given them of such a provision ; and I saw most of them very busy in carrying away the corn I had laid up in the room. I leave it to you to judge, whether it may not be said, that they have a particular way of communicating their knowledge to one another : for otherwise, how could they know, one or two hours after, that there was corn in that place ? It was quickly exhausted; and I put in more, but in a small quantity, to know the true extent of their appetite or prodigious avarice ; for I make no doubt but they lay up provisions against the winter: we read it in Holy Scripture; a thousand experiments teach us the same; and I do not believe that any experiment has been made that shows the contrary.

I have said before, that there were three ants' nests in that box or parterre, which formed, if I may say so, three different cities, governed by the same laws, and observing the same order and the same customs. However, there was this difference, that the inhabitants of one of those holes seemed to be more knowing and industrious than their

[ocr errors]

neighbours. The ants of that nest were disposed in a better order; their corn was finer; they had a greater plenty of provisions; their nest was furnished with more inhabitants, and they were bigger and stronger : it was the principal and the capital nest. Nay, I observed that those ants were distinguished from the rest, and had some pre-eminence

over them.

[ocr errors]

Though the box-full of earth, where the ants had made their settlement, was generally free from rain ; yet it rained sometimes upon it, when a certain wind blew. It was a great inconvenience for those insects: ants are afraid of water; and when they go a great way in quest of provisions, and are surprised by the rain, they shelter themselves under some tile, or something else, and do not come out until the rain is over.

The ants of the principal nest found out a wonderful expedient to keep out the rain : there was a small piece of a flat slate, which they laid over the hole of their nest, in the day-time, when they foresaw it would rain, and almost every night. About fifty of those little animals, especially the strongest, surrounded that piece of slate, and drew it equally in a wonderful order : they removed it in the morning; and nothing could be more curious than to see those little animals about such a work. They had made the ground uneven about their nest, insomuch that the slate did not lie flat upon it, but left a free passage underneath. The ants of the two other nests did not so well succeed in keeping out the rain ; they laid over their holes several pieces of old and dry plaster, one upon the other; but they were still troubled with the rain, and the next day they took a world of pains to repair the damage. Hence it is, that those insects are so frequently to be found under tiles, where they settle themselves to avoid the rain. Their nests are at all times covered with those tiles, without any encumbrance, and they lay out their corn and their dry earth in the sun about the tiles, as one may see every day. I took care to cover the two ants' nests that were troubled with the rain : as for the capital nest, there was no need of exercising my charity towards it.

“ M. de la Loubere says, in his relation of Siam, that in a certain part of that kingdom, which lies open to great inundations, all the ants make their settlements upon trees; no ants' nests are to be seen anywhere else. I need not insert here what that author says about those insects; you may see bis relation.

“ Here follows a curious experiment, which I made upon the same ground, where I had three ants' nests. I undertook to make a fourth, and went about it in the following manner. In a corner of a kind of a terrace, at a considerable distance from the box, I found a hole swarming with ants much larger than all those I had already seen; but they were not so well provided with corn, nor under so good a government. I made a hole in the box like that of an ants' nest, and laid, as it were, the foundations of a new city. Afterwards, I got as many ants as I could out of the nest in the terrace, and put them into a bottle, to give them a new habitation in my box; and because I was afraid they would return to the terrace, I destroyed their old nest, pouring boiling water into the hole, to kill those ants that remained in it. In the next place, I filled the new hole with the ants that were in the bottle; but none of them would stay in it: they went away in less than two hours; which made me believe that it was impossible to make a fourth settlement in

my box.

“ Two or three days after, going accidentally over the terrace, I was very much surprised to see the ants' nest which I had destroyed, very artfully repaired. I resolved then to destroy it entirely, and to settle those ants in my box. To succeed in my design, I put some gunpowder and brimstone into their hole, and sprung a mine, whereby the whole nest was overthrown; and then I carried as many ants as I could get, into the place which I designed for them. It happened to be a very rainy day, and it rained all night; and therefore they remained in the new hole all that time. In the morning, when the rain was over, most of them went to repair their old habitation; but, finding it impracticable by reason of the smell of the powder and brimstone, which kills them, they came back again, and settled in the place I had appointed for them. They quickly grew acquainted with their neighbours, and received from them all manner of assistance out of their holes. As for the inside of their nest, none but themselves were concerned in it, according to the inviolable laws established among those animals.

“ An ant never goes into any other nest but her own; and

[ocr errors]

if she should venture to do it, she would be turned out, and severely punished. I have often taken an ant out of one nest, to put her into another; but she quickly came out, being warmly pursued by two or three other ants. I tried the same experiment several times with the same ant; but at last the other ants grew impatient, and tore her to pieces. I have often frighted some ants with my fingers, and pursued them as far as another hole; stopping all the passages to prevent their going to their own nest. It was very natural for them to fly into the next hole: many a man would not be so cautious, and would throw himself out of the windows, or into a well, if he were pursued by assassins. But the ants I am speaking of, avoided going into any other hole but their own, and rather tried all other ways of making their escape. They never fled into another nest, but at the last extremity; and sometimes rather chose to be taken, as I have often experienced. It is therefore an inviolable custom among those insects, not to go into any other hole but their own. They do not exercise hospitality ; but they are very ready to help one another out of their holes. They put down their loads at the entrance of a neighbouring nest; and those that live in it carry them in.

They keep up a sort of trade among themselves; and it is not true that those insects are not for lending: I know the contrary: they lend their corn; they make exchanges; they are always ready to serve one another; and I can assure you, that more time and patience would have enabled me to observe a thousand things more curious and wonderful than what I have mentioned. For instance, how they lend, and recover their loans; whether it be in the same quantity, or with usury, whether they pay the strangers that work for them, &c. I do not think it impossible to examine all those things; and it would be a great curiosity to know by what maxims they govern themselves : perhaps such a knowledge might be of some use to us.

* They are never attacked by any enemies in a body, as it is reported of bees: their only fear proceeds from birds, which sometimes eat their corn when they lay it out in the sun; but they keep it under ground when they are afraid of thieves. It is said, that some birds eat them; but I never saw any instance of it.

They are also infested by small worms; but they turn them out, and kill them. I observed, that they punished those ants which probably had been wanting to their duty: nay, sometimes they killed them; which they did in the following manner.

Three or four ants fell upon one, and pulled her several ways, until she was torn in pieces. Generally speaking, they live very quietly; from whence I infer that they have a very severe discipline among themselves, to keep so good an order; or that they are great lovers of peace, if they have no occasion for any discipline.

“ Was there ever a greater union in any commonwealth ? Everything is common among them ; which is not to be seen anywhere else.

Bees, of which we are told so many wonderful things, have each of them a hole in their hives; their honey is their own; every bee minds her own concerns. The same may be said of all other animals: they frequently fight, to deprive one another of their portion. It is not so with ants ; they have nothing of their own : a grain of corn which an ant carries home, is deposited in a common stock: it is not designed for her own use, but for the whole community: there is no distinction between a private and a common interest. An ant never works for herself, but for the society.

“ Whatever misfortune happens to them, their care and industry find out a remedy for it; nothing discourages them. If you destroy their nests, they will be repaired in two days. Anybody may easily see how difficult it is to drive them out of their habitations, without destroying the inhabitants; for as long as there are any left, they will maintain their ground.

“I had almost forgot to tell you, sir, that mercury has hitherto proved a mortal poison for them; and that it is the most effectual way of destroying those insects. I can do something for them in this case : perhaps you will hear in a, little time that I have reconciled them to mercury.”

No. 158. FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 11.

Gnossius hæc Rhadamanthus habet durissima regna :
Castigatque, auditque dolos : subigitque fateri
Quæ quis apud superos, furto lætatus inani,

Distulit in seram commissa piacula mortem. VIRG. I was yesterday pursuing the hint which I mentioned in my last paper, and comparing together the industry of man

« ПредишнаНапред »