Animal Biography

Animal Biography:




Capricorn Beetles


Ground Beetles








Cochineal Insects









Sand Wasps
















English Index

Systematic Index



Each moss,

Each shell, each crawling insect, holds a rank

Important in the plan of Him who fram’d

This scale of beings; holds a rank, which lost

Would break the chain, and leave a gap

That nature’s self would rue!

The Insect division of the animal world received its name from the individuals of which it is composed having a separation in the middle of their bodies, by which they are cut into two parts. These parts are in general connected by a slender ligament or hollow thread.

Insects breathe through pores arranged along their sides⁕1; and have a hard or bony skin, and many feet. The greater part of them are furnished with wings. They are destitute of brain, nostrils, ears, and eyelids. Not only the liver, but all the secretory glands are, in them, replaced by long vessels that float in the abdomen. The mouth is in general situated under the head; and is furnished with III.222 transverse jaws, with lips, a kind of teeth, a tongue, and palate: it has also, in most instances, four or six palpi, or feelers. Insects have also moveable antennæ, proceeding generally from the front part of the head, which are endowed with a very nice sense of feeling.

In a minute examination that has lately been made in this class by Cuvier, one of the most accurate observers of nature now living, neither a heart nor arteries have been detected; and this gentleman says that the whole organization of insects is such as one would expect to find, if they had been actually known not to be provided with such organs. Their nutrition, therefore, would seem to be carried on by immediate absorption, as is evidently the case with the polypes, and other zoophytes, which are considerably below insects in the perfection of their organization⁕2.

Nearly all insects (except Spiders, and a few others of the apterous tribe, which proceed nearly in a perfect state from the egg) undergo a METAMORPHOSIS, or change, at three different periods of their existence.

The lives of these minute creatures, in their perfect state, are in general so short that the parents have but seldom an opportunity of seeing their living offspring. Consequently, they are neither provided with milk, like viviparous animals, nor are they, like birds, impelled to sit upon their eggs III.223 in order to bring their young to perfection. In place of these, the all-directing Power has endowed each species with the astonishing faculty of being able to discover what substance is fitted to afford the most proper food for its young; though such food is, for the most part, so totally different from that which the parent itself could eat as that, in many cases, it would prove a deadly poison to it. Some of them attach their eggs to the bark, or insert them into the leaves of trees and other vegetable substances; others form nests, which they store with insects or caterpillars that will attain the exact state in which they are proper food for their young when they shall awaken into life; others bury them in the bodies of other insects; and others fall upon astonishing contrivances to convey their eggs into the body, or the internal viscera of larger animals. Some drop their eggs into the water, in which they themselves would soon be destroyed, as if they foresaw that their progeny, in its first state of existence, could only subsist in that element. In short, the variety of contrivances that are adopted by insects to insure the subsistence of their young, when they shall come into life, are beyond enumeration. It may, however, with great truth, be said that all the means they adopt are so perfectly adapted to answer the purpose intended as to discover a degree of knowledge that leaves the boasted wisdom of man at an infinite distance behind.

From the eggs of all insects proceed what are called larvæ, grubs, or caterpillars. These consist of a long body, covered with a soft tender skin, III.224 divided into segments or rings, which are capable of being moved towards each other by muscular bands situated within the body. The motions of many of the larvæ are performed on these rings only, either in the manner of serpents, or by resting alternately each segment of the body on the plane which supports it. Such is the motion of the larvæ of the Flies, emphatically so called, and of the wasps and bees. Sometimes the surfaces of the rings are covered by spines, stiff bristles, or hooks: this is the case in Gad-flies, Crane-flies, and some others. The bodies of the larvæ, in some orders of insects, have inferiorly, and towards the head, six feet, each formed of three small joints; the last of which is scaly, and terminates in a hook: this is usual in the larvæ of Beetles and Dragon-flies. The larvæ of Butterflies and Moths, besides six scaly articulated feet, have a variable number of other false feet, which are not jointed, but terminate in hooks, disposed in circles and semicircles. These hooks, which are attached to the skin by a kind of retractile tubercles, serve as cramps to assist their motion on other bodies. The larvæ of those insects that undergo only a semi-metamorphosis, as the Crickets, Cock-roaches, and others of the order Hemiptera, and the larvæ of the insects that have no transformation, as in the Aptera (the Flea excepted), differ in no respect, as to their feet, from the perfect insects.—In this larvæ state many insects remain for months, and others for a year, or sometimes even for two or three years; increasing somewhat in size as they grow older, and occasionally III.225 changing their skins. They are, in general, extremely voracious, often devouring more than their own weight in the course of twenty-four hours.

As soon as all their parts become perfected, and they are prepared to appear under a new form, in a pupa or chrysalis⁕3, they fix upon some convenient place, where they are least exposed to danger, for the performance of the arduous operation. This is essentially necessary, since, in their transformation, they have neither strength to resist, nor swiftness to avoid, the attack of an enemy. That power, which instructed the parents to deposit their eggs in a proper receptacle, at this critical period directs the offspring in the most secure and appropriate situation for their future defenceless state. Some of them, as in many of the Moths, spin webs or cones, in which they inclose themselves; others undergo their change in decayed wood; and others conceal themselves under the surface of the earth. The larvæ of Butterflies spin a little web, just sufficient to suspend themselves by to the substance they fix upon.—Preparatory to the transformation, the larvæ cease to take any food, and, for some days, continue in a state of inactivity. During this time the internal organs are gradually unfolding themselves. When the completion is at hand, many of them may be observed alternately to extend and contract their bodies, to disengage themselves from the caterpillar skin. The hinder parts are those first liberated: when this is done, the animals contract, III.226 and draw the skin up towards their head; and, by strong efforts, soon afterwards push it entirely off. In their chrysalid state they remain for some time, to all appearance, perfectly inanimate; but this is only in appearance, for, on being taken into the hand, they will always be found to exhibit signs of life. It is singular that, in the changes of insects, the intestinal canal is frequently very different in the same individuals, as they pass through their three states. In the larvæ this is composed of two principal tubes, the one inserted into the other: the external tube is compact and fleshy, and the internal one thin and transparent. The latter is always thrown out of the body previously to the transformation.

As soon as the parts of the animal, within the shell of the chrysalis, have acquired strength sufficient to break the bonds that surround it, the little creature exerts its powers, and appears to the world in its perfect state. For a little while it continues humid and weak; but, as the humidity evaporates, its wings and shell become hardened, and it soon afterwards commits itself in safety to its new element.

From the metamorphosis of insects I shall proceed to the examination of some of their more important members, as observed in the perfect state of the animals.

Some writers have conjectured that the antennæ or horns of insects were their organs of hearing; for it is evident, from various experiments, that insects are possessed of this sense in a degree as III.227 exquisite as most other animals, although, from their minuteness, we perhaps may never discover by what means. The antennæ, however, seem little likely to answer the purpose of ears. These instruments of apparently exquisite sensibility seem adapted to very different purposes, but to purposes with which we may remain long unacquainted.

The eyes are formed of a transparent crustaceous set of lenses, so sufficiently hard as to require no coverings to protect them. These, like multiplying glasses, have innumerable surfaces, on every one of which the objects are distinctly formed; so that, if a candle is held opposite to them, it appears multiplied almost to infinity on their surfaces. Other creatures are obliged to turn their eyes; but insects have always some or other of these lenses directed towards objects, from what quarter soever they present themselves. All these minute hemispheres are real eyes, through which every thing appears topsyturvy.

Mr. Leeuwenhoek looked through the eye of a Dragon-fly (with the help of a microscope) as a telescope; and viewed the steeple of a church, which was 299 feet high, and 750 from the place; he could plainly see the steeple, though not apparently larger than the point of a fine needle. He also viewed a house; and could discern the front, distinguish the doors and windows, and perceive whether the windows were open or shut. Mr. Hook computed 14,000 hemispheres in the two eyes of a drone. Mr. Leeuwenhoek reckons in each eye of the Dragon-fly 12,544 lenses. The pictures of objects, III.228 therefore, that are delineated on these, must be millions of times less than those formed on the human eye. Many insects still smaller have eyes, no doubt, contrived so as to discern objects some thousands of times less than themselves, for such the minute particles on which they feed must certainly be. How astonishing, therefore, must be the magnifying power of such eyes! And what extraordinary discoveries might be made, were it possible to obtain glasses through which we could see as these little creatures do!

With respect to the wings of insects, the two first orders of Linnæus have theirs defended by a pair of crustaceous cases called elytra. The three subsequent orders have four membranaceous wings, without elytra. All the insects of the sixth order have but two wings, and under each of these, at its base, there is a poise or balancer like a little knob. These poises are commonly little balls, placed on the top of a slender stalk, and moveable every way at pleasure. In some they stand alone, but in others, as in the whole Flesh-fly tribe, they have little covers or hollow membranaceous scales, each of which somewhat resembles a spoon without a handle: every time the insect strikes the air with its wings, a very quick motion may be perceived in the balancer; and in the flesh-flies, when this moves, it strikes against the little scale, and thus assists in producing the well-known buzzing sound that is made by flies when on the wing. The use of the balancers to an insect seems to be precisely the same as that of a long pole, loaded at each end with lead, is to a III.229 rope-dancer: they render the body steady, and obviate all its vacillations in flight. If one of them be cut off, the insect will immediately fly ill, one side evidently overbalancing the other, till it falls to the ground: if both be cut off, it will fly very awkwardly and unsteadily, exhibiting an evident defect of some necessary part.

The structure of the feet of these diminutive creatures is truly admirable. Those insects that live altogether in water have their feet long, flat, and somewhat hairy at the edges, well adapted to aid their motions in that element. Such as have occasion to burrow into the earth have their legs broad, sharp edged, and serrated. Those that use their feet only in walking have them long, and cylindrical; some of the feet are furnished with sharp hooked claws, and skinny palms, by which, from the pressure of the atmosphere upon them, the insects are enabled to walk on glass and other smooth surfaces, even with their backs downwards, as in various species of flies: others have somewhat like spunges that answer the same end: and the spider has each foot armed with a kind of comb, probably for the purpose of separating the six threads that issue from so many orifices of its body, and prevent them from tangling. In the hind legs of insects which have occasionally to pass over spaces by leaping, the thigh is very large and thick, and the shank long and frequently arched.

From the different formations of these, it is not difficult to recognize the habits and modes of life of insects, even where the specimens exhibited III.230 happen to be dead. The relative proportions of the feet determine, in a certain degree, the manner of each insect’s motion in walking. Those species that have long legs (generally speaking) run very quickly, as the Spiders, the Long-legged Spiders, and several kinds of Beetles. On the contrary, the insects that have short legs, as the Julus, Ticks, and Gall Insects, are generally remarkable for the slowness of their pace. When the anterior feet are the longest, they retard the motion: this takes place in the Ephemera, Mantis, and some others: the feet of these insects are of little other use to them than in enabling them to lay hold of any body on which they wish to alight. The posterior legs, being longest, give to the insects the faculty of leaping. Some insects however leap, whose posterior legs are not longer than the others; but they have this faculty in consequence of the thighs being very thick, and furnished with particular muscles.

The tongue of insects is a taper and compact instrument, by which they suck their food. Some of the animals can contract or expand it; and others, as the Butterflies, roll it up under their head, somewhat like the spring of a watch. In many it is enclosed within a sheath; and in several, as the flies, it is fleshy and tubular.

The mouth is generally placed somewhat underneath the front part of the head; but in a few of the tribes it is situated below the breast. Some insects have it furnished with a kind of forceps, for the purpose of seizing and cutting their prey; and in others it is pointed, to pierce animal or vegetable III.231 substances, and suck their juices. In several it is strongly ridged with jaws and teeth, to gnaw and scrape their food, carry burthens, perforate the earth, nay, the hardest wood, and even stones, for habitations and nests for their young. In a few the tongue is so short as to appear to us incapable of answering the purpose for which it is formed; and the Gad-flies appear to have no mouth.

Near the mouth are situated the palpi, or feelers: these are generally four, but sometimes six in number. They are a kind of thread-shaped articulated antennæ. Their situation, under and at the sides of the mouth, renders them, however, sufficiently distinct from the proper antennæ. They are in continual motion, the little animals thrusting them into everything likely to afford them food. Some writers have considered them as serving the place of a hand, in holding food to the mouth, whilst the insects are eating.

Linnæus has divided the animals of this class into seven orders⁕4, viz.

1. Coleopterous insects (derived from the Greek words κολεος a sheath, and πτερον a wing,) are the Beetles, or such as have crustaceous elytra or shells, which shut together, and form a longitudinal suture down the back. Of this order are the Chafer tribe, and several others.

2. Hemipterous insects (from ἡμισυς half, and πτερον a wing) have their upper wings half crustaceous, and half membranaceous, not divided by a longitudinal III.232 suture, but incumbent on or crossed over each other; as the Cock-roach, Locust, &c.

3. Lepidopterous insects (from λεπις a scale, and πτερον a wing) are those having four wings covered with fine scales in the form of powder or meal; as in the Butterflies and Moths.

4. Neuropterous insects (from νευρον a nerve, and πτερον a wing) have four membranaceous, transparent, naked wings, in which the membranes cross each other so as to appear like net-work. The tail has no sting, but is frequently furnished with appendices like pincers, by which the males are distinguished. The common Dragon-fly is the best example that can be brought to illustrate this order; and the genus Phryganea forms an exception with respect to the net-work appearance of the wings.

5. Hymenopterous insects (from ὑμην a membrane, and πτερον a wing). The insects belonging to this order have generally four membranaceous naked wings: the neuters, however, in some of the genera, and in others the males or females, want wings. The wings do not so much resemble net-work as those of the last order. The tail, except in the male, is armed with a sting. The Bee, the Wasp, and the Ant, are of this tribe.

6. Dipterous insects (from διπλοος double, and πτερον a wing) are those having only two wings, each furnished at its base with a poise or balancer. The common House-flies and the Gnat are familiar examples of this order.

7. Apterous insects (from α without, and πτερον a wing). This order contains all such insects as want wings in both sexes; as the Spider, Flea, and Louse.

⁕1 The Crab and Lobster tribes form an exception to this rule, for they respire by means of gills.

⁕2 He excepts the Crabs and Lobsters, which he arranges in a class by themselves, and denominates Crustaceous animals.

⁕3 The chrysalis is occasionally called Aurelia, Bean, Cod, Cope de Nymph.

⁕4 Coleoptera, Hemiptera, Lepidoptera, Neuroptera, Hymenoptera, Diptera and Aptera.

Notes and Corrections: Insects

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For Linnaean purposes, “Insect” means arthropod. That covers a lot of ground. Hexapods—a group that includes insects—may be more closely related to crustaceans than they are to spiders and scorpions; conversely, horseshoe crabs are more closely related to spiders than they are to, well, crabs. The only thing arthropods have in common with all other animals we’ve met so far—sharks, fish, terrestrial vertebrates—is that they have bilateral symmetry.

Throughout this section, the word “perfect” has its original meaning of “completely finished”, with particular reference to metamorphosis. In the course of the section it will become evident that William Bingley liked insects just as much as he disliked lizards.

Each moss, / Each shell, each crawling insect
[Benjamin Stillingfleet (1702–1771), “On the Œconomy of Nature”. Bingley liked this passage so much, he quoted it again—at much greater length—at the end of the book. He may have cribbed it from Pennant, who quotes it on pgs vii-viii or the introduction to his Volume IV (insects and other invertebrates).]

and have a hard or bony skin
text has have a head
[Corrected from 1st edition. Unlike most errors introduced in the 2nd edition, this one was not corrected in the 3rd.]

Mr. Leeuwenhoek reckons in each eye of the Dragon-fly 12,544 lenses.
text has lense

a long pole, loaded at each end with lead, is to a rope-dancer
text has to a / a at page break

The structure of the feet of these diminutive creatures is truly admirable
text has are truly
[Corrected from 1st and 3rd edition.]

probably for the purpose of separating the six threads
text has propably

On the contrary, the insects that have short legs
text has contray
[Are you getting tired, William?]

Linnæus has divided the animals of this class into seven orders
[The first six—Coleoptera (beetles), Hemiptera, Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies), Neuroptera, Hymenoptera, Diptera—are still in use, and have been joined by some 20 or 30 additional orders of insects. Aptera (“wingless”) no longer exists. Some of its assigned members, such as spiders, aren’t insects at all; others have been spun off into new orders such as Dermaptera (including earwigs), Phthiraptera (including lice), and Siphonaptera (including fleas).]



The antennæ of the Chafers have a clavate or enlarged extremity, which is divided into lamellæ or leaves. To the mouth there are four feelers. The feet have five joints; and the shanks of the fore-legs are generally toothed.

The larvæ or grubs have six feet. In their general external appearance these creatures are not much unlike the caterpillars of some of the butterflies, having their bodies composed of rings, and being somewhat hairy. Most of them live entirely under the surface of the ground, feeding on the roots of plants, &c. Their chrysalis generally lies dormant in the earth till the perfect insect bursts out.

Chafers inhabit and feed in various situations. Some are found in the dung of animals, or in the earth immediately under the dung. Others live on the leaves of trees; and others on flowers.

⁕1 The Linnæan order of Coleopterous insects or Beetles commences with this tribe.

Notes and Corrections: The Chafer Tribe

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Chafers, Linnaeus’s genus Scarabaeus, correspond loosely to superfamily Scarabaeoidea in order Coleoptera, especially family Scarabaeidae—a huge family, with hundreds of genera. Although most of Bingley’s beetles have been reassigned to other genera, Scarabaeus need not feel neglected. It still has well over 100 species, in addition to being the namesake of its family and super­family.

Beetles-in-general—all 400,000 of them—are order Coleoptera. As we all know:

There is a story, possibly apocryphal, of the distinguished British biologist, J. B. S. Haldane, who found himself in the company of a group of theologians. On being asked what one could conclude as to the nature of the Creator from a study of his creation, Haldane is said to have answered, “An inordinate fondness for beetles.”

Two illustrations in this section are from a new source, Pallas’s 1781 Icones Insectorum. That’s Peter Simon Pallas (German, 1741–1811), Icones Insectorum praesertim Rossiae Sibiriaeque (“pictures of insects, mainly from Russia and Siberia”). The Icones are full-page plates, each consisting of a number of separate drawings.

engraving of Scarabæus or “Cockchaffer”, no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 3:
Scarabæus. Cockchaffer


The larvæ or grubs of this species of Beetle, so III.234 well known in England by the name of Cock-chafer, are more voracious, and more destructive to vegetation, than those of almost any of the insect tribes.

The eggs are deposited in the ground by the winged insect, whose fore-legs are very short, and well calculated for burrowing. From each of these proceeds, after a short time, a whitish worm with six legs, a red head, and strong claws, and about an inch and a half long, which is destined to live in the earth under that form for four years, and there undergo various changes of its skin, until it assumes its chrysalid form. It subsists, during its subter­raneous abode, on the roots of trees and plants, committing ravages often of the most deplorable nature. These creatures, sometimes in immense numbers, work between the turf and the soil in the richest meadows, devouring the roots of the grass to that degree that the turf rises, and will roll up with almost as much ease as if it had been cut with a turfing-spade: and underneath the soil appears turned into a soft mould for about an inch in depth, like the bed of a garden. In this the grubs lie, in a curved position, on their backs, the head and tail uppermost, and the rest of the body buried in the mould. Mr. Arderon, of Norwich, mentions his having seen a whole field of fine flourishing grass, in the summer time, become in a few weeks withered, dry, and as brittle as hay, by these grubs devouring the roots, and gnawing away all those fibres that fastened it to the ground, III.235 and through which alone it could receive nourishment⁕1.

The larvæ, as I have said, continue four years in the ground; and when, at the end of this period, they are about to undergo their change, they dig deep into the earth, sometimes five or six feet, and there spin a smooth case, in which they change into a chrysalis. They remain under this form all winter till the month of February, when they become perfect beetles, but with their bodies quite soft and white. In May the parts are hardened, and they then come forth out of the earth. This accounts for our often finding the perfect insects in the ground.

Cock-chafers fly in the evening towards sunset, and particularly about places where there are trees. They eat the leaves of the sycamore, the lime, the beech, the willow, and those of all kinds of fruit-trees. In its winged state this insect exhibits not less voracity on the leaves of trees than it before did in its grub state in the earth; for, such is the avidity with which it devours its food, and so immense are sometimes the numbers, that, in particular districts, they have become an oppressive scourge, which has produced much calamity, among the people.

In the year 1688, the Cock-chafers appeared on the hedges and trees of the south-west coast of the county of Galway, in clusters of thousands, clinging to each other’s backs in the manner of bees when they swarm. During the day they continued quiet, but towards sun-set the whole were in motion; and III.236 the humming noise of their wings sounded like distant drums. Their numbers were so great that, for the space of two or three square miles, they entirely darkened the air. Persons travelling on the roads, or who were abroad in the fields, found it difficult to make their way home, as the insects were continually beating against their faces, and caused great pain. In a very short time the leaves of all the trees for some miles round were destroyed, leaving the whole country, though it was near midsummer, as naked and desolate as it would have been in the middle of winter. The noise that these enormous swarms made in seizing and devouring the leaves, was so loud as to have been compared to the distant sawing of timber. Swine and poultry destroyed them in vast numbers. These waited under the trees for the clusters dropping, and devoured such swarms as to become fat from them alone. Even the native Irish, from the insects having eaten up the whole of the produce of the ground, adopted a mode of dressing them, and used them as food. Towards the end of summer they disappeared so suddenly that in a few days there was not a single one left⁕2.

About sixty years ago a farm near Norwich was so infested with Cock-chafers that the farmer and his servants affirmed that they gathered eighty bushels of them; and the grubs had done so much injury that the court of that city, in compassion to the poor fellow’s misfortune, allowed him 25l.


Mouffet informs us that, in the month of February, 1574, there were such multitudes of them in the western parts of England, that those which fell into the river Severn completely clogged the water-wheels of the mills⁕3.

The rooks and gulls devour immense numbers of the grubs of this destructive insect, by which they render a most essential service to mankind, and great care ought to be taken to cherish and protect them. The sole employment of rooks, for nearly three months in the spring of the year, is to search for insects of this sort for food, and the havoc that a numerous flock makes among them must be very great.

A cautious observer, having found a nest of five young jays, remarked that each of these birds, while yet very young, consumed at least fifteen of these full-sized grubs in a day; and averaging their sizes, it may be said that they each consumed twenty: this for the five makes a hundred: and, if we suppose the two parents to devour between them the same number, it appears that the whole family consumed about two hundred every day. This in three months amounts to twenty thousand. But as the grub continues in the same state for four years, this single pair, with their family alone, without reckoning their descendants after the first year, would destroy as many as eighty thousand grubs. Now, supposing that forty thousand of these may be females, and that each female lays, as is the case, III.238 about two hundred eggs, it will appear that no less than eight millions of grubs have been destroyed, or at least prevented from being hatched by this single family of jays.

It is true that in these labours of the rooks, jays, and some other birds, they sometimes do mischief to man; yet there can be little doubt that the damage they thus commit is amply repaid by the benefit that results from these their unceasing exertions.

Some farmers plough the ground in order to expose the grubs to the birds; and others take the pains to dig deeper wherever the rooks point them out by their attempts to reach them.—When the insects are in their winged state, to shake the trees at noon, when they are all either asleep or in a state of inactive stupor, and gather or sweep them up from the ground, seems the most eligible method. One person has been known to kill in a day, by this method, above a thousand; by which, though in so short a space of time, at a fair calculation, he prevented no fewer than a hundred thousand eggs from being laid.

The dead bodies of these insects afford a very acceptable food to ducks, turkies, and other poultry. Swine, as I have before observed, will likewise greedily devour them, particularly when bruised and mixed with their other food⁕4; and cats catch and eat them with great avidity.


A person near Blois, in France, employed in the year 1785 a number of children and poor persons to destroy the Cock-chafers, at the rate of two liards a hundred. In a few days fourteen thousand were brought to him. Thus, for the moderate sum of about seven shillings and eightpence sterling, he destroyed, according to his calculation, near a million and a half of the grubs; which, had they been allowed to be hatched, might, in the course of four years, have done damage to the amount of many thousand pounds⁕5.

Synonyms.—Scarabæus Melolontha. Linn.—Melolontha vulgaris. Fabricius.—Brown Tree Beetle, Blind Beetle, Chafer, Cock-chafer, Jack-horner, Jeffry-cock, May-bug, Tree Beetle, Brown Clock, Dor, in various parts of England. Millers, from their powdery white colour.—The Grub is called the Connaught worm in Ireland.

⁕1 Phil. Tran. vol. xliv. p. 579.

⁕2 Phil. Tran. xix. p. 741.

⁕3 Phil. Tran. vol. xliv.

⁕4 It is, however, said that, when swine have once been fully satiated with them, they never care for them afterward.

⁕5 Anderson’s Recreations of Agriculture, iii. 420.

Notes and Corrections: The Cock-Chafer

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Scarabaeus melolontha, the common European cockchafer, has been promoted to its own genus and is now Melolontha melolontha. Depending on whom you ask, it is either in subfamily Melolonthinae of family Scarabaeidae, or a freestanding family, Melolonthidae. Either way, it is inarguably a beetle, order Coleoptera, and probably in superfamily Scarabaeoidea.

Animal Diversity Web says, deadpan, “No positive human benefit has yet been attributed to the common cockchafer.”

than it before did in its grub state in the earth
text has grubs tate
[I would have preferred “than it did before”, but the 1st and 3rd editions both have the same wording.]

color picture of Golden Beetle, no later than 1827

Shaw Miscellany plate 758:
Golden Beetle


There are scarcely any of the English Chafers more beautiful than this. The upper parts of the female are of a shining green colour, varying according to the light in which it is held, and marked transversely on the wing cases with a few short white or yellowish lines. The male is of a burnished copper colour with a greenish cast. These insects are somewhat more than an inch in length. They are to be found on flowers, particularly on those of the rose and peony; and sometimes in ant’s nests.

The grubs that produce this beetle feed underground, most commonly at the roots of trees, and never appear on the surface unless disturbed by digging, or some other accident. They are thought III.240 to be injurious to the gardener from their devouring the roots of his plants and trees. The female deposits her eggs in the middle of June. For this purpose she burrows into soft light ground, hollowing out and forming for them a proper receptacle. When the operation is over she returns to the surface, and flies off, but seldom lives more than two months afterwards. The grubs are produced in about fourteen days, and immediately seek out for food, which the parent always takes care to have near the place where she lays her eggs. As soon as they have attained sufficient strength, the young grubs separate, each burrowing a different way in search of roots. They remain four years in this state, annually changing their skin till they become of full growth, when they are of a cream colour, with brown head and feet. During winter they eat but little, if at all, and retire so deep into the ground as to avoid the effects of the frost.

About the month of March, at the end of the fourth year, the grub forms a case of earth, about the size of a walnut, somewhere near the surface, within which it changes into a chrysalis. In this state it remains till the beginning of May, when it bursts out a perfect Chafer. This is at first of a light green colour, and very tender; but it soon acquires its proper hardness and strength.

When the insect is touched it emits a fetid moisture. This is, no doubt, a mode of defence against the attacks of its enemies⁕1.

Synonyms.—Scarabæus auratus. Linn.—Cetonia aurata. Fabricius.—Rose May Chafer, Green Beetle, and Brass Beetle, in some parts of England.

⁕1 Harris’s Aurelian, 37.

Notes and Corrections: The Rose-Chafer

Linnaeus lost to Fabricius: Scarabaeus auratus is now Cetonia aurata in family Cetoniidae, superfamily Scarabaeoidea.


small color picture of “Burying Beetle”, no later than 1804

Pallas Icones Plate A, fig. 11


This insect is an inhabitant of the deserts of Tartary, and several other parts of the continent, where it is generally found under carcases that are dried in the sun. Its shells are of an opake black colour, striated, punctured, and somewhat rough.

The best account that I have met with of the manners of this interesting insect, is from M. Gleditch, a well known writer on natural history. This gentleman had, at different times, observed that moles which had been left upon the ground after they had been killed, very unaccountably disappeared. He therefore was determined to ascertain by experiment, if possible, what could be the cause of this singular occurrence.

On the twenty-fifth of May, he accordingly obtained a dead mole, which he placed on the moist soft earth of his garden, and in two days he found it sunk to the depth of four fingers’ breadth into the earth: it was in the same position in which he had placed it, and its grave corresponded exactly with the length and breadth of its body. The day following, this grave was half filled up; and he drew out the mole cautiously, which exhaled a horrible stench, and found, directly under it, little holes in which were four beetles of the present species. Discovering at this time nothing but these beetles, he III.242 put them into the hollow, and they quickly hid themselves among the earth. He then replaced the mole as he found it, and having spread a little soft earth over it, left it without looking at it again for the space of six days. On the twelfth of June he again look up the same carcase, which he found in the highest state of corruption, swarming with small, thick, whitish worms, that appeared to be the family of the beetles. These circumstances induced him to suppose that it was the beetles that had thus buried the mole, and that they had done this for the sake of lodging in it their offspring.

Mr. G. then took a glass cucurbit, and half filled it with moist earth; into this he put the four beetles with their young, and they immediately concealed themselves. This cucurbit, covered with a cloth, was placed on the open ground, and in the course of fifty days the four beetles interred the bodies of four frogs, three small birds, two grasshoppers, and one mole, besides the entrails of a fish, and two small pieces of the lungs of an ox.

Of the mode in which they performed this very singular operation, the following is an account: A linnet that had been dead six hours was placed in the middle of the cucurbit; in a few moments the beetles quitted their holes, and traversed the body, After a few hours, one pair of the beetles only was seen about the bird, the largest of which was suspected to be the female. They began their work by hollowing out the earth from under the bird. They arranged a cavity the size of the bird, by pushing all around the body the earth which they III.243 removed. To succeed in these efforts, they leaned themselves strongly upon their collars, and, bending down their heads, forced out the earth around the bird like a kind of rampart. The work being finished, and the bird having fallen into the hollow, they covered it, and thus closed the grave.

It appeared as if the bird moved alternately its head, its tail, its wings, or feet. Every time that any of these movements were observed, the efforts that the beetles made to draw the body into the grave, which was now nearly completed, might be remarked: in effecting this, they jointly drew it by its feathers below. This operation lasted full two hours, when the smallest or male beetle drove away the female from the grave, and would not allow her to return, forcing her to enter the hole as often as she attempted to come out of it.

This beetle continued the work alone for at least five hours; and it was truly astonishing to observe the great quantity of earth that he removed in that time: but the surprise of Mr. G. was much augmented when he saw the little animal stiffening its collar, and exerting all its strength, lift up the bird, make it change its place, turn, and, in some measure, arrange it in the grave that it had prepared; which was so spacious, and so far cleared, that he could perceive exactly under the bird all the movements and all the actions of the beetle.

From time to time the beetle, coming out of its hole, mounted upon the bird, and appeared to tread it down; then, returning to the charge, it drew the III.244 bird more and more into the earth, till it was sunk to a considerable depth. The beetle, in consequence of this uninterrupted labour, appeared to be tired: leaning its head upon the earth, it continued in that position near an hour, without motion; and it then retired completely under ground.

Early in the morning the body was drawn entirely under ground, to the depth of two fingers breadth, in the same position that it had when laid on the earth; so that this little corpse seemed as if it were laid out on a bier, with a small mount or rampart all round for the purpose of covering it. In the evening the bird was sunk about half a finger’s breadth deeper in the earth; and the operation was continued for near two days more, when the work obtained its final completion.

A single beetle was put into the glass cucurbit with the body of a mole, and covered as before, with a line linen cloth. About seven o’clock in the morning, the beetle had drawn the head of the mole below; and, in pushing the earth backward, had formed a tolerably high rampart around it. The interment was completed in this instance by four o’clock in the afternoon, a space of time so short that one could scarcely have imagined possible by so small a creature, without any assistance, considering that the body of the mole must have exceeded it in bulk and weight at least thirty times.

While engaged in these experiments, a friend who wished to dry a toad in the shade, fixed it to a stick which he stuck into the ground. When it began to III.245 putrefy, the beetles, allured by the smell, having loosened the end of the stick that was fixed in the earth, brought it to the ground, and they then interred both the toad and the stick.

The interment of these animals, which generally takes place from about the middle of April to the end of October, has been sufficiently proved to be, not merely for food, but, as a proper nidus for the eggs of the insects, and to nourish the young family of grubs that proceeds from them. If they wanted them for food only, they would no doubt consume them above ground; but in the continuation of the species it is necessary to have them below, since otherwise foxes, ravens, kites, and other carnivorous animals, would seize on the bodies, and along with them would swallow the grubs of the beetles, and the whole species might thus be under the risk of extirpation.

Synonyms.Scarabaeus morticini. Linn. Gmel.Scarabaeus silphoides?——Pallas Ic. ins. Ross. i. p. 11. t. A. fig. 11.

Notes and Corrections: The Burying Beetle

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Scarabaeus morticini is a bit of a mystery. One early source equates it with Trox cadaverinus, putting it in the Trogidae family. There is also a Trox morticinii, which looks promising—or would be, if only there existed references later than Pallas. The Trogidae family has almost nothing to do with dermestid beetles, which are in superfamily Bostrichoidea, this book’s “Ptini tribe”. It is, of course, perfectly possible that Bingley’s report conflates a number of different beetles. There are plenty to choose from.

. missing

Mr. G. then took a glass cucurbit
[Today I Learned . . . that a “cucurbit” is a large glass flask that looks like a cucurbit or gourd.]

the bodies of four frogs, three small birds, two grasshoppers, and one mole
[The grouping is not likely to replace a partridge in a pear tree.]

the beetle had drawn the head of the mole below
text has bettle

[Synonyms] Scarabæus morticini. Linn. Gmel.—Scarabaeus silphoides?
text has Scarabdus both times
[The 1st and 3rd editions both have the expected “Scarabaeus”. I would like to see a specimen of Bingley’s handwriting: once is a mechanical error, twice is something else.]

small color picture of “Pill Chafer”, no later than 1827

Pallas Icones Plate A, fig. 3


The Pill Chafer is somewhat more than an inch in length, and of a dusky black colour, sometimes with a greenish hue above, and underneath of a very brilliant blue or green. The wing cases and thorax are very smooth; the former marked with several longitudinal streaks, and the latter round, and margined, having a slight groove in the middle.

It is found both in Europe and America, and in III.246 its manners is one of the most remarkable of the beetle tribe. It comes forth in April, and is to be seen till about September, when it disappears. Its almost constant employment, in which indeed it is indefatigable, is in the different operations necessary to continue its species. It provides a proper nidus for its eggs by forming round pellets of dung, in the middle of each of which it deposits an egg. These, in September, the insects convey to the depth of about three feet into the ground. Here they remain till the approach of spring, when the grubs burst their shell, and find their way to the surface of the earth.

“I have attentively admired their industry, and mutual assisting of each other (says Catesby) in rolling these globular balls from the place where they made them to that of their interment, which is usually the distance of some yards, more or less. This they perform breech foremost, by raising their hind parts, and forcing along the ball with their hind feet. Two or three of them are sometimes engaged in trundling one ball, which, from meeting with impediments, on account of the unevenness of the ground, is sometimes deserted by them. It is, however, attempted by others with success, unless it happen to roll into some deep hollow or chink, where they are constrained to leave it; but they continue their work by rolling off the next ball that comes in their way. None of them seem to know their own balls, but an equal care for the whole appears to effect all the community. They form these pellets while the dung remains moist, and leave them to harden in the sun III.247 before they attempt to roll them. In their moving of them from place to place, both they and the balls may frequently be seen tumbling about over the little eminences that are in their way. They are not, however, easily discouraged; and, by repeating their attempts, usually surmount the difficulties.”

Catesby says also that “they find out their subsistence by the excellency of their noses,” which direct them in their flight to newly fallen dung, on which they immediately go to work, tempering it with a proper mixture of earth. So intent are they always upon their employment that, though handled or otherwise interrupted, they are not to be deterred, but immediately, on being freed, persist in their work without any apprehension of danger⁕1.

They are said to be so exceedingly strong and active as to move about, with the greatest ease, things that are many times their own weight. Dr. Brickell was supping one evening in a planter’s house of North Carolina, when two of them were conveyed, without his knowledge, under the candlesticks. A few blows were struck on the table, and to his great surprise the candlesticks began to move about, apparently without any agency; and his surprise was not much lessened when, on taking one of them up, he discovered that it was only a chafer that moved⁕2.

Professor Thunberg and Mr. Browne both mention the operations of a species of chafer in the different III.248 parts of Africa that they visited, which agree in every respect with those of the present species. We have also one in our own country, Scarabæus lunaris, whose manners are very nearly the same.

Aristophanes, in his Ειρηνη, has introduced one of the Dung-Chafers, on which a character in the play mounts up to Jupiter, to petition for peace.

Synonyms.—Scarabæus pilularius. Linn.—Ateuchus pilularius. Fabricius.—Tumble-dung Beetle. Brickell.

⁕1 Catesby, Appendix, 11.

⁕2 Brickell 161.

Notes and Corrections: The Pill Chafer

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Scarabaeus pilularius is now Gymnopleurus mopsus, another member of family Scarabeidae. Pallas called it Scarabaeus mopsus, which accounts for the species name. The family includes a stag­gering number of dung beetles, notably the vast—over 2000 species—genus Onthophagus (“shit-eating”).

In the first edition this insect is called the Dung Beetle. Bingley must have decided “Pill Chafer” sounded more genteel.

We have also one in our own country, Scarabæus lunaris
[Now known as Copris lunaris, the horned dung beetle.]

color picture of Beating Ptinus, or Death-Watch (Beetle), no later than 1804

Shaw Miscellany plate 104:
The Beating Ptinus, or Death-Watch


These insects have antennæ that are nearly of an equal thickness throughout; the last joints, however, in most of the species are somewhat larger than the rest. The thorax is nearly round, unmargined, and contains the head.

Their larvæ are found in the trunks of decayed trees; among hay, dried leaves, &c. and in collections of dried plants those of one of the species are sometimes known to do great mischief. A few of them inhabit different species of fungi.

Notes and Corrections: The Ptini

Based on the book’s sole example, “Ptini”—Linnaeus’s genus Ptinus—means superfamily Bostrichoidea within Coleoptera. This is the superfamily that includes dermestid beetles, so it’s a pretty morbid tribe all around.

The first edition has an article on Stag Beetles, Linnaeus’s genus Lucanus, before embarking on the Ptini; the 2nd and 3rd editions leave it out.

engraving of Ptinus fatidicus (Death-Watch Ptinus), no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 8:
Ptinus: P. fatidicus magnified (top); P. fatidicus (bottom)


The Death-watch is a dusky and somewhat hairy insect, with irregular brownish spots, about a quarter of an inch in length. Notwithstanding its smallness, this creature is often the cause of serious alarm III.249 among the lower class of people, from the noise that it makes, at a certain time of the year, resembling the ticking of a watch. From this it has its name, for, whenever this faculty is exerted, it is esteemed portentive of death to some one of the family in the house where it is heard. The philosopher and the naturalist may smile at a superstition thus absurd; yet Sir Thomas Brown has remarked, with great earnestness, that the man “who could eradicate this error from the minds of the people, would save from many a cold sweat the meticulous heads of nurses and grand-mothers⁕1.”

The wether’s bell

Before the drooping flock told forth her knell,

The solemn Death-watch click’d the hour she died.

It is chiefly in the advanced state of spring that these insects commence their noise, which is no more than a call or signal by which they are mutually attracted to each other; and it may be considered as analogous to the call of birds. This noise does not arise from the voice, but from the insects beating on any hard substance with the shield or forepart of the head. The general number of successive distinct strokes is from seven to nine, or eleven. These are given in pretty quick succession, and are repeated at uncertain intervals; and in old houses, where the insects are numerous, they may be heard, if the weather be warm, almost III.250 every hour in the day. The noise exactly resembles that made by beating with the nail on a table⁕2.

The insect being difficult to discover, from its obscure greyish brown colour, nearly resembling that of decayed wood, it is not always easy to say from what exact spot the sound proceeds. Mr. Stackhouse observed carefully the manner of its beating. He says the insect raises itself on its hinder legs, and, with the body somewhat inclined, beats its head with great force and agility against the place on which it stands. One of them, on a sedge-bottomed chair, exerted so much force that its strokes were impressed and visible in the exterior coat of the sedge, for a space equal to that of a silver penny. Mr. S. took this insect and put it into a box. On the following day he opened the box, and set it in the sun. It seemed very brisk, and crept about with great activity on the bits of sedge and rotten wood, till at last, getting to the end of the pieces, it extended its wings, and was about to take leave; he shut down the lid, when it withdrew them and remained quiet. He kept it by him about a fortnight⁕3.

The idea of taming this little animal may appear absurd: it has, however, been so much familiarized as to be made to beat occasionally, by taking it out of its confinement, and beating with the nail or the point of a pen on a table or board. It will answer III.251 the beats very readily, and will even continue to repeat its efforts as long as it is required.

Dr. Derham kept a male and female together in a box for about three weeks; and, by imitating their noise, he made them beat whenever he pleased. At the end of this time one of them died, soon after which the other gnawed its way out and escaped⁕4.

This insect, which is the real Death-watch of the vulgar, emphatically so called, must not be confounded with a wingless insect, not much unlike a louse, that makes a ticking noise like a watch, but, instead of beating at intervals, continues its noise for a considerable length of time without intermission. The latter belongs to a tribe very different from this; it is the Termes Pulsatorium of Linnæus, and will be described in its proper place in the present work.

Synonyms.—Ptinus tesselatus. Linn.—Anobium tesselatum. Fabricius.—Ptinus fatidicus. Shaw’s Nat. Mis.

⁕1 Vulgar Errors.

⁕2 Shaw’s Nat. Mis. iii. 104.

⁕3 Phil. Tran. vol. xxxiii. p. 159.

⁕4 Phil. Tran. vol. xxii. p. 832.—See also a paper of Mr. Allen, in vol. 20. p. 376.

Notes and Corrections: The Death-Watch Ptinus

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If Ptinus tesselatus really is the same beetle as Anobium tessel­(l)atum, it is now Xestobium rufovillosum, the death-watch beetle, in family Anobiidae, superfamily Bostrichoidea. (Genus Ptinus gave its name to another family, Ptinidae or spider beetles, in the same superfamily.) Shaw calls it Ptinus fatidicus, a name that nobody else seems to have heard of.

The wether’s bell
[John Gay, “Friday, or The Dirge” from The Shepherd’s Week, described as a “burlesque pastoral”. (This is the same John Gay who gave us The Beggar’s Opera, which explains much.)]

[Footnote] Shaw’s Nat. Mis. iii. 104.
text has 804
[The 24 volumes of the Naturalist’s Miscellany are unpaginated. Plates—one per animal—are numbered continuously through all 24 volumes. Besides, the 1st edition gets the number right.]


The larvæ of the Weevils have, like those of the other coleopterous insects, six legs and a scaly head. They bear a resemblance to oblong soft worms. Some of them infest granaries, where, from their numbers and voracity, they often commit great ravages among the corn: some live in fruits, III.252 the insides of artichokes, thistles, and other plants; and others devour the leaves of trees and vegetables.

The perfect insects have clavate antennæ, seated on the snout, which is horny and prominent. They have also four thread-shaped feelers.

One division of the Weevils feed on trees and shrubs, inserting their beak into the tender branches, and by this means extracting their juices. The Curculis alliarue has been observed with its beak plunged into the twig of a crab-tree, as far as the place from whence the antennæ arise. Another division feed solely on plants. Others live on grain, wood, and on some of the species of fungi; and a few under the surface of the earth.

Notes and Corrections: The Weevil Tribe

Weevils, Linnaeus’s genus Curculio, correspond loosely to super­family Curculionoidea. Anthonomus grandis in family Curculi­onidae is the boll weevil.

The Curculis alliarue has been observed
[If you want to observe it for yourself, look for Curculio alliariæ. This looks like another case of Bingley not being able to read his own handwriting; the 3rd edition has the correct spelling. At least two different insects went by this binomial, so it may be either Neocoenorrhinus pauxillus or Involvulus caeruleus, both in family Attelabidae.]


Is well known to most farmers from the devastations that it often makes in their granaries. It is of a black-brown colour, and scarcely more than a tenth of an inch in length. Its snout is long and small; and the thorax is punctured, and nearly as long as the abdomen.

The parent insect lays its eggs in grains of corn, probably one in each grain. Here the larvæ, on being hatched, continue for some time to live, and it is very difficult to discover them, as they lie concealed within. They increase their size, and with it their dwelling, at the expense of the interior or farinaceous III.253 parts of the grain on which they feed. Corn-lofts are often laid waste by these grubs, whose numbers are sometimes so great as to devour nearly the whole of their contents. When the grub has attained its full size, it still remains within the grain, hidden under the empty husk. There, being transformed, it becomes a chrysalis; and, when it has attained its perfect state, it forces its way out.

It is no easy matter to discover by the eye even the Grains that are thus attacked, for in exterior appearance they are still large and full. If, however, they are thrown into water, their lightness soon detects them.

To rid a granary of these destructive insects, it has been recommended to farmers to spread their corn in the sun, when they will creep out of their holes; and, by often stirring the corn while in this situation, it is supposed they may be completely expelled. It is also said that they may be destroyed by strewing boughs of elder, or branches of henbane among the corn. In a late Paris paper, a gentleman says that, about the month of June, when his granaries and barns, that had been much infested by Weevils, were all empty, he caused a number of the hills of the large ants to be collected in bags, and placed in different parts about them. The ants immediately attacked the Weevils that were on the walls and other parts, and destroyed them so completely that, in a very short time, not a single one was to be seen; and since that period, he says, they have never appeared on his premises.

Synonyms.—Curculio granarius. Linn.—Calendra granaria. Fabricius.—Weevil in many parts of the country.

Notes and Corrections: The Corn Weevil

Curculio granarius is now Sitophilus granarius, the granary weevil, in family Drophthoridae.


engraving of Curculio nucum (Nut Weevil), no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 21:
Curculio: C. nucum


This insect is produced from the white grub that we often find living in the interior of the hazel nut. The history of its changes and growth is singular and interesting; and exhibits a striking instance of the care that has been taken to promote the comfort and convenience of even these diminutive tribes.

The caterpillar or grub proceeds from a very small brown egg that the parent deposits in the outside of the nut, at a time when it is very soft and tender. When the heat of the season has perfected the little grub, it eats its way out of the egg, and through the shell into the nut, without in the least injuring the external appearance of the nut. His chief food now is the coat of the nut, or that part which afterwards hardens into the shell; and he continues to feed on this, and the interior pulp, till such time as the one becomes too hard, and the other too dry for his sustenance. He then begins on the kernel, which is now grown so large as to afford him support: and it is to be remarked that this seems a most providential instinct, for had he commenced his attacks on the kernel when it was small, he would have destroyed that on which all his future welfare depended, and that which is the principal food allotted to him by nature while in a larva state. While feeding, he constantly attends to the hole by which he entered, III.255 gnawing away the sides, so as to make them very round and smooth; for this not only allows him sufficient air, and a place through which he can expel the particles of his dung, but it is also the passage through which, when he is full fed, and ready to undergo his change, he makes his way out. About the month of September, or perhaps somewhat later, the nut becomes ripe and falls to the ground. At this time he is generally prepared for the change, and works himself through the hole, which he is some time in doing, as it is much less in circumference than his body. He then buries himself in the earth, and, shortly after, changes into a chrysalis, in which state he remains till the following spring, and about the beginning of May assumes his beetle form.

In this state the insect is about a quarter of an inch in length, and of a grey-brown colour. The body is somewhat of an oval shape, having the posterior extremity not rounded off, but ending in a point. The beak, or rostrum, is red; and as long as the body.

Synonyms. Curculio nucum. Linn.Phynchænus nucum. Fabricius.—Nut Beetle. Harris.

Notes and Corrections: The Nut Weevil

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Curculio nucum still has that binomial. (Sorry, Fabricius. You win some, you lose some.) Curculionidae is another of those vast families, with several thousand genera from Aades to Zyzzyva; genus Curculio by itself has a couple of thousand species. See elsewhere about an inordinate fondness for beetles.

even these diminutive tribes
text has diminitive

this seems a most providential instinct
text has providencial
[I would have been content to treat it as a variant spelling, but the 1st and 3rd edition both spell it “providential”.]

[Synonyms] Phynchænus nucum
text has Phynchdnus
[Corrected from 3rd edition; this particular synonym was added for the 2nd edition.]

engraving of Cerambyx damicornis (Capricorn Beetle), no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 24:
Cerambyx: C. damicornis


The insects of the present tribe are among the most beautiful that are produced. Their antennæ are frequently longer than the body. Many of the species diffuse a strong, but seldom an unpleasant III.256 smell, perceptible at a great distance; and some of them, when seized, emit a sort of cry produced by the friction of the thorax on the upper part of the abdomen and wing-cases.

The antennæ are tapering and articulated. The thorax has several prominences; and the wing-cases are long and narrow. To the mouth there are four palpi, or feelers.

Their larvæ are found in the inner parts of trees, through which they bore, feeding on and pulverizing the substance of the wood. They are transformed into perfect insects in the cavities they thus make, and never issue from their retreats till they have attained their perfect state.

Notes and Corrections: The Capricorn Beetles

Capricorn beetles, Linnaeus’s genus Cerambyx, correspond loosely to family Cerambycidae, with several thousand genera.


The body of this insect is of a dark violet, somewhat hairy and punctured. The thorax is rounded and downy; and the antennæ are nearly as long as the body. The wing cases are narrow, rounded at the tip, and bulging towards the base. The head and thorax are sometimes greenish. The body is from four lines and a half to seven and a half in length.

This insect, both in a perfect and larvæ state, feeds principally on fir timber which has been felled some time, without having had the bark stripped off; but it is often found on other wood. Though now III.257 too common in this kingdom, it is supposed not to have been originally a native.

The circumstance of this destructive little animal attacking only such timber as has not been stripped of its bark, ought to be attended to by all persons who have any concern in this article; for the bark is a temptation not only to this but to various other insects; and much of the injury done in timber might be prevented, if the trees were all barked as soon as they were felled.

The female is furnished at the posterior extremity of her body with a flat retractile tube. This she inserts between the bark and the wood, to the depth of about a quarter of an inch, and there deposits a single egg.

By stripping off the bark, it is easy to trace the whole progress of the larva, from the spot where it is hatched to that where it attains its full size. It first proceeds in a serpentine direction, filling the space which it leaves with its excrement, resembling saw-dust, and so stopping all ingress to enemies from without. When it has arrived at its utmost dimensions, it does not confine itself to one direction, but works in a kind of labyrinth, eating backwards and forwards, which gives the wood under the bark a very irregular surface: by this means its paths are rendered of considerable width. The bed of its paths exhibits, when closely examined, a curious appearance, occasioned by the erosions of its jaws, which excavate an infinity of little ramified canals. When the insect is about to assume its chrysalis state, it bores down obliquely into the III.258 solid wood, to the depth sometimes of three inches, and seldom if ever less than two. These holes are nearly semi-cylindrical, expressing exactly the form of the grub.

At first sight, one would wonder how so small and seemingly so weak an animal could have strength to excavate so deep a mine; but when we examine its jaws our wonder ceases: these are large, thick, and solid sections of a cone divided longitudinally, which, in the act of mastication, apply to each other the whole of their interior plane surface, so that they grind the insect’s food like a pair of millstones.

Some of the larvæ are hatched in October; and it is supposed that about the beginning of March they assume their chrysalis state. At the place in the bark, opposite to the hole from whence they descended into the wood, the perfect insects gnaw their way out, which generally takes place betwixt the middle of May and the middle of June.

These insects are supposed to fly only in the night, but during the day they may generally be found resting on the wood from whence they were disclosed.

The larvæ are destitute of feet, pale, folded, somewhat hairy, convex above, and divided into thirteen segments. Their head is large and convex⁕1.

Synonyms.—Cerambyx violaceus. Linn.—Callidium violaceum. Fabricius.

⁕1 Kirby in Linn. Tran. v. 246. tab. 12.

Notes and Corrections: The Timber Capricorn

Cerambyx violaceus is now Callidium violaceum in family Ceram­bycidae. Score so far: Fabricius 2, Linnaeus 1.

from four lines and a half to seven and a half in length
[A “line”, as a unit of linear measure, is 1/12 inch or half a pica, so the Timber Capricorn is half an inch long, give or take an eighth inch. Or, if you insist, from 10 to 15 mm.]



The antennæ are thread-shaped. The thorax is plain, somewhat orbicular, and conceals the head. The segments of the abdomen terminate in folded papillæ.

The female in most of the species is destitute of wings; and the larvæ, which feed chiefly on leaves, perfectly resemble her in appearance.

Notes and Corrections: The Fire-Flies

Fireflies are family Lampyriadae within superfamily Elateroidea.

engraving of Lampyris noctiluca (Glowworm), no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 28 (partial):
Lampyris: L. noctiluca

larger image


The male Glow-worm is smaller than the female: their heads are of the same shape, and equally concealed by the plate of the thorax. The principal difference between the sexes is that the abdomen of the male is covered with brown wing-cases, shagreened, and marked longi­tudi­nally with two lines: these are longer than the abdomen. The female is wingless.

Each sex is luminous, but in the male the light is less brilliant, and confined to four points, two of which are situated on each of the two last rings of the abdomen. Among the crooked lanes, in every hedge, the Glow-worm lights his gem, and, through the dark, a moving radiance twinkles.

Glow-worms are frequently met with towards evening in the month of June, in woods and meadows, III.260 and the bottoms of hedges. The utility of the bright light of the females is supposed to consist in attracting the attention of the males during the dark, when, alone, they are able to render themselves conspicuous. They always become much more lucid when they put themselves in motion. This would seem to indicate that their light is owing to their respiration; in which process, it is probable, phosphoric acid is produced by the combination of oxygen gas with some part of the blood, and that a light is given out through their transparent bodies by this slow internal combustion. By contracting themselves, the insects have a power of entirely withdrawing it: when they are at rest very little light is to be seen. Mr. Templer, who made many observations on these insects, says that he never saw a Glow-worm exhibit its light at all, without some sensible motion either in its body or legs. This gentlemen, when the light was most brilliant, fancied it emitted a sensible heat⁕1.

If the insect is crushed, and the hands or face are rubbed with it, they contract a luminous appearance similar to that produced from phosphorus. When a Glow-worm is put into a phial, and the phial is immersed in water, a very beautiful irradiation will be found to take place.

Lampyris noctiluca. Linn.

⁕1 Phil. Tran. vol. 6.

Notes and Corrections: The Glow-Worm

Lampyris noctiluca still has that binomial. It is not an especially large genus, as beetles go.

Among the crooked lanes
[Bingley probably took it for granted the reader would recognize Summer 1682-84 from Thomson’s Seasons:

Among the crooked lanes, on every hedge,

The glow worm lights his gem; and, through the dark,

A moving radiance twinkles. ]


engraving of six Carabus species, no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 35:
Carabus: thoracicus, bimaculatus, manticora, granulatus, sycophonta
(top to bottom)


These insects are very active and voracious, devouring the larvæ of the other tribes, and indeed all the smaller animals they can overcome. Their larvæ are found under ground, or in decayed wood.

The antennæ are thread-shaped; and the feelers mostly six, the last joint of each of which is obtuse. The thorax is flat, and both this and the shells are margined.

Notes and Corrections: The Ground Beetles

Ground beetles, Linnaeus’s genus Carabus, are family Carabidae in Coleoptera.

In the first edition, this section was preceded by an article on Skippers, Linnaeus’s genus Elater.


This insect keeps itself concealed among stones, and seems to make little use of its wings. When it moves it is by a sort of jump; and, when it is touched, we are surprised with a noise resembling the discharge of a musket in miniature, during which a blue smoke may be perceived to proceed from its extremity. The insect may at any time be made to play off its artillery by scratching its back with a needle. If we may believe Rolander, who first made these observations, it can give twenty discharges successively. A bladder, placed near its posterior extremity, is the arsenal that contains its store. This is its chief defence against its enemies; and the vapour or liquid that proceeds from it is of so pungent a nature that, if it happens to be discharged into the eyes, it makes them smart III.262 as though brandy had been thrown into them. The principal enemy of the Bombardier is another insect of the same tribe, but three or four times its size. When pursued and fatigued, the Bombardier has recourse to this stratagem: he lies down in the path of his enemy, who advances with open mouth to seize him; but, on the discharge of the artillery, this suddenly draws back, and remains for a while confused, during which the Bombardier conceals himself in some neighbouring crevice; but, if not lucky enough to find one, the other returns to the attack, takes the insect by the head, and tears it off.

The head, antennæ, thorax, and feet, are of a brownish red colour. The eyes are black, and the abdomen and wing-cases blue, bordering on black: the latter are marked with broad but shallow striæ. This insect is sometimes found in England.

Carabus crepitans. Linn.

Notes and Corrections: The Bombardier

Carabus crepitans is now Brachinus crepitans in the Carabidae family.

[Synonyms] Carabus crepitans. Linn.
text has Carabbus
[Corrected from 1st and 3rd edition.]


In this tribe the antennæ are bristle-shaped; and the feelers unequal and thread-shaped. The wing-cases are half the length of the abdomen, and have the wings folded up under them, somewhat in the manner of a fan. The tail is armed with a forceps.

The Earwigs undergo only a semi-metamorphosis, differing in external appearance very little in the three states.

Notes and Corrections: The Earwigs

Earwigs, Linnaeus’s genus Forficula, are not beetles. (The “semi-metamorposis” should have been a clue.) They are family Forficu­lidae in superfamily Forficuloidea, order Dermaptera, one of the post-Linnean orders.


engraving of Forficula auricularia (Earwig), no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 40:
Forficula: F. auricularia magnified (top);
eggs & newly-hatched young (bottom)


Is a well-known insect, and easily distinguishable from all the beetles by the forceps or pincers at the end of its tail. It is produced from an egg, and the larva differs very little in its external appearance from the complete insect, except that it has neither wings nor elytra, and that the breast and thorax are not distinguishable. In this state it is a very lively little animal, running about with great agility, even from the instant it leaves the egg. On its metamorphosis to a perfect insect, a part of its body bursts behind, and gives full play to the wings.

It may not perhaps be known, to the generality of observers, that the Earwig is possessed of wings which are both large and elegant, and that one of these, when extended, will nearly cover the whole insect. The elytra, or wing-cases, are short, and extend not along the whole body but only over the breast. The wings are concealed beneath these; they are somewhat of an oval shape, and, when extended, are nine or ten times as large as the elytra. There is a great degree of elegance in the manner in which the insect folds them beneath. They are first closed up lengthways from a centre close to the body like a fan, and afterwards refolded across in two different places, one about the middle of the membrane, and the other at the centre, from III.264 whence the first folds proceeded. By this means the wing is reduced into a small compass, and proportioned to the size of the case under which it is to lie.

It is a circumstance extremely singular that, unlike those of most others of the insect tribe, the eggs are hatched, and the young earwigs fostered by the parent. At the beginning of the month of June, M. de Geer found under a stone a female Earwig, accompanied by many little insects, which evidently appeared to be her own young. They continued close to her, and often placed themselves under her belly as chickens do under a hen. He put the whole into a box of fresh earth: they did not enter the earth, but it was pleasing to observe how they thrust themselves under the belly, and between the legs of the mother, who remained very quiet, and suffered them to continue there sometimes for an hour or two together. To feed them, this gentleman gave them a piece of a very ripe apple; in an instant the old one ran upon it, and ate with a good appetite; the young ones also seemed to eat a little, but apparently with much less relish. On the eighth of June he remarked that the young Earwigs had changed their skins, and he found also the sloughs that they had quitted. This moulting produced only a slight change in their figure, yet it evidently brought them nearer to the perfect insect.

At another time, about the beginning of April, he found a female Earwig under some stones, placed over a heap of eggs, of which she took all the care imaginable without ever forsaking them. He took III.265 both the female and her eggs, placed her in a box half filled with fresh earth, and dispersed the eggs up and down in it. She, however, soon removed them, one after another, carrying them between her jaws, and, at the end of a few days, he saw that she had collected them all into one place upon the surface of the earth, and remained constantly on the heap, without quitting it for a moment, so that she seemed truly to sit for the purpose of hatching her eggs. The young were produced about the thirteenth of May: in figure they were similar to those before mentioned, but at their birth they were all white except towards the tail, where a yellow matter was observable through the skin, and the eyes and teeth, which were reddish. He kept them in the box with their mother, feeding them from time to time with bits of apple, and saw them grow every day, and change their skins more than once. The mother died, and her progeny devoured nearly the whole of her body. The little ones that died underwent also the same fate: M. de Geer, however, conjectures that this took place only from want of other food, as he had neglected to supply them regularly with nutriment. On the twenty-third of July one only remained alive; it was full grown, and then in the nymph or pupa state.

This insect, though in its nature extremely harmless, except in our gardens to our fruits and vegetables, has fallen, in a very particular manner, a victim to human cruelty and caprice, originating in the idea that it introduces itself into the ears, and from thence penetrates to the brain, and occasions death. III.266 I must be permitted to express a wish that females, who but too commonly lay aside all ideas of tenderness at the very sight of it, would be convinced that the wax and membranes of the ears are a sufficient defence against all its pretended attacks upon this organ.

Our gardeners have, it is true, some room for complaint. It lives among flowers, and frequently destroys them; and, when fruit has been wounded by flies, the Earwigs also generally come in for a share. In the night they may often be seen in amazing numbers upon lettuces and other esculent vegetables, committing those depredations that are often ascribed to snails or slugs. The best mode, therefore, of destroying them seems to be to attend the garden now and then in the night, and to seize them while they are feeding.

The bowl of a tobacco-pipe, and the claws of lobsters stuck upon sticks that support flowers, are the usual methods by which they are caught, as, in the day-time, they creep into holes and dark places. Placing hollow reeds behind the twigs of wall-trees is also a good mode, if they be examined and cleared every morning. But at a midnight visit more may be done in an hour than by any of the other means in a week.

Synonyms.—Forficula auricularia. Linn.—Twitch, or Twitch-ball, in some parts of the north of England.

Notes and Corrections: The Common Earwig

Forficula auricularia, the European earwig, still has that binomial.

There is a great degree of elegance
[It is not every day you find the words “elegance” and “earwig” in the same paragraph.]

to supply them regularly with nutriment.
final . invisible



The insects composing the present tribe have, in general, at a little distance, so much the appearance of leaves of trees that, in countries where they are very common, travellers have been struck with the singular phenomenon of what seemed to them animated vegetable substances. Their most prevailing colour is a fine green, but many of the insects become brown after they are dead: some of them are, however, decorated with a variety of lively hues. The thorax in most of them is very long and narrow, and has the appearance of a footstalk to their large and rounded abdomen. Their manners also, in addition to their structure, are very likely to impose on the senses of the uninformed: they often remain on the trees for hours without motion; then, suddenly rising, spring into the air, and, when they settle, again appear lifeless. These seem to be stratagems to deceive the cautious insects which they feed upon. Some travellers, who have observed them have, however, declared that they saw the leaves of trees become living creatures. Many of the Indians of South America, who have these insects very common among them, believe that they grow like the leaves on the trees, and that when III.268 they have arrived at maturity they loosen themselves, and crawl or fly away.

The Africans consider the whole tribe, according to some writers, as sacred; but, according to others, only as animals of good omen. One of the species (Mantis fausta) has obtained the name of the Hottentot’s God, and is supposed to be worshipped by this people. Professor Thunberg could not, however, observe any reason for this supposition: He says it is held by them in such esteem that they would not willingly injure it; and that they account any person or creature fortunate on whom it alights; but all this appeared to him to be done without paying it any sort of worship⁕2.

None of the species have ever been found in this country.

The head in the whole tribe is unsteady, and appears but slightly attached to the thorax. The mouth is armed with jaws, and has its feelers filiform. The wings are four, membranaceous, and convolute, the under ones plaited. The fore-legs are compressed, serrated or toothed beneath, and armed with a single claw, and a lateral jointed process. The four hind legs are smooth, and formed for walking, and not for leaping, as in the next tribe.

⁕1 The Linnean order Hemiptera commences here.

⁕2 Thunberg, ii. 66.

Notes and Corrections: The Mantis Tribe

skip to next section

Order Hemiptera still exists, but mantids—Linnaeus’s genus Mantis—are no longer in it. They have been promoted to an order of their own, Mantodea, especially family Mantidae.

One of the species (Mantis fausta)
[Now Mantispa fausta, it isn’t really a mantid at all. Instead it is in family Mantispidae of order Neuroptera, another of the six Linnean orders.]

Professor Thunberg . . . says . . . all this appeared to him to be done without paying it any sort of worship.
[Professor Thunberg sounds like a man with his head on his shoulders.]

engraving of Mantis oratoria (Orator Mantis), no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 42:
Mantis: M. oratoria


This is a very widely diffused species, being III.269 found in Africa and Asia, as well as in all the warmer parts of Europe. Its thorax is smooth, and wing-cases of a bright and unspotted green.

The Mantis religiosa is supposed to be merely a variety of this species, differing from the rest in having a somewhat keel-shaped thorax. This, however, seems to be the insect most generally known of the two. It has its name of over-religious, or superstitious, from its perpetually resting on its hind-legs, and erecting the fore-paws close together, with a quick motion, as if in the action of praying. The country people, in various parts of the continent, consider it almost as sacred, and would not on any account injure it. “It is so divine a creature, (says the translator of Mouffet) that if a child has lost its way, and enquires of the Mantis, it will point out the right path with its paw.” Dr. Smith, however, informs us, in his Tour on the Continent, that he received an account of this Mantis that seemed to savour little of divinity. A gentleman caught a male and female, and put them together in a glass vessel. The female, which in this, as in most other insects, is the largest, after a while devoured first the head and upper parts of her companion, and afterwards all the remainder of the body.

The young of this Mantis are preserved in the egg-state in a kind of oblong bag, of a thick spungy substance; this bag is imbricated on the outside, and fastened lengthwise to the branch of some plant. As the eggs ripen they are protruded through the thick substance of the bag, and the larvæ, which are about half an inch in length, burst from them.


Roesel, wishing to observe the gradual progress of these creatures to the winged state, placed the bag containing the eggs in a large glass, which he closed, to prevent their escape. From the time they were first hatched they exhibited marks of a savage disposition. He put different sorts of plants into the glass, but they refused them to prey on one another. This determined him to supply them with insect food. He put several ants into the glass to them, but they then betrayed as much cowardice as they had before done of barbarity; for the instant the Mantes saw the ants they attempted to escape in every direction. This was evidently an instinctive fear of a natural enemy. He next gave them some of the common house-flies, which they seized with eagerness in their fore-claws, and tore in pieces. But, notwithstanding their apparent fondness of flies, they continued to destroy each other through savage wantonness. Despairing at last, from their daily decrease, of rearing any to the winged state, he separated them into small parcels in different glasses; but here, as before, the strongest of each community destroyed the rest.

He afterwards received several pair of Mantes in the winged state: profiting by his former observations, he now separated them, a male and a female together into different glasses, but they still exhibited signs of a rooted enmity to each other, which neither age nor sex could soften. The instant they were in sight of each other they threw up their heads, brandished their fore legs, and each waited an attack. They did not long remain in this posture, for the III.271 boldest, throwing open his wings with the velocity of lightning, rushed at the other, and often tore it in pieces. Roesel compares the attack of these creatures to that of two hussars: for they dexterously guard and cut with the edge of the fore claws as those soldiers do with sabres, and sometimes at a stroke one of them cleaves the other through, or severs its head from the thorax. After this the conqueror always devours his vanquished antagonist.

The patience of the Mantis in waiting for his prey, is remarkable, and the posture to which superstition has attributed devotion is no other than the means it uses to catch it. When it has fixed its eyes on an insect, it very rarely loses sight of it, though it may cost some hours to take it. If it sees an insect a little beyond its reach, over its head, it slowly erects its long thorax, by means of the moveable membranes that connect it to the body; then, resting on the posterior legs, it gradually raises the anterior part also. If this brings it near enough to the insect, it throws open the last joint of its fore paws, and snaps it between the spines that are set in rows on the second joint. If it is unsuccessful it does not retract its paws, but holds them stretched out, and waits again till the insect is within its reach, when it springs up and seizes it. Should the insect go far from the spot, it flies or crawls after it slowly on the ground like a cat; and, when the insect stops, erects itself as before.

These Mantes have a small black pupil or sight, which moves in all directions within the parts that III.272 we usually term the eyes, so that they can see their prey in any direction, without having occasion to disturb it by turning their head.

The males die in October, and the females do not long survive them⁕1.

Mantis oratoria. Linn.

⁕1 Donovan’s Chinese Insects.—Roesel Insecten Belustigung.

Notes and Corrections: The Orator Mantis

Mantis oratoria is, according to Shaw, sometimes called the Camel-Cricket. This suggests we are dealing with Gryllus oratoria, now Iris oratoria, in family Tarachodiae of order Mantodea. Mantis religiosa, on the other hand, still has this binomial; it is in family Mantidae. (Linnaeus also called it Gryllus religiosus, which reinforces the identification of M. oratoria.)

The Mantis religiosa is supposed to be merely a variety of this species
[In fact the two are only distantly related: same order, different families.]

color picture of Dry Leaf Mantis, no later than 1804

Shaw Miscellany plate 119:
The Dry Leaf Mantis


This insect in its shape and colour is so exceedingly remarkable as to have uniformly suggested the idea of a dry or withered leaf; and the animal, when its wings are closed, bears so great a resemblance to such that, on a cursory view, it might easily be mistaken for it.

The specimens that are brought to Europe are generally of a yellowish brown colour. The wings, when closed, form the oval body of the leaf, and the narrow thorax and head resemble the stalk. It is a native of India⁕1.

Mantis siccifolia. Linn.

⁕1 Shaw’s Nat. Mis. iv. t. 119.

Notes and Corrections: The Dry-Leaf Mantis

Mantis siccifolia is now Phyllium siccifolium. It is not any kind of mantis, but can be found in family Phylliidae, superfamily Phyllioidea, order Phasmida. In Shaw’s General Zoology, the next section after Mantids is Phasma, suggesting that phasmids were separated from mantids at an early date.


The insects of this tribe feed chiefly on vegetable substances. The larvæ and chrysalids very much resemble the perfect insects; they have six III.273 legs, are voracious and active, and reside principally in the ground.

Their heads are inflected, and armed with jaws that are furnished with filiform palpi, or feelers. The antennæ in some species are taper, in others thread-shaped. The wings are four, deflected and convolute; the lower ones plaited. The hind legs are formed for leaping; and on each of the feet are two claws.

Notes and Corrections: The Locust Tribe

Locusts, grasshoppers, crickets and so on are order Orthoptera. Crickets are superfamily Grylloidea; locusts and grasshoppers are superfamily Acridoidea. Linnaeus was a bit overenthusiastic with the genus name Gryllus (“cricket”), applying it not only to crickets but to locusts and even some mantids.

The larvæ and chrysalids very much resemble the perfect insects
text has present insects
[Corrected from 1st edition; the 3rd edition retains the error.]

engraving of Gryllus Gryllotalpa (Mole Cricket), no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 50:
Gryllus: G. Gryllotalpa


This little creature is a complete representative of the mole, among the insect tribes. Its fore-feet are broad, and strong; and in their formation and position bear a great resemblance to the fore-feet of that animal. They are used for precisely the same purpose of burrowing under the surface of the ground, where the insect commonly resides; and so expertly does it use them that it can penetrate the earth with even greater expedition than the mole.

The female forms a cell of clammy earth, about the size of a hen’s egg, closed up on every side, and within as large as two hazel nuts. The eggs, amounting to nearly a hundred and fifty, are white, and about the size of caraway comfits: they are carefully covered, as well to defend them from the III.274 injuries of the weather as from the attacks of one of the species of black beetles, which often destroys them. The female places herself near the entrance of the nest, and, whenever the beetle attempts to seize its prey, the guardian insect catches it behind, and bites it asunder. Nothing can exceed the care of these animals in the preservation of their young. Wherever a nest is situated, fortifications, avenues, and entrenchments surround it: there are also numerous meanders which lead to it, and a ditch encompasses the whole, which few other insects are capable of passing.

About the middle of April, if the weather be fine, and just at the close of day, the Mole Crickets utter a low, dull, jarring note, not much unlike the chattering of the Goat-sucker. In the beginning of May they lay their eggs. Mr. White says that a gardener, at a house where he was on a visit, happening to be mowing by the side of a canal, on the sixth of May, his scythe struck too deep, pared off a large piece of turf, and laid open to view a curious scene of domestic œconomy. There were many caverns and winding passages leading to a kind of chamber, neatly smoothed and rounded, and about the size of a moderate snuff-box. Within this secret nursery were deposited near a hundred eggs of a dirty yellow colour, and enveloped in a tough skin, but too lately excluded to contain any rudiments of young, being full of a viscous substance. The eggs lay but shallow, and within the influence of the sun, just under a little heap of fresh mould, like that which is raised by ants.


At the approach of winter, the Mole Crickets remove their nest to so great a depth in the earth as to have it always lower than the frost can penetrate. When the mild season comes on, they raise it in proportion to the advances of that favourable time, and at last elevate it so near to the surface as to render it susceptible both of air and sun-shine: and if the frost returns, they again sink it to its proper depth. A method very similar is practised by the ants with their nests.

The Mole Crickets are troublesome insects in hot-beds, where they make great havoc by hacking and gnawing the roots of plants with their fore-feet, the ends of which are armed with teeth like a saw⁕1.

The Rev. Mr. Gould kept a Mole Cricket alive during several of the summer months. He fed it on the larvæ and chrysalids of ants, which it seized With great voracity.

Synonyms.—Gryllus Gryllo-talpa. Linn.—Acheta gryllotalpa. Fabricius.—Fen Cricket, Chur-worm, Eve-churr, in different parts of the kingdom.

⁕1 White’s Natural History of Selborne.

Notes and Corrections: The Mole Cricket

Gryllus gryllotalpa has been promoted to its own genus and is now Gryllotalpa gryllotalpa (“cricket-mole cricket-mole”) in family Gryllo­talpidae.

about the size of caraway comfits
[Comfits have rather gone out of fashion in recent centuries. They are made by coating a small thing—such as a caraway seed—in repeated layers of sugar.]


These busy little insects reside altogether in our dwellings and intrude themselves on our notice, whether we wish it or not. They are partial to houses newly built; for the softness of the mortar enables them to form their retreats, without much difficulty, between the joints of the masonry, and immediately to open communications with the different rooms. They are particularly attached to kitchens III.276 and bakehouses, as affording them a constant warmth.

“Tender insects that live abroad (says Mr. White) either enjoy only the short period of one summer, or else doze away the cold uncomfortable months in profound slumbers; but these, residing as it were in a torrid zone, are always alert and merry: a good Christmas fire is to them what the heats of the dog-days are to others.—Though they are frequently heard by day, yet their natural time of motion is only in the night. As soon as it becomes dusk, the chirping increases, and they come running forth, and are to be seen often in great numbers from the size of a flea to that of their full stature.

Around in sympathetic mirth

Its tricks the kitten tries,

The Cricket chirrups in the hearth,

The crackling faggot flies.

“As one would suppose from the burning atmosphere which they inhabit, they are a thirsty race, and show a great propensity for liquids, being found frequently drowned in pans of water, milk, broth, or the like. Whatever is moist they are fond of, and therefore often gnaw holes in wet woollen stockings and aprons that are hung to the fire. These Crickets are not only very thirsty but very voracious; for they will eat the scummings of pots, yeast, salt, and crumbs of bread; and any kitchen offal or sweepings.

“In the summer they have been observed to fly, III.277 when it became dusk, out of the windows, and over the neighbouring roofs. This feat of activity accounts for the sudden manner in which they often leave their haunts, as it does also for the method by which they come to houses where they were not known before. It is remarkable that many sorts of insects seem never to use their wings but when they wish to shift their quarters and settle new colonies.—When in the air they move in waves or curves, like wood-peckers, opening and shutting their wings at every stroke, and thus are always rising or sinking.—When they increase to a great degree, they become pests, flying into the candles, and dashing into people’s faces; but they may be blasted by gun-powder discharged into their crevices and crannies. In families, at such times they are, like Pharaoh’s plague of frogs,—“in their bed-chambers, and upon their beds, and in their ovens, and in their kneading troughs.”

“Cats catch hearth-crickets, and, playing with them, as they do with mice, devour them. Crickets may be destroyed like wasps, by phials half filled with beer, or any liquid, and set in their haunts; for, being always eager to drink, they will crowd in till the bottles are full.⁕1” A popular prejudice, however, frequently prevents any attempts at their destruction, many people imagining that their presence is attended with good luck, and that to kill or drive them away will surely bring some unfortunate occurrence on the family.


When these insects are running about a room in the dark, if they are surprized by a candle, they give two or three shrill notes. These seem a signal to their fellows, that they may escape to their crannies and lurking holes to avoid danger.

It is said that, in some parts of Africa, persons make a trade of these Crickets. They feed them in a kind of iron oven, and sell them to the natives, among whom the noise they make is thought pleasing. These people imagine that it assists in lulling them to sleep.

The organ that produces this noise is a membrane, which, in contracting, by means of a muscle and tendon placed under the wings of the insect, folds down somewhat like a fan. This, as it is always dry, yields that sharp piercing sound that we so often hear from these animals. The noise may also be heard after the insect is dead, if the tendon be made to move.—We are told that Crickets will live and even continue their accustomed noise for some time after their heads are cut off.

Synonyms. Gryllus domesticus. Linn.—Acheta domestica. Fabricius.

⁕1 White’s Natural History of Selborne.

Notes and Corrections: The House Cricket

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Gryllus domesticus is now Acheta domesticus, family Gryllidae, so that’s another point to Fabricius. (It is domesticus rather than domes­tica because Acheta is masculine; the Greek is ἀχέτας, “chriping”, with final -s. When it comes to Greek grammar, any contest between Fabricius and Linnaeus would probably end in a draw.)

They are particularly attached to kitchens
text has particulaly

Around in sympathetic mirth
[Oliver Goldsmith, “The Hermit” or “Edwin and Angelina”.]

This, as it is always dry, yields that sharp piercing sound
missing comma after “dry” supplied from 1st and 3rd edition


Towards sun-set is the time when the Field-crickets begin to appear out of their subter­raneous habitations. They are, however, so shy and cautious that it is no easy matter to get a sight of them; for, feeling a person’s footsteps as he advances, III.279 they stop short in the midst of their song, and retire backward nimbly into their burrows, where they lurk till all suspicion of danger is over. The Rev. Mr. White, of Selborne, who attentively studied their habits and manners, at first made an attempt to dig them out with a spade, but without any great success; for either the bottom of the hole was inaccessible, from its terminating under a large stone, or else in breaking up the ground the poor creature was inadvertently squeezed to death. Out of one thus bruised, a great number of eggs were taken, which were long and narrow, of a yellow colour, and covered with a very tough skin. More gentle means were then used, and these proved successful. A pliant stalk of grass, gently insinuated into the caverns, will probe their windings to the bottom, and bring out the inhabitant; and thus the humane enquirer may gratify his curiosity without injuring the object of it.

It is remarkable that, though these insects are furnished with long legs behind, and brawny thighs adapted for leaping, yet, when driven from their holes, they shew no activity, but crawl along in so lifeless a manner as easily to be caught. And though they are provided with a curious apparatus of wings, yet they never exert them, even when there seems to be the greatest occasion. The males only make their shrill noise, perhaps out of rivalry and emulation; as is the case with many animals, which exert some sprightly note during their breeding-time.

When the males meet, they sometimes fight very III.280 fiercely, as Mr. White found by some that he put into the crevices of a dry stone-wall, where he wished to have them settle. For though they seemed distressed by being taken out of their knowledge, yet the first that got possession of the chinks seized on all that were obtruded upon them, with a vast row of serrated fangs. With their strong jaws, toothed like the shears of a lobster’s claws, they perforate and round their curious regular cells, having no fore claws to dig with, like the mole cricket. When taken into the hand, they never attempt to defend themselves, though armed with such formidable weapons. Of such herbs as grow about the mouths of their burrows, they eat indiscriminately; and never in the day-time seem to stir more than two or three inches from home. Sitting in the entrance of their caverns, they chirp all night as well as day, from the middle of the month of May to the middle of July. In hot weather, when they are most vigorous, they make the hills echo; and, in the more still hours of darkness, may be heard to a very considerable distance.

“Not many summers ago (says Mr. White) I endeavoured to transplant a colony of these insects to the terrace in my garden, by boring deep holes in the sloping turf. The new inhabitants staid some time, and fed and sang; but they wandered away by degrees, and were heard at a greater distance every morning: so it appears that on this emergency they made use of their wings in attempting to return to the spot from which they were taken.


“One of these crickets, when confined in a paper cage, set in the sun, and supplied with plants moistened with water, will feed and thrive; and become so merry and loud as to render it irksome to be in the same room with it. If the plants are not wetted it will die⁕1.”

Synonyms.—Gryllus campestris. Linn.—Acheta campestris. Fabricius.

⁕1 Natural History of Selborne.

Notes and Corrections: The Field Cricket

Gryllus campestris still has that binomial. Score one to Linnaeus.

color picture of Migratory, or Wandering Locust, no later than 1804

Shaw Miscellany plate 62:
The Migratory, or Wandering Locust


Syria, Egypt, Persia, and almost all the south of Asia, are subject to a calamity as dreadful as volcanoes and earthquakes are to other countries, in being ravaged by those clouds of locusts, so often mentioned by travellers. The quantity of these insects is incredible to all who have not themselves witnessed their astonishing numbers: the whole earth is covered with them for the space of several leagues. The noise they make in browzing on the trees and herbage may be heard at a great distance, and resembles that of an army foraging in secret. The Tartars themselves are a less destructive enemy than these animals. One would imagine, wherever they have been seen, that fire had followed their progress. Wherever their myriads spread, the verdure of the country disappears, as if a curtain had been removed: trees and plants are stripped of their leaves, and reduced to their naked boughs and stems; so that the dreary image of winter III.282 succeeds in an instant to the rich scenery of the spring.—When these clouds of locusts take their flight, to surmount any obstacle, or to traverse more rapidly a desert soil, the heavens may literally be said to be obscured by them. Happily this calamity is not frequently repeated, for it is the inevitable forerunner of famine, and all the maladies it occasions. The inhabitants of Syria have remarked that locusts are always increased by too mild winters, and that they constantly come from the desert of Arabia. From this observation it is easy to conceive that the cold, not having been rigorous enough to destroy their eggs, they multiply suddenly; and, the herbage failing them in the immense plains of the desert, innumerable legions issue forth. When they make their first appearance on the frontiers of the cultivated country, the inhabitants attempt to drive them off, by raising large clouds of smoke; but frequently their herbs and wet straw fail them. They then dig trenches, where numbers of the insects are buried: but the most efficacious destroyers are the south and south-easterly winds, and the Locust-eating thrushes⁕1. These birds follow them in numerous flocks like starlings, and not only greedily devour them, but kill as many as they can: accordingly they are much respected by the peasants, and nobody is ever allowed to shoot them. As to the southerly and south-easterly winds, they drive with III.283 violence these clouds of locusts over the Mediterranean, where such quantities of them are sometimes drowned that, when their carcases are thrown on the shore, they infect the air for several days, even to a great distance.

engraving of Gryllus migratorius (Migratory Locust), no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 48:
Gryllus: G. migratorius

The annals of most hot countries are filled with accounts of the devastations produced by the locusts. They seldom now visit Europe in such swarms as formerly; yet in the warmer parts they are still formidable. Those that have at uncertain intervals visited Europe, within the memory of man, are supposed to have come from Africa.—Some of them have at different times been seen in Britain, and great mischiefs have been apprehended; but, happily for us, the coldness of our climate, and the humidity of our soil, are very unfavourable to their production: they therefore all perish, without leaving a young generation to succeed them.

Locusts, when they take to flight, seem at a distance like a dark cloud, which, as it approaches, almost excludes the light of day. It often happens that the husbandman sees them pass over without doing him any injury; but in this case they only proceed to settle on some less fortunate country. Wherever they alight, they make dreadful havoc among the vegetation. In the tropical climates their presence is not attended with such destructive consequences as in the southern parts of Europe; for in those the vegetative power is so strong and active that an interval of only a few days will sometimes repair all the damage: but in Europe their ravages cannot be III.284 obliterated till the succeeding year⁕2. In their long flights to this part of the world, from the extent of their journey, they are also nearly famished, and therefore more voracious wherever they happen to alight.

We are told that nearly as much damage is occasioned by what they touch as by what they devour. Their bite is thought to contaminate the plants, and either to destroy or greatly to weaken their vegetation. To use the expression of the husbandmen, “They burn wherever they touch, and in some countries leave the marks of their devastation for three or four years afterwards.” When dead, they infect the air in such a manner that the stench is frequently insupportable. Orosius tells us that, in the year of the world 3800, Africa was infested with a multitude of Locusts. After having eaten up every thing that was green, they flew off and were drowned in the sea; where they caused such a stench as could not have been equalled by the putrefying carcases of a hundred thousand men.

In the year 1650 a cloud of locusts were seen to enter Russia in three different places; and from III.285 thence they spread themselves over Poland, and Lithuania, in such astonishing multitudes that the air was darkened, and the earth covered with their numbers. In some places, they were seen lying dead, heaped upon each other to the depth of four feet; in others they covered the surface of the ground like a black cloth: the trees bent with their weight; and the damage that the country sustained exceeded computation.

In Barbary their numbers are often formidable; and Dr. Shaw was a witness of their devastations there in 1724. Their first appearance was in the latter end of March, when the wind had been southerly for some time. In the beginning of April their numbers were so increased that, in the heat of the day, large swarms appeared like clouds, and darkened the sun. In the middle of May they began to disappear, retiring into the plains to deposit their eggs. In June the young brood came forth, forming many compact bodies of several hundred yards square; which, afterwards marching forward, climbed the trees, walls, and houses, devouring every vegetable that was in their way. The inhabitants, to stop their progress, formed trenches all over their fields and gardens, which they filled with water. Some placed large quantities of heath, stubble, and other combustible matter in rows, and set them on fire on the approach of the Locusts. This, however, was all to no purpose, for the trenches were quickly filled up, and the fires put out by the immense swarms that succeeded each other.

A day or two after one of these was in motion, III.286 others that were just hatched came to glean after them, gnawing off the young branches, and the very bark of the trees. Having lived near a month in this manner, they arrived at their full growth, and threw off their larva state by casting their skins. To prepare themselves for this change they fixed their hinder parts to some bush or twig, or corner of a stone; when immediately, by an undulating motion, their heads would first appear, and soon after the rest of their bodies. The whole transformation was performed in seven or eight minutes time; after which they remained for a little while in a weak state; but as soon as the sun and air had hardened their wings, and dried up the moisture that remained after casting their sloughs, they returned to their former greediness, with an addition both of strength and agility. But they did not long continue in this state before they were entirely dispersed. After laying their eggs, they directed their course northward, and probably perished in the sea⁕3.

Of the innumerable multitudes that infested the interior of Southern Africa, in the year 1797, scarcely any adequate conception can be formed. Mr. Barrow says that in the part of the country where he then was, for an area of nearly 2000 square miles, the whole surface of the ground might literally be said to be covered with them. The water of a very wide river was scarcely visible on account of the dead carcases that floated on the surface, drowned in the attempt to come at the reeds that III.287 grew in it. They had devoured every blade of grass, and every green herb except the reeds.—They are not, however, without a choice in their food. When they attack a field of corn just come into ear, this gentleman says they first mount to the summit, and pick out every grain before they touch the leaves and stem. The insect seems to be constantly in motion, and always to have some object in view. When the larvæ, for these are much more voracious than the perfect insects, are on a march during the day, it is utterly impossible to turn the direction of the troop which is generally with the wind. Towards the setting of the sun the march is discontinued, when the troop divides into companies that surround the small shrubs or tufts of grass, or ant-hills, and in such thick patches that they appear like so many swarms of bees; and in this manner they rest till day-light. At these times it is that the farmers have any chance of destroying them, which they are sometimes able in a great measure to effect, by driving among them a flock of two or three thousand sheep: by the restlessness of these, great quantities of them are trampled to death.

The year 1797 was the third of their continuance in Sneuwberg; and their increase, according to Mr. Barrow’s account, had far exceeded that of a geometrical progression whose ratio is a million.

For ten years preceding their present visit this district was entirely free from them. Their former exit was somewhat singular. All the full-grown insects were driven into the sea by a tempestuous III.288 north-west wind, and were afterwards cast upon the beach, where, it is said, they formed a bank of three or four feet high that extended a distance of nearly fifty English miles; and it is asserted that, when this mass became putrid, and the wind was at south-east, the stench was sensibly felt in several parts of Sneuwberg, distant at least a hundred and fifty miles⁕4.

The female Locust, when she lays her eggs, which are generally about forty in number, retires to some solitary place under ground; where, by her sagacity, she secures them from the intemperance of the air, as well as from the more immediate danger of the plough or spade, one fatal blow of which would destroy all the hopes of a rising generation.

One would imagine that so horrid an insect as the Locust would never have been thought of as food for man; and yet it is an undoubted fact that, in several parts of Africa, the people eat them. They are dressed in different ways: some pound and boil them with milk; others only broil them on the coals, and think them excellent food. “There is no disputing about tastes (says Mr. Adanson): for my part I would willingly resign whole clouds of Locusts to the negroes of Gambia for the meanest of their fishes⁕5.”

Synonyms.—Gryllus migratorius. Linn.——Locust, var.

⁕1 Turdus gryllivorus of Barrow.

⁕2 “One thing which always surprized me,” says Mr. Adanson in his Voyage to Senegal, “is the amazing rapidity with which the sap of trees in this country repairs any loss they happen to sustain; and I was never more astonished than when, four days after a terrible invasion by the Locusts, in which every green thing was devoured, I saw the trees covered with new leaves, and not appear to have suffered very greatly. The herbaceous plants bore marks of the devastation somewhat longer; but a few days were sufficient to repair every mischief.”

⁕3 Shaw’s Travels, 257.

⁕4 Barrow’s Travels, p. 257.

⁕5 Adanson’s Voyage to Senegal.

Notes and Corrections: The Migratory Locust

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Gryllus migratorius is now Locusta migratoria in family Acrididae, another of those vast—over a thousand A-to-Z genera—insect families. There are not many Locusta species, but L. migratoria alone has at least eight subspecies.

it is easy to conceive that the cold, not having been rigorous enough
[I prefer the punctuation in the 3rd edition: it is easy to conceive, that, the cold not having been rigorous enough]

accordingly they are much respected
text has acordingly

“They burn wherever they touch
[It seems as if the close-quote should go after “touch” rather than further along, but the 1st and 3rd edition are both the same.]

[Footnote] Turdus gryllivorus
[As described in Volume II.]



In this tribe, the head is extended forward, and is hollow and inflated. The antennæ, consisting of two joints, the outer one of which is globular, are seated below the eyes. The rostrum or beak⁕1 is four-jointed, and inflected or bent inwards under the body. The legs are not formed for leaping.

⁕1 This is a jointed sheath, situated in the mouth, and containing setæ, or bristles, used in extracting the juices from plants, and for some other purposes.

Notes and Corrections: The Lantern-Flies

Unlike mantids and locusts, lanternflies are still in order Hemiptera, where they make up superfamily Fulgoroidea.

color picture of “Great Lonthorn-Fly, or Fire-Fly”, no later than 1827

Shaw Miscellany plate 37:
The Great Lonthorn-Fly, or Fire-Fly


This is the most vivid of all the luminous insects. It affords a light so great that travellers, walking by night, are said to be enabled to pursue their journey with sufficient certainty if they tie one or two of them to a stick, and carry this before them in the manner of a torch. It is common in many parts of South America, and is described by Madam Merian in her superb work on the insects of Surinam. She gives an entertaining account of the alarm into which she was thrown, by the flashing which proceeded from them in the dark, before she had been apprized of their shining nature.

“The Indians once brought me (says she) before I knew that they shone by night, a number of these Lantern-flies, which I shut up in a large wooden III.290 box. In the night they made such a noise that I awoke in a fright, and ordered a light to be brought not being able to guess from whence the noise proceeded. As soon as I found that it came from the box I opened it, but was still more alarmed, and let it fall to the ground in my fright, at seeing a flame of fire come out of it; and as many animals as came out so many different flames appeared. When I found this to be the case, I recovered from my alarm, and again collected the insects, much admiring their splendid appearance.” The light, she adds, of one of these insects is so bright that a person may see to read a news-paper by it⁕1.

engraving of Fulgora Lanternaria (Lanternfly), no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 52:
Fulgora: F. Lanternaria

The light emitted by this fly proceeds entirely from the hollow part, or lantern, of the head; no other part of the animal being luminous⁕2. Dr. Darwin conjectures that the use of this light is merely to prevent the insects from flying against objects in the night, and to enable them to procure their sustenance in the dark, He seems, however, not to have considered that very few of the numerous train of night-insects possess this luminous property, and yet all the functions of these are performed with perfect regularity. Its most essential use is, no doubt, as in the other luminous tribes, to point out the sexes to each other, serving in them the same purpose, in this respect, as the voice in larger animals.

The head in this species is large, and somewhat III.291 oval. The wings are variegated; and the lower pair is marked each with a large ocellated or eyelike spot. Sometimes the insect is seen of three or four inches in length.

Fulgora lanternaria. Linn.

⁕1 Merian’s Surinam, tab. 49.

⁕2 Shaw’s Nat. Mis. i. tab. 37.

Notes and Corrections: The Great Lantern-Fly

Fulgora lanternaria still has that binomial. It is in family Fulgoridae.

engraving of five Cicada species and one larva, no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 53:
Cicada: spinosa, Phalaenoides, aurita, lanata;
(two views); larva


These insects are found in various parts both of the new and old continent, where they subsist almost wholly on the leaves of trees and other vegetable substances. They are furnished with a hard and horny proboscis or tube, in which is contained a very slender sucking pipe. The former is not much unlike a gimlet in form, and is used by them in boring through the bark of trees, for the purpose of extracting their juices. With this proboscis they also bore holes in the small and tender twigs of the exterior branches, in which they deposit their eggs, sometimes to the amount of six or seven hundred. Each cell does not contain more than from twelve to twenty, so that by this means they often do much damage to the trees which they frequent.

The chrysalids of these insects are not torpid, as in many others, but have six legs, and differ from the parent in having only the rudiments of wings. They are exceedingly active, and in general run and leap about upon the trees with great sprightliness.

The males of the perfect insects make a chirping III.292 noise, of use in alluring the females. Some naturalists suppose that this noise is caused by the flapping of the lamellæ against the abdomen: others by the rustling of the segments of the body in the contractile motion of that part; and Beckmann, that it is caused by the beating of the body and legs against the wings. The lamellæ, on examination, do not appear to have sufficient freedom of motion to produce such a sound.

Those of the hottest climates make the loudest noise. From the papers of Mr. Smeathman, who resided a considerable time in Africa, it appears that some are so loud as to be heard to the distance of half a mile; and that the singing of one of them in a room will immediately silence a whole company. Professor Thunberg says that one of the Javanese species makes a noise as shrill and piercing as if it proceeded from a trumpet.

Several of the species were known to the ancients, who made them the emblems of eternal youth. They deemed them creatures beloved both by Gods and men; and indulged many poetical fictions concerning them, but particularly that they subsisted only on dew. The Athenians wore golden Cicadæ in their hair to denote their national antiquity, or that, like these creatures, they were the first-born of the earth. Anacreon, addressing one of them, depicts, in glowing colours, the felicity that they were universally supposed to enjoy.

Happy creature! What below

Can more happy live than thou?


Seated on thy leafy throne,

(Summer weaves the verdant crown)

Sipping o’er the pearly lawn,

The fragrant nectar of the dawn;

Little tales thou lov’st to sing,

Tales of mirth—an insect king.

Thine the treasures of the field,

All thy own the seasons yield;

Nature paints thee for the year,

Songster to the shepherds dear:

Innocent of placid fame,

What of man can boast the same?

Thine the lavish’d voice of praise,

Harbinger of fruitful days;

Darling of the tuneful Nine,

Phœbus is thy sire divine;

Phœbus to thy notes has giv’n

Music from the spheres of heav’n;

Happy most, as first of earth,

All thy hours are peace and mirth;

Cares nor pains to thee belong,

Thou alone art ever young;

Thine the pure immortal vein,

Blood nor flesh thy life sustain;

Rich in spirits, health thy feast,

Thou’rt a demi-god at least.

The Cicadæ have an inflected rostrum, and bristle-shaped antennæ. The wing-cases are membranaceous, and decline along the sides of the body. Their legs are in general formed for leaping.

Notes and Corrections: The Cicadæ

Cicadas are family Cicadidae, superfamily Cicadoidea, in order Hemiptera.

Anacreon . . . depicts, in glowing colours
[Ode XLIII. It would have been nice of Bingley to name the translator—but, in fairness, his source didn’t either. It’s The Works of Anacreon and Sappho, 1768, apparently by Edward Burnaby Greene (1735–1788). Shaw cites the same poem, but in a wildly different translation.]


This is a singular insect, and deserving of some III.294 attention, both as an object of curiosity and from its importance in domestic economy. It is found both in the eastern countries and in America. Its wing-cases are green, margined with red, and deflexed; and the interior ones are spotted with black. In the variety figured and described by Sir George Staunton these are whitish, margined with black, and have a row of black spots on the posterior edge.

The larvæ are elegant and beautiful creatures, and to their labours the Chinese are indebted for the fine white wax that is so much esteemed in the East-Indies. They form a sort of white grease which attaches to the branches of trees, hardens there, and becomes wax. It is scraped off in the autumn, melted on the fire, and strained: it is then poured into cold water, where it coagulates and forms into cakes. In appearance it is white and glossy, and, mixed with oil, is used to make candles, for which purpose it is thought greatly superior to beeswax.

The insects are white when young, and it is then that they make their wax. When old, they are of a blackish chesnut colour, and form little pelotons on the branches of trees. These at first are each of the size of a grain of millet; towards the beginning of the spring they increase in bulk and spread; they are attached to the branches like grapes, and, at first sight, the trees that bear them appear loaded with fruit. About the beginning of May the inhabitants gather them, and, having enveloped them in the leaves of a species of broad-leaved grass, suspend them to the trees. At the end of June, and in July, III.295 the pelotons open, and the insects come forth, crawl about the leaves, and form their wax.

Sir George Staunton says of these insects that he saw them busily employed upon the small branches of a shrub that, in its general habit, had a considerable resemblance to privet. They did not much exceed the size of the domestic fly, and were of a very singular structure. They were in every part covered with a kind of white powder: and the branches they most frequented were entirely whitened by this substance strewed upon them.

Synonyms.—Tettigonia limbata. Fabricius.—Cicada limbata.

Notes and Corrections: The Wax-Forming Cicada

Tettigonia limbata or Cicada limbata is now Ugada limbata.

the variety figured and described by Sir George Staunton
[Staunton’s Embassy to China consists of two fat volumes of text, and a folio volume of nothing but Plates and maps. If there is a cicada hidden among them, I couldn’t find it. The lack of a footnote suggests that Bingley couldn’t find it either, and was simply cribbing from some intermediate source.]


This species of Cicada is at all times very common in Pennsylvania, but at certain periods (generally of fourteen or fifteen years) the numbers are so immense that it has obtained the general appellation of Locust.

Towards the end of April these insects emerge from the ground; and their appearance is always to be predicted by the swine searching for them. The swarms are sometimes so great that, in the places from whence they have arisen, the earth appears nearly as full of holes as a honey-comb. They always leave the ground during the night. On their first coming out they are in their chrysalid state; but very soon afterwards the back bursts, and the flying insects disengage themselves from their case. For a III.296 little while they are entirely white, with red eyes, and seem very weak and tender; but, by the next day, they attain their full strength and perfection, being of a dark brown colour, with four finely varied transparent wings.

They are very active, flying about from tree to tree with great agility. The female is directed to the male by the loud chirping noise that he makes. She lays her eggs about the latter end of May, piercing for this purpose the tender twigs of trees with the dart from her tail. With this she is able to penetrate the wood in a surprisingly expeditious manner, crowding it for the length of two or three inches full of eggs, ranged in close lines, with from twelve to eighteen in each. She always darts to the pith of the branch, in order that the larvæ, when they proceed from the eggs, may find food proper for their tender state. When these are full grown they drop off, and make their way into the ground to prepare for a change. Here they are sometimes found at the depth of two feet or upwards.

For the sake of experiment, some of the eggs of this species, about the usual time of hatching, were taken out, and spread upon a table. In about an hour they cracked; and it was very entertaining to observe how the little insects contrived to disengage themselves from the shell. When they had got clear from all incumbrances, they ran about very briskly, evidently searching for a repository in the earth⁕1.


Very shortly, after attaining their perfect state, these insects always spread over the country for many miles round. They are excessively voracious, and do infinite damage, in their periodical swarmings, to both orchard and forest trees; and were it not for the number and variety of their enemies, and the naturally short duration of their lives, the inhabitants would often suffer from them all the horrors of famine. It seems to have been of these insects that Mr. Hughes says such vast swarms were bred, or came into the island of Barbadoes, in the year 1734-5, that they destroyed almost every green and tender plant. So great was the destruction that they caused, especially among the potatoe vines, on whose roots the poor people chiefly subsisted, and such the scarcity of food occasioned by them, particularly in the parish of St. Philip, that a collection was made for these sufferers through the rest of the island⁕2.

Domestic fowls are fond of them; and even some of the American squirrels become fat with them at the times when they are very abundant. The Indians also pluck off their wings, and boil the bodies for food.—It is said that they may be kept from the trees by suspending on the branches pieces of tow impregnated with a mixture of brimstone and train oil.

Synonyms.—Cicada septendecim. Linn.—Tettigonia septendecim. Fabricius.

⁕1 Phil. Tran. vol. liv. p. 65. tab. 8.

⁕2 Natural History of Barbadoes.

Notes and Corrections: The American Locust

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Bingley’s sources are right: though it may behave like a locust, it’s a cicada. Cicada septendecim or Tettigonia septendecim is now Magicicada septendecim, the 17-year cicada.

the potatoe vines, on whose roots the poor people chiefly subsisted
[I guess that’s one way to describe the potato.]

a mixture of brimstone and train oil
[Otherwise known as whale oil. Fun fact: The word survives in the Scandinavian languages, where tran primarily means cod-liver oil. It could also mean whale oil, if anyone ever had occasion to talk about it, but they rarely do.]



The larvæ or grubs of this insect are well known as discharging from their bodies, upon the branches and leaves of plants, a kind of frothy matter, called by the country people in many parts of England Cuckoo-spit. In the midst of this they constantly reside, probably for shelter against the rapacity of such stronger insects as would otherwise prey upon them. Nature seems to have afforded this kind of defence to the insects, as their naked and soft bodies might otherwise very easily be injured; perhaps also the moisture of this foam may serve to screen them from the sultry beams of the sun. On removing the foam the grub is discovered underneath; but it will not remain long uncovered. It soon emits fresh foam that again hides it from the eye of observation.

It is in the midst of its foam that the larva goes through its metamor­phosis to a chrysalis, and a winged insect. This may be observed by any person who is careful enough to watch when the froth begins a little to subside. At this time he must put the insect with its leaf under a glass. The froth, degenerating to a white film, fixes the creature to the leaf: soon after this the fly may be seen first putting out its head, and afterwards by degrees its body. As soon as the fore-part is out, a small protuberance will be perceived on each side, which, III.299 every moment growing larger, will soon appear to be the wings of the fly unfolding by degrees. In about a quarter of an hour the whole change is completed, the fly is liberated, its wings are extended over its body, and the fine silver-like case of the larva, with all its legs and other apparatus, will be seen left behind.

The perfect insect is of a brown colour, and has on the upper wings two lateral whitish spots. It is very common in meadows and pastures, and is so agile that, when attempted to be caught, it will sometimes spring to the distance of two or three feet.

Synonyms.—Cicada spumaria. Linn.Cercopis spumaria. Fabricius.—Cuckoo spit or Froth-worm.

Notes and Corrections: The Black-Headed Froghopper

Froghoppers aren’t cicadas. Cicada spumaria or Cercopis spumaria is now Philaenus spumarius, the meadow froghopper, in family Aphrophoridae (“foam-bearing”), superfamily Cercopoidea.

[Synonyms] Cercopis spumaria
text has Cercropis
[Sorry, Bingley, I don’t care if the 3rd edition retains the same misspelling. (The 1st edition didn’t include this binomial.)]

engraving of seven Cimex species, no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 57:
Cimex: latipes, flavicollis, virens, stagnorum, validus, annulatus, corticatus


The rostrum of the Cimices or Bugs is inflected; and the antennæ are longer than the thorax. They have four wings folded cross-wise, the upper ones coriaceous on the upper part. The back is flat, and the legs are formed for running.

The larvæ differ from the perfect insects in little else than the want of wings. Many of them infest plants on which they live, and in which they lay their eggs. Several of the species are voracious, and spare scarcely any other insects that they can conquer. They glut themselves with the blood of animals; destroy caterpillars, flies, and even beetles, the hardness of whose elytra would seem to be proof against all their attacks; the incautious naturalist III.300 may also himself sometimes experience the severity of their nature.

Notes and Corrections: The Bugs

True bugs, Linnaeus’s genus Cimex, are superfamilies Cimicoidea, Coreoidea and possibly some others, in order Hemiptera.


The Bed Bug, which is a nauseous and troublesome inhabitant of most houses in large towns, is singular in having neither wings nor wing-cases. It runs about with considerable activity in the night, to suck the blood of persons that are asleep, hiding itself by day in crevices and other retired places.

It is supposed to have been first introduced to this country in the fir timber that was brought over to rebuild London after it had suffered by the great fire; for it is generally said that Bugs were not known in England before that time; and many of them were found almost immediately afterwards in the new-built houses.

Their most favourite food is blood, dried paste, size, deal, beech, osier, and some other kinds of timber, the sap of which they suck; and on any of these they are able to exist. They will not feed on oak, walnut, cedar, or mahogany; for several pairs that, for the sake of experiment, were confined with these kinds of wood soon died, whilst those kept with the others continued to thrive through the whole year.

The female generally lays about fifty eggs at a III.301 time, which are white, and, when protruded, are covered with a viscous matter, which, afterwards hardening, sticks them firmly to the place where they are deposited. These are usually hatched in about three weeks. The general times of laying are March, May, July, and September: so that from every female Bug that outlives the season, as many as two hundred young may be produced. Thus is the excessive increase of these nauseous animals to be accounted for, where proper care is not taken to destroy them.

The young, for some time after they first escape from the egg, are perfectly white, but they generally become brown in the course of about three weeks. In eleven weeks they are at full growth. They are then very watchful and cunning creatures; and so fierce, among their own species, that they will sometimes contend with the utmost fury; and in their combats they seldom leave off till either one or both of the animals are killed. Spiders are very fond of them, and often seize them for food.

In order to clear a house of Bugs the leading point is cleanliness in every respect, for this is their greatest annoyance; and by this alone their increase is to be materially checked. The first young begin to burst from the eggs early in spring, frequently even in February. At this season it is that the greatest attention is required. The bed infested by them ought to be stripped of all its furniture, which should be washed, and, if linen, even boiled, or if stuff hot-pressed. The bedstead should be taken in pieces, and dusted, and washed with spirits of III.302 wine in all the joints and crevices, for it is in these parts principally that the females deposit their eggs. This done, all the cavities should be well filled with the best soft soap, mixed up with verdigrease and Scotch snuff. On this composition the young will immediately feed, after leaving the egg (if any escape the cleansing) and will be destroyed, as will also such of the old ones as happen to be left.

Bugs abound in all the hot climates, from whence most of our merchant-vessels are over-run with them. This accounts for their extreme numbers in all the seaport towns of this country, and particularly in the metropolis, being conveyed thither in clothes, packages, &c. Hence appears the great necessity of examining carefully every thing brought from such vessels into the houses.

Deal and beech boards should by all means be removed, as should also every thing that is fixed to a bed by means of paste, as these afford them both shelter and food. Oak and mahogany are probably the best kinds of wood to use, as the closeness of their texture allows the animals but an uncomfortable situation.

It is supposed that Bugs do not altogether lie torpid during the winter, but that in the cold weather they require less nutriment, and therefore that they are not tempted to come so often out of their retreats as they do in the warmer seasons of the year.

Synonyms.—Cimex lectularius. Linn.—Acanthia lectularia. Fabricius.

Notes and Corrections: The Bed Bug

Cimex lectularius still has that binomial. One point to Linnaeus.

nauseous and troublesome
[Bed bugs seem to be the only insect Bingley truly disliked. Perhaps he had some personal acquaintance with them.]



“That singular insect, the Cimex Paradoxus, which, (says Dr. Sparrman,) I have described, and of which I have given a drawing in the Swedish Transactions, I discovered at this place (the Cape of Good Hope) as at noon tide I sought for shelter among the branches of a shrub from the intolerable heat of the sun. Though the air was now extremely still and calm, so as scarcely to have shaken an aspen leaf, yet I thought I saw a little withered, pale, crumpled leaf, eaten as it were by caterpillars, flitting from the tree. This appeared to me so very extraordinary, that I thought it worth while suddenly to quit my verdant bower in order to contemplate it; and I could scarcely believe my eyes, when I saw a living insect, in shape and colour resembling the fragment of a withered leaf, with the edges turned up and eaten away, as it were, by caterpillars, and at the same time all over beset with prickles. Nature, by this peculiar form, has certainly extremely well defended, and concealed, as it were in a mask, this insect from birds and its other diminutive foes; in all probability with a view to its preservation, and to employ it for some important office in the system of her economy; a system with which we are too little acquainted, in general too little investigate, and, in every part of it, can never sufficiently admire III.304 with that respect and adoration which we owe to the great author of nature and ruler of the universe⁕2.”

Synonyms.—Cimex paradoxus. Linn. Gmel.—Acanthia paradoxa. Fabricius.

⁕1 Voyage to the Cape of Good Hope.

Notes and Corrections: The Paradoxical Bug

Cimex paradoxus or Acanthia paradoxa is now Pephricus para­doxus in family Coreidae (Leaf-Footed Bugs or Squash Bugs), superfamily Coreoidea.

the Cimex Paradoxus, which, (says Dr. Sparrman,)
text has Sparman

engraving of Aphis rosae (Rose Aphid), no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 58 (partial):
Aphis: rosæ (two views)


The minute animals that compose this singular tribe live entirely on vegetables, and the loftiest tree is as liable to their attacks as the most humble plant. Their numbers are often incalculably great. They prefer the young shoots on account of their tenderness, and frequently insinuate themselves into the very hearts of the plants, doing irreparable mischief even before they are discovered. But for the most part they beset the foliage, and are always found on the under side of the leaf. This they prefer, not only on account of its being the most tender, but because it affords them protection from the weather, and from various injuries to which they would be otherwise exposed. Sometimes, though very rarely, the root is the object of their choice; and the roots of lettuces have been observed so thickly beset with one of the species that the whole crop has been rendered sickly, and of little value. They are rarely, except one species (aphis salicis, which is larger and much stronger than the others) to be found on the bark of trees.


Some of the species are constantly and unalterably attached to one or more particular species of plants; but others feed indiscriminately on most sorts of herbage.

These insects are sometimes winged, and sometimes destitute of wings, without any distinction of sex. In the spring they are viviparous, producing the young alive; and in the autumn they are oviparous, depositing their eggs, like most other insects, in places where they remain secured through the winter till the ensuing spring, when they are hatched. The Aphides afford also another surprising deviation from the general laws of nature; one impregnation of the female is sufficient for nine generations.

Their beak, the sheath of which is composed of five joints, is inflected. The antennæ are tapering, and longer than the thorax. They have either four wings, or are entirely destitute of them. At the abdomen there are two obtuse erect horns; and the tail is sometimes terminated by a small style.

The larvæ, chrysalids, and perfect insects, have so little difference, in external appearance, that they cannot be distinguished from each other.

Notes and Corrections: The Aphides

Aphids, Linnaeus’s genus Aphis, are family Aphididae, superfamily Aphidoidea, in order Hemiptera.

aphis salicis, which is larger and much stronger than the others
[There are hundreds of Aphis species, but A. salicis isn’t one of them. It is now Pterocomma salicis, elsewhere in the Aphididae family.]


This insect, which is well known by the name of Rose-louse, is generally of a green colour; with the III.306 tip of the antennæ, and horns black. The tail is pointed, and without a style.

Towards the beginning of February, if the weather be sufficiently warm to make the buds of the rose-tree swell and appear green, these species of Aphis will be found on them in considerable abundance. They are now produced from small black oval eggs, which were deposited in autumn on the last year’s shoots. If after their appearance the weather become cold, almost the whole of them suffer, and the trees are, for that year, in a great measure, freed from them.

Those that withstand the severity of the weather seldom arrive at their full growth before April, when, after twice casting their skins, they usually begin to breed. It then appears that they are all females, and each of them produces a very numerous progeny, and that without any intercourse with a male insect.—These, though themselves produced from eggs, are viviparous. Their young, when they first come from the parent insects, are each enveloped in a thin membrane that has the appearance of an oval egg. This apparent egg adheres by one extremity to the mother, while the young Aphis proceeding from it extends the other, by this means gradually drawing the ruptured membrane over the head and body to the hind feet. During the operation, and for some time afterwards, the forepart of the head adheres, by the viscous matter about it, to the tail of the parent. Thus suspended, it soon entirely frees itself from its former envelopment; and when its limbs become a little III.307 strengthened, it is set down on some tender shoot, and there left to provide for itself.

In the spring months there appear but these two generations of the Aphis: the warmth of summer, however, produces no less than five. One of these comes forth in May, and the months of June and July supply each two more. The insects of the May breed cast their skins twice, and the others three or four times, according to the warmth of the season. When the heat has been sufficiently great, and the food in tolerable plenty, the first change has been observed to take place in about ten days after their production.

Early in June some of the third generation, which were produced about the middle of May, after casting their last covering, discover four erect wings much longer than their bodies. The formation of the wings seems to depend not on sexual distinction, nor even on the original structure of the insects, so much as on the quantity and quality of the nourishment with which they are supplied. Few of those on succulent shoots have wings, while those of the same generation on the less tender branches are most of them winged. Some time before they come to their full growth, it is easy to discern which of them will have wings, from a remarkable fullness of the breast. When the last covering is rejected, the wings, which were before folded in a very narrow compass, gradually extend in a most beautiful manner to their proper size and dimensions. All the following breeds are winged.

In the autumn the eighth, ninth, and tenth generations III.308 are produced; two in August, and the last about the middle of September. The two first resemble the summer breeds, but the third differs very greatly from all the rest. Though all the Aphides which have hitherto appeared have been females, in this tenth generation several male insects are found. The females have at first the appearance of the summer insects; but in a few days their colour changes from green to yellow, and gradually, before their full growth, to orange. These yellow females are destitute of wings. The males, when they first appear, are of a reddish brown, but have afterwards, when they begin to thicken about the breast, a dark line along the middle of the back. They come to their full growth in about three weeks, and then casting their last skin appear in every part, except the wings, of a bright yellow. They soon, however, become dark brown. The wings become transparent, and at length are in appearance not unlike very fine black gauze. The females soon begin to deposit their eggs, which, if possible, is always done near the buds of the branches, that the future young may be the more easily supplied with nourishment. Some of them continue laying their eggs till the beginning of November: these are oval, and when first protruded are green, but they soon become perfectly black. They adhere to the branches on which they are deposited, by the viscous matter that at first surrounds them. These eggs remain through the winter till the ensuing spring before they are hatched.

If the Aphides had not many enemies, their increase III.309 in summer would be so great as, by wounding and exhausting the tender shoots of the trees, sometimes to suppress their vegetation. Among their enemies one of the principal is a small black species of Ichneumon fly⁕1, which darts its pointed tail into the bodies of the Aphides, and at the same time deposits in each an egg. This egg afterwards produces a grub, which feeds on the body of the insect till it has acquired its full growth, when it undergoes its change, and entirely destroys its living nidus.

After a mild spring most of the species of Aphis becomes so numerous as to do considerable injury to the trees on which they are found. The best mode of remedying this evil is to lop off the infected shoots before the insects are greatly multiplied, repeating the same operation before the time that the eggs are deposited. By the first pruning a very numerous present increase will be prevented, and by the second, the following year’s supply may in a great measure be cut off⁕2.

Synonyms.—Aphis Rosæ. Linn. Gmel.—Rose-louse.

⁕1 The Ichneumon Aphidum of Linnæus.

⁕2 Richardson on Aphides. Phil. Tran. lxi. p. 182.

Notes and Corrections: The Rose Aphis

Aphis rosæ is now Macrosiphum rosae, elsewhere in the Aphididae family. If you have ever grown—or tried to grow—roses, you know this species well.

[Footnote] The Ichneumon Aphidum of Linnæus
[Nobody seems to be sure what he means. Ichneumon aphidi­phagus? Cynips aphidum? Some species of Aphidius?]


These are an extremely fertile race, and many of them are very troublesome in stoves and green-houses. The females fix themselves and adhere III.310 almost immoveably to the roots, and sometimes to the branches of plants. Some of them, having thus fixed themselves, lose entirely the form and appearance of insects: their bodies swell, their skin stretches and becomes smooth, and they so much resemble some of the galls or excrescences, found on plants, as by inexperienced persons to be mistaken for such. After this change the abdomen serves only as a kind of shell or covering under which the eggs are concealed. Others, though they are likewise thus fixed, preserve the form of insects till they have laid their eggs and perish.

A kind of down or cotton grows out of their belly, which serves to make the nest in which they deposit their eggs.—Most of the species found in our hot-houses have been brought over with exotic plants from other climates.

The beak is seated on the breast; and the antennæ are thread-shaped, or of equal thickness throughout. The abdomen is terminated by four or six light-coloured bristles. The male has two erect wings, but the females have none.

Notes and Corrections: The Cochineal Insects

Cochineals as such are genus Dactylopius in family Dactylopiidae, superfamily Coccoidea (scale insects), order Hemiptera. Linnaeus’s genus Coccus encompasses the whole superfamily.

the galls or excrescences, found on plants
text has excrecences
[Fortunately the 1st and 3rd editions both had the expected spelling.]


The head and trunk of this insect seem to form one uniform, oval, compressed red body, somewhat of the shape and size of a very small louse, consisting of twelve transverse rings. The back is III.311 keel-shaped, and the belly flat. The antennæ are half the length of the body, filiform, and diverging, sending off two and sometimes three diverging hairs, the tail is a little white point, from whence proceed two horizontal hairs as long as the body.

Mr. Kerr, who has given a minute account of these insects in the Philosophical Transactions, says that he has often observed their birth, but could never see any of them with wings; nor was he ever able to remark any distinction in the sexes: owing, he confesses, most probably to the minuteness of the objects, and the want of proper glasses.

They are produced from the womb of the parent in the months of November and December. For some time they traverse the branches of the trees upon which they are produced, and then fix themselves on the succulent extremities of the young shoots. By the middle of January they are all fixed in their proper situations, and, though they now exhibit no marks of life, appear as plump as before. The limbs, antennæ and bristles of the tail are no longer to be seen. Around the edges of their body they are environed with a sub-pellucid gelatinous liquid, which seems to glue them to the branch. The gradual accumulation of this liquid at length forms a complete cell for the insect, which takes place about the middle of March. The insect is now, in appearance, an oval smooth red bag, without life, about the size of a small American Cochineal insect, emarginated at the obtuse end, and full of a beautiful red liquid.

In October and November twenty or thirty small III.312 oval eggs, or rather young grubs, are to be found within the red fluid of the mother. When this fluid is all consumed the young insects pierce a hole through the external covering, and walk off one by one, leaving their nidus behind. This nidus is that white membranaceous substance found in the empty shells of the Stick Lac.

These insects are found on only four different kinds of trees, the principal of which are the Ficus religiosa and Ficus Indica of Linnæus.

They generally fix themselves in such numbers, and so close to each other, that scarcely more than one female in six has room to complete her cell: the others die, and become the food of various insects. The extreme branches of the above trees appear as if they were covered with a red dust, and their sap is frequently so much exhausted that the adjoining parts wither away.—The sap of the trees seems much allied to the cell of the Coccus, so that it appears to have undergone very little change by its formation into these shells.

These insects, which in the East Indies have the name of Gum Lac, are principally found on the trees of the uncultivated mountains on both sides of the Ganges, where nature has been so bountiful that, were the consumption many times greater than it now is, the markets would be fully supplied. The only trouble is in breaking down the branches and carrying them to market.

The price in the year 1781 of Gum Lac in Dacca was only twelve shillings for the hundred pounds weight, notwithstanding its being brought from a III.313 very great distance, as the greatest part of it is collected in Assam. The best Lac is of a deep red colour. If it be pale, and pierced at the top, the value diminishes, because the insects have left their cells, and consequently it can be of no use as a dye; though probably it maybe of more value as a varnish.

Stick Lac is the natural state of this production. When the cells are separated from the sticks, broken into small pieces, and appear in a granulated form, they are called Seed Lac. This, liquified by fire and formed into cakes, is Lump Lac. When the cells are liquified, strained, and formed into thin transparent laminæ, the substance has the name of Shell Lac.

Of the Shell Lac the natives of the Eastern countries make ornamental rings, to decorate the arms of the females. They also form it into beads, necklaces, and other female ornaments. This substance was formerly used in medicine, but it is now confined principally to the making of sealing-wax, and to japanning, painting, and dyeing⁕1.

Synonyms.—Coccus ficus. Linn.—Gum lac, in the East Indies.

⁕1 Phil. Tran. vol. lxxi. p. 374.

Notes and Corrections: The Lac Cochineal

Coccus ficus is now Coccus longulus, the long brown scale. But I think Bingley meant Dactylopius coccus, the cochineal.

The sap of the trees seems much allied
text has seem much

engraving of Coccus cacti, male and female, no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 61:
Coccus: 1. 2. male of C. Cacti nat. size. 2. 3. female of do. 4. 5. male magnified. 6. 7. female do.

larger image


This Cochineal, so useful, when properly prepared, to painters and dyers, is a native of South America, where it is found on several species of Cactus, particularly the Cactus Opuntia, or prickly Pear-tree. In Jamaica these insects are also now pretty common, but they are generally understood to have been introduced from America. The heavy rains, III.314 however, that the West India islands are subject to often render the industry of the natives in breeding and rearing them entirely fruitless.

The Cochineal made at the Brazils was observed by Mr. Barrow, one of the gentlemen who attended the late Embassy to China, to be produced from an insect somewhat differing from the Coccus Cacti of Linnæus. “The insect of Rio (says this gentleman) is convex, with legs of a clear bright red, in both male and female, and the antennæ moniliform or bead-like. The male is a delicate and beautiful insect, the colour of the whole body a bright red, nearly resembling the pigment, usually called red lake; the breast is elliptical, and slightly attached to the head. The antennæ are above half the length of the body. The legs are of a more brilliant red than that of the other parts. Two fine white filaments, about three times the length of the insect, project from its belly or abdomen. The wings are two, erect, of a faint straw colour, and of a very delicate texture. The female has no wings, is elliptic in its form, and convex on both sides, but chiefly so on the back, which is covered with a white downy substance, resembling the finest cotton. The abdomen is marked with transverse rugæ or furrows. The mouth is situated in the breast, having a brown beak, inclining to a purple tint, that penetrates the plant on which the insect feeds. Its six legs are of a clear bright red.”

When the young insects are arrived at their full growth, they adhere to the leaf of the Cactus in a torpid state, and it is at this period that they are III.315 taken from the plant for use. Twice or thrice a week, the slaves appropriated to this employment go among the Cactus plants, and pick off carefully, with a bamboo twig, shaped somewhat into the form of a pen, every full-grown insect they can find, with many not yet arrived to their perfect state; the consequence of which is, that the plants are never half stocked with insects, many of the females being destroyed before they had deposited their young. The natives of Mexico pursue a method very different. As soon as the periodical rains are over, and the weather is warmer, as well as drier, they fix on the prickles of the Cactus leaves, small parcels of the finest moss, serving as nests to contain, each, ten or a dozen full-grown female insects. These, in the course of a few days, bring forth an innumerable tribe of young, spreading themselves over the leaves and branches of the plant, till they become attached to those spots which they find most favourable for supplying nutritious juice; where, soon acquiring their full growth, they remain motionless, and then are gathered off for use; a sufficient number being always left for the production of new broods.

The insects are soon converted into Cochineal, by a very simple process;—but if, in corporeal sufferance, the poor beetle feels a pang as great as when a giant dies, this process is not more simple than it is cruel. The insects, which were collected in a wooden bowl, are thickly spread from thence upon a flat dish of earthenware, and placed alive over a charcoal fire, where they are slowly roasted until the downy covering disappears, and the aqueous juices III.316 of the animal are totally evaporated. During this operation, the insects are continually stirred about with a tin ladle, and sometimes water is sprinkled upon them, to prevent absolute torrefaction, which would destroy the colour, and reduce the insect to a coal; but a little habit teaches when to remove them from the fire. They then appear like so many dark, round, reddish grains, and take the name of Cochineal, preserving so little the original form of the insect, that this precious dye was long known and sought in Europe before naturalists had determined whether it was animal, vegetable, or mineral substance⁕1.

It seems by no means improbable that a Cochineal, more pure than what is produced from the insect, might be prepared from some of the plants on which it feeds. There is also no reason for supposing, that we might not also prepare it from some of our English species, which bear a great resemblance to those of America, if only a proper and judicious management was adopted.

It has been computed that there are imported into Europe, in the course of trade, no less than eight hundred and eighty thousand pounds weight of Cochineal annually.

Coccus Cacti. Linn.

⁕1 Staunton’s Embassy to China.

Notes and Corrections: The American Cochineal

skip to next section

Coccus cacti is now Protortonia cacti in family Margarodidae, elsewhere in the Coccoidea superfamily. (Just to confuse everyone, the binomial Coccus cacti has also been applied to Dactylopius coccus. No wonder everything had to be renamed.)

[Illustration] Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 61
[Shaw—or his engraver—goofed. There are two drawings labeled “2”. Fortunately, context makes it clear.]

The mouth is situated in the breast, having a brown beak
[Text has “hav-/a” at line break]

on which the insect feeds
text has insects

sometimes water is sprinkled upon them
text has springled



The present order contains only three tribes, the Butterflies, Moths, and Hawk-Moths. These are all produced from Caterpillars, by a change that is common to all the insect species. The Caterpillars proceed from eggs; and those of the Butterflies in particular, are so numerous that, in the spring of the year, the leaves and tenderest stems of plants are sometimes perfectly crowded with them.

Their bodies are composed in general of twelve membranaceous rings, which sufficiently distinguish them from all such reptiles as bear the least resemblance to them. Their head is scarcely to be distinguished from the body but by its containing an opening, in which are two jaws, each armed with a large and thick tooth. The number of their feet varies with their size and form. Along the sides are arranged holes or tracheæ, through which they breathe.

Caterpillars are in general extremely voracious, some of them eating more than double their own weight in a day, without suffering any inconvenience from it; for the digestive powers of all animals are proportioned not so much to their size, as to the duration of their lives.

They often change their skin without materially III.318 altering their shape, till at last they put on one very different from all the rest. In this state they have the name of Aurelia or Chrysalis; and in it all the parts of their future form are visible, but so very soft and delicate that the least touch discomposes them. Though dormant and entirely helpless, all their members are now completely formed, and they only wait the acquisition of a shell to defend them from external injuries, and suffer them to commence their flight.

The production and manners of these, in this state, imperfect animals afford much matter both for amusement and instruction. I cannot, therefore, dismiss the subject, without descending somewhat further into the history of the manners of some of the species.

About the middle of summer a butterfly deposits from three to four hundred eggs on the leaf of a tree, from each of which, in a few days, a young caterpillar proceeds. The eggs are no sooner hatched than the young begin to form a common habitation. They spin silken threads, which they attach to one edge of the leaf, and extend to the other. By this operation, they make the two edges of the leaf approach each other, and form a cavity resembling a hammock. In a short time the concave leaf is completely roofed with a covering of silk. Under this tent the animals live together in mutual friendship and harmony. When not disposed to eat or to spin, they retire into their tent. It requires several of these habitations to contain the whole. As the animals increase in size, the number III.319 of their tents is augmented. But these are only temporary and partial lodgments, constructed for mutual convenience, till the caterpillars are in a condition to build one more spacious, which will be sufficient to contain the whole. After gnawing one-half of the substance of such leaves as happen to be near the end of some twig or small branch, they begin their great work. In constructing this new edifice, or net, the caterpillars encrust a considerable part of the twig with white silk. In the same manner they cover two or three of such leaves as are nearest to the termination of the twig. They then spin silken coverings of greater dimensions, in which they inclose the two or three leaves together with the twig. The nest is now so spacious that it is able to contain the whole community, every individual of which is employed in the common labour. These nests are too frequently seen in autumn upon the fruit-trees of our gardens. They are still more exposed to observation in winter, when the leaves which formerly concealed many of them are fallen, They consist of large bundles of white silk and withered leaves, without any regular or constant form. Some of them are flat, others roundish; but none of them are destitute of angles. By different plain coverings, extended from the opposite sides of leaves, and of the twig, the internal part of the nest is divided into a number of different apartments. To each of these, which seem to be very irregular, there are passages by which the caterpillars can either go out in quest of food, or retire in the evening, or during rainy weather. The silken coverings, by repeated III.320 layers, become at last so thick and strong that they resist all the attacks of the wind, and all the injuries of the air, during eight or nine months.

About the beginning of October, or when the frost commences, the whole community shut themselves up in the nest. During the winter they remain immoveable, and seemingly dead; but, when exposed to heat, they soon discover symptoms of life, and begin to creep. In this country they seldom go out of the nest till the middle or end of April. When they shut themselves up for the winter they are very small; but, after they have fed for some days in spring upon the young and tender leaves, they find the nest itself, and all the entrances to it, too small for the increased size of their bodies, To remedy this inconvenience, these creatures know how to enlarge both the nest and its passages, by additional operations accommodated to their present state. Into these new lodgings they retire when they want to repose, to screen themselves from the injuries of the weather, or to cast their skins. In fine, after casting their skins several times, the time of their dispersion arrives. From the beginning to near the end of June they lead a solitary life. Their social disposition is no longer felt. Each of them spins a pod of coarse brownish silk. In a few days they are changed into chrysalids, and, in eighteen or twenty days more, are transformed into butterflies.

The modes adopted by caterpillars to screen themselves from observation are as various as they III.321 are interesting. Many of them feed enclosed within the stems of herbaceous plants; others in the branches or trunks of trees; a few within fruits and the buds of flowers; some on the roots of plants; others again float on the surface of the water, between the leaves of aquatic vegetables, woven around them with inimitable art; and a very great number escape our notice, by taking their nourishment only in the night. And though many feed on the leaves of plants and trees in the day-time, yet some, as if conscious of the similarity of their colour to that of the undersides of the leaves, and of the safety they derive from attaching themselves thereto, are seldom to be seen but in that situation. Many of the moths, whose colours bear resemblance to those of the trunks or branches of trees, frequently fix themselves there, and remain motionless for several hours together. In these situations, a person unaccustomed to them would not hesitate to pronounce them, from a little distance, the mere rugosities of the bark.

These various modes of eluding our sight, added to the uncertainty of breeding many species when procured, have prevented our being acquainted with the larvæ of the far greater part of the lepidopterous insects.

⁕1 This is the third of the Linnean orders of insects.

Notes and Corrections: Lepidopterous Insects

Then as now, the order is Lepidoptera. But instead of three “tribes” it is divided into several dozen superfamilies—many of them, admit­tedly, containing only one or two families—before we even reach the genera.

William Bingley must have had a secret fondness for butterflies. In the three volumes of the Animal Biography, this is the only Linnaean order that gets an article to itself. Normally there’s just a footnote attached to the order’s first genus (“Tribe”). In the final section, Worms, there will be two articles about entire Orders—but only because the Orders are so obscure, Bingley can’t be bothered to describe any of their individual members.

all such reptiles as bear the least resemblance to them
[Reminder: This is 1804. The word “reptile” means any creepy-crawly.]

engraving of four varieties of Danai (butterflies), no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 69:
Papilio: Danai Festivi: Sophoræ, Midamus;
Danai Candidi: Cratægi, Brassicæ

larger image


These elegant insects feed on the nectar of flowers, and the moisture exuding from the plants III.322 and trees, which they extract by means of their long proboscis or tongue. Their caterpillars are sometimes smooth, and sometimes thickly covered with hair; and their chrysalids are naked, and attached, apparently in a lifeless state, to trees or other substances, by filaments proceeding either from the tip or the middle of their bodies.

Their antennæ are thicker towards the tip than in any other part, and generally end in a knob. The wings, when at rest, are erect, the upper edges meeting together over the body. They are entirely diurnal animals.

Notes and Corrections: The Butterfly Tribe

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Some of the fifty-odd superfamilies in order Lepidoptera are butterflies, Linnaeus’s genus Papilio. More I cannot say.

The genus name Papilio is now reserved for swallowtail butterflies. It remains quite a large genus, with a few hundred species, many of them named after characters in Greek myth and legend: P. acheron, P. aegeus, P. alcmenor and so on through P. zenobia. Moving outward, we meet the expected family Papilionidae and superfamily Papilionoidea.

This section features a new source of illustrations, Lewin’s British Insects with full-color plates. I don’t know why they are not listed in the Synonyms section as Shaw and Bewick were; instead the plate numbers are hidden in footnotes. The book depicting genus Papilio identifies itself as Volume I. The author died in 1795, the year of publication, so we’ll never know how many additional volumes there might have been.

[Illustration] Danai Festivi . . . Danai Candidi
[Shaw is following Linnaeus’s later subdivision of genus Papilio into six groups. One of them was Danai, further divided into Candidi and Festivi.]

engraving of Large Garden White (butterfly), no later than 1804

Lewin Insects plate 25:
Large Garden White


This is a common species, and often, in its caterpillar state, very destructive to our cabbage and cauliflower plants. The caterpillars seem almost confined to these vegetables, on which they are generally to be found in great numbers from June to October. The Butterflies first appear on wing in the middle of May, and, about the end of the same month, lay their eggs in clusters on the under sides of cabbage leaves. In a few days after the caterpillars come forth, and continue to feed together till the end of June, when they are at their full growth. They then traverse about in search of convenient places to fix themselves, where, after their change, the chrysalis may be sheltered. When such are III.323 found, they each fasten their tail by a web, and carry a strong thread of the same round their body near the head; and, thus firmly secured, hang a few hours, when the chrysalis becomes perfectly formed, and divested of the caterpillar’s skin. In fourteen days after this the fly is on the wing. The caterpillars of this latter brood arrive at full growth, and change to chrysalids in September, in which state they remain through the winter till the beginning of the following May. During this time we often see them hanging under the copings of garden walls, under pales, and in other places where they can have tolerable shelter from the inclemency of the weather.

The general colour of this Butterfly is white, but the male differs from the female in having a few dark spots on his wings⁕1.—The most effectual way of clearing the cabbage and cauliflower plants of caterpillars is to send children into the gardens, as soon as they appear in any numbers, to pick them off, and destroy them. This may seem a troublesome and expensive mode, but it has been found to answer, even to the extent of clearing many acres of field cabbages.

Papilio Brassicæ. Linn.

⁕1 Lewin, p. lvi. tab. 25.

Notes and Corrections: The Large Garden White Butterfly

Papilio brassicae is now Pieris brassicae, the Large Cabbage White Butterfly, in family Pieridae, superfamily Papilionoidea.

engraving of Marsh Fritillary, no later than 1827

Lewin Insects plate 15:
Marsh Fritillary


The Marsh Frittillary is a small butterfly, not III.324 more than an inch and a half across the broadest part of its expanded wings. Its colour is a brownish orange, variegated with yellow and black, in a small pattern. The under sides of the wings are lighter, and chiefly orange and yellow. It is sometimes called Greasy or Dishclout Frittillary, from these under sides having always a greasy appearance.

The caterpillars are to be seen, in some particular situations, in September, in great abundance. They keep together under the cover of a fine web, which they spin to defend themselves from the inclemency of the weather; and in the protection of this they pass the winter months. During this time they are so nearly reduced to a torpid state as to require no food, nor do they venture out of their general covering till invited by the warmth of the spring. As they afterwards increase in size they spread abroad in search of food; but their local attachment is very remarkable, for neither the caterpillar nor even the butterfly will stray far from the place where it was bred. Numbers of the latter may sometimes be observed on wing in a small spot of swampy or marsh land, when not one of them is to be met with in any of the adjacent places. As they fly very low, and frequently settle, the naturalist has no difficulty in catching them. The caterpillars are generally at their full growth about the last week in April: when this takes place they suspend themselves by the tail to change into chrysalids, in which state they remain about fourteen days. Their mode of suspension is a singular instance of the extraordinary power of instinct. They first draw two or III.325 three small blades of grass across towards their top, and fasten them together by means of their silk: then hang themselves beneath the centre of these, each having his own little canopy. By this means they are not only hidden from the sight of birds, but defended in a great measure from the damage they might otherwise sustain from windy and boisterous weather. They feed on the Devil’s-bit Scabious (Scabiosa succisa), and on various kinds of the marsh grasses; eating only the opening leaves as they come up, which renders them sometimes difficult to find. This they do also only while the sun shines; for if, in the very act, the sun becomes hidden by a cloud, they immediately cease, but, on the return of the sun-beams, they recommence their operations with great voracity.

If any person wishes to observe the operations and change of these caterpillars at his own home, he has nothing more to do than to cut a turf from the place where they are found, and they will feed as readily there as in their former residence⁕1.

Synonyms.—Papilio artemis. Fabricius.—Greasy Frittillary, or Dishclout. Harris.—Marsh Frittillary. Lewin.

⁕1 Harris’s Aurelian, p. lvii. tab. 28.—Lewin, p. xxxiv. tab. 15.

Notes and Corrections: The Marsh Frittillary

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Papilio artemis, the marsh fritillary, is now Euphydryas aurinia in family Nymphalidae, superfamily Papilionoidea. (The apparent total renaming is because it went by at least a dozen different binomials, including Melitaea aurinia and Papilio aurinia, before entomologists settled on E. aurinia.) A number of other fritillaries are genus Speyeria in the same family.

Bingley wasn’t quite sure how to spell the butterfly’s name; the first edition had “frittilary” with one ell, after which he settled on “frittillary”.

the Devil’s-bit Scabious (Scabiosa succisa)
[Now Succisa pratensis.]

[Synonyms] Marsh Frittillary. Lewin.
[So Bingley says, but in fact Lewin has the expected spelling with one t.]

engraving of Nettle Tortoiseshell (butterfly), no later than 1827

Lewin Insects plate 3:
Nettle Tortoiseshell


The upper wings of this well-known insect, one of the most beautiful and common of the British Butterflies, are red, and marked with alternate bands of black and pale orange; below these are three III.326 black spots, the inner one of which is square; and near the extremity of their upper parts is a white stripe. The lower wings are also red, marked with a large black patch at the base. The margins of all of them are black, with blue spots.

These Butterflies are produced from their chrysalids, and first make their appearance in a winged state about the month of April. They are short-lived, laying their eggs in the beginning of the following month, in great numbers, on the uppermost stalks of the nettles, and dying very shortly afterwards.

The eggs adhere by means of the glutinous moisture with which they are covered when first protruded. About the middle of the month, the young caterpillars may be seen of a light green colour on the nettle-tops, enclosed in a web that covers the whole upper part of the plant; and in this they all herd together. They soon cast their first skin, when they always remove to a fresh place, leaving their old coverings hanging to the web. Here, at a little distance from their former habitation, they form a new colony. In their third skin they make another remove, but still keep together in a web. On changing this they also change their colour and become black; and as they have now increased too much in size to live in one society, they separate into companies. In their sixth or last skin they entirely separate; and in this state they often make such ravages among the nettles as to leave nothing but the stalks and fibres. Sometimes they are seen so numerous as to cover all the tops, and six or seven III.327 inches of the stalks, giving them the appearance of being enveloped in black cloth.

About the beginning of June they are arrived at their full growth; when, fastening their tails by a web under the nettle-leaves, or to the stalks, they change into chrysalids. These are at first green, but, in a day or two, they change to a bright gold, or else to a greenish brown colour. They remain thus for about twenty days, when they become Butterflies. Some few of this second brood live through the winter, being frequently found in a state nearly torpid in that season⁕1.

These insects, in common with some others of the same family⁕2, soon after their enlargement from the chrysalis state, discharge a few drops of reddish fluid, which, in places where they have been in great numbers, has had the appearance of a shower of blood, and been recorded by writers as the forerunner of some extraordinary event. The first discovery of this circumstance that has been recorded is related by M. de Reaumur. He says that, in the beginning of July, 1608, the people of the town of Aix were in the utmost alarm from what they thought a shower of blood, that had just fallen in the suburbs, and for some miles round the place. M. de Peiresc, a philosopher, who, among other kinds of knowledge, had not neglected that of the III.328 operations and economy of insects, was consulted on the subject. He found the walls of a churchyard near the place, and the walls of several small villages in the neighbourhood, to be spotted with large drops of a blood-coloured liquid. A little time before this he had happened to pick up a large and beautiful chrysalis, which he had carefully laid in a box. Immediately after its transformation into the butterfly state, he remarked that it had left a drop of blood-coloured liquor on the bottom of the box, and that this drop, or stain, was as large as a French sol. The red stains on the walls, on stones near the highways, and in the fields, were found to be perfectly similar to that left on the bottom of the box. M. de Peiresc now no longer hesitated to pronounce that all those blood-coloured stains, wherever they appeared, proceeded from the same cause. The prodigious number of butterflies which he, at the same time, saw flying in the air, confirmed his original idea. He likewise observed that the drops of the miraculous rain were never found in the middle of the town; that they appeared only in places bordering upon the country; and that they never fell upon the tops of houses, or upon walls more elevated than the height to which butterflies generally rise. What M. de Peiresc saw himself he showed to many persons of knowledge, or of curiosity, and established, as an incontestable fact, that the pretended drops of blood were in reality but drops of a red liquid deposited there by butterflies. It is also deserving of remark that all the showers III.329 of blood that have been recorded to have happened took place in the warm seasons of the year, when the butterflies are most numerous.

Synonyms.—Papilio Urticæ. Linn.—Nettle Tortoise-shell. Lewin.—Tortoise-shell Fly. Harris.

⁕1 Harris’s Aurelian, p. iv. tab. 2.—Lewin, p. x. tab. 3.

⁕2 Papilio Atalanta, P. Io, P. Polychloris, &c.

Notes and Corrections: The Nettle Tortoise-Shell Butterfly

Papilio urticæ is now Aglais urticae, the Small Tortoisehell, in the same Nymphalidae family as the marsh fritillary.

[Footnote] Papilio Atalanta, P. Io, P. Polychloris
[Respectively Vanessa atalanta, the red admiral; Aglais io, the peacock butterfly; Nymphalis polychloros, the Large Tortoiseshell. All are in family Nymphalidae. Watch This Space; all three are pictured in Shaw’s Miscellany.]

large drops of a blood-coloured liquid.
final . missing


The Moths are only to be seen flying abroad in the evening and during the night, which are their times of feeding. The larvæ or caterpillars are mostly smooth, and more or less cylindrical: they are very active creatures, and prey with great voracity on the leaves of various plants. Their chrysalids are either concealed in the ground, or protected from the inclemency of the weather by a silky covering, spun by the larvæ, round their bodies. In this state they are either simple, or have a kind of hook at their extremity.

The antennæ gradually taper from the base to the tip. The tongue is spiral, and the wings, when the animals are at rest, are generally deflected.

Notes and Corrections: The Moths

. . . and others of the fifty-odd superfamilies in order Lepidoptera are moths, Linnaeus’s genus Phalaena. Surprisingly, the genus name doesn’t seem to be in use at all. There exists a Phalaenidae family, but again, it doesn’t seem to contain any currently recognized genera.

engraving of Silkworm, no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 77:
Phalæna: Phalæna Mori or Silkworm in its various states

larger image


The Silkworm is found in a native state on mulberry-trees in China, and some others of the eastern countries, from whence it was originally introduced III.330 into Europe in the reign or the emperor Justinian. It is, however, at this time become, in a commercial view, one of the most valuable of all insects; affording those delicate and beautiful threads that are afterwards woven into silk, and used in garments in almost all parts of the world.

In the warmer climates of the East the Silkworms are left at liberty upon the trees, where they are hatched, and on which they form their coccoons; but in cooler countries, where these animals have been introduced, they are kept in a room with a south aspect, built for the purpose, and fed every day with fresh leaves.

The eggs are of a straw-colour, and each about the size of a pin’s head. At its birth the larva or worm is entirely black, and about as long as a small ant; and it retains this colour eight or nine days. The worms are put on wicker shelves, covered first with paper, and on this with a bed of the most tender of the mulberry-leaves. Several ranges are placed, one above another, in the same chamber, about a foot and a half apart. The scaffolding for these ranges should, however, be in the middle of the room, and the shelves not too deep. The worm continues feeding during eight days after its birth, when it becomes about a fourth of an inch in length: it then experiences a kind of lethargic sleep for three days, during which it casts its skin. It now feeds for about five days, and is considerably increased in size, when a second sickness comes on. In the next ten days it experiences two other attacks, by which time it has attained its full growth, and is III.331 somewhat more than an inch in length, and two lines in thickness. It then feeds, during five days, with a most voracious appetite, after which it refuses food, becomes transparent, with a tinge of yellow, and leaves its silky traces on the leaves that it passes over. These signs denote that it is ready to begin its coccoon, in which it is to undergo its change into a chrysalis.—The animals are then furnished with little bushes of heath or broom stuck upright between the shelves: they climb up the twigs, where, after a little while, they begin the foundation of their lodge, and are five days in spinning the coccoon. They generally remain in this state about forty-seven days.

The retreat that they thus form is a cone or ball of silk, spun from two longish bags that lie above the intestines, and are filled with a gummy fluid of a marigold colour. The apparatus with which the animal is furnished for spinning the silky threads that principally compose this bag resembles, in some measure, a wire-drawer’s machine, in which gold or silver threads are drawn to any degree of fineness; and through this the animal draws its thread with great assiduity. As every thread proceeds from two gum-bags, it is probable that each supplies its own; which, however, are united as they proceed from the animal’s body. If we examine the thread with a microscope, it will be found flattened on one side, and grooved along its whole length. Hence we may infer that it is doubled just upon its leaving the body, and that the two threads stick to each other by the gummy quality they possess.


In a state of nature, the Silkworm, previous to the spinning of its web, seeks out some convenient place to erect its cell without any obstruction. When it has found a leaf, or a chink fitted to its purpose, it begins to writhe its head in every direction, and fastens its threads on every side to the walls of its retreat. These, being continued, form at length the little oval ball in which it is to undergo its change.

The exterior of the coccoon is composed of a kind of rough cotton-like substance, which is called floss; within the thread is more distinct and even; and next the body of the aurelia the apartment seems lined with a substance of the hardness of paper, but of a much stronger consistence. The thread which composes the coccoon is not rolled regularly round, but lies upon it in a very irregular manner, and winds off first from one side, and then from the other.

In the course of six or seven days all the coccoons are generally formed: they are then taken off the branches of heath, and divided into classes. The best are strong, and of a pure unspotted colour. Some are white, and others yellow. The good ones are firm and sound, of a fine grain, and have both ends round and strong. Those of a bright yellow yield more silk than the others. But the pale ones are preferred because they take certain colours better, and because, since they contain less gum than the others, they lose less than those in boiling.

Five or six days after the coccoon has been detached from the branches, the birth of the moth is prevented, as this would otherwise pierce the shell, III.333 and thereby render the coccoon useless. To prevent this the coccoons are put into long shallow baskets, covered up, and baked, for about an hour, in an heat equal to that of an oven from which the bread is just drawn after being baked.

After the baking they are disposed in a proper manner on ozier shelves, distributed into stories, two or three feet distant from each other.

The whole thread, if measured, will be found about three hundred yards long; and it is so very fine that eight or ten threads are generally rolled off into one by the manufacturers. For this purpose the coccoons are put into small coppers or basons of water, each over a small fire. The ends of the threads are found by brushing them over gently with a whisk made for the purpose; and in winding they are each passed through a hole, in an horizontal bar of iron placed at the edge of the bason, which prevents them from becoming entangled.

It is generally a fortnight or three weeks before the insect within the coccoon is changed into a moth; but, no sooner is it completely formed than, having divested itself of its aurelia skin, it prepares to burst through its prison. For this purpose it extends its head towards the point of the coccoon, and gnaws a passage through its cell, small at first, but enlarging as the animal increases its efforts for emancipation. The tattered remnants of its aurelia skin are left in confusion within the coccoon, like a little bundle of dirty linen.

The animal, thus set free, appears exhausted with fatigue, and seems produced for no other purpose III.334 than to transmit a future brood. The male dies immediately after its conjunction with the female; and she only survives him till she has laid her eggs, which are to be hatched into worms in the ensuing spring.

In many parts of Italy the inhabitants contrive to have two silk harvests in the year. They keep the eggs in very cool places; and, when the mulberry trees (after having been stripped entirely of their leaves for former worms) begin to bud a second time, they expose the eggs to be hatched.

During the whole time, in which the animals continue in a worm state, the utmost care and attention is necessary, as they are extremely susceptible of cold, dampness, and unpleasant smells⁕1.

Synonyms.—Phalæna mori. Linn.Bombyx mori. Fabricius.

⁕1 Hare and Skinner on the Progress of the Silkworm from the Egg. Amer. Phil. Tran. ii. 347.

Notes and Corrections: The Silkworm

Phalaena mori, the silkworm moth, is now Bombyx mori in family Bombycidae, superfamily Bombycoidea. Another point to Fabricius.

two lines in thickness
[2/12 inch, one pica, or about 4mm.]

[Synonyms] Bombyx mori. Fabricius.
text has Bombyæ
[This synonym was introduced in the 2nd edition; the 3rd edition got the spelling right.]


The larva of this little Moth is well known from the damage it commits on woollen cloth and furs. These substances constitute the principal support of the caterpillar, and therefore the parent is, by its natural instinct, directed to deposit its eggs in them. The caterpillar, as soon as it quits the egg, begins to form for itself a nest: for this purpose, after having spun a fine coating of silk immediately around its body, it cuts the filaments of the wool or fur close by III.335 the thread of the cloth, or by the skin, with its teeth, which act in the manner of scissars, into convenient lengths, and applies the bits, one by one, with great dexterity to the outside of its silken case, to which it fastens them by means of its silk. Its covering being thus formed, it never quits it but in cases of the most urgent necessity. When it wants to feed it puts out its head at either end of its case, as best suits its conveniency. When it wishes to change its place it puts out its head, and its six fore legs, by means of which it moves forward, taking care first to fix its hind legs into the inside of the case so as to drag it along.

It lives in this manner till, by the augmentation of its size, its case becomes too small for the body: when this is felt it begins by making a small addition to one end; then, turning itself within the case, which is always wide enough in the middle for that purpose, it makes a like addition to the other end, so as still to preserve the widest part exactly in the middle; and in the same manner it makes every successive addition.

The progress of its operations may be easily remarked, by transferring it from cloth of one colour to that of another. In this case every fresh addition will become conspicuous, by forming a small ring of the respective colours at each end as they are used.

When the case wants widening, the insect, with its scissar-like teeth, begins by making a slit lengthways, from the centre to one of the extremities. This opening it instantly fills up with a thin stripe III.336 of wool externally, and silk internally, in the same manner as in the other parts. It afterwards, at a little distance from this, makes another slit at the same end, which it also fills up; then, turning itself within, it repeats the same process from the centre to the other end.

After changing within its case into a chrysalis, in about three weeks it issues a small-winged nocturnal Moth, of a silvery-grey colour, well known to almost every mistress of a family.

It may be found useful to point out the best modes of preventing the havoc which these insects commit in our wardrobes and furniture.—The smell of oil of turpentine is instantaneous death to them: if, therefore, the goods affected by them be put into a close place, along with a saucer or other open vessel containing oil of turpentine, the warm air raising the vapour will immediately destroy them. Sometimes, if the caterpillars be old and strong, it may be necessary to brush the clothes with a brush, the points of which have been dipped in the turpentine. The smoke of tobacco also kills them; and cloth that has been steeped in a decoction of tobacco-leaves will never be affected by them.

Synonyms.—Phalæna sarcitella. Linn.Tinea sarcitella. Fabricius.

Notes and Corrections: The Clothes Moth

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Phalaena sarcitrella or Tinea sarcitrella is now Endrosis sarcitrella, the white-shouldered house moth, in the large family Oecophoridae, superfamily Gelechioidea.

[Synonyms] . . . sarcitella
[Printed as shown, not only here but in the 1st and 3rd editions; it’s really sarcitrella.]

[Synonyms] Tinea sarcitella
text has Sinea
[Genus name corrected from 3rd edition; Fabricius’s binomial wasn’t used in the 1st edition. (This may be a mechanical error. In printers’ cases, lower-case letters were organized according to frequency of use, but upper-case letters came in A-to-Z alphabetical order.)]


engraving of Libellula (dragonfly) at different stages, no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 80:
Libellula: varia, larva, pupa, ova

larger image


The Dragon-flies are an extremely ravenous tribe, hovering over stagnant pools, as the hawks do over the land, in search of prey. Their larvæ are active inhabitants of the water; and, furnished with forcipated jaws, they prey with the most rapacious ferocity on aquatic insects. The chrysalis resembles the larva in every respect except in having the rudiments of wings.

In both these primary states the animals respire water by receiving and ejecting it at an aperture at the termination of their bodies. They are occasionally observed to throw out water from thence with such force that the stream is perceptible to the distance of two or three inches from their bodies. If they be kept some time out of water, the desire or necessity of respiration is augmented: and, accordingly, when replaced in a vessel filled with water, inspirations and respirations are repeated with unusual force and frequency. If one of them is held in the hand, and drops of water are applied to the posterior end of its body, it instantly, by an apparatus III.338 somewhat similar to the piston of a pump, sucks in the water, and the dimensions of its body are visibly augmented. This water is again quickly thrown out by the same instrument. But, though this insect thus respires water, air seems to be not the less necessary to its existence: for, like other insects, the whole interior part of its body is amply provided with large and convoluted breathing pipes: and, externally, there are several small openings destined for the introduction of air.

The mouth of the Dragon-fly is armed with jaws, generally more than two in number. The antennæ are very thin, of equal thickness throughout, and shorter than the thorax. The wings are expanded, and the tail of the male insect is furnished with a forked process.

⁕1 The Linnean order of Neuropterous Insects commences with this tribe.

Notes and Corrections: The Dragon-Flies

Dragonflies, Linnaeus’s genus Libellula, are order Odonata—all of it.

color picture of “Great Libellula”, no later than 1827

Shaw Miscellany plate 463:
The Great Libellula


The length of this insect is about four inches, and it is of proportionate thickness. The eyes are blue and large. The thorax is variegated with green, yellow, and black; and the abdomen generally with blue and black; but the colours vary considerably.

This is, in its perfect state, one of the most brilliant of the British species, and affords a singular instance of the wonderful diversity of form and manners between the larva and complete states of the same animal.


The parent insect, towards the end of May, when ready to deposit her eggs, seeks the warm and sheltered sides of ponds or ditches. She drops them on the surface, hovering at the same time up and down just above. They immediately sink to the bottom, and, after a little while, are hatched into larvæ of a dirty brown colour with six legs, and bearing no resemblance whatever to the parent. These are excessively voracious, and destroy with their forcipated jaws multitudes of the weaker water insects. This formidable apparatus is so constructed as to fold over the face when at rest, and to be suddenly thrown forwards, when in action, to a considerable extent. The chrysalis differs from the larva only in exhibiting the rudiments of future wings, which are enveloped in short cases or processes on the back of the animal. After remaining in this state about two years, the animal ascends the stem of some water-plant, and, sitting some time in the sun-shine, gives birth to the insect in its perfect or ultimate form. This generally so disengages itself from the skin of the chrysalis that it leaves it in exactly its former appearance on the stem. “About the beginning of May,” says Mr. Bartram, in the Philosophical Transactions, “I observed many deformed water insects called Hexapodes creep out of the water and fix on shrubs and rushes. In this situation they continued but a few hours before their backs split open, and from the deformed creatures sprung out beautiful flies with bright shining wings, all of which in less than an hour afterwards attained their complete dimensions.” At the first III.340 exclusion of the insect the wings are weak and tender, and folded into a very narrow compass. During their unfolding, and till they become perfectly dry, it continues almost motionless; but they are no sooner completed than the little animal commences an inhabitant of the air, and would now be as effectually destroyed by continual submersion under water, as the larva would before have been by exposure to the air⁕1.

In their complete state, the Dragon-flies, as I have already remarked, feed on the smaller insects; and they are also remarkable for the vigour and celerity of their flight. Mr. Revett Sheppard informed me that, in the summer of 1801, he sate for some time by the side of a pond, to observe a large Dragon-fly as it was hawking backwards and forwards in search of prey, when suddenly a large white Butterfly, Papilio Brassicæ, flew past. The Dragon-fly instantly attacked and caught it in the air, then settled on a twig, close at hand, to eat it at leisure. It bit off all the wings, and then, in less than a minute, devoured the whole body.

These insects, which are very common in England, delight in sunshine, and are seldom to be seen abroad in cloudy weather, hiding themselves, during the absence of the sun, under the leaves and branches of trees.

Synonyms.—Libellula grandis. Linn.—Æshna grandis. Fabricius.—Great Libellula, variegated Libellula.

⁕1 Phil. Tran. vol. xlvi. p. 323.——Shaw’s Nat. Mis. vol. 12. tab. 459.

Notes and Corrections: The Great Dragon-Fly

Fabricius won this round: Aeshna grandis it is, in family Aeshnidae, superfamily Aeshnoidea. Another English name is Brown Hawker.

[Footnote] Shaw’s Nat. Mis. vol. 12. tab. 459.
[Someone on Shaw’s end goofed. Although the plate is labeled 459, and the Index to the Miscellany says 459, it is properly no. 463, between nos. 462 and 464. The real 459, between nos. 458 and 460, is a butterfly, Papilio phorcas.]



The Ephemeræ differ in many respects from all other insects. Their larvæ live in water (where earth and clay seem to be their only nourishment) for three years, the time they consume in preparing for their change, which is performed in a few moments. The larva, when ready to quit that state, arises to the surface of the water, and, getting instantaneously rid of the skin, becomes a chrysalis. This chrysalis is furnished with wings, which it makes use of to fly to the nearest tree or wall; and, there settling, it in the same moment quits a second skin and becomes a perfect Ephemera. In this state all the species live but a very short time, some of them scarcely half an hour, having no other business to perform than that of continuing the race. They are called the insects of a day; but very few of them ever see the light of the sun, being produced after sunset, during the short nights of summer, and dying long before the dawn. All their enjoyments therefore seem confined entirely to their larva state.

The Ephemeræ are very frequent near waters, and in some places multiply enormously. About Laz, in Carniola, a province in Germany, we are informed, by Scopoli, that they are so numerous in the month of June that they are used as manure, and if each farmer cannot obtain more than twenty cart loads, the harvest is considered a bad one.

The larvæ scoop out dwellings in the banks of rivers, which consist of small tubes made like syphons, III.342 with two holes, the one serving for an entrance, and the other as an outlet; and these are so numerous that the banks of some rivers are observed to be full of them. When the waters decrease, they dig fresh holes lower down. The flies are hatched nearly all at the same instant, in such numbers as even to darken the air.

The females, by the help of the threads of their tails, and the flapping of their wings, support themselves on the surface of the water, and, in an almost upright position, drop their eggs in little clusters into the water⁕1. A single insect will lay sometimes seven or eight hundred.

The mouth of the perfect insect has no jaws, but is furnished with four very short thread-shaped feelers. The antennæ are short and thread-shaped; and, above the eyes, there are two or three large stemmata. The wings are erect (the lower ones much the shortest) and the tail is terminated by long hairs or bristles.

⁕1 Barbut’s Gen. Insect. 213.

Notes and Corrections: The Ephemeræ Or Day-Flies

Ephemerae, Linnaeus’s genus Ephemera, are order Ephemero­ptera—including but not limited to superfamily Ephemeroidea, family Ephemeridae, and genus Ephemera.

engraving of Ephemera Vulgata (Dayfly) in three stages, no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 81 (partial):
Ephemera: Pupa; Vulgata; Larva


M. de Reaumur has described very accurately the metamorphosis of one species, which, except in the time of the year when it is produced, and the duration of its fly state, seems very much to resemble the present species, and is most probably only a variety.

On the nineteenth of August, 1738, he waited for some time after sun-set on the bank of the Seine, to III.343 see, as he had been informed he might, millions of Ephemeræ come out of the water, and rise into the air, and was returning disappointed along with his servants, who were carrying a tub containing several lumps of earth full of their holes and nymphæ, when scarcely had it been set on one of the steps of the stairs than those who had the charge of it exclaimed, “What a vast quantity of Ephemeræ are here!” M. de Reaumur seized one of the lights, and ran to the tub. Every part of the earth that was above the water was covered with Ephemeræ, some of which had just begun to put off their coverings, others had almost effected it, and others entirely completed it, and were about to take wing. A storm of lightning and rain, which had been some time coming on, now drove him into the house; but, to prevent the Ephemeræ from flying away entirely in his absence, he had the precaution to cover the tub with a cloth. The violence of the rain continued for about half an hour, and on its ceasing he returned to the garden. On taking off the covering he found the number of Ephemeræ very considerably augmented, and they continued to multiply for some time as he stood watching them. The number already transformed from the earth, that they had conveyed from the river, would have been sufficient to have filled the tub; but this number was prodigiously augmented by the accession of strangers, which were attracted by the light from all quarters. He again spread the cloth over the tub, and the light was held above it: immediately the cloth was almost concealed by the III.344 vast multitudes which alighted upon it. But what he had seen about the tub was nothing to what he saw when he went again to the side of the river. “The quantity of Ephemeræ,” says he, “which filled the air, can neither be expressed nor conceived. When snow falls thickest, and in the largest flakes, the air is never so completely filled with them as that which surrounded us was with Ephemeræ. Scarcely had I remained a few minutes in one place, when the step on which I stood was covered in every part with their bodies, to the depth of two or three, and in some places even of more than four inches. The whole surface of the water, for six feet at least from the bank, was entirely covered with a coat of Ephemeræ; those which the current carried off were more than replaced by those which fell continually in that place. I was several times compelled to abandon my station, by retreating to the top of the stair, not being able to sustain the shower of Ephemeræ which, not falling so perpendicularly as an ordinary shower, or with an obliquity equally constant, struck me uninterruptedly, and in a very troublesome manner, on all parts of the face: my eyes, nose, and mouth, were filled with Ephemeræ. It was an unpleasant post to hold the candle on this occasion: the man who held it had his whole body covered with these flies in an instant; they rushed to him from all parts in such quantities as to oppress him. The light of the candle occasioned a spectacle altogether different from any thing that can be observed in any kind of meteorological shower: it was enchanting when III.345 once observed. The most unobserving of my domestics could scarcely ever have been tired of admiring it. No astronomic sphere was ever formed so complicated as it was, nor furnished with so many circular zones in every possible direction, having the flame of the candle for their common centre. Their number appeared to be infinite, having all possible degrees of obliquity with respect to each other. Each zone was formed by an uninterrupted string of Ephemeræ, which, as if tied together, followed each other close in the same line; they seemed to form a circular ribbon of silver, deeply indented on its edges; a ribbon formed of equal triangles put end to end, so that the angles of those that followed were supported by the base of that which preceded, the whole moving round with great quickness. Ephemeræ, whose wings only were then distinguishable, and which circulated around the light, formed this appearance. Each of these flies, after having described one or two orbits, fell to the earth, or into the water, but without having been burned by the candle.” At the end of about half an hour from its commencement, the great shower began to abate, and in little more than an hour scarcely any Ephemeræ could be seen above the river, and no more came near the candle. This phænomenon M. de Reaumur found, upon examination, took place every evening, commencing usually about the same hour, during most of the summer months.

In this short period of existence, the female appears to have no other business than to lay her eggs. III.346 These are contained in two large packets, each containing from 300 to 400, which are both extruded from the body at the same time, through two openings formed for the purpose, and they fall together, in one accumulated mass, upon the water. To enable the creature to extrude these, and at the same time to fill up the great vacuum in the abdomen, that must instantaneously take place, the fly is provided with a couple of small bladders, which it has the power of filling with air.

The singular quickness and ease with which these little creatures strip themselves of the slough of the nymph, in order to become flies, is very surprising. We do not draw our arm more quickly from the sleeve of a coat, than the Ephemera draws its body, its wings, its legs, and the long filaments of its tail, from that complicated vestment which forms a kind of sheath for all these parts. No sooner is a rent effected in the corcelet, and the body seen through that rent, than the rest of the operation is finished in an instant. Sometimes, indeed, it happens that the filaments of the tail cannot be so quickly disengaged as the rest of the body. In this case, the insects fly away with their slough appended: and sometimes also these slender filaments are broken off.

Ephemera vulgata. Linn.

Notes and Corrections: The Common Ephemera or Day-Fly

skip to next section

Ephemera vulgata still has that binomial.

he waited for some time after sun-set
text has sut-set

This phænomenon M. de Reaumur found
spelling unchanged
[Everywhere else, he is content to use the modern spelling, “phenomenon” with an e.]

the Ephemera draws its body, its wings, its legs
text has Ephemeræ
[Corrected from 1st and 3rd edition. Did the typesetter find himself with a surplus of æ ligatures?]

color picture of Great Myrmeleon, no later than 1827

Shaw Miscellany plate 676:
The Great Myrmeleon


The antennæ of these insects are about the length of the thorax, and thickest at the tip. The III.347 mouth is armed with jaws, teeth, and six feelers. The wings are deflected; and the abdomen of the male terminates in a forceps composed of two straight filaments.

The larvæ are hairy, with six feet, and strong exserted toothed jaws. They prey with most savage ferocity on ants, and some of the other smaller insects; and, for the purpose of ensnaring the prey, form a kind of funnel or pit in light earth, at the bottom of which they lie buried. The manners of most of the tribe greatly resemble those of the following species.

The chrysalis is inclosed in a little ball of sand or earth, the particles of which are agglutinated together by a viscid matter, which the larva mixes with it previously to its change.

Notes and Corrections: The Myrmeleon Tribe

Ant lions, Linnaeus’s genus Myrmeleon, are family Myrmeleontidae in order Neuroptera.

engraving of Myrmeleon Formicaleo, no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 84:
Myrmeleon: Myrm. Formicaleo in its various states


The name of this insect is received from its living principally on ants. It is the caterpillar of a fly somewhat resembling the dragon-fly. In the mode of taking its prey, and in the figure of its body, it is not much unlike the spider. Its body is composed of several rings, and its colour is a dirty grey, marked with black spots. The head is small and flat, and from this proceed two horns, each about the sixth of an inch long, hard, hollow, and hooked at the end.


In its larva state, this creature obtains its food only by stratagem. His usual situation is in a dry sandy soil, under some old wall or other protection from the wind. Here he forms a pit of the shape of a funnel. If this is only to be small, he thrusts himself backward pretty deep, and artfully throws out the loose sand, which has fallen in upon him, beyond the edges of the hollow, and at the bottom he then lies concealed. If it is to be of greater extent, he begins by first tracing in the surface of the sand a tolerably large circle, which is to form its base. He then gets under the sand near the edge, and, proceeding backwards in a spiral direction, carefully throws up all the particles that fall upon his body beyond the circumference of the circle: this he continues till he arrives at the apex of the cone he has thus formed. His long neck, and flat head, he uses as a spade; and the strength of these parts is so great that he is able to throw off at once a considerable quantity of sand to even six inches distance.

His pit being finished, he buries himself among the sand at the bottom, leaving only his horns visible. Here he patiently waits for his prey. When an ant or any other small insect happens to walk over the edges of the hollow, its steps force down some of the particles, which gives the Ant-lion notice of its presence. He immediately throws up the sand which covers his head, to overwhelm the ant, and, with its returning force, bring it to the bottom: this he continues to do till the insect is overcome, and falls between his horns. Every endeavour III.349 to escape, when once the incautious ant has stepped within the verge of the pit, is vain; for in all its attempts to climb the side, the deceptious sand slips from under its feet, and every struggle precipitates it still lower. When within reach, its enemy plunges the points of his jaws into its body, and, having sucked out all its juices, throws out the empty skin to some distance, that the den may not become frightful to others by seeing their fellow carcases strewed about. This done, the insect mounts the edges of his pit, and repairs whatever injury it may have sustained; and then, descending, again conceals himself at the bottom.

The jaws of this creature are hollow, and serve as pumps to draw into its stomach the juices of those insects on which it feeds; for in the head there is no mouth, nor any other organ which can answer the same purpose. The horns being therefore so necessary to its life, nature has provided for the restoring of them in case of accident; for, if cut off, they are found to grow again.

The food this creature procures by its pit can be but little; and as it has no power of catching its prey in any other way, its motions being very slow, some persons have believed that its catching now and then an ant by this means, was rather an act of diversion than hunger. But though the Ant-lion will live a long time without food, and even pass through all its changes when shut up in a box, yet it is always ready to eat when food is offered to it. It always appears starved and small when kept thus; and if a fly is given to it in that hungry state, III.350 it will suck out all its juices so perfectly that the remaining shell may be rubbed to powder between the fingers, whilst the body of the creature that has sucked it appears remarkably swelled and distended. For the sake of experiment, M. Poupart put one of them into a wooden box with some sand, and covered it with a glass, so as to exclude every other insect. Here it formed its cone, and watched as usual for prey, though in vain. Thus he kept it for several months, while in an adjoining box he kept another of the same species, which he supplied with food by giving it ants and flies pretty regularly. He could perceive no difference between the movements or actions of the two; but, when he took them from their holes, he found the abdomen of that which had received no food was shrunk to a very diminutive size, whilst the other retained its proper shape.

When the Ant-lion has lived its usual time in the larva state, it leaves its pit, and buries itself under the surface of the sand. Here it incloses itself in a fine web, in which it is to pass its transformation into a winged state. This web is made of a sort of silk, which the creature spins in the manner of the spider, and of a quantity of the grains of sand cemented together by a glutinous humour which flows from its pores. This case, however, would be too harsh and coarse for the body of the creature, and therefore it serves only for the covering, to defend it from external injuries; the animal spinning one of pure and incomparably fine silk, of a beautiful III.351 pearl colour, within it, which covers its whole body.

When it has lain some time in this case, it throws off its outer skin, and becomes an oblong nymph or chrysalis, in which a careful eye may trace the form of the fly into which it is to be transformed. This nymph makes its way about half out of the shell, and remains in this condition, but without further life or motion, till the perfect fly comes out at a slit in the back. In this last state, as I have before observed, it much resembles the dragon flies.

When this insect forms its pit in a bed of pure sand, it is made and repaired with great ease; but, where it meets with other substances among the sand, the labour becomes much more embarrassing. If, for instance, when the creature has half formed it, it comes to a stone of some moderate size, it does not desert the work on this account, but goes on, intending to remove that impediment the last. When the pit is finished, it crawls backward up the side of the place where the stone is; and, getting its tail under it, takes great pains and time to get it on a true poise, and then begins to crawl backward with it up the edge to the top of the pit to get it out of the way. It is a very common thing to see the Ant-lion labouring in this manner at a stone four times as big as its own body; and as it can only move backward, and the poise is difficult to keep, especially up a slope of such crumbling matter as sand, which moulders away from under its feet, and necessarily alters the position of its body, the stone very frequently rolls down, when III.352 near the verge, quite to the bottom. In this case the animal attacks it again in the same way, and is not often discouraged by five or six miscarriages; but continues its struggles so long that it at length gets it over the verge of the place. When it has done this, it does not leave it there, lest it should roll in again; but is always at the pains of pushing it farther on, till it has removed it to a necessary distance from the edge of the pit.

The insect, in a perfect state, is but seldom found: it is, however, sometimes to be met with in sandy places and near rivulets. It is marked in Dr. Turton’s translation of the Systema Naturæ, as a native of this country, but I have never yet heard of any one’s discovering it.

Myrmeleon formicarius. Linn.

Notes and Corrections: The Ant Lion

Myrmeleon formicarius still has that binomial. (The similarly named Myrmeleon formicaleo pictured in Shaw’s General Zoology is now Euroleon nostras in the same family. Myrmeleon grande from Shaw’s Miscellany is anyone’s guess.)

whilst the other retained its proper shape.
text has , for .


engraving of Ichneumon luteus in various stages, no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 92:
Ichneumon: luteus: m, f; puparum, larvarum, ovulorum magnified

larger image


All the Ichneumons are parasitical; their larvæ deriving support from other insects. The female, when about to lay her eggs, perforates with her sting either the body or the nidus of some other insect or caterpillar, and deposits them there. The sting of one of the species, though extremely fine, is so strong as to penetrate through mortar and plaster. The food of the family to be produced from the eggs of this fly is the larvæ of wasps or mason-bees; for it no sooner discovers one of those nests than it fixes on it, and in a moment bores through the mortar of which it is built.

Some species agglutinate their eggs upon caterpillars; others penetrate their bodies, and deposit the eggs in their inside. When the larvæ are hatched, the head is so situated that they pierce the caterpillars, and penetrate to their very entrails. These larvæ suck the nutritious juices of the creatures without attacking their vitals; for they seem to be all the time perfectly healthy, and even sometimes are enabled to transform themselves into chrysalids. “A friend of mine,” says Dr. Derham, “put about forty large caterpillars, collected from cabbages, on some bran and a few leaves, into a box, and covered it with gauze to prevent escape. III.354 After a few days we saw, from more than three fourths of them, about eight or ten little caterpillars of the Ichneumon fly come out of their backs, and spin each a small coccoon of silk, and in a few days the large caterpillars died.”—The Ichneumons performed singular service, in the years 1731 and 1732, by multiplying in the same proportion as the caterpillars: their larvæ destroyed infinitely more of these voracious creatures than could possibly have been done by all the efforts of human industry⁕2.—Aphides or Plant lice, and the larvæ of various other insects, are also made the nidus of the Ichneumon.

The antennæ of the Ichneumon flies taper towards their extremity, and consist of more than thirty joints or articulations. The mouth is armed with jaws, and has four unequal thread-shaped feelers. At the extremity of the abdomen there is a long sting, having, however, no pungent property, inclosed in a cylindrical sheath composed of two valves.

⁕1 The Linnean order of Hymenopterous Insects commences here.

⁕2 Barbut’s Gen. Insect. 245.

Notes and Corrections: The Ichneumon Tribe

Ichneumon wasps or flies, that is. In Volume I we met the mammalian ichneumon, now known as a mongoose. Insect ichneumons, Linnaeus’s genus Ichneumon, are mostly superfamily Ichneumonoidea—including but not limited to family Ichneumonidae—in order Hymenoptera. But some of them wound up in neighboring superfamily Platygastridae instead.


The present species is about an inch in length from the head to the extremity of the abdomen: the tail measures near an inch and a half, and the antennæ somewhat more than half an inch. The body is black, and the legs are dusky. The abdomen is cylindrical and sessile, not being connected III.355 with the thorax, as in several of the species, by a pedicle.

The care and attention paid by the whole of the animal creation to the preservation of their offspring, is a subject that has employed the attention and excited the admiration of all ages; yet there are few creatures in which these properties are more manifest than in this diminutive animal.

Thomas Marsham, esq. an accurate observer of nature, seems to have been the first who has recorded this part of the economy of the Ichneumon Manifestator. In the month of June 1787, he observed one of these insects on the top of a post in Kensington Gardens. It moved rapidly along, having its antennæ bent in the form of an arch; and, with a strong vibratory motion in them, felt about until it came to a hole made by some insect, into which it thrust them quite to the head. It remained about a minute in this situation apparently very busy, and then, drawing its antennæ out, came round to the opposite side of the hole, and again thrust them in, and remained nearly the same time. It next proceeded to one side of the hole, and repeated the same operation there. Having now again drawn out its antennæ, it turned about; and, dexterously measuring a proper distance, threw back its abdomen over its head and thorax, and projected the long and delicate tube at its tail into the hole. After remaining near two minutes in this position, it drew out the tube, turned round, and again applied its antennæ to the hole for nearly the same time as before; and then again III.356 inserted its tube. This operation was repeated three times; but Mr. Marsham approaching too near, in order, if possible, to observe with a glass what was passing in the tube, he frightened the insect entirely away.

About a week afterwards Mr. M. was in Kensington Gardens, and saw several of these Ichneumons at work. They appeared to pierce the solid wood with their tubes, which they forced in even to half their length, constantly passing them between the hinder thighs, which they closed in order to keep the tubes straight, when over resistance would otherwise have forced them to bend. It appeared truly surprising to see an instrument, apparently weak and slender, able, with the strength of so small an animal, to pierce solid wood half or three quarters of an inch deep; but, on particular attention, it was discovered, that all those that appeared to pierce the solid wood, did it through the centre of a small white spot resembling mold or mildew, which, on minute examination, was found to be fine white sand, delicately closing up a hole made by the Apis maxillosa, and where, no doubt, there were young bees deposited.

In deep holes that were not closed the insect not only thrust in the whole tube, but in some cases the whole of the abdomen and posterior legs, leaving out only the two fore feet and wings, which it placed in contrary directions like arms. The two cases of the tube were also projected up the back, with the ends appearing above the head cue of the hole.


From Mr. Marsham’s account it appears that these insects do not adopt any hole indiscriminately as a situation for their eggs; for, in many instances, he saw them thrust their antennæ into holes and crevices from which they almost immediately withdrew them, and proceeded in search of others. As the whole of the Ichneumons deposit their eggs in the body of some other creature as a nidus, it appears probable that in these instances they found the holes empty, and that they went on in search of those in which the young of the Apis maxillosa were deposited.

A particular instance of sagacity in one of these little animals is deserving of remark. While it had its tube inserted, the cases were, as usual, projected upwards out of the hole; and the wind being very powerful rendered it difficult for this delicate animal to maintain its situation, as these long cases were so strongly acted upon by the wind as to endanger its being overset several times. To remedy this inconvenience, with a wonderful dexterity, it brought the cases down between its legs, and projected them forwards under its body toward the head; by which means it retained its situation securely⁕1.

⁕1 Linn. Tran. iii. 23.

Notes and Corrections: Ichneumon Manifestator

skip to next section

Ichneumon manifestator is now Ephialtes manifestator in family Ichneumonidae.

Bingley’s first two editions have no Synonyms footnote, since the animal is identified only by its binomial. The 3rd edition says “Ichneumon Manifestator. Linn. Gmel.—L’Ichneumon Manifes­tateur. Tigny.” (Tigny is Histoire Naturelle des Insectes, dated “an 10”, otherwise known as 1801-02.)

the long and delicate tube at its tail
text has tale

a hole made by the Apis maxillosa
[Search me, though it almost has to be a bee of some kind. The name points to the cuckoo bumblebee now known as Bombus maxillosus, but from context it sounds more like a carpenter bee, genus Xylocopa elsewhere in the Apidae family.]



Many species of the Sphex are common in England. They are chiefly found in woods and hedges; and their larvæ feed on dead insects, in the bodies of which the parent Spheges lay their eggs.

Some of the species dig holes in the earth, like dogs, with their fore feet, in each of which they bury a dead insect, after depositing their eggs in its body, and then carefully close them up again with earth.

No creatures whatever display greater affection for their offspring than these; nor are any more rapacious. They are excessively fierce, and, without hesitation, attack insects much larger than themselves. Their strength is very great, their jaws are hard and sharp, and their stings armed with a poison, which suddenly proves fatal to most of the creatures with which they engage. The Sphex seizes with the greatest boldness on the creature it attacks, giving a stroke with amazing force, then falling off to rest from the fatigue of the exertion, and to enjoy the victory. It keeps, however, a steady eye on the object it has struck till it dies, and then drags it to its nest for the use of the young. The number of insects that this creature destroys is almost beyond conception, fifty scarcely serving for a meal: the mangled remains about the mouth of its retreat sufficiently betray the sanguinary inhabitant. The eves, the filament that serves as a brain, and a small part of the contents of the body, are all that the Sphex eats.


The antennæ in this tribe consist of ten joints or articulations; and the mouth is armed with jaws. The wings in both sexes are extended, and do not fold together. The sting is pungent, and concealed within the abdomen.

Notes and Corrections: The Spheges

Digger wasps, Linnaeus’s genus Sphex, are family Sphecidae within superfamily Apoidea in order Hymenoptera. As such, they are more closely related to bees than to most wasps (superfamily Vespoidea elsewhere in the same order).

engraving of Sphex spirifex (Turner Savage), no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 93 (partial):
Sphex: spirifex


This insect lives in the haunts of men, whom it never willingly offends; but it is the terror of all the smaller insects. It inhabits holes in the earth on the sides of hills and cliffs, and recesses that it forms for itself in the mud-walls of cottages and outhouses. The mud-wall of a cottage in Peterborough, in Northamptonshire, was observed to be frequented by these creatures; and, on examination, it was found to have been wrought into the appearance of honey-comb by their operations.

The eggs, as in all the other species, are deposited by the female in the back part of the cells. These are stored with insects, for food to the larvæ, as soon as they come into life, and then filled up.

Dr. Derham observes that a species of Savage built its nest in a little hole of his study window. The cell was coated over with an odoriferous and resinous gum, collected, as he supposed, from some neighbouring fir-trees. The insect laid two eggs, and he soon afterwards observed it several times to carry in maggots, some of which were even larger III.360 than itself. These it very sagaciously sealed up with great carefulness in the nest, and then altogether left it.

Sphex spirifex. Linn.

Notes and Corrections: The Turner Savage

Sphex spirifex is now Sceliphron spirifex in family Sphecidae.


The Sand-wasps were separated from the last tribe by the Rev. Mr. Kirby; though, in their manners and economy, the insects of each bear a near resemblance. In their external appearance there are, however, characteristics sufficient to admit, with great propriety, of two genera.

In these the beak is conical, inflected, and contains a retractile tubular tongue that is cleft at the end. The jaws form a kind of forceps, and are three-toothed at the tip; and the antennæ, in each sex, are thread-shaped, with about fourteen joints, or articulations. The eves are oval, and the wings plane. The sting is pungent, and concealed in the abdomen.

Notes and Corrections: The Sand-Wasp Tribe

Sand wasps are in the same family, Sphecidae, as digger wasps. The word σφηξ is really masculine, but many early biologists seem to have assumed it was feminine like Vespa, adding further to the nomenclatural confusion.

there are . . . characteristics sufficient to admit . . . of two genera
[Reminder: This is the same writer who was perfectly content to leave all the great apes in a single genus.]

engraving of Sphex sabulosa (Sand Wasp), no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 93 (partial):
Sphex: sabulosa


In this species the antennæ have thirteen articulations, and are inserted in a hollow on the front of the head. The abdomen is club-shaped, and joined to the thorax by a long two-jointed pedicle. The III.361 wings are equal, and the colours of the body black and ferruginous alternately.

It is very common about sandy banks exposed to the sun, in Norfolk and Suffolk, but rare in the neighbourhood of London. It is easily distinguished from other insects by the elongated pedicle of its abdomen, and very short wings. When it flies it always carries its abdomen pointing upwards, so as to be nearly at right angles with that part of the thorax to which it is attached⁕1.

Its history is interesting, and, in its manners, it is greatly allied to the species of the preceding genus. The most pleasing fact is that related by Mr. Ray: “I observed one of them (says he) dragging a green caterpillar thrice its own size; it laid this down near the mouth of a burrow that it had made in the ground; then, removing a little ball of earth with which it had covered the orifice, it first went down itself, and, after staying a short time, returned, and, seizing the caterpillar again, drew it down with him. Then leaving it there, it came up, and, taking some little globules of earth, rolled them one by one into the burrow, scraping the dust in by intervals with its fore-feet, in the manner of a dog, thus alternately rolling in pieces of earth, and scraping in dust till the hole was full; sometimes going down (as it seemed to me) to press down the earth; and once or twice flying to a fir-tree which grew near, perhaps to get turpentine to glue it down, and make III.362 it firm. The hole being filled, and equalled with the superficies of the earth, that its entrance might not be discovered, it took two fir-leaves that were near, and laid them by the mouth, most probably to mark the place⁕2.”

Synonyms.—Sphex sabulosa. Linn.—Ammophila vulgaris. Kirby in Linn. Tran.

⁕1 Kirby in Linn. Tran. iv. 185.

⁕2 Ray’s Hist. Insects, p. 254.

Notes and Corrections: The Common Sand-Wasp

Sphex sabulosus (Bingley got the gender wrong) is now Ammo­phila sabulosa in family Sphecidae. Genus to Kirby, species to Linnaeus.

inserted in a hollow on the front of the head.
final . missing


These little creatures form for their cells cylindrical pipes or clay, each about the thickness and length of the little finger, against the timber under the roofs of houses, or under pales where they may be sheltered from the weather. They form eight or ten of them by the side of and joining to each other. Each of these tubes is divided by several partitions, betwixt every one of which the female lays an egg; and as they are formed they are stopped up; but none of them without an egg, and the bodies of several insects to support the future young before it can come to light. When one is stopped up another is begun at its end, and so on till the whole work is completed. These insects are silent at all times, except during the plastering and forming of their cells; and they no sooner set about their work than they always emit an odd but pleasing sound, which is audible at the distance of ten or twelve yards, and seems to render their labour cheerful. It is exceedingly diverting to observe the surprising dexterity and the whimsical gesticulations that they III.363 adopt in performing this important business. They first moisten the clay, then temper it into a little lump of the size and shape of a swan-shot, and apply it to the walls of their nest. They commence their operations at the upper part, and work downwards, till the cell is long enough to contain the chrysalis. After having spread out this little lump in a proper manner, they return for fresh materials. They cease their humming noise the moment they depart from their cell, but always commence it immediately on putting together the materials they have been out for. When a cell is finished, they are always very careful to render it perfectly smooth on the inside.

The insects that this fly secures for its young are principally spiders, which will in some measure account for its generally forming its cell under roofs of buildings, and other places where spiders are usually found. It does not kill them, but only in some manner so disables them that they cannot escape; by which means they are preserved alive and uncorrupted till the young larva is produced, which is not long after the egg is deposited. They sometimes seize and fly off with spiders that are equal in size to themselves; and when one of them proves too weighty to be carried off, if it is not at a great distance, the insect drags it to her nest. Mr. Catesby once saw an exceedingly large spider dragged up a wall by one of these flies to its nest; and both of them being caught and weighed, it was found that the spider was eight times the weight of the fly.

By the time the larva has devoured all its provision III.364 it is ready to undergo its change, and for this purpose spins itself up in a fine soft silken case about the end of September, and remains in a chrysalis state till the spring; when it gnaws its way out of the clayey dwelling, and becomes an inhabitant of the air.

The insect is then about three quarters of an inch long, and of a dark blue colour. The pedicle connecting the abdomen and thorax is about a quarter of an inch in length. The antennæ are black, and the wings tinted blue, and tipped with black.—It is found in Carolina, and various other parts of North America⁕1.

Synonyms.—Sphex cyanea. Linn.—Vespa Ichneumon cærula. Catesby.—Ammophila cyanea. Kirby.

⁕1 Phil. Tran. n. 476. p. 363.—Vol. xliii. p. 363.—Catesby App. p. 5.

Notes and Corrections: The Blue Sand-Wasp

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Sphex cyanea and Ammophila cyanea may be different insects, so we’ll have to call this one a draw. (Catesby’s name is not a proper binomial and is therefore not in the running.)

Ammophila is today a sand-wasp genus; Sphex we have already met. To make matters worse, Linnaeus’ Sphex cyanea may or may not be the same as Fabricius’s Sphex cyaneus, now Chalybion californicum.

I can’t find Kirby’s Ammophila cyanea, though the binomial shows up a century later as an early name for Chalybion ammophiloides. Whether C. californicum is or is not the wasp Bingley was talking about, it is inarguably blue.

It is found in Carolina
text has fouud


The nest of this species, as well as that of the last, is formed with considerable art and ingenuity. The insect scratches in the steep side of some bank of loamy earth an horizontal hole, about an inch in diameter, and near a foot long, making it smooth within, and pressing the earth so strongly as to secure it from giving way. She then flies off and seizes one of the large green grashoppers, and lodges it safely at the farther end; and, after laying an egg, she again goes off and catches two others, which she deposits with the former, and then closes up the hole. The larva when produced feeds on the bodies III.365 of the grashoppers till its change into a chrysalis. It remains in this state for some time; but when it becomes perfected it eats its way out, and flies off.

The grashoppers caught for the young are often much larger and more strong than the parent insect, so that considerable care is necessary in attacking them. She is said to seize them suddenly, and to plunge her sting into their body in such a manner as not to kill, but merely to render them inactive: for, as in the last species, it is necessary that they should be kept alive for some time in the nest, or they would otherwise putrefy, and become unfit for the purpose they were designed to answer⁕1.

The Sand-wasp is above an inch long, and of a black colour, with the wings inclining to violet. It is an inhabitant of North America, where it feeds on grashoppers and other insects, as well as on various kinds of fruit.

Synonyms. Sphex Pennsylvanica. Linn.? Ammophila Pennsylvanica. Kirby.—Great Black Wasp from Pennsylvania. Bartram.

⁕1 Phil. Tran. vol. xlvi. p. 126.

Notes and Corrections: The Pennsylvania-Sand-Wasp

Fortunately, pennsylvanica (or pensylvanicus, Linnaeus’s actual spelling) is not as prone to ambiguity as cyanea (or -us). Linnaeus wins this round; it is still Sphex pensylvanicus.

The word “grashopper” is spelled that way throughout this article. It seemed to make the author happy, so I left it unchanged, although it is “grasshopper” everywhere else in the book.

[Synonyms] Sphex Pennsylvanica. Linn.?
[Question mark in the original.]


The Wasps are in general found in large societies like the bees, constructing curious combs or nests, in which they deposit their eggs. Some, however, are solitary, and form for each young a separate nest. Their larvæ are soft, without feet, and are fed with the nectar of flowers and honey, but of III.366 a kind very inferior to that collected by the bees. The chrysalis is without motion, and has the rudiments of wings.

A distinguishing popular character of this tribe is their having smooth bodies, apparently without hairs, and their upper wings, when at rest, folded through their whole length. At the base of each of these there is a scaly process, that performs the office of a spring, in preventing them from rising too high; a caution of some importance to these carnivorous insects, which pursue their prey on full stretch of wing.

The mouth is horny, and furnished with a compressive jaw, and four unequal thread-shaped feelers. The antennæ are also filiform, the first joint longer than the rest, and cylindrical. The sting is pungent, and concealed within the abdomen.

Notes and Corrections: The Wasp Tribe

Wasps, Linnaeus’s genus Vespa, are several families in super­family Vespoidea within Hymenoptera. (Ants are a few other families in the same superfamily.)

engraving of Vespa vulgaris (Wasp), no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 95 (partial):
Vespa: vulgaris; Head & trunk of V. vulgaris magnified


The Common Wasp always forms its nest under the surface of the earth, in a dry soil, and not unfrequently occupies with it a forsaken dwelling of the mole. The hole that leads to it is about an inch in diameter, from half a foot to two feet deep, and generally in a zigzag direction.

When exposed to the view, the whole nest appears to be of a roundish form, and is usually twelve or fourteen inches in diameter. It is strongly fortified all round with walls, in layers, formed of a III.367 substance somewhat like paper, the surface of which is rough and irregular. In these walls, or rather in this external covering, two holes are left for passages to the combs, one of which is uniformly adopted for entrance, and the other as a passage out. The interior of the nest consists of several stories or floors of combs, which are parallel to each other, and nearly in an horizontal position. Every story is composed of a numerous assemblage of hexagonal cells, very regularly constructed, of a matter resembling a kind of ash-coloured paper. These cells contain neither wax nor honey, but are solely destined for containing the eggs, the worms which are hatched from them, the chrysalids, and the young wasps till they are able to fly. The combs are from eleven to fifteen in number. Reaumur computed the number of cells in the combs of a middle-sized nest to be at least ten thousand; and, as every cell serves for no less than three generations, a nest of this description would annually give birth to thirty thousand young Wasps.

The different stories of combs are always about half an inch high, which leaves free passages to the Wasps from one part of the nest to another. Each of the larger combs is supported by about fifty pillars, which, at the same time that they give solidity to the fabric, greatly ornament the whole nest. The lesser combs are supported by the same contrivance. The Wasps begin at the top and work downward, the uppermost comb being first constructed, and attached to the superior part of the external covering. The second comb is affixed to the bottom of the first, III.368 and in this manner the animals proceed till the whole is completed.

M. de Reaumur, in order to examine some parts of the internal economy of these insects, contrived to make them lodge and work in glass hives like the Honey-bees. Their extreme affection for their offspring, aided him greatly in this; for he found that, although their nests were cut in various directions, and even exposed to the light, they never deserted it, nor relaxed in their attentions to the young.

Immediately after a wasp’s nest had been transported from its natural situation, and covered with a glass hive, the first operation of the insects was to repair the injuries it had suffered. With wonderful activity they carried off all the earth and foreign bodies that had accidentally been conveyed into the hive. Some of them occupied themselves in fixing the nest to the top and sides of the hive by pillars of paper, similar to those that support the different stories or strata of combs; others repaired the breaches it had sustained; and others fortified it, by augmenting considerably the thickness of its external cover.

In the formation of their nests, Wasps differ greatly from the Bees. Instead of collecting the farina of flowers, and digesting it into wax, they gnaw small fibres of wood from the sashes of windows, the posts and doors of gardens, &c. which their strong and serrated jaws enable them to do with great ease. These fibres, though very slender, are often a tenth of an inch in length. After cutting a certain number, they collect them into small bundles, III.369 transport them to their nest; and, by means of a glutinous substance furnished from their own bodies, the labouring wasps, which are employed in the nest, form them into a moist and ductile paste. Of this substance they construct the external cover, the partitions of the nest, the hexagonal cells, and the solid columns that support the several stories of the comb.

In the republic of Wasps, like that of the Bees, there are three different kinds of flies, males, females, and neuters. The greatest share of labour devolves upon the neuters: but they are not, like the neuter bees, the only workers; for there is no part of the different operations which the females at certain times do not execute. Nor do the males remain entirely idle. The neuters, however, build the nest, feed the males, the females, and even the young. But, while these are occupied in different employments at home, the others are abroad in hunting parties. Some of them attack with intrepidity live insects, which they sometimes carry entire to the nest; but if these are at all large, they transport only the abdomen. Others make war on the bees, killing them for the honey they have in their bodies, or plundering their hives of the fruits of their labour. Some resort to the gardens, and suck the juices of fruit; and others pillage butcher’s stalls, from which they often arrive with a piece of meat, larger even than the half of their bodies. Butchers, however, frequently turn these operations of the Wasps to advantage, by hanging up before their shops a calf’s liver, or any tender meat. The III.370 Wasps come in quest of this delicate food, and pursue the blue-bottle flies, from whose eggs are produced the maggots that spoil meat. When they return to the nest they distribute a part of their plunder to the females, to the males, and to such neuters as have been usefully occupied at home. As soon as a neuter enters the nest, it is surrounded by several Wasps, to each of which it freely gives a portion of the food it has brought. Those that have not been hunting for prey, but have been sucking the juices of fruits, though they seem to return empty, fail not to regale their companions; for, after their arrival, they station themselves on the upper part of the nest, and discharge from their mouths two or three drops of clear liquid, which are immediately swallowed by the domestics.

The neuter Wasps are the smallest, the females much larger and heavier, and the males are of an intermediate size between the two. In the hive of the Honey-bee, the number of females is extremely small; but in a Wasp’s nest they often amount to more than three hundred.

The eggs are white, transparent, and of an oblong shape; but they differ in size, according to the kind of Wasps that are to proceed from them. Eight days after they are deposited in the cells, the worms are hatched, and are considerably larger than the eggs from which they are produced. The worms demand the principal care of those Wasps that continue always in the nest. They feed them as birds feed their young, by giving them from time to time a mouthful of food. It is astonishing III.371 to see with what industry and rapidity a female runs along the cells of a comb, and distributes to each worm a portion of nutriment. In proportion to the ages and conditions of the worms, they are fed with solid food, such as the bellies of insects, or with a liquid substance disgorged by their foster parent. When a worm is so large as to occupy its whole cell, it is ready to be metamorphosed into a chrysalis. It then refuses all nourishment, and ceases to have any connexion with the Wasps in the next. It shuts up the mouth of its cell with a fine silken cover, in the same manner as the silk-worm and other caterpillars spin their coccoons. This operation is completed in three or four hours, and the animal remains a chrysalis nine or ten days; when, with its teeth, it destroys the external cover of the cell, and comes forth a winged insect, which is either male, female, or neuter, according to the nature of the egg from which it was hatched. In a short time the Wasps, newly transformed, receive the food brought into the nest by the foragers from the fields. What is still more wonderful is that, in the course of even the first day after their transformation, the young Wasps have been observed going to the fields bringing in provisions, and distributing them to the worms in the cells.—A cell is no sooner abandoned by a young Wasp, than it is cleaned, trimmed, and repaired by the old ones, and rendered, in every respect, proper for the reception of another egg.

Cells are constructed of different dimensions for the neuters, males, and females; and it is very remarkable III.372 that those of the neuters are never intermixed with the cells destined for the others.

This wonderful edifice, that requires the labour of the animals for several months, serves them only for a year; and notwithstanding its population during the summer, it is almost deserted in winter, and is abandoned entirely in the spring; for, in this last season, not a single Wasp is to be found in a nest of the preceding year. It is worthy of remark that the first combs of a nest are always accommodated for the reception of the neuter or working Wasps, whose care and attention are first required; so that it uniformly happens that, before the males and females are capable of taking flight, every Wasp’s nest is peopled with several thousands of neuters or workers. But the neuters, which are first produced, are likewise the first that perish; for not one of them survives the termination even of a mild winter.

The female Wasps are stronger, and support the rigours of winter better than either the males or neuters. Before the end of winter, however, several hundred females die, and not above ten or a dozen in each nest survive that season. These few females are destined for the continuation of the species. Each of them becomes the founder of a new republic. With regard to the male Wasps, it is uncertain whether any of them survive. But, though not so indolent as the males of the honey-bee, they can be of but little assistance to the female; for they never engage in any work of importance, such as constructing cells, or fortifying the external cover of the nest. They are never III.373 brought forth till towards the end of August; and their sole occupation seems to be that of keeping the nest clean: they carry out every kind of filth, and the bodies of such of their companions as happen to die. In performing this operation, two of them often join; and when the load is too heavy, they cut off the head, and transport the dead animal at twice.

Every nest about the beginning of October presents a strange scene of cruelty. At this season, the Wasps not only cease to bring nourishment to their young, but drag the grubs from their cells, and carry them out of the nest, where, exposed to the weather, and deprived of food, they all unavoidably perish, if the Wasps neglect, which they seldom do, to kill them with their fangs. This mode of procedure would at first seem a strange violation of parental affection; but the intentions of nature, though they often elude our researches, are never wrong. What appears to us cruel and unnatural in this instinctive devastation, committed annually by the Wasps, is perhaps an act of the greatest mercy and compassion that could possibly have taken place. Wasps are not, like the Honey-bees, endowed with the instinct of laying up a store of provisions for winter subsistence. If not prematurely destroyed by their parents, the young must necessarily die a cruel and lingering death, occasioned by hunger. Hence this seemingly harsh conduct in the economy of Wasps, instead of affording an exception to the universal benevolence and III.374 wisdom of nature, is, in reality, a most merciful effort of instinct⁕1.

Like the male Honey-bees, the male Wasps are destitute of stings; but the females and neuters have stings, the poisonous liquor of which, when introduced into any part of the human body, excites inflammation, and creates a considerable degree of pain. This sting consists of a hollow and very sharp-pointed tube, having at its root a bag of pungent juice, which, in the act of stinging, is pressed out, and conveyed through the tube into our flesh.—There are also two small, sharp, and bearded spears lying, as in a sheath, within the tube. Dr. Derham counted eight beards on the side of each spear, which, he says, were formed somewhat like the beards of fish-hooks. These spears lie one with its points a little before the other in the sheath, to be ready, in all probability, to be first darted into the flesh; where being once fixed, by means of its foremost beard, the other then strikes in also; and they in this manner alternately pierce deeper and deeper, their beards taking more and more hold in the flesh; after which the sting or sheath follows, in order to convey the poison into the wound. The hole in the tube is not exactly at the end, for in that case the instrument would not be so well able to wound: the sting is drawn to a hard and sharp point, and the incision through which the spears III.375 and poison are ejected is a little below it. By means of this mechanism it is that the sting, even when parted from the body, is able to pierce and make us smart, and by means of the beards being lodged deep in the flesh, it is also that these insects leave their stings behind them, when they are disturbed, before they have had time to withdraw their spears completely into the tube.

Vespa vulgaris. Linn.

⁕1 Reaum. Mem. pour servir à l’Histoire des Insectes, tom. vi.

Notes and Corrections: The Common Wasp

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Vespa vulgaris is now Vespula vulgaris in family Vespidae.

foreign bodies that had accidentally been conveyed
text has accidently
[I would have been content to call it an archaic variant spelling, but the 1st and 3rd editions both have “accidentally”.]

there are three different kinds of flies, males, females, and neuters
[Sex chromosomes would not be discovered for another century.]

the first combs of a nest are always accommodated
text has accomodated

engraving of Apis (bee) in several forms, no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 98 (partial):
Apis: trunk magnified; Queen, Drone


The Bees, according to the generic character given of them by Linnæus, have a horny mouth, with the jaws and the lip membranaceous at the end. The tongue is inflected; and they have four unequal thread-shaped feelers. Their antennæ are short and filiform, but those of the female somewhat club-shaped. The wings are flat; and the females and neuters have pungent stings concealed in the abdomen.

The English Bees have undergone an accurate investigation by the Rev. Mr. Kirby, who has discovered no fewer than two hundred and twenty-one distinct species, though fifteen years ago none of our books mentioned so many as a dozen. He divides the Linnean genus into Melitta and Apis, distinguishing them by their tongues: the insects of the former having short, flattish, uninflected tongues; and those of the other long, cylindrical, and inflected III.376 tongues, easily examined by raising them with a pin from the sheath in which they are concealed.

These insects are very numerous, and differ considerably in their habits. Some are found in extensive communities, constructing, with the utmost art, cells for their young, and repositories for their food; while others both dwell and work in solitude. The whole tribe live on the nectar of flowers and on ripe fruit.

Their larvæ are soft and without feet, and the chrysalis resembles the perfect insect.

Notes and Corrections: The Bee Tribe

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Honeybees and bumblebees are family Apidae in superfamily Apoidea, order Hymenoptera. There are over 200 genera, which should be enough to make Mr. Kirby happy. But Bingley is more interested in leaf-cutting bees, which now make up family Mega­chilidae in the same superfamily.

In Bingley’s world, bees seem to be the only insects that are female by default: “she” rather than “he”.

He divides the Linnean genus into Melitta and Apis
[Mr. Kirby shows the benefits of a classical education: Melitta (dialectally Melissa) is Greek; Apis is Latin. Today genus Apis is honeybees, while genus Melitta is the flagship of its own family, Melittidae, imaginatively named (in English) “melittids”.]


The Poppy Bee forms her nest in the ground, burrowing to the depth of about three inches. At the bottom she makes a large and somewhat hemispherical cavity, which, after being rendered perfectly smooth on all sides, she carefully lines with a splendid tapestry, selected from the scarlet flowers of the wild poppy. From these, with great dexterity, she cuts pieces of proper size and form, which she conveys to her cell; and, beginning at the bottom, covers with it the whole interior of this habitation of her future progeny. The covering is even sometimes extended a little way round the orifice. The bottom is rendered warm by three or four coats, and the sides have never less than two. When the III.377 little animal has completed her apartment, she fills it with paste, made of pollen and honey, to the height of seven or eight lines; and, after depositing an egg, she pushes down the poppy-lining till it completely covers the cell, and then closes up its mouth with earth so nicely as to render it not distinguishable from the adjoining soil⁕1.

This is a little black Bee, about the third of an inch in length. Its head and trunk are thickly covered with hairs of a dirty grey-colour; and the under part of its body are clad with greyish hairs. The abdomen is somewhat conical, black, and shining; but its segments are fringed with white hairs.—The male is nearly of the same length as the female, but rather narrower, and somewhat more hairy. Its abdomen is inflexed, and not so hairy underneath as above. The last segment terminates in a fork with blunt teeth, and has on each side of its base a sharp spine or point.

Synonyms.—Apis Papaveris. Latreille. Kirby, i. 142. 214.—Abeille tapissiere. Reaumur.

⁕1 Kirby, i. 143.—Reaum. Mem. tom. vi. p. 93-96.

Notes and Corrections: The Poppy Bee

Apis papaveris is now Hoplitis papaveris in family Megachilidae.

to the height of seven or eight lines
[7/12 or 8/12 (⅔) inch, or around 15-16mm.]


These Bees construct cylindrical nests, of the leaves of the rose and other trees, which are sometimes of the length of six inches, and generally consist of six or seven cells, each shaped like a thimble. They are formed with the convex end of one fitting into the open end of another. The portions of leaf III.378 of which they are made are not glued together, nor are they any otherwise fastened than in the nicety of their adjustment to each other; and yet they do not admit the liquid honey to drain through them. The interior surface of each cell consists of three pieces of leaf, of equal size, narrow at one end, but gradually widening to the other, where the width equals half the length. One side of each of these pieces is the serrated margin of the leaf from which it was cut. In forming the cell, the pieces of leaf are made to lap one over the other (the serrated side always outermost) till a tube is thus formed coated with three, four, or more layers. In coating these tubes, the provident little animal is careful to lay the middle of each piece of leaf over the margins of others, so as by this means both to cover and strengthen the junctions. At the closed or narrow end of the cell, the leaves are bent down so as to form a convex termination. When a cell is formed, the next care of the Bee is to fill it with honey and pollen, which, being collected chiefly from the thistles, form a rose-coloured paste. With these it is filled to within about half a line of the orifice; and she then deposits in it an egg, and closes it with three perfectly circular pieces of leaf, which coincide so exactly with the walls of the cylindrical cell, as to be retained in their situation without any gluten. After this covering is fitted in, there still remains a hollow which receives the convex end of the succeeding cell. In this manner the patient and indefatigable animal proceeds till her whole cylinder of six or seven cells is completed. III.379 This is said to be generally formed under the surface of the ground⁕1 in a fistular passage, which it entirely fills except at the entrance. If, by any accident, the labour of these insects is interrupted, or the edifice is deranged, they exhibit astonishing perseverance in setting it again to rights.

Their mode of cutting pieces out of the leaves, for their work, deserves particular notice. When one of these Bees selects a rose-bush with this view, she flies round, or hovers over it for some seconds, as if examining for the leaves best suited to her purpose. When she has chosen one, she alights upon it, sometimes on the upper, and sometimes on the under surface, or not unfrequently on its edge, so that the margin passes between her legs. Her first attack, which is generally made the moment she alights, is usually near the footstalk, with her head turned towards the point. As soon as she begins to cut, she is entirely intent on her labour; nor does she cease till her work is completed: this is done with her strong jaws, with as much expedition as we could exert with a pair of scissars. As she proceeds, she keeps the margin of the detached part between her legs, in such a manner that the section keeps giving way to her, and does not interrupt her progress. She makes her incision in a curve line approaching the midrib of the leaf at first; but, when she has reached a certain point, she recedes from this towards the margin, still cutting III.380 in a curve. When she has nearly detached the portion she has been employed upon from the leaf, she balances her little wings for flight, lest its weight should carry her to the ground; and the very moment it parts she flies off with it in triumph, in a bent position between her legs, and perpendicular to her body.

The larvæ of the Leaf-cutting Bees do not differ in appearance from those of the Hive-bees. When arrived at their full size, they spin a coccoon of silk, thick and solid, which they attach to the sides of their cell. Those produced first are from the first-laid eggs; so that, when ready to emerge into the air, in passing through the bottom of their cells, they do not interrupt each other’s progress. These larvæ are exposed to the attacks of other insects, that make their way into the cells and deposit there their eggs.

This mode of forming a nest is not confined to the present species, as several others perform similar operations; but they adopt the leaves of different trees for this purpose; such as the horse-chesnut, the elm, &c. &c.⁕2

Apis centuncularis. Linn.

⁕1 In cavities of walls and in decayed wood. Kirby.

⁕2 Kirby, i. 162.—Reaumur, vi. 97. 124.

Notes and Corrections: The Leaf-Cutting Bee

Apis centuncularis is now Megachile centuncularis, the carpenter bee, in family Megachilidae.

within about half a line of the orifice
[Call it a millimeter.]

with as much expedition as we could exert with a pair of scissars
text has expedi-/dition at line break


This singular little animal is very common about gardens in or near towns. It is from half an inch to three quarters in length; of a dark colour, and III.381 hairy. On each side of the abdomen are several yellow spots.

It forms its nest in hollow places in trees, &c. applying to this work the down of the Garden Campion⁕1, and some other woolly plants. The Rev. Mr. White, of Selborne, seems to have been the first naturalist who discovered this. He says that “it is very pleasant to see with what address this insect strips off the down, running from the top to the bottom of a branch, and shaving it bare with all the dexterity of a hoop-shaver. When it has got a vast bundle, almost as large as itself, it flies away, holding it secure between its chin and fore legs⁕2.”

Sir Thomas Cullum, in a letter to Mr. Marsham, says, “I observed in a lock to one of my garden-gates, that the key did not turn easily round, and, upon looking into the key-hole, I saw something white. I had the lock taken off, and it was completely full of a downy substance, containing the pupa of some bee. On examining this, I am certain it is the fine pappus or down from the Anemone sylvestris, of which I have two plants in my garden. I have preserved the whole as I found it, but the bee has not yet made its appearance in a perfect state.” This nidus was afterwards sent to the Rev. Mr. Kirby, and five of the chrysalids produced perfect insects; namely, three males, and two females. III.382 On comparing the down, of which it was composed, with that of the Campion, Mr. K. was of opinion that Sir Thomas Cullum had mistaken its composition, as the down of the Anemone is of a more silky texture than that used in this nest. This gentleman informs us that there were several cells or cases in the lock, unconnected with each other except by the wool, which was their common covering. These cells were of an oval form, and had an exterior coat of wool, under which there was a membranaceous cell, covered with a number of small vermiform masses of a brown substance, apparently formed of pollen and honey. These were laid, without any regular order, over the cell; and, by means of them, the wool which formed its exterior coat was made to adhere. At the summit of this membranaceous case there was a small orifice, and within it another cell, somewhat strong and coriaceous, of a brown colour, and shining in the inside as much as if covered with tinfoil. This was supposed to be the coccoon of the larva previously to its assuming the pupa state.


⁕1 Agrostemma coronaria of Linnæus.

⁕2 White’s Naturalist’s Calendar, 109.

Notes and Corrections: Apis Manicata

Apis manicata is now Anthidium manicatum, again in family Megachilidae.

of a dark colour, and hairy.
. invisible

[Footnote] Agrostemma coronaria of Linnæus
text has coronari
[Corrected from 1st and 3rd editions. Now Silene coronaria, the crown-pink.]


The Mason Bee, which is also one of the solitary species, derives its name from the circumstance of III.383 constructing a nest of mud or mortar. This, on its exterior, has so little of a regular appearance, that it is generally regarded as a piece of dirt accidentally adhering to a wall. Within, however, it is furnished with regular cells, each of which affords convenient lodgement to a white larva much resembling that of the Hive-bee. In constructing this nest, which is a work of great labour and art, the female is the sole operator, receiving no assistance whatever from the male.

After fixing upon an angle, sheltered by any projection, on the south side of a stone wall, or upon some rough part of its surface, she goes in quest of the necessary materials. Her nest is to be constructed of a kind of mortar, of which sand is to be the basis. She is very curious in her choice of this, selecting it with her jaws grain by grain. To shorten her labour, before she transports it for use, she glues together, by means of a viscid saliva from her body, as many grains as she can carry: these form a little mass, about the size of a small shot. Taking this up in her jaws, she conveys it to the place she has fixed upon for the site of her house. She labours incessantly till her whole work is completed, which usually occupies five or six days. The number of cells in one nest are from three to fifteen: these are all similar, and nearly equal in dimensions, each being about an inch high, half an inch in diameter; and, before its orifice is closed, resembling a thimble in shape. When a cell is raised to somewhat more than half its height, our little mason lays up in it a store of pollen, seasoned III.384 with honey, for the sustenance of its future inhabitant. This being done, she deposits her egg, finishes and covers her cell, and then proceeds to the erection of a second, which she furnishes and finishes in the same manner; and so on till the work is completed. These cells are not placed in any regular order: some are parallel with the wall, others perpendicular to it, and others are inclined to it at different angles. This occasions many empty spaces between the cells, which the laborious architect fills up with the same kind of cement, and then bestows on the whole group a common covering, made with coarser grains of sand; so that at length the nest becomes a mass of mortar, so hard as not easily to be penetrated even by the blade of a knife.

These nests, which sometimes last for several seasons, are often the cause of desperate conflicts. When one insect has taken possession of a nest, and is gone abroad in quest of materials to repair it, another will frequently come to seize it. When these two meet, a battle invariably ensues. This is always fought in the air. Sometimes the two bees fly with such rapidity and force against each other, that both fall to the ground. But, in general, like birds of prey, the one endeavours to rise above the other, and to give a downward blow. To avoid the stroke, the undermost, instead of flying forward, or laterally, is frequently observed to fly backward. This retrograde flight is likewise performed occasionally by the common house-fly, and some other insects, though we are unable to perceive what stimulates III.385 them to employ so uncommon a movement.

From the hardness of the materials with which the Mason Bee constructs her nest, and from the industry and dexterity she employs to protect her progeny from enemies of every kind, one should naturally imagine that the young would be in perfect safety, and that their castle would be impregnable. But, notwithstanding all these precautions, they are often devoured by the larvæ of a peculiar species of ichneumon fly, the eggs of which are deposited in the cells before the bee has completed them. But they have an enemy even still more formidable than the ichneumons. A species of Beetle⁕1 insinuates its egg into an unfinished cell: from this proceeds a strong and rapacious grub, armed with prodigious fangs, which often pierces through every cell in the nest, and successively devours all the inhabitants⁕2.

The Mason Bee is about nine lines, or three quarters of an inch in length. Its body is black, and thickly clad with black hairs. The jaws are very large and prominent, and terminate in two blunt teeth. The wings are black with a tinge of violet. The abdomen is somewhat conical, and has underneath a patch of orange-coloured hairs. The terminating joints of the legs are reddish.—The male is covered with red hairs.

Abeille Maçonne. Reaumur.—It is not known to which of the Linnean species this bee is to be referred. Fabricius calls it Apis Muraria, but he has described the male for the female; and, vice versa, the female for the male.

⁕1 Attelabus apiarius of Linnæus.

⁕2 Kirby, i. 179.—Reaumur, vol. vi. p. 57. 88.

Notes and Corrections: The Mason Bee

Apis muraria—assuming that is the bee this article is about—is now Megachile parietina, another member of the leaf-cutter family, Megachilidae. (The taxonomists may have consulted an architect; a murus is an exterior wall, while a paries is an interior wall.)

When one insect has taken possession of a nest
text has possesion

[Footnote] Attelabus apiarius of Linnæus
[This beetle retains its original binomial. It is in family Attelabidae, superfamily Curculionoidea, making it a weevil.]



The operations of the Wood-Piercers merit attention. These bees are larger than the queens of the Honey-bee. Their bodies are smooth, except the sides, which are covered with hair. In the spring they frequent gardens, and search for rotten or at least for dead wood, in order to make an habitation for their young. They usually choose the decaying uprights of arbours, espaliers, or the props of vines; but will sometimes attack garden seats, thick doors, and window shutters.

When the female of this species, for she receives no assistance from the male, has selected a piece of wood suited to her purpose, which is most commonly such as is perpendicular to the horizon, she begins her work by boring perpendicularly into it: when she has advanced about half an inch, she changes her direction, and then proceeds nearly parallel with its sides for twelve or fifteen inches, making the hollow about half an inch in diameter. If the wood be sufficiently thick, she sometimes forms three or four of these long holes in its interior: a labour which for a single insect seems prodigious, but in executing it some weeks are often employed. On the ground, for about a foot from the place in which one of these bees is working, little heaps of timber dust are to be seen. These heaps daily increase in size, and the particles that compose them are almost III.387 as large as those produced by a hand-saw. The strong jaws of this insect are the only instruments she employs in these perforations. After the holes are prepared, they are divided into ten or twelve separate apartments, each about an inch deep, the roof of one serving for the bottom of another. The divisions are composed of particles of wood, cemented together by a glutinous substance from the animal’s body. In making one of these, she commences with glueing an annular plate of wood-dust, about the thickness of half-a-crown, round the internal circumference of the cavity: to this plate she attaches a second, to the second a third, and so on till the whole floor is completed. Before each cell is closed, it is filled with a paste composed of the farina of flowers mixed with honey, and an egg is deposited in it. When the larva is hatched, it has scarcely room sufficient to turn itself in the cell; but as the paste is devoured, the space is enlarged so as to allow it to perform every necessary operation towards changing its state.

We are informed by M. de Reaumur that M. Pitot furnished him with a piece of wood, about an inch and a half in diameter, that contained the cells of one of these bees. He cut off as much of the wood as was sufficient to expose two of the cells to view, in each of which was a larva. To prevent the injuries of the air, he closed the aperture that he had made by pasting on it a bit of glass. The cells were at that time almost entirely filled with paste. The two worms were exceedingly small, and, of course, occupied but little space between III.388 the walls of the cells and the mass of paste. As the animals increased in size, the paste daily diminished. He began to observe them on the 12th of June; and, on the 27th of the same month, the paste in each cell was nearly consumed, and the worm, folded in two, occupied the greater part of its habitation. On the 2d of July, the provisions of both worms were entirely exhausted. The five or six following days they fasted, which seemed to be a necessary abstinence, during which they were greatly agitated. They often bent their bodies, and elevated and depressed their heads. These movements were preparatory to the great change that the animals were about to undergo. Between the 7th and 8th of the same month they threw off their skins, and were metamorphosed into nymphs; and, on the 30th of July, they became perfect insects.

In a range of cells, the worms are necessarily of different ages, and of course of different sizes. Those in the lower ones are older than those in the superior; because, after the bee has filled with paste and inclosed the first cell, a considerable time is requisite to collect provisions, and to form partitions for every successive and superior cell. The former, therefore, must be transformed into nymphs and flies before the latter. These circumstances would almost appear to be foreseen by the common mother; for, if the undermost worm, which is the oldest, and soonest transformed, was to force its way upward, which it could easily do, it would not only disturb, but infallibly destroy all those lodged III.389 in the superior cells. But Nature has wisely prevented this devastation; for the head of the nymph, and consequently of the fly, is always placed in a downward direction. Its first instinctive movements must therefore be in the same direction. That the young flies may escape from their respective cells, the mother digs a hole at the bottom of the long tube, which makes a communication between the undermost ceil and the open air. Sometimes a similar passage is made near the middle of the tube. By this contrivance, as all the flies instinctively endeavour to cut their way downwards, they find an easy and convenient passage; for they have only to pierce the floor of their cells to make their escape, and this they do with their teeth very readily⁕1.

Apis violacea. Linn.

⁕1 Reaumur, tom. vi.

Notes and Corrections: The Wood-Piercer

Apis violacea is now Xylocopa violacea. Unlike the preceding four bees, it is in family Apidae, making it more closely related to honey­bees than to leaf-cutter bees.

pasting on it a bit of glass
text has it on
[Corrected from 1st and 3rd editions.]

engraving of Apis mellifica (“Common Bee”), no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 98 (partial):
Apis: mellifica or Common Bee


In the formation of their combs, the present insects seem to resolve a problem which would not be a little puzzling to some geometricians, namely, “A quantity of wax being given, to make of it equal and similar cells of a determined capacity, but of the largest size in proportion to the quantity of matter employed, and disposed in such a manner as to occupy in the hive the least possible space.” Every part of this problem is completely III.390 executed by the bees. By applying hexagonal cells to each others’ sides, no void spaces are left between them; and, though the same end might be accomplished by other figures, yet such would necessarily require a greater quantity of wax. Besides, hexagonal cells are better fitted to receive the cylindrical bodies of these insects.—A comb consists of two strata of cells applied to each other’s ends. This arrangement both saves room in the hive, and gives a double entry into the cells of which the comb is composed. As a further saving of wax, and for preventing void spaces, the bases of the cells in one stratum of a comb serve also for bases to the opposite stratum. In short, the more minutely the construction is examined, the more will the admiration of the observer be excited. The walls of the cells are so extremely thin that their mouths might be thought in danger of suffering by the frequent entering and issuing of the bees. To prevent this disaster, however, they make a kind of rim round the margin of each cell, and this rim is three or four times thicker than the walls.

It is difficult to perceive, even with the assistance of glass hives, the manner in which bees operate when constructing their cells. They are so eager to afford mutual assistance; and for this purpose so many of them crowd together, and are perpetually succeeding each other, that their individual operations can seldom be distinctly observed. It has, however, been plainly discovered that their two jaws are the only instruments they employ in modelling and polishing the wax. With a little patience III.391 and attention, we perceive cells just begun: we likewise remark the quickness with which a bee moves its teeth against a small portion of the cell. This portion the animal, by repeated strokes on each side, smooths, renders compact, and reduces to a proper thinness. While some of the hive are lengthening their hexagonal tubes, others are laying the foundations of new ones. In certain circumstances, when extremely hurried, they do not complete their new cells, but leave them imperfect till they have begun a number sufficient for their present exigencies. When a bee puts its head a little way into a cell, we easily perceive it scraping the walls with the points of its teeth, in order to detach such useless and irregular fragments as may have been left in the work. Of these fragments the bee forms a ball about the size of a pin’s head, comes out of the cell, and carries this wax to another part of the work, where it is wanted: it no sooner leaves the cell, than it is succeeded by another bee, which performs the same office; and in this manner the work is successively carried on till the cell is completely polished.

Their mode of working, and the disposition and division of their labour, when put into an empty hive, do much honour to the sagacity of bees. They immediately begin to lay the foundations of their combs, which they execute with surprising quickness and alacrity. Soon after they begin to construct one comb; they divide into two or three companies, each of which in different parts of the hive is occupied in the same operations. By this division III.392 of labour, a great number of bees have an opportunity of being employed at the same time, and, consequently, the common work is sooner finished. The combs are generally arranged in a direction parallel to each other. An interval or street between them is always left, that the bees may have a free passage, and an easy communication with the different combs in the hive. These streets are just wide enough to allow two bees to pass one another. Beside these parallel streets, to shorten their journey when working, they leave several cross passages, which are always covered.

They are extremely solicitous to prevent insects of any kind from getting admittance into their hives. To accomplish this purpose, and in order to shut out the cold, when they take possession of a new hive, they carefully examine every part of it; and if they discover any small holes or chinks, they immediately paste them firmly up with a resinous substance which differs considerably from wax. This substance was known to the antients by the name of propolis or bee-glue. Bees use the propolis for rendering their hives more close and perfect, in preference to wax, because it is more durable, and more powerfully resists the vicissitudes of weather. This glue is not, like the wax, procured by an animal process. The bees collect it from different trees, as the poplars, the birches, and the willows. It is a complete production of nature, and requires no additional manufacture from the animals by which it is employed. After a bee has procured a quantity sufficient to fill the cavities of its two hind-legs, it III.393 repairs to the hive. Two of its companions instantly draw out the propolis, and apply it to fill up such chinks, holes, or other deficiencies as they find in their habitation. But this is not the only use to which bees apply the propolis. They are extremely solicitous to remove such insects or foreign bodies as happen to get admission into the hive. When so light as not to exceed their powers, they first kill the insect with their stings, and then drag it out with their teeth. But it sometimes happens that an ill-fated snail creeps into the hive. This is no sooner perceived than it is attacked on all sides and stung to death. But how are the bees to carry out so heavy a burthen? Such a labour would be in vain. To prevent the noxious odours consequent on its putrefaction, they immediately embalm it, by covering every part of its body with propolis, through which no effluvia can escape. When a snail with a shell gets entrance, to dispose of it gives much less trouble and expence to the bees. As soon as it receives the first wound from a sting, it naturally retires within its shell. In this case, the bees, instead of pasting it all over with propolis, content themselves with glueing all round the margin of the shell; which is sufficient to render the animal for ever immoveably fixed.

But propolis, and the materials for making wax, are not the only substances that these industrious animals have to collect. As, besides the whole winter, there are many days in summer in which the bees are prevented by the weather from going abroad in quest of provisions: they are, therefore, III.394 under the necessity of collecting and amassing in cells destined for that purpose large quantities of honey. This they extract by means of their trunk, from the nectariferous glands of flowers. The trunk of the bee is a kind of rough cartilaginous tongue. After collecting a few small drops of honey with this, the animal carries them to its mouth, and swallows them. From the gullet they pass into the first stomach, which is more or less swelled in proportion to the quantity of honey it contains. When empty, it has the appearance of a fine white thread: but, when filled with honey, it assumes the figure of an oblong bladder, the membrane of which is so thin and transparent that it allows the colour of the liquid it contains to be distinctly seen. This bladder is well known to children who live in the country: they cruelly amuse themselves with catching bees, and tearing them asunder in order to suck the honey. The bees are obliged to fly from one flower to another till they fill their first stomachs. When they have accomplished this, they return directly to the hive, and disgorge in a cell the whole honey they have collected. It not unfrequently happens, however, that on its way to the hive the bee is accosted by a hungry companion. How the one manages to communicate its wants to the other it is perhaps impossible to discover. But the fact is certain that, when two bees meet in this situation, they mutually stop, and the one whose stomach is full of honey extends its trunk, opens its mouth, and, like a ruminating animal, forces up the honey into that cavity. The hungry bee, with the point of its trunk, III.395 sucks the honey from the other’s mouth. When not stopped on the road, the bee proceeds to the hive, and in the same manner offers its honey to those who are at work, as if it meant to prevent the necessity of quitting their labour in order to go in quest of food. In bad weather, the bees feed on the honey laid up in open cells; but they never touch their reservoirs while their companions are enabled to supply them with fresh honey from the fields. But the mouths of those cells which are destined for preserving honey during the winter they always cover with a lid or thin plate of wax⁕1.

How numerous soever the bees in one swarm may appear to be, they all originate from a single parent. It is indeed surprising, that one small insect should in a few months give birth to so many young; but, on opening her body at a certain time of the year, eggs to the number of many thousands are to be found contained in it.

The queen is easily distinguished from the rest by the size and shape of her body. On her depends the welfare of the whole community; and, by the attention that is paid to all her movements, it is evident how much they depend on her security. She is seen at times with a numerous retinue, marching from cell to cell, plunging the extremity of her body into each of them, and leaving in each an egg.

A day or two after this egg is deposited, the grub is excluded from the shell, having the shape of a maggot rolled up in a ring, and lying softly on a III.396 bed of a whitish-coloured jelly, on which it begins to feed. The common bees then attend with astonishing tenderness and anxiety: they furnish it with food, and watch over it with unremitting assiduity. In about six days the grub arrives at its full growth, when its affectionate attendants shut up the mouth of its apartment with wax, to secure it from injury. Thus inclosed, it soon begins to line the walls of its cell with a silken tapestry, in which it undergoes its last transformation.

When it first crawls forth a winged insect, it is very weak and inactive, but in the course of a few hours it acquires strength enough to fly off to its labour. On its emerging from the cell, the officious bees flock round it, and lick up its moisture with their tongues. One party bring honey for it to feed upon; and another is employed in cleansing the cell, and carrying out the filth to prepare this for a new inhabitant.

The neuter bees in a hive amount to the number of 16,000 or 18,000. These are armed with stings, and form the only labouring part of the community. It is pleasant to see them in the act of collecting the farina of flowers for the basis of their wax. They roll themselves over the stamina, the dust of which adheres to their hairs; then, bringing their feet over their bodies, they fill with it two small baskets or cavities edged with hairs, appended to their hind-legs. As soon as a bee thus laden appears near the hive, others go out to meet it, and, taking the farina from its legs, swallow it; their stomachs being the laboratory where it is converted into genuine III.397 wax. This operation being over, each individual disgorges it in the consistency of dough, and then moulds it into proper form⁕2.

The males are called Drones: they are unarmed, and are always killed by the neuters about the month of September.

Heat is the life of these insects. The least degree of cold benumbs them; and in winter, unless they are all crowded together, they perish. Their enemies are the Wasp and the Hornet, who with their teeth rip them open to suck out the honey contained in their bladder. Sparrows have also been seen with one in their bill, and another in each claw.

There is so great a degree of attachment subsisting between the working bees and their queen, that, if by any accident she is destroyed, the labours of the community are at an end, and the rest of the animals leave their hive and disperse. If, however, another queen be given them, joy springs up, and they crowd around her, and soon again apply to their operations. Even the prospect of seeing a queen will support them: this has been proved by giving to a hive that had lost its own queen the chrysalis of another. If a queen be taken from a hive and kept apart from the working bees, she will refuse to eat, and in the course of four or five days, will die of hunger.

Mr. Wildman, whose remarks on the management of bees are well known, possessed a secret III.398 by which he could at any time cause a hive of bees to swarm upon his head, shoulders, or body, in a most surprising manner. He has been seen to drink a glass of wine with the bees all over his head and face more than an inch deep—several fell into the glass, but they knew him too well to sting him. He could even act the part of a general with them, by marshalling them in battle array upon a large table. There he divided them into regiments, battalions, and companies, according to military discipline, waiting only for his word of command. The moment he uttered the word march! they began to march in a very regular manner in rank and file, in the manner of soldiers. To these, his Lilliputians, he also taught so much politeness that they never attempted to sting any of the numerous company which, at different times, resorted to admire this singular spectacle.

Synonyms.—Apis mellifica. Linn. Honey-bee, in various parts of the country.—The males are called Drones, and the female the Queen-bee. The neuters are called Working bees.

⁕1 Reaumur.

⁕2 Barbut’s Genera Insectorum.

Notes and Corrections: The Hive Bee

skip to next section

Apis mellifica, the honeybee, is now known as Apis mellifera. Apparently Linnaeus changed his mind early on.

to occupy in the hive the least possible space.”
final . missing

This substance was known to the antients
[It is “the antients”, generically, because the Greek word πρόπολις was borrowed into Latin with no change in spelling.]

fill up such chinks, holes, or other deficiencies
text has deficiences

The trunk of the bee is a kind of rough cartilaginous tongue.
text has cartalaginous

several fell into the glass
missing word “the” supplied from 3rd edition


The Carding Bees nearly all perish in the winter; a few of the females only survive. These usually make their appearance early in the spring, as soon as the catkins of the willows are in blossom; upon which, at this time, they may commonly be seen collecting honey from the female, and pollen from the male catkins.

The neuters do not appear till the spring is somewhat III.399 advanced; and the males are most common in autumn, when the thistles are in blossom, upon the flowers of which they are abundant, sometimes seemingly asleep, or torpid, and, at other times, acting as if intoxicated with the sweets they have been imbibing.

When these animals, of any sex, are walking on the ground, if a finger be moved to them, they lift up three legs on one side, by way of defence; which gives them a very grotesque appearance.

Their nests are usually formed in meadows and pastures, sometimes in groves and hedge-rows, where the soil is entangled with roots; but now and then these are found in heaps of stones. When they do not meet with an accidental cavity ready made, they excavate one themselves with great labour. This they cover with a thick convex vault of moss, sometimes casing the interior surface with a kind of coarse wax to keep out the wet. At the lower part of the nest there is an opening for the inhabitants to go in and out at. This entrance is often through a long gallery, or covered way, a foot or upwards in length, by which the nest is more effectually concealed from observation.

The mode in which they transport the moss they use to their nest is singular. When they have discovered a parcel fitted to their purpose, and conveniently situated, they place themselves in a line, with their back turned towards the nest. The foremost lays hold of some with her jaws, and clears it bit by bit with her fore feet: when this is sufficiently disentangled, she drives with her feet under III.400 her belly, and as far as possible beyond, to the second. The second, in like manner, pushes it on to the third, and so on. Thus small heaps of prepared moss are conveyed to the nest by a file of four or five insects, where they are wrought and interwoven with the greatest dexterity by those that remain within.

The nests are often six or seven inches in diameter, and elevated to the height of four or five inches above the surface of the ground. When the covering of moss is taken up, an irregular comb presents itself, composed of an assemblage of oval bodies disposed one against another. Sometimes there are two or three combs, placed on one another, but not united. These combs vary in size: they consist of a number of oblong or oval cells or coccoons, of a silky substance, fastened together, and spun by the larvæ when they are about to undergo their first change; for the Carding Bees do not form waxen cells for their young. The cells are of three dimensions, answering to the three sexes. The void spaces between the cells are filled with masses of brown paste, made of gross wax, or pollen much wrought, and honey. Besides the masses they attach to every comb, particularly the uppermost, three, or four cells of the same coarse wax, in the shape of goblets, open at the top, which they fill with liquid and very sweet honey.—The first step towards furnishing a nest is to make a mass of the brown paste, and one of these honey-pots. The masses of paste are intended for the food of the larvæ, and in them the eggs are deposited. These III.401 vary in number, from three to thirty being to be found in one mass, but not all in the same cavity.

The larvæ are similar to those of the Hive Bee, but their sides are marked by irregular transverse black spots. These, after they are hatched, separate from each other, eating the paste that surrounds them. The honey-pots may be intended to supply honey for the occasional moistening of the paste in making repairs, &c. The pupa in each cell is placed with its head downwards, and makes its way out at the bottom of its coccoon.

The nests seldom contain more than fifty or sixty inhabitants. Of these the females (of which there is more than one in a nest) are the largest. The males are of a middle size, as is also one description of working-bees or neuters: the other neuters are the smallest, and not bigger than the Hive Bee. These two sorts of neuters, it is most probable, are appropriated to different kinds of work; the largest being the strongest, and the others the most lively, active, and expert. In this community, both the females and males act in concert with the neuters in fitting up or repairing their habitations.—The nests of the Carding-bees are exposed to various depredators; but field-mice and pole-cats are their most formidable enemies⁕1.

Apis muscorum. Linn.

⁕1 Kirby, i. p. 201.—Reaumur, tom. vi.

Notes and Corrections: Carding Bee

Apis muscorum, the carder bee, is now Bombus muscorum in family Apidae. The genus suggests it’s now considered a bumblebee.

the moss they use to their nest
text unchanged
[I’ll have to read it as “use for their nest”, since the 1st and 3rd editions shed no light.]


color picture of Orange-Tailed Bee, no later than 1827

Shaw Miscellany plate 454:
The Orange-Tailed Bee


This is one of the largest of the British bees; but it varies in size, being sometimes half an inch, and sometimes an inch in length. Its body is black or dark brown, and hairy; and the extremity of the abdomen of a bright orange colour. The wings are light brown.

engraving of Apis lapidaria, no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 98 (partial):
Apis: lapidaria

The nest constructed by this insect is of a very elegant appearance, being of an oval form, and composed of bits of the larger mosses, closely and neatly compacted together. A small round hole or entrance is left on one side. These nests are about four inches in diameter on the exterior, and are generally formed on dry shady banks, in woods, lanes, or meadows, The food laid up for the larvæ consists of a kind of honey of a brownish colour, disposed in somewhat irregular masses or heaps; for these bees do not form any regular cells or combs, like some of the others⁕1.

Synonyms.—Apis lapidaria. Linn.—Red-tailed Bee. Great Orange-tailed Garden Bee. Shaw’s Nat. Mis.

⁕1 Shaw’s Nat. Mis. vol. xii. tab. 454.

Notes and Corrections: Orange-Tailed Bee

Apis lapidaria is now Bombus lapidarius, implying that—like the Carding Bee—it is more of a bumblebee.

engraving of Formica rubra (Ant) in different states, no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 100:
Formica: F. rubra in its different states: neuter, nat. size (top);
sting, female nat. size (middle); pupa, larva; female (bottom)

larger image


All the species of Ants known in this country are gregarious; and, like the bees, consist of males, III.403 females, and neuters, of which the latter are alone the labourers. These build in the ground an oblong nest, in which there are various passages and apartments. In the formation of this nest every individual is occupied: some are employed in securing a firm and durable ground-work, by mixing the earth with a sort of glue produced in their bodies: others collect little bits of twigs to serve as rafters, which they place over their passages, to support the covering: others again lay pieces across these, and place on them rushes, weeds, and dried grass. The latter they secure so firmly as completely to turn off the water from their magazines.

A gentleman of Cambridge one day observed an Ant dragging along what, with respect to its strength, might be denominated a piece of timber. Others were severally employed, each in its own way. Presently this little creature came to an ascent, where the weight of the wood seemed for a while to overpower him: he did not remain long perplexed with it; for three or four others, observing his dilemma, came behind and pushed it up. As soon, however, as he had got it on level ground, they left it to his care, and went to their own work. The piece he was drawing happened to be considerably thicker at one end than the other. This soon threw the poor fellow into a fresh difficulty: he unluckily dragged it between two bits of wood. After several fruitless efforts, finding it would not go through, he adopted the only mode that even a man in similar circumstances could have taken; he came behind it, pulled it back again, and turned it III.404 on its edge; when, running again to the other end, it passed through without the least difficulty.

The same gentleman says that, sitting one day after dinner in the garden of his college, he was surprised by remarking a single Ant busily employed in some work that caused him to make many journeys to and from the same place. This gentleman traced him to the entrance of the habitation of a community, from whence he observed him to take the dead body of an Ant in his fangs, and run away with it. He carried it to a certain distance, dropped it, and returned for another, which by the time of his arrival was brought to the same hole. This work was continued so long as the gentleman had time to remain near them⁕1.

In collecting their stores, these creatures may often be observed in full employment; one of them loaded with a grain of wheat, another with a dead fly, and several together hawling along the body of some larger insects. Whenever they meet with any food too large to admit of being dragged away, they devour so much of it upon the spot as to reduce it to a bulk sufficiently small for them to carry.

In all their excursions they have some object in view; and they very seldom return to the nest without either themselves bearing something, or without news that something of use has been discovered, in which joint assistance is necessary. If information is brought that a piece of sugar, or III.405 bread, or any kind of fruit, has been discovered, even in the highest story of a house, they range themselves in a line, and follow their leader to the spot. Of this the following is a remarkable instance related by Dr. Franklin: Believing that these little creatures had some means of communicating their thoughts or desires to one another, he tried several experiments with them, all of which tended to confirm his opinion; but one seemed more conclusive than the rest. He put a little earthen pot, containing some treacle, into a closet, into which a number of Ants collected, and devoured the treacle very quietly. But, on observing this, he shook them out, and tied the pot with a thin string to a nail which he had fastened into the cieling; so that it hung down by the string. A single Ant, by chance, remained in the pot: this Ant ate till it was satisfied; but, when it wanted to get off, it could not, for some time, find a way out. It ran about the bottom of the pot, but in vain; at last it found, after many attempts, the way to the cieling, by going along the string. After it was come there, it ran to the wall, and from thence to the ground. It had scarcely been away half an hour when a great swarm of Ants came out, got up to the cieling, and crept along the string into the pot, and began to eat again. This they continued till the treacle was all eaten; in the mean time one swarm running down the string, and the other up.

The Ants generally lay up a considerable quantity of different kinds of grain; but, to prevent this from taking root from the moisture of their cells, III.406 they instinctively bite off that end from which the blade is produced.

From their eggs, the larvæ, a small kind of maggots without legs, are hatched, which soon transform into white chrysalids. The latter are generally called Ant’s eggs, and are frequently used for the feeding of young pheasants, partridges and nightingales. When a nest is disturbed, the Ants, with great care, collect all the young that are unhurt, and form a nest for them again. In their confusion they carry off the eggs and larvæ indiscriminately; but, as soon as quietness is restored among them, these are carefully separated, and each kind lodged in its own appropriate place.

During the warm season of the year they bring up the maggots nearly to the surface every morning: so that, from ten in the morning to about five in the afternoon, these may always be found lodged just under the surface of the ground. And if their hills be examined towards eight in the evening they will be found to have carried them all down; but, if rainy weather be coming on, it will even be necessary to dig a foot or two deeper than usual to find them.

In the last change, the little creature tears its transparent veil, and then bursts into life a perfect insect—destitute of wings if a neuter, and winged if male or female. The winged insects are also known by a small erect scale placed on the thread which connects the body and thorax.

The males are much smaller than the females, and seldom frequent the common habitation. All III.407 the labour the females undergo is in the laying of eggs; and the cold of the winter season always destroys them. The neuters, or labouring Ants, which alone are able to struggle through the cold months, pass these in a torpid state, in which they remain till spring restores to them their wonted activity. They, therefore, having no consumption for provisions, lay up no stores for winter.

The labouring Ants pay the utmost attention to the females. Mr. Gould, the author of a small treatise on English Ants, placed a female that he calls a Queen, of the small Black Ants, in a box, in the sliding cover of which there was an opening sufficient for the labourers to pass backwards and forwards, but so narrow as to confine the Queen. One part of them was constantly in waiting and surrounded her, whilst others went out in search of provisions. By some misfortune she died. The Ants, as if not apprised of her death, continued their obedience. They even removed her from one part of the box to another, and treated her with the same formality as if she had been alive. This lasted about two months; at the end of which the cover being opened, they forsook the box, and carried her off.

Ants frequently swarm on trees, where they have been supposed to do much injury. But this seems a very unjust charge against them: for in Switzerland they are even compelled to remain in the trees, in order to destroy the caterpillars. This is done by hanging a pouch full of Ants upon a tree, the root of which is smeared with wet clay or pitch to III.408 prevent their escape: in consequence of this, they are soon compelled by hunger to seize upon the caterpillars and devour them.

The females and neuters are armed with a sting. The males, besides being smaller than the females, are to be distinguished from these by the largeness of their eyes.

We are told that a very grateful acid is to be obtained from Ants by distillation: and we have one instance of a person being fond of eating them alive. As Mr. Consett was walking with a young gentleman in a wood near Gottenburg in Sweden, he says he observed him sit down on an ant-hill, and with a great degree of pleasure devour these insects, first nipping off their heads and wings. The flavour, according to his account, was an acid somewhat resembling, though much more agreeable than that of a lemon⁕2.

It is said that the Ants of the tropical climates are never torpid; that they build their nests with a dexterity, lay up provisions, and submit to regulations entirely unknown among those of Europe. They are in every respect a much more formidable race. Their stings produce insupportable pain, and their depredations do infinite mischief. Sheep, hens, and even rats, by loitering too near their habitations, are often destroyed by them. Bosman III.409 informs us that, while he was in Guinea, they have often attacked one of his sheep in the night; in which case the poor animal was invariably destroyed: and, so expeditious were they in their operations, that in the morning the skeleton only would be left. It sometimes happens that they quit their retreat in a body, and go altogether in search of prey.

“During my stay (says Smith) at Cape Coast Castle, a body of Ants came to pay us a visit in our fortification. It was about day-break when the advanced guard of this famished crew entered the chapel, where some negro servants were asleep on the floor. They were quickly alarmed at the invasion of this unexpected army, and prepared as well as they could for a defence. While the foremost battalion had already taken possession of the place, the rear guard was more than a quarter of a mile distant. The whole ground seemed alive, and crawling with immediate destruction. After deliberating a few minutes on what was to be done, it was resolved to lay a large train of gunpowder along the path they had taken. By these means millions were blown to pieces, and the rest, seeing the destruction of their leaders, thought proper instantly to return to their original habitation.”

Dampier, speaking of the natural productions in the Spanish settlements of South America, says that there were swarms of different species of Ants. “The great black Ant stings or bites almost as bad as a scorpion; and next to this the small yellow Ants’ bite is most painful: for their sting is like a III.410 spark of fire; and they are so thick among the boughs in some places that one shall be covered with them before he is aware. These creatures have nests on great trees, placed on the body between the limbs: some of their nests are as big as a hogshead. This is their winter habitation; for in the wet season they all repair to these their cities, where they preserve their eggs.

“In the dry season, when they leave their nests, they swarm all over the woodlands; for they never trouble the savannahs: great paths, three or four inches broad, made by them, may be seen in the woods. They go out light, but bring home heavy loads on their backs, all of the same substance, and equal in size. I never observed any thing besides pieces of green leaves, so big that I could scarcely see the insect for his burthen; yet, they would march stoutly, and so many were pressing forward that it was a very pretty sight, for the path looked perfectly green with them.

“There was one sort of Ants of a black colour, tolerably large, with long legs. These would march in troops, as if they were busy in seeking somewhat; they were always in haste, and always followed their leaders, let them go where they would. They had no beaten paths to walk in, but rambled about like hunters. Sometimes a band of these Ants would happen to march through our huts, over our beds, or into our pavilions, nay sometimes into our chests, and there ransack every part; and wherever the foremost went the rest all came after. We never disturbed them, but gave them free liberty III.411 to search where they pleased; and they would all march off before night. They were so very numerous that they would sometimes be two or three hours in passing, though they went very fast.”

The following is an account of three different kinds of Ants that were observed in New South Wales by the gentlemen in the expedition under captain Cook.

“Some are (says the writer) as green as a leaf, and live upon trees, where they build their nests of various sizes, between that of a man’s head and his fist. These nests are of a very curious structure: they are formed by bending down several of the leaves, each of which is as broad as a man’s hand, and glueing the points of them together, so as to form a purse. The viscous matter used for this purpose is an animal juice which nature has enabled them to elaborate. Their method of first bending down the leaves we had no opportunity to observe; but we saw thousands uniting all their strength to hold them in this position, while other busy multitudes were employed within, in applying this gluten that was to prevent their returning back. To satisfy ourselves that the leaves were bent and held down by the effort of these diminutive artificers, we disturbed them in their work; and as soon as they were driven from their station, the leaves on which they were employed sprang up with a force much greater than we could have thought them able to conquer by any combination of their strength. But, though we gratified our curiosity at III.412 their expence, the injury did not go unrevenged; for thousands immediately threw themselves upon us, and gave us intolerable pain with their stings, especially those which took possession of our necks and hair, from whence they were not easily driven. Their sting was scarcely less painful than that of a bee; but, except it was repeated, the pain did not last more than a minute.

“Another sort are quite black, and their operations and manner of life are not less extraordinary. Their habitations are the inside of the branches of a tree, which they contrive to excavate by working out the pith almost to the extremity of the slenderest twig; the tree at the same time flourishing as if it had no such inmate. When we first found the tree, we gathered some of the branches, and were scarcely less astonished than we should have been to find that we had profaned a consecrated grove, where every tree upon being wounded gave signs of life; for we were instantly covered with legions of these animals, swarming from every broken bough, and inflicting their stings with incessant violence.

“A third kind we found nested in the root of a plant, which grows on the bark of trees in the manner of misletoe, and which they had perforated for that use. This root is commonly as big as a large turnip, and sometimes much bigger: when we cut it, we found it intersected by innumerable winding passages, all filled with these animals, by which, however, the vegetation of the plant did not appear to have suffered any injury. We never cut one of III.413 these roots that was not inhabited, though some were not bigger than an hazel nut. The animals themselves are very small, not more than half as big as the common red Ant in England. They had stings, but scarcely force enough to make them felt: they had, however, a power of tormenting us in an equal if not in a greater degree; for the moment we handled the root they swarmed from innumerable holes, and, running about those parts of the body that were uncovered, produced a titillation more intolerable than pain, except it is increased to great violence⁕3”.

⁕1 Brit. Mus. MSS. Rev. Mr. Ascough’s Catalogue, No. 4436. 313.

⁕2 Consett, 118.

⁕3 Hawkesworth’s Account of Cook’s first Voyage.

Notes and Corrections: The Ants

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Ants, Linnaeus’s genus Formica, are primarily family Formicidae in superfamily Vespoidea within Hymenoptera. As the name suggests, wasps are in the same superfamily.

fastened into the cieling . . . the way to the cieling . . . got up to the cieling
[Once is a typo. Twice is an archaic spelling. Thrice and it’s time to tell the spell checker to shut up about it.]

the cold of the winter season always destroys them
text has de-/troys at line break

able to conquer by any combination of their strength
text has strengh


These Ants, which took their name from their ruinous effects on the sugar-cane, first made their appearance in Grenada about thirty years ago, on a sugar plantation at Petit Havre, a bay five or six miles from the town of St. George. From thence they continued to extend themselves on all sides, for several years; destroying in succession every sugar-plantation between St. George’s and St. John’s, a space of about twelve miles. At the same time colonies of them began to be observed in other parts of the island.

All attempts of the planters to put a stop to the ravages of these insects having been found ineffectual, an act was passed by the legislature, by which III.414 the discoverer of any practicable method of destroying them, so as to permit the cultivation of the sugar-cane as formerly, was entitled to twenty thousand pounds, to be paid from the public treasury of the island.

Many were the candidates on this occasion, but very far were any of them from having any just claim. Considerable sums of money were, however, granted in consideration of trouble and expences in making experiments.

These ants, which were also injurious to several sorts of trees, as the lime, lemon, orange, &c. were of a middle size, and of a dark red colour.—Their numbers were incredible. The roads have been seen covered with them for miles together; and so crowded were they in many places that the print of the horses’ feet would appear for a moment or two, till filled up by the surrounding multitudes. All the other species of ants, although numerous, were circumscribed, and confined to a small spot, in proportion to the space occupied by the sugar-ants, as a mole-hill to a mountain.

Their destruction was attempted chiefly by poison, and the application of fire.

Corrosive sublimate and arsenic, mixed with animal substances, was greedily devoured by them. Myriads were thus destroyed, and the more, as they were by these applications rendered so furious as to destroy each other: yet it was found that these poisons could not be laid in sufficient quantities even to give the hundred-thousandth part of them a taste.


The use of fire afforded a greater probability of success. When wood was burnt to the state of charcoal, without flame, and immediately taken from the fire, and laid in their way, they crowded to it in such astonishing numbers as soon to extinguish it, although with the destruction of thousands. Holes were therefore dug at proper distances, and a fire made in each of them. Prodigious quantities perished in this way; for the places of those fires, when extinguished, appeared in the shape of mole-hills, from the numbers of the dead bodies heaped on them. Nevertheless the ants appeared again as numerous as ever.

This calamity, which resisted so long the efforts of the planters, was at length removed by another, which, however ruinous to the other islands in the West Indies, and in other respects, was to Grenada a very great blessing, namely, the hurricane in 1780. Without this it is probable that the cultivation of the sugar-cane in the most valuable parts of that island must have, in a great measure, been thrown aside, at least for some time.

These ants make their nests only under the roots of particular plants and trees, such as the sugar-cane, the lime, lemon, and orange trees, where they are protected from the winds and rain; and the mischief done by them does not arise from their devouring those plants, but from these lodgments at their roots. Thus the roots of the sugar-cane are somehow or other so injured by them as to be incapable of supplying due nourishment to the plants, which therefore become sickly and stunted, and consequently III.416 do not afford juices fit for making sugar, either in any quantity or of any tolerable quality.

By the violence of the tempest, trees and plants (which commonly resist the ordinary winds) were torn out by the roots. The canes were universally twisted about as if by a whirlwind, or torn out of the ground altogether. In the latter case, both the breeding ants and their progeny must have been exposed to inevitable destruction from the deluge of rain which fell at the same time. The number of canes, however, thus torn out of the ground, could not have been adequate to the sudden diminution of the sugar-ants; but it is easy to conceive that the roots of canes which remained on the ground, and the earth about them, were so agitated and shaken, and at the same time the nests were so broken open, or injured by the violence of the wind, as to admit the torrents of rain accompanying it. The principal destruction of the ants is supposed therefore to have been thus effected⁕1.

Formica saccharivora. Linn.

⁕1 Phil. Tran. vol. xxx. p. 346.

Notes and Corrections: The Sugar-Ant

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Formica saccharivora (“sugar-eating ant”) still has that binomial.

The roads have been seen covered with them for miles together; and so crowded were they
[Text has “have been / covered with them for miles together; and so seen / crowded”. Corrected from 1st and 3rd edition. In the 2nd edition, the word “seen” appears at the end of a line, when it should have been at the beginning of the same line:]

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The use of fire afforded a greater probability of success.
text has probabilty

was at length removed by another
text has lenth

incapable of supplying due nourishment
text has suppling


engraving of magnified head of Oestrus (gadfly), no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 108 (partial):
Oestrus: head magnified


The mouth in the Oestri is merely a simple aperture. They have two feelers, but no beak. The antennæ are short, and consist of three articulations, the last of which is nearly globular, and furnished with a bristle on the fore part: they are placed in two hollows on the front of the head. The face is broad, depressed, vesicular and glaucous, and has been thought to bear some distant resemblance to that of the Ape tribe.

The larvæ are without feet, short, thick, soft and annulate, and are often furnished with small hooks. These lie hid in the bodies of cattle, where they are nourished the whole winter. The perfect insects are to be met with in the summer in most places where horses, cows, or sheep are grazing. Some of them lay their eggs under the skin of cows or oxen, which they pierce for that purpose; others, for the same end, are conveyed into the intestines of horses: and others again deposit them in the nostrils of sheep. In these different habitations the respective larvæ reside till full grown, when they let themselves fall III.418 to the earth; and generally pass the chrysalid state under cover of the first stone they meet with.

From the posterior part of the body of the perfect insect issues a wimble of wonderful structure. It is a scaly cylinder, composed of four tubes, which draw out like the pieces of a spying-glass: the last of these is armed with three hooks, and is the gimlet with which the insect bores through the tough hide of horned cattle. When the egg is hatched, the grub feeds on the matter issuing from the wound. The nidus forms upon the body of cattle a lump, sometimes above an inch high. When the larva is full grown, it breaks through the tumour, and slides down to the ground in the cool of the morning. It then digs itself a burrow, into which it retires. Its skin hardens to a very solid shell, where it is transformed to a chrysalis, and afterward to a winged insect. This shell has a small valve at one end, fastened by a very slight ligament; without which, so careful is nature in the preservation of her offspring, the insect would not be able to escape from its confinement⁕2.

⁕1 The Linnean order Diptera commences here.

⁕2 Barbut’s Gen. Insect. 296.

Notes and Corrections: The Oestri, or Gad-Flies

Gadflies, bot flies and the like, Linnaeus’s genus Oestrus, are family Oestridae in the large order Diptera.

engraving of Oestrus equi (Ox Gadfly), no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 108 (partial):
Oestrus: bovis (right); larva, pupa (left)


Has brown unspotted wings; and the abdomen is marked with a black band in the middle, and has dusky yellow hairs at the tip. The front is III.419 white, and covered with down; and the thorax is yellowish before, black in the middle, and cinereous behind. The female differs from the male, in having a black style at the end of the abdomen.

This insect deposits its eggs in the back of the ox; and the larva lives beneath the skin, between this and the cellular membrane. Its sac or abscess is somewhat larger than the insect, and, by narrowing upwards, it opens externally to the air by a small apperture.

The larva is smooth, white, and transparent when young, but, when full grown, is of a deep brown. It is also supplied in this state with innumerable minute hooks, ranged in contrary directions on its body; with which, by occasionally erecting or depressing them, it is moved about in the abscess; and from this motion, and the consequent irritation, a more or less copious secretion of pus takes place for its sustenance.

When the larva is full grown, it effects its escape from the abscess by pressing against the external opening. When this becomes of sufficient size, it writhes itself through, and falls from the back of the animal to the ground; and, seeking a convenient retreat, becomes a chrysalis. After the exit of the larva, the wound in the skin is generally closed up and healed in a few days.

The Ox Gad-fly is the largest of the European species, and is very beautiful. When the perfect insect leaves the chrysalis, it forces open a very remarkable marginated triangular lid, which is situated on one side of the small end.


The pain it inflicts in depositing its egg is much more severe than in any of the other species. When one of the cattle is attacked by this fly, it is easily known by the extreme terror and agitation of the whole herd. The unfortunate object of the attack runs bellowing from among them to some distant part of the heath, or the nearest water, while the tail, from the severity of the pain, is held with a tremulous motion straight from the body, in the direction of the spine, and the head and neck are also stretched out to their utmost length. The rest, from fear, generally follow to the water, or disperse to different parts of the field.

Such is the dread that cattle have of these flies that, when one of them has met a herd, in their way home from the labour of the day, they have been known to turn back in the utmost affright, regardless entirely of the stones, sticks, and noise of their drivers; and to proceed, without stopping, to some retreat in the water, where they could be secure from its attacks. All flies of this tribe have such a dislike to water as never to follow them there.

When the oxen are yoked to the plough, the attack of this fly is attended with real danger, as they become perfectly uncontrollable, and will often run with the plough directly forwards, even through the hedges of the field. To many ploughs there is, on this account, a contrivance to set them at liberty the moment they are alarmed.

The female fly is very quick in her operation of depositing the egg: she does not remain on the III.421 back of the animal more than a few seconds.—The larvæ of this insect are known among the common people by the name of Wornuls, Wormuls, Warbles, or Bots⁕1.

Synonyms.—Oestrus bovis. Linn.—Larvæ called Bots, Wormuls, Wornuls, or Warbles.

⁕1 Lin. Tran. iii. 291. tab. 23.

Notes and Corrections: The Ox Gad-Fly

Oestrus bovis is now Hypoderma bovis, the northern cattle grub.

engraving of Oestrus equi (Horse Gadfly), no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 108 (partial):
Oestrus: equi (right); larva (left)


The larvæ of this fly are those odd-looking grubs which are commonly found in the stomach of horses, and sometimes, though much less frequently, in the intestines. Here they hang in clusters of from half a dozen to more than a hundred, adhering to the inner membrane of the stomach, by means of two small hooks or tentacula at their heads, whose points turn outward.

When they are removed from the stomach, they will attach themselves to any loose membrane, even to the skin of the hand. To do this they draw back their hooks, which have a joint near their base, almost entirely within their skin, till the two points come close to each other; then, keeping them parallel, they pierce through the membrane, and immediately afterwards expand in a lateral direction, and by these means they become perfectly fixed.

Their food is probably the chyle, that white juice which is formed in the stomach by the digestion of the food, and which is afterwards converted into III.422 blood. This they suck in at a small longitudinal aperture, situated between the hooks.

From their slowness of growth, and the very small quantity of food they require, it has been found extremely difficult to destroy them by any medicine or poison that could be thrown into the stomach. They are, however, not now considered so injurious to horses as they formerly were, and therefore the difficulty of their extirpation seems not a matter of so much consequence as people have imagined.

The mode pursued by the parent fly to obtain for its young a situation in the stomach of the horse is very singular:—The female, when the time for laying her eggs is at hand, approaches on wing that part of the horse where she intends to deposit the egg, with her body nearly upright; and her tail, which is lengthened out for the purpose, bent inwards: she scarcely appears to settle, but merely touches the hair, with the egg held out on the projected point of the abdomen. The egg adheres by means of a glutinous liquor secreted with it. She then leaves the horse, goes to a small distance, and prepares a second egg; then, poising herself before the part, deposits this in the same way. The liquor dries, and the egg becomes firmly glued to the hair: this is repeated by various flies, till 400 or 500 eggs are sometimes laid on one horse.

The inside of the knee is the part on which these flies principally deposit their eggs; and next to this they fix them on the sides, and the back part of the shoulder: but always in places that are liable to be licked by the tongue. When these eggs have remained III.423 on the hairs four or five days they become ripe, after which the slightest application of warmth and moisture is sufficient to bring them into life. If at this time the tongue of the horse touches the egg, its lid is thrown open, and a small active worm is produced, which readily adheres to the surface of the tongue, and is from thence conveyed with the food to the stomach.

It is however fortunate for the horses that this insect is exposed to so many hazards that scarcely one in a hundred arrives at the perfect state of a fly. The eggs, when ripe, often hatch of themselves, and the larvæ crawl about till they die; others are washed off by the water. When in the mouth of the animal, they have to undergo the ordeal of the teeth and mastication; and many pass entirely through the intestines with the food. When the larvæ arrive at full growth, and are voided along with the dung, many are either dropped into mud or water, others are crushed to death by being trod upon, and others are picked up by the birds. The perfect fly is very tender, and but ill sustains the changes of weather; and cold and moisture, in any considerable degree, are probably often fatal to it.

This Gad-fly is distinguished from the rest of its tribe by having a black band in the middle, and two dots at the tip of its whitish wings. The abdomen is yellow brown, with black spots at the divisions of the segments. The female is more brown than the male, and has her abdomen elongated with a cleft terminal style⁕1.

Synonyms.—Oestrus equi. Linn.—Forest-fly, in Hampshire.

⁕1 Linn. Tran. iii. 298. tab. 23.

Notes and Corrections: The Horse Gad-Fly

In Bingley’s time there were two competing Oestrus equi—one named by Fabricius in 1787, the other by Clark ten years later. Fabricius’s version seems to be a dead end; Clark’s version, the horse bot fly, is now Gasterophilus intestinalis (“intestinal stomach-lover”) elsewhere in the Oestridae family.

by these means they become perfectly fixed
text has perfecly

The perfect fly is very tender
text has perflect


engraving of Oestrus ovis (Sheep Gadfly), no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 108 (partial):
Oestrus: ovis (right); larva, pupa (left)


The manner in which the Gad-fly of the Sheep deposits its egg has been seldom noticed; nor is it easy, from the obscure and rapid motion of the insect, to discern the exact manner in which this is accomplished. The moment the flies touch the noses of the sheep, they shake their heads, and strike the ground violently with their fore feet: at the same time, holding their noses to the earth, they run away, looking about them on every side to see if the flies pursue. They also smell the grass as they go, lest one should be lying in wait for them. If they observe one, they gallop back, or take some other direction. As they cannot, like the horses, take refuge in the water, they have recourse to a rut, or dry dusty road, where they crowd together during the heat of the day, with their noses held close to the ground. This renders it difficult for the fly conveniently to get at the nostril. It is most probably from repeated attacks, and the consequent rubbing against the ground, that the nostril becomes highly inflamed and sore, and occasions their touch to be so much dreaded by the sheep⁕1.

Oestrus Ovis. Linn.

⁕1 Linn. Tran. iii. 313. tab. 23.

Notes and Corrections: The Sheep Gad-Fly

Oestrus ovis, the sheep bot fly, still has that binomial.


engraving of several Tipula (Crane Fly) species, no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 103:
Tipula: rivosa (top); plumosa with larva, crocata (middle);
cornicina (bottom)

larger image


The Tipulæ, in their general form, have a great resemblance to the Gnat. They have a very short membranaceous proboscis, the back of which is grooved, and receives a bristle. The feelers are two, incurved, thread-shaped, and longer than the head; and the antennæ are, for the most part, filiform.

The larvæ are without feet, soft, and cylindrical, and those of the larger species feed on the roots of plants, or in the hollows of decayed trees. Both the larvæ and chrysalids of the smaller Tipulæ are found in water, and are very various both in size and colour. Some, like the polypus, are furnished with a pair of arms; and others are inclosed in cylindrical tubes open at the ends. The latter swim nimbly, but the others always remain in the holes they have formed in the banks of rivulets. Some of the species spin a silken case round part of their body. Their whole frame is, in general, so very tender that a touch alone is often sufficient to crush them.

Notes and Corrections: The Tipulæ or Crane-Flies

Crane flies, Linnaeus’s genus Tipula, are primarily superfamily Tipuloidea—including family Tipulidae—in order Diptera.


In July 1795, Mr. Marsham had been informed that an insect had made its appearance among the wheat of a gentleman, a friend of his, in Hertfordshire, III.426 which threatened much mischief. Some of the ears were brought to him for examination; and, on opening those that seemed diseased, he found in many an orange-coloured powder, and in several one or two very minute larvæ of a yellow colour. On applying a magnifier, for they were too minute for examination with the naked eye, he supposed them at that time to be the larvæ of a small species of Musca; but they have since been discovered to belong to this tribe. They were thicker at one end than the other; extended and contracted themselves at pleasure; and had, in addition, a leaping motion, frequently springing full half an inch from the paper on which he examined them. The ears were put into water, with gauze tied round them; but, notwithstanding this care, the flies escaped, after their developement, without being seen. Mr. Marsham wrote to several friends, requesting their attention to this subject; in consequence of which, an accurate investigation was immediately set on foot.

It appears that these larvæ take their station in the longitudinal furrow of the grain, to the bottom of which they seem attached. Here probably sucking the milky juice which swells the grain, and thus depriving it of part, and in some cases, perhaps, of the whole of its moisture, they occasion it to shrink up, and become what the farmers call pungled. They infect several grains in the same ear, and some ears have been observed in which even a fourth of the grain was either destroyed, or very materially injured by them. The late sown wheat always III.427 appeared the most infected, arising, no doubt, from the seed of that sown earlier obtaining too great a degree of hardness, before the insects come out, to be liable to be much hurt by them.

The Rev. Mr. Kirby attended very closely to these insects; but it was some time before he was able to discover the parent flies, and still longer before he could find them in sufficient numbers to allow him to make the necessary observations as to their habits and economy.

In the beginning of June 1798, however, he chanced to walk through a corn-field in the evening, and, to his great surprise, observed an innumerable multitude of them flying about in every direction; and, for near a month afterwards, found them in the greatest abundance. They were seldom seen before seven o’clock; at eight the fields appeared to swarm with them, at which hour they were all busily engaged in laying their eggs; and about nine they generally disappeared. They were so extremely numerous that, if each of them were to lay its eggs in a different floret, and these eggs were permitted to produce larvæ, more than half the grain of the adjacent country would infallibly be destroyed. Twelve have been observed at the same moment laying their eggs in the same ear: but among all these myriads not one male could be discovered. During the day-time none of these insects are to be seen, as they then continue lodged in a state of repose upon the lower part of the culm. Upon shaking the stalks, however, they will fly about.


The female lays her eggs by means of a long retractile tube, which unsheaths an aculeus as fine as a hair, and very long.

These insects would soon become of serious injury to mankind, were not their race kept within due bounds by several natural enemies, some of which devour them, and others (Ichneumon Tipulæ) deposit their eggs in the larvæ, the young of which, when hatched there, find a proper nourishment in the bodies of their hosts.

This Ichneumon is about the size of the Wheat-fly: and in order to observe the manner of the female’s depositing her eggs in the caterpillars of the Wheat-fly, Mr. Kirby placed a number of the latter on a sheet of white paper, and then set an Ichneumon down in the midst of them. She soon discovered one of the larvæ; when vibrating her antennæ in an intense degree she fixed herself upon it, and, bending her abdomen obliquely under her breast, inserted her aculeus into the body of her victim, (which seemed by its motion to experience a momentary pain,) and there deposited a single egg. This being done, she went to a second, which was constrained to undergo the like operation, and so on to all the rest. She never deposited more than one egg in each larva; and when she was remarked to mount one that had been pricked before, she soon discovered her mistake and left it.

The size of the two insects is so nearly alike that one young only can be nourished by a single larva; and therefore instinct teaches the parent Ichneumons to deposit only this number in each.


Mr. Kirby proposes, as an additional remedy for this evil, that, when the wind is in a favourable quarter, the fumes of tobacco or sulphur should be thrown upon the corn. But, if this is done, it should be as soon as the ears begin to appear from the unsheathing leaf of the stalk.

The Wheat-fly is about the twelfth of an inch in length. Its body and legs are of a dull yellow colour, and the wings are whitish, with a fringed margin⁕1.

Tipula Tritici. Linn. Tran.

⁕1 Linn. Tran. iii. p. 243.—iv. p. 224. 240.—v. p. 96.

Notes and Corrections: The Wheat-Fly

Tipula tritici is now Contarinia tritici. It is not in Tipuloidea but a separate family, Cecidomyiidae.

others (Ichneumon Tipulæ) deposit their eggs in the larvæ
[Now Leptacis tipulae in family Platygastridae, superfamily Platy­gastroidea, order Hymenoptera—a different superfamily from the Ichneumons described earlier.]


The mouth of the insects of this tribe has a soft fleshy proboscis with two equal lips; and the sucker is furnished with bristles. The antennæ are generally very short.

The appellation of Fly has been given almost exclusively to these insects, probably from their being so much more common than any others. The larvæ of some of the species live in the water; others are found on trees, where they devour the plant-lice; and others in putrid flesh, cheese, &c. Most of the Flies sleep during the winter, and therefore lay up no provision for their nourishment in the cold season.—At the decline of the year, when the mornings and evenings become chilly III.430 many of the species come for warmth into houses, and swarm in the windows. At first they appear very brisk and alert; but as they grow torpid they are seen to move with difficulty, and at last are scarcely able to lift their legs, which seem as if glued to the glass; and by degrees many do actually stick on till they die in the place. It has been observed that some of the Flies, besides their sharp hooked nails, have also skinny palms or flaps to their feet, whereby they are enabled to stick on glass and other smooth bodies, and to walk on ceilings with their backs downward, by means of the pressure of the atmosphere on those flaps; the weight of which they easily overcome in warm weather, when they are brisk and alert. But towards the end of the year this resistance becomes too mighty for their diminished strength; and we see Flies labouring along, and lugging their feet in windows as if they stuck fast to the glass, and it is with the utmost difficulty they can draw one foot after another, and disengage their hollow caps from the slippery surface. On a principle exactly similar to this it is that boys, by way of amusement, carry heavy weights, by only a piece of wet leather at the end of a string, clapped close to the surface of a stone.

It is a very extraordinary fact that Flies have been known to remain immersed in strong liquors, even for several months, and afterward, on being taken out, and exposed to the air, have again revived. Some, we are told by Dr. Franklin, were drowned in Madeira wine, when bottled in Virginia to be sent to England. At the opening of a bottle III.431 of this wine at a friend’s house in London many months afterwards, three drowned flies fell into the first glass that was filled. The Doctor says that, having heard it remarked that drowned Flies were capable of being revived by the rays of the sun, he now proposed making the experiment. They were therefore exposed to the sun, upon the sieve which had been employed to strain them from the wine. In less than three hours two of them began by degrees to have life. They commenced this by some convulsive motions in the thighs; and, at length, they raised themselves upon their legs, wiped their eyes with their fore-feet, and, very soon afterwards, flew away.—The Rev. Mr. Kirby informs me that he has made the same observation on flies taken out of home-made wines. He says that many have recovered after being twelve months immersed.

Notes and Corrections: The Flies

Linnaeus’s genus Musca gave its name to family Muscidae in order Diptera. There are many other fly families; no two flies described in this section are in the same family, let alone the same genus.

it is with the utmost difficulty
text has utmust

engraving of Musca Carnaria (Fly), no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 107 (partial):
Musca: magnified views of head & trunk of M. Carnaria (top);
M. carnaria with larv. & pup. (bottom)


This insect is, in appearance, much allied to the large Blue-bottle flesh-fly⁕1. It is, however, somewhat more slender, and is besides of a greyish tint, occasioned by some irregular rather long stripes on the corcelet running lengthwise, and some still more irregular marks of the same kind on the body; all of them of a cinereous grey, separated by a shining brown, which, under certain points of view, appear of a blueish tint. Its legs are black, the halteres or III.432 balancers under its wings are whitish, and its reticular eyes somewhat red.

It is a fact not generally known that this is a viviparous insect, depositing its young in a living state on the meat in our shambles and larders. These young appear under the same worm-like form as the grubs produced from the Blue flesh-fly: they feed as those do, increase in size, undergo all their transformations in the same manner, and even in the fly state appear very little different. It appears that the eggs of this fly are extruded from the uterus into the cavity of the abdomen, and there undergo their first change, differing in this respect from most others of the insect tribes.

When the worms have attained their full size (which is generally in seven or eight days) they quit their food, and go in search of some loose earth, in which they bury themselves and undergo their metamorphosis.

Some others of the flies are also viviparous.

engraving of Musca vomistoria [sic], no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 107 (partial):
Musca: vomistoria

Musca carnaria. Linn.

⁕1 Musca vomitoria. Linn.

Notes and Corrections: The Common Flesh-Fly

Musca carnaria is now Sarcophaga carnaria (“carnivorous corpse-eater”) in family Sarcophagidae.

its reticular eyes somewhat red
text has somewat

[Footnote] Musca vomitoria
[This admirably named insect is now Calliphora vomitoria in family Calliphoridae. (Shaw’s illustration caption calls it “vomistoria”, but we know what he means.)]


Among the various causes of alarm experienced by the farmer in the course of his rural labours, few are more powerful, though many more justly so, than the larvæ or grubs of this little fly. These are lodged and nourished in the very heart of the stems of wheat and rye, just above the root, which by their voracity they entirely destroy.


The fly producing this destructive grub is not quite the fourth part of an inch in length. Its thorax is dark-coloured, but marked longitudinally with two yellow lines. The grubs are white, about two lines in length, composed of ten rings, with the head pointed at the end. The chrysalis is yellow, shining, rather more than one line long, and composed of rings.

In order to determine the species of this animal, Mr. Markwick planted some diseased roots of wheat in a small flower-pot filled with bran: this pot he covered over with gauze, in such a manner that no insect could get in from the outside, nor could any escape from within. Not very long afterward he discovered three small flies, which he found to be of this species, sitting on the inside of the gauze, and a few days after three more. There were in the pot six roots of diseased wheat, which thus produced six flies. On examining the roots, he now found an empty chrysalis in each.

The principal stems of the corn being entirely destroyed by this grub, gave the crop of wheat belonging to a friend of Mr. Markwick so disastrous an appearance that scarcely a hope was entertained of any produce: but after the grub had changed into its chrysalis state the mischief ceased, and none of the roots were so materially injured as to prevent them throwing out shoots on each side. At harvest-time it was a matter of most agreeable surprise that this should prove a good crop of wheat, with the ears throughout the field large and well filled. The owner even thought it the best crop on his farm, III.434 and conjectured that it would produce about three quarters and a half of threshed corn from each acre.

The wheat that was sown early, about the beginning of October, was alone affected by this insect. The reason was, probably, that the cold at the approach of winter had destroyed all the flies before the late sown wheat had time to spring out of the ground: consequently their eggs could not be laid in this. The fly appears to be perfected in May, or the beginning of June.

It was conjectured that this might be the Hessian fly, whose depredations in America have been so notorious. If this is the case, Mr. M. is of opinion that a little good English husbandry, by keeping the ground in heart, and thus enabling the wounded shoots to repair themselves by strong lateral ones, will prevent any serious alarms⁕1.

Musca Pumilionis. Linn.

⁕1 Linn. Tran. ii. p. 76. tab. 15.

Notes and Corrections: The Hessian Fly

Musca pumilionis is now Chlorops pumilionis in family Lauxaniidae.

[Question mark in the original—not only here but in the 1st and 3rd editions as well. Query: If he wasn’t sure of the common name, why he didn’t just use the binomial as his heading?]

The grubs are white, about two lines in length
[1/6 inch, or 4-5 mm.]

the Hessian fly, whose depredations in America
text has depradations


The larvæ of these flies are the troublesome maggots found in cheese, so well known to housewives under the name of Hoppers. They proceed from the eggs deposited in the crevices or holes of the cheese by a very common fly, about the tenth of an inch long, and of a dark colour, with whitish wings, each marked with a black rib.

This maggot is surprisingly strong and vigorous, III.435 and leaps to a considerable distance when disturbed. To do this it erects itself on its tail, and, bending its head into a circle, fixes two black claws at the end of the tail into two cavities formed for their reception at the back of the head. It then exerts its muscular powers, and, in suddenly extending its body, throws itself, for its size, to a vast distance. One of these, not a fourth of an inch long, has been known to leap thus out of a box six inches deep, or to twenty-four times its own length.

The rottenness of cheese is in a great measure occasioned by these little maggots; for they crumble the substance of it into small particles, and the smallest tainted spot immediately spreads when any of them get upon it.

When they are about to change into chrysalids, they desert the cheese, and in three or four days afterward grow stiff and lifeless. The fly bursts through an opening in the skin just at the head, which there divides into two parts. At its first appearance the wings are not fully formed, but it is able to run about with great activity: the wings expand by degrees, and in the course of a quarter of an hour they are perfected.

In the ovary of a single female no fewer than two hundred and fifty-six eggs have been found.

Synonyms.—Musca putris. Linn.—Larvæ called Hoppers.

Notes and Corrections: The Cheese-Fly

Musca putris is now Themira putris in family Sepsidae.

[Synonyms] Musca putris. Linn.
text has purtis

The larvæ of these flies are the troublesome maggots found in cheese
[The botflies I could handle, but now I’m going to be sick.]

engraving of Musca Chamæleon with pupa and larva, no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 105 (partial):
Musca: Chamæleon with pupa & larva


This is one of our most common two-winged insects. III.436 The egg from which it is produced is deposited by the female in the hollow stalks of reeds and other aquatic plants. From this proceeds a larva of singular structure, which is often to be seen crawling on grass and plants near shallow standing waters, or floating near the surface.

The general colour of the larvæ is a greenish brown. Their bodies consist of eleven rings, and their skin somewhat resembles parchment. Though these animals, before their transformation into flies, live in water, air is necessary to support their principle of life; and the apparatus with which nature has furnished them for that important purpose deserves our particular notice. The last ring or termination of their bodies is open, and serves as a conductor of air. From this ring proceed a number of hairs, which, when examined by the microscope, are found to be real feathers with regular vanes. In particular situations the larvæ bend the last ring in such a manner as to reach the surface of the water or mud in which they are placed. The feathers prevent the water from entering the tube or organ of respiration; and, when the animal raises the termination of its body to its surface, in order to receive air, it erects and spreads the feathers, and by these means exposes the end of the tube to the atmosphere. When it wishes to descend, it contracts the filaments into the form of a ball, and the bubble of air contained within it serves to keep the body in a vertical position.

If this insect be cautiously cut open, two large vessels, or tracheæ, will be seen on each side to occupy III.437 almost one half of the body. Both of these terminate in the open tube, or last ring. Though these larvæ are furnished with powers of respiration, and actually respire air, yet some of them are able to live more than twenty-four hours without respiration.

The head of this creature exhibits not less matter of curiosity than its tail. In the middle part of its mouth is placed a hard, pointed, horny substance, immoveable, and somewhat resembling the upper mandible in the beak of a bird. On each side of this there is a small and very singular kind of process. These have lately been discovered to be the feet, or, perhaps more properly, the arms, by which the animal performs many of its movements in the water, and by whose aid alone it can move itself forward on dry land. Another principal use of these members seems to be to loosen the mud for the purpose of allowing the mouth to find easier access into it than it otherwise might do; performing in some measure the same functions in this respect as the gristle in the nose of a hog. The animal has the power of drawing these organs inward at pleasure, so as to hide them as it were within the cheeks; and from this peculiar position some persons have said that this larva carries its feet in its mouth.

It is a calm inoffensive animal; discovers no symptoms of fear when man approaches, and performs in his presence all its usual operations with great tranquillity. It never attempts to injure or annoy any other creature in this state of its existence.


When the time of its metamorphosis approaches, the larva leaves the water, and, climbing up the side of the bank, chooses a place where it can lie only in part immerged in water. Here it remains at rest, until it finally attains its chrysalid state. From five to ten days are occupied in attaining its complete form, and becoming a fly. This change always takes place about the middle of July.

Musca Chamæleon. Linn.

Notes and Corrections: The Chamæleon Fly

Musca chamaeleon is now Stratiomys chamaeleon in family Stratiomyidae (which appears to mean “army mice”, go figure).

somewhat resembling the upper mandible in the beak of a bird
text has mendible

engraving of Musca (fly) and magnification, no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 105 (partial):
Musca: head magnified in its contracted state (top left);
head magnified in its extended state (top right);
pendula with larva & pupa (bottom)


The larvæ of the present species are usually found in moist places, such as are frequented by the common black lizard, and they never appear on dry ground till about to undergo their first transformation. In this state they somewhat resemble a tadpole, in form, the fore-part being soft, thick, and rounded, and the tail small and tapering. They are covered with a viscous fluid, and on that account are generally found encrusted with a coat of dirt. This seems to be their colour, till they are washed, when they are found of a transparent white.

The parent fly always lays her eggs in a place near the vicinity of water, that is, where it is betwixt moist and dry. M. Reaumur watched the motions of one of these insects, which he saw flying about a bucket of water that stood in his garden. After crossing it often, she at length descended within its mouth, and, then flying round and round it several times, stopped about an inch above the III.439 surface of the water, and laid, in several places, a little cluster of eggs. These were all deposited where the wood was just damp from the influence of the water below, and invariably in cavities between two adjoining staves, where the water was less likely to be dried up than elsewhere. In this situation, the young insect was no sooner extruded from the egg than it found itself within the reach of the element where it was destined to pass the most considerable part of its life.

The young are no sooner dropped into the water than, like all other animals in their natural element, they find themselves endowed with the instinct of searching for their own food, and of employing, in an appropriate manner, all the members of their body to the proper uses for which they are naturally adapted.

The tail of this insect, like that of the last, is its organ of respiration; and though, like the whale, it is an inhabitant of the water, yet, like that, it is a breathing animal, and would be entirely suffocated, were it to be continued under water and excluded from access to the air.

Reaumur, in order to observe the economy of these little creatures, which he denominated Rat-tailed Worms, collected a number of them, which he put into a glass vessel filled two inches high with water. At first they were considerably agitated, each seemingly searching for a proper place of repose. Some of them swam across, others attached themselves to the sides, and others rested at the bottom of the vessel. In a quarter of an hour they III.440 were almost all entirely tranquil, and Reaumur soon discovered the real use of their long tails. On examining the vessel, he found that each of the animals, in whatever situation they were placed, extended its tail exactly to the surface; that, like other aquatic insects, the respiration of air was necessary to their existence; and that the tail, which is tubular, and open at the extremity, was the organ by which this operation was performed. In this experiment, the distance from the bottom to the surface was two inches, and, of course, the tails were of an equal length. To discover how far the animals could extend their tails, this most ingenious and indefatigable philosopher gradually augmented the height of the water, and the tails uniformly rose to the surface till it was between five and six inches high. When the water was raised higher the animals immediately quitted their station at the bottom, and either mounted higher in the water, or fixed themselves upon the sides of the vessel, in situations which rendered it convenient for them to reach the surface with the points of their tails.—These tails consist of two tubes, both of which are capable of extension and contraction. The first tube is always visible; but the second, which is the proper organ of respiration, is exerted only when the water is raised beyond a certain height. Through this tube the air is conveyed into two large tracheæ or wind-pipes within the body of the animal, and thus maintains the principle of life. When the tails are below the surface, the animals occasionally emit small bubbles of III.441 air, which are visible to the naked eye, and immediately repair to the surface for fresh supplies.

So anxious is nature to provide animals in every state of their existence with air that, after the transformation of many insects into chrysalids, she creates instruments for that purpose, which did not exist previous to their transformation. These Rat-tailed Worms, soon after they are transformed into chrysalids, instead of a soft pliable skin, are covered with a hard crustaceous substance, seemingly impervious to the air; and the tail, which was the wind-pipe of the animal in its first state, gradually vanishes. In a few hours, however, four hollow horns shoot out, two from the fore and two from the under part of what was the head of the animal. These horns, which are hard and tubular, M. de Reaumur discovered to be real wind-pipes, destined for the intro­duction of air into the chrysalis; a state in which many animals have the appearance of being dead, and, of course, should seem to have little use for respiration. He likewise discovered that these horns, which had pierced the hard exterior covering, terminated in as many tracheæ in the body of the animal. This fact affords a strong example of the necessity of air for sustaining the principle of life, even in its lowest condition. After these animals pass from the chrysalis state to that of flies, they are deprived both of their tails and horns. But nature, in this last stage of their existence, has not left them without proper resources for the intro­duction of air into their bodies. Instead of protuberant tracheæ in the form of tails III.442 or horns, they now, like other flies, receive air by means of stigmata, or holes, variously disposed over different parts of the body.

These Rat-tailed Worms pass the first and longest part of their lives, which is supposed to be several months, under water. When near the time of their transformation, they leave that element, retire into the ground, and there become chrysalids. From this state they are changed into flies, and spend the remainder of their short existence in the air.

Musca pendula. Linn.

Notes and Corrections: The Rat-Tailed Worm Fly

skip to next section

Musca pendula is now Helophilus pendulus in family Syrphidae.

employing, in an appropriate manner,
text has mannner

Reaumur soon discovered the real use of their long tails
text has Reamur
[It’s really Réaumur, but the typesetter doesn’t seem to have cared for acute accents.]

the tails were of an equal length.
text has lengh

after the transformation of many insects into chrysalids
text has crysalids


The mouth of the Gnats has a long slender trunk, or flexile sheath, inclosing five pointed bristles; it has also two feelers. The antennæ are generally thread-shaped, but those of some of the males are feathered.

These insects principally frequent woods and watery places, and are generally known to the country people by the name of Midges. They live by sucking the blood and juices of the larger animals.

Their larvæ are very common in stagnant waters. The bodies of these are composed of nine segments, the last of which is furnished with a small cylindrical tube through which they breathe, frequently rising to the surface of the water for that purpose.—The head of the chrysalis is bent down towards the breast, so as to throw the thorax in front: in this the respiratory tubes are situated near the head. III.443 The last segment of the abdomen terminates in a kind of flat fin, by means of which the creature obtains its motion in the water.

Notes and Corrections: The Gnats

Gnats and mosquitoes, Linnaeus’s genus Culex, gave their name to family Culicidae in order Diptera.

engraving of Culex (Gnat), several views, no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 109:
Culex: common Gnat female magnified (top); pupa, larva, eggs (center);
Common Gnat male magnified (bottom)

larger image


Few insects are better known than this species of Gnat, and there are not many that afford a more interesting history.

From the beginning of May their larvæ may be seen in the stagnant waters, with their heads downward, and the extremity of their abdomen at the surface; from the side of which arises the hollow tube through which they respire. Their heads are armed with hooks, that serve to seize on insects and bits of grass on which they feed; and on their sides are four small fins, by the help of which they swim and crawl along. These larvæ retain their form during a fortnight or three weeks, after which they turn into chrysalids; and all the parts of the winged insect are now distinguishable through their thin exterior covering. The situation and shape of their respiratory tube is also altered: this is now divided into two parts, and is placed near the head. The chrysalids abstain from eating, and reside almost constantly at the surface of the water; but, on the least motion, they may be seen to unroll themselves from their spiral position, and, by means of little paddles on their hinder part, to plunge to the bottom. In the course of a few days they are transformed III.444 into perfect Gnats. The chrysalids swell at the head, and the flies burst from their inclosure. If at the instant of the change a breeze springs up, it proves to them a dreadful hurricane, as the water gets into their case, from which they are not yet perfectly loosened; this immediately sinks, and they are drowned⁕1.

The female deposits her eggs on the surface of the water, and surrounds them with a kind of unctuous matter, which prevents them from sinking; and she at the same time fastens them with a thread to the bottom, to prevent them from floating away, at the mercy of every breeze, from a place the warmth of which is proper for their production, to any other where the water may be too cold, or the animals, their enemies, too numerous. In this state they therefore resemble a buoy that is fixed by an anchor. As they come to maturity they sink deeper; and at last, when they leave the egg, they creep in the form of grubs at the bottom.

If the Gnats were not devoured by fish, water-fowl, swallows, and other animals, the air would often, from their immense multitudes, become darkened: a few instances have occurred in which this has been the case. In July, August, and September 1776, at Oxford, they were sometimes seen towards the evenings in such myriads as literally to darken the rays of the sun; and their repeated bites often swelled the exposed parts of the body to an enormous size, and caused the most troublesome III.445 and unpleasant sensations. Mr. Swinton, who has given an account of them in the Philosophical Transactions, has stated that he was one evening in the garden of Wadham College, about half an hour before sun-set, in company with another gentleman, when they were observed in numbers almost unexampled. Six distinct columns were observed to ascend from the tops of six branches of an apple-tree in an adjoining garden, separated from that in which they were stationed by a wall at least fifty or sixty feet in height. Two of these columns seemed perfectly erect, three of them were oblique, and one approached somewhat towards a pyramidal form. The bodies of some of the Gnats were greatly distended with blood; one, considerably larger than the rest, that was killed, had as much blood expressed from it as besmeared part of a wall three inches square.—About thirty years before this many columns of Gnats were observed to rise from the top of the cathedral church at Salisbury. At a little distance they had so great a resemblance to smoke as, at first, to occasion considerable alarm lest the church was on fire⁕2.

It is impossible to behold and not admire the beautiful structure of the proboscis of the Gnat, through which it draws the juices that afford it nourishment. The naked eye is only able to discover a long and slender tube, containing five or six spiculæ of exquisite fineness. These spiculæ, introduced into the veins of animals, act like the III.446 suckers of a pump, and cause the blood to ascend. The insect injects a small quantity of liquid into the wound, by which the blood is made more fluid. The animal swells, grows red, and does not quit its hold till it has gorged itself. The liquor it has injected causes, by its fermenting, a disagreeable itching, which may be removed by volatile alkali, or by immediately rubbing and washing the place with cold water⁕3.—We are also told that at night to rub the part affected with fuller’s earth and water will lessen the inflammation.

Gnats are said sometimes to shine in the dark.

The Musqueto-fly is nothing more than a large variety of the Common Gnat, which is very common in the woody and marshy parts of all hot climates. It also abounds, during their short summer, throughout Lapland, Norway, and Finland, and other countries equally near the Pole.

It is the female only that bites and sucks the blood; and this is so severe as to swell and blister the skin in a most violent manner, and sometimes even to leave obstinate sores. The Musquetoes are found in such swarms, in the woods, that whoever enters them is sure to have his face covered, and he is scarcely able to see his way before him. A swelling and disagreeable itching immediately follows the puncture, and these are succeeded by small white ulcers; so that the face of a person III.447 coming from the country is scarcely to be recognized, and it appears full of blotches. Even gloves are not always found a protection against these troublesome insects, as they often pass their stings through the seams.

Whilst the Laplanders are employed in the woods, on the necessary business of cutting timber, they are unable to take the refreshment of their meals; for their mouths, as soon as opened, would be filled with Musquetoes. If the wind happen to blow briskly, the animals disappear for the time; but no sooner is it again calm than they return, and crowd every place.—They also dreadfully infest the cattle and rein-deer. When these return from the woods, they are found covered with Musquetoes; and, on the insects being swept from their backs and sides, their skins are red with blood.

The lowest class of people, in all the climates where Musquetoes abound, keep them out of their huts, during the day, by burning there a continual fire: the Laplander has a better contrivance to defend himself from their stings while in bed. He fixes a leather thong to the poles of his tent, over his bed, which raises his canvas quilt to a proper height, so that its sides or edges touch the ground. Under this he creeps and passes the night in security.—When Mr. Acerbi and his friends arrived in a cottage in the village of Kollare, in Lapland, the first favour the women conferred on them was to light a fire, and fill the room so full of smoke that it brought tears from their eyes. This was done to deliver them from the molestation of the Musquetoes; III.448 and, as a means of effectual prevention, they made a second fire near the entrance of the apartment, to stop the fresh myriads which, after the death of these, would otherwise have rushed in upon them from without.

Smoke being found to keep Musquetoes at a distance, the Laplanders generally contrive that, while one man is milking the Rein-deer, another shall hold a firebrand over him. By this contrivance the animals are kept quiet⁕4.

The buzzing of the Musquetoes is so very loud as to disturb the rest of persons in the night almost as much as would be done by their bite. The more opulent inhabitants of climates where they abound usually sleep under nets of thin gauze.

Culex pipiens. Linn.

⁕1 Barbut’s Gen. Insect. 306.

⁕2 Swinton in Phil. Tran. vol. lvii. p. 111.

⁕3 Barbut’s Gen. Insect. 306.

⁕4 Acerbi, ii. 5. 179.

Notes and Corrections: The Common Gnat

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Culex pipiens still has that binomial; its everyday name is Northern house mosquito. (The Spanish word “mosquito” was almost unknown in English until the second half of the 19th century, and didn’t become common until the 1890s. In the first half of the century it was as likely to be spelled “musquito” or even, as Bingley has it, “musqueto”.)

one evening in the garden of Wadham College
[Nope, I’d never heard of it either. Its alumni include Christopher Wren, so clearly someone had heard of it.]

as much blood expressed from it as besmeared part of a wall
missing word “it” supplied from 3rd edition

It is impossible to behold and not admire the beautiful structure of the proboscis of the Gnat
[By this time it should be obvious that William Bingley really, really liked insects.]


engraving of Termes arborum and Termes bellicosus (Termites), no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 118:
Termes: T. arborum (top); T. bellicosus (middle);
Pregnant Queen or female, nat. size

larger image


The present tribe is arranged by Linnæus among the apterous insects: but it might with equal propriety have been inserted with the Neuroptera or Hymenoptera; for the males of most of the species, in a perfect state, have either two or four wings.

The mouth is furnished with two horny jaws, and has a horny four-cleft lip. The feelers are four in number, thread-shaped, and equal. The antennæ in some of the species are beaded, and in others tapering.

⁕1 The Linnean genus of Apterous Insects commences with this tribe.

Notes and Corrections: The Termes Tribe

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Termites are an order all to themselves, Isoptera (“equal wings”). Within this order, Linnaeus’s genus Termes gave its name to family Termitidae, higher termites (as opposed to subterranean termites, dry-wood termites, rotten-wood termites and so on). Unlike much of Aptera—an order that no longer exists—termites are definitely insects.

[Footnote] The Linnean genus of Apterous Insects commences with this tribe.
text has Apterus
[More importantly, he means “Linnean order”. Unlike the previous six orders—Coleoptera, Lepidoptera and so on—Aptera no longer exists. Some of its members have been promoted to orders of their own; a great many more are not insects at all.]


This insect is about a tenth of an inch long. At first sight it has greatly the appearance of a Louse: its mouth, however, with a glass is seen to be reddish, and its eyes are yellow. The antennæ are sharply pointed and somewhat long. It is sometimes, though very rarely, observed to have wings.

It is usually found in old wood, decayed furniture, museums and neglected books; and both the male and female have the power of making a ticking noise, not unlike that of a watch, to attract each other. These little animals are in considerable III.450 numbers during the summer months; but, when disturbed, they run so nimbly into a hiding-place as not often to be remarked. When they are disturbed, they are very shy in making their noise, but if they can be viewed without being alarmed by noise, or moving the place where they are, they will not only beat freely but even answer any person’s beating with his nail. At every stroke their body shakes, or seems affected as by a sudden jerk; and these jerks succeed each other so quickly that it requires great steadiness to perceive with the naked eye that the body has any motion. They are scarcely ever heard to beat before July, and never later than the sixteenth of August. It appears strange that so small an animal should be able to make a noise so loud as is frequently to be heard from this; sometimes equal to that of the strongest beating watch. Dr. Derham seems to have been the first naturalist who examined and described this species. He had often heard the noise, and in pursuing it had found nothing but these insects, which he supposed incapable of producing it; but one day, by finding that the noise proceeded from a piece of paper loosely folded, and lying in a good light in his study window, he viewed it through, and with a microscope observed, to his great astonishment, one of them in the very act of beating. In some years they are more numerous than in others, and their ticking is of course more frequently heard: Dr. Derham says that, during the month of July, in one particular summer, they scarcely ever ceased, either in the day or night.


The female lays her eggs in dry and dusty places, where they are likely to meet with the least disturbance: these are exceedingly small, and are not unlike the nits or eggs of lice. They are generally hatched about the beginning of March, or a little sooner or later according to the weather. After leaving the egg, the animals are so small as scarcely to be discerned without the assistance of a glass. They continue in this larva state, somewhat resembling in appearance the mites in cheese, about two months; after which they undergo their change.

They feed on dead flies and other insects; and, from their numbers and voracity, often very much deface cabinets of natural history. They also live on various other substances, and may frequently be observed hunting for nutritious particles with great care and attention, among the dust in which they are found: turning it over with their heads, and searching among it somewhat in the manner of swine. Many of them live through the winter; but during that time, in order to avoid the inconveniences of frost, they bury themselves deep in dust⁕1.

The Death-watch Termes seems to bear very little relation to the following species.

Synonyms. Termes pulsatorium. Linn.—Procus pulsatorius. Fabricius.

⁕1 Phil. Tran. vol. xxvi. p. 231.

Notes and Corrections: The Death-Watch Termes

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Termes pulsatorium is probably Trogium pulsatorium in family Trogiidae, order Psocodea. (At least two other insects have borne this binomial. So it could also be Lepinotus inquilinus elsewhere in Trogiidae, or even Liposcelis divinatoria in family Liposcelidae of the same order.)

The binomial Procus pulsatorius attributed to Fabricius is probably an error for Psocus pulsatorius, since Procus with an “r” is, or was, a butterfly genus. P. pulsatorius is now Lachesilla pedicularia in family Lachesillidae, order Psocodea.

No matter what you call it, it is not a termite; order Psocodea—or, if you prefer, Psocoptera—is bark lice.

. missing


The animals of this extraordinary community are found in the East Indies, and in many parts of Africa III.452 and South America, where their depredations are greatly dreaded by the inhabitants. Mr. Smeathman, whose account of them occupies above fifty pages in the seventy-first volume of the Philosophical Transactions, says that they are naturally divided into three orders: 1. The working insects, which he distinguishes by the name of labourers; 2. The fighters or soldiers, which perform no other labour than such as is necessary in defence of the nests; and, 3. The winged or perfect insects, which are male and female, and capable of multiplying the species. These last he calls the nobility or gentry; because they neither labour nor fight.

In their nest or hill, for they build on the surface of the ground, the labourers are always the most numerous. There are at least a hundred labourers to one of the fighting insects or soldiers. When in this state, they are about a fourth of an inch in length; which is rather smaller than some of our ants.

The second order, or soldiers, differ in figure from the labourers. These appear to be such insects as have undergone one change toward their perfect state. They are now near half an inch in length, and equal in size to about fifteen of the labourers. The form of the head is likewise greatly changed. In the labourer state, the mouth is evidently formed for gnawing, or for holding bodies; but, in the soldier state, the jaws, being shaped like two sharp awls a little jagged, are destined solely for piercing or wounding. Fur these purposes they are well calculated; being as hard as a crab’s claw, and placed III.453 in a strong horny head, which is larger than all the rest of the body.

The insect of the third order, or in its perfect state, is still more remarkable. The head, the thorax, and the abdomen, differ almost entirely from the same parts in the labourers and soldiers. The animals are besides now furnished with four large brownish transparent wings, by which they are enabled, at the proper season, to emigrate, and to establish new settlements. They are now also greatly altered in their size as well as figure, and have acquired the powers of propagating the species. Their bodies now measure near three quarters of an inch in length, their wings, from tip to tip, above two inches and a half, and their bulk is equal to that of thirty labourers, or two soldiers. Instead of active, industrious, and rapacious little animals, when they arrive at their perfect state, they become innocent, helpless, and dastardly. Their numbers are great, but their enemies are still more numerous: they are devoured by birds, by every species of ants, by carnivorous reptiles, and even by the inhabitants of many parts of Africa. After such devastation it seems surprising that even a single pair should escape. “Some, however,” says Mr. Smeathman, “are so fortunate; and being found by some of the labouring insects, that are continually running about the surface of the ground under their covered galleries, are elected Kings and Queens of new states; all those, which are not so elected and preserved, certainly perish. The manner in which these labourers protect the happy pair from their innumerable III.454 enemies, not only on the day of the massacre of almost all their race, but for a long time after, will, I hope, justify me in the use of the term election. The little industrious creatures immediately inclose them in a small chamber of clay suitable to their size, into which at first they leave but one entrance, large enough for themselves and the soldiers to go in and out at, but much too little for either of the royal pair to use; and, when necessity obliges them to make more entrances, they are never larger; so that, of course, the voluntary subjects charge themselves with the task of providing for the offspring of their sovereigns, as well as of working and fighting for them, until they have raised a progeny capable at least of dividing the task with them.”

About this time a most extraordinary change takes place in the queen. The abdomen begins to extend and enlarge to such an enormous size, that an old queen will sometimes have it so much increased as to be near two thousand times the bulk of the rest of her body, The skin between the segments of the abdomen extends in every direction; and at last the segments are removed to the distance of half an inch from each other, though at first the whole length of the abdomen was not half an inch. When the insect is upward of two years old, the abdomen is increased to three inches in length, and it is sometimes seen near twice that size. It is now of an irregular oblong shape, and is become one vast matrix full of eggs, which make long circumvolutions through an innumerable quantity of very minute vessels, that circulate round the inside in a III.455 serpentine manner. When the eggs are perfectly formed, they begin to be protruded, and they come forth so quickly that about sixty in a minute, or upward of eighty thousand in twenty-four hours, are deposited.

These eggs are immediately taken away by the attendants, and carried to the nurseries. Here they are hatched. The young are attended and provided with every thing necessary, until they are able to shift for themselves, and take their share in the labours of the community.

The nests, or rather hills, of these Ants, for they are often elevated ten or twelve feet above the surface of the ground, are nearly of a conical shape; and sometimes so numerous as at a little distance to appear like villages of the negroes. Jobson, in his History of Gambia, says that some of them are twenty feet high, and that he and his companions have often hidden themselves behind them, to shoot deer and other wild animals. Each hill is composed of an exterior and an interior part. The exterior cover is a large clay shell, shaped like a dome, of strength and magnitude sufficient to inclose and protect the interior building from the injuries of the weather, and to defend its numerous inhabitants from the attacks of natural or accidental enemies.

These hills make their first appearance in the form of conical turrets about a foot high. In a short time the insects erect, at a little distance, other turrets, and go on increasing their number and widening their bases, till their underworks are entirely covered with these turrets, which the animals always III.456 raise highest in the middle of the hill; and, by filling up the intervals between each, they collect them, at last, into one great dome.

The royal chamber is always situated as near the centre of the building as possible, and is generally on a level with the common surface of the ground. It is nearly in the shape of half an egg, or an obtuse oval, within, and may be supposed to represent a long oven. In the infant state of the colony, it is not above an inch in length; but in time it becomes increased to six or eight inches, or more, being always in proportion to the size of the queen, who, increasing in bulk as in age, at length requires a chamber of such dimensions.

The entrances into the royal chamber not admitting any animal larger than the labourers or soldiers, it follows that the king and queen can never possibly get out. This chamber is surrounded by an innumerable quantity of others, of different sizes, figures, and dimensions; all of them arched either in a circular or an elliptical form. These chambers either open into each other, or have communicating passages; which, being always clear, are evidently intended for the convenience of the soldiers and attendants, of whom great numbers are necessary. The latter apartments are joined by the magazines and nurseries. The magazines are chambers of clay, and are at all times well stored with provisions, which, to the naked eye, seem to consist of the raspings of wood and plants; but, when examined by the microscope, they are found to consist chiefly of the gums or inspissated juices of plants, thrown III.457 together in small irregular masses. Of these masses, some are finer than others, and resemble the sugar about preserved fruits; others resemble the tears of gum, one being quite transparent, another like amber, a third brown, and a fourth perfectly opaque.

The magazines are always intermixed with the nurseries, buildings totally different from the rest of the apartments. These are composed entirely of wooden materials, which seem to be cemented with gums. They are invariably occupied by the eggs, and the young which first appear in the shape of labourers. These buildings are exceedingly compact, and are divided into a number of small irregular-shaped chambers, not one of which is half an inch wide. They are placed all round, and as near as possible to the royal apartments.

When a nest is in an infant state, the nurseries are close to the royal apartment. But, as in process of time the body of the queen enlarges, it becomes necessary, for her accommodation, to augment the dimensions of her chamber. She then, likewise, lays a greater number of eggs, and requires more attendants: of course, it is necessary that both the number and dimensions of the adjacent apartments should be augmented. For this purpose, the small first built nurseries are taken to pieces, rebuilt a little farther off, and made a size larger, and their number, at the same time, is increased. Thus the animals are continually employed in pulling down, repairing, or rebuilding their apartments; and these III.458 operations they perform with wonderful sagacity, regularity, and foresight.

The nurseries are inclosed in chambers of clay, like those which contain the provisions; but they are much larger. In the early state of the nest, they are not bigger than a hazel nut; but, in great hills, they are often four or five inches across.

The royal chamber, as we have observed, is situated as nearly under the apex of the hill as possible, and is surrounded on all sides, both above and below, by what Mr. Smeathman calls the royal apartments, which contain only labourers and soldiers, that can be intended for no other purpose than to continue in the nest either to guard or serve their common parents, on whose safety the happiness, and probably the existence, of the whole community depend. These apartments compose an intricate labyrinth, which extends a foot or more in diameter from the royal chamber on every side. Here the nurseries and magazines of provisions begin; and, being separated by small empty chambers and galleries, which surround them, and communicate with each other, are continued on all sides to the outward shell, and reach up within two thirds or three fourths of its height, leaving an open area in the middle under the dome, which resembles the nave of an old gothic cathedral. This area is surrounded by large gothic arches, which are sometimes two or three feet high next to the front of the area, but diminish rapidly as they recede, like the arches of aisles in perspectives, and are III.459 soon lost among the innumerable chambers and nurseries behind them. All these chambers and passages are arched, and contribute naturally to support one another. The inferior building, or assemblage of nurseries, chambers, and passages, has a flattish roof without any perforation. By this contrivance, if, by accident, water should penetrate the external dome, the apartments below are preserved from injury. The area has also a flattish floor, which is situated above the royal chamber. It is likewise water-proof, and so constructed that, if water gets admittance, it runs off by subter­raneous passages, which are cylindrical, and some of them so much as even thirteen inches in diameter. These subter­raneous passages are thickly lined with the same kind of clay of which the hill is composed: they ascend the internal part of the external shell in a spiral form, and, winding round the whole building up to the top, intersect and communicate with each other at different heights. From every part of these large galleries a number of pipes, or smaller galleries, leading to different apartments of the building, proceed. There are likewise a great many which lead downward, by sloping descents, three and four feet perpendicular under ground, among the gravel, from which the labouring Ants select the finer parts; which, after being worked up in their mouths to the consistence of mortar, become that solid clay or stone, of which their hills, and every apartment of their buildings, except the nurseries, are composed. Other galleries ascend and lead out horizontally on every side, III.460 and are carried under ground, but near the surface, to great distances, for the purpose of foraging.

When a breach is made in one of the walls by an ax, or other instrument, the first object that attracts attention is the behaviour of the soldiers or fighting insects. Immediately after the blow is given, a soldier comes out, walks about the breach, and seems to examine the nature of the enemy, or the cause of the attack. He then goes into the hill, gives the alarm, and, in a short time, large bodies rush out as fast as the breach will permit. It is not easy to describe the fury that actuates these fighting insects. In their eagerness to repel the enemy, they frequently tumble down the sides of the hill, but recover themselves very quickly, and bite every thing they encounter. This biting, joined to the striking of their forceps upon the building, makes a crackling or vibrating noise, which is somewhat shriller and quicker than the ticking of a watch, and may be heard at the distance of several feet. While the attack proceeds, they are in the most violent bustle and agitation. If they get hold of any part of a man’s body, they instantly make a wound which gives some pain. When they attack the leg, the stain of blood upon the stocking extends more than an inch in width. They make their hooked jaws meet at the first stroke, and never quit their hold, but will suffer themselves to be pulled away piece after piece, without any attempt to escape. On the other hand, if a person keeps out of their reach, and gives them no farther disturbance, in less than half an hour they retire into III.461 the nest, as if they supposed the monster that damaged their cattle had fled. Before the whole of the soldiers have got in, the labouring insects are all in motion, and hasten toward the breach, each of them having a quantity of tempered mortar in his mouth. This mortar they stick upon the breach as fast as they arrive, and perform the operation with so much dispatch and facility that, notwithstanding the immensity of their numbers, they never stop or embarrass one another. During this scene of apparent hurry and confusion, the spectator is agreeably surprised when he perceives a regular wall gradually rising and filling up the chasm. While the labourers are thus employed, almost all the soldiers remain within, except here and there one, who saunters about among six hundred or a thousand labourers, but never touches the mortar. One soldier, however, always takes his station close to the wall that the labourers are building. This soldier turns himself leisurely on all sides, and, at intervals of a minute or two, raises his head, beats upon the building with his forceps, and makes the vibrating noise formerly mentioned. A loud hiss instantly issues from the inside of the dome, and all the subter­raneous caverns and passages. That this hiss proceeds from the labourers is apparent; for, at every signal of this kind, they work with redoubled quickness and alacrity. A renewal of the attack, however, instantly changes the scene. “On the first stroke,” Mr. Smeathman remarks, “the labourers run into the many pipes and galleries with which the building is perforated, which III.462 they do so quickly that they seem to vanish; for, in a few seconds, all are gone, and the soldiers rush out as numerous and as vindictive as before. On finding no enemy, they return again leisurely into the hill; and, very soon after, the labourers appear loaded as at first, as active, and as sedulous, with soldiers here and there among them, who act just in the same manner, one or other of them giving the signal to hasten the business. Thus the pleasure of seeing them come out to fight or to work alternately, may be obtained as often as curiosity excites, or time permits; and it will certainly be found that the one order never attempts to fight, nor the other to work, let the emergency be ever so great.”

It is exceedingly difficult to explore the interior parts of a nest or hill. The apartments which surround the royal chamber and the nurseries, and, indeed, the whole fabric, have such a dependence on each other, that the breaking of one arch generally pulls down two or three. Another great obstacle is the obstinacy of the soldiers, who, says our author, “fight to the very last, disputing every inch of ground so well as often to drive away the negroes who are without shoes, and make white people bleed plentifully through their stockings. Neither can we let a building stand so as to get a view of the interior parts without inter­ruption; for, while the soldiers are defending the outworks, the labourers keep barricading all the way against us, stopping up the different galleries and passages which lead to the various apartments, particularly the royal chamber, all the entrances to which they III.463 fill up so artfully as not to let it be distinguishable while it remains moist; and, externally, it has no other appearance than that of a shapeless lump of clay. It is however easily found, from its situation with respect to the other parts of the building, and by the crowds of labourers and soldiers which surround it, who shew their loyalty and fidelity by dying under its walls. The royal chamber, in a large nest, is capacious enough to hold many hundreds of the attendants, besides the royal pair; and it is always found as full of them as it can hold. These faithful subjects never abandon their charge even in the last distress; for, whenever I took out the royal chamber, as I often did, and preserved it for some time in a large glass bowl, all the attendants continued running in one direction round the king and queen with the utmost solicitude, some of them stopping at the head of the latter, as if to give her something. When they came to the extremity of the abdomen, they took the eggs from her, carried them away, and piled them carefully together in some part of the chamber, or in the bowl under, or behind any broken pieces of clay which lay most conveniently for the purpose⁕1.”

Termes fatale.

⁕1 Phil. Tran. vol. lxxi. p. 139-192.

Notes and Corrections: The White Ants

Termes fatale still has that binomial, except that it has been grammatically corrected to Termes fatalis. (For reasons unknown, Linnaeus thought the word termes, more often spelled tarmes, “woodworm”, was neuter. It’s masculine.)

broken pieces of clay which lay most conveniently for the purpose.”
missing quotation mark supplied from 1st edition

engraving of Pediculus (lice), Crow and Peacock, no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 110:
Pediculus: Crow (top); Peacock (bottom)


The mouth in these animals is formed by a retractile recurved sucker, without a proboscis. There III.464 are no feelers, and the antennæ are about the length of the thorax. The abdomen is somewhat flattened; and the legs, which are six in number, are formed not for leaping, but running.

Lice live on animal juices, which they extract from living bodies by means of their sucker. The larva and pupa resemble the perfect insect.

Notes and Corrections: The Louse Tribe

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Lice are another order to themselves, Phthiraptera, where the Phthir- element is the Latinized form of φθειρ, louse. Within this order, Linnaeus’s genus Pediculus gave its name to family Pedi­culidae.

Fun fact: One of the world’s oldest known riddles is: “We carried away all that we did not catch, and all that we caught we left behind”.

Shaw’s Zoology includes at least ten highly detailed drawings of assorted lice, each identified by the animal they infest rather than by species name. I’ve shown only the first pair. He doesn’t picture the human louse.


When we examine the human Louse with the microscope, its external deformity strikes us with disgust. The fore part of its head is somewhat oblong, while the hind part is rounded. The skin is hard and transparent, with here and there a few bristly hairs. On each side of its head are two antennæ or horns, jointed, and covered with bristly hair; and behind these are the eyes, which are large and black. The neck is short, and the breast divided into three parts; on each side of which are placed three legs, armed at the end with small claws, by which the animal lays hold of different objects. The trunk, or proboscis, is generally concealed in its tube: this is very sharp, and furnished, toward its upper part, with a few reversed prickles. By means of this the Louse feeds; and, when it is engaged in sucking any animal, the blood may be seen, through the transparency of its external covering, to rush like a torrent into the stomach. Through this its stomach and intestines are also III.465 visible, as well as the ramifications of the tracheæ or respiratory tubes, which appear dispersed in a most beautiful manner throughout various parts of the animal.

Scarcely any creature multiplies so quickly as this unwelcome intruder. It has been pleasantly said that a Louse becomes a grandfather in the space of twenty-four hours. This fact cannot be ascertained; but nothing is more true than that the moment the nit, which is no other than the egg of the Louse, gets rid of its superfluous moisture, and throws off its shell, it begins to breed in its turn. Nothing so much prevents the increase of this nauseous animal as cold, and want of humidity. The nits, unless they are laid in a place that is warm, do not produce any thing; and from this it is that many of the nits laid on the hairs in the night-time are destroyed by the cold of the succeeding day.

In Mexico these animals were so numerous that the ancient kings found no other means of ridding their subjects of them than by the imposition of an annual tribute of a certain quantity. Ferdinand Cortes found bags full of them in the palace of Montezuma.

“This is a creature (says Albin) so officious that it will be known to every one at one time or other, so busy, and so impudent, that it will be intruding itself into every one’s company; and withal, so proud and aspiring, that it fears not to trample on the best, and affects nothing so much as a crown. It feeds and lives very high; and that makes it so III.466 saucy as to pull any one by the ears that comes in its way, and it will never be quiet till it has drawn blood. It is troubled at nothing so much as that a man scratches his head, as knowing that a man is plotting and contriving some mischief against it: this makes it oftentimes skulk into some meaner and lower place, and run behind a man’s back, though it go very much against the hair, which ill conditions it, having made it better known than trusted⁕1.”

Pediculus humanus. Linn.

⁕1 Albin’s Spiders, p. 70.

Notes and Corrections: The Common Louse

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Pediculus humanus, the (human) body louse, still has that binomial.

its external deformity strikes us with disgust
[It is reassuring to know that even Bingley’s enthusiasm for insects knew its limits. He didn’t much care for bedbugs, either.]

dispersed in a most beautiful manner
[Well. That didn’t last long.]

the increase of this nauseous animal
[Make up your mind, Bingley.]


The mouth in the Fleas is without either jaws or feelers, having only a long inflected proboscis concealing a single bristle. The antennæ are beaded; the abdomen is compressed sideways; and the legs are six, and formed for leaping.

The larvæ are white, cylindrical, and without feet, but are very active little creatures. Under the tail there are two small spines. The chrysalis is motionless, but in appearance very like the perfect insect. The two following species are all that have been yet discovered.

Notes and Corrections: The Fleas

Fleas, Linnaeus’s genus Pulex, gave their name to family Pulicidae and superfamily Pulicoidea. Like lice and termites, they now have an order all to themselves, Siphonaptera (“wingless suckers”, more or less).

The larvæ are white, cylindrical, and without feet
comma after “white” missing

engraving of Pulex (Common Flea), no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 122:
Pulex: Common Flea in its several states, magnified

larger image


Notwithstanding the general disapprobation of this insect, it has certainly something very pleasing III.467 in its appearance. When examined with a microscope, it will be observed to have a small head, large eyes, and two short four-jointed antennæ, between which is the trunk, or proboscis. The body appears enveloped in a shelly armour that is always clean and bright: this is beset at the segments with many sharp bristles. All its motions indicate agility and elegance; and its muscular power is so extraordinary as justly to excite our wonder. We know no other animal whatever whose muscular strength can be put in competition with that of a Flea; for on a moderate computation, it is known to leap to a distance of at least two hundred times its own length.

There is no kind of proportion between the force and size of all the insect tribe. Had man an equal degree of strength, bulk for bulk, with a louse or flea, the history of Samson would be no longer miraculous. A Flea will drag after it a chain a hundred times heavier than itself: and, to compensate for this force, will eat ten times its own weight of provisions in a day. Mr. Boverich, an ingenious watchmaker who some years ago lived in the Strand, London, exhibited to the public a little ivory chaise, with four wheels, and all its proper apparatus, and a man sitting on the box, all of which were drawn by a single Flea. He made a small landau, which opened and shut by springs, with six horses harnessed to it, a coachman sitting on the box, and a dog between his legs: four persons in the carriage, two footmen behind it, and a postillion riding on one of the fore-horses, which was also easily drawn along III.468 by a Flea. He likewise had a chain of brass, about two inches long, containing two hundred links, with a hook at one end, and a padlock and key at the other, which the Flea drew very nimbly along.

This little animal is produced from eggs which the females stick fast, by a kind of glutinous matter, to the roots of the hairs of cats, dogs, and other animals; or to the wool in blankets, rugs, or other similar furniture. Of these eggs the female lays ten or twelve a day, for several days successively; and they are hatched in the same order five or six days after being laid.

From the eggs come forth, not perfect fleas, but little whitish worms, or maggots, whose bodies have annular divisions, and are thinly covered with long hairs. They adhere closely to the body of the animal, &c. on which they were produced; and feed on the scurfy excretion of the skin, the downy substance of linen, &c. They are about a fourth of an inch in length, and without feet; but they are, notwithstanding, very lively and active. When alarmed they suddenly roll themselves up into the shape of a little ball. They may be kept in a little box, and brought up with dead flies, which they eat with greediness.

In eleven days from their being hatched, they leave off eating, and lie as though they were dying; but, if viewed in this state with a microscope, they will be found weaving a silken covering around them, in which they are to change into their chrysalis form. They continue nine days in this shape at first white, and afterwards by degrees darkening III.469 their colour as they acquire firmness of strength. As soon as they issue from their bag they become perfect fleas, and are able to leap away.

Pulex irritans. Linn.

Notes and Corrections: The Common Flea

Pulex irritans, the human flea, still has that accurate binomial.


Is a troublesome insect, too well known in many parts of America. It is so small as to be almost imperceptible. Its legs have not the elasticity of those of fleas; for, if the Chigoes had as great powers of leaping as fleas, there is not a living creature of the climates where they abound that would not be full of them; and this lurking race would destroy three fourths of mankind by the evils they would produce. They are always found among the dust, and particularly in filthy places; they fix themselves on the legs, to the soles of the feet, and even to the fingers.

This creature pierces the skin so subtilely that at the time the person is not sensible of it; nor is it to be perceived till it begins to extend itself. At first, it is not difficult to extract it; but, although it may only have introduced its head, it makes so firm a lodgment that a part of the skin must be sacrificed before it will quit its hold. If it is not soon perceived, the insect completes its lodgment, sucks the blood, and forms a nest of a white thin tunicle, in the shape of a flat pearl. It extends itself in this space in such a manner that its head and III.470 feet are toward the exterior side, for the convenience of nourishment; and the other part of the body answers to the inner side of the tunicle, in order to lay its eggs there. In proportion as these are laid, the little pearl is enlarged; and in four or five days it is at least two lines in diameter. It is then of the utmost consequence to have it extracted; for if this is neglected it bursts of itself, and spreads an infinity of nits, which, when hatched, fill the whole part, and produce excessive anguish; and the difficulty of dislodging them becomes very great. These penetrate to the very bones; and, even when the sufferer has got rid of them, the pain will last till the flesh and skin are entirely healed.

The operation of extracting them is long and painful. It consists in separating, with the point of a needle, the flesh next to the membrane where the eggs are lodged; which is not easily done without bursting the tunicle. After having separated even the most minute ligaments, the nest is to be extracted. If unfortunately it burst, particular care must be taken to extract every root of it, and especially not to leave behind the principal insect. This would begin to lay its eggs again before the wound could be healed; and, penetrating much farther into the flesh, would increase the difficulty of extracting it. During the great heats extreme care must be taken not to wet the part affected. Without this precaution, experience has proved that the patient is subject to consequences that frequently prove fatal.

“The Chigoe, says Stedman, is a kind of small sand-flea, common in Surinam, which gets in between III.471 the skin and the flesh without its being felt, and generally under the nails of the toes; where, while it feeds, it keeps growing till it becomes of the size of a large pea, causing no further pain than a disagreeable itching. In process of time it appears in the form of a small bladder, in which are deposited thousands of eggs or nits, and which, if it breaks, produce so many young Chigoes, that in course of time create running ulcers, which are often of very dangerous consequence to the patient: so much so, indeed, that he knew a soldier, the soles of whose feet were obliged to be cut away before he could recover; and some men have lost their limbs by amputation—nay, even their lives, by having neglected in time to root out these abominable vermin. The moment, therefore, that a redness and itching, more than usual, is perceived, it is time to extract the Chigoe that occasions them. This is done with a sharp-pointed needle, at which the black girls are extremely dexterous, taking care not to occasion unnecessary pain, and to prevent the chigoe or bladder from breaking in the wound. Tobacco ashes are put into the orifice, by which, in a little time, the sore is perfectly healed.”

Synonyms.—Pulex penetrans. Linn.—Jigger, Nigua, and Pique, in various parts of America.

Notes and Corrections: The Chigoe

Pulex penetrans, the chigger or blokha, is now Tunga penetrans in family Tungidae, superfamily Pulicoidea.

at least two lines in diameter
[1/6 inch, or 4-5 mm.]

. . . and with this, we bid farewell to insects as the term is now understood. Linnaean “insects” will continue for several more chapters, winding up with crustaceans and centipedes.


These troublesome insects live chiefly on other animals; some of them, however, inhabit the water, III.472 and others subsist on various vegetable substances. They are to be found every where, and in immense numbers. The larvæ and chrysalids have each six feet.

Their mouth is not furnished with a proboscis, but the sucker has a two-valved cylindrical sheath. They have two compressed feelers as long as the sucker; two eyes, one on each side of the head, and eight legs.

Notes and Corrections: The Ticks

Ticks are not insects. (The “eight legs” should serve as a clue.) Like spiders, they are arachnids. Linnaeus’s genus Acarus gave its name to family Acaridae in order Astigmata; other mites and ticks are in order Ixodida, especially family Ixodidae, and in order Prostigmata, home of the Demodex. All of these are in class Arachnida within the larger group Chelicerata, one of several main divisions of Arthro­poda. (Another is Hexapoda, which predictably includes insects.)

engraving of Acarus siro (Cheesemite), no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 123:
Acarus: A. siro


To the naked eye, these minute creatures appear little more than moving particles of dust; but on the application of the microscope they are found to be perfect animals, performing all the regular functions. The head is small in proportion to the rest of the body. Their legs are furnished at the extremities with little claws, by which they are enabled to lay firm hold of the substances they inhabit. The body is furnished with long hairs, which they have the power of depressing; and by this means they are enabled to creep through crevices that would not otherwise admit them.

The females, which are easily distinguished from the males, are oviparous. The eggs are so minute that, on a tolerably accurate calculation, it appeared that ninety millions of them would not fill the shell of a pigeon’s egg. These are hatched in warm weather in about twelve days; but during the winter season III.473 the time of hatching is much longer. When the young ones first come forth they are extremely minute, and before they attain their full size they cast their skin several times.

The mites are very quick-sighted; and when once they have been touched with a pin, it is easy to perceive a great degree of cunning exerted to avoid a second touch. They are extremely voracious animals, and are often observed even to devour each other: and so very tenacious are they of life that they have been kept alive many months between two concave glasses, by which they were applied to a microscope. Leeuwenhoek placed a female mite on the point of a pin for examination: she remained there ten days, and during the time laid two eggs; which, for want of other food she devoured.

Acarus Siro. Linn.

Notes and Corrections: The Cheese-Mite

Acarus siro is also known as the flour mite. (It’s the same animal; it just has catholic tastes.)

color picture of Autumnal Acarus, or Harvest-Bug, no later than 1827

Shaw Miscellany plate 42:
The Autumnal Acarus, or Harvest-Bug


The Harvest-bug is of a somewhat globular shape, and of a bright red colour, with the abdomen bristly behind. It is smaller than the common mite, and by its colour but just to be perceived when on the skin. In the months of August and September it is very troublesome, adhering to the skin by means of two short arms situated above the upper legs, so firmly as not easily to be disengaged. Wherever it fixes it causes a tumour about the size of a pea, or larger, accompanied by a most unpleasant itching.—Its III.474 tubular snout, by which it takes its food, is generally concealed.

engraving of Acarus autumnalis (Harvest Bug), no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 124:
Acarus: A. autumnalis

These insects abound in vegetables, and are generally caught from walking in gardens, among long grass, or in corn-fields.

Mr. White says, they abound so greatly on the chalky downs of Hampshire, that the warreners’ nets are frequently discoloured from the immense numbers that get upon them; whilst the men are sometimes so bitten as to be thrown into fevers⁕1.

Synonyms.—Acarus autumnalis. Autumnal Acarus, or Harvest-Bug.—Shaw’s. Nat. Mis.

⁕1 Shaw’s Nat. Mis. ii. tab. 42.—White’s Selborne.

Notes and Corrections: The Harvest-Bug

Acarus autumnalis is now Neotrombicula autumnalis in family Trombiculae, order Prostigmata.


These insects, which are so remarkable on account of their industry and manners of life, are generally viewed with a degree of aversion only to be accounted for by the unpleasing impressions made upon us in youth. These impressions are in general communicated by persons ill qualified to give the mind that direction necessary for the purposes of life. Many naturalists even have complained that this aversion has deterred them from observing, and accurately examining, these insects; and those who have undertaken to do so have generally been at much trouble to overcome their antipathy. Roesel accustomed himself to view the insects first at a distance: he then considered their webs; and at last looked at the insects themselves, through a microscope. Göze viewed individual parts of Spiders, till he was able to look, without any sentiment of III.475 aversion, at the entire insect. Both these naturalists so far conquered their antipathy that they could afterwards handle and examine Spiders with the same indifference as others can flies.

Spiders prey on other insects, and do not, in all cases, spare even their own species. There is little doubt but their bite is venomous; and it is said that a fly which has once felt it can never be recovered, but soon dies in convulsions. Many of the species have been swallowed, without any subsequent inconvenience.

Some of the Spiders spin webs for the purpose of catching their prey; but others seize it by surprise. They are all able to sustain an abstinence from food for a great length of time; some for even six months, or upwards.

They frequently change their skins.—The larvæ and pupæ have each eight legs, and differ in no respect from the perfect insect.

Spiders have short horny jaws, and two incurved, jointed, and very sharp feelers. They are without antennæ; and have eight or sometimes only six eyes, and eight legs. Their abdomen is hairy, and furnished with papillæ, from which they spin their webs.

Notes and Corrections: The Spiders

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Spiders, like mites and ticks, are in class Arachnida. Spiders are order Araneae, which got its name from Linnaeus’s genus Aranea. (Today’s genus Aranea—or rather Araneus, go figure—is a large genus in the large family Araneidae, formally “angulate orbweavers”.)

Spider names are a mess: a single species can easily have gone by 20 or more different binomials in the course of the 18th and 19th centuries. The definitive information source is probably the World Spider Catalog.

a degree of aversion only to be accounted for by the unpleasing impressions made upon us in youth
[To this day—more than 200 years after Bingley—arachnophobia enjoys a socially sanctioned, even privileged, position in most countries. —Ed.]


This species is very common in houses, and particularly about windows. The abdomen is nearly III.476 oval, of a brown colour, and marked with five black and almost contiguous spots.

The House-spiders feed principally on flies; and the web by which they are enabled to entangle these insects is a surprising part of the animal economy.—For the purpose of forming this web, they are supplied with a quantity of glutinous matter contained in a receptacle near the extremity of their bodies; and they have five teats for spinning it into thread, the orifices of which the insects have the power of contracting and dilating at pleasure. When they enter on the construction of this curious fabric, they fix on a spot of apparent plunder and security.—The animal then distils one little drop of glutinous liquor, which is very tenacious; and creeping along the wall, and joining its thread as it proceeds, darts itself to the opposite side, where the other end is to be fastened. The first thread thus formed, being drawn tight and fixed at each end, the Spider runs on it backwards and forwards, still doubling and strengthening it, as on this depends the stability of the whole. The scaffolding thus completed, it makes a number of threads parallel to the first, and then crosses them with others, the clammy substance of which they are formed serving, when first made, to bind them to each other. At the bottom of the web a kind of funnel is constructed, in which the little creature lies concealed. In this den of destruction it watches with unremitted assiduity till its prey is entangled, on which it instantly darts with inevitable ruin.

The web of the Spider differs from those woven III.477 by any human artist in this circumstance, that, in our work, the threads extended in length are interlaced with those that are carried on transversely; whereas the threads of a Spider’s woof only cross the threads of the warp, and are glued to them in the points where they mutually touch, and are not either inserted or interwoven.

The threads along the border of the work are doubled or trebled, by the Spider’s opening all her teats at once, and glueing several threads one over another; sensible that the extremity of the web ought to be hemmed and fortified to preserve it from being torn: she likewise further secures and supports it with strong loops, or double threads, which she fixes all around it, and which hinder it from being the sport of the winds.

From time to time she finds it necessary to clear away the dust, which would otherwise incommode her web, and she sweeps the whole by giving it a shake with her paw; but in doing this she so nicely proportions the force of the blow to the strength of the work that nothing is ever broken.

From all parts of the web are drawn several threads, which terminate like rays in a centre at the place of her concealment. The vibration of any of these threads is communicated to her, and gives her notice whenever there is game in the net, and accordingly she springs upon it in an instant. She derives another advantage from this retreat under her web, and that is the opportunity it affords of feasting on her prey in full security; and besides this it gives her the power of concealing the carcasses, III.478 and not leaving in the purlieus any traces of her barbarity capable of intimating the place of her resort, and inspiring other insects with the dread of approaching it.

But chief to the heedless flies the window proves

A constant death; where, gloomily retir’d,

The villain Spider lives: cunning, and fierce,

Mixture abhorr’d! Amid a mangled heap

Of carcasses, in eager watch he sits,

Overlooking all his waving snares around.

Near the dire cell the heedless wanderer oft

Passes, as oft the ruffian shows his front.

The prey at last ensnar’d, he dreadful darts

With rapid glide along the leaning line:

And, fixing in the wretch his cruel fangs,

Strikes backward, grimly pleas’d: the fluttering wing

And shriller sound declare extreme distress,

And ask the helping hospitable hand.

This Spider is furnished with a pair of very sharp hooked fangs, inclosed, when at rest, in cases in the fore part of his head. With this weapon (which a good glass will discover to have a small slit or orifice in each point) he seizes and pierces such insects as entangle themselves in his web; and by infusing a poisonous liquid into the wound. This poison must be very active and deleterious; for flies, and many other insects, may be mutilated by depriving them of their legs, wings, and even cutting their bodies through the very middle of the abdomen, and in that condition will survive several days, but this liquid in a moment kills them.

When two spiders of the same size meet in combat, neither of them will yield: they hold each III.479 other by their fangs so fast that one of the two must die before they are separated.—M. Leeuwenhoek says he saw one spider that was, however, only wounded in the leg by his antagonist. A drop of blood as large as a grain of sand issued from the sore; and, not being able to use this wounded leg in running away from his enemy, he held it up, and presently afterward the whole limb dropped from his body. When spiders are wounded in the breast or upper parts of their body, they always die⁕1.

The spider, the ptinus, and many insects of the beetle kind, exhibit an instinct of a very extraordinary nature. When put in terror by a touch of the finger, the spider runs off with great swiftness; but if he finds that, whatever direction he takes, he is opposed by another finger, he then seems to despair of being able to escape, contracts his limbs and body, lies perfectly motionless, and counterfeits every symptom of death. “In this situation,” says Mr. Smellie, “I have pierced spiders with pins, and torn them to pieces, without their discovering the smallest marks of pain. This simulation of death has been ascribed to a strong convulsion, or stupor, occasioned by terror. But this solution of the phenomenon is erroneous. I have repeatedly tried the experiment, and uniformly found that, if the object of terror be removed, in a few seconds the animal runs off with great rapidity. Some beetles, when counterfeiting death, will suffer themselves III.480 to be gradually roasted without moving a single joint⁕2.”

When this animal changes its skin, which it does at certain seasons, an opening may be seen, if carefully watched, in the belly. Through this it draws all its limbs, and leaves the old covering hanging to the cord that sustained it during the operation.

The eyes of all the spiders are placed on the upper part of the head, but in various positions. They have no muscles belonging to them, and they are therefore altogether immoveable. They also consist only of one lens each, and do not as in other insects possess the faculty of multiplying objects; but their number and situation enable the animals to see perfectly well in all necessary directions.

Aranea domestica. Linn.

⁕1 Phil. Tran. vol. xxii. p. 870.

⁕2 Smellie’s Philosophy of Natural History.

Notes and Corrections: The House-Spider

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Aranea domestica is now Tegenaria domestica, the barn funnel weaver, in family Agelenidae.

But chief to the heedless flies the window proves
[We haven’t seen Thomson’s Seasons in a while. This is Summer 267-280.]

in cases in the fore part of his head
text has it the fore
[The Spider’s sudden sex change, from “she” to “he”, suggests that Bingley has turned to a different source.]


The labour of the Garden Spider is very different from that of the former species; yet it is not performed with less art. When desirous of flitting, from one place to another, this animal fixes one end of a thread to the place where she stands, and then with her hind paws draws out several other threads from the nipples, which, being lengthened out, and driven by the wind to some neighbouring tree or other object, are by their natural clamminess fixed to it. When she finds that these are fastened, she makes of them a bridge on which she can pass or repass at pleasure. This done, she renders the III.481 thread still thicker by spinning others to it. From this thread she often descends by spinning downward to the ground. The thread formed by the latter operation she fixes to some stone, plant, or other substance. She re-ascends to the first thread, and at a little distance from the second begins a third, which she fixes in the same manner. She now strengthens all the three threads, and, beginning at one of the corners, weaves across, and at last forms a strong and durable net, in the centre of which she places herself with her head downward to wait for her prey.

From having frequently remarked that spiders spread their webs in solitary and confined places, to which it is sometimes difficult for flies to penetrate, M. Le Vaillant naturally concluded that these creatures must frequently remain long without food, and that consequently they were capable of enduring considerable abstinence.

To ascertain the truth of this circumstance, he took a large Garden Spider, whose belly was about the size of a nut, and inclosed it under a glass bell, which he secured with cement round its bottom, and left in this situation for ten months. Notwithstanding this deprivation of food, it appeared during the whole time equally vigorous and alert; but its belly decreased, till at last it was scarcely larger than the head of a pin.

He then put under the bell to it another spider of the same species. For a little while they kept at a respectful distance from each other, and remained motionless; but presently the meagre one, pressed III.482 by hunger, approached and attacked the stranger. It returned several times to the charge; and in these different conflicts its enemy became deprived of almost all its claws: it carried these away, and retired to its former situation to devour them. The meagre one had likewise lost three of its own claws, on which also it fed; and M. Le Vaillant perceived that by this repast its plumpness was in some measure restored. The day following, the new comer, deprived of all its means of defence, fell a complete sacrifice. It was speedily devoured; and in less than twenty-four hours the old inhabitant of the bell became as plump as it was at the first moment of its confinement⁕1.

From the bags in which the young of the Garden Spider are produced, an attempt has been made to manufacture a kind of silk, which has in some degree proved successful. With some trouble thirteen ounces of these bags were collected. They were beaten for some time with a stick to free them from dust, and then washed in warm water till they were perfectly clean. After this they were steeped in a pot with soap, nitre, and gum arabic, and then boiled in the same mixture over a gentle fire for two or three hours. Clean warm water was again used to free them from the soap, &c.; and, after having being laid for some days to dry, they were loosened with the fingers previously to being carded by the common silk-carders. A beautiful ash-coloured silk was thus obtained, easy III.483 to be spun, and much stronger in the thread than that of the silkworm. This was woven in a stocking weaver’s loom, and there can be no doubt but it would bear any other loom. The thirteen ounces of bags yielded near four ounces of silk, three of which made a pair of stockings large enough for a man.—It would be a difficult task to obtain bags sufficient to render the manufacture of the silk of any importance, since to obtain one pound of silk no fewer than 28,000 bags would be wanted; and for this quantity a greater number of spiders than this must be bred, as none but the females spin them. But a still greater difficulty arises from their carnivorous disposition in devouring each other. Had this not been the case, a very nutritious food might have been adopted for them in the soft substance of fresh quills. If the silk had answered, we should have had from the different species of spiders several genuine colours in silk; such as grey, white, sky-blue, and coffee colour: whereas silkworms yield only white and orange colour.

The females lay six or seven hundred eggs in the same bag. This is generally done in August or September, and about sixteen days afterward the young are hatched. If the weather continue cold, the young remain in their nidus for several months without eating or increasing in bulk; but make their appearance abroad on the commence­ment of the warm weather. The old ones live but a short time after the eggs are laid⁕2.

⁕1 Le Vaillant’s New Travels, Introd. p. xxxix.

⁕2 Phil. Tran. vol. xxvii. p. 2.

Notes and Corrections: The Garden Spider

Aranea horticola is probably Xysticus cristatus in family Thomi­sidae. The genus as a whole is “ground crab spiders”. (It remains -cola rather than changing to -colus because -cola is masculine; in fact it’s really a noun, like agricola.)

The first two editions had no Synonyms footnote; apparently Linnaeus’s garden had no spiders. The third edition, citing two new sources, says: “Aranea horticula [sic]. Olivier. Latreille.—L’Araignée jardiniere, in France.”



This spider does not lie in wait for its prey, like several others; it is a lively, active hunter. Its head is furnished, as in the rest, with immove­able eyes. Without any motion of the head, it perceives all the flies that hover around; it does not alarm, but stretches over them its arms, furnished with feathers, which prove nets that entangle their wings. The spider seizes them with its merciless claws, and sucks their blood.

Aranea viatica. Linn.

Notes and Corrections: The Wandering Spider

Aranea viatica appears to be . . . Xysticus cristatus again. Is it possible Bingley got his sources hopelessly garbled? Neither this nor the preceding has a description or illustration in Shaw’s Zoology, leaving us little to go on.

engraving of Aranea scenica, no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 128 (partial):
Aranea: scenica


The manners of the Jumping Spider are very singular. It does not, like many others, take its prey by means of a net, but is constrained to seize them only by its own activity. It is extremely nimble, at times leaping like a grasshopper, then standing still, and raising itself on its hind legs to look around for its prey. If it see a fly at the distance of three or four yards, it does not run directly to it, but endeavours, as much as possible, to conceal itself till it can arrive near; and then creeping slowly up, and but seldom missing its aim, it springs upon the insect’s back, and it is then almost impossible for the fly to effect an escape. But if, before the spider gets to it, the fly take wing and fix upon another place, the little animal whirls nimbly about, and III.485 still keeps its eyes upon it, in order to commence a fresh attack. Dr. Brookes says it has been sometimes seen in the act of instructing its young ones how to hunt; and also that, whenever an old one missed its leap, it would run from the place, and hide itself in some crevice, as if ashamed of its mismanagement!

Aranea scenica. Linn.

Notes and Corrections: The Jumping Spider

Aranea scenica is now Salticus scenicus, the zebra spider, in family Salticidae. Probably.

engraving of Aranea aquatica (Water Spider), no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 128 (partial):
Aranea: aquatica


This singular little creature is a very common inhabitant of our fresh waters. When in the water its belly appears as if covered with a silver varnish. This is, however, nothing more than a bubble of air attached to the abdomen by the oily humours which transpire from the body, and prevent the immediate contact of the water. By means of this kind of bubble the insect forms its dwelling under the water. It fixes several silky threads to the stalks of the water-plants, and then, ascending to the surface, thrusts the hinder part of its body above the water, drawing it back with so much rapidity as to attach beneath a bubble of air, which it has the art of detaining below, by placing it under the threads above mentioned, and which it bends, like a covering, almost round it. It then again ascends for another air bubble, and thus proceeds till it has constructed a large aërial apartment under the water, which it enters into or quits at pleasure. III.486 The male constructs for himself one near that of the female, and afterward breaks through the thread walls of the female’s dwelling; and the two bubbles, attached to the bellies of both, unite into one, forming one large chamber.

The female takes care of the young, and constructs similar apartments for them.

The figure of this spider has in it nothing remarkable, and will be overlooked among a crowd of curiosities, if the spectator be unacquainted with its singular art of constructing an aërial habitation under water, and thus availing itself of the properties of both elements. It lodges, during the winter, in empty shells, which it dexterously closes up with a web.

Aranea aquatica. Linn.

Notes and Corrections: The Water-Spider

Aranea aquatica is now Argyroneta aquatica, the diving bell or water spider, in family Cybaeidae.


The following observations on the origin of the Gossamer, by M. Bechstein, a German naturalist, are curious, and convey a more accurate account of it than I have been able to meet with in any other writer.

“Some naturalists (says this gentleman) have considered this phenomenon as the evaporation of plants condensed, during the cool days of harvest, by the air, and converted into threads like those which can be drawn from resinous juices; others, as the production of a kind of spider, on account of its similarity to the threads of common spiders: III.487 and M. Pereboon has discovered a kind of beetle, furnished with a vesicle on its back; from the hinder parts of which, on both sides, proceed two threads that extend over the extremity of the body, and end in a double thread, sometimes ten or more inches in length, which thread he supposes to form the Gossamer.

“Having made, for many years, the closest observations on this phenomenon, I am of opinion it is caused by a species of field spider, so small and active as to be imperceptible, unless the observer possess a very acute sight. This spider, if it have no name already, I propose to call the Gossamer Spider, Aranea Obtextrix. It is about the size of the head of a small pin. Its head is somewhat long, and has in the fore-part eight grey eyes, placed in a circular form. The body is of a shining dark brown colour, with the abdomen shaped like an egg. The legs are yellowish.

“These spiders first appear in the beginning of October, in woods, gardens, and meadows, where their eggs are hatched in safety: thence they spread themselves over whole districts, and, during the rest of October, and till the middle of November, may be found in dry fields throughout Europe. Extensive tracts of land are sometimes seen swarming with them. In the beginning of October, when but very few are hatched, some single threads of their webs, extending from twig to twig, are seen only in the sunshine; about the middle of the month their threads are more perceptible; and toward the end, if a person stand in such a position III.488 as to see the sun-beams play on the slender threads, hedges, meadows, corn-fields, stubble land, and even whole districts, appear covered as with a sort of fine white gauze.

“The Gossamer Spider does not weave a web, but only extends its threads from one place to another. These are so delicate that a single thread cannot be seen unless the sun shines on it. One of them, to be visible at other times, must be composed of at least six common threads twisted together. In serene calm days these spiders work with great diligence, especially after the disappearance of the morning fogs. Between twelve and two, however, their industry excites the greatest admiration. A person with a pretty quick eye, or by the help of a glass, may sometimes perceive among the barley-stubble such a multitude of these insects, extending their threads, that the fields appear as if covered with swarms of gnats.

“Several of the single threads become twisted together by the gentlest breath of wind, and form perceptible threads, which, being broken by stronger winds, unite into thick threads, or even into balls, and float through the atmosphere. These are then called, in Germany, the flying summer, because the summer seems to fly away at the same time. The spiders are conveyed in them: but it is not uncommon to find spiders of other species in them, which have been entangled and dragged away; and even the webs of other spiders, and the dried husks of insects that have been caught by them, are often found in the Gossamer.


“The Gossamer Spiders appear in swarms only during the harvest, but single spiders are to be found through the whole summer.”

We have a very curious account of the Gossamer, inserted by Mr. White, in the Natural History of Selborne. “On September the 21st, 1741, being then on a visit, and intent on field diversions, I rose before day-break. When I came into the inclosures, I found the stubbles and clover-grounds matted all over with a thick coat of cobweb, in the meshes of which a copious and heavy dew hung so plentifully that the whole face of the country seemed, as it were, covered with two or three setting-nets drawn one over another. When the dogs attempted to hunt, their eyes were so blinded and hoodwinked that they could not proceed, but were compelled to lie down and scrape the incumbrances from their faces with their fore-feet; so that, finding my sport interrupted, I returned home, musing in my mind on the oddness of the occurrence.

“As the morning advanced the sun became bright and warm, and the day turned out one of those most lovely ones which no season but the autumn produces; cloudless, calm, serene, and worthy of the south of France itself.

“About nine an appearance very unusual began to demand our attention; a shower of cobwebs falling from very elevated regions, and continuing, without any inter­ruption, till the close of the day. These webs were not single filmy threads, floating in the air in all directions, but perfect flakes or rags, some nearly an inch broad, and five or six long, which III.490 fell with a degree of velocity that showed they were considerably heavier than the atmosphere.

“On every side, as the observer turned his eyes, he might behold a continual succession of fresh flakes falling into his sight, and twinkling like stars, as they turned their sides toward the sun.

“How far this wonderful shower extended would be difficult to say; but we know that it reached Bradley, Selborne, and Alresford, three places which lie in a sort of triangle; the shortest of whose sides is about eight miles in extent.

“At the second of those places there was a gentleman (for whose veracity and intelligent turn of mind I have the greatest veneration) who observed it the moment he got abroad; but concluded that, as soon as he came upon the hill above his house, where he took his morning rides, he should be higher than this meteor; which, he imagined, might have been blown, like thistle-down, from the common above. But, to his great astonishment, when he rode to the most elevated part of the down, 300 feet above the level of his fields, he found the webs, in appearance, as much above him as before; still descending into sight in a constant succession, and twinkling in the sun, so as to draw the attention of the most incurious.

“Neither before nor after this was any such fall observed; but on this day the flakes hung in the trees and hedges so thick that a diligent person sent out might have gathered baskets full.

“The remark that I shall make on these cobweb-like appearances, called gossamer, is that, strange III.491 and superstitious as the notions about them were formerly, nobody in these days doubts but that they are the real production of small spiders, which swarm in the fields in fine weather in autumn, and have a power of shooting out webs from their tails so as to render themselves buoyant, and lighter than air. But why these apterous insects should that day take such a wonderful aërial excursion, and why their webs should at once become so gross and material as to be considerably more weighty than air, and to descend with precipitation, is a matter beyond my skill. If I might be allowed to hazard a supposition, I should imagine that those filmy threads, when first shot, might be entangled in the rising dew, and so drawn up, spiders and all, by a brisk evaporation, into the regions where clouds are formed: and if the spiders have a power of coiling and thickening their webs in the air, as Dr. Lister says they have⁕1, then, when they become heavier than the air, they must fall.

“Every day in fine weather, in autumn chiefly, do I see these spiders shooting out their webs and mounting aloft: they will go off from your finger, if you take them into your hand. Last summer one alighted on my book as I was reading in the parlour; and, running to the top of a page, and shooting out a web, took its departure from thence. But what I most wondered at was that it went off with considerable velocity in a place where no air III.492 was stirring; and I am sure I did not assist it with my breath. So that these little crawlers seem to have, while mounting, some locomotive power without the use of wings, and to move in the air faster than the air itself.”

Aranea Obtextrix?

⁕1 Letters to Mr. Ray.

Notes and Corrections: The Gossamer Spider

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Aranea obtextrix is a head-scratcher, though the binomial shows up any number of times in the course of the 19th century. Flying by means of long gossamer threads—the technical term is “ballooning”—may be a behavior shared among the young of several different spiders, rather than the mark of a single species. Some of them may be crab spiders, genus Xysticus.

In the course of looking this up, I learned that Kirby—a name we have met several times in this volume—may have coined the term “Arachnologist”. Or, if not, he independently invented it.

Fun fact: The strands of gossamer (“goose summer”) are known in German as Altweibensommer. The Altweib part means “old maid” or, more to the point, spinster.

blown, like thistle-down, from the common above
text has the / the at line break

[Footnote] Aranea Obtextrix?
[Question mark in the original. You can see his point.]

color picture of Tarantula, no later than 1827

Shaw Miscellany plate 602:
The Tarantula


The Tarantula is somewhat more than an inch in length, and has its breast and belly of an ash-colour: its legs are likewise ash-coloured, with blackish rings on the under part. Its fangs are red within. It is a native of Italy, Cyprus, Barbary, and the East Indies. This animal lives in fields, and its dwelling is about four inches deep, half an inch wide, and closed at the mouth with a net. At the bottom this is curved; and there the insect sits in wet weather, and from thence cuts its way out, if water gain upon it. These spiders do not live quite a year. They lay about 730 eggs, which are hatched in the spring. The parents never survive the winter.

Inflammation, difficulty of breathing, and sickness, are said to be the invariable consequents to the bite of this creature. Dr. Mead, and other medical men, have countenanced the ridiculous story of these effects being counteracted by the power of music. It is, however, now well known that this singular mode of cure was nothing more than a trick frequently practised on credulous travellers, III.493 who were desirous of witnessing it. Mr. Swinburne, when he was in Italy, minutely investigated every particular relative to this insect. The season was not far enough advanced, and it was pretended that no persons had that year been yet bitten: he, however, prevailed upon a woman, who had formerly been bitten, to dance the part before him. Several musicians were summoned, and she performed the dance, as every one present assured him, to perfection. At first she lolled stupidly on a chair, while the instruments played a dull strain. They touched at length the chord supposed to vibrate to her heart; and up she sprang with a most hideous yell, staggered about the room like a drunken person, holding a handkerchief in both hands, raising them alternately, and moving in very true time. As the music grew brisker, her motions quickened, and she skipped about with great vigour, and in a variety of steps, every now and then shrieking very loud. The scene was unpleasant, and, at his request, an end was put to it before the woman was tired.

color picture of Aranea Tarantula, no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 128 (partial):
Aranea: Tarantula

He informs us that, wherever they are to dance, a place is prepared for them, hung round with bunches of grapes and ribbons. The patients are dressed in white, with red, green, or yellow ribbons; on their shoulders they have a white scarf; they let their hair fall loose about their ears, and throw the head quite back. He says that they are exact copies of the ancient priestesses of Bacchus. The introduction of Christianity abolished all public exhibitions of heathenish rites; but the women, unwilling III.494 to give up their darling amusement in performing the frantic character of Bacchantes, devised other pretences; and he supposes that accident led them to the discovery of the Tarantula, on the strength of whose poison the Puglian dames still enjoy their old dance, though time has effaced the memory of its ancient name and institution.

If these dancers are at any time really and involuntarily affected, Mr. Swinburne supposes it must be from some attack upon the nerves, a kind of St. Vitus’s dance⁕1.

Aranea Tarantula. Linn.

⁕1 Swinburne’s Travels, i. 391-395.

Notes and Corrections: The Tarantula

Aranea tarantula is now Lycosa tarantula. Technically the Lyco­sidae family is wolf spiders, as the name indicates, while tarantulas are family Theraphosidae.

color picture of Bird-Catching Spider, no later than 1827

Shaw Miscellany plate 12:
The Bird-Catching Spider


If the spiders that are found in Europe are looked upon with aversion and alarm by those who are in the habits of constantly seeing them, surely this American species, whose gigantic size and great muscular power render it a terror even to the feathered tribes, cannot be beholden without the most violent sensations of horror.

This enormous creature will extend with its feet a space of near ten inches. From the head to the extremity of the abdomen it often measures above three inches. The legs are as thick as a goose’s quill, and closely covered with hair. The body is brown, and the fangs are as strong and sharp as in some of the rapacious species of birds. It is not uncommon in many parts of America, but is principally found in the southern division of that continent, and particularly in Guiana.

engraving of Aranea avicularia, no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 129:
Aranea: A. avicularia


Captain Stedman, while residing in Surinam, had one of them given to him, which he put into a case-bottle above eight inches high; and, when this was filled with spirits, the animal reached the surface with some of its claws, while others rested on the bottom. On the whole, he says, this spider is so hideous a creature that the very sight of it is sufficient to occasion a tremor of abhorrence, even in persons most accustomed to inspect the deformities of nature⁕1.

It resides in the trees, and frequently seizes on small birds, which it destroys by sucking their blood, after having first wounded them by its fangs, which distil a poisonous liquid into the wound. The slit or orifice near the tip of the fangs, through which this poison is emitted, is so visible as to be distinctly perceived without a glass⁕2.

The eight eyes of this terrible insect are placed somewhat in the form of an oblong square in the front of the thorax. Of these the two middle ones are so large as to be capable of being set in the manner of glasses, and used as microscopes: the rest are smaller and of an oval shape. The thorax is orbicular, and has a transverse central excavation.

In Jamaica there is a species of Spider⁕4, the female of which digs a hole in the earth obliquely downward, about three inches in length, and one inch in diameter; this cavity she lines with a tough III.496 thick web, which, when taken out, resembles a leathern purse: but, what is most curious, this house has a door with hinges, like the operculum of some sea shells; and herself and family, who tenant this nest, open and shut the door whenever they pass or repass⁕5.

In some places in the forests of Java the webs of Spiders have been found, woven with threads of so strong a texture as not easily to be divided without a knife⁕6.

Dampier informs us that, at Campeachy in New Spain, there “is a sort of Spiders of a prodigious size, some nearly as big as a man’s fist, with long small legs, like the Spiders in England. They have two fangs, each an inch and a half long, and of a proportionable thickness, which are black as jet, smooth as glass, and at their small end as sharp as a thorn; these are not straight, but bending. Some persons wear them in their tobacco-pouches to pick their pipes with; others preserve them for tooth-picks, especially such as are troubled with the tooth-ach; for, if report may be trusted, they will expel that pain. The backs of these Spiders are covered with a dark yellowish down as soft as velvet. Some say they are venomous, and others that they are not; but which of these accounts is to be credited I cannot determine.”

Aranea avicularia. Linn.

⁕1 Stedman’s Surinam.

⁕2 Shaw’s Nat. Mis. i. tab. 12.

⁕4 Aranea nidulans, Gmel. Syst. Nat. Linn.

⁕5 Darwin’s Zoonomia.

⁕6 Staunton.

Notes and Corrections: The Bird-Catching Spider

Aranea avicularia is now the head of its own genus as Avicularia avicularia in family Theraphosidae. Aranea nidulans is Ummidia nidulans in family Ctenizidae (trap-door spiders).

a tremor of abhorrence,
text has aborrence



The Scorpions have eight legs, besides two claws, not unlike those of a crab, situated on the fore-part of the head, that serve the purposes of hands. They have also eight eyes, three of which are placed on each side of the thorax, and two in the middle. On the anterior part of the head they have two short claw-like feelers; but no antennæ. And on the under side, between the breast and the abdomen, are two instruments that have somewhat the resemblance of a comb. The tail is long, jointed, and terminated by a sharp crooked sting, from whence is emitted a pungent liquid, not dangerous, except in the very hot climates. Scorpions may, however, be considered as the most malignant and poisonous of all known insects. The poison is emitted through three very small foramina or holes near the top of the sting, one on each side of the tip, and the other on the upper part. In California there is a species, the Scorpio Americanus, which is eaten by the inhabitants.

These animals prey on worms and insects, and frequently even on one another. The young are produced from eggs, of which one female lays a considerable number. After their appearance, these seem to undergo no further change than perhaps casting their skin from time to time, in the same manner as the Spiders.

Notes and Corrections: The Scorpion Tribe

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Linnaeus’s genus Scorpio gave its name to family Scorpionidae and order Scorpiones, still in class Arachnida.

The Scorpions have eight legs, besides two claws, not unlike those of a crab, situated on the fore-part of the head, that serve the purposes of hands.
[Missing commas after “legs”, “crab” and “head” supplied from 3rd edition. (Fun fact: The term “squinting modifier” made its first appearance a little before 1920.) The 1st edition’s version of this sentence read: “The Scorpions have eight legs, besides two claws, that serve the purposes of hands, situated on the fore-part of the head.”]

In California there is a species, the Scorpio Americanus, which is eaten by the inhabitants.
[Not by this inhabitant it isn’t, though scorpions are edible. The name is sometimes0 given as S. americus—not that it matters, since nobody is sure what he means.]


color picture of African Scorpion, no later than 1827

Shaw Miscellany plate 100:
The African Scorpion


Most of the Scorpions have a distant resemblance in shape to the lobster, but they are infinitely more ugly. The head appears, as it were, jointed to the breast; and the mouth is furnished with two jaws, the under one of which is divided into two, and the parts, notched into each other, answer the purpose of teeth, in breaking the food. On each side of the head is a four-jointed arm terminated by a claw, somewhat like that of a lobster. The belly is divided into seven segments, from the lowest of which the tail commences: this in the present species is armed with a hard, pointed, and crooked sting, the poison of which is very powerful.—Scorpions are most common about old houses, and in dry or decayed walls.

In some parts of Italy and France these animals are among the greatest pests that can plague mankind; but in those countries of the East where they grow to a foot in length, there is no removing a piece of furniture without danger of being stung by them. There, we are told, they are full as bulky as a small lobster.

engraving of Scorpio Americanus and Scorpio Afer, no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 130:
Scorpio: Americanus (top left); Afer

Many experiments have been made at different times to ascertain the strength of the poison, and in the warm climates it has uniformly been found fatal to the smaller animals. To man the wound is extremely painful. The place becomes inflamed, and the surrounding parts often turn livid, and require to be carefully dressed to prevent mortification.


We are informed that when a Scorpion is surrounded by burning coals or wood, so as not to be able to escape their effects, it will strike its sting into its own body and destroy itself: but this seems to be merely a legend undeserving of belief.

M. Navarette says that, when he was in the Philippine islands, he was instructed in an infallible preservative against the sting of the Scorpions. The reader will smile when he is told that this was, when he went to bed, simply to make a commemoration of St. George. “I continued,” says he, “this devotion many years; and, God be praised, the saint always delivered me, both there and in other countries, from those and such like insects.” He says, however, afterward, that he used another preventative, that of rubbing his bed all round with garlic, to keep them at a distance. The same credulity that dictated to him the commemoration of St. George taught him that the moisture from a hen’s mouth was an excellent remedy⁕1.

This creature, which is but too common in all hot countries, is extremely bold and watchful. Whenever any thing approaches, it seldom exhibits signs of fear, but, with its tail erect, and sting in readiness, as if fully confident of the force of its poison, it waits an attack with courage and intrepidity, and seldom desists till either it is killed or its enemy is put to flight.

Scorpio Afer. Linn.

⁕1 Navarette’s Voyage to China, in Churchill’s Coll. i. 235.

Notes and Corrections: The Common Scorpion

Scorpio afer, like many of Linnaeus’s scorpions, is now tagged as “doubtful” or nomen dubium, which is only one step up from nomen nudum. Some sources say it is Heterometrus indus in family Scor­pionidae.



All the animals of this tribe have their bodies covered with a hard and strong shell. The head is united to the thorax. or breast without any joint.—Those emphatically denominated crabs have a short flat tail, bent close to the body in a hollow betwixt the legs. The Hermit-crabs, however, have a soft tail, without any crustaceous covering, which the animals fit into empty shells, or hollow stones. In the Lobsters the tail is the principal part of the body, being a very strong member, employed with great advantage both in swimming and leaping. This is formed of six convex segments, lying over each other somewhat like the tiles of a house, and terminated by five laminæ, or thin plates. The former are united by loose membranes, which admit of much motion. At the angle, where the upper and lower parts join, these segments are furnished with a kind of crustaceous fins bordered with hair, and consisting of several articulations, called by naturalists pedes natatorii. The fins are moved, backward and forward, and a little outward and inward, by small muscles, contained within each articulation, which do not differ very greatly from the real feet. By means of these it is that the animals have their progressive motion at different depths in the water.

Most of the Crabs have eight legs, (a few, however, have six or ten) besides two large claws, which serve the purposes of hands. They have two eyes, situated on tubercles, projecting from the head, and III.501 moveable in any direction. When the extremities of these are viewed with a glass, they are found to be composed of a multitude of lenses, like the eyes of insects. For a sense of touch they are furnished with antennæ, and palpi, or feelers. They have likewise a heart, with arterial and venous vessels, and branchiæ or gills for respiration. Their jaws are transverse, strong and numerous; and the stomach is furnished with internal teeth.

Crabs regularly cast their shells once a year.—This is a process that occupies some time, and seems to be attended with much pain. During the operation, and for a little while afterward, their skins are soft, in consequence of which multitudes of them are devoured by aquatic animals, now stronger than themselves. At this time those calcareous concretions, vulgarly called crab’s eyes, are found in their stomachs.—When any of the claws are broken off they are reproduced.

They live chiefly in the sea; some, however, inhabit the fresh waters, and a few live in a great measure on land. They feed variously, on aquatic or marine plants, small fish, molluscæ, or dead bodies. The females carry their ova under their tail, which, for that purpose, in many of the species, is much broader than that of the males.

Notes and Corrections: The Crab Tribe

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Crustaceans, Linnaeus’s genus Cancer, take us back up the taxonomic ladder to another division of arthropods. In some taxo­nomies, Crustacea and Hexapoda are in the same group, meaning that insects are more closely related to lobsters than they are to ticks and spiders. Within Crustacea, superclass Maxillopoda leads to class Malacostraca, order Decapoda (“ten feet”), which includes all the crustaceans you are ever likely to see on the dinner table or in your aquarium, from lobsters to hermit crabs.

a heart, with arterial and venous vessels
text has veinous

During the operation, and for a little while afterward
text has fora without space


The Land Crabs are natives of the Bahamas, and of most of the other islands between the tropics.—They III.502 live in the clefts of rocks, the hollows of trees, or in holes which they dig for themselves in the mountains. About the months of April and May in every year, they descend in a body of some millions at a time to the sea-coast, in order to deposit their spawn, and at this season the whole ground seems alive with them. They march in a direct line to their place of destination, and are said seldom to turn out of their way on account of intervening obstacles. Even if they meet with a lofty wall or a house, they will attempt to scale it. If they arrive at a river, they wind along the course of the stream.

They are as regular in their procession as an army under the direction of an experienced commander, being generally divided into three battalions. The first of these consists of the strongest males, which march forward to clear the route and face the greatest dangers. The main body is composed of females, which are sometimes formed into columns fifty or sixty yards broad and three miles deep. The first division is often obliged to halt from want of rain, and the females never come from the mountains till the rains have set in for some time. Three or four days after these, the rear-guard follows, a straggling undisciplined tribe, consisting of males and females, but neither so robust nor so vigorous as the former.

They proceed chiefly in the night; but if it rain during the day they always profit by it. When the sun is hot they invariably halt till the evening. When terrified they run back in a confused and disorderly manner, holding up and clattering their nippers, with a threatening attitude; and if they are suffered III.503 to catch hold of the hand they will sometimes tear off a piece of the skin. If in their journey any one of their body is so maimed as to be incapable of proceeding, some of them always fall upon and devour it. They march very slowly, being sometimes three months or upward in gaining the shore.

When arrived at the coast they prepare to cast their spawn; for this purpose they go to the edge of the water, and suffer the waves to wash twice or thrice over their bodies. They then withdraw to seek a lodging upon land. In the mean time the spawn is excluded in a bunch from the body, and adheres to the under parts of the tail. This bunch becomes as large as a hen’s egg, and exactly resembles the roe of a herring. In this state they again, for the last time, seek the shore, and shaking off the spawn into the water, leave it to the waters, and the heat of the sun, to be brought to maturity. About two thirds of the eggs are devoured by the shoals of fish which annually frequent the shores in expectation of this prey. Those that escape are hatched under the sand; and, not long after this, millions of the little crabs may be seen quitting the shore, and slowly travelling up to the mountains.

The old ones in their return are feeble, lean, and so inactive that they are scarcely able to crawl along, and their flesh at this time changes its colour. Many of them are obliged to continue in the level parts of the country till they recover, making holes in the earth which they block up with leaves and dirt. In these they cast their old shells, and continue afterward nearly motionless for six or seven days, when III.504 they become so fat as to be delicious food. After this they march slowly back to the mountains.

They subsist on vegetables, and, except when impelled by the desire of bringing forth their young, seldom venture out from their mountainous retreats. At this season the inhabitants of the islands where they are found wait in eager expectation for their descent, and destroy some thousands of them: they disregard the bodies, and take only the spawn that lies on each side of the stomach within the shell, about the thickness of a man’s thumb. The animals are much more valuable for eating on their return, after they have cast their shells. They are taken in the holes; and also sought for by night, when on their journey, by flambeaux. The instant the crabs perceive themselves attacked, they throw themselves on their back, and with their claws pinch most dreadfully whatever they happen to fasten on. But the crab-catcher seizes them by the hinder legs in such a manner that the nippers cannot touch him. They are caught in their holes by the sea-side, by so fixing a stick as to prevent their escaping: and soon afterward the tide enters the holes, and the animals are drowned. Wafer says that the inhabitants of some of the Caribbee islands, when they have caught them, put them for three or four days into a piece of potatoe ground, in order to render them more firm, and better eating⁕1.

In general shape these animals are not much unlike III.505 the common Black-clawed Crab; and the largest of them measure about six inches across the body. They vary in colour, but are commonly of a blackish violet: some are entirely black, others yellow, or red, and others variegated. They are distinguished from other species of Crabs by having the first joint of the legs spinous, and the second and third furnished with tufts of hair.

Synonyms.—Cancer Ruricola. Linn.—Violet Crab.

⁕1 See Browne’s Jamaica, p. 423.—Sloane, ii. 269.—Catesby, ii. 32.—Smith’s Nevis, p. 16.—Wafer’s Voyage, p. 111.

Notes and Corrections: The Land Crab

Cancer ruricola is now Gecarcinus ruricola, the purple land crab, in family Gecarcinidae (land crabs) of superfamily Grapsoidea.

After this they march slowly back to the mountains.
text has montains


This species of Crab is found on the rocky coasts both of Europe and India; and is the same that is introduced to our tables, being in greater esteem as food than many others of the tribe.

The most remarkable circumstance in the history of these animals is the changing of their shells and broken claws. The former is done once a year, and that usually between Christmas and Easter. During the operation they retire among the cavities of rocks and under great stones; and Dr. Darwin says (from the authority of a friend who had been engaged in surveying the sea-coasts) that a hard-shelled Crab always stands sentinel to prevent the sea insects from injuring the rest in their defenceless state; and that, from his appearance, the fishermen know where to find the soft ones, which they use for baits in catching fish: adding that, though the hard-shelled Crab, when he is on his duty, advances boldly to meet the foe, and will with difficulty quit III.506 the field, yet at other times he shews great timidity, and is very expeditious in effecting his escape; if, however, he be often interrupted, he will pretend death, like the spider, and watch an opportunity to sink himself into the sand, keeping only his eyes above.

In the under part of the shell a crescent-formed suture may be observed, which opens at the casting of the shell, and leaves a space sufficient for drawing out the whole body: the thorax soon after drops its breast-plate, and then the legs quit their crustaceous coverings. The body is now only enveloped in a soft skin, not unlike wet parchment; and the animal is so helpless as for a while to be incapable of motion, but lies between the rocks till it has acquired sufficient strength and hardness to bear the weight of its body, and convey itself from place to place to perform its usual functions. The old shell is left, in two divisions, one that covered the body, and the other that inclosed the legs. Dr. Darwin asserts that the stomach and intestines are also cast with the skin; and that the first food the animal takes after recovering its strength is the old stomach. It sometimes happens that the shell hardens prematurely, and fixes the animal a prisoner in his crevice; for fishermen have often found them thus immured. When Crabs are out of health they do not change their shells regularly, the old shells always remaining till they have recovered their proper strength and vigour.

When the fishermen take a crab that is not in good condition they return it into the sea, and sometimes III.507 mark it on the back with a sharp-pointed instrument, or the end of a knife; and it is very surprising that this mark may not only be seen to remain on the old shell, but that it is also found impressed on the subsequent new one. These men also say that, when Crabs have had their shells marked, and been carried out to the distance of two or three miles, and thrown among others, they will always find their way back again: this the men have often observed by afterward catching them in their former haunts.

When the claw of a Crab is bruised it bleeds, and the animal seems by its motions to experience much pain. For a while it moves it from side to side; then, holding it perfectly steady in a direct position, the claw on a sudden gives a gentle crack, and the wounded part drops off, not at the joint, as hath been generally said, but in the smoothest part of the limb; “just (says Mr. Collinson) as one sees the neck of a retort separate when it has been heated by a red-hot iron ring, on the application of cold water.” If, however, the wound happen to be at the extremity of the claw, the animal is said generally to bleed to death, or to pine away in consequence of the slow and almost insensible leaking of the vital moisture.

Crabs are naturally very quarrelsome, and frequently have serious contests by means of those formidable weapons, their great claws. With these they lay hold of their adversary’s legs, and wherever they seize it is not easy to make them forego their hold. The animal seized has, therefore, no alternative III.508 but to leave part of the leg behind in token of victory.

Mr. Collinson was shown an experiment to prove the extremely tenacious disposition of the Crab. A fisherman, by irritation, made a Crab seize one of its own small claws with a large one. The foolish creature did not distinguish that it was itself the aggressor, but exerted its strength, and soon cracked the shell of the small claw. Feeling itself wounded, it cast off the piece in the usual place, but continued to retain the hold with the great claw for a long time afterward.

Fishermen say that the Crab will live confined in a pot or basket for several months, without any other food than what is collected from the seawater, and that even in this situation it will not decrease in weight⁕1.

Synonyms.—Cancer pagurus. Linn.—Eatable Crab.

⁕1 Collinson in Phil. Tran. vol. xliv. p. 70.—Vol. xlvii. p. 41.

Notes and Corrections: The Black-Clawed Crab

Cancer pagurus, the edible crab, still has that binomial. It is in family Cancridae (rock crabs) of superfamily Cancroidea.

color picture of Hermit Crab, no later than 1827

Shaw Miscellany plate 302:
The Hermit Crab


The Hermit Crab is usually about four inches long. It has no shell behind, but is covered down to the tail with a rough skin, terminating in a point. It is armed with two strong hard nippers before, one of which is as thick as a man’s thumb, and so strong as to be capable of inflicting a very severe wound.

Having no shell to any part but its nippers, the Hermit Crab supplies by art what is denied to it III.509 by nature: for, taking possession of the deserted shell of some other animal, it occupies that till, by becoming too large for its habitation, it is under the necessity of changing it.

engraving of Cancer bernardus (Hermit Crab), no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 131 (partial):
Cancer: bernardus

It is curious enough in some countries to observe this animal busily parading the sea shore, along that line of pebbles and shells which is formed by the farthest wave; still, however, dragging its old incom­modious habitation at its tail, unwilling to part with one shell, even though a troublesome appendage, till it can meet with another more convenient. It stops first at one shell, turns it, passes by; then goes to another, contemplates that for a while, and, slipping its tail from the old habitation, tries on the new. This also is found inconvenient, and it quickly resumes the old one. In this manner it frequently changes, till at length it finds one light, roomy, and commodious. To this it adheres, though the shell be sometimes so large as to hide both the body and claws of the animal.

But many trials and many combats are sometimes to be sustained by the Hermit Crab, before he is thus completely equipped: for there is often a contest between two of them for some favourite shell, to which they are rivals. They both endeavour to take possession. They strike with their claw, and bite each other, till the weakest is compelled to yield. The victor then takes possession, and in his new acquisition parades backward and forward on the strand before his envious antagonist.


That the ancients were well acquainted with the manners of the Hermit Crab is evident from the following lines, translated from Oppian.

The Hermit-fish, unarm’d by Nature, left

Helpless, and weak, grow strong by harmless theft.

Fearful they stroll, and look with panting wish

For the cast crust of some new-covered fish;

Or such as empty lie, and deck the shore,

Whose first and rightful owners are no more.

They make glad seizure of the vacant room,

And count the borrow’d shell their native home;

Screw their soft limbs to fit the winding case,

And boldly herd with the crustaceous race.

Careless they enter the first empty cell;

Oft find the plaited whelk’s indented shell;

And oft the deep dy’d purple forced by death

To stranger-fish the painted home bequeath.

The whelk’s etch’d coat is most with pleasure worn,

Wide in extent, and yet but lightly born.

But when they growing more than fill the place,

And find themselves hard-pinch’d in scanty space,

Compell’d they quit the roof they lov’d before,

And busy search around the pebbly shore,

Till a commodious roomy seat be found,

Such as the larger shell-fish living own’d.

Oft cruel wars contending Hermits wage,

And long for the disputed shell engage.

The strongest here the doubtful prize possess,

Power gives the right, and all the claim possess.

When this animal is caught, it emits a faint cry, but pinches forcibly with its claws; nor is there any mode of getting disengaged from these but by either breaking them off or heating the shell. It feeds on fish and insects.

Cancer Bernhardus. Linn.

Notes and Corrections: The Hermit Crab

Cancer bernhardus is now Pagurus bernhardus, Bernhard’s hermit crab, in family Paguridae (right-handed hermit crabs), superfamily Paguroidea. Yes, there is a separate family, Diogenidae, of left-handed hermit crabs.

[Illustration] C. bernardus
[Spelling unchanged. Shaw’s body text—both in the Zoology and the Miscellany—has the same spelling.]


engraving of “Vulgar Lobster”, no later than 1827

Pennant British Zoology Vol. IV plate 10:
Vulgar Lobster


Lobsters are found on most of the rocky coasts of Great Britain. Some are caught with the hand, but the greater quantity in pots; a sort of trap formed of twigs, and baited with garbage. These are formed like a wire mouse-trap, so that when the lobster gets in there is no return. They are fastened to a cord sunk into the sea, and their place is marked by a buoy.

These animals are extremely prolific; Dr. Baster says he counted 12,444 eggs under the tail of a female lobster, besides those that remained in the body unprotruded. They deposit these eggs in the sand, where they are soon hatched.

Like the rest of their tribe, they annually cast their shells. Previously to their putting off the old one, they appear sick, languid, and restless. They acquire an entirely new covering in a few days; but during the time that they remain defenceless they seek some lonely place, lest they should be attacked and devoured by such of their brethren as are not in the same weak situation.

At the same time that they cast their shell they change also their stomach and intestines. The animal, while it is moulting, is said to feed upon its former stomach, which wastes by degrees, and is at length replaced with a new one.


Like some of the Crabs, these animals are said to be attached to particular parts of the sea.

In shelly armour wrapt, the Lobsters seek

Safe shelter in some bay, or winding creek;

To rocky chasms the dusky natives cleave,

Tenacious hold, nor will the dwelling leave.

Nought like their home the constant Lobsters prize,

And foreign shores and seas unknown despise.

Though cruel hand the banish’d wretch expel,

And force the captive from his native cell,

He will, if freed, return, with anxious care,

Find the known rock, and to his home repair:

No novel customs learns in different seas,

But wonted food and home-taught manners please.

The pincers of one of the lobster’s large claws are furnished with nobs, and those of the other are always serrated. With the former it keeps firm hold of the stalks of submarine plants, and with the latter it cuts and minces its food very dexterously. The knobbed or numb claw, as the fishermen call it, is sometimes on the right, and sometimes on the left, indifferently. It is more dangerous to be seized by the cutting claw than the other; but, in either case, the quickest way of getting disengaged from the creature is to pluck off its claw.

In casting their shells, it is difficult to conceive how the lobsters are able to draw the fish of their large claws out, leaving the shells of these entire and attached to the shell of their body; in which state they are constantly found. The fishermen say that previously to the operation the Lobster pines III.513 away, till the fish, in its large claw, is no thicker than the quill of a goose, which enables it to draw its parts through the joints and narrow passage near the trunk. The new shell is membranaceous at first, but it hardens by degrees. Lobsters only grow in size while their shells are in their soft state.

In the water these animals are able to run nimbly upon their legs or small claws, and if alarmed they can spring, tail foremost, to a surprising distance, almost as swiftly as a bird can fly. The fishermen can see them pass about thirty feet, and, by the swiftness of their motion, it is supposed that they may go much farther. When frightened, they will spring from a considerable distance to their hold in the rock; and, what is not less surprising than true, will throw themselves into their hold in that manner, through an entrance barely sufficient for their bodies to pass; as is frequently seen by the people who endeavour to catch them at Filey Bridge, near Scarborough.

The circumstance of Lobsters losing their claws at thunder-claps, or on the sound of cannon, is well authenticated; and the fishermen are often jestingly threatened with a salute by the sailors. The restoration of claws thus lost may always be observed; for these never again grow to their former size. When the claws of Lobsters become inconvenient, from being by any means injured, they always break them off⁕1.

Lobsters are caught in such plenty on the coast III.514 of Northumberland that, about the year 1769, the sum paid for the annual exports from Newbiggin and Newton by the sea (exclusive of those from Holy Island, which produce annually a very considerable sum) amounted to near £1500. This circumstance was stated by John Creswell, Esq. of Creswell, who for many years had made the payments for them from one fishmonger in London, on whose account all the most valuable fish from the coast of Northumberland were shipped⁕2.

Cancer Gammarus. Linn.

⁕1 Penn. Brit. Zool. vol. iv. p. 9.

⁕2 Wallis, i. 392.

Notes and Corrections: The Lobster

skip to next section

Cancer gammarus is now Homarus gammarus in family Nephro­pidae (clawed lobsters), superfamily Nephropoidea.

Dr. Baster says he counted 12,444 eggs
[61 × 17 × 3 × 2 × 2. Wonder how he arrived at this figure? I tend to doubt that he literally counted.]

they change also their stomach and intestines
[It is not your imagination. The article on the Black-Clawed Crab contains an almost identical assertion, there attributed to Dr. (Erasmus) Darwin.]

In shelly armour wrapt, the Lobsters seek
[Oppian’s Halieutica again, in the Diaper/Jones translation. It is unusual for Bingley not to footnote it.]

The knobbed or numb claw, as the fishermen call it, is some­times on the right, and sometimes on the left, indifferently.
[Fun fact: Manyost individual animals have a paw preference, left or right. A species-wide preference, as in Homo sapiens, is rare.]

how the lobsters are able to draw the fish of their large claws out
text unchanged
[The word “flesh“ would have made more sense, but the 1st and 3rd editions say the same thing, both here and later in the para­graph.]

engraving of Craw-fish, no later than 1827

Pennant British Zoology Vol. IV plate 15 (partial):


In the breaking of the claw of the common Craw-fish, it has been observed that, in about a day or two after the piece is cast off, a red membrane, not unlike a bit of red cloth, closes up the aperture. This is at first plain; but, in the course of four or five days, it assumes a convexity, which gradually augments till it takes the appearance of a small cone, of about a line in height. It continues, however, to stretch out, and, in ten days, it is sometimes more than three lines, or about a quarter of an inch high. It is not hollow, but filled with flesh, and this flesh is the basis or rudiment of a new claw. The membrane that covers the flesh performs the same office to the young claw as the membranes do to the fœtus of the larger animals. It extends in proportion as the animal grows; and, as it is tolerably thick, we can perceive nothing but a lengthened III.515 cone. When fifteen days are elapsed this cone inclines toward the head of the animal. In a few days more its curvature increases, and it begins to assume the appearance of a dead claw. This claw, though at the end of a month or five weeks it has acquired the length of six or seven lines, which is more than half an inch, is still incapable of action. The membrane in which it is inclosed, becoming gradually thinner in proportion as it extends, gives an opportunity of observing the parts of the claw, and we now perceive that this conical substance is not a simple congeries of flesh. The moment is now arrived when the claw begins to be brought forth. The membrane at last bursts, and the new claw, though still soft, appears without incumbrance or investment. In a few days more it is covered with a shell; and, though still delicate, and not the half of its former length, it is able to perform all the natural functions. It has likewise been discovered that, whether the claw has been lopped off at the fourth articulation, or any where else, the animal, in a short time, recovers all that it had lost. The same reproduction takes place also in the horns; but, if the tail is cut off, the animal survives a few days only.

The Craw-fish are found in many of our rivers, lodged in holes which they form in the clayey banks; and their presence is generally esteemed an evidence of the goodness of the water. They are frequently taken by means of sticks split at the end, with a bait inserted in the cleft, and stuck in the mud at the distance of a few feet from each other. These III.516 sticks after remaining some time are taken up, generally with an animal adhering to each. They are gently drawn out of the mud, and a basket is put under them to receive the animals, which always drop off when brought to the surface of the water.

Cancer astacus. Linn.

Notes and Corrections: The Craw-Fish

Cancer astacus is now Astacus astacus, the flagship of family Astacidae and superfamily Astacoidea (crayfish).

the fœtus of the larger animals
[Trivia: The editors of the Lancet have only just conceded that “foetus” is not simply an archaism (like “haemo-” instead of “hemo-”) but a flat-out error.]

color picture of Great Scolopendra, or Centipede, no later than 1827

Shaw Miscellany plate 9:
The Great Scolopendra, or Centipede


The Scolopendra have tapering antennæ, and two thread-shaped feelers united between the jaws. The body is long, depressed, and consists of numerous transverse segments; and there are as many legs on each side as there are segments of the body.

They live chiefly on other insects; and inhabit decayed wood, or hollows under stones. The species that frequent the hot climates are large, and many of them very venomous.

⁕1 Shaw’s Nat. Mis. tab. 9.

Notes and Corrections: The Scolopendra

Linnaeus’s genus Scolopendra corresponds roughly to the fourth major arthropod superclass, Myriapoda (“lots and lots of feet”).

engraving of Scolopendra morsitans (Centipede), no later than 1827

Shaw Zoology Vol. VI plate 136 (partial):
Scolopendra: morsitans


None of the Insect tribe, the Scorpions excepted, are so formidable in appearance as the Centipede. It is found in the East and West Indies, and in various parts of Africa, inhabiting chiefly the woods, where it is preyed upon by the different species of snakes. It is, however, sometimes found in houses, and is said to be so common in particular districts that the inhabitants are obliged to have the feet of their beds placed in vessels of water, to prevent III.517 their being annoyed during the night by these horrible reptiles.

They vary greatly both in size and colour. Some of them are of a deep reddish brown, others of a yellow ochre colour, livid yellow, or tinged with red; and they are sometimes seen above a foot in length: they are, however, generally much less. Their legs terminate in very sharp hooks or nails of a shining black colour; and all the other legs are furnished with smaller ones of the same kind.

Gronovius says that all the feet are venomous; but the most formidable weapons of this creature are the two sharp hooked instruments, that are placed under the mouth, with which it destroys its prey. At the extremity of each of these there is a small opening, and from thence extends a tube, through which it is supposed the Centipede emits the poisonous fluid into the wound inflicted by these fangs.

Leuwenhoek, desirous of ascertaining the influence of the poison, placed a large fly within the reach of a Centipede. He seized it between a pair of the middle feet, then passed it from one pair to the next, till it was brought under the fangs; which were plunged into its body, and it died instantly. St. Pierre says that, in the Isle of France his dog was bitten by one of them that was upwards of six inches in length, and that the wound turned to a kind of ulcer, which was three weeks in healing. He III.518 was highly diverted in observing one of them overcome by a vast number of ants, that attacked it in conjunction, and, after seizing it by all its legs, bore it along as workmen would have done a large piece of timber⁕1. Its poison is not more injurious than that of the scorpion, and very seldom proves fatal to the larger animals.

Sir George Staunton says that such was the horror excited in the minds of some of lord Macartney’s train by the sight of these creatures in China, that many thought them alone a sufficient objection to the country.

They have eight very small eyes, four on each side of the head, near the antennæ. The number of segments of the body increase with their age, so, that from this circumstance it is sometimes difficult to ascertain the species⁕2.

Synonyms..—Scolopendra morsitans. Linn.—Great Scolopendra. Shaw’s Nat. Mis.—Centipee, in the West Indies.

⁕1 St. Pierre’s Voyage to the Isle of France.

⁕2 Donovan’s Insects of China.

Notes and Corrections: The Centipede

Scolopendra morsitans, the Tansanian Blue Ringleg or Red-headed Centipede, still has that binomial. It is the namesake of family Scolopendridae in order Scolopendramorpha, class Chilopoda (“1000 feet”).

In the printed book, the marker for the Synonyms footnote was at the end of the first paragraph instead of its usual place after the heading. This in turn put the note itself on the second page of the article.

St. Pierre says that, in the Isle of France
[Mauritius, not Paris.]

to the

Those marked with an * are varieties of some other species; and those printed in Italics are Synonyms.

Abeille maçonne 382
—— tapissiere 376
Acarus autumnal 473
Ant Lion 347
Ant Tribe 402
—— sugar 413
Aphis Tribe 304
—— rose 305
Bee Tribe 375
—— poppy 376
—— leaf-cutting 377
—— Apis manicata 380
—— mason 382
—— Wood-piercer 386
—— hive 384
—— carding 398
—— orange-tailed 402
—— Abeille maçonne 382
—— Abeille tapissiere 376
—— great orange-tailed garden 402
—— red-tailed 402
Bombardier 261
Bots 418
Brown clock 233
Bug Tribe 299
—— bed 300
—— paradoxical 303
Butterfly Tribe 321
—— large garden white 322
—— Marsh-frittilary 323
—— nettle tortoise-shell 325
—— Greasy frittilary 323
—— Dishclout 323
Capricorn-beetle Tribe 255
—— timber 250
Cayman 448
Centipede 516
Chafer Tribe 233
—— Cock-chafer 233
—— Rose Chafer 239
—— burying 247
—— pill 245
—— Blind beetle 233
—— Brass beetle 239
—— Brown clock 233
—— Brown tree beetle 233
—— Connaught worm 233
—— Dor 233
—— Green beetle 239
—— Jack-horner 233
—— Jeffry-cock 233
—— May-bug 233
—— Millers 233
—— Rose May-chafer 239
—— Tree beetle 233
Cheese mite 472
Chigoe 469
Churr worm 273
Cicada Tribe 291
—— wax-forming 293
—— American locust 295
—— Black-headed Frog-hopper 229
—— Cuckoo-spit 229
—— Froth-worm 229
Cochineal Tribe 309
—— lac 310
—— American 313
Cock-chafer 233
Connaught worm 233
Corallines 491
Crab Tribe 500
—— land 501
—— black-clawed 505
—— hermit 508
—— Lobster 511
—— Craw-fish 514
—— violet 501
Craw-fish 514
Cricket, mole 273
—— house 275
—— field 278
Cuckoo-spit 298
Day-fly, common 342
Death-watch Ptinus 248
—— termes 449
Dishclout 323
Dor 233
Dragon-fly Tribe 337
—— great 338
—— Great Libellula 338
—— Variegated Libellula 338
Ear-wig Tribe 262
—— common 263
Ephemera Tribe 341
—— common 342
Eve-churr 273
Fen-cricket 273
Fire-Fly Tribe 259
—— Glow-worm 259
Flea Tribe 466
—— common 466
—— Chigoe 469
Fly Tribe 429
—— Common flesh-fly 431
—— Hessian? 432
—— cheese 434
—— chamæleon 435
—— rat tailed worm 438
Forest Fly 421
Frittilary greasy 328
Frog-hopper black-headed 298
Glow-worm 259
Gnat Tribe 442
—— common 443
—— Musquito fly 446
Gossamer 486
Ground beetle Tribe 261
—— Bombardier 261
Harvest bug 473
Jack-horner 233
Ichneumon Tribe 358
—— manifestator 354
Jeffry-cock 235
Insects 221
Lantern-fly tribe 289
—— great 289
Lepidopterous Insects 317
Libellula great 338
—— variegated 338
Lobster 511
Locust Tribe 272
—— Mole-cricket 273
—— House-cricket 275
—— Field-cricket 278
—— migratory 281
—— American 295
—— Churr-worm 273
—— Eve churr 273
—— Fen-cricket 273
Louse Tribe 463
—— common 464
Mantis Tribe 267
—— orator 268
—— dry-leaf 272
—— religiosa 268
May-bug 233
Millers 233
Moth Tribe 329
—— Silkworm 329
—— clothes 334
* Musquito-fly 446
Myrmeleon Tribe 346
—— Ant-Lion 347
Nut beetle 254
Oestrus or Gad-fly Tribe 417
—— ox 418
—— horse 421
—— sheep 424
Oyster Tribe 507
—— edible 507
Ptinus Tribe 248
—— death-watch 248
Sand-wasp Tribe 360
—— common 360
—— blue 362
Scolopendra Tribe 516
—— Centipede 516
—— great 516
Scorpion Tribe 497
—— common 498
Sphex Tribe 358
—— Turner savage 359
Spider Tribe 474
—— house 475
—— garden 480
—— wandering 484
—— jumping 484
—— water 485
—— Gossamer 486
—— Tarantula 492
—— bird-catching 495
Tarantula 492
Termes Tribe 449
—— death-watch 449
—— White ants 451
Tick Tribe 471
—— Cheese mite 472
—— Harvest bug 473
—— Autumnal acarus 473
Tipula or Crane-fly Tribe 424
—— Wheat-fly 424
Tree beetle 233
—— brown 233
Tumble-dung beetle 245
Warbles 418
Wasp Tribe 365
—— common 366
Weevil Tribe 251
—— corn 252
—— nut 254
—— Nut beetle 254
White Ants 451
Wormuls 418
Wornuls 418
Notes and Corrections: English Index

[Scolopendra Tribe] Centipede
text has Centepede

Scorpion Tribe   497
text has 479

[Tick Tribe] Harvest bug   473
text has 451
[The synonym on the next line, Autumnal acarus, was printed “ib.”, so that would have been wrong too.]


Scarabæus Genus 233
—— melolontha 233
—— auratus 239
—— morticinii 241
—— pilularius 245
Ptinus Genus 248
—— pulsator 248
—— fatidicus 248
Curculio Genus 251
—— granarius 252
—— nucum 254
Cerambyx Genus 255
—— violaceus 256
Lampyris Genus 259
—— noctiluca 259
Carabus Genus 261
—— crepitans 261
Forficula Genus 262
—— auricularia 263
Mantis Genus 267
—— oratoria 268
—— siccifolia 272
—— religiosa 267
Gryllus Genus 272
—— gryllotalpa 274
—— domesticus 275
—— campestris 278
—— migratorius 281
Fulgora Genus 289
—— lanternaria 289
Cicada Genus 291
—— limbata 293
—— septendecim 295
—— spumaria 298
Cimex Genus 299
—— lectularius 300
—— paradoxus 303
Aphis Genus 304
—— rosæ 305
Coccus Genus 309
—— ficus 310
—— cacti 314
Lepidoptera 317
Papilio Genus 321
—— brassicæ 322
—— artemis 323
—— urticæ 325
Phalæna Genus 329
—— mori 329
—— sarcitella 334
Libellula Genus 347
—— grandis 338
Ephemera Genus 341
—— vulgata 342
Myrmeleon Genus 346
—— formicarius 347
Ichneumon Genus 353
—— manifestator 354
Sphex Genus 358
—— spirifex 359
—— sabulosa 369
Ammophila Genus 360
—— vulgaris 360
—— cyanea 362
—— Pensylvannica 364
Vespa Genus 365
—— vulgaris 366
Apis Genus 375
—— papaveris 376
—— centuncularis 377
—— manicata 380
—— violacea 386
—— mellifica 389
—— muscorum 398
—— lapidaria 402
Formica Genus 402
—— saccharivora 413
Oestrus Genus 417
—— bovis 418
—— equi 421
—— ovis 424
612 Tipula Genus 425
—— tritici 425
Musca Genus 429
—— carnaria 431
—— pumilionis 432
—— putris 434
—— chamæleon 435
—— pendula 438
Culex Genus 442
—— pipiens 443
Termes Genus 449
—— pulsatorium 449
—— fatale 451
Pediculus Genus 463
—— humanus 463
Pulex Genus 466
—— irritans 466
—— penetrans 469
Acarus Genus 471
—— siro 472
—— autumnalis 473
Aranea Genus 474
—— domestica 475
—— horticola 480
—— viatica 484
—— scenica 484
—— aquatica 485
—— obtextrix? 486
—— tarantula 492
—— avicularia 494
—— nidulans 495
Scorpio Genus 497
—— afer 498
Cancer Genus 500
—— ruricola 501
—— pagurus 505
—— bernhardus 508
—— gammarus 511
—— astacus 514
Scolopendra Genus 516
—— morsitans 516
Notes and Corrections: Linnean Index

[Scarabæus Genus] auratus   239
text has 209

[Ammophila Genus] Pensylvannica
spelling unchanged
[I don’t think Bingley ever did get this species name right.]

[Aranea Genus] horticola   480
word “horticola” missing
[Since this part of the Index is in strict sequential order, there is no doubt about what was left out.]

[Aranea Genus] obtextrix?
[Question mark in the original. This is the Gossamer Spider, which never did get pinned down to a single binomial.]

The original of this text is in the public domain—at least in the U.S.
My notes are copyright, as are all under-the-hood elements.
If in doubt, ask.