There where two snakes talking. The 1st one said 'Sidney, are we the type of snakes who wrap ourselves around our prey and squeeze and crush until they're dead? Or are we the type of snake who ambush our prey and bite them and they are poisioned?... Read more of What type of snake at Free Jokes.caInformational Site Network Informational
Privacy
   Home - Articles - Books

THE ELEPHANT - BEETLE




Some of our machines have extraordinary-looking mechanisms, which remain
inexplicable so long as they are seen in repose. But wait until the
whole is in motion; then the uncouth-looking contrivance, with its
cog-wheels interacting and its connecting-rods oscillating, will reveal
the ingenious combination in which all things are skilfully disposed to
produce the desired effects. It is the same with certain insects; with
certain weevils, for instance, and notably with the Acorn-beetles or
Balanini, which are adapted, as their name denotes, to the exploitation
of acorns, nuts, and other similar fruits.

The most remarkable, in my part of France, is the Acorn Elephant
(_Balaninus elephas_, Sch.). It is well named; the very name evokes a
mental picture of the insect. It is a living caricature, this beetle
with the prodigious snout. The latter is no thicker than a horsehair,
reddish in colour, almost rectilinear, and of such length that in order
not to stumble the insect is forced to carry it stiffly outstretched
like a lance in rest. What is the use of this embarrassing pike, this
ridiculous snout?

Here I can see some reader shrug his shoulders. Well, if the only end of
life is to make money by hook or by crook, such questions are certainly
ridiculous.

Happily there are some to whom nothing in the majestic riddle of the
universe is little. They know of what humble materials the bread of
thought is kneaded; a nutriment no less necessary than the bread made
from wheat; and they know that both labourers and inquirers nourish the
world with an accumulation of crumbs.

Let us take pity on the question, and proceed. Without seeing it at
work, we already suspect that the fantastic beak of the Balaninus is a
drill analogous to those which we ourselves use in order to perforate
hard materials. Two diamond-points, the mandibles, form the terminal
armature of the drill. Like the Larinidae, but under conditions of
greater difficulty, the Curculionidae must use the implement in order to
prepare the way for the installation of their eggs.

But however well founded our suspicion may be, it is not a certitude. I
can only discover the secret by watching the insect at work.

Chance, the servant of those that patiently solicit it, grants me a
sight of the acorn-beetle at work, in the earlier half of October. My
surprise is great, for at this late season all industrial activity is as
a rule at an end. The first touch of cold and the entomological season
is over.

To-day, moreover, it is wild weather; the _bise_ is moaning, glacial,
cracking one's lips. One needs a robust faith to go out on such a day in
order to inspect the thickets. Yet if the beetle with the long beak
exploits the acorns, as I think it does, the time presses if I am to
catch it at its work. The acorns, still green, have acquired their full
growth. In two or three weeks they will attain the chestnut brown of
perfect maturity, quickly followed by their fall.

My seemingly futile pilgrimage ends in success. On the evergreen oaks I
surprise a Balaninus with the trunk half sunk in an acorn. Careful
observation is impossible while the branches are shaken by the
_mistral_. I detach the twig and lay it gently upon the ground. The
insect takes no notice of its removal; it continues its work. I crouch
beside it, sheltered from the storm behind a mass of underwood, and
watch operations.

Shod with adhesive sandals which later on, in my laboratory, will allow
it rapidly to climb a vertical sheet of glass, the elephant-beetle is
solidly established on the smooth, steep curvature of the acorn. It is
working its drill. Slowly and awkwardly it moves around its implanted
weapon, describing a semicircle whose centre is the point of the drill,
and then another semicircle in the reverse direction. This is repeated
over and over again; the movement, in short, is identical with that we
give to a bradawl when boring a hole in a plank.

Little by little the rostrum sinks into the acorn. At the end of an hour
it has entirely disappeared. A short period of repose follows, and
finally the instrument is withdrawn. What is going to happen next?
Nothing on this occasion. The Balaninus abandons its work and solemnly
retires, disappearing among the withered leaves. For the day there is
nothing more to be learned.

But my interest is now awakened. On calm days, more favourable to the
entomologist, I return to the woods, and I soon have sufficient insects
to people my laboratory cages. Foreseeing a serious difficulty in the
slowness with which the beetle labours, I prefer to study them indoors,
with the unlimited leisure only to be found in one's own home.

The precaution is fortunate. If I had tried to continue as I began, and
to observe the Balaninus in the liberty of the woods, I should never,
even with the greatest good fortune, have had the patience to follow to
the end the choice of the acorn, the boring of the hole, and the laying
of the eggs, so meticulously deliberate is the insect in all its
affairs; as the reader will soon be able to judge.

Three species of oak-tree compose the copse inhabited by the Balaninus:
the evergreen oak and the pubescent oak, which would become fine trees
if the woodman would give them time, and the kermes oak, a mere scrubby
bush. The first species, which is the most abundant of the three, is
that preferred by the Balaninus. The acorn is firm, elongated, and of
moderate size; the cup is covered with little warts. The acorns of the
pubescent oak are usually stunted, short, wrinkled, and fluted, and
subject to premature fall. The aridity of the hills of Serignan is
unfavourable to them. The Acorn-beetles accept them only in default of
something better.

The kermes, a dwarf oak, a ridiculous tree which a man can jump over,
surprises me by the wealth of its acorns, which are large, ovoidal
growths, the cup being covered with scales. The Balaninus could not make
a better choice; the acorn affords a safe, strong dwelling and a
capacious storehouse of food.

A few twigs from these three trees, well provided with acorns, are
arranged under the domes of some of my wire-gauze covers, the ends being
plunged into a glass of water which will keep them fresh. A suitable
number of couples are then introduced into the cages; and the latter are
placed at the windows of my study, where they obtain the direct sunlight
for the greater part of the day. Let us now arm ourselves with patience,
and keep a constant watch upon events. We shall be rewarded; the
exploitation of the acorn deserves to be seen.

Matters do not drag on for very long. Two days after these preparations
I arrive at the precise moment when the task is commenced. The mother,
larger than the male, and equipped with a longer drill, is inspecting
her acorn, doubtless with a view to depositing her eggs.

She goes over it step by step, from the point to the stem, both above
and below. On the warty cup progression is easy; over the rest of the
surface it would be impossible, were not the soles of her feet shod with
adhesive pads, which enable her to retain her hold in any position.
Without the least uncertainty of footing, the insect walks with equal
facility over the top or bottom or up the sides of the slippery fruit.

The choice is made; the acorn is recognised as being of good quality.
The time has come to sink the hole. On account of its excessive length
it is not easy to manoeuvre the beak. To obtain the best mechanical
effect the instrument must be applied perpendicularly to the convex
surface of the acorn, and the embarrassing implement which is carried in
front of the insect when the latter is not at work must now be held in
such a position as to be beneath the worker.

To obtain this result the insect rears herself upon her hind legs,
supporting herself upon the tripod formed by the end of the wing-covers
and the posterior tarsi. It would be hard to imagine anything more
curious than this little carpenter, as she stands upright and brings her
nasal bradawl down towards her body.

Now the drill is held plumb against the surface, and the boring
commences. The method is that I witnessed in the wood on the day of the
storm. Very slowly the insect veers round from right to left, then from
left to right. Her drill is not a spiral gimlet which will sink itself
by a constant rotary motion; it is a bradawl, or rather a trochar, which
progresses by little bites, by alternative erosion, first in one
direction, then the other.

Before continuing, let me record an accident which is too striking to be
passed over. On various occasions I have found the insect dead in the
midst of its task. The body is in an extraordinary position, which would
be laughable if death were not always a serious thing, above all when it
comes suddenly, in the midst of labour.

The drill is implanted in the acorn just a little beyond the tip; the
work was only commenced. At the top of the drill, at right angles to it,
the Balaninus is suspended in the air, far from the supporting surface
of the acorn. It is dried, mummified, dead I know not how long. The legs
are rigid and contracted under the body. Even if they retained the
flexibility and the power of extension that were theirs in life, they
would fall far short of the surface of the acorn. What then has
happened, that this unhappy insect should be impaled like a specimen
beetle with a pin through its head?

An accident of the workshop is responsible. On account of the length of
its implement the beetle commences her work standing upright, supported
by the two hind-legs. Imagine a slip, a false step on the part of the
two adhesive feet; the unfortunate creature will immediately lose her
footing, dragged by the elasticity of the snout, which she was forced to
bend somewhat at the beginning. Torn away from her foothold, the
suspended insect vainly struggles in air; nowhere can her feet, those
safety anchors, find a hold. She starves at the end of her snout, for
lack of foothold whereby to extricate herself. Like the artisans in our
factories, the elephant-beetle is sometimes the victim of her tools. Let
us wish her good luck, and sure feet, careful not to slip, and proceed.

On this occasion all goes well, but so slowly that the descent of the
drill, even when amplified by the magnifying-glass, cannot be perceived.
The insect veers round perpetually, rests, and resumes her work. An hour
passes, two hours, wearying the observer by their sustained attention;
for I wish to witness the precise moment when the beetle withdraws her
drill, turns round, and deposits her egg in the mouth of the orifice.
This, at least, is how I foresee the event.

Two hours go by, exhausting my patience. I call the household to my aid.
Three of us take turns, keeping an uninterrupted watch upon the
persevering creature whose secret I intend at any cost to discover.

It was well that I called in helpers to lend me their eyes and their
attention. After eight hours--eight interminable hours, when it was
nearly night, the sentinel on the watch calls me. The insect appears to
have finished. She does, in fact, very cautiously withdraw her beak, as
though fearing to slip. Once the tool is withdrawn she holds it pointing
directly in front of her.

The moment has come.... Alas, no! Once more I am cheated; my eight hours
of observation have been fruitless. The Balaninus decamps; abandons her
acorn without laying her eggs. I was certainly right to distrust the
result of observation in the open woods. Such concentration among the
oaks, exposed to the sun, wind, and rain would have been an intolerable
task.

During the whole of October, with the aid of such helpers as are needed,
I remark a number of borings, not followed by the laying of eggs. The
duration of the observer's task varies greatly. It usually amounts to a
couple of hours; sometimes it exceeds half the day.

With what object are these perforations made, so laborious and yet so
often unused? Let us first of all discover the position of the egg, and
the first mouthfuls taken by the grub, and perhaps the reply will be
found.

The peopled acorns remain on the oak, held in their cups as though
nothing had occurred to the detriment of the cotyledons. With a little
attention they may be readily recognised. Not far from the cup, on the
smooth, still green envelope of the acorn a little point is visible; a
tiny needle-prick. A narrow brown aureole, the product of mortification,
is not long in appearing. This marks the opening of the hole. Sometimes,
but more rarely, the hole is drilled through the cup itself.

Let us select those acorns which have been recently perforated: that is
to say, those in which the perforation is not yet surrounded by the
brown ring which appears in course of time. Let us shell them. Many
contain nothing out of the way; the Balaninus has bored them but has not
laid her eggs in them. They resemble the acorns which for hours and
hours were drilled in my laboratory but not utilised. Many, on the
contrary, contain an egg.

Now however distant the entrance of the bore may be, this egg is always
at the bottom of the acorn, within the cup, at the base of the
cotyledonary matter. The cup furnishes a thin film like swan-skin which
imbibes the sapid exudations from the stem, the source of nourishment. I
have seen a young grub, hatched under my eyes, eat as his first
mouthfuls this tender cottony layer, which is moist and flavoured with
tannin.

Such nutriment, juicy and easy of digestion, like all nascent organic
matter, is only found in this particular spot; and it is only there,
between the cup and the base of the cotyledons, that the elephant-beetle
establishes her egg. The insect knows to a nicety the position of the
portions best adapted to the feeble stomach of the newly hatched larva.

Above this is the tougher nutriment of the cotyledons. Refreshed by its
first meal, the grub proceeds to attack this; not directly, but in the
tunnel bored by the mother, which is littered with tiny crumbs and
half-masticated shavings. With this light mealy diet the strength of the
grub increases, and it then plunges directly into the substance of the
acorn.

These data explain the tactics of the gravid mother. What is her object
when, before proceeding to sink her hole, she inspects her acorn, from
above, below, before and behind, with such meticulous care? She is
making sure that the acorn is not already occupied. The larder is amply
stored, but it does not contain enough for two. Never in fact, have I
found two larvae in the same acorn. One only, always only one, digests
the copious meal and converts it into a greenish dust before leaving it
and descending to the ground. Only an insignificant shell remains
uneaten. The rule is, to each grub one acorn.

Before trusting the egg to the acorn it is therefore essential to
subject it to a thorough examination, to discover whether it already has
an occupant. This possible occupant would be at the base of the acorn,
under the cover of the cup. Nothing could be more secret than this
hiding-place. Not an eye could divine the inhabitant if the surface of
the acorn did not bear the mark of a tiny perforation.

This mark, just visible, is my guide. Its presence tells me that the
acorn is inhabited, or at least that it has been prepared for the
reception of the egg; its absence tells me that the acorn has not yet
been appropriated. The elephant-beetle undoubtedly draws the same
conclusions.

I see matters from on high, with a comprehensive glance, assisted at
will by the magnifying-glass. I turn the acorn between my fingers for a
moment, and the inspection is concluded. The beetle, investigating the
acorn at close quarters, is often obliged to scrutinise practically the
entire surface before detecting the tell-tale spot. Moreover, the
welfare of her family demands a far more careful search than does my
curiosity. This is the reason for her prolonged and deliberate
examination.

The search is concluded; the acorn is recognised as unoccupied. The
drill is applied to the surface and rotated for hours; then, very often,
the insect departs, disdaining the result of her work. Why such
protracted efforts? Was the beetle piercing the fruit merely to obtain
drink and refreshment? Was the beak thrust into the depths of the base
merely to obtain, from the choicer parts, a few sips of nutritious sap?
Was the whole undertaking merely a matter of personal nourishment?

At first I believed this to be the solution, though surprised at the
display of so much perseverance rewarded by the merest sip. The
behaviour of the males, however, forced me to abandon this idea. They
also possess the long beak, and could readily make such perforations if
they wished; yet I have never seen one take up his stand upon an acorn
and work at it with his augur. Then why this fruitless labour? A mere
nothing suffices these abstemious creatures. A superficial operation
performed upon the surface of a tender leaf yields them sufficient
sustenance.

If the males, the unoccupied males who have leisure to enjoy the
pleasures of the palate, ask no more than the sap of the leaf, how
should the mothers, busied with the affairs of the breeding-season, find
time to waste upon such dearly bought pleasures as the inner juices of
the acorn? No, the acorn is not perforated for the purpose of drinking
its juices. It is possible that once the beak is deeply sunk, the female
may take a mouthful or two, but it is certain that food and drink are
not the objects in view.

At last I begin to foresee the solution of the problem. The egg, as I
have said, is always at the base of the acorn, in the midst of a soft
cottony layer which is moistened by the sap which oozes from the stalk.
The grub, upon hatching out, being as yet incapable of attacking the
firm substance of the cotyledons, masticates the delicate felt-like
layer at the base of the cup and is nourished by its juices.

But as the acorn matures this layer becomes more solid in its
consistency. The soft tissues harden; the moist tissues dry up. There is
a period during which the acorn fulfils to perfection the conditions
most conducive to the welfare of the grub. At an earlier period matters
would not have reached the desired stage; at a later period the acorn
would be too mature.

The exterior of the acorn gives no indication whatever of the progress
of this internal cookery. In order not to inflict unsuitable food on the
grub, the mother beetle, not sufficiently informed by the look of the
acorn, is thus obliged to taste, at the end of her trunk, the tissues at
the base of the cup.

The nurse, before giving her charge a spoonful of broth, tests it by
tasting it. In the same way the mother beetle plunges her trunk into the
base of the cup, to test the contents before bestowing them upon her
offspring. If the food is recognised as being satisfactory the egg is
laid; if not, the perforation is abandoned without more ado. This
explains the perforations which serve no purpose, in spite of so much
labour; the tissues at the base of the cup, being carefully tested, are
not found to be in the required condition. The elephant-beetles are
difficult to please and take infinite pains when the first mouthful of
the grub is in question. To place the egg in a position where the
new-born grub will find light and juicy and easily digested nutriment is
not enough for those far-seeing mothers; their cares look beyond this
point. An intermediary period is desirable, which will lead the little
larva from the delicacies of its first hours to the diet of hard acorn.
This intermediary period is passed in the gallery, the work of the
maternal beak. There it finds the crumbs, the shavings bitten off by the
chisels of the rostrum. Moreover, the walls of the tunnel, which are
softened by mortification, are better suited than the rest of the acorn
to the tender mandibles of the larva.

Before setting to work on the cotyledons the grub does, in fact,
commence upon the contents and walls of this tiny passage. It first
consumes the shavings lying loose in the passage; it devours the brown
fragments adhering to the walls; finally, being now sufficiently
strengthened, it attacks the body of the acorn, plunges into it, and
disappears. The stomach is ready; the rest is a blissful feast.

This intermediary tunnel must be of a certain length, in order to
satisfy the needs of infancy, so the mother must labour at the work of
drilling. If the perforation were made solely with the purpose of
tasting the material at the base of the acorn and recognising its degree
of maturity, the operation might be very much shorter, since the hole
could be sunk through the cup itself from a point close to the base.
This fact is not unrecognised; I have on occasion found the insect
perforating the scaly cup.

In such a proceeding I see the attempt of a gravid mother pressed for
time to obtain prompt information. If the acorn is suitable the boring
will be recommenced at a more distant point, through the surface of the
acorn itself. When an egg is to be laid the rule is to bore the hole
from a point as distant as is practicable from the base--as far, in
short, as the length of the rostrum will permit.

What is the object of this long perforation, which often occupies more
than half the day? Why this tenacious perseverance when, not far from
the stalk, at the cost of much less time and fatigue, the rostrum could
attain the desired point--the living spring from which the new-born grub
is to drink? The mother has her own reasons for toiling in this manner;
in doing thus she still attains the necessary point, the base of the
acorn, and at the same time--a most valuable result--she prepares for
the grub a long tube of fine, easily digested meal.

But these are trivialities! Not so, if you please, but high and
important matters, speaking to us of the infinite pains which preside
over the preservation of the least of things; witnesses of a superior
logic which regulates the smallest details.

The Balaninus, so happily inspired as a mother, has her place in the
world and is worthy of notice. So, at least, thinks the blackbird, which
gladly makes a meal of the insect with the long beak when fruits grow
rare at the end of autumn. It makes a small mouthful, but a tasty, and
is a pleasant change after such olives as yet withstand the cold.

And what without the blackbird and its rivalry of song were the
reawakening of the woods in spring? Were man to disappear, annihilated
by his own foolish errors, the festival of the life-bringing season
would be no less worthily observed, celebrated by the fluting of the
yellow-billed songster.

To the meritorious role of regaling the blackbird, the minstrel of the
forest, the Balaninus adds another--that of moderating the superfluity
of vegetation. Like all the mighty who are worthy of their strength, the
oak is generous; it produces acorns by the bushel. What could the earth
do with such prodigality? The forest would stifle itself for want of
room; excess would ruin the necessary.

But no sooner is this abundance of food produced than there is an influx
from every side of consumers only too eager to abate this inordinate
production. The field-mouse, a native of the woods, stores acorns in a
gravel-heap near its hay-lined nest. A stranger, the jay, comes in
flocks from far away, warned I know not how. For some weeks it flies
feasting from oak to oak, giving vent to its joys and its emotions in a
voice like that of a strangling cat; then, its mission accomplished, it
returns to the North whence it came.

The Balaninus has anticipated them all. The mother confided her eggs to
the acorns while yet they were green. These have now fallen to earth,
brown before their time, and pierced by a round hole through which the
larva has escaped after devouring the contents. Under one single oak a
basket might easily be filled with these ruined shells. More than the
jay, more than the field-mouse, the elephant-beetle has contributed to
reduce the superfluity of acorns.

Presently man arrives, busied in the interest of his pig. In my village
it is quite an important event when the municipal hoardings announce the
day for opening the municipal woods for the gathering of acorns. The
more zealous visit the woods the day before and select the best places.
Next day, at daybreak, the whole family is there. The father beats the
upper branches with a pole; the mother, wearing a heavy hempen apron
which enables her to force her way through the stubborn undergrowth,
gathers those within reach of the hand, while the children collect those
scattered upon the ground. First the small baskets are filled, then the
big _corbeilles_, and then the sacks.

After the field-mouse, the jay, the weevil, and so many others have
taken toll comes man, calculating how many pounds of bacon-fat his
harvest will be worth. One regret mingles with the cheer of the
occasion; it is to see so many acorns scattered on the ground which are
pierced, spoiled, good for nothing. And man curses the author of this
destruction; to hear him you would think the forest is meant for him
alone, and that the oaks bear acorns only for the sake of his pig.

My friend, I would say to him, the forest guard cannot take legal
proceedings against the offender, and it is just as well, for our
egoism, which is inclined to see in the acorn only a garland of
sausages, would have annoying results. The oak calls the whole world to
enjoy its fruits. We take the larger part because we are the stronger.
That is our only right.

More important than our rights is the equitable division of the fruits
of the earth between the various consumers, great and little, all of
whom play their part in this world. If it is good that the blackbird
should flute and rejoice in the burgeoning of the spring, then it is no
bad thing that acorns should be worm-eaten. In the acorn the dessert of
the blackbird is prepared; the Balaninus, the tasty mouthful that puts
flesh upon his flanks and music into his throat.

Let the blackbird sing, and let us return to the eggs of the
Curculionidae. We know where the egg is--at the base of the acorn,
because the tenderest and most juicy tissues of the fruit are there. But
how did it get there, so far from the point of entry? A very trifling
question, it is true; puerile even, if you will. Do not let us disdain
to ask it; science is made of these puerilities.

The first man to rub a piece of amber on his sleeve and to find that it
thereupon attracted fragments of chaff had certainly no vision of the
electric marvels of our days. He was amusing himself in a childlike
manner. Repeated, tested, and probed in every imaginable way, the
child's experiment has become one of the forces of the world.

The observer must neglect nothing; for he never knows what may develop
out of the humblest fact. So again we will ask: by what process did the
egg of the elephant-beetle reach a point so far from the orifice in the
acorn?

To one who was not already aware of the position of the egg, but knew
that the grub attacked the base of the acorn first, the solution of that
fact would be as follows: the egg is laid at the entrance of the tunnel,
at the surface, and the grub, crawling down the gallery sunk by the
mother, gains of its own accord this distant point where its infant diet
is to be found.

Before I had sufficient data this was my own belief; but the mistake was
soon exposed. I plucked an acorn just as the mother withdrew, after
having for a moment applied the tip of the abdomen to the orifice of the
passage just opened by her rostrum. The egg, so it seemed, must be
there, at the entrance of the passage.... But no, it was not! It was at
the other extremity of the passage! If I dared, I would say it had
dropped like a stone into a well.

That idea we must abandon at once; the passage is extremely narrow and
encumbered with shavings, so that such a thing would be impossible.
Moreover, according to the direction of the stem, accordingly as it
pointed upwards or downwards, the egg would have to fall downwards in
one acorn and upwards in another.

A second explanation suggests itself, not less perilous. It might be
said: "The cuckoo lays her egg on the grass, no matter where; she lifts
it in her beak and places it in the nearest appropriate nest." Might not
the Balaninus follow an analogous method? Does she employ the rostrum to
place the egg in its position at the base of the acorn? I cannot see
that the insect has any other implement capable of reaching this remote
hiding-place.

Nevertheless, we must hastily reject such an absurd explanation as a
last, desperate resort. The elephant-beetle certainly does not lay its
egg in the open and seize it in its beak. If it did so the delicate ovum
would certainly be destroyed, crushed in the attempt to thrust it down a
narrow passage half choked with debris.

This is very perplexing. My embarrassment will be shared by all readers
who are acquainted with the structure of the elephant-beetle. The
grasshopper has a sabre, an oviscapt which plunges into the earth and
sows the eggs at the desired depth; the Leuscopis has a probe which
finds its way through the masonry of the mason-bee and lays the egg in
the cocoon of the great somnolent larva; but the Balaninus has none of
these swords, daggers, or pikes; she has nothing but the tip of her
abdomen. Yet she has only to apply that abdominal extremity to the
opening of the passage, and the egg is immediately lodged at the very
bottom.

Anatomy will give us the answer to the riddle, which is otherwise
indecipherable. I open the body of a gravid female. There, before my
eyes, is something that takes my breath away. There, occupying the whole
length of the body, is an extraordinary device; a red, horny, rigid rod;
I had almost said a rostrum, so greatly does it resemble the implement
which the insect carries on his head. It is a tube, fine as a horsehair,
slightly enlarged at the free extremity, like an old-fashioned
blunderbuss, and expanding to form an egg-shaped capsule at the point of
origin.

This is the oviduct, and its dimensions are the same as those of the
rostrum. As far as the perforating beak can plunge, so far the oviscapt,
the interior rostrum, will reach. When working upon her acorn the female
chooses the point of attack so that the two complementary instruments
can each of them reach the desired point at the base of the acorn.

The matter now explains itself. The work of drilling completed, the
gallery ready, the mother turns and places the tip of the abdomen
against the orifice. She extrudes the internal mechanism, which easily
passes through the loose debris of the boring. No sign of the probe
appears, so quickly and discreetly does it work; nor is any trace of it
to be seen when, the egg having been properly deposited, the implement
ascends and returns to the abdomen. It is over, and the mother departs,
and we have not caught a glimpse of her internal mechanism.

Was I not right to insist? An apparently insignificant fact has led to
the authentic proof of a fact that the Larinidae had already made me
suspect. The long-beaked weevils have an internal probe, an abdominal
rostrum, which nothing in their external appearance betrays; they
possess, among the hidden organs of the abdomen, the counterpart of the
grasshopper's sabre and the ichneumon's dagger.





Next: THE PEA-WEEVIL - BRUCHUS PISI

Previous: A TRUFFLE-HUNTER THE BOLBOCERAS GALLICUS



Add to del.icio.us Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Del.icio.us Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network
Report
Privacy
SHAREADD TO EBOOK