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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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.