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The breeding of Crickets demands no particular preparations. A little

patience is enough--patience, which according to Buffon is genius; but

which I, more modestly, will call the superlative virtue of the

observer. In April, May, or later we may establish isolated couples in

ordinary flower-pots containing a layer of beaten earth. Their diet will

consist of a leaf of lettuce renewed from time to time. The pot must be

vered with a square of glass to prevent the escape of the inmates.

I have gathered some very curious data from these makeshift appliances,

which may be used with and as a substitute for the cages of wire gauze,

although the latter are preferable. We shall return to the point

presently. For the moment let us watch the process of breeding, taking

care that the critical hour does not escape us.

It was during the first week of June that my assiduous visits were at

last repaid. I surprised the female motionless, with the oviduct planted

vertically in the soil. Heedless of the indiscreet visitor, she remained

for a long time stationed at the same point. Finally she withdrew her

oviduct, and effaced, though without particular care, the traces of the

hole in which her eggs were deposited, rested for a moment, walked

away, and repeated the operation; not once, but many times, first here,

then there, all over the area at her disposal. Her behaviour was

precisely the same as that of the Decticus, except that her movements

were more deliberate. At the end of twenty-four hours her eggs were

apparently all laid. For greater certainty I waited a couple of days


I then examined the earth in the pot. The eggs, of a straw-yellow, are

cylindrical in form, with rounded ends, and measure about one-tenth of

an inch in length. They are placed singly in the soil, in a

perpendicular position.

I have found them over the whole area of the pot, at a depth of a

twelfth of an inch. As closely as the difficulties of the operation will

allow, I have estimated the eggs of a single female, upon passing the

earth through a sieve, at five or six hundred. Such a family will

certainly undergo an energetic pruning before very long.

The egg of the Cricket is a curiosity, a tiny mechanical marvel. After

hatching it appears as a sheath of opaque white, open at the summit,

where there is a round and very regular aperture, to the edge of which

adheres a little valve like a skull-cap which forms the lid. Instead of

breaking at random under the thrusts or the cuts of the new-formed

larva, it opens of itself along a line of least resistance which occurs

expressly for the purpose. The curious process of the actual hatching

should be observed.

A fortnight after the egg is laid two large eye-marks, round and of a

reddish black, are seen to darken the forward extremity of the egg.

Next, a little above these two points, and right at the end of the

cylinder, a tiny circular capsule or swelling is seen. This marks the

line of rupture, which is now preparing. Presently the translucency of

the egg allows us to observe the fine segmentation of the tiny inmate.

Now is the moment to redouble our vigilance and to multiply our visits,

especially during the earlier part of the day.

Fortune favours the patient, and rewards my assiduity Round the little

capsule changes of infinite delicacy have prepared the line of least

resistance. The end of the egg, pushed by the head of the inmate,

becomes detached, rises, and falls aside like the top of a tiny phial.

The Cricket issues like a Jack-in-the-box.

When the Cricket has departed the shell remains distended, smooth,

intact, of the purest white, with the circular lid hanging to the mouth

of the door of exit. The egg of the bird breaks clumsily under the blows

of a wart-like excrescence which is formed expressly upon the beak of

the unborn bird; the egg of the Cricket, of a far superior structure,

opens like an ivory casket. The pressure of the inmate's head is

sufficient to work the hinge.

The moment he is deprived of his white tunic, the young Cricket, pale

all over, almost white, begins to struggle against the overlying soil.

He strikes it with his mandibles; he sweeps it aside, kicking it

backwards and downwards; and being of a powdery quality, which offers no

particular resistance, he soon arrives at the surface, and henceforth

knows the joys of the sun, and the perils of intercourse with the

living; a tiny, feeble creature, little larger than a flea. His colour

deepens. In twenty-four hours he assumes a splendid ebony black which

rivals that of the adult insect. Of his original pallor he retains only

a white girdle which encircles the thorax and reminds one of the

leading-string of an infant.

Very much on the alert, he sounds his surroundings with his long

vibrating antennae; he toddles and leaps along with a vigour which his

future obesity will no longer permit.

This is the age of stomach troubles. What are we to give him to eat? I

do not know. I offer him adult diet--the tender leaves of a lettuce. He

disdains to bite it; or perhaps his bites escape me, so tiny would they


In a few days, what with my ten households, I see myself loaded with

family cares. What shall I do with my five or six thousand Crickets, an

attractive flock, to be sure, but one I cannot bring up in my ignorance

of the treatment required? I will give you liberty, gentle creatures! I

will confide you to the sovereign nurse and schoolmistress, Nature!

It is done. Here and there about my orchard, in the most favourable

localities, I loose my legions. What a concert I shall have before my

door next year if all goes well! But no! There will probably be silence,

for the terrible extermination will follow which corresponds with the

fertility of the mother. A few couples only may survive: that is the

most we can hope.

The first to come to the living feast and the most eager at the

slaughter are the little grey lizard and the ant. I am afraid this

latter, hateful filibuster that it is, will not leave me a single

Cricket in my garden. It falls upon the tiny Crickets, eviscerates them,

and devours them with frantic greed.

Satanic creature! And to think that we place it in the front rank of

the insect world! The books celebrate its virtues and never tire of its

praises; the naturalists hold it in high esteem and add to its

reputation daily; so true is it of animals, as of man, that of the

various means of living in history the most certain is to do harm to


Every one knows the _Bousier_ (dung-beetle) and the Necrophorus, those

lively murderers; the gnat, the drinker of blood; the wasp, the

irascible bully with the poisoned dagger; and the ant, the maleficent

creature which in the villages of the South of France saps and imperils

the rafters and ceilings of a dwelling with the same energy it brings to

the eating of a fig. I need say no more; human history is full of

similar examples of the useful misunderstood and undervalued and the

calamitous glorified.

What with the ants and other exterminating forces, the massacre was so

great that the colonies of Crickets in my orchard, so numerous at the

outset, were so far decimated that I could not continue my observations,

but had to resort to the outside world for further information.

In August, among the detritus of decaying leaves, in little oases whose

turf is not burned by the sun, I find the young Cricket has already

grown to a considerable size; he is all black, like the adult, without a

vestige of the white cincture of the early days. He has no domicile. The

shelter of a dead leaf, the cover afforded by a flat stone is

sufficient; he is a nomad, and careless where he takes his repose.

Not until the end of October, when the first frosts are at hand, does

the work of burrowing commence. The operation is very simple, as far as

I can tell from what I have learned from the insect in captivity. The

burrow is never made at a bare or conspicuous point; it is always

commenced under the shelter of a faded leaf of lettuce, the remains of

the food provided. This takes the place of the curtain of grass so

necessary to preserve the mysterious privacy of the establishment.

The little miner scratches with his fore-claws, but also makes use of

the pincers of his mandibles in order to remove pieces of grit or gravel

of any size. I see him stamping with his powerful hinder limbs, which

are provided with a double row of spines; I see him raking and sweeping

backwards the excavated material, and spreading it out in an inclined

plane. This is his whole method.

At first the work goes forward merrily. The excavator disappears under

the easily excavated soil of his prison after two hours' labour. At

intervals he returns to the orifice, always tail first, and always

raking and sweeping. If fatigue overcomes him he rests on the threshold

of his burrow, his head projecting outwards, his antennae gently

vibrating. Presently he re-enters his tunnel and sets to work again with

his pincers and rakes. Presently his periods of repose grow longer and

tire my patience.

The most important part of the work is now completed. Once the burrow

has attained a depth of a couple of inches, it forms a sufficient

shelter for the needs of the moment. The rest will be the work of time;

a labour resumed at will, for a short time daily. The burrow will be

made deeper and wider as the growth of the inmate and the inclemency of

the season demand. Even in winter, if the weather is mild, and the sun

smiles upon the threshold of his dwelling, one may sometimes surprise

the Cricket thrusting out small quantities of loosened earth, a sign of

enlargement and of further burrowing. In the midst of the joys of spring

the cares of the house still continue; it is constantly restored and

perfected until the death of the occupant.

April comes to an end, and the song of the Cricket commences. At first

we hear only timid and occasional solos; but very soon there is a

general symphony, when every scrap of turf has its performer. I am

inclined to place the Cricket at the head of the choristers of spring.

In the waste lands of Provence, when the thyme and the lavender are in

flower, the Cricket mingles his note with that of the crested lark,

which ascends like a lyrical firework, its throat swelling with music,

to its invisible station in the clouds, whence it pours its liquid arias

upon the plain below. From the ground the chorus of the Crickets

replies. It is monotonous and artless, yet how well it harmonises, in

its very simplicity, with the rustic gaiety of a world renewed! It is

the hosanna of the awakening, the alleluia of the germinating seed and

the sprouting blade. To which of the two performers should the palm be

given? I should award it to the Cricket; he triumphs by force of numbers

and his never-ceasing note. The lark hushes her song, that the blue-grey

fields of lavender, swinging their aromatic censers before the sun, may

hear the Cricket alone at his humble, solemn celebration.

But here the anatomist intervenes, roughly demanding of the Cricket:

"Show me your instrument, the source of your music!" Like all things of

real value, it is very simple; it is based on the same principle as that

of the locusts; there is the toothed fiddlestick and the vibrating


The right wing-cover overlaps the left and almost completely covers it,

except for the sudden fold which encases the insect's flank. This

arrangement is the reverse of that exhibited by the green grasshopper,

the Decticus, the Ephippigera, and their relations. The Cricket is

right-handed, the others left-handed. The two wing-covers have the same

structure. To know one is to know the other. Let us examine that on the

right hand.

It is almost flat on the back, but suddenly folds over at the side, the

turn being almost at right angles. This lateral fold encloses the flank

of the abdomen and is covered with fine oblique and parallel nervures.

The powerful nervures of the dorsal portion of the wing-cover are of the

deepest black, and their general effect is that of a complicated design,

not unlike a tangle of Arabic caligraphy.

Seen by transmitted light the wing-cover is of a very pale reddish

colour, excepting two large adjacent spaces, one of which, the larger

and anterior, is triangular in shape, while the other, the smaller and

posterior, is oval. Each space is surrounded by a strong nervure and

goffered by slight wrinkles or depressions. These two spaces represent

the mirror of the locust tribe; they constitute the sonorous area. The

substance of the wing-cover is finer here than elsewhere, and shows

traces of iridescent though somewhat smoky colour.

These are parts of an admirable instrument, greatly superior to that of

the Decticus. The five hundred prisms of the bow biting upon the ridges

of the wing-cover opposed to it set all four tympanums vibrating at

once; the lower pair by direct friction, the upper pair by the vibration

of the wing-cover itself. What a powerful sound results! The Decticus,

endowed with only one indifferent "mirror," can be heard only at a few

paces; the Cricket, the possessor of four vibratory areas, can be heard

at a hundred yards.

The Cricket rivals the Cigale in loudness, but his note has not the

displeasing, raucous quality of the latter. Better still: he has the

gift of expression, for he can sing loud or soft. The wing-covers, as we

have seen, are prolonged in a deep fold over each flank. These folds are

the dampers, which, as they are pressed downwards or slightly raised,

modify the intensity of the sound, and according to the extent of their

contact with the soft abdomen now muffle the song to a _mezza voce_ and

now let it sound _fortissimo_.

Peace reigns in the cage until the warlike instinct of the mating period

breaks out. These duels between rivals are frequent and lively, but not

very serious. The two rivals rise up against one another, biting at one

another's heads--these solid, fang-proof helmets--roll each other over,

pick themselves up, and separate. The vanquished Cricket scuttles off as

fast as he can; the victor insults him by a couple of triumphant and

boastful chirps; then, moderating his tone, he tacks and veers about the

desired one.

The lover proceeds to make himself smart. Hooking one of his antennae

towards him with one of his free claws, he takes it between his

mandibles in order to curl it and moisten it with saliva. With his long

hind legs, spurred and laced with red, he stamps with impatience and

kicks out at nothing. Emotion renders him silent. His wing-covers are

nevertheless in rapid motion, but are no longer sounding, or at most

emit but an unrhythmical rubbing sound.

Presumptuous declaration! The female Cricket does not run to hide

herself in the folds of her lettuce leaves; but she lifts the curtain a

little, and looks out, and wishes to be seen:--

_Et fugit ad salices, et se cupit ante videri._

She flies towards the brake, but hopes first to be perceived, said the

poet of the delightful eclogue, two thousand years ago. Sacred

provocations of lovers, are they not in all ages the same?