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The Halictus opens up another question, connected with one of life's

obscurest problems. Let us go back five-and-twenty years. I am living

at Orange. My house stands alone among the fields. On the other side

of the wall enclosing our yard, which faces due south, is a narrow

path overgrown with couch-grass. The sun beats full upon it; and the

glare reflected from the whitewash of the wall turns it into a little

corner, shut off from the rude gusts of the north-west wind.

Here the Cats come to take their afternoon nap, with their eyes half-

closed; here the children come, with Bull, the House-dog; here also

come the haymakers, at the hottest time of the day, to sit and take

their meal and whet their scythes in the shade of the plane-tree;

here the women pass up and down with their rakes, after the hay-

harvest, to glean what they can on the niggardly carpet of the shorn

meadow. It is therefore a very much frequented footpath, were it only

because of the coming and going of our household: a thoroughfare ill-

suited, one would think, to the peaceful operations of a Bee; and

nevertheless it is such a very warm and sheltered spot and the soil

is so favourable that every year I see the Cylindrical Halictus (H.

cylindricus, FAB.) hand down the site from one generation to the

next. It is true that the very matutinal, even partly nocturnal

character of the work makes the insect suffer less inconvenience from

the traffic.

The burrows cover an extent of some ten square yards, and their

mounds, which often come near enough to touch, average a distance of

four inches at the most from one another. Their number is therefore

something like a thousand. The ground just here is very rough,

consisting of stones and dust mixed with a little mould and held

together by the closely interwoven roots of the couch-grass. But,

owing to its nature, it is thoroughly well drained, a condition

always in request among Bees and Wasps that have underground cells.

Let us forget for a moment what the Zebra Halictus and the Early

Halictus have taught us. At the risk of repeating myself a little, I

will relate what I observed during my first investigations. The

Cylindrical Halictus works in May. Except among the social species,

such as Common Wasps, Bumble-bees, Ants and Hive-bees, it is the rule

for each insect that victuals its nests either with honey or game to

work by itself at constructing the home of its grubs. Among insects

of the same species there is often neighbourship; but their labours

are individual and not the result of co-operation. For instance, the

Cricket-hunters, the Yellow-winged Sphex, settle in gangs at the foot

of a sandstone cliff, but each digs her own burrow and would not

suffer a neighbour to come and help in piercing the home.

In the case of the Anthophorae, an innumerable swarm takes possession

of a sun-scorched crag, each Bee digging her own gallery and

jealously excluding any of her fellows who might venture to come to

the entrance of her hole. The Three-pronged Osmia, when boring the

bramble-stalk tunnel in which her cells are to be stacked, gives a

warm reception to any Osmia that dares set foot upon her property.

Let one of the Odyneri who make their homes in a road-side bank

mistake the door and enter her neighbour's house: she would have a

bad time of it! Let a Megachile, returning with her leafy disk in her

legs, go into the wrong basement: she would be very soon dislodged!

So with the others: each has her own home, which none of the others

has the right to enter. This is the rule, even among Bees and Wasps

established in a populous colony on a common site. Close

neighbourhood implies no sort of intimate relationship.

Great therefore is my surprise as I watch the Cylindrical Halictus'

operations. She forms no society, in the entomological sense of the

word: there is no common family; and the general interest does not

engross the attention of the individual. Each mother occupies herself

only with her own eggs, builds cells and gathers honey only for her

own larvae, without concerning herself in any way with the upbringing

of the others' grubs. All that they have in common is the entrance-

door and the goods-passage, which ramifies in the ground and leads to

different groups of cells, each the property of one mother. Even so,

in the blocks of flats in our large towns, one door, one hall and one

staircase lead to different floors or different portions of a floor

where each family retains its isolation and its independence.

This common right of way is extremely easy to perceive at the time

for victualling the nests. Let us direct our attention for a while to

the same entrance-aperture, opening at the top of a little mound of

earth freshly thrown up, like that accumulated by the Ants during

their works. Sooner or later we shall see the Halicti arrive with

their load of pollen, gathered on the Cichoriaceae of the


Usually, they come up one by one; but it is not rare to see three,

four or even more appearing at the same time at the mouth of one

burrow. They perch on the top of the mound and, without hurrying in

front of one another, with no sign of jealousy, they dive down the

passage, each in her turn. We need but watch their peaceful waiting,

their tranquil dives, to recognize that this indeed is a common

passage to which each has as much right as another.

When the soil is exploited for the first time and the shaft sunk

slowly from the outside to the inside, do several Cylindrical

Halicti, one relieving the other, take part in the work by which they

will afterwards profit equally? I do not believe it for a moment. As

the Zebra Halictus and the Early Halictus told me later, each miner

goes to work alone and makes herself a gallery which will be her

exclusive property. The common use of the passage comes presently,

when the site, tested by experience, is handed down from one

generation to another.

A first group of cells is established, we will suppose, at the bottom

of a pit dug in virgin soil. The whole thing, cells and pit, is the

work of one insect. When the moment comes to leave the underground

dwelling, the Bees emerging from this nest will find before them an

open road, or one at most obstructed by crumbly matter, which offers

less resistance than the neighbouring soil, as yet untouched. The

exit-way will therefore be the primitive way, contrived by the mother

during the construction of the nest. All enter upon it without any

hesitation, for the cells open straight on it. All, coming and going

from the cells to the bottom of the shaft and from the shaft to the

cells, will take part in the clearing, under the stimulus of the

approaching deliverance.

It is quite unnecessary here to presume among these underground

prisoners a concerted effort to liberate themselves more easily by

working in common: each is thinking only of herself and invariably

returns, after resting, to toil at the inevitable path, the path of

least resistance, in short the passage once dug by the mother and now

more or less blocked up.

Among the Cylindrical Halicti, any one who wishes emerges from her

cell at her own hour, without waiting for the emergence of the

others, because the cells, grouped in small stacks, have each their

special outlet opening into the common gallery. The result of this

arrangement is that all the inhabitants of one burrow are able to

assist, each doing her share, in the clearing of the exit-shaft. When

she feels fatigued, the worker retires to her undamaged cell and

another succeeds her, impatient to get out rather than to help the

first. At last the way is clear and the Halicti emerge. They disperse

over the flowers around as long as the sun is hot; when the air

cools, they go back to the burrows to spend the night there.

A few days pass and already the cares of egg-laying are at hand. The

galleries have never been abandoned. The Bees have come to take

refuge there on rainy or very windy days; most, if not all, have

returned every evening at sunset, each doubtless making for her own

cell, which is still intact and which is carefully impressed upon her

memory. In a word, the Cylindrical Halictus does not lead a wandering

life; she has a fixed residence.

A necessary consequence results from these settled habits: for the

purpose of her laying, the Bee will adopt the identical burrow in

which she was born. The entrance-gallery is ready therefore. Should

it need to be carried deeper, to be pushed in new directions, the

builder has but to extend it at will. The old cells even can serve

again, if slightly restored.

Thus resuming possession of the native burrow in view of her

offspring, the Bee, notwithstanding her instincts as a solitary

worker, achieves an attempt at social life, because there is one

entrance-door and one passage for the use of all the mothers

returning to the original domicile. There is thus a semblance of

collaboration without any real co-operation for the common weal.

Everything is reduced to a family inheritance shared equally among

the heirs.

The number of these coheirs must soon be limited, for a too

tumultuous traffic in the corridor would delay the work. Then fresh

passages are opened inwards, often communicating with depths already

excavated, so that the ground at last is perforated in every

direction with an inextricable maze of winding tunnels.

The digging of the cells and the piercing of new galleries take place

especially at night. A cone of fresh earth on top of the burrow bears

evidence every morning to the overnight activity. It also shows by

its volume that several navvies have taken part in the work, for it

would be impossible for a single Halictus to extract from the ground,

convey to the surface and heap up so large a stack of rubbish in so

short a time.

At sunrise, when the fields around are still wet with dew, the

Cylindrical Halictus leaves her underground passages and starts on

her foraging. This is done without animation, perhaps because of the

morning coolness. There is no joyous excitement, no humming above the

burrows. The Bees come back again, flying low, silently and heavily,

their hind-legs yellow with pollen; they alight on the earth-cone and

at once dive down the vertical chimney. Others come up the pipe and

go off to their harvesting.

This journeying to and fro for provisions continues until eight or

nine in the morning. Then the heat begins to grow intense and is

reflected by the wall; then also the path is once more frequented.

People pass at every moment, coming out of the house or elsewhence.

The soil is so much trodden under foot that the little mounds of

refuse surrounding each burrow soon disappear and the site loses

every sign of underground habitation.

All day long, the Halicti remain indoors. Withdrawing to the bottom

of the galleries, they occupy themselves probably in making and

polishing the cells. Next morning, new cones of rubbish appear, the

result of the night's work, and the pollen-harvest is resumed for a

few hours; then everything ceases again. And so the work goes on,

suspended by day, renewed at night and in the morning hours, until

completely finished.

The passages of the Cylindrical Halictus descend to a depth of some

eight inches and branch into secondary corridors, each giving access

to a set of cells. These number six or eight to each set and are

ranged side by side, parallel with their main axis, which is almost

horizontal. They are oval at the base and contracted at the neck.

Their length is nearly twenty millimetres (.78 inch.--Translator's

Note.) and their greatest width eight. (.312 inch.--Translator's

Note.) They do not consist simply of a cavity in the ground; on the

contrary, they have their own walls, so that the group can be taken

out in one piece, with a little precaution, and removed neatly from

the earth in which it is contained.

The walls are formed of fairly delicate materials, which must have

been chosen in the coarse surrounding mass and kneaded with saliva.

The inside is carefully polished and upholstered with a thin

waterproof film. We will cut short these details concerning the

cells, which the Zebra Halictus has already shown us in greater

perfection, leave the home to itself and come to the most striking

feature in the life-history of the Halicti.

The Cylindrical Halictus is at work in the first days of May. It is a

rule among the Hymenoptera for the males never to take part in the

fatiguing work of nest-building. To construct cells and to amass

victuals are occupations entirely foreign to their nature. This rule

seems to have no exceptions; and the Halicti conform to it like the

rest. It is therefore only to be expected that we should see no males

shooting the underground rubbish outside the galleries. That is not

their business.

But what does astonish us, when our attention is directed to it, is

the total absence of any males in the vicinity of the burrows.

Although it is the rule that the males should be idle, it is also the

rule for these idlers to keep near the galleries in course of

construction, coming and going from door to door and hovering above

the work-yards to seize the moment at which the unfecundated females

will at last yield to their importunities.

Now here, despite the enormous population, despite my careful and

incessant watch, it is impossible for me to distinguish a single

male. And yet the distinction between the sexes is of the simplest.

It is not necessary to take hold of the male. He can be recognized

even at a distance by his slenderer frame, by his long, narrow

abdomen, by his red sash. They might easily suggest two different

species. The female is a pale russet-brown; the male is black, with a

few red segments to his abdomen. Well, during the May building-

operations, there is not a Bee in sight clad in black, with a

slender, red-belted abdomen; in short, not a male.

Though the males do not come to visit the environs of the burrows,

they might be elsewhere, particularly on the flowers where the

females go plundering. I did not fail to explore the fields, insect-

net in hand. My search was invariably fruitless. On the other hand,

those males, now nowhere to be found, are plentiful later, in

September, along the borders of the paths, on the close-set flowers

of the eringo.

This singular colony, reduced exclusively to mothers, made me suspect

the existence of several generations a year, whereof one at least

must possess the other sex. I continued therefore, when the building-

who was over, to keep a daily watch on the establishment of the

Cylindrical Halictus, in order to seize the favourable moment that

would verify my suspicions. For six weeks, solitude reigned above the

burrows: not a single Halictus appeared; and the path, trodden by the

wayfarers, lost its little heaps of rubbish, the only signs of the

excavations. There was nothing outside to show that the warmth down

below was hatching populous swarms.

July comes and already a few little mounds of fresh earth betoken

work going on underground in preparation for an exodus in the near

future. As the males, among the Hymenoptera, are generally further

advanced than the females and quit their natal cells earlier, it was

important that I should witness the first exits made, so as to dispel

the least shadow of a doubt. A violent exhumation would have a great

advantage over the natural exit: it would place the population of the

burrows immediately under my eyes, before the departure of either

sex. In this way, nothing could escape from me and I was dispensed

from a watch which, for all its attentiveness, was not to be relied

upon absolutely. I therefore resolve upon a reconnaissance with the


I dig down to the full depth of the galleries and remove large lumps

of earth which I take in my hands and break very carefully so as to

examine all the parts that may contain cells. Halicti in the perfect

state predominate, most of them still lodged in their unbroken

chambers. Though they are not quite so numerous, there are also

plenty of pupae. I collect them of every shade of colour, from dead-

white, the sign of a recent transformation, to smoky-brown, the mark

of an approaching metamorphosis. Larvae, in small quantities,

complete the harvest. They are in the state of torpor that precedes

the appearance of the pupa.

I prepare boxes with a bed of fresh, sifted earth to receive the

larvae and the pupae, which I lodge each in a sort of half-cell

formed by the imprint of my finger. I will await the transformation

to decide to which sex they belong. As for the perfect insects, they

are inspected, counted and at once released.

In the very unlikely supposition that the distribution of the sexes

might vary in different parts of the colony, I make a second

excavation, at a few yards' distance from the other. It supplies me

with another collection both of perfect insects and of pupae and


When the metamorphosis of the laggards is completed, which does not

take many days, I proceed to take a general census. It gives me two

hundred and fifty Halicti. Well, in this number of Bees, collected in

the burrow before any have emerged, I perceive none, absolutely none

but females; or, to be mathematically accurate, I find just one male,

one alone; and he is so small and feeble that he dies without quite

succeeding in divesting himself of his nymphal bands. This solitary

male is certainly accidental. A female population of two hundred and

forty-nine Halicti implies other males than this abortion, or rather

implies none at all. I therefore eliminate him as an accident of no

value and conclude that, in the Cylindrical Halictus, the July

generation consists of females only.

The building-operations start again in the second week of July. The

galleries are restored and lengthened; new cells are fashioned and

the old ones repaired. Follow the provisioning, the laying of the

eggs, the closing of the cells; and, before July is over, there is

solitude again. Let me also say that, during the building-period, not

a male appears in sight, a fact which adds further proof to that

already supplied by my excavations.

With the high temperature of this time of the year, the development

of the larvae makes rapid progress: a month is sufficient for the

various stages of the metamorphosis. On the 24th of August there are

once more signs of life above the burrows of the Cylindrical

Halictus, but under very different conditions. For the first time,

both sexes are present. Males, so easily recognized by their black

livery and their slim abdomen adorned with a red ring, hover

backwards and forwards, almost level with the ground. They fuss about

from burrow to burrow. A few rare females come out for a moment and

then go in again.

I proceed to make an excavation with my spade; I gather

indiscriminately whatever I come across. Larvae are very scarce;

pupae abound, as do perfect insects. The list of my captures amounts

to eighty males and fifty-eight females. The males, therefore,

hitherto impossible to discover, either on the flowers around or in

the neighbourhood of the burrows, could be picked up to-day by the

hundred, if I wished. They outnumber the females by about four to

three; they are also further developed, in accordance with the

general rule, for most of the backward pupae give me only females.

Once the two sexes had appeared, I expected a third generation that

would spend the winter in the larval state and recommence in May the

annual cycle which I have just described. My anticipation proved to

be at fault. Throughout September, when the sun beats upon the

burrows, I see the males flitting in great numbers from one shaft to

the other. Sometimes a female appears, returning from the fields, but

with no pollen on her legs. She seeks her gallery, finds it, dives

down and disappears.

The males, as though indifferent to her arrival, offer her no

welcome, do not harass her with their amorous pursuits; they continue

to visit the doors of the burrows with a winding and oscillating

flight. For two months, I follow their evolutions. If they set foot

on earth, it is to descend forthwith into some gallery that suits


It is not uncommon to see several of them on the threshold of the

same burrow. Then each awaits his turn to enter; they are as

peaceable in their relations as the females who are joint owners of a

burrow. At other times, one wants to go in as a second is coming out.

This sudden encounter produces no strife. The one leaving the hole

withdraws a little to one side to make enough room for two; the other

slips past as best he can. These peaceful meetings are all the more

striking when we consider the usual rivalry between males of the same


No rubbish-mound stands at the mouth of the shafts, showing that the

building has not been resumed; at the most, a few crumbs of earth are

heaped outside. And by whom, pray? By the males and by them alone.

The lazy sex has bethought itself of working. It turns navvy and

shoots out grains of earth that would interfere with its continual

entrances and exits. For the first time I witness a custom which no

Hymenopteron had yet shown me: I see the males haunting the interior

of the burrows with an assiduity equalling that of the mothers

employed in nest-building.

The cause of these unwonted operations soon stands revealed. The

females seen flitting above the burrows are very rare; the majority

of the feminine population remain sequestered under ground, do not

perhaps come out once during the whole of the latter part of summer.

Those who do venture out go in again soon, empty-handed of course and

always without any amorous teasing from the males, a number of whom

are hovering above the burrows.

On the other hand, watch as carefully as I may, I do not discover a

single act of pairing out of doors. The weddings are clandestine,

therefore, and take place under ground. This explains the males'

fussy visits to the doors of the galleries during the hottest hours

of the day, their continual descents into the depths and their

continual reappearances. They are looking for the females cloistered

in the retirement of the cells.

A little spade-work soon turns suspicion into certainty. I unearth a

sufficient number of couples to prove to me that the sexes come

together underground. When the marriage is consummated, the red-

belted one quits the spot and goes to die outside the burrow, after

dragging from flower to flower the bit of life that remains to him.

The other shuts herself up in her cell, there to await the return of

the month of May.

September is spent by the Halictus solely in nuptial celebrations.

Whenever the sky is fine, I witness the evolutions of the males above

the burrows, with their continual entrances and exits; should the sun

be veiled, they take refuge down the passages. The more impatient,

half-hidden in the pit, show their little black heads outside, as

though peeping for the least break in the clouds that will allow them

to pay a brief visit to the flowers round about. They also spend the

night in the burrows. In the morning, I attend their levee; I see

them put their head to the window, take a look at the weather and

then go in again until the sun beats on the encampment.

The same mode of life is continued throughout October, but the males

become less numerous from day to day as the stormy season approaches

and fewer females remain to be wooed. By the time that the first

cold weather comes, in November, complete solitude reigns over the

burrows. I once more have recourse to the spade. I find none but

females in their cells. There is not one male left. All have

vanished, all are dead, the victims of their life of pleasure and of

the wind and rain. Thus ends the cycle of the year for the

Cylindrical Halictus.

In February, after a hard winter, when the snow had lain on the

ground for a fortnight, I wanted once more to look into the matter of

my Halicti. I was in bed with pneumonia and at the point of death, to

all appearances. I had little or no pain, thank God, but extreme

difficulty in living. With the little lucidity left to me, being able

to do no other sort of observing, I observed myself dying; I watched

with a certain interest the gradual falling to pieces of my poor

machinery. Were it not for the terror of leaving my family, who were

still young, I would gladly have departed. The after-life must have

so many higher and fairer truths to teach us.

My hour had not yet come. When the little lamps of thought began to

emerge, all flickering, from the dusk of unconsciousness, I wished to

take leave of the Hymenopteron, my fondest joy, and first of all of

my neighbour, the Halictus. My son Emile took the spade and went and

dug the frozen ground. Not a male was found, of course; but there

were plenty of females, numbed with the cold in their cells.

A few were brought for me to see. Their little chambers showed no

efflorescence of rime, with which all the surrounding earth was

coated. The waterproof varnish had been wonderfully efficacious. As

for the anchorites, roused from their torpor by the warmth of the

room, they began to wander about my bed, where I followed them

vaguely with my fading eyes.

May came, as eagerly awaited by the sick man as by the Halicti. I

left Orange for Serignan, my last stage, I expect. While I was

moving, the Bees resumed their building. I gave them a regretful

glance, for I had still much to learn in their company. I have never

since met with such a mighty colony.

These old observations on the habits of the Cylindrical Halictus may

now be followed by a general summary which will incorporate the

recent data supplied by the Zebra Halictus and the Early Halictus.

The females of the Cylindrical Halictus whom I unearth from November

onwards are evidently fecundated, as is proved by the assiduity of

the males during the preceding two months and most positively

confirmed by the couples discovered in the course of my excavations.

These females spend the winter in their cells, as do many of the

early-hatching melliferous insects, such as Anthophorae and Mason-

bees, who build their nests in the spring, the larvae reaching the

perfect state in the summer and yet remaining shut up in their cells

until the following May. But there is this great difference in the

case of the Cylindrical Halictus, that in the autumn the females

leave their cells for a time to receive the males under ground. The

couples pair and the males perish. Left alone, the females return to

their cells, where they spend the inclement season.

The Zebra Halicti, studied first at Orange and then, under better

conditions, at Serignan, in my own enclosure, have not these

subterranean customs: they celebrate their weddings amid the joys of

the light, the sun and the flowers. I see the first males appear in

the middle of September, on the centauries. Generally there are

several of them courting the same bride. Now one, then another, they

swoop upon her suddenly, clasp her, leave her, seize hold of her

again. Fierce brawls decide who shall possess her. One is accepted

and the others decamp. With a swift and angular flight, they go from

flower to flower, without alighting. They hover on the wing, looking

about them, more intent on pairing than on eating.

The Early Halictus did not supply me with any definite information,

partly through my own fault, partly through the difficulty of

excavation in a stony soil, which calls for the pick-axe rather than

the spade. I suspect her of having the nuptial customs of the

Cylindrical Halictus.

There is another difference, which causes certain variations of

detail in these customs. In the autumn, the females of the

Cylindrical Halictus leave their burrows seldom or not at all. Those

who do go out invariably come back after a brief halt upon the

flowers. All pass the winter in the natal cells. On the other hand,

those of the Zebra Halictus move their quarters, meet the males

outside and do not return to the burrows, which my autumn excavations

always find deserted. They hibernate in the first hiding-places that


In the spring, the females, fecundated since the autumn, come out:

the Cylindrical Halicti from their cells, the Zebra Halicti from

their various shelters, the Early Halicti apparently from their

chambers, like the first. They work at their nests in the absence of

any male, as do also the Social Wasps, whose whole brood has perished

excepting a few mothers also fecundated in the autumn. In both

cases, the assistance of the males is equally real, only it has

preceded the laying by about six months.

So far, there is nothing new in the life of the Halicti; but here is

where the unexpected appears: in July, another generation is

produced; and this time without males. The absence of masculine

assistance is no longer a mere semblance here, due to an earlier

fecundation: it is a reality established beyond a doubt by the

continuity of my observations and by my excavations during the summer

season, before the emergence of the new Bees. At this period, a

little before July, if my spade unearth the cells of any one of my

three Halicti, the result is always females, nothing but females,

with exceedingly rare exceptions.

True, it may be said that the second progeny is due to the mothers

who knew the males in autumn and who would be able to nidify twice a

year. The suggestion is not admissible. The Zebra Halictus confirms

what I say. She shows us the old mothers no longer leaving the home

but mounting guard at the entrance to the burrows. No harvesting- or

pottery-work is possible with these absorbing doorkeeping-functions.

Therefore there is no new family, even admitting that the mothers'

ovaries are not depleted.

I do not know if a similar argument is valid in the case of the

Cylindrical Halictus. Has she any general survivors? As my attention

had not yet been directed on this point in the old days, when I had

the insect at my door, I have no records to go upon. For all that, I

am inclined to think that the portress of the Zebra Halictus is

unknown here. The reason of this absence would be the number of

workers at the start.

In May, the Zebra Halictus, living by herself in her winter retreat,

founds her house alone. When her daughters succeed her, in July, she

is the only grandmother in the establishment and the post of portress

falls to her. With the Cylindrical Halictus, the conditions are

different. Here the May workers are many in the same burrow, where

they dwell in common during the winter. Supposing that they survive

when the business of the household is finished, to whom will the

office of overseer fall? Their number is so great and they are all so

full of zeal that disorder would be inevitable. But we can leave this

small matter unsettled pending further information.

The fact remains that females, females exclusively, have come out of

the eggs laid in May. They have descendants, of that there is no room

for doubt; they procreate though there are no males in their time.

>From this generation by a single sex, there spring, two months later,

males and females. These mate; and the same order of things


To sum up, judging by the three species that form the subject of my

investigations, the Halicti have two generations a year: one in the

spring, issuing from the mothers who have lived through the winter

after being fecundated in the autumn; the other in the summer, the

fruit of parthenogenesis, that is to say, of reproduction by the

powers of the mother alone. Of the union of the two sexes, females

alone are born; parthenogenesis gives birth at the same time to

females and males.

When the mother, the original genitrix, has been able once to

dispense with a coadjutor, why does she need one later? What is the

puny idler there for? He was unnecessary. Why does he become

necessary now? Shall we ever obtain a satisfactory answer to the

question? It is doubtful. However, without much hope of succeeding we

will one day consult the Gall-fly, who is better-versed than we in

the tangled problem of the sexes.