Abbildungen der Seite

we will or no. This species delights in new-built houses, being, like the spider, pleased with the moisture of the walls; and besides, the softness of the mortar enables them to burrow and mine between the joints of the bricks or stones, and to open communications from one room to another. They are particularly fond of kitchens and bakers' ovens, on account of their perpetual warmth.

Tender insects that live abroad either enjoy only the short period of one summer, or else doze away the cold uncomfortable months in profound slumbers; but these, residing as it were in a torrid zone, are always alert and merry: a good Christmas fire is to them like the heats of the dog-days. Though they are frequently heard by day, yet is their natural time of motion only in the night. As soon as it grows dusk, the chirping increases, and they come running forth, ranging from the size of a flea to that of their full stature. As one should suppose from the burning atmosphere which they inhabit, they are a thirsty race, and show a great propensity for liquids, being found frequently drowned in pans of water, milk, broth, or the like. Whatever is moist they affect; and therefore often gnaw holes in wet woollen stockings and aprons that are hung to the fire: they are the housewife's barometer, foretelling her when it will rain ; and they prognosticate sometimes, she thinks, good or ill luck; the death of near relations, or the approach of an absent lover. By

being the constant companions of her solitary hours, they naturally become the objects of her superstition. These crickets are not only very thirsty, but very voracious; for they will eat the scummings of pots, and yeast, salt, and crumbs of bread; and any kitchen offal or sweepings. In the summer we have observed them to fly out of the windows when it became dusk, and over the neighbouring roofs. This feat of activity accounts for the sudden manner in which they often leave their haunts, as it does for the method by which they come to houses where they were not known before.

known before. It is remarkable, that many sorts of insects seem never to use their wings but when they have a mind to shift their quarters and settle new colonies. When in the air they move volatu undoso, in “ waves or curves,” like woodpeckers, opening and shutting their wings at every stroke, and so are always rising or sinking.

When they increase to a great degree, as they did once in the house where I am now writing, they become noisome pests, flying into the candles, and dashing into people's faces; but may be blasted and destroyed by gunpowder discharged into their crevices and crannies.

[In November, after the servants are gone to bed, the kitchen hearth swarms with minute crickets not so large as fleas, which must have been lately hatched, so that these domestic insects, cherished by the influence of a constant and large fire, regard not the sea

[blocks in formation]

son of the year, but produce their young at a time when their congeners are either dead or laid up for the winter, passing away the uncomfortable months in a state of torpidity.

When house-crickets are out and running about a room in the night, if surprised by a candle, they utter two or three shrill notes, as if it were a signal to their fellows, that they may escape to their crannies and lurking-places to avoid danger.]

In families, at such times, they are, like Pharaoh's plague of frogs,—in their bedchambers, and upon their beds, and in their ovens, and in their kneadingtroughs.* Their shrilling noise is occasioned by a brisk attrition of their wings. Cats catch hearthcrickets, and play with them as they do with mice, and then devour them. Crickets may be destroyed, like wasps, by phials half filled with beer, or any other liquid, and set in their haunts; for, being always eager to drink, they will crowd in till the bottles are full.


* Exod. viii. 3.



How diversified are the modes of life not only of incongruous but even of congenerous animals; and yet their specific distinctions are not more various than their propensities. Thus, while the delights in sunny dry banks, and the house-cricket rejoices amidst the glowing heat of the kitchen hearth or oven, the Gryllus gryllo talpa (the molecricket) haunts moist meadows, and frequents the sides of ponds and banks of streams, performing all its functions in a swampy wet soil. With a pair of fore-teet curiously adapted to the purpose, it burrows and works under ground like the mole, raising a ridge as it proceeds, but seldom throwing up hillocks.

As mole-crickets often infest gardens by the sides of canals, they are unwelcome guests to the gardener, raising up ridges in their subterraneous progress, and rendering the walks unsightly. If they take to the kitchen quarters, they occasion great damage among the plants and roots, by destroying whole beds of cabbages, young legumes, and flowers. When dug out they seem very slow and helpless, and make no use of their wings by day; but at night they come abroad, and make long excursions, as I have been convinced by finding stragglers, in a morning, in improbable places. In fine weather, about the middle of April, and just at the close of day, they begin to solace themselves with a low, dull, jarring note, continued for a long time without interruption, and not unlike the chattering of the fernowl, or goat-sucker, but more inward.

About the beginning of May they lay their eggs, as I was once an eye-witness: for a gardener at a house where I was on a visit, happening to be mowing, on the 6th of that month, by the side of a canal, his scythe struck too deep, pared off a large piece of turf, and laid open to view a curious scene of domestic economy:

ingentem lato dedit ore fenestram:
Apparet domus intus, et atria longa patescunt :

(VIRG. Æn. ii. 481-483.)

A yawning breach of monstrous size he made:
The inmost house is now to light displayed :
The admitted light with sudden lustre falls
On the long galleries and the splendid halls.”


There were many caverns and winding passages leading to a kind of chamber, neatly smoothed and rounded, and about the size of a moderate snuff-box. Within this secret nursery were deposited near a hundred eggs of a dirty yellow colour, and enveloped in a tough skin, but too lately excluded to contain any rudiments of young, being full of a viscous substance. The eggs lay but shallow, and

« ZurückWeiter »