Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

106

their Creator provided them with the fagacity necef fary to enable them to procure for themfelves that part cular food which is fit for them. And indeed nothing can be added to the exquifite workmanship of thofe organs with which they are endowed for this purpose, or to the inftinct which leads them to their prey. They find it as certainly as a lamb finds its mother, a hound the tract of the animal it purfues, or a calf the dug of the cow which gives it fuck. The eyes of fome are fo conftructed that they can difcover their food on all fides, and even at a distance. Others have the fenfe of fmelling fo perfect, that it guides them to their food though confiderably remote. Some which live in water adhere to folid bodies, and are able by agitating the fluid around them to bring the bodies that float in it within their reach.

The time they confume in feeding, differs in feafon and duration. Some eat only during the day, and repofe at night, others purfue a quite contrary conduct. The Phalænæ for example continue at reft during the day, in fome obfcure place, because they are made almoft blind by excefs of light; but on the approach of evening, they fly in fearch of food. By this a double purpofe is ferved. Firft, they do not commit fuch ravages as they would do, were they to feed both day and night; and fecondly, thofe which fly by night are not expofed to the voracity of other infects which appear only in the day.

I must not omit the various artifices employed by infects in feizing their prey. Like other animals they have received from their Creator that fagacity and addrefs which their way of life requires. Some like the Lion pifmire, (Myrmeleon Formicarum) having con cealed themselves, watch for their prey like a lion in his den, till finding it within their reach, they fpring upon it with amazing velocity. Some continue mo

tion!efs

[ocr errors]

tionless as if they were dead; and when the animal approaches they are lying in wait for, they feize him when he leaft fufpects danger. Some encompass him with a web that he may not efcape, while others grafp him fo firmly with their feet, that he can not difengage himself.

"

The manner in which fome kill the animal they have had the addrefs to take, is not lefs worthy of our curiofity. They practice as many ftratagems as a man would make ufe of, to kill a dangerous beaft of prey.

Those infects which have occafion for food during winter are endowed with a particular instinct. We fee them laying up their ftores. In the course of the proper feason they carry thefe ftores to a convenient place and fecure them as in a granary. In this class bees and ants are to be ranked. The former make an abundant provifion of honey to fupply them during the rigours of winter. The latter lay up grain and other fubftances of that fort with which their fubterraneous abodes are filled. The induftry of the ant and its labours are fo great, that the wife Solomon pro pofed it as the best example for imitation to the flothful: "Go to the ant thou Sluggard, fays he, confider

her ways, and be wife; which having no guide, overieer or ruler, provideth her meat in the fum"mer, and gathereth her food in the harvest." PROV. CH. vi. 6,7,8; and in another place, "The ants are a people not ftrong, yet they prepare their "meat in the fummer." CHAP. XXX. 25.

66

The food neceffary for infects is always in fufficient plenty, to fecure them against famine. The proportion between infects and the fubftances they feed on is fo well preferved that wherever they are numerous, there is alfo a great quantity of their proper food and in places where that food is wanting,

there

[ocr errors]

102

there are but few infects. Herbs and plants conftitute the most common aliment not only of infects, but of other animals and of man himself. The prodigious confumption of thefe, which takes place annually, would have confiderably encreafed our toil, had much pains been neceffary to cultivate vegetables but Providence, ever wife, has taken fuch care for the fpontaneous growth of many plants that we may fay the tables of herbivorous creatures are always abundantly fupplied. But as the rigours of winter destroy the verdure of the fields, which only revives when the heat of the Sun begins to cherish the earth, Infects fleep when their food is withdrawn. Befides, they do not iffue from their eggs or their cones, till their deftined food is prepared. And as in a mild feason their ftrength is exhausted and they are awakened by perfpiration, they would foon perifh were they prevented by famine from repairing the wafte they undergo. But the abundance of their food fupplies their lofs of ftrength; every day furnifhes enough to maintain them in life and vigour, and they convert into their own fubftance the nourifhment they take in. They bruife and render it fluid; it is afterwards digefted and fubtilized that it may pass through such a multitude of minute veffels, fill their limbs, and communicate to them new trength. Indeed fome of these animals are content with very little nourishment.

[ocr errors]

The organs with which God has endowed infects for taking in their aliment deferve our attention. Thofe that eat have claws for feizing their food, and teeth for gnawing and comminuting it. In fome thefe are fo fharp and fo ftrong that they eafily break to pieces the hardeft fubftances. Thofe which live only on the fluids which they fuck, have received from the author of their being a fort of pump, longer or fhorter according to their neceflities, for the pur

pofe

[ocr errors]

pofe of extracting the fluids they have occacion for. Some are very temperate, and do but little mifchief; the caterpillar of the Phalana quercifolia, though four inches in length, and more than half an inch thick, ' eats nothing during the day, and in the courfe of a whole night, does not confume more than two leaves of the pear or plumb tree. Others are real epicures which feem born to be gluttons. Some of these eat fo voraciously, that they feem to be in dread left their food be taken away from them. Thole that drink generally touch the liquor with the extremity of their antennæ; which feems to be their method of trying whether it is fit for them. Some for this purpose use the extremity of their roftrum, and fip the liquor, drop by drop; others drink by means of the fyphon I have already mentioned. Some alfo are real drunkards, and are obliged to difgorge what they are not able to contain: fome likewife die when they cannot find the liquor they relish.

The facts contained in this Chapter demonftrate the great and incomprehenfible wifdom of the Creator. It is certain that infects are devoid of reafon yet their whole economy feems to be the refult of found judgement. We may fay that they foresee the future, fince they make provifion against its wants. What would become of them when winter has deftroyed all the fubftances that furnished them with food during the fummer, were they not wife enough to lay up a store for their maintenance in that severe feafon? When there is no verdure on the fields, when every tree and plant are ftript of their leaves, and not fruit is left to fupply their neceflities, are they deftined to perish with hunger and famine? By no means. Providence has taken care to fupply them. Thofe who live only on vegetables, are fo formed as to difpense with food altogether at that feafon. Others are led by instinct to hoard up, in the fummer, the food

they

they will need in the winter. That forefight is the effect of a wifdom which certainly they do not poffels. Whence then do they derive it? The anfwer is eafy: They have it from the author of nature, the gi ver of every good and perfect gift.

The diverfity of their taftes which leads them to prefer certain aliments to others is likewife an effect of the infinite wifdom of God. If all fed on the fame thing there would not be enough in the world for their fuftenance, and they would die of famine; their fpecies could not be preferved, and man would not be able to make any ufe of that which was not destined for their food. But, by the wife difpenfation of the Creator, all infects have abundance of nutriment, and enough remains for other animals.

The things which they feed on would have been created in vain, had they not been endowed with the organs neceffary to convert them to their own ufe. Whence do they acquire that fagacity which makes them difcover at a distance the things that are proper for them? How have they procured that acuteness of fight, or that delicacy of finell and tafle which prevents them from erring in the choice of their food? Of whom have they learnt thofe ftratagems and artifices which they put in practice in order to feize their prey, and devour it? What artift hath executed with fo much precifion, and in a manner adapted so much to their deftination, the organs which ferve them for eating and drinking? How happens it that they do not all require the fame quantity of food? What wife being hath regulated the difference between them in this refpect, fo that they fhall eat or drink more or lefs in proportion to the facility with which they are able to procure the things they want? The man muft be infatuated who could attribute all these circumftances to blind chance. Such marks of defign and

*

« ZurückWeiter »