Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

OF THE CARE WHICH INSECTS TAKE OF THEIR EGGS, AND THEIR YOUNG.

THE natural instinct which determines the infect race to take care of their eggs and of their young is fo remarkable, that I think proper to treat of it, in a Chapter apart. They are neither hatched like birds, nor fuckled like quadrupeds. The Sun alone by its heat brings them forth, and no fooner do they quit the fhell, than they are in a capacity to chufe food and to eat it. The whole forefight of the mother is confined to the depofiting of her eggs in places where the heat of the Sun may eafily reach them, and where the young may at once find the food that is convenient for them; at leaft till they are in a condition to go in queft of it themfelves. It is for this purpose they are feen choofing the places where their eggs may be protected from the inclemency of the weather. Some depofit in thefe places the things neceffary for their young; and fome carry them from one place to another, when they find them expofed to accidents.

The choice which infects make of the places in which they depofit their eggs, is as remarkable as the diverfities in their manner of life. Each chufes for that end the fubftance which is the

proper food of

the

the young infect. Such as live in the water lay their eggs in that element; but as there is a great difference in the quality of water, each chufes that which is moft fuited to its nature. Some depofit their eggs in pure water, as gnats; others in stagnant pools, as the Tipula phalanoides, &c. while others prefer fluids compofed by art, fuch as beer, &c. Some depofit them under the furface of the earth, where they are defended from the injuries both of heat and cold. Some which live on plants and fruits, depofite theirs either within these, or on their furface. Hence we find them on the ftalk, and on the leaves of plants, fometimes on the trunks of trees,. and under the bark, where they are defended from the heat of the Sun, and from rain: they are found alfo both in dry and green wood. Thofe which require a greater degree of heat to bring them forth or which feed on the fluids of other animals, lay their eggs on the body, and even within it, of those which are their proper food. For this reafon we find them in other infects, under the scales of fishes, and in their flesh, on the feathers of birds, among the hairs of quadrupeds, in the noftrils, and in the flefh of animals.

In chufing a place, they are much determined by its furnishing them with food. Almost all of them chufe a fituation in which their young will not be incommoded by bad weather; but befides this, fome fix their eggs with a fort of gluten, which retains them, and prevents their being wafhed off by the rain. This glutinous matter fometimes becomes fo hard, that no external force can penetrate to the eggs and break them. Others, to fhun the cold, cover them with the hairs of their own body, or weave a web around them, and wrap them up as in a cloak. If any happen to depofit their eggs in places where the young cannot find food, they provide it them

felves, that nothing may be wanting after their exclu fion. Many forts of ichneumons kill caterpillars and carry them to their nefts where they keep them with great care, that they may ferve for food to their young when hatched. The care of their brood with fome is carried to fuch a length that they carry their eggs always about with them, or at least, in cafe of danger, tranfport them from one place to another, Laftly, fome after having depofited their eggs in fafe places, defend them by various ways from the injuries of their enemies.

The inftinct which leads them to use so many pre cautions, muft proceed either from the animal itfelf, or from fome other being eudowed with reafon and intelligence. It cannot come from the animal it felf, which being devoid of the faculty of reafon, is incapable of that forefight and wisdom, of which all thefe cares are the refult. Who then is the Being that directs them to make ufe of all those astonishing precautions which I have detailed? The anfwer is eafy. We know of no being but God who is capable of it. It is he who hath taught them to lay their eggs in places the most proper for their convenient and fafe exclufion; it is he who among so many fituations equally proper, teaches them to choofe that where the young will find, at iffuing from the egg, the food moft convenient for them. Indeed who elfe but he could infpire them with fuch affectionate folicitude? Who could teach them to provide fufte nance to their young when the eggs are depofited in places where it is not to be found? From whom have they learnt that prudent practice of removing their eggs from a place where they are expofed to danger? To whom can fuch wonderful effects be attributed, if not to the Creator and Preferver of all things, whofe goodness is equal to his power and his infinite wisdom?

It is not among infects alone, that this parental care is to be feen. Quadrupeds are poffeffed of it in an equal degree. The ferocious lion, and implacable tyger, the ravenous wolf, and voracious dog, the venomous ferpent, and cruel dragon, love their young, provide for their neceffities, and never hurt them. The prophet Jeremiah feems to allude to this, when he favs that "the fea-moniters draw

(6

out the breaft, and give fuck to their young ones." LAMENT. iv. 3. Man is endowed with this inftinct like animals. It is on this affection for our childdren that St Paul founds his argument when he fays "that no man ever yet hated his own flefh, but "nourisheth and clierifheth it." EPH. v. 29. "Can a woman forget her fucking child, fays Ifaiah, "and not have compaffion on the font of her womb?" CH. XLIX. 15.

However natural this inflinct may appear, yet there are perfons to be found who feem to have loft it entirely. They deprive their children of neceffaries, and cruelly use them, and take no care either of their foul or their body. This is not all: there are women who, that there may be no living witnefs of their iniquity, pitilessly expofe the fruit of their womb, wthout caring whether they perish for want, are devoured by beafts, or are carried off by perfons charitable enough to do fo. There are even fome, (can it be conceived without horror!) who are barbarous enough to imbrue their hands in the blood of their little innocents, formed in their womb, and nourifhed with their blood! The most ravenous beaft is incapable of fuch cruelty nor is there any thing fimilar to be feen among infects, the vileft of

creatures.

P

CHAP. XIV.

OF THE SAGACITY OF INSECTS.

THAT man fhould difplay wifdom in his economy is not furprifing. God hath endowed him with a rational foul, by the affiftance of which he thinks, judges, reafons, and is induced to conduct himself agreeably to the inductions which flow from his juft principles but that animals deprived of the ufe of reafon, and all infects, fhould exhibit fo much of it in their whole economy is what furpaffes our comprehenfion. I have already remarked a vast number of inftances of this kind which authorize us to con-clude that infects act according to the rules of wif dom; but as the fubject is exceedingly interefting, I fhall collect in this Chapter, the principal proofs of their fagacity.

The kill of birds in conftructing their nefts is fo great, that the most ingenious artift could not exceed it. With what neatnefs do they not combine pieces of wood, and straw, and mofs and clay toge ther, in the formation of their nefts! What árt is confpicuous in the arrangement and difpofition of each of the parts which compofe them? What precautions to defend them and their young from cold! The infide of the neft is always lined with hair,

« ZurückWeiter »