Page images
PDF
EPUB

running over my boily, and every now and then one would give me a sting so sharp as to make me jump and search instantly for the offender, who was usually found holding on tight wiili his jaws, and thrusting in bis : tin: with all his might. Another genus, Phwielole, consists of fori - s living under lottu bark or in the ground, and crimes

viiends. They are brown or blackish, and are remarkible for ihmirgreni Variety of size and form in the sime speri.., il.. lirgest Daving normous heals ::aliy times larger than their boilies, and loving it leri il lanlreed times it budky is the smalles! Hiduals. Tine Great head ant

very sluggishe ato puble of keeping it with the more active wil workers, which woni nel drag them along afy were wounded solis It is ili uilt to site Blut "... they can loves the Un!, 'uilesin, ils Vi. Bir Siigest, they are l', its : !

Prist: ! !ud ked by incontro and thus sile their more itsefal companies. Treants devour grubs, wlite ants, and other sot displess insects, and seem to take the place of the forging ants of America anel driver-ants of Africa, though they are far less numerous and less destructive. An allied

genus,

, Solenopsis, consists of red ants, which, in the Moluccas, frequent houses, and are a most terrible pest. They form colonies underground, and work their way up through the floors, devouring everything catable. Their sting is excessively painful, and some of the species are hence called fire-anis. When a house is infested by them, all the tables and boxes must be supported on blocks of wood or stone placed in dishes of water, as even clothes not newly washed are attractive to them; and woe to the poor fellow who puts on garments in the folds of which

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small]

a dozen vs these ants are lodged. It is very difficult to pervelvirkins or other spaciments of natural history uliuce these ints abound, as they gnaw away the skin bonum the cyes and the base of the vill; and if a Accimen is laid down for even bulf an hour in an unpieetod place it will be ruinel. I remember once istering a native hulise to rest and cai my lunch; and having a large tin collerting box full of rare butterflies 2011 01hr insects, I laid it down on the benci by my arbres lith kaving the house I noticed some ants on it, ' ouing the box found only a mass of detached asiassa blies, the latter in process of being levoured lo in incels of fire-annos.

The relebrated Saulia ant of America (Ecodoma cmpludotex) is illiced to the placerling, lilit is even more destructive, thoug! it seems i confine itself to vegetable polucts. It forms extensive engrom galleries, and the earth brought up is depositol on the surface, forming huge mounds sometimes thirty or forty yarls in circumference, and from one to three feet high. On first secing these vast deposits of red or yellow carth in the woods near Para, it was harilly possible to believe they were not the work of man, or at least of some burrowing animal. In these underground caves the ants storc up large quantities of leaves, which they obtain from living trees. They gnaw out circular pieces and carry them away along regular pathis a few inches wide, forming il stream of apparently animated leaves. The great extent of the subterranean workings of these ants is no doubt duc in part to their permanence in one spot, so that when portions of the galleries fall in or are otherwise rendered useless, they are extended in notlier

direction. When in the island | Varajo, ncar P 2, I
noticed at path along which a stram of Sül, were
carrying leaves from a neighbouring thicket: nd in
relation of Use proprietor assured me that he 1121 loin
that identical path to be in constantine by the ads for
twnty years. Thus we callecount for the fact mentioned
by Mr. Bates, that the undergrounil galleries Widerraced
1 smoke for at tance of sevenix parls in the isonic
Guribus at l'intit; and for the still more extravr linky
fact related by the Rev. Hamlet Clark, that ill allied
species in Rio de Janeiro has excavated a tunnel under
the bral of the river Parahyba, where it is about a quarter
rif a mile wide! These ants seem to prefer intro luce
to native trees; and young plantations of oran'.", coffee,
or mango trees are sometimes destroyel loy them, so
that where they abound cultivation of any kind becomes
almost impossible. Jr. Delt ingeniously accounts for
this preference, by supposing that for ages there has
been a kind of struggle going on between the trees and
the ants ; those varieties of trees which were in any way
distasteful or unsuitable escaping destruction, while the
ants were becoming slowly adapted to attack new trees.
Thus in time the great majority of native trees have
acquired some protection against the ants, while foreign
trees, not having been so modifieil, are more likely to be
suitable for their purposes. Jr. Belt carried on war
against them for four years to protect his garden in
Nicaraguai, and found that carbolic acid and corrosive
sublimate were most effectual in destroying or driving

them away.

The use to which the ants put the immense quantities of leaves they carry away has been a great puzzle, and

is, perhaps, not yet quite understood. Jr. Bates found that the Amazon species used them to thatch the domes of carth covering the entrances to their subterranean galleries, the pieces of leaf being carefully covered and kept in position by a thin layer of grains of carth. In Nicaragua Jir. Bult found the underground cells full of a brown llocculent matter, which he considers to be the geted leaves connected by a delicate fungus which 12 mifies through the mass and which serves as food for the larvæ; and he believes that the leaves are really gathered as manure-heaps to favour the growth of this fungus!

When they enter houses, which they often do at night, the Saibas are very destructive. Once, when travelling on the Rio Negro, I had bought about a peck of rie, ishich was tied up in a large cotton handkerchief anıl placed on a bench in a native house where we were pemiling the night. The next morning we found about half the rice on the floor, the remainiler having been carriesł away ly the ants; and the empty banıkerchief was still on the bench, but with hunilreils of neat cuts in it reducing it to a kind of sieve, 1

The foraging ants of the genus Eciton are another remarkable group, especially abundant in the equatorial forests of America. They are true hunters, and seem to be continually roaming about the forests in great bands in search of insect prey. They especially devour maggots, caterpillars, white ants, cockroaches, and other soft inscets; and their banels are always accompanied by

' For a full and most interesting description of the habits and instincts of this ant, see Bates' Naturalist on the Amazone, 2nd edit. pr. 11-18 ; aud Belt's Naturalist in Nicaragua, pp. 71-84.

florks of insectivorous birds riho prey upon the winged inserts that are continually trying to cape from the ants. They even attack wasps' nests, which they cut to pieres and then trag out the larvæ. They 'sit and ting Severely, in the traveller who accidentally steps into a bone of them will soon be overrun, and must make hiis escape is quin its possible. They do not Hiline themselves to the ground, but warm plein W trees, hunting every branch, med et wing her all insect life. Sometims a linnal vill !!! .hoc, like the driver ants in linea, id clear it ri tokrvarhez, per's, centipedes, in other inserts. They seem to have no permanent alole and to be ever wandering about in search of

pils,

but they make temporary bibitations in hollow trees or other suitable places.

Perhaps the most extraordinary of all its are the lilimt species of Eviton discovered by Mr. Littes, whiclı construct il covered way or tunnel as they marchi along. On coming wear a rotten loy, or any other favourable bunting ground, they pour into all its crevices in search of booty, their covered way serving as it protertion to retire to in case of danger. These creatures, of which tivo species are known, are absolutely without eyes; and it seems almosi impossible to imagine that the loss of so important a sense-organ can be otherwise than injurious to them. Yet on the theory of natural selection the successive variations by which the eyes were reduced and ultimately lost must all have been useful. It is true they do manage to exist without eyes; but that is probably because, as sight became more and more imperfect, new instincts or new protective modifications were developed to supply its place, and this does not in any

« EelmineJätka »