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Ch. XVII.] EXTRAORDINARY DISGUISES. 319
The movements, as well as the shape and colour of the insect imitated, are mimicked. I one day observed what appeared to be a hornet, with brown semi-transparent wings and yellow antennae. It ran along the ground vibrating its wings and antennae exactly like a hornet, and I caught it in my net, believing it to be one. On examining it, however, I found it to belong to a widely different order. It was one of the Hemiptera (Spiniger luteicornis, Walk.), and had every part coloured like the hornet (Priocnemis) that it resembled. In its
HortNET AND MIMETIC BUG.
vibrating, coloured wing cases it departed greatly from the normal character of the Hemiptera, and assumed that of the hornets. All the insects that have special means of protection, by which they are guarded from the attacks of insecti
vorous mammals and birds, have peculiar forms, or strongly contrasted, conspicuous colours, and often make odd movements that attract attention to them. There is no attempt at concealment, but, on the contrary, they appear to endeavour to make their presence known. The long narrow wings of the Heliconii butterflies, banded with black, yellow, and red, distinguish them from all others, excepting the mimetic species. The banded bodies of many wasps, or the rich metallic colours of others, and their constant jerky motions, make them very conspicuous. Bees announce their presence by a noisy humming. The beetles of the genus Calopteron have their wing cases curiously distended, and move them up and down, so as to attract attention; and other species of Lampyridae are phosphorescent, holding out danger signals that they are not eatable. The reason in all these cases appears to be the same, as Mr. Wallace has shown to hold good with banded and brightly coloured caterpillars. These are distasteful to birds, and, in consequence of their conspicuous colours, are easily known and avoided. If they were like other caterpillars, they might be seized and injured before it was known they were not fit for food. Amongst the mammals, I think the skunk is an example of the same kind. Its white tail, laid back on its black body, makes it very conspicuous in the dusk when it roams about, so that it is not likely to be pounced upon by any of the carnivora mistaking it for other night-roaming animals. In reptiles, the beautifully banded coral snake (Elaps), whose bite is deadly, is marked as conspicuously as any noxious caterpillar with bright bands of black, yellow, and red. I only met with
Ch. XVII.] FIORSE WOUNDED, 321
One other example amongst the vertebrata, and it was also a reptile. In the woods around Santo Domingo there are many frogs. Some are green or brown, and imitate green or dead leaves, and live amongst foliage. Others are dirty earth-coloured, and hide in holes and under logs. All these come out only at night to feed, and they are all preyed upon by snakes and birds. In contrast with these obscurely coloured species, another , little frog hops about in the daytime dressed in a bright livery of red and blue. He cannot be mistaken for any other, and his flaming vest and blue stockings show that he does not court concealment. He is very abundant in the damp woods, and I was convinced he was uneatable as soon as I made his acquaintance and saw the happy sense of Security with which he hopped about. I took a few specimens home with me, and tried my fowls and ducks with them; but none would touch them. At last, by throwing down pieces of meat, for which there was a great competition amongst them, I managed to entice a young duck into snatching up one of the little frogs. Instead of swallowing it, however, it instantly threw it out of its mouth, and went about jerking its head as if trying to throw off some unpleasant taste.
After travelling three leagues beyond Teustepe, we reached, near dusk, a small house by the roadside, at which had put up for the night a party of muleteers, with their mules and cargoes. Our beasts were too tired to go further, so we determined to take our chance of finding room for our hammocks. Soon after we alighted, as I sat on a stone near the door of the house, a gun
went off close to us, and my horse sprang forward, Y
nearly upon me. We soon found it was our own gun, which had been given to Rito to carry. He had strapped it behind his saddle, and one of the other mules had come up and rubbed against it and let it off. The poor horse was only four feet from the muzzle, and the contents were lodged in its loin. A large wound was made, from which the blood flowed in a great stream, until Velasquez got some burnt cloth and stanched it. Fortunately the charge in the gun was a very light one, and no vital part was touched. We arranged with the muleteers to take our cargo to Juigalpa for us, and determined to leave Rito behind to lead the horse gently to Pital. I may here say that the horse, which was a very good one, ultimately recovered. At this house the woman had eight children, the eldest, I think, not more than twelve years of age. The man who passed as her husband was the father of the youngest only. Amongst the lower classes of Nicaragua men and women often change their mates. In such cases the children remain with the mother, and take their surname from her. Baptism is considered an indispensable rite, but the marriage ceremony is often dispensed with ; and I did not notice that those who lived together without, it suffered in the estimation of their neighbours. The European ladies at Santo Domingo were sometimes visited by the unmarried matrons of the village, who were very indignant when they found that there were scruples about receiving them. They were so used to their own social observances, that they thought those of the Europeans unwarrantable prudery. Before turning out the mules, Rito got some limes and squeezed the juice out upon their feet, just above the
Ch. XVII.] BITE OF MY GAL.E. 323
hoof. He did this to prevent them from being bitten by the tarantula spider, a species of mygale that makes its nest in the ground, and was said to abound in this locality. Many of the mules are bitten in the feet on the savannahs by some venomous animal. The mule bitten immediately goes lame, and will not be cured in less than six months, as the hoof comes off, and has to be renewed. The natives say that the mygale is the aggressor, that it gets on the mule's foot to bite off the hairs to line its nest with, and that if not disturbed it does not injure the mule; but that if the latter tries to dislodge it, it bites immediately. I do not know whether this story be true or not, and I had no opportunity of examining a mygale’s nest to see if it was lined with hairs; but Professor Westwood informs me that all that he knows are lined with fine silk. Possibly the mules, when rambling about, step on the spider, and are then bitten by it. Velasquez told me that when he was a boy he and other children used to amuse themselves by pulling the mygale out of its hole, which is about a foot deep in the ground. To get it out they fastened a small ball of soft wax to a piece of string, and lowered it down the hole, jerking it up and down until the spider got exasperated so far as to bury its formidable jaws in the wax, whereby it could be drawn to the surface. We had part of the kitchen to sleep in, and were so tired, and getting so accustomed to sleep anywhere, that we had a good night's rest, rose early next morning, and were soon on the road again, leaving Rito to bring on the lamed horse. We had a good view of the rock of San Lorenzo, a high cliff capping a hill, and resembling the rocks of Cuapo and Peña Blanca, but with less per