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(libellula), are frequently observed towards the end of the month. The great variegated libellula (libellula varia of Shaw), which appears, principally, towards the decline of summer, is an animal of singular beauty.
Hark! the BEE winds her small but mellow horn,
Some account of the habits and food of caterpillars has already been given in our last volume
On the smooth shaven grass by the side of a wood,
And there came the Beetle, so blind and so black,
And there came the Moth, with her plumage of down,
A mushroom the table, and on it was spread
A water-dock leaf, which their table-cloth made;
(p. 124); we shall now continue the subject by presenting our readers with some observations on this curious insect by Sir John Hill.
I was observing (says this eloquent writer), the other morning, the fate of a multitude of caterpillars, which were feeding as voluptuously on a cabbageleaf at my foot, as myself was on the best produce of the garden where I accidentally saw them. While I was regarding them, with thoughts that every moment carried up my soul in praises to their and my Creator, my eyes were directed toward a part of the plant about which a little fly was buzzing on the wing, as if deliberating where it should settle. I was surprised to see the herd of caterpillars, creatures of twenty times its size, endeavour, in their uncouth way, by various contortions of their bodies, to get out of its reach, whenever it poised on the wing as just going to drop. At length the creature made its choice, and seated itself on the back of one of the largest and fairest of the cluster. It was in vain the unhappy reptile endeavoured to dislodge the enemy. Its contortions, which had at first been exerted with that intent, soon became more violent, and denoted pain. They had been repeated several times, at short intervals, when I at length observed that each of them was the consequence of a stroke given by the fly.
"When the wantonly-cruel insect, as it might naturally enough have appeared to an unexperienced observer, had inflicted thirty or forty of these wounds, it took its flight, with a visible triumph. The caterpillar continued its contortions a long time; but all efforts were vain to rid it of the mischief it had received. A prior acquaintance with the economy of this little world had informed me with the intent and end of all that had been doing: the wounds I knew were not given in sport; but the creature that had inflicted them had deposited an egg in each, and there left them to their fate.
I ordered a servant to take up the leaf, and, wiping off the other caterpillars that were feeding on it, conveyed it home with this wounded one upon it. The creature has been fed with care from that day, and I have had an opportunity of observing the progress of the eggs deposited in its body. They have all hatched with me into small oblong, voracious worms, which have fed, from the moment of their appearance, on the flesh of the caterpillar in whose body they found themselves inclosed, without wounding its organs of respiration or digestion, or any of the parts necessary to life: the unhappy creature has continued eating voraciously. They have, by this means, been supplied with sufficient nourishment, and, being now arrived at their full growth, and at the destined period of their first change, they are at this time eating their way out at the sides of the animal in which they have so long lived, and that with sure presage of its destruction.
'The caterpillar does not, under this circumstance, answer the general end of its existence: no butterfly can be produced from it; but it perishes, after having thus supported these strangers. One individual of a numerous species is thus lost, without answering the general end of the production; but, while multitudes of others miscarry under the same disadvantages, serving as food for birds, or sport of children, this gives the means of life to thirty or forty other animals, which could have no otherwise been brought into existence.
The conclusion of the history is this: the worms that feed on the wretched creature are no sooner out of its body, than they spin every one its web, of a silk infinitely finer than that of the silk-worm; under this they pass the state of rest necessary to their appearing in their winged form.
It may be natural enough for us to pity the caterpillar that supports this foreign brood at the expense of so much seeming pain; but things are
not always as they appear to us. The creature shows itself much at rest during their living in it; and till we are acquainted with its organs, and the nature of its sensations, we cannot be assured what may be the effects of that which we see it suffer.
'He, whose tender mercies are over all his works, allotted all we see in this strange scene; and it is wisdom to suppose we are ignorant, while we know He cannot be cruel '.'
River fish leave their winter retreats, and again become the prey of the angler:
In genial spring, beneath the quiv'ring shade
The yellow carp in scales bedropped with gold;
Happy ENGLAND! where the sea furnishes an abundant and luxurious répast, and the fresh waters an innocent and harmless pastime; where the angler, in cheerful solitude, strolls by the edge of the stream, and fears neither the coiled snake, nor the lurking crocodile; where he can retire at night, with his few trouts, to borrow the pretty description of old WALTON, to some friendly cottage, where the landlady is good, and the daughter innocent and beautiful; where the room is cleanly, with lavender in the sheets, and twenty ballads stuck about the wall! There he can enjoy the company of a talkative brother sportsman, have his trouts dressed for supper, tell tales, sing old tunes, or make a catch! There he can talk of the
See the Inspector, No. 64, or the same paper reprinted by Dr. Drake, in the Gleaner, vol. ii, p. 192.
wonders of NATURE with learned admiration, or find some harmless sport to content him, and pass away a little time, without offence to GOD, or injury to man!
The various employments of the Fisher Boy,' in this month, are prettily narrated in the following lines
In APRIL, Ned oft hears the welcome call,
And gladsome flies to tend the wished-for haul ';
This word is made use of to denote the drawing in of the net, which, when cast, they call Shooting the Seine.'
On the western coast the net of the fisherman is technically called the Seine; but on what account I have never been able to ascertain. The Seine and Seine-boat are of considerable value to the owner, being worth an hundred pounds, and upwards. The common Seine is 250 fathoms in length, or 500 yards; but in the mackerel season they are 700 yards, and instances have been known of a net extending to 400 fathoms, or 800 yards.'
3 The Seine-boat having carried out the net to a certain distance, which depends entirely on the kind of fish they intend to haul, the Seine is then shot from the boat, which moves on, forming a circle, being supported by the floating corks affixed at equal distances to the ropes attached to the net. From each end of the Seine are cords extending to the beach, and which are there held by the persons stationed to haul the Seine, when completely cast into the sea; these individuals form two rows, which gradually close as the net approaches the shore. I have frequently seen eighteen or twenty of the largest salmon, together with a variety of other fish, caught at one haul; producing, when spread on the beach, an effect so beautiful, as to beggar all description,'