An Elementary Study of Insects
by Leonard Haseman
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Go now to a hive and study the bees as they go and come. Do those returning fly as fast as those which leave? Why not? When they return do they come direct to the mouth of the hive? Do those which leave fly direct from the hive or circle about first? Can you detect guards which move about at the entrance of the hive? What happens when a fly or other insect alights near the opening? Will the bees sting when you disturb them about the hive? If possible study the colony inside the hive. To do this you will need smoke to subdue the guards and a veil to protect the face. Can you find the queen? Is she larger than the workers? Examine for honey-comb, bee-bread, worker brood, queen cells and drone cells. If possible study the actions of a colony while swarming.

Write a brief report of what you can learn of the life, work and habits of the honey bee.

* * * * *

"Happy insect, what can be In happiness compared to thee? Fed with nourishment divine, The dewy morning's gentle wine!

"Nature waits upon thee still, And thy verdant cup does fill; 'Tis filled wherever thou doest tread Nature's self thy Ganymede.

"Thou doest drink and dance and sing, Happier than the happiest king! All the fields which thou doest see, All the plants belong to thee, All the summer hours produce, Fertile made with early juice, Man for thee does sow and plough, Farmer he, and landlord thou."




The ants are closely related to the bees and are similar to them in many respects. They live in colonies consisting of workers, drones, and a queen. The males or drones appear at swarming time and the workers are divided into various castes—warriors, guards, nurses, etc. Those families of ants, however, which seem to have what approaches real intelligence, far outstrip the bees in many respects. In some cases ants seem to be able to plan and carry out lines of work very much the same as man does. The various stages of human intelligence or races of men from the savage to the intelligent man are in a way similar to the various races of ants. There are ants which live as hunters, others which live as shepherds and still others more highly developed which grow crops either in or near the nest as is the case with the fungus growing ants. This striking similarity between the development of ants and man offers ground for much speculation.

Some ants may be of considerable value to man while others are the source of great annoyance and injury. The tidy housewife usually places the ant in the same category with cockroaches and bed-bugs and the corn growers attribute much of the injury to young corn to the work of the small cornfield ant which acts as a shepherd of the corn root-louse. Ants are usually more destructive by protecting and caring for other pests than by attacking the crop direct.

Every country child is familiar with ants. They are met every day during the summer, scampering across paths, tugging at some unfortunate insect, or sticking to one's tongue when he eats berries. Ants are as numerous as the stars in the skies and vary in size. They are found from the tropics to the frozen north, in deserts, swamps and in fact, almost any place where plants or animals live. They do not waste time building or manufacturing a complicated nest like wasps and bees, so when food is scare, or for other reasons they need to move they simply "pack up" and migrate. This, together with the fact that they feed on almost every imaginable kind of plant and animal material, accounts in part for the fact that they are the rulers of the insect world.


It is easy to study the out-door life of ants, but it is most difficult to follow their activities in the nest. Go into the field or out on the school grounds and watch along paths or bare spots for ants. Soon red or black fellows will be seen hurrying along after food; ants are always in a hurry when they are after food. Follow them and watch them catch and carry home small insects. If they do not find worms or other small insects, drop a small caterpillar near one of them and see what happens. Can they drag away a caterpillar as large as themselves? Some of them may be after honey dew, fruit juice or other material of this nature and they should be observed collecting it. Ants collect about plants or shrubs which are overrun with green lice, and feed on a sweet liquid which the lice produce. Watch them collect the honey dew from the lice. Do they injure the lice? Can you see the two short tubes on the back of the louse?

Locate an ant nest or hill. Observe the workers carrying out small pellets of earth or gravels. Is the earth they bring out the same color as the surface soil? How deep may they go to get it? Do they move about as if they were in a hurry? Who sends them out with the earth? Why do they bring it out? Is it dropped as soon as the ant comes out of the hole or is it carried some distance? The small ant found along paths usually makes a small ridge all the way around the entrance. While some of the ants are making the nest, others are collecting food. Watch for some of these and see what they bring. Do they stop to eat before going down into the nest? Dig into a large ant hill and see what can be found. Describe briefly what is found. Do you find any small soft grubs and oval cocoons? These are the young ants and they are perfectly helpless and must be fed, bathed and cared for by the workers or nurses. The workers pick these up between their pinchers and carry them away when the nest is disturbed. Do the workers fight to protect the nest? Collect some of the workers which are carrying away the young and keep them in a jar with bits of bark and see what they do with the young.

Describe briefly what you are able to find out about ant life and behavior; also make drawings of an ant, the young and a nest.

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"A pensy ant, right trig and clean, Came ae day whidding o'er the green, Where, to advance her pride, she saw A Caterpillar, moving slaw. 'Good ev'n t' ye, Mistress Ant,' said he; 'How's a' at home? I'm blyth to s' ye!' The saucy ant view'd him wi' scorn, Nor wad civilities return; But gecking up her head, quoth she, 'Poor animal! I pity thee; Wha scarce can claim to be a creature, But some experiment O' Nature, Whase silly shape displeased her eye, And thus unfinished was flung bye. For me, I'm made wi' better grace, Wi' active limbs and lively face; And cleverely can move wi' ease Frae place to place where'er I please; Can foot a minuet or jig, And snoov't like ony whirly-gig; Which gars my jo aft grip my hand, Till his heart pitty-pattys, and— But laigh my qualities I bring, To stand up clashing wi' a thing, A creeping thing the like o' thee, Not worthy o' a farewell to' ye!' The airy Ant syne turned awa, And left him wi' a proud gaffa.

"The Caterpillar was struck dumb, And never answered her a mum: The humble reptile fand some pain, Thus to be bantered wi' disdain. But tent neist time the Ant came by, The worm was grown a Butterfly; Transparent were his wings and fair, Which bare him flight'ring through the air. Upon a flower he stapt his flight, And thinking on his former slight, Thus to the Ant himself addrest: 'Pray, Madam, will ye please to rest? And notice what I now advise: Inferiors ne'er too much despise, For fortune may gie sic a turn, To raise aboon ye what ye scorn: For instance, now I spread my wing In air, while you're a creeping thing!'"


Transcriber's Note:

Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note. Punctuation has been normalised. Dialect, informal and variant spellings remain as printed. Hyphenation discrepancies in the illustration captions have been amended to match the main text.


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