Imágenes de páginas

observed among them, are more perfect than those of the wisest republics; and therefore they have nothing to fear, unless a new legislator should attempt to change the form of their government.

“I made it my business to procure them all sorts of conveniences. I took out of the box everything that might be troublesome to them; and frequently visited my ants, and studied all their actions. Being used to go to bed very late, I went to see them work in a moonsbiny night; and I did frequently get up in the night, to take a view of their labours. I always found some going up and down, and very busy; one would think that they never sleep. Everybody knows that ants come out of their holes in the day-time, and expose to the sun the corn which they keep under-ground in the night: those who have seen anthillocks, have easily perceived those small heaps of corn about their nests. What surprised me at first was, that my ants never brought out their corn but in the night when the moon did shine, and kept it under-ground in the day-time; which was contrary to what I had seen, and saw still practised by those insects in other places. I quickly found out the reason of it: there was a pigeon-house not far from thence; pigeons and birds would have eaten their corn, if they had brought it out in the day-time: it is highly probable they knew it by experience; and I frequently found pigeons and birds in that place, when I went to it in a morning. I quickly delivered them from those robbers: I frighted the birds away with some pieces of paper tied to the end of a string over the window. As for the pigeons, I drove them away several times; and when they perceived that the place was more frequented than before, they never came to it again. What is most admirable, and what I could hardly believe, if I did not know it by experience, is, that those ants knew, some days after, that they had nothing to fear, and begun to lay out their corn in the sun. However, I perceived they were not fully convinced of being out of all danger; for they durst not bring out their provisions all at once, but by degrees, first in a small quantity and without any great order, that they might quickly carry them away in case of any misfortune, watching, and looking every way. At last, being persuaded that they had nothing

to fear,


they brought out all their corn, almost every day, and in good order, and carried it in at night.

“ There is a straight hole in every ants' nest, about half an inch deep; and then it goes down sloping into a place where they have their magazine, which I take to be a different place from that where they rest and eat. For it is highly improbable that an ant, which is a very cleanly insect, and throws out of her nest all the small remains of the corn on which she feeds, as I have observed a thousand times, would fill up

her magazine and mix her. corn with dirt and ordure. “The corn that is laid up by ants would shoot underground, if those insects did not take care to prevent it. They bite off all the buds before they lay it up; and, therefore, the corn that has lain in their nests will produce nothing. Any one may easily make this experiment, and even plainly see that there is no bud in their corn.

But though the bud be bitten off, there remains another inconvenience, that corn must needs swell and rot under-ground; and therefore it could be of no use for the nourishment of ants. Those insects prevent that inconvenience by their labour and industry, and contrive the matter so, that corn will keep as dry in their nests as in our granaries.

They gather many small particles of dry earth, which they bring every day out of their holes, and place them round to heat them in the sun. Every ant brings a small particle of that earth in her pincers, lays it by the hole, and then goes and fetches another. Thus, in less than a quarter of an hour, one may see a vast number of such small particles of dry earth, heaped up round the hole. They lay their corn under-ground upon that earth, and cover it with the

They performed this work almost every day, during the heat of the sun; and though the sun went from the window about three or four o'clock in the afternoon, they did not remove their corn, and their particles of earth, because the ground was very hot, till the heat was over.

“If any one should think that those animals should use sand, or small particles of brick or stone, rather than take so much pains about dry earth; I answer, that upon such an occasion, nothing can be more proper than earth heated in the sun.

Corn does not keep upon sand: besides, a grain of corn that is cut, being deprived of its bud, would be


filled with small sandy particles that could not easily come out. To which I add, that sand consists of such small par. ticles, that an ant could not take them up one after another, and, therefore, those insects are seldom to be seen near rivers, or in a very sandy ground.

“ As for the small particles of brick or stone, the least moistness would join them together, and turn them into a kind of mastich, which those insects could not divide. Those particles, sticking together, could not come out of any ants' nest, and would spoil its symmetry.

“ When ants have brought out those particles of earth, they bring out their corn after the same manner, and place it round that earth: thus one may see two heaps surrounding their hole, one of dry earth, and the other of corn; and then they fetch out a remainder of dry earth, on which, doubtless, their corn was laid up.

“ Those insects never go about this work but when the weather is clear, and the sun very hot. I observed, that those little animals having one day brought out their corn at eleven o'clock in the forenoon, removed it, against their usual custom, before one in the afternoon; the sun being very hot, and sky very clear, I could perceive no reason for it. But half an hour after, the sky began to be overcast, and there fell a small rain, which the ants foresaw ; whereas the Milan almanack had foretold that there would be no rain upon that day.

“I have said before, that those ants which I did so particularly consider, fetched their corn out of a garret. I went very frequently into that garret: there was some old corn in it; and because every grain was not alike, I observed that they chose the best.

I know, by several experiments, that those little animals take great care to provide themselves with wheat when they can find it, and always pick out the best; but they can make shift without it. When they can get no wheat, they take rye, oats, millet, and even crumbs of bread, but seldom any barley, unless it be in a time of great scarcity, and when nothing else can be had.

Being, willing to be more particularly informed of their forecast and industry, I put a small heap of wheat in a corner of the room where they kept: and to prevent their fetching corn out of the garret, I shut up the window, and


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

stopt all the holes. Though ants are very knowing, I do not take them to be conjurers; and, therefore, they could not guess that I had put some corn in that room. I perceived for several days that they were very much perplexed, and went a great way to fetch their provisions. I was not willing, for some time, to make them more easy; for I had a mind to know whether they would at last find out the treasure, and see it at a great distance, and whether smelling enabled them to know what is good for their nourishment. Thus they were some time in great trouble, and took a great deal of pains: they went up and down a great way, looking out for some grains of corn: they were sometimes disappointed, and sometimes they did not like their corn, after many long and painful excursions. What appeared to me wonderful was, that none of them came home without bringing something: one brought a grain of wheat, another a grain of rye or oats, or a particle of dry earth, if she could get nothing else.

“The window, upon which those ants had made their settlement, looked into a garden, and was two stories high. Some went to the further end of the garden, and others to the fifth story, in quest of some corn.

It was a very

hard journey for them, especially when they came home loaded with a pretty large grain of corn, which must needs be a heavy burthen for an ant, and as much as she can bear. The bringing of that grain from the middle of the garden to the nest took up four hours, whereby one may judge of the strength and prodigious labour of those little animals. It appears from thence, that an ant works as hard as a man, who should carry a very heavy load on his shoulders, almost every day, for the space of four leagues. It is true, those insects do not take so much pains upon a flat ground; but then how great is the hardship of a poor ant, when she carries a grain of corn to the second story, climbing up a wall with her head downwards, and her backside upwards ! None can have a true notion of it, unless they see those little animals at work in such a situation. The frequent stops they make in the most convenient places, are a plain indication of their weariness. Some of them were strangely perplexed, and could not get to their journey's end. In such a case, the strongest ants, or those that are not so weary, having carried their corn to their nest, came down again to help them. up again.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Some are so unfortunate as to fall down with their load, when they are almost come home: when this happens, they seldom lose their corn, but carry

it I saw one of the smallest carrying a large grain of wheat with incredible pains : when she came to the box where the nest was, she made so much haste, that she fell down with her load, after a very laborious march: such an unlucky accident would have vexed a philosopher. I went down, and found her with the same corn in her paws: she was ready to climb up again. The same misfortune happened to her three times : sometimes she fell in the middle of her way, and sometimes higher; but she never let go her hold, and was not discouraged. At last, her strength failed her: she stopped; and another ant helped her to carry her load, which was one of the largest and finest grains of wheat that an ant can carry

It happens sometimes, that a corn slips out of their paws when they are climbing up: they take hold of it again, when they can find it; otherwise they look for another, or take something else, being ashamed to return to their nest without bringing something: this I have experimented, by taking away the grain which they looked for. All those experiments may easily be made by any one that has patience enough: they do not require so great a patience as that of ants; but few people are capable of it.”


Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.

SOLOMON. It has been observed, by writers of morality, that in order to quicken human industry, Providence has so contrived it. that our daily food is not to be procured without much pains and labour. The chase of birds and beasts, the several arts of fishing, with all the different kinds of agriculture, are necessary scenes of business, and give employment to the greatest part of mankind. If we look into the brute creation, we find all its individuals engaged in a painful and laborious way of life, to procure a necessary subsistence for themselves or those that grow up under them : the preservation of their being is the whole business of it. An idle man is therefore a kind of monster in the creation. All nature is busy about

« AnteriorContinuar »