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quarter of an inch in length. On them depends the labours of the community, the building, foraging, and nursing. The soldiers, or fighters, are few in comparison, perhaps as one to a hundred of the labourers; but they are many times larger, and armed
with sharper and more formidable jaws. Their duties are confined chiefly to watching the approaches of the hill, and
1. and 2. Perfect termites; 3. Soldier; 4. Worker. defending them against the approach of insect enemies. The perfect sexes are much larger than either, and are furnished with four large brown transparent wings, by which they are enabled, at the proper season, to engage on those aërial excursions necessary to the propagation of their kind. They are described as being about three quarters of an inch in length, and bulky in proportion. Instead of active, industrious, and rapacious little animals, the perfect sexes are innocent, helpless, and dastardly. At the breeding season their numbers are sometimes prodigious; but their enemies are still more numerous. They are devoured by birds, by reptiles, by the ant-eaters, and even by the inhabitants of many parts of Africa. None, perhaps, of the males survive their aërial life, and few comparatively of the females, which, on falling to the ground, are found by some of the labouring insects that are continually running about, and thus made queens and mothers of new communities. Before laying her eggs, which amount to some hundred thousands, the queen-mother becomes enormously distended, and is sometimes found to measure three or four inches in length, the abdomen being then of an oblong irregular form. In times of scarcity the Hottentots feast upon these eggs, which they call Rice, on account of their resemblance to that grain. · They usually wash them, and cook them with a small quantity of water, declaring that they are savoury and nourishing: “ If the people,” says Mr Backhouse in his recent travels, “ find out a place where the nests are numerous, they soon become fat upon the eggs, even when previously much reduced by hunger. Sometimes they will get half a bushel out of a single nest."
There are many known species of termite, differing from each other as widely as the ants do, both in their natures and habits.
Some build irregular conical hills of eight, ten, or twelve feet in height; others erect a sort of cylindrical turret with a pointed root; and many live on trees, in the clefts of which they construct habitations as large as a hogshead. One of the best known species is the warlike termite (Termes bellicosus), found all over Africa, whose economy may be taken as a type of that of the whole family. The hills of this species are composed of an exterior and an interior part. The exterior cover is a large clay shell, shaped like a dome, of strength and magnitude sufficient to enclose and protect the interior building from the injuries of the weather, and to defend its numerous inhabitants from the attacks of natural or accidental enemies. These hills make their first appearance in the form of conical turrets about a foot high. In a short time the insects erect at a little distance other turrets, and go on increasing their number and widening their bases, till their underworks are entirely covered with these turrets, which the animals always raise highest in the middle of the hill; and, by filling up the intervals between each, they collect them at last into one great dome. (See cut at the head of the present article.)
The royal chamber, as Mr Smeathman calls it, is always situated as near the centre of the building as possible, and is generally on a level with the common surface of the ground. It is nearly in the shape of half an egg, or an obtuse oval within, and may be supposed to represent a long oven. In the infant state of the colony, it is not above an inch in length; but in time it becomes increased to six or eight inches, or more, being always in proportion to the size of the queen, who, increasing in bulk as in age, at length requires a chamber of such dimensions.
As the entrances into this royal chamber admit no animals larger than the labourers or soldiers, of course the king and queen can never possibly get out. This chamber is surrounded by an innumerable quantity of others, of different sizes, figures, and dimensions; all of them arched either in a circular or an elliptical form. These chambers either open into each other, or have communicating passages, which, being always clear, are evidently intended for the convenience of the soldiers and attendants, of whom great numbers are necessary. The latter apartments are joined by the magazines and nurseries.
The magazines are chambers of clay, and are at all times well stored with provisions, which, to the naked eye, seem to consist of the raspings of wood and plants; but, when examined by the microscope, they are found to consist chiefly of the gums or inspissated juices of plants, thrown together in small irregular masses. The nurseries are always intermixed with the magazines, and are buildings totally different from the rest of the apartment. These are composed entirely of wooden materials, which seem to be cemented with gums. They are invariably occupied by the
eggs, and the young, which first appear in the shape of labourers. These buildings are exceedingly compact, and are divided into a number of small irregular-shaped chambers, not one of which is half an inch wide. They are placed all round, and as near as possible to the royal apartments. When a nest is in an infant state, the nurseries are close to the royal apartment. But as in process of time the body of the queen enlarges, it becomes necessary, for her accommodation, to augment the dimensions of her chamber. She then likewise lays a greater number of eggs, and requires more attendants; of course it is necessary that both the number and dimensions of the adjacent apartments should be augmented. For this purpose the small 'first-built nurseries are taken to pieces, rebuilt a little farther off, and made a size larger, and their number at the same time is increased. Thus the animals are continually employed in pulling down, repairing, or rebuilding their apartments; and these operations they perform with wonderful sagacity, regularity, and foresight.
In and around these habitations the workers and soldiers are continually bustling; but, what is remarkable, they seldom expose themselves to the open air, but travel under-ground, or within such trees or substances as they destroy. It is this habit which renders them so destructive in any inhabited district, as they eat their way into every post, pillar, and rafter, leaving nothing but a frail film outside, which in time breaks down under the slightest pressure. They are not less expeditious in destroying the shelves, wainscoting, and other fixtures of a house, than the house itself. They are ever piercing and boring in all directions, and sometimes go out of the broadside of one post into that of another joining to it; but they prefer, and always destroy, the softer substances first, and are particularly fond of pine and fir boards, which they excavate, and carry away with wonderful despatch and cunning. When they attack trees and branches in the open air, they sometimes vary their manner of doing it. If a stake in a hedge has not taken root and vegetated, it becomes their business to destroy it; if it has a good sound bark round it, they will enter at the bottom, and eat all but the bark, which will remain, and exhibit the appearance of a solid post; but if they cannot trust the bark, they cover the whole stick with their mortar, to give it stability. Under this covering they work, leaving no more of the stick and bark than is barely sufficient to support it, and frequently not the smallest particle ; so that, upon a very small tap with your walking-stick, the whole stake, though it looked sound and strong, will crumble into a thousand fragments.
Unlike the ants, they do not wage war upon each other; but they are frequently, if found above ground, engaged in combats with these insects. Though possessing very powerful mandibles, they are not a match for the ants, which soon pierce their soft
bodies, and carry them off as venison to their hills. The great annoyance which they give to travellers is undoubtedly exaggerated. If their habitations are attacked, they will certainly rush out, and defend them by biting everything that comes in their way; but they act purely on the defensive, and avoid the open day as much as possible. Their bite is sufficient to draw blood, but it has none of the irritating qualities of the ant’s bite, as the termites do not secrete any poisonous liquid.
We have thus given, as fully as the limits of our sheet will permit, a sketch of the ant and termite families; and brief as the sketch necessarily is, it may assist in giving more correct notions of these insects than are generally entertained. The z'eader will not now confound the one family with the other ; he will not ascribe to the ants of Europe, at least, the foresight of laying up stores for winter, nor the sagacity of nibbling off the points of the fancied grain to prevent it from sprouting; and he will not be over-credulous of stories told of their wisdom-a wisdom which, according to such stories, is equal to domesticating other insects for their use, or enslaving them for their pleasure.
As to the utility of ants and termites in the scheme of creation, their vast numbers and wide distribution are ample evidences, though of an indirect kind. They act as scavengers, in clearing away much waste vegetable and animal matter; and furnish in return abundance of food to other creatures. The ant. eater, a small quadruped of Southern Africa, derives its food solely from this source; many birds, as the woodpecker, devour them with avidity; and that curious insect, the ant-lion, has derived its ame from the manner in which it lies in wait for its prey. That ants, in their turn, are highly destructive of other insects, is shown by the ingenious device of the Swiss, whu clear fruit-trees of caterpillars and vermin by emptying a bag of ants on the branches, and retaining them there, encircling the trunk with a ring of wet clay, so as to prevent their escape to the ground. That they are not in any degree prejudicial to the products of human industry, has already been stated. Theix larvæ are sometimes gathered as favourite food for caged birds; and formic acid, at one time used in medicine, is a product obtainable from them alone. The termites, however, are not so harmless, and may be considered as one of those obstacles in the way of the human race which nature has left for their ingenuity and industry to remove. But whatever the advantages or disad.vantages which may arise to the comfort of man from these insect families, it has not lessened the interest with which he has ever regarded the activity, regularity, industry, and harmony of their tiny communities.
STORY OF SILVIO PELLICO.
ILVIO PELLICO, the story of whose wrongs has created a sympathising interest Europe, was born at Saluzzo, in Piedmont, a province of the Italian kingdom of Sardinia, in 1789, at which time his father, Honorato Pellico, held a situation in the post-office. He was afterwards promoted to a seat in the ministry of war at Turin, to which place he removed with his family. Silvio was at that time six years of age, and had already given token of his poetical feelings. Ossian was the bard to whom his earliest years were consecrated. In his sixteenth year he accompanied his twin
sister, to whom he was devotedly attached, to Lyons in France, where he remained until some verses of Foscolo, the most eminent of modern Italian poets, awakened in his breast so passionate a reminiscence of his native country, that he hastened towards it, and rejoined his father, then settled at Milan. The latter was in the war department, under the government of Napoleon, as king of Italy. The restoration of Lombardy to the emperor of Austria on the overthrow of Bonaparte, displaced Honorato Pellico, who then returned to Turin, accompanied by all his family, excepting Silvio, who preferred remaining at Milan.
Young Silvio, with a poetic temperament and love of letters, had formed an intimacy with Monti
, Foscolo, and other eminent literary characters residing in Milan, the whole forming a brilliant society, who sighed over the abased condition of the country under a foreign yoke. Silvio himself became known as the author of a tragedy, which was acted in all the theatres of Italy with the highest applause, and is stated to have been translated into English by Lord Byron, though not published amongst his works. Pellico had become acquainted with Byron at Milan,