News | Published:

Insect Behaviour1

Nature volume 101, pages 286287 (13 June 1918) | Download Citation



IT was on a Harmas (an untilled, pebbly bit of land) in Provence that Fabre, after heroic struggles, opened his “laboratory of living entomology, ” where, undisturbed, he might “pry into life.” “Never, in my insect-hunting memories, have I seen so large a population at a single spot; all the occupations have made it their rallying-point. Here come hunters of every kind of game, builders in clay, weavers of cotton goods, collectors of pieces cut from a leaf or the petals of a flower, architects in pasteboard, plasterers mixing mortar, carpenters boring wood, miners digging underground galleries, artificers handling goldbeaters' skin, and many more.” What a place for studying those inborn capacities for effective behaviour which we label instinctive! What disclosures this inimitable observer gives us—the sounds of the midsummer night from the tinkling of toads to the death-wail of the surprised cicada, the green grasshopper's strange banquet off her fertilising capsule, the quick and fatal bite which the “devilkin” or Empusa gives on the back of the butterfly's neck; the beautifully finished cupolas made by Eumenes wasps out of minute pebbles and mortar, and stored with half-paralysed caterpillars, the food for the grub which hatches out of the egg cleverly suspended from the roof; the way the glow-worm deals with snails, first chloroforming them and then drinking them, for the flesh has to be liquefied into a broth before it can be used. Fabres words suggest that the liquid passes up the hollow mandibles to the mouth, but there seems some doubt on this point, as may be seen by comparing the recent observations of Miss Kathleen Haddoh with those of Prof. Bugnion.

About this article

Publication history





    By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

    Newsletter Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing