THE SLUG FLY AND THE GRASSHOPPER
A mother slug fly that had been darting about in the sunshine all day, finally settled down among the green leaves of a pear tree.
Like the horntail fly, she was armed with a sharp-pointed auger; and with this auger she cut several slits in the under part of the leaf.
These slits were in the form of a half circle, and in each one of them she placed an egg. After that, she flew away and gave no further heed to it.
She was a very small insect, so small, indeed, that her body was not more than a quarter of an inch in length.
But she was really quite pretty; for she was of a glossy-black color, and her four thin wings were
very clear, and were veined with brown; while across the middle of the first pair there was a wide band of a somewhat smoky hue.
It was a warm day in June; and as she darted about in the sunlight, her wings looked as if they had caught some of the bright tints of the rainbow.
What a beautiful creature you are! said a large green grasshopper. I think I must get a little nearer to you, where I can see you better.
And she gave such a long leap that she went clear over the head of the slug fly and landed on the other side of her.
Bless me! said the fly; what very long legs you have, my friend.
Yes, my hind legs are very long; they are made for leaping about, as you can plainly see.
And what very, very long antennæ, said the other. They must be nearly twice as long as your body, I am sure.
At this the grasshopper turned her antennæ back, till they extended way beyond her long hind legs.
Wonderful! said the slug fly. What a pity that you have not wings like me.
Wings? said the other; you had better use your eyes.
And with that she displayed two long, straight wing covers, and two thin hind wings that were hidden under them.
Who would have thought it? said the slug fly. But tell me, my friend, what were you digging into the ground for, just before you came here?
I was hiding my eggs there, replied the other. You did not see my wings, and you may not have seen the sword at the end of my body; but I always carry one with me wherever I go.
It was with this sharp sword that I made a hole in the earth, and put my eggs into it. Then I smeared them all over with a thick glue; for as soon as the glue hardens, it will form a strong case for them.
And now I have covered up the hole in the ground carefully, and have left them there; for I know they will be safe and warm through all the long winter.
Now what will your babies be like? inquired the other.
They will be like me, only their wings, at first, will look like little scales. But they will feed on all the green things that come in their way till they
have shed their skins six times; then their wings will be as large as mine.
1 Or-thop´te-ra,straight wing.
What a fine time they will have eating those skins! said the slug fly.
Eating their skins? replied the grasshopper. Whoever heard of such a thing! My family never eat their skins. Why should they do such a thing as that, with plenty of green leaves all about them?
Now the grasshopper belongs to the same great family1 as the cricket, the locust, the katydid, and other insects having straight wing covers; the mother straight wing lays the eggs, and the father straight wing makes all the music.
And this class of insects do not have a wormlike form, even when they are first hatched from the egg.
Well, said the slug fly, my family do eat their skins, and they are very fond of them, too. They shed their coat five times before they are full-grown; and they always feast on every one of their cast-off skins excepting the last.
What must the children of your kind be like? said the grasshopper, and as she spoke, she let fall a dark-brown fluid from her jaws.
Oh, they are beautiful creatures, replied the other.
They are covered, at first, with a soft, sticky slime, of a pretty olive shade; but when they get their fifth coat, it is very dry and of a yellow tint, and as there is no slime upon that, they do not care to eat it.
And such nimble little creatures you never saw; for although they are not quite half an inch in length, they have no less than twenty short legs apiece.
So they creep about upon the green leaves of the pear and of the cherry tree, and with their sharp jaws they cut out all the soft parts of the leaf. But they are so dainty that they will touch neither the veins nor the skin of a leaf, no matter how tender it may be.
Dainty! said the grasshopper. A creature that will eat its own skinugh!
The slug fly paid no heed to this remark, but went on: The larval babies of my kind are called slugs; and they are very shy little creatures, with small brown heads.
Should you ever meet them, you will know them by this: They have a way of swelling out the fore part of the body, so as to hide their modest heads completely.
But you will have to look for them pretty soon; for my eggs will hatch out before long. And after the babies have eaten all they need, they will leave the pear tree and creep down into the ground.
There each one will make for itself an earthen cocoon; and when it awakens from its long winters sleep, it will come up into the air and sunshine.
Then it will have four handsome wings like mine; and it will be even more beautiful than when it was a slimy larval infant.
More beautiful! I should hope so, said the grasshopper; and she let fall a whole mouthful of brown fluid, and gave a leap that sent her clear out of sight.
THE TRUTH OF IT
A silly young cricket, accustomed to sing
Through the long, sunny months of gay summer and spring,
Began to complain when he found that at home
His cupboard was empty and winter had come.
We have all heard the sorrowful tale; how the poor, starved cricket went to a very stingy old ant, and begged for food and shelter; and how the
ant met him with harsh words, and finally turned him out of doors.
It is a very interesting story, indeed; but I am afraid that it is not true, for it does not agree with the history of the cricket family.
The fact is that most all crickets die on the approach of winter. There are only a very few among them that live till spring; and these either hide themselves under stones, or else they creep into some hole in the ground that is warm and dry.
It is true that some of them do sing through the long sunny months of summer, and even until quite late in the fall.
But it is the father cricket that makes the music; and he delights in it.
He rubs the inner edges of his outside wings together with great glee; and he will keep up his shrill music for hours and hours at a time.
It is a way that he has of talking to his wife; and she never seems to grow weary of it. But she takes no part in his tune; for her wings are not formed like his, to make music.
Many of these insects are clothed in black; and it does seem a little strange that so cheerful a chirper as the father cricket should be clad in mourning array.
But he had no choice in the matter; so he may as well be merry and make the best of it.
The mother cricket has at the end of her small body a fine-pointed piercer, as sharp as a needle; and late in the autumn she makes holes in the ground and places her eggs in them.
Sometimes there are as many as three hundred eggs in one mass; but she takes no farther care of them, for she knows that she has left them in a safe place to hatch out.
There is another kind of cricket that is clad in ivory white, with a few yellow tints about the body. This cricket makes music, too, and it is often of a very harsh and noisy kind.
But his wife does not always dress in pure white; for sometimes she wears white on a part of her body, while the other portions are tinged with green or with yellow.
She pierces holes in the twigs and stems of plants and pushes her eggs into them, even to the very pith. Then, like the ground cricket, her work is done; for very soon after these insects have laid their eggs, both the males and females die.
It is true that there will be a large family of baby crickets in the spring; but such babies are, in no way, helpless. They all know just what to do.
As soon as they come out of the shell they will begin to eat. They will feast on the juicy roots of the melon, the squash, the potato, grass, and other green things that come in their way.
They will not be wormlike larval babies, either; they will look just like their parents, only that the wings of young crickets are at first nothing but tiny scales.
As these insects become larger and larger, they cast off their baby clothes till they get their seventh suit.
Then they are full-grown crickets, with a pair of long, slender antennæ and four straight wings. But
the two outside wings are not used for flying; they are used as covers both for the under wings and for the sides of the body.
There are some kinds of crickets that, if they chance to get into a room where they find a woolen carpet or a woolen garment of any kind, will soon destroy it.
They have even been known to gnaw holes in boots and in shoes that were made of thick, heavy leather.
A gentleman who was very fond of the crickets clear, sharp notes, opened his window, one evening, so that he might go to sleep with the sound of their music in his ears.
But when he awoke in the morning, he found that quite a number of them had entered his room during the night, and had eaten several large holes in a new suit of clothes that was hanging upon the back of a chair near the window.
The shrill creak of the cricket late in the autumn does sometimes sound a little sad; but there is no good reason for supposing that it is a song of complaint.
He generally finds enough to eat as long as he needs it; and crickets are not above devouring other insects, in case they fall short of the green, juicy stems and leaves of plants.
So I think you will agree with me that if a bold, hungry cricket should chance to call at the door of a well-to-do ant, she had much better divide her store with him, than to run the risk of being eaten herself.