THE REAL CULPRIT
In a low, grassy meadow, one morning I found
Such a soft, little, snug, mossy nest;
And within it, four eggs of the shade of the ground,
Ah, but wait till I tell you the rest.
First, a nimble red squirrel ran down from a tree,
But he did not peep in at the nest;
He just cracked a few nuts and winked slyly at me,
Ah, but wait till I tell you the rest.
Next, a shining, green snake crept so near, that alas,
I had fears for that snug little nest;
But he glided away through the tall meadow grass,
And, but wait till I tell you the rest!
Then I heard the soft tread of a shy meadow mouse,
But she swiftly sped on, past the nest,
In her search of sweet nuts for her winter storehouse,
And, but wait till I tell you the rest.
For at last, a young truant from school passed that way,
And his quick eye discovered the nest;
And now a poor mother bird cries all the day,
Shall I leave her to tell you the rest?
HISTORY OF A BUG
Do you know the difference between a bug and a beetle? Some people do not; and they call every insect that chances to come in their way a bug.
Now a bug has a slender, horny beak that is made for sucking fluids; sometimes it is used for sucking up the juice of a plant, and sometimes for drawing out the blood of an animal.
Bugs are very troublesome creatures; and most of them give out a bad odor. All the lice that are found, either upon animals or upon plants, belong to the bug family.
There are a few kinds of bugs that have no wings at all; but the greater part of them have two wing covers; and underneath these are two very thin wings that are used in flying.
The hind part of each wing cover is quite thin and clear; while the fore part is so thick that the light can not shine through it.
The larval babies that hatch from the eggs of a bug are very much like the full-grown insects, excepting that their small wing pads look like little scales upon the top of their backs; but they eat and grow, and cast off their skins from time to time, till they soon become as large as their parents.
Here is a bug that I found upon the leaf of a squash vine in the garden. The leaf was wrinkled and withered; and when I looked at it closely, I discovered that it was full of fine holes.
What was the cause of it?
Ah, Mr. Squash Bug could answer that question, if he could only speak through that sharp, horny, sucking tube that now lies bent backward beneath his breast.
It is well that I caught him this bright autumn day, for to-morrow he might have hidden himself away in a wall or fence, and there he would have taken a long winter nap.
Let us look at him. His body is rather more that half an inch in length, of a rusty, black color above, and of a dirty, yellow shade beneath.
Surely, he has no good reason for being proud of his coat, and what an odor!
On each side of the head there is a large compound eye, and on the back part of his head there are two small, single eyes that shine like glass. His two-jointed antennæ are quite long, as you can see, and there is a knob at the end of each of them.
Now look at his wing covers. They are placed
crosswise upon his back, so as to overlap each other at the tips; and the soft, thin wings that lie underneath them are placed crosswise in the same way.
Do they not remind you of the flaps of an envelope? I think they look something like the under side of an envelope after it is sealed.
This bug has six legs, with a sharp claw at the end of each; and if you handle him roughly, you will soon find that he can give you a good nip with those claws; but you need have no fear, it can not harm you.
The upper part of the abdomen is black, and has a soft, velvety look; and see, it is marked quite prettily along each side with dots of yellow.
And now let us find out how this insect happened to be feasting upon the leaves of the squash vine in our garden.
Here is its family history: Quite late in the season, last fall, a number of the squash bug family left the vines, and hid themselves away in a safe place, where they seemed to go to sleep; and there they stayed, without any food to eat, all winter.
But when spring returned, and the vines put forth their tender leaves again, these bugs came out of their hiding places and began to feast upon the leaves.
Their appetites were very keen, as you may suppose,
and they greedily sucked the juice of every leaf as they went along.
After they had feasted about a month, the mother squash bugs began to lay their eggs. These little eggs were round in shape, and quite flat; and they were laid in patches, here and there, upon the under side of the leaves, at night.
In order to make them secure, these careful mothers glued them fast, with a gummy fluid from their own bodies. It was not many days before the young bugs were hatched out, and what homely little things they were!
They had short, round bodies that were of a pale-ash color; and the joints of their large antennæ were quite flat.
They ate and ate, and grew very fast; and after casting off their skins a few times, they became as large as their parents.
For a few days, they lived together in little families; but they soon left the leaves on which they were hatched, and went from vine to vine, in search of more juicy food, while all the leaves that they left behind them became withered and brown.
Now, as you can well understand, these insects are among the most harmful of all the bug family; but since we have learned so much concerning their
habits, there is no good reason why we should not get rid of them.
If we are careful to watch our vines as soon as the young leaves put forth, we shall find the bugs before they have begun their feast; and if we closely examine the under parts of the leaves every morning, we shall find the bunches of eggs that the mother squash bugs so carefully glued to them the night before; and in this way, it will not take us very long to clear our vines of these unwelcome visitors.
HISTORY OF A BEETLE
Now that we have taken a look at a bug, let us also take a look at a beetle; then we shall know whether bugs and beetles are as nearly alike as many people suppose them to be.
Here we have a May bug, as it is generally called; but if we examine it, we shall find that it is not a bug at all.
This insect is nearly an inch in length.
It has no sucking beak, for it needs none; it has two sets of strong, horny jaws, instead. These jaws are for cutting and biting the roots, stems, and leaves of plants; for there are only a few beetles
that live upon animal food, and such beetles usually prey upon other insects.
Look at it closely, and you will see that its jaws are made to move sidewise, and not up and down like your own.
Its body is oval in form, and of a chestnut-brown color; but all beetles do not have this oval form. Some kinds of beetles have the body quite flat, and some of them have very beautiful colors, as well.
Its stiff, hard, wing covers meet in a straight line upon its back; they do not lap over at the tips, like the wing covers of a bug.
Do you see that little wedge, where they are joined together at the base? It looks like a small gore set in there to hold the wings in place.
You can easily see that these wing cases are well sprinkled over with little dots, as if they had been pricked, here and there, with a fine needle; and there are three rough lines, running the whole length of each cover.
Underneath these wing covers are two, thin, silky wings, folded crosswise, and what a pretty shade of brown!
When these light wings are spread, then away
goes the beetle, darting about here and there in the twilight, and making a loud, buzzing sound with its wings, that is not at all pleasant to hear.
Have you noticed its pretty vest? See, it is clothed with a yellowish down.
Well, well, so our noisy May beetle comes out in quite a fine spring suit, after all!
Its antennæ are many-jointed, and there is a knob at the end of each one of them; and you can plainly see that each knob is made up of three leaflike joints, as well.
Notice its two large, compound eyes. On the back of its head there are two simple eyes; but these are so small that you will have to look closely to find them.
Now look at its six long legs; they are well clothed with hairs, and each leg has a strong, double claw at the end of it.
When beetles of this kind light upon a tree, they cling to the leaves with their sharp claws. They belong to a class known as the tree beetles; and it does not take a swarm of them very long to strip both the twigs and the branches of trees entirely bare of their foliage.
Did you notice three, jagged, toothlike points in the fore legs of this insect? Let me tell you what they are used for.
The mother beetle makes a hole in the earth, and sometimes this hole is six inches in depth; and she uses her strong, jagged fore legs for digging.
In this hole she places her eggs, and very often there are as many as fifty or more of them; then she flies away and leaves them, for she knows they will be safe.
Soon after the eggs are laid, both the father and mother beetle die; they do not hide away and sleep through the winter as some other insects do.
Now let us see what becomes of the eggs that the mother beetle has placed in the ground with so much care. In about fourteen days, there comes forth from each egg a little, soft grub, having a round, white body and a small, brown head; and when this grub is at rest, it lies curled up, in the form of a half circle.
These larval babies are provided with six legs, and with a mouth that is armed with strong jaws, and oh, how greedy they are for something to eat!
During the warm, summer months the remain very near the surface of the ground, and gnaw the roots of every green thing that they can find; but as cold weather comes on, they go down deeper into the earth.
There they remain till the warm springtime returns; then they cast off their skins, and come up to the surface of the ground again for food.
These hungry creatures spend as many as three summers under the soil, in this way, before they have eaten all they want.
And then they go down still farther into the earth, as if they could not bury themselves deep enough; and there they enter the pupa state.
And when the springtime again rolls round, they creep up, for the last time, from the cold, damp earth; and casting aside their pupa skins, they come forth, active, brown-winged, buzzing May beetles, like their parents before them.
Many of these insects are often seen flying about in the month of June; and then they are commonly called June bugs.
But they all belong to the same family, and every one of them is a destroyer of plant life.