A VAIN LITTLE MOTH
I know I must be a lovely creature, else why do people call me the beautiful wood nymph?
Look at my pure white fore legs, marked here and there with brown spots.
See the dark, purple-brown band that is set along the edge of them. Is it not pretty?
This band has a narrow heading of olive green, and there is a slender, wavy line of white running through it.
You will see my hind wings are of a rich yellow; and they, too, are edged on the hind border with a deep, purple-brown band.
My finely-shaped yellow body is dotted with small, pearly scales, and striped with narrow bands of black.
I wear tiny white mufflers on my fore legs, but
my other legs, all four of them, are black, and so is my head.
My antennæ are very graceful because they are so long and threadlike; they are not feathered like the antennæ of most moths. Is it any wonder that I am called beautiful?
I was as handsome when I was a larval baby as I am now, for I was clad in a pretty blue dress, banded with twelve orange stripes, and each band was dotted with black.
Are you quite sure that you did not see me when I had on that dress? You must have seen me then, although you may not have known my name. I used to visit your grapevine often and often in those days; for I was very fond of chewing the young, juicy leaves, and sometimes my friends and I would strip the vines bare.
Then we would go to the climbing creeper above your doorway, and take a good nip at the leaves and stalks of that.
We were as pretty a family of larval infants as one would care to look at; our colors were very bright, and our heads, as well as our feet, were of a deep-orange hue.
But we did not always keep together on the same leaves, and if you had looked for us almost any hot day in August, you would have found us
resting, singly, on the under side of a cool, green leaf.
Now it is the habit of some of our family, after they have eaten all they need, to bore into the stem of a plant, or sometimes into a piece of wood, and make it their winter quarters. But I was too wise to do that, for I wanted a still safer place for myself.
So one night, late in September, I crept softly down a slender vine and buried myself in the ground. There I was, a helpless pupa, an underground baby, without so much as a cocoon to cover me. Was I not very brave?
But it was the right thing to do after all, for I slept there safely through all the cold winter, and it was early in June before I awoke from my long nap. Then I came up from the dark earth.
I was very weak and feeble at first, but it was not long before I found myself sailing gaily about in this handsome robe that I am wearing to-day.
And now I will tell you a strange thing about some of my relations. There is quite a large family of them, and they fed on the leaves of a fine creeper that ran over the walls and windows of a city church.
So when they had eaten and eaten till they were satisfied, they crept inside the church and hid themselves
under the edge of a soft, woolen carpet. What a snug, cozy corner they had found, to be sure!
Then with their sharp jaws they bit off some threads here and there, and soon they had a fine, warm place for their winter quarters.
But it turned out that this was not a safe place for them at all; they might better have gone down into the cold earth as I did.
For in a very short time, the poor, helpless things were discovered, and I have heard that not one of them was left to tell the tale.
THE PATCHED COAT
What an odd-looking coat you have on! said a buzzing June beetle to a larval infant of the common clothes moth.
Yes, it is made up of a good many colors, replied the other; but you will not wonder at that when I tell you that I was born in a rag bag.
Born in a rag bag? said the beetle, and he went flying and buzzing about the room for nearly five minutes before he spoke again.
Then he came back, and lit on the soft, woolen rug where the plump larval infant was at work.
What in the world are you doing now? he inquired.
I am just setting a small gore into one side of this open case in which I live; for if you look, you can easily see for yourself that it is a case, and not a coat.
The truth is, I eat so much, and grow so fast, that my narrow quarters will not hold me; so, with my sharp jaws I make a slit here, and another there, and weave in a small patch wherever it may be needed.
But pray, how did you happen to be born in a rag bag? asked the beetle.
Because my mother chanced to lay her eggs there; she found a bag full of soft, warm, woolen scraps, and she knew it would be a good place for her babies.
And it was a good place, for as soon as we came out of the shell, we found our food ready for us.
So we gnawed and gnawed everything within our reach, and covered our bodies with the bits that were left.
Some of these scraps were red, some were white, and others were blue; that is why my coat, as you call it, has so many colors in it.
But by and by, I shall get my growth; then I shall close one end of my case, and lie still, with my head toward the open end, through all the long winter.
And when the spring comes, I shall change to a pupa; then I shall be a real baby moth, and in about three weeks from that time I shall leave my close, narrow quarters, and be a baby no longer.
But how will you get out of that hollow case? inquired the other.
Oh, I have some small, sharp spines on my body, and I can use them in creeping towards the mouth of the case; then I will crawl clear out of it and leave it forever.
It will be of no further use to me, for when I come forth I shall flit about on four tiny, buff-colored wings. I shall look very pretty then, for on my forehead there will be a thick, silken tuft of orange yellow.
At nightfall I will dart about, here and there, into dark closets where I can find some thick, winter dresses hanging up, or some soft, woolen blankets packed away; and maybe I shall get a chance to creep in among some nice warm furs or feathers; and when I find as good a place for my eggs as my mother found for hers, I shall lay hundreds of them.
With that, she bit off some bright, fuzzy threads of the woolen rug, and went on with her mending.
And the June beetle flew round and round, and made a loud whizzing noise, as much as to say, I do wonder!
A CRUSTY FELLOW
I know where a clear crystal stream flows through a deep gorge in the mountains. Sometimes it passes over high rocks, and then dashes down like white sea foam to its stony bed below.
At other places, where the rocks are not so high, it falls in thin sheets, or in shining, silvery threads.
It is a pretty stream, and I often wander along its banks; for I am acquainted with some queer little people that dwell there, and they live right in the water, too.
There is one strange fellow, in particular, that I want to tell you about. But he hides himself in deep holes and under stones during the day; so one must understand this sly trick of his in order to find him at home.
Let me tell you how he looks. His body is long, and somewhat flattened, and he is clad in a stiff, horny coat that is very hard and strong.
But his coat never becomes very ragged; for he grows so fast that he has to put on a new one every year.
And very often he has a hard time in pulling the old coat off; for the new, thin garment is already there, fitted closely to his body. Its color is of a light, yellowish brown, at first, but after a time it grows darker.
And now I hope you will believe me, when I tell you that this fellow has no less than five pairs of walking legs and six pairs of swimming legs.
And, what is more, should he chance to lose one of his legs, he would have another in its place, in the course of a year.
But he needs them all, every one of them, as I can plainly prove to you.
His swimming legs are generally called swimming feet, and sometimes they are called swimmerets. The word swimmeret means a little swimmer.
The swimming feet, when not in use, are almost entirely hidden under his large abdomen, which is made up of many plates that end in a wide fin at the tail.
His mate has small, leaflike plates at the end of her swimming feet, and these are edged with a fine, hairy fringe.
She lays a large number of eggs which she carries about attached to this fringe.
It seems a little odd that this creature should have ten walking legs besides his ten swimmerets; but he is not built like a fish, and he would soon become tired of swimming about all the time.
His first two legs are the largest, and each one of them ends in a long claw that is divided like a pair of nippers.
And what a tight pinch he can give with those nippers! The tiny fishes in the stream know all about it; and they dart away in terror, the moment they get a glimpse of him.
But this is not all, for he has five pairs of jaw feet besides; so he is well armed to seize upon the weaker animals in the water, and he seldom goes without a good dinner.
He likes to make a meal of small fishes, water snails, larval babies, and the like.
He also has two pairs of antennæ, and the outside pair is very long; he can move them up and down, and turn or curve them at his will. This long pair he uses to feel with; and the small antennæ are used to hear with.
But his compound eyes are the queerest of all; for they are set on two pegs, and he can push them out or pull them in, as he pleases.
Now this curious fellow is called the crayfish, or crawfish, though he is really a crab fish; for he is own cousin to the common crabs that are found along the seashore.
Have you ever seen a soft-shelled crab?
When the salt-water crabs first shed their coats they are called soft-shelled crabs and are gathered in large numbers for food.
But they do not all shed their coats every year, as has been proved; for a full-grown crab of this sort was once found covered with oyster shells of five years growth. So it is plain that he must have worn the same coat for five years, at least.
The salt-water crab of this kind has one of the hands much larger and stronger than the other. He uses either or both of them for feeding himself, but with the larger one he digs in the sand.
Now within the body of a crab there are found, at certain times of the year, two hard balls, that are of the nature of lime; they are often called crabs stones, and sometimes, crabs eyes.
But in some strange manner the substance of these balls is changed, so as to form the hard, outside covering of the animals body.
And it is just in this way that the small crusty fellow in the mountain streams gets a new coat for himself every year of his life.