WAS IT A SHADOW?
One sunny afternoon in summer time, a water boatman and a skater1 chanced to meet on the surface of a small pond. Now both of these insects belong to the water bug family, and that is why they happened to be traveling by water, instead of going about by land.
Halloa, friend Skipjack! shouted the boatman, would you like to take a trip with me to the bottom of this pond?
Thank you, I am not a swimmer, replied the other, so I do not care to go to the bottom, so long as I can stay on top.
Oh, I see, answered the boatman; my long, hind legs were made for swimming, and your sprawlers, for skating; so it is just as well for each one to stick to his trade.
He had hardly spoken the last word when he made a dive for the bottom and was out of sight in an instant.
1 One of the Hy-drom´e-tra,a water bug.
As soon as he was gone, the skater began to move backward and forward with great speed; and as he darted about in the bright sunshine, he looked like a long shadow made up of slender legs!
The under part of his body was covered with a soft, plush coating, so that the water could not touch him at all; and he could skip about everywhere for hours at a time, without so much as wetting his feet.
There were plenty of tiny insects all about him that he could seize and devour at his leisure; so what good reason had he for running the risk of going down to the bottom of the deep?
It was not very long before a whole swarm of whirligigs came dashing by; these insects belong to the water beetle family.
Their bodies are of an oval form, and of a bluish black color; and they are well named whirligigs; for they are hardly ever quiet and still for a moment in their lives.
So they went gliding and circling about over the surface of the pond, and finally each one of them gathered a bubble of air in the tip of his abdomen, and plunged to the bottom.
Well, well, said the skater, so I am left alone again, and I am glad of it.
And he had very good cause for being glad, too; for if he had touched those creatures with so much as a single toe of his foot, they would have thrown out all about them a very disagreeable milky fluid.
Pretty soon there was a slight ripple on the water, and in a moment more, up came a large diving beetle to the surface.
His body was also oval in shape, and so flat,
above and below, that he looked like a little boat as he sped along over the waves.
The skater watched him a few moments, and then said, Pray, Mr. Diver, have you seen anything of my friend, the water boatman, in your travels?
Yes, replied the other. I saw some young water tigers running about after him, only a short time before I came to the top.
Water tigers? said the other. What are they?
They are very hungry larval infants, with strong, sharp jaws, and they live at the bottom of the pond, where they can find plenty to eat. And a fine time they have of it, too. I was once a baby tiger myself, so I ought to know all about that kind of life.
Many and many a time have I snipped off the tails of the little tadpoles, and of the young fishes; and I would not mind even now to get hold of
The skater gave a sudden jerk backwards, and when the diver looked around, he was nowhere to be seen.
Well, that seems a little strange, said he. Can it be possible that all this time I was talking with a shadow?
ALMOST A BIRD
Do you see that large, green worm creeping upon the tomato vines? Its thick, stout body is fully three inches in length.
It is an ugly thing to look at, but it will not hurt you; that sharp horn upon its tail can not harm you in the least.
See those whitish, slanting stripes along the sides of its body. They make quite a pretty trimming for its green coat, do they not?
Take it home with you, and put it into a panful of earth. Cover it over with tomato leaves or the leaves of the potato; it is quite as fond of one kind as of the other.
But you must look after it once in a while; for as soon as it has eaten enough of the leaves it will bury itself at the bottom of the pan.
There it will build an earthen cocoon and become
a pupa; and its pupa case will be of a reddish-brown color.
It will have a long, slender tongue case, bent down from the body so as to touch the breast and shaped somewhat like the handle of a pitcher.
Think of a little creature having so long a tongue that it has to be inclosed in a separate case, even in its babyhood!
When the long winter is over, it will waken from its sleep. Then a poor, weak moth, with feeble, crumpled wings, will make its way up from the soil in the pan.
Push a stick down into the soil, so as to lend it a helping hand. It is the most that you can do for it, and that is quite enough. It will soon creep to the top of the stick, and when its wings become dry and strong, it will need no farther aid from you.
Have you ever seen a humming bird? Well, your little moth will look very much like one. In fact, it is often called a humming-bird moth.
This insect has a stout body; and on each side of the body are five round, orange-colored spots encircled with black.
Its wings are narrow and pointed, of a gray color, and marked with dark lines; but the fore wings are longer and broader than the hind ones.
Its tongue is a good deal longer than its body; and when not in use, it is coiled up like the spring of a watch. No wonder that it needed a separate case for itself!
This tongue is for sucking up the sweets of flowers; and as the insect flits around among the pretty blossoms, it makes a low, humming noise.
It chooses the early morning hour, or the evening twilight to go in search of its food; and then, if you watch it very closely, you may see its long tongue, as it darts it quickly into the sweet blossoms of the honeysuckle, the morning-glory, and other flowers having deep, tubelike throats.
Almost a bird, you will say to yourself, as you watch its movements; and you will wonder more and more that so beautiful a creature could ever have lain hidden away under the ugly larval skin of a green tomato worm.