Page:Darwin Journal of Researches.djvu/57

This page has been validated.
1832.]
35
SWARM OF ANTS.

and others returning, burdened with pieces of green leaf, often larger than their own bodies.

A small dark-coloured ant sometimes migrates in countless numbers. One day, at Bahia, my attention was drawn by observing many spiders, cockroaches, and other insects, and some lizards, rushing in the greatest agitation across a bare piece of ground. A little way behind, every stalk and leaf was blackened by a small ant. The swarm having crossed the bare space, divided itself, and descended an old wall. By this means many insects were fairly enclosed; and the efforts which the poor little creatures made to extricate themselves from such a death were wonderful. When the ants came to the road they changed their course, and in narrow files reascended the wall. Having placed a small stone so as to intercept one of the lines, the whole body attacked it, and then immediately retired. Shortly afterwards another body came to the charge, and again having failed to make any impression, this line of march was entirely given up. By going an inch round, the file might have avoided the stone, and this doubtless would have happened, if it had been originally there: but having been attacked, the lion-hearted little warriors scorned the idea of yielding.

Certain wasp-like insects, which construct in the corners of the verandahs clay cells for their larvæ, are very numerous in the neighbourhood of Rio. These cells they stuff full of half-dead spiders and caterpillars, which they seem wonderfully to know how to sting to that degree as to leave them paralysed but alive, until their eggs are hatched; and the larvæ feed on the horrid mass of powerless, half-killed victims—a sight which has been described by an enthusiastic naturalist [1] as curious and pleasing! I was much interested one day by watching a deadly contest between a Pepsis and a large spider of the genus Lycosa. The wasp made a sudden dash at its prey, and then flew away: the spider was evidently wounded, for, trying to escape, it rolled down a little slope, but had still strength sufficient to crawl into a thick tuft of grass. The wasp soon returned, and seemed sur-

  1. In a MS. in the British Museum by Mr. Abbott, who made his observations in Georgia; see Mr. A. White's paper in the ‘Annals of Nat. Hist.,’ vol. vii. p. 472. Lieut. Hutton has described a sphex with similar habits in India, in the ‘Journal of the Asiatic Society,’ vol. i., p. 555.

d 2