Page:Descent of Man 1875.djvu/267

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Chap. VIII.
Proportion of the Sexes.

here add, that in Hyperythra, a genus of moths, Guenée says, that from four to five females are sent in collections from India for one male.

When this subject of the proportional numbers of the sexes of insects was brought before the Entomological Society,[1] it was generally admitted that the males of most Lepidoptera, in the adult or imago state, are caught in greater numbers than the females: but this fact was attributed by various observers to the more retiring habits of the females, and to the males emerging earlier from the cocoon. This latter circumstance is well known to occur with most Lepidoptera, as well as with other insects. So that, as M. Personnat remarks, the males of the domesticated Bombyx Yamamai, are useless at the beginning of the season, and the females at the end, from the want of mates.[2] I cannot, however, persuade myself that these causes suffice to explain the great excess of males, in the above cases of certain butterflies which are extremely common in their native countries. Mr. Stainton, who has paid very close attention during many years to the smaller moths, informs me that when he collected them in the imago state, he thought that the males were ten times as numerous as the females, but that since he has reared them on a large scale from the caterpillar state, he is convinced that the females are the more numerous. Several entomologists concur in this view. Mr. Doubleday, however, and some others, take an opposite view, and are convinced that they have reared from the eggs and caterpillars a larger proportion of males than of females.

Besides the more active habits of the males, their earlier emergence from the cocoon, and in some cases their frequenting more open stations, other causes may be assigned for an apparent or real difference in the proportional numbers of the sexes of Lepidoptera, when captured in the imago state, and when reared from the egg or caterpillar state. I hear from Professor Canestrini, that it is believed by many breeders in Italy, that the female caterpillar of the silk-moth suffers more from the recent disease than the male; and Dr. Staudinger informs me that in rearing Lepidoptera more females die in the cocoon than males. With many species the female caterpillar is larger than the male, and a collector would naturally choose the finest specimens, and thus unintentionally collect a larger number of females. Three collectors have told me that this was their practice; but Dr. Wallace is sure that most collectors take all the specimens which they can find of the rarer kinds, which alone are worth the trouble of rearing. Birds when surrounded by caterpillars would probably devour the largest; and Professor Canestrini informs me that in Italy some breeders believe, though on insufficient evidence, that in the first broods of the Ailanthus silk-moth, the wasps destroy a larger number of the female than of the male caterpillars. Dr. Wallace further remarks that female caterpillars, from being larger than the males, require more time for their development, and consume more food and moisture; and thus they would be exposed during a longer time to danger from ichneumons, birds, &c., and in times of scarcity would perish in greater numbers. Hence it appears quite possible that

  1. 'Proc. Entomolog. Soc.' Feb. 17th, 1868.
  2. Quoted by Dr. Wallace in 'Proc. Ent. Soc.' 3rd series, vol. v. 1867, p. 487.