Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/784

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esting species, the "agricultural ant" (Myrmica molefaciens), was located near a blacksmith-shop, which had been in operation five years. During all that period the smiths had built their fires for heating wagon-tires on the pavement or flat mound of these ants. This occurred, on an average, as often as two or three times a week. Frequently, as many as nine tires a day had been heated upon the mound. After five years of such experience, Dr. Lincecum records that he saw numbers of ants at work clearing out the entrance to their city before the fire, that had just been used for heating tires, was entirely extinguished. They seemed to have learned all about fire, and knew how to work around and among the half-extinguished coals without injury. In illustration of the third point Mr. McCook writes as follows:

"Last summer (1876) I discovered a formicary of mason-ants, apparently a variety of F. rufa, the fallow-ant. I placed these ants in an artificial formicarium, which was insulated in a tub of water. One night the covering by which the formicarium was protected during bad weather was left off, or removed by some meddler. A heavy shower fell early in the evening. In the morning the formicary was flooded; the ants were dead—dead and lying under five inches of water, mixed up with the mortar, which the rain had formed with the soil that composed the galleries. I poured out the water, and set the box in the sun with a forlorn hope that some of the ants might revive. At noon I chanced to open a paper box in which I had placed a dead female ant of the genus Myrmica. It had fallen into the tub. where it had been floating for many hours, apparently drowned. It was now crawling about the box alive. Thereupon I visited my dead fallow-ants, and found three of them moving about in the slush, endeavoring to extricate themselves. Another was struggling out of the muddy sediment in the jar which formed the lower part of the formicary. In short, the greater part of the drowned ants proved themselves to be veritable Noachians, and survived the flood."

Poisonous Leguminous Plants.—Dr. Rothrock, of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, calls attention to the fact that certain leguminous plants existing in our Southwestern Territories possess poisonous properties. In the vicinity of Fort Gartland, in Southern Colorado, cattle have repeatedly manifested symptoms of poisoning, the cause of which has been found to be the plant Oxytripis lamberti. The effects of eating this plant appear to be long enduring, the animal becoming demented, and wasting away, as its fondness for the poison increases to something like the opium-habit in man. Dr. Rothrock found at New Camp Grant, Arizona, another plant (Hosackia purshiana) whose effects are similar. From Sophora speciosa, another poisonous leguminous plant from Texas, Prof. H. C. Wood, Jr., has obtained an alkaloid which he names Sophoria, from the bean; its effects are not unlike those of the Calabar-bean. The Indians of Texas use the Sophora-bean to induce an intoxication, which lasts from two to three days. Half a bean will, it is said, cause intoxication, and a whole one may be productive of dangerous symptoms.


The Value of Scientific Weather-Observations.—Three daily observations of weather phenomena are made at eighty-three stations of the Central Pacific and Southern Pacific Railroads and their branches, the area covered by the observations extending through eight degrees of latitude and twelve degrees of longitude. New observing-stations are set up in proportion as a new line of road advances. The records of these stations form the basis of a singularly interesting and important paper by Mr. B. B. Redding, which was read at a meeting of the California Academy of Sciences on January 21st. In illustration of the financial value of systematic observations of this kind, the author gives two cases where even superficial study of the meteorological records would have demonstrated in advance the inevitable failure of certain enterprises. For instance, in 1869 a large sum of money was expended in covering over some lakes near Summit Station with sheds, under which to cut ice for the San Francisco market. No sheds of sufficient width could be built that could bear the weight of snow falling at that point, and consequently the undertaking ended in disastrous failure. The meteorological records of the railroad companies show that the average rainfall at this point is over five feet! "Nearly all of this falls in the form of snow, and is equal, if the snow that falls did not become compact or melt, to a bank of snow each winter of sixty feet in depth!" A similar instance of the value of these records is fur-