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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/413

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LUBBOCK ON INSECT CONSERVATISM.

They follow, but so slowly that they never keep up with their eager guide, soon drop behind, and generally give up the expedition, as one beyond their courage or strength, or at least too much for their half faith. Let us hear Sir John's curious delineation of the sort of authority which one ant's information appears to carry to his fellow-ants:

"I selected a specimen of Atta testaceo-pilosa, belonging to a nest which I had brought back with me from Algeria. She was out hunting about six feet from home, and I placed before her a large dead blue-bottle fly, which she at once began to drag to the nest. I then pinned the fly to a piece of cork, in a small box, so that no ant could see the fly until she had climbed up the side of the box. The ant struggled, of course in vain, to move the fly. She pulled first in one direction and then in another, but, finding her efforts fruitless, she at length started off back to the nest empty-handed. At this time there were no ants coming out of the nest. Probably there were some few others out hunting, but for at least a quarter of an hour no ant had left the nest. My ant entered the nest, but did not remain there; in less than a minute she emerged, accompanied by seven friends. I never saw so many come out of that nest together before. In her excitement the first ant soon distanced her companions, who took the matter with much sang-froid, and had all the appearance of having come out reluctantly, or as if they had been asleep and were only half awake. The first ant ran on ahead, going straight to the fly. The others followed slowly and with many meanderings; so slowly, indeed, that for twenty minutes the first ant was alone at the fly, trying in every way to move it. Finding this still impossible, she again returned to the nest, not chancing to meet any of her friends by the way. Again she emerged in less than a minute with eight friends, and hurried on to the fly. They were even less energetic than the first party; and, when they found they had lost sight of their guide, they one and all returned to the nest. In the mean time, several of the first detachment had found the fly, and one of them succeeded in detaching a leg, with which she returned in triumph to the nest, coming out again directly with four or five companions. These latter, with one exception, soon gave up the chase and returned to the nest. I do not think so much of this last case, because, as the ant carried in a substantial piece of booty in the shape of the fly's leg, it is not surprising that her friends should some of them accompany her on her return; but surely the other two cases indicate a distinct power of communication. Lest, however, it should be supposed that the result was accidental, I determined to try it again. Accordingly, on the following day I put another large dead fly before an ant belonging to the same nest, pinning it to a piece of cork as before. After trying in vain for ten minutes to move the fly, my ant started off home. At that time I could only see two other ants of that species outside the nest. Yet in a few seconds, considerably less than a minute, she emerged with no