Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/704

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

mies, a great number of which are known, a proper study of them and the introduction of the most effective could result in no possible harm and might be productive of lasting good.

There are two other laws which it is worth while to consider in this connection. One is, that while a plant-feeder's natural enemies are apt to cause its excessive abundance to be followed by a corresponding decrease, yet this alternation of excessive abundance and excessive scarcity will often be produced irrespective of such natural checks. An injurious insect which has been on the destructive march for a period of years will often come to a sudden halt, and a period of relative and sometimes complete immunity from injury will follow. This may result from climatic conditions, but more often it is a consequence of disease, debility, and want of proper nutrition, which are necessary corollaries of undue multiplication. Frequently, therefore, it may be inaccurate and misleading to attribute the disappearance of a particular injurious species to some parasitic or predaceous species which has been let loose upon it, and nothing but the most accurate observation will determine the truth in such cases. The past year furnished a very graphic illustration in point. Throughout Virginia and West Virginia, where the spruce pines have for some years suffered so severely from the destructive work of Dendroctonus frontalis, not a single living specimen of the beetle has been found during the present year. This has been observed by every one who has investigated the subject, and particularly by several correspondents who have written to me: by Mr. E. A. Schwarz, who was commissioned to investigate the facts, and by Mr. Hopkins, who has made the study of the subject a specialty. The clearest explanation of this sudden change is, that the species was practically killed out by the exceptionally severe cold of last winter, since such was the case with several other insects. Now, following so closely on the introduction by Mr. Hopkins of Clerus formicarius, how easy it would have been to attribute the sudden decrease to the work of the introduced clerus, had not the decrease been so general and extensive as absolutely to preclude any such possibility! In like manner a certain scale-insect (Aspidiotus tenebricosus) had become exceedingly destructive to the soft maples in the city of Washington last year, whereas the present year it is almost entirely killed off, evidently by the same exceptional cold. Many of the affected trees were painted with whitewash, with a view of destroying the aspidiotus, and the death of this last might have been attributed to the treatment (and naturally would be by those employing it) were it not that the same result was equally noticeable on the trees not treated. Reports from southern California would indicate that the red scale (Aspidiotus aurantii) is in many orchards losing its destructiveness