Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 71.djvu/227

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SCIENTIFIC COMEDY OF ERRORS

the cochineal, which is by no means a beetle, though truly an insect, but the author proceeds:

Moreover, these statements that I have made about the form and appearance of this beetle, that they may not be accounted the mere offspring of my brain, can all be easily verified by actual examination; for dry specimens, complete, generally, however, with the head and feet torn off, are found mixed with the cochineal; or at least, as happens more commonly, elytra are brought out along with the cochineal grains. I myself have found several points concerning these little animals, complete or intact for the most part, which exactly agreed with those just described, so that all occasion for doubting the truthfulness of the facts has been removed.

With this description, aided by an excellent figure given in the one plate which ornaments the pamphlet, we are able without difficulty to explain the mystery. The American beetle is the Chilocorus cacti, a genuine ladybird, which does indeed live upon the tuna among the cochineal insects, feeding upon them. When the latter are gathered, the beetles are often carried with them, and Friedel, examining the dried grains, naturally found the specimens he describes. In 1701 not much was known about the classification of insects, and it never occurred to him that a creature like the cochineal, which we now know to have a sucking mouth, could not be related to a beetle.

Yet, aware that scoffers exist, the author is constrained to proceed:

Howbeit, if this evidence of mine should not find full credence, look you! here is Paulus Ammannius, who in his handbook to Materia Medica reports that he also found such a little animal intact; and if perhaps he is not sufficient authority either, take Leeuwenhoek and Tyson, of whom the former depicts little insects of this type, found by him likewise, and the latter even gives an engraving on copper of a cochineal scarab, and when you have compared the figures, you will agree that it is as closely similar as possible to mine. In the appended plate, I offer one of those "that I happened to find, along with our nettle beetle [that is, the European ladybird, Adalia bipunctata], because the difference, as well as the resemblance between them, will thus better meet the eye. I willingly omit the references to other authors, such as Blanchard (Schauplatz der Raupen) and Dale (Pharmacology), for the two just mentioned, Leeuwenhoek and Tyson, are for me equivalent to all.

Friedel then proceeds to combat an opinion, which he attributes to Leeuwenhoek and an anonymous Spaniard mentioned in the English Transactions (of the Royal Society) No. 193, to the effect that the cochineal is a portion of the adult American ladybird—the Chilocorus cacti.

For it is disproved oy ocular examination, that the lower belly of this beetle, if it shall have been stripped of its legs and head, and finally of its elytra and wings, as indicated by Leeuwenhoek, exactly resembles the cochineal. Rather, the form of these hinder parts of the insect differs as much as possible from the little body of the cochineal; seeing that in the first place, in size it generally very greatly surpasses the lower belly of the beetle, as I have found in more