Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/52

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42
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the larvæ live. Other species of the genus are in the same way parasitic on bees. On the 14th of October last I observed that one of my ants had a mite attached to the underside of its head. The mite, which is still in the same position, is almost as large as the head. The ant cannot remove it herself. She has never come out of the nest, so that I could not do it for her, and none of her own companions from that day to this have thought of performing this kind office.

In character the different species of ants differ very much from one another. F. fusca, the one which is preëminently the enslaved ant, is, as might be expected, extremely timid; while the nearly allied F. cinerea has, on the contrary, a considerable amount of individual audacity. F. rufa, the horse ant, according to M. Forel, is especially characterized by the want of individual initiative, and always moves in troops; he also regards the genus Formica as the most brilliant, though some others excel it in other respects, as, for instance, in the sharpness of their senses. F. pratensis worries its slain enemies; F. sanguinea never does. The slave-making ant (P. rufescens) is, perhaps, the bravest of all. If a single individual finds herself surrounded by enemies, she never attempts to fly, as any other ant would, but transfixes her opponents one after another, springing right and left with great agility, till at length she succumbs, overpowered by numbers. M. scabrinodis is cowardly and thievish; during wars among the larger species they haunt the battle-fields and devour the dead. Tetramorium is said to be very greedy; Myrmecina very phlegmatic.

In industry ants are not surpassed even by bees and wasps. They work all day, and in warm weather, if need be, even at night too. I once watched an ant from six in the morning, and she worked without intermission till a quarter to ten at night. I had put her to a saucer containing larvæ, and in this time she carried off no less than a hundred and eighty-seven to the nest. I once had another ant, which I employed in my experiments, under observation several days. When I came up to London in the morning, and went to bed at night, I used to put her in a small bottle, but the moment she was let out she began to work again. On one occasion I was away from home for a week. On my return I let her out of the bottle, placing her on a little heap of larvæ about three feet from the nest. Under these circumstances I certainly did not expect her to return. However, though she had thus been six days in confinement, the brave little creature immediately picked up a larva, carried it off to the nest, and after half an hour's rest returned for another.

We have had hitherto very little information as to the length of life in ants. So far, indeed, as the preparatory stages are concerned, there is little difficulty in approximately ascertaining the facts—namely, that while they take only a few weeks in summer, in some