Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/28

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18
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

honey in a corner was provided for the support of the colony. At first, the amazons seemed to pay some attention to the larvae, carrying them about here and there, but they soon left them. They did not know how to provide themselves with food. At the end of two days some had already died of hunger close alongside the honey-drops, all were languishing, and they had not even built a chamber. "I was sorry for them," says Huber. He put an auxiliary into the drawer. This solitary one restored order, made a house in the earth, gathered the larvae into it, released several nymphæ of both kinds that were ready to leave the cocoon, and at last saved the lives of those among the amazons that still had breath.

Peter Huber refrains from any comments in describing all these wonders; he leaves each one, as he says, at liberty to draw any conclusions he pleases. This one conclusion is inevitable: We do, then, find among animals artificial societies, communities of beings strangers in race, yet living together, contributing, toward one common end, their different qualities and their individual efforts. The hive is always one family only. A mixed ant-hill is inhabited by individuals belonging to species at least as different as the horse, the ass, the zebra so different sometimes that zoologists have classed them in distinct genera (Polyergus formica). Like provinces subject to the same form of government, every ant-hill has, nevertheless, its local history, explained by external circumstances, by conditions of neighborhood and boundary. Each one has only the principle of its organization in common with the rest. The same legionaries have sometimes one species of auxiliaries and sometimes another, the black-grey or the mason ant, whichever is within their reach, sometimes both together; or there may be two kinds of legionaries, the "polyergus" and the dark-red, living in the same hill, with one or two species of auxiliaries. Some naturalists, Darwin among others, call these frankly "slave-holders," and the others "slaves." These names are unfair. We must guard against any mistake as to the very peculiar nature of the relations existing between the two castes. Each fills a special part in the community, and neither exercises control or despotism in it. If the association, at the outset, rests on violence and abduction, nothing has ever given rise to a suspicion that there is any thing else in a mixed ant-hill than a collection of individuals kept together by special instincts. These names of "slavery" and "republic," applied to such a form of life, are quite void of meaning. Any allusion to politics, to systems, or doctrines of equality, is wholly out of place here; biology alone has the right of giving a name to a social state which is its peculiar subject of study; this territory belongs to it alone.

We have selected these instances because they furnish the most striking proof both of the perfection that instinct may reach, and of the degree of intelligence of which animals are capable which are placed by their nature at an immeasurable distance from man. Peter