Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 30.djvu/426

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410
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

at the base of the large one. On the head is another short, upright, pointed horn, giving the insect a very formidable appearance. This insect has a very strong and lasting odor, comparable to that of tobacco steeped in acetic acid. A single specimen placed in a large room will saturate the atmosphere in a single night, and be perceptible for days thereafter. In the larval state this insect resembles an immense "white grub," in form and structure, but is greenish in color. In this stage it feeds on decaying wood. In the vicinity of Memphis, Tennessee, are thousands of stumps of trees cut some ten years since, and now in just the right stage of decay for this larva. As a consequence, the insect has increased to such an extent as to become literally a nuisance. In the month of June or July an intense disagreeable odor was noticed in some outlying sections of the city, becoming stronger in the evening. The board of Health took action in the matter, drained a few pools, disinfected other unsavory substances, but produced no effects on the odors. Various speculations were rife in the newspapers as to the cause and effect of the odors, until, finally, a correspondent of the "Memphis Avalanche" solved the mystery by finding large numbers of this insect, which were straightway sent off for determination. Later in the season complaints came from Western Virginia of similar foul smells. Here the health officers made war on the pig-pens, without avail, of course, and here, also, in due season, the source of the smell was discovered in this beetle.

The curious part of the matter is, that this insect has been considered not a common one by entomologists, and now it appears in the light of a pest of a quite novel order, polluting the air so as to become a positive nuisance. Whether the odor is at all injurious to health, I can not say. It will cause squeamishness in sensitive individuals, but it will hardly do more. The remedy is, of course, obvious—remove the stumps, and the source of supply is gone; more than this, the stumps remain in condition for the larvæ for a brief period only, and another year or two will see the end of this peculiar nuisance, unless the supply of stumps or logs is kept up.

John B. Smith. 
 U.S. Nat'l Museum, Washington, D.C.
 September 9, 1886.
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EDITOR'S TABLE.

POLITICAL SKEPTICISM.

AN able writer in the "Revue des Deux Mondes" has lately drawn attention to the extent to which what he calls "political skepticism" prevails to-day in France. He believes that it exists in large measure in other countries as well; but he deals with it principally as affecting his own country. He says that, while men are still divided into parties, there is no longer the earnest belief in definite political principles which was still to be found a generation or two ago. Men no longer adhere to their party through strong conviction or overmastering prejudice; on the contrary, their party is something with which they make terms, and which they expect to find their account in serving. The Conservative is not so very conservative as he used to be, and the Liberal has a greatly diminished faith in liberalism. Nobody expects much from the logical application of any set of principles; the general disposition is to let things drift and wait to see the result.

The condition of things described seems to us the natural effect of two definite causes: first, the operation of the party system; and, second, the practice of looking to the government as the conservator and manager of nearly all important social interests. If anything could undermine political conviction it would be the party system. Its very basis is the sacrifice of individual convictions to party exigencies. It organizes the purchase of political support, and reduces statesmanship to the ignoble level of trickery and clap-trap. We do not need to go to France for an exemplification of its working. Here, in the United States, it has produced all its choicest effects. So bent are our leading politicians upon party and personal success that it is the rarest thing to detect in their public speeches one