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- Bramble-bees and Others - 30/47 -

covered with soft wadding, the rest is immaterial to her.

Another condition, however, has to be fulfilled, apart from the fineness of the cotton-wool. The plant, to be worth shearing, must be dead and dry. I have never seen the harvesting done on fresh plants. In this way, the Bee avoids mildew, which would make its appearance in a mass of hairs still filled with sap.

Faithful to the plant recognized as yielding good results, the Anthidium arrives and resumes her gleaning on the edges of the parts denuded by earlier harvests. Her mandibles scrape away and pass the tiny fluffs, one by one, to the hind-legs, which hold the pellet pressed against the chest, mix with it the rapidly-increasing store of down and make the whole into a little ball. When this is the size of a pea, it goes back into the mandibles; and the insect flies off, with its bale of cotton in its mouth. If we have the patience to wait, we shall see it return to the same point, at intervals of a few minutes, so long as the bag is not made. The foraging for provisions will suspend the collecting of cotton; then, next day or the day after, the scraping will be resumed on the same stalk, on the same leaf, if the fleece be not exhausted. The owner of a rich crop appears to keep to it until the closing-plug calls for coarser materials; and even then this plug is often manufactured with the same fine flock as the cells.

After ascertaining the diversity of cotton-fields among our native plants, I naturally had to enquire whether the Cotton-bee would also put up with exotic plants, unknown to her race; whether the insect would show any hesitation in the presence of woolly plants offered for the first time to the rakes of her mandibles. The common clary and the Babylonian centaury, with which I have stocked the harmas, shall be the harvest-fields; the reaper shall be the Diadem Anthidium, the inmate of my reeds.

The common clary, or toute-bonne, forms part, I know, of our French flora to-day; but it is an acclimatized foreigner. They say that a gallant crusader, returning from Palestine with his share of glory and bruises, brought back the toute-bonne from the Levant to help him cure his rheumatism and dress his wounds. From the lordly manor, the plant propagated itself in all directions, while remaining faithful to the walls under whose shelter the noble dames of yore used to grow it for their unguents. To this day, feudal ruins are its favourite resorts. Crusaders and manors disappeared; the plant remained. In this case, the origin of the clary, whether historical or legendary, is of secondary importance. Even if it were of spontaneous growth in certain parts of France, the toute-bonne is undoubtedly a stranger in the Vaucluse district. Only once in the course of my long botanizing- expeditions across the department have I come upon this plant. It was at Caromb, in some ruins, nearly thirty years ago. I took a cutting of it; and since then the crusaders' sage has accompanied me on all my peregrinations. My present hermitage possesses several tufts of it: but, outside the enclosure, except at the foot of the walls, it would be impossible to find one. We have, therefore, a plant that is new to the country for many miles around, a cotton-field which the Serignan Cotton-bees had never utilized before I came and sowed it.

Nor had they ever made use of the Babylonian centaury, which I was the first to introduce in order to cover my ungrateful stony soil with some little vegetation. They had never seen anything like the colossal centaury imported from the region of the Euphrates. Nothing in the local flora, not even the cotton-thistle, had prepared them for this stalk as thick as a child's wrist, crowned at a height of nine feet with a multitude of yellow balls, nor for those great leaves spreading over the ground in an enormous rosette. What will they do in the presence of such a find? They will take possession of it with no more hesitation than if it were the humble St. Barnaby's thistle, the usual purveyor.

In fact, I place a few stalks of clary and Babylonian centaury, duly dried, near the reed-hives. The Diadem Anthidium is not long in discovering the rich harvest. Straight away the wool is recognized as being of excellent quality, so much so that, during the three or four weeks of nest-building, I can daily witness the gleaning, now on the clary, now on the centaury. Nevertheless the Babylonian plant appears to be preferred, no doubt because of its whiter, finer and more plentiful down. I keep a watchful eye on the scraping of the mandibles and the work of the legs as they prepare the pellet; and I see nothing that differs from the operations of the insect when gleaning on the globe-thistle and the St. Barnaby's thistle. The plant from the Euphrates and the plant from Palestine are treated like those of the district.

Thus we find what the Leaf-cutters taught us proved, in another way, by the cotton-gatherers. In the local flora, the insect has no precise domain; it reaps its harvest readily now from one species, now from another, provided that it find the materials for its manufactures. The exotic plant is accepted quite as easily as that of indigenous growth. Lastly, the change from one plant to another, from the common to the rare, from the habitual to the exceptional, from the known to the unknown, is made suddenly, without gradual initiations. There is no novitiate, no training by habit in the choice of the materials for the nest. The insect's industry, variable in its details by sudden, individual and non-transmissible innovations, gives the lie to the two great factors of evolution: time and heredity.


At the time when Fabricius (Johann Christian Fabricius (1745-1808), a noted Danish entomologist, author of "Systema entomologiae" (1775).-- Translator's Note.) gave the genus Anthidium its name, a name still used in our classifications, entomologists troubled very little about the live animal; they worked on corpses, a dissecting-room method which does not yet seem to be drawing to an end. They would examine with a conscientious eye the antenna, the mandible, the wing, the leg, without asking themselves what use the insect had made of those organs in the exercise of its calling. The animal was classified very nearly after the manner adopted in crystallography. Structure was everything; life, with its highest prerogatives, intellect, instinct, did not count, was not worthy of admission into the zoological scheme.

It is true that an almost exclusively necrological study is obligatory at first. To fill one's boxes with insects stuck on pins is an operation within the reach of all; to watch those same insects in their mode of life, their work, their habits and customs is quite a different thing. The nomenclator who lacks the time--and sometimes also the inclination--takes his magnifying-glass, analyzes the dead body and names the worker without knowing its work. Hence the number of appellations the least of whose faults is that they are unpleasant to the ear, certain of them, indeed, being gross misnomers. Have we not, for instance, seen the name of Lithurgus, or stone-worker, given to a Bee who works in wood and nothing but wood? Such absurdities will be inevitable until the animal's profession is sufficiently familiar to lend its aid in the compiling of diagnoses. I trust that the future will see this magnificent advance in entomological science: men will reflect that the impaled specimens in our collections once lived and followed a trade; and anatomy will be kept in its proper place and made to leave due room for biology.

Fabricius did not commit himself with his expression Anthidium, which alludes to the love of flowers, but neither did he mention anything characteristic: as all Bees have the same passion in a very high degree, I see no reason to treat the Anthidia as more zealous looters than the others. If he had known their cotton nests, perhaps the Scandinavian naturalist would have given them a more logical denomination. As for me, in a language wherein technical parade is out of place, I will call them the Cotton-bees.

The term requires some limiting. To judge by my finds, in fact, the old genus Anthidium, that of the classifying entomologists, comprises in my district two very different corporations. One is known to us and works exclusively in wadding; the other, which we are about to study, works in resin, without ever having recourse to cotton. Faithful to my extremely simple principle of defining the worker, as far as possible, by his work, I will call the members of this guild the Resin-bees. Thus confining myself to the data supplied by my observations, I divide the Anthidium group into equal sections, of equal importance, for which I demand special generic titles; for it is highly illogical to call the carders of wool and the kneaders of resin by the same name. I surrender to those whom it concerns the honour of effecting this reform in the orthodox fashion.

Good luck, the friend of the persevering, made me acquainted in different parts of Vaucluse with four Resin-bees whose singular trade no one had yet suspected. To-day, I find them all four again in my own neighbourhood. They are the following: Anthidium septemdentatum, LATR., A. bellicosum, LEP., A. quadrilobum, LEP., and A. Latreillii, LEP. The first two make their nests in deserted Snail-shells; the other two shelter their groups of cells sometimes in the ground, sometimes under a large stone. We will first discuss the inhabitants of the Snail-shell. I made a brief reference to them in an earlier chapter, when speaking of the distribution of the sexes. This mere allusion, suggested by a study of a different kind, must now be amplified. I return to it with fuller particulars.

The stone-heaps in the Roman quarries near Serignan, which I have so often visited in search of the nests of the Osmia who takes up her abode in Snail-shells, supply me also with the two Resin-bees installed in similar quarters. When the Field-mouse has left behind him a rich collection of empty shells scattered all round his hay mattress under the slab, there is always a hope of finding some Snail-shells plugged with mud and, here and there, mixed with them, a few Snail-shells closed with resin. The two Bees work next door to each other, one using clay, the other gum. The excellence of the locality is responsible for this frequent cohabitation, shelter being provided by the broken stone from the quarry and lodgings by the shells which the Mouse has left behind.

At places where dead Snail-shells are few and far between, as in the crevices of rustic walls, each Bee occupies by herself the shells which she has found. But here, in the quarries, our crop will certainly be a double or even a treble one, for both Resin-bees frequent the same heaps. Let us, therefore, lift the stones and dig into the mound until the excessive dampness of the subsoil tells us that it is useless to look lower down. Sometimes at the moment of removing the first layer, sometimes at a depth of eighteen inches, we shall find the Osmia's Snail-shell and, much more rarely, the Resin- bee's. Above all, patience! The job is none of the most fruitful; nor is it exactly an agreeable one. By dint of turning over uncommonly jagged stones, our fingertips get hurt, lose their skin and become as smooth as though we had held them on a grindstone. After a whole afternoon of this work, our back will be aching, our fingers will be itching and smarting and we shall possess a dozen Osmia-nests and perhaps two or three Resin-bees' nests. Let us be content with that.

The Osmia's shells can be recognized at once, as being closed at the orifice with a clay cover. The Anthidium's call for a special

Bramble-bees and Others - 30/47

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