Page images
PDF
EPUB

12 millions of livres Tournois *. The cochineal exported from Vera Cruz, was

In 1802, 46,964 arrobas, or 3,368,557 p.

1803, 29,610 arrobas, or 2,238,673 p. But part of one harvest being frequently added to the harvest of the following year, we are not to judge of the progress of the cultivation from the exportation alone. It appears that in general the nopaleries increase very slowly in Misteca. In the intendancy of Guadalaxara there is scarcely 800 arrobas of cochineal produced in a year. Raynal t estimates the whole exportation of New Spain at 4000 quintals, an estimate too low by one half. The East Indies have only begun to pour their cochineal into commerce, but the quantity is very inconsiderable. Captain Nelson carried off the insect from Rio Janeiro in 1793, and nopaleries have been established in the environs of Calcutta, Chittagong, and Madras. Much difficulty was experienced in procuring the species of cactus proper for the nourishment of the insect. We know not if this Brasilian cochineal transported to Asia, be the mealy species of Oaxaca, or if it be the cotton cochineal (grana silvestre).

* 500,0401. sterling. Trans.
+ T. ii. p. 78,

I shall not here repeat what Thiery de Menonville, and other naturalists after him, have published on the cultivation of the nopal, And the rearing of the valuable insect which is maintained on it. M. Thiery has displayed as much sagacity in his researches, as courage in the execution of his projects. His observations on the cochineal introduced into St. Domingo, , are certainly very accurate ; but, ignorant of the language of the country, and afraid of exciting suspicion by a display of too great curiosity, he could only collect, during his stay in the intendancy of Oaxaca, a very imperfect knowledge of the Mexican nopaleries. I had occasion to observe the wild cochineal in the kingdom of New Granada, Quito, Peru, and in Mexico, though I was not fortunate enough to see the fine cochineal ;

but having consulted persons who have, lived long in the mountains of Misteca, and having had at command extracts from several manuscript memoirs, drawn up by order of the Count: de Tessa, during my stay at Mexico, by alcaides and ecclesiastics of the bishoprick, of Oaxaca, I flatter myself that I shall be able to communicate some useful information, respecting an insect which has become of the very first importance to European manufactures.

Is the mealy fine or Mistec cochineal (gra

[blocks in formation]

na fina) specifically different from the cotton or wild cochineal (grana silvestre), or is the latter the primitive stock of the former, which consequently would only be the produce of a degeneracy, originating in the care of man ? This problem is as difficult to decide as the question, whether the domestic sheep descends from the ovis ammon, the dog from the wolf, and the ox from the aurochs. Whatever relates to the origin of species, to the hypothesis of a variety become constant, or a form which perpetuates itself, belongs to problems in zoonomy, on which it is wise to avoid pronouncing decisively.

The fine cochineal differs from the wild one, not only in size, but also in being mealy and covered with a white powder, while the wild one is enveloped in a thick cotton, which prevents its rings from being distinguished; but the metamorphoses of the two insects are the same.

In those parts of South America where for ages the wild cochineal has been reared, it has never yet lost its down. It is true, that in the nopaleries, established by M. Thiery at St. Domingo, it was thought to be observed, that the insect under the care of man increased in size, and underwent a sensible change in the thickness of its cotton covering ; but Mr. Latreille, a learned entomologist, who is inclined to look upon the wild

cochineal, as a different species from the fine one, believes that this diminution of down is merely apparent, and that it must be attributed to the thickness of the body of the in.sect. The rings on the back of the female being more dilated, the hairs covering this , part must appear less close, and consequently clearer. I was informed by several persons who had long lived in the environs of the town of Oaxaca, that sometimes among the small coccus recently brought into the world, individuals are observed covered with very long hair.

One might be tempted to consider this fact as a proof, that nature when she deviates from her primitive type, returns to it from time to time. In this way the seed of the fragaria monophylla of M. Duchesne, constantly produces some common strawberries with parted leaves. But we must not forget that the fine cochineal, on leaving the body of the mother, is wrinkled in the back, and covered with twelve silks frequently very long, which disappear when it becomes adult. Those who have not attentively compared the offspring of the fine cochineal, with that of the wild cochineal, are naturally struck with the presence of these hairs. The fine cochineal appears powdery ten days after its birth, when it frees itself from its fringy dress of small silks, whereas the wild cochineal is

more and more covered as it gets older, its down thickens, and the insect resembles a small white flake, at the period which precedes the conjunction of the two sexes.

It is sometimes observed in the nopaleries of Oaxaca, that the winged male of the fine cochineal couples with the female of the wild cochineal. This fact has been cited as an evident proof of the identity of the species; but we commonly see in Europe coccinelles couple together, essentially different in their form, shape, and colour. When two species of insects are in the same vicinity, we ought not to be astonished at their coupling together.

Are the fine cochineal, and the plant on which it feeds, both to be found in a wild state in Mexico ? M. Thiery thought himself warranted in answering this question in the negative. This naturalist appears to admit, that the insect and the nopal of the plantations of Oaxaca, have been insensibly modified in their form by means of long culture. This supposition, however, appears to me equal. ly gratuitous with that which would pronounce grain, maize, and the banana, to be degenerated plants, or, to take an example from the animal reign, the llama, which is not known in a wild state, to be a variety of the Peruvian sheep, (vicuna) of the Upper Andes. The coccus cacti has an infinite number of enemies among

[ocr errors]
« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »