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XVIII. PROTECTORS OF AGRICULTURE.
1. Against the legions of insects which ravage forest and field there has been created a valiant army which alone is capable of checking their ravages. But man unwittingly too often destroys these auxiliaries. One day he would set a price upon their heads and the next day he would buy them back at their weight in gold. LONGFELLOW has depicted this beautifully in his Birds of Killingworth.
2. All the pleasant guests of our groves have been alternately maltreated. The sparrow, the blackbird, the robin, the woodpecker, and nearly all the small birds of our woods destroy swarms of all these caterpillars that now ruin us, since they are instinctively skillful in discovering their hidden retreats. And yet how often has the weapon of the sportsman destroyed these charming and active workers ! It were wise in man to check these savages and protect the brood of birds !
3. At the head of these protectors must be placed the mole, a small animal about five inches long, plumbeous in color, with feet and tail white. The structure of this workman is won
derfully adapted to its kind of life. Its forelimbs present two broad cutting shovels, moved by a muscular apparatus so powerful that it alone weighs almost as much as the other part of its body. If the mole were as large as the elephant, it would be the most terrific brute the earth ever brought forth.
4. By means of its movable snout the mole burrows with great rapidity, uses its shovel-like paws to remove the loosened earth, and moves swiftly through the galleries it digs; it is a living auger, a complete instrument for excavating the earth. Its food is composed of grubs, earthworms and insects of all kinds.
It is very
voracious and one mole will devour 20,000 grubs annually. It eats every six hours and never ceases working. It is a complete eating machine.
5. Although the mole is buried beneath the soil in order to devour its prey, this crafty animal executes this kind of fowling by moving its muzzle slightly on the surface of the molehill. The bird thinks that it is a little worm which it swoops down to seize, but it is engulfed instantly in the mole's hungry gullet. It devours its prey with such gluttony that when it catches a bird or a rat, it thrusts its head and fore feet into the animal's bowels so that one cannot see them.
6. The mole never gnaws roots, and is the best friend the agriculturist has. In vineyards devastated by grubs, moles are bought to destroy these redoubtable enemies.
7. Although the mole is always buried in the earth or the mud, its coat is beautifully fresh and unsoiled with spot or dust. robe tempted the ladies of the Court of Louis XV so that they conceived the whimsey of having eyebrows of it, whilst the courtiers collected masses of moleskin out of which to make court dresses. But as it was a costly dress of a disagreeable odor, the fad soon died out.
8. The European hedgehog is an active flesh eater, and feeds on worms, snails and rodent animals injurious to our dwellings. In some countries it is substituted for the cat in town houses. The guinea pig is likewise a deadly enemy to rats.
9. The predacious ground beetles, which are provided with two pairs of lateral jaws, are great destroyers of other insects, worms and grubs. They may be found under stones and clods in fields, meadows and gardens, where they secrete themselves by day and rally forth at night to feed upon noxious animals which come to the surface at that period either to feed or to migrate. During a drought they retire into cracks in the earth to humid spots, and after a thunderstorm they are often seen running around with earth-worms in their mouths.
10. These carnivorous beetles, all gleaming with purple and gold, are full of valor, and attack all insects that pass within reach. The
Tiger-Beetle digs a vertical hole in the ground, his head just closing the entrance, and when some insect passes near enough it is seized and dragged into the hole and voraciously devoured. The Caterpillar Hunter is green, while the glowing Calosoma, which
preys upon canker-worms, is black, with six rows of sunken brilliant red metallic spots. We should know our protectors and not destroy them when we see them in our gardens and fields.
11. The woodpeckers are promoters of horticulture. They have a rigid, sharp bill, adapted to cutting into bark and wood, with a long, acute tongue, armed towards the tip with barbs. These birds feed upon the larves of insects, which they secure by thrusting their extensible tongue under the bark of trees, or into holes which they themselves have made, thus transfixing the larves with the barbed point