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and others spend their lives in perfect solitude. But I shall confine my attention to the operations of the common associating wasp, an insect so well known, even to children, that it requires no description. Though bees, as well as wasps, are armed with a sting, yet the former may be regarded as a placid and harmless race. Bees are continually occupied with their own labours. Their chief care is to defend themselves; and they never take nourishment at the expense of any other animal. Wasps, on the contrary, are ferocious animals, that live entirely on rapine and destruction. They kill and devour every insect that is inferior to them in strength. But, though warlike and rapacious in their general manners, they are polished and peaceable among themselves. To their young they discover the greatest tenderness and affection. For their protection and conveniency no labour is spared; and the habitations they construct do honour to their patience, their address, and sagacity. Their architecture, like that of the honey-bee, is singular, and worthy of admiration; but the materials employed furnish neither honey nor wax. Impelled by an instinctive love of posterity, with great labour, skill, and assiduity, they construct combs, which are composed of hexagonal or six-sided cells. Though these cells are not made of wax, they are equally proper for the reception of eggs, and for affording convenient habitations to the worms which proceed from them, till their transformation into wasps.
In general, the cells of the wasps are formed of a kind of paper, which, with great dexterity, is fabri¬ cated by the animals themselves. The number of combs and cells in a wasp's nest is always proportioned to the number of individuals associated. Dif ferent species choose different situations for building their nests. Some expose their habitations to all the injuries of the air; others prefer the trunks of de
cayed trees; and others, as the common kind, conceal their nests under ground. The hole which leads to a wasp's nest is about an inch in diameter. This hole is a kind of gallery mined by the wasps, is seldom in a straight line, and varies in length from half a foot to two feet, according to the distance of the nest from the surface of the ground. When exposed to view, the whole nest appears to be of a roundish form, and sometimes above twelve inches in diameter. It is strongly fortified all round with walls or layers of paper, the surface of which is rough and irregular. In these walls, or rather in this external covering, two holes are left for passages to the combs. The wasps uniformly enter the nest by one hole, and go out by the other, which prevents any confusion or interruption to their common labours.
This subterraneous city, though small, is extremely populous. Upon removing the external covering, we perceive that the whole interior part consists of several stories or floors of combs, which are parallel to each other, and nearly in a horizontal position. Every story is composed of a numerous assemblage of hexagonal cells, very regularly constructed with a matter resembling ash-coloured paper. These cells contain neither wax nor honey, but are solely destined for containing the eggs, the worms which are hatched from them, the nymphs, and the young wasps till they are able to fly. Wasps' nests are not always composed of an equal number of combs. They sometimes consist of fifteen, and sometimes of eleven only. The combs are of various diameters. The first, or uppermost, is often only two inches in diameter, while those of the middle sometimes exceed a foot: the lowest are also much smaller than the middle ones. All these combs, ranged like so many parallel floors or stories above each other, afford lodging to prodigious numbers of inhabitants. Reau
mur computed, from the number of cells in a given portion of comb, that, in a middle-sized nest, there were at least 10,000 cells. This calculation gives an idea of the astonishing prolific powers of these insects, and of the vast numbers of individuals produced in a single season from one nest; for every cell serves as a lodging to no less than three generations. Hence a moderate-sized nest gives birth annually to 30,000 young wasps.
The different stories of combs are always about half an inch high, which leaves free passages to the wasps from one part of the nest to another. These intervals are so spacious, that, in proportion to the bulk of the animals, they may be compared to great halls, or broad streets. Each of the larger combs is supported by about fifty pillars, which at the same time give solidity to the fabric, and greatly ornament the whole nest. The small combs are supported by the same ingenious contrivance. These pillars are coarse, and of a roundish form. Their bases and capitals, however, are much larger in diameter than toward the middle. By the one end they are attached to the superior comb, and by the other to the inferior. Thus, between two combs there is always a species of rustic colonnade. The wasps begin at the top and build downward. The uppermost and smallest comb is first constructed. It is attached to the superior part of the external covering. The second comb is fixed to the bottom of the first; and, in this manner, the animals proceed till the whole operation is completed. The connecting pillars are composed of the same kind of paper as the rest of the nest. To allow the wasps entries into the void spaces, roads are left between the combs and the external covering.
Having given a general idea of this curious edifice, it is next natural to inquire how the wasps build, and how they employ themselves in their
abodes. But, as all these mysteries are performed under the earth, it required much industry and attention to discover them. By the ingenuity and perseverance of Reaumur, however, we are enabled to explain some parts of their internal economy and manners. This indefatigable naturalist contrived to make wasps, like the honey-bees, lodge and work in glass-hives. In this operation he was greatly assisted by the ardent affection which these animals have for their offspring; for he found, that, though the nest was cut in different directions, and though it was exposed to the light, the wasps never deserted it, nor relaxed in their attention to their young. When placed in a glass-hive, they are perfectly peaceable, and never attack the observer, if he calmly contemplate their operations; for they do not sting, unless they are irritated.
Immediately after a wasp's nest has been transported from its natural situation, and covered with a glass-hive, the first operation of the insects is to repair the injuries it has suffered. With wonderful activity they carry off all the earth and foreign bodies that may have accidentally been conveyed into the hive. Some of them are occupied in fixing the nest to the top and sides of the hive by pillars of paper similar to those which support the different stories or rows of combs; others repair the breaches it has sustained; and others fortify it, by augmenting considerably the thickness of its external cover. This external envelope is an operation peculiar to wasps. Its construction requires great labour; for it frequently exceeds an inch and a half in thickness, and is composed of a number of layers as thin as between each of which there is a void space. paper, This cover is a kind of box for inclosing the combs, and defending them from the rain which occasionally penetrates the earth. For this purpose it is admirably adapted. If it were one solid mass, the con
tact of water would penetrate the whole, and reach the combs. But, to prevent this fatal effect, the animals leave considerable vacuities between each vaulted layer, which are generally fifteen or sixteen in number. By this ingenious piece of architecture, one or two layers may be moistened with water, while the others are not in the least affected.
The materials employed by wasps in the construction of their nests are very different from those made use of by bees. Instead of collecting the farina of flowers, and digesting it into wax, the wasps gnaw with their two fangs, which are strong and serrated, small fibres of wood from the sashes of windows, the posts of espaliers, garden-doors, &c. but never attempt growing or green timber. These fibres, although very slender, are often a twelfth part of an inch long. After cutting a certain number of them, the animals collect them into minute bundles, transport them to their nest, and, by means of a glutinous substance furnished from their own bodies, form them into a moist and ductile paste. Of this substance, or papier maché, they construct the external cover, the partitions of the nest, the hexagonal cells, and the solid columns which support the several layers or stories of combs.
The constructing of the nest occupies a comparatively small number of labourers. The others are differently employed. Here it is necessary to remark, that the republics of wasps, like those of bees, consist of three kinds of flies; males, females, and neuters. Like the bees, also, the number of neuters far surpasses that of both males and females. The greatest quantity of labour is devolved upon the neuters; but they are not, like the neuter bees, the only workers; for there is no part of their different operations which the females, at certain times, do not execute. Neither do the males, though their industry is not comparable to that of the neuters,