The Wonders of Instinct: Chapters in the Psychology of Insects by Jean-Henri Fabre, is part of the HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. THE GLOW-WORM
CHAPTER 13. THE GLOW-WORM.
Few insects in our climes vie in popular fame with the Glow-worm, that curious little animal which, to celebrate the little joys of life, kindles a beacon at its tail-end. Who does not know it, at least by name? Who has not seen it roam amid the grass, like a spark fallen from the moon at its full? The Greeks of old called it lampouris, meaning, the bright-tailed. Science employs the same term: it calls it the lantern-bearer, Lampyris noctiluca, Lin. In this case the common name is inferior to the scientific phrase, which, when translated, becomes both expressive and accurate.
In fact, we might easily cavil at the word “worm.” The Lampyris is not a worm at all, not even in general appearance. He has six short legs, which he well knows how to use; he is a gad-about, a trot-about. In the adult state the male is correctly garbed in wing-cases, like the true Beetle that he is. The female is an ill-favoured thing who knows naught of the delights of flying: all her life long she retains the larval shape, which, for the rest, is similar to that of the male, who himself is imperfect so long as he has not achieved the maturity that comes with pairing-time. Even in this initial stage the word “worm” is out of place. We French have the expression “Naked as a worm” to point to the lack of any defensive covering. Now the Lampyris is clothed, that is to say, he wears an epidermis of some consistency; moreover, he is rather richly coloured: his body is dark brown all over, set off with pale pink on the thorax, especially on the lower surface. Finally, each segment is decked at the hinder edge with two spots of a fairly bright red. A costume like this was never worn by a worm.
Let us leave this ill-chosen denomination and ask ourselves what the Lampyris feeds upon. That master of the art of gastronomy, Brillat-Savarin, said: “Show me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.”
A similar question should be addressed, by way of a preliminary, to every insect whose habits we propose to study, for, from the least to the greatest in the zoological progression, the stomach sways the world; the data supplied by food are the chief of all the documents of life. Well, in spite of his innocent appearance, the Lampyris is an eater of flesh, a hunter of game; and he follows his calling with rare villainy. His regular prey is the Snail.
This detail has long been known to entomologists. What is not so well known, what is not known at all yet, to judge by what I have read, is the curious method of attack, of which I have seen no other instance anywhere.
Before he begins to feast, the Glow-worm administers an anaesthetic: he chloroforms his victim, rivalling in the process the wonders of our modern surgery, which renders the patient insensible before operating on him. The usual game is a small Snail hardly the size of a cherry, such as, for instance, Helix variabilis, Drap., who, in the hot weather, collects in clusters on the stiff stubble and other long, dry stalks by the road-side and there remains motionless, in profound meditation, throughout the scorching summer days. It is in some such resting-place as this that I have often been privileged to light upon the Lampyris banqueting on the prey which he had just paralysed on its shaky support by his surgical artifices.
But he is familiar with other preserves. He frequents the edges of the irrigating ditches, with their cool soil, their varied vegetation, a favourite haunt of the Mollusc. Here, he treats the game on the ground; and, under these conditions, it is easy for me to rear him at home and to follow the operator’s performance down to the smallest detail.
I will try to make the reader a witness of the strange sight. I place a little grass in a wide glass jar. In this I instal a few Glow-worms and a provision of snails of a suitable size, neither too large nor too small, chiefly Helix variabilis. We must be patient and wait. Above all, we must keep an assiduous watch, for the desired events come unexpectedly and do not last long.
Here we are at last. The Glow-worm for a moment investigates the prey, which, according to its habit, is wholly withdrawn in the shell, except the edge of the mantle, which projects slightly. Then the hunter’s weapon is drawn, a very simple weapon, but one that cannot be plainly perceived without the aid of a lens. It consists of two mandibles bent back powerfully into a hook, very sharp and as thin as a hair. The microscope reveals the presence of a slender groove running throughout the length. And that is all.
The insect repeatedly taps the Snail’s mantle with its instrument. It all happens with such gentleness as to suggest kisses rather than bites. As children, teasing one another, we used to talk of “tweaksies” to express a slight squeeze of the finger-tips, something more like a tickling than a serious pinch. Let us use that word. In conversing with animals, language loses nothing by remaining juvenile. It is the right way for the simple to understand one another.
The Lampyris doles out his tweaks. He distributes them methodically, without hurrying, and takes a brief rest after each of them, as though he wished to ascertain the effect produced. Their number is not great: half a dozen, at most, to subdue the prey and deprive it of all power of movement. That other pinches are administered later, at the time of eating, seems very likely, but I cannot say anything for certain, because the sequel escapes me. The first few, however—there are never many—are enough to impart inertia and loss of all feeling to the Mollusc, thanks to the prompt, I might almost say lightning, methods of the Lampyris, who, beyond a doubt, instils some poison or other by means of his grooved hooks.
Here is the proof of the sudden efficacy of those twitches, so mild in appearance: I take the Snail from the Lampyris, who has operated on the edge of the mantle some four or five times. I prick him with a fine needle in the fore-part, which the animal, shrunk into its shell, still leaves exposed. There is no quiver of the wounded tissues, no reaction against the brutality of the needle. A corpse itself could not give fewer signs of life.
Here is something even more conclusive: chance occasionally gives me Snails attacked by the Lampyris while they are creeping along, the foot slowly crawling, the tentacles swollen to their full extent. A few disordered movements betray a brief excitement on the part of the Mollusc and then everything ceases: the foot no longer slugs; the front part loses its graceful swan-neck curve; the tentacles become limp and give way under their own weight, dangling feebly like a broken stick. This condition persists.
Is the Snail really dead? Not at all, for I can resuscitate the seeming corpse at will. After two or three days of that singular condition which is no longer life and yet not death, I isolate the patient and, though this is not really essential to success, I give him a douche which will represent the shower so dear to the able-bodied Mollusc. In about a couple of days, my prisoner, but lately injured by the Glow-worm’s treachery, is restored to his normal state. He revives, in a manner; he recovers movement and sensibility. He is affected by the stimulus of a needle; he shifts his place, crawls, puts out his tentacles, as though nothing unusual had occurred. The general torpor, a sort of deep drunkenness, has vanished outright. The dead returns to life. What name shall we give to that form of existence which, for a time, abolishes the power of movement and the sense of pain? I can see but one that is approximately suitable: anaesthesia. The exploits of a host of Wasps whose flesh-eating grubs are provided with meat that is motionless though not dead have taught us the skilful art of the paralysing insect, which numbs the locomotory nerve-centres with its venom. We have now a humble little animal that first produces complete anaesthesia in its patient. Human science did not in reality invent this art, which is one of the wonders of latter-day surgery. Much earlier, far back in the centuries, the Lampyris and, apparently, others knew it as well. The animal’s knowledge had a long start of ours; the method alone has changed. Our operators proceed by making us inhale the fumes of ether or chloroform; the insect proceeds by injecting a special virus that comes from the mandibular fangs in infinitesimal doses. Might we not one day be able to benefit from this hint? What glorious discoveries the future would have in store for us, if we understood the beastie’s secrets better!
What does the Lampyris want with anaesthetical talent against a harmless and moreover eminently peaceful adversary, who would never begin the quarrel of his own accord? I think I see. We find in Algeria a beetle known as Drilus maroccanus, who, though non-luminous, approaches our Glow-worm in his organization and especially in his habits. He, too, feeds on Land Molluscs. His prey is a Cyclostome with a graceful spiral shell, tightly closed with a stony lid which is attached to the animal by a powerful muscle. The lid is a movable door which is quickly shut by the inmate’s mere withdrawal into his house and as easily opened when the hermit goes forth. With this system of closing, the abode becomes inviolable; and the Drilus knows it.
Fixed to the surface of the shell by an adhesive apparatus whereof the Lampyris will presently show us the equivalent, he remains on the look-out, waiting, if necessary, for whole days at a time. At last the need of air and food obliges the besieged non-combatant to show himself: at least, the door is set slightly ajar. That is enough. The Drilus is on the spot and strikes his blow. The door can no longer be closed; and the assailant is henceforth master of the fortress. Our first impression is that the muscle moving the lid has been cut with a quick-acting pair of shears. This idea must be dismissed. The Drilus is not well enough equipped with jaws to gnaw through a fleshy mass so promptly. The operation has to succeed at once, at the first touch: if not, the animal attacked would retreat, still in full vigour, and the siege must be recommenced, as arduous as ever, exposing the insect to fasts indefinitely prolonged. Although I have never come across the Drilus, who is a stranger to my district, I conjecture a method of attack very similar to that of the Glow-worm. Like our own Snail-eater, the Algerian insect does not cut its victim into small pieces: it renders it inert, chloroforms it by means of a few tweaks which are easily distributed, if the lid but half-opens for a second. That will do. The besieger thereupon enters and, in perfect quiet, consumes a prey incapable of the least muscular effort. That is how I see things by the unaided light of logic.
Let us now return to the Glow-worm. When the Snail is on the ground, creeping, or even shrunk into his shell, the attack never presents any difficulty. The shell possesses no lid and leaves the hermit’s fore-part to a great extent exposed. Here, on the edges of the mantle, contracted by the fear of danger, the Mollusc is vulnerable and incapable of defence. But it also frequently happens that the Snail occupies a raised position, clinging to the tip of a grass-stalk or perhaps to the smooth surface of a stone. This support serves him as a temporary lid; it wards off the aggression of any churl who might try to molest the inhabitant of the cabin, always on the express condition that no slit show itself anywhere on the protecting circumference. If, on the other hand, in the frequent case when the shell does not fit its support quite closely, some point, however tiny, be left uncovered, this is enough for the subtle tools of the Lampyris, who just nibbles at the Mollusc and at once plunges him into that profound immobility which favours the tranquil proceedings of the consumer.
These proceedings are marked by extreme prudence. The assailant has to handle his victim gingerly, without provoking contractions which would make the Snail let go his support and, at the very least, precipitate him from the tall stalk whereon he is blissfully slumbering. Now any game falling to the ground would seem to be so much sheer loss, for the Glow-worm has no great zeal for hunting-expeditions: he profits by the discoveries which good luck sends him, without undertaking assiduous searches. It is essential, therefore, that the equilibrium of a prize perched on the top of a stalk and only just held in position by a touch of glue should be disturbed as little as possible during the onslaught; it is necessary that the assailant should go to work with infinite circumspection and without producing pain, lest any muscular reaction should provoke a fall and endanger the prize. As we see, sudden and profound anaesthesia is an excellent means of enabling the Lampyris to attain his object, which is to consume his prey in perfect quiet.
What is his manner of consuming it? Does he really eat, that is to say, does he divide his food piecemeal, does he carve it into minute particles, which are afterwards ground by a chewing-apparatus? I think not. I never see a trace of solid nourishment on my captives’ mouths. The Glow-worm does not eat in the strict sense of the word: he drinks his fill; he feeds on a thin gruel into which he transforms his prey by a method recalling that of the maggot. Like the flesh-eating grub of the Fly, he too is able to digest before consuming; he liquefies his prey before feeding on it.
This is how things happen: a Snail has been rendered insensible by the Glow-worm. The operator is nearly always alone, even when the prize is a large one, like the common Snail, Helix aspersa. Soon a number of guests hasten up—two, three, or more—and, without any quarrel with the real proprietor, all alike fall to. Let us leave them to themselves for a couple of days and then turn the shell, with the opening downwards. The contents flow out as easily as would soup from an overturned saucepan. When the sated diners retire from this gruel, only insignificant leavings remain.
The matter is obvious. By repeated tiny bites, similar to the tweaks which we saw distributed at the outset, the flesh of the Mollusc is converted into a gruel on which the various banqueters nourish themselves without distinction, each working at the broth by means of some special pepsine and each taking his own mouthfuls of it. In consequence of this method, which first converts the food into a liquid, the Glow-worm’s mouth must be very feebly armed apart from the two fangs which sting the patient and inject the anaesthetic poison and at the same time, no doubt, the serum capable of turning the solid flesh into fluid. Those two tiny implements, which can just be examined through the lens, must, it seems, have some other object. They are hollow, and in this resemble those of the Ant-lion, who sucks and drains her capture without having to divide it; but there is this great difference, that the Ant-lion leaves copious remnants, which are afterwards flung outside the funnel-shaped trap dug in the sand, whereas the Glow-worm, that expert liquifier, leaves nothing, or next to nothing. With similar tools, the one simply sucks the blood of his prey and the other turns every morsel of his to account, thanks to a preliminary liquefaction.
And this is done with exquisite precision, though the equilibrium is sometimes anything but steady. My rearing-glasses supply me with magnificent examples. Crawling up the sides, the Snails imprisoned in my apparatus sometimes reach the top, which is closed with a glass pane, and fix themselves to it with a speck of glair. This is a mere temporary halt, in which the Mollusc is miserly with his adhesive product, and the merest shake is enough to loosen the shell and send it to the bottom of the jar.
Now it is not unusual for the Glow-worm to hoist himself up there, with the help of a certain climbing-organ that makes up for his weak legs. He selects his quarry, makes a minute inspection of it to find an entrance-slit, nibbles at it a little, renders it insensible and, without delay, proceeds to prepare the gruel which he will consume for days on end.
When he leaves the table, the shell is found to be absolutely empty; and yet this shell, which was fixed to the glass by a very faint stickiness, has not come loose, has not even shifted its position in the smallest degree: without any protest from the hermit gradually converted into broth, it has been drained on the very spot at which the first attack was delivered. These small details tell us how promptly the anaesthetic bite takes effect; they teach us how dexterously the Glow-worm treats his Snail without causing him to fall from a very slippery, vertical support and without even shaking him on his slight line of adhesion.
Under these conditions of equilibrium, the operator’s short, clumsy legs are obviously not enough; a special accessory apparatus is needed to defy the danger of slipping and to seize the unseizable. And this apparatus the Lampyris possesses. At the hinder end of the animal we see a white spot which the lens separates into some dozen short, fleshy appendages, sometimes gathered into a cluster, sometimes spread into a rosette. There is your organ of adhesion and locomotion. If he would fix himself somewhere, even on a very smooth surface, such as a grass-stalk, the Glow-worm opens his rosette and spreads it wide on the support, to which it adheres by its own stickiness. The same organ, rising and falling, opening and closing, does much to assist the act of progression. In short, the Glow-worm is a new sort of self-propelled cripple, who decks his hind-quarters with a dainty white rose, a kind of hand with twelve fingers, not jointed, but moving in every direction: tubular fingers which do not seize, but stick.
The same organ serves another purpose: that of a toilet-sponge and brush. At a moment of rest, after a meal, the Glow-worm passes and repasses the said brush over his head, back, sides and hinder parts, a performance made possible by the flexibility of his spine. This is done point by point, from one end of the body to the other, with a scrupulous persistency that proves the great interest which he takes in the operation. What is his object in thus sponging himself, in dusting and polishing himself so carefully? It is a question, apparently, of removing a few atoms of dust or else some traces of viscidity that remain from the evil contact with the Snail. A wash and brush-up is not superfluous when one leaves the tub in which the Mollusc has been treated.
If the Glow-worm possessed no other talent than that of chloroforming his prey by means of a few tweaks resembling kisses, he would be unknown to the vulgar herd; but he also knows how to light himself like a beacon; he shines, which is an excellent manner of achieving fame. Let us consider more particularly the female, who, while retaining her larval shape, becomes marriageable and glows at her best during the hottest part of summer. The lighting-apparatus occupies the last three segments of the abdomen. On each of the first two it takes the form, on the ventral surface, of a wide belt covering almost the whole of the arch; on the third the luminous part is much less and consists simply of two small crescent-shaped markings, or rather two spots which shine through to the back and are visible both above and below the animal. Belts and spots emit a glorious white light, delicately tinged with blue. The general lighting of the Glow-worm thus comprises two groups: first, the wide belts of the two segments preceding the last; secondly, the two spots of the final segments. The two belts, the exclusive attribute of the marriageable female, are the parts richest in light: to glorify her wedding, the future mother dons her brightest gauds; she lights her two resplendent scarves. But, before that, from the time of the hatching, she had only the modest rush-light of the stern. This efflorescence of light is the equivalent of the final metamorphosis, which is usually represented by the gift of wings and flight. Its brilliance heralds the pairing-time. Wings and flight there will be none: the female retains her humble larval form, but she kindles her blazing beacon.
The male, on his side, is fully transformed, changes his shape, acquires wings and wing-cases; nevertheless, like the female, he possesses, from the time when he is hatched, the pale lamp of the end segment. This luminous aspect of the stern is characteristic of the entire Glow-worm tribe, independently of sex and season. It appears upon the budding grub and continues throughout life unchanged. And we must not forget to add that it is visible on the dorsal as well as on the ventral surface, whereas the two large belts peculiar to the female shine only under the abdomen.
My hand is not so steady nor my sight so good as once they were; but, as far as they allow me, I consult anatomy for the structure of the luminous organs. I take a scrap of the epidermis and manage to separate pretty nearly half of one of the shining belts. I place my preparation under the microscope. On the skin a sort of white-wash lies spread, formed of a very fine, granular substance. This is certainly the light-producing matter. To examine this white layer more closely is beyond the power of my weary eyes. Just beside it is a curious air-tube, whose short and remarkably wide stem branches suddenly into a sort of bushy tuft of very delicate ramifications. These creep over the luminous sheet, or even dip into it. That is all.
The luminescence, therefore, is controlled by the respiratory organs and the work produced is an oxidation. The white sheet supplies the oxidizable matter and the thick air-tube spreading into a tufty bush distributes the flow of air over it. There remains the question of the substance whereof this sheet is formed. The first suggestion was phosphorus, in the chemist’s sense of the word. The Glow-worm was calcined and treated with the violent reagents that bring the simple substances to light; but no one, so far as I know, has obtained a satisfactory answer along these lines. Phosphorus seems to play no part here, in spite of the name of phosphorescence which is sometimes bestowed upon the Glow-worm’s gleam. The answer lies elsewhere, no one knows where.
We are better-informed as regards another question. Has the Glow-worm a free control of the light which he emits? Can he turn it on or down or put it out as he pleases? Has he an opaque screen which is drawn over the flame at will, or is that flame always left exposed? There is no need for any such mechanism: the insect has something better for its revolving light.
The thick air-tube supplying the light-producing sheet increases the flow of air and the light is intensified; the same tube, swayed by the animal’s will, slackens or even suspends the passage of air and the light grows fainter or even goes out. It is, in short, the mechanism of a lamp which is regulated by the access of air to the wick.
Excitement can set the attendant air-duct in motion. We must here distinguish between two cases: that of the gorgeous scarves, the exclusive ornament of the female ripe for matrimony, and that of the modest fairy-lamp on the last segment, which both sexes kindle at any age. In the second case, the extinction caused by a flurry is sudden and complete, or nearly so. In my nocturnal hunts for young Glow-worms, measuring about 5 millimetres long (.195 inch.—Translator’s Note.), I can plainly see the glimmer on the blades of grass; but, should the least false step disturb a neighbouring twig, the light goes out at once and the coveted insect becomes invisible. Upon the full-grown females, lit up with their nuptial scarves, even a violent start has but a slight effect and often none at all.
I fire a gun beside a wire-gauze cage in which I am rearing my menagerie of females in the open air. The explosion produces no result. The illumination continues, as bright and placid as before. I take a spray and rain down a slight shower of cold water upon the flock. Not one of my animals puts out its light; at the very most, there is a brief pause in the radiance; and then only in some cases. I send a puff of smoke from my pipe into the cage. This time the pause is more marked. There are even some extinctions, but these do not last long. Calm soon returns and the light is renewed as brightly as ever. I take some of the captives in my fingers, turn and return them, tease them a little. The illumination continues and is not much diminished, if I do not press hard with my thumb. At this period, with the pairing close at hand, the insect is in all the fervour of its passionate splendour, and nothing short of very serious reasons would make it put out its signals altogether.
All things considered, there is not a doubt but that the Glow-worm himself manages his lighting apparatus, extinguishing and rekindling it at will; but there is one point at which the voluntary agency of the insect is without effect. I detach a strip of the epidermis showing one of the luminescent sheets and place it in a glass tube, which I close with a plug of damp wadding, to avoid an over-rapid evaporation. Well, this scrap of carcass shines away merrily, although not quite as brilliantly as on the living body.
Life’s aid is now superfluous. The oxidizable substance, the luminescent sheet, is in direct communication with the surrounding atmosphere; the flow of oxygen through an air-tube is not necessary; and the luminous emission continues to take place, in the same way as when it is produced by the contact of the air with the real phosphorus of the chemists. Let us add that, in aerated water, the luminousness continues as brilliant as in the free air, but that it is extinguished in water deprived of its air by boiling. No better proof could be found of what I have already propounded, namely, that the Glow-worm’s light is the effect of a slow oxidation.
The light is white, calm and soft to the eyes and suggests a spark dropped by the full moon. Despite its splendour, it is a very feeble illuminant. If we move a Glow-worm along a line of print, in perfect darkness, we can easily make out the letters, one by one, and even words, when these are not too long; but nothing more is visible beyond a narrow zone. A lantern of this kind soon tires the reader’s patience.
Suppose a group of Glow-worms placed almost touching one another. Each of them sheds its glimmer, which ought, one would think, to light up its neighbours by reflexion and give us a clear view of each individual specimen. But not at all: the luminous party is a chaos in which our eyes are unable to distinguish any definite form at a medium distance. The collective lights confuse the light-bearers into one vague whole.
Photography gives us a striking proof of this. I have a score of females, all at the height of their splendour, in a wire-gauze cage in the open air. A tuft of thyme forms a grove in the centre of their establishment. When night comes, my captives clamber to this pinnacle and strive to show off their luminous charms to the best advantage at every point of the horizon, thus forming along the twigs marvellous clusters from which I expected magnificent effects on the photographer’s plates and paper. My hopes were disappointed. All that I obtain is white, shapeless patches, denser here and less dense there according to the numbers forming the group. There is no picture of the Glow-worms themselves; not a trace either of the tuft of thyme. For want of satisfactory light, the glorious firework is represented by a blurred splash of white on a black ground.
The beacons of the female Glow-worms are evidently nuptial signals, invitations to the pairing; but observe that they are lighted on the lower surface of the abdomen and face the ground, whereas the summoned males, whose flights are sudden and uncertain, travel overhead, in the air, sometimes a great way up. In its normal position, therefore, the glittering lure is concealed from the eyes of those concerned; it is covered by the thick bulk of the bride. The lantern ought really to gleam on the back and not under the belly; otherwise the light is hidden under a bushel.
The anomaly is corrected in a very ingenious fashion, for every female has her little wiles of coquetry. At nightfall, every evening, my caged captives make for the tuft of thyme with which I have thoughtfully furnished the prison and climb to the top of the upper branches, those most in sight. Here, instead of keeping quiet, as they did at the foot of the bush just now, they indulge in violent exercises, twist the tip of their very flexible abdomen, turn it to one side, turn it to the other, jerk it in every direction. In this way, the searchlight cannot fail to gleam, at one moment or another, before the eyes of every male who goes a-wooing in the neighbourhood, whether on the ground or in the air.
It is very like the working of the revolving mirror used in catching Larks. If stationary, the little contrivance would leave the bird indifferent; turning and breaking up its light in rapid flashes, it excites it.
While the female Glow-worm has her tricks for summoning her swains, the male, on his side, is provided with an optical apparatus suited to catch from afar the least reflection of the calling signal. His corselet expands into a shield and overlaps his head considerably in the form of a peaked cap or a shade, the object of which appears to be to limit the field of vision and concentrate the view upon the luminous speck to be discerned. Under this arch are the two eyes, which are relatively enormous, exceedingly convex, shaped like a skull-cap and contiguous to the extent of leaving only a narrow groove for the insertion of the antennae. This double eye, occupying almost the whole face of the insect and contained in the cavern formed by the spreading peak of the corselet, is a regular Cyclops’ eye.
At the moment of the pairing the illumination becomes much fainter, is almost extinguished; all that remains alight is the humble fairy-lamp of the last segment. This discreet night-light is enough for the wedding, while, all around, the host of nocturnal insects, lingering over their respective affairs, murmur the universal marriage-hymn. The laying follows very soon. The round, white eggs are laid, or rather strewn at random, without the least care on the mother’s part, either on the more or less cool earth or on a blade of grass. These brilliant ones know nothing at all of family affection.
Here is a very singular thing: the Glow-worm’s eggs are luminous even when still contained in the mother’s womb. If I happen by accident to crush a female big with germs that have reached maturity, a shiny streak runs along my fingers, as though I had broken some vessel filled with a phosphorescent fluid. The lens shows me that I am wrong. The luminosity comes from the cluster of eggs forced out of the ovary. Besides, as laying-time approaches, the phosphorescence of the eggs is already made manifest through this clumsy midwifery. A soft opalescent light shines through the integument of the belly.
The hatching follows soon after the laying. The young of either sex have two little rush-lights on the last segment. At the approach of the severe weather they go down into the ground, but not very far. In my rearing-jars, which are supplied with fine and very loose earth, they descend to a depth of three or four inches at most. I dig up a few in mid-winter. I always find them carrying their faint stern-light. About the month of April they come up again to the surface, there to continue and complete their evolution.
From start to finish the Glow-worm’s life is one great orgy of light. The eggs are luminous; the grubs likewise. The full-grown females are magnificent lighthouses, the adult males retain the glimmer which the grubs already possessed. We can understand the object of the feminine beacon; but of what use is all the rest of the pyrotechnic display? To my great regret, I cannot tell. It is and will be, for many a day to come, perhaps for all time, the secret of animal physics, which is deeper than the physics of the books.
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