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to fear, unless a new legislator should attempt to change the form of their government.
‹ I made it my business to procure them all sorts of conveniencies. I took out of the box every thing that might be troublesome to them; and frequently visited my ants, and studied all their actions. Being used to go to bed very late, I went to see them work in a moon-shiny night; and I did frequently get up in the night, to take a view of their labours. I always found some going up and down, and very busy: one would think that they never sleep. Every body knows that ants come out of their holes in the day-time, and expose to the sun the corn, which they keep under ground in the night. Those who have seen ant-hillocks, have easily perceived those small heaps of corn about their nests. What surprised me at first was, that my ants never brought out their corn, but in the night when the moon did shine, and kept it under ground in the day-time: which was contrary to what I had seen, and saw still practised by those insects in other places. I quickly found out the reason of it: there was a pigeon-house not far from thence: pigeons and birds would have eaten their corn, if they had brought it out in the day-time." It is highly probable they knew it by experience; and I frequently found pigeons and birds in that place, when I went to it in a morning. I quickly delivered them from those robbers: I frighted the birds away with some pieces of paper tied to the end of a string over the window. As for the pigeons, I drove them away several times; and when they perceived that the place was more frequented than before, they never came to it again. What is most admirable, and what I could hardly believe, if I did not know it by experience, isy
that those ants knew some days after that they had nothing to fear, and began to lay out their corn in the sun. However, I perceived that they were not fully convinced of being out of all danger; for they durst not bring out their provisions all at once, but by degrees, first in a small quantity, and without any great order, that they might quickly carry them away, in case of any misfortune, watching, and looking every way. At last, being persuaded that they had nothing to fear, they brought out all their corn, almost every day, and in good order, and carried it in at night.
There is a straight hole in every ant's nest, about half an inch deep, and then it goes down sloping into a place where they have their magazine, which I take to be a different place from that where they rest and eat. For it is highly improbable that an ant, which is a very cleanly insect, and throws out of her nest all the small remains of the corn on which she feeds, as I have observed a thousand times, would fill up her magazine, and mix her corn with dirt and ordure.
The corn, that is laid up by ants, would shoot under ground, if those insects did not take care to prevent it. They bite off all the buds before they lay it up; and therefore the corn that has lain in their nests will produce nothing. Any one may easily make this experiment, and even plainly see that there is no bud in their corn. But though the bud be bitten off, there remains another inconvenience, that corn must needs swell and rot under ground; and therefore it could be of no use to the nourishment of ants. Those insects prevent that inconvenience by their labour and industry, and contrive the matter so, that corn will keep as dry in their nests as in our granaries.
They gather many small particles of dry earth, which they bring every day out of their holes, and place them round to heat them in the sun. Every ant brings a small particle of that earth in her pincers, lays it by the hole, and then goes and fetches another. Thus, in less than a quarter of an hour, one may see a vast number of such small particles of dry earth, heaped round the hole. They lay their corn under ground upon that earth, and cover it with the same. They perform this work almost every day, during the heat of the sun; and though the sun went from the window about three or four of the clock in the afternoon, they did not remove their corn and their particles of earth, because the ground was very hot, until the heat was over.
If a f any one should think that those animals should use sand, or small particles of brick or stone, rather than take so much pains about dry earth; I answer, that upon such an occasion nothing can be more proper than earth heated in the sun. Corn does not keep upon sand: besides, a grain of corn that is cut, being deprived of its bud, would be filled with small sandy particles that could not easily come out. To which I add, that sand consists of such small particles, that an ant could not take them up one after another; and therefore those insects are seldom to be seen near rivers, or in a very sandy ground.
As for the small particles of brick or stone, the least moistness would join them together, and turn them into a kind of mastic, which those insects could not divide. Those particles sticking together could not come out of an ant's nest, and would spoil its symmetry.
When ants have brought out those particles of earth, they bring out their corn after the same manner, and place it round the earth. Thus one may see two heaps surrounding their hole, one of dry earth, and the other of corn; and then they fetch out a remainder of dry earth, on which doubtless their corn was laid up.
Those insects never go about this work but when the weather is clear, and the sun very hot. I observed, that those little animals having one day brought out their corn at eleven of the clock in the forenoon, removed it, against their usual custom, before one in the afternoon. The sun
being very hot, and sky very clear, I could perceive no reason for it. But half an hour after, the sky began to be overcast, and there fell a small rain, which the ants foresaw; whereas the Milan almanack had foretold there would be no rain upon that day.
I have said before, that those ants which I did so particularly consider, fetched their corn out of a garret. I went very frequently into that garret. There was some old corn in it; and because every grain was not alike, I observed that they
chose the best:
I know, by several experiments, that those little animals take great care to provide themselves with wheat when they can find it, and always pick out the best; but they can make shift without it. When they get no wheat, they take rye, oats, millet, and even crumbs of bread; but seldom any barley, unless it be in a time of great scarcity, and when nothing else can be had.
Being willing to be more particularly informed of their forecast and industry, I put a small heap of wheat in a corner of the room where they kept,
and to prevent their fetching corn out of the garret, I shut up the window, and stopped all the holes. Though ants are very knowing, I do not take them to be conjurers; and therefore they could not guess that I had put some corn in that room. I perceived for several days that they were very much perplexed, and went a great way to fetch their provisions. I was not willing for some time to make them more easy; for I had a mind to know whether they would at last find out the treasure, and see it at a great distance; and whether smelling enabled them to know what is good for their nourishment. Thus they were some time in great trouble and took a great deal of pains. They went up and down a great way looking out for some grains of corn: they were sometimes disappointed, and sometimes they did not like their corn, after many long and painful excursions. What appeared to me wonderful was, that none of them came home without bringing something: one brought a grain of wheat, another a grain of rye or oats, or a particle of dry earth, if she could get nothing else.
The window, upon which those ants had made their settlement, looked into a garden, and was two stories high. Some went to the farther end of the garden, others to the fifth story, in quest of some corn. It was a very hard journey for them, especially when they came home loaded with a pretty large grain of corn, which must needs be a heavy burden for an ant, and as much as she can bear. The bringing of that grain from the middle of the garden to the nest, took up four hours; whereby one may judge of the strength and prodigious labour of those little animals. It appears from thence, that an ant works as hard as a man'