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Art. III. General Zoology, or Systematic Natural History, hy
George Shaw, M.D. F. R.S. &c. With Plates from the first Authorities and most select Specimens, engraved by Mr. Heath and Mrs. Griffith. Vol. VI. Insecta. 2 Parts. 8vo. pp. 520. with 137 Plates. 21. 128. 6d. Boards. Kearsley. 1806. TERY judiciously, Dr. Shaw prefaces this continuation of an
elegant and important work with some general observations on insects, and a short notice of the Linnéan classification of these minute productions of animated Natựre. In a few additional pages, he might have sketched the history of Entomo. logy, accompanied by biographical anecdotes of the principal authors : but brevity and rapidity seem to have presided over this portion of his labours; and he not only dispenses with re. gular references and synonyms, but presses his exposition of the whole class of insects, which contains at least twenty thousand distinct species, into the compass of a single volume. Such a superficial view of the subject may satisfy the bulk of ephemerous readers, but must excite the regret of all who are in the least conversant in this department of Natural History; and who cannot avoid reflecting that many genera and numerous species are wholly omitted, and others very imperfectly eluci. dated. With Dr. Shaw's powers of description and accuracy of observation, something more, we conceive, might have been easily accomplished, without incurring the risk of proJixity, or repelling those who are solicitous of instruction. . As an entertaining and well-penned illustration of a few of the most remarkable kinds of insects, the present volume is in. titled to very considerable commendation : but it can hardly be regarded as forming a part of a regular and systematic series, We are, indeed, aware that the interests of knowlege are too often sacrificed to the influence of more mercenary motives; that the length of a moral treatise, or the dimensions of an Encyclopædia, must be regulated by the state of the literary market; and that undertakers must be obtained, who can adjust their communications to certain prescribed limits. Whether our skilful naturalist has found it expedient to submit to such trammels, we cannot pretend to determine: but we observe, with sincere satisfaction, that even within his very circum. scribed boundaries, he selects the most alluring portions of his materials, and contrives to bestow popularity and interest on a subject which seemed to have exhausted the language of technical definition, and to have drawn on its votaries the unmeaning ridicule of the ignorant and the thoughtless.
The Coleopterous genera, which pass under the Doctor's rapid review, are, Scarabæus, Lucanus, Dermestes, Ptines, Hister,
Gyrinus, Pausus, Byrnhus, Silpha, Cassida, Coccinella, Chrysomela, Hispa, Bruchus, Curculio, Attelabus, Cerambyx, Leptura, Necydalis, Lampyris, Cantharis, Elater, Cicindela, Buprestis, Dytiscus, Hydrophilus, Carabus, Tenebrio, Meloe, Mordella, Sta. phylinus, and Forficula. Thus it is obvious that at least as many more are passed in silence; and if from the genera we descend to the species, it will suffice to remark that, according to the most recent discoveries, about five hundred of the latter are included under Scarabeus, only five of which are here particularized.
The ensuing account of Ptinus fatidicus is repeated from the Naturalist's Miscellany, a work published some time ago by the same author:
* Among the popular superstitions which the almost general illumination of modern times has not been able to obliterate, the dread of the Death - Watch may well be considered as one of the most predominant, and still continues to disturb the habitations of rural tranquillity with groundless fears and absurd apprehensions. It is not indeed to be imagined that they who are engaged in the more important cares of providing the immediate necessaries of life should have either leisure or inclination to investigate with philosophic exactness the causes of a particular sound : yet it must be allowed to be a very singular círcumstance that an animal so common should not be more universally known, and the peculiar nois. which it occasionally makes be more universally understood. It is chiefly in the advançed state of spring that this alarming litile animal commences its sound, which is no other than the call or signal by which the male and female are led to each other, and which may be considered as andlogous to the call of birds ; though not owing to the voice of the insect, but to its beating on any hard substance with the shield or fore part of its head.
The prevailing number of distinct strokes which it beats is from seven to nine or eleven ; which very circumstance may perhaps still add in some degree to the ominous character which it bears among the vulgar. These sounds or beats are given in pretty quick succession, and are repeated at uncertain intervals; and in old houses where the insects are numerous, may be heard at almost every hour of the day ; epecially if the weather be warm. The sound exactly resembles that which may be made by beating moderately hard with the nail on a table. The insect is of a colour so nearly resembling that of decayed wood, viz. an obscure greyish brown, that it may for a considerable time elude the search of the enquirer. It is about a quarter of an inch in length, and is moderately thick in proportion, and the wing-shells are marked with numerous irregular variegations of a lighter or greyer cast than the ground-colour In the twentieth and twenty-second volume of the Philosophical Transactions may be found a description of this species by the celebrated Derham, with some very just observations relative to its habits and general appearance ; and it seems singular that so remarkable an insect should have almost escaped the notice of more modern entomologists. In
the twelfth edition of the Systema Naturæ of Linnæus it does not appear; but is probably the Dermestes tesselatus of Fabricius, in which case he seems to have placed it in a wrong genus. Ridiculous, and even incredible as it may appear, it is an animal that may in some measure be tamed: at least it may be so far familiarized as to be made to beat occasionally, by taking it out of its confinement, and beating on a table or boaid, when it will readily answer the noise and will continue to beat as ofteu as required.
“We must be careful not to confound this animal, which is the real Death Warch of the vulgar, emphatically so called, with a much smaller insect of a very different genus, which makes a sound like the ticking of a watch, and continues it for a long time without intermission. It belongs to a totally different order, and is the Termes pulsatorium of Linnaus.
"I cannot conclude this sligle account of the Death Watch witha out quoting a sentence from that celebrated work the Pseudodoxia Epidemica of the learned ir Thomas Brown, who on this subject expresses himself in words like these. “ He that could eradicate this error from the minds of the people would save from many a cold sweat the meticulous heads of nurses and grandmothers."
The minute and tedious details concerning the singular genus Pausus, transmitted by Dr. Afzelius to the Linnéan Society, are stated with great precision ; and we are presented with amusing remarks on the history of some sorts of Attelabus, Lompyris, Elater, Dytiscus, Hydrophilus, Carabus, and Forfurula. --The Hemipterous familias bere selected are Blatta, Mantis, Plasma, Gryllis, Fulgora, Cicada, Notonecta, Nepa, Cimex, Aphis, Chermes, Corcus, and Thrips.
Mantis oratoria, or the Camel Cricket, is thus described :
• This insect, which is a stranger to the British isles, is found in most of the warmer parts of Europe and is entirely of a beautiful green colour. It is nearly three inches in length, of a slender shape, and in its general silting posture is observed to hold up the two fore. legs, slightly bent, as it in an attitude of prayer : for this reason the superstition of the vulgar has conferred upon it the reputation of a sacred animal, and a popular nolion has often prevailed, that a child or traveller having lost his way, would' be safely directed by observe ing the quarter to which the animal pointed when taken into the hand. In its real disposition it is very far from sanctity; prey. ing with great rapacity on any of the sinaller insects which fall in its way, and for which it lies in wait with anxious assiduity in the posture at first mentioned, seizing them with a sudden spring when within its reach, and devouring them. It is also of a very pugnaci. ons nature, and when kept with others of its own species in a state of captivity, will attack its neighbour with the utmost violence, till one or the other is destroy d in the contest. Roosil, who kept some of these insects, observes that in their mutual conficts their ma, pauvres very much resemble those of Huzzars fighting with sabres ; und seineriines one cleaves the other through at a single struke, or
Nevers the head from its body. During these engagements the wings are generally expanded, and when the battle is over the coaqueror devours his antagonist.'
The devastating progress of the locust is likewise comme morated with singular effect : but the details are too long for quotation, and most of them have already appeared before the public in other forms. Dr. Shaw very plausibly conjectures that the locusts mentioned in the New Testament, as the food of St. John the Baptist, were of the species which Linné denominates Gryllus cristatus, and which at this day are exposed in the market as an article of food, in various parts of the Levant.
On the singular history of the Aphides, or Plaht-lice, which has already more than once attracted our notice, Dr. Shaw has borrowed much important information from a paper of the late Mr. Curtis, which appeared some time ago in the Philosophical Transactions.
Under the Lepidopterous order, the somewhat fanciful subdivisions of the Linnéan school are shortly explained, and a few examples are adduced of some of the most remarkable species of Papilis, Sphinx, and Phalana. On the transformations incident to these families of insects, ou readers will doubtless be pleased with the author's sensible and pious reflections :
· The alteration of form which the whole of the papilionaceous tribe undergo, and in a particular manner the changes above describe ed of the genus Sphinx, afford a subject of the most pleasing contemplation to the mind of the naturalist, and though a deeply philosophical survey demonstrates that there is no real or absolute change pruduced in the identity of the creature itself, or that it is in reality no other than the gradual and progressive evolution of parts before concealed, and which lay masqued under the form of ar: insect of a widely different appearance, yet it is justly viewed with the highest admiration, and even generally acknowledged as in the most lively manner typical of the last eventful change.
• If any regard is to be paid to a similarity of names, it should seem that the ancients were sufficiently struck with the transformations of the Butterfly, and its revival from a seeming temporary death, as to have considered it as an emblem of the soul; the Greek word fuxn signifying both the sonl and a buttefly. This is also con. formed by their allegorical sculptures, in which the butterfly occurs as an emblem of immortality.
• Modern naturalists, impressed with the same idea, and laudably solicitous to apply it as an illustration of the awful mystery revealed in the saered writings, have drawn ilir allisions to it from the dormant candition of the papilionaceous insects during their state of chrysalis, and their resuscitation from it; but they have, in general, wgiortunateby chosen a species the least proper for the purpose; viz. the Silkworm, an animal which neither undergoes its changes under the surface of the earth, nor, when emerged from its tomb, is it an insect of any renarkable beauty ; but the larva or caterpillar of the Sphinx, when sariate of the food allotted to it during that state, retires to a very considerable depth beneath the surface of the ground, where it divests itself of all appearance of its forker state, and continues buried during several months ; then rises to the surface, and bursting from the confinement of its tomb, commences a being of powers to comparatively exalted, and of beauty so superior as not to be beheld without the highest adıniration. Even the animated illustration taken from the vegetable world, so justly admired, as best calculated for general apprehension, must' yield in the force of its similitude to that drawn from the insect's life, since Nature exhibits few phenomena that can equal so wonderful a transformation.'
The hurried notices with respect to the Phalare are agreeably relieved by an abridged history of the Manufacture of Silk.
Part II. of this volume commences with the Neuropterous tribes, which are discussed in a few pages; the only genera which are particularized being Libellula, Ephemera, Phryganea, Hemerobius, Myrmeleon, Panorpa, and Raphidia. The most prominent passages in this division of the work are those which recount the progressive history of the Libellula varia, from the egg to the winged state, and the cunning manner in which the Myrmeleon captures its prey.
Dr. Shaw's illustrations of the Hymenopterous order are limit. ed to Cynips, Tenthredo, Sirex, Ichneumon, Sphex, Chrysis, Vespa, Apis, Formica, and Mutilla. The apparent severity of nature, it is observed, in giving birth to the genus Ichneunion, may be much diminished by supposing that, after the operation of piercing the skin and depositing the eggs has been performed, the caterpillar feels no acute pain, and loses its life by gradual decay.
The account of the common honey bee is chiefly composed of extracts from Mr. John Hunter's Memoir inserted in the Philosophical Transactions for 1792. Some additional and yery curious information on this subject might have been selected from Mr. Huber's observations, which will shortly fall under our consideration.
Oestrus, Tipula, Diopsis, Musca, Tabanus, Culex, Empis, Conops, Asilus, Bombylius, and Hippobosca, are the generic titles of Dr. Shaw's Dipterous catalogue ; and most of them are dismissed with provokiog brevity. We may remark, however, that Mr. Bracy Clark's wonderful account of Destrus equi, and Mr. Bruce's relation of the destructive properties of the Zimb, occupy some valuable and attractive pages; and had these passages now appeared for the first time, we should, without hesitation, haye iranscribed themi at length,