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A New Note In The Woods
by [?]

I understood now the meaning of that sudden cry of alarm I had so often heard proceed from the locust or cicada, followed by some object falling and rustling amid the leaves; the poor insect was doubtless in the clutches of this arch enemy. A number of locusts usually passed the night on the under side of a large limb of a mulberry-tree near by: early one morning a hornet was seen to pounce suddenly upon one and drag it over on the top of the limb; a struggle ensued, but the locust was soon quieted and carried off. It is said that the hornet does not sting the insect in a vital part,–for in that case it would not keep fresh for its young,–but introduces its poison into certain nervous ganglia, the injury to which has the effect of paralyzing the victim and making it incapable of motion, though life remains for some time.

My friend Van, who watched the hornets in my absence, saw a fierce battle one day over the right of possession of one of the dens. An angry, humming sound was heard to proceed from one of the holes; gradually it approached the surface, until the hornets emerged locked in each other’s embrace, and rolled down the little embankment, where the combat was continued. Finally, one released his hold and took up his position in the mouth of his den (of course I should say SHE and HER, as these were the queen hornets), where she seemed to challenge her antagonist to come on. The other one man�œuvred about awhile, but could not draw her enemy out of her stronghold; then she clambered up the bank and began to bite and tear off bits of grass, and to loosen gravel-stones and earth, and roll them down into the mouth of the disputed passage. This caused the besieged hornet to withdraw farther into her hole, when the other came down and thrust in her head, but hesitated to enter. After more man�œuvering, the aggressor withdrew, and began to bore a hole about a foot from the one she had tried to possess herself of by force.

Besides the cicada, the sand hornet captures grasshoppers and other large insects. I have never met with it before the present summer (1879), but this year I have heard of its appearance at several points along the Hudson.


If you “leave no stone unturned” in your walks through the fields, you may perchance discover the abode of one of our solitary bees. Indeed, I have often thought what a chapter of natural history might be written on “Life under a Stone,” so many of our smaller creatures take refuge there,–ants, crickets, spiders, wasps, bumblebees, the solitary bee, mice, toads, snakes, and newts. What do these things do in a country where there are no stones? A stone makes a good roof, a good shield; it is water-proof and fire-proof, and, until the season becomes too rigorous, frost-proof too. The field mouse wants no better place to nest than beneath a large, flat stone, and the bumblebee is entirely satisfied if she can get possession of his old or abandoned quarters. I have even heard of a swarm of hive bees going under a stone that was elevated a little from the ground. After that, I did not marvel at Samson’s bees going into the carcass or skeleton of the lion.

In the woods one day (it was November) I turned over a stone that had a very strange-looking creature under it,–a species of salamander I had never before seen, the banded salamander. It was five or six inches long, and was black and white in alternate bands. It looked like a creature of the night,–darkness dappled with moonlight,–and so it proved. I wrapped it up in some leaves and took it home in my pocket. By day it would barely move, and could not be stimulated or frightened into any activity; but an night it was alert and wide awake. Of its habits I know little, but it is a pretty and harmless creature. Under another stone was still another species, the violet-colored salamander, larger, of a dark plum-color, with two rows of bright yellow spots down its back. It evinced more activity than its fellow of the moon- bespattered garb. I have also found the little musical red newt under stones, and several small dark species.