The Baldwin Library
WHO WAS THE FIRST PAPER-MAKER?
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T O S A T1
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THE FIRST PAPER-MAKER?
Jignus est Dens ir ma)e is, ln axinus ill minimis."
Sr. Aouroi .
[God i, great in g Srea things, greatest in the least.]
T. NELSON AND SONS, PATERNOSTER ROW;
EDINBURGH ; AND NEW YORK.
WHO WAS THE FIRST PAPER-MAKER?
"* .lA PA," said Freddy Alford, a bright,
4, -r intelligent lad of ten years old-
S -'papa, who first invented paper ? "
"You ask me a question, Freddy,
"that is not easily answered; at least,
if you want to know what man first invented
paper. Paper, such as we now use for
writing purposes, was certainly manufactured
by the Chinese, perhaps as long ago as the
birth of our Saviour; and it is believed they
made it out of the bark of various kinds of
trees, the soft pith of bamboos, and cotton
rags. The Chinese taught the art to the
6 ON PAPER-MAKING.
Arabians, who founded a manufactory at
Samarcand--once a place of great wealth and
renown, though now scarcely known by name
to any but school-boys learning geography
-about 706; that is, nearly twelve hundred
years ago. When the Moors, who were de-
scendants of the Arabians, conquered Spain,
they introduced all the useful inventions and
sciences with which they were acquainted,
and among these the art of paper-making;
and from Spain it was carried into France
and Holland; and from France and Hol-
land, about 1665, into our own country."
Frederick. But I have read somewhere
about paper being made out of papyrus.
Mr. Alford. True; but that was a very
different sort of paper to any now in use.
The Egyptians were the first manufacturers
of this kind of paper, which was made, as
you say, from the papyrus.
Frederick. What was the papyrus ?
LMr. Alford. A genus of plants including
several species or varieties-
GENUS 'AND SPECIES. 7
Frederick. Excuse my interrupting you,
papa; but I don't quite understand what you
mean by a genus of plants, and several
Mr. Alford. Come here to the window,
Freddy, and look out into the garden. What
do we call that circle of roses which encloses
the central bed on the lawn with such a
delicate ring of beauty and fragrance ?
Frederick. China roses, I think, papa.
Mr. Alford. And yonder rose against the
wall, which bears so exquisite a blossom ?
Frederick. Oh, mamma says it is a blush
Mr. Alford. Look again: here, under the
window, grows a rose, whose buds and
flowers are wrapped in a coat of moss, like
an infant in a robe of lace. That is--
Frederick. A moss rose, papa.
Mr. Alford. Well, then-the moss rose,
the China rose, the blush rose, all belong to
the genus rose, because all three have certain
features in common. When we look at them
8 AN OBJECT-LESSON.
we know them to be roses, though differing
in some important particulars; but these
differences we recognize by dividing them in-
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THE EGYPTIAN PAPYRUS. 9
Frederick. Perfectly, papa.
Mr. Alford. We return, then, to the
papyrus, which is a genus of plants belonging
to Asia, and containing several species. The
most important is the Egyptian papyrus, or
papu, as the Egyptians call it; a kind of
sedge or rush, eight to ten feet high, with a
stem as thick at the lower part as a man's
arm, but entirely naked, and bearing on its
summit a crown, let us call it, of numerous
spikelets, and long, thread-like leaves. It
grows in pools of still water, and on the
banks of rivers which flow with a very gentle
Frederick. How could the Egyptians make
paper out of a reed ?
Mr. Alford. They took the part of the
stem which grew in the mud and water, re-
moved the skin, and so got at the under
skins, or pellicles, lying one above the other.
These they laid side by side, but with the
edge of one piece just resting on the edge of
another-overlapping it, as we say-like the
10 USED AS A WRITING MATERIAL.
slates of a roof; and crosswise upon these
they placed another row, or two, three, or
even four rows, until a sufficient thickness
had been obtained. The next step was to
subject these layers to a considerable pres-
sure, until they formed a single sheet, which
was afterwards dried in the sun. Owing
to the gluey nature of the papyrus skin,
the different layers easily adhered; but if
the Egyptians wanted a very broad surface
to write upon, they fastened several sheets
together with glue, or some similar material.
What they called a scapus, or roll, generally
contained about twenty of these sheets.
This was the earliest kind of paper made by
Frederick. It was very ingenious in man
to invent so useful a material.
Mr. Alford. I am not sure that man in-
vented; I think he only copied.
Frederick (laughig). Oh, papa, whom
could he copy? Not the beasts, for they
don't know how to write, and, I suppose,
WHO FIRST MADE PAPER ? 11
have nothing to write about. Then, as for
the birds, I never heard that they were paper-
Mr. Alford. True; but what would you
say if I told you that man, in all likeli-
hood, was taught this particular art by an
Frederick. An insect! Oh, papa, you are
Mr. Alford. Not at all; it is believed by
many naturalists that the first paper-maker
was not man, but-come, give a guess,
Frederick. It could not be an ant ?
11r. Alford. No; certainly not.
Frederick. Nor a cricket ?
Mr. Alford. Try again.
Frederick. Bees make wax and honey,
but I know they don't make paper.
JMr. Alford. No; but you are getting near
Frederick. Let me see : bees--drones-
12 THE BRITISH WASP.
Mr. Alford. There you have it! The
first paper-maker was-the WASP !
Frederick. Well, papa, I never knew there
was anything good or useful in that buzzing,
worrying, stinging, disagreeable insect. So
the wasp makes paper I should like to see
some of its handiwork.
I'. Alford. Yes, the British wasp, Freddy;
as well as those species which live in hot
--_-- __--. __ ._.. .
climates, under the burning sun of Central
America. I see from your countenance that
your surprise amounts almost to disbelief.
Seat yourself by my side, and I will give
you a lecture on Wasps and their Nests.
Frederick. Let us begin at the beginning.
Mr. Alford. There is a certain class of
insects called Hyrmenopterous-
Frederick. That's a hard word, papa.
Mr. Alford. There is a certain class of
insects called Hymenopterous, because they
have four thin membranous wings; and to
this class belongs the family of the Vespidce,
or Wasps. They live together in little
societies or communities, consisting of males,
females, and neuters; the females and neuters
being provided with a formidable weapon of
attack and defence in the shape of a long
venomous sting. Their associations do not
last very long, being dissolved at the approach
of winter; but they last long enough to ac-
complish some important works, not less re-
markable than the wax palaces of the bees
or the underground cities of the ants.
It is at the opening of spring that they
begin their wonderful labours, building their
nests either underground in holes, in banks,
or attached to the branches of trees, or the
wood-work of houses.
Let us suppose that it is a bright sunny
day in April, and that an industrious young
14 THE WASP BUILDS HER NEST.
wasp, after her long winter slumbers, has
issued forth into the genial sunshine, intent
upon building a house for herself and future
family. See how anxiously she prys into
this place and into that; here examines an
old and rapidly-decaying tree, there a quiet
corner in a secluded bank: she is house-
hunting, and as difficult to please as a bache-
lor looking for lodgings in a sea-side town.
But she has found at length a suitable spot;
a burrow made some months ago, perhaps,
by a field-mouse. She takes possession of it,
and begins to dig out a convenient chamber,
by breaking away the crumbling soil, and
carrying it off piece by piece. Having made
it of the proper length, breadth, and height,
she next betakes herself to the nearest fence
or paling, or some old out-house whose tim-
bers have become thoroughly seasoned, and
selecting an appropriate station, she sets to
work-gnawing away at the fibres of the
wood with her keen, strong teeth, which act
like a saw, until she has collected a little
MAKING THE PULP. 15
bundle of fibres. These she now kneads into
a sort of pulp or paste, just as the paper-
maker does with his cotton and linen rags,
and taking the burden on her back, away she
flies to her burrow.
Frederick. This is very wonderful, papa.
iMr. Alford. All God's works are wonder-
ful; and the wasp is as much an evidence of
the Divine wisdom as the elephant. Only,
men are too apt to judge of things by their
size, and to scorn the ant while they lose
themselves in admiration of the hippopot-
But the wasp has gained her chamber.
See how she clings to the roof with her hind
or last pair of legs, while with the first pair,
and her jaws, she plasters the woody pulp
upon it, until it forms a kind of little pillar.
Having exhausted her supply of pulp, she is
off to the wooden fence again; or perhaps she
discovers some pieces of paper in all sorts of
odd corners, and these she kneads, like the
woody fibres, into paste; returns to her cham--
16 THE MOTHER AND HER NURSERIES.
ber, and works at the pillar until it hangs from
the roof like the ornaments of a Gothic ceil-
ing. At the end of the paper pillar she
places three very shallow, cup-like cells. In
each she deposits an egg, fixing it so strongly
with a kind of glue, or gluten, that it is not
easy to remove it unbroken; and each she
covers with a lid or roof of pulp. -Then
she constructs more cells, and lays more eggs,
continuing the lid or roof to cover the
By this time the eggs laid in the first three
cells are hatched, giving birth to very tiny
grubs, or larvce; which require as much at-
tention, Freddy, as your baby brother, and
are blessed with a most voracious appetite.
Now you should see how industrious our
mother-wasp becomes. She has her nest to
build-for the grubs grow rapidly, and as
they grow she enlarges their nurseries; she
must fetch materials for her additions and
improvements; she must knead them and
plaster them; and she is also required to
ALL ANIMATED NATURE WORKS. 17
feed the open mouths which, like Oliver
Twist, are always crying for "more."
Frederick. I think, papa, we must make
a little alteration in Dr. Watts' hymn, and
How doth the little busy wasp
Improve each shining hour "
Mr. Alford. For that matter, Fred, you will
WASP BUILDING THE CELLS.
not find any of God's creatures idle. They all
have their work to do, and, unlike man, they
always do it; never flinching from it, never
delaying it, and never doing it carelessly.
The mother-wasp, however, is repaid in
due time for her affectionate exertions. The
oldest grubs become pupc-the second stage
18 A CURIOUS TRANSFORMATION.
of growth attained by every insect; they cease
to feed, spin a silken covering over their cells,
and dismiss their mother from her arduous
charge. For some days they remain in silence
and darkness, undergoing a further transfor-
mation; then, with active little jaws, they
tear away their silken canopy, emerge as
PERFECT WASPS, and, in about twelve hours
afterwards, eagerly set to work, enlarging
the nest and relieving their mother of her
heaviest labours; a lesson for boys and girls,
if they would but pay attention to the truths
which Nature is always teaching.
Frederick. The nest must be a stirring
scene, papa, when all the grubs have grown
into wasps, and are buzzing about in cease-
IMr. Alford. A stirring scene indeed; for
more cells are built, fresh eggs are deposited,
and a constant supply of food is furnished to
the grubs of other workers and females which
daily make their appearance.
Frederick. Do not wasps feed upon fruit?
20 ARE WASPS USEFUL ?
Mr. Alford. Yes; they are partial to a
juicy pear or a luscious peach, but not less
so to honey, sugar, and flies. Of the latter
they destroy such immense numbers that I
think the gardener, in acknowledgment of
their usefulness, ought not to grudge them
a peach or two. It is always the best fruit,
however, which they attack, dotting it over
with circular holes, which spoil its appear-
ance for market; and thus incensing the
gardener into an attack upon them, in the
hope of discomfiting and driving away the
swarm. A blue-bottle fly is a great dainty,
and you will generally find a butcher's shop
in the country attacked by a troop of these
useful insects. They also surround the
grocer's windows, and banquet upon his sam-
ples of sugar. For hours they will watch
at the entrance of a bee-hive, surprise some
wanderer returning home from her day's ex-
cursion, pounce upon her, and devour the
softer and juicier portions of the poor victim.
Then, well-filled, they return to their nest,
A SERIES OF PLATFORMS. 21
and distribute their stores among the workers
and the hungry larvae, the largest grubs get-
ting the largest supply.
We must now suppose that the wasps have
built their nest right across their chamber,
and constructed a kind of terrace from one
to two feet in length. More space is needed.
To obtain it they do not enlarge the chamber,
but build downwards, forming a second ter-
race exactly in the same way and of the same
materials as the first, with a small space be-
tween the two. All the cells are constructed
with their openings below and their bases
above, so that the bases form a sort of prom-
enade, on which the wasps can work while
feeding the larvee in the cells of the upper
terrace. This architectural labour is carried
on throughout the summer, until as many
as twelve to fifteen terraces or platforms have
been constructed, though sometimes the nest
will not contain more than five.
Frederick. How many cells are there in
each terrace ?
22 HOW THE WASP'S NEST IS COVERED.
Mr. Alford. About one thousand and
sixty-forty-nine being comprised in a space
only an inch and a half square; this will
give about sixteen thousand as the popu-
lation of one vespicary, or wasp-nest. But I
must confess that the nests which I have
personally examined never consisted of more
than five or six platforms, affording ac-
commodation for about seven thousand in-
sects. Each cell, however, is the birth-place
of three generations, and you may fancy
what supplies of food are required for the
maintenance of a single vespiary.
The covering of the nest, I should tell
you, is of coarser texture than the cells, and
has been compared to a number of tiny
oyster-shells piled on each other like an
oyster "grotto." It is made by laying a
lump of the brown fibrous pulp, or paper,
upon the nest, and spreading it backwards
and forwards, just as a bricklayer spreads a
lump of mortar, until it is quite smooth and
FREDERICK'S QUESTION. 23
DIFFERENT SPECIES OF WASPS' NESTS.
1. Nest of a Guiana Wasp. 2, 3. Nests of Paper-making Wasps.
Frederick. And do the wasps use nothing
but this kind of paste for a habitation in-
but this kind of paste for a habitalbion in-
24 LAST DAYS OF A COMMUNITY.
tended to receive sixteen thousand of their
Mr. Alford. Nothing but this fibrous pulp.
It is, however, much stronger than it looks,
and the shape of the cells which are
hexagonal, or six-sided-affords additional
Frederick. Do the wasps live in the same
nest year after year ?
Mr. Alford. Oh no; they desert it towards
the end of autumn, and never again return
to it. Few, indeed, survive to a second year.
Listen to this quotation from a very interest-
ing work by an eminent living naturalist,
and you will know all about the last days of
a wasp colony:-
"At the end of the season, after succes-
sive bands of worker-wasps have passed
through the cells, and the single genera-
tion of the males and females has come to
maturity, the nest shows symptoms of dis-
solution. If there are any grubs still left in
the combs, the workers at once change their
WHAT IS INSTINCT ? 25
behaviour. Instead of feeding and treating
them with jealous care, instead of defending
them at the risk of their own lives, they
pull these helpless white things out of their
cradles, carry them far from the nest, and
Frederick. Oh, how cruel!
Mr. Alford. Cruel, and yet kind; harsh,
and yet merciful; because it substitutes "a
quick death by exposure, or, perchance, being
eaten by birds, for a slow and lingering death
by starvation within the nest. For the in-
stinct of the workers-"
Frederick. Instinct! What is instinct ?
Mr. Alford. Ah, now you have asked me
"a question not easy to answer. Instinct is
"a sort of faculty or power which God has be-
stowed upon the brute creation as a substi-
tute for reason, which teaches them how to
supply their various wants, and enables them
to fulfil the duties allotted to them in the
great scheme of nature. When man does
any particular action, he asks himself why
26 DECAY OF A RACE.
he does it, and considers how it may best be
done-in a word, he reasons. The bird, or
beast, or insect, does it in obedience to a
mysterious impulse, of which he knows
nothing--in a word, he does it through
Frederick. I think I understand the dif-
Mr. Alford. Well, to resume: "For the
instinct of the workers tells them that their
labour is over, and their course is run, and
that in a short time they will all die of old
age, so that the helpless nurslings in the
cells would find no food, and must perish by
"At last the entire population deserts
the nest, the workers die, and so do all the
males, none of them surviving their brief
wedlock for more than a few hours; and the
majority of the females die also, some from
exposure to cold, and some by a violent
death. Those, however, that are fortunate
enough to find a crevice in which they can
THE NEW COLONY. 27
lie dormant during the long months of win-
ter, creep into it, and there remain until the
following spring, when they emerge to be
the queens and mothers of future colonies.
It is a remarkable fact that the wasp never
passes the winter in the nest, convenient as
that spot may seem, but always seeks some
other place of refuge. You will now under-
stand that whenever a wasp is seen in the
spring-tide, it is one of the females which
have survived the winter, and is about to
found a new colony. Those, therefore, who
pride themselves on their wall-fruit, will do
well to kill such wasps, inasmuch as a single
queen-wasp in spring is equivalent to many
thousand wasps in autumn."
Frederick. I don't like wasps; they are
so fierce, and sting one so terribly. But I
shall respect them henceforth as very in-
Mr. Alford. Stop, Frederick; you call
them fierce, and so they are when you attack
their nests, fighting like heroes in defence of
28 A PLEA FOR THE WASP.
their little colonies; but, otherwise, it is
quite a vulgar error to suppose them malig-
nant or mischievous. They never sting ex-
cept in self-defence, or when alarmed, as they
sometimes are, by boys, men, and other
animals. And, in fact, they rarely survive
the act of stinging; the point of the sting is
always left in the wound, and in many cases
the poison-bag and gland are torn from the
body along with the sting itself. To me
the wasp seems deserving of more considera-
tion than is generally accorded to her. As
you have remarked, she is as industrious as
the bee; on the whole, she is very gentle and
tender towards her young; she shows some-
thing very like filial affection; and of her
ingenuity, after all I have told you, I think
you will make no question.
Frederick. Hurrah for the first Paper-
Maker The next wasp that buzzes on the win-
dow-pane I will suffer to escape uninjured, as
a mark of the esteem in which I hold her kind.
Mr. Alford. The wasp whose labours I
GOING ABROAD. 29
have been describing is the common British
wasp, but the South American, or Paste-
.f -. -"
ANIMALS STUNG BY WASPS.
board WVasp, constructs a still more remark-
30 THE PASTEBOARD WASP.
Frederick. The pasteboard wasp What
-do they make pasteboard as well as
Mr. Alford. Yes; the nest of the paste-
board wasp (Cliartergus nidulans) is formed
of a beautifully polished pasteboard, white,
solid, and impenetrable by the weather. It
is suspended by a ring to the branch of a
tree, which permits it to swing freely in the
wind. In size it varies greatly; some speci-
mens are only a few inches in length, others
two or even three feet. In the former case
they are more or less circular, and have but
four or five combs; in the latter they are of
a long cylindrical shape, with a correspond-
ing number of partitions, additional combs
or platforms being added to the lower part
as the occupants increase in number. These
combs are horizontal, convex on the under
side, and everywhere attached to the wall
of the nest. Each comb has a hole near
the middle, affording access to the upper-
THE PASTEBOARD WASP. 31
i-- ~--a- e
NEST OF THE POLITES WASP.
The pasteboard wasps, unlike the common
wasps, do not dissolve their societies every
32 IN THE RAINY SEASON.
year. The nests are found in copse-woods,
or plantations, generally at a height of from
three to four feet above the ground.
During the rainy season, which, in hot
countries, lasts from January to the middle
of June, perfect nests only are to be met
with; in January and February, the cells
are provided with young tenants; these in
March and April decrease in number, and by
the end of May scarcely any are to be seen.
It is supposed they turn into females, which,
finding no elbow-room in the old original
nursery, emigrate, and found new colonies.
But here, again, we observe a difference be-
tween them and our British wasps, for as
many as a dozen females will labour together
at the construction of a suitable nest. The
old nests of the preceding year continue in-
habited as before, and thus a number of
vespiaries may be found in connection with
one parent settlement.
In the British Museum, which contains
so much that is rare, marvellous, and beau-
AN INGENIOUS CONSTRUCTION. .3
tiful, the visitor may examine a pasteboard
nest, discovered in June 1837 on the banks
of a tributary of the Uruguay, one of the
great rivers of South America. It was built
on the ground, and measured about seven
feet in height. Seen sideways, it is of an
oblong form, rounded at the base; it is
covered all over with conical knobs of vari-
ous shapes, more or less rubbed at the end,
but in some less exposed places sharply
pointed, and in many instances nearly three-
quarters of an inch in length. The en-
trances to the nest are artfully protected
from the rains by sloping roofs; and are
also so intricately twisted as to prevent the
ingress of an enemy, at least of any size.
Frederick. And what is the use of the
knobs you speak of?
Mr. Alford. It is believed that they pre-
vent feline and other animals from seizing
the nest, just as fragments of glass and pot-
tery are fastened to the top of a garden-wall
to terrify would-be intruders.
34 IS HE NOT CLEVER ?
Frederick. Really, papa, my respect for
the wasp is constantly increasing. I had no
idea he was so clever a creature.
Mr. Alford. I remember an anecdote which
may be told in illustration of his ingenuity.
Dr. Darwin, one day, when walking in his
garden, discovered a wasp upon the gravel-
walk encumbered with a fly which he had
caught, and which was nearly as big as him-
self. The doctor knelt down, to see how
the conqueror disposed of his booty; and,
lo, he cut off the head and abdomen, and
then taking up with his feet the trunk or
middle portion of the body, to which the
wings remained attached, he essayed to con-
tinue his flight. A breeze of wind, however,
acting upon the wings of the fly, wheeled
round the wasp and his burden, preventing
his onward progress. Whereupon he again
alighted on the gravel-walk, deliberately
sawed off one wing and then the other, and
having thus lightened his load, flew off with
INSTINCT VERSUS INTELLIGENCE. 35
Frederick. Bravo, Mr. Wasp! Instinct in
your case was not much inferior to reason.
Mr. Alford. Ay, indeed; the instinct of
the brute often seems to cross the boundary-
line that separates it from the intelligence of
man. But whether instinct or reason, re-
member, Fred, that this faculty of providing
for the wants or necessities of the time is
a gift from the divine Creator. The poet
Who taught the natives of the field and wood
To shun their poison and to choose their food?
Prescient, the tides and tempests to withstand,
Build on the wave, or arch beneath the sand?
Who bid the stork, Columbus-like, explore
Heavens not his own, and worlds unknown before?"
To these questions the reply is ready-God:
God, in whom we move, and live, and have
our being. The reason of which man is so
unwisely proud, and the secret impulse that
guides the movements of the spider, are
both sparks of that Divine flame which ani-
mates and inspires the universe.
Frederick. Well, papa, this instinct is very
36 LESSONS FROM ANIMALS.
useful to us, for we are able to gain many
hints from it. We have the advantage, it
appears to me, both of our own intelligence
and that of the animals. The wasp taught
us how to make paper, and I think I have
heard it said that we probably learned how
to navigate the sea from the nautilus.
Mr. Alford. The poet from whom I just
now quoted has put this truth in a very
beautiful and graphic form. He says:-
Thus, then, to man the voice of Nature spake,-
Go, from the creatures thy instructions take:
Learn from the birds what food the thickets yield;
Learn from the beasts the physic of the field;
Thy arts of building from the bee receive;
Learn of the mole to plough, the worm to weave;
Learn of the little nautilus to sail,
Spread the thin oar, and catch the driving gale.
Here, too, all forms of social union find,
And hence let reason, late, instruct mankind;
Here subterranean works and cities see,
There towns aerial on the waving tree."
The most humiliating reflection for a
thoughtful mind is, that the animal so much
more wisely employs his instinct than does
man his reason. The ant's instinct teaches
A HUMILIATING REFLECTION. 37
it to lay up a store of food for the winter
season, and the swallow in like manner flies
every year from the cold regions of the
north before winter comes. They obey
without murmur the inward voice which
directs and controls them; but man is fre-
quently deaf to the advice, the warning, and
the command of reason-acts in defiance of
it-and by his neglect of its counsel entails
upon himself an inconceivable amount of
suffering. Beasts, birds, and insects, says a
sagacious writer, even to the minutest and
meanest of their kind, act with the unerring
forethought of instinct; man, the while, who
possesses a higher quality, abuses it, and
therefore goes blundering on. They, by
their unconscious and unhesitating obedi-
ence to the laws of nature, fulfil the ends of
their existence; he, in wilful neglect of the
laws of God, loses sight of the end of his.
Frederick. Really, papa, I begin to won-.
der whether instinct is not equal, or even
superior, to reason.
38 MAN'S SPECIAL DISTINCTION.
Mr. Alford. Nay; let me point out to
you one great difference. Reason improves,
and develops, and grows broader and clearer;
one man is wiser than another; the present
generation of men is more advanced than
the preceding; we are always moving for-
ward, and aspiring higher. Now, this is not
the case with the animal. What it was yes-
terday, it is to-day. The wasp accomplishes
no more now than it did long ago; its paste-
board nest is exactly of the same size and
kind in the nineteenth century after Christ
as it was before the Flood. The animal
world stands still; it has no idea of progress
or advancement; there is no difference of
intellect among its members-no striking
individualities, such as we see constantly
rising above the mass of humanity. Man
alone is gifted with the faculty of moving
forward. But we may leave the discus-
sion of such questions as these to another
time, and resume our talk about the
THE TATUA MORIO. 39
There is a wasp called the Tatua morio-
Frederick. Tatua morio! I wonder whe-
ther I shall remember these hard names!
They are almost as bad as hymenopterous!
Mr. Alford.-Which is a native of Cen-
tral America and Guiana, and builds a very
remarkable nest, suspending it to a branch
of a tree. To the eye, this nest resembles
nothing so much as the sugar-loaves which
you sometimes see in a grocer's window-
unless, indeed, I might venture to compare
it to a bell-a railway-porter's bell-round
at the top, with sloping sides, and a broad
Frederick. What is it made of, papa ?
Mr. Alford. Of the kind of paper or
pasteboard I have already described to you,
though the material used is harder, whiter,
and smoother than we meet with in the
nests of European wasps. So hard is it,
indeed, that it resists the heavy rains which,
as you know, accompany the storms of tro-
pical climates, and descend with so much
40 PENSILE NESTS.
fury as to beat down plants and shrubs to
the very earth.
Frederick. It seems an odd thing that in-
sects should build their nests among the
branches, like birds.
Mr. Alford. All species of wasps which
construct these pensile nests are known as
Tree Wasps, and are found in Europe as
well as in the New World. A specimen of
their workmanship, preserved in the Museum
at Oxford, is worthy of description. It is
nearly four feet high, and upwards of a foot
and a half in width; and resembles a turnip
in shape, with a large knob at the top, by
means of which it was suspended to its tree.
The entrance is close to the bottom, and a
little on one side. Its interior is composed
of tier upon tier of cells, presenting a re-
markable example of what may be accom-
plished by industry and perseverance. For
such a structure, when the small dimensions
of its builders are considered, is certainly
not less wonderful, nor less deserving of ad-
A STRANGE AND SURPRISING FABRIC. 41
miration, than the Pyramids of Egypt or
St. Paul's Cathedral.
Frederick. I had no idea, papa, that so
much could be said in praise of any insect.
Why, there are wonders in the Insect World
which equal those of Ocean !
Mr. Alford. What will you say, then, to
the account I am about to read of a strange
and surprising nest made by a wasp whose
species is at present unknown ? The nest
is now preserved in the British Museum.
The material of which it is formed is mud
or clay, and it has been kneaded by the in-
sect until it has become remarkably strong
and tenacious, and yet so plastic that-
Frederick. Plastic! What is the mean-
ing of the word plastic, papa ?
Mr. Alford. Capable of being easily mould-
ed into any shape, like wax when exposed
to the fire, or dough in the hands of a skil-
ful cook ;-and yet so plastic that it can be
worked almost as neatly as the cell of the
bee. It is of tolerably large dimensions-
42 WHERE IT WAS FOUND.
measuring about thirteen inches in length
by nine in width-and is literally choked
full with combs.
Frederick. Where was this curious nest
Mr. Alford. In a forest of Guiana, near
the river Berbice, suspended to a branch
which passed through a hole in the solid
wall of the nest. In bringing it over to this
country it got damaged and much broken;
but the fragments were carefully collected
and skilfully put together by one of the
officers of the British Museum, who has re-
stored it to its original shape, while leaving
an aperture through which the interior may
Its walls are remarkably strong and solid,
but vary considerably in thickness, in some
places being nearly three times as strong as
in others. In constructing it, its ingenious
builders begin at the top, plastering a large
quantity of clay round the branch intended
to support it, and taking care that this por-
ITS PECULIARITIES. 43
tion shall be thoroughly capable of sustaining
the heavy weight to be suspended from it.
The combs in the interior are not flat,
like those of an ordinary wasp-nest, but
very much curved, so that when the nest is
laid open, they are found to follow pretty
closely the curve of the walls. The entrance
is not below, as in most pensile nests, but at
the side. It is narrow, and very long; that
is, it is just wide enough to allow a man's
little finger to be passed into the interior;
while its length is so great, that from forty
to fifty insects might enter or leave the nest
Frederick. If ever I go to the Museum,
I'll look out for this curious specimen of
Mr. Alford. You will find something quite
as curious in our own garden. The Nor-
wegian Wasp, as he is called-though his
"* For these interesting details the author is indebted to the Rev.
J. G. Wood's admirable work, Homes Without Hands "-a fas-
cinating introduction, or accompaniment, to the study of natural
14 THE NORWEGIAN WASP.
old name was the British Wasp, or Vespa
Britannica-often builds in the gooseberry-
bushes; and I assure you not a carpenter in
the town could turn out his work more
neatly. He does not build a large nest; in
fact, the nest does not exceed a large turnip-
radish in size, and it somewhat resembles
that agreeable vegetable in shape-suppos-
ing the radish to be hung up by the root,
and cut off just below the leaves. But it
is trimly made, and finished off in a light
and graceful manner. In the interior 'you
will find fourteen cells, arranged in five rows
-four cells in the middle rows, three in
the next, and two in the next, both above
Frederick. I am really astonished by all
you tell me, papa! I can only open my
eyes in wonder!
Mr. Alfoard. What will you say, then, to
a genus of wasps which make honey ?
Frederick. Make honey, papa! I thought
that was the peculiar work of bees.
HONEY-MAKING WASPS. 45
Mr'. Alford. Yes; actually and positively
make honey. This is called by naturalists
the Myrapetra-a very fanciful and not a
very sensible name, being compounded of
the names of two ancient cities-- f,, i in
Lycia, and Petra, the capital of Arabia
Petrea. The nest is made of pasteboard-
the pasteboard being composed of the dung
of the capincho, a kind of tapir or water-
hog; is built on the ground, and, like the
nest already described, covered with sharp
knobs or projections, which are thickest to-
wards the bottom.
Its interior is described as very remark-
able. The nest is filled with combs, all very
much curved, and these curves accommodate
themselves beautifully to the general out-
line of the nest. At the top is a nearly
globular mass of brown paper-like substance,
which was, I suppose, the starting-point
where the wasps began their labours. The
first comb closely encircles this ball of paper,
leaving only a small interval between them,
46 THEIR INGENIOUSLY BUILT NESTS.
so that it forms part of a hollow sphere,
and if you cut it in halves, each half would
resemble the capital letter C laid on its
Frederick. Like this, papa,-[and Frede-
rick drew a 0 on a sheet of paper].
Mr. Alford. Exactly. Well, all the other
combs follow in regular order, like the steps
of a staircase, only the curve diminishes in
each succeeding comb. They are attached
to the sides of the nest, but spaces are left
to admit the free passage of the wasps from
story to story.
The depth of the cells, and the thickness
of the combs, varies according to their posi-
tion in the nest; the upper cells being the
larger, and the lower the smaller. The
longest cells are from five to seven lines
long, and the shortest not more than two
lines. They are made of the same material
as the exterior of the building, and are of
as dark a colour; but their texture is thinner,
resembling common writing-paper. The nest
THE POLISTES WASP. 47
is sixteen inches long, and measures about
twelve inches across.
In these cells the wasp stores its honey,
which is hard, dry, of a deep brownish-red,
and very unwholesome for human consump-
NEST OF THE WASP (Vespa Crabro).
Another honey-making wasp, very similar
in his habits to the Myrapetra, is called the
Polistes. His honey is particularly injurious,
because taken from poisonous plants.
48 FOOD FOR THOUGHT.
Frederick. I hope you have not finished
your lecture, papa; I am so much interested
in what you have told me. Oh, those jolly
wasps! I had no idea there was so much
Mr. Alford. Let me caution you against
regarding anything in this world of ours
with indifference or contempt. There is
food for thought, matter for study, in the
tiniest blade of grass which we crush dis-
dainfully under our foot. Not an insect
"that crawls in the sunshine, not a worm
that wriggles beneath the sod, but would
well repay the careful investigation of years.
Huber spent half a lifetime watching the
ways and habits of the bee; Reaumur devoted
months to a close examination of the wasps;
and every day these great men fund some-
thing new to admire-some marvellous cir-
cumstance which had previously escaped
their notice. Nature-that is, earth and
its creatures; the sun, the moon, the stars;
the glory of the rivers and the grandeur of
THE WONDERS OF NATURE. 49
the mountains-is the second revelation of
God; is "His pure word by miracle re-
vealed," and inferior only in importance and
interest to that other revelation which He
has made to us in Holy Writ. Blade of
grass and forest-tree, ocean-shell and rolling
planet, all are evidences of the love, power,
and wisdom of the Creator; and things
which seem to us trivial or unintelligible,
have, nevertheless, their proper place in the
grand scheme of the universe.
The more you learn of this wonderful
economy of nature, the more deeply will
your heart be penetrated with admiration of
Him who called it into existence. They say
" an undevout astronomer is mad," and, for
my part, I think every man must be mad-
or I would hope so, for madness would be
his only excuse--who does not see in each
detail of the great Whole--in the leaf and
the flower, in the bird and the bee, the spider
and the wasp-ample proof of the power and
wisdom of one supreme and everlasting God.
50 ENOUGH FOR TO-NIGHT.
And here our pleasant chat must end for
to-night, my boy. I expect some ,friends,
and must prepare to receive them. To-
morrow evening, if you like, we will finish
the subject. I have not said all I would
wish to say about our little buzzing and
busy friend, the First Paper-Maker.
Frederick. I hope I shall not forget what
you have told me. Well, it will be much
easier to remember than the multiplication-
--. ^ Af' *' -, *
I. ^i I- I I I- Ji
N the following evening Fred repaired
^__ to his father's study at an early
hour, and was delighted to find him
-' disengaged. After he had answered
a few questions respecting his day's work
and amusement, he reminded Mr. Alford of
his promise to resume the subject Fred had
found so fascinating the day before. His
father was pleased at the intelligent interest
he exhibited, and willingly poured out for
his benefit all the information his well-stored
mind had collected.
Jr. Alford. If I could transport you to
a great, pathless, shadowy forest in Brazil,
I could show you many different kinds of
wasps' nests. A recent traveller describes
52 IN THE BRAZILIAN FOREST.
them as frequently attached to the under
sides of leaves, especially of the young
,.C If .
EXTERIOR VIEW OF A WASPS NEST.
Tucuma palm, as the leaves of that plant
are remarkably broad, and afford an excel-
TN THE BRAZILIAN FOREST. 53
lent shelter. Some of these nests are little
flat domes, with one small opening. Others
INTEIIOR VIEW OF A WASP'S NEST.
have all the cells exposed; Most are built
of a delicate paper-like substance. Some
54 A GLOBULAR NEST.
wasps form their nests in hollow trees, while
others construct them among -the roots in
the ground. One species, called the Necta-
rinia, constructs a large globular nest, which
it hides away in the darkest recesses of the
forest. It is always hung near the ground,
suspended from the pliant twigs and long
slender leaves which are wrought into its
substance, and seem to make a part of it.
It is not, however, a very beautiful nest;
the combs being devoid of regularity, and
piled upon each other as if the insect had no
settled plan on which to work, and put each
comb in any place where there happened to
be room for it. Irregular, however, as the
structure may seem, it is not without a kind
of order; for though the combs look as if
they had been placed in a heap, and then
rolled together, so as to assume a partially
spherical shape, they are at all events made
with the intention of forming that shape,
so that they may be included under a single
BRAZILIAN SCENERY. 55
"The entrance for the insects," says a
naturalist, "is very small, and when the
respective dimensions of the wasp and the
nest are taken into consideration, it seems
really wonderful that when the inhabitants
enter their house they do not lose them-
selves in the intricate windings through
which they pass from one comb to another.
The wasp which makes this nest is bee-like
in form, and very small, not a quarter of an
inch in length, and bearing some resemblance
to those tiny solitary bees that are seen so
plentifully upon dandelions and various um-
Frederick. I wish you would describe to
me a Brazilian forest, papa; it must be a
Mr. Alford. Few, if any, spectacles in
this world can be grander; but its grandeur
renders it all the more difficult to describe.
You must try to think of-to realize-huge
trees, soaring to the height of one hundred
and one hundred and fifty feet; trees whose
56 THE WEALTH OF TROPICAL VEGETATION.
colossal trunks resemble the pillars of some
vast temple; trees whose branches are
thickly crusted with the softest and greenest
moss and the brightest lichens; whose
shades are peopled by myriads of rare
birds and dazzling insects, and whose wide-
spreading arms are entwined by the most
beautiful creeping plants,-
"Like restless serpents, clothed
rainbow and in fire,"-
while the rarest parasites climb about their
hoary stems, and adorn their venerable old
age with the bloom of a false frail youth.
And then you must remember that these
trees, with their climbers and creepers, their
odours and blossoms, with the emerald
grass and the fresh soft moss, spread over
leagues and leagues of unknown and unex-
plored ground--a space equal to, perhaps
exceeding, the whole of Great Britain-a
space furrowed by mighty streams, broken
up by inaccessible valleys, haunted by the
jaguar and the capybara, and by many
A BRAZILIAN FOREST
58 TREES EVERYWHERE
another animal whose strange wailing cries
render night hideous!
Trees everywhere, interlacing their thick
branches with so close a grasp, and weaving
together their foliage in so dense a canopy,
that even at noon a dusky shadow prevails
throughout the forest! Trees everywhere;
with long thin leaves, like festoons of
ribbon; or leaves sharp and erect as a
warrior's spear ; or drooping like the
feathery plume of a soldier's helm; leaves
bright as emerald; leaves red as ruby;
leaves glowing with a perfect rainbow of
colours! Trees, and thorny shrubs, and
ferns as tall as trees, and flowers of the
strangest form, and an inextricable mass of
gloom and shade, and impenetrable wilder-
ness of leaf and blossom,-such is the
But, Freddy, we are wandering from our
wasps. Respecting the paper-makers, I
have given you all the information you
require; but I must take care lest you fall
THE DIRT-DAUBERS. 59
into the error of believing all wasps to be
Frederick. What, papa, are there other
Mr. Alford. Yes, indeed; and some of man-
-ners so peculiar, that they're popularly called
the DIRT-DAUBERS (Pilopceus). I think they
are not less interesting as a study than their
industrious paper-manufacturing relatives.
The traveller in the Southern States of
"-America has his attention frequently di-
rected to lumps of yellowish mud on the
walls and rafters of the houses, which have
",'necessarily a very curious and not altogether
an ornamental appearance. He sees them
ilso adhering to the tall chimneys and over-
anging eaves, and cannot help speculating
to himself about their origin and uses. He
observes that some are of irregular shape,
and nearly as large as his fist, while others
are fashioned like an egg, are about as thick
aas his thumb, and from three to four inches
60 NESTS MADE OF MUD.
Ask the first little sharp-eyed fellow you
meet what these lumps of mud may mean,
and he will tell you at once that they are
Frederick. Wasps' nests, papa! are you
iMr. Alford. Wasps' nests-the nests of
the dirt-daubers. The information excites
your curiosity, and with all proper precau-,-
tion you get hold of one, open it, and dis-
cover within it two rows of long oval cells,'-
lined with a thin coat of brittle shelly sub-
stance, each containing the slough or skin
cast off by the insect when fully grown.
You are now induced to watch the proceed-
ings of a dirt-dauber, and the construction
of one of these singular nests, and you
record the results of your observations in
some such language as Mr. Gosse has done.
Let us suppose, Fred, that I am reading
some extracts from your diary, or journal
of your daily proceedings. And, by-the-by,
I think it a pity you do not keep one. All
SMR. GOSSE'S DIARY. 61
"of us see something or other, or we hear
something or other, or we read something
-or other, which is worth recording, and
which, a year after, it is very pleasant to
comment upon. A glance at its pages
seems to make the past live again, to revive
all our former thoughts and feelings. More-
over, it teaches habits of reflection and
meditation, and acts as a check upon our
daily life. A fault or a sin, when brought
before us in black and white, is likely to be
viewed in its proper colours. We can't put
it aside or forget it; we are compelled to
dwell upon it, and form a truthful idea of
Well, out of this diary let us read the
following narrative :-
"Monday, June 30. I watched with
great interest to-day the active proceedings
of a little wasp, a member of the genus
Pilopevus, or Dirt-Daubers, and I could not
but think what a lesson she taught me by
unfailing industry and calm perseverance.
62 A HOMILY UPON DILIGENCE.
She had no idle moments-no fits of irre-
solution or indecision; she had her work to
do, and she did it with a remarkable energy-
and an admirable diligence. I could not
but think that she read me a noteworthy
lesson, and I said to myself, 'We, too-we
men and women, old and young, rich and
poor-have each our appointed task in life
--a task enjoined upon us by our Almighty
Father. Oh, that each of us went about it
with as much resolution as this little insect!'
I called to mind the words of a great and
good man, and wished I could always deter-
mine to act upon them: It is a great mis-
take,' says Archbishop Tillotson, 'to think
any man is without a calling, and that God
does not expect that every one of us should
employ himself in doing good in one kind or
another. Those who are in a low and
private condition can only shine to a few,
but they that are advanced a great height
above others may, like the heavenly bodies,
dispense a general light and influence, and
A WORD AND A DEFINITION. 63
scatter happiness and blessings among all
that are below them. But let no man, of
what birth, rank, or quality soever, think it
beneath him to serve God, and to be useful
to the benefit and advantage of men.'
This wasp has chosen for her retirement
the ceiling of a cupboard in my sitting-room,
where, before my attention was called to
her movements, she seems to have built one
cell, and half another parallel to it."......Do
you know what parallel means, Freddy ?
Frederick. I think 1 do. Draw two
lines at an equal distance from one another,
and they will be parallel lines, or lines
beside one another, and running in the same
direction-just like the rows of peas in the
kitchen garden, papa.
MrH. Alford. Yes; or the furrows in a
well-ploughed field. Well:-
Mrs. Wasp, as I beg leave to call her,
had built one cell, and half another parallel
to it. The former, I find on examination,
is covered over, the latter is filled with dead
64 AN INTERESTING VISITOR.
spiders, by way of a store of food, and only
wants closing. I wish I had seen her
building these, but it is some time since I
caught sight of my visitor. Now that she
has recommended her labours, I will watch
Common Wasp; Pasteboard Wasp; Vsspa l i a.
When she first made her appearance to-
day, she came, as we say, with empty
hands, peeped in cautiously, and carefully
looked all around and about to see that
everything was safe; then suddenly flew
out at the door-which, as well as the
window, I am obliged to keep constantly
MRS. WASP AT WORK. 65
open this hot weather-and, in less than a
minute, back she came again, carrying in
her jaws a lump of soft wet mud, which was
twice as large as her head. I cannot
imagine where she got it in so short a time;
but there it was, and as well kneaded as a
baker's dough cake, free from lumps or grit,
and working, when laid on, as smoothly as
the finest plaster. I am inclined to believe
it was formed of dry dust, mixed up with a
drop of fluid from her mouth.
This well-kneaded mud she laid on the
open end of the unfinished cell, and spread
it about with her jaws, like a plasterer with
his trowel, until the opening was quite
As soon as this was done, Mrs. Wasp
made a second expedition, returning, after
an absence no longer than before, with a
similar load, which she spread over the last
to make it thicker. Her motions were as
regular and as skilful as those of any human
66 MRS. WASP AT WORK.
By way of testing her instinct, I took
occasion, on her departure for the third
time, to thrust the head of a pin through
the fresh-laid mortar, opening a hole into
the cell. On her return, she discovered at
once the aperture I had made, and deposited
her lump upon it, carefully spreading it to
and fro as before. I played her the same
trick several times, and each time she
patiently toiled to complete the work I had
undone, displaying a perseverance which I
could not but admire. At last she seemed
to get very angry--as I suppose any man
or woman would have done-and endea-
voured to catch the house-flies that were
flying and crawling about, and which she
doubtlessly suspected to be the authors of
the mischief. At all events, she sprang at
them with great energy whenever they
came near her, and sometimes even with
the load in her mouth, but I did not observe
that she caught any. Once, too, she grew
suspicious of a large ichneumon, or carrion-
MRS. WASP AT WORK. 67
fly, that was lurking in the neighbourhood,
flew at him with wonderful ardour, and had
a short combat, which ended in the retreat
of Mr. Ichneumon. Sometimes, after de-
positing her load, she loitered about, as if
hoping to surprise the cunning house-
breaker that was always trespassing upon
her little property.
"At length I broke off a large piece of
mud from the side and bottom of her nest,
exposing to view her store of dried spider-
meat; but this, too, with never-failing energy,
she quickly repaired, building up all around
the hole, and making her work very firm and
compact. I was so struck with the little
creature's perseverance, that I had scarcely
the heart to disturb her again in her inno-
cent labours, but suffered her to finish them
at her pleasure, which she did by adding
another layer or two to the end. However,
I could not refrain from making a hole in
the first cell, which was quite hard and dry,
to see if she would observe it; and, to be
68 MRS. WASP AT WORK.
sure, she noticed it immediately, and clapped
her load of mortar upon it. I remarked
that, while working, though her wings were
INTERIOR OF WASP'S NEST, SHOWING ITS TERRACE-LTKE ARRANGEMENT
OF CELLS AFTER REAUMLR).
folded close to her side, she maintained a
shrill buzz, like that of a bee when held be-
KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN. 69
tween one's fingers; her antennae, or feelers,
which she usually carried nearly straight,
were, during the plastering, curled up, and
continually vibrating or trembling, and mov-
ing on the surface of the work-evidently
trying it by touch. When seeking her
materials, she was never absent for more,
often less, than a minute, and always brought
back a similar lump in appearance, which
she invariably carried in the jaws, without
any assistance from the feet."
And here, Fred, we must close the diary:
it is time you prepared your lessons for to-
morrow. You now know not only who was
the First Paper-Maker; but how much
interest attaches to all the different species
of wasps; how much there is to excite our
wonder and admiration in the proceedings
even of a little insect! The knowledge of
such facts as these, moreover, must tend to
make your walks abroad much more agree-
able, as you will constantly be discovering
something to excite your attention, and call
70 WONDERS LIE ABOUT US.
for your examination. Instead of sauntering
across the fields, or through the green lanes,
in listless indifference, like a blind man for
whom all nature is a blank, is one uniform
nothingness, you will find on every side of
you a host of interesting and attractive
objects. If so much can be learned about
wasps, consider what a store of information
we may collect about bees, and butterflies,
and birds; about leaves and flowers, plants
and trees; about the tiniest blade of grass,
or the most insignificant gnat that ever
floated in the sunbeam. It is just this kind of
knowledge which boys too frequently neglect,
though it is better adapted than even Greek
verbs or Euclid to expand their minds, soften
their hearts, and cultivate their taste.
Frederick. One of our boys at school didn't
know a mole, the other day, when he found
one lying in the garden-path. He came
running to our teacher, to tell him what a
strange animal he had found. Was not that
ignorance, papa ?
HOW TO MAKE USE OF THEM. 71
Mr. Alford. Yes, and the ignorance was
the poor boy's misfortune; probably he had
never been taught a single fact in natural
history. Some persons seem to think that
all knowledge is gathered up in books; that
nothing can be learned by keeping one's eyes
open; that the great volume of nature is
never to be studied, though it is so full of
the rarest and most attractive information.
I trust to prevent you from forming so mis-
taken an idea of what true knowledge is, and
should be, and to show you the advantage of
collecting ideas from the animal world as
well as from the world of books; from the
rocks and the streams as well as from gram-
mars and dictionaries-which, however, pos-
sess a value and usefulness of their own.
But another day we will resume our conver-
sation. For the present, I have told you
enough to make you think-at least, I hope
so-and enough, I also hope, to make you
enter with all your heart and soul into the
spirit of David's words, when he exclaims :-
72 TE DEUM LAUDAMUS.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be
praised; and His greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall praise Thy works to
another, and shall declare Thy mighty acts.
I will speak of the glorious honour of Thy
majesty, and of THY WONDiOUS WORKS."
._ .--^* -.