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THE AMMOPHILAby@jeanhenrifabre


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A slender waist, a slim shape, an abdomen much compressed at the upper part, and seemingly attached to the body by a mere thread, a black robe with a red scarf on its under parts,—such is the description of these Fossors; like Sphegidæ in form and colouring, but very different in habits. The Sphegidæ hunt Orthoptera, crickets, ephippigers, and grasshoppers, while the Ammophila chases caterpillars. This difference of prey at once suggests new methods in the murderous tactics of instinct. Did not the name sound pleasant to the ear, I should be inclined to quarrel with Ammophila, which means sand-lover, as being too exclusive and often erroneous. The true lovers of sand—dry, powdery, and slippery sand—are the Bembex, which prey on flies: but the caterpillar-hunters, whose history I am about to tell, have no liking for pure, loose sand, and even avoid it as being too subject to landslips which may be caused by a mere trifle. Their vertical pits, which must remain open until the cell is stored with food and an egg, require more solid materials if they are not to be blocked prematurely. What they want is a light soil, easy to mine, where the sandy element is cemented by a little clay and lime. The edges of paths—slopes of thin grass exposed to the sun,—such are the places they favour. In spring, from the first days of April, one sees Ammophila hirsuta there; in September and October there are A. sabulosa, A. argentata, and A. holosericea. I will make an abstract of the notes furnished by these four species.
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by Jean-Henri Fabre @jeanhenrifabre.I was an entomologist, and author known for the lively style of my popular books on the lives of insects.
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