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Those insects which have feet, move sideways. Some of them have the hind feet longer than the fore ones, and curving outwards, the locust, for example.

(29.) These creatures lay their eggs in large masses, in the autumn, thrusting the end of the tail into holes which they form in the ground. These eggs remain underground throughout the winter, and in the ensuing year, at the close of spring, small locusts issue from them, of a black colour, and crawling along without legs1 and wings. Hence it is that a wet spring destroys their eggs, while, if it is dry, they multiply in great abundance. Some persons maintain that they breed twice a year, and die the same number of times; that they bring forth at the rising2 of the Vergiliæ, and die at the rising of the Dog-star,3 after which others spring up in their places: according to some, it is at the setting4 of Arcturus that the second litter is produced. That the mothers die the moment they have brought forth, is a well-known fact, for a little worm immediately grows about the throat, which chokes them: at the same time, too, the males perish as well. This insect, which thus dies through a cause apparently so trifling, is able to kill a serpent by itself, when it pleases, by seizing its jaws with its teeth.5 Locusts are only produced in champaign places, that are full of chinks and crannies. In India, it is said that they attain the length of three6 feet, and that the people dry the legs and thighs, and use them for saws. There is another mode, also, in which these creatures perish; the winds carry them off in vast swarms, upon which they fall into the sea or standing waters, and not, as the ancients supposed, because their wings have been drenched by the dampness of the night. The same authors have also stated, that they are unable to fly during the night, in consequence of the cold, being ignorant of the fact, that they travel over lengthened tracts of sea for many days together, a thing the more to be wondered at, as they have to endure hunger all the time as well, for this it is which causes them to be thus seeking pastures in other lands. This is looked upon as a plague7 inflicted by the anger of the gods; for as they fly they appear to be larger than they really are, while they make such a loud noise with their wings, that they might be readily supposed to be winged creatures of quite another species. Their numbers, too, are so vast, that they quite darken the sun; while the people below are anxiously following them with the eye, to see if they are about to make a descent, and so cover their lands. After all, they have the requisite energies for their flight; and, as though it had been but a trifling matter to pass over the seas, they cross immense tracts of country, and cover them in clouds which bode destruction to the harvests. Scorching numerous objects by their very contact, they eat away everything with their teeth, the very doors of the houses even.

Those from Africa are the ones which chiefly devastate Italy; and more than once the Roman people have been obliged to have recourse to the Sibylline Books, to learn what remedies to employ under their existing apprehensions of impending famine. In the territory of Cyrenaica8 there is a law, which even compels the people to make war, three times a year, against the locusts, first, by crushing their eggs, next by killing the young, and last of all by killing those of full growth; and he who fails to do so, incurs the penalty of being treated as a deserter. In the island of Lemnos also, there is a certain measure fixed by law, which each individual is bound to fill with locusts which he has killed, and then bring it to the magistrates. It is for this reason, too, that they pay such respect to the jack-daw, which flies to meet the locusts, and kills them in great numbers. In Syria, also, the people are placed under martial law, and compelled to kill them: in so many countries does this dreadful pest prevail. The Parthians look upon them as a choice food,9 and the grasshopper as well. The voice of the locust appears to proceed from the back part of the head. It is generally believed that in this place, where the shoulders join on to the body, they have, as it were, a kind of teeth, and that it is by grinding these against each other that they produce the harsh noise which they make. It is more especially about the two equinoxes that they are to be heard, in the same way that we hear the chirrup of the grasshopper about the summer solstice. The coupling of locusts is similar to that of all other insects that couple, the female supporting the male, and turning back the extremity of the tail towards him; it is only after a considerable time that they separate. In all these kinds of insects the male is of smaller size than the female.

1 It is not true that the young locusts are destitute of feet.

2 7th May.

3 18th July.

4 11th May.

5 Cuvier treats this story as purely imaginary.

6 Cuvier says that some have been known nearly a foot long, but not more.

7 He alludes to the ravages committed by the swarms of the migratory locust, Grillus migratorius of Linuæus.

8 Julius Obsequens speaks of a pestilence there, created by the dead bodies of the locusts, which caused the death of 8000 persons.

9 See also B. vi. c. 35.

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